Friday, August 25, 2017

To My Johnny, On Your Birthday...

Happy Birthday, Handsome Boy!! Can it really be seven years since you stole my heart as I cuddled you in my arms for the first time? Surely not. But then again, I can hardly remember a time when you weren't by my side. Time is a funny thing...

I marvel at how you continue to grow, Johnny. You are such a delight to me, and such a massive pain when you decide to be! Honestly, it only adds to your charm. You're like your Dad that way. ;) Everyone that knows you loves you. That's probably one of the things I've noticed most about you during this year. I worried about how you would do socially once you got into kindergarten. Turns out, every single ounce of my worry was majorly unfounded. You quickly became the epicenter of all things social in your class. You assembled a group of friends and orchestrated the games. And you even managed to balance all of that with the girls chasing you during every single recess. I imagine that is a burden you'll just have to bear for many years to come. ;) It makes me so happy to see you playing with your friends, just being a boy and doing all the rough-housing that boys do.

As we anticipated, kindergarten was a breeze for you. Mrs. Fleming told us over and over again that she had never had a kinder test so high! But you still enjoyed every single day at school, and your reading, writing, and math improved significantly by the end of the year. You enjoy Spanish, and now that you've started 1st grade you'll be learning that in earnest. You have already reunited with old friends, and even made some new friends in 1st grade. You love being there all day, and we all expect you'll have another fantastic year. You love to learn, and you deeply desire to be an exceptional student. Which always makes you a favorite with your teachers. :)

You've taken quite a shine to science and technology lately. You've said over and over again that you want to be a scientist when you grow up. You even grew your own crystals and made plans for your very own science fair. You only check out science books at the library, and you seem to be particularly interested in rocks and animals. You are always reasoning out why things work, and even if you're completely wrong your deductive reasoning is always solid. I'm so excited to see where that great mind of yours takes you.

Johnny, you are a natural athlete. We finally got you signed up for soccer this last year, and you were the biggest kid on the field...and one of the best players. You loved playing your first season during the spring, and you're even more excited about playing this fall. And you're a hiking machine! I keep telling you that your spirit beast must be a mountain goat. ;) You almost always set our pace, and you keep me marching behind you. You still love football, and at times you're very interested in playing. At other times you're terrified of getting hurt. We'll see what side of the fence you end up on as the years go by. 

You still have such a love for the gospel, Johnny. You are like a sponge, and you soak up all the stories and principles being taught. You read the Book of Mormon easily, and hardly ever need help anymore. And you always seem to know what's going on by the first few verses, right down to the characters and places. I find that to be rather impressive, since I still have a hard time keeping it all straight! You are still exemplary in Primary, and always happy to give a talk or scripture. We went to the MTC open house, and you talked a lot about how excited you are to serve your mission. You've already decided that is what you're going to do, and it couldn't be happier. I can see and sense the mighty spirit you are, John. I know our Heavenly Father needs you for a great work here on earth, building His kingdom and preparing for our Savior. I couldn't be more proud to be your mother, and I only hope I'm doing all that is required of me to help you become the man you are meant to be.

We love having you in our family, and we wouldn't be complete without you. You still pester your sisters quite a bit, but I know you have a good friendship and relationship with them. I don't worry about you all being friends as you enter your teenage years and beyond. And you are Joey's whole world. He just lights up when you play on the tramp with him, or get on the floor and wrestle. I know you will always have a very special relationship with him, and I'm grateful that Joey has such a good example in you to follow. And trust me, he's going to follow every single one of your footsteps as soon as he's able to keep up! You still miss Luke a lot, and you talk of him often. You sense more than the girls do that he's missing. I look forward to you telling me about how your relationship with Lukey continues to grow despite the separation. Because I am confident that it will. 

Your relationship with your Dad has really grown over the past year. You seem to hunger for time with him more than you used to. You love to play Xbox with him, or board games, or anything you can get him to play with you! You love sharing BYU football, hiking, and working in the yard with him. But even with how much more you need your Dad, you don't seem to need me any less...and I like that. You are still my boy, and my little buddy. I am going to miss you during this school year! I've gotten so used to having you with me in the afternoons. 

Johnny, thank you for letting me be your Mom! I love you to pieces, and I'm so grateful that we're friends. I hope you feel how much you are needed in our family, and how much we all adore you. Even Sophie and Claire. ;) I can't wait to see all the amazing things that await you this year. Happy Birthday, John Boy!!



Friday, August 18, 2017

Eclipse Trip! - Fairy Falls and Grand Prismatic Spring

I love my husband. I especially love his crazy ideas that end up being the best ideas ever! Like that time he said, "Let's drive the whole family to Georgia!" I thought he was out of his mind, but it was the most amazing trip. So when he said, "I think we should do a weekend at the cabin so we can come home on the day of the total solar eclipse and be right in Idaho Falls when it happens!"...I didn't argue. I immediately got on board, with all the confidence in the world that we would have the best time ever.

That is, until I started to read all the hype around the solar eclipse! It seemed like Idaho Falls was preparing for near-apocalypic conditions!! I worried about the worse-case scenarios, but Danny kept assuring me it would be worth it. So we pressed forward with our plans...even when we found out that the eclipse glasses I had ordered weeks in advance were rip-offs and we had to scramble and pay out-the-ears for glasses like all the other procrastinators! Even then, we pushed on true. Even my Mom was on board with all our crazy plans and decided to join us when we invited her. I guess we're all a little crazy. :)

We left Thursday after work so that we would have all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in Island Park. We packed the car and even borrowed Uncle Kenny's trailer for all that we would need to camp out at Larry and Karen's house in Idaho Falls. Oh, did I forget to mention that? Yeah, we decided to camp on Sunday night so we didn't end up stuck in traffic on Monday. I'm telling you, this was set up to be the most crazy, epic weekend trip we've ever done! Anyway, we hit the road around dinner time and got to the cabin late that night. Great Grandma was waiting up for us, as well as Danny's Aunt Janet, Uncle Russ, and cousin Michael. It was nice to visit for a minute, but we were anxious to get the kids to bed. We needed them rested for our day in Yellowstone the next day!

I love Yellowstone. Like, my soul NEEDS Yellowstone! But I don't need the tourist traps...I need the hikes. Ever since that trip we took the summer after Luke died and we did those two amazing hikes, we were totally converted to experiencing the backcountry of Yellowstone. For our first hike, we decided on Fairy Falls and the outlook for the Grand Prismatic Spring. My Mom has never really spent any time in Yellowstone, so she had to see the GPS. Plus, it's kind a must-do for me never gets old. It's the only place I'm really willing to fight the traffic, parking, and people. It's worth it every time.

We didn't realize how many more people would be on this trail. At the beginning, we figured it was all people heading to the overlook. But compared to our hikes a couple of years ago, it was downright congested! It was still beautiful though. And it was more of a walk than a hike, so it was a nice one to get the kids warmed up with. It was such a beautiful trail! Because the kids and been up so late the night before, they were a little tired. For the first time in many hikes, Johnny got a little distracted by his tired legs. But this is where it's great to have a destination, like a waterfall, to get to!

The falls were very impressive, falling 200 feet into a pristine pond. It was well worth any effort getting there. If we had been dressed for it, we would have loved to get into that pond! Joey was so excited to get out of his pack and walk around, and busied himself throwing as many rocks as he could over the logs and into the water. The rest of us enjoyed taking our packs off, eating lunch, and enjoying the cool spray from the waterfall. It was the perfect hiking destination.

We started making our way back down the trail, and met this cute little chipmunk friend that really wanted some of our food. Even though we didn't feed him, he was kind enough to pose for a picture. :) It's always interesting to me that on hikes that aren't a loop, the trail can look so different coming  back than it did going up. But honestly, our kids were tired. They needed a little more encouragement as we walked, and Grandma Candy was right there to provide it! She let Sophie wear her hat, which made Sophie feel fashionable and fun. And she'll do anything as long as she can be fashionable and fun! To keep Claire a-walkin', she asked for a detailed summary of the Land of Stories series. Well, since both girls have a slight obsession with said series they got more than just a summary! It was so fun to watch the walk and talk together. 

We finished the Fairy Falls trail, and on our way back to the car hung a sharp right up to the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. It was a bit of a climb compared to what we had been doing, but right as we were almost to the top Danny spotted a fox!! We have seen a lot of wildlife in the park during our visits, but the only other time we've seen a fox was late at night when it ran across the road in front of our car. It was so amazing that he was just chilling out literally feet from a very congested trail! Definitely a highlight of what promised to be a trip full of highlights!

And speaking of highlights...the Grand Prismatic Spring is always a highlight for us! We've only ever seen it from the boardwalk, since there was no overlook before this year. The view was even better from above, where you can really appreciate all the colors. I've seen it so many times, and yet every time I see it I have to remind myself that it's real...and that I'm still on Earth! Definitely one of our most favorite parts of Yellowstone.

One of the "must-dos" on this trip was to get some huckleberry ice cream from our favorite little ice cream stand in West Yellowstone, as well as let the kids shop for souvenirs. Grandma Candy has never had the pleasure of West Yellowstone huckleberry ice cream, and she loved it every bit as much as we all did! We enjoyed our ice cream while we kept Joseph from running into traffic, and then hit one of the shops for souvenirs. Johnny found a pocketknife with his name on it, and he was over the moon. He has searched for months for the perfect pocket knife. And Claire settled on the cutest Yellowstone hoodie, and she was instantly in love with it. Ah, the joy of a perfect hoodie! Sophie looked and looked, but nothing really spoke to her. She learned the hard but valuable lesson of waiting to buy until you find something you love. Danny and I were very proud of her!

We got back to the cabin that evening a lot later than we had expected to. We had some quick dinner and basically called it a night! We had another hike planned of the next day, so we needed to get our rest!

Monday, August 7, 2017

MTC Open House

When Danny heard that the MTC (Missionary Training Center) was going to have an open house to show off the new addition, he made sure to set an alarm for when tickets became available online. He was ready right when the time came, and was able to get tickets for our family and for the youth in our ward. And it was good that he was so on top of things, because those tickets went fast!

We were so excited to do this for Family Home Evening. Danny was excited to go back and see the MTC again, I was excited to see it at all! And our family always loves any reason to head to Provo. :)   We had the last tickets of the day, and traffic made our arrival a little stressful. But we got on the bus from the parking lot right in the knick of time.

We were greeted by a couple of sister missionaries right upon entering the MTC. They introduced themselves, told us where they were from and where they were heading. They let us know the purpose of the MTC, how many missionaries were there, etc. Then we were pretty much set out on our own! There was a designated path to walk along, but it was basically a self-guided tour. We got to walk through a bit of the cafeteria, and we all kept our eyes out for Tali's friend, JB. We didn't see him though. :( We saw dorm rooms (which Danny promptly pointed out were bigger than his were), and classrooms (which he also pointed out were bigger than his were...and his didn't have windows.) The kids and I were enthralled, and Danny was nostalgic. It was so neat! That was the old building, and not a lot of changes had been made there. But then we walked out of that building towards the new part of the campus...and we were blown away. It was so gorgeous! We noticed the flags first. Every country that has missionaries in it is represented through a rotation of the flags. So cool. There were plenty of tables and chairs outside, and I love the pennants hanging that had Christlike attributes displayed on them. The whole place was just amazing! As we went through the new buildings, the color and decor was so bright and calming. We watched a short movie about missionaries and the purpose of missionary work. It was a wonderful tour, and Johnny and Claire couldn't stop talking about "when I come here" and "when I go on my mission". Sophie was a little more reserved and ambivalent about the prospect of serving a mission...which I totally get. I was just like that. Still, it made Danny and I happy to see the kids' enthusiasm.

At the end of the tour, we discovered the line to get on the busses was quite long. We decided we weren't that far from the parking lot at the stadium, so we decided to walk. As we were walking, it was decided that a few of us needed a restroom. We were passing by the Bean Museum on campus, so we stopped there to use the restrooms and let the kids play while Danny ran back to get the car. We all LOVED the Bean Museum! Joey was especially in heaven with all the animal displays. And Danny particularly liked all of President Boyd K. Packer's wood carvings...which were really quite breathtaking. 

Right as we were getting ready to leave, we heard an announcement that they were doing a live animal demonstration. We had to go! I still remember going to the Bean Museum as a little girl and getting to hold Rosie, the python. Unfortunately, there were no pythons in this demonstration. And it did last a LOT longer than we thought! It was more of a class, and the kids loved every minute of it. I was getting stressed by how late it was, and we still hadn't eaten dinner yet. But the kids weren't willing to leave early! And they were rewarded by getting to pet a snake at the end. :)

We ended up getting a very late dinner at Dickey's, and getting home WAY later than we had planned. But it was absolutely worth every minute! Best. Family Night. Ever!

Danny went back a few days later with the youth of our ward. I was so bummed that during our tour I had passed right by the big world map, so I asked Danny to get a picture for me of him pointing to his mission in Paraguay. He lovingly obliged. He's good like that. :) Danny said it was a great night with the youth!

What a wonderful church this is! I love all the opportunities we have living so close to the headquarters of the Church, and we try to take advantage of every one we can. Because every tim we do, our testimonies are strengthened and we are blessed. :)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Girls Camp!

This year, Danny insisted that I join him for the day he was spending at Girl's Camp. I loved the idea, and even though we hit some snags with child care we made it happen (thank you, Grandma Candy!). 

It was a stake girl's camp this year, so we were at Camp Woodland. Danny surprised me on the way up by stopping and buying a double camp chair so we could sit together. He's sweet like that. :) When we got there everyone was just hanging out, so we joined them. It was nice to be outside and chat by the river, as we watched the young women of the stake float down on tubes. Ah, girl's camp. :)

The highlight of the day was definitely the Bishop's Challenge. Danny got the heads up from the stake camp committee a few weeks prior as to what the challenges would be so that he could prepare. And prepare he did! One of the challenges was to be able to braid hair and apply make-up on a young woman in five minutes. But Danny knew he could up his game, so he had me teach him how to french braid! He practiced on Claire, Sophie, and me and was definitely ready to show the other bishops up. The other challenges included a cart wheel, hand stand, juggling, and a dunking contest. 

The girls from our ward that were participating in the challenge were excited to show the stake what the Turnberry Ward was all about! And the rest of the girls made up chants and cheered louder than any other ward. I loved it! When President Fowers introduced Danny, the girls cheered...

[Ghostbusters tune]
"When you're all alone,
And you need a friend,
Who ya gonna call?

Personally, I think Danny looks rather dapper in a cape! :) Juggling was the first event, and Danny pretty much threw that one (ha! No pun intended!) He did a great cartwheel, but couldn't beat Bishop Brimley's cartwheel and back flip. But when it came to the handstand contest, Danny was about 1 second behind Bishop Bevan and almost had it!! Of all the hand stands he had practiced, I couldn't believe how well he did! He almost had it...

Now he really shined in the make-up and hair challenge. Of course Julie Davis was the hair model, and Danny managed that thick main like he had been french braiding for years! And he consulted with his make-up model, Mary Farmer, on color choices and applied quite the look on her. He won that challenge hands down, and the other bishops were amazed. It was awesome!

Unfortunately, none of our girls were able to dunk their bishop...

...but Danny was the only bishop able to dunk President Fowers! 

We enjoyed dinner and a devotional with the stake before adjourning to our camp for our own testimony meeting. It was a great campfire testimony meeting, and I couldn't help but marvel at where the Lord has guided my life since I was one of those girls bearing my testimony at girl's camp. I loved watching how much the young women in our ward admire and love their bishop, and it reminded me that all the sacrifice is worth it. It's crazy to think that there will only be a few more camps before Danny is released, but I hope I get to again!