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.

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.

 

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

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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!!!

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!

The poisoning

OK, I don’t know if I was really poisoned but for 24 hours, I had a really bad case of food poisoning, Norwalk Virus, or something wicked this way came. I barely left my bed yesterday except for my memorable jaunts to the bathroom. Exhausted and starving, I was awake all night because I’d slept all day and “woke up” feeling even worse when I saw the tornado that had been unleashed in our house.

I’m not sure if my family has some sort of physical ailment that prevents them from putting dishes or anything else away so I spent the morning cleaning their C-R-A-P and doing the laundry.

When I complained about it to Jamie, he told me,”It’s our way of showing just how needed you are around here.”

It’s sure nice to be loved.

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.