August 24, 2012

Four and a half years ago I became familiar with the ever popular blog the NieNie Dialogues.  Since that time, I have enjoyed reading about Stephanie Nielsen and her family, and I've even taken to adopt some of her traditions for my own family.  The Back-to-School feast is one such idea I gleaned from her posts, and we have done it ever since.  It has become a special celebration to signal the end of summer and welcome in the new school year with recommitted purpose.
On the Monday before the first day of school, we enjoy a formal meal, complete with china and real silverware.  Jason and I talk to our children and express our expectations for the upcoming school year.  We introduce a scripture that we hope will become a guide to inspire the choices our children make when they are away from our direct influence at school.  This year the scripture of choice teaches, "Arise from the dust, my sons, and be men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things..."  This is a message that really resonated with me because I am recognizing that as my children grow older, they are capable of living up to the expectation of being men, or, as I like to encourage them, gentlemen.  More than anything, I hope for them to develop a strong sense of unity and commitment to each other and their family.  (Only time will tell if any of that message got through all of the goofing-off and disobedient behavior that was displayed at times during our discussion.)
After dinner and our lesson, each of the boys were given a father's blessing as Brevin and Spencer prepare for another school year, and Garrett prepares for the start of preschool.  Not to be left out, Ella climbed in the chair and insisted that she, too, have a blessing.  

Before I knew it, it was time to send my children off for school and place them in the primary care of their new teachers. I am excited for them as the begin a new chapter in their lives.

Here is Brevin on the first day of 4th grade. His teacher is Mrs. Wride.

Here is Spencer on the first day of 2nd grade. His teacher is Miss Winkel.

They attend Art City Elementary School and the school mascot is the eagle.

On the first morning, the halls were buzzing with children's excited
chattering.  Even the teachers looked happy to start a new year.

While I'm not sure how many more years these boys will tolerate a photo
at their classroom desk, I am glad they still seem happy to let me do it.
This post authored by Amber


Spencer had his first Cub Scout Pack Meeting on August 15th.  He was welcomed into Pack #1476 with the boys chanting, "Baby powder.  Baby powder," as Jason marked his back with an animal paw print.  He also received his Bobcat Rank and was ceremoniously presented with his patch followed with a Native American face painting ritual.  Jason and I are excited for him to now be a part of the Scout experience, and we look forward to all of the activities that he will participate in along the way.  We are proud of our little Bobcat.

This post authored by Amber

House Guests

My sister-in-law, Jenny, and I have started a bit of a yearly tradition.  I get to have her two youngest girls come stay at our place for a couple of days while she attends classes at BYU's Education Week.  It is a great opportunity for my children to make fun memories with their cousins, and it is wonderful motivation for me to clean off the bed in the guest bedroom (which oftentimes serves as a "dumping ground").

I have to say, it is so much fun having these two darling, spunky, energetic girls in my home. They are fearless in their sense of adventure, they are entertaining in their conversations, and they are cheerful and bubbly.  They also remind me of their dad, and every time they visit, it's as if he gets to come along, too.  I love having that reconnection with him through them.

On the night of the girl's arrival, Jason's family had all been invited to a pool party at his sister's home.  Sophie and Addie got to tag along.  They loved it!

It has become a tradition to bake Rolo cookies at the beginning of Sophie and Addie's visit.  We make an obscene amount of cookies, and we try to see if there are any left to send a few home with the girls when their stay is over.  That is no small feat, I'm telling you!

I think the children thought the cookies would turn out better if they
all placed their hands on the Kitchen Aid during the mixing process.

Sophie was really interested in helping Ella get ready for each day during her visit.  She asked to pick out her clothes and insisted on doing her hair.  I was surprised to see how well Ella did during these grooming sessions.  I was also very impressed with how she looked when Sophie was done with her.  I was, however, not quite as impressed with how well I did when it came to Sophie and Addie's hair.  (In my defense, please know that I offered, but they weren't interested in having me style their hair.)

Since the girls seemed to like playing in the water so much, I figured I'd take them to the Spanish Fork splash pad and adjacent park.  It is the perfect place to entertain children and keep them cool at the same time.

Jenny should consider installing a bidet in her home. 
I think the girls would love it! (Sorry.  I couldn't resist.)


For the last day of Sophie and Addie's stay, I thought I'd take them to the Grotto Trail up Payson Canyon.  After all, places with water seemed to be a hit with all the children.  I found the drive time to and from was just as much fun.  We listened to a CD of recently downloaded pop hits, and the children sang We Are Young and Call Me Maybe at the top of their lungs. I'm relieved to know that there are other children in the world whose voices carry like my own children's do. Yep, my van was full of the cutest little loud-mouths around.

By the time Jenny came to pick up the girls, the cookies were nearly gone and there were very few clean towels in the house, but my camera's memory card was full.  My heart was full, too.
I've loved having Sophie and Addie over and I look forward to next year's visit.
This post authored by Amber 


August 23, 2012

Almost Heaven

Pleasantly cool temperatures, fresh air saturated with the smell of pine, and fish that seem anxious to jump onto any line you throw at them are just a few of the reasons we are drawn every year to the high Uintas for an annual camping trip with our family.  This year we settled in at Washington Lake, where campsites are paved and restrooms are provided.  It's a good fit for our family and our little 1996 Coleman tent trailer. Turns out that the four-day, three-night excursion was just the right way to wrap up the summer's activities.
Around Camp:

Gathering around a campfire is a perfect way to end each day.

This was the second year we managed to secure campsite #4.  We stayed there in 2006.  Last year, Grandpa Park was up the same time we were and had that campsite, so he let us come over to take a picture on the tree stump like we had done years earlier.  It is fun to look at the following photos and see just how much our children have grown (and how our family has changed) in six years:

Brevin decided to keep this fish, so he
 put on gloves so he could gut it himself.

Here is Spencer fishing at Crystal Lake which is a smaller,
secluded lake just above Washington Lake.

Jason handed his pole over to Garrett so he could help Brevin
with a fish on his line. Garrett reeled in Jason's line and
caught a fish while in the process.  No kidding!

I hope Ella never loses interest in fishing with her dad.

For the most part, Ella, Garrett and I sit
on the shore and watch all the fishing action.

Spending time with Grandma and Grandpa Park:

Steve and Judy made a point to be at Washington Lake for a few of the days
we were there.  We were so happy to have them as our camping "next-door
neighbors" as it made for some wonderful, quality bonding time with our children.

A Stop at Provo Upper Falls:

The Best Dang S'mores We've Ever Had (and I'm Not Even Exaggerating):

Making the Most of Our Last Day:
Ella and Garrett buried each other in the sand on the shore,

Brevin fished and kept cool at the same time,

and Spencer and Jason caught the last two fish of the trip at
the exact same time (and they both caught a tiger trout, too).
We hitched up our trailer, and pulled away from campsite #4, bringing home sand in our pockets, sunburns on our cheeks, and a whole handful of memories to last a lifetime.  Well, until next year!
This post authored by Amber