Saturday, March 28, 2009


It's been a long time since I went camping. Dave and the kids have gone in the last couple of years up in Idaho. But both times, I've been in Phoenix and just enjoyed the pictures they brought back home.
Our ward was doing a one night campout up at Horseshoe Lake. I've never heard of Horseshoe Lake. It's on the Verde River. It was described as being a 2 hour drive out of town, 10 miles of it down a washboard dirt road. Already I wasn't enticed. And it is March so even though we were going to a lake, you can't really enjoy the water this early in the spring. I don't know why I was whining so much. I had nothing to do with the planning, and the location wasn't really going to stop us from going. I guess I was just in a 'complaining for no good reason' kind of mood this week.
Anyway, we got away about noon on Friday and made our way up there. It was desert camping. There were stickery bushes all around the campsite, hardly any shade at all. Again more complaining from me, but now instead of out loud, it is just all in my mind. But once we were all set up, we had a lovely time. By the end of the evening, there were about 70 people in attendance. We were near the dam, on the down stream side of the dam, so there was water for the kids to play near and throw rocks into. The dam and the lake were about a mile up the road so Saturday several people took their canoes and rowboats out onto the lake.
There was an evening program with the required 'Kumbaya' camp songs and s'mores and visiting around the campfire. (Gretchen, now that I know you read everyone's blogs, I thought I'd post a picture of you. haha)
During the day, there were egg toss games, lots of visiting. Dave pulled the trailer around with his tractor and gave kids rides.
Someone else brought horses. Come to find out, there are a lot of cowboys in our ward.
It is an awful lot of work to pack for and set up camp for only one night. We should have coordinated with another family to share bringing some of the equipment and share the cooking and lights. But no, every family brought camp stoves and lanterns etc. Breakfast was going to be provided so my original plan was to take rolls and lunch meat and fruit for dinner to make the packing easy, no cooking at all. But Dave wanted to have a hearty dinner cooked over the fire and offered his services in that department, so I then became a willing recipient. He packed all the cooking gear and did all the cooking. And it definitely was nicer than a cold sandwich. He made a delicious cherry and blueberry dutch oven cobbler with only minimal ashes that fell over the top when the lid slipped off unexpectedly. Luckily, you can't really see ashes in the darkness of firelight so I don't know how much ash we consumed.
For the first 18 hours of the campout, the kids ran along the stream longing to get in. About an hour before everyone was packing up, one of the adults went in the water. Apparently it only takes one adult being in the water to give permission for ALL children to follow suit.
Within minutes, almost every child was in the water up to their waist. And no, not one of them had a swim suit, towel, and probably no dry clothes to change into. One 9 year old boy walked down and saw everyone in the water in their clothes. I asked if he was planning to join them. He shook his head - definitely NO. Within two minutes, he was rolling up his jeans and was heading in. I'm not sure why it was important to roll up his jeans, all the kids were in way deeper than the level of rolled up pant legs.

I realized how different our camping experiences have been over the years. We used to spend the whole time keeping the kids fed, safe, warm, or dry . . . definitely not a restful experience. This time we only had Melanie with us. We sat around our camp site listening to her mp3, and she went off to sleep in another tent with a friend. This girl is so easy to have around!
In the end, I was glad we went. We really have a fun ward and fun friends.

a typical day . . .

We had a visitor in seminary this morning. My area supervisor wanted to come visit our classroom. He called me last night about coming. It was too late to straighten up the classroom or remind kids to actually be on time or to make sure they had their devotional prepared, but luckily it was early enough in the evening to make sure I had my plans ready enough for the morning. We had planned on a short lesson, then kind of a fun scripture mastery activity. It was a fun little activity involving a video camera. I was worried the kids would feel awkward with an official visitor there, but he joined right in and it was fun.
From there, I drove out to meet my brother, Curtis, for a hike. It was at "Lost Dog Trail" area out in Scottsdale. He arrived before I did and when I got there he was in a full conversation about gardening with a 75 year old woman. I like that about Curtis. He is comfortable talking to anyone. He reminds me a little of my dad that way. Incidentally, this woman had just finished her 5 mile hike! Curtis picked a trail that was very do-able for us, but it was a long steady incline. It wasn't steep, but there just was very little level areas on the trail, or any downhill to catch a breath. Whew! It was a great view from the top. We started at 124th street and Shea, and at the top, we could see over the other side to the fountain area in Fountain Hills, although the fountain wasn't running this morning.

I realized it has been years and years since my brother and I did anything alone. That seems weird that we don't. Whenever we get together, we always have spouses, kids or any other combination of extended family. It was nice to visit with him about family, business, seminary, church etc.
On the way home, I stopped to get some groceries for the weekend. We're going on an overnight campout tomorrow and we needed camp food. I was dusty and sweaty and had hat-hair, but swallowed my pride and went in the store anyway. I just simply didn't have time to go home and get cleaned up and go out again to the store.
Our friends, John and Sharon, borrowed our lawn mower last night for their new house. I mentioned that Melanie needed to get our lawn mowed for the weekend, and when I got home this afternoon, our mower had been returned and our front lawn was already beautifully mowed. What nice friends we have!
At home I got a bit of business done then started dinner. I decided to make a couple of pizzas. I made some dough, let it rise, mixed up some sauce, grated some Mozzarella, slices up some fresh tomatoes and mushrooms and onions. As I am doing this I realize that the more time I put into a delicious home-made dinner, the smaller the likelihood that anyone will actually be home for dinner. The only time everyone is actually home and actually hungry is when I am too busy, tired, stressed, or lazy to make a nutritious dinner. Then they are all milling around the kitchen wondering what's for dinner.
After dinner, it was off to the Stake Camp Kickoff meeting with Melanie. I've been to this event every year since 1998 when Rachel began going to camp. It's a fun evening, but quite similar to every other one the past 11 years. The amazing thing about our stake's girls camp is that it truly is run by the girls. They take on so much leadership for camp each summer. I am impressed that they rise to the occasion and run the whole show - planning, organizing, firesides, classes, everything. It's impressive to watch.
Apparently, the girls had to document the drive over to the church -- I never know what I am going to find on my camera. It is clear that they both wear their seat belts, so yay!
Late evening, we had to catch up on the results show of American Idol. I've got a couple of favorites, they seem to be safe for now. I can't tell who the sure front runners are going to be yet.
I've got a Seminary Inservice meeting in the morning so I don't have to prepare a lesson. Dave is taking my seminary class, and a student is teaching the lesson so he doesn't have to prepare either. It's kind of a nice break mentally to go to bed and not have to have a lesson on my mind for the morning. The inservice meeting is at 6 a.m. though and I'm used to our class starting at 7 every morning so it's still going to be hard to get out at that pre-dawn hour.

We finally climb into bed at 11 - way too late when I have to get up at 5, but I rarely seem to get into bed before then, sometimes even later.

Friday, March 20, 2009

my day with an eight year old

This is Shaw:
Shaw is eight. And he is enjoying his last day of spring break today. He is a superstar Cub Scout. I found out today that he learned to ride his two wheeler in Kindergarten and never fell down once! (How does that happen?) Now he does all kinds of amazing bike tricks. And he is my very cool nephew.
This is Shaw Butte:
It doesn't look very big, but it's a photographic illusion. It is big enough to have radio towers on it. And big enough to give us all some tired knee joints after we climbed over it.
This is Shaw on Shaw Butte:

This is Curtis and Lesa. (my brother and sister-in-law):
Curtis is my baby brother. That fact is not important to the story of our activity today, I just thought I'd point that out. He has grown up to be taller and cooler than most of the rest of us.
We had a fun day hiking around. Shaw Butte is not the prettiest mountain around, but it is a nice urban hiking trail. The loop is 3.6 miles long, up and over then around the mountain through the valley back to the starting point. The morning started overcast, but by the time we got out of the car, it cleared right up to a bright, clear, sunny, hot morning. I don't think Shaw got tired one bit. Lesa claims she was tired, but I don't see it in the picture. It's always fun to spend time together and catch up on family news. Thanks for coming and spending the morning with me, guys!
Oh, we saw 2 snakes on the trail. Yes, that's right. TWO DIFFERENT SNAKE SIGHTINGS! ON THE TRAIL! VERY CLOSE TO WHERE MY FOOT WAS! There are always warnings about rattlesnakes out and around this time of year. I don't think they were rattlesnakes, although I don't claim to be knowledgable in the snake department. I know they were medium-ish in size and they both ran away very quickly (thank you very much) and they didn't rattle at us. If we had not been hiking with a child, there may have been some freaking out type screaming.

Monday, March 16, 2009

i didn't want the night to end

Sunday night we ate dinner outside around the fire pit. The evening evolved into a photoshoot. We spent a very long time messing with the settings of several of our cameras to see if we could get a long enough exposure to spell out a name or a word. The best we could do was the letter "R".
Our plan was just a quick dinner, then Brady had to get on the road back to Flagstaff, I still had to plan a seminary lesson for tomorrow and a lesson outline for the week, and we still needed to watch "The Amazing Race", which although it is saved on TIVO, we enjoy it so much it has to be watched on the night it airs.
The food was delicious. Dave grilled up some chicken. We enjoyed some Curried Apple Chutney that Suzanne made (delicious!). Melanie and Roxanne made a garden salad with lettuce fresh out of our garden. Brady squeezed some fresh lemonade. I took on the hardest part of the meal - a bag of frozen french fries thrown into the oven for a few minutes.
We ended up sitting outside until after 9:00 keeping the fire going and taking silly pictures of each other. Besides playing with the very tame sparklers, there may have been some questionably illegal fireworks set off as well. Brady didn't get home until midnight, I finished my lesson plans at midnight and of course we watched the entire episode of The Amazing Race. It's been a while since we were all together and had the time to just sit and relax and enjoy each other's company. This should happen more often. I'm sad that we let other things crowd our family's schedule so much.

Monday, March 9, 2009

melanie-isms III

Me: Look, that policeman has a very precise haircut.
Melanie: Everything about him looks perfect. He is like a Barbie Police!

Melanie (when asked to pick up trash around the front yard): Why don't we just wait for nature to take it's course and let the wind blow it into the neighbor's yard?

Melanie and I worked at a Girl Scout Cookie booth in front of a grocery store. When we got done, I suggested we step inside and get a bite to eat.
Melanie: "Here? What's to eat here?"
Me: Um . . . it's a grocery store. The entire store . . . is full of food.

Melanie mowed the lawn today. It is now full of crop circles.

I'm not sure what happened here, but it involved some general mayhem and a lot of scotch tape.
(It's NEVER boring at our house when Melanie is around.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

a thursday morning photo shoot

There were some curious things in the desert this morning. For instance, a somewhat unusual hiking outfit on a nearby hiker. I hope he didn't mind (didn't know) that he was being photographed. He was wearing a turban, a draping robe type thing, and simple rubber flip flops on his feet. I almost forgot to take my tennis shoes to class with me to change into this morning so I would have been out hiking in a skirt and flip-flop type sandals, too. (Remember when we were kids and we used to call flip-flops "thongs"? haha)
I saw this on the side of the foot path. What the heck? There isn't a road for a half mile in any direction. How exactly does a tire end up in the middle of nowhere?

Then, a most curious item . . . a pair of jeans discarded off the side of the hill. Hmmm. I can't think of a possible explanation.

I only had my phone camera with me, so low quality photos, sorry. But You can see a person WAY down the trail. It was a woman wearing pink and red pushing a stroller up a very steep trail. She was bent over at the waist giving her all to that stroller on the incline. Surely she didn't realize it was a steep road and would soon turn back.
I walked a few minutes more then looked down again to see the stroller lady again. Where did she go? Surely she went back down to her car. Wait -- SHE'S PASSING ME!!!

Last but not least, there was a sighting of a very tight t-shirt and a pair of quite comical implants. But I decided against that photo opportunity.

While I was walking, I was also listening to a book by Barbara Kingsolver "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle". It's a non-fiction book. The topic is very interesting, but the narrator's voice on the audio is a little bit annoying. Sadly, I think it is the author, herself. I enjoyed my morning. Obviously I was not in a hurry, though I should have been. I had about 27 hours of work that needed to get done in our office today. It is late in the evening right now and my office work is still not complete. I'm having office work issues today. Can I quit my job? Please??

Monday, March 2, 2009

you're killing me, tam

(Ok, Suzanne, you are off the hook. Tam is now the person trying to do me in.)
My friend talked me into climbing to the top of Camelback Mountain this afternoon. I asked the Seminary kids this morning who had been up there and how it compared to other hikes and they said, "well, it's not really like any other hike. It's more like climbing up boulders". I couldn't visualize that so I asked them "if I could get to the top of Squaw Peak, could I get up Camelback?" They were hesitant to give me a thumbs up on that idea. So I was nervous.
Tam is a super athlete, always has been. But she is also very patient and assured me we could do it. I trusted her until I saw this--THERE'S NO TRAIL!! Oh my gosh, it really was just like climbing up boulders. As we were making our way slowly to the top, I was questioning whether or not my knees were going to be strong enough to bring me back down. I really wasn't sure. Really.
The trail is a mile and a half up. Straight up. Parts of the trail even have a handrail imbedded in the rock to pull yourself up the steep sections.
But we made it in record time (the record for the slowest ascent ever). The view from the top was SPECTACULAR! It is a breathtaking 360 degree view. I would have enjoyed sitting up there for an hour and just enjoying the view. However, it was 5:30 p.m. and we weren't sure how long it would take us to get back down so we stayed long enough to take a picture.
Naturally, I thought we would go down the mountain faster than we went up, but no. The sun was going down on us and we were worried about that, but I assured Tam I had a wee little teeny tiny flashlight in my backpack. We needed it the last 15 minutes of the descent. In the near darkness though, I took a misstep and tumbled head over heels. I couldn't catch myself and I felt a bit like a cartoon - BOING! BOING! BOING! Ahhhh, so embarassing. A bruise on my knee, my hip, my shoulder and a scratch on my elbow. But there is plenty of padding, so no worries. Tam had surgery on her knee a year ago and this was her first major hike since then. (Seriously Tam? You chose this mountain to start back your hiking routine? You're crazy.)
Anyway, on another note, we saw a chuckwalla earlier in the afternoon. Can you see it sunning on the rock?

I had never heard of a chuckwalla before last week. It's a big lizard. I've seen two of them in the past eight days. Weird. But I like saying the name -- "Chuckwalla, Chuckwalla, Chuckwalla".