A family that speaks together, stresses together

Last Sunday, we were asked to speak in church on the talks of our choice from the 2016 General Conference. In my past congregations, children 12 and older give talks in Sacrament Meeting in front of the entire congregation so Hadley was expecting to give her first talk in our new ward. What surprised us is that younger children are also called upon to speak so our entire family shared our testimony on Sunday.

The crazy thing is Facebook’s timehop memory of the day was from six years ago when the kids participated in the Arvada 2nd Ward’s Primary Program. This is one of my all-time favorite pictures of them:

What a difference six years makes!

Bode based his talk on President Monson’s talk The Perfect Path to Happiness. Bode was so cute as he joked around while the microphone was being lowered lowered lowered and did an awesome job sharing our his personal path to happiness. My favorite lines from his talk:

I was baptized when I was 8 because I wanted to follow Jesus’ example. As I stepped into the font, I felt peaceful. When I was underneath the water, I felt like nothing could hurt me.

A few minutes later, my dad put his hands upon my head. When he said “Receive the Holy Ghost,” my head felt like it was lit up with fireworks. I felt the spirit charging through my head and body!

I’ve just started on this Perfect Path to Happiness but I know that no matter how old you are—if you’re 10 like me or 90 that you can feel the spirit. And that God knows who you are and that you are an important part of His plan.

I was really proud of Hadley because she wrote her own talk. She based her remarks on Elder Juan Useda’s harrowing experience at Machu Picchu in The Lord Jesus Christ Teaches Us to Pray. 

 Unfortunately, I realized that recently I have a very similar experience to Elder Useda. A few months ago my parents decided I should go to both this wards girls camp and my previous wards girls camp. I moved here from Denver and it happened to be high adventure week. We did a whole lot of really cool things but the big one that was really shaking every one up was the fourteener we had to climb. Colorado has 54 peaks higher than 14,000 feet—pretty amazing! To put this in perspective, Utah’s highest mountain is King’s Peak and is around 13,500 feet. The leaders did a very good job with making it high adventure!

 This was the second fourteener I had climbed and I was with the faster group so I summited fairly quickly, and was in the very first group to come down. At the steepest and most dangerous part of the trail it started to hail. A lot of the people with us were crying and really scared! I didn’t have the proper gear for hail so I used my friend’s bandana for protection—that didn’t work so well. After a few minutes of wondering if I was going to die my thoughts tuned to the slower group, and realized that they were at the very summit of the mountain. I said a prayer in my heart afraid that if I took my hands down from my head that I would get hurt, but after only a few minutes the hail lessened.

Once everyone got back to the car, their side of the story was that they were literally in the cloud getting pounded by the hail and electrocuted by the shocks. Screaming and crying someone suggested they say a prayer. Not too long after that a group of experienced hikers helped them get to a safe spot until the hail stopped. It makes me wonder what would have happened if no one prayed!?

I’d like to share my testimony that I know that prayer can help us through big and small things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

I based my talk on Elder Schmutz’s General Conference talk “God shall wipe away your tears,” a super powerful talk for anyone who has ever wondered why bad things happen to good people and why we have to go through hardships in our lives. I spoke about some of the struggles we had the last 10 months during our move and some of the miracles along the way (which is another post for another day).

The kids and I wrote our talks shortly after receiving the assignment. The Master Procrastinator a.k.a. Jamie waited until the morning of church to start pulling his talk together. As he walked into the bedroom, I asked him how to pronounce “Schmutz,” to which he held up MY topic. 

“You can’t steal my talk!” and I proceeded to go through his papers, crossing out everything I was planning to talk about.

Procrastinators never prosper…or do they? He ended doing an amazing job winging it, talking about some of his miracles in our move as well as giant pumpkins. because (in his words) is God not the Master Gardener?

At least there is full disclosure of our craziness in our new ward.

How we do Halloween

Halloween was a blast in Denver. Pumpkin patches. Pumpkin parties. Weigh-offs. Truck-or-Treats. Neighborhood fire station party and parade. And, of course, trick-or-treating.

I asked my friend Andrea what people do in Midway for fun on Halloween and it seems comparatively low-key. She asked what our family does for fun.

This is my answer:

There goes the neighborhood.

The 245th Annual Giant Pumpkin Party

I’ve lost track of how many pumpkin parties we’ve thrown in honor of the Great Pumpkin but it seems like a lot. Despite a lackluster growing season, Jamie managed to produce a respectable beast that weighed 747 pounds. It was almost half the size of Stanley from 2012:

But still impressive. And without Stanley’s sour expression.

 

In years past, we’ve admitted only pumpkin treats for the party but I staged a coup and opened up the menu so our 50 guests brought a delicious variety of fall dishes. Jamie complained until I made his favorite caramel apple squares…and then he shut right up.

Someday, our friends will tell stories of that crazy Johnson family that grew giant pumpkins and threw a party in their honor.

And we’ll tell stories of our friends who were crazy enough to come.

 

Victory at the Scarecrow Festival!

Usually this time of year, we’re entrenched in all-things pumpkin but due to a dismal season, we’ve all been lukewarm about it. Jamie lost one of his plants early-on and and has had a myriad of problems with the other–from our irrigation system breaking for a week to the neighbor’s dog (literally) eating the pumpkin’s flower.

This stuff ain’t for the faint of heart.

Jamie has put all his normal pumpkin-growing energies into BYU football, and after listening to what feels like 100 hours of BYU Sports Nation’s commentary (he listens to it daily), it almost makes me miss the pumpkins.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Hell hath finally frozen over.

Jamie’s other surviving pumpkin is small but due to a warm fall, he has kept it on the vine for three weeks longer than usual because it’s still slowly growing. He’ll take it to a weigh-off in Colorado Springs this weekend.

The kids’ pumpkins are about half the size as normal. Hadley’s pollinated later but she tended her patch waaaaaaaaay better than Bode and weeded it regularly; Bode’s weeds got to the point they were basically strangling the vines. I tried to help him weed one day but I think we did more harm than good so Hadley surpassed him.

Usually the kids enter their pumpkins in the same Giant Pumpkin Commonwealth-sanctioned events as Jamie but since he’s holding off, we haven’t done any of these festivals this year. The one we can’t miss is our town’s giant pumpkin weigh-off and I’m so glad we did because when we arrived, there were only two other pumpkins and then ours.

Those, my friends, are good odds.

The only other competition was a woman who grown had two beautifully round and orange pumpkins that weighed in around 40 pounds so they saved the kids’ for last. I had to chuckle as the crowd that gathered, marveling “those are big pumpkins” and we muttered back “these aren’t big pumpkins.”

See? We’re ruined for life.

Bode’s pumpkin weighed 170 pounds while Hadley’s was 189 pounds, which is a pretty small margin of victory considering hers felt a lot heavier. Oh, what could have been. 

When I later asked her how she felt about dominating the adult and kid’s division, she blithely replied, “I just cared about beating Bode.”

Game on, Weed Boy.

 

Death by giant pumpkin

Jamie may not have grown a record-breaking giant pumpkin this year but his friend Joe did. But here’s the thing with Joe: he grows for the sheer love of competing in the weigh-off and and immediately cuts up his pumpkin after to preserve the seeds. When I caught wind of this, I performed what might be the first ever Giant Pumpkin Rescue: I bribed him with my famous pumpkin bread to let us keep it. And that he did. It’s such a shame for him not to put it on display for all to see!

Joe generously donated his pumpkin to us yet again this year–a 1,404-pound whopper. He was disappointed it wasn’t a state record but it blew away the competition.  Our friends at 9News weren’t able to send a photojournalist to cover the weigh-off so they used Jamie’s footage in their news coverage. The man is practically famous!

;

They loaded the pumpkin with a forklift onto our neighbor’s trailer that was attached to my SUV and it will sit in front of our house for all to enjoy through Halloween.  Here’s the problem, though. The pumpkin was so  heavy that we couldn’t detach the trailer from my car, which is an awkward thing if you need to go somewhere and have to take a 1,400-pound beast along for the ride.

Jamie tried to raise up the hitch with the jack from his car and asked me to hold it, frequently criticizing me anytime I let it move.

Me: “Wasn’t there a recent story in the news about a husband killing his wife when the jack of his car failed and the car fell on her?”

Jamie: “Actually, it was the wife who killed the husband.”

Me: “Consider yourself warned.”

Only at our house

As I was preparing dinner, Jamie warned me:  ”I need to leave soon. My buddy Joe needs some help weighing his tomato.”

No amount of forewarning can ever prepare you for that.

====

Addendum. I posted his comment to Facebook and this was his response:

Allegedly a new state record tomato, thank you. This could be history in the making! A historic event. As a result a new strain of tomatoes could be developed that could feed nations!!! Tens of thousands of starving children in Africa saved from the small and simple sacrifice of time for weighing this tomato!!!! The humanity, the humanity. I don’t wish to be praised for my unselfish act however. Just knowing that some small child will be able to sleep tonight with a full belly is satisfaction enough. Thank you and God bless America!

Please pray he doesn’t add tomato to his giant vegetable/fruit growing obsession! :-)

What a Colorado State Record tomato looks like

Servitude in the pumpkin patch

I haven’t posted many updates on our giant pumpkin growing season because there’s not much to tell. We definitely won’t have any record-breaking 1,000+ pound pumpkins.

What a week of no water looks like

The season started great and the plants had never looked better prior to pollination despite a month of non-stop rain.  Then due to a plethora of reasons like cracked vines, dogs eating the pumpkins and other fun things, pollination on the plants was late, which means we’re really far behind on growth.

The first pollination (early July) was cranking along nicely and then one day, dropped off dramatically when Jamie figured out the sprinklers hadn’t been working for an entire week! The second pollination was super late (only two weeks ago) and the pumpkin is only the size of a volleyball right now–usually our plants should be gaining 35-40 pounds per day.

Oh, the heartbreak that is Giant Pumpkin Growing.

The kids’ plants aren’t faring much better. Bode’s pumpkin was pollinated a week before Hadley’s but her pumpkin is rapidly catching up due to good genetics and the fact she actually weeds her patch. Though Bode is diligent in watering, he was on vacation for the entire month of July so his patch is a jungle–there are literally weeds as tall as he is. I helped him weed this morning and it was nearly impossible because many of the weeds are actually wrapped around the pumpkin vines so I was nervous to pull anything that might be detrimental to the pumpkin’s growth.

Weeding was a tedious, thankless task. It’s a good thing Bode is smart because he was not made for manual labor.

“Mom, I want to have a butler like Aunt Lisa.

“Aunt Lisa has a butler?”

“No, I want Aunt Lisa to be my butler.”

While the cat’s away

My friend Stacey commented that I haven’t written much about giant pumpkins this year. There hasn’t been much to share. Jamie’s season started splendidly and then growth slowed significantly with all of Denver’s rain. When the deluge finally subsided, his pumpkins rebounded beautifully…until he moved the main vine a couple of weeks ago and it split. In Pumpkin Geek Speak, this mean he’ll have to designate another main vine and it will delay pollination a couple of weeks, which means two less weeks of growth before the weigh-off.

That was a sad, sad day.

I called him last week from Canada and couldn’t get a hold of him for 24 hours. It made me wonder if absence really does make the heart grow fonder but ultimately decided it’s more like “when the cat’s away, the mice will play.”

When I finally got a hold of him, I asked where he’d been at 10 p.m.

“I was at a pumpkin pollination party.”

Some questions are better left unanswered.

The Man. The Myth. The Legend

I’ve been working with the Cub Scouts for about six months. I’m still rather clueless and despise the record-keeping element of it but really enjoy hanging out with 9-year-old boys every week, probably because they’re around my same mentality.

On the way to Scouts the other day, Bode and his buddy Bryan were having a belching contest which, had it not been so disgusting, would have been impressive. Bryan observed, “Bode, your belches are louder but mine are juicier.”

I don’t even want to know what that means.

We’re in charge of a carnival for our entire Pack so we’ve spent the last few weeks preparing our carnival games. Because it seems like we’ve been working on these projects forever, I wanted to give the boys something else to look forward to so listed off some of our future activities.

“And then we’re going to the Majestic View Nature Center and also going on a one-mile hike. The week after, we have a very special field trip: We will be visiting with the Pumpkin Man who will teach us about composting.”

A new boy Jacob queried. “What the heck is the Pumpkin Man?”

Acting insulted, Seamus retorted, “YOU DON’T KNOW THE LEGEND OF THE PUMPKIN MAN?”

It won’t be for much longer.

And so it begins

The Johnson Family’s Sixth Annual Giant Pumpkin Season kicked off on April 15 with much excitement and fanfare.

Well, as much fanfare as you can muster when soaking a pumpkin seed in water, filing it down, placing it in a moistened paper towel and transferring it into a pot with bacteria-rich soil.

A few weeks ago Cheerleader Jamie sat the family down to watch Rise of the Giants, a (you guessed it), documentary about growing giant pumpkins.

One of the men in the video said something like, “Yep, my wife knows she’s played second best to my pumpkins for the last 20 years.”

I pointedly glared at Jamie.

“Look on the bright side, Amber. You only have 14 years to go.”