Thursday, September 20, 2018


We have finally finished preserving our peaches.

Well, technically I'm waiting for the canner to boil so I can set the timer for a half hour to process the last four quarts of peaches so we're not quite done yet. If we're lucky, though, we'll end up with all four quarts when we're finished.

It seems like we've been dealing with fruit forever.

Last week a friend of mine posted a picture of her impeccably organized storage room with the caption, "Applesauce, strawberry jam, blueberry jam, red pepper jelly, spaghetti sauce, Saskatoon pie filling, apple pie filling, peaches and pears! It’s been a busy two days! I still have a few more batches to do."

And I about died. Because how in the world did she do all of that on her own?!

We have had four adults working on our fruit and we've managed to procure: 6 pints of spiced plum jam and 32 quarts (inshallah) of peaches. Oh, and two of our jars of peaches exploded in the canner (so we should have had 34 quarts but what can you do? (turn it into peach leather, that's what)) and I knocked a jar off the counter onto the tile floor and it shattered into a billion pieces.

Luckily my friend Jamie posted the following on Facebook: "It is currently 12:25am. We are waiting for the water in the canner to boil so we can start a 35min timer on pear sauce. Ellie will be awake in no more than 7 hours. Everything is sticky. I think we have made a terrible mistake."

And I was like, "Jamie, you are my spirit animal."

I don't know why canning feels so overwhelmingly difficult to me? Is it the fact that I always have children underfoot? Is it the fact that even when we wait to can things after bedtime the baby inevitably wakes up screaming? Do I have butterfingers? Or does everyone break a jar every now and then?

I just keep telling myself this will all be worth it in February when I'm getting anxious for the peaches to be on again. Home canned peaches are the best!

Karen has been keeping a tally of our efforts this year (which Benjamin was rather excited to see because he's learning about the tally system in school). In case you're interested, we've done:

  • 35 trays of plum leather
  • 6 pints of plum jam
  • 11 trays of pear leather
  • 60 ounces of dried peach slices (27 trays)
  • 84 trays of peach leather
  • 32 quarts of peach
And we're still waiting to can some pears and make some applesauce.

And we're exhausted. And everything is sticky.

But it will sure be yummy later on...

Monday, September 17, 2018

Wacky Weather

The first thing we did this morning when we woke up, our lungs heavy with smoke, was check the air quality index. Conditions were once again hazardous, with an AQI of around 450, so the kids caught a ride to school with a neighbour.

Very luckily for us, air doesn't usually sit stagnate in our valley and by mid-morning the winds had shifted and the smoke started to blow away from us, as if our community had collectively stood up and twirled around while chanting, "White rabbit, white rabbit, white rabbit," (which, according to childhood folklore, will chase campfire smoke away from your face).

Our AQI was only around 150 when the children were dismissed from school, which is still considered unhealthy, so I picked the kids (and our neighbour) up from school.

Since it had been a half day and the children (mostly Benjamin) were bouncing off the walls, I thought it would be a good time to make good on my promise to take them swimming because I wasn't very well going to send them outside to play in toxic air (not that our inside air is much better). The pool is in the town north of us, however, and their air has consistently been better than ours so it was lovely to escape the heat and smoke.

When we got home we found Grandpa picking peaches in the front yard.

"We're in the green!" he said happily, which meant our AQI was at or below 50, a good level.

The kids laid out their towels and stretched out in the backyard to finish drying and have been enjoying getting some outside time, though the winds are shifting again and I have a feeling we will be nearly suffocating again soon.

Yesterday our air quality was particularly good, and though there was no rain in the forecast, it rained. We had just gone to pick up some couches from a neighbour down the street (and now we have enough places for our entire family to sit!). Our neighbours had been trying to get rid of them for a couple of days. They'd left them sitting on the driveway with a "FREE" sign on them, but it's been so wildly windy that the sign kept blowing away.

"I even tried safety pinning a sign to them," our neighbour said. "But the wind even ripped that one away!"

We were lucky to have seen the posting so quickly. We've been trying to find a different couch for over a year now.

Anyway, we were just in the process of tossing our old couch cushions down the stairs when Zoë started jumping up and down and yelling, "It's raining! It's raining! It's raining!"

"Yeah," Grandpa said. "It's raining couch cushions!"

"No! It's raining rain!" she squealed.

We all ran outside to see and were delighted to find a rainbow dancing across the sky, where we've grown used to seeing nothing but plumes of smoke.

You can see how windy it's been—the trees are really being whipped around

A concert in the park (September 2)

Would you believe me if I told you I still have a list of posts to write about this summer? I'm sure I will get around to some of them. Other will probably remain unmemorialized here. 

The problem is we just keep doing things. And doing things. And doing things. 

Time just won't slow down for us!

Two Sundays ago (already!) we went to a concert in the park with my mom. It was touted as a Latin American Music Festival, but it ended up being not quite what we had expected so we didn't stay too long. We did, however, arrive with plenty of time before the concert which meant we got to watch the set up crew, which was quite comical. 

The concert was, instead of a Latin American Music Festival, more like a musical devotional in Spanish, which is totally cool if that's what you're going for (but that was not what they were going for with the way they advertised it). It was run by some sweet couple missionaries who were just doing their best to draw a crowd, I'm sure, and they all took their jobs very seriously.

The men setting up chairs were hilarious

I had packed a picnic dinner for our family (except for Zoë and Andrew, who had elected to stay behind so that Zoë could play with Riley) and so we sat down to eat it in a very roomy row. One of the men came up to me and warned me that our row was going to be an "exit" row so I'd have to move my stroller before the concert started. I happily complied and parked our stroller at the end of our row. He then told me I couldn't park our stroller there because he was going to add a few chairs to the end of our row, so I moved our stroller again. 

We watched this man (and another one) rearrange chairs and straighten rows, then do it all over again. One of them would so something and the other one would come along and undo it. They moved the rows closer together, then they moved the rows farther apart, then they took away the front row and moved it to the back, then they took away the chairs they'd added to the end of every row (including ours) and made another row in the middle (which meant that I could have left my stroller at the end of our row after all).

They were still rearranging chairs when the concert started and continued to shuffle things around through the entire first performer's ticket. 

My mom and I were beside ourselves trying to keep from laughing while watching them.

"They are worse than a group of women setting up a potluck table!" I whispered to my mom.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Alexander at 11 months

Clichés are the only words I can think of to describe how it feels to admit my sweet baby boy is eleven months old. Pick your favourite one. I'll go with, "I can't believe my baby is eleven months old!" and "Time has just flown by!"

Yet here he is, eleven months old...

Galloping through the grass, full speed ahead

Pole Creek Fire

I drove the children to school this morning. It's so incredibly smokey outside that we woke up with our lungs hurting and I didn't want the children exerting themselves too much. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

I hope she knows she's strong

My cousin's daughter's husband passed away suddenly Sunday evening. I don't know the whole story. In fact, the details I do know leave more questions than answers (what was he doing on the train tracks in the middle of nowhere at 9:45 in the evening?). I'm not particularly close with this cousin or her daughter, but still this strange event is hitting a little close to home.

They had only been married a little over a year. They have a beautiful little boy.

And now Chauncé is a widow and a single mother. She's young. Rosie's age.

This is one of my worst nightmares—having my husband die and leaving me with a bunch of young children to raise—and it's now Chauncé's reality. I don't know what to do or say to help (other than contributing to funeral expenses, which you can do at any Mountain America Credit Union under the account “Nick Torres Memorial Fund” or you can Venmo a donation to @Nicks_Memorial_Fund).

I hope, more than anything, that she knows she's strong, that she comes from good stock.

We had a lesson on family history work in Relief Society this past Sunday and as luck would have it I've also been feverishly working to finish up a little family history book for my children to flip through so the stories of our ancestors have been fresh on my mind. The point was brought up (she said, using passive voice, even though she herself made the comment (but then someone else brought it up again later so it wasn't just me, okay?)) that knowing one's family history increases resilience.

As I've been looking through the histories of our ancestors I've noticed that they've all gone through some pretty gut-wrenching tragedies.

Milky milestone

When I input this evening's pumping session to my spreadsheet I realized that I hit a milestone of sorts—6912 ounces! That's 54 gallons of milk. 

My original goal was to hit about 72 gallons of milk (since that's approximately how much a baby might consume in the first year of life), but I honestly don't know that we'll get there considering I quit my morning pumping session mid-June. It was just getting too crazy trying to squeeze that in every morning with all the kids home from school and Alexander getting mobile.

I mean, when it was just me, Zoë, and Alexander in the mornings and all Alexander ever did was this:

...pumping in the mornings was relatively easy. Once he got mobile it was...not so easy.

Miriam's first day at college (kind of)

Benjamin and I are slowly making our way through Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban together and I have to say, I'm feeling a little bit like Hermione lately, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Everything seems to fall on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Andrew teaches his classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays this semester, Benjamin and Rachel both have soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays this month and Miriam, who chose not to continue with soccer, started an organ class at BYU that meets on...Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The kids' soccer schedule changes from week to week, as far as what time their games are at, so some days are more hectic than others. Today certainly ranked up there. This Thursday will probably be worse.
Thursday's schedule (with the time/place blocked out)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Topaz Internment Camps

When Andrew was in grade four, studying Utah history, he learned about the Topaz War Relocation Center and has wanted to visit ever since, so it's been on our bucket list for years. We figured it would make a good family outing because Miriam should be learning about it this year and Benjamin is obsessed with having "history time." The rest of us enjoy history, too, so it was a win for everyone.

I was rather impressed with the museum. It far exceeded my expectations and was really quite beautifully done. We first watched a few introductory movies, one of which was largely illicit home video footage taken by Dave Tatsuno, an internee at the camp, on a smuggled camera. It's one of two home videos to be accepted into the Library of Congress. Both films were interesting. 

We enjoyed wandering around the museum for a bit until we were interrupted by an employee, who asked us if we were planning on visiting the actual site because Jane Beckwith, who has been pushing for recognition of Topaz since the mid-80s and who helped found the museum, was currently giving a tour over at block 22. So we paused our museum experience and headed over to Topaz for a tour.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

An interview with Zoë

After we told the tale of Zoë's disappearance to Andrew he asked her what she was thinking, which she didn't have an answer for, so he tried a different version of the same question (you'd be surprised at how rewording the very same question can elicit a very different response).

"What was your plan?" he asked her.

"My plan," she said confidently, "Was to look both ways!"

She hadn't even made it to the intersection before she was picked up, but she was heading to the crosswalk and was intent on going home (as safely as possible, looking both ways before crossing the street). I'm sure she wasn't lost because she has walked that route so many times (at least 180 (because that's about how many times we picked Benjamin up from school last year) but in reality many more times than that) so I was wondering why she was crying.

As far I've been able to decipher, she was upset when Rachel told her she couldn't go home when she wanted to but had resigned herself to waiting. She went over to play at what my kids call "The Pirate Ship," but then she grew bored and decided she wanted someone to play with her. Rachel was busy with Alexander and Benjamin wouldn't even stop running around so she could ask him and Miriam was in a bit a bad mood and told her no quite rudely.

This was the last straw for Zoë.

She was trying to be happy and obedient by staying at the park to play but no one would play with her, so she stormed off towards home (where she knew Riley was waiting to play with her).

And then she was abducted rescued.

It took us all weekend to tease the story out of her, but now we sort of have her point of view of the whole ordeal.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Oh, where, oh, where has my little girl gone?

Sheesh! It's going to take me a long time to get everything in my brain back together after this!
Let me begin by stating that Zoë is in the basement safely watching Llama Llama with her cousin and brother, so the children are all accounted for. 

For whatever reason, I signed up to be room parent again this year for not one, not two, but three classrooms. I'm co-room parenting for two of the classes, so it shouldn't be too bad (that's what I tell myself every year). I was the only person to sign up in Miriam's classroom so I'm all alone there (but her teacher is super low-key and I have a long list of volunteers so even that shouldn't be too taxing). Anyway, today was the room parents orientation and instead of dragging my little ones to it and making them behave for all of thirty minutes, I sent the whole brood to the playground together. 

"This is the first time I've let Rachel tend the baby at the park," I remarked to my friend Ashley as I sat down. "So I'm a little bit nervous."

"That's got to be a good feeling," she laughed as her baby bounced on her lap and her six-year-old begged for a cookie. 

"Older kids certainly are nice to have around," I told her.

Because it's true. Older kids are way nice to have around. 

Anyway, with three teachers to meet with, I was at the meeting for about a half hour. Less than, really, because I was in full-on panic mode at 4:09 and the meeting only started at 3:30. 

So, I finished up the meeting and my friend Kara sent me packing with extra snacks.

"I know how many kids you have," she joked. "You can take some of this home."

"But not too much," I told her. "Because they're all at the park so I have to carry all this stuff there."

Thus, balancing cups full of cookies and grapes and cinnamon cake on a makeshift tray of file folders filled with room parent information, I made my way to the playground where I found my children (or at least most of them) happily playing. 

They descended upon me like a flock of vultures and made quick work of the treats Kara had sent me with. But...

"Where's Zoë?" I asked of my little lover of treats. It was weird she wasn't getting in on the action because treats

"I don't know," Rachel said, puzzled. "She was right here."

"Zoë!" we called as we hunted around the playground. "Zoë!"

She was not at the playground. We quickly ran to check the bathrooms. She was not at the bathrooms.

"I don't know where she could have gone!" Rachel said. "She was just here playing at the little-kid area! She had asked to go home but I told her that we had to wait for you. She said, 'Okay,' and then climbed up into the pirate ship and... She was just here!"

"Then she can't have gotten far," I said, scanning the horizon for a bright orange shirt. 

But there was no bright orange shirt to be seen. 

"She's probably just headed home," I said. 

"Do you want me to run home to see if I can find her?" Rachel asked.

"Yes," I said. "I do. And I'll call Grandma."

I wanted Karen to head outside to see if she could see Zoë approaching from her end (it's a pretty straight shot from our house to the park), but it took me a while to explain what was happening (I'm not at my finest when I'm panicking) and by the time I had finally done so Rachel was talking to a couple at the intersection. 

"It's all good," she called out to me as she calmly made her way back across the field.

"What do you mean it's all good?" I asked, jogging up to meet her. "Where's Zoë?"

How could it be all good without Zoë?

The couple at the corner didn't have her but they said they called the person who did have her. Some lady driving by had noticed a little girl running along the sidewalk, crying. She asked the couple at the corner if they recognized her and they did not, so she left her cell phone number with them so that they could call in case someone came by looking for a little girl.

Rachel had been running down the sidewalk calling Zoë's name, which I thought was silly because clearly Zoë wasn't anywhere close enough that she could have heard her name being called. But because she had been running down the same sidewalk screaming Zoë's name, the couple on the corner figured she belonged to the missing little girl they'd just seen.

They didn't have the little girl's name, because she wouldn't tell them, but she did tell them that her mom was Fancy Nancy. Once Rachel confirmed that her mom's name was indeed Nancy, they went ahead and called our Good Samaritan. 

She had driven Zoë to the school to see if anyone in the office recognized her. 

They didn't. 

How?! I'm not sure because she was just in there with me at 3:30. Our receptionists aren't very observant. Just saying. Because remember that one time one of my children called me from school and the receptionist couldn't even tell me which child of mine it was, let alone if they child had brown hair or then Kenzie's mom ended up bringing Rachel lunch? They maybe need to pay a teensy bit more attention.

Anyway...the lady who had her said, "She said her mom's name is Nancy if that helps."

My friend Kara, who was in the teacher work room cleaning up from the room parent orientation, ran into the office and said, "Oh, my goodness! That's Zoë! Her mom was just here! She's in my ward!"

Kara and the other lady gave Zoë the choice of riding back to the park with either one of them and Zoë wisely chose Kara (because the other lady was a complete stranger). So, soon Kara arrived with Zoë in tow and delivered her to me, completely free of judgement ("We've all been there," Kara said). Our Good Samaritan followed soon after.

"I hope I didn't make things worse!" she said (and I said it was fine, though in retrospect I think she really did make things worse).* "I just saw her running down the sidewalk crying and I knew something wasn't right about that. So I asked her her name and she wouldn't tell me. So I asked her her mom's name and she said it was Nancy."

"It is," I said. "Nice to meet you."

"And then I asked her if her mom was at the park and she said no."

"I wasn't at the park, I was at the school," I said. "But she was at the park," I added, putting my hand on Rachel's head. 

"See? I thought she'd come from the park. I should have asked if she had a sister or babysitter at the park. But I just figured someone at the school would recognize her."

And thank goodness someone was at the school to recognize her! I do wish she hadn't made Zoë get into her car because that's a lot of re-teaching we'll have to do. You never get in a stranger's car! 

So, dear reader, if you ever find a lost child, go ahead and WALK them to a safe place (or call the police because I was minutes away from calling them myself) but don't put them in your vehicle and start driving them all over the neighbourhood!

Anyway, we have Zoë back and we're all much less panicked now, though, as Benjamin said, it did take us quite a while to put everything in our brains back together after a scare like that. 

"Here's a secret," he told her (with ample attitude) when we got home. "Never do that again!"

Agreed. We had a long talk about how she can't decide to just leave a location by herself. She is only allowed to leave with the big person who has been charged with tending her (so, like, her sisters...not a complete stranger). And she's never, ever to get into a stranger's vehicle (because although she was picked up by a good stranger...gah...I can't even write the other part of that sentence). 

Hopefully she's learned her lesson. 

Poor Rachel was worried not only about Zoë being missing but because she felt like the whole thing was her fault, so after we had Zoë back safely she was worried about getting into trouble.

"I thought you would be mad at me," she said. 

"Oh, no," I told her. "I used to babysit Josie, so...I know. I know."

Josie was a little escapee (particularly as a three-year-old). She'd disappear all the time and we'd find her off at the park by herself, down by the lake by herself, heading to a friend's house by herself, coming home from a friend's house by herself, or, if we were lucky (and quick enough) running down the alley at full speed to get to one of her favourite places. We could hardly keep tabs on that kid!

And sweet level-headed Miriam taught me another valuable lesson on prayer. While I was panicking and my mind was going a mile a minute (Who do I call? I want to call Andrew but he can't do anything. So do I call the police? It's probably too soon to call the police. Do I call Karen? Should I leave someone here in case she comes back to the park? Where else could she have gone?) I know I was also pleading with my Heavenly Father to just let Zoë be alright. But I did not take time to quiet my mind and say a dedicated prayer and wait for any sort of answer.

But Miriam did. 

"After we looked in the bathrooms, I prayed about Zoë," Miriam said. "That's why it took me a little while to catch up to you. I think we got an answer to my prayer, though, because there were so many people to help us."

She is such a wonderful kid (they all are)!

We're all very grateful that Zoë is safe and home and that we had so many wonderful helpers (both in heaven and on earth, as my Uncle Bruce remarked last night (about our job situation, not this situation, but it's true for many situations)). 

* Honestly, while I'm grateful this lady wanted to help, had she not put my child into her vehicle, Zoë would have seen me walking (or I would have seen Zoë walking) because she picked her up next to the soccer field (so not very far from the park at all)! Just...if you're a good stranger, don't make children get into your car because...just don't. Walk with them. Call the police. Don't put them in your car.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Soccer season

Only Rachel and Benjamin are playing soccer this season, and, of course, I'm using the word "only" lightly because they're both playing on the same day, naturally, which complicates things immensely. As luck would have it, however, Rachel and her good friend Tayah are on the same team so we've been able to carpool with them. 

So I've been taking Benjamin to soccer and the girls will ride with either Andrew or Tayah's family, though I suppose I should, at some point, go to one of Rachel's soccer games since she's the one most invested in soccer. Watching Benjamin is a bit painful, he's quite aloof out on the field, which is surprising because he begged to do soccer for a full year (we didn't do soccer at all last year), but also not surprising because he's a six-year-old boy.

Here he is not paying attention to what his coach is saying (in the green camo shorts):

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Zoë's first day of preschool

Today was Zoë's first day of our little neighbourhood co-op preschool. She has been rather anxious for her first day ever since her big brother and sisters went off on their first day of school. It's a relatively low-key affair (one day a week for 1.5 hours), but it offers a little glimpse of what life will be like with only one child at home (how weird will that be?!) and had me momentarily panic at the prospect of one day having no little babies at home (how weird with THAT be?!). 

Monday, September 03, 2018

Big babies

When we arrived home from our Labour Day adventures, we found we had company over. James and April had stopped by with their baby and ended up staying for dinner. It was fun to get to visit with them and cuddle with their little baby. 

Did I say little? He's basically ginormous, but he's younger so he cuddles like a wee baby so that totally counts. 

I've mentioned before that Alexander is somewhat hefty, as far as my babies go. By nine months he had already hit 19 lbs. (which is heavier than three of his siblings were at one year). At 10.5 months old I'm sure he's even bigger now, but James and April's baby puts him to shame. In fact, he almost looks downright scrawny next to their baby (once you learn that their baby is only 3.5 months old). When I held them at the same time they felt about the same weight, though I'm sure Alexander is a smidgen heavier (but he holds himself up a bit better so that helps take some weight off).

Here's Rachel juggling the two of them on her lap (Alexander's little friend did not appreciate his advances, even though Alexander was being (mostly) gentle (he loves other babies)):

Thursday, August 30, 2018

In other news...

I think my sarcasm radar is broken.

Our dentist again referred Miriam to the orthodontist. While she has no canine teeth on the top (at all) but plenty of space for them, her canine teeth on the bottom are coming in but have no where to go (at all).

"I would get her in quickly," the dentist said. "But just know that she's probably going to need braces twice."

I'm sure I looked with him with a bit of a panicked expression.

"It'll be fine," he said. "Just cancel your next Hawaii vacation and fix her mouth. It will be worth it, I promise."

And I stood there gasping for air a bit, completely unsure of what to say. Was he serious? We're a year out of graduate school. A fancy (or otherwise) Hawaiian vacation isn't even remotely on our radar. Should I plan one that we can cancel? Would that magically help us drum up enough money to pay for braces for her twice?

I'm sure he was kidding about the Hawaii jab. Right?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

So, good news...

Unbeknownst to us, the department chair at the Romney Institute has continued to push for the creation (or rather the continuation) of a visiting assistant professorship for Andrew or the coming school year. The first inkling he got was when he was asking about how and when the termination of our benefits will happen. We know our benefits end before September and I'm, uh, taking the kids to the dentist tomorrow because there's nothing quite like the midnight hour.

Anyway, he was told to call his department chair from Boston (he's at APSA right now, on his last "supported" conference, which he had to get special permission to attend because the conference breaches August and runs into September so the travel department was originally like, "You'll have to pay for your return flight..." but in the end they allowed him to use the very last of his research funds on a roundtrip ticket to Boston because it's kind of weird to pay for half a round trip ticket (and since it was purchased before the end of August it was kind of a grey area anyway))* before he did anything like purchase an insurance plan for our family from the ACA marketplace.

Instead she called him this evening to tell him to forego looking at new health insurance plans at all because *drum roll* he'd simply be continuing on as a visiting assistant professor.

We are shocked, relieved, and so, so happy.

Elated even.

We're elated.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Monday and the weekend

Our first Monday of the school year went fairly smoothly.

Miriam purposely walked past the lost and found table on Friday afternoon and spotted Benjamin's lunchbox. They went to retrieve it together after school so when I showed up at the school to look for it I was instead greeted by a couple of triumphant children.

Benjamin remembered to bring his lunchbox home today.

He was also the "table leader" today, he informed me.

"Ooh! What's the table leader?" I probed.

"Well, it's kind of like a war leader," he explained, "Just for a smaller group."

"A war leader, eh?"

"Yeah!" he said. "Like General Washington but for my table."

Sure, uh-huh, yup. That is exactly what your teacher was going for with that one, I'm sure.

To be fair, this very solemn explanation he gave me means that he likely took his role very seriously.


Friday, August 24, 2018

Fruita and petroglyphs and stuff

After visiting the alpaca ranch on Friday (August 10) we gave the children a tour of the "small stuff" around Capitol Reef National Park. None of us really felt like doing much hiking at that point in our trip anyway.

First we stopped by Panoramic Point for a picture:

You win some, you lose some

We've given the children several lectures about how Alexander learns things by watching us so we need to be setting a good example. Specifically, I've been nagging the squirmiest of my children about their behaviour during prayers because, in my opinion, Alexander should know how to get ready prayer at his age (the ripe old age of ten months old, you know) but so far he hasn't even tried because, well, he's probably a little confused about what we do during the prayer.

Do we fold our arms, bow our heads, and close our eyes while prayers are said? Or do we crawl around in circles, pick up toys and/or books to play with and/or read, and fidget, fidget, fidget?

Sometimes it's rather difficult to tell at our house, because even during our mealtime prayers, which typically last about thirty seconds, prayer time is chaos. Seriously, thirty seconds and there'll be silverware dancing in the air, plates flipping off the table, fingerfuls of food being sampled, children falling off their seats. All they'd need to do is start singing and it would be a scene to rival the kitchen scene in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

Our constant reminders about setting a good example during prayer time finally seem to have taken hold, however, and the wriggliest of our bunch have begun making an effort to maintain a reverent mien during prayer time. And, this morning, finally, my sweet little baby looked around at his siblings all kneeling down with their arms folded and their heads bowed and did his best to mimic them, clasping his pudgy little arms against his chest.

Of course, Zoë was still in bed and Benjamin, who had been in the middle of breakfast when he was called for family prayer, sat at the bottom of the stairs rather than joining the rest of us upstairs, so Ander only had Rachel, Miriam, and Daddy to look at for an example (he was sitting on my lap so I'm exempt).

At any rate, it was incredibly adorable and we're definitely calling it a win!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

St. George (August 17–18)

Miriam, Alexander, and I went on a last-minute getaway with my mom and sister the weekend before school started. Austin's family was hosting an open house for him and Rosie and we decided we should go to represent the family. It's a good thing we did because I think Rosie was feeling a little outnumbered by Barkers and needed some familiar faces around her. Not that there's anything wrong with Austin's side of the family (in fact, his family is pretty amazing), just that going from single to married is a difficult transition. It takes time for someone else's family to grow on you. 

Anyway, we left on Friday afternoon and drove straight to St. George where we made a quick stop to visit my friend Shallee. Her kids started school last week and she wrote on Facebook about how her cute little Amaya came home from school so excited to have made a new friend. They were both wearing the very same pair of shoes and bonded instantly. 

I commented that that was fairly funny because years ago there was a girl in my US history class who was wearing the exact same shoes as me and we also bonded instantly—and it was Amaya's mom, my friend Shallee! 

Somehow the story is cuter when you're in grade one than when you're in grade ten/eleven, but don't knock the power of a cute pair of runners!

Here are some of our kids (and Josie and a dog) playing on the floor together:

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell

The first day of school is here at last (and all too soon). The kids all got up and ready to go like professional students this morning. They were all quite excited (and a little bit nervous). We took pictures before they left for school and the girls were a little thrown off when Benjamin squeezed his way between them, rather than standing to the other side of Miriam. Those two have been standing next to each other for first-day-of-school pictures for several years...and now Benjamin has finally joined them.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

It's an Alpaca Alpaca day!

On Friday morning (the 10th) we took the children to visit Circle Cliff Ranch, an alpaca ranch just outside of Bicknell. It's run by Diena, a retired elementary school principal, who (along with her husband) sold her home three years ago to live her dream of raising alpacas, spinning yarn from their fleece, and selling her handiwork.

Though retired, Diena is still passionate about education and opens her ranch up to visitors. Zoë, our resident llama lover, was particularly excited about our alpaca day. Alpacas aren't llamas, which we knew, but they are both closely related members of the camelid family and they look like alpacas so Zoë was thrilled (though intimidated) by all the alpacas.

Zoë, excited but scared
And so, for her, I decided to write this post about alpacas following the scheme of Llama Llama, as a tribute to one of Zoë's favourite authors, Anna Dewdney (keep in mind that I am not Ann Dewdney, however, so my poem isn't quite as cutesy as one of her would have been):

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Alexander at 10 months

Alexander is ten months old today and he has a little something to tell you:

Making it to actual heaven

Ever since learning about the Plan of Salvation, Benjamin has been obsessed with making it to "actual heaven" (or the Celestial Kingdom) and avoiding being cast into "pit darkness" (or Outer Darkness).

Tonight at dinner Andrew asked Benjamin to give the blessing on the food and Zoë, who is a bit of a prayer-hog, started pouting.

"I never get to say the prayer!" she shouted.

"You always say the prayer," Benjamin said.

"You just want to keep all the blessings for yourself, don't you?" I asked Zoë, jokingly.

"Yes," she nodded gravely.

"Really?!" Benjamin gasped. "Do you want to keep us all out of actual heaven!?"

"Yes," she answered matter-of-factly. "I do."

"Alright, alright," Andrew said in his best moderator's voice. "How about Benjamin says the prayer now and Zoë can say family prayer tonight?"

"Yippee!" Zoë shrieked happily.

So Benjamin began our dinner prayer.

"Dear Heavenly Father," he said. "We are thankful for the food and please bless it." Then he added vindictively, "And please help us to keep Zoë from taking all the prayers so that the rest of us can make it into actual heaven, too."

Stifled laughter echoed around the table, but we all managed to remain mostly reverent for the duration of the prayer. That silly, silly boy!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls: Hiking Sulphur Creek

Sulphur Creek is more or less an off-the-beaten path trail. It's never been maintained by the National Parks Service, though it's clearly inside Capitol Reef, and in the past there hasn't even been a map or anything to guide hikers. However, it has been gaining popularity over the past few years and now they have dedicated pull-outs for parking cars at either end of the trail (and although its still an unmaintained trail (on account's a river) you can now get a map from the visitor center).

We didn't know any of that, however, because Andrew and I hadn't been to Capitol Reef since 2012 (just a few weeks before Benjamin was born) and Karen hadn't been to Capitol Reef since 2013 (when Dorothy passed away on Brimhall Double Bridge Trail (though Reid went just a few weeks ago with a scout troop)), so we just started doing what we'd normally done and had Karen drop us off at the Castle Rock trail head. But there's a new pull-out/parking area about a third of a mile before this now (just so you know).

While I nursed the baby, Grandpa took the other kids across the road to the dry creek bed (come to think of it, that's probably why they have the new pull-out area—so that you don't have to drag all your kids across the road to get to the proper trailhead). By the time I caught up with them Benjamin had found a rock that reminded him of a guitar and he was rocking out (in every way possible).

The Grover Chronicles are interrupted to bring you this update...

On Saturday morning after packing up camp we went to gas up before heading to Goblin Valley. We didn't get there though because I took the opportunity of being in civilization to check my phone (there's no service in Grover). That's when I found out that there a huge fire burning at Coal Hallow was threatening our use of Highway 6 (which is the road we'd be taking home from Goblin Valley). 

To be on the safe side we decided to skip Goblin Valley and just head home (on I-15). 

We probably would have still made it through the canyon, since they didn't close the highway until Sunday. But it would have been a smoky, smoky drive. 

We had to drive past an older burn getting home, anyway (which the kids (mostly Benjamin, I guess, since the older girls rode in the RV with Grandma and Grandpa on the way to Grover and Zoë is pretty clueless)) had panicked about on the way out to Grover. Benjamin was worried that the California fires had somehow made their way out here. We assured him that this had been a different fire and that everything was fine.

Driving back through that burned out area felt ominous, however, knowing that we were heading home to a raging fire in our canyon. All that remained on the ashen landscape were the blackened skeletons of trees. We passed a highway sign that had been melted and twisted into a misshapen, empty canvas. We could see where the fire had hopped the highway. We could see where it had finally been put out, giving way to mile after mile of bone-dry fields, ready to burst into flames at any moment.

We returned home to a hazy valley. Everything smells like smoke. We can hardly see the mountains. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Musings from Miriam

When we were at Grover some of the things we did were Calf Creek and Sunset Point. The hike of Calf Creek was really hard. First we had to climb down a mountain, then it was just sand until we had to climb on top of a cliff. After we got to the pool, Rachel, Ben, and I jumped in the freezing cold water. We dared Dad and Mom to jump in. They both said they would, but they never really did. The hike up was harder. My dad said, "Go at your own pace. It isn't a race." And then he sped ahead...
And perhaps one day she'll finish that story.

But then again perhaps she won't because my children are notoriously terrible at journaling and I can't figure out how to motivate them to do it which is totally confusing to me because journaling is my favourite.

Calf Creek

I haven't hiked Calf Creek since 2005 (when I went camping in Grover with Andrew's family while he was still on his mission (not at all awkward; it's fine)). Ever since then I've just hung out at the cabin with the babies while Andrew's gone off hiking. This year, however, we decided to lug the baby out there (leaving Zoë behind with Grandma). 

We borrowed a hiking backpack from a friend because we imagined, from the comfort of our air conditioned home, that it would be "fun" to take both Zoë and Alexander on a hike or two with the big kids. But to do that we'd need two hiking backpacks (because Zoë is a bit of a whiner/three-year-old and we wouldn't be able to make her hike more than a mile). Even though we decided to only take Alexander to Calf Creek (because the hike is a little brutal, especially the hike back to the parking lot) we used our friend's backpack because it came with a sunshade and a pocket for a water reservoir/bladder/thing. In fact, I was so impressed with the backpack that the girls suggested we get a new backpack (since ours is rather ancient). 

I told them that our backpack was a wonderful backpack, that it had served us well for years, and that we weren't really in the market for a new hiking backpack since Alexander is the intended caboose of our little train. Getting a new backpack at this stage in the game would be somewhat pointless.

Anyway, we loaded Alexander into the backpack, which I wore for the descent, and we headed off into the rather desolate-looking landscape.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The faces of Grover

We just got back from Grover and, boy, do I have stories to tell! It is rather late, however, so in following Elder Eyring's advice to never miss a day, "no matter how tired I [am] or how early I ... have to start the next day," I'm going to go ahead and post a little bit today (and I know I didn't technically write while we were camping, but I did take notes and that's just about the same thing).

Grover is heaven for mess-loving children like mine. There's rocks, there's sticks, there's dirt. There's sticky treats and sweaty feet and sappy trees and a dusty breeze and...all things dirty. 

And they love it. 

While my older girls have somewhat outgrown little kid messes and managed to survive the entire trip looking somewhat glamorous, their younger siblings did not fare so well. In fact, they're well-practiced, rather accomplished mess-makers.

Here are Miriam and Rachel, looking fabulous (in spite of having boycotted both showers and hairbrushes for the week):

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

All the Heiss Grandkids (July 28)

We held a family dinner at our house so that everyone could come see Emily—Grandpa Frank and Grandma Pat and Matt and Becky and Nicki all came (and I'm sure I'll write more about it once I go through pictures). We were lucky enough to have all twelve grandchildren together so we took an updated picture (since Alexander and Arwyn have both changed so much since the last time we had all the grandkids together—at Thanksgiving (now that I've gone back to look at the picture I can see that they've all changed a lot since Thanksgiving)).

Here is them then:

Thanksgiving 2017

And here they are now:

July 28, 2018

Monday, August 06, 2018

Teething woes

Alexander has been teething nonstop for over a month now, but his sixth tooth is just about here and once it comes through I'm hoping we'll find some respite from his grumpiness. I can't say that I blame him for being a bit ornery because his gums have looked awfully sore, all swollen and bruised.

Full circle

Prior to going on one of our infamous pyjama walks, Zoë and Benjamin were playing in the backyard (due to being too wild to remain cooped up inside). I was clearing the table and loading the dishwasher and they kept bursting into the kitchen to show me the latest rock/stick/bug/plum they'd found.

Our plum tree is doing fabulously well this year. Plums aren't exactly my favourite fruit (I've found all store-bought plums that I've had to be both bland and sickly sweet (and mushy)), but having them fresh off the tree has been quite enjoyable. They're a little tangy and full of flavour.

And there's a ton of them! Last year we only got, like, three. This year we've had dozens and dozens of them. We've eaten a ton of them, have given some away, and we still can't keep up with them so they're starting to drop to the ground, which wasn't really a problem until I started hearing little thunks and thuds outside.


Then those little thunks and thuds got a little braver.


And then those thunks and thuds got even braver still!

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Rosie's wedding (August 3)

Sometimes when I look into the future and I envision sending my children off to college or on a mission or watching them get married, I tell myself that I will embrace each milestone with grace. There is little reason to be clingy or get teary-eyed, I tell myself. It's not like the child is disappearing. And if I can survive living away from my mother, my children, too, will survive living away from me. 

But this is all nothing but talk because I've never experienced such a big milestone.

I have, however, cried about packing away baby clothes, so if I'm being completely honest I will most likely cry when I'm packing up my baby's bedroom. They won't all necessarily be sad tears, though I'm sure a good portion of them will be. They will also be tears of happiness, I hope, at having raised a good, fledgling adult. They will be tears of worry, knowing that while my child's mind is full of hopes and dreams, their future will also contain a lot of trials and hardship (but definitely also beauty and joy). And, surely, "something more than [tears].... silvery blue, neither gas nor liquid..." there will be a flood of memories as well (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, chapter 32).

My niece Rosie got married on Friday and while I was mostly thrilled for her to start her new life, I caught myself thinking, "Darn it all! Now we have to share her!" 

RoseMarie is a phenomenal person. She was born with a cheerful, discerning spirit, and, absolutely overflowing with the spirit of Elijah, she is passionate about her big, messy family. She is fun and helpful and patient and I have always enjoyed being around her. 

She's found a rather impressive partner for life. I approved of Austin the moment I met him (not that they needed my approval) and was so happy when they got engaged! So I had to remind myself, in that moment of selfishness, that we're not losing Rosie. We're gaining Austin! 

We're all so glad Austin chose to be a part of this crazy family. 

At Christmastime, he and I shared a rather awkward moment together when I basically proposed to him for Rosie. I was just asking him a few questions, trying to get to know him a bit better, and I asked, "So, how many siblings do you have?" and he said, "I have three. Two younger brothers and a younger sister."

Then I replied, "Oh, how fun! I married an oldest child as well!"

And then he stared at me like a deer in the headlights and I was like, "Uhhhh...not that you guys are getting married or anything. Not that it wouldn't be cool if you did decide to get married. That would be fine. But I know you're not engaged. Whatever. It's fine. How about that sky? Talk about blue."

Somehow our conversation recovered without Austin running off to hide from me and then a couple of months later he did ask Rosie to marry him so everything worked out just swell.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

That's SPICY water

Long story short, watch this video:

Short story long, Zoë is a habitual beverage scavenger. She doesn't really care whose cup of water is on the counter, she will drink it (and then if she's still thirsty she'll reach for the next cup).

On this particular day, I'd told her several times to get out a new cup and I'd get a drink for her since the only cups on the counter were (1) full of vinegar, (2) a sippy cup Riley had used and which had been in the car for several days, (3) Benjamin's cup. She absolutely insisted on drinking from the cups already on the counter, so I pulled out the camera.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Good morning Mr. Sunshine

Much earlier than I thought such a thing might have happened, Alexander has started pushing toy cars around. He loves things with wheels!

This morning he wouldn't stop driving his car around to have breakfast, which meant that I got to play the role of roadway. Anytime he dropped his car (or if I ever tried to take it away) he'd stop nursing so that he could retrieve/find it.

He also cruised along the entire length of the bed this morning without falling over. In the past when he's tried walking along the furniture either his top half would get over ambitious and he'd reach too far (causing him to tip over) or his bottom half would get antsy and he'd start bouncing and jumping (causing him to tip over). Today he just walked along the the bed like it was normal.

Mischief managed

Summer vacation will be over in three weeks and I finally screwed up enough courage to take them all to the public pool just a few weeks ago. I wouldn't have batted an eye at taking them to our neighbourhood pool back in Eno Trace, but a public pool is an entirely different matter. A public pool is so big and it's difficult to have your attention (and limbs) be pulled in five directions at once (especially around water; I can never quite relax when I'm around water with my children).

But it really ended up being just fine. There are paid lifeguards at the pool, so that's a nice backup (though they're just kids themselves!). Rachel and Miriam mostly went off on their own because they are big enough to swim on their own and go on the slides and that sort of thing. Technically Benjamin is big enough to swim on his own (though he's not big enough for the slides yet) but I don't like him getting too far away (unless his sisters know that he's their swimming buddy for a given amount of time). He's really a pretty good little swimmer and the pool really doesn't get very deep, so that really only left me with Zoë and Alexander.

I was holding Alexander and Zoë was paddling around nearby while Benjamin was diving down to the bottom of the pool ("to the Mariana Trench!" he told me). Suddenly Alexander started screaming bloody murder.

"I didn't mean to do that!" Zoë said, visibly surprised.

"What didn't you mean to do?" I asked, quickly checking to make sure nothing was horribly wrong with my baby.

"I didn't meant to do that," she repeated.

"What did you do?" I asked.

She simply hung her head in shame.

"Did you...bite him?" I asked after wracking my brain for a minute.

"Yes," she admitted. "But I didn't mean to!"

"Where did you bite him?" I asked but I never quite got a solid answer from her so we did a few laps around the lazy river while I soothed the poor baby. It was only when I was drying him off at the end of our swimming session that I found the bite mark on his arm—it lasted for days.

Later Miriam was giving Benjamin a ride on her back and their heads collided and he split his lip open. Oh, and Zoë got a bloody nose, too. I can't even remember how she did that!

But no one even came close to drowning so I'll consider that run to the pool a success.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Make it sew!

Not last week but the week before, Grandma signed Rachel up for sewing lessons from a young woman in our ward. She had four one-hour lessons, finishing up with her project (a skirt) on her birthday!

She wore her skirt to church today and looked lovely doing so.

Grandma took the big girls out to the fabric store so that Rachel could pick out this material for her skirt and to help pick out quilting fabric for Arwyn and Alexander's baby quilts. She said they were in fabric heaven, which I totally believe. They were in awe of how many beautiful (and how many nerdy (Doctor Who, Harry Potter, etc)) fabrics there were. 

Hopefully there will be more sewing in this house in the future!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Pizza Party at Red Ledges

We went out to Red Ledges for a pizza party picnic this evening and this time we knew exactly where to go to find the arch (and everyone laughed about how difficult it had been for us to find it the first time we came). We set up our picnic right below it and the kids wolfed down their dinner so they could go play. Dinner went relatively smoothly. Only one piece of pizza ended up on the ground (Gavin dropped his slice before he'd even taken a bite) and I only dropped, like, three cups of water (so it's a good thing we weren't at home or I'd have been mopping up water all evening).

Friday, July 27, 2018

Rachel's 11!

Despite all my protestations, Rachel turned 11 last Friday. We saved the real celebration for the next day (July 21) so that Auntie Emily could attend, since she so rarely gets to come to family gatherings, but we went ahead and opened a few presents on her actual birthday (because sitting around watching people open books is somewhat boring). She mostly got books, which probably comes as no surprise.

When she opened The Confidence Code for Girls, Andrew excitedly blurted out, "It's peer-reviewed!"

Rachel thoughtfully acknowledged this with an, "Oh, awesome!"

And Grandpa just about died laughing over how nerdy our family is. But that's okay. Rachel has been going through the book, doing the exercises in a little notebook (and I have noticed that she's been more open to taking risks, so that's nice).

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Grassylake: The farm (July 1)

I wasn't 100% sure I was going to add a trip out to Grassy to our itinerary until Patrick told me that Michelle was going to get there on Sunday. He and Josie had gone up to the farm early so that they could help with the bees (my cousins raised bees over the winter this year so they could set them out to pollinate their crops—so they had to assemble all these little bee house-tent things) and everything seemed really busy so I didn't want to impose or anything. But Michelle was my tipping point. We had to go the farm now (and I was very happy about that because the farm always feels like home).

Blah, blah. Monday, Monday.

Let me start by reassuring you (or myself) that we're going to be fine. We're hurtling on to the end of this cliff (Andrew's contract ends in August) and, all our hopes and dreams effectively quashed, soon we will nestle into Plan B (which honestly is probably more like plan Q by now) quite comfortably.

Once we figure out health insurance, that is.

We will soon be kicked off our current employer-based health insurance plan and only then can we browse the marketplace for a new plan. We can't set up new insurance before our old insurance ends so there will necessarily be a gap in coverage. I have been trying to tell myself that it will be fine. We're generally healthy people.

And then Alexander spiked a fever of 103°F this morning, reminding me that even generally healthy people still need to call their doctor every once in a while.

But I'm sure we'll figure all that stuff out.

We have adjunct work lined up for the next year, which will provide an income stream trickle (we'll be taking a major pay cut), and we have a roof over our heads (thank goodness for Andrew's parents), so we'll be fine.

On Monday we got word that Andrew was, yet again, not going to get a job he'd applied for. He was, we were told, at once over-qualified and under-qualified for the position. How that is even possible is beyond me (in short, we were told: his research/publication record was too stellar for an R2 school and he didn't have quite the amount of teaching experience they were looking for).

Not getting this position was a little soul-crushing. Devastating, even.

It was our final hope of having an actual job for next year.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Pioneer Day

Part of the reason I wanted to be all caught up on our Alberta trip posts was because the last thing we did before coming home was visit with Auntie Emily and her family in Idaho, which would have been the perfect segue into talking about Emily's visit to us here in Utah, right? 

Unfortunately, I have not yet finished writing about our Canada trip and Emily is already here!

So I wrote about meeting up with her in Idaho and now I'm going to write about Pioneer Day (because I may as well be timely about something in my life). 

Last night for family night Emily and her kids went with Grandpa to help supervise Sarah's visit with Riley, so we took the kids to Pioneer Village in Provo, specifically to see the Haws' cabin (but also to see the rest of the village, of course). I think the schoolhouse was everyone's favourite place because (although I took no pictures) we got to play with stilts and climbing bears and so forth, which was quite a lot of fun. After we'd finished playing at the school house we went through the rest of the village, trying to find everything on the scavenger hunt paper we'd received at the front gate.

Here's the blacksmith shop (where I wouldn't want to work in was hotter than hades in here):

Hell's Half Acre (July 3)

We spent the night in Idaho Falls on July 2nd. It was quite the rush to get down there after leaving the Canada Day parade in Raymond, but we made it around 10:30 at night...except we made it to the wrong hotel! Apparently there are two Best Westerns in Idaho Falls and we'd set our route to the wrong one. The other one was just down the road, however, so the lady at the desk gave us directions and we were once again on our way.

"Cotton Tree Inn. Cotton Tree Inn," Andrew said. "We're looking for the Cotton Tree Inn."

"There it is!" Benjamin squealed. "It's behind us!"

"No, it's not," Rachel seethed (her patience was just about gone at this point in the trip). "Shut up!"

"No, it's right there!" Benjamin insisted. "Cotton Tree Inn! Dad turned left and he should have turned right!"

Thank goodness for little readers! Benjamin had indeed found our hotel and we got checked in as quickly as possible so that we could get our little brood into bed.

They were all excited for hotel breakfast in the morning (fruit poops! DIY waffles!) before setting out to meet Auntie Emily and her family for a little pit stop at Hell's Half Acre (the rest stop at mile marker 101 on I-15). Or at least at what used to be called Hell's Half Acre. Now it's called the "Lava Trail System," which is a much more boring name. But whatever it was called, these little cousins were excited to get together again.

Auntie Emily with Maren on her lap, Rachel with Zoë on her lap, Gavin, Benjamin (with his arms pulled into his shirt because it was a little chilly for our taste), and Miriam

Playing at the Sheep River (June 30)

My wonderful cousin Heather is doing us the favour of living in her parents' house with her family of seven for the second year in a row simply to make us feel better about living in Andrew's parents' house with our family of seven for a second year in a row (or it could be she's doing it because the economy sucks and even though her husband has a full-time job (as an airline pilot) their family can't yet afford to buy a house (let alone import their vehicle from the states (they moved up to Alberta from Texas last summer)). 

Anyway, her parents have a sizable house (large enough to squeeze in a family of seven at least) that backs onto the Sheep River, so she and her children spend a lot of time exploring in the woods and playing on the river bank. We followed them to one of their favourite spots and then watched in sheer panic as Sadie led Miriam to us along the bank (they'd decided to take a different way to get to the river, which was quite high and swift due to spring runoff). They made it without falling in (which would have been perilous), thank goodness.

Where we were, the river was a little lazier, or at least shallower.

Anna, Taya, Zoë, and Cecily

Friday, July 20, 2018

Big Rock (June 30)

I had a goal to be completely finished chronicling our trip to Canada by tonight, but I fear that won't likely happen at this point. Life just keeps on happening. I either have to find a way to write faster or have life slow down...

Benjamin was hovering beside me while I was writing about the trip Rachel, Miriam, Alexander, and I took to visit the Okotoks Erratic (back in May) and the number one question he had was, "When did I go to that place?" followed up with, "Where's the picture of me there?"

So naturally when he realized that he'd be coming to Canada with us this time around he immediately began pestering me about visiting Big Rock. We finally got around to it on Saturday afternoon (after the Canada Day festivities). My cousin Heather came along again, bringing her kids and Sara Beth's Anna along with her. We had a blast!