I have a dad who loves me unconditionally.  No matter what mistakes I make, silly things I do, things I overlook, he loves me and accepts me.

I have a dad who taught me how to fish, camp, and ride an atv.

I have a dad who supported me through my divorce.  He strengthened me.  Buying little things like tires for my van or sheet rock for my home helped more than he realized.

I have a dad who loves to be around my kids.  There is just something about a Grandpa who will take the time to joke around with teenagers.

I have a dad who actually does the dishes!

I have a dad who has been a great example of forgiving others and moving forward.

I have a dad whose yard is magazine perfect.  Unfortunately, that particular talent didn’t get passed down to me.

I have a dad who isn’t afraid to be silly or have fun.

I have a dad who is bald–but that’s just because he thinks too hard!  😉

I have a dad who tenderly takes care of my mom when she is ailing.

His jokes can be a bit extreme, he sometimes cleans up our plates before we are finished eating, he can get involved in a tv show so much that he tunes the rest of us out, and it all just adds to who “Dad” and “Grandpa” is.  We wouldn’t take him any other way.

I love you Dad.

Happy Father’s Day!

The call from my sister came as Mack and I were doing some banking.  I ignored it, thinking that I could call her back later.  Then, only a few minutes later, my sister called again.  Once again I ignored it.  After the second call, my phone signaled that I had a voice mail and, since there was a break in our banking tasks, I decided to listen to the message.  Call me, this has to do with mom.

Sensing something bad I called my sister back and learned that my mom had been rushed into emergency surgery for internal bleeding caused by a biopsy she’d had two days earlier.  Mack and I immediately left for home.  I made arrangements for Mack and Hoob to get Yawlin to his 5th grade patriotic program later that night and then Hub and I headed to the hospital to be with my dad who had been left standing alone in the emergency room after my mom had passed out and the doctors and nurses had rushed her to the operating room.

When we got to the hospital we found my dad and four of my siblings with their significant others waiting for my mom to get out of surgery.  We joked a bit to lighten the mood.  Finally, we received word she was in recovery and was stabilized. 

More waiting.  Many silent prayers.

After an hour and a half we learned she had been moved to a room and we could go see her.  It was great to see her!

And, I am happy to report, my mom returned home later this afternoon. 

The joy for today?

My mom is still here! 

I’ve noticed that as my kids get older it is harder and harder to get one-on-one time with them.  So I have learned to grab opportunities when they come.  This past summer break had me feeling particularly guilty about the time I was able to spend with my 10-year-old son, Yawlin. 

First there was Youth Conference in June, for which I was gone from home for three days.  I got to spend those three days with Mack and Hoob and the other youth from our ward playing games, participating in team building challenges and problem solving activities, working through a ropes course, and just plain having fun.  No regrets on the time spent with two daughters–but Yawlin didn’t get to attend.

Next was an anniversary trip to St. Maarten with my wonderful husband.  We got to snorkel, lie on the beach, swim in the ocean, gather sea shells, shop, relax, and basically reconnect as a couple.  No regrets on the time spent with my husband–but kids were left at home.  (Side note–they did not mind being left at home at all and, in fact, have told Hub and I to take a trip ANYTIME.  They thought it quite fun to experience a little bit of independence)

Next Yawlin and Hoob were invited to spend a week at their grandparents’ cabin in the Uinta Mountains.  They got to ride atvs, go fishing, hike some trails, picnic, and play card games with Grandma.  No regrets on letting my son and daughter get some individual time with Grandma and Grandpa–but I didn’t get to go, and it was more time away from my boy.  (During this time I was able to spend time with the other kids, Huh, Mack, Shroom, and Juju)

Next was a five day Girls Camp with our Stake.  Once again it was time spent with Mack and Hoob.  We hiked, canoed, made s’mores, did crafts, made up a silly skit, took silly pictures, and did all the usual “camp stuff.”  No regrets on the time spent with my two daughters and the other young women in our ward–but Yawlin was at home.

I mentioned often to others about my worry and guilt about not spending much time with my son over the summer.  I’m sure it was my over-active “mom-guilt gland” that was pricking my conscience.  It’s not like my son never saw me.  There were days between all these major happenings that I was at home and able to be with my son, but it was never an activity for just the two of us.

Then opportunity knocked.  Twice!  I happened upon a coupon for 50% off of a two hour guided river trip.  I asked Yawlin if he would like an early birthday present and showed him the coupon.  I told him it would be the perfect chance for the two of us to spend some time together.  Yawlin jumped at the chance.  I allowed him to invite two friends because, really, an adventure like that needs to be shared with friends!  We packed picnic lunches and picnicked near the river before our rafting trip.  I made sure to bring my camera and got some pretty good pictures of the three boys enjoying their adventure.  (Side note:  These were definitely some “city kids.”  When we passed a bunch of horses grazing on the bank of the river one of the boys called them “horse cows.”  It made me chuckle.)

Then, during the same week, I got a call from Yawlin’s scout leader inviting me to join the troop on their hike to Timpanogos Cave because he had an extra ticket.  Yes!  Another chance to spend time with my boy!  I took my camera along again and got some great pictures of the boys hiking up the mountain and again in the cave.  Yawlin surprised me with his stamina on the hike.  When all of the other boys were ready for a rest, he wanted to keep going.  The cave is amazing–a real treasure for our state. 

A river trip and a hike to a cave were the perfect ending to a very busy summer.  And it helped calm my over-active mom-guilt gland.

Trying to do my best in preserving anonymity, here are a few photos from our adventures:

Three boys checking out the river after our picnic lunch



Getting into the raft

Beaver Dam

Horse Cows!

Yawlin adds to the excitement by hanging off the raft

Beginning the hike to the cave

Checking out the view

One view from the trail

Cave entrance waaaay up there!

Working their way up

Checking out the view near the top

Going into the cave

The "heart" of the cave

Other formations in the cave

View outside the cave

Heading back down

Though it was the last week of summer break and school shopping needed to be done, along with a million other things, the time spent with my boy was worth it!

On Friday evening my girls and I completed our first “girl time” with my mom.  Since it was the first one, I was the one to choose the activity.  We made it simple and went to Applebees for dessert.  My all time favorite dessert is an Applebees Blondie.  My mom had never had one before so she decided to try one too.  The girls all opted for a Chocolate Meltdown. 

We ate our desserts, talked, and people watched.  As we were heading back to our car Hoob spotted a sticker on the back window of one car and busted out laughing.  Of course the rest of us had to go over to see what she was laughing at.  The sticker showed some cartoon muffins and the words, “Muffins are just ugly cupcakes.”  The others got a kick out of the sticker too and took pictures of it with their camera phones so that they could share the laugh with their friends.

When we got back to my mom’s house we were all enjoying being together so much that we decided to play a game of Morph with my mom and my brother and his girlfriend who were there watching tv.  Again, much laughter, especially when the sentence “Grandma J is a closet Ute fan” morphed into “The Chinese Mexicans took over all the construction jobs.”

It was such a simple thing to spend time with Grandma J.  We are all looking forward to next month.  Hoob has opted to be in charge of the activity that month because it is her birthday month.  She threatens to make it be a shopping spree for her.  I don’t know which is worse, the shopping spree, or her original idea of toilet papering two uncles’ homes.

I think this is the best Mother’s day gift I’ve ever come up with.  🙂

Stuck on what to give Mom for Mother’s Day?  Here is what I’m giving my mom this year…

We typed up a simple note that said, “Our gift to you?  Girls time–once a month!”  We rolled the note up and stuck it in a new pair of socks (no significance to the socks…we just wanted a different way to “wrap” the note). 

We gave the gift to my mom at my niece’s birthday party on Saturday because we will be out of town over Mother’s Day weekend and won’t be able to see my mom.  We explained that, beginning with this month, my girls and I are going to take turns choosing an activity for all of us to do with my mom.  

Some ideas include:  Going out for dessert, playing mini-golf, having a cheese tasting party, visiting the zoo, relaxing and eating ice cream, movie night, making homemade cards, going on an easy hike, taco bar, using the backyard grill, making s’mores over the fire pit, going to a new restaurant, an outdoor concert, going for a walk, visiting the aquarium, having a puzzle night, a game night, and Hoob keeps suggesting we take Grandma toilet papering at two uncle’s homes.

Since it is “Girls Time” Yawlin gave my mom a 1,000 piece puzzle for the two of them to do together sometime over the summer.  They both love to do puzzles, often spending hours on one while at the cabin.

My mom loved the gifts and is excited to see what activities my girls and I come up with.  We are all looking forward to our monthly “Girls Time” with Grandma. 

Who knows, it might become a tradition that extends beyond the year!

In July we will be going on a trip with my extended family (parents, siblings and their families), which is something we do together every few years.  This trip is going to be smaller in scale than past trips, but we are determined to wring every bit of fun out of the trip that we can.  On our family website we have been posting ideas and giving our opinions about things we can do on this trip.  We are planning activities that include the entire family as well as leaving times open for individual families to do things alone.  Many of our ideas could be used for stay-cations, family reunions, or other family gatherings, so I thought I would share:

*The area we are planning to visit has a few “commercial” tourist options available.  The top vote-getters for our family are tubing on the river and visiting the pools and waterslides.  We could also visit an arcade with lots of games and free movies on Friday evenings, an alpaca farm that offers tours, and a ranch that offers wagon rides complete with dinner and entertainment.  There are a couple of miniature golf courses available.  We are playing with the idea of creating a family (mini) golf tournament.

*It has been a tradition in our blended family for all the females to paint our fingernails and toenails all the same color for trips.  Our female relatives like the idea and want to do the same for this trip.  My 11-year-old niece is pushing for the color to be green this year.

*There are biking and hiking trails available.  We might pack picnic lunches and hit the trails for the day as a group, or we might leave this option open for individual families.

*The menfolk would like to fish the river.  Again, this option is open for the entire group or for individual families.  

*There are several of us who own Magic Bullets.  We are considering bringing them all along and having an afternoon of making smoothies and relaxing.

*We might use all of our digital cameras to go “hunting” for the best pics of wildlife.  We might even make it into a contest.

*Those in the group who are used to exercising daily might form a morning walking/running group.

*For the last big family trip we took (a cruise), Hub and I made t-shirts for the entire family to wear one day.  If we can come up with a cute idea, we might do the same thing this year.

*When our blended family went to Oregon last summer, one of the activities we did that was a hit was to play glow-in-the-dark tag on the beach.  My mom is already gathering glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets for a gigantic game of tag.  Hopefully we can find a place big enough to play it.

*If we can find a park we might play some softball, or steal-the -flag, frisbee, or other games we think of.

*We are checking to see if our accommodations have outdoor grills or firepits.  If they do, we plan to have a giant family cook-out.

*On the first morning of the trip we will all meet at my parents for breakfast before driving caravan style to our destination.

*Our accommodations are a bunch of mini-cabins owned by my 80-year-old aunt.  We plan on doing service for her by cleaning the cabins or finding other needs she has. 

It has been great to use the family website to bounce ideas off of each other.  As more and more ideas are presented, the excitement for the trip grows (especially among the kids).  If you’ve had any experiences that worked well with your family, please share!

At the beginning of October I listed some of the traditions our family has for that month.  Though our family doesn’t have as many traditions for November, we do have some.  Here they are:

*I decorate the house with Thanksgiving decorations.  I’m one of those people who is saddened by the fact that Thanksgiving seems to get pushed aside in favor of the Christmas season.  I don’t listen to Christmas music or put up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving.  Though I don’t have as many Thanksgiving decorations as I do Halloween or Christmas decorations, the decorations I do have please me.  I have a collection of turkeys and a collection of pumpkins, a few Pilgrims and Indians, and fall foliage.  They are placed throughout the house and, because of their cheery fall colors, help to brighten the house.

*I keep a bowl full of mixed nuts (with a nutcracker) or pistachios on the kitchen counter for snacking.

*On Thanksgiving Day our blended family has worked out a visiting schedule that works for us.  On the “even” years we visit my parents and extended family for Thanksgiving dinner.  Later in the evening my kids leave to go with their father to visit his family for dessert and Hub and I, and his kids, go visit Hub’s family and siblings for dessert.  On the odd years we do just the opposite.  My kids go with their father to his family dinner while the rest of us go to Hub’s family dinner.  We join up with my kids later in the evening and go visit my parents and siblings for dessert.  We like this schedule because everyone gets to see both sides of their family. 

This year, being an “odd” year, we are hosting Hub’s family dinner at our house.  My kids will leave with their father mid-morning to go to his family dinner.  After hosting Hub’s family for dinner and cleaning up, we will pick my kids up so that we can go visit my family for dessert. 

For whatever reason, Hub’s ex never expresses a desire to have her kids for Thanksgiving, so his kids are always with us on Thanksgiving and they follow the schedule Hub and I are doing.  

*Whether we are having dinner at my Mom’s house, or only seeing her for dessert on Thanksgiving, we all make sure to sample her sweet potatoes, homemade fudge and caramel, and pumpkin pie.  They are to die for!

*Last year my daughters, step-daughter, and I participated in Black Friday.  It was the first time for the girls to experience it.  They liked it so much they have decided that Black Friday is our newest November tradition.  We will bring the newspaper with us when we go to my parent’s house for dessert on Thanksgiving and will peruse the ads to decide on what deal(s) we will try to get.  My sisters and Mom also like looking at the ads with us, though they participate in Black Friday activities in their own towns.

*A tradition I keep, just for me, is to continue to walk our dog on the local trails for as long as the weather permits.  I love the fall colors and our weather here has been gorgeous!  Pics to come next week!

This is my favorite time of year.  Family, pretty scenery, good food, focusing on the good in my life and giving thanks for it–it all adds up to a season of satisfaction.

“I’ve lived in this state for all of my 65 years, and I can’t believe I never came here before this.”

So said my dad while experiencing Moab this past weekend for the first time ever.  Hub and I took my parents on some ATV trails and hiking in Arches National Park.  They wished we were staying longer than just a weekend.

Here are a few images from our Moab excursion over Halloween weekend:

OctoberMoab 104

Colorado River

OctoberMoab 042

Hub walking out for a "Photo Op."

OctoberMoab 182

Dad taking a picture of Delicate Arch

OctoberMoab 229

Hiking back down after seeing Delicate Arch.

OctoberMoab 140


Isn’t it amazing how we sometimes don’t appreciate what is in our own backyard?


Part of divorce means sharing the kids with your ex-spouse at times you would rather have them all to yourself.  Such is the case this weekend.   Halloween isn’t one of the standard “holidays” that divorced couples take turns having the kids on, but because Halloween falls on a weekend this year, and because our kids visit their “other” parents every other weekend, our kids are not scheduled to be with us this Halloween. 

Sooooo, since the kids will be gone and I won’t get to see them dressed up in their costumes as they head out to Halloween activities with their friends, and since opening the door to trick-or-treaters doesn’t seem as fun without my kids being around, and since it doesn’t take much of an excuse to get us to go…Hub and I are going to Moab for the weekend.

We are going to take my parents with us because they have never been to Moab before and, dang it, it is about time they went!  My parents are hauling their atv’s down and we are going to show them some of the trails.  We will also be hiking in Arches National Park.  I will have my camera and so will post pics soon!

Happy Halloween!


The best time for me to get maintenance done on my vehicle is during school breaks such as this winter break.  That way I don’t have to work around my crossing schedule or any subbing calls.  So, I sit in the lobby area of Jiffy Lube waiting for the “signature service oil change” to be completed and I type on my laptop to kill time. 


It has been a whirlwind couple of days.  The thing I most want to report on is the service that we did for our “mystery” family.  My extended family went above and beyond in providing the Christmas dinner and stocking stuffers for the family.  Our kids partnered up in shopping for the other gifts for the family and we got them wrapped and packed up on December 23. 


I made arrangements with the mom of the family to meet away from her apartment so that she could keep the gifts secret from her kids.  The kids and I loaded the gifts into the back of my car and we all piled into our two vehicles and drove to the meeting spot (Hub was still recovering from his surgery, so he stayed home).  When we arrived, we quickly found the mom and her friend waiting for us in a beat-up car.  We were shown pictures of all of her kids and  a scrapbook of the little boy’s journey of being a heart patient.  I think my kids were touched to see such a tiny boy in a hospital bed surrounded by tubes.


The mom told us a little about each of her kids and then we started transferring gifts from our car to the other car.  When that task was finished the mom started to thank us and broke down crying.  She said that she was so grateful to us for helping her provide a Christmas for her kids.  We all gave her a hug and she cried again.  It was then that the personalities of our teens came out.  They were touched by the show of emotion from the mom, but I could tell that they preferred a more upbeat tone, so they immediately started talking about movies, and school, and everything else.  The mom joined in the conversation and we sat in the freezing parking lot visiting for an hour.  There was much laughter and joking, and it put everyone into a festive mood.


We wanted to keep our service as anonymous as possible, but the mom has my email address and has promised to send us updates on her kids.  When we got home I asked our kids how they felt.  The two words they used to describe how they felt were good and happy.  They all thought the mom of the family was “cool” and said how much they enjoyed visiting her and that they wouldn’t mind getting to see her again some day.


So, if we were trying to keep our service anonymous, why would I write about it on my blog?  My purpose in doing so is to show parents that getting kids, teens especially, involved in service is one way to help them look beyond themselves.  Teens are naturally self-centered and concerned about themselves and their world.  If left unchecked, it can develop into selfishness and a raging sense of entitlement.


The schools our kids attend have some financial diversity, but the majority of the kids are very privileged and have a lot of money at their disposal.  Many of the kids expect a fully-loaded new car for their 16th birthday–and get it.  They have the latest electronic devices and wear the latest fashions, and most don’t have to work for the money they receive from their parents.  It is just handed to them.  Not the best way to raise kids, in my opinion. 


Earlier this month Mack came home from school totally disgusted with something she had overheard in one of her classes.  Some of the kids were talking about what they expected to get for Christmas and most of the items being talked about were quite expensive.  The conversation turned to grandparents and a few of the kids compared their two sets of grandparents. 


“Yeah, one set of grandparents gets me pretty good stuff, but the other one only gives me five dollars.”


“I have some like that.  I have a grandpa that is totally loaded and his presents are nice.  But my grandparents who live in Wyoming, they’re dirt poor, and all they ever send is five dollars.  I open it and think, ‘Gee thanks, I guess I can go buy me a candy bar now.'”


It is just that sense of entitlement and selfishness that I want to prevent from developing in our seven kids.  My four kids have known what it is like to be “poor” and to have to receive help from others.  They are pretty grounded and have a sense of what is really important in life.  But, I recognize that that could change, especially with their school environment, so I constantly look for ways they can serve others.  Hub’s kids have led a rather pampered existence, especially at their other home, so I have desires to let them experience the joys of helping others as well.


The whole purpose of finding a family to help at Christmas to was help our kids to see that not everyone has been as fortunate as they have been.  I wanted them to see what others deal with on a daily basis, and that sometimes meeting basic needs is a real struggle.  I wanted them all to look beyond themselves.  We asked them all to make a certain sacrifice in providing for the “mystery” family and they all willingly did so.  Getting to visit with the mom of the family and seeing pictures of her kids helped to put a face to the family we were helping, they were no longer just “somebody out there.”  They were real people with likes and dislikes, talents, and some very real challenges.  It was a great experience for our kids, for our family as a whole.  Hub thanked me afterwards for providing the opportunity for his kids to serve someone else.


If there is one plea I could send out to all parents, it is to provide opportunities for your kids to serve others.  Doing a Sub for Santa is only one way.  Residents of care centers are lonely and crave visits from others.  There are children who need tutoring in math or reading.  There are parks that need cleaning up.  There is always a need for food and volunteers at local food banks.  Elderly people appreciate their walks and driveways being shoveled in the winter, or their lawns being mowed in the summer.  Inmates enjoy receiving mail.  There are so many ways to serve others.  Find a way to serve that suits the personalities of your kids and let them experience the joy.  They will develop compassion and empathy, may make some new friends, and will stop thinking only of themselves.


As I said in an earlier post, look for opportunities to serve, and they will come.  It is one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids. 

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