Saturday, July 30, 2016

July 2016 Calendar

Here's the July low-down, before I throw the July page away.

-held my monthly La Leche League Support meeting on the first day of the month!

-Attended the luau of a friend. It was a blast of fun and homesickness all in one. 

-4th of July! Hiked down into Taylor's Creek in Kolob Canyon with 3 out of 4 of my boys. Odin and Micah took a trip up to Antelope Island where they camped for 3 days and went to Lagoon.

-Attended a birthday pool party for Odin's friend Rulon. Sad to see their family move, but it was fun to hang out one last time.

-Held a Mom's club playdate at my house. It was my first but probably my last. Nothing wrong with Mom's Club, I just don't see myself getting very involved in the Club in the future.

-Did some local sight-seeing up to Navajo Lake, Duck Creek, and the ice cave. The lake was cold and windy. The boys liked playing in the little creek at Duck Creek.

-Attended a Relief Society activity where we colored ABC books and made beaded lizard toys to give to refugees.

-Met with my LLL Leader Applicant and went over her Preview of Mother's Questions. Excited to be training a new LLL Leader for Cedar City!

-Spent the day at Zion National Park with Jordan and her family. Took the shuttle to our favorite spot in the Virgin river then Jordan took us to jump off the rock in Pine Creek. Odin jumped 16 times. We found Froggywogs (half frog, half polliwog) and Jonah discovered that they could play dead when you picked them up.

-I got to substitute as the Primary Singing leader one Sunday. I taught the primary kids The HandCart Song, which was a lot of fun.

-Had a big backyard party for Malachi's 2nd birthday, including slip n slide bouncy castle, lots of food and lots of  friends. I prepared a big pot of chili, rice, watermelon, grapes, chips, candies, hot dogs, and pretzels. Micah baked cupcakes and made the cake! We blasted reggae music and partied for hours. It was a train party and Malachi wore a special shirt that said,"Choo Choo I'm 2!"

-I babysat Payzlee a few more times before our neighbors moved. Sad week, sad day. We helped them load the moving truck. I got pizzas and Gatorades for the moving party, then we waved goodbye.

-I substituted the CTR 5A Primary Class at church. I asked the kids what thing they could do to be kind to others and one boy yelled out,"BE NICE!" But I thought he yelled out PEANUTS! We had a good laugh.

-Jonah turned 6! And Grandpa Bill came to town! We ate at Ihop, then had his birthday party, then went camping. We camped at Sunglow one night, then at Capitol Reef for 2 more nights. My Dad's bother Harold and wife Kay met us. We hiked the Capitol Gorge Hike. Zadok and Micah hiked through something called the Frying pan. Yikes.

-I forgot to pay the water bill again

-I got my braces tightened again and my tooth yanked down. My impacted tooth is descending very quickly. You can see the tip of it descending into my gums. So exciting!

-July 31- Sunday, day of rest and rejuvenation.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Keep the Fire Burning

I love to compare my testimony to a burning fire!

Years ago, when I was working in wilderness therapy with at-risk youth we would use to use fire as a metaphor to teach them how powerful they could be in making their own life decisions. Having a fire out in the darkness of the woods has so many implications about how to keep a light burning bright in your own soul, I don't even know where to begin!

For starters, fire is a source of warmth and heat. You need it to stay warm and to survive the cold, dark nights. When it's dark and cold out everyone gravitates towards the fire as a source of comfort. The heat from the fire brings security and peace of mind as you let the warmth penetrate your body and calm your tired and weary thoughts.

Fire is also necessary to survival! Without fire we couldn't cook our food or boil our water for drinking. Keeping the flame burning bright takes a lot of effort, but that effort makes all the difference between starving or thriving out in the wilderness.

People not only gravitate towards fire for warmth and survival, but also because of it's beauty. Have you ever sat around a bonfire and just stared at the bouncing flames and dancing shadows created by the fire? This simple, beautiful show of nature draws us in and mesmerizes our hearts and minds. We become calm and trance-like as we sit and ponder the importance and awesomeness of our own lives.

Getting a fire started is a lot of hard work! First you need to collect all the ingredients to ignite the flame and keep it going. You need kindling, such as small sticks, dry leaves, or bark. Once you ignite the kindling you have to nurture it by blowing on it and adding more kindling as needed. This part is so fragile and susceptible to failure! You have to take special care not to smother the fire as you carefully help the flames to spread and ignite each other. This part can be frustrating and tiring if you don't have the patience or not enough kindling. Next you need larger sticks to put on top of the kindling to get the fire to grow stronger in your fire pit. As the fire spreads and grows you need to keep adding bigger sticks and logs to help it grow brighter, hotter, and more powerful. Finally, once you have a big, bright, strong, powerful fire, you can relax and let it serve you. It's a lot easier to maintain a fire once it is burning bright, but be careful not to ignore it and let the flames go out, or you have to start all over again.

Doesn't this apply to our testimonies in such a perfect way? Our testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ are like a big, bright, strong, powerful light in our lives! They provide us with peace, comfort, security, and warmth in a world filled with a lot of darkness and confusion. A strong testimony calms our tired minds and weary thoughts and allows us to feel the love and comfort of our Savior. Our testimonies help us to survive and thrive in a world that teaches us so many conflicting principles. When we have the light of Christ in our hearts we know who we are and where we are heading. We don't have to question our faith because we know where to turn for truth and light. Even on the darkest, coldest nights of life, our Savior's light penetrates our souls and reminds us of the beauty we carry within us. People gravitate towards our testimonies because of the shining examples we set. With our lights burning so bright we pull others into the gospel truths, allowing them to feel the goodness of the Savior in their own lives.

Sometimes when life gets hard, overly busy, or too distracted, and the answers we need don't come easily, we ignore our testimonies. We don't nurture them as closely as we should, allowing the flames to die out and the light to diminish. We smother them with our doubts and our fears, till there is nothing left but a pile of burnt sticks and blinding smoke.

It's hard work to build up our testimonies again! We have to keep nurturing them! We can't ignore them! We have to keep them alive if we want to reap all the benefits of having this strength and power in our lives. We have to keep feeding the flames of our testimonies by actively seeking the things that will help them to grow! We have to collect the ingredients to ignite our spiritual fires and use them to keep the flame of our belief burning bright. The ingredients are all around us, simple and perfect: Saying our daily prayers, studying the scriptures, attending church and especially taking the sacrament, honoring our baptismal covenants, and applying gospel principles to our everyday lives.

If we keep doing these things, our testimonies grow more powerful with truth and light. If we ignore them or push them aside, our testimonies start to smolder and die out. There will be a lot of smoke, but no flame.

Oh how I love this metaphor! It has reminded me again and again how powerful my testimony can be when I take the time and effort to nurture it! It reminds me that I have the power within me to keep the light of Christ as light or as dim as I want it to be. That strength is entirely in my hands as I wake up each day and make decisions for myself and my family. If I want to walk through my day as a big, bright, strong, shining light for myself and others to benefit from, then I may do so by nurturing and feeding my testimony. I love my Savior Jesus Christ and the light I receive from living and following His gospel.

*The rest of this post can be read on Saints and Sisters, a blog for LDS Women. Haven't joined yet? Come see for yourself the love and camaraderie we've created on this tribe!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Maybe I'm just homesick

I felt bad after venting last week about people's bad manners that were affecting me. In fact, I thought about deleting the entire post completely but then reasoned that sometimes venting is a healthy way to express one's feelings. Hopefully nobody gets offended. Afterall, the truth of the world is that people flake out from time to time. That's just the nature of being human. The reason I was so upset was that there just happened to be a rapid series of flake-outs in a short amount of time that were affecting me.  One after another--boom boom boom, until I felt depleted and wiped out.
I admit I flake out from time to time! In fact, I recall last year my friend inviting our entire family to her son's 2nd birthday party so I said Yes! We will be there! Then she asked me if I could help manage one of the booths for a carnival game and I said Yes! I would love to! Next thing I know it's a Friday night and the phone rings. It's my friend telling me they missed us at the party and hoped everything was okay. Crap. I forgot the party.
It was a real low of my life, but also a humble reminder that I am not infallible, even though I wish I was. I apologized profusely and hoped she would still be my friend. Fortunately yes, she is still speaking to me.

So all this tension was building up inside me last week. Usually going for a long run is my cure for stress, so I ran 4 miles on Friday and felt pretty good and relaxed when I got home. Then I found the neighbors nasty little dog in my front yard and it jumped up and bit me. Yep, I got bit by a dog on the back of my leg and it hurt. Next thing I know I'm kicking and swearing at the this little jerk and  right back where I started with feeling overwhelmed, tense, and angry with the world. Stupid dog. (Yes I called animal control and filed a report. They're hopefully going to get rid of that sorry animal.)

The next day we went to a luau here in Cedar City for our friend's baby. These friends moved here from Oahu 2 years ago and I was fortunate to meet them through a facebook group. And you know how Hawaiians throw the biggest parties for their baby's first birthday? Well, this was no exception being in Utah, they still threw a pretty rocking baby luau.
First of all the meat was amazing, all cooked by the husband and his cousins: Kahlua pig, Kalbi beef, Teriyaki chicken, and rice. They also served pizza, fruit, salad, noodles, nachos, chips, cupcakes, and pudding! But here's the huge icing on the cake and the thing my boys are still talking about: They rented a shave-ice truck to park at the party and gave everybody any kine shave ice they wanted for the duration of the party! I think Odin went back for three different shave ice in 3 hours!
For entertainment they had the balloon guy come and make balloons for the kids, and face painting, too. They rented a bounce house and had a kiddie pool with squirt guns. They had Jawaiian reggae music blasting the entire time, which of course, took me right back to the islands.

Anyways, the point is that this was an amazing party and it was really fun, but here's the thing: I couldn't stop bawling for the first 20 minutes after we got there because it made me so homesick. The music, the Hawaiians cooking at the BBQ, the luau food- it was all too much for my little Hawaii-sick heart to bear. I started sobbing like a baby and had to go sit in the car and cry until I could come back out and assimilate with the other happy party goers. I hadn't realized how much I really truly miss Hawaii and how being away for so long can take a toll on me.
I miss the ocean. I miss the people. I miss the culture. I miss the music. I miss the foods. I miss the warm breezes and lush flora and fauna. I miss the humidity! I miss the whole darn island lifestyle. Life gets really busy over here raising my keikis, so I don't often stop to realize how far removed I am from Hawaii culture. It's a whole different world over here in Southern Utah and I think a part of me gets a little lost and confused when I am too disconnected from my Hawaii. Walking into that luau was a slap in the face of Aloha that I sorely need in my life. Oh Hawaii, you are too far away...Too too far away.

The ending of this story is, I came away from this luau feeling  cleansed from my tension and determined to spread more aloha and less ranting. I hope I can keep it up!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Great Outdoors, our Family Culture

I stayed up until 3am last night clicking through all our family photos on the computer. I have my photos saved, organized, labeled, and backed up on a flash drive dating back to 2004. My goal this year is to develop them and put them into photo albums by spending $20 per month on photo developing fees. 
I've been wanting to organize my photos into albums for about ten years now, but at this point It would be really overwhelming to try and print out over 7000 photos all at once. This way is much easier, and much more affordable. In fact, last night I stumbled upon a deal at Walgreens for 10 cents a photo after you purchase 75 photos at once.  I ended up ordering the entire year of 2008 for just $22! That's the year when Zadok turned 2 and Odin was born! There were so many goodies in there; I can't wait to pick them up tomorrow and get them organized into an album! 
I've always loved having albums around. I think when I'm finished it will be neat for the kids to be able to flip through our memories whenever they want and see how much our family has grown over the years! So far I've got 2004-2007 in albums and can't wait for 2008-2016! I'm already feeling nostalgic for my baby Malachi. He turns two in a couple weeks and it's getting to the point where I don't even remember him being a baby! Where did my baby go? 
"Oh, there he is in the photo album!" I'll be able to say someday!

As I looked through all our photos (mostly because I had to wait an hour for 2008 to upload to Walgreen's website) I recognized a reccuring theme. I mean, I always knew we loved the outdoors and this was something we wanted to share with our children, but looking at our lives through photos this past ten years, I saw very clearly that the outdoors/nature/wilderness/being outside is more than something we do now and then, it is our overall family culture! 

It is something we are constantly planning for and making time for and looking forward to in our lives! It is what we teach our kids to do as soon as they come out of the womb! Our babies go camping as soon as I am ready to go camping, tiny newborns and all. We take our children hiking, camping, and exploring to our favorite places over and over and over again. And if the youngest child hasn't experienced one of our favorite places yet, we make sure to plan a family trip to get there as soon as possible. Most of our vacation time is spent camping. When Micah takes the boys on outings, it's to go hiking or camping. We love hot springs and swimming holes and bicycling to the park. In any given week in our home town you can find us hiking around the hills, hanging out in the river beds, or swimming at the lake. We LOVE all the natural creations God as to offer and have made a point to infiltrate it into every part of our family's lives. 
As I clicked through year after year of memories, I also got to see how each one of our boys has been shaped and influenced by nature. Each one of them has spent so much time outdoors they've developed a love and respect for the animals and plants around them. They know the local flora and fauna and creatures that inhabit our area. They are good stewards of the environment. They take pride in learning about and sharing knowledge of the natural world around them. They have learned useful survival skills and have gotten really good at pooping in holes in the ground. They're going to grow up with wilderness in their veins without even realizing it! (Kind of like how I grew up with ocean in mine.) They're going to develop a desire to be outside the rest of their lives, which is very happy and exciting to me.

Here's some photos from our past few months of adventures. I'm not going to caption them all but will instead lend a brief explanation of each one:

This was our first time camping at Snow Canyon in Ivins, UT, and it it is now one of our absolute favorites! We went there over spring break this past March. The weather was perfect---not too hot and not too cold, and it wasn’t very crowded either. Our camping spot was semi-private with bushes surrounding our tent and fire pit. It felt like a little home away from home. We had so much fun climbing all over the rocks and the giant sand dunes and even exploring the lava caves. As parents of small children I felt like we could really relax here and let the kids run wild without worrying too much about life-threatening dangers. I give this camping trip two BIG thumbs up! And so do our kids!

Zion National Park is only an hour ½ away from our house. I can’t express enough how much I love this little slice of heaven on earth. We went down for a few hours in April when Granddad Tim and Grandma Sandy were up here for Odin's baptism.

You can find us playing in the river near our house just about any time of year---rain, sun, or snow! We come here to relax, find rocks (dragon eggs) collect driftwood, let the dogs roam, dig for clay, and to inhale the sights and smells and sounds of nature.

Recently Micah took Jonah on a nearby hike up to Crystal Cave, a short 3 mile round trip. On the way Jonah found these large rocks and felt determined to bring them back just for ME. Micah was so impressed with his dedication to carrying these heavy rocks for over a mile so he could gift them to his mama. You bet I’m gonna keep those rocks forever.

The reservoir on the hill or “lake on the hill” as we call it is our favorite swimming place here. We do a short 8 minute drive up at all hours of the day for a quick dip. I bought a foam surfboard and Micah bought a little row boat to paddle around on. Sometimes I paddle out into the middle of the lake, close my eyes, and imagine I’m out surfing Laniakea. This is our family below at 8pm going for a nice, cool, summer swim!

This past May I finally hiked the “C” trail! This is the big 9 mile round trip trail going up the big mountain overlooking Cedar City. It is a popular tradition in Utah to paint the first letter of the city on the side of a mountain and then carve a trail leading up to it. When I lived in Provo I used to hike up to the “Y” all the time (in that case the Y standed for BYU). Micah and I got  a babysitter for 5 hours and hiked up the C together this past May. It was really hard for me. It pretty much kicked my butt. However, this was probably Micah’s 100th time doing it plus he’d just done it a week earlier with Zadok, so he was in good shape. After we were done we got Greek Food at the Fat Zeus lunch truck, our new favorite place to eat (Gyros and greek fries!). So ono!!

 MMmmmmmm Loaded Greek fries:

We stopped at our favorite Meadow Hot Springs on the way home from a trip up to Salt Lake City in June (Zoo, Temple, Wheeler Farm trip). This was our first time seeing scuba divers there. The divers went all the way to the bottom and collected all the rubbish down there--hundreds of glow sticks that people had dropped over time.

Beautiful Zion. We can never grow tired of you, ever!  Micah reserved us a campsite nearly 6 months ago for our June 2016 summer Zion experience. This time around we brought our bikes and were able to bike up and down the Pa’rus trail in search of awesome swimming holes. It was really hot so swimming during the hottest hours of the day was a must!
Usually how we do camping at Zion is we wake up and eat breakfast then catch the shuttle into the park during the morning hours like 9-11:30.  We get off at different stops to explore and hike along the river. That’s when we see all the wild animals. Mornings are good for spotting things like wild turkeys, mule deer, frogs and snakes. Then we go back to camp to eat lunch and put baby down for a nap until we can head off for the swimming holes from about 3-6p,. Then we come back to camp and eat dinner then catch a shuttle back into the main park and explore some more til about 830-9pm. We do this for about 3 days and 2 nights until we're exhausted and ready to come home.

Last week I got to go hiking with friends at Kanarraville Falls, a hike located just 25 minutes from our home. It was my first time and It just worked out beautifully that I got to do this, even though it wasn’t with my kids. It worked out because last week Micah was on a backpacking trip with our two older boys and I was able to get a babysitter for the other two. Hiking through this canyon was a real test for me to overcome my fears of narrow slot canyons. It’s taken me a long time to be able to walk into a canyon without getting extremely anxious and crying nervous tears, because of my previous flash flood experience. I wanted to add these photos because it was so beautiful, I had a wonderful time, and I want to take our kids here before summer is through.

Lastly, here’s how we spent the 4th of July: hiking in Kolob Canyon. Every 4th of July we seem to never have any plans. While everyone else is partying it up all around us, going to parades and lighting fireworks, I am perfectly content getting away from it all to enjoy the natural beauty of our great nation. I was instantly pleased as we drove into the canyon to see the red, white, and blue of God’s creations greeting us when we arrived. God Bless America and the freedom to enjoy the great outdoors!  (Micah and Odin did not come as they are on their special trip together to Antelope Island right now)

I'd love to write in depth about Micah's adventures with the boys this summer on their one-on-one-father-son-campouts, but that will have to wait for another time. M, Z, and O went to Coyote Gulch last week and had a pretty horrific experience. For anyone that might be hiking into the canyon: FYI there is little to NO water in Coyote Gulch right now!
It was a traumatic experience for all of them, but I don't think it will ruin their love for the outdoors. If anything it taught them to overcome hard challenges and be better prepared for what life throws at you. At least, that's what the wilderness teaches me on occassion. Just yesterday while we were out hiking in Kolob I had to wipe an okole with my bare hands and a creek because I forgot babywipes. Now that's a lesson to learn from. ;)

Til next time,