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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Would you like your Change?...

Dear Family and Friends,

You know when you start feeling pretty comfortable with your life God has a way of giving you a nudge or a big push to get you back on track?  This week we shook things up a little bit in our household.  Wednesday night our Stake President came over and called Jeremy to be a 2nd counselor in our bishopric and to be ordained as a High Priest.  I swear all the blood drained from Jeremy's face and we were both a little bit shocked.  Jeremy felt completely unworthy in anyway for this calling so I appreciate those who prayed for him not knowing why he needed it this week.  But I am a firm believer in whom the Lord calls, he qualifies so I know Jeremy can do this.  He just know what kind of person he is and who he feels that he should be for this calling.  Always a sobering moment.  My dad flew in yesterday so he could be here today to ordain Jeremy.  We were amazed and touched that he was willing to do that at the last moment.  Jeremy's brother and his family were also able to join us.  I know it meant a lot to Jeremy to have them here.  So a new adventure in church service begins...Next week he conducts!:)

As far as other news this week.  Spencer was gone from Monday through Saturday to scout camp with our old ward.  Jeremy was able to spend the day up there helping out on Tuesday and showing Spencer how the dad can still hit a bulls-eye.  I am just grateful for two scout leaders who are willing to spend a week with 16 smelly rambunctious boys out in the wilderness.  Spencer worked on rifle shooting, archery and environmental science.  He was quite proud that he qualified for the archery merit badge as it was much harder than he thought it would be.  On Friday night we spent the evening with him for the camp fire and to have him show us around.  It was a great experience for him.  I was worried that he would forget to take him pills but he only forgot one morning dose which is pretty good.  He also learned that when you share a tent and meals that you will have lots of messes and that you don't want to be last to breakfast.

Monday we got a surprising call from our Honda dealership.  Seems like used vans are in short supply right now.  So they offered to take our used Odyssey which Jeremy's company leases for us and exchange it for a brand new one if we extended our lease for three years, at the same price.  So we decided to go for it and now have a new van.  I am almost embarrassed to drive it as it has far more bells and whistles than we need.  The girls and I spent some quality time int he dealership waiting area this week to get a car rack put on and to do all the paperwork etc.  Good thing they serve popcorn!

We also got to babysit a bit this week for two of my friends and then for cousins.  Made for a fun week.  Robyn did a last week of swim lessons and was excited to learn how to do actual swim strokes.  She can cruise away now.  Her side breathing involves inhaling half water half air still but she doesn't care.  On Friday we spent the afternoon at the pool and she just had a ball doing cannonballs of the side over and over while Allison hung out with friends and Taylor taught me the fine art of sunbathing in the shallow waters.  This week summer and hot temperatures finally hit Utah so any water activity feels really good.

This week I finally finished our spring to do list on the fridge by painting the trim on the playhouse.  I ripped that page off with a huge smile and tried not to think about the fact that I did two of the things on it and that my parents did all the rest.  Think I will wait a week before I start the summer to do list.

Allison had her last two softball games this week.  She loved playing with her friends but I didn't love attending the games so much.  When they pitch to each other, the games are really slow.  You have to pay attention so you don't miss it when someone actually does hit the ball!  Her catching skills have definitely improved as a result though.  T-Ball still has a few more weeks to go so our nights are not our own yet. 

With all the other weekly activities and chores that crop up this week seemed pretty hopping.  Saturday night we were able to go out to dinner with my dad and tonight we had a friend of Jeremy's over along with his family.  It is nice sometimes to just stop, relax and hang out a bit.  Especially if adult talk is included!  So a busy week but a good one.

Love Heather

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ragnar and Father's

Dear Family and Friends,

Highlight of this week was the Ragnar relay this weekend.  I was on a team called Steel Magnolias hence the flowers in the hair and the shirts.  We have a team member in her early 20s to one in her early 50s, one who is 5 months pregnant and two who are grandmas.  It is really a unique group of friends brought together by running together.  We have been training and planning together for a year now to do this so it was a huge culmination.  Spending 40 hours in a van with woman you admire and cheering each other on to do your best as everyone did legs that were a big challenge for them was amazing.  The relay is truly a little over the top insane and watching all the funny (and sometimes crass) 1200 teams is part of the fun.  Vans are decorated and pimped out.  Teams in superhero costumes and wigs running next to you.  Our van started first at 6:30 up in Logan at Utah State.  Which meant to get there to check in at 5:30 am  for the safety lectures etc we had to leave at 3 am.  I was runner number one and ran at 6:30 am starting off on the Utah State Track and going through a bunch of small towns, running at 4:30 pm up and out of Snow Basin Ski Resort and then again at 3:40 am.  We did get to sleep for 3 1/2 hours with our sleeping bags spread out on the grass at the Oakley Rodeo grounds in 36 degree temperatures.  I did mention the relay is a bit over the top didn't I?  Our team finished up at 1:50 pm on Saturday.  I ended up running 20 miles total (which is a big leap up from 14 miles which is the longest I have ever run) without walking which was my goal.  Very hard but cool to do.  Planning to take next year off and work more on a few smaller races through the year instead.  I do have one more race that I am doing at the end of July but that is it.  Hopefully our running group will keep going though now that our year is over.  But I definitely won't be running for a few days now.  And biggest plus was that my knees were stiff and sore by the end but nothing hurt.  Must have been all those prayers.

This week was Strawberry Days, our city celebration.  Monday was free pool day so despite the clouds and wind we piled kids and a few friends in the car to brave the pool.  We stuck it out for a few hours and then the clouds went away, the sun came out and we enjoyed a perfect afternoon splashing around for our first swimming day outside this year.  Wednesday night we did our annual Rodeo night.  For the first time we took Taylor and Robyn along with Spencer and Allison.  Plied with junk food and impressed at how easy it was to get Taylor in and out for a front row seat, we all enjoyed it.  And then Saturday Jeremy took on kids a day of the city parade, cleaning the office, shopping for Spencer's shoes and doing a BBQ for kids by himself.  For the parade they went to a friend's house who lives on the parade route and kids enjoyed meeting his HUGE dog:

Our new respite worker Ashlee has been like a gift from heaven for us.  She is still looking for a weekday CNA job so she came over Friday to watch the kids while I was gone.  They are all loving her.  And then Saturday night I was able to come home for an hour to unpack and then go out on a date with Jeremy to eat a bunch of food, see a play and play catch up for the weekend.  Jeremy was told today to "brace himself" for a new calling which makes me want to soak up all the couple time we can while we can.

Jeremy outfitted Spencer this week for a scout fishing trip on Tuesday.  It really is Spencer's first time officially fishing and not just having Jeremy throw in a little kiddie line for him.  He didn't catch a thing and was a bit put out about having his line tangled up but can't wait to try it again.  He is a little paranoid about loosing a lure now that he know how much he will have to pay to buy a replacement!  Tomorrow morning he leaves for a week for his scout camp with the 3rd ward.  I will be praying really hard this week!  I am just glad that Jeremy is going up Tuesday to spend the day helping out and can check up on him but Spencer is quite excited about it.  In July he gets to go again with the 2nd ward.

Allison has one more week of softball.  This week she got one base twice, once through a bunch of balls and once by hitting the ball and making it all the way to second base.  She was quite stoked because she has never made it to base before in any of the games.  The girls pitch to each other so to actually hit the ball is a big accomplishment.  Robyn's team plays duck duck goose in the outfield while they wait their turn to chase the ball.  Your typical t-ball, where's the treats and who do we cheer for type of game.
This week we have definitely been more in the spirit of summer.  Warm sunny weather helps as well as the realization that summer jobs will happen and that sometimes we can't play with friends.  I still try to convince kids to stay home while I do the grocery shopping but they regard the local grocery store as one of the best outings of the week so that isn't happening.  Thats what happens when they pass out free cookies at the bakery and everyone gets to play bumper cart as they get their groceries off their list.  Girls started gymnastics this week at the rec center.  Much more laid back than ones they have done in the past which they love.  As Allison put it they only do the stuff she loves - flips, walk overs, skin the cat etc and not the stuff she hates - pull ups, sit ups etc.

I am also trying to focus more on the positive.  I get wrapped up till like I am a little hen pecking away at my kids when I tell Spencer to chew food with his mouth shut, for Allison to not throw her clothes on the floor or for Robyn to stop using her whining yelling voice - for quite literally the thousandth time and no that is really not an exaggeration.  Especially with Spencer there is so much to peck and pick at that it is hard to just stop sometimes.  But hopefully I will get better and focus on the fact that he could mow our neighbors lawn (after 4 mom assists, 2 glasses of water and an hour but boy was he proud of himself) or make dinner for our family on Saturday by himself (thank you Duty to God program!).  There really is so much good that I need to overlook the mannerisms and problems each kid has or at least not feel like I continuously focus on them.  See if I can do any better.

Taylor goes back to school this week and starts physical therapy as well.  He is starting to bear weight better and tries to catch himself when he falls.  Not great but a definite improvement.  He only will go to school for six days in June and six days in July but I think they will help get him going again.

Love to you all but especially to my Dad and Jeremy.  Where would I be without the men in my life?


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Moist Gooey Carrot Cake

This cake recipe is almost entirely from, one of my favorite recipe sites.  I have another carrot cake recipe that is more formal and makes a great presentation.  It is easy to frost and holds its shape perfectly and is a more dense carrot cake.  This is a moist, gooey carrot cake that you could eat with a spoon and is a heart attack waiting to happen.  After eating this and then trying to run I told my kids I would pay them if they caught me eating it again for the next week or two.  It is that addictive.

Moist Gooey Carrot Cake

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. table salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. grated carrot
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
2/3 c. coconut
1 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and line with parchment paper (don't skip this!) 3, 9 inch cake pans.  And then grease the parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a mixer, beat all the wet ingredients together on high speed  till smooth.  Add in the dry ingredients.  Beat on low speed until smooth.  Fold in the carrots, pineapple, coconut and nuts.  Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until you touch the middle with your finger and it springs back a little.

While the cakes are baking make the buttermilk glaze:

Buttermilk Glaze:
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. butter
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large saucepan combine the above ingredients.  Bring to a boil for 4 minutes over medium heat.  The glaze should be a golden color.

Wen the cakes are done, flip them onto a wire rack and drizzle the glaze over the cakes.  Then cool the cakes completely for at least 2 hours.

Make the cream cheese frosting.  Jeremy prefers the frosting doubled so you can do extra thick layers.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
11 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. real butter, softened
3/4-1 lb. powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine butter, cream cheese, and vanilla and beat until combined and fluffy. Add 3/4 lb. powdered sugar and beat on high speed until fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to taste.

Put a dab of frosting on the bottom of your serving plate to hold the cake in place.  Put the first layer down, frost, second layer, frost, third layer.  Then frost the top and sides.  Cool in the refrigerator for at least a few hours before you need to serve it otherwise it will fall apart when you try to cut it.

Dear Family and Friends,

Our family pictures are done!  I have been staring at them all week trying to decide how to literally wallpaper our house with them as each one just makes me smile.  But since that is probably not a reality I just need to whittle down my choices a little.  So warning this is a HEAVY photo post cause really I am just in love with them.  They are helping me get closer to achieving my summer zen where constant talking and kid noises and needs don't drive me insane but make me smile instead.  I haven't reached there yet but am trying.

Allison had her dance recital this Saturday.  She really wanted curly hair for it, like a character in Ramona and Beesus.  So our neighbor showed us how to do her hair with tons of gel and rollers 24 hours in advance.  Reminded me of my Grandma having her hair done.  But it worked and she loved the results:

At Allison's recital, Spencer told me quite seriously that Allison needs to start eating more veggies so she can grow.  Look carefully at the videos and she is the tiny person surrounded by big kids!
Allison's Dance recital:

This week Jeremy and I started up Date night again.  Yeah!!  Temple and dinner out with Jason and Kelly fit the bill perfectly.  Eating delicious food, being able to go to the temple together and not in the wee hours of the night, and just being able to have conversations without any kids trying to join in was pure heaven.  Tough thing for me since school got out is that Spencer and often Allison stay up almost as late as we do.  It makes for less grown-up time and is a tough adjustment to make.  We hired a new respite worker named Ashlee who our kids have all decided will be great and I agree.  So back to our Saturday night schedule.

Allison and Robyn had swimming lessons all week.  This year we went to a family's pool that has these teen age kids teach the lessons.  Their lessons were 40 minutes each and were right after each other.  So we packed lunch every day and hung out in their yard for a few hours.  Allison just passed level 5 gasping and straining to do all the laps.  But as her teacher said although technically she can swim 50 yards of the 5 different strokes consecutively she is gasping and trembling to do so.  She is not ready to make the jump to level 6 where they swim 100 yards of each stroke.  So next year she will try again.  Robyn loved swimming and would cry every day because we weren't spending the day at the pool.  If she could she would live at the swimming pool.  Monday was our free day to spend the day at the pool.  Unfortunately it was the day of a huge wind storm.  So we spent the afternoon at the indoor pool by us.  Robyn had to be dragged from the water kicking and screaming with promises that she could run straight to the hot tub when we got home.  Taylor loved floating his legs in the water and lasted almost an hour which for him was huge.

Kids all started their summer cooking class this week as well as their library classes and for Spencer guitar as well.  This week really was summer full blast at our house.  And softball continues with Allison and then this week Robyn started t-ball.  So our days have been hopping and causing me to wonder if we really meant to commit to all these things.  But our kids are loving them.  And there are worse things then spending every Tuesday and Thursday during June at the park cheering on our girls.  Allison finally got walked to first base this week and was able to run all the bases during the game.  She was getting quite discouraged about not having made it to a base yet.  Robyn's t-ball is just a comic event of 5 year old proportions.  She is most excited about the treats and cheering and doesn't pay much attention to the rest.

Spencer started a new adventure this week by biking to the library 2 miles from our house by himself.  We drove the route, he made a map and called me when he got there and when he was leaving.  You could just see the excitement of freedom in his eyes.  The next day he took Allison with him.  They think they are so cool.  I just try not to think of the fact that for 30 minutes my children are on the roads somewhere without me watching them!

Taylor has started trying to feed himself again which is always a good sign.  He is even starting to bulk up a little.  When we can force him to walk he has a totally different posture now.  He looks like a cowboy who spent too much time on a horse.  He is really awkward at supporting himself and doesn't want to move at all.  He is going to start physical therapy next week which hopefully will help.

This week I finally went into an orthopedic doctor about my knee.  Its nice to know that I was right and it is runner's knee and that when my knee locks up there is no cartilage or anything in there, just muscle.  And he gave me some good ideas to improve it.   But I made it running this week without ibuprofen which is always a good sign.  Ragnar is this next weekend so I have been busy getting ready for that.  I feel like I am much better prepared this year for it plus I am doing it with all my friends which will be so fun.

My favorite quote of the week is Spencer telling me "I want to grow up, I just don't want to do all the stupid jobs that come along with growing up!".  It was probably a good thing I wasn't hearing what he was mumbling while he mowed the lawn and I drove away but I came home to a proud and sweaty Spencer and a mowed lawn.  Years of freedom from mowing in my future almost made me cry.

As promised, a lot more pictures to follow.  Love, Heather

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A week of adjustments

Dear Family and Friends,

The first week of no school always seems a little rocky.  New schedule to adjust to, a reality check that even summer vacation involves some work and a big slap in the face for me when I realize how much talking and noise our kids can actually make - can you say insistent?  But everyone is starting to settle into things.  Spencer is realizing that not every story needs to be told in great depth right at that second.  And I am trying to think positively that whining moments are decreasing.

Warm weather finally hit this weekend and it is really feeling like summer.  On Monday we had a few families over for a BBQ.  Despite the dramatic start of a big grease fire in our BBQ that has reminded me to clean said BBQ, the rain went away and the clouds parted for awhile so we could sit outside.  It reminded me of how much I enjoy just sitting around eating good food, kids running wild and visiting.  Of course s'mores just added to the event.

Best news of the week is that Taylor had his first follow-up appointment for his surgery.  Hard to believe that it has been 4 weeks.  Everything is healing and looking good.  So we were able to loose the abductor pillow with a big happy dance.  Taylor just curled into the fetal position and stayed there for hours.  He has been missing kissing his knees.  So this week we have started him relearning how to bear weight, walk, move etc.  He isn't too thrilled about any of it and is practicing his passive resistance.  Yesterday he finally decided to start chugging the whole milk and will even eat a bit bites willingly now.  So I am thinking as he regains his lost 10 pounds and starts doing and moving around more he will get better.

With Taylor given the freedom to move, we are taking him all over the place.  We went and cheered on Allison's softball game.  She was the first pitcher and we got there just as she finished.  When I asked my neighbor how she did, he tactfully said she did as well as everyone else.  Meaning that in one inning she got one strike!  Their team got a bit schooled but she is enjoying learning how to play.

On Thursday since it was too cold our planned pool day we spent the day up at the Gateway in SLC.  We hit the planetarium for a movie about the Hubble Space Telescope.  The kids thought the 3-D feature was awesome.  Even Taylor was up and enjoying the whole event.

Then we ate lunch by the fountains and spent some time at the Children's museum.  That museum is really too old for Spencer but luckily he knows where they keep the paper and the book of paper airplane designs.  That always occupies him for an hour or two.

One of our neighbors killed himself on Wednesday.  It was sobering for all of us.  They were moving this weekend already.  So Allison and I were able to spend some time helping them pack and Jeremy spent time moving.  It has made me really think of how in despair a neighbor could be and I could be totally oblivious.  And most of all it has made us just feel for his kids and be so glad for Jeremy and his presence in our lives.

Lots of other odds and ends that seem to keep our days busy.  Jeremy had two family shoots this week plus a few portrait sessions so he has been keeping busy.  I benefited from one of his photo shoots that he did on trade for a massage for me.  So I indulged on Friday and was a much more patient mom after that!  Our neighbor had an ice cream party to celebrate the last day of school - for most people that was this last Friday.  Kids love eating a big bowl of ice cream and toppings and playing with all the kids on the block.  It is a great way to start the summer, even when we are having to wear sweat shirts to do so.

Ragnar is in two weeks so I have been doing hills and three a days to prepare.  They are starting to hurt less!  On Monday morning we slept in till 7 before hitting a hill.  We ran in hail and rain that didn't start till we hit the steep part.  The power of group running is that you don't want to be the one to turn around.  But seeing snow on the roof tops at the top of the hill on Memorial Day did not seem right.  My knee still bugs me a lot so I am seeing a sports/rehab doctor on Wednesday.  I am hoping he has some wonderful brace that will help.  Scout camp is also in two weeks so Spencer is getting psyched up for that.  I am just praying hard.

Love to you all, Heather

Visions of the future
Robyn and Allison were in tower building mode this week