Meet Ralph

I come from a warped family that loves loves loves to pinch zits. Both of my nieces have been trained as estheticians so they are PROFESSIONAL PIMPLE POPPERS. Whenever anyone has a lovely growth forming, we go in for the attack.

So, imagine my delight when I noticed lovely minefields of puss forming on Hadley’s pubescent face a few years ago but imagine my dismay when she wouldn’t let me anywhere near them. She only acquiesces when she has hard-to-reach ones on her back during the summer (her vanity trumps her disdain).

Last week, the beast of all zits formed on her chin. It was so big it deserved a name so I christened him “Ralph.” We’ve shared many tales of Ralph over the last several days and he has become the sixth member of our family after Fat Kitty.

Ralph is finally starting to clear but he’s still a big, red scab. After Hadley’s accident, Jamie took her to to the hospital in Park City. As the doctor was asking her questions about her fall, he pointed to her face and said, “Did you also hit your chin on the way down?”

Jamie jokingly interjected, “No, that’s Ralph.”

Let’s just hope he’s one family member who’s not here to stay.

 

 

The man wants MEAT

As the story is told, recently after my Grandma and Grandpa Wilde were married, my grandma (who was an amazing cook) make them a robust salad for dinner. My grandpa, a hard-working farmer took one look at the ‘rabbit’ food and demanded, “WHERE’S THE MEAT, VIRGINIA?”

Without another word, he walked right out the door to his mother’s house for dinner.

She never made that mistake again.

I try to have meatless dinners at least once a week but I’m married to a meat man. The other night, I made Cuban black bean and cilantro rice bowls topped with Tomatillo salsa, avocados and onions.

I made the mistake of asking everyone what they thought.

“WHERE’S THE MEAT, AMBER?” jokingly (but not) demanded my husband. “I SWEAR, IF MY MOTHER LIVED NEARBY I’D GO TO HER HOUSE FOR DINNER RIGHT NOW.”

Apparently, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, even if they are your in-laws.

 

The End To Summer

Do you remember that epic summer I was talking about? We really haven’t done much since we moved to Utah due to lack of time and money but I’m all about FREE fun. The last couple of weeks were off to a roaring start with hikes to Stewart Falls and Timpanogos Cave, The Dirty Dash mud run, The Kids Adventure Games,  redneck canal tubing, biking Provo Canyon, Monday Midway Cruiser Cruise, a Sunday drive to Strawberry Reservoir and exploring the W.O.W. Trail.

I was feeling exhausted yesterday. Hadley’s good friend, Maeve, has been visiting us from Colorado and I resolved after I dropped her off at the airport to just chill out and catch up on life before our trip to Colorado.

And then the Aqua X Zone happened.

We’re always in Canada for Bode’s birthday so I told him he could invite a few friends to this awesome obstacle course located ON Jordanelle Reservoir. Hadley brought Maeve and besides her complaints about being required to wear a life jacket, everyone was in good spirits!

My friend Sarah brought all three of her boys  so we setup a picnic area on the beach and set them loose. About 45 minutes into their adventures, Maeve came over. “Hadley is hurt!” Jamie raced to meet her and she was in an excruciating amount of pain. She and Maeve had climbed up the white iceberg wall and just as Hadley was egging Maeve to jump, she slipped and crash-landed 12 feet, landing on her shoulder on the bottom step, Hard.

Hadley has a pretty high pain tolerance but we knew it was bad from the start. Jamie and I knowingly looked at each other. Summer is my slow season for work, money is tight and expenses are high. We’ve been praying for more business opportunities (one of the joys of being self-employed) and a major injury is not the answer we needed.

Sure enough, she fractured her humerus (upper arm). It occurred right beneath her growth plate so we need to take her to a pediatric orthopedic specialist…because apparently God doesn’t was us to ever afford grass on our lawn.

So, in addition to being in a lot of pain, we had a lot of rescheduling and cancellations to do. I’m working on a campaign with the renowned Keystone Science School (KSS) and Hadley was THRILLED to go to their Steamboat Voyagers next week with whitewater kayaking, rodeoing and backpacking while learning Aquatic Ecology, one of her passions. I withdrew her from that and also a volleyball clinic at the high school this week. Jamie and I were planning to take a second honeymoon in Colorado’s backcountry while the kids were in KSS so we didn’t know if we’d have to bring her, which would have been kind of a boring nightmare for her because she can’t do anything.

Thankfully, Jamie’s mom, Linda, offered to take her for the week and we found a $42 airline ticket for her to join us at the end of the trip when we hit The Broadmoor for a few days.

Still up in the air: Young Women’s Girl’s Camp mid-July, whether she’ll be able to surf at the lake in Canada and BYU volleyball camp late-July.

So, now we wait and hope and pray for healing, realizing other families are dealing with much more sobering prognosis with their children. I’m not really the type to ask “why” bad things happen because who can ever really know? Maybe she’s supposed to learn patience from this ordeal. Maybe something more serious might have happened to her at KSS and this is keeping her safe.

Several years ago, Jamie and I were assigned to lead the fourth year Girl’s Camp Young Women into the backcountry for a few days. I did a lot of training hikes with the girls, thoroughly scouted the area and had arranged for Linda to watch the kids. And then the night before the trip, I become sicker than I’ve ever been. There was no way I could lead the girls but fortunately there was another couple who were already planning to go. Linda ended up still taking Hadley and Bode because I was too sick to get out of bed and it lasted the duration of that trip.

I was upset and pretty heartbroken. Why was I called upon to lead the girls, only to have this happen at the last-minute? I asked Jamie for a priesthood blessing of healing and in that blessing, I was given the guidance that I would become better with time and that the Lord had his reasons for why it happened.

And that was my answer. Sometimes when bad things happen, we later look back and can see the wisdom in it. That never happened in this particular instance and it was such a minor thing–getting sick–but with a major lesson. Some things happen and we often never know why but it is within our power to have faith in knowing that sometimes we’re not supposed to know the “whys” and we just need to learn the “hows” to make it through.

Here’s to hoping Hadley is given the same directive this summer.

My return to rollerblading glory

I’ve lived in Midway almost eight months and had yet to go rollerblading in my favorite place: Provo Canyon. When I was at BYU, I fell in love with the Provo River Parkway and would park at the base of the canyon and rollerblade up about 10 miles past Bridal Veil Falls to Vivian Park and then race back down the canyon. There is a slight incline the entire way making it a great workout but the ride down was sheer bliss.

Since moving to Colorado almost 15 years ago, I would occasionally come back and rollerblade it so I’ve been chomping at the bit since our move but between unpacking, two feet of snow and trail closures and flooding all spring, the timing wasn’t right.

I decided to make the timing work for me so I woke up one morning last week to go. I grabbed my helmet (something I never wore before), wrist guards and thought I was set. Turns out I should have brought full body armor as well. I made some mistakes on my triumphant return and they included:

1) I forgot I’m not 20 anymore. This covers all subsequent observations.

2) What goes down must come up. When I was in Provo, I started at the base of the canyon and went up. This is how I prefer to do everything–there’s nothing more miserable to me than starting a hike going downhill, only to save the climb for the end. The problem is Midway is at the top of the canyon and I really didn’t want to drive all the way down, rollerblade up and then back down and then have to drive back up. Make sense? It sure did to me. At the time.

2) My rollerblades are about 20 years old and are dire need of being replaced. The wheels are so worn it made climbing the hills really tough. Being out of shape didn’t help either.

3) The cruise down vacillated between being empowering “I LOOOOVE THIS!” and moderately terrifying in places. If you’re never rollerbladed before, there’s really no great way to stop on steep terrain. I used to know every curve and bend so would just go with the flow but I was rusty so had to inch down a few sections like a baby learning to walk.

4) I somehow made it down the canyon without falling and then came the moment of truth: going back up. That’s usually my favorite part and I love the burn of the climb! Rollerblading that 20 miles has never been an issue but between being rusty, out-of-shape and having old roller-blades, it was a tough go. I even debated calling Jamie at one point but powered through it (albeit on a low battery).

A few things I learned before going next time:

I need to buy new rollerblades. Period. I should have replaced mine years ago but I never really went in Denver but now that I live next door to an amazing place, I want back in.

I need to start at the bottom of the canyon and work my way up. I bit off waaaaaay more than I could chew so next time I’ll start mid-way up the canyon and slowly make my rides longer.

My before shot as I exuberantly started out:

My after shot:

 

x

 

Yep, that about tells the story.

The boy and his cat

Bode has always been the patient younger brother. He’s the calm to Hadley’s crazy, the kind to her errrr….not, and usually manages to see the good in whatever drama is going down.

Ever the good brother, he’s always patiently waiting in the wings for the chance to pounce. Once upon a time, he secretly loved Hadley’s favorite stuffed animals, Lolly and Tabby, but only dared to touch them when she was at school, during which time he toted them around with him everywhere.

Enter: Fat Kitty.

Fat Kitty and Hadley used to be inseparable. He followed her around, climbed into her bed at bedtime and was the object of her obsession…until she started Middle School. She still loves him but not with the same ardeur.

Enter: Bode.

Now that Hadley has moved on, Bode has become the doting older brother. He feeds Fat Kitty. Gives him kitty treats first thing in the morning. Fat Kitty always goes to Bode’s room first at bedtime.

Bode also gives Fat Kitty special treats. It drives Jamie NUTS to find little bowls of milk all over the house and he recently gave Bode a warning about it….which he ignored.

The next time he did it and Jamie kicked over the bowl, he gave him implicit instructions not to leave milk out for him anymore because it kept getting spilled.

I later asked Bode about it and his response? “What can I say? I’m a mess.”

I’m totally using that excuse for the rest of my life.

 

The Marriage Ref remembered

My Facebook memory for today: That time when NBC’s promos hit for the Marriage Ref.

The wrap on Hadley

As I’ve mentioned previously, the last few months in Hadley’s world have been tough. If you have any doubts what a nightmare middle school is for girls, watch this seventh grader’s poem that went viral about the pressures of seventh grade.

The good news is now that she’s removed from that social environment, we are seeing our beloved spitfire starting to reemerge. One of the results of her downward spiral were her grades–she went from the honor roll and feeling on top of the world the first two terms to a couple of Ds and several Cs as she struggled to turn her work in on time and stay on top of her exams. To her credit, she clawed her way out, ending up with all Bs and As but it reconfirmed that we need to hire a math tutor for eight grade because that was one of the triggers for a lot of her stress.

She got a phone and texting plan on her old iPod for her birthday and her first texts to me were 1) “Come get me” (during a lame assembly).  And 2), While I was mountain biking, I got several texts from her while she was at an end-of-year event at school: “I’m bored.” “Entertain me.” Because I had nothing better to do. 

She has put her love of art, drawing and painting on the backburner and has a new interest in photography. Her main Christmas present was a new Canon and since spring has sprung, she has become more excited about it (this is also likely related to her new Instagram account and desire to take good pictures).

I took this picture when she was a 2-day-old teen: She slept in until 1:30 pm and she didn’t notice the deer photobombers as she took her profile pic for her new Instagram account. P.S. Yes, that would be the Pumpkin Man in his patch even though he has been suffering with debilitating vertigo the last few days and I had to take him to the hospital clinic. BECAUSE EVEN IF YOU CAN’T WALK WITHOUT PUKING, PUMPKIN SEASON MUST GO ON.

She convinced me to let her skip the last half-day of school so we could go hiking on the WOW Trail. The kid knows how to manipulate me in the best ways. She somehow finagled herself a shopping trip to Park City to buy her new socks…and she came home with everything but socks.

I was working on an article for Discover Utah Magazine so Hadley had two zipline weekends in a row. The first was with the entire family at Adventure Zipline Utah, a super fun and casual canopy tour with plenty of adrenaline-charged moments. We were encouraged to do all kinds of zany stunts–our guides even did front flips off the platform!

Hadley’s adventure started during the 4×4 drive to the top of the course where she had to stand at the back of the vehicle, clip in her carabiner and hold on.

Those views of Mount Timpanogos aren’t bad, either!

The following weekend, Hadely and I conquered Zipline Utah overlooking Deer Creek. There are plenty of tour options available and we selected one of their more more extreme courses–8 ziplines and 2 suspension bridges. Our feet didn’t touch the ground the entire 2-hour tour as we flew from platform-to-platform, climbing lots of stairs. I wouldn’t recommend this tour for the beginner but we still had loads of fun, with the exception of the second-longest zipline on the course where I crash-landed on the platform. Not too fun and probably terrifying for our guide to see me careening toward him at 50 mph.

Suspension Bridge

 

Not recommended for those afraid of heights

That bad landing made us both nervous to try the Screaming Falcon, the longest zipline in the world over water–3/4 of a mile–but our guide assured us there was a different braking system on that zipline so we decided to go for it (especially after we saw on the guide’s DOG doing it; he even had his own harness!) We were apprehensive as they drove us to to the top of the mountain with the platform. Adventure Girl went first and it was a thrill to watch her disappear over water and it was my turn next. The sheer velocity made it difficult to catch my breath and I regretted not doing up my coat because it was flapping all around me.

Longest zipline in the world over water

But it was truly one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done!

One night for FHE, we let Hadley choose the FHE activity and what started as a casual stroll ended up having a 2,000-foot elevation gain. 

As I was limping down I commented, “Hiking and skiing are my favorite activities to do all together.”

She scoffed, “Together? You were like a mile behind me.”

Welcome back, Hadley.

The wrap on Bode

We made it across the finish line to summer!

Bode: Has been stuck between a rock and a hard place along with all the other fifth graders. Due to the fact the Heber Valley is exploding with growth, the schools are busting at the seams. We live a few blocks away from the elementary school but they bumped it down to K-4 so he had to go to a weird intermediate school dedicated to 5th and 6th graders. They’re opening a new elementary and middle school in the area so that means everyone is getting shuffled. He’ll be bumped up to the same middle school as Hadley (yuck) and will miss being the king of the school in sixth grade.

But as usual, Bode is highly adaptable. He ended up with almost straight As this year and was ticked on his last report card when he had an A- in media but when he looked at the actual percentage, it was 93%, an A. I chuckled how much he agonized over that and I told him he could get it corrected but in the end, a fifth grade A- in media won’t keep him out of Harvard.

Fifth grade certainly wasn’t his best year ever but he made some new friends and had some fun adventures. Here’s a snapshot of the last few months of his life:

We joined thousands of other fifth graders at the Salt Lake Bees baseball game. I volunteered but we got grouped with some kids who were not his friends so the first chance he got, he apologetically ditched me to sit with them. I didn’t blame him; I would have ditched our group as well.

Also of note: for his track and field day at school last week, he encouraged me to come but told me “not to speak to any of my friends unless first spoken to.” Apparently my years as the Queen Bee being invited to play four square at school are over.

He won the pinewood derby and later earned his Webelos rank. He will be entering 11-year-old Scouts this summer.

He wrapped up another great season of soccer with Jamie as the coach and Bode was the top scorer on the team. We lightly discouraged him from doing competitive next season because 1) of the cost and 2) they practice several times as week and travel extensively on the weekends. If he was a true soccer prodigy, we would have supported him but he ultimately decided to keep it casual and do rec soccer again in the fall. Better to be a superstar than to sit on the bench!

He was so sweet and made me breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day all by himself. Even if he has to save face with his buddies, he’s still a mama’s boy at heart. :-)

The whole family had a blast doing the Adventure Zipline Utah in Provo Canyon (more details forthcoming on that).

He joined in the fun at his new middle school’s Color Festival. Bonus: It involved a lot of color wars without having to run.

Our local library offers free coding classes so his three besties–Eli, Charlie and Jonas–joined him at the library every Thursday to learn how to code.

One day after class, I asked him what they learned and he proudly boasted, “We learned how to hack a website.”

While he gave his disgusting backpack a final scrub-down, I tried to give him a last-day-of-school pep talk. “Now Bode, if someone is sitting by themselves while everyone is getting their yearbooks signed…” “I will offer to sign their yearbook and ask them to sign mine.” “Yes, and as for your teacher…” “I will give her the gift and thank her.” “Yes!” “And don’t worry, Mom. I will only give my phone number to ‘trusted friends.’”

It’s sure nice when kids know how to parent themselves.

Welcome to Summer!

Everyone’s social media is “hey look, my kids is valedictorian….

…and I’m like “hey look, my kids is juggling his iPod, Nintendo DS AND TV at the same time.

School’s (Almost Out) for Summer!

Tomorrow is the kids’ last day of school and I already feel like a huge weight has been lifted. We survived. It wasn’t always pretty, but we did it! Already with the prospect of sleeping in, travels and camps, the kids are in their happy place.

My preliminary observations/frustrations after six months in Utah: Everyone has such big immediate and extended families they don’t make as much effort to go beyond that. On Sunday, we invited a couple of families over for a BBQ and one of the moms said just that–they’re always so busy with family commitments they rarely have time for anything else. In Colorado, our ward was our family and we did EVERYTHING together, even traveled. This makes me sad because my friends were the kids’ best friends and I don’t think we’ll ever have that here.

We have a pretty busy summer and I’d scheduled three weeks of “downtime” in June to explore the area with friends but I’m scrambling to fill it with other activities. My worst fear is the kids are bored, bored, bored and they’ll just stay at home playing video games (Bode) or watching insipid YouTube tutorials (Hadley).

Here’s what we have on tap for the rest of the summer:

Yard Work. A Lot of It.

We’ve been busy busy busy with yard work. When I say that, I envision mowing the lawn, trimming flowers and wearing a fancy gardening hat but our lives have been anything but. The last several weeks have been spent prepping our front yard for sod. Hauling out rocks. Grading the soil. Hauling out more rocks. Digging. And weeding. Have you ever seen a 1/2-acre with weeds? Welcome to our plot in paradise. We finally had sod delivered for our front lawn last week and it’s about 85% complete. The backyard is a different beast altogether and we can’t afford to sod so will go with hydroseed…just as soon as we can save up enough money for all the rocks and then weed the whole thing.

The only good thing to come out of all of this is that it’s teaching the kids to work hard. I was consoling Bode about it and said,

“This is price we pay for having a beautiful, big yard. I mean, we could have a small condo or apartment so we need to be grateful. Don’t you want a nice yard like this someday?”

“Yes, and I plan to pay someone to do it for me.” Smart kid.

Kids Adventure Games

Hadley and Bode are once again doing the Kids Adventure Games (but this time in Park City) and Hadley has had some struggles finding a teammate.  She’s well-liked in school and church but her friends just don’t want to do anything beyond that–I’m not sure if it’s a teen thing, they’re too busy with other commitments or they are just homebodies… maybe a combination of all three? It’s pretty unbelievable to me in a recreational paradise like Midway that there aren’t more outdoorsy girls but we have yet to find them.

We finally decided to invite one of her besties, Maeve, from Colorado. She’ll be staying with us for a week and Hadley is thrilled to have a friend who actually wants to do something and I’m thrilled she’ll have someone with whom to do things.  Bode will be running the race with his good friend and ski buddy, Porter. It’s one of the highlights of our summer and we can’t wait!

Dirty Dash

About six weeks ago, I was feeling sorry for myself and missing my friends in Denver. I saw an ad for the Dirty Dash, a 5K mud run in Midway, and casually sent a text to our snowshoeing/hiking group to see if anyone was interested. Seventeen of my new friends signed up! My knees are still giving my problems so I haven’t been able to do much running to train. My friend Jana is a hardcore cross-fitter and she worked with me yesterday–it felt so good to get back to boot-camp-style workouts and we plan to do them through the summer. Never mind that she could dead lift me; everyone has to start somewhere, right?

Colorado

The kids will be going to the acclaimed Keystone Science School so we’re joyously returning to Colorado for 10 days. While the kids are at camp, Jamie and I are going on a second honeymoon in Crested Butte and Keystone, topped off by a family trip to our favorite place on earth, The Broadmoor. That’s the good part. The bad part is I’m doing campaigns and travel articles on everything so my real work will begin once we’ve returned.

Activities

In addition to Keystone Science School, I’ve signed the kids up for some fun camps and activities. Hadley begged me to enroll her in rugby but she lasted one day (fortunately I was able to get my money back because they switched practice days). She’ll be doing a volleyball camp at the high school, as well as a week-long BYU volleyball camp thanks to the generous donation of her Grandma Johnson. Recreational activities are so cheap in the Heber Valley so we signed Bode up for a fishing class on Wednesdays (just $15 for six weeks) and he’ll also learn to play golf at The Homestead while Hadley is at Young Women’s Girls Camp.

Canada (and Cousins)

My brother Jade is getting remarried so we’ll be be in Canada for a couple of weeks for the wedding and our annual family reunion in Vernon, B.C. My mom’s MS is so far advanced she can no longer travel so the kids and I will spend a week in Calgary with her and my dad and then a few days at the lake. And we won’t be returning alone. While my brother is on his honeymoon, his two boys will be coming back to Utah and spending the week with us. Bode is thrilled; Hadley NotSoMuch. We plan to expose those city kids to country livin’ activities like the rodeo, which should be pretty interesting because we’re still getting acclimated to it ourselves.

Bring on SUMMER!