October 31, 2019

the river, and there must be angels

The river has been a place of peace for me this summer.
It was my first summer experiencing the salt river and I went at least a half dozen times. It was the beauty of the desert, the water, the wild horses, the sunshine, the sunset, swimming, relaxing...I couldn't get enough.

By the end of the summer I had become familiar and comfortable on the salt river and we were excited to take all of our children one last time.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite go as expected. Rivers change.

At first we just noticed how low the water was--much lower than normal--and how slow it was flowing. We had dinner plans that night so I was getting anxious to get us moving so I spent a lot of time pulling us along trying to get us to go faster and forcing the teenagers to help to get us going, but we were relaxed and having a good time.

Everyone had connected their tubes together except for me. I prefer the freedom and control of being on my own a little bit, with the group but free to move around.

It was my turn to take Brinna in my arms. She reached for me and I snuggled her in my lap as we pointed together at all of the different birds and trees we were floating by. I knew we were nearing the last section of rapids, but, I've done it so many times, I was comfortable and knew we'd be just fine. We floated ahead of the group.

The thing about the last section of rapids is that you come around a bend in the river and then there they are. There's not a lot of warning. Once you see them you are ready to go through them. When Brinna and I turned that bend, my mind was racing and confused--this did not look familiar at all! The water was flowing differently, there were rocks I had never seen before, and there was a HUGE tree fallen over right in the middle of the water. I was trying to figure out what happened and where we were and how in the world to get through this safely. The way the tree had fallen, there was a narrow path to the right of the branches and if you got through it in just the right spot you could probably safely maneuver through the section, it seemed. To the left of the branches there was also some space to get by the tree, but then there were bushes and reeds and more trees sticking out just ahead of that so you would get hit one way or the other. 

I clutched Brinna in one arm and with the other arm and my legs I tried to maneuver us safely. But the rapids had picked up and the water was moving swiftly and it was difficult to control where we were going, especially with one arm in the water and my baby in the other arm. I realized we were gong to the left of the tree and did my best to get us close to the bank and tried to grab on to a branch or something to stop us so we wouldn't hit the trees and pop our tube or scrap our heads off by a branch because that water was moving quickly I tell you! When I got close to the bank I reached for a reed and that is when my tube came out from under us and we went in and under the water. I got us onto our backs and was able to grasp a reed and hold on for dear life. I reassured Brinna trying to tell her how nice it was to be in the water. She was crying and I was extremely grateful that she had her life jacket on to keep her floating on her back with my left arm around her as I floated underneath her.

It was in that moment that I was clutching to that reed with my sweet little girl in my arms and I looked down the river at what was ahead of us and I had two seconds of panic. Because I knew the severity of the situation. If my right arm slipped from this branch that I was clinging on to, if Brinna was pulled from my arms...there was no way she would make it out safely. There were too many rocks and low branches, the rapids were too swift and too long...I didn't want to even imagine. But then immediately following that moment of panic the word peace popped into my head. And I felt the strongest sense of peace and strength wash over me. Stronger than I ever felt in my life. And I knew if I ever needed angels there with me, I needed them now. I was surprised at the ease that I felt as I held on and floated, surprised by my feelings of calm. I knew there had to be angels there with me. No doubt about it. Watching over and strengthening me and my baby.

I looked back at the rest of the group worried about how they were going to get through. I saw Eric and Kyler jump out of their tubes and try to make it over to me and Brinna. I told myself to hold on tight until Eric got to us. And prayed that the other children would make it through safely.

I tried to put my legs down to stand up at one point, but when I tried to do that the current made it harder to hold on and with Brinna in my arms I felt like I just needed to stay how I was on top of the water and wait until Eric got closer to us.

Eric and Kyler were being pulled by the current, too, but were able to manage near to me. Eric was able to get to a small little bank just a little ahead of me. When he got his feet on dry ground I worked my way to him and handed off Brinna. Oh the relief knowing that my baby was safe!

I struggled in the water for a minute, but was able to stand up and hold onto a branch. Just then the rest of the kids had reached the tree and I looked over to see how I could help them. The teenagers were all out of their tubes trying to protect the younger kids and to move the tubes that were stuck under the branches and surely about to pop! Everyone was being hit and scraped and slipping on rocks and that panic washed over me again as I realized the severity of this situation.

Perry floated closest to me all alone in a double tube. I tried to pull him away from the worst of the branches and as my legs wacked against the rocks I realized the only thing I could do was climb in with Perry and make sure he got through the rapids safely. The other kids were too far away from me and we were all being pulled in different directions.

Once we got through the worst of the rapids, I pulled our double tube to the side of the river (banging and scraping my legs again). I tried to keep Perry calm and told him to wait there while I ran back on the side of the river to see how everyone else was doing. Thankfully, Perry was extremely brave and though he was scared and worried and didn't like what had just happened, he listened and waited. I ran back a ways until I could see the teenagers had pulled the two little girls over to safety and Eric was making his way walking on the other side of the river with Brinna. Thank goodness everyone was accounted for!!

We regrouped back at the river side by Perry. We were all shaken up, scraped, bruised, and had lost shoes, jewelry, sunglasses, a paddle, and a tube...but we were all alive!!! My heart was filled with gratitude for a God that surely sent angels to protect and watch over all of us and allowed us to feel the Spirit and its promptings and comfort to stay calm and to know what to do on the river that day. It could've ended so much worse.

I was probably shaken up the most out of everyone. Maybe because I'm still suffering from ptsd from cancer, but being in a situation like that with my beautiful baby girl was scary stuff!! You could see the road from where we were so I put Brinna in my arms and walked my bruised, cut, goose-egged legs the rest of the way. Everyone else got back on the river until they got to the exit point at the bridge. And Kyler was able to recover my run away tube that was stuck in a tree along the way.

We were over an hour late for our dinner plans that night. But I was glad to be alive so I didn't feel bad about that. Then Eric looked up online to see if there were any warnings or anything about the river. He found this:

Historic and massive flooding indeed! It changed the river. I think we learned to check online before heading out to the river, always wear life jackets, and never get too comfortable when it comes to water.

And hug your loved ones tight because you never know when something could happen.

October 29, 2019

my new favorite place in our house

My books!

While I still dream of the library from beauty and the beast, this book case is the next best thing. It took us three years and an ikea hack (and the finishing touches still need to go on it so don’t look too closely), but I finally have a place to house most of my books. And I love it so much. It makes me the happiest every time I walk by it, pull a book off the shelves, or put a book away.

Eric worked hard on building it while I was on one of the California trips with three of the kids. We came home to this and the girls had a blast playing in it for a night.

Then I got to arrange the shelves and organize the books.

And now it is a favorite place to be.

“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.” 
—Jorge Luis Borges

October 28, 2019

universal studios

Just a few weeks after we got back from our trip to California for Kyler’s cross country meet, we headed back again to spend some time at universal studios.

I have never been to California so many times in one year! But when I took the boys in January we got year passes at basically the same price so we wanted to make sure we used them at least one more time. So we drove there on a Sunday and listened to general conference as we drove. We went straight to universal studios and spent an afternoon there and then went back there for most of the day on Monday, too.

This is what you should know about universal studios Hollywood: You can do everything you want to do in a day easily. The park hours are short but there isn’t a whole lot to do and the rides are all mostly the same concept so you can get it all in. The mummy ride and Harry Potter are the two best rides. Though the back lot tour and Jurassic world are pretty fun too. Most rides have a single rider line that you should definitely take advantage of. Harry Potter as a single rider makes the most sense because you really can’t even see who you are sitting next to the whole time anyway. But when you go in the Harry Potter single rider line you miss seeing all of the amazing details of Hogwarts castle which is part of the fun.

Universal studios has an upper and lower lot and it takes a ridiculous amount of time and movement to get to one part or the other. Personally I didn’t mind climbing up and down the 345 stairs (most people take the escalators but I prefer the stairs), but it takes a good chunk of time and energy it’s more difficult to run between rides that are up verses down.

Most brilliant thing I did was not bring a purse. I wore my yoga pants with pockets. That way you don’t have to waste time putting your stuff in lockers (at least two of the rides you have to put your stuff in the lockers before riding).

The details of Harry Potter land are amazing and it is fun to look through all of the shops. Especially if you are going with a Harry Potter fan who will geek out with you.

We drank butterbeer both days. The frozen butterbeer is to die for! Ridiculously expensive but still worth it. We got one each day. And made our theme song and music video in honor of the Buttterbeer.

We spent Sunday evening with Jenny. I’m so glad we’ve gotten to see her so often this year. We love hanging out with her at our house. Then for breakfast on Monday we walked to La Brea bakery—the croissants are the best! I’ve loved all of the food I’ve had there.

We drove right back home Monday night. It was a quick trip, but so glad we got to go!

October 25, 2019

conference weekend

The tradition of matching pajamas conference weekend continued!

We ironed on a different patch onto each person's hot pink shirt.

Brinn's shirt was just a tad bit big for her. I can't even tell you how hard it is to figure out matching attire for a family in little girls size 2T-mens large and everything in between without spending a bucketload and within a limited amount of time. Shirts from Michaels, pants and shorts from Target, and iron on patches from Hobby Lobby and I was satisfied.

I often hope for a laid back conference weekend, but each weekend seems a bit busy and chaotic. We try really hard to watch or listen to as many talks as possible as a family.

Perry was actually probably the best listener out of all of us. He described conference by saying "The old guy teaches us the gospel." So innocent and sweet from the mouth of Perry. We are grateful for the "old guy" and his wisdom and experience and all of the experience of our church leaders and the apostles.

It was also a very special conference this year because it was the first time for Layla to join me at the Women's session saturday night. I was so excited about the changes that were announced and explained at that session. My daughters are lucky to be growing up and living as members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at this time. There were some beautiful changes in the YW theme and the YW program. So exciting.

I didn't remember to get a picture, but we did get to go out to dinner with Jacqui and Macie--a fun way to celebrate the girls joining us at the women's session.

 I received a priesthood blessing a few months ago and one thing that was said in it was that conference would be a time that I would receive a lot of personal messages for me. And that was so. It was some of the small phrases, sentences, and minor messages that spoke just to me it seemed. Another reminder to me that God is aware of us and in the details of our lives. And I am grateful for every message that pointed me to Him.

"As in our New Testament story, those blessed with sight will recognize that, in spite of everything else this conference tradition may offer us, it will mean little or nothing unless we find Jesus at the center of it all. To grasp the vision we are seeking, the healing that He promises, the significance we somehow know is here, we must cut through the commotion—joyful as it is—and fix our attention on Him. The prayer of every speaker, the hope of all who sing, the reverence of every guest—all are dedicated to inviting the Spirit of Him whose Church this is—the living Christ, the Lamb of God, the Prince of Peace.
But we don’t have to be in a conference center to find Him."
                     --Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (The Message, the Meaning, and the Multitude)

October 24, 2019

beautiful california weekend

Kyler had a cross country meet in california last month. I seized the excuse for another trip to cali to bask in the sun at the beach. This time I got to bring these two beautiful people.

This is a little bit more realistic. Ha!

I was so glad to have the chance to spend some quality time with these two together. So often I get to spend time with the younger kids together or the older kids together or our whole crazy crew, but to have time with just Kacin and Layla is pretty rare and I will forever cherish that weekend. But I also hope that it was the beginning of many more happy adventures together!

We drove on a friday and headed straight to the beach and grabbed dinner and watched some street shows.

Our theme song for this trip was "Beautiful People" by Ed Sheeran. So we took a lot of "beautiful" photos and videos just like this one:

Truly. Most of our pictures are with our trying to look weird faces. Silly and awkward faces come more natural for us anyways. ;)

The sunset!

And this moment alone is why I wanted to go on this trip (no matter how blurry this picture is!). I wanted these two to have happy moments to bond with each other, and I loved watching it happen.

The next day we headed to the beach with Jenny. We brought leftover pizza and she brought dried broccoli florets. We all contribute in different ways.

We had a blast in the sand and water.

After our day at the beach, we drove to Norco for Kyler's cross country meet. so many runners there! Such a cool experience.

We spent the next morning back at Huntington Beach before we drove home. I made my kids walk much further than they wanted to walk with me. But they survived because they can do hard things. And then we had plenty of time back in the sand and the water before picking Kyler up and heading back home.

A beautiful weekend with my beautiful people.