Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Get ready for a lot of pictures.  May was huge.  Epic!   

#1 - May The 4th Be With You

Rey's portion bread and the Skywalker blue milk were bleh.  Yoda's Dagobah stew was so good!  And the kids fell in love with the Tatooine Sunset.  Plus Andrew favored us with his patented light-saber, Mos Eisley Cantina dance.    

The force is strong with this family.  And we're doing this every year.    

(We did something for Cinco De Mayo too, but it wasn't nearly this cool.)

#2 - McKinnon Garden Begins!

I've become very fond of this little corner in our backyard.  We split each box between two people which included 2 grape vines and 1 blackberry bush.  The seeds are already going crazy!  I can't even describe the happiness I feel tending these little plants with my children.  

#3 - Volleyball with Pretty Girl

After two seasons of lackluster volleyball coaches, I asked myself, "how hard can it be?"  I got served a big piece of humble pie.  But I also got a team of 10 darling girls who were undefeated except for the last two games.  They were awesome!  What a challenge.

Also much gratitude to my two oldest boys who volunteered as refs for most of the games.  And especially Andrew who helped me at practice every week.

#4 - Lilac trees

We had 6 laurel trees that didn't survive the winter.  So we replaced them with these cute lilac trees.  They've already grown an inch since planting.  Big confession - I have always dreamed of having a lilac tree in my yard.  And now I have 4 of them!!  It brings me joy seeing them content and thriving in our yard. 

#5 - Wild Swans

I have the most beautiful commute.  I'm usually passing these fields right as the sun comes up or mid-afternoon when I head home.  Around mid-April, I realized the white birds I kept seeing were not seagulls, but swans.  Swans!  I have never seen a family of swans out in the wild.  Its absolutely delightful!  And so one afternoon, I had to pull over and get this shot.  

They're mesmerizing and they're not geese.  Win/win.    

#6 - Andrew' Soccer Moves

Such a great team!  Undefeated season!!  And according to Andrew, he was the best on the team :) 

#7 - Updated Play-set

Greg was a saint and spent a long, stressful Saturday re-staining our play-set outside.  He also took it completely apart and refitted the structure into a different pattern so the kids could access the little door.  We love it!!

#8 - Civil War Rendezvous 5th Grade

I volunteered at Andrew's field trip last month when they attended an amazing Civil War camp (aka Williamsburg).  It was held at Eagle Island State Park and my heart soared when I pulled up at 9:00 am - cool winds, smell of the river and fields.  Plus you add in everything I was learning from the Civil War camps the kids rotated through.  It was heaven!    

Andrew's favorite was the cannon they fired and the medical tent stories.  

#9 - Scholar Athlete Award

Seriously, I'm not quite sure how our guy got this award with a struggling semester in math and his achillies tendinitis blow earlier in the year.  But we are very proud of him!!

This award also included a $25 gift certificate to Nike.  He was thrilled to spend it on new athletic shoes.  

#10 - And So Much Outside Play

Bubbs has already grown out of the first bike and is now riding James' old mountain bike.  No bike carrier on the Hiawatha for us.  The McKinnons will be all wheels. 

Above:  Pretty Girl with Anastasia.  This darling girl and her family are from the Ukraine and live 2 houses down from ours.  We met them at the end of last summer and the girls were so shy they would barely look at each other.  That all changed when they ended up in the same school class.  Now they walk, bike or scooter to each other's houses almost daily.  

Below:  This is Thomas - Andrew's best friend in Idaho.  These two are very much on the same wavelength - personality, interests and thinking.  When they get together, there is always a great deal of discussion on very important topics like Pokemon, voting rights and why some people don't make any sense.  

Mom and boys made BYU mint brownies one Sunday evening after a bike ride.  Go ahead.  Admit you want one.  They disappeared in a matter of hours.  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Behind the Scenes of Turning 14

In honor of James' 14th birthday, we went out for sushi - hurrah!  Greg was out of town, so we stretched James' birthday out to two days to include Dad when he got back and ended up celebrating for about 48 hours.  James was thrilled!

Some of his friends decorated his locker with packs of gum and Skittles (favorites).  James is still hoping for a movie night with said friends but with his upcoming trip to Lake Powell with the Astins, finals at the end of the semester and swim meets, the timing has not been good.  

Maybe in June... 

Here are his selected highlights of living in Idaho at the age of 13.

- "I get to watch PG-13 movies!  Like Lord of the Rings, and...pretty much all the movies you and Dad own.  Pretty much every cool movie that I think is appropriate that is PG-13."

- "I made the West Y swim team and advanced to Bronze level."

- "I got achilles tendinitis and I had to quit cross country and all running."

- "This was my first year at Eagle Middle School. I didn't really like engineering.  But I really liked science."  

- "I loved going to McCall and hanging out with Hunter."

- "Camp Morrison with Brother Rasumussen was really fun!"  

- "Winter was hard.  Snow was really hectic, especially when we went into a state of emergency.  We had many many many snow days with no school."

- "Stu, Ashton, Ali, Troy, Chris, John, Jonah, Aiden, Jake, Megan, Kalie and Karen - best friends.  There's a lot more but I can't remember everyone."

- "I love going to McCall the most."  

- "I love taking the Greenbelt to almost everywhere - with Stu, mom and everyone else.  It's flooded right now so we can't go." 

- "And Bodacious Pig, mom.  Always Bodacious Pig.  And when are you taking me to The Rib Shack?"   
My biggest sorrow this year as James turns another year older is we only have 3 more summers with him.  THREE.  That's it.  Of course, there's always summers away from college and maybe a semester here and there when he'll live at home, but the dynamic will never be the same again.

So when I hear the noise of my children (and it's not always soft, sweet noise), and when my couches are being ruined from pounding and wrestling.  And when my dishes are strewn about the kitchen and grass clippings are all over the floor as they run happily through the house together, I say to myself over and over - "this is fleeting".  

I only get this type of joy for a few more years.  

Love him and excited to see where this next year takes him (hopefully NOT off steep cliffs or into rocks during the upcoming MTB season).

Here's some shots "behind the scenes" of James this past year.  


Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Boys!! Local Recognition

It's a hard to find them.  James is on the opposite side of the sand (almost at the top of the pile with a gray hat, black t-shirt and a shovel in his hand.  Andrew is working up front wearing the dark gray hoodie.  His back is to the picture (in front of the girl in the pin coat).  

They sandbagged 3 days worth of bags for the Eagle Fire Department.  The bags will definitely be put to good use over the coming months.

I love my boys and I love how they are capable (and willing!) to go to work. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sitting In The Rubble Again

Part of why this whole debacle in Idaho has been particularly hard (and unbearably instructional) is because of our decision to move forward in the first place.  It was OUR decision.  It was OUR move.  It was OUR choice.

I've squared my shoulders and climbed lots of rocky mountains before.  But the mountains have never been of my own making.  The mountains I've faced were dropped in my path.  Never the result of something I caused.  

This is horribly new.

This time I'm coming to God - my Heavenly Father - who I have counseled with, co-created with, and relied upon.  I'm coming to Him on my knees and, in essence, saying, "We really messed up.  Can you help us?  Even though I know this is MY fault.  My decision.  My BAD decision.  But I can't do this without You.  Please."  How can I dare ask that??  How can I say that when I caused this??? 

I've never felt more like the "foolish man who built his house upon the sand" than I do right now.  Literally.  There's a flood 500 yards from my doorstep.  It's the perfect metaphor for our entire year!  Nothing feels stable or permanent.    

Reconciling this has been a major hurdle for me. I am both comforted and haunted by my favorite CS Lewis quote - "Whatever you do, He will make good of it" (oh what sweet relief!)  "But NOT the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed." (we're screwed).

In spite of the feeling of total chaos churning my insides and smashing me down, I have slowly come to rely on the following conclusions - 

#1 - Part of this life is understanding that we WILL make mistakes.  I will make mistakes.  OF MY OWN CHOOSING!  It's okay.  It doesn't mean I can't rebuild.  

#2 - Good things - amazing, beautiful things - have happened because of our move here.

#3 - Every time Greg and I have reached a pinnacle where we needed divine help, it has always arrived.  Always.  We have seen multiple miracles and the timing has been absolutely divine.  Every. Single. Time.  God has never failed us.  

#4 - This new combination of bad decisions and facing my God has been a tremendous opportunity (although I never want to repeat it).  I'm coming to better understand His love for me.  

#5 - The temple.  The temple, the temple, the temple.  My sanctuary.  My absolute need for the rest of my life.  I have never felt the relief and peace that I've so desperately prayed for as I have at the temple this year. 

And then these lyrics.  I think about these lyrics all the time.  I love when Nichole talks about how God sits with us in that pile of rubble and loves us and waits with us while we're deconstructing.  

That's where I've been.  

And as Greg reminds me often - we don't know where this goes yet.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017


#1 - Tons of crazy things are happening - like ducks on top of roofs (see below) and geese babies everywhere (so cute! But oh no!  More geese!)  We live in a beautiful neighborhood and every day I feel enormous gratitude for the air and sunshine.

The Grandmother Hoopes Magnolia tree "pinkie" survived the winter.  I cheered when I first saw the blossoms coming out in early April.  I knew then that she'd made it through all the ice and negative temperatures.  She'd survived.  Just like us.  Hurrah!

We're still living day-to-day on the flooding situation.  We've had emergency bags packed along with a list of items to grab and shut down if we have to run.  We're told we'll have a few hours notice.  Prayers for a mild winter have been a constant in our house lately.  But we're also facing the realistic fact that evacuations are likely.  I hope they let us evacuate on cars AND bikes, because my two oldest refuse to leave them behind (I'm kind of with them on this point).    

#2 - Bubbs updates.  He was Student of the Week and his favorite activity lately has been practicing his site words in salt.  Very fun and creative, but a constant mess afterwards. 

#3 - In early March, the Nelsons were coming back from Spring Break in Oregon and stopped by to see us for dinner.  We love Big Jud's.  But we love the Nelsons even more!

#4 - Volleyball and soccer season has started again.  We had a wicked windy soccer game a few weeks ago.  Both Andrew and Pretty Girl's teams are undefeated!

#5 - When Idaho has a particularly bad winter (hasn't happened in 5 years), Lucky Peak Dam will let loose what's been called the "Rooster Tail".  This is a release of the original pipes (replaced in the mid 1980s) while they shut off the new/existing pipes and the effect looks exactly like a rooster's tail.  So of course, we went to watch it.  And we brought a couple Eliasons along for the ride.

#6 - In April, Greg and I took James with us on our monthly temple visit.  This is the first time we've gone with just the three of us and it was wonderful!  The visit fell during a particularly tense week with Greg's job search and I was once again reminded how powerful the temple can be at regaining your perspective and restoring peace.  

We've decided to repeat this with James 1x/quarter going forward.

We stopped at our favorite local dive - Soda Stop - on the way home.    

#7 -  James had his year-end swim banquet in April which was super awesome because Olympic medalist, Elizabeth Beisel was the key note speaker.  I'm still in awe that she was so generous in letting the swimmers (including James!) hold her medals - see below.  I loved seeing her hair and the obvious drench of chlorine in the curls.  I can't swim anywhere near her time, but I've had very similar hair. 

After restoring his grade in math from a D to a B (yay!), James decided to forgo tennis and keep swimming full time.  We think his decision paid off because shortly after making the call to stay, James was promoted to the Bronze team.  He now swims almost 2 hours 5x/week.  We're so proud of him and his growth!  The next test on the horizon is the Eagle MTB team - which starts in July.  Balancing both??  Too many things to do.

#8 - And the best news of April....THE TRAINING WHEELS ARE OFF!!