By the Month: A Photo Documentary of Mt. Olympus

Dec 30, 2021

I never wrote anything about my 2021 goals. I actually had decided on a focus (Be Still), and I had a bunch of goal contenders that I was giving careful thought to. I even had a few goals that I had already finalized and started to implement and work on. But before I could get a definitive plan in place, Aaron's bone marrow crashed, and all of my ambitions seemed rather trivial, and I honestly didn't have the mental bandwidth to even think about them

But I had one fun idea at the beginning of the year, and rather amazingly, I stuck with it throughout the entire twelve months. I chose a location (two, actually), and I took a photo from this same spot during each month in 2021. The idea was to just be more observant of my surroundings and appreciate the subtle changes that happen throughout the seasons.

The first location was just a little private path that I often walk or drive past. My favorite photo is actually the one from March. It doesn't look like much, but I can actually feel the season changing from winter to spring when I look at it. The ground is giving off that awakening scent and the buds on the trees are swelling and the sunshine is tinged with warmth, and everything feels like it's right on the cusp. 

The second location was my beloved Mt. Olympus. I chose a spot that had a clear view of the mountain, unobstructed by houses or buildings. The interesting thing about these photos is that they are only representative of one day out of an entire month, and I have found that the mountain looks very different depending on the day as well as the time. For something that stands so still, it is surprising how many looks it has. It is a living testimony to me of the craftsmanship and creativity of God. The saddest photo in this roundup is August. I waited all month to try to get a clear photo of the mountain, but it was covered in smoke from fires for most of the time.

I'd highly recommend this little exercise to anyone who wants to give greater attention to the transformative beauty of the things right in front of you. I know I picked up on lots of little details I never would have noticed otherwise, and it was amazing how gratitude naturally followed. I love where I live.

A Little of This and That in November

Dec 19, 2021

November was surprisingly warm and free of snow. It felt like we really got to enjoy a full-length fall this year instead of two weeks between summer and winter. This month was a good mix of normal days and out-of-the-ordinary activities. We spent our time . . . 

Finishing . . . off another Great British Bakeoff season. As has become the tradition, we watched the finale with our friends and enjoyed trying some of the bakes from the episodes. We are actually an entire season behind due to slowing way down with our watching while Aaron was recovering from his transplant.

Watching . . . the boys in the Primary program. All of them memorized their parts, and I was especially happy when Ian confidently approached the mic and said his part without prompting because that never happened when we tried to practice at home. Max got to be one of the narrators who spoke before each class got up to say their parts. He took this role very seriously and practiced quite a bit of his own volition. Afterwards, he got a lot of comments from people saying he should be a news anchor or on the radio. (He probably owes all of the credit to his fifth grade teacher from last year who was very good about coaching the kids to speak slowly and clearly.) 

Going . . . to the park. We had such a warm November that Ian and I met up with another mom and her son almost every week for a little park date. Ian is sometimes shy around other kids, but this other little boy has become a great friend of his. They just seem to get each other and spend the entire time playing in the sand with trucks or scampering up the slides or pushing each other on the merry go round. (The added benefit to this is that his mom and I get lots of uninterrupted time to chat!) Hopefully we'll have some nice days this winter so we can continue to get outside and play. 

Going . . . on a field trip with Bradley's class. They went to a production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Hale Center Theater. These are the best kinds of field trips to go on because you only have to keep track of your group of kids on the way in and on the way out, and the rest of the time, they're just in their seats enjoying the show (and I thoroughly enjoyed it, too!). 

Holding . . . my annual piano recital. I hadn't done one since our virtual recital in the spring of 2020. It was so nice to be able to have it in-person this time. I have thirteen students right now (that number includes my kids, except Ian), and all of them performed. It is really rewarding to work on and perfect and memorize pieces in order to make them performance ready, and it is also such a pleasant relief when it's all over and you can move onto other things (in this case, Christmas music!). 

Coming . . . this close to being diagnosed with gestational diabetes. At the same time Aaron was being told he no longer had diabetes, I was flirting with my own diagnosis. At 28 weeks, I had the 1-hour glucose test. It came back high (194, for those interested). I was absolutely positive I had gestational diabetes and immediately went on a low-carb diet (this was the weekend of Halloween, so no candy for me). My midwife said to come in a few days later for the 3-hour test, but this seemed like it was merely a formality since I had read online that anything over 190 was an automatic diabetes diagnosis. But I did the three-hour test anyway. As I drove home from it, I started getting a hot flash (very typical for me during this pregnancy). I was also feeling very hungry at this point. By the time I got home, I was feeling pretty sick and breaking out in a cold sweat. I felt like my blood sugar was low, so I did a quick finger poke to check it. It was only 45. At that point, I started eating as quickly as I could. When the official results came back from the test, my fasting glucose was normal (86), the first hour was high (184), the second hour was normal (136), and the third hour was low (46). So they said I didn't have gestational diabetes after all. However, I've been continuing to monitor my glucose, and it seems like I have a hard time coming back down quickly. So I've been trying to move after I eat and also avoid candy (which was way easier in November than it has been in December).

Getting . . . their first (and second) Covid vaccines. Maxwell, Bradley, and Clark were finally eligible for the Covid vaccine, and we didn't waste any time getting the jab. They were mostly excited about it. Max always gets a little nervous about needles, but he was able to talk himself down and hold still for it, and the other two didn't have any problems. I feel extremely grateful for this added protection for our family and only wish Ian was old enough to get it too.

Wishing . . . for chickens or a dog or rabbits or a parakeet or a bearded dragon. My kids beg for a pet all of the time. Every time we visit cousins or friends that have any sort of animal, they talk about getting their own. Sometimes, I wish I could be that kind of mom for them--the type that would welcome the opportunity to add any number of furry (or scaly) animals to the family. But I'm not. It is something of a miracle that I ever even said yes to a cat (and I kind of regret it every day). I always remind them that when they are adults, they can have any pet they choose (and at that point, they might realize how much work having a pet is and decide not to). In the meantime, they'll have to get their animal fill from other sources (and much thanks to everyone who is always so generous with sharing their pets with them!). 

Seeing . . . a physical therapist. True to my usual pattern in pregnancy, my hips began hurting right around 26 weeks. I decided to make an appointment with a physical therapist to see if there was anything that could be done to lessen the discomfort. This was my first time seeing a physical therapist. The one I chose to go to has a private practice and creates a very meditative environment. After the hour-long session, my hips felt better than they had in weeks. Unfortunately, in spite of my diligent efforts in doing the exercises she recommended every day, the relief hasn't lasted. The pain is worst in the middle of the night after I've been in a stationary position for a long time. 

Cutting . . . off his curls. Aaron's hair came back in super curly. After his first transplant, it was wavy, but this time, it was definitely curly. Unfortunately, he is not really a fan of curly hair and was anxious to cut it in the hopes that it would go back to its normal texture. We'll see. So far, it's still not straight but less curly than it was. 

Gagging . . . at the dentist. Ian loves the dentist. He looks forward to going every six months. He loves watching a show on the ceiling and getting a new toothbrush and using his little tokens at the end to get a couple of prizes. So I didn't feel the slightest trepidation about what was to come on his most recent visit (and neither did he). He'd been counting down the days until his appointment, and he cheerfully hopped up into the chair when it was his turn. The hygienist asked him if he wanted "birthday cake" or "cookie dough" toothpaste, and he chose "birthday cake." He opened up his mouth wide and was already laughing away at an episode of Loony Toones when the hygienist inserted the tool. And then, without warning, it happened. Ian gagged and vomited all over himself. The hygienist and I scrambled but were too late. Ian looked just as surprised as us. I cleaned him up as well as I could, and then the hygienist asked if she should try again. Ian was game (and actually quite cheerful about the whole thing), so he laid back down and opened his mouth again. The hygienist started with his front teeth, but as soon as she moved to the back, it happened again. More vomit, although this time I was at least on high alert. After that, we called it quits. Unfortunately, Aaron was having his teeth cleaned at the same time, so Ian (without a shirt) and I had to hang out in the waiting room until he was done. The happy ending to this story is that we rescheduled for a few days later (I made Mike take him this time), he went with mint toothpaste (in case the birthday cake flavor was the trigger last time), and he didn't have any trouble. 

Swimming . . . at a swim meet. Ever since Bradley's foot healed, he has been very dedicated to swim team. He had a swim meet early in the month and improved all of his times. I love individual sports where they mostly just compete against themselves. It's really motivating to him to see his hard work paying off. 

Creating . . . a baby names bracket. Trying to figure out what this baby's name should be has been hard. Nothing is standing out as the perfect name for him, and our kids are all very opinionated with their own ideas. I actually love that this has become somewhat of a family affair as we hash out ideas and debate the merits or drawbacks of each name. Aaron desperately wants to name the baby after a favorite character from a Brandon Sanderson book (Kalidan). Clark loves it when I add one of his suggestions to The List. After feeling like we were getting nowhere, Mike created a bracket, which each person filled out individually. There were 32 names on the bracket, and I was very discouraged by the end when Mike and I did not have any crossover in names in our final four. A couple of days later, Mike created another bracket. This one only included the top 16 from the previous bracket. This time we discussed and voted on each pair of names before moving on. This was much more helpful as we tried out each name with the middle name (which we've decided on), our last name, and the other boys' names. By the end of that bracket, I felt really good about the eight names that came out on top. So even though we haven't made any actual decisions yet, I think we're getting there.

Having . . . another quiet Thanksgiving at home. For the third year in a row, we chose to keep Thanksgiving small--in terms of people, but not in terms of food. Everyone in the family was involved in the preparation, and the kitchen was a continual busy hive of activity. Because we had so much food but not very many people to consume it all, we decided to break it up into four courses: appetizers, salads, main, and pies. This made it so that we were able to try everything, but we avoided that overstuffed/overfull feeling that often comes with Thanksgiving (except for Max, who wasn't able to show much self-control when the mashed potatoes came around). This also meant that we spent most of the day in the kitchen since it was a lot of cleaning up and preparing for the next course in between eating. My very favorite part of the day might have been between the salads and main course when Ian, Clark, Bradley, and I went over to the school parking lot to ride bikes/scooters and enjoy the gorgeous sunshine. We finished off the day by enjoying our last course (pies) with our good friends who live across the street and watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with them. 

Taking . . . a million Covid tests. That might be a slight exaggeration, but ever since the start of school, our kids have come down with an array of illnesses (even though their schools actually mask pretty well). This especially applies to Ian who is like a toddler all over again and seems to have a perpetual stuffy nose or cough. Every time they get something new, we take them to get a Covid test since, for Aaron's sake, we really would like to know as soon as possible if we're dealing with Covid. So far, we've managed to avoid it (I really don't know how since it seems like they're catching everything else). Ian has probably had the most tests out of all of the kids, but luckily, he actually seems to like them.

Cutting . . . down a Christmas tree. We tried something new this year. We got a permit and went into the mountains to find our own Christmas tree. Even though we live right by some mountains, there are only certain areas that offer permits for Christmas trees, so we actually had to drive a couple of hours to the designated spot. Mike was careful to read all of the rules ahead of time so he knew the approved places for tree cutting, what size/type of tree we were allowed to take, and what we needed to do to legally take it out of the forest. He also made sure he had the correct tools and gear to successfully chop down a tree. He was the real MVP of the day for sure. There wasn't any snow in the canyon we went to . . . but there also weren't a lot of small pine trees, at least not in close range. These are mountain forests, not flat forests, and all of the good trees tended to be at the tops of ridges (at least in the area we were in). Mike and the older boys scrabbled up to the top a few times, lured by a tantalizing tree, but they always returned empty-handed, mostly because the terrain was tricky enough to navigate without a tree, and they didn't know how to safely manage the descent with a tree in tow. Eventually, we settled on a tree we'd found early on in our search. We'd passed on it at first because it was a bit scraggly, but after all of the other attempts, we decided it was the best one. And we ended up falling in love with all of its imperfections (and affectionately naming it Willoughby after one of our favorite Christmas books, Mr. Willoughby's Christmas Tree).  There is definitely a feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes with searching and finding just the right Christmas tree. I think we're all pretty attached to it. 

Decorating . . . the tree. We only put up about half of our ornaments because our little Willoughby was smaller and less robust than our artificial tree. Many of our ornaments are just filler ornaments anyway, so I didn't mind. Ian was so tired from the Christmas tree excursion earlier in the day that he fell asleep before it was time to decorate, but he got in on the action with some of the other decorations. 

Resuming . . . a favorite tradition. Mike's family goes to a performance of Messiah every year--usually at Abravanel Hall with the Utah Symphony, but not always. We've had to miss the last two years due to Aaron's health and Covid, but it happened again this year. Sadly, it wasn't a sing-in and we definitely missed the energy that comes from uniting our voices with hundreds of other people in this beautiful music, but it still worked its magic on us and made us feel the Christmas spirit. 

Putting . . . up the Christmas lights. Last year, Aaron helped with this task. This year, Bradley did it. My kids will take any excuse to get up on the roof. 

The year is flying by. As much as I'm looking forward to saying goodbye to 2021, it has been filled with a lot of good, and I'm glad to have a record of it here. 

The End of an Era: Harry Potter #7

Dec 14, 2021

I read aloud the first Harry Potter book to Aaron and Maxwell when they were seven and five, respectively. 

It was always my plan to read one HP book every fall until we were finished with the series. And amazingly, we stuck with that plan. My kids never read ahead, even as their friends methodically spoiled every single plot point over the years. 

It has been something we've looked forward to with great anticipation at the beginning of every school year. Harry's adventures have been as distinct a part of the season for us as pumpkins and crunchy leaves.

If you've done the math, you know where this is going, right? One book a year, starting in 2015, meant that we were up to #7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this fall. Aaron and Maxwell are now 13 and 11, respectively. When we cracked the cover and read the opening line ("The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane"), it felt momentous--the beginning of the end.

To be honest, this seventh book was bittersweet, right from the start. I felt myself holding onto this sweet, fun tradition with my kids. We were excited to finally see how the series ended (especially me, since I had somehow managed to avoid most spoilers) but also so sad to know there wouldn't be any more books after this. 

Also, I know this won't be news to anyone, but this last book was intense. It was a continuous stream of battle followed by near-death (or death) followed by confrontation-with-Voldemort followed by battle, etc. What would have been the climax in any of the other books was just getting things going in this one. It felt a little relentless and exhausting, especially with so many favorite characters dying. My kids already knew about most of the deaths before they happened, but I didn't, and they took an emotional toll on me. 

And yet, despite it not being at all carefree or pleasant, this book was absolutely masterful. I was amazed with the way everything came together: pieces from past books suddenly returned with a purpose that was unseen before. Additionally, the complexity of the characters--their many layers and mistakes and triumphs--left us questioning our previous loyalties: Dumbledore so beloved but also selfish; Snape so despised but also loyal. 

As Harry himself grappled with combining what he thought he knew with unpleasant revelations, I found the following scene rather profound: Hermione said, "'But you know how much truth there was in everything Rita wrote about you! . . . How can you let these people tarnish your memories of Dumbledore?' [Harry] looked away, trying not to betray the resentment he felt. There it was again: Choose what to believe." I feel like this is the type of decision we all face at some point (sometimes over and over again): How are we going to move forward with the evidence we have about someone? Will we let the good in them overshadow the bad or vice versa? Will we give them the opportunity to become a better version of themselves? Or will we do all we can to keep them trapped in a self-made box of mistakes? As Kingsley later said, "Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving." 

We finished the seventh over Thanksgiving break. After reading a combined total of 4100 pages over the course of seven years on beautiful late-summer evenings on the front porch and chilly fall evenings around the fire, we finally read the words, "The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well." It felt good. It felt satisfying. It felt right. But it also felt so, so sad. It is hard to see a good series come to an end, especially one that literally accompanied the coming of age of my kids. These books encompassed a significant part of their childhoods, and they will always remember them.

But as this annual tradition comes to a close, you might be wondering, "What about your other kids?" 

I'm kind of wondering the same thing.

You see, when I came up with this idea of reading one HP book every fall, it seemed so perfect. I wrote about all of my reasons for reading them aloud and spacing them out in this post from 2016. Everything in that post worked perfectly for Aaron and Max. From start to finish, the experience was dreamy and magical and just so fun. 

But you want to know who got the short end of the stick? Bradley.

This is how the Harry Potter series went for him:

2015 (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone): He was barely four years old and not interested in listening to a long book. 

2016 (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets): He had a longer attention span and joined in the listening with his brothers.

2017 (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban): He thoroughly enjoyed listening to the book.

2018 (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone): He was barely seven years old; I thought he was too young for the dark themes in #4; Mike started the series over with Bradley and Clark.

2019 (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets): Mike read aloud to Bradley and Clark while I read #5 to Aaron and Max (side note: biggest slog of the series for us).

2020 (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban/Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire): Mike attempted to read #3 to Bradley and Clark; Clark got bored and complained about it every time they tried to read; Bradley got frustrated that they couldn't even make it through a book he'd already heard before; I compromised by letting him listen to the audio version of #4 on his own.

2021 (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix/Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince/Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows): It was a bumper HP year for Bradley as I realized that things hadn't worked out for him. I let him listen to the audio versions of #5 and #6 so he would be caught up and be able to read #7 with Aaron, Max, and me.

Although the series ended on a high note for him, and it was so fun to have him back with us for the last book, I feel like his experience with the series was much different from the other two. And I feel really sad about that. For Aaron and Max, it was this seamless, predictable, comforting experience. For Bradley, it was a disjointed jumble. 

Looking back, I don't know what I should have done differently. All I know is that my "perfect plan" wasn't very perfect for him. Having a bigger family makes some traditions harder to navigate when you're trying to cater to different ages and needs. 

But looking forward, I'm making plans for what to do now. I can't imagine next fall without some Harry Potter in it. And I think Clark might finally be more on board with it and probably Ian, too. So I might just start over with the series, reading specifically to those two but knowing that Aaron, Max, and Bradley will most likely be pulled into the story again if they are home in the evenings. It might be even more of a family experience than it was the first time through, which might make it even better.

But I think I might let Jim Dale read #5 for me because I just don't know if I can do that one again. 

A Little of This and That in October

Nov 21, 2021

I have felt the rapidity of time quite acutely lately, which is ironic since I'm beginning to feel very uncomfortable pregnancy-wise, and it still feels like I have a looooong way to go. And yet, the weeks still seem to fly by. Hence, it has taken me most of this month to write up some of our activities from October. Some months are like that. Here's a snapshot of the month, with such things as . . .   

Leaving . . . my comfort zone. I was in charge of planning dates for Mike and me in October. The mountains were bursting with fall colors, and I thought it might be fun to do something we've never done before and ride the ski lift to get a bird's eye view of them. I had to hype myself up a little in order to do this because I have a fairly significant fear of heights. I get lightheaded and a little woozy if I feel like I don't have some sort of protection. Also, in spite of living all of my life in either Colorado or Utah, I had never been on a ski lift before (ski lift-esque rides, yes; actual ski lift, no; and there's a definite difference). I did a little research before we went to make sure there was at least a bar that would go down over our laps, but when we actually got there, I discovered that it was basically the most primitive bar ever (not up to amusement park safety standards in the slightest). Some of the chairs didn't even have bars. And whether there was a bar or not, I could quickly see that most people riding chose not to put the bar down. Still, we had our tickets, so I was determined to ride. We waited until a chair came with a bar, we conspicuously put the bar down, and we were off. And despite feeling like I was completely out of my element, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The air was crisp and fragrant, and it was so peaceful. As expected, the colors were spectacular. (The one thing that put a damper on the experience was that a family was riding at the same time as us. They had four kids, the youngest being around 2 years old. If there's one thing that makes heights even worse for me, it's seeing little kids at those same heights.) When we got to the top, we went on a short hike to Solitude Lake. Then we got back on the lift and headed back down. We ate ice cream and pizza (in that order) at the resort before going home. Even though it's always a little nerve wracking for me to try something new, I'm almost always glad I did. In this particular case, it was an absolutely lovely fall date with Mike, and I highly recommend it (just don't bring a two-year-old . . . ). 

Saying . . . goodbye to Patience. Maxwell cared for his little praying mantis for a good three months. Every night, he would go out into the front yard to find a moth or fly or box elder bug for her to eat. It was a little ritual for him. She grew and molted and grew and molted, and he truly loved everything about her. But with the onset of fall, we knew her days were probably numbered. Rather than waiting for her to die in her cage, Max decided to let her go. He waited for some nice weather and then released her in the garden. It was bittersweet for him, and for the next few days, he didn't even want anyone to mention her name because he was so sad to have her gone. 

Taking . . . his last dose of tacro! Woo-hoo! Aaron was so glad to reach this milestone again in the transplant process and to get to it three months faster than last time. We realized when he took his last pill that if his doctors had followed the same timeline as last time, he wouldn't have even started the taper yet, but instead, he was completely done.

Visiting . . . our favorite pumpkin patch. We grew pumpkins in our garden this year, but only ended up with a couple (affectionately named Big Bill and Giant Jim), so we were definitely in need of some more.  There were a couple of people in our family who would have preferred a quick trip to the grocery store to grab a few pumpkins, but most of us love the experience that comes with picking a pumpkin directly from the field where it was grown. So we headed to our very favorite family-owned pumpkin patch. We've tried out other places over the years, but this is the one we always return to. No fuss. No frills. Just lots and lots of pumpkins in a giant field. We went on a perfect fall evening--warm enough that we didn't need jackets and early enough that there weren't any crowds. We ended the evening by picking up pizza from The Pie. It was pretty perfect.

Painting . . . and carving and doing all of the usual things you do to pumpkins. I hardly took any photos of these happenings though--not typical of me.

Performing . . . in the first band concert of the school year. Both Aaron and Max played . . . Max on saxophone in the foundations group and Aaron on trombone in the jazz band. (Aaron is also in concert band, but he didn't go back to school full time until after the concert, so at the time, he was only attending jazz band.) It was so fun to hear both of them play. I am continually impressed by the quality of the music at their junior high. I know that I'm biased because my kids are playing, but I would actually pay money to hear the jazz band; they're that good. Aaron, as I'm sure you can guess, was pretty pumped the whole evening. 

Resurrecting . . . my fiddle leaf plant. You probably don't remember my sad fiddle leaf tale back in March. Basically, my fiddle leaf plant was slowly dying, and it was very depressing. I moved it to a different location in the house that received more natural light and started giving it a little boost of plant food every 4-8 weeks, and it is now a thriving monstrosity. Not only is it taller than all of us, it sent off another chute that is also doing really well. At this point, my worry has switched from "How do I keep this thing alive?" to "What do I do when it starts taking over the living room?" I'm interested to see if it continues to thrive during the winter months or if it experiences another setback like it did last year. 

Returning . . . to school. I already wrote about this, but Aaron went back to school at the end of the month after a long hiatus. A happy day for all of us!.

Attending . . . the temple for the first time. What with two bone marrow transplants and a pandemic, it has been nearly two years since Aaron was old enough to go to the temple without being able to actually go. But finally, finally, everything worked out in his favor. Several months ago, my sister-in-law snagged a time slot at the Ogden temple (appointments have been a little hard to come by, especially for baptisms). They were allowed to have up to sixteen people in her group, so she asked if we wanted to come too. It ended up being Sonja and her husband and three of their kids, Mike, Aaron, and me, and Mike's mom. It was a small, intimate group, and it could not have been a more ideal first-experience for Aaron. 

Sharing . . . clothes (accidentally). One morning, I went to grab my jacket before walking to the bus stop with Bradley and Clark. I couldn't find mine, but I found Maxwell's (both are dark gray). I realized that he must have accidentally worn mine to school instead of his own. For some reason, this cracked me up. Not only did mine have a rose gold zipper, but it was also a maternity jacket with gathers at the sides to accommodate a belly. When he got home, he said he realized pretty quickly that he'd taken the wrong jacket, but luckily, it was a warm day and he didn't need it after the walk to school. 

Getting . . . our first snow, which amounted to just enough to scrape together a little snowball on the walk to school. Mostly, we just got a lot of rain in October, which I loved.

Visiting . . . Hill Air Force Base. On a quick weekend trip to Logan, we made a stop at Hill Air Force Base to look at all of the airplanes. We had been to the museum once before, but Clark and Ian were too young at the time to remember it. We could have spent hours there (maybe even days) if we'd taken the time to read all of the info. But going with a four-year-old meant that we did the fast tour and walked past all of the planes in about an hour. As we were leaving, one of the guides said, "Are you already leaving? Did you go all the way to the back? Did you see everything?" I don't think he was impressed by our efficiency. 

Spending . . . time at the cabin. We went to the cabin for a couple of days during fall break. Mike's sister and her family were there too, which meant my kids were in heaven because there was a constant stream of games. The fall colors were beautiful, but there were many fallen branches and trees (the snow storm that brought so little snow to Salt Lake dumped many inches in Logan Canyon). We always enjoy the reprieve that comes from spending time in the mountains.

Finishing . . . a cardigan. I finally finished one of my big knitting projects that I started at the end of summer. Cardigans are definitely one of my favorite things to wear because they're so easy to layer with other things. (And right now, I've been getting all sorts of hot flashes so it's nice to have something that's easy to take off at a moment's notice.) I have a few light-colored cardigans, so I wanted a dark one I could wear with anything. I love the color, the style, the fit, and that cozy shawl collar (which alone took an entire week to knit). I've been wearing it a lot this fall.

Deciding . . . on a Halloween theme. Ever since Aaron was a baby, we have done a family costume. Usually, the boys have decided on a theme months in advance, but this year, nothing was sticking. We talked about it at dinner over and over again, and the best they could come up with was "super mega BYU fans". . . whatever that means. I finally decided we better just go with it, and even though it didn't sound very exciting, it at least seemed like it would be easy. But then, three weeks before Halloween, I was chatting with my friend, and I mentioned something about wishing I could have thought of a movie or book or group that had a good pregnant character (since, even though this is my sixth time being pregnant, it's really the only one where the timing has worked out to look pregnant on Halloween). My friend suddenly said, "I know exactly who you should be!" She reminded me that the mom, Chicha, in The Emperor's New Groove is very pregnant. As soon as she suggested it, I knew it was the perfect idea. I also knew I'd have no trouble convincing my family change ideas: The Emperor's New Groove is a Johnson family classic. My kids can quote almost the entire movie. Once they start with the quotes, they just pour out of them. And sure enough, by that evening, we had settled on all of our characters with very little fuss: Mike--Pacha, me--Chicha, Aaron--Kronk, Maxwell--Kuzco, Bradley--Theme Song Guy, Clark--Kuzco (the llama), and Ian--the little old man who gets thrown off the balcony. Was this more work than the BYU costumes would have been? No question. It was a joint effort between Mike and me with many trips to the fabric store and trading back and forth on the sewing machine. Only one of us (me) had a full-on meltdown one day, but other than that, we methodically checked off all of the pieces of each costume, and by the end, we made a pretty convincing cast (minus Yzma, whose absence was acutely felt). The family costume lived to see another year, and it might have been our favorite one yet. 

Walking . . . the neighborhood on Halloween. Actually, our neighborhood celebrated the day before Halloween (on Saturday). This was so nice. I would love to permanently move Halloween to the last Saturday of October. It's just so great not to have to worry about going to school the next day. We had absolutely perfect weather for it--sunny and warm. First we went to our old neighborhood for their Halloween parade--a tradition I highly recommend. They do it in the late afternoon before it gets dark and cold and all of the neighbors set up trick-or-treating stations on their porches or at the ends of their driveways. It's easy to see everyone and stop for a couple of minutes for a quick chat. People were easily able to recognize our family theme (unlike some of the more obscure years in the past). After we got back, Max went trick-or-treating with his friends, Mike took Bradley and Clark around the neighborhood, and Ian and I stayed home and passed out candy. Aaron also went out with one of his friends, and they got called out for being too old for trick-or-treating, which was probably fair (they are 13, after all), but at the same time, I thought they could cut them some slack since they were both dressed up in legitimate costumes, not grabbing handfuls of candy, and were nice and polite. I, for one, was actually so glad they weren't ready to give up on their childhood quite yet. 

I'm sure there were other things I meant to tell you about, but October was so long ago they've slipped my mind! Until next time . . . 

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