Thursday, May 22, 2014

Summer of Fun 2014

I am so looking forward to an amazing summer. Truthfully, it wouldn't even have to be too amazing, just as long as it doesn't involve driving kids to and from school every day, I will be a very happy camper! We will generally be doing an outing every Friday at 10am with the exception of exceptions. The plan is to meet on site at 10am. Hopefully we get to see you at some point!

June 6th - Museum of Natural Curiosity
This is a new museum at Thanksgiving point. It looks amazing, and very likely that I will lose one or more of my children in this place. I'm thinking of tattooing my information to their foreheads. It is on the pricey side, but looks very worth it (the museum, not the tattoo)
$15/adults, $12/children (ages 3-12).

June 20th - Ogden Treehouse Museum
$5/adults,  $6/children (ages 1-12)

June 27th - Tracy Aviary/Liberty Park
We will meet at the Aviary, and go to the Liberty Park water area for lunch.
Aviary admissions - $7/adults, $5/children (ages 3-12)

July 2nd - Utah Museum of Fine Arts
Please note this is a Wednesday, not a Friday. The museum is free the first Wednesday of each month.

July 11th - Odgen Eccles Dinosaur Park
$7/adults, $5/children (ages 2-12)

July 18th - Hogle Zoo
If the weather is getting toasty, we will plan to meet at the gate at 9am instead of 10am to avoid some of the heat. $14.95/adults, $10.95/children (ages 3-12).

July 25th - Living Planet Aquarium
$15.95/adults, $10.95/children (ages 3-12)

August 1st - Natural History Museum
$11/adults, $8/children (ages 3-12)

August 22nd - International Peace Gardens
Free (finally!)

August 29th - LDS Church History Center

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's Official...

I know you were hoping for something more exciting, but we are diaper free (except for Pull Ups at night)! This is one of those things I will not miss. Not ever. Not when my sweet, darling, adorable babies have grown into snarky teenagers with nose rings and tattoos (that would never happen to MY kids anyway), not when they have moved away from home, not when all life is taken from the planet and burned to a crisp. I'm not trying to be overly dramatic, just making a point. I will never miss the diapers, especially the ones filled with adult size / smelling poo poos. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you aren't feeding your 2 year-old enough. Never say never? Never I say. Okay, maybe I will miss the newborn ones that don't explode all over and that smell like warm bread. I might miss those just a little, but still....probably not.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Guatemala 2013 - Part 2.....The Real Work

I learned a valuable lesson (okay, a few) in Guatemala.

Lesson #1
The first was that regardless of how much you know, the skills and experience you have, or the preparation you have put in, that often the most important quality or characteristic you can possess is your willingness to serve, your capacity for charity. Our group had doctors, dentists, gardeners, lawyers, business people, teachers, mothers, fathers, returned missionaries, children ranging in ages from 9 to 18, and college students. People that wouldn't have known each other under other circumstances, and people who left grateful for the the charity of former strangers who are now cherished friends. It was a fantastic group of people bound together by charity, kindness and a willingness to work.

Lesson #2
It's best to be prepared for anything when camping in a mosquito net on a cement floor in Guatemala. If you are afraid of large bugs, you should be prepared for large bugs, and figure out how to stifle your inclination to scream. If you really hate cold showers that feel like some form of military torture, you should be prepared to either abstain from showers altogether, shower in the rain, or endure like a navy seal. If you are afraid of stomach bugs, parasites, or other generally unsanitary conditions, you'd just better suck it up, eat what is served, and have large doses of Cipro and hand sanitizer at your disposal.  

Lesson #3
All the preparation in the world can't prepare you for people you have never met. I was supposed to teach business principles ranging from accounting to entrepreneurship to micro finance to various groups of villagers. I don't speak Spanish. Neither did most of the participants who still speak Q'echi', the local Mayan language. Obviously this presented a few obstacles in the delivery of information. I had excellent Spanish translators from our group, but we often had the feeling that much of what we were trying to communicate was lost in translation by the time it made it from my mouth, to the Spanish translator, to the Q'echi' translator, to the participants and back on through to me. It was tedious, tiring, frustrating and often fraught with confusion that stemmed far beyond the language barriers. 

Even though we explained early on that we were there to provide knowledge not money, many of the participants were definitely looking for money. The hardest part was winning them over to the idea that even if I gave them money, unless they gained the knowledge they needed to save and invest that money and run a business I would come back the next year and they would be no closer to financial independence. I'm not going to lie, I often felt guilty trying to persuade people who live on virtually nothing that they, too, could save a little. The guilt came from feeling like I have so much, and can't even say that I fully abide by the spend less than you make principle. 

In the picture below, there is a woman standing to my right. She was the only woman in this group, and when we first started talking she was one (of many) who wanted me to give her money to start her business. She was adamant that she was unable to start the business on her own. When we asked her what type of business she wanted to start, she explained she was trying to buy just one chicken. Heartbreaking and frustrating. This would pretty much capsulize my feelings. I could easily have bought her a chicken. Frustrating because she was also capable of saving enough to buy one chicken.  It might take her a while, but after we talked though her financial situation, we determined that she could do it in less than six months. By the end of the workshop, I like to believe that she believed she was capable of doing it. 

The most trying class was a group of around 60 women. They, like the woman above, also wanted money and it seemed like the first day was spent trying to deflect the issue of handing out money. Four hours in a very hot classroom, with 60 women staring with either angry or blank faces as the interpreter would talk for 15 or 20 minutes after I would speak for less than 5 minutes made for a mind blowing afternoon. I was sure that no one would come back, including myself, but the next day the room was just as packed, and we made some progress. 

Lesson #4
There is a very fine line between third world and first world poverty, and there are very few people who live on that fine line in between where money / things don't consume your life, either because you have or becuase you don't have. In the class of 60 women (below) we asked what is money and what would you do with it if you had more? One of the women very sincerely said no. Who am I to tell her otherwise? No one is the answer to that one.
We did make some progress,mostly measured by level of their engagement and my very favorite picture from the trip is the one below of this woman who had volunteered to participate in a role play exercise which took a lot of courage. She was so shy and timid, but her willingness said a lot about her wanting to learn. I love this picture becuase I can see her thinking, and she was so considerate and deliberate and wanted so much to make the right decisions even though it was just a game. 

Lesson #5
My life is pretty great. Always good to have a really solid reminder and. I figured I would come away grateful for the comforts of home, but I came away grateful for a few things I had never considered before. I came away most grateful for growing up in a home, a religion and a country that gave me the confidence to believe I can solve problems, and know who I am and what I am worth. It may not seem like much, but I left believing that it is sort of everything.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Guatemala 2013 - Part 1....Adios y Hola

I have this really wonderful, beautiful and smart friend who loves to do good in the world. Her enthusiasm is contagious. So when she asked me to come on a humanitarian expedition to Guatemala I said sure. She had been a couple of times and gushed regularly over how much it would change my life. In my mind I kept thinking, "I'm sure it will, but I'm sure I have a pretty good idea what I have agreed to, so changing my life is probably off the docket." I'm a wee bit skeptical about most things.

I'm not going to lie, there was a lot of preparation work involved, as part of what I had agreed to included developing the curriculum for the business development workshop. There were times when I didn't want to do it. There were times when I felt this was not my "baby", which made the late nights I spent working on it seem even later. In short, my attitude was lacking. Not because I didn't want to, but because while I felt I was doing good, I didn't yet feel it was my passion.

Down to the deadline, as things always go for me because I live to procrastinate, I was scrambling to mentally accept that I was headed to the 3rd world for a 10 day vacation sans kids (and a petrified BK). The BK had been asking me for a month if I was excited, I kept saying I hadn't really thought about it. In fact, it didn't really hit me until I was still trying to find permethrin (thank you Sports Authority - no thanks to Walmart, Target, and REI) to repel bugs, a mosquito net, and other various sundries with less than 2 hours to go before heading to the airport.

These are the sweet faces that I kissed goodbye. The Beaver Cleaver version of this story would read that I had such conflicting emotions about being away from my family for so long. The Real Me version was grateful to have some free time for reading and sleeping through the night without interruption - even if it was on a sleeping pad under a mosquito net on a cement floor. My favorite moment of a trip away is that moment when you get through security and find a seat waiting for your flight to leave. I am so utterly devoid of anxiety at that moment, that I wish I could bottle that calm and down it every afternoon at 4pm.

I arrived in Guatemala City around 6am local time, greeted by the radiant smile of my friend. After a late night that included a midnight connection in LAX (worst airport ever!), and a rather uncomfortable night's rest on a plane, it was a welcome relief to see her familiar face. After heading to the hotel and ditching my bags, I opted to spend the day in Antiqua with a couple of the other families. I should mention at this point that Family Humanitarian Experience is just that - an experience for families to do service together. One caveat of course is that the children be older than mine. This meant that I was traveling alone while others had their spouses and usually one but sometimes 3 or 4 kids with them. I should have assumed that only really amazing people vacation this way, so I shouldn't have been so initially closed off to meeting people, but that is my natural tendency. Going to Antigua with a bus full of people I didn't know was a major step for me. One that paid off handsomely.

Antigua is a beautiful town, not too far from Guatemala City and very touristy. This was actually my third visit, and since I usually forget most things, a lot of it seemed new. After the bus ride, I had become pretty comfortable with the families in our group and was having a great time getting to know these families who are now some of my favorite and most admired friends. We sat through a very boring tour of the jade museum (who knew / who cares) that also sold tasty chocolate which I just remembered is still in my fridge (not for long), a relatively interesting tour of an old monastery that crumbled during an earthquake and which is connected by underground tunnels (in which there are still human remains including bones of children - creepy) to the other monasteries in the city. We wandered the streets, ate a the local version of KFC, and bought souvenirs from the local kids who followed us around. We made it back just in time for a delicious dinner at the hotel and the orientation. One night of good, quiet sleep in a very nice hotel room before the real "vacation" began. Stay tuned....

Monday, June 17, 2013

On Three....We're going to Disneyland (a few months ago)!!!

Nothing like 5 kids chanting from the back of a minivan, "We're going to Disneyland" for a half an hour before you arrive at the most magical place on earth to get you mentally prepared for the day ahead. This dichotomy sums up my feelings about the place (at least with young kids) - parents paying dearly (monetarily and mentally) for everything, trying to appease, and ultimately putting up with a lot of obnoxious behavior to enjoy brief moments of tremendous joy and excitement bubbling from their little ones. It is definitely worth it, but it is an exercise in patience for even the sweetest parents and kids.

The picture below sums up the range of emotions we felt during the day, but all in all we had a great time. No major meltdowns (only me at the end of the night after trying to suffer through a terrible cold all day), and even though the lines were pretty long (just a tip to steer clear of the place during both Utah and California spring breaks), we were able to tackle some of the rides that were closed the last time we went like Pirates and Small World.

I'm a bit embarrassed that the picture below represents the first time I figured out how to take a self picture with my phone. This little feature would have come in handy in Paris. Perhaps the BK and I could have actually taken a decent picture together. My beautiful sister-in-law and niece. If you didn't already know better, you might have a hard time figuring out which child belongs to whom. As we like to say, there is a light side and a dark side in every family. In ours it is clear who belongs where.

Though we waited in line for the princesses thinking that this would be primarily of interest to the Rooster, the PoPo was enamored with the Princesses and was flashing his flirtatious smile at every turn. The Rooster was in heaven, and wasn't disappointed in the least by the new princess set up. A vast improvement I must say. Good work Disney.

A little alone time with the Rooster.

Aside from Disneyland, we had a fantastic time and are always grateful to my brother and his family for being such amazing hosts and putting up with us. We took a day trip to Descanso Gardens near Pasadena, which was an amazing place. The kids wandered around the gardens for hours, and put on numerous plays at the amphitheater, including one where the PoPo chased his siblings, cousins and strangers around growling like a bear. I would highly recommend this place if you are in the area. Unfortunately, the plays will not be available.

Lastly, we were going to go to the beach, but with traffic and spring break, we opted for staying in and eating the largest pizza in the world. Okay, probably not the world, but it took 4 kids to hold it. It was also delicious and disappeared pretty quickly. 

Southern California is definitely growing on me. Hopefully we will make it back soon.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Brotherly Love

Most days, it would really be pushing it to say that the LG even took responsibility for himself, let alone his siblings, but he has been showing some promising signs as of late. The other night, PoPo was having a very hard time going to bed. He was howling in his room from underneath the door. The BK suggested to the LG that he help put PoPo in bed. When they opened the door, PoPo was sitting there with a tear-stained face and bawling. The LG took his hand and said, "PoPo, if there are any bees (mosquitos), I will smash them, if there are any clowns, I will bop them, and if there are any robots, I will punch them in the face."

Clearly enough said. PoPo immediately stopped crying, stood up and climbed himself in bed, never to be heard from again (until morning). Sometimes, the BK and I are clearly at a loss for what these kids really need.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer of Fun

Okay Farmington/Salt Lake area friends, we have finalized our plans for a Summer of Fun. For anyone interested, we will generally meet on Thursday mornings at 10am at the site so account for travel time. Plan to typically bring a lunch. The following is the schedule of events:

June 13 - Golden Spike Museum ($7 per car so load up)

June 20 - Wheeler Historic Farm (Free)

June 27 - Get Air Sportsplex, Kaysville ($10 for 46" and over, $5 for under 46", if there is enough interest, we could book a party room for 10 or more kids which is $140)

July 3* - Utah Museum of Fine Arts (Free on the 1st Wednesday of the month, please note this is a change from the typical schedule.)

July 11 - Dinosaur Museum at Thanksgiving Point ($10 Adult / $8 Child)

July 18 - Liberty Park Seven Canyons Water Feature (Free)

July 25 - Hogle Zoo ($12.75 Adult / $9.75 Child)

August 1 - Hill Air Force Museum (Free, donations encouraged)

August 8 - Living Planet Aquarium ($9.45 Adult / $7.45 Child - we can get a $1 discount per ticket ; ) if we have a group of 20+)

August 15 - USU Botanical Gardens (Free)

August 22 - Tracy Aviary ($7 Adult / $5 Child or $1 discount with group of 10+)

If you have any questions, let me know. Hope you can join us at some point!