Monday, August 11, 2014

A Little Tribute

Once in a really long while, you find a family that is pretty much the perfect fit for your own family. Nerdy dad: check. Cool mom (if I do say so myself): check. Cute little girl: check. Rowdy little boy: check. Likes to do the same things you do: CHECK!! Well, we might not have listened to the same music, but we can let that one slide.

We knew they would be fun-loving when they agreed to do the Neon Splash Dash before they really even knew us. They were our first team mates!

Materials to make a trebuchet: $120. Pumpkins to throw: $8. Someone who understands you: priceless.

They drove all the way to Coolidge to see the trebuchet in action.

And get their farm on.

There was no engineering feat that Adam and Russ couldn't solve together.

A party wasn't a party if they didn't show up.

When you find a bff for your toddler, you do anything to keep him around.

This was a common scene at lunch time when the girls were at school.

When I needed backup, Cindy was always there to help, whether I needed an emergency babysitter or a hundred little carrot fingers! She even made the darling signs, which I kept.

Party people in the house! No, they didn't just get home from their shift at the hospital. It was Halloween!

Having your best friend come over on your birthday = BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!!

In the end, Adam found a better gig in San Diego. They spent their last night in Chandler having one last play date with us.

And then we took them to Sweet Tomatoes for "the last supper."

All too soon, it was time to say goodbye.

But it wasn't goodbye forever. Of all the cities they could have moved to, they ended up in the one we visit the most. In fact, they go to the same church building we used to attend! We already have a couple trips planned out there, so we are excited we will get to see our friends again soon. Plus, we don't want them to get a chance to replace us!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Road Home

Funerals are sad, but it's always good to get back into the land of the living as soon as they are over. On our way home from Salt Lake City, we decided to take a detour through Bryce Canyon National Park. I had only seen it in pictures until then. The first viewpoint was pretty impressive, although the park was very crowded, as I suppose is to be expected on a Sunday during the summer. They need more picnic tables. Just sayin'.

I was sad to find out that Paige's face was out of focus. I need to pay more attention to the focus points in my pictures, but I was proud of myself for getting her face and the natural bridge into the same frame.

I love the sense of wonder.

Too bad it didn't last. After we had stopped at a few viewpoints, the kids were done getting out of the car. I have to say they missed the best viewpoint because of that. The scene before us seemed otherworldly and too incredible to believe if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. God is quite the artist.

Mind-boggling formations.

Just before we got to Page, our car turned 100k. When I was little and "The Starcruiser" hit 100k, my dad stopped at the highway sign that says Jacumba 7 on Interstate 8 in California and had a little party, whoopin' it up and rocking the van. Since that day, we always have to do the same when our car reaches that milestone. Luckily I always happen to have a camera on hand!!

Rock the car!

This is the place.

No, this isn't a sobriety test. Kyle couldn't believe it when Russ told him the lines on the highway are at least 10 feet long, so he measured it out himself. Whoa dad! You're right!

Stopping for dinner in Page and having some roadside potty breaks just before Flagstaff made for a late arrival in Phoenix (seriously, kids, can't you coordinate your bladders?). Good thing I'm a night person.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dear Grandma Bev,

There are no words to describe the sense of loss I have felt because of your passing. You were a light that touched all of our lives in rich and meaningful ways, and now it feels like that light has been extinguished forever. I am sad, but you were always happy, always friendly, always a shining example of the pure love of Christ.

You always took the opportunity to tell me how your prayers were answered. You had remarkable faith, to the point that I figured if I needed a prayer answered, all I had to do was ask you to pray for it and it was as good as done. I wanted to have faith like that. You spoke of your love for the temple and the ordinances performed inside, and you showed that love by attending each and every week. I wanted to have that same devotion. You spoke to me as a teenager about the importance of chastity and keeping our bodies clean. You loved me, and so you taught me the things that were important to you. I love you for that.

When I was young, I thought everybody had a grandma like you. When my 8th grade friend invited me to go to her grandma's house, I was a little nervous because I didn't know her, but when I thought of the fun I always had at your house, I decided to accept. Her grandma was a smoking, cussing, grumpy old lady, and I just wanted to go home! That's when I realized you were truly more special than other grandmas. I don't know how you laughed so much, but sometimes when something strikes me as funny, I will laugh and laugh until I cry, my stomach hurts, my throat hurts, and I can hardly breathe. I'll try to calm down so my poor husband can go to sleep, but when I can't control the thought anymore, I'll start giggling quietly to myself until the bed starts shaking. He usually can't understand why I'm laughing THAT hard, but I like to think I learned or inherited it from you. You were always happy, always squeezing every last drop of joy from the moments of your life. You loved playing with the kids, whether it be climbing in the sand dunes, playing at the park, or swimming (once making a super shallow pool with your garden hose). You never missed an opportunity to go to the fair, the Easter Pageant, or the Pioneer Day parade in Salt Lake City. You showed us all the best things in life. I love you for that.

You had so many friends. I never knew anyone who had more friends, who loved people more, or who could make a stranger into a friend more easily than you. People loved you because you loved them. I knew that if I mentioned your name in any large group of people, there was bound to be someone who knew you. And once someone met you, they could never forget you. You were unique. I love you for that.

I always knew you would call me on my birthday. You often would call me out of the blue to tell me about some wonderful experience you had that day. I know you have 21 grandchildren, but you made me feel important. I wish you would call me now and tell me how wonderful it is in heaven with all of your family that went before you and not to cry for you anymore. Family was everything to you. You and Grandpa were at every party, every baby blessing, every graduation, every baptism. We knew that you valued each and every one of us. I love you for that.

As I read your journals after your passing, I only saw more evidence that you were a faithful woman and mother in Zion. There were baptism pictures, baby blessing notes, and a personal determination to treat others with Christlike love even when they did not do the same for you. You had struggles, and my heart broke for you. I wished to ease your pain, to know that you even had pain, and to understand you as more of a total person instead of just a grandma. I felt close to you and yet so far away. And then the thought came to me that everyone has struggles and pain. That is why you were here on Earth... to learn and to grow just like the rest of us. Your faithfulness to the Lord, your joy in this life, and your Christlike love for your fellow beings is just evidence that you bore your struggles well, that you endured to the end, and that the days in eternity for which you had prepared all your life are likely to be filled with an even greater measure of joy.

For that, we are celebrating with you. But we'll miss you until we meet again.

Love, Stacey

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

First Day

It's been quite the crazy, emotional month. I'm actually looking forward to a very uneventful, boring August. Fingers crossed! I can't believe this is already happening, but Paige is starting fifth grade and Kallie is starting second. I'm telling you, it wasn't too long ago that Will started fifth grade, and Kyle was just starting fifth grade when we moved to Arizona. It's just gone by way too fast.

I gave Russ my camera and told him to get a picture of the girls getting on the bus. Well, that was a great plan until the bus drove right by without stopping! So Russ loaded them up in the car and drove them to school. He said it was a madhouse, but apparently nobody was just dropping their kids off at the curb, so they had the back of the school almost all to themselves, and he decided he could take a picture for me then. What a great husband!!

At least the bus stopped at the right place on the way home so I could get my bus pictures.

I guess I should mention that Kyle is a sophomore this year, but he was at his mom's house for the first day, so I couldn't get any pictures. If I'm being honest, I wouldn't have gotten up at 5:30am to see him off anyway. Maybe he can take a selfie for me next year!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Third Time's a Charm!

I guess the old saying is true! If you are determined enough to keep trying after two failed attempts, you're bound to succeed! And so it was with Russ' robot, the other love of his life... I call her CARla. For three years now, he has put in countless hours, untold dollars, and his heart and soul into getting CARla around the course at the AVC. The last two competitions seemed promising, but for some reason CARla refused to do what she had done during practice runs... cross the finish line!

We met up with Russ in Boulder, Colorado, after ten days away on our grand adventure. Melanie had bragged to me that people in Wyoming eat cinnamon rolls with their chili, and so I wanted a piece of that action! I scoured the internet for a local place that served those items, but it seemed like they were mostly a potluck, school lunch, or lunch item served at places that were closed for dinner. However, I did learn of a truck stop between Cheyenne and Denver that claimed to serve world famous cinnamon rolls and chili, so I stopped in to grab some on my way. Eileen's cookies for breakfast, cinnamon rolls for lunch... people in Wyoming know what's up.

Almost made me want to move there... no, not really.

We hung out at the track for several hours while Russ tested CARla. Her real name is Lala Loopsie Roller Coaster, due to the paint job given to her by our daughters.

Paige lost her original husky, Puffles, during our trip to California in January, but luckily she found a wolf at the Cheyenne train depot that reminded her enough of Puffles to become the new Puffles. New Puffles went for a fun ride!

Kyle followed the car around the track just in case she didn't make it around.

Okay, here we are the next day at the first round. We had a late start getting out of the hotel, but we arrived just in time to see Russ' first run!

Good thing we rushed there just so we could see his car head straight into a bale of hay. It was a little anticlimactic.

But it was fun to watch the other robots run. The races are always unpredictable, and sometimes the bots even crash into each other like battle bots, so it can get pretty exciting. Plus, it's neat to see the ingenuity put into the bots. These three robots were part of a special class for non-traditional designs. The one with the big wheel contorts the wheel to make the robot move, and the little one on two wheels balances itself. You might have to click on this picture to see the robots better. They are pretty interesting.

This year there was a full size car in the "doping" class called Troubled Child. There were people inside just to make sure it didn't go haywire and hurt anyone, but they put their hands up to prove no one was steering. It ran the course perfectly.

Between the rounds, we went over to watch some of the airplanes and quadcopters compete in the aerial course. That can get pretty exciting, too, when flying objects unexpectedly rush at spectators' heads. Soon it was time to go back over to watch Russ in round two.

He adjusted one of his GPS way points to be farther from the hay bales and left the cover off "just in case." She made us nervous by driving close to the curb, but then suddenly she turned and headed away from the curb and around the corner. Yeah!

Behold, Lala Loopsie Roller Coaster's first competition finish!!

One last chance to try to up his position in the final standings. I busted out my telephoto lens this time to try to get some shots of the glory (hopefully).

She made us nervous...

And then did this awesome loop just like a real roller coaster before heading around the first corner. Woohoo!

She made the second turn like a champ.

Smooth sailing through the back stretch.

About to make the third turn...

Success! She was almost home!

There was a dumpster blocking the view of the final turn, but the important part is that she made it. Sadly, this was all happening very fast and I had no time to make my camera focus on the car instead of the chain link fence in the foreground. So, here's a blurry picture of her final jump over the finish line.

You can bet Russ was all smiles.

In the end, it was a most triumphant 8th place finish for Lala Loopsie Roller Coaster, which suited Russ just fine. Now that he's finished the course, he's already talking about doing something more advanced for next year. Should I be worried?

Between the second and third rounds, Kyle had locked the keys in the trunk of the rental car when he went out there to retrieve the snacks (which he failed to retrieve). So, he missed the third round because he had to stay at the car to wait for the guy who came to unlock the doors for us. The bad news was that the guy couldn't give us access to the trunk, and the trunk release button wasn't operable without the keys, so we spent like half an hour just trying to figure out how to get in the trunk through the back seat. Found a plastic key in the glove compartment, but no lock on the trunk. I'm thinking these anti-theft features spend more time keeping owners out than thieves. We missed lunch because of that fiasco, and we got a late start on our journey down to New Mexico. The kids and I grabbed some food on the way out of town, and then we drove seven hours straight to make it to Leesa's house before 11pm. The last twelve miles were brutal with restless kids, but we pressed on through to the finish line... Lala Loopsie Roller Coaster was our inspiration.

Russ and Kyle stayed in Boulder so they could go to the after party, and then they caught up with us the next morning to enjoy brunch with our friends. We made raspberry cream cheese stuffed french toast, one of Russ' favorites, since we had missed having Father's Day with him the Sunday before. Soon it was time to say our final goodbyes to our friends and head back home. You may think I am crazy, but I got a sense of elation when we came down the hill from Payson and the Superstition Mountains came into view. I rolled down the window and let in the warm air as we drove past Saguaro Lake and through the beautiful Sonoran Desert on the final leg of our journey. The world is wide, the world is wonderful, but there's no place that can give me quite the same feeling when I arrive as HOME.