Monday, September 30, 2013

A Simple Prayer

A month ago when I was packing for a trip to California for my cousin's wedding reception, I couldn't find the battery charger for my little camera. It was one of those frustrating last-minute, "Where could it possibly be?!?!" moments. Finally defeated, I took my giant camera and only got a couple of pictures. Who wants to carry that thing around? A couple of weeks ago, the charger turned up in the console of my car, so I thought I was all set for our trip to San Diego for our anniversary. As my luck would have it, the camera was now nowhere to be found. Again, I searched all those same familiar places... my office, the junk drawers (I know, there should only be one of those), the couch cushions, under and behind furniture, etc., etc. How in the world did it disappear? I hadn't even taken it anywhere or used it since the time I was searching for the charger. Grrrrr. Again, I took my giant camera to San Diego. I figured the little camera would turn up soon enough, just like the charger did, especially after Chore Galore day. Chore Galore came and went with no sign of the camera. Feeling the time running out on me before our trip to Lake Powell, I decided to put in a last ditch effort. "It HAS to be in my office, my kitchen, or my bedroom," I reasoned, "There is no other possibility!" Not kidding, I searched the same exact spaces again, but this time I added a few creative ones like my sock bin, under the step stool, and in the little box that holds my old wedding and prom flowers... that would've been shocking if I had found it in there! Yet I knew there was a law of the universe that said matter can neither be created nor destroyed, just change form. Okay, I was pretty confident it hadn't changed form (I mean, I was 99.9% sure), so it was occupying some three-dimensional space, and I just had to figure out where that was. I asked the kids again, "Do you have any idea where the camera could be? Did you touch it? Do you have any memories of seeing it?"

And now I have to break that long paragraph for a dramatic pause before the part where Paige said quite simply, "Mom, you should pray."

Oh, the faith of a child. I didn't think Heavenly Father could possibly be bothered to help me find my camera. I lost it, I could find it... it was just a matter of time. Then she said, "Mom, I'll pray with you," and at that moment I knew it was the right thing to do. Still, my faith was weak, and so I asked my little girl to offer the prayer, thinking Heavenly Father was much more likely to listen to her. It wasn't long or fancy... she just closed her eyes and bowed her head and quietly asked her Father in Heaven for help. I stood up and decided to search my closet for the third time. "Mom, are you getting any feelings about where it might be?" Not really, but I didn't say that out loud. I had just put the luggage from our San Diego trip away, and although I had searched it before putting it up on the shelf, I decided to do it again. Little purple bag, no, black rolling bag, no. I knew it. Where was that backpack that I usually packed Brandon's clothes in? Maybe it was in there, but I couldn't find that backpack. So I went on to the big purple suitcase, and as soon as I opened the top pouch, there it was. I had completely forgotten that I had taken that suitcase on the trip to my cousin's wedding reception. For an overnight trip, I usually use my small bag, so I figured it would have been in there if anywhere. I took the camera over to show Paige, and her eyes lit up. "That strengthened my testimony," she said, and it was then that I realized why Heavenly Father would love to be bothered to help us find that camera.

As I write this, my little Paigey girl is playing, "I Pray in Faith" on the piano even though she has no idea that I am writing a blog about our experience yesterday. It's just another little reminder to me that Heavenly Father is there.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Romantic Weekend by the Bay

I love traditions. I cling to the ones given to me by my family, I start my own, and I'm happy to adopt the traditions of others. I'm just a traditional gal. So when I came up with the idea of going to San Diego again for our anniversary, who was going to say that making it into a tradition wasn't a good thing? It was brilliant!!

This year, we stayed at the Dana on Mission Bay. Not quite as ritzy as last year's hotel, but a whole lot cheaper. We stayed two nights instead of one, so it was a fair trade. On our drive to San Diego, we fed the kids dinner in Yuma, but we saved our appetites for after we dropped them off at Grandma and Grandpa's house so we could have a dinner date at one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego... El Torito! We even splurged on fried ice cream. Then we headed to our hotel to look for a blanket so we could take a stroll down by the water. Somehow this Arizona girl can't seem to remember that it gets cool at night in San Diego all year long, so I've had to buy a lot of coats during our trips. I hoped the kids could make do... oops. Anyway, we thought it might look suspicious if we just hauled a giant blanket out of our hotel room, so we tried to stuff it into a backpack. As we were both struggling to force it in, I told Russ I knew a trick for cramming things into bags. He said, "Get a bag that is bigger than the thing you're trying to stuff into it?" Hehe. I'm sure we didn't look suspicious at all with an abnormally overstuffed backpack! We took a little late night walk by the bay, sat on a bench...

Next day, we headed over to the resort we stayed at last year to have a late breakfast because we knew we could sit outside by the water and the food was so yum!

It was a beautiful day with hardly a cloud in the sky, and we counted ourselves lucky to have two years in a row with perfect weather for sailing. There's something peaceful about gliding across the water under the power of the wind... well, at least in concept. I love the sound of the sails getting caught by the wind, the fluttering of the sail in the gentle breeze, and the water lapping at the hull... even the little splashes onto the front deck. Peaceful, right?

I had my expensive camera because I couldn't find my small one before we left, so I was totally nervous whenever we tilted suddenly (well, there's also the psychological damage from the catamaran ride with Uncle Stan when I was a kid that I have to contend with). Russ said, "You know this can't tip over, right? It's designed to turn into the wind if it leans over too far." Right. Sounds great. "Want a demonstration?" No thanks, I'm good. Not one minute later, the side was far enough down into the water for us to take on water. I headed for higher ground while Russ loosened the line to the main sail, and we averted disaster. I couldn't help but say, "You weren't so sure about that tipping over thing just then, were you?" He had to admit he thought we might go in the drink, his new iPhone and everything. Next year, I think I'll invest in a waterproof camera!! The $50 fee to be rescued would have sucked, too.

We had lots of fun anyway, cruising back and forth across the bay for an hour.

When it was time to head back, Captain Russ was cool and collected... he came straight into the dock with perfect form, nice and slow, right into an open spot. The problem? Last time, a dude from the rental company came out to catch our boat and help us off. No dude in sight. "What's the plan, Captain Russ?" He didn't say anything, just stood up and walked confidently to the front of the boat. I thought he had it... I really did. As he stepped off, Newton's Law took over and pushed the boat back out toward the sea without a line connected to the captain on the dock. What is a brave captain to do? Rescue his crew by grabbing at the jib and getting pulled into the water!! I was laughing so hard and snapping pictures while the guys next to us on the dock tried to pull the captain out of the water. Fat lotta help I was!!

He couldn't laugh about it for a good two hours. Meanwhile, I was saying that if I ever forget that moment, he should have me checked for Alzheimer's. Despite the close call and the docking incident, we both agreed that was the best part of the weekend. We had so much fun out there, and we made some great (and hilarious) memories!

After the boat, we had an afternoon to fill and decided to take the ferry over to Coronado Island.

We walked around, crossed right through someone's quinceanera footage, and ended up on the beach. Even though no one else was down there, we decided we could walk in front of the sea wall since it was low tide and make it to the other side. We did, but not without having to try to avoid worms, slimy moss, and other unidentifiable gross things. On the other side, we just sat on the rocks and enjoyed the view. Russ was impressed by the kite surfer.

Since we had a late breakfast and were planning a nice dinner, we decided we could have some ice cream as our lunch without ruining our appetites. We stopped by Cold Stone Creamery and ordered a Love It to share... we decided to combine each of our favorites, so we ended up with cookie dough, chocolate, caramel, and Reese's PB cups in vanilla ice cream. We both realized that the combination was better than our favorites alone... kinda like when you combine Russ and Stacey. Awwwww...

When we got back to downtown San Diego, we walked down to Seaport Village to pick up little souvenirs for the girls. Shells, of course! Then it was back to our car so we could head to La Jolla for our traditional dinner spot... Forever Fondue. Last year we got there early and were practically alone in the restaurant, so we weren't prepared for the dinner crowd and had to wait an hour to get in. No, there weren't a lot of people waiting, but there is a reason it's called forever fondue... it takes a long time to eat a fondue meal! We sat out on the patio for an entertaining round of people watching, and when we finally got seated it was nice to slow the pace down and ask each other hypothetical questions over dinner.

And to wonder why Russ' straw seemed to be moving under supernatural powers.

Even though it was late and sprinkling a little bit here and there, we just had to take our traditional walk on La Jolla Shores... the beach where we fell in love. Of course, we had our handy dandy hotel blanket in the back seat for warmth. After walking down a ways and back, we climbed onto the lifeguard tower. When we were dating, we did that once. We had a candle then, and the manual for the marriage preparation course. I guess it worked since we are still together! We wrapped up tight in that blanket and watched the surf roll in. It was dark, and I couldn't take a picture because some things are only meant for the human eye to see. Dark, heavy clouds pressing low in the sky with a few scattered breaks that let a couple stars shine through. White lines of surf materializing from the dark abyss and forever rolling forward, row after row, to bathe the shore in suds and glistening starlight. The pale orange glow of fires in the periphery and the hollow sound of distant voices... people having fun. I sat and took it all in...

We missed Mt. Soledad, but traditions don't have to be exactly the same... they should be a little new every time. Next year, we'll return, but for now it was enough to be there in that place. It will always be our place... the place where the story of "us" begins.

I'm waxing awfully poetic. Today is the actual day of our anniversary... twelve years. Twelve challenging, surprising, chaotic, wonderful, loving, rewarding years of marriage. I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes just thinking about how much we've been through. Every challenge has proven to strengthen our bond, our resolve, and our commitment to each other. I am thankful to be in a fulfilling marriage with a man who treats me right. I love that we can laugh together because we "get" each other, that we have shared hopes and dreams, that we are united in our family's cause, and that we support one another through it all. There is no one who knows me better than he does. Every face I put on when I go out into the world, every layer I use to cover my imperfections, every defense I put up to protect my heart... they are all stripped away when I come back home to him because I know I can trust him with even the most delicate pieces of my soul. He loves me for me. That's it. Warts and all. There's no price you can put on the safe feeling you get from someone who loves you at your very core.

All right, cue the barf bags. I gave you a warning in the title, so it's your own fault if you had to endure that. It was good to put that out in words, so that was for my benefit, y'all... if all y'all didn't bail already. Hehe.

This morning, we met back up with Russ' parents, the kids, and Russ' brother, Ian, and his family for a nice brunch and a short visit. Then we packed up and headed for home. The girls loved their shells, which they called "shell phones."

Happy 12th birthday, Johnston Family!!

Saturday, September 14, 2013


They say things break in threes. As happy as I was when my clunker of a dishwasher started leaking one day, I thought back and remembered the only other thing that has broken in the recent past was my computer. Although, what about the defective trailer tires? If you include those, we'd technically already have four... but maybe they don't count because the replacement cost per tire is under $100. It seems the three things that break have to be expensive and hurt a little when you have to replace them. It's like a rule of the universe.

Anyhow, when I could only remember one other expensive thing that broke, my heart sank a little as I started wondering what was going to break next. And then today happened. The morning was already off to a bad start. The one morning that I plan to sleep in every week is Saturday, and this week my little plan was foiled by Kallie who was having one of her all-night coughing and asthma spells. I want to be an angel mom with all the patience and sympathy in the world, but when she wakes up screaming for me multiple times in a night and I am already feeling like a zombie, I am weak. I'm a little callous. I'm a lot feeling sorry for myself. But I try. I even laid with her in her bed for a while last night. Poor thing couldn't get any air. This morning, Russ was gone at the lake with his Sunday school kids while I handed out the chores, the time-outs, cleaned up a pee accident, and rode herd. Then I had to round up all the kids and their shoes to drive Will to work. Yay. Will was panicking about being late, kids were still in jammies, Brandon had one girl flip-flop, and poor Kallie still wasn't feeling well. That in itself wouldn't be so bad except that she is always so dramatic. And there's Brandon who constantly yells about everything. I felt mistreated. I wasn't prepared for the day, and I'm sure it wasn't fun for the kids either.

Okay, the thing that broke was not my spirit. I mean, I couldn't really count that, right? Anyway, it seems not as bad now that I've complained about it. This is therapy. Continuing on, when Russ got home from the lake, I was defeated. I changed my name from Mom to... anything, really. When anyone said, "Mom" or "Mommy," I'd say she was gone. It was great. I laid down on the couch, a floppy sad mess. Russ tried to listen, to comfort me, to rub my back in hopes that it would help, but honestly I just wanted to be alone for a while. Then he dropped another bomb on me. Good timing, right? "Bad news, Stacey, a large vehicle drove by us and sprayed rocks all over the windshield. Now there are a bunch of chips on it, and one is so big it might not be repairable." Never have I had to replace a windshield, so I got rid of glass coverage on our car last year. Figures. Same with roadside assistance, which Russ was hoping for when he blew a tire. It always comes back to the tires. In all my driving life, I have never had a blown tire, and I sure haven't had a tire crap out on me after only three measly years and fewer than 2000 miles. The universe could actually be against me... I mean, the tires!! Not feeling lucky. Not going to go playing in a thunderstorm any time soon...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Saguaro Lake... Again

I'm tired and should be in bed. Part of me is afraid my cousin's wife could be right about me not blogging anymore now that I finally have a Facebook account. My readers are few, but I love going back and reading my stories about our family life. They always bring a smile to my face and remind me that I have a wonderful life.

So here I sit at 1AM, dead tired... not just because it's late, but because Brandon and Kallie woke us up early and then we spent the whole day on the lake. Russ crashed at 9:15, but he doesn't have the responsibility of being family historian, so he has that luxury. I went to the grocery store, cleaned up the kitchen, and put the kids to bed while he was sawing logs. Yeah, I'm everything to everyone in this house. And so it is that I'm up posting pictures from our trip.

Our friends came along, and their daughter happens to be one of Paige's favorite friends.

We started with a picnic and some beach play.

Glad our friends brought this fun tube. My kids used it more than anyone. I might have to invest in one now!!

After watching their mothers go on a death-defying ride where they caught air and one mom flew off (that would be me), the girls somehow still wanted to go for a ride. And the moms wanted to go again, too... everything was going fine until we got pulled over for not having an observer 12 or older on board!! We get pulled over on our boat more often than in our cars!

They had a difference of opinion about speed... I was sad I missed getting a picture of Paige's thumb down while her friend's thumb was up. We eventually convinced Paige to go a little faster.

Yeah, I have a lot of pictures like this. He's in his happy place, and how often does that happen? Hehe.

I love three things in this picture: Four Peaks, Saguaro Lake, and Russ. How's that for poetic? I got to point to the summit of those peaks today and say, "I was there in April." It was a much better feeling than last year when I just couldn't stop longing to go. I still long, but not quite as much.

Love sunlit photos... everything soaked in the warm glow of the sun with a few sparkles scattered about.

Told you they loved the tube! They would have been happy just staying at the beach and playing in the tube all day.

We finished out the day by running completely out of gas with the dock in sight. It was time to pull out the paddles for the first time ever! The going was slow and steady, but we didn't get too far before someone towed us in the rest of the way. As Dan Jones would say, "This is what memories are made of!" Too true. I've cracked my head open and gotten 11 stitches riding the water weenie and broken my leg while trying to get up on a ski, but I still finish every lake trip saying the same thing: "That was fun!!"

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

End of August Hodgepodge

The funny thing about rainstorms in Phoenix is that they come in fast, they come down hard, and then they disappear in a flash. So when my kids noticed it was raining, they wasted no time getting in their swimsuits to enjoy the storm. Kallie never misses a chance to use her umbrella, especially since they come so rarely. I mean, umbrellas are almost on the order of bridges and lighthouses... there's something a little magical about being sheltered by your umbrella as the rain falls all around you.

I love that she put on her goggles, too.

Will and Kyle took to the trampoline for their fun. Kyle was awful proud of his back flips.

Remember when my dad grew durum wheat on his farm last year? I've been making all sorts of delicious goods with the wheat, but since durum wheat is normally used for pasta, I decided to try to make fettuccine... without a pasta maker. The dough was easy enough, but rolling those suckers out? Boy howdy, I did not need my workout after that. As I was sweating it out with the rolling pin, I was thinking, "Pasta doesn't cost that much... why am I doing this?" But look how pretty!

One morning I walked in Brandon's room to find him sleeping like this:

Last weekend was my cousin's wedding reception, and I couldn't miss an opportunity to see cousins I don't see very often!! Since it was on a Thursday, Russ stayed home with the school-aged kids while Brandon and I hitched a ride with my dad and my grandma. Four generations! The day after the reception, we all met for lunch at Rosa's, and I got my picture with my aunt Cathy, cousin Erin, and cousin Shannon (aka The Rad Amigo).

Brandon played with my cousin Eric's legos while we waited for my dad to meet with Uncle Stan. Brandon wanted me to build a house for him, and it turned out much like the sad little gingerbread "outhouse" I made back in the day (thanks, Lori, for your encouraging words). Apparently I'm not much of an architect.

Woot. That is my tiny little cheer for the end of August. It's still stinkin' hot, but at least we have crossed the line into September and can look forward to some fun!