You Got This!

Most of our kids wake up early every morning—even on weekends. In practical ways, I’m glad for their enthusiasm for a new day and their motivation to be up and going. The idea of “sleeping in” sounds nice, but it never works well for me. For the last couple of months, my alarm has been set at 6:30 am, but I have never actually used it to wake up. I’m usually awoken at least a half hour to an hour earlier by the sounds of Rick and the kids beginning another day. Something I am working on improving is my morning attitude. I have bad dreams often. They’re usually not so scary—just stress-filled.  They’re usually about things like Rick forgetting to tell me he has invited the entire ward over for dinner or I’m running late getting kids to school and there are so many dishes piled in the sink that I can’t make their lunches or I’m trying to leave an event that I have been at with the kids and I keep finding important things thaf belong to us that have been forgotten and I end up with more bags than I can carry and I’m still forgetting things. You know, typical mom stresses, I guess. So, when I wake up each morning, I rarely feel rested. I have a lingering sense of not being able to keep up. When I realize I’m awake, I go over in my head what I need to do for the day and tell myself, “You got this!” I don’t even think this phrase is correct grammar, but I say it out loud most mornings before I roll out of bed. After I have been up and going for about 20 minutes, I feel energized and ready to go, but I loathe those first anxiety-filled minutes. This doesn’t happen every morning, but it is true of most mornings. I’m sure I’m not crazy and many people feel the same misgivings when beginning a new, full day.

Another thing I do every morning that helps with my morning attitude is listening to LDS General Conference talks while I shower and get ready for the day.

Recently, I listed to a talk by the late President Hinckley from April 2004 entitled “To the Women of the Church.”  In his talk, he addressed with appreciation and gratitude many of things that fill up so much of my time.  Even though his talk was given over 13 years ago and he wasn’t speaking to me directly, I felt like he had a good grasp of a lot of the things that I worry about keeping up with.

Here are a few things he said to the women around the world as he described our many responsibilities.  

“You are companions—the very best friends your husbands have or ever will have.”

I do try to be a happy, positive, loving, helpful wife but fall short often.  

He continues, “You are housekeepers. That doesn’t sound like much, does it? But what a job it is to keep a house clean and tidy.”

That’s a true statement. I know many women have experienced that dumbfounded feeling when their husband comes home and asks, “What did you do today?”  You look around at the mess and try to list what you did and it seems like you might as well have taken a 3 hour nap for all you visibly accomplished. 

Dishes and laundry never go away—never. Laundry even follows you on family trips!

A few weeks ago, I tried not to laugh at myself as I took picture after picture of Andrew helping me in the kitchen.  The problem wasnt that I couldn’t capture a decent representation of his cuteness. The problem was that I didn’t want the pile of dishes in the sink or the clutter on the counter or the floor to appear in the picture with him.


Andrew said, “This is weird, Mom. Why do you need so many pictures of me?” That is when I realized, reality is better than staged perfection, so I kept the pictures with the clutter. 

More from President Hinckley:  ”You are shoppers. Until I got older I never dreamed of what a demanding responsibility it is to keep food in the pantry, to keep clothing neat and presentable, to buy all that is needed to keep a home running.”

This is the phrase that first grabbed my attention when I listened to the talk. Not many people truly appreciate the shopping side of mothering. When I was younger, I loved shopping—any sort. I liked to go grocery shopping with my mom, clothes shopping with my sister, and when I could drive independently I liked to drive 2 hours to Idaho Falls just to go shopping. Now, however, after 18 years of shopping with a baby, toddler, or preschooler always with me, shopping brings me very little satisfaction. It is a seriously overwhelming chore that is often met with criticism from my family when I don’t get what they want when they want or need it. If I buy something they don’t like, they ask why I bought it. If I buy something they do like, they ask why I didn’t buy more of it. If I forget something, they’re annoyed.  When we run out of something important like ketchup or toilet paper or milk or bread, it’s my fault. One day a few weeks ago when I was trying to get groceries with Brooklyn and Gavin, a lady sarcastically commented, “Well, you’re a saint to take those two kids shopping with you.” (As if I had a choice). After her comment, I decided to use pictures and videos to document how saintly I actually am. 

I’m not sure if the video will come through, but it happened shortly after the “saint” comment. Gavin and Brooklyn enjoyed several happy minutes opening and closing the sliding door on the cold drink refrigerator. 

After Sprouts, we headed to the next store where I was to buy about 30 boxes of the kids’ and Rick’s favorite cereal that was on sale for 99 cents. (You can bet Rick asked me later why I didn’t buy more)

Can you imagine standing in line for 20 minutes with two antsy young children while the cashier chats with the lady in front of you? I’m glad the two friends were having such a happy, loooong conservation, but found myself more and more impatient to get through the line.  You should know I am not exaggerating the wait to get sympathy. Twenty minutes is a very long time for anybody to wait in a grocery store line, let alone young children.  At first, I asked the kids to not touch the gum or candy, but as the slow conversation continued, I let them rearrange to their hearts’ desires.  I also let Gavin hide in the small space between the candy and conveyor belt. He probably stashed a few packages of gum in a hard-to-reach place. 

At the next store, things weren’t nearly as stressful because they had “car carts.” Gavin does not sit in normal shopping carts very well for very long, but car carts keep his attention as long as Brooklyn doesn’t try to take his seatbelt. 


Phew!  That’s just one grocery shopping trip!!  There’s also clothes and shoe shopping, makeup requests, bathroom and household supplies, yard maintenance, school supplies, and the lists of needs goes on. I am so thankful that modern technology allows me to do a lot of shopping online. Amazon Prime and Walmart’s free shipping on purchases over $35 have saved me a lot of hassle around town, but I still have to find the time to sit at the computer to complete that shopping. It’s tricky to fit it in among the unceasing dishes and laundry. President Hinckley was right about the monumental task shopping for a family can be. But there’s more:

“You are nurses. With every illness that comes along, you are the first to be told about it and the first to respond with help. In cases of serious sickness, you are at the bedside day and night, comforting, encouraging, ministering, praying.”

We have had our share of sicknesses and other medical emergencies, but nothing too serious lately. I count our blessings there.  I’m good at assessing the kids’ medical needs and feel pretty confident in this area. This surprises me because as a child and teenager, I was a little woozy when I saw other people’s injuries. After many years of practice and a decent number of unusual hospital stays for the kids, I feel I could breeze through nursing school without too much difficulty or passing out. President Hinckley goes on to address another area in which I am spending an abundant amount of time:

“You are the family chauffeur. You are driving your children about on paper routes, taking them to athletic events, driving them on ward outings, hauling here, there, and everywhere as they pursue their busy lives.”

This has been a big one for me lately. I said in another post that I spend at least an hour in the car each day getting the kids to an from school. Fall sports have just started. After a summer of not having the kids in any sports, camps, or lessons of any sort we felt it was time to let them be involved again. Sean is playing soccer (and loves it). He has practice twice a week with games on Saturdays.  Andrew is playing soccer and basketball. He has soccer practice once a week and basketball twice with games for both on Saturdays.  


Ricky is playing flag football with the school team and basketball with an AAU team.    He has football almost every weekday and basketball twice a week with Saturday games. Phew!! I am so very happy they are on teams that don’t have Sunday practices or games because it truly is a day of rest for us.

Gavin and Brooklyn are very patient about the extra time in the car because this means they also get to play on the sidelines. 


I do worry about making sure we have time together as an entire family. I tried to remedy a little of our lost family time last Saturday by insisting that our entire family attend Andrew and Sean’s soccer games. Malayla was not happy about sitting in the hot sun to watch the boys play. I do feel it’s important for the kids to support each other. There’s nothing more exhilarating than to make a goal or an interception or free throw and turn to see your sister or brother happily cheering for you. It’s nice to see your mom, but she’s almost always there. I wish our older kids could catch that vision. I know it’s no picnic to sweat in the sun or sit on uncomfortable bleachers, but it really does contribute a lot to family unity to support each other in activities. 

As often as I am overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done each day, I am also grateful to know that I have the capacity to do it. I have a healthy body, a clear mind, and the ability to receive spiritual direction and inspiration that allow me to do all that is required. It is a blessing to serve my family and know that even mundane tasks done with joy and persistence can bring eternal blessings. 

I love President Hinckley’s words of encouragement:

“My dear sisters, you marvelous women who have chosen the better part, I stand in great admiration for all that you do. I see your hands in everything.

Walk with pride. Hold your heads up. Work with diligence. Do whatever the Church asks you to do. Pray with faith. You may never know how much good you accomplish. Someone’s life will be blessed by your effort.”

I know this is true, and that’s why every morning I tell myself, “you got this!”

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Gavin Turns Two

Since Gavin was born, back to school time brings memories of a very challenging time in the hospital for both him and me–and the rest of the family because they carried the burden at home for a little while. It’s kind of like Christmas when I remember Ricky’s emergency admittance to the hospital when we were visiting Utah or school picture day when I remember when Andrew broke his femur.  For that matter, New Year’s Eve will always hold the memory of Ricky falling from a ski lift and spending time in the hospital with that injury.  Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is a lot of the very good things in our life are accompanied by difficulties and not all memories are happy. Gavin is a great blessing in our lives, but getting him here was very challenging. 

I am so happy that we were able to celebrate 2 years with him on the same day as the temple dedication. We didn’t have the official 3 hour block  of church. Instead, our family split into groups to go to the dedication. Only baptized members of the church were invited to attend the dedication, which meant that Rick and I took turns going with the older kids.  That left a little extra time in our Sunday for birthday preparations and celebrating. I loved spending time thinking about Gavin and what makes him happy and then trying to do those things with him. We played catch with balloons and colored. He loves to be outside, so we visited a nearby park where we could feed the turtles. 


I had been fighting a headache that day, so I don’t look especially glamourous in the following picture, but I decided to include it because I want pictures of me with each of our kids–dark under eye circles and all. 

Gavin loved hearing us sing “Happy Birthday” and blowing out his candles. 

Two-year olds are so sweet and fun–even if they cause a little mischief sometimes. 

Gavin is such a blessing to us. We all love his cuddles and the cute things he says and does. 

He likes to leave me interesting pictures on my phone. 
He’s a challenge at the grocery store because he wants to walk everywhere, by what 2-year-old is easy to take shopping? 

I like that he can say all the kids names and makes sure to yell “Goodbye!” to each child as we drop them off at the bus stop or seminary or school each day. He loves to carry Brooklyn’s preschool bag for her and gives her a big hug to say good bye and hello.

One day last week, I had an especially long list of things that I needed to work on at home. I tried to get Gavin and Brooklyn busy playing so that I could knock a few things off my list. I said, “Let’s go play outside for a while.”  He thought I said, “Let’s go play on the slide.”  We don’t have a slide anymore. He started crying when he couldn’t find it to play on. He was inconsolable and hard to distract and redirect–especially with Brooklyn asking where the slide was. So, instead of working on my list, we packed a picnic and headed to the park to play on the slide.  Even though it was blazing hot, I liked having a little time to just play with the kids. 

I am excited for many more adventures with this little guy. 

Tucson Temple

This summer was full of unpacking, organizing, maintenance projects, painting, painting, and more painting. Another big part of the summer was the older three kids preparing for the Tucson Temple Cultural Celebration. For Emily and Makayla, the hard work didn’t come until the last couple of weeks before the celebration when they had all-day Saturday practices. Ricky was in a specialty group, so he had practices across town every other week all summer long and extra practices the last few weeks. It was a lot of driving for me, but Ricky loved it. And though the girls were a little grumpy about the practices (especially the 9 am-7 pm on Emily’s birthday) they felt it was worth it in the end. 

There are way better pictures to be found online posted by professional photographers. I had a hard time capturing shots and juggling Gavin. I don’t think Rick took any pictures. This is what I got:

Ricky’s specialty group was hip hop/break dancing missionaries. I didn’t get good pictures. When they were performing their part, a bunch of BMX bikers (dressed as missionaries) came out onto the field, so almost all of the footage and pictures I could find online were of the bikers. They were pretty great with some of the stunts they did, so it’s ok with me. I have videos of Ricky’s group practicing in the church gym, so that’s good. From the performance, I have these pictures–you can’t even really tell what they’re doing.  Ricky is third from the left with a purple tie. 

My pictures were so bad, I had to steal from  a kids’ friend’s Instagram account. 

These two were from the final rehearsal. The guy on the left had a special rap part during the final song that all of the stakes participated in. Ricky’s group was dancing while he was rapping. But before that, Ricky carried the Washington state flag onto the stage. He was pretty happy about his assignment to the Washington flag. 

It was a fun night for the kids even though us was preceded by a very long, hot day. 

We enjoyed watching the celebration, but the dedication the next day on Gavin’s birthday was even more special.

A big part of our difficult decision to move to Tucson was the knowledge that we would be close to a temple. Since the dedication, I have felt the pull to go to the temple as often as I can and also to get our older kids there as often as we can. There is truly a special, peaceful spirit there. I know I feel renewed and strengthened when I go, so I want that for our children–especially with the amount of garbage they deal with every day.  We feel so blessed to be here in Tucson and to have a temple only 35 minutes from our house. 

Back to School

Old news here, but news nonetheless–the first day of school was August 3!  Why so early?  It’s called “modified year around.”  They have a week-long break in October, 2 week winter break, a break in February, and spring break. I think school is out for the summer by Memorial Day. 

We have figured out a routine–not easy with 4 different schools and early morning seminary. The week before school and into the first week of school, I thought I might drown in paperwork, bus schedules, registering for classes, learning about teachers, planning a driving route, gathering supplies, etc. It was a LOT to handle–still is!  I spend about an hour to an hour and a half in the car each day just getting the kids to and from school.  I’d share the whole routine with you, but I know you don’t care that much for all the details. You rather see the kids:


One thing you might find interesting–the kids’ bus stop is 3/4 of a mile from our house–a long, hot walk in the afternoons when I can’t get out to pick them up. 

They know the way well now, but the week before school started, they refused to practice the route. I understood because it was hot, so I walked it on my own and took pictures to help them know where to go. 

The boys walk the back road that goes along the southwest side of our house. They come to our house through the backyard. I had to mark where they turn off the road onto our property with that cool truck equipment sign I found in the dirt. 

Makayla likes to walk the main road because she had a rattlesnake scare during the first week. Since she’s walking by herself, she feels less nervous on pavement (in spite of cars that take the curves pretty fast and might not see her). 

Neither way is ideal, but they haven’t had any problems getting home. 

Brooklyn is starting to warm up to preschool. She goes three mornings a week. I just found out that kindergarten is half days here like when we lived in Washington, so she will be able to ease into the “everyday school” thing next year. 


Andrew and Sean have excellent teachers and fit right in at their school. They have good kids in their classes and have made friends. 

Ricky is liking school too. Most of his friends are from church, but he has other friends too. 

Makayla has friends too. Of course, she prefers to just be home schooled, but she is enduring school as best as she can. Seminary is great–not too early (7:50 a.m. because school doesn’t start until 9:00 a.m.

Emily is at BYU and starts actual classes next week. Brooklyn, Gavin, and I drove her there last week. Here are some pictures from the trip. 

The pictures got uploaded in backward order, so the first pictures are of the return trip when I was driving solo with the littles. The kids were much better behaved on the way home and they were on the way there. I think they got a little more used to the idea of staying in the car forever.  Brooklyn did a lot of reading and coloring. 

Grocery shopping at Walmart at 9:30 pm because that’s what college kids do–

Before we could even unload the car, Brooklyn, Gavin, and I spent some time at the Bean Museum waiting for Emily to get off work.

Either Gavin or Brooklyn took this cute picture of Grandma and Grandpa. We love stopping by their house on our way to Provo. 

The next few are from our stop at a burger and shake place in Blanding, Utah after a long day of driving. Emily didn’t want her picture taken. 


Before we left, Emily tried to spend special time with each of the kids. She went to a dinner and movie with Makayla and Ricky. She took Andrew and Sean to breakfast. She went swimming with just Brooklyn and Gavin the afternoon before she left.

This is some of the kids taking a “last selfie” together for memories. 

And, last (though it should be first), the van all loaded up for the trip. 

Emily’s first couple of weeks on her own have brought some excitement. I’m looking forward to hearing how her first week of classes goes. I think her first day is Tuesday–yay!  She was jealous of all the back-to-school hustle and bustle when the younger kids started. She really likes school. 

Slow On The Updates

We have had a lot of great things happening here and I have a lot of pictures and stories to share, but, as usual, time is short. 

Since I’m overwhelmed with where to begin, how about some more beautiful pictures of our scenery here?  The sunsets are spectacular. The clouds are beautiful. 

The first is of our backyard–so green!  I was trying to capture a mama bobcat and her baby hanging out back there in the shade but instead, you can admire our grassy yard–very rare in Tucson. 

Agua Caliente park on Gavin’s birthday just as the sun was setting:

A double rainbow I noticed as I was pulling out of the driveway to pick up Ricky from flag football practice:

Date night drive:


Honestly, I didn’t imagine it would be so pretty here–and so interesting. I joke about the critters and I’m also scared of them, but it’s exciting to see a variety of wildlife everyday. Just tonight, we drove by two coyotes. Earlier, there was a buck in our yard. And of course the creepy tarantulas that I have rescued from drowning in our hot tub more than once. 

But, I’m avoiding the other updates because I don’t know where to start–a month ago with the start of school?–seems an OK place to start. 

Kindness

The word “kind” is one of my favorite words.  It flows nicely.  Other than the hard “k” at the start, it has a soft, calm sound.  The word itself evokes images of good people doing good things, and supplies feelings of love and respect.  It’s just a nice word, don’t you think?

I have been thinking about kindness and what it means and how I can be more kind since Sunday.  A sweet girl gave a talk in Primary on kindness.  I wish I had a copy.  She defined kindness in several ways in a series of simple sentences.  Kindness is looking for the best in another person.  Kindness shares.  Kindness gives genuine compliments.  Kindness helps. . . . .  I was touched by the many ways we can be kind and also reminded of the many ways I am unkind.

I know that when I am unkind, I often have an excuse for my unkindness.  These are some of the excuses I give or I have heard masked as apologies for unkindness.  “I’m sorry I have been unkind, but I’m tired.”  “He was being mean to me.” “It’s the truth.”  “I’m not being unkind, I’m telling them something they need to know.”

There are truths in the excuses.  Kindness is not a natural behavior when we are tired or hurt or feel a situation is unjust.  My Sunday resolve to be more kind dissolved a little over the past few days as I let hurt feelings, loneliness, and exhaustion overwhelm me.  For me, hurt feelings, are my biggest challenge to kindness.  I’m not an overly sensitive person, and I try not to worry too much about what people say to me when I know they don’t really mean it, but I am very sensitive to tone.  I find it hurtful when I’m spoken to condescendingly or when it’s implied that I am not of value or annoying–even if the words themselves aren’t said.  Right now, I’m raising teenagers and they are often experts in the condescending, disrespectful tone.  Unfortunately, this particular unkind way of communicating can spread through a family like a plague.  I have been a little bogged down by the condescension and criticism that seem to have blossomed in our family over the past few days–or maybe they have always been there and I’m especially sensitive.  My increased sensitivity could be due to an accumulation of many things, including the fact that I have been trying to find pants and shorts that I like since Gavin was a baby and in spite of shopping and trying on multiple styles and sizes, I go home empty handed and feeling ugly and fat (but that’s a whole different post that I will save for another time because it would be highly entertaining for my plethora of avid readers–ha, ha).

Anyway, I think I have a remedy to the plague of unkindness, but I’m not sure if I’m a good enough person to administer the cure.  I have spent some time thinking of people I would never be unkind to or situations in which unkindness would seem completely wrong.  What is it about those people and situations that do not allow for unkindness?  The people I would never be unkind to are people who are genuinely, through and through, kind people themselves.  They are positive, helpful, loving, patient.  They don’t complain or criticize.  They smile a lot.  I think if I can be a genuinely kind person, people would not be unkind to me.  Sure, somebody who didn’t know me or had not spent much time around me may be unkind, but that would be an exception to the rule that should be easy to overcome.  My family and close associates DO know me and DO spend a lot of time with me, so if I were always kind towards them, they would have no reason to feel unkind feelings toward me and then would not act in unkind ways.  Now you see why I’m not sure if I’m a good enough person to administer the kindness cure.  It’s worth a try, though, because the cycle of unkindness is sorely unpleasant.

 

Surprises!

There are a lot of things we do in life that are just plain monotonous and repetitive. I’m thinking of things like unloading and loading the dishwasher every day–sometimes more than once. Getting ready for each day can be monotonous–brush teeth, hair, makeup. Even if you are wearing different clothes or hairstyles, the process can still be repetitive. The bulk of my time as a mom is spent on repetitive things. Luckily, amidst the daily routines, surprises can be found. Sometimes these surprises bring joy, sometimes unexpected hardships or challenges, and sometimes we are surprised because things turn out differently from our expectations–not bad or good–just different.

We have had some of those surprises in our family the past few weeks. The first is monsoon season. Since we are new to the area, we just didn’t realize the magnificence of monsoon season.  It’s pretty much the first thing people talked about when they learned that we were from the Midwest. Our first weeks here, the weather was very hot and dry. People would ask, “What do you think of Tucson?” Before even hearing our response, they’d tumble ahead to excuse the horrible weather–“I’m sorry it’s so hot. You came at the worst time of year. It’s just miserable, but just wait for monsoon season in a few weeks. It’s great!”

After a few of these conversations, I had to look up what “monsoon season” actually meant. It’s pretty much heavy rain and thunderstorms for a period of weeks. During these weeks, Tucson accumulates about 80% of their yearly rainfall. Even with that fact, I still wasn’t overly impressed. After all, the Midwest has mighty thunderstorms with torrential rain too. These Midwestern thunderstorms are loud and scary and are often accompanied by flash flood warnings or tornado warnings. The Midwestern thunderstorms season lasts from May through September. Compared to Midwestern thunderstorms,  monsoon season just didn’t seem that spectacular.

After weeks of hot weather and blaring sunshine in clear blue skies, I came to appreciate the miracle of monsoon season. That first thunderstorm was magical!  We didn’t truly realize how miserable we had been with the weeks of hot, dry weather. We didn’t know we were missing the rain so much. As the rain came tumbling down, the kids ran outside to experience the joyful miracle of water actually falling from the sky.

The magic of monsoon season isn’t just in the moisture and cooler weather. The sunsets are spectacular.


The storm clouds are beautiful and mesmerizing to watch. I don’t have good pictures, but trust me when I say that it’s so humbling to watch the clouds stack up over the mountains and then roll down through the valley. Sometimes there is evidence of dust blowing  just in front of the storm front. The lightning shows are better than 4th of July fireworks (as long as you’re safe inside the house).

Unfortunately, monsoon season brings some other surprises which are not as delightful, but still interesting and new to this Midwestern/Northwestern family.


A lot of desert critters (including those shown above) live underground during the dry season. They’re safe and cool there. When the rains come, however, the desert landscape is awoken with a cold splash of water.

We have been surprised by the amount of wildlife surrounding us here in the foothills. I love to sit outside and listen to the animals and birds calling to each other. I like to watch the rabbits, birds, and lizards in our backyard. I’m not a fan of being out when it gets dark, though. Even in daylight, caution is necessary because you just don’t know when you’ll happen upon a snake or scorpion (neither has happened to us yet, thank goodness). It’s also important to be aware of what’s going on around you because sometimes wildlife can stumble upon you as happened to me last Saturday as a bobcat was carrying home some freshly caught rabbit from our yard.

I think the wildlife found in our yard is fun to see from a distance as long as none of us are in danger.

Here’s another lovely monsoon-activated surprise:


I love colorful flowers and am so grateful for whoever planned our landscaping. We have pretty flowers everywhere. The purple ones just popped out this week. It’s true, they are a little overgrown. I’m still working up the courage to dive in and trim the plants. I’m scared of the spiders and other creatures that might live in them.

We did have one surprise last week that was a bit of a challenge–not horrendous, but inconvenient considering all we have going on.

Last week, Ricky was helping me open the packaging around a new area rug so we could get it into place under our couches. We were anxious to lay it out because tile and hardwood floors nearly everywhere make for a very echoey and noisy house and kneeling for family prayers on the tile floor just hurts!

So, Ricky was trying to help me get some things done. In his enthusiasm to unpack the rug, the knife he was wielding to cut the plastic went awry and cut his index finger on the opposing hand–painful and messy. We had yet to have reason to go to a doctor here in Tucson, so it was kind of a scramble to figure out where to go and how our insurance would handle the visit. We got him stitched up at a quick care clinic near our house and everything turned out ok.


His five stitches are helping him heal nicely and he’ll be able to get them out after a week.


I’m sorry if that picture is too gory, but I must record this for Ricky’s future family.  In our current family, pretty much every child is grossed out by the look of the stitches. Most of them request that Ricky keep the injury site covered with a bandaid or at least hide his hand under the table during dinner time. When I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye, I think his stitches are a spider. 

I’m glad for the surprises (good, bad, and different) that dispel the monotony of every day life.

Positive Associations

This is kind of old news as we have been back home for almost a week, but it should be recorded anyway because we had such a good time. We had a Mergenthaler family reunion in Park City and got to visit with Rick’s parents and siblings and their families. We also got to squeeze in some visiting with my parents on the way there and back and a half of a day at Lagoon with the Henstrom family and my brother. 

The drive there was pretty nice without much more drama than the usual car fussiness and fighting. 

We saw some beautiful landscapes and breathtaking skies throughout the trip. As much as I tried to capture the beauty on my little phone camera, the pictures really don’t do justice to the scale of the mountains or the intensity of color in the skies. 


Maybe I’m just getting old, but one thing I don’t like about traveling is the food. Even though we try to pack our ice chest with healthy options and a few treats we enjoy, it seems that we still eat too many disgusting, greasy fast food options. It’s fun to be all together as a family and I do find myself grateful for less dishes and cleanup. 

We liked spending an afternoon and evening at Lagoon with the Henstrom’s. We haven’t been to an amusement park with the kids for a couple of years, so it was fun to see who was excited about which rides. Brooklyn and Sean are pretty fearless.  Makayla too. 

This is our view from the Ferris wheel:

Brooklyn loved going on a ton of rides with her friend, Caroline. 

Sometimes Gavin got in on the fun, but he always got a little nervous when the workers buckled him up and walked away. He liked the rides, but wanted me with him. 

He cried all the way through this car ride with Brooklyn even though he kept trying to cut in line to get on the ride. 

The actual reunion was lots of fun. Our first big event was traveling the Utah Olympic Park with the hopes that we would see Olympic athletes practicing ski jumps into the giant bubbling pool. We actually only saw some amateurs slide down the hill and hop into the water, but it was fun hanging with the kids. 

There was a shopping trip:


I don’t actually like shopping and haven’t bought very many clothes or shoes for myself in a few years (excluding a few secondhand finds) but it’s still fun to hang out. And Emily found items worthy of purchase (she almost always does). 

I loved playing Handball. And just visiting. I don’t have a lot of pictures because I was content to leave my phone in the house and not check it much. 

I read scriptures out on the hammock on the last day and have a few pics from when the kids invaded my peace. Brooklyn looks up to her cousin, Kelsey even though Kelsey rather play with Sean. They look cute in their matching shirts. 

Sean rocking the hammock:

I have a  picture of the grandkids with Grandma and Grandpa:


The kids also got to quickly see the Belts. Our kids just love those kids and wished for more time to play and visit with them. 


We had a nice Sunday evening in Moab on our way home. 


As I said, it was a very nice trip. My life is enriched by all the good people we were able to visit. I was especially happy for the kids to be able to visit and play with their cousins–not just because they are family but because they are genuinely good kids who are also a lot of fun to be around. On the way home, I reflected on the influence all of these good people have on me and felt blessed by the many positive associations. 

Some of the Fun Stuff

Even though we feel like we are working a lot and making slow progress on our house, there are times here and there when I can take a break for some fun. 

Andrew caught a lizard and tried to keep it as a pet. I would only allow it as a “pet” on the porch outside. 

He gathered supplies–water and grass to make a home. But when it came to gathering bugs for lizard food, he decided he would let it go hunt for its own food because finding bugs is scary. 

We have had a few fun night time swims after dinner clean up–at least the kids have. Rick and I haven’t actually gotten in the pool since our first week here except to dig out giant desert toads from the pool cover casing. 

Brooklyn had a great time turning Gavin into a blue tiger yesterday while Rick and I were distracted with finishing up the painting in our room. 

We unpacked some boxes enough that we were able to find Brooklyn’s glasses and she’s actually consistently wearing them!  The girls say she is wearing the glasses because they convinced her how very cute she looks in them. I think she also likes to see more clearly. 


We really have moved to a beautiful place. We have breathtaking views from almost every window in the house. I caught this view of the sunset from the window above the stairwell that made me forget the work and reflect on our blessings. 

9 By Design

Back in 2010, a show came out called 9 By Design. I only saw one episode–maybe it was only a trailer. Basically, it’s about a family of 9 that designs, builds, and flips houses for a profit.   We only had 5 kids back then, but we were still in the midst of a 9 year remodeling project at our last house. I was intrigued at the two designer parents and their focus on family while also dealing with the chaos of rebuilding and redesigning.

Our Iowa house was a project–and not really in a good way. Most of the work we did on it was because it started as a low quality builder-grade house that wasn’t maintained. It was a money pit. We were happy there and we did a lot of great things to update the house, but when we began planning our move to Arizona we determined we would NOT make the mistake of buying a fixer-upper. 

Now, we find ourselves in a similar situation–planning, designing, remodeling, and updating. And we have 7 kids at home. The difference now is that we are starting with a quality product. I am often so impressed by the thoughtfulness of the builder and designer of this house. There are so many lovely surprises. All it needs from us is updating and maintenance. 

Here was one of our projects this week: updating the family room built-ins. 

The floors and all the wood in the house started light brown. We had the floors refinished right before we moved in but we had decided to budget time and money later for the cabinets. But then I had an idea–

A guy was coming to help us get our flat screen TV’s hung and set up. I didn’t want to have to take the TV down to paint so thought we might just try to paint the shelves by ourselves just in this room to see how it went.

We bought a gel stain kit and gave it a try. This is the result:

It’s not professional work. And we need to touch up the white shelving where Rick got a little crazy with the paint brush. We also have plans to replace the brass knobs on the lower cabinets, but I think it looks better if you don’t look to closely at the quality. 

I promised some pictures of the chaos. We have projects going everywhere. But we are making progress. For about a week, the girls’ bed was in the hallway while we repainted their room and bathroom. We are just finishing their bathroom today–hanging new towel racks and repainting the medicine cabinet, so I will have finished pictures soon. For now it’s a mess. This is the hallway outside their room:

It’s cool that we have these built in desks in the hallway/landing. We haven’t gotten to unpacking and organizing yet because I hope to paint them white. 

This is inside their room. 

Here’s a peek into Sean and Brooklyn’s room. They can hardly get in the door because part of the girls’ bed is in the way. They also have their furniture in the middle so we could tape in preparation for painting the trim and walls. 

The hallway outside of Ricky and Andrew’s room was quite ghastly for a while while we painted in there. They also didn’t have a bed until just the other day. 

Rick finished putting their new bed together yesterday and we finishing tidying the hallway and putting up their BYU fatheads. They are happy with how things look. 


Their room is kind of tricky to get pictures of because of the L shape, and I normally like their extra blankets put away and cute pillows out, but since our house isn’t on the market we can let them decorate their beds how they want as long as it’s tidy. 

Gavin’s cheesey face is his new “camera smile.”  Notice the same expression in both pics. 

We are making progress. Rick has been staying home this week to help push through some of the big painting projects. 

Next rooms–the master bedroom and Sean and Brooklyn’s room. 

Right now our room looks like this:



We started painting one wall so that we could get the TV hung and decided to just finish the can. Hence, the spotty paint job.

I hope we can make enough progress tonight so that we can have our bed back to sleep in. Unfortunately, I just remembered a contractor is coming to meet with us about our inefficient AC units, so we will have yet another interruption to our progress. But it’s still progress.