my mountains are calling

Jul 24, 2014 by

I have a special place I escape to each summer. The air seeps into my soul and renews me, centers me, brings me back to what matters most. The mountains give me strength and courage to face whatever life throws my way. The water, so crisp and clear, surrounds me with a healing balm of refreshment.

The memories of my grandparents loving these mountains and caring for the people who came to camp there fill me with peace. They nurtured the land, the visitors, and most of all, their grandchildren who came to stay with them in the big lodge on the hill. I was blessed to be one of the children who stayed with them for weeks on end and was able to learn to work and play and love under their tutelage.

My children have gone camping here every summer of their lives. It is their special place too. Almost all of Blythe’s birthdays have been celebrated in the mountains we love. This year she will turn 18. It might be the last birthday we have up there for a few years. Who knows where she will be and what she will be doing on her 19th, 20th, or 21st? I’m sure she will come back and join us sometimes, but this is probably the last trip from this phase of our lives with all of our children together.

Today is packing and grocery shopping and loading so we can pull out bright and early tomorrow morning. It is time to breathe the air that fills my soul.

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grl 2013

Aug 16, 2013 by

grl 2013

Snuggling with grandma in the hammock is the perfect way to spend an afternoon, don’t you think?

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Sixteen days of being completely cut off from phones, computers, stores, and busy-ness was exactly what I needed. I was able to lounge around in my magic zero-gravity chair, read six whole books, do a lot of thinking, pondering, and planning, and spend oodles of time with my husband, children, siblings, and mama.

Heaven.

My mom and I and three of my children went up five days before anyone else and we had a grand time relaxing, eating simple meals, letting the kids play in the lake all they wanted, and getting an afternoon rain shower every day. At night we all slept together in my tent because my mom’s tent poles didn’t make it to camp with her.

Here is our dishwashing station.

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And here is my tent on one of the less messy days.

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On one of the first few days we had quite a bit of rain around dinner time. We all hunkered down in the tent hoping it would stop soon and we could go out and make dinner, but it never stopped and our stomachs were growling, so we covered up in all our rain gear and made dinner. I didn’t want to get my boot wet, so I put Richard’s huge rainpants on and tried to make an umbrella over the boot with the pant legs…it was more than hilarious looking.

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Fisher all bundled up for dinner.

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Finally the rain stopped and he took his hood off.

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Then the family started arriving, a different group almost every day. Scott on Wednesday, Richard and Keziah on Thursday, Mikelle and Logan’s family on Friday, Andie on Saturday, Cameron and Nicole on Monday, Stephen on Tuesday, and Leonard on Thursday. Thursday was the only day we were all there at the same time so we rushed down to the lake to take some pictures before a rain storm hit. There were several cameras snapping at the same time, so we are rarely all looking at the same camera, but we still got some fun shots. The last time we were all together was Summer 2009, so this is a pretty rare event and needed to be recorded for posterity, ha-ha.

All the grandkids in our fancy pyramid pose. It took approximately fifty pictures to get one where most of them were looking at the same camera. The poor girls on the bottom were dying by the time we took the little ones off.

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Trying to get Annesley to stop posing for our family shot.

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Fisher looking backwards while the rest of us look at the camera…completely typical.

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Finally one where we are all facing the camera and looking somewhat normal.

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Then we thought we would get creative…hilarity ensued.

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The Three Muskateers

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I don’t know if I was falling over or what, but we sure look like we are living through an earthquake. Good thing my little sis is super-buff and could hold me up.

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Then we decided to get a bit crazy with Mom’s picture of herself with her children. Why not toss her up in the air against her loudly voiced protestations…I mean there are five of us, we can do what we want, right?

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Mom and Grandpa Leonard with all the grandchildren.

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And finally all seventeen of us together.

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My Aunt Carol’s family and my Aunt Diane (Camille’s mom) came with cousins to play with, but we didn’t get many pictures of them.

My little family went on an overnighter backpacking trip, sans Annesley and I. I think they went 10-12 miles. Fisher walked the whole way and didn’t complain a bit. He and his papa are already planning their next backpacking adventure. Here they are setting out.

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Love this boy…he doesn’t stop looking at me until he is past the tree. He felt so bad to leave me at camp far away from their fun.

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One final wave.

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Making a loaf of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches is pretty much a daily camping occurence.

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Of course, we spent a lot of time kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and jumping off the bridge. We had kayak races around the island which Scott won with a time of 54 seconds. Logan came in second with 56 sec., Mikelle third with 1:03, and me fourth with 1:05. My legs may not work, but my arms still have a little umph left in them.

Nicole learning how to kayak.

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Cameron and Nicole kayaking out to the lake.

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Annesley loves to ride on the back of the kayaks…so far she hasn’t fallen off!

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Here is cousin Marcus in one of our kayaks.

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Blythe, Annesley, and Fisher out on the lake.

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Annesley jumped off the bridge all by herself this year! Usually someone holds her over the edge and drops her, but this year she mustered up her courage and jumped herself! Cameron, Eve, Samuel, Marcus, Scott, Logan, Caleb, Blythe, Andie, and Keziah all jumped as well. It is an annual feat of courage that we have to keep doing over and over again to prove we are still made of toughness. Unfortunately I didn’t jump. I promised Richard I wouldn’t and I kept my promise even though I really, really wanted to break it.

Keziah jumping.

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Cameron’s splash into the river.

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I have no idea what my mama is thinking. It seems like every year she does some pull-up-the-shorts-to-the-sternum-pose and makes us all laugh our heads off. I think this year was the best yet.

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We played lots of card games, laid in the sun (I have my darkest tan of my life!), and read and read and read. Here is Miss Oaklyn snuggled up in her daddy’s jacket watching us play cards.

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Lots of fish were caught and returned to the river and a few were brought back to camp to be eaten devoured. One night Annesley skunked everyone and she was proud as punch to be the only one to catch one.

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Mikelle and Andie kept up their workout schedule and ran around the campground. Here is Mikelle at the top of the hill.

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One day Scott planned a big adventure and took everyone to Clear Creek Meadow. Some of the group kayaked across the lake, others canoed, and the ones that were left hiked the three-ish miles to get to the tranquil waters of Clear Creek. They fished, floated the very lazy river, found hundreds of caterpillars, got attacked by a rash & swelling inducing plant, and had a great time. I stayed at camp and finished Perelandra.

Setting out.

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Here is Fisher heading out for the adventure with his bug jar in case he found anything interesting. Luckily Annesley discovered the huge pile of caterpillars and he was able to fill his jar up. They are now in their cocoons and getting ready to emerge as butterflies.

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My little brother, Cameron, came clear out from Wisconsin, and he brought his sweetie, Nicole, with him.

Cam and Mom.

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Cameron and Nicole

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They brought their Pudgie Pie Makers with them (I had never heard of these things, but boy, howdy do they transform egg sandwiches into something divine!) and spent a whole evening make the whole group Campfire Calzones, Roasted Chicken Salad sandwiches, and all sorts of other crazy sandwich combinations. I definitely need to get me one of them so I can eat the magical egg sandwiches all year long.

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Cooking in the fire, two sandwiches at a time, for our big group took awhile, but it was sure delicious.

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My Campfire Calzone (named by Andie after she thought Pizza Pie Thingy was too boring).

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Mikelle and her two babes.

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Oaklyn has us all wrapped around her little finger. She is so, so busy. So, so cute. She makes me grin with delight.

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Easton is a hoot. He has a huge vocabulary and loves to share his thoughts on everything. He wants to be big and do everything the big kids do. Here he is trying to break the wood in half (notice the headlamp?).

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He and Annes get along pretty well, but sometimes they drive each other crazy and need some alone time. Luckily, we caught a few pictures of them having a ball together.

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One day all the girls washed their hair and we had a braiding party.

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A few days later, the curls were lovely.

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Foot washing is even more important than hair washing. Here is Annesley having one of her many dirt removal sessions while Blythe and Andie are disgusted with how dirty the water is from Annesley’s – they refuse to put their feet in it.

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Annes and Grandma soaking the layers of filth away.

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I made it through six books while my family went on their adventures, but thanks to my mom delivering me right down to the water’s edge, I was able to go on several adventures myself. My mom and I went kayaking one day and then Mikelle and I went a few days later looking for my hikers to come home. I love kayaking. I love how easily they glide through the water, how strong I feel as I paddle, and how I can stop and let the waves take me where they want me while I relax and stare at my mountains. I think I am ready for own kayak that I don’t have to share with my children. If the lower half of my body is going to continue being so gimpy, I can at least use my upper half to see the world.

Reading in my chair – I think this is book five.

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Fisher learned how to play Spades and now he wants to play it everyday. He even won one game by a landslide – taking nine tricks on one of the rounds helped him out quite bit.

We celebrated Blythe and Andie’s 17th birthdays with cakes, presents, memories of their lives, and lots of fun.

The girls’ Charlie’s Angels pose.

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Blythe’s cake complete with baby Snickers.

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Eating the cake…yes, they are goofballs.

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Searching all over camp for her hidden presents. Is there one in the wood pile?

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Richard was in charge of presents this year because I couldn’t go do any shopping with my broken foot. He thought throwing knives were the perfect idea…super cheap AND our girlie loves all sorts of weapons. They were put to good use by Blythe and all the guys of the camp.

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More knives.

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Andie just got home from a trip to Nepal. She brought these adorable gloves home for Blythe. I can see Blythe copying the design and whipping up a pile of them for her friends.

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Camping wrapping paper = a hat, rubberband, and a flower for decoration.

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Andie’s cake complete with oreos.

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Andie requested a special piece of Blythe’s artwork. Andie told her what she wanted on it and Blythe spent hours making it for her. Here it is all completed with the girls shouting “I made this for you!” – a line from some movie? Song? Something? I don’t know what exactly, but they giggled hysterically every time they said it.

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Rubik’s Cube and freeze-dried ice cream – who could want for anything more?

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New nightgowns from grandma.

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I can’t believe I have a child this old. I feel like life is slipping away. Soon she will be off on her own, living her own life. This could be the last summer she is with us at Green River Lakes for awhile and in some ways that cuts my heart in two. But I am trying to keep my big girl panties on and be strong and convince myself that my job as a mother is to prepare her for a healthy, fulfilling life outside my home, not to keep my little family together in this stage that is so lovely.

The girls in their matching “I will not moose-behave” birthday shirts from Grandma.

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See these rocks? They are magical.

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When we were little, all the cousins would play on these rocks for hours. Jumping and racing from one to the other. There are six rocks, perfect for playing tag, having a picnic lunch, or holding secret club meetings. We had so much fun on these rocks as we were growing up. This year Annesley mastered jumping from the frog to the pig (yes, they all have names!).

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Andie and Grandma on their tube mountain.

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Kez and Fisher hate their pictures being taken – I have oodles (really, hundreds and hundreds) of shots just like this where they are hiding, closing their eyes, being absolutely silly, covering their faces, etc. Maybe if I post them on here they will start opening their eyes and smile more often for the camera?

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This girl, however, loves the camera. She is usually posing in some dramatic move or another, but here are some with her arms down and her camera smile on.

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And with poses.

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Sunbathing?

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Filthy, tired Sadie.

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With Andie’s help I made it out to the rock in the river…wahoo for me!

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Annesley and Easton loved climbing to the top of the big rock in Aunt Carol’s campspot.

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Annesley insisted on a picture of her alone on the big rock.

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About a week into our trip, several fires stared from lightening strikes. This one was on Osburn Mountain, right above our camp. We wondered if we would be evacuated, but it all worked out with the winds and we were able to stay and watch 500 of our favorite acres be burned.

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It was smokey and sad and sometimes frustrating, but by the time we left, it looked much better. We couldn’t see the backside of the mountain to know how bad it is over there, but I am hoping it isn’t too terrible.

I know many of you worry about me going on these adventures, but trust me, I need it. I need to spend time in my mountains each summer so I can reconnect with the deepest parts of who I am, so I can remember my grandparents and the lessons they taught me, so I can feel my grandmother’s deep love for me and try to see myself as she saw me. I need to swim in the waters I have been swimming in my whole life. I need to see my mountains. I need this each time every year…and especially this year. I may look like I am holding it together pretty well, but some days, this morning included, I fall completely apart. I am sometimes scared that my body will never heal and that I will go from one injury to another. I don’t know how to keep on functioning in all my many roles as wife, mother, teacher, friend, disciple, citizen, board member, mentor, and chauffeur when my body is so unpredictable. I don’t even remember what it feels like to be out-of-pain. But this time in my mountains rejuvenates me in a way I can’t explain. It give me strength and hope and calm.

I love this place.

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swim camp 2013

Jun 6, 2013 by

swim camp 2013

Last week was our 10th Annual Homeschool Swim Camp. Ten years! I can’t believe a small spur-of-the-moment camp-out when I was 36 weeks pregnant with Fisher has turned into such a wonderful (and huge!) gathering of family and friends.

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This year we endured three days of nearly constant rain, freezing cold nights, and flooded tents and enjoyed three days of sunshine, good conversations, big leaps in swimming skills, delicious food, a hilarious skit night emceed by Jennifer, endless Capture The Flag games, hours of sitting at the pool while Annesley swam her little heart out, lots of cousins, a snuggly snake that Fisher quickly made into his best friend, s’mores made with Reeses (um, can you say yummo?), an adorable song about happiness written by Boo for all the children, massage night, birthday party for Marcus, and loads of laughter.

Unfortunately, I misplaced my camera at the beginning of the week and didn’t find it until the last day, so I missed lots of great moments. Thank goodness that Jessica and Melissa took a ton of photos!

This year was like a family reunion for me! Camille, my first cousin and bestie since the age of five came with six of her children. Three of my second cousins, Tami (with six of her eight), Melissa (with three of her four), and Nikki (with three of her five) joined us. Then Tami’s friend from high school, KeeNan, came with her five children and her husband (lucky girl, the rest of us were husbandless) and Tami’s best friend, Boo, came with her four children. Every day was a party over in my section of the campground. On Friday we celebrated Camille’s son’s 16th Birthday complete with cake and ice cream. I will always remember the day he was born and how brave and resilient Camille was during his birth.

Checking people in always takes me hours and hours and this year was no different. I think I helped people for about ten hours straight on Monday and about six hours on Tuesday. After that I was able to relax and enjoy being with everyone. We had about 40 families join us this year with 89 children in swimming lessons and lots of babies and teens who are either to young or have graduated out of lessons. People went on hikes, rode bikes, huddled under shade shelters, explored the woods, played Capture the Flag (a Swim Camp tradition) and spent lots of time in the water. Speaking of spending lots of time in the water, my Annesley got in everyday at nine in the morning and didn’t get out until six or seven at night. She is a fish!

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Thanks to Miracle Salve from Butterfly Express her skin didn’t fall off and amazingly didn’t even turn all red and dried out looking like all the other years. I think I need to buy gallons of the stuff!

I spent almost all of my time at the pool with Annesley. So most of the time I only got to visit with people who came to sit by me. Tami brought a magical zero-gravity chair to camp and I CAN SIT IN IT! Hallelujah! It is so stinkin’ exciting to sit down. I sat in it at the pool, at the fire, and we even took it to church on Sunday so I could sit through the meetings. Oh my goodness, it is wonderful! She left it at my house and insists it is my birthday present so now I get to sit in it all the time. Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!

Fisher was super easy to spot in his lessons in his bright, green swim attire. He spent almost as much time in the pool as Annesley, but he also had plenty of time to hunt bugs and other creatures.

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One day during the rain a group of us moms spent the morning playing Heads Up, an app that is a combination of Taboo and Charades. We laughed hard, flailed our bodies in every direction, and made utter fools of ourselves. It took me back to our days of teenage-hood when we played games for hours and hours at family reunions. I have to say Jessica’s scootering imitation had all of us snorting.

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Here is Camille who I can’t imagine my life without. We met when we were five years old and have been more like sisters than cousins ever since. She helped my through childhood, my parent’s divorce, teenage angst, early marriage, mothering toddlers, learning how to be a homemaker, and everything in between. I love her to the moon and back and am so glad she came to join us. I haven’t seen her for awhile and I miss our girl time together.

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Tami came all the way from Australia just for Swim Camp (just kidding, she is in the States visiting for seven weeks while her oldest graduates from high school and gets ready to leave on his mission for the LDS church).

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She gives wonderful massages and I was able to be spoiled with two of them although anytime she or Boo got near my IT Band I went through the roof. As soon as my hip is all better I will enjoy a massage without jumping in pain. We also laughed our heads off, ate lots of yummy food, and she helped me through the one and only passing out episode of the week.

Jessica was my camping partner and together with Jen and Kat we had pretty fancy lodgings. Kat’s parents came up to set up their double canopy shelters so we could have shade and protection from the ever present rain. It was so cold we only ate a few meals under them though, the rest of the time we hauled our food up to the warm pool house.

Jennifer, aka Captain Literally, knocked our socks off at Skit Night. Wish she would have had time to complete her superhero costume with tights, shorts, and cape. (Thanks for the photo, Jess.) She also was our emcee and shared hilarious jokes in between all the skits – “What does the shy pebble wish for? To be a little bolder!”

My 2nd cousin (our grandmothers are sisters), Melissa, came up with her three adorable children. Her goal was to spend lots of time talking to the experienced homeschooling mothers and figure out how to do this whole homeschooling gig. After talking to her, I think she has it down…lots of wonderful ideas, a solid foundation, and excellent mothering skills – she has it made in spades. I wish she would move up here and join our community of awesome families.

Melissa’s sister, Nikki, joined us on Friday (she missed all the bad weather, lucky girl!) and what fun is she! These two girls are from one of my favorite cousin families. I envied them while we were growing up. They all (nine children and two amazing parents) seemed so happy and put together while I felt my family was falling apart on a regular basis. Now that we are grown up, I love them even more and am thrilled to pieces they decided to come and join in our fun.

Melissa and Nikki with some of their children.

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Here are Melissa, Tami, me, and Nikki trying to get one decent photo, but Boo was dancing around behind us pinching our bottoms and none of the photos turned out that great. What is it with my squinty and/or closed eyes???

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Finally a halfway decent one, just ignore my squinty eyes with giant bags under them!

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Before we went to Swim Camp, my mom helped me (who am I kidding, she made them, the kids and I slightly assisted…someday I’m sure I will become proficient in the kitchen!) make 14 dozen chocolate mint cookies. They were greatly enjoyed at camp and I used them as payment every time I asked a youth to do a favor for me…like move a gazillion tables to our canopy area.

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Fisher and Jared, two bug-catching soulmates, spent much of their time hunting creatures. On Friday they found a snake and it lived in their arms for the next 48 hours or so. Unfortunately it escaped on Sunday afternoon and rivers of tears were shed (thankfully it escaped while it was outside, otherwise I would be having snake-attack-nightmares).

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Melissa and Jen

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Boo teaching the children the “I’m Happy” song. We performed it at skit night and I’m sure made everyone’s night full of sunshine and smiles.

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Melissa and me…finally I have my eyes open!

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Friday night was the first night it was nice enough to do campfire singing and my annual storytime. Thanks to Tami’s chair I was able to sit at the fire and read Just Rewards, Or, Who is That Man in the Moon and What’s He Doing Up There Anyway? . We sang lots of songs, learned some more, and then closed with a reading of Loud Emily. I only made it a paragraph in when an ember from the fire shot down Annesley’s suit and burned her, so Jessica took over with me and did a fine rendition of Emily’s very loud voice.

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Boo and Tami, so glad these two found each other a few years back when they lived in the same neighborhood in Colorado. I love both of them to pieces. Boo wrote a song about friendship…I want to share the words…can I? Or are you going to publish this song somewhere. I cried my little eyes out when she sang it at Skit Night.

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Annesley was our lucky child to get David for a teacher this year. He is THE BEST swim teacher and he makes sure to get one of my children in his class each year. Fisher has had him for the past three years, so it was Annesley’s turn for David’s teach-children-to-swim magic.

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Good friends from years of attending swim camp together. Here are Derek, Kayden, Blythe, Keziah, and Eve.

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Keziah and her swim pass wristbands. Every year she and a whole group of her friends keep their Swim Camp wristbands on for as long as possible. Keziah’s 2012 band just fell off in April, so it looks like these ones will be part of our life for months to come.

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We always camp in spot #34, right next to the tree. It is the one perk of spending hours organizing Swim Camp. I get to choose my spot and every year we are right here next to the one and only tree in the campground.

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Darci, one of our awesome swim instructors, and Kat.

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The besties, Morgan (Boo’s daughter) and Teryn, (Tami’s daughter) hanging out while we pack up camp.

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My Annes – always full of spunk.

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Making s’mores with friends and cousins – a favorite nightly tradition.

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I am so glad Cami and I started this event clear back in 2004. It has brought our homeschool community together and built friendships among children, youth, and families. It is so much fun – even with all the rain, soaking wet towels, freezing cold nights, diarrhea, puking, chlorine-burned faces, and all the work to make it happen – it is totally worth it. My children love it and that is enough for me to continue to make it happen every year.

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GRL 2012

Aug 16, 2012 by

GRL 2012

I know I’ve told you before how much I love this place.

It reaches me in a way nothing else does. The trees give me hope, the trails give me constant-ness, and the mountains give me resolve. On an annual basis I am filled.

This year, I was a tad bit nervous about going camping with my on-going hip issues, but there was no way I could not go. You see, I need the air, the water, and the view of my mountains. I need them in a way I can’t explain. So, even though some friends were worried about my mobility and pain levels, we packed up and headed out.

I won’t lie. I was hurting. The drive was not enjoyable (except for listening to The Time Pirate…loved that part!). The bending and bouncing about did me in and I winced in pain for much of the last ninety minutes of the drive.

But, it was worth it. Rounding the last corner and seeing my mountain of fierce determination made the long dirt road all worth it.

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The first few days of camp I needed help walking up the hill from the bathroom and overall I was moving pretty slowly, but after a week of my mountain air, something miraculous happened. I could walk up the hill with no pain! I could walk to the lake with no pain! I could sit skewampus in a camp chair! I could move quickly!

It was so exciting.

On day eight I tried to sit in a kayak, fully believing it was a huge mistake, but daring to try because I so desperately wanted to join in the fun.

It.didn’t.hurt.

Not one little bit.

HALLELUJAH!

I had SO much fun paddling up and down the river and across the lake. I felt strong and capable and most of all, healed.

Now that I am home, I am hurting a teensy, tiny bit, and I can tell I still have a bit of healing to do, but I believe I have made a huge leap in progress and am so grateful for it.

Now, on to the rest of the family’s fun.

Fisher and Annes fished and fished and fished.

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And we enjoyed eating them.

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Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the kayaks we got in a bartering trade for our rarely used Bass Hound boat. Best trade ever!

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Love that we can put two kids in them!

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Grandma getting in on the action.

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A foursome

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Fisher become quite the kayaker…he can even go upriver!

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Annesley on the shore practicing out her paddling.

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Showing us her muscles are big enough to go out on her own.

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This photo of her cracks me up. I have no idea what she is doing…napping? Not letting anyone else in?

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Blythe and Richard went on an 8-9 mile kayak trip in the wee morning hours of her 16th birthday. Here they are coming back into port.

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Tired after their journey, but they loved spending those birthday hours together.

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Then it was time for presents!

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Her birthday book this year is Lehi’s Dream which has lovely artwork and and a fabulous discussion of the Tree of Life.

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A laminated, typed-up copy of her recently received Patriarchal Blessing

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Blythe’s birthday cake

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Two days later we celebrated Andie’s 16th. She is so excited for her new Kindle.

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A Life Is Good shirt from us.

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And an iTunes card from Grandma…her smiles are quite silly, don’t you think?

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Andie’s cake (these girls always blow out their candles together since their birthdays are just two days apart).

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Aren’t they adorable…and silly!

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By the end of our trip, I felt so great, I got in the water and went tubing with all the big girls.

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Unfortunately I got dumped in the rapids and whacked my arm on a boulder, so I had to stop my tubing expeditions early. The girls kept going though and found better paths through the tricky waters. Since I was stuck in the middle of the river, my family jumped to my rescue. Richard, Scott, and Blythe were all determined to get me out of the river in one piece. I want to remember the look on my brother’s face forever. He came to rescue me and truly, I have never felt more loved by him. A moment to remember.

I didn’t go on any hikes this year, but these guys did. Here is their before-setting-off pic. This pic of Kez is SO her, ready to conquer the world..makes me laugh.

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And heading out.

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That cute little pink munchkin insists she walked the whole five miles (don’t know if that is true or not, but she swears she did). The big girls put Annesley in charge of holding Sadie’s leash and let Sadie pull her along the trail. Brilliant idea, me thinks.

Easton is almost two and has all of us wrapped around his finger, especially Uncle Scott. Those two are quite the pair. Here he is in all his cuteness.

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And here he is jumping dropping off the bridge.

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Mikelle’s funky socks…what a goofball!

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There were ten deer walking through the campground and four of them that came into our camp every day. This guy showed not a lick of worry about us and walked right through our tent area regularly.

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We had a hair washing day for Annes, Mikelle, and Grandma and Annes insisted on getting her hair braided…quite a task with her short A-line!

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Annesley loves the camera and making crazy faces…here she is in all her glory.

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Winking…or trying to.

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We had so much fun…so, so much fun.

Watching my husband with our children fills my heart right up. Sometimes I think I will explode with joy when I see them together. He enjoys teaching, loving, and being, just being with them. And they adore him. All they want is more time with him and I am determined to make that happen. Somehow it must happen.

I am so thankful to my grandparents for creating this family tradition and to my mom for carrying it on. Camping in these mountains is exactly what we need…this year and always.

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Gorilla Poop

Jul 30, 2012 by

We are going camping soon and although I am running hobbling around trying to get packed, I also am intending on making Annesley’s Favorite Granola and some Gorilla Poop, which is also known as No Bake Carob Cookies.

The wonderful thing about this recipe is that healthy foods like sprouts can be snuck in so effectively, with little change in taste.

Gorilla Poop

  • ½ cup Butter
  • ½ cup Nut Butter (almond or peanut)
  • ½ cup Honey
  • ½ cup Carob
  • 3 cups Rolled Oats

In a bowl, cream together butter, nut butter, honey and carob. Stir in rolled oats. Add in any or all optional ingredients. Spread into pan and freeze or refrigerate until ready to eat.
Allow to thaw for about 5 minutes, so they can be cut. Makes 16 – 18 chunks.

Optional Ingredients:

  • ½ cup Shredded Coconut
  • ¼ cup Flax Seed Powder
  • ¼ cup Carob Chips (or chocolate chips until your family is converted – then sneak in the carob)
  • ¼-1 cup Sprouts (sunflower, sesame, wheat, buckwheat, pumpkin, etc.) Start small and add it in to taste.

If I get enough time, I may also make some of Jessica’s Raw Bars – they are SUPER yummy and I have been craving them ever since she gave me a bite on our last injection trip.

What are your favorite camping recipes?

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swim camp 2012

Jun 3, 2012 by

We are home from our 9th Annual Homeschool Swim Camp. I took exactly zero pictures of our fun. What is wrong with me? I hope Jessica will have a lot of pictures and let me steal them!

We are red, tired, chaffed, sore, and happy. Most of all, happy. I spent much of the week with a filled-up heart of gratitude for this week of sunshine and dear friends. I spent my days in a horizontal position which was the perfect vantage point to look around at everyone. As I looked, I remembered the varied experiences I had had with the person and would feel my heart bubble up with love for them…and then I would cry.

I am so blessed.

I am surrounded by people living full lives of service, action, dream fulfillment, vibrancy, and goodness and not only am I able to be near them, I am able to be intimately entangled in their lives. I am able to create a thriving community with them. I am able to reach out to them and they reach right back to me.

It is quite magical.

The children played hard and swam hard and slept hard. Capture the Flag was an ever-present part of every day along with catching bugs and minnows, searching through the trees, roasting marshmallows, going on hikes, and swimming…always swimming. Miss Annes spent about seven hours in the pool every day. She could not get enough of it and everytime someone asked if she was ready to get out and go get some food, she would shout out “I’m a fish!” and dive underwater. She passed Level 2 as a four-year-old! She has her back stroke, front crawl, and back float down solid and totally surprised us all with her fishy-ness. Fisher passed Level 3 and finally dived correctly instead of belly flopping. Super proud of him! Keziah finished the second year of Level 6 and much to her relief, is all done with swimming lessons. Blythe finished several years ago so she filled the role of chef for the week. It was lovely to have all our meals ready for us when we came back from the pool each evening. She needs a whole pile of gold stars!

Swim Camp Top Ten

1. The myriad of hugs I received.

2. Watching Fisher swim across the pool and his big smile when he made it.

3. Waking up each morning to the sunshine and the call of the lonely sandhill crane.

4. Listening to Mary Beth’s gentle words and remembering once again that I want to be a refined woman of truth and goodness.

5. Watching all my children play Capture The Flag like their lives depended upon making it across the line. Add to this…watching Liz play and biff it time and time again. She is one fast mama!

6. Lying in the sunshine and having wonderful conversations on everything from delicious food to the atonement of Christ.

7. Watching Bob teach his class of nine distracted little ones…permasmile, lots of energy, and superb teaching that took each child into a whole new skill level.

8. Blythe’s smile after she floated down the river. I want to remember the joy on her face forever.

9. Keziah treading water…she finally mastered it!

10. Reading the scriptures with my children at night in the dark and hearing Fisher say he would tell Korihor (an anti-Christ that is trying to convince others that there is no God and you cannot know there is a God because you cannot see him) that there is a God and he is lying…with a firm voice and a believing heart.

I love this week SO much. I am so grateful to be able to give this gift to my children and my community.

p.s. My lips are now the size of Gibraltar and full of a gazillion fever blisters. I can barely open my mouth to eat and kissing is absolutely out of the question. I am covered in Lanolin and essential oils which are keeping the burning pain to a barely tolerable level, but the second it wears off I am ready to rip the lower half of my face off.

p.p.s. Tomorrow is ozone injection number four. I am hoping it is at the pain level of injection number two and nothing like numbers one or three. Please pray for healing. Fast for healing. Visualize little pieces of cartilage knitting back together. I am so ready to have my life back.

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Green River Lakes

Aug 22, 2011 by

Green River Lakes

Ready for the longest post ever? Read on…knowing full well that I have to chronicle the trip for my family so there are gobs of pictures you may or may not want to see.

We have been back from our annual camping trip for a week now and I am finally getting around to writing about it. See, I hate writing about things when I don’t have my pictures of the event and I didn’t have time to sit down and upload a gazillion pictures (nor could I find my camera) until today. My sister had to call me today begging for pictures off my camera before I actually decided to send Keziah on a camera finding mission.

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Green River Lakes is magical. It is the place I love most in all the world and the place where I feel the most me. I spent my summers there as a child with my precious Grandma and my bestest cousin, Camille. Camille and I would talk all night, wake up to a delicious many-course breakfast, go clean the campground and outhouses with Grandpa, talk to campers and backpackers from all over the world and then come back to the lodge for lunch with Grandma. The afternoons were ours for swimming in the lake and going on hikes, which we did pretty much every day. Those summers gave me a sense of safety, family, and goodness that changed the dynamics of my soul. They taught me what I wanted to have in my family and created a yearning for family life that would give those same things to my children. I think those summers were the lifelines I needed to get through my childhood and they have greatly influenced my life choices as an adult. I will forever be grateful for the weeks I was able to spend with my grandparents.

The Wind Rivers are rugged and oh, so real. They feed my soul with strength, determination to endure well, and a type of deep grounding into my soul of what is essential in my life, who I am, and what is truth. I need these reminders every year and my mountains always deliver.

This deer wasn’t concerned with us at all. We were THIS close.

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Due to the extremely wet and long spring, the mosquitoes were plentiful. By the time we had been in camp for about 24 hours, Fisher had over 200 bites on his legs alone. The bites on Annesley and Fisher will probably be healing for weeks to come. We had to drive out into cell phone range and call Tami to ask her to bring up another ten cans of bug spray.

Mom and Tami…two of my favorite people.

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Scott built a swing off the bridge and everyone had loads of fun swinging out over the river.

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Keziah swinging on the tree swing.

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Blythe braving the frigid water. Even though it’s tradition, one never gets used to it.

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My brother, Stephen, going after some trout.

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Blythe and Andie.

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Bridge jumping – another tradition that doesn’t get easier. There was none for me this year- drat that incision!

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Raft building…not quite as stable as Huck Finn’s.

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The girls spent a lot of time canoeing and Mikelle, with her leg recently having ACL, MCL, and meniscus surgery was transported all over the place in the thing, but I didn’t ever get in due to my lack of strength in my right arm. Our friend, Austin, let them borrow her kayak for an evening and now Keziah and Blythe want to buy kayaks…wouldn’t that be fun!

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Cam’s rad waterproof shorts from Eddie Bauer…love the butt gusset!

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I hadn’t been on a hike to the Upper Lake for a couple of years, so I was determined to make it up there this year and take my girls. Thanks to Tami keeping Annesley for me, I was able to go hiking with Richard, Blythe, Keziah, Fisher, Jared, Tiegen, Andie, and Scott. It felt so, so good to be hiking in my mountains again, to be crossing rivers and streams, and to smell the trees. There is something deeply fulfilling about walking on a trail you have walked on hundreds of times before. All the other journeys are remembered and become part of the new journey. It is something I needed this year.

View from the Upper Lake.

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A bizarre way to get some rest?

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Mid-hike dancing lessons…waltz anyone?

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Teaching Tiegen how to dance the Swing…I even took a turn!

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Keziah and Sadie…oh, how she loves our dog.

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Keziah, Andie, Tiegen, Sadie, and Blythe.

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The hikers on the bridge across Clear Creek. I guess if I am the one with the camera I don’t get to be in the picture. Just picture me soaking wet from the shoulders down with hair that hasn’t been washed for 14 days at this point.

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Keziah and Tiegen…such good friends.

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Uncle Scott refilled everyone’s water bottles with his Katadyn filter.

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Blythe and Richard taking a rest

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Scott and Andie

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Clear Creek Falls…and yes, I could fall to my death at any moment! Had nightmares about Jared and Fisher falling off the cliff all night after our hike!

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Our two smallest hikers.

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Almost back to camp.

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I was determined to teach my girls how to go butt-sliding down the river from the Upper Lake to the Lower Lake and we did it…fully dressed. My friend, Tonya, and my cousin, Camille, and I had done the exact same thing the summer we were sixteen and I needed to do it again. I needed to feel like I was still me and my body could still do hard things. I needed my body to remember that it is healthy and strong and brave and all this nonsense with breast lumps hadn’t changed any of that. I needed to remember as well. It feels so long since the day back in April when I knew something was growing inside of me…I feel like I have lived an entire life in that time. Somehow this hike came to symbolize a journey to remember who I am. I knew it would hurt my incision to go swimming, but I hoped just floating along with the current would be okay. It was SO fun, but I still ended up hurting pretty badly that night.

We had a few tiny hikes, one day we hiked to the cove, another day a group of cousins hiked to the cave, and my brother, Cameron and his girlfriend, Nicole, hiked around the lake and to the Upper Lake in three hours flat. Richard and Scott took children fishing every day and cooked up plenty of trout for us to enjoy.

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This guy? He mastered gutting his catches with his new multi-tool from his Grandma.

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We also spent lots of time playing Rook and teaching newbies how to play…a mistake since Mikelle and Nicole figured it out pretty darn quick and went on to win several games! Midnight games were enjoyed by all.

Miraculously, Mikelle made it through 11 days of camping on crutches with ten month old Easton…quite a formidable task if you ask me. Grandma played with Easton for hours and hours every day and when she was worn out, Uncle Scott took over.

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Uncle Scott and Easton:

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Fisher and Jared spent their days collecting bugs and bones and going on their own adventures.

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It must be so fun to be a six-year-old boy without anything more important to do than finding butterflies and caterpillars. On our hike to the Upper Lake, Tiegen caught a black caterpillar for them and when we got back to camp all sorts of yellow things came out of it. It was SO bizarre to see these tiny babies come out of the caterpillar right in Fisher’s hands and all of us were baffled as to what was going on because there were hundreds of teensy creatures coming out the caterpillar’s skin and caterpillars don’t give birth, they lay eggs. When we got home, we did some research and found the explanation…wasp parasites!

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Annesley and Jared, or Bubba, as she calls him are technically third cousins since Tami and I are second cousins, so I guess they could actually get married. Of course, right now, they aren’t thinking those thoughts at all, but they do love each other to pieces.

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Tami’s ear got burned during a mid-day Rook game, so instead of ending the game, she decided to just hang a sock on it to prevent further damage.

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Jace and Annesley playing in the water faucet.

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Freezing cold head baths.

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Keziah’s puppy, Scout, getting a belly rub.

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Tami came all the way from Colorado, my friend, Boo, came from Utah, my brother and Nicole came all the way from Wisconsin, and Stephen and Leonard even made it up for a couple of days, so we had a huge group of people around our fire. I love sitting around the fire late at night, listening to stories and watching the stars.

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Cam and Nicole.

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Thanks to my mom getting there a day early and scoping out all the best campsites, we had a shady one with a stream running through camp to keep all of our food cold, lots of trees, hammocks, and our 12 x 12 and 10 x 10.

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We had other visitors too! My mom’s sister Diane came up with a couple of Camille’s children. They went on big hikes almost every day…they had more energy, less little ones, and no recent surgeries in their camp!

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My Auntie Beth (my grandma’s sister) and her daughter, Kathy, came up for a day and surprised us all! Kathy had never been to our mountains before and Auntie Beth had only been once many year ago.

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While we were there Blythe and Andie turned fifteen and of course, we had gobs of birthday cakes and plenty of presents.

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My filthy, but precious Annesley.

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Two of my favorite people.

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Doing yoga and all sorts of strange poses on the beach.

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Eve, Keziah, and Annes spent lots of time at the lake, this time with Easton as well.

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Absolute silliness.

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Mikelle figured out how to curl mom’s hair with sticks or something…didn’t really work out well for her when it was combed.

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Mom’s saggy eyelid

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On the way home, we had the tire incident, and Tami somehow lost her pop-up camper poles, but everyone made it home safe and sound, ready to return next year to the mountains we all love.

And this mountain?

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This mountain is mine. Just looking at this mountain gives me strength. A few years back I determined I would be climbing it for my 40th birthday. I am three years out and it is time to get serious about this plan and figure out just what I need to do to make it happen. Who is in?

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one more reminder of Him

Aug 15, 2011 by

Dear Father,

Thank you for reminding us yesterday that you are completely knowledgeable about our needs. Thank you for sending people to help us. Thank you for prompting me to go to The Great Outdoor Shop. Thank you for placing the tire we needed right on top of the pile. Thank you for being there…for being here…for being in our lives and reminding us once again that we are never alone.

Yesterday on our way home from our annual camping trip, a tire blew out on our 1970 camping trailer. This caused just a wee bit of a problem.

Problem #1: We couldn’t find our jack. Who knows where it is? It isn’t where it used to be in our old suburban and since we haven’t needed it yet with this newer one we haven’t looked for it yet. Talk about being unprepared!

Problem #2: We didn’t have a spare tire for the trailer.

Problem #3: The trailer proved quite difficult to jack up due to the lack of solidness underneath it. 1970 sub-floor just isn’t a firm foundation for a jack.

Problem #4: The existing tire is an odd-ball size…at least according to the mechanic who stopped and helped us.

Problem #5: We broke down miles away from cell phone service and 35 miles from a town that had no tire stores open on the Sabbath.

Problem #6: After working in the sun for two hours with a great guy, Jimmy, we discovered the tire we thought would fit, simply wouldn’t. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Problem #7: After making the 35 mile trip into the nearest town, we were told we had no options but to stay overnight and hope the tire store would have a tire that would work in the morning, but the last several people who had needed trailer tires had to have them special ordered and sometimes that process takes weeks.

Problem #8: Richard had to be at work early Monday morning and it is now 6:30 Sunday night.

Problem #9: The lady at the Great Outdoor Shop has the brilliant idea to call Tom at the junkyard, but he is 100 miles away and won’t be back until 10 p.m.

Problem #10: We learn from a variety of people doing internet searches for us that our tire size is not made anymore and getting a modern day replacement is often difficult.

Problem #11: Our children have now been in the vehicle for over four hours but we are only 50 miles from our camping spot. All of our food is packed away back at our trailer.

Problem #12: None of the stores within 100 miles of us carry this tire or any of its replacements.

Problem #13: We have to use two jacks blocked up on wood to raise the trailer sufficiently to get the tire off.

Solutions?

Solution #1: Jimmy, a guy who lives up in the wild, year-round, saw us broken down across from his cabin and rode over on his four-wheeler with a ready smile, plenty of know-how, and all the tools a broken-down family could ever need.

Solution #2: Jimmy had a mechanic friend who was coming out for dinner and was happy to help us, as well.

Solution #3: I get the prompting to go to The Great Outdoor Shop and while in there I meet a woman, Linda, who owns the building the Tire Store is in. She tells me there is no way the Tire Store will have that size of tire, but she’ll call her husband and her friend, Tom, and see if they have any ideas. She spends the next hour on the phone trying to find us some help.

Solution #4: I remember the beautiful park in town and Richard drops me, the children, and the dogs off so everyone can run around, use the bathroom, and sit in the shade.

Solution #5: I remember that my friend, Jennifer, has a nearly identical trailer to mine and call her to see if she has a spare that she would drive halfway and meet us. She says she can and we go through a long process with my mother on the internet to see if Jennifer’s tire will work. After an hour of searching, we find out Jennifer’s tire is a tad too big. It took us forever to figure it out because we were looking at tire sizes after 1970 since our trailer wasn’t even made until 1970. We finally found the information we needed on a chart listing tires pre-1964. Yes, somehow the tire on our trailer was made sometime back when my mother was a child. Even though it wouldn’t work, it bolstered our spirits knowing our friends would drive several hours to help us out.

Solution #6: Linda’s husband, who used to own the tire store, returns to town around 8:15 p.m. and has Richard bring our blown out tire over to him. He says that is an odd tire. Steve won’t have one in his shop, but let’s look around in the bin and see what we can find. Are you ready for the miracle? Here it is…Right on top of a massive pile of old used tires, is a fifty-year-old, but brand new, tire with identical tread marks, lug pattern, and sizing to our tire. Right on top. He said it must have just shown up recently when someone with a old trailer finally got rid of their old spare. Now, being fifty years old, there were plenty of cracks in it, but it passed the submersion test, held air just fine, and so he gave it to us for nothing….yes, nothing…and he warned us to not use it for longer than the ride home. Then he also let us borrow his bigger jack.

Solution #7: We headed back out to the middle of nowhere to put the new tire on and with Blythe, Richard, and me all working together holding lights, stabilizing jacks, and positioning jack stands, we were able to get the tire on, return the tools to Jimmy, head back into town and return the second jack, and finally get on our way home around 11:30. Somehow Richard drove us home while the rest of us slept and we piled into the house at 2:00 a.m.

Truly blessed.

So good to remember.

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grl top twenty

Aug 13, 2010 by

My favorite place in the whole world.

Rainbow

Pink clouds over Cat Ears

This little piece of heaven brings me peace, joy clear down to my little toes, courage to face hard things, and so much more. I am so grateful for these mountains, the frigid water, the moose that wander on the beach in the early morning hours, the wind in the trees, the sunrise over Osborne, the rugged sturdiness of Square Top, the seven little streams on the shady side of the lake, Mill Creek, rainbow trout and the mighty fishermen who catch them, the Sleeping Giant, Clear Creek Meadow, the tradition our family has had for forty years of camping there, the friends who join us, the strangers we meet, and the connection we all feel to this beautiful place.

Here are the Top Twenty from our Green River Lakes camping trip this year – in no particular order!

1. Watching Fisher jump off the bridge all by his little own self AND swim about 20 feet to me.

2. Scott pitching to Fisher.

3. Blythe and Andie’s 14th birthday parties…with 28 people at the first one and 18 people at the second. Plus, we got to eat two different birthday cakes and yummy ice cream. Good thing we have girls with August birthdays so we have a reason to have a big treat up there every year!

Guests at the first party

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First Birthday cake

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Head scratchers from Grandma
Head scratchers from Grandma

“LIfe is Good” shirts from Grandma

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"Life is Good" shirts from Grandma

Annesley and birthday cake

Annesley & birthday cake

Blythe’s Birthday book
Blythe's Birthday book

Blythe’s new “Life is Good” hat
"Life is Good" hat

The second birthday cake

Andie's Birthday cake

Andie’s new battery charger

Andie's new battery charger

4. Setting up camp three times in less than 24 hours.

5. Watching Jared and Fisher catch bugs together for hours on end.

6. Jumping off the bridge, swinging on Scott’s ingenius swing under the bridge, and swimming in the water hole in the river. Courage awards for bridge jumping go to Samuel (4), Fisher (5), Teryn (5), Christian (7), Jaxon (8), Keziah (9), Eve (10), Tiegen (11), Marcus (13), Tod (13), Blythe (14), Andie (14), Scott, Tracy, Camille, Austin, Tonya, Chance (8), Alyssa (11), and Logan. Yes, we are awesome.

Here is Fisher’s whole jumping process:

Watching everyone else jump

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Thinking about jumping…how far is it anyway?
Fisher thinking about the bridge

Being lifted over by Uncle Scott

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Getting ready to jump

Getting ready to jump

In the air!

In the air!

Coming up out of the water

Coming up out of the water

He made it!

He made it!

In mama’s arms at last!

In mama's arms at last

Andie on the swing

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Teryn on the swing

Teryn on the swing

Annesley

Annesley on the swing

Fisher

Fisher on Scott's ingenius swing

Jared

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Camille

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Camille jumping off the bridge

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Camille again

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7. Beating Mom and Scott at Rook…I’m sure it is the first and last time that will ever happen.

8. Annesley and Teryn lovin’ on Uncle Logan. Teryn was basically glued on to him the entire time. Uncle Logan made them both bracelets and gave Fisher his own necklace to take care of till he can make one for him as well.

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9. Going on a hike all alone with Camille and Tami (and of course, her little cutie, Jace). Yes, Tami came clear from Colorado to camp with us and Camille rearranged her college test schedule so she could be up there when we were there. Thank you guys for making my camping trip wonderful. I love you both!

Our hike was made possible by Tracy, Camille’s oldest, taking eleven children with her on their own hike. What an amazing girl she is!

Tami and Jace

Tami & Jace

10. Discovering my long-lost friend Tonya camped right next to us! It has been 11+ years since we have seen each other and 20 years since I first took her to Green River Lakes. Spotting her walking through the campground is one of the tender mercies God has given me. Thank goodness we decided to canoe across the lake at 6:30 a.m. on our last morning there. Beautiful mountains, good conversation, a bald eagle right above us, and two golden eagles flying nearby.

Tami, Tonya, and Moi

Bald Eagle

Other side of the lake

Golden Eagles

11. Lots of cousin time together…all told we had 21 second and third cousins playing with each other…not including our generation of 1st and 2nd cousins.

Blythe, Andie, and Tod

Blthe, Andie, & Marcus

Eve, Teryn, and Keziah

Annes and Jace

Annesley and Jace

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12. Swimming at the Aquatic Center on our way home with Tonya and her adorable family and then being treated to a delicious dinner by her stubborn and insistent husband, Ryan.

13. Keziah climbing on top of our new-to-us-given-to-us forty-year-old camper to put a tarp on top to stop the leaking from the rainstorm our first night there. She should be a mountain climber some day.

14. Playing softball with family and friends and watching Fisher tackle cousins to get the ball in his mitt first. He has come a long way from the shy little boy he used to be.

15. Logan’s dutch oven peach cobbler. Yummm!

16. Grandma playing Garbage with all the kids on her blanket in the shade.

17. Sleeping eight people and all our gear in a camper made for half that many.

18. Scott holding Annesley, Jace, or Taz on an daily hourly basis and helping them be happy while games are played, meals are cooked, or older siblings are attended to. What a great uncle he is!

Scott & Annesley

19. Watching Sadie leap over Mill Creek and dash into the water.

20. Sitting around the campfire at night, seeing shooting stars, gorgeous constellations, and the Milky Way while listening to Scott’s hilarious stories with the people I love most in this world.

21. I couldn’t stop with 20…my favorite thing of all is watching my husband fish with a smile on his face and contentment oozing out of his body. He needs this trip even more than I do and I am so glad he got to fish and catch some big ones.

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How many fishing poles can these guys use at one time?

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Green River Lakes is not really mine, but it sure feels like it. It is the place I think of when I think of love, family, hope, fun, good meals, growing up, laughing with Camille, and of course, my dear grandparents. I can’t imagine a summer going by without this annual trip. The beauty and the majesty of these mountains is just what I need to get me through another year.

More pics…

Blythe and Grandma

Blythe and Grandma

Keziah and Sadie

Keziah and Sadie

Annesley and the worms

Annesley and the worms

Fisher and Sadie

Fisher and Sadie

Mikelle, Andie, and Kez

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Fisher and his papa

Fisher and his papa

The cutest two-year-old ever

Annesley

Fisher and his catch

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Mikelle and Logan

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Tami, Teryn, Scott, Christian, the handsome Steevo, Annesley, Fisher, and Richard

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Blythe and Andie

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