A Little of This and That in October

Nov 8, 2020

"O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October's bright blue weather."

Gretchen Rubin alerted me to this poem by Helen Hunt Jackson at the beginning of October, and I fell madly in love with it. The above is only the first stanza, but the whole poem captures the feeling of fall so well. And because of this poem, I was aware of just how many "bright blue" days we had in October, and I feel like I appreciated them more than I ever have. One of those was on a family hike in Bryce Canyon. The sky was absolutely clear and just the brightest, most brilliant blue. I gathered my kids around and read this poem aloud as we stood under that most perfect of skies; that's just the kind of nerdy mom I am. That is one of my favorite memories from the month, but here are a few more . . . 

Listening . . . to General Conference. What a treat it was this year. I don't know when it has ever lifted my soul more than it did this time. The messages were full of hope and healing and encouragement. 

Visiting . . . one of the most quirky spots in Salt Lake City. Ian and I have been looking for things to do in the mornings while the boys are at school. One day, we were planning to explore the Salt Lake City cemetery with a friend, but it was closed due to the windstorm last month. So my friend suggested we go to Gilgal Garden instead. I had never heard of it but was game to try something new. It took me two passes down the street to even find it because it was completely tucked away right on the edge of downtown Salt Lake. It was small but filled with an unusual and eclectic mix of statues that had both religious and historical significance. Jill and I stopped at each statue to read about its symbolism, and Ian ran around and climbed on things that he wasn't supposed to. I loved this little oasis hidden in an urban environment.

Replacing . . . the flooring in the living room with carpet. When we bought this house, there was beautiful cherrywood in the living room. I know some people love wood floors, but we didn't like this one for a number of reasons: it didn't match the other flooring in the house, it made the room feel formal rather than cozy, and it showed up every speck of dust or footprint. As the weather began to turn, we started to feel a sense of urgency to put carpet in that room. We couldn't bear the thought of facing winter with that cold, austere floor. So even though we've been working on the office right now, we decided to switch gears for the moment. I expected this to be a long process since Mike and I are both quite terrible at making decisions. But we decided to go to this carpet warehouse on a Friday, and by the following Tuesday afternoon, the cherrywood was gone and the carpet was installed. It was perhaps the slickest, quickest, most pain-free decision of our entire marriage. Plus, because we went the warehouse direction, it was very affordable. The cherrywood was a beast to take up--it was not keen to leave and was only pried free by Mike after much painful splintering. But we have enjoyed the new carpet so much already that I'm glad we didn't wait a moment longer to get it. 

Choosing . . . a pumpkin. It has been several years since we'd been to a favorite family-owned pumpkin patch. But this year we opted for it because we were trying to avoid a bunch of crowded activities like corn mazes or hay rides. It was absolutely lovely. It reminded me of how much I love going to a pumpkin patch that is simply that--a pumpkin patch. The boys ran through the fields searching for the most perfectly round and orange pumpkins and by the end of the evening, we had filled up our wagon with a dozen pumpkins to bring home.

Spending . . . time at the farm. Over the last few weeks, we've had a couple of outings to Wheeler Farm: once with some friends and again with my sister-in-law and niece. The mornings were cool enough that remembering jackets would have been nice, but it warmed up as soon as the sun came out, and then it was perfect. We roamed around without a real plan, always ending up at my kids' favorite tree with the twisty horizontal branches just perfect for scampering over.

Passing . . . the sacrament. This month we started going to church regularly, and now that Aaron has the all-clear on his health, he was finally able to help pass the sacrament. I'm so grateful though for the many times he got to do it at home leading up to this. 

Hiking . . . in Millcreek Canyon. Mike and I went on a short hike for date night, and it was breathtakingly beautiful. I kept stopping to take pictures only to be disappointed again and again that what I was seeing through my lens did not come even close to what I was seeing in real life. The colors were just magnificent: ombre tones creeping up to the tops of trees, bright patches of red, a confetti carpet under our feet. It just felt like a privilege to be out in it, drinking in the cold, spicy air.

Riding . . . my bike. I couldn't let these beautiful fall days pass without going on a bike ride with my mom.  I wish we lived a little closer so that this could be more of a daily activity instead of monthly or quarterly. But still, it was a lovely afternoon of chatting and riding through all of the fall foliage. 

Making . . . friends. I tried to be a little more proactive with texting people to go to the park or on a walk. I also enjoyed going to a Relief Society activity and attending church meetings over zoom. I am naturally quite introverted, so it is hard for me to take the first step in introducing myself or inviting someone to hang out. However, deep down I really do love people, so I know that in the end it will be worth the discomfort and vulnerability I feel in putting myself out there. 

Taking . . . family photos. We avoided turning this into the usual ordeal by not deciding until the day before that we were going to do family pictures and not deciding until an hour before what we were going to wear. Mike only had to make one emergency trip to the store for an item of clothing. Mike's sister, Sonja, was kind enough to be our impromtu photographer. All in all, it was quick, painless, and successful.

Eating . . . dinner in the canyon. Following family pictures, we stayed in the canyon with Sonja's family for dutch oven lasagna, woofies, and gourmet s'mores. We had avoided campfires all spring and summer to protect Aaron's lungs, so it was quite a treat to be able to sit around and roast marshmallows and watch the fire crackle and pop. We all came home reeking of smoke, which seemed just about perfect.

Receiving . . . a calling as organist. I finally have a calling in my new ward; I'm one of the organists for sacrament meeting. It has been a long time since I've had this calling, and I feel mostly happy about it. Mike also received a calling; he is now a deacon's quorum advisor, which means he gets to go to lessons and activities with Aaron. I'm glad we can serve and get more involved with our ward. 

Going . . . on a real family vacation for fall break. We've done a handful of day trips during the pandemic, but we hadn't been on a real vacation since our Lake Tahoe trip right before Aaron was diagnosed. As we looked at all of those empty days of fall break, we decided it was finally time. There are many spots in southern Utah that we haven't explored, so we settled on Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Goblin Valley. And it was just a fantastic trip in every possible way. The weather was perfect, the scenery was breathtaking, the children were agreeable (for the most part), and we got to see so many new things. My parents and three of my siblings joined us for the second half of the trip, which was a fun addition. We went on hikes and beautiful drives, did a stargazing tour, caught lizards, and even ate some delicious food (a bit of a surprise since most places had already closed for the season). 

But the best part of the trip was . . . 

Climbing . . . all over hoodoos. The goblins of Goblin Valley were definitely my kids' favorite part of the trip. It was like an epic playground and climbing gym--hundreds of rock formations, each one of them different, just begging to be climbed and scampered over. There isn't anything manmade that could compare to it. It was a literal paradise for my kids. We spent a couple of hours there, and as we were getting ready to leave, Bradley said, "Can I just run over and climb one last one?" It was almost too much for him to think of leaving before he had personally climbed over every single one (but that would have taken days). In this modern age of conservation, I recognize the importance of preserving our national monuments and parks, but it was so refreshing in this one place to have the rules removed and just be able to have a really tactile, physical experience. We loved it.

Watching . . . the falling snow. We got home from our trip just in time for the first snowfall. The boys ran out in it with no shoes. As they jumped and ran and bounced around, they looked like they were doing some kind of ritualistic dance. Maybe that's what it was--a way to welcome the first snow of the season.

Enjoying . . . Aaron's first jazz band concert. I wrote many sappy details on this post

Making . . . something old, new again. A couple of months ago, I ripped out the very first sweater that I made for myself almost three years ago. I just wasn't wearing it very much anymore, so I decided to turn it into something else. It was so liberating to take it back down to a few skeins of yarn and knit it into something completely different. Plus, this was one of the most enjoyable shawls I've ever knit. It was constructed sideways, so on every row, I did just a little bit of the lace border. With other shawls I've done, the border comes at the very end, but I loved having the border happen at the same time as the rest of the shawl. It was both engaging and meditative, and that is pretty much an ideal project for me. 

Poisoning . . . aspen trees. When we bought our home six months ago, we knew the aspen trees in the front yard would have to go. There were at least eighty of them, and we knew that number would continue to grow exponentially over the years. The previous owners had let the aspens spread on purpose. They loved them and had a bench nestled in the middle of them. The irony is that no one else in the neighborhood liked them, and this subject has been the number one thing that people want to talk about when we meet them for the first time: "Hi, I'm _______. What do you think of the aspens????" Mike read up on how to kill them, and, because of their connected root system, it is a long process. Some people have told us to expect it to take at least three years. The general recommendation was to poison them in the fall so that the sap would carry the poison throughout the roots, so that is what Mike did. Now we'll wait out the winter before we chop them all down in the spring. I read this quote from author Kaya McLaren and thought it a fitting tribute: "Go spend time with the aspen trees. They'll tell you how it works. They'll tell you to look to your roots for energy. They'll tell you there's warmth below the surface." I agree, but I think I'll connect with the aspens in the mountains instead of my front yard.

Trying . . . to write blog posts. I started several posts this month but only published one of them. But I had a little lightning bolt moment when I realized my phone is inhibiting my ability to write because it distracts me during the key moments of the day--not necessarily during moments when I might be writing but during moments when I would be thinking, which is the kindling needed for writing. 

Painting . . . and carving pumpkins. If I'm being honest, these activities feel somewhat obligatory, but they're important to my kids, so I guess they're worth the hassle and mess. Ian is really the only one who still needs help. He had Mike carve his pumpkin to look like Pumpkin Jack from a favorite picture book. All of the other pumpkins have since been thrown away, but Pumpkin Jack is still kicking because Ian is fascinated by his slow sagging and deterioration. 

Making . . . Halloween costumes. Our kids have been talking about and planning their costumes since last November. They really wanted to go as characters from BYUtv's sketch comedy show, Studio C. It's not like you can go out and just buy a Captain Literally costume, so we knew this theme was going to require time and creativity. I am a big fan of homemade costumes, but they do take a lot more work, and there were a few stressful points when I thought we weren't going to be able to track down the pieces we needed (much thanks to my friend, Abby, who came through with green polyester pants for me at the last minute). In the end, everything came together, and we were all super pleased with the results. Mike was Scott Sterling, I was Ann Withers, Aaron was Jeremy, Maxwell was Lobster Bisque, Bradley was the Love Janitor, Clark was Captain Literally, and Ian was Awkward Avoidance Viking. (I've included links to a skit of each of these characters so you can watch if you've never seen them.) Most people had no idea who we were, but for those who did, the recognition was immediate. My kids had me cracking up all night with their impressions, and even I couldn't help getting into Ann Withers' character. 


Buying . . . so much fabric. I don't know what got into me, but my love of sewing was suddenly rekindled in one, swift burst. And I coped by buying enough fabric for eight different garments. A Halloween sewing project (Maxwell's gold vest) detained me from diving into it, but I felt a little thrill every time I looked at that towering pile of potential. 

Listening . . . to Dreamsicle. My dear friend, Sarah, and her friend, Megan (who I also know and love, but only virtually) recently started a podcast about dreams, spiritual gifts, personal revelation, and feeling the love of our Heavenly Parents and Jesus Christ. It is just fantastic in every way--from the quality of the production to the natural dynamic Megan and Sarah have to the deep spiritual insights they share. It has already enriched my life in so many ways, and I highly recommend it if your life could use a spiritual boost, too. I kind of feel like both of these women are my spiritual mentors, and I'm happy to share them with you. (Bonus: Aaron gets a mention in Episode 8!)

Celebrating . . . Halloween all. day. long. Don't get me wrong--having Halloween on a Saturday definitely has its perks, but an open schedule meant that we filled it up with all the things. We put on our costumes around noon and decided to go show them off to my parents . . . and then my brother . . . and then Mike's sister . . . and then Mike's parents. By the time we were done driving all over the valley, it was almost time for our old neighborhood's Halloween parade. This was a very well-coordinated event with everyone setting up a table or bowl or even a slide on their driveways, and then all of the families walking down the streets and trick-or-treating but in a safe way. It was great that it was in the late afternoon so everyone could see each other and it was still nice and warm. I hope it becomes a tradition. After the parade, we went home for a dinner of fruits and veggies, and then we went trick-or-treating in our new neighborhood. In contrast to the parade, it was not at all clear or obvious what we were supposed to do. Every house kind of did their own thing: some were set up outside, some wanted kids to ring their doorbells, some had their porch lights on but didn't want trick-or-treaters. Because of covid, it felt like everyone needed to be on the same page with clear expectations, but they weren't. We still had a fun evening though and were very impressed with the creativity of people in making things fun and safe. Even though it was long, it was one of the best Halloweens we've ever had. 

Whew. I hadn't realized October was so busy until I wrote it all down. November is already proving to be much more subdued. How was your month?


  1. Lovely pictures and I love your costumes, even if I wouldn't have recognized them. I have often wished for an Awkward Avoidance Viking in my life...

  2. Amy, I feel like I've been out of the blogging world this year, but I wanted to pop in and say how much I still love reading everything you write, and I'm so glad you're still here. Also, on your recommendation I've been listening to Dreamsicle, and thank you so much for that introduction! It's been just the spiritual boost I've needed! I love the way they approach revelation and spirituality, it's beautiful.


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