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

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!

A Backcountry Yurt Couple’s Retreat for Valentine’s Day!

Jamie and I spent one of my favorite Valentine’s Days ever in a backcountry yurt with five other couples.

The adventure started long before it began. A steady stream of storms threatened to derail our plans but the grandparents came a day early, for which I’m so grateful because they were able to take care of Bode when he got sick.  Then I-80 westbound closed but thankfully we turned off at the exit just before the closure.

Trip organizer Rob is Bode’s Scout master so I’m attuned to his craziness. I was a bit wary when he said it was a flat-ish 3.5-mile snowshoe into Beulah Vista a brand-new yurt on the east fork of the Bear River that is maintained in a cooperative venture between the U.S. Forest Service and BRORA in Uinta National Forest. I mean, I really like Rob but this is a guy who is a juxtaposition: he is a caring, encouraging Scout leader but has also been known to toughen them up when he takes picture if they cry during their expeditions. Would I be his next victim?

The Mirror Lake Scenic Byway is 78 miles between Wyoming Highway 150 and Utah State Road 150, but the middle portion is closed in the winter so we drove to Evanston. The freeway was still closed and it was a bit eerie as we wound through a tight tunnel of hundreds of semis parked along the road. We carb-loaded at Jody’s Diner before driving to the Lily Lake trailhead 45 minutes away in Utah.

(Andrew, Jessica, Me, Jamie, Jed, Nicole, Kristen, Rob, Leland, Lindsey, Jenny, Rod)

The piercing wind was biting when we arrived. We strapped on our snowshoes, grabbed our backpacks and slowly broke trail through huge swathes of wild coniferous landscape. As our heart rates increased, our body temperatures warmed and we shed layers…until the next time we left the trees and were exposed again. I have been snowshoeing. I have been backpacking. But I have never backpacked with snowshoes and though the trail was only moderate, I had just enough sensory bandwidth left when we arrived at our yurt 3.5 miles later as the wind and cold were being unleashed.

The yurt was cozy and clean, equipped with six bunk beds, a large table, propane stove, kitchen utensils and plenty of firewood for the wood-burning stove. It took a while for the yurt to warm up so we shivered off the cold as we unpacked and prepped for dinner. Rob served his mission in Thailand and served up a gourmet batch of yellow curry and rice for our Valentine’s Day feast….and a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs and hashbrowns.

He is the most organized person alive but in his words, “I don’t do games” so he put me in charge of the fun. We played an ice-breaker, followed by a VERY revealing Newlywed Game that lasted until 10 p.m. where we laughed ’til we cried.

A few truths revealed:

Jessica and Andrew lived in Dubai for three years and most recently returned from a year abroad with their five kids where they traveled to 20+ countries. Favorite family tradition: throwing hard-boiled eggs at each other for Easter.

Rob and Kristen. Apparently Rob once kissed his cousin (on the lips). But the real show-stopper was when he was asked what would be his first purchase after winning the lottery. His response? A knife.

Jed and Nicole. Though they have been married almost 17 years, they bombed the Newlywed Game but we did learn he was the worst (black) Baptist minister ever and has a deep love for all the Rocky movies.  He was also great comic relief when he picked Jamie every time for the ice-breaker and when he played the Rocky theme song as our wake-up call the next morning.

Lindsey and Leland. He once peed on a pregnancy stick, she once owned 200 shoes and don’t ask either of them to perform “Sneaky Snake” in a talent show.

Jenny and Rod. She likes peace in the morning, he’s a wildman who mountain biked the Alps. We also learned getting busted for “make-out face”  by your parents is a bad thing when engaged.

Jamie and me. We were in our element with many incriminating stories but nothing brought down the house quite like his Meet the Parents: Sleepwalk Edition. “Don’t worry, I’m Jamie Johnson” was the inside joke the rest of the trip.

Some other memorable moments:

  • Leland terrifying me as I walked back from the outhouse. It was pitch-black and he was grabbing snow for water. Not wanting to alarm me, he spoke from the darkness, “Don’t worry, I’m over here.” Good thing I had already peed because I let out a blood-curdling scream that freaked everyone else out as well. I haven’t laughed that hard in years.

Leland: the predator

  • Jamie brought his disco globe nightlight and Jessica hung a string of white lights above her bunk for some mood lighting while Jed, a Tony Robbins-certified coach, led a discussion on forming meaningful connections in our relationships.

  • Rob (a prolific musician) serenaded us to sleep with his violin. Fiddler on the roof…errr. yurt.
  • It snowed all night, the perfect setting in our cozy yurt. I worried I would freeze but had the opposite problem and slept poorly because it was so warm from the wood-burning stove.
  • Kristen’s alarm went off at 6 a.m…and she was the only one who didn’t hear it because she was wearing earplugs. Bless Rod who climbed off the top bunk to turn it off–and bonked his head twice on the ceiling. Fortunately, we fell back asleep until 8 a.m.
  • We celebrated our 16th anniversary with the most stunningly pristine bluebird day with fresh views of Deadman Pass.

    • Rob rolling up his sleeping pad. I swear, it as smaller than when it arrived from the manufacturer.
    • Jessica and Andrew brought two sleds and hit the deep powder behind our yurt.  Rod hit a tree in a very memorable way; good thing they’re done having kids.

Our trek out was a lot different than the previous day. The temperatures were milder, the sun shone brighter and our packs were lighter so it was much easier to appreciate the scale and connectivity across our powder-perfect playground.

Our Valentine’s Day Retreat 2019 was one of those experiences that can be recreated but never relived.

Here’s to creating more experiences and to saying “yes” because you just never know when magic will happen.

Christmas Wishes from the Pumpkin Man!

Years ago I was the Director of Interactive Operations for the Denver Post and worked right downtown on the 16th Street Mall. I had worked there for a number of years. One day when heading out for lunch a gentleman stopped me on the street asking if I had some change for the bus. Now I was familiar with that “line” and was experienced with the homeless that sometimes pan handled on the mall. Sometimes I gave and many times I did not. I opened up my wallet and saw I only had $5 which I intended to use for my lunch and I said, “I only have a $5 bill,” which is more than he needed for his bus ride. He misinterpreted that I guess to mean that I could only give him $5 and he said, “That is okay” enthusiastically, seeing as $5 to be more than he needed. I didn’t want to disappoint the man, so I gave him the $5.

I’m not sure what happened next, but maybe it dawned on the man my original intent after I handed him the money and he said, “Where are you going?” I said, I was going to get some lunch. He said, “Let me buy you some lunch at the McDonalds.” I found his offering both surprising and intriguing so I agreed. We then proceeded to the McDonalds where he bought me a hamburger using the $5 I gave him and we sat down together and started to talk. He had just gotten out of jail and was downtown trying to get a social security card so he could get a job and actually needed money for the bus so he could get to his next destination.

Now I share this story, not because I did something good. In reality, I did not. It was more circumstance than a kind heart. If anyone was good, it was that man and not me. He taught me. In difficult circumstances HE was kind to me. I wish I had done more for him now. Because the lessons I learned from him where invaluable. As a beggar, he was dignified. And this Holiday season I have to think of the great scripture that says:

“And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?”

Merry Christmas!


(Christmas 2013)

Moody November: Survived!

Can we just be honest here? Jamie and I both agree that November is probably our least favorite month of the year. We’re adjusting to shorter days, dark nights, the beautiful fall leaves are gone but there is not yet enough snow to have any fun. We have somehow survived another November but thankfully, DECEMBER is pretty glorious! Here are our happenings:

Hadley

Hadley had an epiphany today: she loves art. Good gosh, we’ve only been trying to remind our wandering, lost soul of this pretty much every day since we moved to Utah. (You would think winning last year’s middle school art competition would have reminded her of this but nope).  She is currently taking painting in school and told me today she’s going to switch to the advanced painting next semester. She was really excited that if she stays on this track, she can take an AP Art class where she will get college credit. For a kid who sometimes struggles academically (though she has been doing better in high school), it’s a big confidence boost that yes, she is awesome at something! Let the Bodes of the world take AP math; the artists are who makes this world beautiful. I need to start doing some research on buying her some more advanced brushes and paints. She is currently in her room creating, creating, creating. She would do this for hours in Arvada and it makes me happy to see her slowly figuring out her passions…while fighting us every step of the way because she is, after all, still Hadley.

Bode

Twelve is such a silly, beautiful age. Not yet a man, but no longer a boy. He is taking free coding classes at the library with his buddies but I love that they still want to play hide-and-seek afterward while waiting to be picked up. He’s doing well in school, is learning to play the sax and starts cross-country skiing at Soldier Hollow next month. We have an incredible Scout leader who takes them camping every month and a good group of boys who meet weekly. He and I were asked to play a piano duet in church. When I asked him, he looked like he was going to throw up–then cry. He has worked his way through those emotions to a steady laissez-faire attitude and I really wish he’d be a wee bit more hands-on because I, too will be publicly humiliated due to his lack of practicing. He’s still one of the easiest, happiest kids I know but he’s turning 13 next year and I know better than anyone the fiery pits that are teenage hell. Yay.

Jamie

Jamie finally chopped up his pumpkin and disposed of it behind our fence (the deer will have a nice snack all winter). He is going to make some big changes with his web development business in 2019. We have had a few loyal employees but are continually frustrated we just can’t get ahead, especially with all of the financial hits we’ve taken since the move (he counted them up a few months ago: $30,000 of expenses last year; it’s a miracle we’re not in the poor house). But we’re still paying our tithing and for that, we have been blessed. Jamie feels like he needs to take a leap of faith and remove himself of the day-to-day web development, do more project management and sales, and hire more people and an accounting firm. We’ve avoided taking any big chances and have been slowly growing over the years but it has come to the point where we’re tired of just getting by and need to make some changes. He was the director of new media for one of the biggest newspapers in the country! He’s brilliant and visionary…and we just need to take the leap. But there will be definite growing pains, especially because we don’t have much of a safety net.

Me

Still here. No real updates. I’m six weeks out from knee surgery and I’ve been trying to consistently work out the last couple of weeks which is helping with my physical therapy. I got sick a couple of weeks after knee surgery…and caught another cold Thanksgiving weekend so I’m pretty much ready for 2018 to be OVER and I’m eager to implement a fitness regimen with my new-and-improved knee. But the best news of all is my friend Lisa caught wind of a $300 fare to Calgary for Christmas…and we nabbed it. I’ve been pretty bummed out I haven’t been home for the holidays for several years because there’s nothing like a Borowski Christmas! I still feel like I’m trying to find my way here and I miss the person I was before we moved. I love building, connecting, influencing and making a difference. I’m not a going-through-the-motions kind of person and being bereft of a real passion/purpose since moving is a constant source of frustration for me.

But do you know what? Life is good. A lot of last spring’s drama has simmered down and we’re having a season of calm before the next bottom drops out. :-)

We just returned from a glorious Thanksgiving weekend at our favorite place on earth: The Broadmoor. I need to crank out that magazine article and then I’ll do some updates here.

Another one of my favorite traditions is the kids wake up 10-15 minutes early before school, pile into our king-sized bed, and snuggle and snooze until it’s time to get ready. Jamie hates it because he misses out on precious sleep but I’m of the attitude, “These kids are growing up too quickly and gosh darn it, if they still want to snuggle (even if it means they’re manipulating me to let them stay in bed longer), SO BE IT!”

P.S. Fat Kitty secretly loves it, too.

XO

 

The Johnson Boys Do San Francisco!

Jamie and Bode had a fantastic boy’s trip to San Francisco a few weeks ago. Earlier this year, Bode set the goal to read the Book of Mormon and has made reading the scriptures a part of his nighttime routine. He recently finished the Book of Mormon and is now part-way through the Doctrine and Covenants.

When the youth turn 12, they enter the Young Men/Young Women organization at church. It’s a pretty special time and I wanted to take each of them on a trip…but that never happened. So when Bode finished the Book of Mormon, *that* seemed like the opportune time for celebration.

Bode is an easy-going, happy-go-lucky fella but it also made trying to find a destination difficult because he really didn’t have any preferences (vs. Hadley who has a gazillion travel passions). He and Jamie finally settled upon San Francisco, and I found cheap flights for a one-night stay. They left early Friday morning, flew into Oakland, took BART into San Francisco, played hard all day, bunked down at the Argonaut hotel near the pier (a great Hotwire find), and put in another full day before flying out Saturday night. They were exhausted but had a blast.

The Past

Bode’s first trip to San Francisco was when he was three months old. Jamie was still at The Denver Post and he had a conference at the Half Moon Bay Ritz-Carlton. There was no way I was missing that so Bode and I jumped on-board for a luxurious couple of nights at the Ritz. While Jamie was in meetings and golfing with Yahoo and Google execs, Bode and I explored the gorgeous cliffs overlooking California’s coastline and Half Moon Bay’s charming shops.. I truly fell in love with that area.

For the third night, we went to San Francisco, arguably one of the best cities in the world. We walked EVERYWHERE with Bode in his stroller, rain often pouring down but Bode ever-happy and as snug-as-a-bug under his blankets. That night, we stayed at the Ramada San Francisco on our dime. When we arrived, there was chicken wire on all the windows and a lovely warning sign that that said, “There were known carcinogens and cancer-causing materials in the building.”  From the Ritz to THIS? Lovely!  I wouldn’t let my sweet baby touch anything that night and kept him in his carseat; we somehow survived.

The Present

This boy’s trip was extremely eventful (and without the threat of radiation, even!) They arrived in San Francisco on BART and proceeded to walk and walk and walk. Two blocks from the train station, they ran into a 1,700-pound pumpkin which was a sure sign God was watching out for them (according to Jamie).

Other sites included exploring Pier 39 and the 7-D Experience (they shot a lot of zombies), a historic video arcade (they played Jamie’s childhood classics Asteroids and Battlezone),  watched the seals sumo-wrestle on the platform, reveled in the street performers and a one-man band, and checked out the World War II submarines.

That afternoon, they took the ferry to tour Alkatraz, definitely the highlight of the trip. Jamie says he got some punishment ideas for messy rooms.

They eventually limped back to the hotel, their feet bursting with blisters. Jamie wanted to get some corn chowder and sourdough bread for dinner, so they watched the World Series on TV at the hotel restaurant. They wanted to do some more exploring but Bode was dead-tired so they compromised: Jamie suggested they walk to find dessert and Bode was rejuvenated with the prospect of Tim Horton doughnuts.

I talked to Bode at the hotel and he sounded like he was ready to pass out–and did so at 8 p.m. (9 p.m. MST), insisting Jamie turn off the TV so he could hit the sack. Jamie and I had a good chuckle about this. When most kids are always pushing bedtime boundaries, Bode has ALWAYS listened to his body and usually goes to sleep on his own. I feel his pain; I hate staying up late.

On Saturday, they had crepes for breakfast and Bode was given the choice of what they should do for the day so he opted to rent bikes and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, another highlight! Or it would have been have a layer of fog not settled upon the bridge *right* as they were crossing it, obstructing any views of the Bay.

They continued biking to Sausalito as Jamie commented, “Mom would love this town,” which was sure nice of them to think of me when I was holed up at home recovering from knee surgery.

Bode and Jamie continued biking all the way to a small Redwood Forest but opted not to hit the larger trees because it was quite the hike and they were short on time and energy (they biked about 20 miles that day!) They hopped the ferry along with the gazillion other people with bikes, raced over to BART and made it to the airport just in time.

All in all, a successful boy’s trip and now my goal is to help Hadley read the Book of Mormon so we can enjoy a girl’s trip of our own.

 

And the winner is….

…not Jamie.

With all of our landscaping, this has been a lackluster year for growing pumpkins but Jamie’s pumpkin “Uncle Sam,” was measuring to weigh 800 pounds. In pumpkin circles, this is just an estimate and pumpkins can drastically swing either way when they “go light” or “go heavy;” obviously the latter is the more desirable.

Uncle Sam went really light at 706 pounds and we took fifth place.

It’s one of Jamie’s lightest pumpkins ever but my gosh, can we take a moment and reflect this? He grew a gourd that weighs several hundred pounds!

The largest of the two weigh-offs was a couple of weeks ago at Thanksgiving Point but Hee Haw Farms puts on a great show last weekend as well. It’s too bad my kids have aged out of activities like petting zoos and silo slides because this farm has a lot of fall fun.

This year, my college bestie Lori got addicted to giant pumpkin growing. In fact, as the story goes, she was texting Jamie so much for pumpkin advice this summer that she sent him a message, “Hey, tell Amber I’m going to become a grandma tomorrow” and that is when I put a kibosh on her texting him more than ME. :-)

We had a great time hanging out and her family and her “Cinderella” pumpkin weighed in at 579 pounds. Pretty impressive for a first-timer.

But really, the most impressive of all was that we were big-time winners at the pumpkin drop. We’ve seen them before. Raise pumpkin high above the earth in a crane, watch it drop and spew pumpkin guts everywhere, sometimes even hitting you. But this year, FM 100.3 did something fun: they numbered several ping pong balls, put them in the pumpkin and after the pumpkin was dropped, you race over and if you find a ball with a number, you can claim a prize.

I saw a lot of their swag and wasn’t too interested until someone mentioned they were giving away a trip. Say what?

They kids did it first. Hadley emerged quickly with a numbered ping-pong ball.

“How many kids did you to knock out of the way to get that?” I asked.

“Only a few,” she sheepishly responded. Do I know my girl or what?

Bode came back with a bunch of balls but no number…but a nice girl gave him one of hers.

And what did they win? Bode won a baseball cap and Hadley walked away with a $25 gift card to Dave & Busters.

Then it was the adult division. Jamie was no where to be found so I was on my own. With my crap knee, I didn’t have speed on my side to repositioned myself to the area closest to where the pumpkin dropped, turned my back away when it landed in case a projectile came hurling at me and like a race horse at the starting gate, anticipated the exact moment they said “go,” (OK, maybe I cheated and went a few seconds early). But the adrenaline was pumping and I was in my competitive element.

Bode gave me a sound strategy to skip all the outlier guts and balls and go straight to the middle. It was sound advice. I immediately spotted two numbered ping-ball balls, snagged them and raced over to claim victory: VIP passes to Fear Factory’s house of horrors that Hadley elatedly snatched up and my other prize was a backpack with headphones, a shirt and mug that Bode quickly claimed. Talk about a win!

But back to the pumpkins. While we were waiting for Jamie’s to be weighed, I asked him:

“Hey Jamie, what are the weights of the pumpkins you’ve grown?”

He proceeds to recite every single one.

“Hey Jamie, how much did your children weigh when they were born?

Blank stare.

My work here is done. Or just beginning.

 

Back-to-school shopping drama

As I was writing my previous blog post about the first day of seventh and ninth grades (and somehow MISSING the-hell-that-is-back-to-school-shopping), I took pause and remembered THIS. Enjoy!

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If there is one thing I despise about back-to-school, it’s the shopping.

Now, let me be upfront here: If it isn’t Costco or Target and ends in ________ mall, I generally have to be dragged in kicking and screaming. For this reason, I left my kids’ school supply shopping until just a few days prior to the advent of school last year.

Here’s a little tip to the procrastinators out there: you will not win. The supplies will be depleted and you will have to go to several different stores instead of just one, augmenting an already stressful situation.

Note: if you somehow find school supply shopping cathartic, I will be happy expound upon the aberration of college-lined vs. wide-lined notebooks and my goose chase to find Elmer’s Glue-all and NOT their School Glue (which is 99 percent of what the store carried) while battling a battalion of frenzied moms.

This year, I recruited a reinforcement and brought my husband Jamie. I handed him the much-shorter list for my kindergartner (about 12 items) while I tackled my 7-year-old daughter’s list (my sheet included the other grades’ items as well).

Things shockingly went smoothly until they didn’t.

Isn’t that how it always has to happen?….

We both finished in under 30 minutes and were on the way to the check-out when I looked down at my sheet, stopped and morosely declared “OHHH NOOOOO.”

As it turns out, I had collected everything a first grader needs for academic success but here’s the catch: my daughter was in first grade last year and is going into second grade. Who knew?

Evidently not her own mother.

The lists are, of course, completely different and so I trudged back to the school supply section, dumped my previous findings and started from scratch. I was glad my husband had at least figured it out.

Or so I thought.

When we reunited, he started questioning the veracity of the list.

“A clipboard? Why on earth would a kindergartener need a clipboard with his name on it?”

I tried to explain a few scenarios but he then threatened to boycott some other items as well.

“Jamie, if it’s on the list, we have to buy it. It’s like the commandments–you can’t pick-and-choose which ones to follow.”

He seemed to get it and grumpily purchased the good-for-nothing clipboard. When we arrived home, I started labeling the items with my children’s names and double-checked to ensure we bought everything.

He didn’t.

“Jamie, where are the 10 glue sticks?”
“We have a ton of glue sticks.”
“No, we don’t.”

In his defense, I could have appeared on an episode of Hoarders for my glue-stick fetish but that was a few years ago and rehab taught me only three glue sticks per household was necessary.

“What about snack-sized Ziploc bags, Jamie?”
“We have those as well.”
“We only have quart- and gallon-sized.”
“Same thing.”

And then came the colored pencils, which he also neglected to purchase. His defense?

“That was not on the list.”

“It was item No. 1.”

{Silence. Chirping crickets.}

Tomorrow, I’ll be returning to the store.

And next year, the back-to-school supply shopping battle will be waged alone.

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.

My month of work in review

It has been just over a month since I started working at BYU and I’m overdue for an update. The first couple of weeks were rough trying to get into the new routine and there are still a lot of areas we need to tweak with the kids’ schedules but overall, I’m enjoying the new position and my co-workers.

Week 1. We thought we were going to die. No lie. Hadley got in her ski accident on Monday (Marin Luther King Jr. Day), she stayed home from school Tuesday and I started work Wednesday. She was unraveling in so many ways and we were emotionally and physically exhausted dealing with everything. We were supposed to start a personal finance class through the Church’s Self-reliance initiative but as we lay curled up in the fetal position on the couch, we decided the class would have to wait until spring (there was a lot of intensive homework and our camel’s back was already broken). Plus, I’m still running Mile High Mamas for the foreseeable future so I’m juggling two jobs while trying to keep everything else afloat.

Week 2. I came into this position at the worst possible time with the planning of our two biggest annual events + overseeing the editorial for our alumni magazine. Even though the position is only 3/4-time,  my commute is 1.5 hours and I’ve been working longer hours. Jamie has had to pick up a lot of my slack, driving Hadley to her many doctor’s appointments. I still felt overwhelmed with the position. My predecessor is my polar opposite: bookish, research-oriented and a Pulitzer Prize winner for spreadsheets. I seriously questioned my ability to fill her shoes and felt my creativity was being squashed. However, as I edited a 100-page donor report, there were so many stories of student internship experiences that directly correlated to our struggles. It was confirmed over and over again that landing this job was not a coincidence.

Week 3.  The awakening with our first big donor event. For three days, I hosted our guest lecturer from Vanderbilt, took his amazing wife on private tours of our art museums  and connected with them both in a meaningful way. The event was poignant and meaningful….and I started to catch a glimpse that maybe I could do this and bring my own flavor to the position.  Until I received my first paycheck. After taxes, tithing and 401K, I’m not making very much money but I guess every little bit helps, especially when we have a new car payment (Jamie bought me a Pilot for my birthday) and the mountain of medical debt we’ve accrued over the past year. And the backyard that needs to be landscaped. And the basement that needs to be finished.

Week 4. Things started to click at work. My proposal to overhaul our alumni magazine was approved and my student writers were excited about the new direction we were going with less in-depth research and more features. I celebrated my birthday with fresh snow (FINALLY), cross-country skiing after school with Bode, dinner at a delicious new restaurant, Midway Mercantile, and a live video chat with the authors of “Mustaches for Maddie” (a must-read) for our bookclub. A low-key but great day thanks to my awesome family and many sweet messages from friends.

Week 5.  We’re still surviving. Life is hard in so many ways–wading through Hadley’s struggles, Jamie’s chronic pain and my mom’s hospitalization. During those rough couple of weeks when I went back to work, Jamie was being overly accommodating and I felt badly because I knew he didn’t feel well and yet was going above-and-beyond for me. His response made me chuckle: “I just don’t like tears.”

At one of my low points, he reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures.

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

“And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:13–15).

We may not be in bondage to some tyrannical leader (President Trump notwithstanding :-)   but life has been overwhelming since our move. I miss the comforts of friends and our wonderful life in Colorado as we still struggle every day to find our way here. But slowly and undeniably, God’s otherworldly strength is falling upon us and through all of this messiness, I know He is guiding our way.