Happy 17th Birthday, Bode James

Dear Bub,
I can’t believe you’re 17 today! We both agree that compared to birthdays past, this milestone isn’t an exciting one…except that you’re one year away from adulting when everything will change. I can’t begin to process what this year has meant. The good, the hard, the growth. You are a wonderful young man and first and foremost, we are incredibly proud of you for the choices you make and the person you are becoming.

Junior year was supposed to be YOUR year with big goals academically and athletically as you raced on the mountain bike and ski teams. You learned to push your body to extremes with long sessions with the Nordic team and 30+ mile rides with friends. You were posed to move up in the ranking and set the goal to podium…until God had other plans.

You were diagnosed with MALS (median arcuate ligament syndrome) after experiencing extreme stomach pain during your second bike race in Cedar City. Those following months were filled with appointments with our surgeon Dr. Fenton. Imaging. Radiology. Gastroenterology. Behavioral health. Surgery in December and a painful Christmas break as you began your 6-12 month recovery. It has been a lot and you have evolved so much as a person.

By your side the whole time was Pablo who looked up to you as a big brother. Your friendship with him was easy and seamless. You grafted him into your friends, selflessly cheered on his successes and ruled him and all of us at Settlers of Catan until the very end…which

It was a record-breaking snow year which meant a lot of really tough days at the Ranch  clearing snow, chipping ice, navigating collapsed pens and hauling off dead animals. You helped shovel and sandbag our house. You’ve always been a hard worker but you learned to dig really deep this year.

There was lots of play, too. You had some epic powder days at Park City Mountain, learned to catch some air at Woodward and, when you couldn’t race with the comp team at SoHo, coached Kickers and Gliders. I joined in the fun by trailing your classes at the back and loved seeing you in action as a beloved and competent coach. One of my very favorite moments of this year was seeing you and Pablo dress up and race in the end-of-season obstacle race in all its ridiculousness.

Trips included Crested Butte mountain biking last summer and your impressive showing at Glenwood Adventure Park’s Speleobox Cave Simulator, a claustrophobic maze through an 8 x 12-foot box.  We went to Moab for fall break, hiking around Arches National Park and biking everywhere else. We did a Thanksgiving daytrip to Goblin Valley and San Rafael Swell. Campouts with the Priests Quorum. And then Spring Break was in Carmel, Monterey and Big Sur with a quick stop in Vegas before crashing at the Severson’s fancy vacation rental in St. George for pool play, caving and marveling at Gunlock State Park’s insane waterfalls. Trek with Ma and Pa Partridge and an unforgettable 500-mile ATV excursion for High Adventure.

There were a thousand little moments this year. Dressing up as Axl Rose for Halloween. Riding in a private jet after your Cedar City race to take Carley to Homecoming. Etiquette date night at Bishop’s. Hockey nights at the Midway rink. Dancing the choreographed Promenade “Until I Found You” with Kimber at Prom. Sweethearts dance with her and all your buddies…and the coolest photo shoot ever on very frozen Deer Creek Reservoir. Getting called as Bishop Price’s assistant. Teaching a lesson in Priests quorum and having Bishop privately tell us it was one of the best he has ever heard a youth give.

You’re not back to pre-MALS “normal.” Last fall, you went from being insanely motivated kid with the goal to bike 1,000 miles to being so fatigued you didn’t want to work out at all (and yet somehow managed to maintain straight As the entire time).

Dad bought you a secondhand exercise bike to help with recovery that sat unused for a couple of months. After several weeks of doing nothing, your alarm went off before the crack of dawn and I could hear you dragging himself over to that bike. You later told me if you were too tired to ride at the end of his day, you would ride in the mornings.

You did two separate rides that day, riding almost 30 miles. You achieved that 1,000 mile mark and gosh darn it if I don’t get emotional thinking about this incredibly difficult journey you’ve been on.  It’s hard when you can no longer fix things as a parent but you’re figuring it out. You’re learning some really invaluable lessons on resilience, turning to God, and trusting in the process while slowly adapting to this new terrain as you navigate new mountains.

And the views from the top are far more far-reaching than any podium.

We love you, Kid.



P.S. For a stroll down memory lane, see birthday letters 1, 234 5,  6, and 78 910, 1112131415 and 16.

Arches National Park

Youung Men ATV Camp

Axl Rose

BBQ Dads Football Game

Coaching at Solider Hollow

Christmas 2022

Crested Butte, Colorado

Sweethearts at Deer Creek


New Year’s Eve

Private Jet



Goblin Valley/San Rafael Swell

San Francisco

Airport Farewell

Trek family

Jordanelle Reservoir


Happy Sweet 16 to Bode!


I can’t believe you’re 16 today! As I write this, I’m recovering from COVID-19 and even though we’re 2.5 years into the pandemic, the rest of you have been miraculously spared. You have just returned from a week-long backpacking trip in the Uinta Mountains for High Adventure. And this summer has been a high adventure, indeed. You have rafted the Snake River in Jackson Hole with your friend Cameron’s family. You attended FSY (For the Strength of Youth) at Snow College with your best buddies Evan, Eli and Henry. You are a mountain bike coach at Soldier Hollow with Evan and, as I’m told, you are patient and kind with even the most difficult kids. It has also opened your eyes to parenting and after your first exhausting week, you informed me, “I don’t want to have kids until I’m able to pay someone to watch them for me.” Sound parenting strategy, Son.

Evan’s family built a gorgeous new home with a pool so you’ve enjoyed lazy pool days, backyard volleyball and long mountain bike rides. This has been the year of hard things as you’ve learned to physically push yourself to your limits. You backpacked 50 miles with the Scouts last summer in the Uintas and just did it again with your buddies on High Adventure. You took weight lifting and CrossFit classes your sophomore year and you have grown passionate about your fitness. You competed on the Comp Team Nordic at Soldier Hollow and you have become a great downhill skier as well. 

You placed in the second highest group at your mountain biking time trial last month. Instead of feeling overwhelmed that you’re now competing against much faster and more skilled riders, you are stepping it up. You made the goal to bike 100 miles in a week. You ended up biking 124 miles. In another week, you biked 40 miles in a day. You had some ups and downs in your rookie bike season but qualified for the State Championships in St. George. Touted as the longest and most punishing course they had ever created, it was your time to shine because you have been conditioned for the long and the hard.

You are in your second year working at the ranch and I love working side-by-side with you as we tend to our sheep friends. For the most part, it has gone smoothly with the exception of the really cold, frozen days and what we shall only refer to as The Barnyard Massacre when a predator decimated 99% of your chickens and turkeys. And then you had to carry off a dead goat on another day and peel off a dead mouse from your freaked-out mother’s foot. But you never complain and just do what needs to be done. Your generous paycheck may have something to with that as well: Jared pays you $60 for a couple of hours of work a week.

We hosted our Swiss exchange student, Maelle, this year and she fit in seamlessly with you as another sister. In a few weeks, we are welcoming Pablo from Spain into our home. We hadn’t intended to host another student but when we talked about it, you divulged that you have always wanted to be a big brother and that made my heart melt because I didn’t have to give birth to this one. Hopefully, it’s a win-win.

You have a lot of friend groups. Church friends. Mountain bike friends. Neighborhood friends. Friends from my mom circles. Ski team friends. School friends. Scout friends. Band friends. You went to your first dance, Preference, with your friend Brielle and had a great time. You enjoy hanging out on Charlie’s sport quart with him and Charlie. You lost your friend Titus to suicide this year which was a heartbreaking loss for everyone. But I was very touched when you, without provocation, reached out to one of his closest buddies and told him you were a safe place if he ever needed to talk. Men’s mental health matters and I hope you remember it’s OK to not be strong; always be on the lookout for people who are struggling and seek help when you are.

You had an insanely busy year. You traveled for mountain bike and ski races and Scout campouts. You spent fall break in St. George and  Zion National Park with the Mosses where we climbed Angel’s Landing, biked Snow Canyon and played pickleball. You went to Canada for Christmas as we nearly froze to death (it was the 9th coldest place on earth). We went to Sun Valley with the Iversons, Seversons and Bairds for my 50th birthday where you showcased your Nordic skiing prowess at Galena Lodge and we had so much fun playing hockey. We had the best time in San Francisco for Spring Break and a few weeks later, you went on a band trip to Disneyland where you had a blast, barely slept and learned (the hard way) after your day at the beach that you need to RUB IN your spray sunscreen.

All this and you got straight As in school and grew your biggest pumpkin ever at 675 pounds. Sadly, this year’s pumpkin was at war with the neighborhood deer and it lost. Big time.

You tried to pick up a couple of classes this summer but ended up dropping your ACT prep course because who wants to study grammar in the summer but you completed your Lifetime Fitness Class and you’re doing an online Wall Street bootcamp to learn about investing.  Hadley will be studying to become a Master Medical Aesthetician in the fall and in her immortal words, “I will make us beautiful; Bode will make us rich.” No pressure.

You did a beautiful job speaking in church yesterday about hard things, making good choices with our media, and the Parable of the Talents. You called out Bishopric member Brother Studdert for making you speak the day before your birthday but said, “Don’t worry, you can make it up to me tomorrow” and he did with a treat bag of chocolate. Well played.

You have been given so many gifts but as your parents, we most appreciate your kindness and goodness. We heard a quote about successful relationships are when you can freely give 100% and don’t expect anything in return. Dad observed that is how you live your life and is why you’re so beloved by everyone around you. You served as President of your teacher’s Quorum. Your leaders loved you. The boys loved you.

We feel like we’ve barely seen you this summer but you’re filling your life with so many good things that we can’t be sad about it. What a light you are to the world. Continue to magnify those talents you’ve been given and, with the Lord’s help, you’ll be unstoppable.

We love you,

Mom and Dad

P.S. For a stroll down memory lane, see birthday letters 1, 234 5,  6, and 78 910, 11121314 and 15.

Other Pictures

40 miler with Cameron

Disneyland Band Trip

Snow College FSY


King’s Peak

Moab Boy’s Trip

Sun Valley

With Titus and Spencer

Personal Best Pumpkin

Snow cave campout

Priest campout

High Adventure

San Francisco

Lagoon Western

Spring Skiing

Happy 18th Birthday to Hadley!


You (we) made it! Eighteen glorious, hard and hilarious years on this earth. One thing’s for sure, you’ve kept us on our toes since before you were even born! When you were still in the womb, Dad told you if you were born (early) the next day, he would buy you a car when you turned 16. My water broke the next morning and you were born at 11:10 p.m. that evening.

Well, we’re two years late on the car but Happy Birthday! Then again, it took almost two years to get your license so we’ll call it even.

This has been the year you’re starting to figure out life. We toured colleges last year and you fell in love with the schools in Southern Utah, or at least the idea of them (sorry, SUU’s My Little Pony Club and Dixie’s palm trees are not reasons to go to college).  In the end, it wasn’t until we toured aesthetics schools that something really clicked and you will enroll in Acaydia Spa & School of Aesthetics in the fall. I mean, beautifying while inflicting pain. What a perfect career choice!

You and Bode reconnected and bonded during quarantine and you have corrupted the lad with your anime infatuation (though his Minecraft obsession has also rubbed off on you). When I told you that he’d miss you when you moved away, you responded, “Yes. I have something to tell you at the end of the summer.” Me: “Tell me now.” You: “I was with a friend when I ran into Bode skipping class to get something to eat with friends.” Me: “REALLY.” You: “I told him to have fun and I wouldn’t tell Mom and my friend couldn’t believe there is someone out there who has a great relationship with her brother.” Nice. Covering for each other’s mischief for 16 years.

You have enjoyed having Swiss exchange student Maelle in our home this past year and your other good friends include Edyn, Maddie, Monty (whom you’ve been dating for a year), Jordan and Sydney.

You’ve been to Homecoming, Preference and Prom and nothing was more memorable than your response to Monty for HoCo where you decorated his car with a stunning painting of Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and cut-off ears (fake, of course). You’re obsessed with the TV show Criminal Minds and have loved your Psychology class discussions on mass murders and psychopaths but let’s hope it ends with only fake body parts.

Travels this year included Vail and Breckenridge, Colorado for a back-to-school trip, St. George for Fall Break where you climbed Angel’s Landing for the first time, a Canadian Christmas (with record-breaking cold), Sun Valley, Idaho for my 50th birthday and one of our favorite family vacations ever: The Bay Area for Spring break where we had a blast in a gorgeous house in San Rafael and played in San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, Muir Woods, Stinson Beach and Fitzgerald Marine Preserve’s tide pools. In your shocked, immortal words, “I can’t believe nothing went wrong on this trip!” Miracles never cease.

We put our beloved Fat Kitty to rest in April 2020 and we adopted a beautiful, fluffy kitty named Mochi last September. Your cuties Golden Retriever Chewy and Aussie Zelda came back into your life for a few months and you landed a job at Earth and Eden, a local garden center, where you can go as crazy as you want with your plant obsession, so long as you don’t bring any more of them home. You love all-things creative. You made a summer bucket list that includes learning to embroider and you already checked off another one of those items to make a gourmet dessert (your millefeuille was delicious and you have become a fabulous cook!) You chopped off your hair and are ready to rock your new look and new life.

It’s bittersweet to see you graduate and we’re incredibly proud of you. It has not been an easy journey these past several years and you’ve battled (sometimes) limped through it to the finish line but you’re here. You graduated with honors. You were awarded $3,000 in scholarships and found out the day after graduation that you won your high school’s art show. And now, you have your whole life ahead of you, one that I hope will be filled with creativity, love, laughter and light as you surround yourself with good things and people.

Bloom Where You’re Planted. Climb Every Mountain. Not My Will But Thine Be Done. Seek out light. Cling to your Savior. Surround yourself with good people and, most importantly be the good. Travel. Laugh. Worship. Explore. Pray. Ponder. And laugh some more.

Life will never be easy but He has promised you will be able to get through anything in your life when you put Him first.

We have loved you for so long. It has been our honor and privilege to raise you, our beautiful, talented spitfire. Now, FLY.



Hadley Birthday Letters

For a stroll down memory lane, read letters for your 17th birthday letter16th15th, 14th,  13th12th11th10th, 9th 8th7th6th5th4th3rd2nd and your birth story.

Angel’s Landing

Christmas in Canada


Maddie’s 18th

Muir Woods

New York City!



Fenway Park in Boston

Midway Ice Rink

Bay Area California


Happy 15th birthday, Bode!

Johnson Junior,

It’s tough to believe that 15 years ago, I had a pretty easy delivery with an easy-going kid. Really, the tough one was your father on your birth-day, whom I had to send home after you were born because he was so so so so sick and was “useless to me.” His mom had to take care of him those early days while I juggled you and Hadley.

(Sacred Grove, NY)

You’re a natural, humble leader. We’ve known this from your preschool days when your teachers said your peers looked up to you and followed your quiet example. You have been the Teacher’s Quorum President for the Fox Den Ward and it has been fun to see you learn how to be a leader as you conduct meetings and befriend each boy. You taught a lesson earlier this year that prompted a standing ovation from them and I’m sure it wasn’t just from your excellent treats. Though I’m sure that was part of it.

You’re without guile, full of loyalty, love, wisdom, calm, thoughtfulness, intelligence and expert gaming skillz (Minecraft still tops your list.) When we were driving back from Lake Powell last summer reflecting upon the chaos of all the kids on the houseboat (and my worry you felt lost in the mix), you insightfully said, “I don’t need to be the center of attention but I don’t want to be forgotten.”

You made the honor roll every term and got almost straight As your freshman year and at WHS (with a noteworthy A- in Band which could be easily remedied if you cared about practicing the saxophone). You were a tremendous help with Dad while we finished the basement and you emerged from quarantine mostly unscathed (it appealed to your introvert tendencies to chill out at home and play video games).

You and Hadley got a dog-walking gig with our beloved Chewy (Golden Retriever) and Zelda (Australian Shepherd) until they moved away. Then, you worked on the Heber Valley Railroad’s Polar Express as a “chef,” spreading delight and joy to boys and girls (or, at least cookies and hot chocolate). You grew your biggest pumpkin ever–635-pounder which you sold to Cornbellies for a nice profit and have started to see dollar signs in your plants!

For the past six months, you have been working a few hours a week at a ranch in Charleston where you get paid $60/week to take care of exotic birds, pygmy goats and sheep. Every day is a new adventure. Getting pecked by geese. Hauling heavy buckets of water and feed. The disappearance of rare ducks. Chipping ice so you can open the chicken coops. Bribing Peanut the goat back into his pen. Dealing with blown circuit breakers and frozen pipes. Working on a ranch is hearty, freezing, hot or mucky drudgery but it has been awesome to see you as a city kid work hard and tackle whatever needs to be done without complaint. Last week, you went to Tractor Supply to buy some feed (with your own VISA debit card) and I chuckled when 1) you commented on the magazine “Trapping 101″ at the check stand, saying you should look into it because you’ll probably have to trap some animals at the ranch and 2) when you signed up for Tractor Supply’s rewards program. Looks like you’re officially a country kid.

After a few years with Soldier Hollow’s Kickers and Gliders, you joined their Nordic ski team which was a lot of hard work but you have been a fantastic skier. On award day, you won the Team Mentor Award for always helping, teaching and encouraging the younger skiers. Even though it was a weird COVID year, your downhill skiing is better than ever and even though Dad won’t admit it, you’re probably the best in the family.

You recently joined the Wasatch Mountain Bike Team with some of your best buddies Henry, Eli land Evan and paid for your fancy new bike by yourself. You will have four races this summer and fall we and have been enjoying it thus far. Well, except for the 100-degree days. Better luck in the fall. You did summer ski training last summer in a mask so you’ve been well-equipped for weather-related suffering.

You’ve had some great travels this year despite the pandemic. The week before Memorial Day 2020, we met our friends the Hardymans to camp at the Grand Canyon…and were evacuated on Night 1 due to a wildfire (but talk about a memorable story about your first visit to this iconic National Park).  In July, we had our final houseboat adventures at Lake Powell with the Olsens because they sold their boat but those lazy, hot days on the water are some of our favorite memories. Last August, we had an awesome vacation in Crested Butte where we climbed 12,162-foot Mount Crested Butte (stunning) and mountain biked, and we had the time of our lives white-water rafting the Arkansas River and ziplining and scaling the precipitous Via Ferrata at Royal Gorge. The lodge we stayed at overlooking the deep cavern was spectacular and it was a fantastic family trip back to Colorado. For my birthday in February, we took a fun vacation to Bryce Canyon with the Olsens and then for Spring Break we flew out to Sea Island, Georgia for a beautiful beach vacation where you biked on the beach and successfully avoided eating seafood.

(Biking St. Simons Island)

(Crested Butte)

Your summer 2021 has been CRAZY busy.  On June 1st, you and your sister embarked on the trip of a lifetime with Illuminate Youth Tours. Church History sites like the Sacred Grove and Palmyra. Jumping in Lake Michigan in Chicago. A 13-hour day (with blisters to prove it) walking in New York City. A Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays game in Fenway Park. And Niagara Falls and Buffalo wings as a grand finale. You won Illuminate’s “Most Upbeat Attitude” award which is no small feat after traveling 4,000 miles over 17 days across 23 states. Your favorite Church History site was the Sacred Grove where you were reminded that your testimony and growth will be “line upon line.”

(Niagara Falls)

You arrived home at 1:30 a.m. and the very next day, I drove you (late) to High Adventure with the Young Men at Studdert’s cabin for some rafting and R&R in Star Valley, WY. After some male bonding, you were home for a week to try to recoup those NYC blisters (didn’t work) before embarking with the Scouts on a week-long 50-mile backpacking trip to King’s Peak, Utah’s highest mountain. You described it as hard with heat, rain, hail, heavy packs and yes, blisters but you enjoyed the challenge and did a great job.

(Star Valley, WY)

In my opinion, one of the best things to come out of quarantine was deepening your bond with your sister. When you were little, you were inseparable and that shifted when we moved to Utah when she started middle school and you were on different planets. The universe aligned again (or rather, you were forced together 24/7 for almost a year) and though you’ve never fought and have always gotten along, it’s been cool to see you both hanging out again by choice.

On your birthday weekend, you decided in the 11th hour to have your buddies over for a pizza night with our new pizza oven, games in the basement and you watched Captain America: The Tomorrow Soldier. Your actual birthday was on Sunday and you received luggage from Grandma and Grandpa Johnson, spending money for your Illuminate trip from Grandpa B., some clothes, videos games and an Apple watch. The actual day was dedicated to church, steak, cheesecake and learning how to shuffle and play poker….quite the contrast!

Bode, you are such a wonderful addition to our family and the perfect caboose to our crazy clan. You’re a person who doesn’t need much and are grateful for even the smallest gestures. A sense of contentedness abides in you which, I’m more and more convinced is the essence of our happiness. A contentedness that fuels from the inside out. And not from the outside in. Thanks for always leading the way.



P.S. For a stroll down memory lane, see birthday letters 1, 234 5,  6, and 78 910, 111213 and 14.


(Pandemic bread and puzzles)

(Bryce Canyon)


(Fenway Park)

(SH Mentor Award)

(Sun Valley, Idaho)

(Polar Express chef)

(Pandemic wontons)

(Royal Gorge Via Ferrata)

(Jekyll Island)



Happy 17th Birthday, Hadley!

Dear Hadley,

Happy 17th birthday and what a year it has been! It started during the height of a pandemic with your Sweet 16 in lockdown. We managed to have a lovely backyard family party at Aunt Tammy’s, cruise around in a vintage gold car and have an outdoor movie night with Edyn and Zoe but the rest of it sure didn’t live up to expectations. Much like a lot of 2020/21. But you survived, you were one of the first teenagers to be fully vaccinated in Utah and the world awaits!

Except you still have no idea what to do with it. How about let’s start by getting your driver’s license?

Last fall, we did a mother-daughter road trip to visit some universities in Southern Utah. You loved SUU because of your fun tour and their “My Little Pony Club” (an excellent reason to apply), but when we walked onto DSU’s campus, Dixie became your first choice because Palm Trees! Warmth! What every college kid looks for in their potential school. We also visited Snow College which you were less impressed with because it’s small but there is still plenty of time to decide. You recently floated the idea of traveling around the nation in a van which, on the surface, wanderlust is good. But living in a van? Reality bites, especially after being conditioned to The Broadmoor.

You had a blast with Monty and your friends at Prom and begrudgingly performed at Promenade, a 100+year old tradition at WHS, to appease your mother (you’ll thank me in 20 years). You limped across the finish line of junior year with a shockingly good GPA that we salvaged by dropping math when we found out you had enough math credits for graduation. Let’s hear it for being done with math forever! Well, at least while you’re in high school. Senior year looks promising! You have a few required classes and then fun. Horticulture/greenhouse. Jewelry. Art. Weight lifting. Travel/tourism. Even psychology sounds interesting to you. Our exchange student, Maelle, will be arriving in August so you will have a Swiss sister for your senior year which will provide its own set of opportunities and challenges since you’re ruled the roost for so long but our hope is you will both have a blast as queens of the school your senior years.

Finishing our basement has been drudgery during COVID but we finally finished in fall 2020. Our theater room has become a hot spot for you and Bode to hang out with your friends (Monty, Edyn and Maddie are your regulars). You moved into your new bedroom which we built with your needs in mind: a huge walk-in closet (much bigger than mine), a carpeted bedroom area and then a tiled area for doing art. You have little interest in decorating it, except for a gazillion plants and every time you walk into a store, you beg me to buy you more. And a frog. Aunt Lisa has become your plant mentor and here’s for hoping her OCD cleanliness will rub off on you. Though not likely; when I briefly lived with her at Grandma and Grandma’s, she was a complete slob so maybe we all start out that way and some of us evolve.

During quarantine, you developed an interest in puzzles, became an expert in Minecraft and expanded upon your makeup artistry–everything from the grotesque to the stunning. Pink is your favorite color (at least that’s what I assume from all the times you’ve dyed your hair) and you have your Grandma B.’s flair for fashion. You can make anything look cute (except for that one time I commented you looked like to Emu even though I meant to say Emo). You have worked off-and-on at Dairy Keen this year and you fell in love and had your hearts broken by Chewy (a golden retriever) and Zelda (an Australian shepherd) with whom you and Bode were hired to dog walk shortly after Fat Kitty’s passing. You had many wonderful adventures together and they were the perfect distraction when we were stuck at home but they sadly moved away earlier this year. We thought we wanted a puppy…until we puppy sat several labradoodle puppies and we decided maybe we’re not puppy people. But you’re still obsessed with getting a golden retriever and you were delighted to recently see Chewy, even though he was a big drooling, hairy mess who, in his excitement to see you, had a death grip on a dirty diaper; he knows how to charm.

Despite COVID restrictions, we were able to do some local trips this year. Girl’s Camp was canceled and changed to just one evening. The Canadian border is closed.  The week before Memorial Day 2020, we met our friends the Hardymans to camp at the Grand Canyon…and were evacuated on Night 1 due to a wildfire (but talk about a memorable story about your first visit to this iconic National Park).  In July, we had our final houseboat adventures at Lake Powell with the Olsens because they sold their boat but those lazy, hot days on the water are some of our favorite memories. Last August, we had an awesome vacation in Crested Butte where we climbed 12,162-foot Mount Crested Butte (stunning) and mountain biked (not your favorite), and we had the time of our lives white-water rafting the Arkansas River and ziplining and scaling the precipitous Via Ferrata at Royal Gorge. The lodge we stayed at overlooking the deep cavern was spectacular and it was a fantastic family trip back to Colorado.

For my birthday in February, we took a fun vacation to Bryce Canyon with the Olsens and then for Spring Break we flew out to Sea Island, Georgia for a beautiful beach vacation where you proved you can still fly a kite while passed out on the beach. On June 1st, you will embark on the trip-of-a-lifetime with your brother through Illumuniate Youth Tours. Church History sites. Boston. Chicago. New York City. Washington, D.C. The Sacred Grove. Your Dad and I will be living vicariously through you back home…and paying off your trip. You had your orientation meeting last weekend and you’re most excited for New York City and least excited for the lack of personal time–17 days, 23 days and 30 teens. “Why do we always tell introverts to get out of their comfort zones?” you mused. “Why can’t we just tell extroverts to shut up?”

You are hilarious, beautiful, smart, immovable, adventurous, talented, artistic, sassy, loved and worthy. When you set your mind to something, you’re unstoppable.

None of us can believe you’re turning 18 in just one year. A couple of weeks ago, you marveled, “I can’t believe I’ll be an adult soon and will be able to vote and buy a fish from Petco.”

Climb every mountain. And buy those fish, girl.

We love you (now, go do your homework),



P.S. For a stroll down memory lane, read letters for your 16th birthday letter15th, 14th,  13th12th11th10th, 9th 8th7th6th5th4th3rd2nd and your birth story.




Pumpkin Season 2020 is a wrap!

Apparently, the only reason I blog these days is 1) when there are birthdays 2) we are evacuated for wildfires and 3) pumpkin season!

It was a sub-par growing season due to late-spring and early-fall freezes, deer, health issues and lack of time. Our “fun” COVID project was finishing our basement and while it almost put Jamie in the grave, we are mostly finished.  There are still a lot of projects to do like putting up shelves, Hadley’s closet, etc. but when we are done, I’ll share Jamie’s video about it. We have not enjoyed this house because we haven’t had an area where we can entertain friends and family but now, finally, our rec and theater rooms are the perfect place to do so…and now COVID is here and we can’t entertain anyway.

Anyhew, back to our growing season. This is Jamie’s second season growing in a greenhouse and his pumpkin never really took off (see above reasons) but Bode got really lucky with two great plants. We debated canceling the pumpkin party (because, you know, COVID) but we ended up scaling way back and had a smorgasbord of soups and pumpkin bread.

The show must go on…and hopefully next year’s will include our traditional potluck and s’mores bar.

Fancy pics are from our National Geographic photographer friend, Justin Bowen

The others are (obviously) from yours truly.

My Dad arrived the night before the party for a wonderful two-week-long visit.


Smashing pumpkins has become a new favorite activity.

The Weigh-off

There are a lot of things we miss about Colorado and a big one is the weigh-off at Jared’s Nursery because they would go all-out with a fun fall festival with games, a spookhouse, food trucks and so much more. Utah’s location, Thanksgiving Point, is a popular venue but they relegated the pumpkin “festival” to the parking lot with a few lackluster booths.

Fortunately, despite COVID, the location in a pavilion was much better than in previous years. We arrived early for the junior division.  Bode was only allowed to enter one of his pumpkins so he entered his smaller pumpkin as an exhibition. He smoked most of the competition with his 516.5-pounder.

His second pumpkin was measuring to be around that same weight so image his delight when it went heavy at 635 pounds!

He took home first place which included a ribbon and tickets to Thanksgiving Point.

But the real prize was his shrewd negotiating and he sold his large pumpkin for $275 to Cornbelly’s.

Jamie was hoping to eek out at least 1,000 pounds. His pumpkin weighed 997 pounds.

Oh, 2020, what an evil temptress you are.

In Denver, Jamie and the pumpkins were quite the celebrities and we’d go on tour to schools, events and festivals. Oh, and not be forgotten is the year Jamie jumped out of a pumpkin!

Since moving here four years ago, that month between the weigh-off and Halloween has been…disappointing. We live in a quiet corner and rarely see anyone stopping by to see the pumpkin. So, last year when Pumpkin Nights offered to buy our pumpkin, we were all-in. We figured we wouldn’t be so lucky with all of the festivals canceled due to COVID this year but Jamie and Bode sold their other pumpkins to Daybreak for their pumpkin display.

And the icing on the cake? Bode landed on the front page of our local newspaper for his big win, just like his dad a couple of years before.

Apparently, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree the pumpkin doesn’t grow far from the plant.

Happy 14th Birthday, Bode!

Dear Bode,

I can’t believe you turn 14 today and will be a freshman next month!  There are lot of great things happening in your life and you’re moving in a wonderful direction.  Finishing middle school (hurray!). Not even one visit to the counselor’s office (double hurray!). Honor roll every term (triple hurray!).

Overall, you describe middle school as an awkward time in your life but you survived the best you could and really, talking to girls is highly overrated. You quit the piano but took up the saxophone, were part of the Student Government, made a great group of friends with whom you’d hang out and play board games every weekend…until COVID hit. The pandemic was an excuse for a consummate introvert to thrive. You’d finish your schoolwork in a few hours…and spend the rest of your time playing video games or watching insipid YouTube videos and memes.  Yep, you’re definitely a teenage boy!

You have started taking more care in your appearance. You have a cool new haircut with buzzed sides and longer hair on top and cool clothes. You have been on the Solider Hollow ski team the past year and all that training has chiseled your body.  You surpassed me in height this year (I’m now the shortest), you have the same size of shoes as Hadley (for now) and I’m not sure you’ll be as tall as Dad because, well you know, Borowski genes. Hadley quit pumpkin growing but you have dutifully soldiered on. You took first place last year with your 299-pound pumpkin which won’t give you bragging rights with the ladies but it sure delights your dad.

You were devastated to lose Fat Kitty a few months ago. Since moving to Utah, he has been your best bud, frequently curling up to you at bedtime. It was a great blessing shortly thereafter to pick up a dog-walking gig with Chewy (a Golden Retriever) and Zelda (an Australian shepherd). You’re so endearingly patient with them, especially Zelda and her “Fris”bee. You’ll make a great dog dad someday if your dad ever gives in and lets us get another pet. After the basement is finished. And the backyard. And the fence. So, pretty much we’ll get a dog when you’ve graduated from college.

You are becoming a great Nordic and downhill skier and had a lot of fun ski days with friends and family at Park City Mountain this year. Favorite trips included Canada last summer, the Grand Canyon (well, before it caught on fire), Brian Head where we had one of our favorite ski days ever, Lake Powell with the Olsens, Anderson and Calderwoods, and plenty of Scout trips. The Church disbanded the Scouting program last year but fortunately, your awesome Scout Leader Rob Sorensen has kept it going with weekly meetings and monthly backcountry adventures.  I have no doubt these will be some of your most treasured childhood memories.

You have always been a strong, quiet leader who leads by example. When you taught a lesson on the Plan of Salvation in your Teacher’s Quorum, your instructors Brother Studdert and Frisby repeatedly texted Dad and me about what a tremendous job you were doing and how engaged the boys were. They even gave you a standing ovation at the end which is a pretty amazing thing considering your audience.

Following our recent trip to Lake Powell where you were a bit ill-at-ease as the cute Aubrey and Maddie taught you to dive, you later admitted but you’re not really one who likes the spotlight….but also don’t want to be forgotten.  There are plenty of flashy people out there but the world definitely needs more substance and you’ve got it, Kid. You’re a thinker, deeply connected to the Spirit, read your scriptures nightly (you’ve read the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, started on the Old Testament and fall asleep every night to the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square). The world needs more men who are good, kind, connected and empathetic.

You are a tremendous helper, too. You have helped finish the basement and with the landscaping without complaint and, though you’re every bit as miserable doing it as the rest of us, you frequently ask, “What else?” You will be a tremendous blessing to the world, just as you have been in our lives and I can’t wait to see the many ways that you will never be forgotten.

Thank you for being such a tremendous example to us all.



P.S. For a stroll down memory lane, see birthday letters 1, 234 5,  6, and 78 910, 1112 and 13.

(Teacher’s Quorum)

(Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point)


(DEVO Ski Practice, Solider Hollow)

Playing hooky with the Kuches

(First place pumpkin)

(Backpacking with the Scouts)

(Lake Powell 2020)


A wildfire, an evacuation and a Grand Canyon adventure up in flames

COVID-19 has not been fun for anyone.

A few of our highlights: I commemorated the one-year passing of my mother’s death, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer (and I’m unable to cross the Canadian border to aid in his recovery from surgery), our beloved pet of over a decade passed away, economic stress, homeschool nightmares, ongoing health challenges, an earthquake, the stress of finishing our basement and now we’re adding our only vacation that (literally) went up in flames.

Does anyone else feel as though you have lived a lifetime in just a few months?

Overall, we’ve been blessed. We have a roof over our heads. Food on the table. Enough money to pay the bills. And, most importantly, each other.

The Grandest of Canyons

What we haven’t had the last several months is travel so when some friends invited us to camp on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon last month, we were all in. My husband and kids had never been to the Grand Canyon and a socially-distanced, relaxing getaway was desperately needed.

Our excitement grew as we ventured along Highway 89A, a 5,000-foot climb over 40 miles to the Kaibab National Forest. We stopped at the Jacob Lake Inn, a charming outpost curiously devoid of a lake, but renowned as the “The Gateway to the North Rim.” The inn offers cabins and motel rooms, a restaurant, gas station, small grocery store, gift shop and they are most famous for their palate-pleasing milkshakes, pies and assortment of cookies (lemon zucchini and Cookie in a Cloud are among the favorites).

Little did we know that just 10 hours later, our memories of Jacob Lake would be much less sweet.

We drove south along Highway 67 past verdant meadows, quaking aspen and ponderosa pine toward the Grand Canyon North Rim. We made an hour-long detour on a backcountry road and set-up camp a few miles from the Rainbow Rim Trail where we planned to mountain bike the next day. The next few hours were spent setting up camp, hammocking and exploring our remote little plot before driving into Grand Canyon National Park.

The North Rim’s seasonal opening had been delayed due to the COVID-related shut-downs. During the time of our visit, the Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim, Visitor Center, Dining Room and campground were still closed. For a world-famous national park that gets four million annual visitors, it was surreal to have the North Rim mostly to ourselves. “How can we be so lucky?” we marveled as we cooked dinner in the deserted campground, freely explored the gift shop and took heaps of photos along the North Rim. The mile-high crimson walls revealed a cross-section of the Earth’s crust dating back to nearly two billion years and in awed silence, we felt like we were discovering this red rock nation for the first time.

Between a [Red] Rock and a Hard Place

At dusk, we melted into the Adirondack chairs on the deck of the lodge, our only cares in the world were if that evening’s sunset would match the bold reds, oranges and pinks of the canyon’s promontories. We were just starting an animated game of Head’s Up when our evening was interrupted by a park ranger. His nose and mouth were masked but there was urgency in his eyes. “You need to evacuate the Grand Canyon. NOW.”

Dumbfounded, we listened as he told us they were closing down the North Rim due to the escalating Mangum Fire which was burning near the park.  We scrambled to locate my daughter who had wandered off taking photographs, jumped in our vehicles and made the hour-long slog back to break camp in the dark as our friends blasted the best of the 80s from their truck (sidenote: Flashdance‘s “What a Feeling” was the No. 1 song in America which was a befitting soundtrack).

We navigated that lengthy backcountry road for the fourth time that day, straining for visibility through the dust and darkness. When we finally reached Highway 89A, a police car was navigating traffic. Yes, the highway is still open for now and yes, we should hurry. 

I honestly wasn’t too worried at that point because there were several factors working in our favor. The park had just barely closed and we were incredibly lucky to have been among the few people in the park at the time of the notification; who knows when we would have received word of the closure if we had stayed at our secluded campsite that evening.

We curiously watched as the black plumes of smoke rose into large pyrocumulus clouds in the distance. We were the caboose of our caravan and about 30 minutes into our drive, we encountered a truck heading south in the opposite direction. They were urgently trying to get our attention so we eased to a stop. “Turn around now,” they shouted at us.  “The fire has jumped on both sides of the highway. We just drove through it and didn’t know if we would make it out because the smoke made it impossible to see the road.”

I frenziedly called our friends but when I couldn’t reach them, we reluctantly kept driving toward Jacob Lake. As we rounded a bend, we were very alarmingly in the middle of a ring of fire. Our friends’ vehicle was pulled over and they had jumped out of the car to marvel at this scene straight from Armageddon.  Bone-dry air and combustible vegetation were the perfect formulae for disaster as we had a front-row seat to this smoke show.  The flames leaped from tree-to-tree, moving rapidly along the trunk and up to the crown, decimating branches as they spread. Our senses were bombarded with the penetrating colors–brilliant pumpkin orange, eerie green and blood red. Next came the whiffs of burning pine and embers in this high kingdom of cloud and smoke. And finally, the heat. We were close enough to the inferno to feel the hot cinders lapping against our skin.

We were in hell and yet somehow, it was mesmerizingly beautiful, just like those final moments in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the spirits emerge from the ark, eventually revealing themselves to be angels of death before vaporizing the remains of the doomed assembly in a whirlwind of fire.

I snapped out of my reverie to a sense of urgency. “GET BACK IN THE CAR!!!” I shouted at my husband. He spent a few more minutes photographing the wildfire, telling me upon reentering the car that I needed to calm down. Pro-tip for husbands everywhere: Don’t tell your wife to calm down. Ever. The result will be quite the opposite.

We quickly turned around, driving into the blackest of black abyss, frequently startled (and devasted) over the wild eyes of the minefield of terrified deer that lined the road.

We were among the lucky ones. Unlike the thousands of people who have lost their homes and their lives to wildfires over the years, we had an escape route, an alternate way off the mountain that took us several hours south to Page, Arizona where we stumbled into our hotel room’s beds at 2 a.m., exhausted yet grateful.

The whole experience, particularly after months of anxiety and unknowns, continues to be overwhelming.  I almost vowed I wasn’t going anywhere ever again until I remembered that’s what we’ve been doing these past several months so I’m basically between a [Grand Canyon] of rock and a [burning] hard place.

Oh, 2020, the tales we’ll have to tell about you someday.


Video footage taken by Bo Pousima Afeaki Inukihaangana around the same time we encountered the Mangum Fire.

Church in 2020

When closures were announced on March 13, 2020, church was among them. There have been so many inspired things leading up to this including a home-based Sunday School curriculum “Come Follow Me” last year. I remember thinking, “This is awesome…but it’s not like we’ll ever have to have church at home. It’s not like we live in some war-torn country or something.”

Enter: 2020. And we’re getting ravaged with pandemics, wildfires, earthquakes, you name it.

Overall, holding Sacrament in our home has been edifying and uplifting. Some weeks are better than others but I really miss the fellowship with everyone and have honestly been a bit frustrated over the lack of contact from the kids’ leaders at church. I feel like we’ve been in a silo for months so it was nice when they announced they were slowly and cautiously resuming church depending upon our area.

Things I want to remember about returning to church for the first time since March:

  • Held in 3 different 45-minutes sessions to keep numbers under 100.
  • Sanitization between meetings,
  • Most everyone was wearing masks, (I wish everyone who was able could have done it).
  • We were seated every-other-row for social distancing and for a walkway to pass the Sacrament.
  • Deacons used sanitizer before passing the Sacrament (it was strange seeing Bode passing in a mask) and no one else touched the trays. There was a tray for the Sacrament cups and a separate one for disposing of them.
  • No hymn books and singing was muted with all the masks and smaller numbers.

It all felt so stilted and strange….

Except it wasn’t.

One of our favorites Kaden Webb was called to serve in the Santiago, Chile East mission and he gave a powerful talk about his home MTC experience and how people are turning their hearts to God without ever having stepped into a church building. How this time of uncertainty is also an opportunity for seeking..and answers.

And I loved the story Steven L Nichols shared about recording a football game to watch later but he inadvertently found out the score. Knowing his team won, he decided to watch the game anyway. What he didn’t know was there was a lot of drama. Comebacks. Highs and lows. When he’d start to get stressed out, he would remind himself, “You know how it all ends. It will all be OK.”

And so it is now. I am so glad to have been given that reminder today.

“I love you, dear brothers and sisters, and assure you that wonderful days are ahead.” President Russell M. Nelson.

Happy 16th Birthday to Hurricane Hadley!

Dear Prin,

I never thought we would see this day! Sweet 16 in Quarantine! Just as we’ve always dreamed! This past year has been a return to light after a few very dark years as you’re starting to figure out who you are (or maybe, return to who you always were). You’re a hilarious, smart, beautiful, creative creature who has a bright future and you’re just starting to figure out how capable you are.

For your sophomore year of high school, you have started carving out your place here. In Colorado, you had a built-in friend group since birth and rebuilding has been a slow process. Friends have come and gone but this year, you started to attend high school football games with friends, Homecoming with a group from our ward and a new friend group on the other side of town.

You were accepted into the Kimball Art Center’s Young Artist Academy. Though it was a bit of a pain to drive to Park City every Tuesday night, it became your safehaven. No matter your mood going in, you always came out rejuvenated and refreshed as you were given the freedom to create and just be. My favorite part was our chats when we drove home when you would talk freely about the many things on your mind, a reminder of when you were an unfiltered little girl and would chat about anything and everything.

You have loved make-up since seventh grade but this year, you’ve taken it to the next level. Your face has become your palette for the whimsical, fun, weird and grotesque (yes, I’m talking about those bloody horror movie makeovers). I never know what you’re going to come up with next and it’s so fun to see your creativity shine in different ways.

We are in the process of finishing our basement and it has been a lot of work for all of us but most especially your father. You will finally get the larger room and closet at the back of the house you’ve coveted since we moved here…and we can’t wait to finally have a home theater room and rec area for you to hang out with your friends. After almost four years of living here, we finally put up our trampoline a couple of days ago after a looooong series of missteps of your dad buying a cheap, used trampoline that needed a mat upgrade, only to order the wrong one three times in a row. But! We finally have a trampoline and you’ve spent more time on it than any of us.

Quarantine has been…quarantine. As I’m writing this, we’re been over 2 months isolated as a family. Online schooling has been rough because it’s just not your out-of-the-book, experiential learning style but you’ve managed to crank out mostly As and a couple of Bs. In some ways, you have thrived as an introvert. You’ve taken up puzzles.  You’ll spend hours on Tik Tok and YouTube while blasting your heater. You don’t feel pressured to go out. But in other ways, you were just starting to spread your wings so two months with your parents feel stifling at times.

You and Bode have bonded and have reestablished a strong relationship. You both picked up a dog-walking gig and your jaunts with Chewy and Zelda have been a highlight, especially after the passing of your beloved Fat Kitty last month. When we first brought Fat Kitty home 10+ years ago, you were obsessed with him and his passing was devastating for you. But now, you’re obsessed with getting a dog which Dad says will happen after we finally finish the basement and fence in the yard. If the timeline is anything like the trampoline, that means…20 years from now.

Last year for your 15th birthday, we were at our glorious Broadmoor which had been our standing tradition for a number of years. Sadly, my PR contact retired and those beloved trips have come to an end (hopefully not forever) so we’ll be creating new traditions now. We will be going to Salt Lake City today to shop for your new room and have a backyard Cafe Zupas dinner with the Johnson clan. Hopefully when the basement is finished and social distancing is a thing of the past, we can have a nice, big soiree to truly celebrate you!

We had a few great trips that included Canada and a detour to Jasper en route from the B.C. Lakehouse to Calgary.  You had a blast attending OFY (Outdoors for Youth) in Idaho, as well as Heber Valley Girl’s Camp (where you were beyond thrilled to have me as your camp director!) Our friends the Olsens and Andersons, invited us on their Lake Powell houseboat last summer which was a glorious, hot week of wakesurfing, cliff jumping, playing games and late nights.  Last winter was your return to the slopes after your ski accident a couple of years ago where you worked through your PTSD and did some pretty impressive feats out there (including skiing double-black diamond McConkie’s Bowl).

You have developed a wicked sense of humor. You got your wisdom teeth out earlier in the year. I pulled Bode out of school to record what we hoped were some epic drug-induced hilarities but nothing. You snapped out of it very quickly, much to our disappointment and our inability to submit your blackmail video to America’s Funniest Videos and snag the $10,000 prize. All we got were two days of sleepless nights and lots of bloody gauzes.

You have wanted to get a job but few places were hiring at 15 (and honestly, we didn’t want you working while you were in school). You and Bode made some money by starting a business selling giant pumpkin seeds but a couple of weeks ago you landed your first real job at Dairy Keen, the local burger hotspot.  Jobs during quarantine look a lot different: they take your temperature when you arrive at work, you wear a mask and gloves, everything is deep-cleaned and partitioned off in the restaurant. They threw you right into the mix by making shakes and you’re adapting quickly and are enjoying it (with the exception of those many hours on your feet after many lackadaisical days homeschooling from our bed in quarantine).

You’re not known for saving money but when I told you if you carefully save your earnings and pay your tithing, you’d have enough money to buy a car by the end of the summer, which has fueled your fire for working. A car = independence. You’ve had a lot of anxiety about driving and the cancellation of school has forced me to become your instructor with some perilous moments (remember when you thought the gas was the brake and you lurched us forward and later said, “Wrong Pedal?” Good times.  And there was the time when you drove for the first time and kept repeating, “I am a responsible citizen,” enough times to almost make me believe it.

A couple of weeks ago, we had a breakthrough when we took the leap to have you drive into Heber for your beloved Crumbl cookies…and then get COVID tested at the outdoor testing station. You did a great and though you are still figuring out how to go in reverse (and I shudder at the thought of parallel parking), you’re making a lot of progress. You delayed getting your Learner’s Permit until last February so can’t get your license until August but I have no doubt you’ll be ready.

But will I?

As the story goes, the night before you were born (10 days before my due date), your dad was stressed out at work and told you, “Hadley, if you’re born tomorrow, I’ll buy you a car on your 16th birthday.” Of course, we can’t exactly afford that but working your butt off all summer to buy your own is almost as good, right?

I have been writing for Ski Utah this year and they hosted us at Brian Head Resort. On your first run down the tubing hill, you flew off your tube (not realizing you were supposed to HOLD ON). You sat out recovering from your face plant for a while, but on the final run, you were ALL IN…and the guy next to you serendipitously recorded our little crash dummy slam into the crash pads at the bottom.  As you limped off the course, a staffer (who had witnessed her previous incident), commented, “Wow, way to finish strong.”
Here’s to hoping that is in all of our futures, maimed and all. Your junior and senior years are ahead of you with the potential for a lot of fun times. Remember who you are, the love of your Heavenly Father and your parents.

Now, go out and wreak havoc on the world, my little hurricane.




P.S. For a stroll down memory lane, read letters for your  15th birthday, 14th,  13th12th11th10th, 9th 8th7th6th5th4th3rd2nd and your birth story.

(Easter 2020)

(Fat Kitty good-byes)

(Last snuggle)

(Homecoming: Ammon, Wally, Stockton, Hunter, Will, Preston, Hanna, Boston, Hadley, Kallie, Edyn)

(Salt Flats)

(Aunt Lisa’s 1980s Party)


(Lake Powell)