Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vacation Highlights: Utah

Utah is hard to write about. And I hardly have any pictures. :( I think we were in a fog just trying to balance fun and family with the fact that Sam would be leaving on the 16th and we wanted to make sure he was ready to go (he was) and that we were ready to say goodbye (we weren't).

We arrived in Utah on the evening of July 13th and stayed for a week with my brother Dave and his darling wife, Tanya. The first few days we saw lots of family. Sunday night everyone, minus my youngest brother, was gathered at my brother Dave's house when we arrived. It was so fun catching up and watching the cousins together. They all get along really well. Monday night we went to see my brother and niece perform in Shrek: The Musical. What a fun show! The Herriman Arts Council did a fantastic job putting together a quality production. We loved it!

Tuesday night we had a big barbecue at my brother Steve's house. We were able to get all but two of the cousins together for a picture. (Emma was, once again, performing in Shrek and baby Hank wouldn't make it up from Nevada until Thursday of that week.) What a great bunch of kids. Taylor, near the front in the teal tank top, had so much fun with Sam that night. She even convinced him to perform a little dance with her. When she left that night, she was completely bawling her little eyes out knowing that she wouldn't see Sam again for two years!

Wednesday was rough. After we dropped Sam off at the MTC, we mustered up the energy to head to BYU for a campus tour. Savannah will be submitting her application this fall and the tour was very beneficial in letting her know what to expect as she applies to BYU and prepares to apply to the nursing program at the end of her freshman year. I'm glad we went. It really helped to get Savannah super excited, but we were missing Sam more than I expected. We just tried not to talk about it because every time I opened my mouth, tears leaked out my eyeballs.

That night I was torturing myself by watching things like this and I decided that what I really needed was chocolate. Jeff and my brother were out running errands so we texted them and, boy howdy, did they ever come through! Introducing the chocolate dome from Kneaders: Brownie base, chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, rolled in chocolate shavings with a dollop of whipped cream - just what the doctor ordered. Oh, so yummy and rich and perfect for drowning my sorrows! I was still missing Sam, but at least I was happy about it.
Kneaders Chocolate Domes. The ultimate chocolate comfort food.      Imagesource
Jeff and I spent Friday evening with some of my best high school friends. You know those friends where, even if it's been 5, 10, 15 or 20 years, you can pick up where you left off? That's how it is with this group. It turns out, three of them were in the same boat -- missing their kids who had very recently left on missions, too. It helped to talk with them and hear that a) I'm normal and b) it gets better. We had a great evening and left feeling a lot lighter.

Saturday morning, Jeff and three of our kids went with several other family members to hike the Y. It was a pretty good (steep) hike, but everyone who tried made it! :) I'll post a picture from Savannah when she gets home from Girls' Camp.

I'm leaving out a lot of detail. Once Sam left, everything got a little foggy. But we had a great time in Utah and we're so blessed to have been able to spend time with everyone in my family. It was a great vacation!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Vacation Highlights: Dancing

A few months before our vacation, ideas were submitted for fun family activities we could do together. Someone mentioned a dance and the idea took off. Uncle Randy put his DJ skills to work and we even borrowed a great sound system and turned grandma and grandpa's backyard into a ballroom. Neighbors were invited and the dance was a success. You can see from the photos below that the Stowells (and their friends) have got the moves. It was a great night!

My boys showing off their moves.

Lots of line dances and plenty of willing participants

Grandma and Grandpa. So sweet!

The big girl cousins: Katie, Sarah, Savannah and Briana

Sometimes you just have to twirl.

There was plenty of traditional dancing as well.

Sadie and Jeff danced to their song, "My Little Girl" on Sadie's last 8-year old day.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Vacation Highlights: Triathlon

Bright and early on July 10, we were up and ready for our first ever Family Triathlon. The first event was the swim which took place in the chilly Rigby Lake. Surprisingly, I acclimated to the cold water rather quickly and made it through the .3 mile swim without a problem. I was the only girl who did the full swim (there were about 5 men). A few of the kids swam a shorter length of a hundred yards or so. Sorry, but I refuse to post any pictures of the swim. This is a happy blog and I intend to keep it that way. :)

For the cycling portion, most of the kids and some adults rode 4 miles around grandma and grandpa's neighborhood. One of my nieces wanted to tackle the full 12 mile bike ride, but her parents were concerned about whether she'd be able to make it. I was more than happy to take up the rear so I could keep an eye on her and honestly, that was my preferred pace anyway! The scenery was so pretty. I shot a few photos with my iPod so you can see how beautiful our surroundings were.

Jeff came in first for the bike ride and I came in last, but it was a gorgeous and comfortable ride. The run picked up right where the bikes left off. Three times around the neighborhood equals 5K. I originally signed up to run just 1 mile, but realized that I could walk the 5K and still say I did it. (I did it!!!)

We passed out t-shirts, drank lots of water and gatorade, and didn't do much for the rest of the day. :) It was a great goal to work for and I'm hoping we might be able to do it again!

Way to go, Sam and Savannah!!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Vacation Highlights: Idaho

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed when I think about our vacation. We crammed in plenty of fun and there's no way I'll be able to remember everything! The kids got to see all of their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, except for one cousin, Jordan, who is on a mission in Nevada. That's pretty good considering our families are spread out over Illinois (us), Washington, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Nevada.

We left home on the evening of July 3 and drove straight through the night to arrive in Idaho 24.5 hours later. I'll post separate entries for our Stowell family triathlon and a fun family/neighborhood dance, but otherwise here is a small sampling of photos from the Idaho part of our trip, July 4-13.

Three generations of Stowell missionaries. I love this picture!

Sam loves Grandpa's '32 Chevy. Grandpa is planning to sell it soon so Sam got in a lot of driving time.

Savannah modeled grandma's wedding dress. Cute little bridesmaids. :)

One of many beautiful sunsets in Idaho. 

Just a crazy picture of Sadie. We were at Nielsen's Frozen Custard (Yum!) and she was being silly.

This sign hangs in a little cottage in the gardens at BYU-Idaho. 

The adults attended a temple session in Idaho Falls one evening.

Pretty Idaho Falls Temple silhouette

A cousins temple trip a few days later

Sam and Ruby were buddies all week. It went by too fast!

Not pictured: waterskiing and tubing on Ririe Reservoir, playing at Rigby Lake, the best BBQ dinner ever, Sadie's birthday (sadly, it was pretty lame), climbing a rock wall (so fun!), floating down the Snake River with my sister-in-law Krista's family, some intense minute-to-win-it competitions, and Savannah's perfect dates with her long-time crush.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bundling Up in July

We're having some pretty crazy weather. July in our little corner of the world is known for being hot and humid. It rarely rains so everyone's grass turns brown and we spend a lot of time indoors.

But not this year.

Tuesday at the Cardinals game we had typical Illinois July weather: low 90's that felt like 100º and plenty of humidity. By Thursday it was sunny and 75º. I kicked the kids out of the house and forced them to play outside. It's just not something they think of doing at the end of July. We even set up the tent last night and slept in the backyard. During the night, the temperature dropped down into the 50's and it felt so nice to snuggle down into our sleeping bags instead of laying on top of them just wishing for a breeze! Today was a little rainy, but beautiful this evening - again in the 70's. When I booted the kids out the door again after dinner, I laughed when Sadie came back in for a jacket because she was "freezing."

July 25th and all bundled up!

Apparently we're in for a stormy weekend, but by Monday we're back into the low 70's and it looks like it might just be a perfect week. Savannah will be at girls' camp and the rest of us may decide to go camping, too. I could get used to this!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mormon Night with the Cardinals

We drove straight through the night to arrive home on Monday and then turned around and drove to St. Louis on Tuesday for Mormon Night with the Cardinals. It was hot and steamy humid, but we all had fun cheering for our team. Before the game, Jeff was down on the field in front of home plate with the other Stake Presidents and the Mission President. One of the Stake Presidents threw an awesome first pitch!

There's Jeff, up on the Jumbotron!

The view from our seats and the visors they handed out to the Mormons. :)

Love this stadium with a view of the St. Louis Arch. After each homerun, fireworks go off right above the Jumbotron.

I felt bad for the poor vendor who was selling beer in the Mormon section. I think someone finally told him why no one was buying! Sadly, we lost the game 7-2. The fifth inning was long and brutal with five runs by the Tampa Bay Rays. But despite the score, we all had a great time and are looking forward to next year!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Music and the Spoken Word

I've mentioned before that I used to be an Usher at the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. As a result, I've been to Music and the Spoken Word with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir dozens of times. However, no one in my family has ever been. We decided to take the kids on Sunday morning before attending church and beginning our drive home. This was my first time in the Conference Center (it wasn't built until after Jeff and I moved away). They hold Music and the Spoken Word in the Conference Center during the summer because of the large crowds. (They still perform in the Tabernacle during the winter months.) Some of the musical numbers as well as the spoken word were focused on the Pioneers because this week (July 24th) is Pioneer Day in Utah. It was an excellent program and they sang my all-time favorite arrangement of one of my favorite hymns, Redeemer of Israel for the closing number.

I'm so glad we went! It was awesome to hear the choir live and to share that experience with my family. We loved it!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Missionary

Today we mustered up all of our courage and bravely dropped Sam off at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. The four months since he received his mission call to serve in the Arizona Mesa Mission flew by and suddenly we find ourselves Samless. This is going to be an adjustment.

It helps to know that Sam is ready for this. He was all smiles as we arrived at the MTC. Knowing that there would be little, if any, time for goodbyes when we dropped him off, we all had our tear-filled hugs before leaving for Provo. Once we arrived, Sam jumped out of the van, grabbed his suitcases, and somehow was able to confidently walk away even though there were five faces looking out the back of the van with tears streaming down them. Talk about heart breaking! I can't even picture it in my mind without crying all over again.

I think today was harder than any of us anticipated. Ironically, this is what we've wanted for Sam ever since he was born and I am so happy that Sam chose to serve. He will be a great missionary, I am sure.

But right now, all we can think about is how much we miss him!

The view from my mirror as we approached the MTC. Such a handsome guy!

Saying goodbye. You can't tell in the picture, but Soren is in tears!
We love you, Sam! See you in two years.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

St. Swithun's Day

Wow, I have a lot of catching up to do! We are having a great time on our vacation and I'll update soon. I promise.

But do you know what day it is?

It's St. Swithun's Day! Ever heard of it?

A Rainy Day in Scotland  - Ron Colbroth Photography

When I was a missionary in Scotland, I moved to Aberdeen in July 1993. This was the first time I'd heard of St. Swithun's Day. Legend says that if it rains on St. Swithun's Day, it will rain for the next forty days. And do you know what? It's true! At least it was true the summer of 1993. It rained on St. Swithun's Day and then it rained some every day for the next 40 days. Maybe more. Aberdeen was definitely my wettest city.

St Swithun's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mare

{I've loved rain ever since!}

Friday, July 4, 2014

Falling in Love with Wyoming

Star Valley, Wyoming

The last part of Wyoming before we drop down into Idaho is so beautiful! I could live here. Well... I could live here in the summer. :)

Only In Wyoming

I'm surprised the door doesn't read "Cowgirls."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

In Training

This is what we'll be doing next week...

our t-shirt design

Yep. We're heading to Idaho for a family triathlon. Having mercy on those of us who are not exactly athletic, Jeff's brother worked up a few choices so each of us could compete at our individual comfort level. There's the adult distances and the child distances and everyone gets to pick and choose what events/distances they want to compete in.

The breakdown goes like this:
1.  Swim 1/3 mile
2.  Swim kid (short)
3.  Bike 12 miles
4.  Bike~ 4 miles
5.  Run 5K  (3 miles)
6.  Run 1.2 miles

My kids are brave and each of us is stretching ourselves past our usual comfort level. Many of us have been training to get ready and I, for one, can say I'm better off for having this goal to work toward. I've lost 5 pounds and my muffin top is shrinking. Yay!!

My first day in the pool, I swam a measly 200 yards before I needed oxygen. By the end of that week, I swam 700 yards. Granted, I looked a little tipsy as I got out of the pool and my energy was completely spent. I wondered how on earth I'd ever be able to go from the swim to a 12 mile bike ride to a run. I still wonder that some days, but I'm up for the challenge and we'll see how it all plays out next week. I'm trying to ignore the fact that Idaho is at a much higher elevation so I might be gasping for breath before the first event is through...  Ha ha!!

Anyway, it's good to have a goal. We're excited for our first triathlon!! :)