Monday, August 22, 2016

Nauvoo and Vocal Point

One of the highlights of our week at the lake house was an afternoon and evening in Nauvoo (August 2). It worked out well because it was a rainy day so we couldn't be out on the water anyway. 

We started out at the Visitors' Center where we walked around the beautiful grounds. The kids had fun posing like several of the statues. (The first one cracks me up...)

We were lucky enough to be there for a showing of "The Promise" which is a short musical put on by the young performing church-service missionaries who come to Nauvoo for the summer. It was excellent! Afterward, we got to meet some of the cast and one of them, Elder DeWitt, was from Mesa which made our newbie RM pretty happy! :)

Following the performance, Jeff took the older kids to the Nauvoo temple. They had a great experience there while Sadie and I drove around and visited some of the historical sites.

Sadie found out at the Pioneer Pastimes Center that stilt walking is a lot harder than it looks...

Once we were reunited with the rest of the family, we drove across the river to Fort Madison, Iowa for some dinner then right back to Nauvoo for the highlight of our day -- BYU Vocal Point!! We were so excited when we realized that our lake house trip coincided with Vocal Point's Nauvoo tour. We are huge fans!

Waiting for the concert to start

Vocal Point sang several songs we know and love plus a couple we hadn't heard before. My two favorite songs of the night were "Nearer My God to Thee," and "Newsies Medley." Ah, I love those!! The concert was so, so good!! One of the kids' favorite parts was when Matt, the beatboxer, showed off his skills. It was very cool!  Another favorite part was meeting the group after the performance. They are just all around nice guys who put on a pretty great show!

Sam with Spencer. Spencer also served a mission in Mesa.

Jordan is Soren's favorite member of the group!

Spencer with Spencer!

Matt, the amazing beatboxer! 
It was an all-around great day in Nauvoo. :)

Sunday, August 21, 2016


We've got some hummingbird regulars in our yard. It's become quite entertaining to watch them through our big dining room picture window as they fight for the feeder and hang out in our tree. The other day, one of them flew right up to the window and just hovered, looking in and scoping us out.

We were sitting at dinner the other day when Jeff looked out the window and said, "Oh look, there's a redneck hummingbird." I chuckled to myself at his description, picturing a little backwoods hummingbird who was married to his cousin. I pointed out that it was called a ruby-throated hummingbird, not a redneck.

(It still makes me laugh.)


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Happy Birthday, Spencer!

We're wishing Spencer a Happy 17th Birthday today! Lucky for us, Spencer is every bit as talented, smart and kind as he is handsome. :)

Spencer is a great kid. He's quite self-reliant and self-motivated. I never have to make sure he's up in the morning. He even makes it to Seminary every school morning by 5:30 (!!) without any coaxing on our part. Spencer is a great student and completes homework and other obligations because it's important to him. He is smart (boy howdy, is he smart!) and has probably read more than anyone I know. He runs Cross Country and is an asset to his team. He is very fit and regularly does pushups and pullups to strengthen and tone.

I can hardly believe Spencer will begin applying for college within the next month or two. Where has the time gone? One more year with him at home just isn't going to be long enough.

Happy Birthday, Spencer! I hope seventeen is your best year so far!   Love, Mom  XO

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Lake House Revisited

Remember the lake house where we spent Spring Break? When we were deciding where to go for a family vacation with Sam, I wanted somewhere that we could really be together without the pull of outside distractions (like facebook, e-mail, instagram, etc...).

The lake house had all that and more because 1) there is no internet and 2) no cell reception. While that may sound like a teenagers nightmare, it is this mother's dream!! :) Fortunately, my kids were good sports and our friends were very generous in allowing us to use their lake house again. So we spent the first week of August - five relaxing days - truly together. 

We enjoyed eight kayaks, one dock, a trip to Nauvoo (more on that later), loads of good food, plenty of games, music, movies (we got to share Kung Fu Panda 3 and Star Wars VII with Sam!), books, swimming, and laughing. 

My dream of having my little family all to myself (all to ourselves) was realized and it was awesome! I hope we can do it again soon.

Sadie loved this swing. The older kids were totally afraid of it. :)

Even during meals we had a beautiful view, but no bugs on the fully screened deck.

Savannah and Sterling put together some really cool guitar/violin duets.

Not a great picture, but one of my favorite parts was kayaking. I loved it when all eight of us were out together.

Savannah loved doing yoga on the dock, especially the day she was up with the sun.

Diving lessons.

1...  2...  3...


(the end.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Another First Day

I'm pretty sure school started after Labor Day when I was young, or maybe it was the week before. Either way, it was never August 17. That's just too early to be in school! 

Apparently that memo wasn't received in my little corner of the world because school started today despite our best attempts at denial. 

Several anxious kids made it through a somewhat sleepless night and braved the day. Fortunately, they survived and thrived and came home smiling. Whew!! 

Sadie is our adorable sixth grader -- her last year in elementary school!

Soren is the Big Man on Campus as an eighth grader. His last year of middle school.

Our high schoolers: Spencer, a senior and Sterling, a freshman. 
We're looking forward to a great year! :)

{I am painfully aware that it is August 17 and this is my first blog post this month! How did this happen? We've had a great summer and I'm planning to post more details soon!}

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Remembering Sarah Moulton

Today is Pioneer Day, a state holiday in Utah commemorating the arrival of the first Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. I grew up in Utah and always loved attending the big parade in Salt Lake and the fireworks that night.

Recently I've been thinking a lot about my pioneer heritage. Maybe that's because we stopped at Martin's Cove in Wyoming on our way home from our vacation a few weeks ago. Martin's Cove was a stop for two ill-fated handcart companies in 1856, the Willie and Martin handcart companies. Some of my relatives, the Thomas Moulton family, traveled with the Willie company.

Thomas Moulton's wife died in 1839 just before their daughter, Sarah, turned two years old. Thomas remarried a woman, also named Sarah, and they had many more children. Several years later, they joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and eventually left England to be with the main body of the Saints in Utah.

Thomas' wife, Sarah, was expecting their 8th child when they were preparing to leave England. Thomas was worried about the journey, but Sarah was determined to leave as planned. She received a blessing before their journey began in which she was promised that no one in the family would die before they reached their destination. The baby she was carrying was born on the ship en route to America.

Once they reached Iowa City, Iowa, they traveled the rest of the way with the Willie handcart company. Because the handcart company left later in the season than planned and due to early winter storms and other hardships, it was a perilous journey. When Brigham Young received word that there were still handcart pioneers on the trail, stranded and out of supplies, he sent rescue companies to bring them home.

Ultimately, as promised, all 10 members of the Moulton family made it safely to the Salt Lake Valley. Sarah, Thomas and Sarah's 19-year old daughter, later married her rescuer, John Bennett Hawkins. They are my great great grandparents.

(Click here to read a more in-depth version of this story.)

John Bennett Hawkins and Sarah Moulton Hawkins
I love John and Sarah's story. What was important to them is important to me. I'm grateful for their heritage of faith.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Sam's been home for one day and so far so good! We are all loving the time we get to spend with him. Admittedly, he's had a few moments of "What am I doing here?" but overall, he's doing really well. He's getting things done and spending time with his siblings. He keeps realizing things he's allowed to do like: 
  • listen to his favorite songs (Sam has always been very motivated by music) 
  • sleep in (he needed it after getting up at 2:00 a.m. yesterday!) 
  • play the piano and violin whenever he wants
  • Google (surfing the net has been off limits) 
Sam is a pretty remarkable young man. He served a great mission and had so many amazing experiences. He made a big difference in the lives of many, many people. He learned a lot of things that he'll benefit from the rest of his life. I'm excited to see where life takes him. For now, we're just soaking up our time together and enjoying the stories and experiences he's willing to share!

This is the sign we made for Sam's airport greeting. In the end, everyone was too excited to stand there holding a sign so it was abandoned.

All the siblings together for the first time in two years. We were waiting for luggage when I took this picture. By the way, one of Sam's suitcases was lost, but miraculously found before we left the airport. Yay! :)

Jeff and Sam after arriving home. 

Sam and one of his best friends, Austin. Austin returned home from his mission earlier this year so it's been about 2 1/2 years since these two have seen each other. It was a happy reunion this evening!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


After two years of faithful missionary service, Sam is home and among the ranks of the Returned Missionary. It's a unique situation to be in. After such a rigid schedule and always having a companion, it's a little overwhelming to suddenly find yourself part of the "real" world again. So many things that were off limits are suddenly allowed and perfectly acceptable. Movies, video games, pop music, dating... 

The kids have had a great time this evening jamming with Sam and seeing if he can still beat them at Mario Kart. (He can.) :)

We're super excited to hear all about his untold adventures in Mesa during the past two years. I'm ready to cook his favorite meals and the kids are anxious to catch him up on their favorite movies and activities. There's a lot to do to get him outfitted and ready for college next month and it all starts to feel overwhelming if I let it, but I won't let that get in the way of how happy we are to have him back. 

I'm still wondering how two years can go from feeling like it'll never end to feeling like Sam never left. It's so, so good to have him home. We've been looking forward to this day for a long time. (734 days to be exact.)

Welcome home, Sam! We've missed you so much!

Two Years Ago...

Remember this post?

Yep. It's been two years and three days since we said goodbye to our Sam.

But TODAY is the day!! Right now, Elder Stowell is sitting in Chicago waiting for his connecting flight. In less than 2 hours we finally get to hug him again!

We've been making a list of all the things we want to do with Sam during the few weeks he'll be home before he turns around and heads to BYU. He won't be home nearly long enough, but we're determined to make the most of it.

I can't wait! :)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Kayaking at Sunset

One afternoon in Idaho we went to a big gravel pit that is on some land owned by my sister-in-law Kristin's family. There is a big rope swing that the kids had fun with as they swung out over the water and then willed themselves to let go. We also brought along some kayaks which was my favorite part. Kayaking isn't something I've done before, but I loved it! It was so relaxing to paddle around the gravel pit. The kids and Jeff enjoyed it as well so we decided to pick up a couple of kayaks when we got home. 

Lake Charleston is just a few minutes from our house so it's not difficult to get out on the lake for a quick morning or evening paddle across the lake. 

Jeff and I went on a sunset kayak date tonight. The weather was perfect with mild temps and low humidity (rare this time of year!!). The lake was calm and the sunset was beautiful. I can't wait to go back!