Monday, August 31, 2015

I am glad for many things

Sunday Braeden spoke in church.  I'll have you know that I may have teared up a smidge, but I did not cry.

This is progress.

We had about 60 people over for lunch.  It was a wonderful day.

my favorite picture is right in the center:  I don't know the details but I think Cormac was sad and Luke who has the heart of a giant in his athletic little body was there to offer compassion and probably advice

 There was cousin time:

that last picture is what happened after the boys dumped the water cooler all over the trampoline...they're a little nuts
And cousin time:

Incredibly, amidst the chaos, there were nappers.  It sort of looked like a crime scene.

It was a small army to feed but I had an incredible army of helpers too.

I loved every minute of it.

Then there were the good-byes.

That almost made me cry so I had to pull myself together a little. And start cleaning up.   

Olivia compiled a treasure of a book for Braeden.  She surreptitiously passed it around and everyone filled it with advice and love for Braeden.  He also told me that my dad took him aside and gave him advice that has been handed down through the generations for missionaries.

All I can think of are the lyrics of a primary song I learned when I was a little girl.

I am glad for many things,
Many things, many things.
I am glad for many things,
That are mine today.

Thank you, thank you, my heart sings, 
My heart sings, my heart sings, 
Thank you for the many things
That are mine today.

I can't say that I am looking forward to saying good-bye to my boy for a few years but I also know that I have never been more grateful either.  I am grateful that I feel like that same army that was at my house yesterday is there supporting me and Braeden.  They could change the world.  They have changed my world.  Their collective prayers on Braeden's behalf will carry him through thick and thin.  I am grateful that he is ready and able to go.  I am grateful for the experiences he will have that will shape the rest of his life.  

I'm grateful that I have such a wonderful offering to give.  He's one of my best and brightest.  

That's for sure.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

So. Busy.

I hesitate to not blog because I don't want to infuriate my nieces.  I promise I'll get back to this.  Today the first guest arrives.  Today starts the hullabaloo, the party, the celebration.  We're sending the boy off with a bang. 

I'll be back.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

It will never be the same again

This is one of those write-myself-into-well-being posts...

A week from today.  That's when he leaves.  Am I beating a dead horse on this one, or what?  I can't seem to think about much else.

Nothing will be the same after he leaves.  And then he'll come home and go to college along with Emma.  It will just keep changing and shifting.

If you can't be happy with change, you won't be happy in life.  I need to embrace that truth and get stronger here.

I was thinking about those words:  it will never be the same again.  There have been other things happen to me and then my life was never the same again.

1- I learned to read.  It was never the same again.
2- I went to school.  It was never the same again.
3- I got a driver's license. It was never the same again.
4- I went to college. It was never the same again.
5- I got married. It was never the same again.
6- My siblings married fabulous people. It was never the same again.
7- I gave birth.  Three times.  It was never the same again.
8- My children, one by one, learned to talk. It was never the same again.
9- My children, one by one, learned to read. It was never the same again.
10- I made some lifelong friends. It was never the same again.

In every case, it was better.

I guess this is my way of saying, never the same again doesn't necessarily equate with something hard or sad.  If I had a nickel for every time Adam reassured me and encouraged me to trust more, he wouldn't have to work.

We would be independently wealthy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Living in Utah county

Braeden and I went to see Once I Was A Beehive.  It may or may not ever be shown beyond the shadows of the Wasatch mountains.  I don't know.  I do know I loved this movie!  (And you've got to admire the security of an 18 year old boy who would go to a girlie movie with his mom.)

It's about Girls' Camp and having gone to Girls' Camp as a young woman and having gone as a leader, I thought it was impeccable.  A little over the top and exaggerated because, you know, it's a movie, but I know people like the people in this movie.  A lot of them.  They are crazy and quirky and ultimately really loveable.

There's a lot of quirkiness about being a Mormon.  We are different.  Peculiar even.  (Hopefully loveable.) 

Living around here, I feel Understood.  I can let my freak flag fly.  I don't know, did I use that right?  Is being Mormon a freak flag?  It's a little surreal to live in a place where my religion is not in the minority.  Everywhere else I've ever lived, being a Mormon was Different.  Here it is The Same. 

I've decided that getting a missionary ready in Utah County is a luxury.  It feels like all the stores have my back.  First there was The Missionary Mall and then there was bicycle shopping.  Every mission is different and sometimes you buy the bike there and apparently sometimes you don't.  Braeden's mission let us know he could either send a bike from home (which he's outgrown and Mark has commandeered) or he could buy one there.  Braeden is the least likely person in the world to have retail experience or shopping skills.  He doesn't like to shop (unless it's for outlandish clothes at a thrift store).  Also, he has a shopping attention span of about 20 seconds (that is if he's promised a treat).  I felt queasy about entrusting him with a bicycle purchase.  We went to Fezzari bike shop.  They had great deals for missionaries (plus free shipping to his mission).  Also, they know what kinds of bikes missionaries need.  They measured him because they will build him a custom bike and the bike will be pretty much assembled when it is sent.  (I would send an unassembled bike to Mark, but not Braeden.  Braeden has a lot of talents and abilities but none of them involve tools.) 

I was elated when we left the shop.  I would like to give Utah County a great big kiss.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Still me


I don't know.  This is weird.

I told Adam the other night through my tears that I felt like my purpose is diminished.  Adam is 1) unfazed by my tears and 2) a good listener and 3) always a wise adviser.  I'm lucky I have him.

I tried to explain how it feels that I very soon won't be a Full Time Mother (no children at home), it felt so different.  I realize I'm a late bloomer.  Most people with kids the age of my kids have already adjusted to this....Adam talked about all the glorious things I can do with increased discretionary time.  And he's right!  I'm anticipating Time Well Spent.  It also feels too luxurious somehow. Selfish even.

Adam pointed out that I've never been all that selfish and he doubts I'll start.

Adam asked me if once I was going to school, my mom no longer mothered me.  Of course she did!  She still does.

I'm still me.  I'm still a mother.  As my circumstances shift and my role goes from a managerial to a more supportive and advisory role, I will try to roll along with the changes.

Change.  I like it when it involves paint colors and throw pillows.  It's a little harder to take when it involves how I spend my days.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Pre Missionary Training Center

I am relishing my time with Braeden.  I can be very happy if I successfully don't think about it too much.

He has been ironing a shirt a day.  (Although yesterday it was pants.)  He makes dinner every night (hand picked by me, really easy recipes).  We go over his lists of things needed to prepare.  Often. We are both keen list makers.  We run errands together.  I give him all my advice from my vast experience as a missionary (since I didn't serve a mission, my advice may not be worth too much).  We do a seven minute workout together (from an app on my phone).  I'm usually Mallory showing us modified.  

He learned how to sew on a button.

Yesterday I was meeting my visiting teaching companion and a lady we visit for lunch.  I took Braeden because we had errands to do after (and he's always been a fan of lunch).  He said, "I feel like I'm reverting to being two years old, going visiting teaching with you."

I have thoroughly enjoyed Braeden as my sidekick for 18 years.  He has been there all along as I've tried to figure out how to be a mother.  Now he's here as I'm trying to figure out how to send him off into the world.

I couldn't think of a more patient, entertaining and loveable instructor.  I'm glad he's mine.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

First day of school

For the first time, Emma is going to school in the same building two years in a row.  Exciting times.  She drove herself to school.  She was happy and confident and ready to go.  She has classes she's looking forward to, a collection of really good friends and a car to drive.  What more could a 16 year old girl ask for in life?

I took a photo of both kids:

All I can think is, "World, be nice to my babies."  And also, I wonder how long until Mark will be taller than Emma.

Here's Braeden on the first day of school:

Once Braeden was, of course, showered and changed out of his pajamas, he went to the temple with his friend who is going into the MTC on the same day (the friend is going to Panama).  They also went to lunch afterward and I was happy Braeden had someone to commiserate with on how it feels to be two weeks away from a mission.  They also were each reduced to driving their mother's minivans because their pesky younger siblings had taken "their cars" to school.  (They aren't really theirs.)

The audacity of some younger siblings!

So I was left in a really quiet house.  I had plenty to do but it was so quiet.  I turned on loud music and decided to not think about it too much.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

7th grade day

Mark was up and showered and had his backpack ready to go (it had one empty binder, one empty Seahawks folder and a Seahawks notebook given to him by Grandma Geri).  I suggested a pencil and gave him a package of notebook paper to put in the binder.

Emma and Braeden got out of bed earlier than is their custom to wish him well.  Bleary eyed and with rock star hair, when Emma is up of her own fruition, you know she loves you.

Adam took Mark on his way to work.  I told Mark I would take him if he wanted me to but I was glad he decided it would be just as easy for Adam to take him.  Nobody wants to be dropped off at the junior high by a sobbing mother.  Keep that nonsense at home, behind closed doors.

The tearful good-bye.  You'd think he was going off to war.  (I'm pathetic.)

Braeden and Emma wrapped arms around me after they left.  "Are you going to be OK?" Emma asked with her worried voice.

"Being a mother is the worst," I said into Braeden's chest.  He patted my back and Emma went back to bed, apparently satisfied I would survive.  Braeden and I had leftover strawberry shortcake for breakfast out on the deck.  Adam called and I said, "How was Mark?"

"He was alive when I left him," Adam said.  Which is exactly why you need a dad and husband because they don't get too worked up about things.

Here's the picture Adam took of Mark going into the school. (Because can you document too many things?  Isn't this why we were saved for these latter days?  So we can take a million pictures of our children with our phones?)

We picked Mark up and he bounded in the van.  In answer to our query, he said, "It was awesome!"  He told us all about his day while we drove to Zupa's for a celebratory lunch.  I kept having to get Braeden and Emma to stop talking so we could hear Mark's tale.  The hazards of being a youngest child.

I texted this picture to Adam.

sunburned cheeks from weeding the day before...I had to get work out of him while I could

Adam texted back that he wished he could join us.  Then he got in his car and did.  We were just leaving and there was only time for quick hugs all around.

These are times to remember though.  These last fleeting days, when we are five.

photo credit:  Deborah Berrett

I love that picture.  It feels like, "Mark?  We've got your back, kid."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Winning personality

photo credit:  Deborah Berrett

Several days ago I was making dinner and I asked Mark to set the table.  As he was shuffling chairs into place, he noticed they could use tightening.  He went to the garage and quickly returned with the wrench he uses for tightening the chairs (Mark = chief chair tightener).  He got down on the floor and started tightening screws, humming to himself.

"You're going to be a good husband and a good dad someday," I said, "you are good at keeping things in shape and fixing things."

He said, "Fixing things is what will make me a good dad?"

"Yes," I said, "The whole time I was growing up, I knew my dad could fix anything and I loved that."

He said, "Hmpf.  I thought it was going to be my winning personality that made me a good dad."


Tomorrow is actually the first day of school but Mark (with the winning personality) is going to the 7th grade day today.  It's also sophomore day at the high school.  Emma went last year to sophomore day.  When I dropped her off, she looked like she wanted two and only two things in life.  1) To kill me.  2) To dance on my grave.

Luckily I know that Emma's terrified face is barely discernible from her drop dead face.  Her naked fear sort of broke my heart but I soldiered on then like I will today in the face of sending Mark.

What comforts me is that yesterday Emma, the same girl who was nearly paralyzed by her angst and terror last year, went to the school with her friends just to walk around and find their classes.  This was not really necessary but they did it for a reason to get together and to meet the new French teacher (the assessment is that she's nice).  Then Emma called and asked if it was OK if they went to the mall.  Why not?

Resilience in any form is inspiring.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A year later

A year ago this last weekend, we moved to Utah.

It has been quite a year, better than I thought it would be and worse than I thought it would be.

It's been rough, being the new kids on the block.  We've been lonely at times and felt out of place.  It's broken my heart to see my children missing their friends and trying to locate that essential part of them that seems to be missing at times.

It's been wonderful.  I have loved seeing my family so often.  I have loved sunshine.  I love our perch with the amazing view.

It's been surprising.  My children that I didn't worry about in the least have had a harder time than the ones I worried about more.

It's been life changing--and this has less to do with the move and more to do with this season in our lives.  Braeden graduated, Mark decided to go to school full time, Braeden got his mission call, Emma started driving.

It's been memorable.  I'll always remember this time, the last year we were all home together.  I'll remember the trips we took, the time sitting on the deck, enjoying the view, the tears we've cried together as we've tried to adjust.

Saturday we went to Jessica's wedding.  Jessica, who we met when she was one year old, is married! She and Braeden played together as toddlers!  She was as cute and spunky then as she is beautiful and spunky now.  It was wonderful to be there and wonderful to see her parents, our dear friends, Bill and Mindy.  I also saw Christie who is really Mindy's friend and my friend I only know from blogging.  We chatted a few minutes.  She moved a few years ago and we were talking about that.  She said that she has friends now, but not "people." I totally knew what she meant.  I'm still working on the friend piece and I have a ways to go before I have people here.

But I'm making progress.  I'm reading a book recommended by someone, I've invited myself to join a bookclub.  I have decided there's a person I want to invite over.  I haven't worked up the courage to do it yet, but wanting to is progress.

A year later, we emerge a bit battered, hopefully wiser, knowing more than we knew before, and having a more rich and diverse tapestry of life experiences.

It's been quite a year.

Friday, August 14, 2015


Olivia and Edgar were going to go to Lagoon on Wednesday.  Then Braeden wanted to go too.  Then I thought we could all go...and Geri and Raelyn too since they were here visiting.  I went to Lagoon when I was a kid and it was always fun.

Then Ammon and Melanee said they were planning to go Friday so they switched their plans and went Wednesday too.  A big party!

Tuesday night when we were discussing plans, Enoch said that as far as his kids know, Lagoon is closed.  Whenever they drive by and the kids ask about it, he says, "Yeah, I think it's closed..."

We loaded up with sunscreen and water bottles and hit In N Out Burgers for sustenance along the way and arrived at Lagoon!

(I didn't take any pictures but Geri shared some with me.)

One of our first (and one of my only) rides was the Rattlesnake Rapids.  It's a lot like the Grizzly River Run at Disneyland.

Here are Geri and Melanee (Melanee is a trooper and looks way cuter than someone as pregnant as she is should be allowed to look):

And Ammon, Cormac and Me:

Looks like we were having a pretty serious discussion about something.  Probably nuclear physics.

Here are Braeden and Azure. 

We all look so dry and unsuspecting.

And then this happened:

Poor Azure.  Braeden was doing his best to shield her.

We got a little wet...

The older kids and Uncle Ammon went on the wild rides until Ammon got sick and had to lie down in the shade.  He groaned that Braeden was a bad influence on him.

Here's Raelyn and Braeden.  It looks like Braeden is trying to dissuade the paparazzi.

Raelyn and Mark embarking on some adventures:

(Emma was there too, just not pictured.)

Adam asked me how I liked it and I told him I hadn't left anything there.

Don't think I need to go back.

I'm not very much fun.  I don't like wild rides and that is mostly what is at Lagoon unless you are a little kid.

The kids had fun though.  I was glad to watch them and happy to be able to take them.  It's a good thing we had the chance.  Especially since from now on, I think I have to agree with Enoch on this one.  "I think it's closed...." 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Driving by heaven

When Braeden was about three, we were driving somewhere and he asked if we could go to heaven.  I told him no.  He said, "We don't have to go in, can we just drive by?"

Tuesday night we went to the temple with Braeden.  Being there with family, feeling all their love and support, was one of the most wonderful times in my life. (It's possible I cried.)

Braeden and Adam weren't there yet but Marianne and Robert had to leave so we took a picture.

I know everyone isn't looking at the camera but this is my favorite one.  It shows a bit of the pure joy that was lingering around.

 Perhaps we didn't go to heaven, but it certainly felt like we at least drove by.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

And she's off!

Yesterday we hit the DMV--the one in Draper because we would face that Point of the Mountain construction on our hands and knees if it meant going to the Draper DMV.  That place is Disneyland and all the other DMV I've ever been to are those little carnivals that get set up in a parking lot.

Emma passed her test awhile ago, but she finally had logged enough hours to get her license.  (Emma needing to log driving hours was one of the greatest things about this summer.  She did all my errands with me so she could drive.)

We got the license, which is a Big Deal.  I didn't make her pose holding her license and giving a thumbs up by the DMV sign like another mother did with her daughter, but I recognize what it means:  freedom for both of us and added responsibility for Emma.

When we got home, she wanted to drive Mark to the store.  "Sure," I said.  The first time Braeden and Emma drove out on Braeden's first solo voyage, it felt momentous and scary and weird to have them drive away.  This was barely a blip.  Maybe it's because there are so many other Big Deals happening around here that I can only get worked up about one or two at a time.

Maybe it's because Emma is Emma.  She can be snarky like any world class teenage girl but she can be counted on implicitly.  I'm glad I'll have her to take care of me in my dotage.  She already pretty much keeps me in line.  (Maybe my dotage has arrived.) I couldn't figure out how to pay her online fees for school and she figured it out.  She walked me through getting all the info sent to the car insurance agent we needed to add her to the insurance.  I handed her all of the school registration stuff to read and distill for me into exactly what I need to know.  (When confronted with too many words not getting to the point, I stop reading.  It's amazing I've made it through life as far as I have with this stop reading habit of mine. I am not a fan of too much information.)

I am, however, a fan of Emma.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Clothes shopping

Friends with kids a little bit older than your kids are a blessing.  They serve as mentors.  Janet told me about The Missionary Mall.  She ordered things online there for her boys when they were preparing for their missions.

Going to the actual store was even more convenient.  (Living in Utah County has its advantages.)  If you are sending a missionary, get thee to The Missionary Mall!  They know everything about everything. (I'm guessing.  Because I know nothing.  So I'll believe them.)

Besides the shirts, which I'd already bought, we bought what Braeden will need for two years: two suits with two pairs of pants each, three additional pair of slacks, 8 pairs of socks, two pairs of shoes, a shoulder bag, a belt, and five ties.

It took an hour (which is why shopping with boys is glorious).

Comfort was king in the decision making.  Braeden walked around and then sat down in the clothes to see what was comfortable.  He bought two identical pairs of shoes because he's never cared about shoes.  I stopped him from getting every single pair of pants the same color.  (The suits are the same color, though different cuts.)  "You might want variety," I told him.

The ties were an entirely different matter.  He spent more time on that decision than any other.

I snapped a picture of the ties so when it comes time to send him a Christmas present, I'll know what he already has.  Can you imagine the excitement?  A tie for Christmas! 

This is getting so very real.

Friday, August 7, 2015

My sidekick

Yesterday afternoon, Braeden was at work and Emma was volunteering as a movie extra (because who is that girl, anyway?  And what has she done with Emma?).  I asked Mark if we should go to IKEA.  He said, "Can we get chocolate cake?"

I said, "Of course."

So we went.  We stopped off first for the cake and Mark decided that he was hungry enough for chicken strips and fries.  I got the chocolate cake and shared some with him.  Mark and I have shared many a piece of chocolate cake at IKEA.

We started in on the maze that is IKEA and Mark asked, "Can we not take any shortcuts?  I want to look at everything."

Do you have any idea how long it has taken me to cultivate that kind of companionship for IKEA shopping?  That was a hard fought battle.

I am going to miss him when he is at school.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Ferber Method all over again

When Braeden was a year old, I took him to a well baby visit at our doctor's office.  I loved our pediatrician and trusted her.  She asked me if Braeden was sleeping through the night.  I said, "No."  Was that even a thing?  I felt like I was destined to a lifetime of sleepless nights.

She handed me a book called, The Ferber Method.  As a student of this motherhood gig, I had read about the Ferber Method and I thought it was barbaric.  Let your baby cry himself to sleep?  Sounded awful.  It wasn't until I read the book that it resonated with me.  It made perfect sense.  In a small degree, it was introducing self reliance.  It turned out to really work for us.  (I, of course, pass no judgment on the way mothers get their babies to sleep.  It's all about survival, so whatever works.)

As a young mother, I was also a big believer in being prepared.  If I had a well stocked diaper bag, life went a lot better.  A little container of Cheerios and a sippy cup of water got me through many a dicey situation.

The reason I've been thinking about all this is because I'm working on an entirely different preparation.  I am sending my boy on a mission.  I get fixated on small things like a first aid kit.  I know he doesn't need anything elaborate.  Wal-Marts dot the country.  I am trying to think of eventualities though.  What if he slices his finger while cooking?  He will need a band aid right then, so I should send him some.  I keep thinking about the many circumstances that will more than likely happen.  A head-ache, a cold, an upset stomach.  I realized I'm thinking so much about a first aid kit because I want to be there to take care of him.  I won't be.  He will have to take care of himself in the case of any of those maladies.  What's more, he is capable of doing so and if he isn't, it is good for him to figure out how.

It feels a little like the Ferber Method.  Even though I didn't really like letting my babies figure out how to soothe themselves to sleep (I hadn't minded so much bouncing Braeden around in my arms until he fell asleep), I recognized it was good for them.

I don't like the thought of not being there to take care of my boy, but I also recognize that it is good for him.

I'll send him a few band-aids and a bottle of Advil and hope for the best.  And I'll pray.  Adam has said many times that Braeden gets by on his personality and my prayers.  Let's hope the combination keeps working.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Shaping up

There are still pockets of detritus that is in "I don't know what to do with this" piles, and I am hoping to hang up my quilt rack after Enoch repairs it, but the basement is pretty much done.  I never would have finished it as quickly without Emma.  The girl can paint.

Here are some pictures.  The new color feels fresh and light and clean and makes me happy.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Today is our anniversary.  Adam and I have been married twenty years.  It feels like way more of a blessing than an accomplishment.  Life can be hard, but life with Adam is not hard.

I love that guy.

Boyd K. Packer said this:
And if you suppose that the full-blown rapture of young romantic love is the sum total of the possibilities which spring from the fountains of life, you have not yet lived to see the devotion and the comfort of longtime married love. Married couples are tried by temptation, misunderstandings, financial problems, family crises, and illness, and all the while love grows stronger. Mature love has a bliss not even imagined by newlyweds.
Mostly it does feel like bliss with this group.

 photo credits:  Deborah Berrett

Monday, August 3, 2015

We went to Nevada

Home means Nevada,
Home means the hills...

I love living close enough for a quick trip to my parents' house.  Sagebrush makes me happy.  So do aspen trees and full moons (I know, the full moon is not an exclusive Nevada thing, it just felt like it).   Visiting on my parents' front porch and watching the moon rise over the mountains makes me happy.

And I love my mom's cooking.

Friday, Emma and I helped Olivia paint two rooms.  It was fun.  I wish I could do every job with my sisters and Emma.

(Even though they correct my word usage.)

(It's not a crime to call the floor the ground.)

(Apparently no one has told Olivia and Emma that isn't a criminal offense.)

I enjoyed my time though.  I was the bossy older sister and told Olivia we didn't have enough paint and then we did.

(Sometimes bossy older sisters don't know everything.)

Olivia has a ladder that we used and I couldn't stop expressing my love for that ladder.  It was the perfect size and super lightweight.  (Our ladder weighs roughly the same as our van.)

Olivia called Edgar at work and had him stop by the store and pick up an identical ladder for me, to thank me for painting.  But I loved painting!  I didn't need a reward!  (But I loved that ladder and happily took it.)

I didn't see Marianne or her family much because they were deeply involved with the Ruby Mountain Relay which is a race they run.  Literally.  They are in charge of it and their kids run in the race.

Desi and Liberty's team (they came in 4th overall and I stole this picture from Marianne on Facebook and I'm not even sorry.)

Hyrum's team.  He's the one in white.  I also stole this picture.

Adam and Braeden and Emma helped out by taking the overnight shift of overseeing runners and volunteers.  That meant Robert could sleep.  Adam brought the kids home around 4:00 a.m. but he stayed until around 8:00 a.m.  That man is amazing.

Here are some of his pictures:

The race went through the night:


And then day again:

Saturday morning I drove around visiting my mom and aunt Claudia who were race volunteers (they were stationed at my grandparents' ranch), visiting Olivia who was making a birthday cake for Ammon her son (not to be mistaken for Ammon our brother), and visiting Carolina, entrepreneur extraordinaire who was raking it in at a lemonade/cookie stand.  I told her the cookie I bought from her was delicious and she said, "It ought to be, I made them."

If Carolina could bottle up her moxie and spunk and sell it, she could have made even more money.

It was a wonderful trip.  Braeden got to soak up cousin time...

Omar and Braeden
...and grandpa time, chatting and watching the moon together.

When we were leaving, Braeden said, "This is the last time I'll be here for two years."  So we thought that merited some pictures.

I liked one picture better because you could see the house and one picture better because you could see the faces...
Mark got to spend a little time in my dad's shop (sometimes unaccompanied like when he cut guns and knives out of wood using my dad's big band saw).  Luckily he didn't cut off any fingers and luckily my dad doesn't mind Mark raiding his wood.  My mom played cards with Emma and Mark and taught them how to play Rook, which is the game we played a lot while growing up.

We had to leave Ammon's birthday party early but we were able to give Ammon his present before we left:

I stole this picture from Olivia...and I am not sure what to think about Mark's dirty knees.

Before we left, I got to give quick hugs all around to nieces and nephews.

I feel like a lucky kid.


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