Happy 15th birthday, Bode!

Johnson Junior,

It’s tough to believe that 15 years ago, I had a pretty easy delivery with an easy-going kid. Really, the tough one was your father on your birth-day, whom I had to send home after you were born because he was so so so so sick and was “useless to me.” His mom had to take care of him those early days while I juggled you and Hadley.

(Sacred Grove, NY)

You’re a natural, humble leader. We’ve known this from your preschool days when your teachers said your peers looked up to you and followed your quiet example. You have been the Teacher’s Quorum President for the Fox Den Ward and it has been fun to see you learn how to be a leader as you conduct meetings and befriend each boy. You taught a lesson earlier this year that prompted a standing ovation from them and I’m sure it wasn’t just from your excellent treats. Though I’m sure that was part of it.

You’re without guile, full of loyalty, love, wisdom, calm, thoughtfulness, intelligence and expert gaming skillz (Minecraft still tops your list.) When we were driving back from Lake Powell last summer reflecting upon the chaos of all the kids on the houseboat (and my worry you felt lost in the mix), you insightfully said, “I don’t need to be the center of attention but I don’t want to be forgotten.”

You made the honor roll every term and got almost straight As your freshman year and at WHS (with a noteworthy A- in Band which could be easily remedied if you cared about practicing the saxophone). You were a tremendous help with Dad while we finished the basement and you emerged from quarantine mostly unscathed (it appealed to your introvert tendencies to chill out at home and play video games).

You and Hadley got a dog-walking gig with our beloved Chewy (Golden Retriever) and Zelda (Australian Shepherd) until they moved away. Then, you worked on the Heber Valley Railroad’s Polar Express as a “chef,” spreading delight and joy to boys and girls (or, at least cookies and hot chocolate). You grew your biggest pumpkin ever–635-pounder which you sold to Cornbellies for a nice profit and have started to see dollar signs in your plants!

For the past six months, you have been working a few hours a week at a ranch in Charleston where you get paid $60/week to take care of exotic birds, pygmy goats and sheep. Every day is a new adventure. Getting pecked by geese. Hauling heavy buckets of water and feed. The disappearance of rare ducks. Chipping ice so you can open the chicken coops. Bribing Peanut the goat back into his pen. Dealing with blown circuit breakers and frozen pipes. Working on a ranch is hearty, freezing, hot or mucky drudgery but it has been awesome to see you as a city kid work hard and tackle whatever needs to be done without complaint. Last week, you went to Tractor Supply to buy some feed (with your own VISA debit card) and I chuckled when 1) you commented on the magazine “Trapping 101″ at the check stand, saying you should look into it because you’ll probably have to trap some animals at the ranch and 2) when you signed up for Tractor Supply’s rewards program. Looks like you’re officially a country kid.

After a few years with Soldier Hollow’s Kickers and Gliders, you joined their Nordic ski team which was a lot of hard work but you have been a fantastic skier. On award day, you won the Team Mentor Award for always helping, teaching and encouraging the younger skiers. Even though it was a weird COVID year, your downhill skiing is better than ever and even though Dad won’t admit it, you’re probably the best in the family.

You recently joined the Wasatch Mountain Bike Team with some of your best buddies Henry, Eli land Evan and paid for your fancy new bike by yourself. You will have four races this summer and fall we and have been enjoying it thus far. Well, except for the 100-degree days. Better luck in the fall. You did summer ski training last summer in a mask so you’ve been well-equipped for weather-related suffering.

You’ve had some great travels this year despite the pandemic. The week before Memorial Day 2020, we met our friends the Hardymans to camp at the Grand Canyon…and were evacuated on Night 1 due to a wildfire (but talk about a memorable story about your first visit to this iconic National Park).  In July, we had our final houseboat adventures at Lake Powell with the Olsens because they sold their boat but those lazy, hot days on the water are some of our favorite memories. Last August, we had an awesome vacation in Crested Butte where we climbed 12,162-foot Mount Crested Butte (stunning) and mountain biked, and we had the time of our lives white-water rafting the Arkansas River and ziplining and scaling the precipitous Via Ferrata at Royal Gorge. The lodge we stayed at overlooking the deep cavern was spectacular and it was a fantastic family trip back to Colorado. For my birthday in February, we took a fun vacation to Bryce Canyon with the Olsens and then for Spring Break we flew out to Sea Island, Georgia for a beautiful beach vacation where you biked on the beach and successfully avoided eating seafood.

(Biking St. Simons Island)

(Crested Butte)

Your summer 2021 has been CRAZY busy.  On June 1st, you and your sister embarked on the trip of a lifetime with Illuminate Youth Tours. Church History sites like the Sacred Grove and Palmyra. Jumping in Lake Michigan in Chicago. A 13-hour day (with blisters to prove it) walking in New York City. A Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays game in Fenway Park. And Niagara Falls and Buffalo wings as a grand finale. You won Illuminate’s “Most Upbeat Attitude” award which is no small feat after traveling 4,000 miles over 17 days across 23 states. Your favorite Church History site was the Sacred Grove where you were reminded that your testimony and growth will be “line upon line.”

(Niagara Falls)

You arrived home at 1:30 a.m. and the very next day, I drove you (late) to High Adventure with the Young Men at Studdert’s cabin for some rafting and R&R in Star Valley, WY. After some male bonding, you were home for a week to try to recoup those NYC blisters (didn’t work) before embarking with the Scouts on a week-long 50-mile backpacking trip to King’s Peak, Utah’s highest mountain. You described it as hard with heat, rain, hail, heavy packs and yes, blisters but you enjoyed the challenge and did a great job.

(Star Valley, WY)

In my opinion, one of the best things to come out of quarantine was deepening your bond with your sister. When you were little, you were inseparable and that shifted when we moved to Utah when she started middle school and you were on different planets. The universe aligned again (or rather, you were forced together 24/7 for almost a year) and though you’ve never fought and have always gotten along, it’s been cool to see you both hanging out again by choice.

On your birthday weekend, you decided in the 11th hour to have your buddies over for a pizza night with our new pizza oven, games in the basement and you watched Captain America: The Tomorrow Soldier. Your actual birthday was on Sunday and you received luggage from Grandma and Grandpa Johnson, spending money for your Illuminate trip from Grandpa B., some clothes, videos games and an Apple watch. The actual day was dedicated to church, steak, cheesecake and learning how to shuffle and play poker….quite the contrast!

Bode, you are such a wonderful addition to our family and the perfect caboose to our crazy clan. You’re a person who doesn’t need much and are grateful for even the smallest gestures. A sense of contentedness abides in you which, I’m more and more convinced is the essence of our happiness. A contentedness that fuels from the inside out. And not from the outside in. Thanks for always leading the way.

Love,

Mom

P.S. For a stroll down memory lane, see birthday letters 1, 234 5,  6, and 78 910, 111213 and 14.

 

(Pandemic bread and puzzles)

(Bryce Canyon)

 

(Fenway Park)

(SH Mentor Award)

(Sun Valley, Idaho)

(Polar Express chef)

(Pandemic wontons)

(Royal Gorge Via Ferrata)

(Jekyll Island)

 

 

Happy 14th Birthday, Bode!

Dear Bode,

I can’t believe you turn 14 today and will be a freshman next month!  There are lot of great things happening in your life and you’re moving in a wonderful direction.  Finishing middle school (hurray!). Not even one visit to the counselor’s office (double hurray!). Honor roll every term (triple hurray!).

Overall, you describe middle school as an awkward time in your life but you survived the best you could and really, talking to girls is highly overrated. You quit the piano but took up the saxophone, were part of the Student Government, made a great group of friends with whom you’d hang out and play board games every weekend…until COVID hit. The pandemic was an excuse for a consummate introvert to thrive. You’d finish your schoolwork in a few hours…and spend the rest of your time playing video games or watching insipid YouTube videos and memes.  Yep, you’re definitely a teenage boy!

You have started taking more care in your appearance. You have a cool new haircut with buzzed sides and longer hair on top and cool clothes. You have been on the Solider Hollow ski team the past year and all that training has chiseled your body.  You surpassed me in height this year (I’m now the shortest), you have the same size of shoes as Hadley (for now) and I’m not sure you’ll be as tall as Dad because, well you know, Borowski genes. Hadley quit pumpkin growing but you have dutifully soldiered on. You took first place last year with your 299-pound pumpkin which won’t give you bragging rights with the ladies but it sure delights your dad.

You were devastated to lose Fat Kitty a few months ago. Since moving to Utah, he has been your best bud, frequently curling up to you at bedtime. It was a great blessing shortly thereafter to pick up a dog-walking gig with Chewy (a Golden Retriever) and Zelda (an Australian shepherd). You’re so endearingly patient with them, especially Zelda and her “Fris”bee. You’ll make a great dog dad someday if your dad ever gives in and lets us get another pet. After the basement is finished. And the backyard. And the fence. So, pretty much we’ll get a dog when you’ve graduated from college.

You are becoming a great Nordic and downhill skier and had a lot of fun ski days with friends and family at Park City Mountain this year. Favorite trips included Canada last summer, the Grand Canyon (well, before it caught on fire), Brian Head where we had one of our favorite ski days ever, Lake Powell with the Olsens, Anderson and Calderwoods, and plenty of Scout trips. The Church disbanded the Scouting program last year but fortunately, your awesome Scout Leader Rob Sorensen has kept it going with weekly meetings and monthly backcountry adventures.  I have no doubt these will be some of your most treasured childhood memories.

You have always been a strong, quiet leader who leads by example. When you taught a lesson on the Plan of Salvation in your Teacher’s Quorum, your instructors Brother Studdert and Frisby repeatedly texted Dad and me about what a tremendous job you were doing and how engaged the boys were. They even gave you a standing ovation at the end which is a pretty amazing thing considering your audience.

Following our recent trip to Lake Powell where you were a bit ill-at-ease as the cute Aubrey and Maddie taught you to dive, you later admitted but you’re not really one who likes the spotlight….but also don’t want to be forgotten.  There are plenty of flashy people out there but the world definitely needs more substance and you’ve got it, Kid. You’re a thinker, deeply connected to the Spirit, read your scriptures nightly (you’ve read the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, started on the Old Testament and fall asleep every night to the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square). The world needs more men who are good, kind, connected and empathetic.

You are a tremendous helper, too. You have helped finish the basement and with the landscaping without complaint and, though you’re every bit as miserable doing it as the rest of us, you frequently ask, “What else?” You will be a tremendous blessing to the world, just as you have been in our lives and I can’t wait to see the many ways that you will never be forgotten.

Thank you for being such a tremendous example to us all.

Love,

Mom

P.S. For a stroll down memory lane, see birthday letters 1, 234 5,  6, and 78 910, 1112 and 13.

(Teacher’s Quorum)

(Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point)

 

(DEVO Ski Practice, Solider Hollow)

Playing hooky with the Kuches

(First place pumpkin)

(Backpacking with the Scouts)

(Lake Powell 2020)

 

And the winner is…..

2019 was a successful growing year for the Johnson men. Well, kind of.  Jamie pulled his outdoor plant early in the season and Bode’s died a month before the weigh-off but these pumpkin men prevailed!

We attended the weigh-off at Thanksgiving Point which, frankly, is a disappointment compared to the Colorado one at Jared’s Nursery where they build an entire fall festival and haunted houses around the weigh-off.  In Utah, they have a few booths in an uninspired parking lot. However, some things they do right here are they are very efficient with ensuring the weigh-off goes quickly + they had some cool features like a giant pumpkin carver, our favorite pear gourds and even a gourd grown in a Frankenstein mold!

There were about 10 entries in the junior division. During his pre-weight interview, Bode estimated his pumpkin as about 300 pounds and it turned out to be….299 pounds which was enough for first place! Just imagine how much it would have weighed if it had kept growing.  It was sad for the boy because he worked hard on his plant this year and hoped to sell it. 

He won tickets to Thanksgiving Point’s Luminara at Christmastime and pumpkin carrying straps (just what every 13-year-old boy wants) and most importantly, bragging rights for his dad.

Not that he needed it.

Jamie’s pumpkin “Uncle Sam”  was measuring between 1,200-1,300 pounds and it would possibly be his heaviest ever (his previous record “Stanley,” was 1,240 pounds). But in pumpkin growing, it’s important to keep your hopes in check because Stanley actually measured much bigger (closer to 1,400 pounds) and went really light on the scale.

Just with the eyeball test, it looked like Uncle Sam was the second largest pumpkin there and when it was Jamie’s turn, I was praying it would just be over 1,200 pounds.

Well, Uncle Sam delivered because he went 8 percent heavy, weighing in at 1,325 pounds, Jamie’s personal best, and was the second largest pumpkin grown in Utah. What a victory! 

And now the fire has been fueled for the elusive first place next year.

The 12th Annual Giant Pumpkin Party!

OK, I may be several months behind writing about my life but one thing cannot be overlooked and that is the giant pumpkin party and weigh-off! It was a doozy of a year. Midway has a shorter growing season than Denver (which already wasn’t ideal), cooler nights and our beautiful view of Deer Creek Reservoir also means we get slammed with winds roaring up Provo Canyon.

Jamie’s solution was to build a government-funded greenhouse and that made all the difference even though there was a pretty steep leaving curve setting the beast up (it took WEEKS), and then came all the ongoing internal work like setting up fogger misting lines, geothermal system and fertigation systems and new growing challenges like too much nitrogen in the soil and a battle with spider mites. It was a  wet and cold spring with late frosts so several growers lost their plants early. We had one plant in the greenhouse and two outdoors and Jamie pulled that plant a couple of months ago while Bode’s pumpkin stopped growing a month and a half ago so his latest efforts have been just to keep it from rotting out. This was a big disappointment for Bode because he was pretty self-motivated to take care of his pumpkin this year as he wanted to sell it.

Speaking of which, the kids are starting an online business of selling giant pumpkin seeds and they will be selling pumpkin starters in the spring. Go check it out and tell your friends! PumpkinsForCollege.com

It has been a gorgeous fall and of course, a big storm was supposed to hit on the day of the pumpkin party. Our basement is still an unfinished eyesore and our small upstairs is not big enough to accommodate the 60+ people who came so we were PRAYING the storm would would hold off and it did…in fact, we were awoken the next morning by a torrential downpour. It was like the destroying angel passed right over us.  :-)

Our backyard is FINALLY almost finished with the exception of the fence, having to redo the edging and the last bit of rock (we have hauled 70+ tons of it the last two summers). Oh, and the trampoline. Don’t mention the trampoline to Jamie. We have spent a lot of time leveling out the back area and building a retaining wall to go around it. He bought a used trampoline (frame, pads, netting) but we needed to replace the trampoline part. And twice, the ones we ordered were too big or too small. We’re just ready to be DONE with it but so the tramp saga continues.

But anyhew, back to the party. Now that we have a much bigger yard, we’ve added some new elements that include Aunt Tammy’s gourmet s’mores bar, cornhole, ladder toss and Monster Bubbles. The spread of pumpkin treats was delicious and we had five crockpots of soup (Ellen’s Thai pumpkin curry was a favorite). The pumpkin party was 6-8 p.m. and the Homecoming football came was at 7 p.m. so we knew we’d lose some people (including our own daughter) but we still had a great turnout and a lot of fun. 

We have had two years when getting the pumpkin out of the patch was complicated. The first was when it RAINED several years back and the forklift kept slipping in the mud and almost tipping with the weight of the pumpkin. The second was this year. Do you remember all that rock? It surrounds our entire half-acre with the express purpose of bringing in heavy machinery to pull the pumpkin out. The problem was Power Equipment Rentals sent a beastly forklift, much bigger than usual, and it was really complicated trying to maneuver it into the greenhouse (a tiki torch and my peach tree were almost victims). But the Pumpkin man also doubles as an expert forklift driver so he did a great job, thanks to the help of our entire village who were guiding him and typing knots with the lifting straps. Here are a few pictures I took.

And then here are few pictures our friend Justin Bowen who works for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC took.

Minor difference.

So, how much did The Great Pumpkin weigh? Stay tuned! It was Jamie’s heaviest pumpkin yet.

Maybe all that work on the greenhouse and yard were worth it after all.

The 8th grader, the sophomore and the crazy summer

OK, this summer was a wash for blogging and pretty much staying on top of my life. The fact that, just two posts ago, I was talking about the last day of school and only wrote once for Bode’s birthday should tell you something.

Soooooo many updates but first, we have an eighth trader and a sophomore!

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First day of 8th grade for this kid where he’ll be a saxophone-playing, student-governing, ski-teaming fool. He hates having his picture taken almost as much as he hates going back to school but no one is rejoicing more than me that my middle school mothering years are almost over.

Sophomore year! She kicks off Young Artists’ Academy next week and has been drawing/painting everything (including her clothes). She also secured a gig helping with horses and really, the biggest downer is she got a retainer on Monday and talks with a lisp (she laments that she sounds like Dustin from ‘Stranger Things.’) My wise parental advice this morning? “Talk to no one, head down.” Good luck, Dusty Bun!

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As for summer? It kicked off with a trip to The Broadmoor for Memorial Day and Hadley’s birthday.

Bode was BUSY with DEVO (Nordic ski team training), PGA Junior League, coding class (PYTHON) and Scout trips including a week-long trip to Boulder Mountain. He shot up this summer, got his hair lightened and is looking like a certified teen. Without the moodiness and attitude. So far.

Hadley was not-so busy but we tried to keep her busy with girl’s camp at Heber Valley Camp, a week at Outdoors for Youth in Idaho over the 4th of July and waaaaay more down-time than a 15-year-old should ever have but what do you do when she’s too young to get a job and not interested in sports/programs? She spent a lot of time painting everything including her hands, clothes and canvases, cooking and chilling.

Oh, and procrastinating her online P.E. class that she never ended up finishing but that’s OK because we later found out what a nightmare it was. In my teacher-friend Jillian’s words: “PE is THE. WORST. ONLINE. COURSE. EVER. Seriously. It’s the only course my kid ever dropped, enrolled in real life, and it is taught BY SATAN and the curriculum was written by his ex-wife and demon spawn.”

Live and learn, folks. Oh, and I am never, ever homeschooling in a gazillion years.

Jamie has been busy obsessing over his greenhouse and has a pretty sizable pumpkin. We are almost finished hauling the 71 TONS OF ROCK in our backyard. Yes, it has been a misery and I am so done with it. We have one last small section where our trampoline will go up but we’re all pretty tapped out and may not get to it until spring. Jamie’s rheumatism has been debilitating so he started eating a Paleo/anti-inflammatory diet a month ago. It has helped with the migraines but it remains to be seen if it alleviates his chronic pain. I’ve been eating “clean” as well and feel so much better.

But do you know who has a new and girlish figure? Fat Kitty. In the spring, he was throwing up A LOT. We were worried he was terminally ill. He is, after all, an older cat (13 years old) and he had a lump on his back. Turns out it was just a fat lump and we were overfeeding him by just leaving out a huge bowl of food because we’re gone so much. Since we’ve limited his food intake, he has stopped puking, has slimmed down and is now only obese and not morbidly obese. I wish I could say slimming down has helped his energy levels but I don’t think that cat has ever been energetic or playful.

As for travel, the kids and I had a wonderful, though shorter-than-usual vacation to Canada: 5 days in Vernon and 5 days in Calgary.

Why the quicker trip? Because we were invited by our friends the Olsens and Andersons for a week on a houseboat at Lake Powell a few days after we got back. Every other person in Midway has an RV and a boat and since we have neither, people aren’t exactly knocking down our door to travel with us . So even though the timing was inconvenient and it was more money than we had in our travel budget this summer, we knew we had to jump at the chance. And it was really, truly an incredibly memorable trip that I hope to write about soon.

So many details to share and hopefully I’ll get to them. Even though it was a good summer, it was overwhelming and exhausting for me trying to juggle 30 hours of work/week + freelance projects + girl’s camp director + travel + kids. I got zero downtime and because of it, feel frazzled and exhausted. The kids going back to school actually feels like a vacation to me because I don’t feel obligated to keep them entertained while working all sorts of crazy hours. So here’s to a more leisurely fall.

Well, after I survive the Hades-that-is-Swiss Days Labor Day weekend. And the fact that we’re out of town the following weekend. And that I’m so far behind on work and Mile High Mamas right now that I feel like I’ll never get caught back up. And I’ve taken on another freelance assignment of writing for Ski Utah this winter in trade for a season pass at all the resorts so I guess I’ll never get caught up.

Better luck never, I guess.

XO

Happy 13th Birthday, Bode!

Bode,

This is the first birthday I have spent apart from you, something Dad has become acquainted with because we’re usually in Canada this week while he works. I’m missing you like crazy but I know you’re having a great time on your Scout camp-out at Boulder Mountain. These trips have been a source of joy for you this year as you have conquered fears like the rappel trip to Skull Valley and especially white-water rafting the Green River where you learned you have swimmer’s itch-repellent skin because you were one of the few who wasn’t plagued with it. That’s something to be proud of, Son!

Twelve was a great year for you! As far as Middle School goes, you’re making the best out of some of the most awkward years ever. You have a good group of friends at school, have made the honor roll every term for the last two years, got into student counsel for eighth grade and are enjoying a variety of activities outside of school. Though you stay busy, make no mistake that you enjoy your quiet downtime with video games, Audible, and more video games (rumor has it you’re getting a PS4 for your birthday and you’ve spent your summer trying to prove you’re not addicted to your technology so as to become more addicted with your new unit).

(Antelope Island)

The toughest waters you navigated were in math. You have always been the top of your class but this year, you qualified for Catalyst, an accelerated program that combined 7th and 8th grade math into one year. You fell behind in assignments, did poorly on a few tests and at mid-term, were at risk for being booted down to 7th Grade Honors. We gave you the choice to pray about what to do and to make the decision on your own…and you put your shoulder to the wheel, got caught up on your assignments and ended up doing well in the class. That week where we grounded you from video games so you could get caught up was helpful, too!

Since receiving the priesthood when you were twelve, you take your responsibilities very seriously. You collect Fast Offerings on Fast Sunday, serve as the counselor in your Deacon’s quorum presidency and regularly attend the temple and bear your testimony in Sacrament meeting. You also pass the Sacrament every week. My favorite moment was the first Sunday after it was announced that 11-year-old boys would be bumped up to become Deacons and you were suddenly among the oldest passing the Sacrament, they miscounted and you were running back and forth giving and receiving the bread on the middle row. Other people noticed how calm and composed you were. I just laughed because I knew inwardly you were freaking out.

You have developed the wonderful habit of reading the scriptures before bedtime and listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on your Alexa (“God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again” is always your final song). You read the entirety of the the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants and have now moved onto reading the Old Testament cover-to-cover, something that even I haven’t done. As a reward for finishing the Book of Mormon, Dad took you on a father-son trip to San Francisco last fall where you had a blast touring the city on foot and on bikes and even ran into a giant pumpkin on the street, thereby proving we’ll never truly be free of them (though you’re still growing and hope to make some cash from selling yours this fall).

Your enthusiasm for piano has been waning (despite doing a fantastic job playing the Missionary Medley duet with me in church) so I let you quit this summer with the promise that you’ll pour your energies into playing the saxophone. You had two lackluster years playing the flute and your sax skills have really taken off. You’ve serenaded me with “O Canada” and I was surprised when you played “Careless Whisper” even after I told you it was a stellar song for wooing women. Maybe your aversion to girls is softening just a bit, too. You can *almost* sit through kissing scenes on TV, have taken more care in your appearance, have had a growth spurt (you’re now in the 68th percentile for height and 64th for weight) and your voice dropped even lower than Dad’s.

You’re living your best life this summer. After your third season Nordic skiing with Kickers and Gliders at Soldier Hollow, you got bumped up to the advanced group, leaving me in your dust…errr…powder?

(Rappeling Skull Valley)

Even though you could have had one more year of class instruction, you decided to take it up to the next level by joining DEVO, the center’s ski team and you have been training twice a week this summer. Hiking, rollerskiing (which you picked up right away!) strength training, yoga (yuck) and your favorite: mountain biking. It has been fun to see you care about your fitness and becoming more careful with your food choices. Most of the time. Until you’re really, really hungry.

You have enjoyed playing with your airsoft guns with neighbors Hunter, Will, Stockton and whoever else is around. You had a blast downhill skiing at Park City with us and your friends this year. It has been awesome to see you start to click on the slopes as skiing becomes a passion. You are still wise and cautious on the slopes but your skill allows you to conquer terrain that I’m now shying away from. And yes, I did use the word “shy” to describe myself.

You are also in your second year of PGA Junior League and are enjoying playing twice a week…and I enjoy watching my two boys enjoy this sport together while I don’t have to lift a club.  You were even able to golf with Dad at one of The Broadmoor’s world-famous courses in May! You have been attending free weekly coding (Scratch) classes with friends Eli, Jonas and Brett at the library and kicked it up a notch this summer by completing a three-week-long Python coding class.  You’re eager to improve your computer skills and Dad is eager for someone else to teach you so he can hire you for his gruntwork in a few years.

Another end-of-an-era is soccer and Spring 2019 was your final season. Dad has coached your teams since moving here, mostly because their rec league sucks and if he was going to yell at everyone on the sidelines, he may as well make it official as coach.  You have been the top scorer on your team since moving here and an especial shout-out for the game when you took a shot on goal, the ball smacked your teammate’s face, and you scored a goal off the deflection.

Timpanogos Summit

You have had some good travels this year. Christmas and summers in Canada. Family reunion at Yellowstone/Henry’s Fork. The Broadmoor.  Vail/Beaver Creek (we skied our 28th of 33 Colorado resorts). Monthly Scouting adventures that included winter cabin camping at Tibble Fork, rappelling Skull Valley, exploring Antelope Island and you aren’t too sad to miss their annual Mount Timpanogos climb because you’ll be out-of-town (but you did it for the first time with Dad last summer). Your Scout leader, Rob, calls you a “joy,” which is a nice compliment because I’m sure he encounters lots of boys who are “less-than joyful” on these adventures.

You are kind and a peacemaker. When your dad and I were bickering with Hadley on the chairlift, there was a long, awkward silence before you piped in singing a happy song that had us laughing and forgiving in moments. Thank you for bringing our family together, for being thoughtful and for rarely complaining when you are asked to do something. Really, you mostly parent yourself these days with the exception that you are a slob, can’t cook (though you learned to make crepes this summer) and play way too many video games so I suppose those are the only reasons Dad and I have been put here on the earth. Mostly, you just keep the rest of us in line and are a tremendous example to us every day.

I’m not known for my finger-nail-cutting abilities (I accidentally cut baby Hadley when she was a baby and she had to wear socks on her hands to prevent greeting blood everywhere). When you were little, as I was cutting your nails, in the sweetest little-boy voice, you said, “Be gentlwe.” Dad and I are asking for the same courtesy during your teenage years. ;=)

XOXO

Mom

P.S. For a stroll down memory lane, see birthday letters 1, 234 5,  6, and 78 910, 11 and 12.

Final Kids Adventure Games with Porter

Antelope Island

Troll Falls, Kananaskis Country

Fins Course, The Broadmoor

Chair hike at Deer Creek

Grandma’s funeral

Regrub in Calgary

Snowshoe Winter Camp

Christmas lights at Temple Square

Troll Falls with Dad

Surfing at Lake Okanogan

Farewell to the 2018-19 School Year!

We survived the school year!

I’m still woefully behind on updating the blog and feel like I’ve been sludging through mud in May.  A rainy and cold month hasn’t helped but it has fit my mood. Now that it’s officially summer, the sun is finally out. We spent Hadley’s birthday Memorial Day weekend at The Broadmoor which was a glorious pick-me-up after a tough month.

As the kids get older, the differences between their first and last day of school photos aren’t nearly as drastic. Bode has definitely undergone the most changes with a growth spurt and a drop in his voice. Apparently the biggest difference for both of them (according to these pictures): hats.

Hadley’s Freshman Year Before and After

Freshman year of high school went a lot better than the entirety of middle school. Hadley is still struggling to find her friend group and activity but one thing I’m grateful for is that she has reconnected with art. It’s her love language and I love that she quickly cranked out paintings last night for her favorite teachers. This one is for her yoga instructor and I love the symbolism of the cairns which are used as trail markers to guide explorers. Her math teacher, Mr. Tree, has been a gem as well and if you know any of her history in math (and her many tutors over the years), you’ll understand the importance of a great mentor. She did much better in school and ended up with mostly As and a couple of Bs.

I have had a panic attack the last few weeks about her lack of plans for the summer. She’s too young to be employable but there aren’t many opportunities for camps around here (nor does she have much interest).  I have always kept the kids busy in the summer because downtime = technology time = trouble (especially as they grow older). So, after a power struggle, she agreed to let me sign her up for Youth Triathlon training for a couple of mornings a week in June. She will have YW Girl’s Camp for a week (with me as Camp Director; lucky girl) and I just signed her up for Outdoors for Youth, the outdoorsy equivalent to EFY. It was a financial stretch but I figure getting that girl active and outdoors while building her testimony is a worthwhile investment. We’ll be vacationing in Canada for a couple of week in July but we still have a looooooong stretch ahead of us and hopefully she’ll find ways to have a fun, productive summer.

Bode’s 7th Grade Before and After   Dare I say that Bode thrived in seventh grade (well, as much as you can thrive in the dreaded middle school years). He has made the honor roll for two years straight and learned how to really WORK with his advanced Catalyst math class which crammed 7th and 8th grade math into a single year. He bombed his mid-term and got really far behind on his class assignments…and was *this* close to being demoted to Honors Math but we left him with the choice to soldier through it or take the lower class. He opted to work hard to get his grade back up (a week-long grounding from video games helped as well). He was accepted into student government next year and switched from the flute to saxophone so my dreams of having a band geek in high school may be realized. Though who else thinks sax is pretty sexy? That boy played “O Canada” on his sax and he’ll be able to woo any woman, which will be helpful because he still can’t talk to girls. Which I’m quite happy about because I’m trying to keep Hadley away from boys.

Bode has a fun, full summer ahead of him. He has done Kickers and Gliders for the past three seasons at Soldier Hollow Nordic Center and made the decision that he wants to try their ski team so is entering into their summer ski training program a couple of mornings a week. He is also doing PGA Jr. League again twice a week, a Python coding class for a few weeks and a few Scout trips: His first white-water rafting adventure in the Green River next week, Boulder Mountain over his birthday and and then Mount Timpanogos again in August.  And he’ll have plenty of downtime to hang out with his buddies, have airsoft wars and play video games.

Jamie just landed a big client and his project deadline hits around the same time as our Canada trip. So, he will be dedicating his summer to work and pumpkins, which sounds pretty miserable to me but in his own warped way, I think he’s having a good time trying to figure out his new greenhouse except for suffering through the bad weather and rheumatism.

As for me, I thank my lucky stars I’m no longer at BYU and am able to work from home. Being gone for 9 hours/day with a 1.5-hour commute was tough and even though I’ll still be working all summer, at least I’ll have a flexible schedule and will be more present for my kids. Goals: Get back in shape now that my knee is fixed and do more water sports like Stand-up Paddleboarding.

Bring it on!

FHE Fun

One of my favorite things about the Church is the emphasis we place on families. Every Monday night (or whenever it fits into our schedule), we are are encouraged to spend time together for a lesson or just to have fun.

Hadley recently complained that we never do anything *she* wants to do so I figured FHE would be a great place to be more intentional with our activities and let each individual shine.

For Hadley, we did art.

For Bode, we had a fitness/nutrition night.

For me, we’ll hike.

For Jamie, he will probably make us haul rocks in the backyard.

Some shining is more brilliant than others.

Hadley’s paint and canvas are really expensive and I didn’t want to waste them so the rest of us used some old, cheap paint and ripped up a cardboard box for our masterpieces. Hadley chose a fairly easy design for us to follow and I was actually really impressed with her patience as she taught us. 

Can you figure out who drew what?

 

Hadley: Top left.

Bode: Top right

Me: Bottom left

Jamie: Went rogue and did his own thing. WHATTHECRAP? We’ve been married 15 years and though I knew he took some painting classes when he was younger, I had no idea he was so talented. If he can do that on a crappy piece of cardboard with old paint brushes, what can he do with good materials?

Bode and I were disasters which is OK because we have other talents (repeat 100X).

I mentioned that Bode has recently become dedicated to exercising several times a week and eating better.  We launched a no-sugar challenge as a family and for his FHE, we made a meal plan and then spent the night reading nutrition labels at the store.

The previous week, he downed an entire box of Ritz crackers and as he was reading the label at the store, he asked, “how much is 24 x 80?” When we joked ore calories and fat than he wanted to know, he defended himself: “Hey, I’m not proud of my past.”

 

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Winter 2019 is a wrap!

I was supposed to publish this on March 20 but never finished it and hit publish. How quickly this month passed!

How did winter 2019 slip by so fast? We have had a lot of stress with my mom’s health the last few months (and my passport problems added to the panic in case I needed to get home) but after an extended stay in the hospital, she is home for now.

But we’ll focus on the fun parts of Winter 2019 because there were plenty in one of my snowiest winters since I have lived in the U.S.

Snow. So much glorious snow. Oh, wait. I already mentioned that. I truly can’t remember enjoying myself so much in years. We’ve had almost constant snow since Christmas which is pretty funny because very few people around town have taken down their outdoor Christmas decorations and it’s totally OK (edited to note: they finally came down April 17). We haven’t had very many huge snowfalls but rather, just nice and consistent almost every week. After two grueling years of landscaping our yard (and we’re still not finished), we had a great winter where we were finally able to play with lots of snow days.

Jamie, Hadley and I went to the Midway Ice Castles preview party. Translucent blue, green and red sculpted waves danced on the walls, showcasing our very own aurora borealis…without the Arctic temps. 

That night was a win for all except for Bode who winter cabin camping with the Scouts.

Luckily for Bode, he got really sick the following month when they did their winter cave camping trip. He wasn’t disappointed to miss it.

DOWNHILL SKI

Lots and lots of ski days. Bode is totally rocking the slopes, Hadley is still struggling with PTSD, Jamie is skiing stronger than ever and I’m getting worse in my old age and am the slowest of all. But we still love it!

Day date!

I only had one girl’s day this year but it was memorable. As we were driving to Park City, I realized my ski boots were SOAKING wet on the inside, which was particularly suspect because I hadn’t skied in over a week. My girls Rachel and Julie to the rescue! I went through an entire roll of paper towels trying to soak up the moisture during the drive and in a stroke of brilliance, we picked up plastic bags that I wore as booties to keep my feet dry.

Girl’s day with Rachel and Julie

Redneck ski boots.

On Saturday, we did a Couple’s Day Out with Jamie’s college friends, Jim and Lindsay. First and last on the slopes, zero drama/whining, gorgeous conditions and a leisurely 1.5-hour Legends burger lunch. That day was a rare glimpse at the fun side of adulting.

NORDIC SKI

Bode and I Nordic skied twice a week after school at Soldier Hollow. This will likely be our third and final year of Kickers and Gliders ski program because he wants to try their DEVO ski team this summer and next winter. The first year we did the program, it was epic because of the incredible snow. Last year was horrible due to the lack of slow and the man-made 5K icy track we looped over and over again. But Bode didn’t mind. Whenever it did snow, the groomers made these huge piles of snow to later distribute that the kids called “snow whales.” They looooved racing down their steep slopes.

This year, Bode got bumped up to the advanced class while I happily stayed back with the intermediates who, by the end of the season, were skiing some pretty crazy stuff. I love the uphill and flats on Nordic skis but if you’ve ever attempted the downhill, you know the terror I’m talking about with no edges and the inability to turn. Regardless, it was fun seeing Bode fall in love with cross-country skiing as well.

Hula hoop obstacle course racing

He did DEVO “tryouts” last week where they could try out the team and I saw his competitive edge kick in as he raced to the top and came in second.

For the first time in his life, he is actually trying to get into shape and goes on the elliptical in the basement…except for when there are spider webs because THAT, my friends is a deal-breaker. I hope he enjoys their summer training program!

Hadley and Jamie, on the other hand, hate cross-country skiing. We planned to ski on my birthday but it was brutally cold that Wednesday morning and I was told the ski crowds would be bad. I let Hadley skip her state testing that day and she promised to do anything I wanted…so she made me crepes for breakfast and we went cross country skiing at the golf course at Wasatch Mountain State Park for the first time. Hadley hated every minute of it but bless her heart, she tried to be *kind* of positive because it was my birthday. Jamie didn’t even bother coming. :-)

The Duck Whisperer

I went back a few days without her and discovered a secret network of trails that climbed for miles and miles in the foothills. I went about a half hour before reluctantly turning around because 1) remember how I’m not great at the downhill and I didn’t want to get stranded? and 2) due to the high snow levels, we have had a lot of cougar and moose in the valley and I didn’t want to get attacked. I’m already chomping at the bit just thinking about exploring this next year:

SNOWSHOEING

During our first winter in Midway, I organized a memorable couple’s full moon snowshoe night. We skipped last year due to abysmal snow but this year, we reintroduced Soup ‘n Snowshoes with these crazies under a full moon, followed by wart removal New Year’s resolutions, and late-night game night with leg wrestling champions, pumpkin-orange diarrhea and the very salacious Song of Solomon. #WhyParentsShouldn’tStayUpLate 

And of course, there was our memorable Valentine’s Day overnight yurt retreat!

I had quite a few fun outings with friends, none of each involved plastic bag booties.

Big Springs

Wasatch Mountain State Park

 

North Fork in the Uintas

2) Jamie’s parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary later this month and that will be a different post unto itself.  Last weekend, we drove 45 minutes to the Art City Trolley because Jamie was craving the best wings ever. Little did I know that just two doors down was the home his parents rented the first four years of his life: 107 Main Street, Springville. For being so young, he remembered quite a bit. Winning a fish at a competition at the church across the street. Burying the fish in the backyard. Visiting the lady next door who ran a headstone company (it’s still there) who would give him hard candies. The huge lot across the street where his dad would garden (it’s now a 7-11). Progress, folks!

Now, let’s hear it for our rainy and snowy spring after our glorious winter!

Overnight welcome to puberty

When you live with someone, you don’t always notice big or small changes right away. Hadley’s entrance to puberty has been fairly gradual (despite shooting up the summer before fifth grade and being a foot taller than everyone).

Almost overnight, I started getting a lot of comments about Bode.

“Have you noticed his voice has dropped?”

“He lost his baby fat on his face and he grew two inches!”

And my favorite from his piano teacher:

“Oh my gosh! Your little boy’s voice is dropping lower and his cute cheeks are hollowing out–he’s entering testoterone-land. He’s going to be a handsome man.”

And then I tuned in that they were right! That boy of mine is entering teen-dom.

He’s still really easy-going and sweet but there is definitely the occasional dose of moodiness. He has taken more care in his appearance and actually started styling his hair this year. For the first time in his life, he’s interested in eating healthier and has put himself on a fitness regimen by running on the elliptical for a mile every day as he tries to get in great shape for soccer and summer ski season. WHAT?!

I can find awesome brand-name clothes at a thrift shop in Provo and have always done his shopping for him because he just hasn’t cared…until last week when I came home with a haul of clothes and he said he wanted to come with me from now on to pick them out. Fortunately, there was only one shirt he didn’t like, which is a far cry from Hadley who hates 95% of what I buy for her…and that is why I don’t shop for her anymore. He hasn’t surpassed me in height–yet– but the countdown is on.

Last week, he was really tired and a bit grumpy racing out the door in the morning. I soon realized he forgot his lunch so I drove to meet him at the bus stop. He sheepishly and affectionately thanked me, grabbed his lunch and I caught a glimpse of my little boy as my teenager walked to the bus.

These are tough years for mamas but what a wonderful young man he is becoming.