Aaronic Priesthhood and the Errands of Angels

August 5, 2018 was a special day for our family: Bode received the Aaronic Priesthood and was ordained to the office of Deacon, and my brother, Pat, turned 50! Talk about a memorable day for both of them.

In the Church today, worthy male members may receive the Aaronic Priesthood beginning at age 12. These young men, typically ages 12–17, receive many opportunities to participate in sacred priesthood ordinances and give service. As they worthily fulfill their duties, they act in the name of the Lord to help others receive the blessings of the gospel. -lds.org

Things I want to remember:

Last night was the worst thunder and lightening storm we’ve had since we moved to Utah. The power went out around 10 p.m. and we went to bed in complete darkness. The next morning when I walked into the living room, Bode had stumbled out of bed and fallen back asleep on the couch. The whole room was full of light…and I was so filled with love and appreciation for my sweet boy and the man he is becoming. 

After four non-stop weeks of activity (Trek, Canada and volleyball camp), Hadley had an exhaustion-fueled meltdown that escalated to a full-blown panic attack on Friday, the worst she has ever had. Jamie and I shifted gears from frustration and anger when we tried to get her to leave for a long-planned cabin getaway with friends that afternoon to honestly being at a loss of how to help her calm down..and fear. Bode knew. Jamie was in his office and Bode came in. “I think we should pray for Hadley, Dad.” And so they did. He has always been very sensitive tothe spirit and looks for ways to bring calm and peace to our family. Always.

The boy does not like to be the center of attention so it was torturous for him when I told Hadley to do a little photo shoot before church but she got a few great pictures of our boy.

Our Bishopric member called him up in front of the congregation to congratulate him for moving on from Primary (the children’s organization), completing his Faith in God and to announce he would be ordained a Deacon that afternoon (which elicited a quiet cheer from his buddies at the Sacrament table).  The youth are usually asked at that time to share their favorite Article of Faith and/or short testimony and Bode was well-prepared…and was a bit relieved when Bother Price forgot to have him talk. He dodged at least one bullet that day!

 

Grandma and Grandpa Johnson, Aunts Lisa and Tammy, Uncle Jeremy and cousins Ada, Berkley and Darby all came to see him ordained to the priesthood that afternoon, a sacred ordinance performed by his dad in a circle of love, fellowship and priesthood holders. It was a special, sacred moment.

We gathered after church to celebrate Bode’s birthday with smoked brisket, corn on the cob, watermelon, two kinds of homemade French fries, topped off by Bode’s favorite dessert: strawberry cheesecake.

How grateful we are to have this strong, smart and spiritual boy to help lead the way in our family.

—–

I loved this story that I read to Bode when we were staying at my mom’s cousin’s house in Canada. The following is excerpted from President Thomas S. Monson’s biography, To the Rescue, our former prophet who recently passed away. There are two priesthoods: the lower (Aaronic Priesthood) which is what Bode received and the higher priesthood (Melchizedek). This is a beautiful story about the importance and gifts of the Aaronic Priesthood. 

Before Tom left for basic training, his bishop recommended that he receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Tom phoned his stake president, Paul C. Child, to set up an interview. President Child was known for his love and deep understanding of the scriptures. He was also known for his searching, detailed probing of the scriptures with those he interviewed. So when Tom called for an appointment, he was reasonably nervous.

“Fine, Brother Monson. When can you see me?” President Child replied.

Knowing that President Child’s sacrament meeting was at six o’clock, Tom suggested five o’clock, hoping that the interview would be brief.

“Oh, Brother Monson, that would not provide us sufficient time to peruse the scriptures,” said President Child. “Could you please come at two o’clock and bring with you your personally marked and referenced set of scriptures.”

When Sunday arrived, Tom appeared at President Child’s home on Indiana Avenue at the appointed hour. He was “greeted warmly, and then the interview began.”

“No, President Child.”

“Do you know,” said the president, “that you are entitled to such?”

Again Tom said, “No.”

Then President Child requested, “Brother Monson, repeat from memory Doctrine and Covenants section 13, which tells of the ordination of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood.”

“Stop,” President Child directed. Then in a calm, kindly tone he counseled, “Brother Monson, never forget that as a holder of the Aaronic Priesthood you are entitled to the ministering of angels.” He then asked Tom to recite section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants: “Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day . . .”

Tom never forgot the spirit he felt in President Child’s home. It was “almost as if an angel were in the room.” And the message of the fourth section he had recited would become more than words revealed in 1830—those words would become a standard for him in his service to the Lord. . . .

Oh Canada: The Lakehouse 2018

The kids and I spent a glorious two weeks in Canada. The whole thing was a whirlwind: Hadley was on a 3-day Pioneer Trek just prior and had to return two weeks later for BYU volleyball camp. So, we packed up and headed to British Columbia, breaking up the 18-hour drive with an overnight stay at my sister-in-law Jane’s wonderful parents in Eastern Washington.

My brother and his wife have been renting the Mana Manor in Vernon for 15 consecutive years and the rest of us have been coming for five years. It’s not a fancy cabin and is in dire need of some overhauls but it’s convenient and is divided into four different two-bedroom units. I had asked if we could only do a 5-night rental instead of 7 and assumed it was a done deal when my brother reached out to the owner but through some miscommunication, we never heard back.

I found out the week prior that the kids and I didn’t have a place to stay. Fortunately, I ended up finding a great rate at a nearby Best Western. So, while the kids bunked with their cousins at the cabin, I made the 15-minute drive to my air-conditioned and clean hotel room to decompress each night. I’m a convert!

It was the smallest group yet. Poor Jamie was too overwhelmed with work and yardwork so couldn’t come; Ashton only came for a few days because she just had a beautiful baby boy, Raiden, and my niece Emily and her boyfriend just returned from Ireland so couldn’t take off work. My mom and dad have been unable to attend the last couple of years due to her health.

They were all missed but the smaller group didn’t deter us from having a grand ‘ol time; Pat and his wife were generous hosts as always.

We celebrated Bode’s 12th birthday with Timbits, a successful surf, smoked pork sandwiches and a strawberry cheesecake Blizzard ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. Presents included his first new bike, some golf clubs and books. How we love this sweet boy!

We had our traditional visit to Davison Orchards for killer peach, cherry and apple pies, fresh cider slushies, cut throat checkers and farm animals.

We all vastly improved in wakesurfing, Hadley in particular really clicked out there, dropped the rope and was surfing! I did my best ever, which still isn’t super great but the good news is I’m not regressing. Bode is slowly moving forward as well!

We marveled at my brother’s new toy, a wakefoil that had him surfing two feet above the water.

We had our annual dive-off. I had great hopes that family friend Todd would dethrone Pat from the title but he came up way short. I blame Pat for stuffing Todd with food just prior (an evil strategy).

The unicorn. Jade jumped on it in the lake. It popped. All that remained was its head.

Teenagers can be fun but not always. One of their redeeming qualities is they have zits the entire family loves popping.

Pat brought his stand-up paddleboard and we all had a blast paddling around the perimeter of the lake…except for when Hadley took it out, got caught in a scary wind storm and had to be rescued by a cute guy in a boat wearing a Superman shirt.

We brought our volleyball net so downtime was spent playing volleyball, some crazy-competitive badminton tournament and boulle.

Friends Tom and Kim have been through a lot this past year, including losing their beloved lakeside rental home to a terrible storm. But they’re always really generous and a part of our family when we come to visit. Todd brought his lakeside movie night to us and it’a favorite tradition!

And the perfect way to end a fantastic week at the lakehouse.

Happy 12th birthday, Bode

Happy 12th birthday, Bode!

There are a few big birthdays in your childhood and this is one of them. In the LDS faith, you receive the Aaronic Priesthood when you turn 12. In a few weeks, we will be gathering with our family for this special occasion and I hope it is a day you will always remember. Today, we are celebrating your birthday at Lake Okanogan in Canada, complete with some of your favorite things: Timbits, family and ice cream cake.

I could not be more proud of the young man you are becoming. You are kind, thoughtful and responsible while also being funny and silly. Your teacher, Mrs. Douglas, awarded you with a “Certificate of Awesomeness” where she thanked you for your excitement and passion for life, and for the Best Laugh Ever. I second that motion!

When we first moved here last year, you were in fifth grade at a temporary 5th-6th intermediate school and then this year, you were once again the youngest when the middle school changed to 6th-8th. But you slowly adjusted seamlessly to the switch and made the honor roll every term, with your favorite subjects math and film. You have also made some solid friendships with buddies Eli, Jonas, Porter, and Henry, not to mention your neighborhood Airsoft friends Hunter, Will and Stockton.

You are dutifully still growing pumpkins and cranked out your 210-pound “Ugly Duckling” last year. You [badly] played the flute for the second time this year and do a wonderful job on the piano, though your enthusiasm has definitely wavered on that. For the Fox Den Piano Society recital, you played the very difficult Imperial March.I had you rehearse right before the recital during which time you fumbled through the middle section I had never before heard you practice, which made the recital especially exciting. Somehow you pulled it together as your always seem to do, but not without some anxiety on my part.

(Goblin Valley)

This year, you were in 11-year-old Scouts and had a great time with your buddies at various camp-outs to the Sand Dunes, Strawberry Reservoir and the Heber Valley Camp, though you found that winter Klondike camp-out “very taxing.” But nothing beat your prayer prior to departure when your prayed, “Please bless us to think twice before we do anything,” which I hereby vote should be the new Scout motto. Now that the Church is parting ways with BSA, you probably won’t earn your Eagle Scout as we planned but I have no doubt you have other great thing in store.

You enjoy your video games as much as ever with your favorites being 1942, Clash of Clans and Minecraft. When I asked you to tell me your favorites, I tried to end the list there but you interjected, “Hey, I have a few more,” so here they are: Lorde Royals and Moto-X-360. Grandma J. and Aunt Lisa bought you a Kindle Fire for Christmas and you are always multi-tasking your video games while listening to your Audible books: Michael Vey, Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus and Fablehaven.

We had a great time exploring our new backyard and reveling in the fact that California is now only a one-day drive away! We had family reunions in Canada and Bear Lake last summer and for fall break, we had a blast on the Central California Coast. We traveled to Driggs, Idaho with our friends the Kuches and Seversons and New Year’s found us exploring St. George and Zion National Park with our friends the Hardymans. We had a blast in San Diego for Spring Break where you lost my wallet at Sea World, prayed for its return and, despite my lack of faith, it got turned in. We had an amazing time camping in Goblin Valley last spring, one of our all-time favorite camping trips EVER, and you just finished a solo trip to Colorado where you stayed and played with our dear friends, the Carrolls.

(Zion)

You did cross-country skiing lessons at Soldier Hollow for the second year in a row and despite the lackluster snow year, you had a blast climbing up the “snow whales”–huge, two-story piles of snow. You became an awesome downhill skier and it won’t be too much longer until you surpass your parents on the slopes. Every Thursday, you went to Coding Club with your buddies and you suffered through Track Club this spring where you tied for last place with your coding buddies (perhaps more time running and less time programming?) You once again elected to do rec soccer, instead of competitive, and enjoyed being the superstar and averaging three goals per game with your dad as coach. You didn’t even mind having the teams be co-ed, just so long as you could dribble around the girls and not talk to them.

And then there is this summer where you’ve been enjoying PGA Jr. League golf and “Little “Shredders” mountain biking, which pushed you to the limits of your cautious nature but you have survived! You just wrapped your final Kids Adventure Games and got knocked with the boom about 40 times in Sailing Camp at Jordanelle Reservoir. You would have had a better time sailing if you had not been lumped with the younger boys whom you called “immature.” Upon further investigation, you confessed it was because they were rude, insulting and often bullied one of your sailing friends, whom you stuck up for but it deeply impacted your sensitive nature because you hate to see unkindness in the world.

You may only be 12 but you often act way more responsible than your parents, like the stages of your late-night pukefest last winter. The Physician: “It would appear I have finally stabilized…I feel quote certain I lost some vital organs with how much I threw up” The Philosopher: “I get why owls throw up but why us humans?” and then you expounded upon the science of owls’ regurgitated food. At least if I had to stay up with you all night, you were entertaining!

(Morro Bay)

All joking aside, you are a tremendous example to me. You have always had a spiritual depth and it is wonderful to see you nurturing it. You set the goal earlier this year to read the Book of Mormon and you rarely miss a day. I love going into your room before bed where I usually find you reading the scriptures while listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

A couple of months ago, I was having some struggles with one of my employees and I was ready to fire her (we ended up parting ways soon thereafter). But when we were discussing how I should handle this difficult situation with our family, I was really amazed at your sage advice on how to show empathy and kindness and explore all my options to help this struggling young woman. You exhibited astute management skills at such a young age and I have no doubt you will be a tremendous leader someday.

Thank you for always being our family’s peacemaker and looking on the bright side. Hands down, my favorite Bode memory was when I was driving to Canada with you and Hadley last summer. Our old Pilot broke down about 30 minutes north of Great Falls, MT. We turned around, stayed the night in the city, got the car fixed and were on the road by noon. I celebrated when we passed the site where we had stopped the day before when, not even 15 seconds later, I received another alert that that car was having problems. I derilously laughed and pulled over again. There was a long silence and you finally broke it: “Well, at least we got further than last time.”

The world needs your optimism and light. Thank you for shining it upon us all.

Love,

Mom

P.S. For a stroll down memory lane, see birthday letters 1, 234 5,  6, and 78 910 and 11.

(Walking on Water, Lake Okanogan)

(First day of sixth grade)

(Indoor skydiving)

(Ugly Duckling)

(Bike prom selfie)

San Rafael Swell

 

San Rafael Swell

(La Jolla)

Kids Adventure Games

(Soldier Hollow with Henry)

(Midway Town Hall with the Seversons)

(Zion)

 

A summer in full swing!

We’re alive!

Why my absence?  We’ve had a non-stop deluge of landscaping in the Johnson Family Rock Garden. We’re almost ready to seed after literally hundreds of hours of work (85% of which Jamie has done) but that 15% has about sent the kids and me over-the-top. We are OVER it. And we still have a lot of rocks that need to be removed before seeding and Jamie can’t get the sprinklers to work. I keep reminding myself that someday I’ll love this backyard. Last weekend, we caught a glimpse when our Colorado friends came to visit and we played a hilarious game of PIT with them on the deck.

The kids and I leave for two weeks in Canada on Monday so here are a few quick Instagram updates before the summer completely runs away from me:

Young Women Girl’s Camp. I was assigned to be the director of our ward’s girl’s camp and things I want to remember: Creekside glamping, Bear Lake paddleboarding, Minnetonka caving (while candlelight singing and iron rod clinging), Logan temple baptizing, incredible leaders leading, volleyball playing, quiet time pondering, Aggie ice cream and raspberry shake devouring, silly gaming, snipe hunting and testimony building. This was a beast to pull together but they say it takes a village…and I’m so thankful they are mine.

Ward and Father-Son Camp-outs. Our awesome Bishop Sorenson is all about ward bonding and is constantly looking for ways to bring our ward together. So in June, we had both a ward and also a father-son camp-out, and now we’re officially retired from camping for the rest of the summer. I’ve decided my days of sleeping horribly in a tent are over and I’d like to graduate to a nice camp trailer.

Kids Adventure Games. Bode and his buddy Porter participated in what will probably be our family’s final Kids Adventure Games. Hadley participated in it almost from its inception in Vail when she was 7 so I feel like they’ve grown up with it. We’re all sad to be aging out of this great adventure but it sure was wonderful to see Bode kicking butt on the course, thanks to his mountain biking club, “Little Shredders.”

PGA Junior Golf. Sadly, my days of freebies are almost over so whenever I get the chance to do anything in trade for writing about it, I jump at the chance. Last summer, Bode did the rec program’s golf class and learned the basics of golf but PGA Junior Golf really steps up their game. Literally. Bode needs to work on his swing but he’ll have a lifetime of frustrating golf outings to perfect it.

Floating the Heber Canal. Looks like chaos? The story here isn’t the gazillion kids who floated the upper canal but rather, the Warrior Mamas Who Love Them. From Renaissance Woman Lynne who strapped those gazillion tubes onto her huge trailer, to Survivor Julie whose tube popped shortly before entering the “cave” and she had to haul her two kiddos the duration of the run through frigid irrigation waters. But the silver lining is Young Brett will never again wander into a group of sympathetic women for fear he will catch a glimpse of a torn swimsuit and bloodied “moonscape.”

Fourth of July. Park City chairlift riding, wildflower summit hiking, Legends burger eating, Outlets shopping, Incredibles 2 viewing, 4th of July party crashing, volleyball playing and fireworks exploding. In Colorado, they literally shut down our street for the city’s fireworks party…and I resigned myself nothing would ever compare after we moved. Utah will never be Colorado but I was reminded today it’s still pretty darn great.

Sailing Camp. I applied for a scholarship for both kids to attend Park City’s Sailing Camp for a week. It was a tremendous experience with top-notch instructors and crazy-windy conditions.  Bode claims he got hit by the boom no less than 30 times and Hadley actually blacked out for a few seconds on the last day when her partner didn’t tell them they were tacking (turning) and Hadley almost got knocked out of the boat with it. But that wasn’t her biggest adventure.

A broken shoulder (Aqua X Zone), a busted back (skiing) and now The Sailing Disaster, which has prompted me to officially pass my Murphy’s Law torch to her. On Day 2, her tiller broke, her sailboat capsized and while she and her partner clung to the side of the boat, the wind whipped them to shore, almost running over a [terrified] older woman in a kayak. They somehow emerged unscathed but the bright side is she was a celebrity when I checked her into sailing lessons the next day.

Takeaway: Being a Murphy is nothing if not notorious.

Sum-Sum-Summer!

I have to believe our start to a great summer has to do with serenading the kids at the top of my lungs to Olaf’s “In Summer,” a first-day-of-summer-break tradition I hope they will carry on to torture their own children for many years to come.

In previous years, our summers have been jam-packed with adventures and this week has been particularly brutal with work and responsibilities. I’ve been working long hours and have been home very minimally in the evenings as I prepare for Young Women Girl’s Camp next week. Hadley begged me to play volleyball and when I told her I didn’t have time, she said “I wish you never went back to work!” Ouch. It was definitely a transition when I first started in January but the kids and I left at the same time in the morning and returned home around the same time so they were impacted very minimally. I, on the other hand, have had to be find creative ways to fit in all the household chores and Mile High Mamas projects while spending time with them. Finding a time to workout has been sacrificed and I desperately crave being active again. Summer adds even more complications.

So, here are our two-weeks-into-summer updates:

Social media fast. A couple of weeks ago, President Russell M. Nelson spoke at a worldwide fireside to our youth, during which time he challenged them (among other things) to go on a 7-day social media fast. I have felt waaaay too addicted to my phone so I deleted Instagram and Facebook. It helped me realize how much time I spent mindlessly scrolling through feeds. I felt so much better after the seven days that I have challenged myself to be on social media very minimally. Ideally, I’d love to spend more time journalling/blogging after the craziness of summer subsides.

EFY. Hadley’s besties from Colorado flew out for Especially for Youth, an awesome spiritually-charged week for the youth on campuses all over the country. Hadley and her friend, Maeve, stayed at BYU and it was fun having her on campus every day. In the beginning, she wasn’t having a great time “because we have really cute guys in our group but they won’t talk to us” but that changed by week’s end and she came home flying high. The $500 cost was definitely worth the investment into her spiritual health.

Camping. Bode went on two camping trips in a row: the first was a father-son camp-out and the second was an 11-Year-Old Scout camp-out to Strawberry Reservoir. He had a blast at both! At the end of June, our ward is having another camp-out so we’ll definitely get our fill this summer.

Outdoorsy. My dad generously gave the grandkids some money this summer to be dedicated to outdoorsy pursuits. Bode enrolled in a “Shredders” mountain biking club that has been kicking his butt (he has fun but calls it very “taxing”), while Hadley spent her money on a new lens for her camera. That may seem like a weird outdoorsy purchase but she looooves landscape photography so she has been spending a lot of time outside. A couple of weeks ago, she put her new lens to good use by staging an awkward end-to-middle-school photo shoot with Edyn, Allie and Zoie, the other three graduating eighth graders from our ward. It was such a fun, goofy night.

Pumpkins. Jamie has been enduring most of the back-breaking yard work (we’re now up to 51 tons of rock and lots of time in the skid steer) and pumpkin growing. Our backyard still has a long way to go but much of it will have to wait until we get more money and time. But for now, the big news is we’re almost ready to seed the backyard. We might even have GRASS by the end of the summer! If you knew the hundreds of hours we’ve spent on it all, you would see why the very prospect makes us want to weep. A half-acre lot sounded look a good idea…until it came time to landscape!

Hiking. In an effort to get back into shape, I sent out a text last week to see if anyone wanted to do a 5:45 a.m. weekly hike before work….and these crazies answered the charge! The week before, I joined my friends Dawnelle, Shauna and Sarah for some stand-up paddleboarding on Deer Creek Reservoir. Then, I ran several errands on my bike and marveled how so many treasures are within a few miles from our house. 

Citrus Pear. Mealtime has definitely suffered since I went back to work, especially with the long hours I’ve been working lately. Sweet Bode made a tasty pita pizza and salad dinner the other night but I was thrilled to do a Citrus Pear girl’s night out. It took me two hours to chop and prep 20 delicious small dinners for my family…for just $10 each. Chicken tikka masala. Creamy lemon chicken. Balsamic pot roast. Orange ginger pork loin. The recipes are divine and I’m thrilled to have a freezer full of meals that can be thrown in the crockpot. 

Unicorn. I’ve been vocal about Hadley’s hellish middle school years and it’s pretty shocking the about-face since school ended. She’s happy. She’s helpful. She’s actually delightful. She spent the week at EFY and this week, has been voluntarily getting up early three times a week for volleyball conditioning at the high school. Her friend is having some health struggles so I asked her to do something nice for her. When I came home from work, she had spent most of the day making unicorn cupcakes from scratch….the girl even made little candy straws that she filled with melted white chocolate. She had a few leftover cupcakes so she delivered them to some of her other friends.

WHA? WHO IS THIS KID?

The key to her happiness if finding healthy ways to deal with her stress…and creating. Middle school was all about the unhealthy ways. Here’s for praying she refills her reservoir this summer and that carries over into high school.

Business. No, not business, but rather, BUSY-NESS. I’m in charge of Young Women Girl’s Camp next week (stress and lots of it) and then we’ll start preps right away for Swiss Days over Labor Day. Jamie and I are in charge of the biggest booth (Swiss Tacos) for this beast-of-a-festival…300+ volunteers and thousands of customers. At work, I’m trying to pull together a PR/outreach plan for all of our college’s departments and centers. It has been very well-received by most…except for by the deans in our office. You know. My bosses. They’re all wonderful people but it has been a frustrating process to try to validate the value of promoting all the awesome things in our college. I’m the editor of our alumni magazine and it has been a really fun process to see things from the beginning to the end; usually I just send an article to an editor and see it in print. Our magazine is currently being designed and it has been fun to work through all the mock-ups and concepts.

Golf. Bode took a few golf classes through our rec center that he enjoyed last summer. When my friend Cami asked if Bode wanted to do the PGA Junior League with her son, I was all-in when I noticed it was offered nationwide and I could do a write-up for Mile High Mamas in trade for participating. It’s held at Wasatch Mountain State Park Golf Course, arguably one of the most gorgeous in Utah and only a few minutes from our house.

I do have one question, though.  Is sending your kid to PGA Junior League without his own clubs kinda like sending him to tennis without a racket?

I’m asking for an [idiot] parent. 

Fortunately, the golf course gave us some loaner clubs and if Bode ends up liking it, we’ll buy him some used clubs for his birthday.

Bode’s rec program last year did little more than putting and chipping. PGA Junior League is geared to beginner through intermediate players, and Bode is definitely one of the rookies in the group. On the first day, I was a bit worried to leave him after seeing the high calibre so many of the boys were already playing…but I was relieved to find him a couple of hours later riding the golf cart with his new friends in his “scramble” team…and despite his grandpa-style half-ditched swing, he and his partner ended up winning their little competition.

Tonight, they worked on skills and he came back professing that his golf swing “needs some work!” But he’s in the right place to learn the skills he needs for a lifetime of frustration a.k.a. playing golf.

Modern-day Fablehaven

Jamie grows two pumpkins every year. We usually keep one for our driveway and last year, we gave one away to our friend Clay who was celebrating the grand reopening of his business. While the pumpkin was in front of his store, Clay was approached by someone who wanted to put it on display in a very public place: at the entrance of his ranch. That someone was actually the son of a man who sold his tech company and made millions of dollars. He is the caretaker of his father’s 100-acre private estate that is the source of a lot of local wonder.

When Clay asked if this man could have the pumpkin, we said sure but with one caveat: “ONLY if we get a tour of the property.”

We finally got that tour a few weeks ago and it was M-A-G-I-C.

The kids love the book series Fablehaven, which is centered around a preserve for magical creatures with forests, groves, swamps and marshes. The preserve is protected by covenants that are ratified by all orders of whimsical life forms who dwell there in order to create a measure of security for the mortal caretakers.

This property is a modern-day Fablehaven. Longhorns. Yaks. Goats. Piglets. Peacocks. Ponies and horses. Sheep. Miniature brahman bulls and so many more exotic animals whose names I can’t remember. There was a river that ran through the property, six man-made ponds (some with canoes and paddleboats), putting greens with silly hula girl mannequins to scare off predators, tepees, waterfalls, rabbit island in the middle of one of the ponds that had an entire island of just rabbits and don’t forget the man cave with luxury vehicles. It was U-N-R-E-A-L. 

The night prior to our tour, we watched “We Bought a Zoo” and that day, we visited a family who lives it.

School’s Out for Summer

Summer 2018 is upon us! I’m usually ecstatic to delve into summer but this is the first time I’m not very excited about it. Though I have scheduled a fun summer for the kids with lots of activities and camps, I’m partially filled with dread that I’ll be working for the first time and am worried about how they’ll spend their downtime when I’m not around. Of course, Jamie is home but he has two modes: work and pumpkins; entertainment committee is not on his radar. When the kids were younger, I kept them busy in the summertime but with plenty of free time for imaginative play outside. Now that they’re teenagers, downtime means technology time.

Fortunately, my position is 3/4 time. I worked way too many hours during winter semester so will be scaling way back this summer and taking about four weeks off. But I’m stressing about how to manage everything with the kids home, how to get them to-and-from activities and just to stay on top of everything. The lack of structure that I used to love about our summers together is now causing me angst.

Here’s what’s going down at the Johnsons.

School. It was a doozy of a school year with two middle schoolers and I’m just relieved it’s over for Hadley. Despite roller-coaster grades the first few semesters, she somehow managed to crank out all As and Bs her final term while Bode made the Honor Roll all four terms. Though I wouldn’t say Bode loved middle school/sixth grade, he adapted seamlessly, made a core group of friends, says film was his favorite class (though he continues to really excel in math), is switching from flute to the sax for band and his year was gloriously drama-free. I could not have  two more opposite children if I tried.

RMMS Color Festival with Will, Hunter and Wally

Allie, Katelyn and Allie

Rock. Remember the 43 tons of rock that cost us thousands of dollars for our landscaping? It has been a month of back-breaking work and our joyous Memorial Day was spent distributing it…and running out. That’s another story for another day. At this rate, we’ll never seed our backyard.

Camping. Aunt Lisa invited Hadley to camp with their family at what has become my favorite Utah campground in Utah: Ledgefork. Just an hour from our house, it was gorgeously forested for optimal (albeit reluctant) hammock snuggles, adjacent to a river, had a nearby reservoir for kayaks and gorgeous hiking. I had a miserable sinus infection so Bode and I just joined them for the day before driving home, which was a total win-win. Enjoy all of the fun camping activities while sleeping in my own bed.

Track.  Once soccer and club volleyball ended, I signed both kids up for our rec track-and-field this spring in an effort to keep them active (and you can’t beat the $50 price tag) Neither of them particularly loved it but had fun with their friends. So I’m calling that a win. It’s safe to say Hadley does not have a future in javelin and Bode needs to grow another foot to be a contender in the high jump.

Pumpkins. Jamie is in the process of installing his high tunnel (greenhouse) that he got funded by a grant from the federal government. Midway is really challenging for growing pumpkins and we are located just north of Provo Canyon and Deer Creek Reservoir, which serves as a tunnel for high winds. Hopefully this will provide some protection for them and he’s pleased with how the season is going. If you’re curious to see how his season is unfolding, follow along at giantpumpkinman.com.

The Ranch. There is a really special 100-acre property in the Heber Valley that is mystery to most residents. A couple of weeks ago, we were granted access and this place was nothing short of magical and deserves a separate blog post unto itself. A glimpse:

Summer Fun.  Some things to look forward to this summer: Canada and the lake (family)! Trek (Hadley)! Young Women Girl’s Camp (Hadley and me)!  EFY (Hadley)! Sailing camp (Hadley and Bode)! Mountain biking camp (Bode)! BYU volleyball camp (Hadley)! PGA golfing (Bode)! Yellowstone (family)!

And work. Let’s not forget work for Jamie and me because someone needs to pay for all these activities, medical bills and life.

Adulting is hard; kid-ing is much better.

 

 

Day of the Mothers

Mother’s Day: It was the best of times and the worst of times but there was certainly a lot of awesomeness that included:

Bode and Hadley gave me new scriptures (which, to be honest, kind of makes me sad because I’ll need to start over with my well-worn scriptures and markings but they are literally falling apart).

Hadley painted me a beautiful picture.

Bode and Jamie built me a garden box.

The boys made me breakfast in bed, a longstanding tradition and Jamie gave me a hair massage (MY FAVORITE).

We went for a lovely walk in Wasatch Mountain State Park, fed the ducks, got attacked by them and marveled at the blossoms. What a perfect morning!

During Relief Society, the men prepared a lovely spread of food, after which we drove to Salt Lake City for a family dinner at Aunt Tammy’s. Though I miss my own family–especially on holidays–I’m so grateful to have Jamie’s nearby.

This is the last week ever of having two middle schoolers. My aunt made a comment how much Bode looks so much more grown-up these days and it’s so true. He has thankfully avoided the drama of middle school and has a great group of friends. Though he is as sweet as ever to me at home, he definitely plays it cool outside.

He is wrapping up his final year of playing the flute and potentially wants to try the sax last year. He was fine with me attending his band concert–because that is what parents do–but when he brought home a field trip release for a performance on the Heber Valley Railroad, he was pretty emphatic I not attend.

that is a tough pill to swallow for the overzealous mom who planned all the activities and field trips but apparently in middle school, that is no longer cool. When he saw me wallowing in self-pity the morning of his field trip, he consoled me, “I don’t think there will be any parents on the train but if there are, I’ll pay you $5,” to which I retorted, “I don’t want your money, I just want your guilt.”

Happy Mother’s Day, folks.

 

Happy 14th Birthday, Hadley

Oooogie,

Happy day, you’re 14 and the happiest of all is we have [hopefully] left unlucky #13 and the dreaded middle school behind us. Your high school future is bright and through the clouds, we have caught glimpses of just how bright you can shine!

No doubt you have wading through some difficult waters this year. You got a phone, had it taken away, and had some tough diagnoses (not to mention fracturing your shoulder last summer on the Aqua X Zone, followed by your snowboarding accident in January) and thousands of dollars in medical bills. But guess what: you’re still standing…albeit with a few less limbs like your dad but you’re still here.

There were also a lot of highlights. You flew out to meet us in Colorado last summer where you had a glorious time at your favorite place on earth: The Broadmoor. You competed in your final Kids Adventure Games and sadly, announced your retirement this year (though I have no doubt you will find other adventurous outlets). You came to life during two wonderful trips to California–to the Central Coast and then to San Diego– and again in St. George, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes and Zion National Park.

You rocked the surfboard at the lakehouse in Canada and I fully expect you’ll continue to hone your craft on the water while you leave your dear ‘ol mom in your dust. Speaking of which, I am leaps and bounds slower than you on the hiking trail thanks to my knee injury. Last summer, we took what started out as a casual stroll and made the mistake of putting you in charge…and you dragged us up a peak with a 2,000-foot elevation gain. As I was limping down, I commented, “Hiking and skiing are my favorite activities to do all together,” which caused you to scoff. “Together? You were like a mile behind me.”

You received your patriarchal blessing, a powerful, spiritual reminder of who you are who you can become. You have so many wonderful gifts and promises in your future and if we ever doubt any of them, let us be reminded of the very powerful (and accurate) observation in that blessing: “You have a mind of your own and don’t like to be told what to do.” Can we all say a resounding “AMEN?”

Your interest in photography has grown and one of your birthday presents is a new lens. You have always loved the outdoors but now you have a new reason to explore.Before we moved here, you used to lock yourself in your room for hours, drawing, painting, creating and dreaming. I was so happy when you reluctantly took art again this year. Your teacher submitted some of your creations to an art show and you took first place in your class and another drawing took first place in the whole school. You didn’t tell us about any of it (I had to find out from a friend) and this is when I throw my hands up in frustration because 13 is the worst age ever for recognizing your God-given talents and just how incredible you really are.

Some things to look forward to this summer: Canada and the lake! Trek! Young Women Girl’s Camp with ME as your leader!  EFY! Sailing camp! BYU volleyball camp! Yellowstone!

You had a doozy of a club volleyball season thanks to your medical challenges. You went from learning a new position (setter), to fighting through pain, getting benched, discouragement, being forgotten, and finally clawing your way to the starting lineup. It has been heart-wrenching to see you struggle but you have been my lesson to not measure success from academic and athletic accolades and that greatness comes in many forms.

A few weeks ago, we went camping in Goblin Valley State Park. There were some precipitous cliffs you explored the night we arrived. You almost made it to the top but you fell just short (while cautious Bode had given up long ago). The next morning before leaving, you asked if you could give it one more shot. You arrived at the road (or cliff)block from before, reattempted it a few times and failed…but did not give up. Instead, you looked for another way around it. I held my breath as you disappeared for a moment behind a rock and I almost started to panic…until I saw you pop up the other side and triumphantly climb to the top. You owned your fear that day.

Goblin Valley summit

“If we stopped being so afraid of pain we would find our power. If we stopped being so afraid of pain, we would become the parents our kids need. It’s not our job–nor our right–to protect them from pain. It’s our job to point them directly toward their struggle and say: ‘See that? That was made for you. Your joy is straight through your story. I see your fear and it’s big. But I can also also see your courage–and it’s bigger. You can do hard things.’” -Glennon Doyle

You are worthy and worth it. Don’t ever forget you are meant to climb, conquer and soar.

Love, Mom
The Woman on the Ground

P.S. For a stroll down memory lane, read letters for your 13th birthday12th11th10th, 9th 8th7th6th5th4th3rd2nd and your birth story.

Morro Rock

Magical Morro Bay

Midway Tree Lighting

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Zion National Park

St. George Slot Canyon

Art show winner

La Jolla, CA

Goblin Valley

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Valley of the Goblins

Though we are knee-deep in our 43 tons of rock with the goal to get the backyard grass seeded by early June, we booked an overnight camping trip at Goblin Valley State Park several months ago and despite what seemed like imperfect timing, it actually could not have been more perfect.

We’re limping across the eighth grade finish line (just two weeks to go!) We had just had one of our roughest weeks with Hadley (parents who whine about how difficult parenting their honor-roll teen who can be moody and disrespectful make me scoff; we’re deep in the trenches here with real struggles). But if there’s anything that brings me hope is pulling her out of her environment and into where she thrives–the outdoors! We were only able to book a one-night stay but that turned out to the be perfect amount. We woke up early on Saturday, drove a few hours south, had a full day of adventure, camped out, and made it back in time for 1 p.m. church.

San Rafael Swell Whenever I spend time in Southern Utah, I’m bombarded with memories of my many years as a Utah-based travel writer. What wonderful adventures I had backpacking and camping with Kristy, John, Dave, Ray, Telford, Karleen, Joseph and Jed. My photojournalist friend John traveled with me more than anyone. We had many moments together but none more memorable than getting stuck in Ding and Dang canyon; another story for another day.

The desert drive is desolate (despite Hadley’s “gazelle” sighting) until the San Rafael Reef appears in the horizon.  Early settlers used the word “reef” as a comparison to oceanic reefs and the difficulties of traversing through the 2,000-square miles of arches, deep canyons and rock towers.

Our family headed to Little Wild Horse Canyon, a gorgeous slot canyon in San Rafael Swell that is part of a larger loop back through Bell Canyon.  Little Wild Horse is the perfect introductory slot canyon that allowed us a few hours of adventure. Scaling the walls. Forging through water. Climbing boulders. Snaking through tight spaces. The weather was perfect and our souls were filled with exuberance to be exploring something so epic. I loved seeing my tween and tween become like little kids again!  We had planned to also explore nearby Crack Canyon but we emerged from Little Wild Horse around 3:30 p.m. so figured we would go check into our campsite and chill a while. The campground’s backdrop was massive gothic cathedrals, which Bode, Hadley and Jamie delighted in exploring while I rested my knee. We started a campfire (Jamie and his lighter fluid scare me), grilled up burgers, roasted potatoes and had delicious watermelon.

Goblin Valley

Before dusk, we drove to the main portion of Goblin Valley State Park. The crowds of the day had petered out so we were practically all alone in the maze of twisted, stunted “goblin” hoodoos.  The park is divided into “First, Second and Third Valleys” and the best way to explore is to have no plan at all. Jamie won Dad of the year by playing hide-and-seek with the kids  in the ultimate outdoor playground. I conjured up their imaginations as we saw shapes and forms in every hoodoo: goblins, Jaba, mushrooms, Fat Kitty, clouds, spaceships and whales.  I was initially sad I didn’t take a video of Jamie scaring Hadley in tag but this progression is downright hilarious: We ventured over to the Third Valley and gazed in awe at the cathedral buttresses’ commanding presence. As we hiked back near the Observation Point, we perched on an overlook as the ebbing sun set the valley on fire.  Jamie answered Bode’s questions about great places and events in history. Back at the campsite, we roasted s’mores, read from the Book of Abraham about the stars, how we have always existed as “intelligences” before we were spirits and the eternal nature of our souls.  Then, I went on to sleep horribly all night. I love everything about camping except for restrictive sleeping bags and pads (despite Jamie’s best efforts to buy the latest and greatest) and noisy neighbors. When the sun rose the next morning, I noticed Bode cuddled up near me with HIS SLEEPING PAD ON TOP OF HIM. We all need to be like Bode. We packed up early while Bode and Hadley set out on one last adventure. They had fallen just short of summitting the buttress behind our camp. Cautious Bode gave up after a while but Hadley emerged triumphant! Which is how we all felt after a much-needed weekend of adventure, laughter and healing.