Vacation Say What

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Gavin: Parker is wasting all my virtual game money!
Parker: I haven’t wasted it yet!

Gwen: I didn’t feel a tingle on my bottom going over that bridge.

Heath: Who can see Husky Stadium?
Gwen: I don’t know and I don’t care.
Later
Gwen: I’m sorry I don’t know Husky Stadium.
Heath: It’s the “I don’t care” part that you need to apologize for.
Gwen: I’m sorry I don’t care.

Gavin: No thumbs up? That sign says we can’t do thumbs up signs. Why not?
Heath: It means no hitchhiking.

Parker: Do you want a hug?
Heath: No …
Parker: Do you want a mug?
Heath: No, I want you to show good manners.
Parker: That doesn’t rhyme!

Gavin: I need an extra day on my vacation. Today was long and boring.

Parker: Why don’t I ever get to see you, Dad? Even on vacation I don’t get to see you!
Which was one of the many reasons why we ended up at Café Rio after filming family.

Parker: I couldn’t keep my pants on!
We bought him a pair of jeans and while we were walking through the mall he said that as he swung his new pants in the bag.

A few weeks ago I bought some buckets to hold pencils and crayons and stuff. Gavin was holding the bag and bumped it with his leg.
Gavin: Sorry! I just kicked the bucket!

I love that the kids still say funny things. I really love that the funny things the boys say are not so much the naïve things they said as little kids but are real jokes that they recognize. They knew what they were saying with the pants and bucket.

Gwen: I’m just enjoying my life.

Pretty Cheesy

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On our last day in Oregon we went to the Tillamook Factory for a tour. Tillamook cheese is like our favorite food ever. If you have never experienced the joy of Tillamook cheese (or ice cream) you should definitely try it. The ads are funny and the tagline says it all. “Tastes better because it’s made better.” Tillamook cheese is a taste of heaven.

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It was a little disconcerting that Gwen and Parker became a cow and farmer but I got over it. The change didn’t last long. Like only a couple seconds beyond this photo!

The tours are self guided which is good and bad. Good because you can go at your own pace and you can reenter that cheese sample line as many times as you want. No one will know! The cheese is seriously sooooo good! Bad because there is no crowd control. I wasn’t aggressive enough to claw my way up to the windows to see the factory workers below. Enough other people were and I didn’t feel like competing.

I read the signs instead. There was plenty of information to be read and I found that just as satisfying as looking through a window trying to guess what was happening. I’m not kidding. I’m a bit of an info nerd.

I learned that there were dairy farmers that moved to Tillamook in the 1800’s. Their cows produced so much milk the farmers couldn’t use it all. They learned that it made more sense to preserve the excess as cheese to be used by many people. Cheese lasts longer than milk. The head farmer guy had learned to make cheese when he lived in Southern California. So he tried his hand at cheese making. His first batch was inedible. He kept trying and refining his cheese making skills until he got it right. And boy did he ever!

The tour consists of informational posters along the walls downstairs. My guess is most of those posters aren’t read because they’re along the side of the sample line. It’s hard to care about history when there’s mouth watering cheese squares to be tried. Then the tour moves upstairs where there are tons of posters scattered around the room and in tall informational displays in the middle of the floor.

When you decide you’ve seen enough then there is an ice cream shop on the far side of the room. They have a bunch of amazing flavors to choose from. The ice cream isn’t free but it is so worth it. Then you go downstairs again. There is a gift shop and a cafeteria to have fun in.

Heath bought a t-shirt for himself and a Goodnight Beach book for the kids. He bought a recipe book full of tempting cheese recipes. Included is a recipe for how to make your own sharp cheddar cheese. You need milk and cream and some other ingredients. After you follow the recipe you need about nine months for it to properly age. So if you want to make your own cheese you need to plan ahead. If you have a cheese craving in the middle of the night you’re better off finding an open grocery store that carries Tillamook cheese products.

I wish our grocery stores would carry some of the fun flavors. The garlic cheese was really good and the jalapeño pepper cheese. Our grocery store only recently started carrying Tillamook ice cream. That stuff is excellent. Heath also bought a couple bricks of cheese, including some fun flavors. We had to share since there was no way of being able to bring it home with us. Ha ha I say it like it’s a bad thing to share!

Of course our family tradition is to adopt a new plush pet that represents our vacation. We decided that we have enough sea creatures. A cow was what we needed.

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There were cartoon looking cows. The company mascot is a cartoon looking cow that began as a squeak toy. We try to find realistic pets as much as possible. Tilly can be seen in front of her watering trough on the left. The tin watering trough came from Great Grandma. She had many things to share with her family when she moved and had to downsize her belongings. The kids come into our room often to play with all the pets.

It’s a little strange for me to have a black and white cow again. I was kind of a cow freak as a teenager. Over the years I had accumulated SO MANY cows! Tilly is cute. She enjoys her brothers and sisters from various places. The kids sure like her.

Monsoonal Moisture

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Last night the heavens opened and drooled a little on select portions of the state. We were not one of them. But still, any rain is a good thing and Californians will take whatever they can get.

Wally Weatherman says that this is the same monsoonal moisture that recently hit Southern California causing flash flooding in some areas. As a result, the air is heavy and sticky. It feels like that Reading Rainbow book where the black raincloud sat over the African village forever not raining. Then the boy chucked his spear into the sky piercing the cloud letting the rain come down on the parched land.

Yesterday was gray but pleasant. A really nice guy came over to fix our air conditioner that stopped working on Saturday. I never turned it on all day though. There was enough of a breeze and temperatures were so mild that open windows worked well enough.

Today is another story. We played at the park with friends this morning. The kids are sweaty and sticky. It’s not hot enough to play in the pool. It just feels that way when the sun beats down mercilessly. It hides behind the clouds a lot though. Most of the heat is from the thick humidity.

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Today would be the perfect splash pad day.

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When our Jetty Island plans fell through and the Children’s Museum was closed and every idea crashed and burned as soon as we came up with it, we hit the new local splash pad. I think it’s funny that we had to convince Parker to go out and play. He wanted nothing to do with any of it for some reason. Once he got out there he was all smiles. The kids had a lot of fun.

Another Diet Coke? Don’t judge me!

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I have never drank from a fire hose but the last few days have been the emotional equivalent of that. Right now I am so irritated and angry. Yet I am so grateful for the opportunity to reach that point.

I can safely say that I am fine with never seeing my father’s house or the possessions inside it ever again. No regrets. The last day in that house was a couple hours too long. I was ready to scream about an hour before we were scheduled to meet with a couple about the estate (selling all the crap in his house). We stayed for some time after the couple left.

By the time I got back to my mom’s house I was ready to cash in on my plan. Before I left for Salt Lake, I had planned on asking for someone to take me to a store to buy Diet Coke. I have been emotionally drinking it lately. I hate myself for it but it’s the truth. I knew this trip would be particularly trying and the soda would be helpful. It was a few hours before our family dinner party and I was just mad.

My mom was so cute. When I made the general announcement that I wanted to buy a Diet Coke, her face fell a little. She looked at me as if I had spoiled a wonderful surprise and almost whispered, “I got you one for dinner tonight. Can you wait?” How sweet for her to enable me like that! I was so grateful for her gesture. Ed chimed in, “I could use a Dr. Pepper so I’ll take you to get one now.” Candi and my mom asked for candy bars and Ed and I were on our way to the gas station.

We talked a little about our feelings about my dad’s house before pulling into the parking lot. I grabbed a 20 oz. Diet Coke out of the fridge while Ed debated on what he wanted. He chose two of the liter sized bottles of Mt. Dew. Then we filled the candy bar orders and got some bite size candy bars for his kids so they wouldn’t feel left out. We were laughing at our handfuls of binge food. As we stood in line I said, “You can tell people your brother died so don’t judge you. I will tell people my dad died so don’t judge me!” Ed liked that plan. Some days life sucks. Don’t judge me for finding momentary happiness in flavored carbonated water.

Driving back to my mom’s house we supported one another with empathy over the punch to our guts we have each felt over uncles choices. My experience happened many years ago. His is the latest in a series of difficult trials. These last few days have been so hard. I feel so broken coming from a family of unidentified mental illness and poor anger management. Not only that but seeing how my father lived his life is a cross between wanting to throw up and wanting to punch a wall. They’re not my sins but they are still affecting me. If someone ever says that they aren’t hurting anyone but themselves, they’re lying.

That’s as much as I want to say about the negative aspect of the trip. I don’t think I even want to write details in a draft. Some stories aren’t worth remembering. All I will say is that I was right that my children were better off never knowing my father. It hurts so much to learn that but it’s true. My brother, sister, and I all agree we were spared years of frustration. It doesn’t make anything easier but at least our children were somewhat protected from who he was. I wish there was a way to take a big eraser to my mind. Can I just forget where I came from?

There were good parts to the visit. My mom planned a fun activity every night and it was a welcome break from the emotional drama of the day. Friday night we all met at Crown Burger for dinner. I love that place! Heath and I are always jealous of the other for getting to go. The closest we have here is Athena Burger and it’s not even close to the same.

After dinner we went to a concert in the park in downtown Salt Lake City. The band was called Tuesday Sessions. We learned that one of the band members is the son of a wonderful family friend (Neal P.) who worked with my Grandpa. That was pretty cool. Tyson and Deanna had connections to one of the girl band members through a ward member.

The lead singer in this video is Chad the son of Neal. He’s the one with the dark hair. This video is a good representation of what it was like to watch them. They weren’t all dressy since the concert in the park wasn’t a wedding but you get the idea. They were good. They did covers. My favorite was Home.

It makes me tear up every time I hear it. I love this song. Tuesday Sessions did a great job with this one.

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After the concert we all parted ways. My mom and I decided to walk around City Creek. That was a lot of fun. The fountain was our favorite. I love fountains.

Saturday night we had a grilled burger and brat party. Dinner was followed by watching the show Man vs. Wild on the big screen outside.

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Sunday morning my mom and I went to Music & the Spoken Word at the Conference Center. I felt so far removed from the Spirit that I was extra grateful my mom had planned this activity. Music & the Spoken Word is my favorite show to watch or listen to. It was so soothing to sit there and experience the show live. We sat maybe three rows back from the very front. I could practically see up their noses. Okay, maybe not!

How it works is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the orchestra (that has a name but I can’t remember) run through the entire program like a dress rehearsal. Members from the production team come out and tell the conductor about timing issues and adjustments are made. Then everyone on stage takes a short break while someone MC’s the event more or less.

Mark Eubank, the weatherman I grew up watching, was the MC. He talked about the show and how it has been airing live since the 1920’s. In the summer they move to the Conference Center to accommodate the large number of visitors who would like to watch the show.

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Yesterday was the largest group of visitors so far this summer. It almost looked like they setting up for General Conference there were so many people! Pretty much the whole bottom was full. They had limited seating on one side because that’s where Lloyd Newell is recorded sharing the spoken word portion of the program. Nobody was really in the balcony sections.

Mark Eubank guessed based on a show of hands, that there were about 80% out of state visitors. Out of state meaning states and countries. There were several special visitors from several countries that were formally introduced. We ran into two women in the elevator from South Africa.

Then Lloyd Newell talked to the audience for a bit and explained how it’s a live show. He asked us to help by being as quiet as possible. There are about 100 microphones around and any tiny sound would be picked up. He said if we needed to cough, that was the perfect time to do it before they started! I grabbed a stick of gum and chewed away so my throat wouldn’t ruin anything! We were also told that we were to hold our applause until after the entire show was finished.

There were two large screens on either side of the stage where you could see the program as it would appear on TV. Most TV’s are 36 inches while those screens are more like 36 foot screens. They each require two projectors perfectly aligned to project the image without any blur on the screens. Amazing. We enjoyed the show and the audience was silent until the last of the credits rolled on the screens. There was a brief pause to make sure it was all complete and then the room erupted into thunderous applause. It was pretty amazing. And everyone stood up for a standing ovation.

My favorite part was when the choir and orchestra all sang to the audience. The orchestra people held their instruments still while they sang acapella with the choir, God Be With You Till We Meet Again. It was the most beautiful thing ever. Even Mack Wilberg, the conductor, sang to the audience. It was so touching.

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We took a minute to enjoy the Conference Center and Temple Square before we had to leave for church. As soon as we got home from church I had time to eat a quick lunch and pack up to catch my flight home.

I felt bad eating two meals in front of my mom. It was Fast Sunday but I am not able to fast. She never complained. She just sat there and talked to me while I ate. She was so nervous when I had to admit that I forgot to put in a continuous glucose monitor sensor before I left. She did not want to see me in the hospital with low blood sugar ever again! I didn’t either. When Ed came to the house on Saturday to meet with the estate people he brought my lunch. My mom sent it with him. I was glad since we didn’t have time to break for lunch that day. I took the microwave manual out and nuked my hot pocket at my dad’s house!

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Of all the decisions we have had to make through this process, the only one I felt strongly about was which niche wall would be my father’s final resting place. The guy we worked with at the cemetery was really nice. He took us to a niche wall just behind the office we met with him in. Right off the bat I hated that niche wall. It was so big it didn’t feel comfortable.

Then he took us inside a mausoleum. At first I liked the idea of inside. But it was hot and stuffy with fans blowing hot air. You have to get a key code in order to access the inside which would be annoying for anyone trying to visit his niche. There was a regular niche wall inside that was okay. There was also a display case with glass front niches. They can be decorated as often as the family would like or at least be a way to show off the beautiful box his remains are in. Nice idea but it didn’t seem right. I didn’t like the decorating idea and any drama that would come from it and I didn’t want my dad to look like the one nobody cared about if it was never decorated.

Then the guy said we had to get on a golf cart so he could take us to the niche wall in the center of the garden. As soon as he said center of the garden I knew that was it. I loved it out there. My dad would have loved it out there. The wall was the perfect height and size and it felt so peaceful. I liked the benches nearby too if someone wanted to sit and think. We picked a spot and felt good about it. Heath asked for a picture as we were driving away. The above picture was the best I could do!

A lot was crammed into a 3.5 day trip. It was good. I’m exhausted. I also feel bad that I live so far away. I can distract myself from all of this anytime I want. I feel like this summer has been the best summer ever for my kids and the worst summer ever for my nieces and nephews.

I’m grateful I was able to have heart to heart talks with my mom and sister. I wish I had the time to do that with my brother. I’m grateful I was able to learn more from Deanna. I hate what I learned but I’m glad she told me the stories. I’m grateful for the moments of comic relief with my brother and how he made me laugh on Saturday. One day we will all heal. Today is not that day. I think I will try to relax with a Diet Coke. My dad died. Don’t judge me.

Beach Party

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Before I continue the beach stories, I would like to take a moment to recognize my WordPress blogiversary. I just got the notification that it was three years ago today I made the switch from Blogger to WordPress. My how time flies.

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Parker celebrated a special anniversary on the beach. He had his 9th birthday there!

We spent the day at the beach playing. For dinner we had hot dogs per Parker’s request. Dad and Grandpa roasted them outside. Grandma made decadent Reese’s cupcakes in silicone heart shaped cupcake liners. Aunt Chris and Uncle Charlie bought ice cream when they headed into town to buy something else.

After dinner we watched one of Parker’s favorite movies – The Big Year. He actually fell asleep during the movie so dessert was saved for the next day. He got an Amazon gift card from Grandma and was beside himself with excitement. Between all his grandmas he had received $45 for his birthday.

This boy is Lego obsessed. He couldn’t wait to bring home his dad’s old Legos from Grandma’s house. His birthday money was spent on Lego sets. He bought Cloud Cuckoo Palace from the Lego Movie and a Back to the Future set with the DeLorean that converts into the different versions from all three movies. The DeLorean set showed up today. The doorbell rang and Parker was flying. He was literally floating in the air and screaming “Yes!” over and over as he picked up the box off the porch while I thanked the delivery dude. Life is good!

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Parker’s birthday was an all day beach party. The kids had a blast playing on the beach.

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Gavin would run to catch up to us. Then stop to build some more cities. And on and on the cycle would go on. He was having the time of his life.

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We all filled our pockets with shells. In Gwen’s case, rocks. She loves rocks. I love the rocks at this beach. They are so pretty. I should have taken a picture of the back of our van. We filled it with a large display of shells set there to dry out. Butterfly shaped shells and sand dollars were our favorites.

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Gwen had fun playing with her shadow. She noticed her pigtails bouncing as she jumped and danced.

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That afternoon when it was high tide the kids had fun with the waves. Parker would build something and watch the waves inch closer and closer. At one point he yelled, “Stop right there! Don’t come any closer!” And wouldn’t you know it, the wave stopped just before his toes!

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Grandma made Gwen a mermaid tail and took pictures. That was cute and Gwen was in heaven looking like a real mermaid.

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Ahh … does it get any better than this?

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By the end of every day the kids crashed. I love that Parker is slipping under the railing! Good thing there is a railing there. The stairs were this tightly wound spiral staircase because it took up less space that way.

The sleeping arrangements are worth noting. Grandma and Grandpa slept in the only bedroom with a door. They suggested we sleep in there so I could have a place to get away if I needed to. But I knew her knees wouldn’t appreciate climbing up and down that claustrophobic staircase. They had an extra twin sized bed in there but we didn’t inflict them with any of our kids.

Chris and Charlie slept on a full sized bed next to the bathroom. Heath and I were tucked away in the opposite corner next to the wet bar in the “couple’s therapy beds.” We were in two twin sized beds. The kids were scattered on the floor between chairs and couches under the large picture windows.

The house had fun toys for the kids to play with. It also had a laundry room which helped us out a lot. We did laundry before leaving to minimize the amount of sand we were transporting. Gavin had a bunch of shells in his sweatshirt pocket that I didn’t know about. They came out really clean and a ton of sand came out the hose that drained in the laundry room sink!

It was so much fun staying in that beach house for a couple days. Unfortunately our dedicated beach day came with mostly cloudy skies and misty fog. I did like the fog. It’s so pretty and it makes me feel like I’m walking in a cloud. Our short beach day was perfectly sunny all day long. The kids played hard one last time at the beach before we had to pack up and leave.

Bellybuttons, castles, and long walks on the beach

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Being surrounded by trees helped make the 101 more worth the effort. Soon the tsunami danger zone signs started popping up. Suddenly there were trees towering on one side and

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views like this on the other. I imagined the ocean would be a permanent fixture on the left side as we drove. The twiddly bits kept that from being the case. These breathtaking views came and went as we zigzagged our way through the mountains, trees, and towns.

Eventually we made it to the beach house in Arch Cape. A small private neighborhood was nestled between the 101 and the beach.

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This was the view from the house. Our house was tucked further back from the road and close to the house you see on the right. It was as if the house were more of a guest house or mother-in-law suite. The whole front of the house was basically windows so you could see the beach. The view was much better upstairs which is where Heath got this shot.

Northwest-Adventure-118To get to the beach we walked down the street a few houses till we saw the castle house. Unfortunately I have no pictures of that house. But it really was a castle house. The outside looked like a classic castle. Imagine those little castle bits were stacked tall on the main structure.

That’s what the castle house looked like. It was for sale. We had dreams of seeing the inside but we never did. Heath and I found a couple houses listed on Zillow. We’re seriously considering moving to one. It was huge with 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, private beach access, and only $700,000. A reasonable price for the area we live. Heath told his boss about the house. He said he was sure they could start an office in Oregon as long as we didn’t mind visitors. Sure. No problem. Come on over! Aunt Chris also assured us that she and Uncle Charlie would rent it for two weeks every year. Sold.

Anyway, back to reality. The castle house was across the street from the “public” beach access. Basically you had to be in a house across the street from the beach in order to use that access point. It was a small path between two houses, then down a steep couple yards of smooth black river rocks. Then we were on the beach.

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If you look in the center of the picture to the left of the birds you can see a long white log coming down from a house. That was where we came into the beach.

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We could set up camp anywhere we wanted along the beach that stretched forever in either direction. It is more or less a private beach. All beaches are public in Oregon but they don’t have to have public access. So there weren’t many people spread out on the beach. Sweet! During low tide we could have walked around large rocks and on up to Cannon Beach.

The original plans were to go back to Tillamook on Parker’s birthday and spend a little time at the beach. Then the next day we would spend the morning at the beach before checking out of the house and moving on to Washington. Plans changed when we saw that there would be negative tides on Parker’s birthday. I’m a beach idiot but I learned that means the low tides would be extra low. It has to do with the super moon phenomenon that occurs every so often. Apparently the moon has more pull on the oceans when it’s closer to the earth.

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Low tides indeed! Check out how far away the houses are from where we are standing at the water’s edge. You can barely make out our family walking.

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Here’s a zoomed in picture of them. It’s quite possible we were able to walk a quarter to a half mile from the regular beach to the water’s edge during that negative tide. During high tide later in the day, Heath told me we didn’t need to worry as much about the kids in the waves. We knew what a gradual slope it was into the ocean. The complete opposite of Half Moon Bay where there are dramatic drop offs and Parker tried to get swept away in the waves.

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We walked around enjoying the tide pools. Tide pools are awesome. It’s amazing to see what lives under the water. The kindergarteners used to have a standard field trip to Pigeon Point every year. Apparently there is no longer a budget for that field trip and Gwen’s class was not able to go. Some of the parents lost their minds about it and arranged for a visit to Pigeon Point during Spring Break.

I would have to pay a discounted group rate to get in and provide lunch but she could basically have the same field trip that her brothers had, minus the cool bus ride. I was not interested. The schools do a great job of giving students cool experiences but families can provide those same experiences when field trips are canceled. I think Gwen appreciated the tide pools on the Oregon coast more than she would have with her classmates and their parents during Spring Break.

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I wish I had worn my flip flops on this walk. We found this really neat cave that would be full of water later. Parker had fun exploring in there. There were a lot of sharp rocks inside.

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The sea anemones always amaze me. You can see them open in the water. I didn’t realize at first that the rocks were filled with closed sea anemones. They look like bellybuttons! I love that Gavin did that report on sea anemones in kindergarten. When Charlie asked me what eats sea anemones I remembered. Sort of. I couldn’t remember the name. Heath did and we told him that it’s the nudibranches that prey on sea anemones. They use the toxins from the anemones to build up their own electrical supply against other sea creatures. How wild is that!

Heath and the kids saw a washed up jellyfish on the beach. We saw a bunch of seagulls swooping down into the water. When they left we saw tons of crab shell carnage. Heath and I saw two legs of a starfish. The circle of life is fascinating to witness firsthand.

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Heath told me that the pioneers used the beaches during low tide. It was easier for them to move their wagons and stuff across the sand than to keep twisting and turning through the trees. I didn’t believe him until I saw people riding their bikes across the beach. The sand is soft but packs well. So when you walk through it you don’t sink in. A family was moving rocks and wood for a beach campfire. The kid started using a wheelbarrow to move stuff because it was so much easier than making multiple trips and carrying everything.

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The negative tide only lasted an hour. Soon the water started to slowly eat away at the extra beach. We went back to the beach at high tide later in the day. The kids had fun watching the water destroy anything they wrote or built into the sand. It was amazing how much shorter the beach was at high tide.

Why is Angel Moroni on top of a tree?

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In the 14 years that Heath and I have been visiting the Seattle area, he has never taken me to the temple. That sounds bad. I mean he has never taken me to the Seattle temple. It’s just never fit in with all the other activities we have planned with family. I had no idea the fire station put Angel Moroni on top of a tree.

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The Seattle temple is not even located in Seattle but in Bellevue. Interesting that they still call it the Seattle temple. Heath used to work at the Redmond Town Center. We go back to visit occasionally. I had a craving for Ruby’s Diner and asked if we could visit the temple grounds after having lunch at Ruby’s. Unfortunately Ruby’s is no longer there so we had lunch at JB’s. After we walked around the ever changing mall we drove on to Bellevue to visit the temple.

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As we sat at a stoplight we could see the top of the temple through the trees. Gwen looked over spotting Angel Moroni on top of the spire.
Gwen: Why did the fire station put Angel Moroni on top of a tree? They should put him on top of the temple!

The nearby fire station was clearly to blame in her little 6 year old mind. We all had a good laugh over her outburst. Western Washington is so full of trees. It kind of did look like the angel was on top of a tree.

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There is no visitor’s center at this temple. The grounds are beautiful but smaller than I imagined.

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There’s a small path through a garden. Parker is standing at the top of the steps on one end of the path. In the middle of the garden is a bench. Gavin sat down and said, “This seems familiar.” He remembered us taking him to our bench at Murray Park last summer. That’s where Heath proposed to me. Happy memories. How fitting for Gavin to remember how our family began at a place that reminds us families can be together forever.

Gwen cannot wait to be married in the temple. She was running up and down a set of stairs telling us who was invited and what her dress would look like. I probably watch a little too many Bride Days on TLC. For now I see no harm in her dreaming. She understands the importance of the temple and the important priesthood ordinances performed there.

There was a night when Kirk and Dayleen’s family was over. Gwen was running around with Breena having the time of her life. Gwen decided to play Say Yes to the Dress. She would wrap a fleece blanket around herself in different ways and stand on a step stool for us to give our opinions. I loved how she would tell us about her dress down to the imaginary accessories.

She also made sure we understood that there would be a shirt underneath so the dress had sleeves and was modest. Heath and Kirk laughed that Mormon girls wear t-shirts under their dresses. Modest is hottest! The best was when she came out with the blanket wrapped around her and held a bow shaped pillow in front of her chest. “This is called a clown gown!” We all busted up laughing. That girl is so funny!

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I love the fountains at the different temple grounds the best.

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And the pretty flowers that Heath photographs so well.
I am amazed that the basket of flowers I took home from my dad’s memorial service are still alive. The flowers died a long time ago but the plants keep on living. I hardly ever water them but they look great. It makes me smile.

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We seemed to be the only tourists that day. The only other people I saw not dressed in Sunday best were small children playing in the grass. Their mom was in a dress. My guess is she and her husband were taking turns serving in the temple. I’m still glad we went. I love walking around temple grounds when I get the chance.

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Super Sleuth

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It has been quite the exciting summer around here. With all our road trips Gavin was able to earn every reading prize offered at the library for the summer reading program.

The library had a spy mystery case theme this summer. First prize was a notebook and pen along with a coupon for a free personal pizza at Round Table. Second prize was spy glasses with a coupon to the Chabot Space and Science Center. Gavin was pretty excited about the glasses. He put them on in the car and as I was backing up he said, “Hey! I can see the cars behind me!” His face was still forward.

Third prize was a flashlight pen I think and a paper with a fudge recipe on one side and Spectrum of Science information on the other side. Gavin only cared about the recipe. I don’t know what the Spectrum of Science is. I guess we need to go to their website because we have a coupon good for $5 off any Spectrum of Science program. Gavin loves science but I think all he really wants to do is make the fudge!

The final prize is for the overachiever readers. The kids who read all summer and do little else. Two major road trips with audio books plus Kindles and reading lights, Gavin was able to earn the final prize – a book. The librarians had a cart full of books for the prize earners to choose from. Gavin picked Lost and Found by Andrew Clements. Excellent choice. Gavin loves that author and there really wasn’t anything on his reading level that he was interested in. So he picked a book he enjoyed reading a couple years ago.

Oh, and the librarian also gave Gavin a coupon for a free cookie pizza from a pizza place. Probably Round Table again. I know what he will be getting while I’m out of town! Pizza, cookies, and movies I don’t want to watch. The kids can’t wait to get into a Dad only routine.

While we were in Seattle we went to the Pacific Science Center. When we were getting the tickets Heath decided to pay a little extra for the Spy Exhibit. The kids thought that was pretty cool that their summer reading program was a spy theme and we were going to learn about spies.

Here’s a little hint about the Pacific Science Center. You need more than two hours. Here’s another hint. When they say no bathrooms beyond this point, just make the kids go. The Spy Exhibit was much bigger and more involved than we thought. I actually wish we had known just how extensive it was so we could have paced ourselves a little better.

The first couple rooms were very creepy. I did not enjoy being in there. It bothered me to learn about so many crazy things that are real. You see things in the movies and think it’s Hollywood. More of that stuff is real than I ever wanted to believe.

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I wish I could have gotten a better picture of this letter. This was the best angle to avoid glare and seeing my reflection in the glass. It’s a letter from a father to his son who was a toddler during the Holocaust. Richard Helms was a spy who fought against Hitler. His brief letter was honest and chilling. He didn’t share a lot of details but his words were well chosen. The cursive was difficult to read and I hoped I could get a good picture of it. Oh well. I won’t soon forget how the letter made me feel.

We spent a lot of time in the first couple of rooms reading. There were displays to look at and lots of things to read. The kids were getting a little bored and I felt bad. I also didn’t really want to explain things to them because the world felt ugly at that point. Eventually we worked our way to another room. It was more interactive. The kids really had fun there. Their favorite was the room with the lasers they had to avoid hitting.

There was a monitor outside so we could watch. The monitor didn’t show the lasers but it was fun to watch them step over and slide around to avoid them in the 30 second time limit. Parker was perfect. The other two touched lasers more than once. Gavin almost didn’t get out in time. By the time that activity was over their tiny little bladders had filled up.

They tried to hold it but that didn’t last long. We had to race through the labyrinth of spy activities and rooms, including the gift shop at the end, hoping to find the final exit to get to a bathroom already. The spy section was set up that you don’t get to return once you leave. Grr. So we tried to hit the highlights in the rest of the Science Center with the hour we had left. It wasn’t enough time to really do anything.

When Gavin got the rest of his library reading prizes today, the other two were so excited to talk about different spy things they had learned about. At least they got something out of the short experience we had in the Spy Exhibit. I’m just excited that Gavin worked as hard as he did to earn the free book. I feel like we have accomplished a lot this summer and had tons of fun.

From the Redwood Forests …

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I have always wanted to visit the redwood forests. I grew up singing that song – This Land Was Made for You and Me. The redwood forest is in that song. Trees are awesome. I love trees. I have heard on more than one occasion that there is a place in the redwood forest where you can drive a car through a redwood tree. It’s been on my mental bucket list for some time.

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We moved to California, the home of the redwood forests, and the inspiration for the line in the song – from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters, this land was made for you and me. Time to find out for myself.

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Part of the thought process behind driving up the coast via Highway 101 was so we could visit the redwood forest. Highway 101 cuts right through these forests. As the gentle giants loomed on either side of the road I was impressed. These trees are massive. Not only are they incredibly tall but they are, well, massive. These are not tall spindly things overstretched in their quest to touch the heavens. These trees have substance. Gentle giant is a great description.

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The more I was in awe of these trees the more my mind went back to an embarrassing post from a few years ago. The point of the post was how I had misread the planting directions for a redwood seedling. Ha ha ha, very funny. What bothered me about it (besides admitting online to anyone in the world interested in reading that post) was one of the comments. Not only had I misread measurements but it’s the sequoia trees that you can drive through, not redwoods. Redwoods are thin in comparison.

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That has weighed on my mind for years. How had I misheard so many people for so much of my life claiming that you can drive a car through a redwood tree? I had to know the truth.

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As I looked out the van window at the redwoods I thought those trees were pretty big. It was hard to say if a car could fit through the wide trunk. We stopped a few times to walk among the trees. Unfortunately we missed our chance to drive through the trees. The sign came and went so fast that we missed the turnoff. I kind of hoped there would be more opportunities. But there weren’t. Since I didn’t actually get to drive through a redwood tree I doubted the enormity of the trees I did see up close and personal.

Northwest-Adventure-011 I have no idea what she’s doing!

Two weeks later the suspense was killing me. I looked it up and found this statement.

Shrine Drive-Thru Tree, and Drive-Over Tree: Humboldt Redwoods State Park   13078 Avenue of the Giants, Myers Flat, CA 95554. Drive your car through a redwood tree or over a fallen redwood log. The kids will like our two 2-story tree houses and the children’s walk-through stump. Visit the redwood gift shop  707-943-1975. Tree is open from dawn til dusk. Gift shop hours – summertime only – 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. 

Closed in winter.  More Info

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Our adventure up the 101 included driving through Humboldt Redwood State Park. As I said, we missed the turn to drive through a tree but at least now I know for sure. You can drive through redwood trees. The site mentioned that there are three “drive-through” trees on the North Coast. All redwoods as far as I can tell.

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Further searching has taught me that the comment was right; that sequoias are larger in diameter than redwoods. But redwoods are taller than sequoias. It also seems that both names belong to the same species of tree. So there is a chance that the three drive-through trees are actually sequoia and not redwood trees. Not being able to drive through a tree makes it difficult to know for sure exactly what type of tree had a car sized tunnel carved out of it.

Whether or not I’m an idiot when it comes to trees remains to be seen. It was quite the experience being around these gentle giants anyway. I kind of want to go back. After all, William Cullen Bryant tells us, “The groves were God’s first temples.”

Is this what happens in families with no divorce?

Six people were lined up in front of the fireplace, lapel mics in place. Three cameras were strategically placed throughout the room. The wings of the room were full of interested onlookers. A palpable energy sizzled.

Two women had plans to go shopping. They never left the room. Nobody left the room except for short breaks. Everyone was transfixed. Who knew family stories could be so mesmerizing?

The kids and I were downstairs watching movies. Uncle Lindy came into the theater room at one point. I had fallen asleep and his opening the door startled me. I stumbled out of my seat to shut everything down, assuming the filming was finished upstairs and Lindy had come to rescue us. Still in a fog I grabbed everything and went upstairs where I was told they were only taking a break.

Uncle Dan said, “You thought we could tell a lifetime of stories in only three hours?” Admittedly, I hoped that was the case. When Heath filmed my grandparents telling stories last summer we were excited with the 90 minute session. We had no idea how supportive Heath’s family would be.

There really was a feeling upstairs. It was as thick as being wrapped in a warm blanket. Everyone said that they don’t care if Heath ever edits the video into a DVD. The experience was worth it.

I wish I could have been there to hear the stories firsthand. I get the impression it was a cathartic exercise to sit next to one another, in birth order with Grandma in the middle, just reminiscing.

After six hours of filming they finally called it quits. Heath and I never conceived of such a successful day. It brings goosebumps to my arms just thinking about it.

Uncle Channing’s former wife had come just for a minute to see. Wild horses could not have dragged her from that room and the feeling created there. She was so touched by the experience that she said, “Is this what happens in families that don’t get divorced?” Such a profound statement of observation.

Families can be close and families can be separated by time and choices. In the end there is a glue that binds people together as families. I don’t know how close this family really is. They seem to keep in touch with one another fairly well. They all love their mother. She is an incredible woman.

I can’t help but think of my own family. I was so nervous to go to my dad’s memorial service. What would my aunts and uncles think of me? I hadn’t seen them in probably 20 years. Who had I become in their minds over that period of time?

It felt like home. Their eyes were so kind. My Uncle Max’s face seemed to say it all. “I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. Too many years have passed but I am so happy to see you again.” My Aunt Sarah hugged me and my sister so tightly. She said over and over again, “You are so beautiful!” Family is forever.

That feeling I felt in the small amount of time I had to reunite with my dad’s brothers and sisters was the same feeling in that clubhouse when Heath was filming his family. It was so strong. Regardless of mistakes made, there is always the realization that this is family. The love is already there.

Time didn’t allow Heath to film his dad telling Grandpa’s stories. I was so surprised last December to learn that Heath’s grandpa never shared war stories with any of his children. He had only told his son in law. When we were telling Dan and Dana about  the idea of filming Grandma and any of her kids who wanted to join, Dan said, “Make sure you film your dad telling Grandpa’s war stories.”

Heath is going back to Seattle in a month or so on business. He plans to sit down with his dad and capture those stories then. I can’t even imagine how amazing those stories are and what it will mean to everyone. Grandpa served in World War II as a sniper.

In a few days I will go back to Utah. I want to but I am really nervous about it too. Part of me is jealous that my brother and sister have had time to deal with their feelings after our dad’s passing. They are right there immersed in all of it.

That’s what makes me nervous I guess. I can live in my own little corner of the world with my own little family. I love the family I was born in and the family I married into. But we live out of state from both families. Am I really ready to dive back in to the feelings of losing my dad? I’m protected here from my own mind. Going back to Utah will just open it all up again.

My mother in law’s cousin showed up for the filming too. Word spread far and wide about this unique family opportunity. She shared some stories about her grandparents, Heath’s great grandparents. The stories make me sad. It was common knowledge that this great grandmother was difficult to get along with.

It’s not even my family and it hurts my feelings to think that’s how this woman is remembered. All I could think of that night was an unanswerable question. What’s worse, a relative that’s difficult to be around or a relative that isolates themselves, cutting themselves off from the rest of the family?

My dad didn’t want to be the hard relative so he left. I didn’t want him in my life so I never reached out to him. Now that he’s gone everything hurts. Then I wonder, who am I? What terms am I remembered by? Families are complicated.

The older I get the more real everything becomes. I recognize the healing power of love and forgiveness. Family is the most important thing. I’m so glad that we are still capturing my family’s stories. Now we have captured Heath’s family stories. It’s a very cool thing. Family makes up so much of who people are. For good or bad, family is where it all starts.

Does that enveloping feeling of being hugged in a warm blanket only exist in families with no divorce? I don’t think so. Maybe the glue that binds is felt stronger in those families. But I can’t forget my aunts and uncles faces. Nor can I forget the feeling of being home in their embrace. After all is said and done, family is family. The love is already there.

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