Happy 12th birthday, Bode

Happy 12th birthday, Bode!

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

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

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

(Goblin Valley)

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

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

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

(Zion)

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

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

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

(Morro Bay)

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

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

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

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

Love,

Mom

(Walking on Water, Lake Okanogan)

(First day of sixth grade)

(Indoor skydiving)

(Ugly Duckling)

(Bike prom selfie)

San Rafael Swell

 

San Rafael Swell

(La Jolla)

Kids Adventure Games

(Soldier Hollow with Henry)

(Midway Town Hall with the Seversons)

(Zion)

35545543

A summer in full swing!

We’re alive!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Takeaway: Being a Murphy is nothing if not notorious.

Sum-Sum-Summer!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHA? WHO IS THIS KID?

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

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

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

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

I’m asking for an [idiot] parent. 

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

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

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

Day of the Mothers

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

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

Hadley painted me a beautiful picture.

Bode and Jamie built me a garden box.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Mother’s Day, folks.

 

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.

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.

 

Hernias, Abstinence and Guardian Angels on the Move

I was searching through my archives at Mile High Mamas for some content and stumbled upon this 10-year-old gem. Enjoy!

Last weekend, my husband Jamie helped his brother move to Utah. It allegedly went smoothly. Well, if you can count the U-haul’s brakes catching on fire going smoothly. Jamie called it a minor inconvenience.

It is a drive we did many times while we were dating. I lived in Salt Lake City while he called Denver home. Prior to our wedding, the plan was for him to fly to Utah and help me move to Colorado.

Until he got a hernia.

He had the choice to have the surgery before or after our wedding. We were holding out for Operation Consummation on our wedding night and call me crazy but a hernia just did not seem like a viable part of the process. “OF COURSE YOU WILL HAVE THE SURGERY BEFORE!” I yelped. I think I even used all-caps.

And for all those naysayers who do not believe abstinence is feasible in today’s society, throw in a hernia. Trust me, it works.

This left me to execute the move by myself. I threw the biggest, baddest going-away party around – one with loads of food…and boxes (hence the badness).

I was feeling like an empowered woman of the 2002s as I set out on the highway with my Grand Cherokee towing all my treasures. My trip was going well until the weight of the load blew out my tire in the middle of nowhere.

So, there I was stranded somewhere between Green River and Grand Junction when my guardian angel pulled up beside me. Actually, he appeared in the form of a financial analyst who was going through a painful divorce and was returning from a trip to Las Vegas.

He not only helped fix my tire, but followed me to the nearest gas station where we parted ways. A few miles down the road, he flagged me over, concerned about the different levels of air in my tires. He then slowly tailed me all the way to Grand Junction until I was safely in the care of a tire center. Evidently they breed guardian angels in that town.

Too bad he didn’t stick with me the rest of my drive. There was the blizzard atop Vail Pass that delayed me for two hours. Then when I was about two miles from Jamie’s condo, I looked out my window to see something that looked suspiciously like the bar-end on my bike. Turns out the storm had massacred my bike rack and I drove about 10 mph the remainder of the drive as my bike flopped like a dead fish off the side of my Jeep.

When I finally arrived at the condo, I collapsed into Jamie’s arms, blubbering about my ordeal and cursing his hernia.

I later got my revenge: I was exempt from moving and painting our new house because I was eight months pregnant.

Though I don’t know if I can call a weak bladder, killer heartburn and a 40-pound weight gain retribution.

 

New Year’s in Zion

We have lived in Utah over a year and have not explored Southern Utah at all. We spent last New Year’s Eve in our beloved Colorado so this year, I was NOT going to be stuck here without plans (we would later get invited to two parties) but I’m glad spent our long weekend with good friends, Dave and Rebecca, in St. George who make us look like homebodies. They adventure almost daily, just returned from a trip to Kenya, are going to Hawaii next month and then to Australia and Fiji later this year. You’d think with those itineraries they would be extremely wealthy and while they do well, they’re also minimalists and have very few material possessions. It’s all about priorities, folks.

Snow Canyon State Park

When we arrived, we hiked the Hidden Pinyon Trail in Snow Canyon State Park, a wonderland of ancient lava flows and red Navajo sandstone.  This 7,400-acre scenic park’s majestic views of lava-capped ridges was our perfect introduction to the desert.

Zion National Park

When I was a Utah-based travel writer many years ago, some of my favorite adventures were in Zion National Park. Angel’s Landing. Observation Point. Backpacking the West Rim Trail. Truly, it’s like no place on earth and I was saddened to see just how overrun it has become. In the peak season, shuttle buses run to help with the congestion and lack of parking but on this busy holiday weekend in the off-season, there were no such options. Dave is the ultimate trip planner and insisted we had to wake up at 5 a.m. to get a parking spot. We whined and complained but he was correct–by 6:45 a.m, all the parking was full. It was a COLD morning so we stayed snuggled up in their van until the sun warmed the red rock cliffs. Sadly, Jamie had a rheumatism attack all night long so stayed behind to sleep.

Angel’s Landing is the most iconic hike in the park (besides the Narrows) and my kids were both dying to do it…but Dave’s youngest daughter was wary of scrambling on the vertigo-inducing precipitous cliffs with only a chain to hold onto. We instead opted to hike to Scouts Landing, which took us to the base of the Angel’s Landing and though I’m sad we couldn’t knock this one off the kids’ bucket list, we were just happy to be there. And I was particularly happy my knees withstood Walter’s Wiggles’ steep switchbacks and the descent.

 

Walter’s Wiggles

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Following our hike, we took a lovely southeast detour to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park’s shifting sea of soft red sand.  Formed from the same iron oxides and minerals that give us spectacular red rock country, the tired kids came to life–racing, jumping and rolling down the rippling arcs of rust-colored sand.

New Year’s Eve

The LDS Church is true all the time but especially true in St. George. Because it was New Year’s Eve, we only had one hour of meetings as opposed to three + a speaker didn’t show up so we got out early. We took our family to tour Brigham Young’s Winter Home, followed by a hike. We were looking for something low-key because it was the Sabbath and stumbled upon the coolest area in St. George, the Red Cliffs Desert Preserve with slot canyons, an arch and the coolest sandstone formations that felt like we’d be dumped off on Mars.

New Year’s Eve was just as memorable. We had full-contact fondue and Rebecca had pulled together some fun Minute to Win It Games. I had gained the reputation with their daughters as “the fun one” so they fought to have me on their team, which they later regretted.

You win some, you lose some. Or in my case, you lose them all.

We watched The Rookie. Jamie and I went to bed shortly after midnight while the kids all stayed up until the movie was over. Sweet Bode would later tipdly knock on our closed door for family prayers, only to have sleepy Jamie growl “kill him.”

Because every New Year should begin with a death threat. Here’s a “killer” 2018.

Relationship Dynamics

Fifteen years ago, the Pumpkin Man and I were married in the Denver LDS Temple for time and eternity.

Every marriage has ups and downs but the challenges we’ve have been faced with the last couple of years have been staggering. The last month has been particularly difficult but I’m so grateful to have such a steady, loving, strong and funny man by my side. Despite his own suffering and pains, he has risen to uplift and support the rest of us and I’m forever grateful.

I found this gem from the archives and it still rings true today

=====

This may come as a surprise to you but I can be high-strung.

Or maybe this is not so shocking to those who know me.

I married a great man who is easy going. I have known from the get-go part of what makes our relationship work so well is how we balance each other out.

* I blog.

* I love eating pumpkin.

* He grows giant pumpkins.

* He blogs about his pumpkins.

See? Match made in heaven.

But it wasn’t until our recent ski trip to Keystone that I had an epiphany about it all. We had arrived at the resort and were unloading the car to check-in. As usual, I was stressed about something. Because that is what I do. And as usual, he tried to calm me down.

I have just accepted that this is the dynamic of our marriage. Sometimes I am appreciative. Other times, it annoys me. What if I don’t want to calm down? What if I am completely validated in freaking out over this?

But last week, I was struck withgratitude that he always talks me off the ledge. And I wondered what my life would be like if I married someone who was not a calming influence in my life. Someone who fueled the fire instead of harmoniously extinguishing the flames.

It would not be pretty.

I have been in relationships like that. I once dated a guy who was exactly like me. I know–it is alarming that this is possible. His strengths were my strengths, his weaknesses were the same. We were both journalists, loved the outdoors and were passionate souls ready to conquer the world. In the beginning, we were on such a high–we were the perfect match. I was so thrilled: I was dating myself!

But then we hit the wall. We didn’t compliment each other in the least. We didn’t learn from one another nor grow together. And then I woke up with dread one morning: I was dating myself. Worst. Thing. Ever.

How grateful I am to have married a man who appreciates my strengths and buoys me up from my weaknesses. Happy 15th anniversary, my love!!!

The bobsled and my ride of death

As you’re watching the track events at the Olympics, here’s a bit of perspective for you. Eight years ago, I rode the bobsled in what I later called “the position of death” and it was craaaazy. Not because of the speed but due to a little thing call G-force. For this reason, most of the athletes’ training is spent off the track–they usually only spend two days per week on training runs. Enjoy my stroll down memory lane.

 

I’ve done some crazy things in my life.

I won’t expound upon them because my mother sometimes reads my blog.

Riding in the 4-man bobsled at Utah Olympic Park was the craziest thing I have ever done.

We all know bobsledders go fast—upwards of 90 mph. I was equipped to deal with speed. What I was not prepared for were the excruciating 5 Gs of force weighing down upon me.

To put this into perspective: astronauts only feel 3 Gs during maximum launch and reentry in the Space Shuttle.

It was the first time even my Afro could not defy the forces of gravity.

Some background: I was in Park City that weekend. I was a part of Park City Mountain Resort’s cutting-edge social media site Snowmamas and my fellow Snowmamas and I congregated for a glorious weekend of skiing, tubing, eating and brainstorming.

Fellow family travel writers The Vacation Gals (Kara, Jennifer and Beth) were also in town. On Saturday afternoon, we toured Utah Olympic Park, which consists of the interactive Alf Engen Ski Museum, the inspiring 2002 Eccles Olympic Winter Games Museum, and a fascinating bus tour of the aerials, ski jump and the combined track venues.

I have done all this before. What motivated me to act as a fourth-wheel was the opportunity to do the bobsled at no charge (a $200 cost).

I figured it would be a roller-coaster on steroids. I did not anticipate it would be like gold medalist Steve Holcomb described as a “minute-long car accident” on one of the fastest tracks in the world.

Jen, Kara and I were assigned to Sled No. 9 and underwent a 30-minute orientation. The room was predominantly filled with chest-thumping, testosterone-oozing men.

And then there was us. But how serendipitous was it that my helmet and sled totally matched my outfit?


In a 4-man bobsled, there is a pilot (driver), positions 2 and 3, and the brakeman in the back. Our instructor Jon described that fourth position as the most aggressive and the one that bears the brunt of the force. For the public ride, the pilot would serve as both driver and brakeman.

You know. Because the person in Position 4 is consumed with a minor thing like not dying.


And who would be insane enough to volunteer for said Position of Death (POD)? Me, of course. Kara and Jennifer gushed gratitude and vowed they would owe me for life. After what I endured on the Comet bobsled, a proper display of indebtedness would be naming their next child after me. Or, in the very least, their favorite goldfish.

The sled follows 15 curves at speeds only 10 seconds less than the professionals. We were the final competitors. In the public rides, no one does a running start so Jen leisurely entered through the back of the sled, followed by Kara and then me in the POD.

After straddling the person in front of you, the strategy is to shrug your shoulders the entire ride to prevent your head from bobbling around. We used the handles to hold ourselves upright and hang on for dear life.

We were gently pushed off the starting line and that was the final placid moment of our ride. I’m still at a loss for how to describe the sensation of having 5 Gs of force crushing down upon you. It was painful. It was fascinating. It was thrilling. But mostly it was just excruciating.

When I watched bobsledders on TV, I always assumed their head bobbing was due to the velocity but it is more attributed to defying the forces exerted by gravity.

Upon finally coming to a stop, my first thought was, “That was the most unbelievable experience of my life,” which was followed by “WHY THE CRAP DO BOBSLEDDERS SUBMIT THEMSELVES TO THAT INSANITY DAY IN AND DAY OUT?”

And then all thoughts were overcome by severe throbbing. Dazed, we posed with our cutie pie pilot Jake.


See my smile? I did not mean it.

When I woke up the next morning, I had a severe case of whiplash and could not move my neck and shoulders. The blood vessel in my right eye had burst and I looked like I got my butt kicked by the neighborhood bully.

Which, in reality, I kind of did.

His name is Bob.