healthy(er).

I've always wanted to eat really healthy, but then we'd buy a random bag of chips that would be gone in two days. And I would eat chocolate chips from the freezer by the (small) handful. Don't get me wrong, I think we were doing OK when it came to healthy eating, but not good enough.

Now, I'm finding it's best to take things one step at a time. I'm looking into more natural products, and reading labels like a fiend. I still love my sweets and snacks and junk food, but I'm trying to find "better-for-you" options, and doing them in moderation.

Snacks:
1. I learned this one from my mom: nonfat, plain (or vanilla) Greek yogurt with peanut butter mixed in. If it's plain, I like to add a little honey and maybe some cinnamon. Dip apple slices in this.
2. A piece of fruit or Kashi granola bar
3. A handful of roasted almonds, by themselves or with a few semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Treats:
1. Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk. The best chocolate milk ever! And only 120 calories per serving.
2. UNREAL candies. They make knock-offs of well-known chocolate bars, but with no junk in them.
3. Stove-popped popcorn with a low-calorie, all-natural cheese topping (found by the popcorn) or a light honey-butter (or coconut oil) drizzle.

Breakfast:
1. Greek yogurt pancakes. I like to substitute white for whole wheat flour.
2. Breakfast hash with red potatoes, eggs, and veggies. I love to do this with grilled zucchini.
3. Healthy(er) cereal with almond milk.

Dinner:
I've always been a throw-together-whatever-is-on-hand type of person rather than a meal-planner. To make this healthy, it helps to have healthy ingredients readily available.
1. Grilled chicken with grilled sweet potato "fries" and whole wheat french bread with mashed avocado.
2. Whole wheat pasta salad with grilled chicken and zucchini, sauteed onions and grape tomatoes, and a homemade vinaigrette
3. Sweet potato and black beans. To make this, I cube up one large sweet potato (really a yam, I think), and dice half of a yellow onion. Then, I saute it all in a bit of olive oil with a sprinkling of salt, pepper, and cumin. Once they're a bit browned and softened, I add a little water and cover my pan with the lid. I let those cook for about 10 minutes until I can cut a cube with my bamboo spatula. Then, I add about 3/4 cup of rinsed and drained black beans and season a little more. We eat this "hash" on corn tortillas as tacos, most often.
4. We frequently have the aforementioned "breakfast" items for dinner. No shame.
5. Korean beef with ground turkey instead of ground beef. I know white rice isn't the best choice, but I have yet to actually attempt cooking brown rice. It scares me. Also, the green onions are essential to this recipe.
6. Tacos. Tacos are probably the easiest and most frequently made meal in our home. I have made many variations. Fillings have included: grilled or shredded chicken, black beans, ground turkey (proteins), and lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, or sweet potatoes (veggies/fruits) topped with salsa or Cholula (TJ's favorite). I always use corn tortillas for a healthier choice (and I like them better).

Lunch:
During the summer, TJ will typically bring me a sandwich or something because I'm really bad at making lunch beforehand. During the school year...it gets interesting. I try to find healthier options at work. The best is leftovers.

TJ recently read a book for one of his classes that suggested healthy eating/successful dieting is not about eating habits at all. It's about buying habits. If I don't buy unhealthy foods, I am not as likely to eat them. It's definitely a work in progress, and buying truly healthy food is not the easiest in the US, but it's something TJ and I both feel strongly about.

I'm also considering doing a "sugar fast/cleanse" where I wouldn't eat refined sugar for a while and see if I can't kick this addiction I seem to have. I still think that sugar is OK in moderation, but for me it's like I can't help myself or stop at "just a little." We are trying to eat more veggies as well, which can be tricky during winter months when some of my favorites (like zucchini) aren't readily available. Also, since broccoli no longer agrees with me for some reason (I get unbearable stomach pain when I eat it), our frozen veggie options are more limited. We have been trying to have at least one meatless meal per week, and have subsequently been eating more eggs and beans.

In the end, eating healthy for me is about being conscious about what I put in my body, and feeling good. I know I won't feel great when I eat foods that aren't good for me, but I'm also very human and I love food. "Moderation in all things" is a rule I *try* to live by.

a general update.













[Photos from Jake's first time swinging on a Saturday last month, and a little time spent in the sand before a storm rolled in.]

When I last spoke about our plans for the future, TJ was going to be starting the training program for Edward Jones in February 2014, and I would be leaving my full-time job. We would be moving to Tempe/Chandler. Well, a few things have changed and some things haven't.

This summer, one of TJ's good friends interned for a company called AXA. They are a financial advising company similar to Edward Jones, but with a few fundamental differences in their business plan and approach. Well, Brooks gave TJ's name and number to his boss around August, and TJ got a call inviting him to come interview. At first, we were a little resistant to the idea. We had been set with a plan, and we didn't see any reason to change that. Then, TJ thought, "Why not?" It couldn't hurt to just interview and see what AXA had to offer.

As it turns out, they had a lot more to offer for us. Although I took some convincing, we eventually made the decision to accept a job from AXA and not go with Edward Jones. They are much more flexible and have a few key differences that we felt would be a better fit for TJ and for our family. TJ's "boss" will be his mentor for his first three years, and he's a really great guy. Although it wasn't the deciding factor, the fact that Ryan is LDS is a comfort because we know he has the same values that we do. Everyone that we've interacted with has been so personable and helpful, which is another comfort to us.

So where does that leave us? Well, our original plan only changes a little. TJ will be (and already is) studying for his licensing tests. As soon as two of those are taken care of, he will start with AXA. Our goal for now is the end of January. That will give him some time after graduation to really study and get the exam done. We will be moving in with his parents for about a month until we move to Phoenix. His office is in North Scottsdale, and we are trying to find housing within a reasonable distance without paying the Scottsdale housing prices. I will continue to work at my job and transition in my replacement(s) for a while, and possibly move down to part-time so that TJ has more time to study rather than taking care of Jake.

Another blessing to come of this is that I won't have to work. With Edward Jones, we were expecting that I might have to find part-time employment since the salary during training wasn't quite enough. However, Ryan is confident that TJ will do well enough that I won't have to work. I'm always willing to do my part, but this came as a great relief to both of us.

We are excited for this new path and new possibilities. With the flexibility of this company, we don't have to decide now where we will live forever (ha), and might find ourselves back in Flagstaff someday. For now, we are excited for the changes in many aspects of our lives. We feel very blessed to have had both of these opportunities presented to us, and grateful that we were able to choose the best fit for us. I know many don't have such options or opportunities, and it is humbling and exciting to see our hard work come to fruition.

Jake's First Haircut








When he was about 13 months old (so last month), I texted my friend and stylist Verity to see about a bang trim for me and a hair-trim for Jake. We had family pictures the next week, and although his baby curls were adorable, it was very much a mullet and the hair over his ears was driving me bonkers. We decided to keep it a little longer, but he cleaned up looking like a little boy more than a baby! I had TJ pick up a sucker to keep him occupied, and the whole thing went much more smoothly than I expected. The most tears came after we got home and I took the sucker away (after he'd reached the tootsie roll center, what!). Verity gave me his little locks in a baggy to put in his book, but with my record that will be lucky to be done by his second birthday.

Jake's First Birthday Party.







The time leading up to this party was kinda tough. Love them as I do, but family functions on TJ's side can sometimes be stressful (not that they aren't on my side...they just get together more often). We wanted to keep this party as small as possible since we were on a budget and didn't want to overwhelm Jake, who tends to do better with less people crowding him. TJ's extended family is much closer/smaller than mine, so we invited his aunt and uncles who live in town, his grandparents on both sides, his immediate family (of course), and my immediate family. We had invited my grandparents as well, but they were unable to attend due to another family function. 

Anyway, it was stressful for me. I tend to plan these things for months, but my elaborate plans never come to fruition. It's probably for the best anyway. I kept things fairly simple to try to minimize the amount of labor-intensive tasks. I chose a color scheme and I made a simple garland with scrapbook paper and decorated with balloons (Jake loves balloons). I made Jake's mini smash cake in a 28 oz tin can and it was the perfect size. We had the party mid-afternoon so as to avoid serving a meal, and instead had chips and salsa, fruit, crackers and dips, and served donuts instead of cake to the guests. Our families helped contribute with the food, and we served ice water for drinks, in regular plastic cups (no paper straws or mason jars for us) (though I did consider it).

We held the party at TJ's aunt's home in Anthem. She has a nice big space, a pool, and is as close to halfway between our families as we could get. She is such a gracious host, and kept her cool through a couple of unfortunate incidents (that nobody confessed to, though we have our suspicions). She didn't even get mad that we rushed off after the party to spend some time with our good friends who moved away from Flagstaff in the spring. I didn't realize this until the next morning and felt terrible, though I tried to make up for it by vacuuming her whole main floor and straightening things up as much as I could, and I sent a thank you note after. I mean, sometimes I surprise myself with how thoughtless I can be. Note to self: I owe Auntie Apryl, big time. Apryl, if you're reading this,  your wish is my command. 

Sometimes I wish I could be a better host, but I think I'll just have to face the fact that party-planning is not my forte. It is something I would like to become better at, however. Not necessarily throwing the most elaborate party, but being a thoughtful host and paying better attention to people and maybe a little less attention to the things that don't matter as much.

I am constantly learning the lesson that things will rarely go as planned. TJ had put together a video with pictures and video from Jake's first year, but as luck would have it, we forgot to show it. We plan to put it on YouTube or something (with a private link) so that our family and friends can view it that way. I felt terrible that it didn't get shown. As mentioned in the previous post, I left the poster that I made at home. And then, after fighting to get him to sleep for an hour, Jake slept through the first half of his party, so he was a little groggy for it, but seemed to have fun.

At the end of the day, we got to spend time with family and let family enjoy showering our little one with love. When he's not being crowded, he sure loves to be the center of attention. Our little ham, 100%. 






if you are a man, this post will be awkward for you. maybe even if you are a woman.

Within the last few weeks, I've slowly been weaning myself from pumping. On the one hand, I am just SO GLAD to finally be done with it. Pumping was something that was important to me, and it was definitely an accomplishment for me to make it so long. Originally, my goal was to last 6 months and then see where it went. There were times when I was just so done with being hooked to that inane machine four times a day. There were times when Jake was colicky and people told me to just switch to formula. There were other times when I was secretly glad that the machine was doing the work because for me, it was far less painful and awkward than nursing ever was. There were times when I was stressed or sick or got distracted at work and my supply would wane and I would take brewer's yeast horse pills and drink gallons of water and pump and pump and pump to keep it up....and still would end up supplementing with formula (but only at night, because Jake was a milk snob and wouldn't take it unless he was half asleep.) And let's not forget how almost every time we went out, I said, "Hold on, let me pump first." Oh, and the two occasions on which my (older) (male) co-workers somehow missed the PLEASE DO NOT ENTER; PRIVACY NEEDED sign on my locked office door (to which they had a key) and nearly walked in on me with my shirt up and my boobs suctioned into the pump. Yeah, wouldn't ever want to forget that.

All in all, I don't know if I would say my journey was any more or less difficult than any other breastfeeding mom, simply because I don't know any other way. I do know that I was able to leave my baby at home for a few hours alone or with my husband because I already knew he would take a bottle. When I would tell other moms that I pumped they would say "I don't know how you do it," but I could say the same thing back at them in my head. Maybe that's because Jake and I never really got the hang of it and it was never really comfortable for us and the bottle was just...easier.

Also, I would like to say that weaning freaking sucks and I don't even have that real emotional pull factor that some breastfeeding women experience. For the last two weeks, every day, I have said to TJ, "I think I'm pregnant." I had the exact same symptoms: fatigue, food sounded gross, slight nausea. On top of the false pregnancy symptoms, I have also been a witch with a capital B, and what's worse is that I know it and I can't fix it. Hormones. After not having a period for nearly two years, my body is more than making up for those monthly fluctuations. It might also have to do with the birth control, but I went back to the same exact pill I used before getting pregnant and I don't remember it being this bad. Either way, my body is a mess and I don't feel like me, oh and my thyroid is probably off as well but I keep forgetting to set up a doctors appointment, because I'm just tired...you know?

Why doesn't anyone tell you this stuff? Why do they just say, "Parenting is hard," and leave it at that? Not that it would change anything, because it wouldn't, but it would be nice if someone had said, "Oh, you're weaning? Just be prepared, you might think you're pregnant and you might want to divorce your husband (exaggerating, of course), but that's normal and you'll get through it." Instead, I had to figure it out all on my own.

Don't even get me started on the engorgement that I suffered from for two days (I'm such a whiner). I'm happy to report that my boobs are back to their normal, pre-pregnancy size (AKA, flat), and that my husband happens to like them that way.

TMI? Oops.

Well, I gotta say, I'm glad I got that off my chest. (ba-dum psh)

one.

Dear Jake,

You're now a whole year old. The last couple of months, I missed on your monthly photos and letters, and I am sorry, but I'm sure you will forgive me. While I was busy with work, I was also busy with you. I'm learning balance in life and I'm trying to learn how to use my time well. This is something I'm not very good at, so you'll have to help me out.

In the last few months, you have learned and grown so much. At about 10 and a half months old, you finally started crawling. I say "finally," because we felt like we'd be waiting forever for you to crawl. Since then, you haven't stopped exploring. You'll crawl to wherever you want, stand up, open, poke around. You love exploring your world and giving your mama mini heart attacks. You learned how to climb stairs at Great Grandma's cabin over the Fourth, and just recently discovered the cement stairs right outside our apartment. Within the last month, you've been practicing standing up, which you can now do without any props. The other day you took your first step without realizing it (daddy had been holding your hands), and on Friday, 8/24, you took a step and a half from where you were standing towards my open arms.

The best part of all of this learning and growing is your personality about it all. You can tell when we are pleased with you, and you get so proud of yourself. Often when you stand, you will clap for yourself. You also get really excited and start bouncing forward on your knees. It's hard to describe, but it's adorable. I'm so in love with your personality. You are so expressive and outgoing, just like your daddy. You love other kids and babies, and love to give them hugs (more hugs are given to our neighbor kids than adults in your family, I'd say). You love watching and laughing at kids on the playground right outside our apartment. You love standing at the living room window, stretching on your tippytoes to look outside. You are usually go-go-go.

Here are some more of your milestones & quirks:

-Understand when we are telling you "no," and usually proceed anyway (ie: turning off/on the Xbox, climbing the stairs, etc.
-Have seven gappy teeth, four top and three bottom
-Say "Mama, Mom, Dada, Da-Dee, ba (ball)"
-Learning how to mimic sounds, like "ee-i-ee-i-oh" from "Old Macdonald"
-Eating more solid foods, and transitioning from breast milk to goat's milk. You'll eat almost anything, and then start throwing food on the floor when you're full. You like: mac and cheese (shells), cheese crisps, sweet potato "fries," black beans, chicken, baked lentil snacks, and more.
-Throw a fit when you don't get your way. Early onset terrible twos, perhaps?
-Something you've done for a while, but I'm not sure if I documented, is that when you drink a bottle, one hand is always playing with your ear or gently pulling your hair.
-Love to wrestle and climb all over us on the floor.
-Very interested in putting things in and taking them out. Your friend Ryan gave you a fish tank toy, that has plastic fish that you put through a slot. Based on the size of the circle on its back, the tank tells you what color the fish is. Because of this, each one must be put in exactly right, and even though it's a toy for older babies, you've pretty much figured it out and it's your favorite toy. Even over the bead coaster that Dad and I gave to you.
-You are so affectionate! You love to give us hugs, and will even put your head on our shoulders when we're holding you. When Daddy is upset with you, you will crawl over to him to give him loves.

As always, there is so much that I'm not thinking of or just simply can't describe. Although parenting you is never easy, you are so much fun at this age and we love your sweet, loving, and energetic personality.

love always,
Mom



And the final comparison collage:

I'm basically a hipster.

I suppose you could call me a dreamer. Since I was a young girl, I've made plans about my dream house. I used to want a secret passage that would lead to a totally awesome underground lair, where I would have a fully functional stable for my horse, a game room, and a TV with my favorite movies. There would be a secret hatch at the front door, so I could open it and my friends could joyfully slide down to join me, as well as one in my room.

The life, I tell you.

Well, I don't think I ever grew out of that dreaming and planning. As I grew a little older, I added on a library, a craft room, a pool, and a playroom for the kids. I would actually draw out floor plans on little 3x5 note-cards with colored pencils. A couple more years down the road, I moved on to thinking about interior decorating. I think I was probably about 14 (pre-Pinterest) when I declared that in my children's room or their playroom, I wanted to paint the bottom half of the walls in chalkboard paint (at the time, two-toned walls with chair-rail all the way around were really popular) (at least where I lived). People scoffed at me, and told me that it would teach my kids bad habits, like drawing on walls. I just wanted to be a fun mom.

Smh. And now, here we are in 2013, and chalkboard walls are the new two-toned chair-railed walls of the present. Flip, people slap chalkboard paint on everything. If that's not teaching those scoundrel children bad habits, I don't know what is.

I was so ahead of my time. Pinterest, eat your heart out.

a poster for a birthday.

I'm working on editing pictures and getting Jake's birthday and party written about, but I'm struggling because my laptop battery is on its last leg and the charger has a major short. As in, I can see wires. So, for now, here is Jake's birthday poster. I copied the design from Angela Hardison (I don't feel guilty copying since I'm not going to sell this or market it as my own). I loved how clean, simple, and sentimental it was. I used mostly iPhone/iPod photos, and had so much fun seeing Jake grow through these images. 

I spent two hours teaching myself how to do this in CS5, and another two hours actually putting together the final poster. It might sound a little excessive, but I knew it would be something that I (and maybe someday, Jake) would appreciate for years to come. Then, I had it all printed up and ready to go and left it sitting "safely" on top of the bookcase when we went to Phoenix for his party. Then I realized that I had the poster saved on my flashdrive, but when the Staples in Mesa printed it, it came out way too dark. Whadayagonnado? I'll probably find a fun place to hang this in Jake's room when we move. I love the engineer print and can't wait to do a couple more.


cheers to the freakin' weekend.

Weekends are my favorite for two reasons: no work and time with my boys. I have been taking out my "real" camera more, but here are some quick snapshots from my cell phone. Some are grainy, some are super unflattering (my bangs really need trimmed), but they're all meaningful to me.

On Friday night, we had a bonfire with TJ's dad and two of his brothers. We roasted pre-cooked brats and ate them on whole-wheat buns with mashed avocado and cooked sweet potatoes in the coals, topped with more avocado and roasted red bell peppers and onions. So tasty. Of course, no bonfire is complete without roasted marshmallows, and I've enjoyed sandwiching them between two Keebler fudge cookies. Jake enjoyed getting thoroughly dirty and trying to get to the fire, then chillaxing on my lap until we left.

On Saturday, we headed out to run a couple of errands. I printed a poster for Jake's party at Staples, and then we got groceries. Sam's Club was out of almond milk (!!??), and we asked ourselves probably 20 times why we waited until Saturday to go grocery shopping. We had pretty much no food, so there wasn't much we could do about it. Also, Jake and I were able to get on WIC, which has been humbling and a blessing. It's nice to know that I won't have to stress about having milk for Jake to drink once I stop pumping (I was able to get vouchers for goat's milk), and I felt so grateful to have healthy groceries for us. I know many people have strong opinions about government assistance, but we feel that ultimately, providing for our family is the number one priority. I'm grateful there are programs that help support healthy habits for families who are working hard to make ends meet. 


After our errand-running, I put Jake down for a late nap. When he woke up, we went to dinner with TJ's parents, and then back to their house to watch Skyfall. Jake had an absolute blast pestering their dogs and throwing his own ball and chasing it around (on all fours-not walking yet). That kid has so much energy and is so full of personality. He brings joy to anyone he meets.

On Sunday, we headed off to church, where I substituted the CTR 6 primary class. I only had some minor problems with one kid, which was a relief since 7 six-year-olds by myself was a bit intimidating after only caring for Jake for so long. TJ even got Jake to nap during church, which I can never seem to do. When we got home, we played and wrestled and snuggled. Jake has been struggling with naps lately, and falls asleep better if I hold him. Part of me cringes to do this, but a bigger part of me loves it. That evening, we had dinner with some friends and the food and conversation was nice. 


And now it's Monday and back to the grind of the work week for me. Only 4 more days until another weekend, this one promising to be pretty busy with Jake's first birthday! 

the legend of the momma bear.

I know I have talked endlessly about mothering lately, but I find that it's all I'm interested in. My family, that is. This little growing thing that I'm co-caretaker of.

On July 4th, we had a long day, and a late dinner. Jake wouldn't go to bed, and so I brought him out of our shared room to sit with me while I ate. Eating with Jake on my lap is not an easy feat as he reaches out to grab most things, or tries to wiggle to the ground. We had balloons on the picnic table, to celebrate Kyndra's birthday. TJ took Jake off of my lap and set him between us on the bench. I started to eat, and Jake reached out to grab a balloon, losing his balance and falling to the ground below. It all happened so quickly, but he hit the bottom of his skull on the bench as he went down, thankfully landing on his bottom.

The worst sound in the world is the heart-wrenching scream of a child in pain. For a mother, it immediately pulls at the gut.

He screamed right away and didn't stop screaming for 30 minutes, even after a dose of infant Tylenol and endless consolation from TJ, me, and my dad, as well as a priesthood blessing. TJ was a mess, blaming himself for setting him on the bench, and I was a mess trying to contain my own emotion to focus on helping Jake. Finally, when the screaming didn't stop and Jake threw up a lot, we rushed to the car and off to the emergency room.


After I shakily checked him in, we were taken right back to triage. My exhausted boy had tried to fall asleep in the car on the way, but in our nervousness about a possible concussion, we had kept him awake. By the time we got settled into our room and Jake was checked by the triage nurse, he was wide-awake and happy. After a few minutes of waiting, the doctor came in to check him. After a thorough examination, he declared that Jake was just fine, but that since he had vomited, we would need to stay for a CT scan. I wanted to be sure everything was alright, but I was disappointed we would have to go through the CT scan.

We waited around for probably about 15 minutes before the x-ray technician came to get Jake. He was an older man, probably in his late 50s, and told us that we would need to wait for a nurse to come and restrain Jake. He described it as "the burrito," which didn't sound all that bad.


How wrong we were.

Another few minutes of waiting, and a male nurse came to our room and had to have the restraint described to him by the technician. He then went off to find another nurse, who presumably knew what she was doing. Both nurses returned with an orange, rubber-looking pillow. They placed Jake on the device (which was actually a stint for broken limbs), and began using a pump to suck out the air. The "pillow" hardened around Jake as I held it close to his face, and little foam beads could be seen through the rubber material. I talked comfortingly to Jake as he started to get a little worried, with his body being cocooned in plastic. TJ and the technician observed, and when the air was gone, the technician declared, "No, that's not right. You need to find Emily. She knows how to do it. He has to be completely immobile."


The nurses decided to persevere on their own with some duct tape, meanwhile, Jake became increasingly vocal and began screaming and turning bright red with anger, fear, and frustration. I tried to stay at his head, but as his screams increased, my own emotions took over.

I was angry. 

The rational part of my brain told me that these people were only doing their job; they were only trying to help. However, this highly irrational and very instinctual part of me was louder. I could barely contain tears of anger that they were causing my baby to scream and to be afraid. Seeing the look on my face, and hearing my muttered disapproval, TJ sent me out of the room. As I sat on a chair, clenching my fists, the tears spilled over. Probably a minute later, the infamous Emily rushed into our room and firmly shut the door behind her with one look at my face.

Since I was no longer in the room, TJ related the next portion to me. He said that Emily came in and reprimanded the other nurses, quickly directing them in what to do. A minute later, they exited, with TJ carrying the stiff "burrito" that was our now-whimpering son. I jumped up, grabbed our things and went to follow him as one of the original nurses said, "You know, it's OK to cry when your baby cries."

I wanted to sneer at her comment since she didn't know the real reason for my tears, so I simply nodded and followed the technician to the other side of the clinic and into the CT scan room. He asked which of us wanted to stay with Jake, and I stepped forward. He wrapped me in a lead-lined shield, and then went to the adjoining room with TJ. Jake laid very still, whimpering as the machine moved and whirred. In a shaky voice, I sang to him: I am a Child of God. He remained still throughout the scan, and started whining as soon as it was over. I hastily removed my shield and handed it to the tech, as TJ unwrapped our little boy. I picked him up, his body as wet with sweat as if I had picked him up out of the bath, and bright red. I carried him back to our room, then handed him over to TJ. We turned off the lights, and Jake fell asleep as we awaited the results of the scan.

Thankfully, the results came back normal and we were on our way after talking to the insurance woman and the nurse. We went back to the cabin for brownies and bedtime, and spent the night waking Jake up every two hours, as instructed.

If I ever doubted the legendary momma bear instincts before, those doubts have been laid to rest.

what I really needed was the mountains.

There is almost nothing better in this world than curling up with a good book on the porch at the Cabin, with the rain falling in a summer monsoon. At least, that's what I thought until I got married and had a family. Now, there's nothing better than doing exactly that, but falling asleep spooning with TJ, stealing an afternoon nap while Jake naps. Now that is the life.

Around the tail-end of winter, with its slushy drudgery and bone-chilling wind, I get an itch. And for the past few years, that itch has been scratched by a trip to the beach. I began to believe the beach was my haven. I know that that wide, wide ocean and salty, damp air will always call my name, but this year, my soul needed something different. Especially since our trip to the beach didn't exactly go according to plan.

Actually, because the beach trip was such a stressful time that I began to look forward to and plan for the cabin. My plans involved doing a lot of nothing. I yearned for some down time, and I knew the cabin would provide that.

I was not disappointed.

The cabin dots its way through my childhood with idyllic memories of romps in "the meadow," scary stories in "the bunk room," and always, always viewings of Home Alone and its sequels by Grandpa. The cabin was always full of family and adventures, from bike rides at Woodland Lake to pretending the propane tank behind the cabin was a horse. Over the years, the cabin has changed a little here and there, as well as some of the favorite activities, but it has always been the perfect escape. Situated between neighbors in Arizona's White Mountains, the cabin has remained a constant in the Burgess family since my grandparents built it in the 1960s.

This trip was filled with much of the same. We made the trek to the Country Store for glass-bottled sodas, which was much shorter than I remembered from my childhood. We (TJ and Skylar) played horseshoes, while Jake watched from the porch. We grilled and ate good food. On Kyndra's birthday, we went out to lunch at a local cafe and were pleasantly surprised by the good meal. We watched summer storms from the comfort of the porch, and enjoyed a lack of digital service on our phones (at least, I did). We rode the go-karts at the track in Show Low. My parents, TJ, Skylar, and I did sealings at the nearby Snowflake Temple. Jake enjoyed crawling everywhere and being the center of attention. I reveled in the lack of schedule and spending time with people I loved, sharing a space that meant so much. Grandpa re-told the stories I've heard many times before, but somehow still manage to learn something new each time. This time: love, hard work, and a strict budget make marriage beautiful.

I enjoyed using my replacement birthday lens and documenting our trip with my nicer camera. The only thing missing was Sheldon. Although, I definitely could have done without the trip to the emergency room, but that is another tale that deserves the spotlight of a separate post.