Happy 10 Years to Us!

In June, Tom and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary. By sheer serendipity we were in Victoria for the Foutz family reunion- the very place we honeymooned. It was sweet to get to re-live some of the emotions I felt that first week of marriage, and then to lay them against my emotions today. My life was so centered on Tom at the time. He was my greatest joy, delight, and interest. That week was euphoric for me. It was full of adventure and exploration- climbing Mt. Rainier, bounding over waves on a zodiac boat watching orcas, afternoon tea at the Buchart gardens, my first fancy French restaurant, crabbing, tide pooling but mostly being every minute with my dearest friend, Tom. Now, Tom is still my dearest friend, and in many ways it was bittersweet to remember just how much time we got to spend together back then. We don’t do anniversary gifts, but we did, unintentionally, give ourselves the greatest gift we could have- two weeks of vacation for Tom. We took one week from the 2016-2017 medical year and one week from the 2017-2018 medical year and sandwiched them together. Tom works so hard and such long hours that in many ways these past four years have made a bit of shell of him. He’s always burdened down with stress and fatigue. All things considered, he handles it well. Even I hadn’t realized how much it has transformed him until the last few days of our vacation when, fully rested, fully disconnected from his work, he emerged- himself. My Tom! That joyful, adventurous, thrilling man I had married. Our drive home was like old times, when we’d drive to New York City to visit his sister- talking the whole nine hours. I watched with girlish pride as he wake boarded, mountain biked, and rock climbed. He cheered when I got up the first time on the water skis, and the look in his eyes when I pulled myself up on the boat afterwords – took me back ten years. In some ways Tom and I’s relationship was based on novelty. He treated me to a long and adventurous courtship. During the three years that we dated we visited Boston, NYC, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. He took me to operas and Broadway shows. I played pool for the first time in a pool hall! I ate my first Ethiopian, Indian, Greek, and authentic Italian food. He toured me around Italy and Switzerland. We explored the stars with powerful telescopes and spent evenings discussing politics and social issues. We attended orchestra concerts and visited jazz clubs. At that time he largely organized our activities. Funny, I’d never thought of it, but now things have flip flopped. I largely plan our family’s outings now, and thanks to the intense love for novelty and exploration he planted in me, we’ve done a pretty decent job of exploring Seattle, now with children.

Unfortunately, too many of those adventures haven’t included Tom. I’ve sent pictures back of the boys and I on Jetty Island, or all three kids and I on the beach of the Olympic Peninsula. He didn’t get to be there when the boys spent over an hour bathing in the natural pool on the beach off the Oregon Coast, nor has he seen Snoqualmie Falls, or even the Woodland Park zoo. But he’s been there with us all the while- sending encouraging texts, and thanking me for taking such good care of our children. For this reason it was SUCH a delight to get to spend two weeks, together, exploring again. We took three ferries, kayaked, hiked, kissed behind a waterfall, swung on a rope swing over the ocean, explored downtown Victoria, and shared the Buchart gardens with our children in Canada. We mountain biked, kayaked, rock climbed, skied and wake boarded in Utah. Together. It was the best 10 year anniversary gift we could have given each other.


Tom and I have been talking about moving a lot these last few months. With applications and interviews for fellowship positions occurring, we’ve been forced to face the future. We love so many things about living in Seattle, but different training opportunities for Tom and a lower cost of living are forcing us to look else where. The thought of relocating is always followed by a mixed bag of emotions for me. I love novelty, and the thought of exploring a new city/area excites me. There are things about Seattle that I wish were different (namely the lack of sunshine for much of the year.) So the thought of living some place sunnier thrills me. But when I move past the niceties of those changes, and face the other realities I’m brought to tears by all I will miss when we move from here: dear friends, a wonderful  church family, and frequent visits to and from my parents and younger sisters. Then there is the home we’ve built here- the slide and fort out back, the raspberry plot that is finally producing abundantly, my perennial beds that are finally filling out, an organized home where everything has its place. All theses things take years to establish and the thought of starting again. . .

Already thoughts of what to take and what to leave have kept me up at night. Do we just sell it all and start afresh? We’d save thousands in moving expenses. But then, would we find ourselves in a new place, with a whole host of things to acquire? Or do we bring along the things we’ve come to enjoy, making the transition less severe? The minimalist side of me gets giddy with the thought of lightning our load considerably, but the practical side knows that much of the things we have, we use, and re-acquiring them would be burdensome.

Then I’ll stay up late looking at housing options in the places we’re considering, which throws open a whole new list of questions. How big of a house do we really need? Do our kids really need their own bedrooms? What length of commute is ideal? How much should we spend on a house? Would we be okay living in a townhouse without a yard? Do we have it in us to renovate another house? Maybe we’d love living in a track neighborhood with a neighborhood pool and playground. Or maybe I want to homestead.  I’ll try to explore each option in my head, predicting ramifications, and puzzling over how each choice would effect our family.

Whenever it gets too daunting, I’ll project myself 30 years. Life will be  more interesting to look back on if we mix it up every several years. Experiencing a new part of the country, with a different culture, and different demands will change us, and shape us in new ways. We’ll be able to relate and connect with a larger group of people. We’ll have a wider range of experiences. We’ll be more complex and hopefully interesting. We’ll widen our sphere of influence.

At these moments of decision and change, I’m ever more grateful for the gift of the spirit that blesses us with peace.


It’s fall, we went on vacation

Summer has been over for a good month, but it’s really felt like it the last week or so. There’s been a culinary shift. We eat pretty seasonally, since the bulk of our diet is vegetable based. Butternut squash has replaced green beans, applesauce- fresh berries. Today I made a batch of Myrtle’s applesauce. Grandma Myrtle was a dear friend whom we adopted in Cleveland as Scotland’s “Grandma.” She cooked great southern food, including a scrumptious applesauce. I hope I never forget the time we stopped by to visit and, as was the norm, she sat us down at her table to eat. Scotland was just starting on solids, but I gave him a taste of what amounted to apple pie in puree form, sans crust. He downed the whole bowl so fast I hardly got a taste. Myrtle happily supplied me with a large second helping. The next fall I called to ask the secret to her fabulous sauce: “Oh, you just cook down a variety of apples then add butter, sugar, and cinnamon until it tastes good!” Butter! I wouldn’t have come to that on my own. So today, I made a batch of applesauce that even Myrtle would agree “tastes good” with plenty of butter, sugar and Penzies apple pie spice. It’s divine. I think of Myrtle often, I miss her, but I feel closer to her now, that she’s in heaven. I like to think she can hear me when I talk to her, and that she checks in on me, just like she used to. We love you, Grandma Myrtle.

We spent the week in the San Juan Islands, Orcas Island specifically. One of the perks of Tom’s job is that he gets four weeks of vacation. And they can only be taken in two one week chunks and one two week chunk. We can request certain months for vacation, but specific dates are chosen for us, and they are selected in July for the following year. It forces us to plan, and make use of his time, as it is so special. It also means they don’t always coincide with family get togethers. I hate that Tom often misses my family reunions, but we appreciate that it gives us time as a little family to get away and make memories. We rented a small cabin that was right on the water. We spent our three days there playing in the sand, hiking, fishing, cooking over the fire and BBQ, eating outside, driving around the island, and enjoying the resort’s spa. The first day was gorgeous, the second rainy, and the third overcast. We made the most of the weather, hiking despite the rain, and enjoying family time playing games and reading books inside, but we were all thrilled the the rain cleared the third day so we could return to the beach, the pier, and the breathtaking outdoors. I’m really glad that we chose a place on the water, because Orcas Island has very limited public access to the water. The place we stayed West Beach Resort, had a good stretch of beach and a long dock from which to take in the scenery. The boys got drenched and totally sandy a few times each day. I was grateful that a change of clothes was only a few strides away! The ferry ride there is a good fifty minutes of sheer beauty. Islands dot the landscape in layers, with Mount Baker faint as a backdrop.

Now for pictures:

Day 1:

Ferry Ride

I tried hard to capture the beauty of the islands on our way in. But you just can’t capture the expanse. They seem to go on endlessly. It made me reflect on how incredible the human eye is. What a creative masterpiece. Despite my fancy camera, it couldn’t come close to capturing what I could see. 

Scotland was most excited about “discovering secret passage ways” in the ferry. Something he and Tom did last time they rode the ferry together. Tom as always, was willing to indulge his appetite, so the three of them set off to try out every stair well, elevator, and hallway. Leaving me to savor the wind in my hair, and the beauty before me.

I was determined to spot any whales that were had to be spotted. We were rounding the corner from Lopez island to Orcas when there they were two orca whales! We saw them dive in and out of the water several times, just as the captain instructed us all to return to our vehicles. We waited and watched a little longer before a firmer voice repeated the demand. I was tickled pink that my persistence had paid off, my wish granted, and that my two boys saw their first whales in the wild! (Lucky ducks!)

Our cabin- #4.

Beachfront property. Sigh. Scotland suggested we buy a house by the water in the future. I’m right there with you bud. (Well, except for the constant supply of sandy wet laundry!) 

Scotter and I had a blast building a “fish trap” on the beach the first afternoon, while the two other boys slept. I found that waterproof pants, boots, and rubber gloves made for a much more pleasant beach experience for me. Then I was willing to get “into it” just as much as Scotland, without getting squeamish about the bugs jumping out of the sand, or wet pants. I’d wished I would have sprung for waterproof pants for Scotland before this trip. He may be getting thigh-high waders for Christmas!

Our first night, we were treated to a beautiful sunset. A real treat since we didn’t see the sun the rest of the time we were there. We had tin foil dinners and s’mores for dinner the first night- note my boys there around the fire in the bottom right. (The tin foil dinners were a huge success- They had precooked and marinated BBQ chicken, diced baked potato, corn and onion slices. The BBQ flavored everything and the fire gave it all a delicious smoked flavor. The fact that everything was pre-cooked was key- it was just a matter of heating it up!)Day 2:

The second day it rained all day. But we were determined to make the most of it, so we set off in the morning to explore Moran State Park.

All started well. Anders and I were fully suited up- totally rain proof. Tom and Scotland were only covered on top, and had water proof shoes.

We chose the mountain lake loop, and stopped to play at the lake about a fourth a mile in. A poor decision. Scotland was thrilled to play in the water, as always, but fell in not longer after getting there. Which didn’t deter him from having a fabulous time at the lake, but did result in a less than happy camper once we hit the trail again. Let’s just say we didn’t make it the full four miles.

The boys would have happily played by the lake the whole day, throwing rocks, building boats, and being boys.

Note Ander’s rock!

After a long play session at the lake we set off again from the trail. But what followed was a good half hour of whining and crying from Scotland, negotiating/pleading/demanding from Tom and I, until finally I grabbed his hand and started skipping along belting out such greats as “Do you Ears Hang Low” and “Shinnamerinkadinkadink!” which lessened his displeasure, but didn’t completely stop it until I made him the soloist of “The Wheels on the Bus-” “The baby on the bus says: motioning to him” He immediately grew silent, laughing as over and over I sang the prompt “The baby on the bus says Scotter, that’s your part!” He thought it was hilarious and requested I sing that song the rest of the way back. Despite the emotional duress Scotland’s cold, wet state brought upon all of us we still enjoyed a beautiful, though brief hike.

Thanks to Anders rain suit. He was happy as a clam!

On our way home we saw a bunch of deer and then a huge bullfrog hoping across the road! I HAD to pull over. It’s not everyday a boy gets to see a frog that big. Of course I had to catch it, because well, that’s what you do when you see a frog right?!

The rest of the day was spent working on the Snap Circuit, reading, and goofing off in the cabin. We did head out before dinner to buy a fresh salmon to grill up, which was fabulous! Tom and I enjoyed seeing more of the island. We at dinner on the patio, listening to the rain pitter pater as we enjoyed grilled cheese and tomato soup, and salmon.

Day 3:

Anders and I were up first so we sneaked out to enjoy the early morning quiet so the other two could sleep.

We were rewarded with a bald eagle site-ing as well as fish, crabs, a starfish and of course lots of sea birds. With the rain cleared Anders enjoyed his breakfast out next to the water, and Scotter enjoyed a pre-breakfast sand session.

After breakfast, I took Scotland fishing. We rented a pole and tried our luck with hotdogs at the end of the dock. (As was recommended.) He had several tiny fish bite, and several larger fish sniff, but no takers. I was proud of his patience, and persistence, but after a good half hour lacking in excitement, he decided to move on to other things. I was surprised at my desire to teach him to fish, to show him the joys of fishing, the thrill of teasing the fish, the art of imitating the fly, worm, etc. I don’t think of myself as a fisherman, but I fished every summer growing up on our family backpacking trips, and I can appreciate the thrill of taking in a fish! I’ll admit I was disappointed that I didn’t have a license, and couldn’t try my own hand at snagging those whoppers down below.

We visited Eastsound that afternoon, it’s a charming tiny little town with a couple streets full of darling shops and restaurants. I’m always a sucker for the beautiful potted flowers tourist towns such as these support.

Day 4:

We headed back to the mainland around noon. After eating a scrumptious brunch at the Island Skillet. Fortunately the clouds had blown off and it was, again, a gorgeous clear ferry ride. We wrapped up our trip with a visit to Mt. Erie in Anacortes. The view was beyond breathtaking. Almost unworldly. Pictures can’t come close:

For future reference here’s my brief review of the vacation: We were really grateful we chose to rent a cabin instead of tent it. For one it was really wet, and we all appreciated our sleep. We had more struggles than we would have liked with Scotland. (I’m really appreciating our spacious house after our tiny cabin.) If we go again I’ll be sure to supply Scotland with water-proof gear, so he can go out whenever he wants without getting chilled. Next time I’ll plan it more thoroughly. There was a lot of “So what do we do now?” The indecision was hard on all of us. I liked having a kitchen, even though we did eat primarily pre-prepared foods. While it was nice to be there on the shoulder season because of it being quieter, and a little cheaper. I think we’ll go when the weather is more reliably nice in the future. We made the best of it, but we ended up in the cabin more than any of us would have liked. All in all we had a wonderful time, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to leave behind the projects, stresses, and distractions of our home for some wonderful family time in a gorgeous place!

Two month hiatus

I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “So how was your trip?” I’ve given the expected pleasantry, “Oh, it was great!” But, for record’s sake I wanted to sum up our Pocatello experience, because I learned some important lessons. I’ll go ahead and do this bullet-point style.

  • Long car trips are entirely doable. Especially if you rely heavily on the ipad and a bit of caffeine. For the longest time I said I couldn’t do long trips. I have a history of drowsy driving. I really consider it a miracle I’ve never crashed. So the thought of driving nine hours was really intimidating to me. But I did it, and it wasn’t that big of deal. I did have to utilize some caffeine near the end. But that’s what drugs are for. I had this ongoing battle with myself about how much ipad, was too much ipad. I’d get all worried that letting Scotland watch six hours of TV was going to do- I don’t know what, but surely something bad? But when he wasn’t on the pad, because I hadn’t done a good job of providing alternatives, he would just poke at his brother, which resulted in a lot of loud screaming, which resulted in two stressed out parents. Finally, Tom looked at me, when I was getting really exasperated, and said “I’d just let him play on the ipad.” It was only an issue when we drove in the truck because they have to be right next to each other. . . anyway, still trying to figure that one out. I just couldn’t get the line from “Last Child in the Woods” out of my head What happened to the days when children looked out the window and imagined. 
  • You can totally take a hiatus from life. It felt really strange to leave our friends, callings, work, home, and yard. But we did it. And it wasn’t that big of deal. Granted we have a pretty simple life, our kids aren’t in many activities yet, we’re not heavily involved with things. It’s just always therapeutic to realize: I have choice! I don’t have to do anything. (Not that you can choose the consequences. . . that’s another post.)
  • I love my family. I spent the majority of my time traveling to see family: Tom’s folks and sister, my two sisters, my brother, and my grandparents. It was wonderful to be with them in a less structured less stressful environment (than say family reunions.) I’ve always preferred solo visits to my siblings, I just get more quality time. Scotland was in heaven to have a constant playmate- he said at one point. “What’s even better than a friend? A cousin!”
  • While I wish Tom’s commute wasn’t as long, I wouldn’t sacrifice our yard and spacious house for it. We lived less than five minutes from the hospital in Pocatello. We loved having Tom home for lunch, and getting to see more of him in the morning- and have his help at dinner. But my boys were stir crazy in our small apartment. It was nice to reaffirm our decision to live where we do.
  • I love a yard. I really missed my yard while we were there. Part of it was just the time of year. Knowing that I could be planting peas back in Seattle. But I just missed working the earth, and seeing everything bud out. There is something special about your own daffodils blooming.
  • I’m happier when I have more people in my life. I’m content at home. I consider myself a home body. I don’t crave sociality the way some do, but, I’m happier when I’m more social. Because I was with family much of the time, I was with many more people than I normally am, and I really thrived on it. I was determined to be more social when I got back, but I quickly fell back into old trends- prioritizing projects over people. We had a wonderful picnic and playground play with our friends, the Hulets yesterday and it was SO refreshing. The day before we had a picnic with our Joy school friends and I came home so buoyant. Life is about people.
  • I love the temple. I visited several temples and got to attend the Logan temple while I was there. I just feel immense happiness when I attend the temple.
  • Tom’s an incredibly supportive husband. I’m very lucky. He would have preferred us to stay in Pocatello so he could see the boys and get a break from work. But he fully supported, even encouraged me to take these two months to go and do. I love him, and feel such gratitude for the help meet that he is.

Zion’s National Park

After our wonderful day at Bryce we headed to Zion’s National Park. We started our visit with the Canyon Overlook trail, which was a real winner- a perfect way to be introduced to the grandeur of the park. Scotland got his taste of 4-year-old “high adventure” aka rock climbing, and trails running alongside steep drop offs.

Scotter is like his Mom in his preference for unpaved, rugged paths. He LOVED this trail with it’s natural rock steps and abundance of boulders to climb. (He always chooses the path least traveled.)

“Look Mom, I’m a rock climber!”

Anders was SO happy being outdoors all day. He enjoyed the pack, even taking a long nap the second day. Though he was always thrilled when we got him out to hike, play in the water or red sand.

We all played in the sand at the top for a good hour. Gotta love a nature vacation for teaching you to slow down and enjoy the simple things.

We swung by to see the popular “Weeping Rock,” It was, unfortunately, less impressive that time of year, being void of the fern and flowers its known for. Though the boys liked running through the dripping water. After our stunning drive to the park and a couple of fun hikes we headed to St. George to connect with Tom’s folks at the condo we rented together. The next day we spent exploring St. George and the Red Rocks Recreational area.

St. George Temple

We visited the St. George temple- which must have been recently painted because it was blindingly white. I’ve always wanted to visit the Nauvoo temple and have regretted we didn’t make the trip while we lived in Cleveland. So it was fun to see the St. George temple since the design is the same. Tom’s Dad told us a story about his grandparents. They traveled a good distance to be married in the St. George temple, and at that time there were rooms at the top of the temple where honeymooners could stay the first night after they were sealed! Apparently that small circle near the top, is the window of the room!

We felt so lucky that it worked out last minute to connect with Pam and Stan. They are such adoring grandparents and the boys always soak up their attention.

We spent a bit of time in the visitor’s center. I had a really sweet experience with Scotland. Talking about the Christus and walking through the room with artwork portraying the life of the Savior. He’s a spiritual curious and sensitive boy. And I love getting to share this beautiful side of existence with him.

We visited several of the church history sites there such as the above, Brigham Young’s winter home.

His actual bed and cane.

Brigham was quite ill much of the time while he lived here, he did most of his business in this upstairs room. Just outside of the room at the top of the stairs was a window that he would often stand at and look out- as he could see the progress on both the tabernacle and the temple from there. It was moving to think of the great man with extraordinary vision who lived in these quarters.

Red Cliffs recreational area

The colors were so beautiful- with the bright spring green of the cottonwood trees, the brilliant blue sky and the orangish-red rock.

Playing in the sand with Poppa. I always appreciate how willing my father-in-law is to get down and play with my boys. (Notice that he and Anders are matching. Blue jeans and a gray polo! It wasn’t intentional, but certainly cute.)

Boys in ball caps. A favorite.

We had so much fun exploring this place. Scotland crawled up one hole and proclaimed: “I just POPPED right out of the ground!”


Hiking is one of my favorite activities with the boys. I feel like we’re both in our element and we connect better. Sometimes at home I don’t feel like the “fun one” because I get focused on keeping things clean, teaching, and keeping the household running. But outdoors I’m all about adventure, energy and exploration.  I’m realizing that I really need to plan at least a monthly hike with the boys. We all love it, and we live in the perfect area for it. We finished the day off with pizza, milkshakes, and a movie at the Condo. Mmmm!

The next day we headed back to Zions, this time with Pam and Stan. We started off with the Riverside walk.

Anders thought it was a severe injustice that Scotland could walk in the river and he couldn’t.  (I finally bought him rain boots today!) In my opinion kids should live in rain boots. They just lend themselves to so much more fun. (You wouldn’t believe how many people commented on how lucky Scotland was to be wearing rainboots! He takes FULL advantage of them.)

We hiked up to the narrows and were lucky enough to see six deer make a river crossing. There were a bunch of people geared up to hike the narrows. I was seriously tempted to do it, since I knew Tom’s parents could have watched the boys. But if just didn’t seem like the right time. We’ll go back in ten years when we can do it with the boys. I can’t imagine a more thrilling trip with teenagers!

This rock was so fun, we both slid down it several times on our bums.

There are more beautiful times to visit Zions, but as Pam said, going this time of year, before the trees have leafed out, allowed us to see more. (I love how Pam finds the positive!)

Running under the waterfall on the Emerald Pools trail.

The sun was so intense, I kept getting white washed pictures. Oh well, I”ll take the sun anyday!

I planned this trip. And and read tons of blogs and trail journals about people’s favorite parts of Zions. As a result I really wanted to experience the slot canyons. Most of them require three to five miles of hiking, which I knew wasn’t feasible with the boys. So I spoke with one ranger about possibilities to see slot canyons without much hiking and she told me about this one. There was no marked trail. I never wouldn’t have thought I could just go wondering off into the park, had two rangers not told me I could. Tom, Scotland and I all climbed under a bridge and down a series of boulders until we dropped down into this. Scotter even got to experience quick sand for the first time! I must add my in-laws were so sweet to make this happen. I felt rather selfish on this trip. I had all these high hopes of what we’d see and do, even though I braced myself for the reality of traveling with kiddos. We’d had a full day and everyone was pretty tired, so I stayed quiet regarding my hope to still try to find a slot canyon, but my father-in-law, remembering my earlier enthusiasm, determined that “We’ve got to get Kjirsti her slot canyon before we go!” We drove across the park, partially so they could experience the Mount Carmel Tunnel- which is SUCH a thrill, and so that I could get the tiniest taste of canyoneering.

Mount Carmel Tunnel

It’s a gorgeous park, with such interesting terrain. I really got the high adventure bug researching this trip. I feel more alive in nature, I feel stronger, more capable. Perhaps it reminds me of hard backpacking trips, carrying WAY more weight than I should have because I was determined to carry more than my petite sister. Or perhaps its that Petersen blood- we love our land. Regardless, those feelings surged as we spent these three days entirely outside and I loved it!

Southern Utah Vacay: Bryce Canyon National Park

Tom had a week of vacation while we were in Pocatello, so we took advantage of our location and headed to southern Utah to visit Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion’s National Park. It was a wonderful week full of breath taking vistas, invigorating hikes, and time with family. I was a bit worried about how the boys would do on a national park’s vacation, but they loved it. We upped the excitement by choosing a hotel with a pool and spa. We also made sure to let them sit and play in the sand/water whenever they wanted. We started the trip out at Bryce Canyon. We arrived late Monday night. The next morning the boys arose early. Realizing that we could see the sunrise, I suggested we try. It was a bad idea. It resulted in a stressful and chaotic morning. Scotland was a wreck, and Anders freaked out when he was drug out into the 10 degree morning.  We missed the sunrise and I was grumpy. Things turned around, however and we had a wonderful day taking in the sites. The canyon had about three feet of snow, which made most of the trails un-passable. (They recommended snow shoes.) While it was frustrating that we couldn’t do as much hiking as we would have liked, the snow made the Hoodoos breathtaking, and the boys LOVED playing in the snow.

Scotland listening to the wind for his Junior Ranger badge.

Bryce is set up so that you can drive through and stop at about 17 lookouts. Several of the lookouts have short hikes off of them to leading to a better vantage point, but unfortunately many of these were closed. The second day Scotland and I hiked along the ridge of one of the most heavily “hoodooed” canyons. Hiking through 3 feet of snow was thrill enough. Coupling that with amazing scenery… mmmm!

The second morning we decided it was best for me to capture the sunrise on my own. I wasn’t the only one who awoke early. It was a beautifully bonding experience. There was something special about standing there with this small group of fellow photographers and nature lovers who had also risen early to take in the wonders of the Earth. I felt this overwhelming sense of unity and love for them. I wanted to take a group selfie! I took advantage of the time alone to hike down into the canyon a bit. It was euphoric. I had a silly grin on my face the whole time- something about the early morning, the sunrise, the chance to play with my new camera, hiking, and the surroundings really “filled me.”

I’ve never experimented with sunrise photography. I loved watching how the colors changed as the light increased. The reds were so much deeper!

It was a quick visit, just enough to know we want to come back!

Cache Valley: Sabina and her family and two sets of Grandparents

After our visit with Getti, we returned “home” to see Tom for a few days before I got stir crazy and we headed back out to visit Sabina and my Grandparents in Cache valley.

They were sweet to treat Scotland to yet another birthday celebration. (I guess he got four ’cause he’s four!) Really, it was just all of my siblings being amazing aunts and uncles. Their love and attention to my little ones always warms my heart.

We got a big snow while we were there which was a literal answer to prayer- (The whole valley fasted the day before for snow.) We were thrilled to finally get some snow play in! Sabina suited us up and we headed to a great sledding hill.

Anders LOVED going down the hill, even when it got fast. He has NO inhibition. As always, I’m amazed at how individual children are.

It’s fun to be Seattleites who don’t get snow, because then it’s SO exciting. I guess it’s like Tom who still LOVES rain, because he grew up in Arizona.

We also took the kids to a big bounce house one afternoon. Rhyse and Scotland were in heaven. And Anders, with his newly acquired walking skills, was happy to follow his brother about, walking between the huge inflated structures. Rhyse and Scotland played so happily this trip. Its the first time its been just the two of them, as we’ve always come up with Brigette’s family, and I appreciated the chance for Scotland to get to know Rhyse a little better. She’s a darling girl.

Rhyse struggles with what some call “intense emotion.” It has really crippled her in the past, but with some research and LOTS of practice Sabina has helped her work through a lot of it. I was really amazed at the transformation within her. She knew when she needed to take “downtime” and has learned to verbalize her needs. Sabina’s patience and creativity with her was truly inspiring, especially because I know what a challenge this has been for her. Rhyse has been a graduate level course in parenting, and Sabina is passing with flying colors!

Sabina treated me to a morning walk to myself. The crisp air and exercise felt wonderful, and the scenery wasn’t so shabby either!

It was their ward’s ski night at Beaver Mountain ski resort while we were there. With cheap rates, and a willing babysitter in my injured nephew, I took advantage of the opportunity to take Scotland skiing for the first time. He was such a champ. Sabina was sweet enough to take him the first several rounds as I got used to being on skis myself (I’d only been once before.) She was so patient and encouraging with him. (He said at the end of the night when he was starting to get tired. “I want to ski with you three more times and then I want to ski with Sabina one more time!”)

He was determined, and quickly picked up the skills to ski on his own, he learned to snow plow enough to slow himself but not enough to stop, so after a few crashes he decided he’d rather hold my hand the rest of the time. Which I didn’t mind at all. Hearing his endless chatter as we moved up the bunny lift. Holding his hand as we moved down the hill. Working together to do something both of us were beginners at. Seeing his smiling goggled and helmeted face. It was a memory I’ll always cherish.

In addition to getting to spend a lot of quality time with Sabina and her family we got to spend a day with my maternal grandparents. It was a lovely day. Grandma read and played with the boys, Grandpa took them out to feed the horses. And I was able to help them a bit with Grandpa’s life history.

Grandma pulling out puzzles and games for Scotland.

Grandma was doing really well on this visit. She read Scotland several books, narrating expressively and pointing out all the interesting parts of the pictures. She helped entertain Anders while I helped Grandpa write his history, and asked Scotland dozens of questiosn. She was high spirited and jovial, it was wonderful to see her and feel of her loving spirit.

Keeping a fire going downstairs.

Teaching Scotland how to feed the horses.

My grandfather has Parkinson’s disease. His whole body was covered in an itchy rash when we were there, but you wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t told us. His determination to still be a grandpa- taking the boys outside, giving them treats, and taking them up on his lap to talk to them always touches my heart. He spoke deeply and sadly of friends and family members of his who have recently left the church. He bore his testimony of the priesthood, of the truthfulness of the church, of the joy it brought to his life. I love this man!

Showing him how to ride the tractor.

One of the things I love about Anders is how free he is with affection. When Grandpa leaned in to give him a kiss he nuzzled his head into his shoulder.

I’m not sure why but this picture really means a lot to me. I spent two summers with my grandparents, and we ate nearly every meal at this table, with these plates and these placemats. The seating arrangement was the same, except this time I had my two boys with me. The prayers and conversation were similar. I’m just so grateful that my two boys will get to experience a bit of the peace and stability that resides in this home, around this table.

We also got to have lunch with Grandma Petersen. It was a shorter visit than I would have liked- her houses is NOT baby proof, and the boys were high energy and rambunctious. But she smiled and laughed at their sweet displays- Scotland’s acrobatics and Anders abundant blown kisses. She encouraged Scotland as he colored in his coloring book and made sure the boys had plenty to eat during lunch. Her eyes sparkled as she watched Anders tottering about, and enjoyed Scotland’s lively conversation. As he sat next to her at the bar stools, waiting for lunch he asked her. “So, what games did you play when you were a kid?” (A question I had suggested he could ask Grandma and Grandpa Harrison a few days earlier.)  It was great to see her and get to express our love, if only briefly. It felt good to be in her home, so full of memories for me.

Bountiful: Brigette, Dave, Brielle, Keiton and Coleman

We flew back to SLC from Phoenix and spent the following week with Brigette, Dave and their children.

Scotland and Brielle were in dress-ups the whole time we were there. It was fun to see the difference in play, between Scotland and his boy cousins and his play with Brielle. She was much more into the role playing, which he loved! They couldn’t get enough of each other.

We had a couple of sunny days as well as some snow- so as well as sand play Anders had his first time on a sled down their back hill! He loved it.

We spent a day at the children’s museum in Salt Lake. It was fun to see the kids engage in some older activities- like more dress-ups, theater, and even drawing comics.

Scotland got to join Brigette’s preschool for two days. I was totally blown away by what a good job she does. She kept the kids moving, engaged, and learning. It was a good wake up call, to remind me that Scotland is capable of learning and doing more. It got me really excited to step up the academics this fall in our co-op preschool. This is just one way that Brigette really impressed me. She just does SO much, whether it’s watching extra kids, re-landscaping her yard, overhauling her home, or teaching her children, she goes all out. I marvel and her vision, work ethic and drive.

Bountiful Temple- unfortunately, also closed.

Brielle and Scotland’s birthdays are just a week apart so we held off so we could celebrate them together. It was a simple celebration, but between the helium balloons, cake, candles and presents they were thrilled. What a treat to get to celebrate with cousins. (Four times!) Tom even drove down to join the celebration which made it extra special.

Phoenix: Derek, Audrey and kids

One of the perks of having my in-laws in AZ is that I get to see my oldest brother, Derek and his family often. We always tack on a few days so we can hang out with the kids and chat late into the night a few times with Derek and Audrey. This time we also got to watch Eli and Owen play soccer, got a private concert from Ryanna, Owen and Eli on the violin and piano, and I got to go on a 12 mile bike ride alongside Derek- as he ran, (his lost long run before a half marathon the next weekend.) Scotland and Caleb held inflatable shields and swords of some kind 85% of the time we were there. And Derek got Anders to start really walking.

I was so impressed with Ryanna on this visit. Her helpfulness around the house, her sweetness and creativity in entertaining and caring for her brothers, and how often I saw her holding Anders really warmed my heart. She’s a “little mother.” Here she is pictured after carrying Scotland back from their “adventure” while I watched one of her brothers play soccer.

Reading scripture to the boys.

Derek took us to see the Gilbert Temple. Unfortunately, it was closed for cleaning so we could only enjoy the grounds from outside the gate. It’s a gorgeous temple. I’m going to have to schedule a visit in next time I’m in town!

I had such a lovely time riding my bike alongside Derek’s run. Even though it felt terribly silly. (I wish I would have been in good enough shape to run alongside him.) I always love talking with Derek. He’s insightful. He asks propping questions, and I always leave with something to ponder.

There was a lot of boyness going on while we were there- foam swords and inflatable shields rarely left Caleb and Scotland’s hands. Scotland has fully embraced the imaginative world of heroes and bad guys. As a result there is more and more play combat and even “killing.” My guts twist every time I hear my sweet little boy say “Watch out! He’s trying to kill you.” Or even hearing that he’s personifying Wolverine. (The “boys” have informed me that wolverine is a good guy, but he sure sounds nasty!) I’m at a total loss as to how to handle it. We talk a lot about what it means to be a hero, and Scotland is very passionate about always being the good guy, he loves “saving people” and “protecting people.” Those are both wonderful things. I try to turn his active imagination towards discovery and exploration, but “bad guys” always emerge. I’ve read several books about “boys,” so I know that such play comes with the territory, I just wonder- when is it too much?

The last morning we were there Audrey took us to their neighborhood park where they have a sand volleyball court- the boys were in heaven! I appreciated the opportunity to get to chat with Audrey one on one. I was really impressed with her during our visit. With a 4 month old baby, four other active involved kids and a husband who works a ton, she’s still holding it all together. working with her kids individually, finding movements for tender hugs and teaching, exercising hard daily, maintaining her home and even cooking delicious meals! Her love for her children is so apparent. Her sweetness and tenderness really touched me this visit.

Seeing these two little heads looking out the window together- melt!

This was my first time traveling alone with the two boys. I was a bit nervous- especially with Anders being at the “let me get down and crawl around” stage. But the trip was smooth sailing. I was blessed with several kind people who willingly stepped in to help- carrying my extra box to skycap when my hands were full, holding my water on her tray when Anders and I fell asleep on the flight, smiling and telling me “What a great mom I was” when my energies were beginning to ebb, the pilot who asked Scotland “Wanna come up and do some loops with me?” and the sweet woman who gave my boys animal crackers as we waited hungrily. Every time I travel my faith in mankind is increased. People are good!

Tucson, AZ- Foutz cousins and Grandparents

Tom’s sister, Cassie, and I are starting a tradition of cousin get-togethers in February at Grandma’s house. She’s from Boston, and like me come February she’s craving some sunshine. It’s the perfect opportunity to get the cousins together with their grandparents and enjoy the beautiful February weather in Tucson. It was an easy breezy vacation full of good family time, relaxation, fun and good eats.

Cassie and Pam are such attentive mothers. Seeing them interact with Anders as they taught him how to use the shape sorter- cheering every time he got one in, warmed my heart. He was equally thrilled by their abundant attention.

I always love hanging out with Cassie. She’s such an impressive mother, and I always come away with lots of inspiration regarding how to rear children. And beyond children, she’s just a really kind, smart, thoughtful person. I feel lucky to call her sister.

Every day before dinner Poppa took the kiddos in the spa. It was always a task dragging them out, they LOVED it!


We spent a day at Reed Park- laying on the play ground, having a picnic with Eegees (a Tucson favorite), and riding the train. It was a perfect day. And seeing how excited the kids were on the train ride made me super excited for our Storyland vacation this summer.

Another day we visited the Museum of Miniatures which was fascinating. They had the traditional christmas villages but they also had miniature replicas of homes and mansions from around the world.

The amount of detail in such small figurines and edifices was astounding. Talk about the perfect place to play “I Spy!”

They were having a special exhibit on famous diamonds. And had miniature replicas of the people who wore them-Marie Antoinette, Shah Jahan, Napoleon, etc. Scotland with his love of all things glitzy as well as his love of swords was fascinated by it. I’m afraid the historical significance of it all was a wash. But he and Archer were pretty excited by the idea of men wearing swords all the time! Oh if only they’d been born in an early century! After the museum we headed to Bookmans (another Tucson gem) to pick up some used books for the kids before heading home to indulge ourselves with Beyond Bread sandwiches.

If we were to label this vacation it would have to take the title “The Lego vacation.” Grandma and Poppa Foutz gave Scotland a  lego set for his birthday and he and Archer were in Lego heaven all week. With Archer as his mentor, Scotland completed his first lego creation, step by step. (He got Legos for Christmas but he’s only used them freestyle, he’d never followed the directions.) It was a pretty big deal and once he’s gotten a taste for it he was determined to finish all the other pieces in his set.

Scotland’s first step by step creation.

I loved hearing Archer say to Scotland or visa versa “Wanna play legos” and then seeing them run off to the table to build together. It resulted in a more peaceful vacation than we’ve had in the past. Even Amelia got in on the fun with an adorable Friends set. I love legos!

Because it was only a few days before Scotland’s birthday. Cassie and Grandma made cupcakes and we all sang to Scotland. He was absolutely thrilled by it. His big smile as we all sang to him was so sweet. (Tom’s cousin Steve’s kids were over for a playdate.)

Cousin sleep overs

The cousins all had so much fun together. A few memories I hope to always remember:

Archer: “Infinity is a number.”

Scotland: “Actually, Infinity isn’t a number.”

Archer: “yes it is!”

Scotland: “No, it isn’t. . . .” and on and on for five minutes!


(We heard this one over the baby monitor, after they were tucked in bed.)

Amelia: “I’m a princess.”

Scotland (ever the realist): “Actually, you are just pretending to be a princess. You are not a real princess.”

Amelia: “Yes, I am.”

Scotland: “No, you’re not. You’re just pretending.”

Amelia: “YES, I AM!!!!”. . .  and on and on for five minutes.


Nighttime prayers with Archer, Amelia, Scotland, Poppa and I where each of them wanted to say a prayer.

One of the things I loved most was seeing this sweet relationship between Anders and Pam develop. He adores her. He would reach for her and lay his head on her shoulder to give “loves.”

Pam and Stan go above and beyond to make these weeks as enjoyable and easy as possible. They are your quintessential grandparents- dotting and adoring. The attention is on the kids and the love and acceptance free flowing. I really admire their determination to be active participants in their grandkids lives- despite their spatial distance. They look for ways to interact whenever possible, whether it be reading books, telling stories, swimming, feeding, or just taking them for walks as a means of distraction. My boys adore them, as do I.