Sunday, June 30, 2013

Trek Day 2

Day 2 was by far the hardest day for our trek family. We woke to a beautiful morning and felt ready for the day. Our Alyssa had not been well before bed the night before (I'm sure it was the long day in the heat and the unfamiliar food) but she went to bed early and seemed better. We set off for the section know as the Valley of Dust (wait, hadn't that been yesterday's route?!) in temps that were climbing to record highs.
 brushing my teeth pioneer style (minus the fleece hoodie and water bottle)
—not too bad in such a beautiful valley!
 our views of the ranch for miles on end

With 4 miles securely under our belts we had a long stop in a big meadow for lunch and "pioneer olympics." The break was welcome but the only trouble was the lack of shade. We secured a tarp to our handcart with another family but it was hotter under the tarp than out of it where there was at least a little air moving around. We all took our socks and shoes off to dump out the piles of dirt and redo blister care. I noticed a small rash around my left ankle and thought it was probably a bug bite. I put some hydrocortisone on and put my socks and shoes back on.

Pioneer leg wrestle.
Here's our neighbor, a fellow pa, brother McKane schooling another pa.
Joseph was taking care of our dehydrated girls during this event or he would have been right there to play. He loves this kind of thing!

When the games started up my girls were seriously lacking motivation. I could tell Alyssa was still beat and Caitlin was going downhill quickly. She was putting on a brave face but told me it was weird that she was so hot but had the chills. That was a very bad sign. We tried to keep them in the shade for the rest of the break but the trouble was the shade was not that helpful as it was inside the huge equipment trailer or under a small canopy that was already full of people trying to escape the sun. At the end of the games both girls were put into a car to ride with some AC and save their energy all the way to our camp for the night. Caitlin ended up with an IV in once we reached camp so her condition was really bad. I'm glad Alyssa was with her and a good comfort and distraction during all of it too.

Our diminished family trudged on for the 2nd half of the day's walking. After a mile or so Susan needed her bad blisters tended to so she and Joseph stopped while the rest of us kept up with the wagon train. With 3 girls missing I was glad I could fill in and help push the handcart with my family. We came to a pretty steep hill and made our way up, slowly but surely, and with a lot of effort from all of us (the missionaries told us each cart filled with gear weighed between 600-700 pounds!) We were missing our other family members and worried about them. It made for a long, long afternoon, but the kids did so well and stayed positive. It really was the valley of dust and very, very hot. I kept wondering why my lower legs especially felt so hot, like they were getting sunburned through my socks. I figured it was my black socks absorbing all the heat and decided to wear my light gray wool socks the next day to avoid a problem.

We finally made it to camp (a dusty, flat area with hardly any grass or comfy areas for setting up our "home") to find out our Caitlin was getting prepped for an IV. Poor girl! But she was being really tough through it all. We got a little settled and then I pulled my socks down to find both of my lower legs swollen tight and covered in an angry red rash. It was burning but felt better to have my socks off. We headed for the First Aid tent and found help (although the doctors could not figure out what was wrong. It's still a bit of a mystery after Benadryl and steroid creams and antihistamine pills didn't make much of a change.)
I cleaned my legs with fresh water and that felt really good—but all I wanted to do was dip them in a big tub of ice (which of course we had none of). Walking back to our camp from the First Aid tent was the one and only time I felt totally overwhelmed. I couldn't hold back my tears as I felt the sting of my legs, felt quite tired from all the walking and work and a bad sleep, and had so much worry for our little family and all that still lay ahead for us to accomplish in the coming days. I was so glad Joseph was with me and had his arm around me as we found our family. He comforted me right away and my confidence was boosted. He made me lay down at camp with my feet up to ease the swelling and prepared dinner for all of us (with Matthew's help—our aspiring cook and most helpful of teenage boys. So grateful for him and ALL the work he happily did in our family —it made a huge difference and he set such a great example.)

That night was a huge pioneer hoe down which our boys boisterously participated in while most of our girls were just needing to sit it out and watch. Those kids dancing away were so resilient! Trekking many miles in the heat and dust and then popping up to dance and play at the end of a long day. They were fun to watch and even though our camp became even dustier it lightened the mood and was a lot of fun.
  Matthew, Kendall and Isaac having fun at the hoe down

Sitting on the sidelines during the hoe down—at least we stuck together as a family! Can you see how dirty my leg is at my knee? I washed all the lower leg to abate the rash but that was as far as I got. It's crazy how you just adjust to living with the dirt when there's not a lot you can do about it. I did change my underwear every night before bed (top and bottom) and wore my warm base layer PJ's and fleece jacket only for bedtime to keep them free from the dust of the trail. It made me feel much more clean and fresh for sleeping.

Kendall and his pal from band sang and played "Be Still My Soul" Thursday night before our evening meeting. He totally rocked that sax and even treated us with lots of great songs throughout trek (including "Careless Whisper" although he saved us from the "Sexy Sax Man" dancing. I swear that song was just enough to make me laugh every time :)

Our stake was assigned two sets of couple missionaries to guide us through the whole experience. They trekked along with us every day showing us the correct route and giving us instructions. They were just the cutest and most tough senior missionaries. They told us so many great pioneer stories, encouraged the kids, and had their eye out for any way they could help. One sister had also gotten a bad rash on her legs a few weeks back and she kept coming to check on me and see how mine was and offer up her prescription steroid cream. She even helped Addie (from my ward) figure out her talk about trek she had to share in sacrament meeting the day after we got home. And Addie's talk was so good! The missionaries camped in their own trailers each night but were essentially with us the whole time. Such great people.

And did I mention our awesome bishop was with us for the whole of trek too? He was in charge of a different company so we saw him off and on but he was such a trooper and had feet full of blisters but joined us happily all on all of our journey. It was immensely comforting to me to know he was there and he even gave our family lots of delicious hard candies to snack on as we walked. 

We all went to bed eagerly Thursday night with constant prayers that we could recover as we slept and face the next day with energy and health and a happy outlook. I loved praying on trek, with my family (often, every time we needed it), and as a stake and on my own. It was truly invigorating to do it and buoyed me up time and time again. I want to keep that lesson from the journey more constant in my own life:

"But, behold I say unto you ye must pray always and not faint; that ye must not perform anything unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul."
                                                                                                                     —2 Nephi 32:9

Sunset day 2 in our shabby little camp site. It's amazing to me that after a long day of heat and sun and walking and working, even the hard ground feels pretty good for laying down a weary body. I guess I adjusted to that too although the next morning I had literal bruises on both hips from sleeping on my sides. How did those stalwart pioneers do it week after week? Each day I was more and more humbled and grateful for their immense sacrifice, all in the pursuit of obeying their prophet and loving their God.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

So Trek Begins

For the last 4 days Joseph and I have been on Pioneer Trek with our stake. While all is fresh in my mind I want to capture what I can to help me remember the experience. Thank goodness for all that I recorded in my trusty trek journal too.

To begin at the beginning, ever since January Joseph and I have been preparing for this epic event. We've had monthly trainings, a couple different firesides, a huge book about the handcart companies to study and read, and hundreds of emails from the stake to help us get ready. Plus, knowing we'd be walking many miles each day we've been preparing physically by running, hiking, walking and biking. And as a ma and pa we were in charge of gathering all the supplies our family would need for making our meals, setting up camp and tending to blisters and other needs of our kids on the trail. Our packing list was huge! We gathered and borrowed and shopped in May and June and felt pretty ready as trek approached. 

Just a few nights before trek began we were assigned a big brother and sister for our family and we had them over so we could get to know them a bit and discuss their role as leaders and motivators in our family. After we met Kendall and Susan I felt so excited to be on trek—they are just really good kids and I could feel their enthusiasm about the whole event. It was such a good omen for how all of it would turn out.

Late Tuesday night Ruth Ann came to sleep at our house so she could watch our kids in the morning and get them to my mom's Wednesday afternoon. And thus, at 6 am Wednesday morning we were up at the stake center and ready for trek. It was quite a sight to behold—the chapel filled to the brim with hundreds of teenagers dressed in their pioneer clothes and ready to go. I was so proud of them and felt honored to be among them and joining them on the journey

Our families were announced and as we were family #8 (of 31), we got ours assigned rather quickly and met up with them in the cultural hall. Such a cute group of kids! They were all rather quiet and restrained except for our little firecracker named Girdy who kept the mood light for everyone. She was such a hoot on trek and I really think her totally random humor was good for our family spirit (and really, Joseph and I were the perfect parents for her—we think she's awesomely hilarious ).

Our trek family—all looking so fresh and clean!
Back row: Matthew, Hunter, Susan, Kendall, Girdy and Isaac
Front row after us: Alyssa, Katie and Caitlin

We had a light breakfast and loaded on buses and were off to Deseret Land & Livestock just outside of Evanston, WY. We bonded on the bus, all bright and eager to get to know each other playing some get to know you games.

Once we were at the ranch we had to work fast to load our handcart, arrange ourselves into companies (3 families per company), create our family name and flag, and start off on the trail. We named ourselves the Baby Blue Bandits (due to our family's baby blue handkerchiefs) and off we went. It was a crazy windy day which felt really good in the heat but it made for such a dusty trail. We stopped for short water breaks often and then trudged on and on.
love the sight of so many youth gathered up and ready for the trail
Susan was our resident artist and made our darling flag. We kind of had the theme of the letter "B" going along with our family name so we each wrote something beginning with "B" that we loved or better defined us. I wrote babies and Joseph wrote bike. We also had basketball, baritone sax, beach, ball (soccer), bacon, bow and arrow, broadway and Barbies (yeah, from Girdy who is obsessed and brought a Ken and Barbie on trek just because. I promise she's just a spitfire and likes to be unique–all of it's rather endearing and I love her for it!)

 we walked and walked and walked and walked

Our boys were total men out there. They held the main axle the WHOLE time. They didn't want to wear the girls out and knew it was the hardest place to be. They traded around who was in the middle or on the edges but they killed it up there and made it very easy for the girls in the back.
So yes, a super windy day. Did you know Joseph has the confidence to pull off wearing this authentic pioneer shirt? Totally channeling his inner Joseph Smith and it was very cool. He only wishes his beard had been longer before trek he says, beards bring the spirit :)
Trekking over grass was such a welcome change—no dust! Loved the open trail and huge sky as we pushed and pulled . Well, mostly the kids pushed the handcart as we were advised to let them do the work. We only filled in when someone was needing a break or we had a hard hill to climb (and on the women's pull of course—no way I was letting my girls do that without me).

Our first day was an 8 mile trek before we set up camp in a beautifully green valley alongside a small stream. I had no idea how dusty I would be after just one day of walking—it was everywhere and I formed an amazingly stubborn layer on each leg from my mid calf up to my mid thigh which stayed with me for 4 days!
Again, a super windy and dusty day. Dust plus sweat equals a dirty, dirty pa!

Another view of the sea of youth at our evening meeting. That's our trail boss up front—he's such a good guy and I'm glad we got to know him better through all of trek training and trek itself.
Camp day 1. 
That first night some families banded together to make bigger camp sites but it created a few problems so we stuck to keeping separated as families and there was much less commotion at night. I wish I'd seen how this all works or been on trek before to know to bring stakes and poles and better equipment for tying up our tarp to create shade...the things I know now!

We had a great FHE that night as dinner was being prepared by the stake and I think it helped unite us so much. Many other families were off doing whatever but we had the downtime and Joseph and I felt like we should get in the good stuff with our kids while we had the daylight and opportunity. I was really proud of my family for staying together and hanging out as a family as we had been admonished to do several times by the stake leaders. Like I said our family wasn't the most boisterous group but they worked together really well and helped pull each other out of their shells. Plus Girdy taught us all this totally ugly SNL song from a digital short called "I Broke my Arm" and it kind of became our family anthem—super random but it worked for us :) Once we finally calmed down for the night I was so ready to sleep. I fell asleep quickly but woke up so many times in the night due to the hard, hard ground, the crazy bright moon, and early morning sunrise. I have to say that waking in the middle of the night was out of control beautiful because the stars were so stunning. I can't remember the last time I saw so many being so far from the real world and sleeping out under a huge sky in the open rolling hills. Wow. It made me smile and grateful to my Heavenly Father for such beauty and majesty on this earth.

The scripture we read as a family in our FHE (and then Kendall quoted it in his prayer he gave to open our big stake meeting):

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
                                                                                                                  —Isaiah 40:31

Monday, June 24, 2013

Luke at 18 Months

I finished up Luke's baby book all about his first year a few months ago and I was so, so grateful for all the posts I had written about my baby boy as each month would pass. I was pretty good at capturing that info for my Olivia too but my older two...dang. I needed a blog 9 years ago with my tiny Bentley!

Luke doesn't change nearly as much as he did last year but the babe sure is fun and still the star of our family. At 18 months he is a little like a loose cannon and we never know what he will be discovering or destroying or getting in to. We just have to keep a close eye on him :)

He's an excellent sleeper at night (thank goodness) and still readily takes 2 naps a day. I keep thinking we'll get down to one afternoon nap but he pounds that morning nap from about 9-11 each morning and it's a nice time to pick up after a busy morning, get ready for the day, and entertain my other kiddos too. Plus, with summer adventures, we can then pop up to the pool and stay until 2 or so before Luke needs another nap. I wonder if our active, outdoor, summer fun is helping the babe still sleep so much (I feel like napping after our busy days too!)

Luke jabbers and jabbers all the time with inflections and great sounds but he doesn't say many real words yet. I know he understands a ton of what we say though and he can shake his head yes and no if I show him something to see if he wants it. He still rocks the sweetest "hi" I've ever heard and is no doubt very vocal—we're just excited for words!

love these cute brothers who look nothing alike!

The babe loves: popsicles, baths, the pool and water of any kind, slides, climbing, his binkie and gray blankie, singing and hearing songs, the girls' Polly Pockets and Little People, Baby Einsteins and Max and Ruby, drinking through straws or my waterbottle (but not so much sippy cups—he thinks he is too old for those and wants to be the same as his siblings) watermelon, playing in the sand, and climbing up on anyone's lap to see what they are up to.

hanging with the darling Addie, babysitter extraordinaire

Luke is a solid, chubby, snuggly, heavy, giggly, happy, blondie beautiful babe. How have 18 months already passed with the delicious boy in our lives?!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Caroline's Recital 2013

My Caroline loves to perform. It's just how she's made. She knows when she's dancing for a crowd and her smile and enthusiasm just radiate through her. I love it! It makes her very fun to watch as she dances her little heart out.

These June recitals for Cares' studio are more like a recital "week" for us as parents. Monday she had pictures at the studio, all dolled up in make-up and hair for her 2 dance pieces, Thursday was her dress rehearsal which lasted 6+ hours, and then Friday was the actual performance night. It's a huge investment to get to all these events (plus the full year of carpools to class each week) but it's also a huge pay-off as a mom to be in the audience and see my little lady dancing, especially when I know she is so excited to be up there and doing something she loves.

Caroline's first dance was with her jazz class and the girls danced as mermaids to "Under the Sea." It was such a cute dance and those ladies knew the piece so well! I absolutely love Caroline's jazz teacher this year, Miss Laura, who is Cec's neighbor and just an awesome teacher and dancer (and person!)

Her 2nd dance was with her ballet class to music from "The Wizard of Oz". Cares wore a beautiful, sparkly orange dress but her class was all in bright colors of the rainbow. It was a soft, graceful and lovely little dance. Of course I would have liked to see more ballet technique included in the performance piece but I have to remember Cares is a first grader and still learning a lot about ballet :) I truly adore my tiny ballerina in her pink shoes and tight bun–she is so eager to be a ballerina like her mom that it certainly melts my heart.

Lucky Cares had awesome support at her performance with all 4 grandparents and all her fam except Luke (he had a special date night with Addie because he would have been way too hard at the theater. I am sure he will be too hard to come next year too :) I mean Olivia was shot by 8:30 and we didn't get home until close to 10...)

We've had the best carpool buddy this year with Caroline's friend Addy. Her fam was in our ward one split ago and so they live very close. It was so great to share driving duties with Miki and have our girlies dancing together (and being such cute, silly girls in the car on our drives—always sharing snacks and being very dramatic/motherly to Luke/giggly. I heart little girls!)

All the cute red-orange matchers that night! And my dad really was there too but he had a crazy night at the hospital so he was back in surgery before we could catch a pic with him at the end.

I need to get some good pics of my dancing girl in her costumes. I never really like the studio pictures so haven't bought them the past 2 years thinking I'll do a fun photoshoot...have yet to do one though :)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Beautiful SG Sunday

Pictures from the real deal Nikon. Ahhh they are so pretty! Again reminding myself to pack it up and use it more often.

Sunday in SG over Memorial Day weekend:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Los Barones at Syndermill

The big family reunion! 43 of us hanging out at the Snydermill Lodge (right by Olympic Park in Park City). We all met up on Saturday, June 1st and kicked things off with a huge family portrait by Busath. For 2 pm pictures the children were amazingly well behaved. A little candid preview:


Next on our itinerary was a swimming adventure at the local jr. high aquatics center. It was so much fun! First of all the water in the little kids pool was super warm, there was a great shallow section for Luke to wander around in, and most of all, we had the place rented out all to ourselves! Big hit and great way to get playing after lots of smiling and sitting still. 

We had 3 days and 3 nights together and we had a ton to fit in. Each couple was in charge of a family craft or activity and then Nanny had tons of great things planned too like Bingo (with sweet prizes!), a pinata, fishing pond, and toy scramble (everyone brought old toys our kids had outgrown or didn't like anymore and then we all dumped them out at once and kids gathered up "new" things to take home. My kids loved that activity! I think a lot of these things are what Joseph and his fam did at family reunions when they were growing up so it was cool to revive the traditions).

Our family activity was a photo booth set-up with cool backdrops and silly props. I loved how much the teenagers adored this activity. We have the coolest nieces! I have like a million photos from the photobooth but here's a little preview:

Bob's darling girlfriend (who is officially now his fiancee!) made a huge effort to come out and join us and meet the whole fam, and she made the best impression. My Caroline, along with Sisi, Gracie and Tillie were completely obsessed with Mary—and she was just the cutest with all of them. Bob was so sweet and patient to share his girl too :)

We fit in some fun game time late at night with the grown-ups, bike rides and trail runs, and lots of playtime on the playgrounds (one was right by the lodge with a sandbox and another was down the road by the pavilion and big grassy meadow.

Mary and Seth's darling craft—we glued figurines to jar lids and then spray painted them. Love how they turned out!
Livs and Luke taking their sweet time on the nature scavenger hunt Krista organized for the kiddos. I loved wandering the woods with these two and investigating every little thing. Of course my big kids had run off with cousins way ahead of us and finished the hunt as fast as they could. Love my curious little ones :)
 Let me explain my Bentley dressed up for skit night—he was so funny in that get-up and loved being silly in it. The LeBs are so fun—we separated into 4 groups and had 10 mins to make-up a skit based off of the props in our bag. Everyone participated and made up cute stuff but Bentley and Joseph's group was my fave. They all shared that curly wig to be Ruth Ann in different phases of life. Maddie interviewed Joseph dressed in an apron, headphones and that wig as Nanny recounting scenes from her new book "Memoirs I Mostly Remember." Bean was Nanny galavanting around Europe with Neil (Gunner)

We also had really good Sunday meetings—Joseph and I taught the teens in a Sunday School class while the others wrangled all the kids for primary sharing and music time. Then Ruth Ann and Neil gathered us all together for their talks and sharing their sweet testimonies. The pair of them are waiting on their mission call and very eager to get out and serve the Lord.

Oh how we love this huge, amazing, wonderful family! Luckily we'll be getting together again soon for a wedding!!!

A few more random pics:

 Maddie and I were twins in the family pic
 These guys love being ugly, enough said
 My darling boys were loving it up in the mountains. 
Beans even had a big basketball court to play on. Heaven. 
Love that little Lukey arm over Bentley's knee in the pic below:

Brothers heading out for a bike ride. 
Makes me happy that they love each other and are such great friends.