Everyday Life

Just two days after our big Trek weekend, our Cub Scout troop had the Blue and Gold Banquet. We traveled to a Mexican fiesta for dinner.  I helped set up and take down decorations and cooked five pounds of hamburger for our tacos.

Andrew received his Webelos award.

He’s not wearing his Cub Scout shirt because Sean and he are sharing one and Andrew is happy to let Sean wear it. Sean is a little annoyed that I haven’t updated the patches in the shirt so it looks like he has all his rankings and that he is still part of the Hawkeye Area Council. I think updating the shirt is a pain and I will only do it for Sean because it’s important to him. Our Blue and Gold fiesta even had piñatas!Our yard here in Tucson is a big project.  I love it and think it’s beautiful, but wish I had the time to care for the plants the way they need to be cared for.  The previous owners put a lot of thought into planning the plants and their locations.  They must have loved butterflies, hummingbirds, color, and citrus.  The first months we lived here were very hot and dry and our watering system wasn’t working properly.  Because we were buried in other projects, some of our plants suffered from the heat and died.  Now I am working to find replacements for the plants.  We have some ever-blooming bushes on one side of the pool that were a mystery to me until a couple of weeks ago.  Three of the bushes died last summer and I have been wandering the gardening sections of the stores hoping to see a match so at least I would know what they were called.  Do you have any guesses? Here are some clues–the hummingbirds and butterflies love them.  They are suited to full sun and tropical temperatures.  They are usually pink, but one of our bushes is white and a coupe are pink and white.

Here’s the answer:  salvia or Mexican sage.  I still need to do some repair work to the drip lines and map out where I should plant the peach tree I bought (and plant it soon).

Gavin still likes me to take his picture when we drop off or pick up Brooklyn from preschool.  He loves that pink and purple backpack!  He brought it to church today with a stuffed dog and three binkies inside.I have been trying to slowly wean him away from his binkies.  He loves them like Sean did.  He likes to carry them around.  I’m working on getting him to leave them in his bed for bed time, but sometimes he just needs a little snuggle time with his binky.  And sometimes I’m too nice to take it away.And sometimes I let Brooklyn skip preschool to stay home and play with a friend.  They had a good time eating lunch outside together and playing and playing and playing.  I love it when my kids can be happy, imaginative, content, and active outside for hours.  It helps to have a good friend who is like that too.These little handprints have been on my mirror for a few weeks.  I think about cleaning them off, but I kind of like the look of them.

I’m still working on that little narrative about my Grandma’s experiences in Mesa, Arizona.  I got into contact with one of my mom’s cousins this week and he sent me some fun pictures that I didn’t already have.

I am enjoying taking a little time a few days a week to research their experiences and write a paragraph or two.  The project is going very slowly, but it’s still interesting and fun for me and I am learning a lot.



At the end of February, Rick and I participated in Trek with youth and other leaders from our area. Explaining Trek to people who are not members of our church creates an interesting conversation. Did you know there will be a movie based on the LDS activity called Trek?


Trek is a faith-building activity for youth in our church who are between 14 and 18 years old. Essentially, it is a re-enactment of the handcart pioneers and meant to help kids relate to their ancestors and gain a greater appreciation for their blessings. There are built-in challenges for the kids regarding physical work, testimony sharing, team building, etc.

Kids who participate are divided into families with a Ma and Pa as leaders. Families are grouped into companies with Captains. In our case, there were 7 kids in our family and 3 families in our company. There were 6 companies in all for this experience.

Rick and I were asked last fall if we would be a Ma and Pa for Trek. Neither of us experienced Trek before, and we were excited and a little nervous to participate. Mostly, I was glad for the opportunity to be there with Makayla who was very nervous about going.

Here in Arizona, we do a winter trek because trekking in the summer would be life-threatening. Many of my Midwestern friends will think a winter trek in Arizona would be no big deal, and normally it wouldn’t be, but Trek fell on an unusually cold weekend. We had highs in the 50s and lows in the teens with horrible wind Friday afternoon through the evening. My Midwestern friends may still laugh and try to tell me that’s not cold, but there’s a difference between being outside in those temperatures for a couple hours and camping for three days and two nights. It was rough and most of these kids from the southwest don’t know how to dress for cold weather. Even our Makayla was stubborn about wearing a beanie and gloves.

I was more nervous about the cold weather than the physical challenges of pushing a handcart or camping and it turned out that the cold weather was the hardest part for me.

In spite of the cold, we had a lot of good experiences. We had exceptional kids in our family. They were hard-working, helpful, and positive. This is a picture of us meeting our family for the first time. We tried to show our excitement at meeting them without scaring them. They seem to be smiling, so that’s a good sign. This is our first family picture. Emily did such a nice job making our flag. If we ever use it again, I will fill in the letters of our last name at the top of the flag so you can read it better. The first day was very long. The kids were all up super early to be at the church by 6 am and to travel to the Trek site by 7:30.

We met our families, put together our handcarts, loaded up their gear, and began a very long day of walking with a ton of stops. The stops were frustrating for our group because they were anxious to get to camp and get settled. The schedule had us arriving in camp by 3 pm and with all the stops and delays, we didn’t pull in until after 6 pm where we promptly began making dinner in the dark.

Our family could have easily crossed the miles quickly because we had some good hard workers who didn’t shy from physical challenges. Their frustration at being stopped so often helped them learn patience and the value of looking outward to help other families who were struggling.

One of our last challenges that day required the families to completely unload the handcarts, disassemble them, and carry everything through a long tunnel to reassemble and reload on the other side. This is a picture of some of us waiting for the wrenches to be found so we could finish reassembling the cart. And this picture is on the other side of the tunnel with Rick and our boy, Riley, carrying the base of the handcart while I handle the heavy lifting (rope). This is a picture of our family on the last day. Our company captains are also in there. Notice, I’m still wearing my heavy coat. It took me three days after we were home to finally feel warm. This is Makayla’s family. I was so happy she had her friend Elise with her. Makayla said they were a good pair because when Elise was grumpy, Makayla would encourage her and vice versa. This is Makayla’s family again on the first day. The first day’s trek was long and winding without too many steep hills. The second day was very hilly and rocky and quite a challenge with the carts.

I worried more about Makayla’s experience in Trek than anything else. She was adamant about not going right up until the night before. She was worried about the physical challenges among other things. Rick and I kept encouraging her telling her that she could do hard things, but I worried the experience would be like her 4th year girls’ camp hike. She went on that hike about a week after we moved here, not knowing anybody and has a miserable experience. I was so happy that this time she found the experience worthwhile and actually enjoyed some of it. She had spiritual experiences and her prayers were answered along with mine.

I am glad we had the opportunity to serve some of the youth in our stake. I was impressed with their goodness and grew to love the kids in our family as well as others. My heart was drawn out to those with very difficult challenges including addictions, mental health issues, and waning testimonies. These kids are persevering through very difficult challenges and Heavenly Father loves them. I have a lot of hope for what they can be and the great things they can do.

While Rick and I were Trekking in the frozen desert, Anjee and Jeremy took such good care of our younger kids. This was a greater sacrifice than Rick and I roughing it for a few days. The kids had a great time with their cousins. I felt bad about not being able to call them much because we had no way to charge our phones. I was happy they had a good time together and so grateful to Anjee and Jeremy for taking on such a challenge. Brooklyn missed me, but I don’t think Gavin did. In fact, just two days ago he asked if he could go on a trip to Aunt Anjee’s again.


This girl!!!  I just love her to pieces!  She’s a gorgeous, funny, deep-thinker.  Two days after Sean’s 8th birthday, we got to celebrate Makayla’s 16th.

Makayla didn’t want a big party even though Sweet Sixteen is a big deal.  She worried about planning an event that would keep her friends happy and engaged without awkwardness.  She also doesn’t like to be the center of attention.  The pressure of being the party planner, hostess, and focus of compliments and “happy birthdays” was just too much for her to have a birthday party with friends.  Makayla is happiest at home wrapped in a blanket with hot chocolate and a good book or baking in the kitchen while The British Baking Show plays on the TV in the background.  We tried to keep her birthday low-key while also sharing how much we love her and helping her feel special. She was lucky this year that her birthday fell on a Saturday, so we could have a fun day celebrating as a family.

On the Friday night before her birthday, the celebrating began.  Rick and Ricky were on a campout, so I put the younger kids to bed and Makayla, Andrew, and I stayed up late to watch one of Makayla’s favorite movies–Flipped.  She slept late on Saturday and didn’t have to do any Saturday chores (that’s a big deal!!).  In the morning, I picked up Bruegger’s Bagels (her favorite flavor is cinnamon sugar).  After lunch, she came along to Andrew’s basketball game and afterward we stopped at The Puppy Place to see the puppies.

We picked up a Cold Stone ice cream cake on the way home and had Pasta Roni White Shells and Cheddar for dinner.  She opened her presents and we ate a little cake before Rick and I took her to the movies.  Unfortunately, we got to the movies too late and the theater was sold out for Jumanjii 3.  Instead of the movie, we went to Kneaders to get smoothies, salad, and half-price treats.

I feel so blessed to be this young lady’s mom!  She is teaching me a lot about pushing through adversity and looking toward others to help them feel included and loved.  We just went on Trek together (she wasn’t in our family, but I saw her often).  I was so impressed with her efforts to include others and help other people who were struggling.  She knows what it’s like to feel anxious and nervous–especially in social situations and she is pushing through her hesitations to help others who might feel the same way.

Want to know a sad story?  Twelve days ago I lost Makayla’s phone and I still haven’t been able to find it!  She has been pretty patient about this blunder aside from a few jabs at my memory incompetence.  I really do want to find that phone.  It’s driving me crazy!


Eight is great! We were so happy to celebrate Sean’s birthday last month.

On his big day, he went to school and shared mini cinnamon rolls with his classmates. After school, he went rock hunting in the yard. He also had special visitors from the Primary Presidency on his birthday. They came to talk with him about his upcoming baptism. He was looking forward to their visit and enjoyed being the center of attention for a little while.

We had pizza for dinner. Sean loves thoughtful gifts, so opening his birthday presents and playing with them was the highlight of his day. He received some great presents including a misting water bottle, jumping remote control car, a book just for adventuring boys, some games, walkie talkies, and other fun things.

Andrew and Sean continued the tradition of the “birthday polar jump.” Makayla’s birthday was two days later. She discontinued the tradition.

Sean’s birthday cake was the most delicious cake we have had in a while and that’s saying something because our birthday cakes are really good! Dad made a homemade chocolate cake in three layers. I made our fudge frosting, and layered the cake with frosting, Oreos, and whip cream. It was perfection!

Sean was baptized on February 10. I love baptisms because I know I will feel the Spirit. Sean didn’t have a whole lot to say about his baptism. If somebody asked him how he felt, he would say, “I felt warm.” The inquirer would nod their head and smile thinking he was talking about the Spirit, and Sean would add, “Because the water was warm.” I love that Sean always tries to be completely honest. He was told in his confirmation blessing that he will be a valiant leader in the church and I can tell he is already learning lessons and preparing to serve.

I love these kids!!

These two sweet friends are in Sean’s Primary class. My friend Karitza sent these super cute and delicious cookies for the occasion.

I love this young man and am so excited for all the great things he will experience and learn in the upcoming years. He is a great example to our family. He is a hard worker and super good at doing quality work – especially organizing the game room or tidying his room. He’s excellent at following directions and checking off items on a list. When he loses his temper, he always make sure to apologize and ask for forgiveness. He pays attention to what he learns in church and at home and tries to improve himself a little bit each day. He is thoughtful and caring and kind. Happy birthday Sean!!