Sunday, June 25, 2017

Father's Day(s) 2017

Father's Day weekend was at the end of the most intense week that Danny and I can remember having. So Danny decided early in the week that he was postponing his Father's Day until the following weekend. But we still wanted to celebrate Papa, and we couldn't let the occasion pass without a yummy dinner for Daddy. So the kids worked on Danny's favorite stuffed shells while I worked on our cake for this year's Call Family Father's Day dessert. I know how much Papa loves cherries, so I gave a black forest cake a try. It kind of turned out amazingly gorgeous, and it was super delicious as well. Another winner! We got Papa a full-face snorkel mask that he can use when swimming laps, and that was a hit as well. It was a great first half of our Father's Day celebrations.

For Danny's Father's Day dinner, he requested chipotle corn burgers...and I was happy to oblige! We haven't done these burgers in years, and we had forgotten how amazing they are. After dinner we had Danny open his presents. This year he got some long-overdue thermal gloves for when he's smoking meat and some special compression mud socks for his upcoming Tough Mudder race. He was a happy camper! But I think the biggest success of the day might have been our homemade Nutella cookies and cream ice cream. Holy ice cream buckets, Batman! Best ice cream we've ever was that good! The perfect dessert to compliment the perfect father. :)

I could dote on Danny and sing his praises from the moutaintops all day long. He's the most amazing man in every way, but especially as a father. He absolutely adores his children, and can't wait to be with them after a long day at work or church or school. He loves taking them on grand adventures and making memories with them. But he most especially loves to teach them the gospel, and share his love and loyalty to his Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. Danny is the best Dad ever, and we are so grateful that he's ours! We love you, Daddy!

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Waterfall Canyon Hike

After our beautiful hikes/walks in Georgia, we were antsy to get back on the trail. We decided our next hike to conquer should be Waterfall Canyon in Odgen. We hit the trail as early as we could manage for a Saturday morning, and managed to make it before it got too hot. 

We knew it was going to be a good hike when we ran into a Weber State University group that was having a "trail day" or something. They handed our activity books, pamphlets, and even butterfly nets to the kids. The nets were obviously a big hit! 

The first part of the trail was wooded and beautiful. We all appreciated the shade, and the kids enjoyed looking for certain plants from their pamphlets and trying to catch butterflies. Claire as a huge fan of the information stations, since she had learned a lot about Utah wildlife and wilderness during school last year.

The trail then opened up for a while as we hiked higher up the mountain. It really was quite beautiful! The last quarter of a mile to the waterfall got really difficult, however. It was really, really rocky and the rocks were the loose kind. But the kids persevered and the waterfall at the top was definitely worth the effort!! The falls are about 200 feet, and even better than the falls at Adams Canyon. And if the view of the falls wasn't beautiful enough, the view of the valley below was gorgeous.  Unfortunately, just about every in Utah had the same idea we did and the base of the waterfall was almost too crowded to sit! But we managed to find ourselves a nice little spot to enjoy our lunch, and we got to find out that Joey really likes mustard! :) It was definitely worth the work to get up there...but now we had to get back down...

The way down always takes longer than the way up. And boy did our ankles and feet hurt after traversing those loose rocks and trying to keep our balance! When we finally got off the rocks, and as we were walking by the water, Sophie spotted a snake on the creek bed! He was a decent size, and we're pretty sure he wasn't poisonous. ;) Can you spot him? 

And once again, Joey was an absolute champ. He loves his hiking back pack, which is good. We intend to do a lot of hiking!

We were hot, tired, and a little sore once we made it back to the car...but we had a blast. This hike ended up being 3.9 miles, with over 1000 vertical feet. And we managed it in 3 hours and 38 minutes. The whole family loved this trail, and I was again feeling blessed that we live in such a beautiful area. Can't wait to get out on the trail again!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Poolside FHE

We're still going strong on our Family Home Evening goal! But we had a change of venue when Papa said the pool was ready. Our family night activity was our inaugural swim at the pool. We even cooked out with Grandma and Papa. We loved our summers at the school...

Sophie had the lesson this week, and she worked all day on Sunday and a good portion of the day on Monday. This was a lesson all her own, and it turned out awesome. It was about choices and consequences, and she taught us the principles before moving on to her object lesson/activity. She did a fantastic job!

We have seen some wonderful blessings come to our family because of family home evening. Danny and I love the opportunity we have to bear our testimony to our children. We've had some wonderful gospel discussions. But I think our favorite part has been watching Claire, Sophie, and Johnny prepare and teach lessons. They take their responsibility seriously, and they teach with confidence and always finish with their testimony. I think we're doing something good here. :)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ward Book of Mormon Party

Towards the end of last year, Danny starting thinking about something he could do to help strengthen the ward. He felt strongly that the families in our ward needed to read the Book of Mormon more deliberately, so he challenged everyone to read the entire Book of Mormon by June 17th. That would be finishing in just over 6 months, and would mean averaging between 3-4 pages a day. Danny and I thought it would be fun for the ward to celebrate the accomplishment with a big ward party. So Danny issued the challenge and called a party planning committee. He and his counselors also structured the sacrament meeting topics to coincide with the portion of the Book of Mormon that we would have been reading that week. 

It was an incredible experience! It was a push for our family to read the entire book in 6 months. Last year, we took about 10.5 months to read it...but we were up for the challenge! It was so amazing to hear about the positive impact this challenge was having in the lives of our ward members. Every fast and testimony meeting, at least half of the testimonies focused on the challenge. In almost every Relief Society lesson, it was mentioned by someone. Danny felt like our ward needed some miracles, and it seemed like there were families that were getting those.

Danny attended most, if not all, of the party planning meetings...and he was pretty excited with how things were coming together! He and I thought it would be cool to do the party somewhere other than the park or the church building, so they reserved Camp Woodland for the day. The committee took to the task with gusto, and before long they had a whole afternoon and evening of awesomeness planned for the ward.

Finally, the day arrived! Our family finished right before we left for the party. Our week leading up to the party had been insane. We had just gotten home from vacation the week before and launched right into Ward Conference, stake visits, a whole lot of appointments for Danny that had waited while we were gone, wedding receptions...oh, and Danny had final projects and assignments due for school. Did I mention we were prepping and smoking the pork for the party? And then, right when we thought it couldn't get crazier Danny's cousin passed away and his wife asked if Danny would conduct the funeral. This was a touchy situation, as his cousin unfortunately committed suicide. Danny spent hours working on his talk and meeting with his uncle, aunt, and widowed cousin. And the funeral was set for Saturday morning...just hours before the party. 

But, he's amazing...and we managed to get everything done! The funeral was a difficult experience for us all. It's the first funeral we've attended since Luke's, and it was hard on Johnny. Plus, it was just a tragic situation. But Danny did a wonderful job conducting the services, and his talk was incredible. He really did a wonderful job of providing comfort, but also teaching the Plan of Salvation and how that works in the life of someone like his cousin. It was quite an emotionally draining experience though.

I left after the funeral while Danny continued on to the interment. The kids and I stopped at Sam's Club on the way home for one more load of food for the party, and then made sure we were changed and ready to leave as soon as Danny walked in. Well, as soon as we finished Moroni 10, that is. :) But we did it, and we only ended up missing the first hour or so of the party. All is well that ends well!

The committee did an amazing job with the games and activities. I wished I had thought to take pictures when we first got there! There were bouncy houses and carnival games, face painting and photo booths, and a Book of Mormon scavenger hunt that ended with a prize at "the tree". Danny's "Lukey Bracelet" had served as inspiration, and now we have another one to wear that reads "There is power in the book. Turnberry Ward 2017". Danny loved the idea when the committee put it forward, but with one stipulation. It couldn't be red. ;)

We had about as good of a turnout as Danny though we could hope for, though we did wish more had come. We had enough food for an army! And we got raving reviews on the pork. Sebron Farmer had come to help us prep the 100 pounds of meet on Friday, and then he and Mike Kammeyer each took some to smoke on their smokers. Couldn't have done it without them.

While dinner was awesome, I think the highlight of the evening for everyone had to be dessert. Brother and Sister Lee own a novelty catering business, and so they brought their soft serve ice cream machine and their cotton candy machine. We had vanilla and pineapple ice cream, and four different flavors of cotton candy. And Brother Lee made some ginormous cotton candy for the kids!

We ended the meeting with a small devotional at the amphitheater. Danny shared a few remarks and then bore his testimony of the Book of Mormon. He then opened the mic up to anyone who would like to share their testimony and experience with the Book of Mormon. I was so nervous! I worried no one would share! But I worried in vain, because there were a steady stream of ward members bearing their testimony of this great book, and their gratitude for the Bishop's challenge. Even Johnny felt the Spirit, and was the first kid to bear his testimony. He made his parents proud. :) I felt moved to express my gratitude to our ward family for trusting Danny and following his counsel, as well as how the Book of Mormon has changed our family. It was a great meeting and a perfect way to end our celebration.

But just because the party was over and the challenge complete doesn't mean Danny didn't issue a new one!! We have six more months to finish again before the end of the year! Danny was kind enough to post a new schedule on the ward bulletin. :)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

To My Claire, On Your Birthday...

Happy Birthday, Claire Bear!!

Admittedly, this letter is a couple of weeks late. You celebrated turning 10 in Nauvoo this year, at the onset of our epic road trip. But how cool that we took your birthday picture together at the Hotel Nauvoo?! Thanks for being such a good sport about your birthday being different this year. You are still ever so good at going with the flow. :)

You're a decade old, Claire! That means I've been a Mom for 10 years!! I can hardly believe it. I can still remember the whirr of our swamp cooler, and the way the air smelled slightly musty in our little apartment in Orem on the day we brought you home. The day it really set in that I had just given birth to a little girl. A daughter all my own. And I was struck with a certain amount of fear that now it was real. I not only had to keep you alive but I had to teach you how to get back to our Heavenly Father. I remember looking at you while I held you on our couch and thinking we could do it. Even still, ten years later, you still fill my heart with happiness and confidence in my role as a mother. You are such a gift to your Dad and I, Claire. We are so grateful you came to us first, so you can help us on our way as a family.

Well, if I thought you were looking too grown up last year...this year has blown me away! You've grown out your bangs and your braces are gone for the time being. That smile!! You are breathtaking, Sweetheart. Though I do miss my round-faced little girl, I'm having so much fun watching you grow into a young woman. I think what I love best is seeing who you are. Seeing your confidence grow and your personality flourish. But second only to that is how much I love your newfound desire to be with me. You've always been so independent. You were never a big cuddler, and you've never seemed to need your Dad and I very much. I have worried if we would be friends. But you come to me more, sit by me more, even hold my hand while we're out shopping. I love it!! I'm so excited for the relationship we are building. I hope you'll always be one of my closest friends.

You had such a wonderful school year this year. You adored your teacher, and loved your friends. You even had some boys that quite liked your company! ;) You're learning how to manage relationships more. Your best friend is still Grace, but as with all friendships there has been some friction between the two of you from time to time. You are so good about being patient and working to resolve the conflict. I'm so proud of you for that, and I know it'll help you so much as you get older. You excelled at your studies this year, and most especially in your Spanish. You have tested out way above where you should're speaking at an 8th grade immersion level in the 4th grade!! Professor Summers said that you take to the language naturally. I'm so glad you have the opportunity to learn a second language. You have also taken to piano like a natural, and I'm shocked at how well you play already. It makes me SO HAPPY to hear you practice in the morning! I love music, and playing the piano has brought me so much happiness in my life. It has been an anchor during some difficult times, and it makes me so happy to see you loving it too. You played soccer for the first time this spring. You didn't take to that quite as naturally. :) But you never got frustrated or discouraged, and you played your hardest every time you were on the field. Claire, you just amaze me in every way. You are destined for great things!

You continue to grow in your love of the gospel. You were so excited to find out that you would be studying church history this year in your primary class, because you knew we were going to Nauvoo. You have soaked up every bit of information about the early Saints. You still love Activity Days, and you passed off all your Articles of Faith before Recognition Night. You just have an eagerness when it comes to the gospel. I love that about you! 

You're still my biggest helper. You're patient with the younger kids and are always willing to lead a game or pick up a mess that isn't yours. You and Sophie are still basically inseparable, though you are both starting to have your own identity and lives. You are such a good big sister to Johnny, who can be a little intense sometimes. And Joey just adores you. What else can I say? You are simply awesome in every way. :)

I love you so much, Claire! I can't wait to see all the adventures and growth you have in this next year. Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl!!