Fall Break

Fall break is a for-real thing here. It’s one full week that the kids don’t have school. A lot of people go to Disneyland or Mexico or other family trips. We didn’t go anywhere. Instead, we spent the first half of the week preparing for our  visitors come, and the second half of the week enjoying them.  The weather was still pretty warm—perfect for swimming and being outside. 


Halloween 2017–No More Bundling

We experienced nine Halloween’s in Iowa.  Most of those Halloween’s found us layering on mittens and cramming our costumes unders coats and hats to brave the frosty neighborhood in hopes of candy. We would wrap the youngest under several blankets in the stroller, or leave the baby home all together. There were one or two Halloween’s when the weather was extremely pleasant–even reaching the 70s, but this was a rare and happy experience. Usually, the weather hovered around freezing in the evening. 

Our first Halloween in Tucson was completely different. The weather was nice and cool–80 for the high and maybe in the 69s when we trick-or-treating. The sky was a little cloudy, providing relief from the sun, and there was a pleasant breeze. 

The kids went swimming after school.  Since they think the pool is too cold now (already wimpy), we have been heating the hot tub. They like to relax and warm up in the hot tub, then brave a shocking cold jump into the pool. The pool water is like 75 degrees–like I said, they’re a little wimpy now. But I can’t talk because I only get in up to my ankles. 

For actual Halloween activities, we had three main events:  a neighborhood party, a school party and a church party.

Not everybody dressed up for the neighborhood party. Brooklyn was a fairy princess. Sean was Harry Potter–same as last year because he makes a great Harry Potter.  Andrew was Barry Allen (the Flash when he’s not a super hero–like Clark Kent and Superman). I didn’t get a picture of Andrew’s Barry Allen costume, but it’s pretty much a t-shirt that has the Star Labs logo under a hoodie and athletic pants.  Gavin was Robin before we left the house, but took off his costume before getting in the car). 

The neighborhood party was a good opportunity to meet a few neighbors we haven’t met yet. Our neighborhood is mostly older couples. You should have seen their eyes pop out when they found out we have 8 children (even if we only have 6 still at home). Mostly, they are happy to have “new young energy” in the neighborhood. And we have good kids, in my opinion, so we are an asset to the community. I hope to get to know more of them soon. 

Only Sean and Brooklyn went to the school party. Andrew and Gavin were sick, Ricky had a friend party, and Makayla doesn’t do elementary school events. 

Our ward party was on Halloween at a member’s house in “the neighborhood for trick-or-treating.” I didn’t fully understand what that meant until we were there. There were cars lined up outside the neighborhood and people everywhere!  Nearly every house was decorated for Halloween. People were going around on decorate golf carts. It was crazy!  This time, Gavin was a puppy. Brooklyn and Sean stayed with their original costumes. Andrew was a zombie skate boarder. Ricky was a cereal killer, and I was a scarecrow. 

The kids had a fun night, but didn’t get a ton of candy.  Homeowners in 49ers have to plan for thousands of trick-or-treaters, so they usually buy a lot of small, cheap candy. We came home with a lot of that hard pink bubble gum and fruity tootsie rolls. Blech!  But experiencing such a lively neighborhood was fun. I am going to spend the upcoming year researching other options because I think there are probably neighborhoods where there are people who would like visitors but don’t get them and it would be more fun for the kids and for them. And there were just too many people at the other place. I was worried we’d lose a child or one of the little ones would get hit by a car or gold cart. I like a quieter experience.

The Gudgel Clan Gathers in Tucson

We enjoyed showing my family our new home and the lovely, wilderness we live in when they came for a family reunion in Tucson. 

I am kicking myself for not taking more pictures. How did we forget to take a picture of 

Our first adventure was a drive up Mt. Lemmon. I was unprepared for the crowds up there (Tucson school districts were having fall break), but I loved watching the temperature drop as the big van climbed higher in elevation. 

There is so much to do and see on the way up or down the mountain. Our family is still in tourist mode since we only just moved here four months ago. Our friend, Max, recommended Windy Point for its expansive views of the valley, beautiful rock formations and interesting plants. The manzanita bushes are among my favorites. It is a little nerve wracking to take children there because there are some scary drop offs. I kept Gavin very close and Megan and Lilly helped to keep an eye on Brooklyn. Uncle Danny was good with the busy older boys who like to push the limits of exploration and give their moms more gray hairs. 

Before our little trip up the mountain, Sean caught a frisbee with his newly-grown permanent tooth and broke half of it right off!

So before we began the next day’s adventures, we spent a little time at our new dentist getting some repair work done. I had been putting off deciding on a new dentist here. I am glad for this “emergency” because I was actually considering another dentist. The other office was not very accommodating and is further from our house.  They would not have been able to see Sean for a week.   The office we ended up going to delighted me with their kindness and flexibility. Thier willingness to see Sean on short notice and then schedule 6 kids for checkups later in the month without too much hoopla won our family’s business. Yay for Dr. Michael Allen at Sabino Family Dentistry! I’m also so happy that it’s just about 5 minutes from our house. 

After a visit to the dentist, we packed some water bottles, sunscreen, and snacks and headed off to the highly recommended Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. This zoo/garden/conservatory was definitely worth the hour long drive to the opposite side of town. There was so much to see and do. we had a great time there in spite of the heat. 

The kids especially enjoyed the nocturnal creatures display and cave. These bat ears were fun. They had ear phones so that the kids could experience what it might be like to have the supersentive hearing of a bat. 

The beaver was cool. He was more fun to watch under ground. He put on quite a performance for the kids. 

This cougar thought Brooklyn might be a tasty treat. Good thing the caretaker had just hidden dead rats around her habitat for her to eat. 

During the car ride home from the museum, I asked the kids about their favorite part. They all answered, “Stingrays!”  They liked keeping their hands in the water as the rays glided past. The rays really seemed to like the attention of people and would sometimes splash or push up on the kids’ hands. 

Javelina in real life are seriously ugly, but these statues were pretty cute. 

Aside from our adventures up Mt. Lemmon and to the Desert Museum, the kids also spent a lot of time exploring the yard and the wilderness, playing laser tag, and swimming. One morning, Grandpa was able to catch a speedy lizard to show the kids.

Also, while some of us were busy touring the desert museum, my dad tracked down all the connections for the front landscaping lights and did quite a bit of repair work and bulb replacing.

On Friday night, we had a fiesta to celebrate Danny’s birthday. Here are some videos of the piñata. I never know if videos will work, so feel free to scroll past. 


Besides the piñata, we played Latin music and had Mexican food. It was a good time. 

On the last day of the reunion, the Hester clan joined us. My Aunt Judy and Uncle Bill live a couple of hours north of here near Mesa. My cousins, Julie and Chad live there too. Aunt Judy, Uncle Bill, and Julie came around lunch time. Chad brought his family down in the late afternoon/evening. It was nice visiting with everybody. I didn’t get pictures of that part of the visit.

I am so glad we live closer to everybody now so we can see family more often.  It was a great reunion 

Lake Powell

We had a great trip with Rick’s sister, Chelsey, and her fam about a month ago.  We also celebrated my birthday which happened while we were there.

My job for most of the trip was keeping the little guy safe. He loved being on the boat and was good about staying seated when we were moving. 

Rick drive the boat most of the time.

We didn’t do any waterskiing because the water was choppy. Andrew and Jake rode the tube. I did too—it was my birthday, after all. Too bad we lost the tube on the way home. What actually happened to the tube is still a mystery. We think it blew out of the boat during the drive home from the lake—maybe got lost over the dam. It’s weird to me how a nice, big, purple tube can just disappear and I feel badly we weren’t more aware of the need to stuff it in a compartment rather than the bottom of the boat.

The kids and Rick enjoyed a little cliff jumping. 

We were so grateful for Jordan’s professional guidance and help with driving the boat—especially when navigating the slot canyons and anchoring. Gavin liked hanging out with him too. 

The canyons were beautiful. I don’t think the kids will ever forget their adventurous swim up one canyon. There was a narrow, dark, mucky part after about a half mile of swimming (with life jackets, of course). Rick and I were about 50 feet behind the group, pulling Gavin on a knee board when we heard Sean’s terrified scream.  I had just commented to Rick that I was surprised the kids made it as far as they did because we had just passed a floating dead something (otter, maybe). At the sound of the screaming, we hurried ahead to see how we could help. Andrew and Sean were completely frozen with fear, floating in the nasty water. We got them out of the canyon. It’s too bad they didn’t push ahead with the rest of the kids because there was a really cool hike about 100 feet ahead where the water ended. 

All in all, we had a fun mini-vacation and the kids enjoyed some cousin time. We did miss having Emily with us. She was busy at BYU.  Next time, we will be better planners so that she can join in too. We are excited that she will be able to fly down to Tucson for Thanksgiving weekend. I can’t wait to have a few laughs in person with her. Rick and some of the kids have been able to visit a couple of times since I dropped her off in August, but I have been home with little ones. 

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 about things like Rick forgetting to tell me he has invited 50 of our closest friends over for dinner or I’m running late getting the 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 that 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! This is what happens when I take a break from laundry for two days. I know it doesn’t look like much because you can’t see around the corner. And this is only laundry that  has been dropped in the laundry room by passers by over the weekend. If I added the laundry from baskets throughout the house, the pile would certainly quadruple. I have my work cut out for me tomorrow—I sense material for a disturbing nightmare about never-ending laundry. 

A few weeks ago, I tried not to laugh at myself as I took picture after picture of Andrew helping me in the kitchen to replace cabinet hardware. The problem wasn’t 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 and 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, car part shopping with my dad, 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. I am constantly being told what to get at the store or asked when I will go shopping next. 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 snap a few pictures and record a couple of 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 the refrigerator entertainment, we headed to the next store where I was to buy, among other things, about 30 boxes of the kids’ and Rick’s favorite cereal that was on sale for 99 cents. (You can bet I was asked later why I didn’t buy more)

Can you imagine standing in line for 20 minutes with two restless 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 reader sympathy. When we first arrived in line, I asked the kids not to touch the gum or candy, but as the conversation continued as the customer tried to use a coupon for an item she had not purchased for her daughter who was throwing a party of some sort (I listened a little to the conversation), I let the kids rearrange the candy display 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. My saintliness was definitely wearing thin. 

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 in concentrated computer time among the unceasing dishes and laundry. President Hinckley was right in his assessment that shopping for a family can be a monumental task.  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 interesting 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 exposed to 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 and 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 playing with 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 allows me to do the most important things. 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!”

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. 


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.