Leaving home swinging through the (Ecua)door

Zach had to write an essay for English class and chose to write about his experience in Ecuador with HEFY. He had certain parameters to follow for his class, but I loved how it captured a different side of his experience and wanted to document it here. 

If you want to know more about his experience in Ecuador with HEFY, then you can read more here and here and then some sappy Mom stuff about him going and preparing him to go here and here

It was seriously the best experience for him and he came home telling all his siblings that they MUST go on an HEFY trip. Zandra is all signed up and ready to go to Dominican Republic in June 2018! We are super excited for her to have this adventure (and Josh and Sam are already starting to save and plan for their service trips too!)

Ok. Enough blah blah. Here’s Zach:

This past summer, I had the opportunity to participate in a humanitarian trip in Ecuador. My brother had the same opportunity previously but turned it down. I certainly wasn’t going to let the chance slip by. My nerves were at ease through the process of signing up, fundraising and even the week leading up to the trip; but once the reality of leaving hit the night before, the nerves came like a storm. There was nothing I was planning to do on the trip that I had done before. That was certainly a reason to be nervous, despite my dad constantly saying to relax because everything was going to be ok.

The initial hurdle I faced was leaving Toronto early in the morning. I was meeting the rest of the group in Los Angeles and I had to fly alone for the first time in my life in order to get there. People talk about having butterflies in their stomach when they’re nervous, but for me there was a whole conservation. Simply trying to keep my emotions down felt like one of the hardest things I had ever done; how could I travel alone?

I finally arrived in one of the busiest airports in North America, feeling confident, as I had been travelling alone for hours by this point. I learned that I could do things by myself and I was more independent than I thought. I felt as if I was on top of the world but the only way to go from the top is down; I got lost and eventually found two people from my group who I needed to approach.

I mustered up the courage to talk to them, after having quietly followed them from afar for a few terminals, which was hard for me as I am usually cautious with strangers. It actually went well and we soon became friends. I once again learned something new about myself: that I do have the confidence to talk to and meet new people.

Everyone on the trip was from the West Coast, except me. Everyone on the trip was American, except two other girls and me. I was different to all the others and yet I bonded with the 22 Americans and 2 girls from Calgary in our first destination of the trip, the Galapagos Islands. Who knew that embracing the Canadian culture could be so beneficial in making friends, eh?

After the relaxing part of the trip was over we headed to Cuenca on the mainland of Ecuador to get to work. Our project was to build part of an orphanage for disabled orphans. Physical labour is not one of my strengths and everything I did on the worksite was a new experience, so it was challenging for a “city boy” like me. Some of the work included: cementing, plastering, chipping and sanding. It took me a few days and a few angry Ecuadorians until I finally became comfortable with the construction I was doing. The worksite enabled me to learn so much about construction, none of which I would have ever been able to learn.

On weekends we did lots of activities, which included eating guinea pig and swimming in a freezing cold waterfall that was all crazy for me to do since I am not usually one to try new things. I am especially not the adventurous type so the “adrenaline junkie activities” freaked me out most.

The one activity in particular that scared me the most was a swinging chair, which swung over a cliff and overlooked the city. The thin branches, which the seat was tied to sagged with every person that sat down. The knots tied to the branches slid back and forth with every swing. This was not the type of swing that would pass any Canadian safety regulations, and yet I knew I needed to go on it. I needed to take a huge step out of my comfort zone. This was one of those things that I would regret not doing, even if I was scared. I sat in the seat, stomach twisting and turning with nerves, playing them off with laughter. Suddenly the lever was pulled. The nerves I had were gone as the wind rushed through my hair, city seemingly flying closer and closer. With falling through the air, I took a swing out of my comfort zone of land and it enabled me to see new views, and feel new rushes. I saw new horizons and it was amazing.

In the evenings of our workdays, we got to spend time with local teens. We went to their homes for visits, played sports and had a dance. The activities started off where the two groups were rather separate; “Gringos” (as they called us) on one side and locals on the other. The language and cultural difference had been a barrier between us. Using my new learned lesson from the swing, I decided I needed to yet again become the new found me and try to be more outgoing. My venture into an unknown language that I had never spoken showed the locals I was trying and, despite them saying that I sound like a little baby, it worked. We all ended the trip united and friends, one Ecuadorian even confessing his love to a girl in my group.

When I first heard we were working with orphans I pictured little kids who were abandoned as babies. This orphanage was extremely different and took everyone on the trip by surprise. It was an orphanage for people of all ages who were severely disabled. I had never worked with anyone like that in the personal manner I did. At first I was reserved and intimidated but eventually I got out of my normal self and into the service of my fellow beings. There was one guy in particular who really stuck with me. He loved doing push ups and would get us to do hundreds and hundreds with him. I started off standing and watching but then realized I wasn’t learning or helping anyone by doing such; so once he gestured me to come join, I didn’t hesitate. Two sore arms and an aching chest later, I realized how much my little actions meant to him and was really quite humbled. Spoon feeding each orphan, which again I was hesitant at the start to do, also made me realize how important service is.

Normally I am the kind of person to stay where I am comfortable and not take risks. On this trip I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone on numerous occasions and learned a lesson from it every single time. This trip gave me many unique experiences and taught me many important lessons. The most important lesson I left with is that I need to leave my comfort zone whenever and however I can, because that’s when the most valuable life lessons are learned.

P.S. The blog title was his essay title and it is all his. I guess coming up with captions or memes for things like his edgymormon instagram account helps with school work too (If you don’t follow edgymormon, check it out. It’s quite hilarious. And a bit edgy:))

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quote of the Week

“It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the dog.”

It’s been a busy week, so when we sat down to FHE (minus Rob who’s in Edmonton (again) for work), I told the kids to skip the quote of the week because I didn’t have one.

Zach jumped in and said he had one. It was a quote that he heard at school (I think it was on a handout or a test, or something). He shared this quote and we all agreed it was a keeper.

It’s really the perfect quote for all of us: we all face challenges, trials, disappointments, upsets, letdowns, discouragement, conflicts and temptations. Doesn’t matter who we are or where we are on this path of life. We will be in the ring, at some point, and usually, at many points.

What matters most is that we do get in the ring and we fight with everything that we have. That we keep going, endure to the end (we talked about this common saying during FHE too) and never give up. We give it our all and don’t stop!

This week one of our kids had a major disappointment. It’s so hard as a parent not to want to step in and take all disappointments away:( But we can’t (and I mean there are some things we have no control over, as well as we can’t deprive them of life lessons… but this was one that I had no control over so it always seems worse). I do know that all disappointments help build resilience and strength, but it’s much harder to watch your kid go through it….

As I talked about the challenge with this child, he quickly referred to a talk we had started to watch the week before during FHE (and we will continue the talk when Rob is back). It’s the “Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. It’s an amazing lecture by a professor who found out he had terminal cancer back in 2007. You can find it here. (He wrote a book too). In it, he refers to challenges as being “brick walls” and says:

 

This child, despite the disappointment he was feeling, said about his challenge, “It’s like the brick wall, except it’s not even that bad because I can even see over the wall already.”

I was so proud of him. So proud of his attitude (it was better than mine!) and so proud of the “fight” this kid has in him. It’s really the fight that counts.

Recipe: Bang Bang Shrimp Wraps

I used to post some of our staple recipes more frequently, but haven’t in a long time. I often refer to them, so I decided I better get posting again as I like to have our staples recorded and then I always know where to find the recipe online!

This is a simple recipe for shrimp that we often use. It’s the sauce that is yum.

Shrimp:

Peel, devein uncooked shrimp
Lightly coat shrimp in eggs and then toss in flour.
Sauté shrimp in some oil until pink.

Mix 1/2 cup mayo, 1/4 cup sweet child sauce, squirt sriracha sauce.

Spread the sauce on the wrap. Place 5-6 shrimp on wrap. Add whatever toppings you want: cheese,avocado, tomato, lettuce etc.

I often make a quick mango salsa to put on mine:

Chopped mango
Chopped red pepper
Chopped red onion
Chopped cilantro
Lime juice.

Sometimes we just have the shrimp and dip it in the sauce too:)

 

Quote of the Week

“Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them but you know they’re always there.”

Last week I headed to Montreal to be with my mom as she was having hip surgery.

It was a long few days being in the hospital, but I was happy to be there to support her. She had lots of visitors and kind people stopping by dropping off treats, food for my sister and me, and just bringing words of encouragement. I won’t put up any pics:) But needless to say, she is very blessed to have so many good friends!

While in Montreal I got to spend a bit of time with the couple of friends that are still in Montreal. Not very many left! My one beautiful friend made sure to stop by to bring my Mom and sis some food, and then we headed out to catch up and enjoyed some yummy food at an indian restaurant.

I also had the chance to see one of my old grad school pals. We spent hours and hours and hours together while at McGill not only studying, but sharing our lives together. I last saw her 9.5 years ago when Rob and I got married and she was pregnant with baby number 2! We have touched based here and there over the years, but this was the fist time we were able to sit down and catch up! It was so amazing.

I have been truly blessed in my life to have some amazing girlfriends. Although as life has its’ ups and downs, and we go through different phases, I find there are many periods that we go without speaking or seeing each other, and yet, when we reunite, it’s like old times.

That’s how it was with this gal. 


We talked and talked and laughed and both of us left feeling like it was old times. Except relieved that there is no exam tomorrow! She sent me the friend quote a couple of days ago and I couldn’t agree more.

So appreciative of wonderful friends!

Quote of the Week 

“Do more things that make you forget to check your phone”. 

At church today we had a conference for all the congregations in our area (Stake). The stake president gave an awesome talk and told a story about his lawn.

He said his lawn was beautiful when he first moved in and over time the dandelions and weeds grew. He would try to weed the lawn, pull out the dandelions on a weekly basis. But still they returned. It was frustrating. 

He noted that his next-door neighbour’s   lawn was looking quite good. He asked his neighbour what the secret was? (The neighbour had hired a lawn care company and they had told them the secret!!) 

The secret : take great care of the grass. Fertilize and water. Don’t worry about the weeds. Worry about the grass! Feed the good so it can grow stronger.

So when I saw this quote, it connected with me. The phone can be like the weed. We can keep focused on it, but it’s still there. You can tell everyone to put it away, but they are right back on it.

But if you are really busy with other things? There’s less time to be idle on your phone!

Studies (academic, spiritual, interest etc.), sports, work, service, and relationships. Busy yourself with those things and you will put down your phone. We need to focus on feeding and enriching our grass and that will take care of the weeds! 

Monthly Snaps of Life 

Here’s a peek of the past little while:

Talks at church:

A few more drivers in training:

Rob had a work function where we got to go see the Blue Jays play (in a swanky box at the Roger’s Centre!):

Josh’s soccer team did a big fundraiser dinner:


All the players had to dance with their Mom’s:

First temple trip for Sam and Zandra:
Soccer party for Zach’s team (and a selfie of some of the Moms):

Church dance! Zach brought two friends, including a French exchange student staying with his buddy. Zandra also brought her friend:




Sam and I went for a bike ride:

We lost the power one night but someone was still studying:

General conference:

We did our traditional 5K BIST run. Zach had his buddy run with him, as well as another “friend” support the team and and hang out with Josh:









Reggie chillin:

This popped up on my Facebook feed. 10 years!!

Thanksgiving weekend 

This year we headed to Montreal for Thanksgiving to see my Mom. 

Rarely do we have the whole crew for Thanksgiving, and this year with my Mom’s upcoming hip surgery, we decided a visit was in order. Leaving early means everyone was happy to head back to sleep! 


We arrived around lunch time and picked up our Montreal fave of poutine and steamies. We spent the afternoon just hanging out and catching up.

In the evening we headed downtown to old Montreal. Coincidentally, a couple of Zach’s buddies were also visiting Montreal, so he had made plans to meet up with them. Josh and Zandra went exploring with Zach and his friends and I made sure they sent me some pics.We took advantage of having an only child and took Sam out for a nice meal. We wandered around Old Montreal (my old stomping grounds as I lived there for 5 years after my undergrad and during grad school ) while Rob snapped lots of photos.

On Sunday we accompanied Gran to church. Zach chauffeured Gran around, while making sure she paid him back with back scratches during the service! Lol.We enjoyed our favourite pizza (Gigi’s) for lunch and prepped a nice Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone shared their “thankfuls” which included the warm and fuzzies about how much we all our family:)Of course, there was some down time in the afternoon:On Monday, we headed back home and our usual 5 hours took 8.5 hours! Luckily we had a couple of movies and some karaoke type singing happening in the backseat! 

A nice holiday weekend:) 

Quote of the Week

“Money makes a terrible master, but an excellent servant.”

Zach came up with the quote this week. He had to read it to everyone a few times for everyone to absorb it.

I love that my kids will hear quotes and copy them down so they can share them as our weekly quotes.

Money is certainly not evil itself; it can make life so much easier and more enjoyable!

But if you let yourself get wrapped up into it becoming front and centre, you will become a slave to it. Use it for good, and make sure you stay focused on what’s really important.

Quotes of the Week

I always get so behind on these! We are at least  still doing our quotes during our weekly FHE and have them up in our kitchen. But I still like to capture them here as it’s “permanent”.

Here are a few over the past few weeks. I wish I kept better track of where these quotes are from. Sometimes I just hear them and so I don’t know the exact source; some I heard at YLC, some on random podcasts. All are pretty good (I think)

If you don’t make the decision in time, time will make the decision for you” (random podcast)

Reminds me of the idea that there is no such thing as standing still: you are either going forward or backward.

 

Part of the tragedy you must avoid is to discover too late that you missed an opportunity to prepare for a future only God could see for you (Pres. Henry B. Eyring used in the BYU speech “Women and Education: “A Future Only God Could See for You”, Eva Witesman)

Loved this talk. Love this concept. We don’t know what our future holds! We need to seize every opportunity that we have now. We need to educate ourselves and prepare ourselves as best we can. No, we can not know everything or anticipate everything, but we can do a lot so that when we bump into luck or trial, we will be as prepared as we can be. If we do it prayerfully, even better:)

 

Inspired questions get inspired answers”  (as recorded by Zach at YLC)

Love this concept too. The quality of the answers usually depends on the quality of the questions. You can ask questions through very different lenses, and the answers you get are usually a reflection of that same lense. Go figure. Zach and I were discussing this a few weeks ago, about how you really choose if you want to believe things or not. You really choose the perspective you can take. You can choose to see things through an eye of optimism or pessimism. The glass is really half empty – or half full. Depends on what perspective you choose to take.

 

…But that future, at least any qualitative aspect of it, must be vigorously fought for. It won’t “just happen” to your advantage. Someone said once that the future is waiting to be seized, and if we do not grasp it firmly, then other hands, more determined and bloody than our own, will wrench it from us and follow a different course.” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland”)

This one gave me chills when I first read it. Those “bloody hands” create quite an image in my mind. But as I am raising my spirited teens, I can’t emphasize this point enough to them. Their future is theirs to grab!! Go grab it!! Get off the couch! Get off your phones:)) Seize the opportunities that are literally pouring out to you!

 

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” Viktor Frankl

If you haven’t read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” about his time in a concentration camp, then you simply must. It’s not a long book, but it certainly is not a light read. One of my client’s is reading it so I have had the opportunity to revisit it with him. Very powerful. It’s not about our circumstances. It’s about us.

 

First Day of School Photos

The school year rolled around pretty quick it seemed. Lots of transitions this year too! 

Sam was off to a new school; middle school, grade 7, extended French:

Josh joined the high schoolers and started grade 9. He said he has been trying to avoid his siblings at school because Zach is always trying to kiss him and Zandra is always trying to hug him! lol 

Zach headed off to grade 11 and wanted some extra poses: 

Zandra started grade 11 too. I think they have one class together this year:

Gabe was still around for the start of school here but has since headed beck to BYUI. He’s actually working this semester on campus as it’s his off track semester. He’ll officially start his 2nd year in January and do his two semesters from Jan – July like last year:

Reggie is most concerned about how his  walks are implicated. Sam used to start school later than everyone and walk him, now I think it’s up to me and he’s concerned about the consistency….

Reggie also makes the family photos a touch more complicated. Everyone was awesome though to get up to take these photos! Sam and Josh had to leave before 8, and Zach and Zandra only had to be there after 10! (Luckily Gabe worked at 8 too!) 

^^^ I was only around for when the little guys left so got these pics (and notice how annoyed Josh is stopping to turn and tell me to stop!!) 

Here’s hoping for a great school year!!