The real winners

I played team sports my whole life but I am most grateful for the individual sports/activities I did like skiing, running and hiking.  Team sports have a limited shelf life but instilling an activity you can do until your old and gray? Priceless.

One of the great things about living in a small community is the cost of recreational sports are very affordable. Bode is wrapping a fun rec soccer season and it’s the perfect fit for him. Low cost, low stress, show up, play for a month twice a year, and be the superstar (none of these things would happen in competitive soccer).

Both of the kids will be doing a lot of challenging hikes this summer so I encouraged them both to run track to get in shape. I told them I didn’t care if they did the track meets but Bode wanted to do the first mini-meet that was held at our local high school. His chosen events? 100m, 200m and the long jump.

Here’s what you need to know about Bode: he isn’t fast. He has these short Borowski legs that just aren’t equipped for top speeds but he doesn’t really care. He had a 5K a few weeks ago for a school fundraiser and when I asked him if he should start training, he replied, “No need. I can already run a 9.5-minute mile.”

Impressive.

All teasing aside, I actually really admire him. He’s fearless with trying new things and he doesn’t really care if he’s not the best; he’s just in it for the experience. I was always driven to win and if I wasn’t the best, I didn’t want to do it. All or nothing. Field hockey, basketball and baseball–I am regretfully talking about you. It is only as I’ve aged and have been unable to perform at high levels that I’ve realized the value of being part of something, even if you’re not No. 1.

Bode gets that.

Several of his friends are doing track with him and they all performed about the same level, which made for some good parental bonding. Our text conversations:

Me: “Last is the new first! Eli came in last place in his 100m heat and Bode and Henry tied for last in theirs.”

Jenn: “Ha, Yes! I’m so glad they’re all in this together.”

Sarah: “LOL, way to go boys!

Ben: “Ellis just broke the trend with a second-to-last finish.”

Here’s to the losers who are actually winners because they’re not afraid to play the game.

Sports crazed

Hadley is wrapping up her volleyball season this week and it has been one of highs and lows. She tried out and made the club team, switched to the setter position and then got hurt by the snowboarder…which set her back several weeks. While everyone was learning rotations and skills, she often has to sit out until her back healed…but even after she started feeling better, her coach had already written her off. And the bad news is that same coach also coaches at the high-school level. Even though money is tight (no thanks to our mountain of medical bills and the snowboarder who refuses to pay them), we enrolled her in BYU’s volleyball camp this summer because it’s one of the few activities she enjoys.

A few weeks ago, that coach was out of town for a tournament as was the other setter (there are three of them) so Hadley got to play for two days and she did so well! The Friday night was sheer magic. Those girls won every single game (something that has never happened) and they were on cloud nine. Until Saturday play. They were bumped up to the elite gold level and I kid you not–some of those eighth grade girls were at the same level as my high school team.  We got slaughtered.

But at least they looked good doing it!

Bode kept busy this winter with cross-country ski lessons, coding and downhill skiing. He is signed up for track with his buddies and when I suggested he start running to get in shape for that and soccer, he responded, “No way, Mom. I can already run a 9.5-minute mile.” Talk about a speed demon.

Jamie is coaching rec soccer gain this year. This is Bode’s fourth season playing in Utah and Jamie’s second time coaching. He learned his lesson last season when he opted not to coach and when we got someone who had zero experience with soccer which made Jamie a very irascible parent. He has learned the hard way that if he’s going to sit on the sidelines screaming at everyone, he may as well be coach.

I took on the role of team manager, texting everyone and organizing the snack schedule. When I asked all the parents what position their kids played, most responded “defender” or they had little/no experience at all.

We were bracing ourselves for the worst today but my gosh if their team didn’t dominate. They’re playing co-ed at this age and our nine boys and three girls annihilated the other team 8-0. It was fun to see them play so seamlessly together–passing and already demonstrating awesome teamwork. One of the boys, Aaron, just moved here from upstate New York and proclaimed Jamie the best coach he has ever had.

Let’s see if they can keep that momentum going!

That Whole Prayer Thing? Just Do It!

We just returned from a fast-and-furious trip to San Diego for Spring Break. We had to cram a week’s worth of activities into just three days because I have a huge work event next week so it was quite the whirlwind. When I get a moment to breathe, I’ll document all of the fun but for now here is something noteworthy.

On Friday, we went to SeaWorld. I have pretty magical Shamu memories from my youth and though they’ve done away with that show due to the recent trainer death, it’s still a special place. Jamie, Hadley and Bode and never been so it has been on my bucket list for them. We arrived at the park on Friday right after it opened and we pretty much had the run of the place (the crowds came later) so we had a blast riding their Manta roller-coaster (not too fast, not too slow, but juuuuust right). We were on a high as we explored the exhibits, pet stingrays and explored the Park.

Enter: Shipwreck Rapids.

We’ve done a similar ride several times at other theme parks with the winding river turns to rolling whitewater rapids. It’s a fun ride but not a favorite unless it’s hot because you get really wet. But Bode really wanted to do it and when you’re the younger brother of a bossy older sister, you rarely get your way. And easy-going Bode usually lets it slide so when he really wants to do something, we try to make it happen. The line said the wait time was 30 minutes but 60 minutes later, we finally boarded and the boys got drenched. During the ride, some nice passersby called out to us, waving. We excitedly waved back and that’s when they unleashed their supersoaker spray guns. For just 25 cents you can shoot the people on the ride.

Well, Bode was sold. After we got off to the ride, we were drying off near the lockers and he asked if he could have a quarter. I gave him my wallet, forgot about the interchange and a few minutes later, we went to get something to eat. As I went to pay, I reached into my backpack  and the wallet was gone.

“Bode, where is my wallet?”

“I gave it back to you!”

Turns out, he didn’t *exactly* return it…he left it on the ledge where I was sitting…and then we walked away.

Panicked, the two of us raced back to the lockers. As we were running, his first instinct was, “Mom, we need to say a prayer.”

We’ve taught the boy too well. I said a rushed prayer mid-run and as we returned to the final resting places of my wallet, we were dismayed that it was gone. The woman now sitting there said a couple of ladies were previously there and that she saw the wallet—she assumed it belonged to them. She got up to go to the restroom and when she returned, those ladies—and the wallet—were gone. AWK! I asked around to the area workers to see if it had been turned in and nothing.

Dismayed, we loped back to the lost-and-found to file a report. I didn’t have much hope but fortunately Bode did. He later told me he said two additional prayers that the person who had the wallet would feel bad and turn it in.

I told Bode I knew it was an accident but I was still in a MOOD. I told Jamie to take the kids to do some rides and I would meet them at the next show while I stayed behind to put a hold on our credit cards.

As I sat there, I felt I should go back to the scene of the crime one last time. Upon arrival, I saw a new worker at the gate—I had previously noticed him operating the Manta ride an hour earlier. Even though he wasn’t around when the wallet was taken, I asked him if he had heard anything.

“Yes,” he said. “A wallet got turned in and taken back up to the Manta ride.”

I raced up the ramp and sure enough, my wallet was there in one piece. How grateful I am for the honest people who found it and for the young boy whose first instinct was to turn to prayer.

That same week, my dad posted that he had misplaced my mom’s hearing aids. He had looked EVERYWHERE and couldn’t find them….but just before he was going to spend a few thousand dollars to replace them, he said a prayer. And he found them a few minutes later in her purse.

Takeaway: Prayer works and I need to slow down and remember that more.

Adventures at the Heber Valley Camp

It’s a busy weekend Chez Johnson. Bode just left on his first winter camp-out with a winter storm advisory in effect (pray for him) and Hadley has a volleyball tournament 1.5 hours away. This is the first time she is attempting to play since her accident so we’ll see how much she’s able to do. My twin nieces are getting baptized tomorrow and did I mention that big winter storm that is bearing down upon us? It should make for a crazy time.

All the Scouts are going to Heber Valley Camp this weekend. The LDS Church owns a smattering of camps throughout Utah and rents them out to the public in the off-season where it’s a madhouse trying to get a reservation. My brother-in-law Jeremy managed to score a one-night stay in one of the cabins and was generous enough to invite us along last year. I can’t believe I didn’t blog about it and just looking at the pictures makes me really sad because it was such an epic snow year. The rustic cabins and yurts aren’t heated but we sure had fun sledding, hiking and playing in the snow!

View from Heber Valley Camp of our little valley

The sledding races (we’re highly competitive)


I’ve been poking fun regarding how cold it will be this weekend but decided I’d better start getting Bode excited about the campout.

Me: “You know I’m just kidding about the cold, right? I’m sure you’ll have a blast this weekend!”

Him: “Do you mean a blast of heat?”

Me: “No, definitely not that.”

When I dropped him off at the church all the 11-year-old Scouts were loading up. Prior to departure, Bode was asked to say the prayer. Now, as a bit of background, Bode has always said THE BEST prayers. When he was younger, I kid you not–his nightmare prayers went on FOREVER–and even now when he’s blessing the food at dinner, he can sometimes ramble on a bit long (I mean, sometimes you just wanna eat). But you know in the book of Matthew when it admonishes against using vain repetitions? That is NOT Bode.

He gave a nice prayer for them to be safe and have a nice time but at the end, my friend Julie and I could barely contain our laughter as he prayed, “Please bless us to think twice before we do anything.”

I hereby vote THIS should be the new Scout motto.

 

This is Me

We recently met Jamie’s family in Salt Lake City for my nephew Darby’s 3-year-old birthday party complete with “Panda food” (which is apparently hot dogs and mac ‘n cheese) and the movie, The Greatest Showman.

(Circus preview show)

 

I had heard some positive buzz but honestly, it wasn’t on my radar at all. Even though Sound of Music is my favorite movie of all time, I’m not a huge fan of musicals because they often come across as forced and trite but from the opening scene, I knew this was something special.

 

Based on the true life story of P.T. Barnum, this visionary rose from nothing to create “The Greatest Show on Earth,” a spectacle and celebration of his larger-than-life imagination that captivated audiences around the globe. 

 

I have done a lot of promotions with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus over the years and we were given some cool access to the productions and preview shows. Over the years, they have been plagued with allegations of mistreatment of animals  and have fought back, even removing elephants from their shows. But in the world of hyperconnectivity and YouTube, the audiences just weren’t there anymore and after a run of 146 years, their performances came to an end last year.

 

I’ll never forget the looks of sheer wonder when I took my kids to the circus and I’m so grateful they were numbered among the final generation to be a part of this celebration of what is possible.

 

The Greatest Showman is about love and acceptance, of how a bunch of “misfits” in society who rejected by their pwn families were brought together to create magic. With every song that was sung, I kept thinking “this is my favorite” and then each one would be topped with a new favorite.

 

“This Is Me” was sung by the bearded lady, Lettie Lutz (played by Keala Settle). I loved it so much that when I  got home from the movie, I found a version of it on YouTube that completely blew me away. The movie was seven years in development. Prior to getting approved, all of the performers, producers and Fox executives had to meet together in NYC (a process that took eight months) to do a read-through and perform the songs.


No one had ever heard Keala sing “This is Me” live and what transpired became what she called an “otherworldly experience” in this anthem for the underdog.

If you haven’t seen it yet, go. Take your friends and family. And teach them that we all play an important role in this big, beautiful world.

[Verse 1: Lettie Lutz]
I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are

[Pre-Chorus: Lettie Lutz]
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious

[Chorus: Lettie Lutz]
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

[Post-Chorus: Ensemble]
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh

Christmas 2017: It’s a Wrap!

Christmas 2017 is a wrap! Jamie’s family has some lovely traditions and they are kind enough to let me integrate a few of my own.

Saturday

With Christmas on a Monday, our schedule was thrown a bit of a wrench because many of our activities fell on Saturday. It didn’t make much sense to drive back and forth from Salt Lake City (about an hour away) so when we saw snow was in the forecast, we stayed Saturday and Sunday night at Linda’s.  Jamie’s brother Chris drove out from Denver so the whole clan was here, which made for a tight squeeze at Grandma Linda’s Inn but was still fun.

The brunch at Grand America was our first stop. Linda is kind enough to treat the whole family and I love this tradition in one of Utah’s fanciest hotels. The selection isn’t nearly as extensive as The Broadmoor (which has ruined us for life) but the food is still delicious. They took way too many reservations so there was a long wait for the food–a line that wrapped all the way around the dining room–which is really pathetic at a buffet.  But trust my good husband to issue a complaint and get four of the meals comped because we’re those people.

Side note: Pay particular attention to Bode’s expressions. He’s a real joy with pictures right now. :-)

We took family pictures in the courtyard in the snow, Chris chucked a snowball at Jamie (can’t wait to see that photo) and we dispersed back to the hotel to check-out the life-sized gingerbread house and candy windows. From there, it was off to see “The Last Jedi,” which got two thumbs up from us all! The rest of the day/night was pizza gorging and hanging out at Grandma’s.

Sunday

The whole family attended church at Grandma’s ward and it was one of my most memorable Christmas Sundays ever! They combined with the Spanish-speaking congregation and having the service entirely bilingual was so touching. We were surrounded by Spanish-speaking families and I got choked up to hear them sing…and then we joined them to attempt “Silent Night” in Spanish. There were several times during the service when the speakers and singers were moved to tears and it was just so memorable to be reminded that we are all part of this big, beautiful world bonded together by our Savior, regardless of what language we speak.


Jamie’s sister, Tammy, threw a wonderful Christmas Eve party complete with my family’s pipe bells, the gift exchange game where Linda was the grand prize winner of my white elephant gift: a beautifully framed picture of The Pumpkin Man. Tammy is an amazing cook and we had smoked pork tacos and figgy pudding for dessert, and watched A Christmas Carol and the story of the Nativity.

The bells!

On the drive back to Grandma’s, we stopped at Temple Square to the see the lights. Zero crowds + the Salt Lake Temple appearing like an apparition in the flurry of snow and lights = a peacefulness that breathed the very spirit of that holy day.

Monday

Christmas!!! My loving(?!) husband excitedly woke everyone up at 7:15 a.m., which I suppose isn’t nearly as bad as my brother Pat’s family who always wake up around 4 a.m. (proof of “Crazy Canucks” is in the puddin’). I made breakfast bake with Hollandaise sauce and our famous Ebelskivers for a yummy Christmas breakfast…and the wait wasn’t nearly as long as the Grand America.

Growing up, our family’s tradition was a bit of a free-for-all with paper and presents flying everywhere. Jamie’s family is much more civilized and they elect a Santa who hands out presents and everyone takes turns opening them for all to see. It’s a bit tedious for kids (like me) who just want to get on with it but it makes the moment last longer.

A few gift highlights:

Jamie: We seem to always forgo presents to each other and pool our financial resources into other presents for the kids and family. His big gift for his birthday a couple of weeks ago was a new suit, which he proudly modeled as his “birthday suit.” His mom bought propane tanks for his new greenhouse and that will be part of my dad’s gift as well (we’re sure fun people). Jamie also bought a few Echo Dots to smart-wire our house.   He claims “Alexa” is the only woman in the house who actually listens to him and does what he says. 

Bode: Aunt Lisa and Grandma bought him a Kindle Fire and my dad sent some money to buy our own gifts so we loaded a lot of books and games onto his Kindle Fire.  Jamie also bought him a drone, only to find out (too late) it doesn’t have a video camera. We figure we’ll do an upgrade once he figures how to fly it without crashing! He loves games of all kinds so scored several classic board games like Mastermind and Rummikub.

Hadley: We’re trying to finish decorating her room so she got some lights and clips to hang pictures and we’re still searching for the perfect portrait for above her bed.  She got a tripod for her camera, Grandma Johnson bought her a lot of clothes, while Grandpa Borowski got her VANS and volleyball shoes. She was excited to get Alexa in her room because she can finally listen to music (we don’t allow phones/computers in the bedrooms); however, we have more sinister plans like wake-up calls and turning on the lights to get that teen out of bed. She had her phone taken away the week leading up to Christmas so she said her favorite gift was getting it back on Christmas. Note to self: Don’t waste money on presents next year; just regift items they already have.

Me: Now that we live next to The Best Pathway in the World (the Provo River Parkway), I bought some new roller-blades from my dad. My blades are 20+ years old and my sole outing last summer on my decrepit blades was rather disastrous. Jamie surprised me with some gorgeous new KEEN hiking shoes and I got some cookbooks and kitchen items as well.

Jamie’s parents received a financial settlement from a lawsuit so generously gave each of their children some money, as well as put some in each grandchild’s college tuition account. My first thought upon receiving their gift was to make a smart investment but Jamie’s plan made more sense: to pay down some debt. We’re still climbing out of all financial messes of our move…and the car troubles from last summer.  We’re almost out of debt and vowed to be completely debt-free before taking more on with getting another car, landscaping the backyard and finishing the basement. We had a good chuckle when we realized my Pilot is as old as our marriage–a 2003! It’s no wonder it’s falling apart.

Our 2017 had a lot of highs and lows as our first full year in Utah but I’m hopeful that this slow rebuilding process will start to have some dividends in 2018. Here’s to a great one!

Teenage Musings

One term down, three more to go. For Hadley, that is. You’d better believe the middle school countdown is on because we’ve all hated the last 10 months (minus summer break). I’m not sure what it is about this age for girls but it is brutal beyond what I ever could have imagined.

Bode is fine. He’s doing great in all of his classes and does the monthly “math bus” where he goes to the high school for more challenging math opportunities.  He made the honor roll and commemorated it by handing me this.

 

My friend suggested I frame it as-is. I think she may be onto something.

Part of my frustration with traditional public schools is they just don’t fit the mold for everyone. If you’re a linear learner like Bode, you excel. If you’re an experiential, artistic person, you just feel stupid. It doesn’t help the middle school doesn’t have any extracurriculars or any teachers who go above-and-beyond to help. When you struggle in elementary school, your teacher works through it with you because you have an established relationship; in middle school, you’re hung out to dry. Some kids adapt quickly to this new paradigm while many fall short.

Hadley has zero motivation until the end-of-term when the heat is on and then can generally pull off reasonable grades. How do you motivate the unmotivatable? “It’s too hard.” She hates her classes so it’s easy just not to care.  If it was only school, that would be one thing but she lacks motivation in most areas in her life and we’re really struggling to find something she’s passionate about. Even for volleyball, which she enjoyed playing last year, she told us if she doesn’t make the competitive team (which she has zero motivation to practice for tryouts), she’s prepared just to drop it altogether.

I guess if there’s any age where you’re going to struggle with figuring out life, 13 years old is the time to do it. But what if you don’t emerge unscathed? She is such an amazingly strong spirit, so stubborn but full of so much power. She’s a leader and makes things happen (but only when she wants to). She’s fun, she’s hilarious, she creates beauty in so many forms and when she figures out how to harness the gifts and talents she’s been given, she will be unstoppable.   When we first moved to Utah, she was on fire and landed on the honor roll her first term, proving she can do anything when she puts her mind to it.

Bode cares deeply about people and as a peacemaker, hates contention. Over the weekend, we went shopping for Hadley’s ski jacket. We tried a few second-hand stores and of course, the only coat she liked was a full-priced one at REI, blowing most of her Christmas budget. If we were to compare the amount of money we spend on her vs. low-maintenance Bode, there would be no comparison so I bought him a cool hat for school. Hadley immediately fell in love with it but I was firm that it was Bode’s and she didn’t argue after all the money we’d just dropped on her.

Last night as we gathered for family prayer, he casually mentioned that she had been bugging him to borrow her hat so he bribed her. I was surprised because he’s not really the bribery type and plus, what does she have that he wants?

“I told her she could borrow the hat if she worked really hard tomorrow to pull up one of her failing grades.”

That sweet kid. Maybe I’ll turn over all parental duties to him.

The First Annual Utah Giant Pumpkin Party & Weigh-off!

I’ll admit I wasn’t too thrilled that Jamie wanted to go ahead with the pumpkin party this year. Our backyard doesn’t have any grass so I knew if it rained, it would turn into one big mud pit. But he persisted because he put a lot of effort into this season despite the MANY obstacles he has endured (winds, deer, cold nights) and was somehow able to crank out two of his biggest pumpkins (after his legendary 1,200-pound Stanley, of course).

We nervously watched the weather forecast all week and it wasn’t good. Rain. Then snow. Then back to rain again. I was convinced the whole thing would be a bust mere hours before the soiree. We decided to set up all the food in the garage and people could choose to eat inside to stay warm and dry. The weather miraculously cleared an hour before the party (apparently God is a pumpkin lover?) and we were left with a cool, brisk night.

We weren’t sure what kind of a turnout we would get for the party so invited everyone we knew and lo, they did come–we estimated about 75 people! It was a fun night but part of the problem with having the food in one place and the pumpkins in another is I didn’t get to have a stitch of food…nor was I around to refill plates and drinks. I definitely failed at my hostess duties because all the action was in the backyard.

The one picture I got of all the pumpkin treats…my pumpkin cheesecake trifle.

Moving onto the guest of honor: Meet “Jumbo” the pumpkin! I loved seeing everyone’s shocked expressions as the forklift lifted that bad boy out of the patch. There’s nothing quite like your first time.  At the party, my friend Kelly asked, “So, do you grow anything else?” What? Like food you can actually EAT? Silly woman.

I love our friend Jordan’s expression

My dad was able to visit for the week from Canada and he timed his trip around the Pumpkin Party. Here he is hanging out with Jamie’s dad, Duane.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to be with so many friends and family. One of the things I miss the most about Colorado is having our house brimming with  people…I am continually frustrated we don’t have a finished backyard or basement so there’s nowhere for the kids to play. During the party, tons of them were roaming the field behind our house and afterwards, Porter, Callie and Ellie stayed to hang out.

This picture is the aftermath of a whipped cream fight. It would appear Hadley and Porter lost (or were they the winners?)

There were two different weigh-offs two weeks apart. Thanksgiving Point is the larger event where the growers bring their biggest pumpkins. Jumbo was 943.5 pounds and Jamie took fourth place. 

Two weeks later at the Hee Haw Farms weigh-off, Jamie’s weird-looking “Cujoe” somehow beat out “Jumbo” and weighed in at 965 pounds.

Hadley lost her plant early in the season and Bode’s “Ugly Duckling” pumpkin weighed 210 pounds. Both boys took fourth place.

All in all, it was a successful first growing season in Utah. Jamie is planning to install a high tunnel (similar to a greenhouse) in the corner of our lot, which should help with our weather challenges. As happy as he was with the final results, he was reminded how far he still has to go. Matt McConkie consistently dominates the competition and this year, he set yet another Utah state record: 1,974 pounds!

Jamie loves driving home from the weigh-off with his pumpkin in tow because of all the attention he gets. One man yelled out to him:

“Did you win?”

“No! I took fourth place.”

“How far were you behind first place?”

[Long pause] “1,000 pounds.”

Looks like our pumpkin boy has some catching up to do.

Two middle schoolers and one update

I still have many end-of-summer updates but I’m embroiled in the middle of a major deadline for a feature story I was commissioned to write for AAA Encompass Magazine. I never procrastinate but this is one assignment I had to put off until the kids were back in school because I knew it would be way out of my comfort zone. My dad is coming for a week so I’m trying to get the majority of it written so we can tour him around. Here are a few updates in the interim:

  • Middle school is fine. I’ve mentioned the fiery pits of Hades we endured the last few months of seventh grade but so far so good. The kids are quasi-enjoying themselves, half the school has a crush on Hadley so she’s a giggling, texting teenager (but still bombing math) and Bode has acclimated to changing classes. I’m bracing myself for the worst but pleasantly surprised the bottom hasn’t fallen out. Yet.
  • I have made a point to never over-schedule my kids but having tweens/teens is a different ballgame. They used to play for hours outside with friends or with their toys but now, downtime to them means technology time and I’ll be darned if I let them waste away in front of their screens so it’s a daily battle. Bode’s schedule picks up this week and he’ll be juggling piano, rec soccer, coding class at the library and 11-Year-Old Scouts. Hadley is the bigger challenge. She’ll have volleyball and skiing this winter but for now, the only thing she has a desire to do is photography. Fortunately, that gets her outside but I’ve given her fair warning she needs to figure out something active these next months–for her sanity and my own.
  • The devastation in the world has felt overwhelming. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  An earthquake in Mexico and the west set ablaze by wildfires. I’m not a doomsdayer but it’s tough to ignore the many signs of the times and we’ve been studying them in the scriptures with the kids at night. Nothing has hit closer to home than when my BFF Stacey sent me an article that my beloved childhood playground–Waterton Lakes National Park–is on fire and teams are trying to save the iconic Prince of Wales hotel that stands as sentry over the valley. This crap just got real.

  • On a lighter note (or rather, literally much heavier), pumpkin season is in full swing and despite so many challenges growing in a new environment (that include deer, snow, cold nights and extreme winds), Jamie has managed to crank out a respectable pumpkin that is measuring around 800-1,000 pounds. We’re throwing our annual pumpkin party next week to confirm to our new friends just how strange we are and then it will be off to the weigh-off. Our local newspaper is publishing a picture of his pumpkin tomorrow and the chamber is trying to finagle the pumpkin to make some celebrity appearances at local media events. If he was well-known in Denver, he’s going to be downright famous in our little valley.

Let the games begin!

 

Oh Canada: The Drive

Our annual trip to Canada was cut short because Hadley had Young Women Girl’s Camp mid-July and then BYU volleyball camp the first week of August. My brother Jade got married so our time in Calgary was frenzied helping with the flowers and wedding prep, and we only had five nights at Lake Okanagan in Vernon before driving back to Utah with my nephews, who hung out with us for a week while my brother was on his honeymoon. It was a craaaaazy two weeks!

The drive from Denver to Calgary is 19 hours so the kids and I would always break it down into two days. Now that we’re in Utah. the drive is a 13-hour shot straight up I-15 so I figured would could do it in one long day. Jamie would fly up to meet us later in the week.

My Honda Pilot is a 2003 and our plan was to get a new vehicle last year…and then we moved and are stilling dealing with the never-ending expenses. Fortunately, my car has worked great all these years and we hoped it would hang on a little while longer.

Prior to the road trip, I took the Honda Pilot in to get the oil changed. The kids and I were eight hours into the drive, just 30 minutes past Great Falls, and all was going well.

Until we started going up a hill when the transmission light turned on, and there was a strange smell. I pulled over and called Jamie, who called various auto repair shops in Great Falls. It was 4:30 p.m. on a Sunday night and most of them were closed so he instructed us to spend the night in Great Falls and take the car into the dealership in the morning. 

So, that’s what we did. After a memorable evening in the Super 8 on the seedy part of town, I took the car in and they gave their diagnosis: The place where I got my oil changed had either overfilled the transmission fluid or put in the wrong stuff. It had spilled and burned up the entire underbelly of the car. They drained  and replaced the fluid but were unable to tell me if more serious damage had been done. They gave us about a 50-50 chance of making it. SWELL.

The kids and I started driving. We joked as passed the place we had pulled over the day prior when, not even 100 feet beyond that point, ANOTHER WARNING LIGHT LIT UP ON THE DASHBOARD, this time for the four-wheel drive. I pulled over. The kids asked what was going on and I explained there was a different problem. Bode, ever the optimist, observed,

“Well, at least we made it farther than last time.”

We would make it to Calgary but when en route to B.C. the week after that, the car started smoking in Banff. We eeked our way to Vernon where we became acquainted with yet another Honda dealership that charged us $1,700 in labor to replace a plug (they had to dismantle the entire engine to put it in). On a wing and lots of prayers, we made it home to Utah with my nephews in tow.

So, what’s the status of the car? We’re not sure.  It’s only worth about $5,000 so we really don’t want to dump another $2,000 into it when we’re planning on selling it but we can’t yet afford to buy another car. So we wait. And hope and pray it can hang on just a little while longer, just like the rest of us.