Thursday, September 10, 2015

Snapshots of Summer

Our lawn died this summer.  We were too busy making memories to water it and Mother Nature was busy bathing us in exquisite Seattle sunshine, so it died an ugly brown death.  And I didn't even really care because this may just go down in history as my favorite summer ever. Ever!

Way back in March, Jon and I decided tickets to Jim Gaffigan would be the most perfect birthday present for Caleb.  We planned to go with our friends, the McCabe's, whose son Griffin's birthday is just two days prior to Caleb's.  Both boys have a real affinity for Jim Gaffigan, making it an ideal birthday surprise.  After purchasing the tickets, however, we discovered that the show conflicted with Trek. Caleb would be absent for his birthday outing!  Natalie got to go in his place.

Jim's jokes had us laughing hysterically from start to finish.  If Trek hadn't been such a wonderful experience, Caleb probably would've never forgiven us.

Just a few days after returning home from Trek, Natalie and Caleb went to Yakima to spend a week being spoiled by Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Chad and Aunt Amy.

Alyssa left for Girl's Camp.  Our house was all together too quiet.

After dropping Alyssa at camp (she had a splendid week!) Jon and I decided that we were in no hurry to return to our empty house.  So we delighted in a delicious seafood dinner on the harbor.

Good golly, we live in a beautiful place!

For dessert, we enjoyed frosted lemonades from Chick-Fil-A, just to make Caleb jealous.  And he was!  We made sure to text him a picture of what he was missing.

Our dear friends, the Evan's, came to town and we got to spend a couple of days at Lake Tapps, where their grandparents live.  Dreamy, right?

We loved meeting their new addition:

Chad and Amy came to town for the Jamie Moyer Hall of Fame Mariners game.  The game went into extra innings and was a whole lotta fun until we got blown out in the 11th.  But Caleb rocked the jumbotron and we all went away with bobbleheads, so it's all good.

The game ended just in time for Jon and the girls to walk from Safeco Field to Century Link for the Taylor Swift concert.  This should earn him a nomination for Father of the Year.

To say they had a blast would be a gross understatement.

Summer also made time for Wild Waves, backyard swimming, froyo and shopping.  

Caleb sampled BBQ chipmunk thighs on his week-long High Adventure outing.  With a little Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, he decided the little rodent's legs were a tasty snack.  

He had a great time doing all sorts of activities and came home positively filthy:

At the end of August, we spent two nights camping with a few of our favorite friends at our favorite campground, Camp Zarahemla.

This little cabin holds so many family memories.

We ate very well in spite of a burn ban:

The air was rather smoky, but it was still beautiful.

And speaking of beautiful, look at that canopy:

We took a group picture of the adults before our talent show.  We're good at jazz hands, aren't we?

All the moms and dads prepared a skit.  We knew just what to do to engage the audience--our children. Some of them ran away screaming.  Natalie grabbed both sides of her head and exclaimed, "That was the worst skit ever!"  I beg to differ.  I thought it was awesome.

The kids did fun skits, too.  They'd probably tell you theirs were better than ours but I'm not so sure.

We played lots of games and ate far too much sugar.

Such a great bunch of kids.  Such a great weekend!

Early September brought what Caleb described as, "the biggest rush of emotion I've ever felt in my life!"  BYU does a really fun promotion as a countdown to the first football game.  Called BYU 50, the campaign drops fan boxes (huge Y boxes filled with BYU gear) in each of the 50 states.  Because it goes in alphabetical order, Washington was one of the last states to have their box dropped.  After the box is placed in a mystery location, a photo is posted on all of BYU social media accounts and the first person to the location wins. 

Caleb follows the BYU Instagram account religiously.  Around noon on the drop date, he found out that the box would be dropped in the Tacoma area.  I warned him repeatedly that his chances of winning the box were extremely low and though I was feeling rather grumpy about even trying, I decided I couldn't deny my superfan the opportunity. (I wasn't about to allow him to race around Tacoma at rush hour by himself, so I drove him.)  

He decided we should wait at the Tacoma Dome.  Caleb checked his phone every few seconds in the hour and half we spent parked there. 

At long last, this picture appeared on the Instagram feed:

I threw the car into gear and raced to the Glass Museum.  Caleb sprinted around back and was to the box within three minutes of the picture being posted.  But he was third place.  So all we got were two runner-up t-shirts.

This is the picture BYU took and posted of the winners:

It was the girl on the far left who won.  I congratulated her and then said, "I hope you are a really big fan!"  She and her mom assured me they were and told us how they had been walking around the museum for well over three hours, just hoping that would be the right location.  There's simply no way she's as big a fan as Caleb, though.  Oh well, nothing a little Chick-Fil-A can't fix.

Aunt Maureen came to visit for Labor Day and one final summer hurrah.  She treated the girls and I to an outing at the Fifth Avenue Theatre to see Matilda.  It was a really fabulous show!

We cheered Caleb on in his first cross country race, celebrated Jon's birthday, enjoyed some yummy meals together and delighted in BYU's miraculous Hail Mary win.

A visit to Gas Works Park and the Ballard Locks left us envious of the sail-boating, yacht-riding crowd.

It was a great way to end an unforgettable summer.

I wish it didn't have to end, but maybe now the lawn will come back to life.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Stand True

I think it's about sacrifice.  It brings forth the blessings of heaven, right?

We'd not even been home a week from our East Coast trip when Caleb traded his typical basketball shorts and BYU t-shirts for long pants with suspenders and a straw hat.  Alyssa wore a bonnet and ankle-length skirt instead of her usual leotard.  The hours that would've been spent in gymnastics training, were filled with pulling a handcart over hills and through rivers.  Her teammates thought she was crazy.

I gave up all contact with my two oldest children and traded a peace of mind that comes from knowing they are safe within the security of our own home for endless worry about their safety, comfort and enjoyment.  

Their excitement about participating in trek made it a little easier to let them go.

"Why do you think trek has become a standard youth activity throughout the church?" I asked Jon one day as we reflected on the fact that neither of us had ever participated in such an experience.  It's a rather new tradition, but one that nearly every youth now participates in at some point.  "I think it's about appreciating our pioneer heritage," was Jon's answer.  

I agree.  But I think it's more than that.  I've decided that I think it's to teach the youth that they can do hard things.  They can leave their electronics for a few days.  They can be strong when things are tough and uncomfortable.  They can make sacrifices.

When I think of my children eagerly signing up for such a test, I can scarcely stand it.  My throat gets tight and my eyes wet.

The YW of the Mill Pond Ward
Left to Right: Emma, Abby S., Abby A., Ashleigh, Rachel G., Anya, Sarah, Isabel
Alyssa, Linsey, Rylie (not in our ward) and Rachel S.

The first river crossing was only ankle deep.  Caleb's straw hat can be seen at the front of the handcart.  Before he left, I reminded him that as one of the oldest youth on trek, he needed to be a good leader and hard worker.  I was so touched to see him so involved in the work.

The second river crossing was waist-high for full grown men.  My tiny girl said she just had to hold on to the cart and kick her legs.

There's my boy at the front of his cart.  Seriously, will I ever be able to look at this photo without crying?

The kids were awakened at 4:30 a.m. on the morning that the young men were called to "enlist in the battalion."  They took their buckets and hiked up the mountain while the young women packed up the carts.

I'm incredibly touched by the strength of these young women:

When they came to a particularly steep hill, they paused to pray.  It such a moving picture but it also makes me laugh because Alyssa is peeking.  See her in the middle?  The only one whose eyes are open:

My daughter is miniature, but she's mighty--in more than just physical stature.  There she is in the front of her cart:

It must've felt so good to get to the top.

They can toil and struggle and smile through it all.  These kids are strong.  They really are.

They told me it felt so good to frolic in the river for a bit.

Caleb and his pa had a little water fight:

I couldn't wait to have my kids home.  (Natalie really didn't like being an only child!)  They returned exhausted, filthy and hungry but most of all, happy.  They would insist that the experience was worth every bit of sacrifice.

And that's just how it is living the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It's not always popular, it's not always comfortable, it's rarely easy, but it is always worth it.