Monthly Snaps Part One 

I love that my iPhone is overflowing with pics right now; so much so that I will divide this post in two, and create some individual posts too. These are basically from mid June to end of July. 

Let’s take a look: 

I finally made Grammie’s famous oatmeal cake and it was so good. Grammie used to make us this cake whenever she saw us and it’s a family fave. (Recipe is here):

During exams, a quick snooze:These two studied like crazy (and had great success):Sam was a trooper to sing for Father’s  Day with the primary kids one last time:Reggie watching our family home evening :Totally how I feel: Our Honda turned 300000km!!! And that’s mostly me driving over the last 9 years. I’ll say Rob maybe gets 50k from it because of vacations, but it’s mainly me. I don’t even want to think of the hours this took!!:This is how it’s done boys: Meanwhile, back in Idaho, Gabe was having a little bit of fun: Josh set out to read, then quickly fell asleep:The boys had a blast a YM/service camp. This area in our house can get so congested leaving and coming home, but one day I know I will miss it!!:My beautiful niece Abby left to serve a mission for 18 months. Super proud of her for sacrificing this time to serve the people in Vancouver, Washington. Also super proud of my brother and sister in law to give her up for a short time so she can serve and love  those people she meets:Always have to include Reggie: Zach had to take a concoction before his Ecuador trip:Sometimes they are tired at church and you have to go find them:Zach’ soccerteam: Day after his 16th Birthday, Zach went and passed the test for his driving learners permit!:Sam turned 12 and moved from primary to the YM, and got the Aaronic Priesthood:We celebrated a special friend’s bday: Zach prepping for Ecuador:Walk to Dairy Queen (night before Zach left). It’s a common summer family night treat:A reminder of some of the vows we made to the kids on our wedding. Sent it to Zach as he was leaving for Ecuador. I have a feeling this will be sent to all our kids multiple times throughout their lives as they chase their dreams:Gabe had a great time in Colorado with his girlfriend, meeting her fam: Need to appreciate our beautiful city and sunsets:Went out on a smom/sdaughter date with good friends (missed taking a pic of my friend and me — next time!!)  to see a musical play in by BYU-I. We grabbed dinner first: Rob spent a week in Edmonton when Zach was away too. So Josh and I spent some fun time together. We went for wings one night, and fish and chips the other. Loved having time with this growing boy!:And we snuggled with Reggie too: That about raps up July… stay tuned for August because there’s good times ahead…

CDF 24 hours 

I’m getting a glimpse of our future life; the one where I am the crazy Mom who obsesses about having all her children together under one roof for a meal.

Because that’s what I’ve become.

We arrived home from our getaway with Sam and Josh and quickly started unpacking and getting laundry going! I sent Gabe a text to let him know we were home and he was nearby and home in 5 min. (I laughed because I also sent him this pic suggesting he come help unpack (I was kidding) and he was there 5 min later  (but hadn’t received the picture):


Rob’s bag had never made it home from Edmonton last week with him but they delivered it to our neighbors while he was gone. Phew. So happy to add that laundry to the pile too.

The boys quickly unpacked and decided to go on a biking adventure. The littles are loving having Gabe around and he’s being such an awesome big brother with them! He took some hilarious video of Sam getting stuck going up a mud hill and sent me these pics:


That night we headed out for icecream and saw an incredible sunset (well bits of it; hard with all the trees and buildings!) 


The next day we did the usual run around and then got excited for Zandra coming home! Her leader (my good friend Julie) had sent me this pic of her at camp :


We were super excited to get this girl home and hear about her fun adventures! 


That evening we sat outside and caught up more with Gabe and enjoyed the new set up in our backyard:


(Yup that’s me lying on the couch on my phone checking flight updates for Zachs flight home!!)

I had heard from Zach finally at 5pm via text and he called when he got to his gate in LAX. I was so excited to hear his voice! Within the first few seconds I could tell that this trip had been a life changing one that he will always remember.

His flight was scheduled to arrive at 1:30am, but was late and landed at 2:50am! But by 3:30 he came out! (Rob and Gabe were there too and took most of the pics except for 1 (the one from a different angle!)


^^^ ok I know that is a terrible picture of me but it shows how crazy happy I was to see him! 

He was awesome. Had the most incredible time. Ever. Best 2.5 weeks of his life. 

We all ended up getting up for church, as exhausted as we all were! But, it was Sam’s first time to pass the sacrament, and Zach’s to bless (you have to be 12 to pass and 16 to bless) so they wanted to go. It was so beautiful to have all 4 boys together and partake of that sacred ordinance for us.

We headed off for church (and they all indulged me with pictures):


I know. Crazy Mom.

Here’s a glimpse of them before the meeting:


^^^Sam’s on a lower step. He’s not that short!!


So happy to get my girl back too (even though we talked and texted while she was at camp — just that little bit of contact is so helpful,  I have learned!!!)

(And as an update… Zach did have technical issues with his email, but had sent us one using a leader’s email, but we never got it!)

It was “testimony meeting”  at church (which means there is no set service, people just go up and share their thoughts/feelings/testimony if they want.) It’s not a common thing for Rob and me to do, but we both did, as did Zach. He shared the most beautiful thoughts and testimony and I will jot them down in my personal journal to remember forever.

The afternoon we had FHE which we spent hearing about some of Zach’s trip and seeing some pics.

(Side note: Let’s take a look at our new set up:)

 Later on I spent more time with Zach and went through his travel journal (he is an awesome recorder and writer). He shared some souvenirs, including my fave:


It has become tradition that when  he goes away without me, he brings me back a nativity. I have some cool ones as he goes to some cool places without me!!!

He also brought back a hammock, which he is working hard at either figuring out how to hang it in his room (not going to happen) or how to convince us to pay for a hammock stand (he’s working on it…)!

It was so awesome to have all these guys together and share so many laughs! There is no place I’d rather be then with them (even when they drive me crazy). We are so so blessed to have the best family!

Love you all more! 

Quote of the Week

“In your moments of decision, is where your destiny is shaped” Tony Robbins

I know I’ve harped on this one with my kids for years; they are sick of hearing it.

But really, who can argue with Tony Robbins? Who would want to argue with him? I shudder at the thought.

It doesn’t hurt that Thomas S. Monson back in the 70’s coined, “Decisions determine destiny.” (Sorry, Tony, I think he beat ya to it)

And you definitely don’t want to argue with that man. He’d love you to death.

My kids are pretty sick of hearing how what you do now, impacts you later. Your choices now, will either open or close doors later.

I heard another quote that I LOVED:

“Easy choices now, hard life later. Hard choices now, easy life later.”

It may not always hold true, but I sure have found it pretty darn accurate in my life.

(But,  I also think it’s a good idea to make some easy choices now too! It needs to be a balance…)

Happy decision making!

 

Meanwhile, back in Ecuador 

So. 

The only contact you get with your child while they are gone is to follow along on the HEFY Instagram account and wait for pictures to post.

Which I did.

Hourly. 

Haha. Just kidding. 

(Not really).

You are also supposed to get an email from them mid trip too. They even posted on Instagram “parents, check your email tonight” one night. Which I did.

Hourly. 

Just kidding. 

(More like every 30 seconds.)

But, nothing. Nada. Zilch.

That boy has some explainin’ to do, since it’s a long time (18 days!) to not hear a peep.  I’m guessing technical issues were to blame (and they better be real good… Zach… if you are reading this is the LA airport, you better have texted me a dozen times already with your superb excuse).

Anyhow, we did know he was alive and well based on these pics. Here’s what we got (following the first two I already posted; I’ve just included screen shots so the caption can be included too!) 





See that ^^^ check your emails tonight???





This was actually a super cute video. So I was able to see he truly was alive. Lol.







It’s always a “Where’s Waldo/Zach” game for us! Can you spot him?


^^^Ahhh, so they did work?! Or as Josh said, “They are posing as if they worked”…






^^^ Love this!!! That is what service is all about! 


^^^ Hmmmm, Zach looks like he needs his mama to give him a nudge to pay more attention in the devotional.

That’s ok because we get to see him in less than 24 hours!!! Woot woot!!!

I am so grateful that he had this incredible opportunity. I’m so grateful for everyone who helped him achieve the goal to go! I know – even before talking to him – that it will forever be an experience etched in his heart and soul. 

Countdown is on to see that boy!! Can’t wait to hear all about his trip in detail! 

Getting Away

With Zach being gone, and Zandra heading off to YW camp, we decided to take  the little boys (ok, I know that they aren’t little anymore at 12 and 14, but they are always my littles….) away for a bit. But before I get to that, here’s a little bit of the week leading up.

Gabe arrived home on Tuesday night last week, but unfortunately, Rob had to be away in Edmonton the whole week, so we didn’t see Gabe until Rob was home. (This is a huge downfall of being in a stepfamily; I would have loved to welcome him home (and get the airport pics)… but while the cat’s away, the one set of mice are confined to staying at home in isolation without interacting with the other set of mice . Haha. Hopefully it will get even better as the mice grow (as it is starting to). But I know people must wonder why Zach  and Josh have more frequent guest appearances on this blog (and I get things like airport shots with them), but it’s due to the flexibility of the schedule and relationship and I am around them a lot more to capture it all. 

Anyhow. Good to have Gabe home and it was super handy to also have him around to help build some new backyard furniture:)


We sure worked him hard: 


Josh and I had a really good time on our own during the week having dinner together, getting some shopping done, and he even walked Reggie with me!

I guess I worked them both hard too!? 


Aw. Reg.


Anyhow, we convinced Gabe to come away with us for at least the weekend (he wanted to be home doing some temp work while he’s in town for just over a month and then heading back to school to work full time on his off track semester. BYUI is a year round school and offers 3 tracks (semesters) per year.  He does 2 tracks/semesters between January and July and then has his summer 6 weeks off; then he has an off track where he can work).

We made our way up to the condo timeshare we had traded for. We had been there in the winter for skiing and had a good experience, so we figured a nice simple place would be good (especially with the US exchange rate, we were happy to stay in Canada!)

Side note: doesn’t Rob always look so awesome driving? 


We settled in and right away the boys headed off to play tennis. (Although I wanted to play, I have this crazy tennis elbow, plus I want Gabe to spend as much time with everyone as possible) We had a nice dinner, and then everyone just chilled and headed to bed.


The next day we started the day with more tennis. Despite the heat, the boys played for a couple hours (I just played a little bit, being gentle with my elbow).



We spent the afternoon at the beach area where we kayaked and pedal boated (I didn’t get any pictures the first day with Gabe, darn it!) and then the boys played their variation of volleyball and then had some dock jumping competitions.


Finished the day off with a movie and everyone to bed relatively early…

Gabe hung out with us all for one more day, then Rob drove him to Ottawa to catch a train home. The littles were sure happy to have their big brother around with them and we certainly enjoyed getting some quality and quantity time with him. It’s hard to nail these big kids down for some prime time!

The next few days included more of the same: we started the day with tennis, and often went back to more tennis in the afternoon! I’ll spare you more tennis pics tho….

I convinced them to go on a short hike.


We went out for a meal (the boys had three little piggy poutine!) 


We enjoyed time in the water kayaking and paddle boarding (which of course the boys used in creative ways; but since I was out on the water with them they will remain undocumented).


The boys were extra happy that I enforced reading time (heaven for me to read!), and we completed an online course together about “developing good study skills.” They were super excited to do it at the end of every day after the beach. The wifi was strong in my room so the bed became the study hall:) 


At night, we went by the fire for some smores too (after more tennis, of course)


We also had an awesome day white water rafting. Unfortunately no pictures of that since you can’t bring your phone or camera (I didn’t have my waterproof one as I didn’t know we would be going). So just some amazing memories to treasure! We got to do a ton of swimming too in the beautiful Ottawa river (including going down some rapids which was fun – but hard work!!) The boys decided the “High Adventure” rafting run would make a perfect future boys trip! Here’s the brochure. Pretend it’s us on the cover:


We had a bit of cloudy weather, so we headed to the indoor pool, where due to boredom, the boys succumbed to using some of the old blow up toys I still had and brought:


And of course, the hot tub:

And that just about sums up our adventure. We decided to head home a bit earlier to catch up on all the fun stuff like cleaning and groceries as we have an exciting weekend: Zandra comes home, Zach comes home and Gabe is home! And for a glorious 24 hours we will have just some CDF time! (Before we welcome some guests who we are super excited to have! )

CDF revised 

Years ago, when we first married, I did a lot of reading on step families/blended families.

They talked about a lot of different things you should NOT do (which some things, I might add, I most certainly did and do not for one second regret, and am actually now reading that, “oops, they had it wrong”… glad Rob and I made our own decisions prayerfully). 

I was more intrigued by the things they said you SHOULD do. Like introduce unique traditions. (Yay tradition crazy me!) 

They suggested not trying to just throw two families together, but trying to really create your own identity as a new family.

I admit, we were blessed that all our kids were relatively young, so that really worked in our favour. I think had they all been teens, we would have had to approached a lot of things differently. (Funny how, in my mind, getting divorced at the time I did (early 30’s) with such young kids had seemed like the worst timing, but boy, it sure worked out that we were all still young when I remarried (mid 30’s)!

When we married, as I have explained before, we had 3 last names going: Rob’s last name,  as well as his kids’ (C), my last name (my maiden name; I had never changed my name when I first married (first marriage in Quebec and by law you don’t change it) and since it was also my professional name, I wasn’t going to change it now as it complicated things; plus it’s the boys’ middle name and I felt like if I changed my name to Rob’s last name, they would feel left out:) (D); and the boys’ last name (F). 

We decided our new identity would be the CDFs. 

We then decided to work on some family laws, as well as routines/chores (or “zones”, as we called them), as well as a family motto.

We decided on something that represented our values and uniqueness, and it gets recited during our weekly family home evening:

CHARITY: the love we give ourselves and others. The pure love of Christ; representing our faith. 

DETERMINATION: the value of hard work, effort, commitment, loyalty and perseverance. 

FAIRNESS: Over the years we have summed it up as “getting what you need”. 

You can read more in detail here, here, and here.

Fast forward almost a decade and CDF is still going strong. We really do refer to ourselves as CDFs! Mail often arrives for the CDFs and we have CDF traditions, meals, tournaments (got to get back to that one that screeched to a halt when Rob had his heart attack) and vacations etc. We have a strong CDF identity. 

I had a little moment of panic the other day when I realized we had one boy hiking with his girlfriend in Colorado, and another boy sitting in an airport in California waiting to go to Ecuador. Ummm shouldn’t  these boys be playing mini sticks upstairs in their room and us yelling up to tell them to stop talking (and giggling or trying to prank Zandra or trying to scare the little guys) and go to bed?! Or spending late nights at “Club Zach” or working on the CDF newspaper? 

I guess soon enough it will be CDF reunions we look forward too:( 

Anyhow, (wipe tear, here)….

The other morning on our ride to soccer camp, Josh was his usual morning chatty self. (Poor guy is really not a morning guy!) 

I was trying to get him to talk/laugh and I told him he would eventually break. I could eventually get him to do it bcs I’m always his mama (and am super funny, and he’s lucky to have me, blah blah blah). 

AND, most importantly, he’s always part of our CDF family and we are like “Hotel California”  (one of his fave songs), so he can check out any time he likes, but he can never leave.

So I got a smirk (told you I was funny) and a few words (something like “you are crazy, Mom”) (well kid, embrace my craziness because you do have my genes. Haha). But, I did it!!

In relaying the story to Rob, he said, “Of course! That’s what CDF really means: “Checkout Denied Forever”. Josh definitely smiled at that one and said, “ok, that’spretty  good.”

I laughed so hard, and then sent around a text to our “CDF chat” announcing that this would be our new CDF motto.

(Gabe and Rob will work on the merchandising!)

I think it’s appropriate given everyone is growing up! Just reaffirming the message that they are part of the CDF clan forever (with their eventual spouses and children happily added to this clan!)

CDF: Checkout Denied Forver. 

Quote of the Week

“Let me fall if I must fall. The one I become will catch me.”

I think one of my favorite words is the word “becoming”. It is such a positive, hopeful word. 

There’s an awesome talk by Dallin H. Oaks, a leader in my church called “The Challenge to Become“. He talks about how the end result is not always the most important thing; it is the journey we take to become that. Who we are now is not as important as who we become. 

Similarly, one of my favorite poems, “Ithaka” talks about the same thing. It’s about the journey. Not the final destination. I talked about this poem here

When I look at my kids, what I love watching the most, is who they are becoming. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love who they are now. And I want to freeze the moment in time, and even go back in time as it’s going by too fast.

But since I can’t do that, I love watching, observing, supporting and admiring who they are becoming. I love who I know they will be in the future. I love watching them become who they were meant to be. And learn who they were meant to be. All the challenges they have in their life help them build character and they become stronger because of those experiences.
I love how this quote talks about failing, and falling, because we will all do that many times! But we can have confidence that who we have become because of the challenge will be there to catch us.

Isn’t that beautiful and so hopeful? 

Quote of the Week

What would you do if you were not afraid?”

(I am so insanely behind with our quote of the weeks! I look at what is up in my kitchen and both I have not written about!! (I keep 2 weeks up at a time). I will play a little catch up now, although the next few weeks are super hectic, so I think the next time we have a family night and I introduce the new quote with be in August — but BOTH Gabe and Zach will be back to have it with us!!! )

 Recently, I have been reading the book “Option B” by Sheryl Sandberg.

I am only about halfway through it, but honestly, it’s one of the most amazing books I have read. I look forward to a little time off the first week of August so I can devour it. Although for me, it’s a “stop and think” kind of book, so I don’t want to rush it! 

I started reading it, because I knew it would be a helpful read for many of my clients that are dealing with finding their “Option B’s”  in life. I thought it would help give me some perspective, some empathy and something to share with them.

It is an extremely powerful book. Not only have I learned things that I can use with my clients, but I am learning so much that I can apply personally in my life.

Because the reality is, in life we all at some point have to go with Option B. Probably multiple times.

In one chapter, she talks about fear, and how fear can prevent us from moving on, facing challenges, doing new things, engaging in a project, speaking up, showing up, investing in a relationship, chasing that dream, writing that book, running that race, embarking on that adventure, singing that song, asking that question etc. 

You get the point. We can be driven away from doing things simply out of fear. Of course we can justify that it’s not out of fear (“I changed my mind”, “I think I’m better off not doing it”), but so often it is! 

So she asks the question, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”

That really resonated with me because often times I think we make choices based on fear rather than faith.   Asking ourselves what we could do if we weren’t afraid, can sometimes open up new avenues of opportunities.

Perhaps if we remove fear then we would be more willing to stick our neck out and try something new; learn a new skill, do something different, talk to someone new, write a book, give a presentation, travel to a new place. The options could be endless!

I do tell my kids that sometimes fear is positive. They should be scared of certain things. That is what will protect them from doing some dangerous, stupid things. But more often than not we are fearful of things that we really don’t need to be afraid of.

What would you do if you were not afraid?

Something for me to really stop and honestly ponder. 

And He’s Off….

I have sent my boys off many times now over the years without me on vacation but they have always been with their Dad (or their grandparents).

I have sometimes gone several days without talking to them while they are away. I definitely miss them and think about them, but I’m relatively used  to the whole thing. When you are divorced, you quickly realize it’s not an option to keep them with you forever. (People used to comment to me, “I could never do that” when I said the boys were away. Well, there’s a lot of “nevers” that you end up doing).

Well sending Zach off to Ecuador seemed different somehow. And now that he is there, I have essentially no contact with him except for the instagram pictures his group posts every couple of days so we know they are alive and well, I feel quite unsettled! Strange how the mind can play games on you knowing that you can’t reach them, so wanting to reach them even more!

The plan was for his Dad to take him to the airport and for me to pick him up. Truthfully, I wasn’t crazy about this plan. At all. But I agreed to it, not wanting to be the crazy helicopter Mom.


But who’s kidding who. I can not deny who I am!

So the night before, he went to sleep at his Dad’s and I was fretting and told Rob I was going to go to the airport afterall.

His response: “Of course you are. I was already planning on getting up at 3am to take you.”

Have I ever mentioned how much I love this man?!

I’m sure Zach’s Dad thought it was not necessary for me to be there (hovering a bit too close), but he let it go.

My alarm set for 3:15, I got a call from his Dad at 3am. His Dad had some bad food poisoning and wasn’t able to leave the house.

So off we went to go get Zach first before heading to the airport.

I didn’t mind that one bit!


We arrived and checked in. His bag was a teeny bit too heavy. Which we totally knew. The night before it was a lot too heavy so we had tried to move things around and put more in his carryon. No, he’s not an excessive packer (like me), but he was taking things for the project they are working on, the kids at the orphanage, as well as the families that he will meet. So we couldn’t remove anything there. We were able to get it down to “not so bad, they won’t care about a little overage.”


Wrong. They care. At least their automated scale cares and when you are .2 over, you are charged $100. Eek. Out came his snacks for the next two weeks (luckily I’m a pretty good packer so was able to get most into his carryon which was stuffed to the max too as he had to have all his stuff for the weekend in the Galapagos in there as their checked bag was continuing on to Cuenca).

Anyhow…


We got to the gate and had a tiny bit of anxiety to contend with. I secretly love it when my kids act like they need some reassurance from me:))


And then he was off!!



We texted a bit to know he had gotten through security and customs (without a single question!) and then he was on his way.

I heard from him in LA where he was able to navigate the airport and find the right terminal, get all checked in and head to the gate. He met a couple of people from his group at check in and that put my mind at ease.

The next we heard was through a picture on instagram that they had arrived safely! At this point, he had been up for 24 hours and had another 6 hour wait and 2 hour flight to go!


But it looks like he’s doing just fine.

They already hit the beach (the next update):


What an adventure of a lifetime!

July Long Weekend Part 2

We woke up early and I headed over to pick Zandra up as she was at her Mom’s.

We had to take Rob’s car, as he needed my truck for camp. Rob is not a huge fan of anyone driving his car, so it was kind of hilarious that the time I do drive it, I take it away for a long weekend. Far.

He survived just fine. As did the car.

Zandra and I headed out and had a long drive to Montreal. Long Weekend traffic all the way there. Ugh.

But how I love this girl and the discussions we have! Time whizzed by and we stopped for some yummy snacks and lunch and talked our way to Montreal.

We hung out with Gran and Di when we arrived and caught up on everything before heading out for dinner to a place Gran always goes to celebrate my Dad’s birthday (it had been earlier in the week). We followed it up with ice cream, and then lots more talking before bed!


The next morning,we made a nice brunch and spent the morning visiting again. I talk to my Mom quite frequently on a weekly basis, but it’s nice to have the face to face!

We then headed off to pick Emma up and headed to the cottage for the night.

While the girls did a number on the remaining snacks in the car, we all chatted about life.

Then they pretty much disappeared as soon as we arrived at the cottage!

Which was fine by me, as Tarina and I had some face to face catching up to do. We too are in frequent weekly contact, but the face to face time is just so fun!


We had a great time talking, and laughing into the night. We also got to enjoy a great meal prepared by Robert (Tarina’s husband)!


The next day we headed out on a nice hike. We then went out on the boat (Robert was there too!) and then had some good girl time in the hot tub. We haven’t had a PG weekend in a couple of years, so our hot tub time was our mini version!


We had the best poutine in the village for lunch and then took a nice long boat ride in the afternoon.


Zandra and I said our good byes and headed back to spend a nice evening with my Mom and sister again. We headed out for a nice walk too.


We left early the next morning to beat traffic – so glad we did!

Meanwhile…back at camp…


The boys continued to have an awesome time by their account. They were assigned to work on clearing trails, so more manual work. But they talked about fun in the water, good talks on the dock, dangerously and stupidly throwing bug spray cans into the fire for them to explode (I don’t think they were the initiators, but certainly not the innocent bystanders either), and a whole lot of laughter and funny stories. AND they didn’t kill each other. SUCCESS!!



Sam had gone up on the Thursday night, with Rob joining him on the Saturday night. Sam had a blast. He just gets right in there and enjoys everything. He swam, fished, played sports, and participated in every activity. Including taking care of himself, which Rob complained that most of the boys this age still can’t do….


They celebrated Canada day in a nearby small town and it sounds like they had a great time.


They also spent Sunday up at the camp so had their Sacrament meeting there and I heard it was pretty special being out in nature. All the boys said the Sunday meetings were so great. 


Josh especially loved being able to serve the sacrament in his slides. LOL.


Luckily Rob was at camp as he took pictures for me!


They arrived home all stinky, tired and filled with stories and laughs – exactly what teenage boys are supposed to do.


Rob came home appreciating his bed. He had a great time too and was glad he went.

A very memorable, and fun long weekend for us all!