Sunday, July 2, 2017


How to sum up our days in Copenhagen.


Brad has been keeping up on all the small details of our trip on Facebook, posting pictures and funny comments every day, but there's been more to our trip than seeing the beauty of Denmark--learning her history and experiencing her quiet dignity and loving her light late nights.

I studied so much medieval European history in college that I'm embarrassed to admit how little I knew (or remembered) about Denmark. It was a fun journey, acquainting myself with all the King Fredericks and Christians, walking the halls of their palaces and churches. We experienced "Hamlet" in the courtyard of Elsinore castle. We strolled the green paths of Roskilde where Vikings left to discover remote areas of the world.

We stood where kings and queens were married and crowned and buried--and where ruthless modern dictators stormed through the streets. The windows of history opened, and eras of styles overlapped and collided in cathedrals holding the remains of saints and monarchs. I remembered my medieval architecture lessons and taught Brad how to tell the difference between Romanesque and Gothic arches. I connected to the symmetry of the architecture and whitewashed stone interiors unlike those I'd seen in other buildings in Europe, and it all felt somehow . . . familiar.

As I sat in the chancel of the cathedral in Elsinore, I wondered if any of my ancestors (who lived in this community) had been baptized or married inside its walls before immigrating to Utah in the nineteenth century. And on our final afternoon in Copenhagen, we walked through a small flea market in the square across the street from our apartment. In one stall, I saw a bag like one I bought in Tangier, Morocco--one size larger. Nine years ago, when we were sailing back to Gibraltar on a ferry,  I was wishing I had bought the set of bags but Brad hadn't had enough dirham and the boat was leaving so I left the bigger one behind. I can't believe we found the same design (straight from Fez, I was told) almost a decade later on the streets of Copenhagen. This time, Brad negotiated a price using both Danish kroner and $20 bills from the U.S. and I carried it home slung over my arm.

Danes are kind, unassuming people. Their language is unfamiliar and undecipherable, but they are also fluent in English--strangers came to our aid in train stations, at restaurants, and at the checkout for groceries. Danish women have a casual beauty that is hard to explain. There is none of the Kardashian-influenced makeup and style as you walk among them, but they carry themselves with confidence and a subtle style and grace. Unlike the millennial generation in America, few sport tattoos or extreme styles, but surprisingly, many are smoking as they wait outside shop doors.

For four days, we lived on the fourth floor looking at this view each evening, rehashing our adventures of the day. For four days, we experienced summer life like the Danes, wearing jackets and carrying umbrellas as we took the Metro, eating laks and ebelskiver at cafes as the rain turned on and off and on again.

Pieces of American history I taught this last school year interrupted random moments, like this biography I dug out of a stack of Danish history books at a church rummage sale.

Or this bust of Edmund Burke, carved by Berthel Thorvaldson

The steeple visible from our apartment window always kept me oriented in the unfamiliar city, and with our itinerary for the day complete, we wandered the streets until we found the church below the copper spire. Written on the entry wall were the words, "This is not a church." 

Nothing was inside the sanctuary--nothing but a modern art installation of sound waves that bounced around the enormous, white, empty space. It made me think of another building that "is not a church" any more back in Mesa, Arizona, where my desk and lesson plans wait for August and my return.

Spending four days in Denmark taught me about America. Somehow, Americans get bogged down in the immediate--stupid tweets from the President. Shootings at congressional softball practices. Party disagreements and disillusions. We forget a few small details about humanity and history. 

America is so young. We have weathered so few crises in our 200+ years compared to the rest of the world's wars and catastrophes. Humanity is resilient and can't be permanently beaten down by a few individuals or one president or a few bad economic years. Humanity has survived mysterious plagues, mass genocides, and natural disasters of epic proportion. History forgives and forgets the small things and remembers and records the big things. And often, those living each day can't distance themselves enough to tell the difference between the two.

The world is so big--so many different languages and people and perspectives and cultures and problems. Big problems like refugees from civil war and small problems like interrupted commutes from railroad track maintenance. But the more I travel in the world, the more I see the goodness outside my small little world in the middle of the Southwestern desert of the United States.

Today, we are speeding across Sweden in train for Stockholm and the next leg of our Scandinavian adventure--and what the world has to show me.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

And So It Begins, When We Wondered If It Really Would At All

Scandinavia here we come!
Boots in June. It's got to be a good day, right?

This day almost didn't happen.

Brad is the trip planner in our family. He researches destinations and plans activities and books flights and airbnb homes with gorgeous views. He does it all.

Sunday night, just as we were winding down for the night, kissing kids and reading stories, Brad came to the top of the stairs and said, "My passport is expired."

Yeah, right. For those of you who know Brad, this is a common way for him to tease. I didn't believe him, but I should have. His passport was fourteen days expired.

After a few hours research online and three phone calls with the nicest lady in government service on the East Coast at 1 am her time, Brad planned to spend Monday driving to Tucson for an emergency passport.


One government program that works better than expected.

Today's the big day. Seattle then flying to Iceland by morning tomorrow.

I've been so excited. But a few wrinkles in my kids' lives have made this departure difficult.

Heidi broke her arm a week ago, and her consultation for surgery is this morning. She needs the ulna repaired, and the doctor thinks he may need to replace the head of her radius. Four small kids at home (Ellie is only 6), and she can't even open a sippy cup. And did I mention she's seven months pregnant? That's hard for a mama to leave behind. Lily is flying up on Thursday to help with the kids for a week, and when I get home, I'll see if they need me then. Lily is almost as much help as me--she loves Heidi's kids and can drive. Plus, they have all the seasons of Gilmore Girls to keep them busy.

Tucker and Karli are in the process of getting their first house. Looks like that might go down while we're gone as well (but you never know with these things).

And then there was Eve this morning. When I woke her for scriptures and prayer, her blond bedhead couldn't hide her tears. I know she will be fine while I'm gone--Ben has lots of fun things planned--but leaving her crying in the garage broke me and almost convinced me to stay home.  And two phone calls from home since sitting in the airport and a promise from me that I'll call one more time before our flight leaves.


I love mothering my kids. But it's good for parents to get away and enjoy being together sometimes.

And plus--Scandinavia!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Trashin' the Camp*

*Eve and I had a Disney Radio marathon as we cleaned the cabin the night before this escapade. I had no idea how prophetic Phil Collins's song from Tarzan would be at the time. I should have known better.

I haven't really written a blog post in a long time--one that takes thought and planning and rewriting.

I don't know if I have it in me any more.

I hope so . . . 

. . . because I have a story to tell you.


I knew it was a mistake when I did it.

Eve and I finished our chores the night before--scrubbing bathrooms, sweeping and mopping, and packing our stuff. I knew I shouldn't leave a tightly closed black bag of garbage outside the cabin overnight. I was more concerned that I would forget it in the garage when we left before 6 am the next morning and that it would stink everything up before we got up north again. But I left it next to the lidded metal can as I turned out the light and locked the door before climbing the stairs to bed.

Four hours later, at precisely 3:18 am, my phone started pinging with Instagram notifications from one of Micah's friends who was leaving on vacation. I quietly cursed her name as I turned over to go back to sleep.

Sleep didn't come. The weather had gotten progressively hotter over the week, and even leaving the windows open all night hadn't dropped the temperature upstairs much below 80. I kicked at the comforter, hoping that removing the top layer of bedding would cool me off a little.

Nights with no moon are pitch dark at the cabin, and 3:18 am is not only dark but the air is still and thick and quiet. I stayed there in my bed, wishing sleep would come but still enjoying my last night in my cabin bed.

Then I heard it.

What was that sound?

It sounded like . . . glass clinking. Very faintly.

No. The sound was gone. I must have been hearing things.

Another sound.

Is that . . . paper tearing? 

And was that a . . . grunt?

That's when I put all the sounds together.

The only questions left to answer were 
  • What critter was digging through my garbage?
  • Should I just close the window and pretend I didn't know what was going on below?
  • Would they just leave so I could sleep?
Five minutes later and still not asleep, I decided I needed to know what was messing in the trash. As I descended the stairs and got closer to the curtained French doors, I heard more of the feast going on just a few feet from me. It was more than one animal, I could tell, but it was so dark that I knew I would need to turn on the light. I peered through the curtain just as I flicked the switch.

Inches from me were the three teenage javelinas that live in a wash on our property with their parents, snorting and digging and tearing and eating everything inside the now shredded black bag. What surprised me most about the chaos in front of me was that turning on the light hadn't disturbed their party at all. Not one of them looked up, and for some reason, that made me mad. Didn't they know they should run when I lit up their antics? Didn't they know they were up to no good? It probably was teen dare night at the peccary compound and nothing was going to deter them from the prize. I didn't want to open the door (mostly not to dirty the windows Eve and I had spent that day cleaning), so I flicked the switch on and off four or five times before they all three squealed and disappeared outside the ring of light. 

I was so mad. 

My bad judgment would delay our departure early the next morning when I had to clean up the mess, and as I climbed the stairs, I calculated how much earlier I needed to get up to still get to Flagstaff in time to pick up Lily.

It was 3:42 am.

When I finally fell back asleep, I had fitful dreams that left me confused and exhausted when the alarm went off less than two hours later. I dressed and made my way downstairs as the sun crept over the rim. How bad was the mess out there?

Pretty bad. 

I unrolled a new black garbage bag and proceeded to fill it. 

One of the projects Eve and I completed that week was cleaning out the fridge and freezer. I had thrown away two refreezable cooler packs filled with water and silicon. The javelinas had chewed holes in the bags and soaked all of the garbage with the liquid inside, making the cleanup process even more unpleasant. Great. Soaking wet javelina detritus. Thanks.

Another addition to the mess from the freezer--melted ice cream. Little known fact: javelinas love to smear chocolate ice cream on rugs. 
Can you picture the carton stuck over one of their snouts and once they got it off rubbing their face all over the carpet? 

No longer frozen liquid and chocolate ice cream were not the grossest parts of the mess. The grossest part was picking up obviously chewed wads of paper towels that couldn't be swallowed so they were spit out and left as special squishy treasures for me to find. Back in the trash they went.

If you look at this picture below, you can see the teeth marks taken out of the styrofoam tray from our chicken.
And the packet of dressing in the bottom left corner had teeth marks in it, but they were unable to puncture it--so out it came.

As soon as the mess was returned to the bag, I tied it shut, moved it out by the driver's side of suburban, and began to load the rest of our stuff. I cleaned out the fridge and other food to bring home and tied it in a grocery bag, placing it behind the car with our suitcases. I woke up Eve, grabbed another load, and walked back out to the car. As I turned the corner, who met my gaze but the daddy javelina, sniffing around the back of groceries I'd just brought outside. 

By this point, I was pretty ticked. I didn't care it was 6 am or that I might wake some distant neighbors. I yelled "GET OUT OF HERE!!" as I waved my arms to chase him away. He retreated a few yards and turned to stare at me. I yelled again, but he was unbowed, adding insult to my injury. When I came back out with my last load of stuff, his wife had joined him, and she stood quietly looking at me as he sniffed and licked her.
Just down the hill I saw their three teenagers, up and ready to face the day less than three hours after their evening raid.

I felt like Jane and her dad in Tarzan when they walk in on the animals raiding the camp. What were these peccaries thinking? "Stupid human. Wonder if she will leave us any other snacks before she leaves." "How long till she turns her back again and we can make a break for the bag?" "Is she gonna tell Mom and Dad?" 

A few carrots and pieces of watermelon hadn't gotten tied into the bags, so I tossed them down the steep embankment next to the driveway and the five of them bolted and grunted over to their breakfast. I buckled in my youngest daughter, yelled down the hill at the javelinas, "Don't think I'll ever do that again!" and I drove out of the driveway holding the dripping black bag out of the window, thinking, I hope they have stomachaches all day. 

Never again.

Trash goes in a can with a lid for a reason.

At least it wasn't bear cubs, right?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Hiding from the World with my Baby

A week in the pines of central Arizona—just what I needed.

Summer has been busy so far, but Eve and I took advantage of the other kids having a fun week away from home for the two of us to hide at the cabin.

We left Hyrum in Utah at Brad’s mom’s house when we came back from Idaho on Sunday. He was excited to spend the week with cousins with a few dollars burning a hole in his pocket. I got pictures throughout the week, and it looks like he had a great time.

Micah had to be ready for scout camp by 5:10 am Monday morning. That made things a little crazy when we got home from two weeks’ vacation—packing for camp and trying to find everything he needed. Why do we always lose one of every pair of socks? I had to take a quick trip to Walmart at 4:30 am to fill the rest of his list, but he’s off earning merit badges, getting dirty, and losing sleep for a week. He has great scout leaders, and I’m sure it’s been fun.

Lily also had a busy Sunday night—laundry and packing for EFY in Flagstaff. She went without a roommate, hoping to make some new friends while she was gone. I haven’t heard much from her, but we pick her up tomorrow morning.

After dropping Lily off, Eve and I took a back route to Pine, and we’ve been holed up here. Brad came for the first two nights, but otherwise it’s just been the two of us, and the time has flown by.

We painted. We hiked. 

We played Steal the Pile, Go Fish, Life, and Sorry. 

We saw tons of deer, a few elk and squirrels (Eve's photo), one ornery javelina I surprised at dusk, and a flock of vultures that have been swooping from tree to tree every afternoon. I couldn’t figure out why the vultures were hanging around here until yesterday. That’s when I smelled the decaying flesh of something. Eve and I were playing cards on the porch when I asked her if she could smell that. She wrinkled her nose and spouted, “SOMEONE needs to take a bath, and it’s not me!” She quickly scooped up the cards to continue our game inside. The smell has gotten worse over the past two days, becoming so bad that I googled how long it takes a carcass to decompose (wonder if there will be a tracker on my google search after that one . . .).

I worked some, and as I worked, I listened to her talk to herself as she pretended or sang. At seven, the age of imagination is nearing its end, but I was happy she got a week alone without bigger people making fun of her imaginary games. She made endless how-to videos on how to build a fire (without a real spark). They are hilarious shots of trees and sky and her running back to adjust the angle to capture her explanations.

One thing I learned about my Evie this trip: She is a really good worker when it’s just the two of us.  We scrubbed cupboards and bathrooms. We dusted and swept and mopped. We organized books and towels and pillows and the game cupboard. We inventoried each room then took a trip to Payson to restock supplies. We cleaned the fridge, the freezer, the oven, the stove, and the microwave. 

And our last big project was today—that girl can wash windows. It took us over 90 minutes to wash the screens and the windows inside and out, and she never complained once. We laughed on either side of the glass as we sprayed each other, but neither of us laughed harder than when I accidentally sprayed myself in the butt with the hose. 

She did use an entire roll of paper towels and half a bottle of Windex, but those windows sparkle. It was a joy to work together all morning—and earn a trip for an ice cream cone this afternoon.

My favorite memories from this trip:

  • Snuggled up on the couch combing each other’s wet, clean hair as we watched “The Neverending Story”
  • Eve sneaking up on a small group of deer and the joy on her face as she got closer and closer before they bounded off into the forest
  • Her scream when a spider was in her bathwater and my scream when a squirrel was under the table where I was working

  • Naps on the living room couches. She's getting too long to fit.
  • Eve practicing an entire day to learn how to do “the bridge” when she shuffles
  • Disney Radio for hours and hours and spontaneous dance parties to our favorite songs
  • Sleeping late together when Eve snuck into my bed around 6:30 every morning

Alone time is hard to find in a big family, and it’s even harder when you’re the baby. Love you, Evie. I can’t wait to come back.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Just Me and My Dad

One of the benefits to spending a leisurely week at my parents with no itinerary boxes to check was carving out one day to have lunch alone with my dad, celebrating his 70th birthday.

I live so far away that this never happens.

Dad kept saying how much he loves having all his family together, but the rare moments he gets to spend one on one with his kids are treasured. I agree. I love talking to him as an adult, listening to his opinions on politics and people while eating his favorite pizza--Maxie's with Canadian bacon, pineapple, bell peppers, and fresh tomatoes.

We lingered through two Pepsi refills as we talked and laughed.

I don't tell them often enough, but I'm truly blessed with the parents I have. I love them and all they do for me and for my family.

Happy birthday, Dad.

Thanks for loving me.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

J'ai Finis

To my students,
I finished.

My first year as Teacher.

I struggle to articulate my feelings about my first year of teaching.

The stress. The exhaustion. The endless grading.

The kids. The classroom. The learning--theirs and mine.

The kids.

My kids.

128 kids who over the course of nine months I came to love as my own. I planned for them. I worried about them. I taught them.

Oh how I love them.

Teaching reaches all the way to my soul and takes me to a place of fulfillment and joy that I never knew existed. There were a few rough patches over the course of the school year, but I can honestly say that most days would end with me getting in my car and thinking, "I can't believe how lucky I am. I can't believe I get to teach these fantastic young people. I can't believe they pay me to do this."

Being a teacher is incredible, and I can't believe I get the summer off to rest a little, reorganize a few things, plan some new lessons, and create a new class or two for next year.

My only hesitation as I prepare for a new school year: I don't know how I will ever love another group of students the way I love this group--the group that taught me more than I can measure. From Abril to Zuniga, I say . . .

Thank you, class of 2019 (and a few from '17, '18, and '20). I will carry pieces of you in my heart always.

Love Always,

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Saturday Stories 2017--Fairy Tales

I grew up with fairy tales.

I love them. One of my most precious treasures from my childhood is a huge book of fairy tales that I received on Christmas Eve one year. In its pages I fell in love with Beauty and the Beast. I remember when the original animated movie came out and I was disappointed at how ferocious the beast was, because in my version of the tale, the beast was kind and gentle from the beginning. I adjusted to the Disney version and love it almost as much, but I was thrilled when one bit of the original tale crept into the new release--Maurice's desire to return home to Belle with her requested rose. That made me smile, only to myself, for no one else would understand the importance of that small detail unless they are familiar with the original story.

I love fairy tales because my mom loves fairy tales. She shared two of her own precious childhood fairy tale books with me when I was about ten years old. The books were yellowed along the edges and each tale had one or two pictures to illustrate the story. Mom trusted me with her copies of the books, even though the covers were barely attached (and I soon lost them through multiple readings).

Her favorite quickly became one of my favorites, The Twelve Dancing Princesses--twelve sisters who secretly escaped their locked room every night and the soles of their shoes were worn paper thin by morning while they danced the night away at a castle that could only be reached inside a boat shaped like a swan. I love that story and can see the illustration of the crippled man who solved the mystery in my mind. I've also always been secretly glad that Disney has never commandeered it and commercialized it. The images in my mind will always be enough for me.

Imagination is one of the unsung but most valuable gifts of childhood, and I will always be grateful to a mom who cultivated my love for fairy tales. I wasn't as careful with my own children's exposure to the tales of my childhood, but Eve surprised me Friday after school as I got a quick dinner ready in the kitchen.

"Mom, can I read you my new library book? It's called The Twelve Dancing Princesses."

The title got my full attention. Was it the same as my fairy tale?

She sat against the cabinet for ten minutes, and I listened as I cooked.

It was almost the same. And all the memories of my childhood flooded back--time spent in my bedroom with the door shut, dreaming of dancing the night away.

As I write this post, Eve is reading her library book aloud again. This time, her grandma is on speaker phone, listening to her granddaughter share the beautiful story.

Some moments stay always in memory.

I never could have imagined the full circle this one would take.