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.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Howdy from Cheyenne, Wyoming!

Get ready for picture overload. I don't know if I should be letting this secret out, but Melanie really knows how to entertain her guests. First I got to help her heave an old TV into the trash. Wahoo! I found out why later. She is so fancy that she has TWO flat screen TV's in the basement, one on the main floor, and COUCHES in every bedroom. We were chillin' in style there. Sadly, Paige developed an ear infection on the drive to Wyoming and had to endure severe pain for a couple of hours, as there is really hardly anything in that whole state. As soon as we rolled in, Tad and Melanie watched Kallie and Brandon while Paige and I dashed off to urgent care. We got the needed antibiotic, and then her eardrum ended up bursting, providing sweet relief. I was actually thankful. The next morning, Melanie had a day of adventure planned. We started off at the children's village, and the kids headed straight for the water.

I tried to do the cell phone audio tour to learn about why this dog's house was important, but it was too boring. The kids inside were not, however.

The kids spent a lot of time crossing the stream on this sliding bridge.

Kallie and Gavin crawled inside the teepee and found some stickers, which they decided to use to decorate the inside.

There were so many cute features to this village. The kids loved following the waterways.

Kallie found the door to the secret garden!

There were tables set around the village with activities for the kids. Here they were building with miniature bricks.

Goodbye Children's Village!!

Next we had a nice picnic in the treetops. Dang, we had to spend beaucoup bucks and endure less than mediocre Mexican food in Utah to eat like this at the Mayan!

This treehouse, which was set amongst the trees but wasn't actually attached to any trees, had several levels.

It was great fun!

After being so hot and sunny in the morning, it was a surprise when the sky clouded over and started pouring rain! Luckily, we headed inside the train depot just at the right time to visit the train museum.

A model train the kids could operate.

Some crazy dude spent like 30 years building this model train system that depicted actual places on a certain train route. It was still in the process of construction, but it was actually pretty impressive.

The kids were mesmerized by it.

The next day, we headed to Terry Bison Ranch to feed the buffalo. This is where I purchased my genuine Wyoming cowgirl hat, made in China. Paige looked awful cute in it. All aboard!!

We bought two bags of feed for the buffalo, and when the train got out to the area where the buffalo were, the conductor told us to tap the food against the train to get the buffalo to come toward us. They didn't seem very hungry, but we got some takers.

After about fifteen minutes, it was time to head back.

But the fun didn't stop there! There were a whole lot of other animals at the ranch, and our first stop was at the llamas.

They thought we were a funky bunch. I like how they're all standing there checking us out.

There was a catwalk above all the pens.

After we were done seeing the animals, the fun really began... about a hundred pictures of kids with their heads sticking out of murals. I'll spare you and only post two.

Kallie looked awful cute in the cowgirl hat, too. You can just imagine that by relation, I must've looked quite adorable myself. Hahaha!

Of all the pictures, I have to say this is my favorite!! Two cute little cowfolk.

And then there were the endless buffalo and jackalope pictures inside the gift shop. The fun just doesn't stop!

When we got back to the house, Melanie set the sprinkler on the trampoline for all the kids to freeze their booties off.

Luckily they had the spa on the back deck to warm them up again.

Since it was raining the day before when we visited downtown Cheyenne, the kids and I went back for our photo ops by some of the big boots of Cheyenne. As in North Dakota, it's a darn good thing the days are so long in the summer so we could squeeze in all our fun before the sun went down!

The next day before we took off for Colorado, Melanie introduced me to the deliciousness that is Eileen's Cookies. Oh man. I must admit I have craved one a time or two since then!

One last goodbye.

We will never forget our wild west adventures in Cheyenne!!