Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Be Mine!

All you need is LOVE and six, cute kids to help you celebrate Valentine's Day to the fullest!  We got to celebrate all day long since the kids were out of school.  My idea of a holiday.  They had their Valentine parties last week at school and Valentine's Day was filled with lots of fun activities.   

Morgan and her aide, Miss Aubrey, at her Valentine party last week.  She loves it when I volunteer in her classroom.  I was in charge of the bowling game and she could not wait until it was her group's turn to join me.  She ran up and gave me her big monkey hug.  The one where she wraps her legs around me and hangs on to my neck while I attempt to keep my balance and not fall over because it's just that exciting when she sees her mama in her classroom.

We started off the day with pink waffles and pink milk.

I just wish the waffles stayed pink through the cooking process but they really were more pink than this picture shows. 

Gavin took the boys skiing (59 degrees and sunny!) while I got to spend the day with Hadley, Morgan, Griffin and Mia.  We went to a music class and then swimming at the rec center.

I was able to convince (force) the remaining kids to take a few pictures.  Hadley is always willing.

Mia was not excited about pictures and didn't feel like posing for me.  This was the best smile I got out of this girl.

It is next to impossible to get Griffin to look at the camera so we just rolled with it and let him look wherever he felt like looking.  He's smiling at his big sister, Hadley, in this shot.

Morgan just wanted to play with the blocks and scramble the letters.  I managed to capture this picture in between block remodelings.

Like this . . .

Happy Valentine's Day to you!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Live brave.

All of the support, kindness, comments, emails, phone calls and prayers in behalf of my family and my sweet dad have amazed me.  Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out and remembering my dad in your prayers.  I have felt your support and it means so very much to me!

Flower Patch Farmgirl asked a simple question,  "So tell me, what are you being brave about right now?" It was for a leather cuff bracelet giveaway.  I read the post after the giveaway had closed but felt like I needed to comment anyway.  I usually have to think about what my answer should be when I am asked a random question, but this one was so easy.  It's all I've been able to think about for the past week.  Watching as everyone in my family has put on their brave face and held each other up.  But most importantly watching my dad and mom doing their best to remain brave and strong as they face this unknown journey of IPF (Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis).

Flower Patch Farmgirl was overwhelmed by the responses:

"From the major to the mundane, I found myself reacting in a really personal way. The truth of the matter is - Brave is universal.

My initial hope was that by voicing the thing that has you teetering up near the edge, you might find yourself more steady than the moment before.

So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. - Matthew 10:11

But then I fell asleep, once again, with YOU swirling around in my noggin, and I knew there was more to the story. See, there's no good reason for any one of us to walk alone, especially when it's this cold outside.

As such, I do hereby declare this Thursday, February 10th, the official Flower Patch National Day of Bravery.

We were made to connect and so many of you took that first step by sharing from your heart about things deeply personal - maybe maddening, and possibly even downright terrifying. You've reached out, now reach back."

Not expecting anything on Thursday since I was the last one to leave a comment on that post, I turned on my computer and was left speechless as I read this email from a complete stranger:

you are my person to lift up today, and i could not have been given someone more precious. your sudden need for excruciating bravery made the daughter in me cry--your father is beautiful, and i am so sad that he is facing this, and oh how blessed you all are to have each other.
i'm lifting you and your dad and your whole gorgeous family up to our Heavenly Father today. i am praying for wholeness and redemption and so much joy it spills out through the cracks of this fragile life. God please, show up in ways that astound us yet again.
you are deeply treasured, heather. may courage flood your veins.

I want to let you all know how incredibly grateful I am to all of you (friends and strangers).  For all of your kindness and support.  I believe in the power of prayer!  Thank you for helping me and my family to be brave!

P.S.  I went back through the comments and looked to see if I could find Nicole.  I wanted to know more about her.  To be able to put a face to the name.  I found her blog, sixty piggies.  She is just as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside.  Thank you Nicole for taking the time to reach out to me.  And for taking the time to pray for me, my dad and my whole family!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


It throws you a curve ball every once in awhile.  Usually when you least expect it.  This past weekend has been full of tears, disbelief, shock and lots of prayers.  It's amazing how quickly life, as you know it, can be changed in an instant.  My dad sent out an email to all of the family on Friday night letting us all know that he has been diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (a chronic, progressive form of lung disease).  An email.  Because that's just the way my dad rolls.  Always making everything seem like it's not a big deal. I didn't expect this email on Friday night or any night.  My dad has always been healthy.  A retired physician.  And he's only 68 years old.  I now have a new understanding and appreciation for friends who have lost their parents and those who are currently watching their parents fight a terminal illness.  It's harder than you can ever imagine.  So much harder!  I spent the next 24 hours googling and reading everything I could on IPF.  There is no known cause or cure.  Most people live about 5 years after getting the diagnosis, but he caught it early and we're confident we are gonna have him with us for a very long time!

I am so incredibly blessed to have these two as my parents!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mexico. Cruise. And lots of food.

We're back home from our cruise to the Mexican Riviera.  I've been home long enough now that my tan has almost completely disappeared and so have those extra five pounds I gained while enjoying myself a little too much on the cruise.  Reality doesn't give you any time to adjust once you get home.  I had this huge PTA project waiting for me when I got home.  Staring at me.  Finally got it done and it feels good!  I was really good about getting all of the laundry washed and suitcases put away right after we got home but not as good with getting it folded and put away.  Our floor has been covered with piles and piles of clean laundry for more than a week.  I had all of it piled up nicely in the corner of my bedroom.  Morgan came and got me and excitedly led me to my bedroom.  Look Mom!  I did it all by myself!  Laundry thrown all over my bedroom floor.  All by herself.  And her doll. 

And now with all of the laundry finally put away, all of the evidence of our cruise is now just in our memories and pictures (and Hadley's braids).

When our good friends, Anne and Christopher, approached us last fall with the idea of going on a cruise together and taking our our oldest kids as part of their Christmas, I was all for it!  But then again, not sure when I've ever turned down a vacation offer.  We knew the kids and the parents would have a great time together.  And an even better time in the middle of January.  A welcome break from the winter cold and snow.  Shortly after we started making the plans,  Gavin's parents sent out an email asking who would be interested in going on a cruise.  Long story short . . . we all went together and everyone got along perfectly and had a wonderful time!

Our ship left out of San Diego and we decided to be brave and do a little road trip to San Diego.  We left the cold and snow behind and drove for 9 hours.  Watching movies.  Listening to music.  Playing on my iphone (totally caught up on my google reader).  And just a little fighting, even with room to spread out in the car. 

We stopped in Vegas for dinner.  The kids were all so excited to see Las Vegas.  Acting like it was their first time.  I guess it has been awhile since they had been there.  As we pulled on to the strip, Ryan was declaring his love for this city.  Hadley commented that if we would've have flown we wouldn't have been able to see all of these big hotels and billboards.  Ryan decided he wanted to live here when he grew up.  All of that excitement lasted for about 2 minutes.  Max.  Then they started to notice some of the other highlights of Las Vegas.  We told them to try to not look at the scantily clad women on the sides of cars and taxis and billboards.  Jack put his head down and said he didn't know where to look anymore.  We made it safely inside the Paris hotel and had a yummy dinner.  Then back on the road to Barstow.   Where we met up with the Jensens and spent the night.

We made it to San Diego the next morning with enough time to walk around Seaport Village and enjoy the sunshine.  I was actually hot and wishing I wasn't wearing jeans and socks.  It was a welcome change!

We even had time to catch up with Michelle!  She is expecting her first baby in a few weeks and lives in San Diego.  She is literally glowing, but then again we were all a little sweaty so not sure if it was the pregnancy or just the nice weather.  Either way.  She makes pregnancy look beautiful and I'm so excited for her to become a mama!  (and to move back to SLC!)

We boarded our ship.  Holland America Oosterdam. And found our rooms and hoped for the best with our boys.  We put the 4 oldest boys in their own room.  On their own floor.  Luckily they did great besides a few food items thrown on the walls and the over-use of room service.

This was our first time to cruise with a private balcony and it may be worth the extra cost.  We enjoyed being able to watch the ship depart from the ports from our own balcony and not have to fight the crowds for a view.

Leaving San Diego.

Our first night on the cruise.  On our way to dinner.  The food was so good on this cruise.  My favorite.  We ordered several entrees and desserts every night.  Did I mention I gained 5 lbs.?  That didn't just happen.  It took some serious eating on my part!

Our traveling buddies . . . The Jensen Family.

We spent the first day at sea and I spent the first day sleeping.  It felt so good to get caught up on sleep.  I slept in and then woke up just in time to fall asleep on the top deck in a lounge chair.  We all slept really well the entire trip.  There's a real connection to that continuous rocking and deep sleep.

First stop -- Puerto Vallarta.

This is my favorite stop.  I love the shopping.  The boardwalk.  The beaches.  The rain forest.  The mountains and beach.  The food.  And the people.  It's just beautiful!  We honeymooned here almost 15 years ago and have been back several times with the family.

Started the day with some shopping in the flea markets

and walking along the boardwalk.  Posing by all of the various bronze sculptures along the way.

All of us

There is a restaurant on the top floor of that building at the top of the hill.  El Panorama.  We ate there 15 years ago on our honeymoon.  Just in case you were wondering, this is what we looked like on that exact night, in that restaurant.

 We then drove up to the overlook of the city.

And then to the rain forest just in time for lunch and the zip line.  Our driver told us there was nowhere to eat by the beach so we would want to eat in the rain forest.  Weird but the only restaurant in the rain forest was outrageously priced and when we got to the beach there were plenty of spots for lunch.  Quite certain he was getting a percentage of our sales for taking us there.

Canopy Nogalito

The brave group getting prepped for the zip line.  I felt like my experience in Roatan was enough to justify skipping this adventure in the mosquito infested jungle.

We ended our day at a beach out of the city.  The place where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor fell in love while filming The Night of the Iguana.  Mismaloya Beach.  And fall in love we did just in time for the sun to set and head back to the ship.

Second stop -- Mazatlan

We spent the entire day on the beach.  We were swarmed with vendors the moment we stepped on the beach and it didn't ever stop.  Maybe because we were buying.  But can you blame us when they have such great things to buy?  Like . . .

this mask that Scott had to buy. 

Wooden handmade goods.  Monkeys in coconut trees.  When would you NOT use this stuff?

Cute white, cotton cover ups

Personalized bracelets for all of the kids.  Lupe spent the entire day with us making all kinds of bracelets.  I was a little sad to say good bye to her when it was time to go.  Felt like she was part of our family after all of the bonding and threading we did together.  But we paid her three dollars for each bracelet and felt good about our contribution to her day.

Hadley's completed bracelet.  I'm completely enjoying my time on the beach with a good nap.  And the horses just kept getting closer and closer to us.  Finally we lost our view of the water and asked them if they could move their horses down the beach just a few steps.

And Hadley was excited to get her hair braided again.  She had it done 4 years ago in Mexico.  It took about 45 minutes and 25 dollars.  I'd pay this lady $25 (and airfare) to come to our house and get these braids OUT!  Crazy, twisted, broken, frizzy hair.  We're half way there.  Hopefully tonight my girl will be braid-free.

This was my favorite part of the day.  For obvious reasons.  60 minute massage on the beach.  It literally took several days and hair washings to get all of that oil out of my hair.  My hair looked wet even when dry.  Let's just say I was looking good!

Hadley shared a room with us so we have lots of pictures of her on the ship.  Jack and Ryan, not so much.  They kind of did their own thing when we were on the ship.  Basketball.  Ping Pong.  Eating panini's and soft serve ice cream in waffle cones.  Chess.  And watching DVDs in their room.

Third Stop -- Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas has been dubbed the Cozumel of Mexico's west coast.  And I'd have to agree.  This was the only stop where we had white sand, and crystal, blue water.  We hired a water taxi (aka "Sex Machine") to take us around Cabo.  We toured around the bay and saw lots of fish swimming in the glass bottom boat.  Seals sunbathing on rocks.  Pelicans all over the beach and rocks at Los Pelicanos Beach.   We drove all around the Rocks of Los Arcos --  beautiful little sharp mountains that emerge out of the sea. 

Ryan, Hadley, Sophia, Britton and Jack with our ship in the background.

My in laws.  Jack and Lolly.  I already know what you're thinking.  Yes, I am one lucky girl!  Love them!  We had so much fun having them with us.  They live 4 hours away and we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like so spending a week together was heaven for us and the kids!

Hadley loved taking pictures on the trip.  She took my old camera and got some great pictures!

First stop of the tour -- Lover's Beach

This beach is beautiful and not very crowded.  The only way to get to this hidden cove is by water taxi.  It's out on the edge of the bay and you can see where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean from this beach.  

Lover's Beach seems like the perfect place to get a picture of you and your lover.  I am shocked by how few of pictures I took at this beach.  Only a handful.  I may not have gotten a picture with my love on this beach but I do have this gem.  A picture of Gavin with his little bro, Scott.  Who, by the way, made this trip so fun!  He kept us laughing, really laughing.  So glad he was able to join us all.

I also got a picture of Nan and Papa enjoying the shadier part of the beach.  Reading and resting against the huge granite rock formations found on the beach.

Everyone walked and/or swam over to Pelican's Beach for some snorkeling.  No pictures.

Next and last stop on the tour - -  Medano Beach

where we had a yummy lunch with fajitas, chips and guac and pina coladas.  Yum!

Saying good bye to Cabo San Lucas

Our second formal night on the ship.  The Jensens and the Seals.  The food was so yummy.  Lobster and Filet mignon. 

The last day was spent at sea and the perfect opportunity for a 5K.  We joined "On Deck for the Cure".   And walked in support of a cure for breast cancer.  My mother-in-law is a breast cancer survivor (7 years) and they had her and 4 other breast cancer survivors lead us in the walk.  It really was emotional for me to watch her go up in front and lead us all.  So proud of her and her strength!

We spent the rest of the day eating and sleeping.  Enjoying the last few moments of our vacation.

Back in San Diego and ready to drive back home.  All happy faces.

We took our own sweet time getting home with a stop at Calico Ghost Town (right outside of Barstow). My bro-in-law, Scott was really excited about this stop.  I guess it goes with being a geologist.  The rest of us were just ready to get home.

We got our feel for Calico and got back on the road.  Just in time for one more stop . . . Primm.  The boys wanted to ride the Desperado coaster in Buffalo Bill's casino.  This roller coaster used to hold the world record for tallest, fastest and steepest roller coaster.  It has a 225 foot drop and speeds up to 95 mph.  All justifying my reasons for wanting to stay in the car and take pictures.

And now the final remaining reminder of our trip is gone.  Hadley's braids.  That's what happens when it takes a few days to finish one blog post. 

It was an amazing week!  We made the best memories with our family and friends.  And I'm guessing this is only the first of many vacations to come with the Jensens.