Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bad Day

My kids can drive me absolutely nuts.  How many times do you have to ask/tell/scream something to have it get done?  With my kids you are lucky if it is no more than half a dozen for each instruction.

Kalan, my 4 year old, is the worst.  I blame it on middle child syndrome.  I also feel that I go somewhat easy on my kids as I clearly recall an experience from my youth.  My dad called me up to his room to give me some instructions.  He was sick at the time and I was trying extra hard to catch all of the details.  There was only one problem... the TV in his room was on.  I don't even know what was on the TV.  All I know is that as I sat there trying to catch his instructions and repeated "listen to Dad, listen to Dad, listen to Dad" over and over in my mind... I could not hear a thing he was saying.

I recall that experience every time my kids try my patience... so pretty much daily.  Well, Kalan was really pushing it... he was not wanting to help clean and was whining about something one of the other kids did to him.  I sent him upstairs to clean/cry somewhere else while I contemplated what genetic deficiency I must have passed on to him that gave him the ability to sit there and stare blankly as I change colors from the stress of trying to get him to do a simple task.

He was really hitting a stride with his whining as he climbed the stairs... then, without taking the whine out of his voice, he starts singing..."You had a bad day.  Your taking one down.  You sing a sad song, just to turn it around."

How can you stay mad?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Career

I am not sure what my kids think I do all day.  I don't know if I really understood what my dad did all day.  I probably really didn't know until I was doing the same thing.

I am starting to think that my 4 year old Kalan wants me to start a new career.  He often prays that "Daddy will keep fixing things."  I just figured that he was impressed when I was able to repair the odd broken toy or fix the washer.

I am starting to suspect that he wants me to be a full time repair man.  Either that or the kid has an unhealthy fascination with the toilet.  I blame "Finding Nemo."  All drains lead to the ocean? Really?  Do we really need to tempt our young children's imaginations any more than usual?

I will tell you what does not go immediately to the ocean.  

1. Small cups... just big enough to get halfway through the S-bend.
2. Golf Balls... small enough to move through... but too heavy... they just sit at the bottom.
3. Entire rolls of toilet paper... and we are not talking about them being unraveled from the spool... just thrown in whole.
4. Tooth Brushes... not only do these not flush... they wedge.  This adventure cost me a new toilet.  After removing the old one from the bathroom, I was still unable to dislodge the toothbrushes.  I was eventually able to get them out with liberal use of artillery at the ward shot-gunning activity.
I have no idea what it is that sparks his imagination and makes him wonder "do the fishies need one of these?"  Apparently he thought they might need some butter today... two whole sticks of butter.  
Maybe they were baking?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Slick as Snot

So we decided to go for one more weekend of camping.  No, we are not crazy... I am just late posting this.  Our camping trip was at the beginning of October.  Not too cold yet. 

We piled everyone in the Excursion, loaded the wheelers on the utility trailer, and headed off for what we hoped would be a nice weekend to finish off the camping season up at East Zion.

As always... we were really anticipating the weekend.  It is a beautiful spot... and so relaxing.  We can let the kids pretty much run wild... and we get to hang around and read... or play cards... or get in a few rides on the mountain trails.

We arrived at camp not too long after dark and got everything put together for the weekend.  We got the kids to bed fairly early and settled in ourselves at a decent time... as it was a little chilly out.

Well, about 3:00 in the morning... it started to rain.  Which is usually a nice thing up at camp.  It keeps the dust down and makes everything look green and lively.  When it was still raining when I got up in the morning, I wasn't quite as enthusiastic about the much needed precipitation.  I went out into the damp and started breakfast.

As the day went on, it never really chucked down... just rained England style... meaning just enough to be annoying and soak everything.  Then the travel trailer started leaking... in about 9 different spots... not fun.  We quickly ran out of pots to catch all of the invading water.

I ended up on top of the trailer brooming water off of the roof.  Then we tied a large tarp over the roof to keep the water from seeping through.  By now it is mid-afternoon... the kids are soaking through their second set of clothes.  The dog is a muddy, shivering mess.  Kierstin is about ready to torch the leaky trailer... and I am contemplating whether God has retracted his promise not to flood the earth again.

Now comes the brainstorming session.  Kierstin's sister, Kaili, and her husband are with us.  They drove up in a Toyota Camry.  We have our Excursion... and a loaded utility trailer.  Our friends, Bryan and Crystal, have a Ford F150... the only one of us with 4 wheel drive.  

You may ask why the models of vehicles is in any way important to this story.  I would refer you back to the title of this little essay.  Those 3 words are the best description I can give of the North Fork Road after it has rained... and we have about 2 and a half miles of it to navigate before we hit the pavement.

After several minutes of discussion... and some attempts to call upon Divine Providence for assistance, we determined that another night in this rain would only leave us in a potentially bigger swamp than we were currently facing.  And we were all tired of huddling under the canopies to stay dry and warm.

The plan came out like this.  Kaili and Clint will go first.  They are the most likely to get stuck in their little front wheel drive sedan.  Then Bryan will go.  As he has the only 4x4 he will pull the trailer down the mountain.  We will follow in the Excursion.  This is so I can keep an eye on the trailer and relay info to Bryan over the walkie talkie if needed.

Plan in place, we prepare to head out.  We button up camp and load up the vehicles.  

Then we thought of the entreating lyrics of the LDS hymn; "Ere' you left your wet, muddy, remote, swampy camp this morning... Did you think to pray?"  We sent up a final entreaty for safety and started on the way.  It was all smooth sailing... not a slip or slide... at least til we made it to the gate of the property.  Then we entered a realm where the laws of physics take over with a vengeance.  

We made it all of 60 yards before the Camry was stuck.  Bryan and I hiked up the road and started pushing... getting our shoes absolutely caked in mud in the process.  After getting Clint going again... it was mud skiing back to our own cars.  We repeated this process twice... hiking up to the Camry... pushing it up hills... then sliding back to our own cars.

Then... the trailer dragged Bryan into a ditch along the side of the road.  Pushing him out came with the extra excitement of almost getting run over with my own utility trailer!  I had to run along the side of a hill, pushing on the back of the truck trying to help him get out of the ditch... and trying to avoid falling down into the path of the trailer.

Having gotten him back into the middle of the road... I trekked alone... back to my trusty Excursion... that while not really mastering the road conditions... had at least not gotten stuck yet.

At least not until the very moment that I had stopped to help push Bryan out.  Now, as I attempted to follow Willie's admonition to get "On the Road Again,"  I realized that I was more likely to end up completely off the road... on the down hill side... resting against the trees that would hopefully stop the sliding SUV before it plummeted into a ravine.  With each attempt to creep forward... I only got closer to the edge and the slope beyond.  I got out to take another look and determine how to attempt to proceed.  Meanwhile, Bryan and Clint are both ahead trying to make it to the pavement.  Both are calling back on the radios to see if we need help.  Not wanting them to get stuck trying to come back, I told them to go on and get to the safety of the hard top road below.  

By now the kids are getting a little nervous.  Kierstin asked one of the kids to say a little prayer and then suggested singing church songs to keep their minds off of being stuck.

I started to find small branches and bushes to put under the tires for some traction.  Then, looking back up the road... wouldn't you know there was some other fool trying to come down the mudslide... and this guy had a 20+ ft long livestock trailer behind his truck!  No way this guy is going to be able to get by me without hitting our truck and sending us over the side.

Now every guy knows... that the only thing worse than being unable to take care of a problem and feeling like an idiot for getting into it... is to have somebody else witness it.  That is why we don't ask for directions, don't use AAA, and will end up replacing a toilet and half of our plumbing before we will call Joe the Plumber.  So now I am grumbling under my breath (at least we will pretend I was only grumbling); and wondering how I am going to extract myself from this mess.

Glancing back up the road, I notice that the approaching truck has stopped.  Two cowboys are hiking down towards my vehicle.  One of them has a shovel.  The other has about a 1/4 bail of hay on his shoulder.  Without a word, they start digging and throwing hay under the wheels.  I, of course, am trying to crack jokes about the weather... and the mud... and the idiot city-folk who don't know how to drive in it.  But these guys are straight out of a Tony Hillerman novel.  Craggy and wind chapped... and all but silent.  They were actually wearing chaps!  Where do these guys come from?  They hardly even acknowledge that I am there... just go about getting the wheels dug out and hay underneath for traction.  Then, one of them speaks... says  that their dad will be along in a minute and can help.

Sure enough... here comes dad... riding along the road on a horse.  Of course, being me, I make a couple more remarks about the weather and how the horse is probably the perfect way to travel in it.  Dad, who is wearing a soaking wet slicker just looks at me and says "not really".  Then, to my surprise, dad throws the end of his lasso to his son up front and they tie it in to the tow hook on the front end of the truck.  Huh?  Dad asks if I mind if his son drives while he pulls with the horse.  Huh?  Pull my truck out of the mud... with your horse?  "OK".  Next thing I know, he wraps the lasso around his pommel and away he goes.  Pulls the front end of the Excursion right back into the middle of the road.  His son, meanwhile is spinning the tires and getting forward movement going.   They dragged us about a quarter mile that way... with the old man in the saddle... keeping the front end in the middle of the road... and his son keeping the truck moving forward.  The other cowboy is pushing on the back end to keep it straightened out... and I am running along trying not to fall in the mud... and still in awe that a horse is pulling my full size, not an SUV bigger in the world, Ford Excursion down this muddy crazy road.  There was complete silence in the car until Kalan said, "We need to get a horse!"

They got us past the worst of it and turned back to retrieve their own vehicle.  None of them would even consider the money I offered for their help... just said that the day may come when they were stuck on the road... and then I could return the favor.  

As we reached the pavement, I turned back to the kids and told them... "You see?  We asked Heavenly Father to get us safely off this mountain... and he sent us 3 cowboys... and a horse."

Unfortunately, with everything going on, we did not think to get pictures of the horse and rider pulling us out.
It took an hour to clean all the mud off the wheelers and trailer... and we never even got to ride them!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Grandpa Pug

NATHAN GIFFORD U.S. Navy, Retired Nathan Bernarr Gifford (Pug) passed away peacefully at his home Thursday morning, Aug. 14, 2008, at the age of 81. He was born May 6, 1927, in St. George, Utah, to Cyrus Gifford and Ina Bundy. Nate grew up in LaVerkin, Utah. He joined the U.S. Navy on his 17th birthday in 1944. Nate was in the Navy for 22 years, serving through World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In 1949, he met Muriel Applegate while on a 10-day leave. Three months later, Muriel flew to Hawaii where they were married. Their first daughter, Nalani Stewart (Howard) was born in Hawaii. Their son, Steven was born in Cedar City, Utah; son, William Tell (Rebecca) was born in San Diego; another son was born and died in Guam; daughter, Marianne Schultz (Barry) was born in Mountain View, Calif.; daughter, Kathleen was born in Great Lakes, Ill. In 1966, Nate retired from the Navy and moved his family to Las Vegas, where he went to work for the Post Office. In 1969, Nate and Muriel and their children were sealed together for time and eternity in the St. George LDS Temple. In 1987, Nate retired with 20 years of service from the Post Office. He then worked for his brothers at Gifford Electric for five years until he had a major heart attack on Christmas eve 1991 that destroyed one third of his heart. After that, they sold their Las Vegas home and moved to LaVerkin, Utah, where they built a home in 1992. He just loved moving back to his home town. Within a few years, he got active in the local American Legion. He served as an officer in that organization and loved every minute of it. Nate made many friends everywhere he went. Everybody that met him, liked him, and he liked everybody. He loved his family and he was a faithful member of the LDS Church. Nate is survived by his wife; his five children; 12 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; one brother and four sisters. He was preceded in death by his parents; three brothers; one sister; and one son. A visitation will be held from 6-8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 17, at the Hurricane Valley Mortuary, 140 N. Main St. in Hurricane, Utah, and from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 18, with funeral services following at 11 a.m., both at the LaVerkin LDS Stake Center, 481 N. Main St., LaVerkin, Utah. A Military interment will be in the LaVerkin City Cemetery, immediately following services, under the direction of Metcalf Mortuary, (435) 673-4221. See Metcalf's website for condolences and full obituary and funeral listings. 

I am hesitant to even take this post on.  I don't have any faith in my ability to do it any justice.

Kierstin's Grandpa died this past Thursday.  He is quite simply one of the greatest men I have been blessed to know.

I cannot even attempt to tell a fraction of the story of his life.  Suffice it to say that his life was humble and great.  He doesn't leave any great earthly fortune behind, but his family has been blessed with a wealth of joy, humor, sincerity, and love.

As Pug put it himself, he was born at a very early age.  Joke aside, his birth was in what would seem pretty primitive circumstances.  His first home is in what is now Zion National Park.  The home is long gone, but not the flowers his mother planted over 70 years ago... you can still find those plants (or at least those plants' decendents) at the old homesite.

Grandpa grew up as a farmer/rancher all-around country boy.  He joined the Navy when he turned 17, 2 years into the United States' involvment in WWII.  He reported for duty on the first ship he ever laid eyes on and shipped out for work in the Pacific.  At one time, he volunteered to do special duty clearing mines.  He would swim in close to shore and cut mines free from their anchors so they would float to the surface and could be blown up to clear the way for the landing vessels.  Many of his friends died while performing this duty... and Pug learned that volunteering is not always a good thing.

Pug was with the Navy for many years.  His duties ranged from his days clearing mines, to working as the head cook providing meals for an entire ship.  One of his unique talents was being able to crack 8 eggs at once without breaking a single yoke.  He also spent time as a recruiter and a trainer.

A 2nd career as a Mail Carrier for the Postal Service followed.  His friendly and optimistic approach to life is shown in how he performed this job.  The people on his route new him... because he cared about people and made a point to get to know anyone he came in contact with.  While many mailmen carried dog spray to deal with aggressive or pesky animals, Pug carried dog treats.  At least one lady on his mail route was surprised to open her door one day to find that Pug had trained her unruly pet to sit, roll over, and play dead.

After retiring from the post office, Pug worked for a while at his brother's electrical contracting company.  This 3rd career was cut short when a heart attack destroyed a third of his heart.  That was 15 years ago.  He has been running on pure spirit ever since.

Pug and his wife, Muriel moved back home to La Verkin, Ut after his heart attack.  He was officially retired at this time... but he never stopped working.  He is one of those men that prompted Tom Brokaw to name them the Greatest Generation.  You could ask him how he was feeling... and he would tell you "great"!  Of course, he was lying through his teeth.  But to a man like Pug, there is no sense in complaining... it doesn't get anything done... and there is no sense lying around and feeling crummy... when you can get something productive done while feeling crummy.  Those men put most of us to shame.  Men like Pug don't have a to do list, because by the time they could write the task on the list, they have already finished it.

Pug is well known in Southern UT and Las Vegas.  He is too friendly not to like.  When he moved back to La Verkin, he got active in the American Legion.  And since he gets right to accomplishing whatever he sees that needs doing... he promptly went out and started recruiting every veteran he could get a hold of to come take part in the American Legion with him.  He was instrumental in making their post one of the most active posts around.  One of the services the Legion provides is honor guard duty at the funerals of veterans.  Pug served in countless honor guards and was usually the one that organized the guard for each of the funerals.  One of the most stirring tributes I have seen is the response of the American Legion to the news of Pug's passing.  On thursday, the flag at the post was lowered to half mast... and flew at half mast until after the funeral today.  Without being asked, 30 members of the post attended the viewing at the mortuary last night... all in uniform... and all standing at attention throughout the 2 hour viewing.  35 members were in attendance at the funeral today.  They presented the flag... performed the honor guard duties... and did a 21 gun salute in honor of their fallen comrade.  It was truly inspiring.

I have bitten off way more than I can chew with this post... I knew that was going to happen.

Let me put down a couple of more thoughts about this wonderful guy.

While in the Navy, Pug was stationed for a couple of years in Guam.  While there, he picked up a hobby... and when Pug picks up a hobby... he goes all the way.  He started to free dive (with some occasional scuba thrown in there) and began a shell collection.  He would dive as deep as 60-80 feet with no tank... just the air in his lungs.  His collection grew rather large.  When he was transfered out of Guam, the movers individually packed more than 4000 shells.  His remaining collection is displayed in a glass top coffee table that is amazing to see.

After leaving the Navy and while working in Las Vegas, Pug got into a new hobby... breeding fish.  In classic Pug fashion, he went on to successfully breed over 61 different breeds of fish... two of which had never been bred in captivity.

For the last 30 years, Pug has kept an almost daily journal.  It was an amazing experience to look through his collection of journals this weekend.  His journal was kept in a franklin day planner... one for each year... covering 3 shelves in his bedroom.  Looking through the journals, you are just as likely to find the details of a purchase, a list of people that got together for dinner... or a couple of lines about someone he loved.  In making the funeral arrangements (all of which were pre-planned and paid for many years ago to avoid leaving those difficult details for his family to deal with) there was some question about the services contracted and additional costs that came up.  It did not take long to find his file from the purchase of the prepaid funeral services that were arranged in 1994.  And a quick check of his journal written on the date that the contracts were signed showed line by line detail of what was to be included, the cost, and the name and phone number of the guy that sold them the plan.  

It amazes me the detail that is in those volumes.  But the real magic of that collection is found when you start looking at specific dates.  Like the days that each of my children were born.  All of them noted where they were when they heard the news... and how excited they were to have that new member of their family.  The day that Kierstin and I got engaged... we were actually at Pug's house for his father in law's 90th birthday.  His entry that day read something like this "It was a big day for my granddaughter Kierstin.  Josh Leavitt told her that he decided he would like to become part of this family and asked her to marry him.  She said "Well... OK."  Many happy tears were shed and everyone likes him."  We got a good laugh out of that one.  Another big day in my life was February 18th, 2005.  His entry that day said "Today we got the sad news that our grandson Josh has colon cancer."  The rest of the entry was touching... but the thing that caught me the most was that he did not call me his granddaughter's husband... or his grandson in law.  That is how he is.  

OK... now for some fun stuff... cause I am getting sad now and it has been a rollercoaster weekend.

We have a family reunion just east of Zion National Park every Labor Day weekend.  The first year we were married, we borrowed my Mom's popup trailer to use for the weekend.  Unfortunately, the crank you use to lift the top was missing, so I had to use a wrench.  This was a very difficult task and I must have been showing my exertion... because Pug came over to me and said "Josh, you are shaking like a dog shitting peach pits!"  By the way, that is not considered cussing by southern UT mormons over the age of 70.

Our very good friends came up to La Verkin today for the funeral.  They have been with us to our reunion for the last 3 years running and are definitely considered part of the family by everyone that knows them.  And those that don't know them probably just assume they are Aunt Sis's kids.  It is great to have friends that close.  And they were very helpful when our kids started to get restless during the services.  They took the twins during the funeral and our 4 year old, Kalan, during the graveside services.  Apparently Kalan was not really paying attention to the honor guard during the 21 gun salute and was taken by surprise when they fired their first volley.  His immediate reaction was to yell to his friend..."They are trying to kill us!" and head for cover behind a tree.  Ah... life as a 4 yr old.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Kid Talk

Ever since the kids started talking, we have been keeping track of funny things they have said.  So here is Kid Talk.


Chaison was being naughty in church and daddy went to take him out and he yelled, "Somebody help me!"  2 years

Chaison was climbing in bed next to daddy one morning and cuddled up next to him.  The alarm went off and Chaison rolled over, hit snooze and then rolled back over to cuddle with daddy.  2 years

Mommy was lying in bed with Chaison asking him what all of the animals say.  He was getting all of them right until mommy asked, "What does a wolf say?"  Chaison said, " I am going to blow your house down."  2 years

Shai fell down and hit her head and started crying.  Chaison came in to see what happened.  Mommy told him that Shai had lost her balance and got hurt.  Chaison said, "It's okay Shai, I will help you find your balance."  4 years

Mommy was dropping Chaison off at school and noticed the time.  She said, "you better hurry the bell is going to ring soon."  Chaison said, "how do you know that every day?"  5 years

We were at the park and mommy pointed to a Great Dane and said, "look at that horse."  Chaison said, "That's not a horse, that's a donkey."  5 years

Chaison was playing out back while daddy was working on the yard.  He was walking and stepped on a hoe and it came up and hit him in the back of the head.  he turned around thinking someone had thrown something at him.  6 years

On the way home from church, we asked the kids what they learned today and Chaison said, "We played a game today.  The teacher said 1-2-3 and then we had to be quiet.  I lost!"  6 years

Chaison was over at Uncle Kip's helping him put his Legos together.  Chaison asked, "Who gets your stuff when you die?"  7 years

Whoever made the word February, spelled it wrong.  8 years


We were driving down the street when we all smelled something.  Shai said that she smells horse poop.  We said no.  She said, "cat poop?"  No.  "Dog poop?"  No.  "Is it Tinkerbell poop?"  It was burnt rubber.  3 years

Shai was jumping off the couch over and over.  Mommy told her to stop and Shai said, "but mommy, I'm Wonder Woman.  I have to jump off of things."  3 years

I'm not picking my nose.  I am just trying to get something out of it.  4 years

Mommy told the kids they needed to clean their bathroom.  Chaison said that he wanted to do the mirrors and the counters.  Shai said, "I'll clean the lemonade off the floor."  5 years

Uncle Karl was counting kids and said, "Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco." And Shai said, "uno, dos, trey, waffle."  6 years


Kalan was playing catch with daddy.  Daddy threw him the ball and Kalan didn't catch it.  Kalan said, "You missed Daddy."  2 years

Mommy asked Kalan if he wanted to take a nap now or when we go to Utah.  He said, "when we go to my-tah."  2 years

Chaison, Shai and Kalan were supposed to be cleaning the toy room, but they were fighting instead.  Mommy told them if they don't stop she was going to come up and smack their butts.  Kalan said, "not everyone's butts!"

About 8:30 one night, mommy was talking to a salesman at the door.  Kalan came over and looked out the door and then screamed, "aaaaaahhh, SCARY!"  and then ran and told Shai there was a bad guy at the door.  2 years

I'm poopy, and it's a BIG one!  2 years

Mommy kept trying to call grandma on the phone and she wasn't answering.  Frustrated, she said, "Mom!" as she was looking at the phone.  Kalan said, "that's not your mommy."  3 years

Kalan saw mommy giving Shai medicine and he said that he needed medicine because his back hurts.  She asked where, and he said, "in front of me."  3 years

I want to be Darf Gator for Halloween.  3 years

Kalan hit his head on the desk giving himself a pretty good cut.  Mommy was taking care of him and told him that she needed to wipe the blood off of his face.  He started singing, "There's blood on my face, big disgrace, shaking my booty all over the place.  We will, we will Rock you!"  3 years

Mommy was trying to potty train Kalan and he was sitting on the toilet and started to get bored.  He was looking at his penis and then started to freak out and yelled, "Mommy, there's a hole in it!"  3 years

Kalan was saying his prayers and said, "Please bless that I will not poke people in the eyes."  3 years

Kalan didn't want to eat all of his food.  So daddy told him to take 7 more bites.  Kalan started crying and said, "but Daddy, I don't even know what that is."  3 years

These kids have always brought a smile to our faces.  They may drive us crazy sometimes, but the keep us laughing.  We sure are blessed!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Scouting News

Chaison earned his Wolf Badge tonight... and is now a Bear... at least I think that is how it works.
Even more importantly though (or at least more exciting for right now) was his total domination in the annual Pinewood Derby.

He won all 4 of his heats.  

Won First Place for best track time.

Had the best average time... best overall time... and 4 of the top 5 single heat times.

Can't tell that he is excited about that... can you?

Friday, May 30, 2008


Other than Kierstin herself... and the kids... the best thing I got out of my marriage is my own camping spot just east of Zion National Park.  

The Giffords (Kierstin's mother's family) have 20 acres of hillside situated on the North Fork Road, just outside of the east gate of Zion.  The property is owned by a family trust... of which we are members.

We have our own area at the top of the property that we like to call Chateau Le'vitte... (yes... you say that with a snotty french accent!)

I have always loved camping... as a kid we had an annual trip up to Lost (or Los) Camp... which as I recall is somewhere up near Mammoth Creek.  Mom would also take us up to Mt. Charleston when the chance arose.  Kierstin and I started our marriage with as much camping as we could get in up in the Diamond Fork Canyon while we were up at school.  And I am proud to say that not a single one of our kids was a month old before they had been camping at least once.

Well... now my idea of camping has changed.  As kids, we mostly slept in sleeping bags... in a tent.  We cooked food over the fire... or ate sandwiches.

What we do now can't really even be called camping.  We have a travel trailer that stays up at "The Mountain Home" all summer long.  We bring food and clothes... and our ATV... and head on up.  Within ten minutes of getting to camp, we are set up... the kids are running off eating dirt and catching horned lizards... and I am kicked back in my hammock reading a book.

Last year we added a generator to our camping gear and any semblance of roughing it was officially gone.  On warm nights, instead of a fire, we watch a movie and eat microwaved popcorn.

Here are a few pics of camp.

Our friend Melinda... only one of those kids is hers.

There was a crew of forest fire-fighters clearing the trees near the road on the way to our camp... we picked up about 6 truck loads of wood... we feel like we are living in a beaver colony.

Chaison winning his race at the family reunion... notice the chubby cougar kid getting his can kicked by my Runnin' Rebel son.

Chaison's first golf game... at the course at Mount Carmel Junction.

If you are interested in getting away for the weekend... we love entertaining at camp even more than at home... let us know and we will make a plan.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day

This is my first time putting something in the blog. Mother's Day was quite a day for me, so I felt that I needed to add something. Here is a little background of Mother's Day. Usually, I get this wonderful breakfast in bed, then somehow while we are away at church, my present magically appears so it is there when I get home from church. Then I don't have to do dishes, or change diapers (love this one), and I get a wonderful dinner.

So at 5 am Sunday morning, we were awakened by Chaison saying that Kalan had just thrown up. Now we had a birthday BBQ for all 5 of them the night before. All Kalan ate was junk. Cupcakes, ice cream, soda, candy, chips...of course he didn't eat any hamburgers or hot dogs. So with all of that and running around, it got to him and all over his bed. So I cleaned him up while Josh cleaned the bed up. Of course in my mind I am thinking...this is going to be a wonderful Mother's Day. Back in bed by 5:30, we try to get back to sleep. He was fine the rest of the day. By 7 am, Josh is asking what I wanted for breakfast since he didn't get to go shopping for food the day before. Which he kept apologizing for. So there wasn't much to choose from. Since our earlier encounter with Kalan, we didn't really feel like getting up. I started to doze off again, when Shai came in and said, "Mommy, I made you breakfast." I sat up and there she is with a plate and one piece of toast with Apricot jam on it. I wanted to cry. She said that she couldn't find the butter, so she put the jam on it. That was one dry piece of toast, but the best toast I had ever tasted. So I got my breakfast in bed. Josh went down stairs and started to make breakfast and when I came down and sat at the table, Shai brought over my present. There is a story to this. About a month ago, we were at Deseret Book and Shai saw something that she wanted to get me for Mother's Day. She kept asking Daddy if he could take her to the store to get it. Well he never got a chance, so on Saturday while he was out, she called him and asked him to pick it up. So she wrapped it up and wrote on there that it was from ALL of the kids. I open it up and it is a necklace with the sign for I love you. Shai and I have been learning sign language, so this really meant a lot to me.
After breakfast we got everyone ready and headed off to church. Where Chaison, Shai and Kalan and the rest of the primary got up and sang to all of us mothers. Then at the end of Sacrament they handed out peanut m'n'm's. Not as good as last years homemade fudge or the years before chocolate covered strawberries, but I'll take it. Then I had to go teach my primary class which the other class had to come into my class since their teacher didn't show up. There is a reason why they split that class...there's a lot of kids. So that was fun.

On the way home, Josh told me that he didn't find anything he wanted to get me for Mother's Day, plus I had told him that all I wanted was some money so that I could go out with my friend and just do a day of shopping or pampering, so he said he would just do that. So no present awaiting me at home, but I am totally fine with what he gave me.

Later Chaison came in and gave me a present. He had made me a really cool beaded necklace.
Then I rushed off to my Mom's ward to hear her teach in Relief Society. She gave a great lesson. And she was so happy that my sister and I were there to support her.

For dinner, we ate leftovers from the night before. So, I woke up to a kid throwing up, I didn't get these wonderful huge meals, my house was a disaster, and I wasn't going to clean that day. You would think that this was a blah Mother's Day, but I have to say, it was the BEST Mother's Day yet.

So about Moms. I love my mom and I love my mother-in-law. I am very close to both of them and they are both wonderful gals. They support us in everything we do. They take care of us and help us out. And they are the BEST grandma's. I am so truly grateful for both of them. But what I am most grateful for is that I am a mom. A mom to 5, beautiful, wonderful, energetic, insane kids. I love every minute of it. My life may be crazy and I do mean CRAZY, but so worth it.

Happy Mother's Day to all you wonderful mother's!!!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

18 years

It is hard to believe that it has been 18 years since Dad died.

We went to the cemetery today.  I usually try to get over there every once and again to clean up the marker.
We pulled up and happened to catch Kip and Katie as they were just getting ready to leave.  We all wandered over to the grave and talked for a little while.

I have to admit that visiting the grave is not something I really do actively... I don't feel any closer to Dad there than anywhere else.  But this turned out to be kind of a special visit.
Chaison was at a scouting event... so we had only the other 4.  Shai and Kalan have been there before... but they were pretty young.  I don't think it ever really registered with them that Grandpa's body was there.  This time it clicked.  Kalan was caught up in the mechanics of it... learning that people are buried under the lawn there.  That his Grandpa was there.  Shai, on the other hand, seemed to make a bigger connection.  She was quiet while we visited... but when it came time to leave, she told Kierstin that she didn't want to go yet.  She asked if she could say a prayer that she could see Grandpa again some day.

She was emotional on the drive home and was crying when we came into the house.  As she sat in my lap, I asked why she was upset.  She just said that she missed Grandpa.  Kalan joined in the conversation and was getting upset as well.  I explained to them, as I have before, that before they came down to join their Mommy and Daddy on Earth, they were with Grandpa in heaven.  He held them in his arms and they sat on his lap and he told them about the family they were coming to join.  And he told them that he loves them and would miss them... but that they would be together again before too long.

There have been many times since Dad died that I have felt that he was near... but never as strongly as when I talk to my kids about him.  They always talk about missing him... they feel the relationship they have with him... they remember him in a way that is different than how we usually think of memory.  They don't remember him biting their ears.  They don't remember Pez candies or watching Magnum PI; scoring Giants baseball games or hearing him sing about his grandparents and Bunkerville.  They don't remember family trips or dancing on his feet to the music of the jukebox... and they have no idea what a 4th of July party can really be.

They didn't get to share those earthly memories... but they know him... and they remember him.  What a great blessing that is for them... and for me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Catalina Divin'

Two Harbors, Catalina Island

All I can say is that my wife is too kind.
She stayed at home with the kids this past weekend and let me go off with a buddy to Catalina for some quality bottom time off the rocky shores of this little Island Getaway.
For those of you not familiar with Catalina... it is an island about 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles.  Most days you can't see the island from shore... thanks to the infamous air quality of LA.  This weekend, however, the weather was so nice we could not only see the shore... but could even see the snow up at Big Bear... from Catalina.
The weather was so nice, that each morning we got up and the water was flatter than most days on Lake Mead!
The trip we went on was sponsored and organized by a diving club from San Diego.  They did a nice job.  However, there is very little accommodations available in Two Harbors, which is the town we stayed in... less than 300 population.  They have only one bed and breakfast... with 11 rooms.  The only other places to stay are in the camp grounds or in the camping cabins (these are only available from November through April as they house employees during the summer months.)
To call these cabins is almost laughable.  I tried in vain to find pictures of the "cabins" prior to heading out for the trip.  It turns out that the cabins are really sheds, 6 of which have been attached together in something of a horseshoe shape to create some very sparse sleeping quarters.  There are bunk beds in each room; although no ladder to climb up in ours... making for an entertaining (or embarrasing, depending on your point of view) scramble up each night.  Each cabin also has a mini-fridge... so that you can have your cold beer waiting for you after each dive... some even tell great stories of diving while hung over and actually losing their lunch right into their regulators.  Yes... interesting people on this trip.
Here is one photo giving an idea of what the cabins are like.
So we get out to the island on Friday morning around 11:30 or so.  We get checked in to our cabin... then go for a quick trip across the bay on some ocean kayaks.  It was beautiful... you couldn't ask for nicer water... and clear enough to look right down at least 20 feet through the kelp forests.
We did a night dive Friday night... and although my buddy had to surface after only about 10 minutes due to a slight equipment problem, I was able to follow him back to shore on the bottom of the shallow bay.  On the way in I saw several octopus, a monster Morey Eel, Sting Rays, Thornback Rays, Shrimp, and tons of other little creatures. 
The next morning, we packed our gear onto kayaks and left the bay for another beach about a mile from Two Harbors.  We suited up and dropped down through the kelp for an excellent dive.  Among the regular creatures, we saw a Sheep Crab larger than either of my twins!  This guy could easily have eaten my dog!  I almost swore through my regulator... I was so blown away by it's size.
After the dive, we headed back for some lunch and a rest before our afternoon excursion on the dive boat Garibaldi.  Unfortunately; Bryan, my dive buddy, tweaked an old back injury while carrying all his gear and weights and ended up laid up in bed for pretty much the rest of the day.  While he tried to recuperate a bit, I headed out for two dives from the boat.  I was paired up with a diver from Scotland who now makes her home in San Diego.  The dives were fun, if uneventful.  Most of the cool creatures don't show themselves nearly as much during the day as at night.  All in all though, the dive boat was a fun experience.  We did see a ton of Hermissenda Nudibranches and even a couple of horn sharks.
Saturday night, I ditched Bryan again.  He was still laid up in bed... so I joined several other divers on another night dive.  Again, several octopus and garibaldis... and another sheep crab... though not nearly as large as the one from that morning.  After surfacing and finding the 4th diver in our group... who somehow got separated from us... we headed back to the shore.  I jumped in the shower with all of my gear still on so that I could rinse the salt and sand off of it... then headed for bed.  Diving can be very relaxing... but spending about 3 hours underwater in one day... and carting all that gear around between dives... can really take it out of you.
Just another interesting fact to note... Bison were brought to the island a few decades ago to use in a film that was being shot there.  They ended up not using them in the film... but left them on the island.  There are now about 250 American Bison in the Catalina Herd... and they just roam free around the island.  This guy walked right into town on Friday.  I stood about 20 feet away from him and wondered how fast I could climb a tree if I had the proper motivation.  Fortunately, he was just looking for a good log to scratch his back on... and didn't show any interest in me.
Unfortunately, the camera I took with me to the island was really a crummy piece of machinery.  I took it back to Sport Chalet and told them they should not even carry it in their inventory.  Because it took such crummy pics, I am using some pics from other trips we have made to Catalina in the past couple of years.  I am also adding some from the web so that you can see some of the animals we encountered.  Next time, I will try to get some more pics of my own.
Hermissenda Nudibranch- obviously taken by someone with a much nicer camera than me.
Garibaldi- state fish of California... and fun little guys... they like to buzz your mask

Kelp Forest

Small Morey Eel... about 1/3 of the size of the guy I saw on this trip
Horn Shark- cute little guys... and no teeth!

Octopus... a little bigger than the several I saw

Jelly Fish... one of the few decent pics I was able to get this trip

Sheep Crab... but not as big as the one I saw