Monday, July 15, 2013

4th at the Cabin

Just holding up tradition by heading to the cabin for a long 4th of July holiday weekend.
So much fun playing with cousins and grandparents!
On Friday the 5th, while hubbies were back at work in the valley, we dropped by my parents' neighbors who had invited all of us over to see their baby bunnies and chickens. It seemed kind of random to just show up with all our 9 kidlets but our children were in heaven (ok I was too—those bunnies were so soft and snuggly!)
That was definitely a highlight of our trip. And the neighbor just happens to be the guy who did the voice of Thumper in the original Disney movie Bambi. He was all too kind to give us a free autographed copy of the movie since he said he had tons of copies of it. Such a fun addition for us!
 We also popped over to this fun splash pad to get a bunch of wiggles out.

That night was the annual Oakley Rodeo. 
Getting dressed up for this is no small deal for these cute posers:

  I sent Joseph with everyone this year and stayed home with Brigg and Luke 
(the rodeo starts at 8:00 pm—much too late for those little dudes). I think they all enjoyed the nice cool temps and even though they got a little rain, they stuck it out to enjoy the awesome fireworks show at the end.

The night was a little crazy as we had arranged with the LeBaron family to be on a conference call with everyone as Neil and Ruth Ann opened their mission call. The call happened at 7:00 pm, just before my crew left for the rodeo, and we were all so excited to hear where they'd go. Turns out they are heading to the MTC really soon, August 5th, to prepare for their CES mission in Houston, TX. They will be heading up the institute program at a small college outside Houston and will serve for 2 years. Luckily they will be around for Bob's August wedding before heading to Texas but it will be so sad to have them far away for that long. It will be wonderful experience for them though, and we are already planning a family escape to go visit!

Saturday, July 6, 2013


I can't believe we made it happen! With crazy summer plans and campgrounds that seem endlessly booked we thought it may not work out—but hooray that it did! We stayed one way too short night up at Tanners Flat in LCC and it was beautiful up there. We camped on June 21, the very longest day of the year (made it hard to spot too many stars as it was still very light at 10 pm) My YW and I are heading up there for girls' camp in a few weeks and it was good to scope it out ahead of time.

We took our whole crew up to meet my parents who had spent the afternoon there and they had dinner all ready for us. Luke was fun up there for about 10 minutes and then I was eager to get him back to Nanny's for bedtime. It's just a baby trap everywhere up there with the dirt, uneven ground and lovely, but all too tempting stream! The babe just wanted to be IN all of it and had a ball exploring but I felt best when he was safe and clean in the tent.

 View of the table from a tent window

Joseph took the babe to his parents' and put him to bed while the rest of us cleaned up dinner and wandered around the whole campground. Then it was time for a fire and s'mores—lots and lots of them! Of course my dad put his handy-dandy Swiss Army Knife to work and carved us some perfect marshmallow sticks. It was a surprisingly cold night for the end of June—I think the high in the valley that day was only in the 80's so the canyon was really crisp (so glad we packed the kids' winter hats!)

The next day we woke up so dang early (that sunlight!) but played in the tent a bit, made a big breakfast, and then I was off to grab Luke so that Ruth Ann and Neil could make it to their morning shift at the temple. We tried to play a bit longer but Olivia had a cousin birthday party back down the canyon that day, and in all honesty it takes just as long to clean up as it does to set-up—if not longer! Especially with lots of littles :) But the big kids stayed in the canyon once we were packed and went for a cool hike with Joseph and my parents. I need to get back up there and do that one myself—they went for a few miles on the Red Pine Trail.

It was a fun glimpse into what we can do as a whole family once our baby is bigger. We do love camping and want to make a longer stay of it next time—all that work warrants at least 2 nights!

I had to include this funny morning picture. 
Livs' face...for sure how I felt after a cold and restless night :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The End of Our Journey

Day 4: Our Last Day

Ready to trek our final miles! The last day we trekked about 2.5 miles and in order to save us from the heat, and to keep things less hectic at the bus loading site, the equipment crew had us load all our gear (except our water) into the trucks before we set out to "lighten our loads" for the end of our journey. I never knew how happy that empty cart would make our kids! 

Day 4 was another memorable one as its main focus was on preparing our kids for and sending them out on solo time. This was probably the biggest focus of all our ma and pa training and a very important part of trek for the youth (and I discovered for me as well :) We held a morning devotional which we had more time for that day and it was one Joseph and I had been thinking about a lot. We shared a favorite handcart story (of the Kirkwood brothers), which had me in tears early on, shared testimony of the Savior, and encouraged our family to seek out the Lord as Enos of old in hungering after the things of Spirit (Enos 1:4). And then we grabbed our journals and buckets and wandered off into the expansive meadow, each finding our own space and settling in for a full hour of praying, pondering and writing. It was one of the best hours of my life, especially the first half of which I spent on my knees. And it was such a beautiful sight as I finished my prayer, cleared the tears from my eyes and beheld the meadow around me full of hundreds of us communicating with our Heavenly Father and recording our testimonies in our journals. Truly glorious to behold. I hope our trek photographer got a picture of that because I would love to have it.

Then we hit the trail for the last time and were keeping an awesome pace—I could tell these kids were ready to finish what they started and to finally make it home. Our cute Susan, who always led out in front with the boys, made it a mile or so before her huge, open blisters were just killing too much and she had to get off her feet. We had her climb in the cart and our family happily carried her the rest of the way in. 

 the last long stretch with the end in sight
As we waited for the buses we had some open mic time. You better believe Girdy was right up there singing "I Broke my Arm" for the whole stake (and her cute siblings were right there to support her in all her endearing randomness!)

Then finally, after a long, sweaty AC-less bus ride, we made it home. We walked a block or 2 up to our stake center and found our families lining the streets waiting to welcome us home. Mine was the most welcome sight ever!! It was amazing to be back with them and to be home (to shower, feel clean and enjoy our refreshingly cool house and perfectly scrumptious bed that night!)

I'm so grateful for trek and for all in the stake who worked hard to get us there and then serve us so well during the whole thing. I'm also grateful for my inspiring and strong trek family, for my sweet mom and mother-in-law who took great care of my babies, for my incredible husband who was the best pa and most perfect, solid, enthusiastic companion out there the entire time, and for the way trek bolstered my testimony and reminded me of the ways I can improve and love more, serve more, definitely pray and study more, and find ways to connect to my Savior on a more personal and regular basis. It was an experience I would do again in heartbeat and wish everyone could go on trek, especially as a ma or pa and find that strength that comes from spending time with the amazing youth in that setting. A favorite life experience for sure.  

Our trek theme was "In His Strength" referencing Alma 26:12:

Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Women's Pull and Day 3

**Just pointing out this is my 1000th blog post. Feels like quite an accomplishment! I'm so glad to have these posts.

Day 3, Friday, started out bright and beautiful as always. And as an added bonus, all our family was feeling mostly back to normal and gearing up for the women's pull. The wonderful medic Brother Biggs from our stake (and dad to one of Caroline's good school friends) wrapped my legs in gauze and then a layer of athletic tape to protect them all day and keep them from getting worse. They felt pretty good like that and I was determined not to stress about them. As a huge answer to my prayers, my legs never bothered me again. I still have a big rash that is fading more and more each day but it doesn't hurt at all.

Our cute big sister and big brother, Susan and Kendall on Friday morning. We were all very happy to change into our 2nd set of clothes that morning free from the dust if only for a little bit!

We hit the trail early to beat the heat and walked about a mile as a family. Then our boys and men were all called away (to recreate when the men were called to join the Mormon Battalion and leave straight from the trail to head to war). We quickly said a family prayer before they left. It definitely tugged at my heart to see them go, but the sight of those beautiful women all gathered together full of energy and smiles and goodness completely overwhelmed me. I felt so much love for all of them and grateful to be one in their midst. We sang As Sisters in Zion which I could only mouth as the tears streamed down my face.

The song was particularly beautiful to me as the author, Emily Hill actually traveled across the plains with the Willie Handcart Company as a young 20 year old alongside her 23 year old sister Julia. I paid close attention as I read about them in preparation for trek as they are both Joseph's ancestors (Julia Hill Ivins is his great, great, great grandmother and so Emily is a great aunt). Their story is especially tender to me because of that family connection but also because they were young sisters who joined the church in England but when they emigrated west to join the saints in Utah their family disowned them and never returned any contact with them for the rest of their lives. I think of those sweet sisters crossing the plains together, suffering together and clinging to each other through the severe hardships the Willie handcart company faced. It makes me think of my own sisters and their solid testimonies and righteous families which bond me to them closely and help strengthen me and my faith. It also makes me think of my sisters in the gospel and how amazing it is to be connected to such good women in my ward and stake and even worldwide who strive so hard to be like the Savior. These lyrics are beautiful and I love each verse:

As sisters in Zion, we’ll all work together;

The blessings of God on our labors we’ll seek.

We’ll build up his kingdom with earnest endeavor;

We’ll comfort the weary and strengthen the weak.

The errand of angels is given to women;
And this is a gift that, as sisters, we claim:
To do whatsoever is gentle and human,
To cheer and to bless in humanity’s name.

How vast is our purpose, how broad is our mission,

If we but fulfill it in spirit and deed.

Oh, naught but the Spirit’s divinest tuition

Can give us the wisdom to truly succeed.

So, back to trek, we had a lovely women's meeting all about our divine roles as daughters of God and how noble and powerful we can be as sisters, daughters, wives and especially mothers. Our stake YW president delivered the message and I was grateful for her words. I love that she had been on trek with us from the get-go and was just as dusty and blistered and committed to the journey as any of us (definitely gave her street-cred with those YW in our midst :)
With my little women just before our pull

And then we separated as families, prayed for strength and unity and were off with our handcarts. The whole women's pull was just under a mile but it was at an incline almost the whole way. Not very steep for most of the way but still an uphill path until we made it to the really steep section right at the end. My girls did so well. I was cautious and worried we may have more heat struggles but my family of women was solid and strong. I pulled up in front with Susan and Girdy so glad to be working hard and taking my share of the load. It was very heavy and grew quite hard once the steep part came. It was also the place where all of our Priesthood brothers lined the road with reverence and respect, hats in their hands, as we pushed past them. It was tender to see the concern and love from the boys in our family and to catch Joseph's eye as he tried to hold back the tears. We made it up the hill and then our family was allowed to work as a full team again as we walked a little farther to our lunch and rest stop. 

We created some shade and had the perfect time to gather up and talk about the women's pull as a family. Our most reserved but very endearing son, Hunter, was crying a lot, but hiding it pretty well under his straw hat. It was such a sweet sight because our girls had mentioned coyly that they hoped our boys would cry during the women's pull. And that if Hunter cried it would be one of their favorite things ever. Oh that boy melted all our hearts and brought a sweet spirit to our little meeting as we discussed our thoughts and reflected on the event. Joseph told us about the men's meeting and what the stake YM president had shared with them after they separated from the girls. Brother Bracken spoke about the power, strength and sacrifice of women and how men need to honor and love women as daughters as God rather than objectify them in any way. He read from the Proclamation to the Family which was cool because we had read from it in our women's meeting too. I loved our family discussion and all our cute kids who were brave enough to share their thoughts. It was such a reverent and hopefully teaching time with our family. I was surprised again and again on trek how we were always fairly close to other families as we camped and trekked and rested and yet as we prayed together and shared testimonies together we felt completely encircled in our own world and very close and united. Oh, I just loved trek so much!

The rest of the day we worked on some cool paracord bracelets which Joseph (and Hunter—another one of his mysterious qualities!) taught us all how to make, finished trekking several more miles, and set-up camp in a huge, green meadow (filled with cow pies—more than anywhere else but we did our best to avoid them :)

The boys up front were cracking us up when they'd trade hats and bonnets with Susan. I swear I had a picture of Isaac rocking that Bonnet too but I haven't seen it. Takes a real man to wear a bonnet...
Seriously love this great family. They were hard workers who gave us zero problems and kept up really great attitudes. I know other families struggled in a handful of different ways so we felt very lucky to get these good kids and to have had such a positive trek experience because of them.

Before dinner we separated out for an hour for ward time. This was another highlight for me. The day had already been pretty amazing but gathering up with people I know and love so much—it felt so welcoming and happy to me. Our bishop did such a good job of leading us in a group discussion and I was loving so much hearing the youth share their thoughts and experiences (maybe because I feel like those kid are "mine" after working with the youth for the last 4 years but I was so proud of them and their words filled my heart over and over.) We ended the meeting with each person sharing which word they had chosen to stamp on their leather bracelet that would remind them of their experience on trek, and why they chose it. It was truly awesome to hear from everyone as they shared words like honor, pray, sacrifice, father, endure, and family. I loved each testimony and felt such a closeness with our ward out there. I chose family as my word as it is 1) what my every day and focus of life is as a mama of 4, and I'm grateful for it but 2) I felt so closely connected to my family of pioneers who traveled those dirt plains, obeyed without question and sacrificed all for the sake of the Gospel. I truly felt so close to my great, great, great grandmother Mary Fielding Smith who is such an example to me of a strong, spiritual, and obedient woman.
Copper Oaks Ward on trek 
Back row: President Foulger (stake presidency) Jasmine Stanley, Andy & Heather McKane, Tyler Stanley, Bishop Turner, Nate Lockwood, Hannah McKane, Kortney Olsen
Front Row: Anna Stanley, us, Addie Tingey, Josh Foulger, Reese Foulger, Sienna Hamilton, Janessa & Nick Whatcott

We had a brief meeting as a stake that evening where our Alyssa and her real life sister sang an original medley of hymns they had made up together. It was so pretty! Loved having our Baby Blues represent so well. 
And then our night ended with a company testimony meeting. It was a little slow to begin with some long silences, but our stalwart Kendall was the first of any youth to share his testimony and we were grateful he got the ball rolling. Most of our family shared their testimonies and then a few from the other 2 families shared as well. Joseph and I were proud of our kids for sharing—it really is a hard thing as a youth and they were so courageous. I also loved hearing from 2 cute YW in other families who had been in our ward a while back but changed out with recent splits. The sky graced us with the most gorgeously hot pink sunset during testimony meeting and I went to bed with my heart completely full that night.  It reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures in the D&C:

Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!
                                                                                             —D&C 128:23

Day 3 was one of the best (and I have to admit I was glad it was my last time to battle the hard ground as I slept :)