Sunday, March 30, 2014


This week, I received a bill in the mail that caused me to go into my closet and curse up a storm. That ticket that I got in CA for merely "keeping up with the rest of traffic" on I-15 is costing me $356.00 !!!!!

California--you have some pretty great beaches but your taxes and fees STINK!  I am just so mad it might be a few weeks before I will be able to forgive you and want to visit again! 

A Taste of the City

Last Friday I had a meeting at the state's office of education regarding foreign exchange policies for the upcoming school year. Road trip to the city! I took a couple of kids out of school and we had a fun day visiting a couple of places that my taste buds miss the most.

 This here is a liege waffle topped with creme fraische, blueberries, and drizzled with Belgian chocolate from Bruge's waffle house. Absolutely delicious.
We visited my niece Annie in the new house they are renting.
I went to my meeting. ho hum.
On our way home, we had dinner at my favorite Chinese Restaurant. My current home town is seriously lacking in good Chinese food, in my opinion, or this place has just spoiled me for life. While we were in the neighborhood we drove past the humble little red brick house I grew up in....
Goodness!! she is looking much healthier these days! This is not actually the house I grew up in but the one that now stands in its place. With all the improvements, I was glad to see that my old tree fort in the front corner remained undisturbed.

Leprechaun Day

I was so dead tired from my California trip. I needed a day to recover! But, that couldn't happen...
It was Cannon's Birthday!!
He got his favorite cereal, Cookie Crisp and opened all his presents before school.

 As the pictures show he is a huge, huge fan of Legos, especially Chima legos. He talks of nothing else. He had a blissful day putting his sets together.
 He invited a couple of friends to the bowling alley for arcade games and cupcakes.

In addition to all the birthday fun, it was "Leprechaun Day," as our kids call it. While they were at school a sneaky leprechaun left them some green treats.

Cannon chose homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner. Despite the effort of making the noodles, it was the perfect thing because by this point my weary self needed some good ole' chicken stock. We watched Despicable Me and ate birthday cake before I fell into bed. Cannon was all smiles and excitement all day long. I think he had a great day.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

California Here We Come

Our much anticipated trip to California came and went. My friend Sharmi and I were the chaperones for my 7 exchange students from Finland, Germany, Norway, Spain, and Brazil. We showed them the time of their lives! (and we had a lot of fun in the process)
Here are the highlights:
Day 2: Universal Studios, Dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, and Hollywood Walk of Fame
The students got a real flava of L.A.  when our GPS took us right through the heart of the city. Once at the park, we enjoyed learning about and seeing where many of our favorite TV shows and movies were made-- like The Voice, Parenthood,  and Spiderman. Besides the studio tour, my favorite was surprisingly, the Simpsons. The park was beautiful and the weather was PERFECTO which added to a wonderful day. We took advantage of the single rider lines and walked on most of the rides. The only thorn to this rose was that I left my camera on the hook of the bathroom stall. When I went back to find it it was gone and it hasn't been returned since!  Losing my camera was like losing one of my organs --and at the beginning of the trip!  On the other hand, it was kind of nice not to be taking pictures all the time. For a change, I was in some!
After a full day of entertainment we dined at Hard Rock Cafe. Next it was off  for a short drive to see the stars at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
We parked at the Highland Center, where we shopped and found the biggest candy store we had ever seen. We strolled along Hollywood Boulevard. We didn't see anyone famous, but we got a few pictures their stars and that was close enough.

Day 3: Whales, Dolphins, and Sea Lions
 Off to  Newport Beach for a 2 hour whale watching cruise. The boat almost left without a couple of our students who got sidetracked in the stores. We saw followed 3 grey whales as they migrated down the coast. We also spotted a few dolphins and a buoy full of sunning sea lions.
After our little cruise, we shopped around Balboa, shared fish and chips, and relaxed on the pier while savoring a chocolate-coated nut-studded "Balboa bar."  The teens enjoyed the beach.

We stayed at the same hotel every night, centrally located to our activities, in Long Beach. We had 3 rooms: one for the girls, one for the boys, and one for the adults. The kids used the pool and hot tub most nights and we were grateful to start each day with the hotel's free breakfast.

On the way home from our whale watching day we were supposed to be heading North but we were actually heading South. It took us a bit to realize that --like for example when we passed Fashion Island Mall. It turned out to be a good thing because the traffic was a bear!  Even though we all looked like beach bums by this point, we decided to spend the next couple of hours having dinner and roaming the mall. We had a great dinner at PF Changs. The Spanish girls took off in hysterics when they found a soccer star from their home country. I'm not sure if they got a photo with him or not but their excitement was in and of itself entertaining for the rest of us.

DAY 4: Triple Beach Combination

 Sharmi and I snuck away for an early morning walk and to watch the sunrise at nearby Seal Beach. We called it  "coordinator training" and it was very successful!

Each day was started with morning prayer given by one of the students. We had prayers in Norwegian, German, and the rest chose to say it in English.   As a supervisor for these students and driver, I was grateful for these prayers!! I know they helped keep us safe and have a good time.

After breakfast we loaded up the kids and went to Huntington Beach. The sun was shining, making the water crystal blue. It was a perfect day to spend at the beach.  Activities abounded from beach volleyball to swimming to shell collecting to just soaking up the sun.  Sharmi and I discovered the farmers market.  We all met back up and had a fantastic lunch at Ruby's on the pier. Florian tried his luck and put in a quarter at the gumball machine. Out came a red gumball, winning him a classic American root beer float!

Sharmi and I explored the tidepools at Corona del Mar. We saw anenomes and crabs. Back at Huntington the kids layed out. They were really intent on getting a natural tan before prom.

Day 5: Six Flags/Magic Mountain

Finally! The most anticipated day of all. We ended the trip with a bang at Six Flags. Off-season the park is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. After our visit I wish they would open more days! It was uber crowded. It think the whole world was on Spring Break. We got on a few good rides before wait times for the most popular rides reached 3 hours!! Despite the long lines the rides were amazing. I have never been more thrilled in my life! We went on the world's fastest roller coaster, the tallest free-fall, and other death defying rides. We took a little break for shakes at Cold Stone and the crowds had died down a bit. We only had to wait 1 1/2 hours for the best roller coaster I will ever experience in my life: X2. Wow!! That actually was definitely worth the wait! 

My favorite Brazilian.

Besides losing my camera, the only lows of the trip were the days coming and leaving. The rental agency in St. George where we were supposed to pick up our big passenger van did not have our van!!!???!!!  There weren't any available around anywhere in the city and the worst was they didn't even want to do anything to fix the problem!  After 4 hours of haggling and trying to get a hold of supervisors we had no choice but to go in 2 separate cars.  We arrived in CA much later than anticipated.

On the way home our 4 pm Utah arrival time was stymied by a huge accident in the Arizona Gorge. A semi had smashed a car into the side railing  and the accident had I-15 backed up for miles!!!  Sharmi's car was stuck way up in the gorge only 10 cars behind the accident!. My car was right at the entry of the gorge and right next to the police ramp that crossed over to the South bound freeway.  We were at a complete standstill, giving our Norwegian girl a chance to sit down on the freeway and paint her toe nails.   Phone service in the gorge was bad to non-existent. I was able to hear something from Sharmi telling me to turn around and take the Old Highway that goes the back way into St. George. I piled the kids back in the car, and we turned off and headed south where luckily I found an exit sign for Beaver Dam Highway, St. George 25 miles. Phew!  We didn't know how much time it would take the other car to be able to get through--probably hours. We drove past Anasazi Ruins where I had just hiked a couple of weeks prior and decided to spend our time there until we could hear back from the others. We also passed an Indian Reservation and stopped to check out a primitive looking cemetery. The "sacred Indian burial site" was fascinating for the European students!  Eventually the other car was able to turn around and catch up with us for dinner at Costa Vida.  We returned out rental cars, picked up our own cars and finally got home at 11 pm!

A picture of the accident taken by our other car load that put I-15 in a standstill for 5 hours.
The students handled the few setbacks very well. They were just happy to be together! We had an overall awesome trip and the very best part was getting to know really well these wonderful kids from around the world!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Feels Like Spring

Church came way too early this morning! I have never been a fan of daylight savings time. My volunteer church job is to pick the music and wave my hands in the air while everyone sings. They can't really be expected to follow me and that's okay because I really don't have any control over the bellowing organ anyway. The organ's favorite tempo is a right zippity pace or "molto allegro" in music terms.   Sometimes the congregation and my waving hands can't keep up.    Today we were to sing "Master The Tempest is Raging." It's a already swift sea-faring song and to prevent it from possibly turning into a hurricane I talked to our organist beforehand.   He took extra care to slow it down from his usual and did a great job. As I was leading and singing the words I was amazed at how perfect this song was for this particular meeting.  Earlier this week, we found out about the tragic loss of one of our own church members being killed while on his mission in Sweden. It was shocking and sad for all of us. Our last image of him was when he spoke over the pulpit humbly declaring his love for Jesus Christ and his deep desire to share the gospel with the people of Sweden.  He was one of those guys that seemed really mature for his age but very down to earth. Just a great kid with a bright future.  A few days ago was struck and killed by a drunk driver while walking back from a baptism. I looked out across the congregation as I led the music and saw his good family. I think we all felt sorrow and mourned with them as we sang the words of the second verse:

Master, with anguish of spirit I bow in my grief today.
The depths of my sad heart are troubled. Oh waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish sweep o'er my sinking soul,
And I perish! I perish! dear Master. Oh, hasten and take control

The chorus repeats this refrain like peaceful waves at the end of the storm: Peace, be still. Peace be still.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone in the congregation is feeling the power of the words like I do but today I felt sure that they did. We had a wonderful meeting and I was grateful for the power of music that brought a measure of peace to all of us.

Saturday's Happenings:

Kate spent the morning away with a basketball game for her 7th grade traveling team. They won their first game and lost their 2nd about 40 points. Many of the parents were upset that they had traveled  1- 1/2 hours to watch their kid lose and sit on a bench.  I could understand that but we weren't there...

Brandon was asked to present a class about Marriage for our Bi-Stake Women's Conference. There were several other breakout sessions to choose from and about 300 women were in attendance.
I sat in on  first class and he did a great job covering the two keys for a successful marriage: Forgiveness and Repentance. He also talked about communications and expectations and how sometimes when things aren't going well we have to get to the root of the problem. Our goal in marriage is to be in a safe relationship where we can freely discuss our thoughts and feelings without negative judgement or consequence.  After I made sure Brandon had enough handouts and then attended 2 other classes.  I decided to go to two other classes: Emergency preparedness and a presentation about one couple's mission to Cambodia. People there are ingenious about strapping a semi load's worth of supplies onto a tiny little moto. Some work for 18 cents an hour in a factory so they can have food to eat that day. Many mothers will only eat one meal a day so their children can have more to eat. Any complaints I had about money seemed super LAME after hearing this. I feel like one of the richest people in the world!

Brynn was attending a gymnastics clinic with some coaches from SUU who were helping the girls improve their routines. She had a good time and was glad she went even though she had to run home in her leo in the freezing cold because her parents weren't around to pick her up.

When we did get home Adrie was with her friend and it's a wonder we even recognized them. They were dressed all in black, American dolls in tote, also in black. They had sunglasses and walkie-talkies. They were spies.  I took their picture but they decided they shouldn't be smiling and should look serious, so I took another one. Then they got busy spying again.

Cannon was also playing with a friend. They were watching Chima Lego videos on the ipad. This guy is completely enraptured to the point of obsession with Chima Legos. He has already planned his next 5 birthday and Christmases with which lego sets he will be getting.  CucKoo. I don't know what to do about this obsession except to kick him off the ipad and send him outside for some good old cuts, scrapes, and fresh air.

We cleaned out the garage, took some donations to D.I., did some yard cleanup that we didn't get to in the fall, had breakfast crepes for dinner and a story about Jesus casting out evil spirits from a madman and into a herd of swine who then run themselves off a cliff.

Our older girls and the neighborhood combined with another neighborhood of kids across town to play "Fugitive"

That's our weekend in a wrap. Cannon is counting down the days until his birthday. I am getting ready to take 7 exchange students on a tour of Southern California! I can be very resourceful about finding ways to get to the beach.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Introducing our Teenager...

Kate turned 13 this week!
 Kate opened presents in the morning. Had her favorite cereal Krave for breakfast and came home to sweet pork burritos for lunch and dinner.
 She planned a sporty party with friends. They played kickball at the gym with dad.
 They returned back to the house with a table laden with goodies for dipping into a chocolate fountain.

 Backstage, the boys were hiding out.
Kate has a great group of friends. So far teenage years are off to a good start...