Thursday, May 25, 2017

Happy Mothers Day to Me from Me

I don't require a lot of presents for Mothers Day, which is good karma because I don't give any to my own mom. A bike ride and dinner of my choice is enough for me. But when my old bag started to rip at the seams, I thought it was time for a change. (I was super happy to see the old bag was more than three years old! I think that's pretty good.) I saw this tutorial, liked the challenge of sewing with pleather (new to me), and so I took it on. About a month ago. BUT THEN. The measurements just didn't seem right. The zipper seemed really long, so I just gave up. It sat there, my poor, sad, work in progress, until a friend posted this on Facebook: "There is something you have been meaning/wanting/needing to do for a very long time. What is it? Let's you and I do it. TODAY." UGH. So I decided I'd finish that stupid bag.

And guess what? It turned out okay! I think if I did another one, I'd make it less wide but I'm still happy with it. The pleather was easy and yet dramatic. I think it looks fancy (until you see the straps are cotton webbing--ha). And I like the lining.

I do miss the utility of the old bag. The pockets were just so perfect. I'm going to have to figure out how to make this work, but I like it!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


We're in another one of those, "What's new? NOTHING." times in our lives. So my apologies for the unexciting post.

Ollie: He's (thankfully) having a much better go at school. Is it the new teacher? His old(er) age? Who knows. Who cares. He still doesn't love school, but I'm okay with that. He wants to take tennis lessons (he LOVES tennis), but sadly I don't think summer is going to work out. But come fall, I think we should be able to make it work. He's reading like a maniac! Like most parents, I love catching him reading and more often, we're finding him in this situation. It's kind of amazing. As previously mentioned, the boy can bike and hike just as much as his older brother. He can also wear t-shirts, unlike his older brother, so that's good. He's definitely excited for summer (which is still about five weeks away).

Rhett: He's really made great strides in his ice skating! It's kind of amazing to watch. Not that he's great, but considering how long he's been at this (remember, he'd never even been on ice skates when he declared he wanted to play hockey two months ago), Chuck and I are really happy. Plus, he still likes it. School is great. He got accepted to a gifted and talented center for 4th and 5th grade, so he won't be going to the new school after all. (I can brag about him because no one reads this except my sister and parents, and they already know.) But man, sometimes I get nervous about how well he's going to do because he exhibits some, uh, less-than-desirable traits. I think he'll be okay, but I'm betting on a big transition at the beginning of the year. He's also excited for summer, but probably not super excited about swim team. Too bad. I think, however, he has more confidence this year so that's good.

Chuck: I think he's gotten over the Caps loss (to my non-sports readers: hockey playoffs). It's hard being a sports fan in Washington. His work is fine; they're plowing through the online course development. He is also ready for summer.

Me: Sigh. The end-of-the-school-year madness is starting to set in. Most of it isn't due to school stuff, but just everything else. My current calling is assistant to the Stake Camp Director, so that's getting really busy because camp is the week after school is out. My work is lame. I want to paint our main level's interior walls, but am feeling ill-equipped to do it (darn you popcorn ceilings!). So that means we need to hire someone. In my head, this should cost a couple hundred dollars. But I'm sure the estimates will be in the thousands and I'll be depressed because it's just too much. I did get some new curtains though, so... My swimming is going well. I'm still crazy slow, but I can go for a long time. I had visions of doing a triathlon, but they were dashed when I realized how slow I was on the bike. A friend let me borrow her road bike, so maybe that'll make a difference? A backpacking weekend with friends was cancelled by rain, and I'm still angry about it. Last week we had some wicked heat. Not nice. Plans for my birthday trip are starting to congeal; we've obtained childcare!

Okay. That's it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Take Your Kid to Work Day

A couple of weeks ago I was able to take Rhett to work with me. The Department of Labor put together some activities for kids and I was able to leave Rhett there while I got some work done. But once that was over, I brought him back to my office. I think he was underwhelmed. He liked seeing his artwork on the cubicle walls. He liked looking through my drawers and finding weird office supplies. He liked creating a PowerPoint presentation on Piggie.

But he LOVED creating his own spreadsheet. (You may correctly guess that I created the first three variables, while Rhett created the rest and then filled in the data and did the drawings.) Such a weird dude.

Obviously it's hard work to work so we went to Shake Shack at the end of the day. Obviously it was delicious.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Another Reminder

My mom reminded me about other things I like about my family. And I'm the first (well, maybe the second) to admit when I'm wrong. There are three other things I like about my family:

  • We are a biking family. Once Ollie could ride without training wheels and on something a bit bigger than a clown bike, I've been pushing him. Probably too much, but he's definitely risen to the occasion. For example: On Mothers Day before church (we have 12:30 church), the whole family biked six miles. I don't know if this is a lot for a five-year-old boy, but it seems like a lot to me. And it makes me happy.
  • We are a hiking family. I think my posts about the Smokies showed this. But the love continues! They even asked if we could hike the Billy Goat trail on Sunday. I declined only because I was afraid our recent rain storms closed the trail, as rain has wont to do.
  • We are an early family. Yes, sometimes (a lot of times) I complain about this, but I think there are more upsides than down. Plus, on Sunday, I told the boys that they are to stay in their rooms until 7 a.m. and guess what?! I didn't even hear them once. So yes, I slept until 7. It was a Mothers Day miracle. But had we slept until much later, we couldn't have done the ride, so I guess I have to be happy about it.
A picture just for fun.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


I'm having a hard time with my boys. It seems to me as if they only know three actions: fighting with each other, complaining about dinner, or whining about chores. It's exhausting. So I have to remind myself that there are some things I like about us as a family:

  • We are a windows down family (as long as we're not moving too fast, it's not precipitating, and the temperature is within an acceptable range).
  • We are a nutty family (crunchy peanut butter, nuts in baked goods).
  • We are a spicy family (yep, even the boys can tolerate a good amount of hot sauce).
But right now, that's about all I like.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Part 4

This morning's hike was the toughest: Alum Cave. Again with the river! You're killing me, rivers!

Alum Cave isn't actually a cave, but we got to walk through this hole in a rock, so that kind of made up for it.

This hike had a lot more vertical to it, but my boys crushed it! In fact, we got to the cave so fast I thought it wasn't it!

The wire handrail made me feel like I was in Zions. Our boys were the youngest we saw on the trail and they did so great. So proud of these little boys!

After a lunch of pie iron calzones back at the campground, we headed out to drive Cades Cove. This is a spot which highlights the people who lived in the area 100-150 years ago.

We even saw a bear! Not the best shot, but I refuse to be one of those people who gets too close to wildlife.

A visit to the mill and the ranger station (where the boys were awarded their Junior Rangers) and the camp store for ice cream (which was free for the boys because of their Junior Ranger status), and we were done.

And because we were done earlier than thought, we may have bribed the boys with McFlurries (the next day) to get them to do one last hike: Laurel Falls. We ate a sandwich dinner there.

Saturday morning we hit the road and were home by 5:30.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Part 3

Another morning hike took us to Porter's Creek. I didn't bring a trail book, so other than my notes (which said, "popular, wildflowers" and gave the distance), we had no idea what to expect.

See how beautiful these creeks are? Gorgeous. Don't you just want to get in there and wade?

SURPRISE! A waterfall! The boys were super pleased, especially since we planned on going about 15 more minutes. But this made for a good turn-around spot.

Look closely at my boots in this picture. After only a quarter-mile of hiking, my left sole detached from my boot (except for at the toe). About a mile later, so did the right one. Seeing as though I only had flip flops in the car, these seemed a better choice (more like a hybrid flip-flop-boot). Thankfully I brought old running shoes that worked for the rest of the trip.

It was wildflower week in the park. Gorgeous!

That afternoon, we went to Gatlinburg. First stop was the aquarium. The boys loved it, of course.

Then it was this ridiculous 5-D movie (we passed on the 7-D one across the street).

And then up the tram to the lift for an alpine slide ride! The boys love these wherever we find them. We stayed in town for dinner (a welcome treat for the adults).

This morning was two hikes. The first was a short-but-steep walk to Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the park (and Tennessee). The views were stunning, and it was totally worth dealing with Rhett's whining.

The second hike was to Andrews Bald. It's this weird spot on the mountain where no trees grow! Again the views were stunning.

That afternoon we went to Pigeon Forge. We started by mini-golfing and ended with a ropes course. It was this cool set-up of about 30 obstacles. The three oldest members of the family were scared, the littlest one was not.

And the dismount was a 30-foot drop. Fun times!

That evening's dinner was burgers, followed by a nice walk around the campground. Note to self: the best campsites are B10, C2, and C3. Who wouldn't want to be right on this river?!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Part 2

We left after rush-hour morning traffic, headed for a campsite in southern Virginia to break up the ten-hour drive. On the way, we drove past Natural Bridge State Park and the adults thought it was the perfect time for a move-your-body break. We loved it! Not sure we'd come this far just for it, but of course we'd stop on the way.

We did a two-mile hike to this waterfall.

Then it was back on the road again. That night we stayed in a U.S. Forest Service campground, which was nearly empty. We had an easy pull-through site near a river.

This is a "pretend you love each other" picture. We really enjoyed this little place. Dinner was delicious tacos on Doritos (Rhett's choice). We bought the cast iron skillet only days before the trip and loved using it on the campfire.

We got back on the road pretty early, knowing the campsites in the park were first-come, first-served. We had planned on doing a small hike that afternoon, but Plan A's hike was closed. So Plan B it was! And really, I think the boys preferred this. It was a relatively short hike to Grotto Falls. Clearly you can see why they loved it.

It's always fun to hike behind the falls.

This was NOT a "pretend-you-love-each-other" shot. More like an "act natural" kind of shot.

Dinner was this delicious pasta, again on the skillet over the fire. Good choice, me. Sorry my boys barely touched you.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Part 1

Over spring break we went to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Let me get it out there: this is my new favorite place on the east coast. I love it so much. Maybe I'll become a missionary for them, preaching the word of the Smokies. It was that good. (Deanna and Todd--take note. Move it up on your National Parks list NOW. Or not.) Why? Because there were mountains and streams and green and it was just perfect. For reals.

Before I get into all the details, here are some random shots. The necessary park sign shot.

My boys (like most kids, I imagine) were complete pyros. They wanted to throw everything into the fire. Plates, cups, dinner, each other, whatever. And within reason, we let them.

This is as we were leaving. Isn't it a gorgeous sunrise? So pretty!

Wild turkeys! Most mornings we'd see them by the roadside, but they weren't usually all puffy (like the one on the right). But on our way out, one tom decided he wanted some action. Who could resist such a display?!

Other observations: I hate that the Park Service doesn't take reservations for the campground until May! This was my biggest worry about the whole adventure. Even as we pulled into the campground, the sign said "Campground Full." You know I wanted to cry, right? But we drove in anyway, hoping we'd catch someone leaving...and we did. Ugh. It would have been so much better had we been able to make a reservations.

The trips that I plan are NOT restful. I have something planned for pretty much every waking second (although I don't plan to the second; I'm not that nuts.) I just can't handle my boys running around aimlessly. I'm this way at home too, which made Monday (a day when school was still out) incredibly painful.

Our daily schedule looked like this: morning hike, afternoon activity, dinner/books by campfire. And for the most part, we followed this. We hiked just over 20 miles during the week. Which means my boys hiked over 20 miles. Chuck and I are so, so proud of them for this! And I am especially grateful that they didn't ruin something that I love doing. Hiking power beans may have been a strong influence, but I don't care. They did it.

We ate pretty good. Breakfasts varied (cereal, oatmeal, yogurts, etc.), lunches were always sandwiches we'd pack at the campsite and bring with us, and then dinner by the fire. One night we ate in town, but otherwise, it was camp cooked. Of course the boys didn't care for the one dish I picked out (a delicious pasta), but they ate everything else.

We gave the boys camelbacks to hike with because they're always complaining about how they're thirsty. Ollie usually drank the entire thing by the halfway point, and then peed it all out before we get back to the car. This led to him trying to "break the record" on each hike. I think on our last hike he peed seven times, which was his record.

We had perfect weather! Highs in the low 70s, sun, no rain at all. In the morning the boys wore vests, but that's it. It was incredible.

Being in the south was, um, different. Obviously it's still America, but it had a different feel for sure. When we go back (because we're for sure going back--who wants to come with us?!), we don't feel a need to touch Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge again.

When we do go back in a few years, I think I'd like to try summer (so hello reservations!). We'd stay in the park but maybe try some river rafting. This year we were just too early.

Okay, I think that's it. Starting tomorrow I'll post the details about each day.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hamilton Intervention

Dear Self,

Your addiction to Hamilton has affected me in the following ways:

1. Your reading habits were disrupted by your desire to read Hamilton's 730-page biography. (But when it was finally marked "Read" in goodreads, you got an email congratulating you on finishing the book, so that was nice.)

2. Your vacations are driven by a desire to see the play, even going so far as taking advantage of your parents so that you can see it in Utah next year.

3. Your five-year-old (who, admittedly, is weird) draws himself dead. When asked how he died, he responded, "In a duel."

But, seeing as these three things are not terrible, carry on. It's totally worth it.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Random Thoughts

I used to borrow Chuck's sweatshirts. There's something about being only 5' 1" tall and wearing an XL sweatshirt. So when he asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him my own XL sweatshirt. And that's what I got. But then I made it better. You see, most XL sweatshirts are meant for tall people with long arms, one thing I am not and the other I have not. I found a tutorial online that helped me hem the sleeves. And check it out: AMAZING. It's my "cozy clothes" outfit. Come to my house any time after 7:00 most nights (or pre- or post-church on Sundays) and this is what I'll be wearing.

You know how people start book clubs so they can read books and then discuss them in a social forum? I'm in one. It's fun. But I want to start a TV club. The first assignment would be to watch the O.J. Simpson show on Netflix. I must discuss this with someone!

I want to go to New York City for my birthday this year (it's kind of a big one), just me and Chuck (anyone want to watch my kids?!). If we do, I would LOVE to do this. I'm pretty sure Chuck would not be on board, however.

I'm now convinced there is no tiring my boys. None. No matter what we do, they will always be moving. Want them to sit still for conference? Try a 3.5-mile morning Billy Goat Hike! That doesn't work? Between sessions add a 4.5-mile bike ride with a playground intermission. That doesn't work? Just fall asleep (because you're old and those activities successfully wore you out) and then you won't know how crazy they are.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Snow Day

I forgot to mention that we had a "snow-ish" day a couple of weeks ago. We were in a 6-8" band, but ended up with about 1.5" of icy slush--but of course that was enough for school to be cancelled. (I got to work from home.) The stuff was heavy. But seeing as though it was all we had, we made it work (after Rhett's morning tantrum due to disappointment, that is). We got out of the snow gear, played, sledded (the boys wanted to go out at 7:30 a.m. when it was still precipitating--ugh), watched movies, even had our one and only fire of the season. Not a bad snow day!