Monday, August 15, 2016

Goodbye Summer :(

Summer is awesome.  Late nights.  Swimming parties.  Camping and campfires.  Tons of time to spend with family.  No homework.  No school activities.  It is a great opportunity for families to bond and for sibling relationships to develop.  This summer I really noticed Sophi bonding with her older brothers.  Sophi definitely loves her sisters and often spends time playing with them or make-believing with them or following them around.  But this summer she really seemed to become more attached to Taylor and Parker particularly.  She loves to play with them, tease them, attack them, be held by them, be tickled by them and spend time with them.  She also happens to be the only one of our girls who enjoys watching sports, which certainly endears her to them.  (To be fair, there is one sport Jessica will watch - American Ninja Warrior!  We love that show!!!)

This scene encapsulates much of what is great about summer: time to spend with family, no set bedtime, fewer pressures to finish anything by a particular deadline.

I walked into the kitchen and found these four watching YouTube clips of America's Got Talent.  I love how Sophi is so comfortably cuddled into her big brothers.  I love this phase of our life.  I love kids who are all a little older and more self sufficient.  I love having teenagers who have great friends and are in and out of the house on their own.  It's crazy that they will start the exodus next year when Graci graduates.  I'm going to soak it up as long as I can!


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Family Picture

We haven't had professional pictures taken since 2013 and we really hadn't even taken a good family photo of all of us since we got back with Conner two years ago.  So a few weeks ago we stood in front of our garage and took a family photo.  I think it turned out remarkably well for an amateur shot.  This was right after church, but you can see that we had already changed Elli into her Houdini jammies:)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Birthday Girls!

Graci and Jesi had important birthdays last week.  Graci turned 18 and Jessica joined the ranks of the teenagers in our family (6 teens for now!!!).  They both got breakfast in bead and had some time with mom and dad.  On Graci's birthday (Aug. 4), they got to go see The BFG along with Xander and Cali.  On Jesi's birthday, Christi and I took the two of them to Thanksgiving Point to walk through the unbelievable beautiful gardens and have lunch.  Jessica wrapped up Saturday night with a birthday party.  (Way to go, Christi!  You're always so great at putting these together.)

These two girls are so fantastic!  Graci is such an amazing young woman with a beautiful testimony of the Gospel and love for her Savior.  She is a tremendous example to all of us as she strives to choose the right and is constantly serving her family.  Graci is patient and obedient.  She works hard in school and has received several academic awards, including an award for being "Courageous."  She looks after her younger siblings, sometimes when she's asked to and often even when she's not.  Christi and I don't know what we're going to do when our Grace graduates high school and begins to spread her wings.  Love you, Graci!!!

Jessica has had me wrapped around her little finger since she was an infant.  She is so fun to be with.  Her shy smile can sometimes be challenging to tease out of her, but it lights up a room when it comes.  She is a good student, conscientious in her work and striving to do her best.  She loves the young women program at church and has many good friends there.  Jesi makes really deep friendships.  One of her very best friends moved across the country a couple of years ago, and Jesi flew all by herself to Detroit last month to visit her!  For years we've kind of divided our kids into the "bigs" (Taylor, Parker, Graci, Cali, Conner) and the "littles" (Xander, Lexi, Elli and Sophi).  Being right in the middle, Jesi has the luxury of slipping into either group, depending on who is going to have the most fun that day:).  We're so excited to see Jesi growing up and blossoming into such a lovely young woman.  Love you, Jessica!!!


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

High Adventure

Summer!  So much fun!  So many activities!!!  It seems like things are non-stop around here during the summer:).  I guess things are non-stop around here pretty much year round.  But with church camps, visually impaired camps, sports camps, family reunions and other camping trips, we didn't haven't had too many nights since school let out when all 12 of us slept under the same roof.

Monday through Wednesday of last week was High Adventure for Taylor, Parker and Conner.  I was able to accompany them again, as was my brother, Tyler.  What a great trip!!!  We left Monday morning about 6:30am and drove up to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to the Boy Scouts of America Grand Teton High Adventure Base.  We got back home about midnight on Wednesday.  In between we did a high cope course, a low cope course, shotgun shooting, whitewater rafting and a hike and swim in Grand Teton national park.  We saw five moose, including two babies.  We saw the mother moose chase off another moose in a scene that you could have watched on a nature show.  We ate well, we were spiritually uplifted around a campfire, and we learned two fantastic new games:  Kubb and Gaga Ball.

One of the predominant themes of the week was how impressed everyone was with Conner's willingness, courage and ability to complete everything that everyone else did.  Despite being blind, Conner conquered the giant's ladder and the rest of the high cope course, got over, through and around the obstacles in the low cope course and even hit three of the clay pigeons (with some help from uncle Tyler) with a shotgun.  Everyone at camp was so inspired by him.  The kids in our own group, kids in other groups and adults and leaders throughout camp were amazed by his accomplishments.  Way to go, Conner.

It is such a blessing to be a dad!  I love all of my kids so much.  It was so fun (and exhausting!!!) to spend this time with Taylor, Parker and Conner.  I love these opportunities to develop stronger relationships with my children.  I am a lucky man.  Thanks to Christi for letting me attend activities like these.  And thanks to LaRita (Christi's mom) for coming and helping while I was gone!


Conner navigates the giant's ladder and other high elements:

Moose at moose pond in Grand Teton National Park (notice the two babies in the background):

Going for a swim in some refreshingly cool water:

Trying to get across an "acid river" using a limited number of moveable lily pads.  Once we were all stretched across, Conner walked over on our feet:

Me, trying to get across about 10 tire swings without touching the ground.  I was proud that I made it half way:)

Taylor made it all the way across without much of a problem, so he decided to add a new level of difficulty!

Parker gets pretty intense when he plays Kubb:

At the shotgun range:

Here is some video.  Note how tightly Conner clings to Uncle Tyler's neck as they swing across the "river," how nice it is to have a 6'5" son to be the last one to go over the wall, and look in the upper right hand corner for the very small clay pigeons that Conner blasts to bits:).

This is Conner ascending the Giant's ladder.  I edited down quite a bit, but still left it a bit longer than usual videos to give you a sense of the challenge this was for Conner.  The best part is at about 1:30 when I offer him the chance to quit and come back down.  He responds, "I believe I can do it."  Simple, inspiring, Conner!