Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Vacation to Utah

In early August (literally, the day after we flew home from San Diego), we took a trip back to Utah sans Greg.  It was madness with the timing and how travel weary we all felt.  We ended up staying 10 days - far longer than I wanted to be gone from home.  But there were friends to see and family reunions to attend.

So off we went!

#1 - The Bad Stuff

We had several disasters during the trip.  Big ones!  So big that I nearly packed up everything in the middle of the 10 days and headed home.  Fortunately, we also had a lot of blessings and a few minor miracles.  Andrew's sliced foot from San Diego re-opened 5 or 6 times.  Bubbs fell badly and for several hours in the InstaCare we thought he'd fractured his ankle.  I lost my car keys somewhere on the Sundance mountain in the middle of the night.

And worst of all... THIS happened. 

I blame this entirely on my own bad judgement.  I truly believed I could raft down the Provo River (a river that's slower than molasses) with my children and my father.  And without a guide.  

No. No.  No.

About half-way down our 5 mile run, we missed a very critical turn off and our raft was forced to go under 2 bridges.  We navigated the first one fine, but the second one (pictured above and below) was our downfall.  We couldn't get the raft straight between the two walls so our raft was pinned and flipped up on the post between the two rough currents.

I had only seconds before I was sucked under - just enough time to grab Bubbs.  When I surfaced about 10 feet down from our raft, Pretty Girl was crying out of reach from me.  Everything that was in our raft was now quickly floating away.  I saw the heads of my two oldest boys surface and heard my dad somewhere behind me yelling, "Rachael, get out!!  Get out of the river!!"

The bench where we surfaced was terrible - almost a straight, rocky cliff. So in my panic-induced haze, it took me a while to find a spot where I could place Bubbs.  My dad made it to my side and once they were both on this tiny speck of rock, I jumped back in the water to find my daughter.  She was now 25-50 yards down the river - still screaming - and clinging to a large rock.  It took me probably 1-2 minutes to get to her - moments where I was finally lucid enough to start praying.

On the way to get her, I saw James reach an exit point and climb to safety.  I yelled to ask him where Andrew was - he didn't know.  And while I rescued my daughter, James managed to hike BAREFOOT over the rocky hillside back upstream to where grandpa and Bubbs were recovering on the shore.

I think someone was helping my daughter because the rock she was clinging to was slippery.  I tried several times to grasp it to stop myself in the current but failed.  I was finally able to swing around her, grab her and angle to the shore.

At that point I was highly conscious of the fact that I hadn't seen Andrew get out of the water.  I had felt calm about it up until that point, but I was very quickly starting to freak out.  And then this wonderful man downstream shouted that his wife had helped Andrew into their tube and they was now floating around the next bend.

Our rescue was aided by an angel family visiting Utah from Oregon.  They helped carry Bubbs across the precarious cliff trail while I helped my dad - slipping several times along the way.  We were pretty much stranded because our raft was still wedged under water by the bridge and we were a good 3 miles away from Vivian Park - soaked, barefoot, cold and bleeding.  This angel family let me and my two youngest float with them down the rest of the way.  My dad (to the massive frustration of us all!!) insisted on walking back along the train tracks on the opposite side of the river.  James didn't want him to go alone, so I gave him my flipflops and he went with his grandpa.

In hindsight, I am grateful they walked back instead of taking the offered raft, because half way they met Andrew - who had exited on the opposite shore and was working his way back to where he knew we'd crashed.  I had fresh tears when I saw him waving enthusiastically to me on the opposite shore as I floated down.

Several things about our rescue I learned after it was all over.

#1 - I've never been so grateful that we were ALL wearing life jackets.  

#2 - James was paddling in the middle of the raft when we hit the bridge - subsequently, he was pinned between the post and the raft and was the last person to get out.  He was only able to leave by pushing upwards and jumping.  Mercifully, he was able to get out and he didn't hit any rocks when he landed.  

#3 - My kids are surprisingly adept under pressure.  In those horrible moments when our boat was quickly filling with water and mom had already been swept out, my boys had the sense to grab their brother's flipflops (they grabbed 1 each).  My daughter also saw her shoes floating away on the current and grabbed them.     

#3 - None of my children (with the exception of James' feet) were hurt.  My father's skin on his arm was shredded, bleeding badly.  And my legs were in horrible shape.  But none of my children were hurt.
#4 - All my children told me separately afterwards that they started praying and kept praying the entire time.  I know we were all helped massively because of it. 

I think we'll wait till next summer to attempt river rafting again - in any form.   

#2 - The Good Stuff

Everything else!  Playing with friends, visiting with grandparents, Hoopes reunion, going to the McKinnon cabin, Sundance play, Lagoon with the Astin family and riding Cannibal with James, and finally a few sweet baptisms.  We loved being with everyone! 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

18 Years

The number 18 is my second favorite number.  I love the evenness of it, the divisibility by multiple integers.  It's strong, and roundable.  I dig 18.  Which meant my 18th wedding anniversary was going to be epic - just based on my ridiculous mathematical notions alone.  

Not so.

We tried twice for a date night the week leading up to our anniversary.  The first night bombed because tickets for the movie were sold out and we were exhausted.  Second attempt fizzled because I didn't feel well and we only had an hour to spare away from the kids.  The actual day of our anniversary was spent driving Greg to the San Diego airport to say goodbye.  I cried.  Not because it was our anniversary - but because I hate saying goodbye to Greg - in any form.  I hate saying goodbye to him in the morning before work.  It's nutty and unrealistic, but it's true!  And the best hour of the day is when he gets home.

So the night of our 18th anniversary, the kids and I bundled together on the San Diego couch and watched Shark Tank.  We all felt low away from dad.  

It's not what I wanted for our 18th anniversary, but it doesn't matter.  Because this hectic, funny, companionable, joyful, full-of-love life with Greg is EVERYTHING I've always wanted!!  I'm so grateful for 18 years with my husband, this amazing man!  Wow!  We're so blessed to be here.  So blessed to share this rock of strength and companionship together.  I don't know how many years we'll have together in this life - how long our health will hold out or what forces will bear down on us in the decades ahead.  But even if we spent every future anniversary with as much realism as we did this year at 18, I will still be grateful. 
Marriage has been the greatest blessing of my life.

I re-read this talk over a year ago, and it made me reflect on my marriage.  The blessings of marrying Greg.  The visible, tangible blessings of following Jesus Christ.  

Hurrah for 18!!!!

"There was a flowering in them of something divine, planted there by that Father who is our God. In their school days they had lived worthy of that flowering of love. They had lived with virtue and faith, with appreciation and respect for self and one another. In the years of their difficult professional and economic struggles, they had found their greatest earthly strength in their companionship. Now in mature age, they were finding peace and quiet satisfaction together. Beyond all this, they were assured of an eternity of joyful association through priesthood covenants long since made and promises long since given in the House of the Lord." 
- President Gordon B. Hinckley - 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Grand Experiment

My Grand Experiment idea was born last summer while we were packing to leave San Diego.  Leaving is always a hard time - everyone gets quiet, moody and there's usually a few tears.  That's when I realized I wanted to spend more time there over the summer.  So all last year I saved my PTO and planned a massive, extended stay in San Diego.  

Then the job change and the move hit and all my saved PTO was no longer required.  But I was still determined to go.  So I took my hard-earned vacation hours, cashed out my last day with the State and bought plane tickets.

And true to my goal, we stayed the full 2 weeks.  Dad arrived through half of it.  My parents came for an extended weekend.  But other than that, it was just Mom and the babies.

What an adventure!     

#1 - Old Town.  

I LOVE the Mormon Battalion!  We go every time we're in San Diego.  It never fails to lift and inspire me.  I think I could sit on the front porch rocking chairs for days.  

The funny thing about faith, sometimes you need it to make a decision, and sometimes you need it after. - Mormon Battalion.

#2 - Balboa Park

If you ask my children, they'll say their favorite part of this day was renting the bike scooter/thing.  We biked all over Balboa Park, laughed far too much and yelled inside jokes to each other louder than we should have.  But what joy! 

#3 - La Jolla

Another one of my favorite spots.  This time we finally explored the cave walls and tunnels along the coast.  We also took the kids kayaking for the first time - something I was a bit nervous about.  But it was a very smooth ride, great fun and the boys did amazing! 

One of my favorite museum walls - "Brave Men Run In My Family" - yep.

#3 - Sea World

We've been here so many times over the past 7-8 years, we literally have every ride, pathway, exhibit memorized.  And yet we keep going back to the madness.   

#4 - La Jolla Beach

Warm water, awesome waves, tons of kids - we spent all day there! 

#5 - Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

Our family is kind of crazy about the Foodnetwork's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  We try to visit some of the spots whenever we know we'll be in that specific town.  This time in San Diego, we chose the famous Studio Diner.  

It was salivatingly good!!  I got the highlighted Monte Cristo.  Greg got the steak burger.  We all walked away with full stomachs and big smiles.   

#6 - Los Angeles

I bravely - we're talking BRAVE here - took 1 day and trekked with my children into downtown Los Angeles.  My precious phone with our life-saving GPS almost died, we couldn't find a spot for lunch without getting into extreme chaos of traffic and people, and I almost wrecked our rental car.  

I hate this city.  With a passion.  There's only a few pockets of happiness left in this overcrowded, traffic-crazy, dirty, smelly, hole of civilization.  And these are two of them.

My Mom spent the last six months of her life here at the LDS Los Angeles Mission.  And this beautiful fig tree is the only remaining piece of the original mission home.  I adore this tree.  I have spent many hours with my 6yr old feet climbing up the limbs.  When I saw that it was still standing, I just broke down.  It was a terrible time for my family, but it was a peaceful, sheltered existence for me.  The Los Angeles temple has a special spot in my heart.  It's like an old friend that recognizes me when I walk around the grounds.  It was incredibly significant to share this with my children.  

The other spot in Los Angeles that is worth redemption is the La Brea Tar Pits.  We spent several hours at the museum and walking through the remaining pits - pits where they are STILL taking out hundreds and hundreds of bones.  It's fascinating and worth the stress of driving through Los Angeles to visit.  

And then there was the rest...  

Siblings had a few fights during the trip.  We had 1 InstaCare visit with Andrew and his foot getting badly cut.  1 minor meltdown at the beach (oldest).  And finally, we had to sprint across the entire Oakland airport (felt like it) to make our plane connection on the way home.  Barely, barely made it.

But we loved it!  We soaked up every moment!  And we already miss it.