Girls camp 2024…

While I was in Idaho, I left my kids with my parents and I flew down to Arizona to go to girls camp with Steve. I’ve been to Girls camp for years, but this year was the first year in a long time Hallie wasn’t there with me, which was a little weird. Luckily I have plenty of girls who feel like adopted daughters and they made me feel right at home, giving me hugs and wanting to talk. Even more fun was snapping pictures with girls and sending them to their parents.

Steve makes all games more fun and there always seemed to be a line of girls ready to play 9 square with him – they were all working against him to claim the coveted “Queen” position. He joked and goofed around with them and then taunted them when he took their position. 😉 It was pretty fun to watch.

Steve and I worked together on a fireside and I always walk away impressed with his ability to connect others to Jesus Christ – it’s one of his super powers. We make a great team.

It was a pretty short whirlwind of a trip. We drove home late the last night and I was up bright and early the next morning to hop on a flight back to Idaho.

When I first realized girls camp was scheduled during my Idaho trip I was disappointed to miss it – and then Steve strongly encouraged me to attend and I’m so glad I did. It was worth the effort. I love spending uninterrupted time with the youth – it’s my favorite place to be.

Summer Road Trip 2024…

We were gone for 31 days.

We traveled 3518 miles.

We didn’t ever pay more than $4 for gas. Hallelujah!

Hunter has his driver’s permit and he drove 6 hours throughout our road trip – which gave me a much needed break.

License plates: We found 47 our of 50 states. We missed finding Delaware, Rhode Island and Vermont. I do feel as though our license plate game was a little weak because Hallie didn’t travel with us and she’s usually our eagle eyes.

Steve and Hallie flew in twice to visit. And I had to fly to Arizona for girls camp with Steve and my kids stayed with my parents.

Sports Camp: Sent both Bennett and Hunter to BYU Soccer camp and watched Hunter play in one tennis tournament.

We attended one family reunion.

We purchased 8 dresses. We did some of Hallie’s mission shopping and I think we both quickly realized neither one of us enjoy shopping. Online shopping is more our style.

We went to Scheels in both Idaho and Utah and yet we’ve still never been in Arizona. The kids rode the ferris wheel three times.

We met two new babies in the family. Both a niece and nephew from the same family recently had babies and I got plenty of snuggle time.

We watched three missionary farewells on Zoom – Hallie’s friends.

My boys went on a camping trip with my dad, my brother and their cousins.

I was able to see friends from high school, a teacher/coach from high school, visited friends at their Lake House, had dinner with friends in Utah and went to the Provo Rec Center with a dear friend who moved from Arizona up to Utah. I love the opportunities to connect with so many people through our summer travels.

We purchased 21 loaves of grandma sycamore bread. Oh how I wish we could still purchase it in Arizona. We didn’t eat all of it yet – we have several loaves in our freezer now!

We watched almost every Euro Cup and Copa America soccer game.

The kids caught both snakes and fish and oddly enough seemed more comfortable holding the snake than they did the fish. Go figure.

We floated the river, went bridge jumping, swam in ponds and pools (public, private and rec centers) and enjoyed an evening wake surfing. We got good use from packing our swimsuits.

Hallie said a lot of tearful goodbyes knowing she wouldn’t see many of these people for another two years.

And the sun has set on our summer roadtrip – time to turn our attention to getting ready for school.

Tough loss…

The same day Hallie was playing in the state tennis tournament, Bennett was competing in the championship game for the state President’s Cup. As soon as Hallie secured her win in the quarterfinals, we rushed across town to watch Bennett. He had been injured just a few weeks earlier but was excited to be back on the field again. We showed up just five minutes after the game started and we didn’t see Bennett on the field, which was unusual because he’s their starting defender.

I quickly found him on the sidelines with a bag of ice. Within minutes of the game starting he was fouled and taken down – injuring the same knee he had been nursing weeks prior. He was devastated. But I think his coach was more devastated – the defense really needed him and especially needed his voice commanding on the field.

So the coach told Bennett to be the defensive voice from the sidelines. Bennett took his role very seriously and he directed those boys as if he was on the field with them. Pushing players up, pulling players back, making sure players were marked – I could totally see him being a coach when he gets older!

But in the end they came up short and lost the championship game. It was a tough loss – as championship losses usually are. The boys were emotional. The coach was frustrated. And the season was officially over. Youth sports are beautiful in this way – they teach heartbreak in a way 13 year-old boys may not experience otherwise. As parents, we know this is temporary and they’ll move on, but in the moment its hard.

We watched Bennett collect his medal and then we beelined it back to the state tennis tournament to watch Hallie in her semi-final match – which also resulted in heartbreak. The day didn’t end how any of us hoped – but the kids learned some lessons and that is enough.

Seminary buddies…

At the beginning of last school year, Hallie and Hunter realized they had seminary the same hour but different teachers. Hunter didn’t know his teacher and Hallie didn’t know her teacher and they really don’t let you switch…but I told them if they played the sibling card they would probably let them switch. So they went the first day, found they had more friends in Hallie’s class and within a few minutes I got this picture and a text, “We got it!”

They had the best time. Hunter told the teacher Hallie played the piano and she doesn’t. They had to share about each other and evidently that was comical. I talked to the teacher a couple weeks into the semester and gave him permission to punish them like his own if they got out of hand. He said they were playful – but it was fun and didn’t distract from the class.

It ended up being an awesome semester and they had fun learning.

As luck would have it, the next semester they had seminary the same hour again. (Hallie has good friends she hasn’t had the same hour in all her four years of seminary – so having someone you know is a treat!). But this time Hallie and Hunter were placed in the same class. And they kindly obliged when I asked for a last day of school picture with them together.

My senior and freshman. Because Hallie was only on campus a few periods a day the chance of them ever being in a class together was pretty slim – and somehow they made it work both semesters and they both loved it.

Called to serve…

From the time Hallie was little, she talked about going on a mission for our church. We were fully supportive of her desire, but we were also aware as she grew older that desire may change and we would support that as well.

As she started her senior year, she started the process of applying to colleges. Which is a good exercise in making decisions. She wasn’t entirely sure where she wanted to go to college and we kept reminding her she didn’t need to make any decisions yet, she was just collecting options. As she waited to hear admissions decisions, her desire to serve a mission grew.

I think as parents, our nerves grew. Missions are hard. She’s our oldest and only daughter. We wanted to support her the best we could but we needed her to have her own spiritual confirmation that a mission was right for her. She came to us before she heard back from any colleges that she had received her confirmation regarding a mission. And with that, she started to create a plan.

Hallie turns 19 in the fall and that is her eligibility to serve. She debated whether to do a summer semester of school, or even a fall semester but in the end she decided to defer college until after she returns from her mission.

She submitted her application to serve towards the end of May and we quickly realized she would receive her mission call the day we would leave for Lake Powell for our family vacation. She wanted to open her call on the boat at the lake and she had the will power to hold that piece of paper in her hand the entire drive there. At any given moment she could have opened that envelope and I wouldn’t have blamed her! But instead, our little family sat on a boat at sunset in her favorite place and shared the most beautiful and spiritual moment.

After everyone in our family made their predictions, with tears in her eyes, Hallie read her assignment to serve in the New York, Syracuse mission, English speaking. And immediately there was a peace that rushed over me – it’s the perfect mission for her. She didn’t really want to leave the country. She was willing to learn a language but was relieved when it was English. On top of that she really wanted to go to a church history site or temple visitor’s center. With Palmyra and the Sacred Grove in her mission – it is rich with history.

We immediately started looking up information about her mission. What cities it included. Who her mission leaders will be. What the average temperature is. (In case you’re wondering – she’s going to freeze – but that’s okay because she wanted something different than Arizona!) We were all so excited for her.

She shared the call with our Lake Powell group the next night. It was amazing how many of our friends had connections to upstate New York – and several have actually lived there (and confirmed just how cold winters can be). Even more fun was learning a family who personally knows her new mission leaders and spoke so highly of them. There are no coincidences and it was fun to hear so many connections within our small group of friends.

Just hours after we returned from our Powell trip, Hallie hosted a house full of her friends and family in Arizona (at least those in town) to announce her mission call.

I wish I could have snapped a large group picture but the house was overflowing and I was trying to talk to so many who showed up to support her – she really has so many amazing people in her life who have helped her along.

Most of her guy friends have also received their mission calls and are reporting this summer and its fun to have so much excitement and focus surrounding missions.

I’m really happy for her. If I think about the day she leaves, I get a little sad – so instead we focus on other things. 🙂

We focus on the truly unique and special girl she is and her desire to serve.

FUNeral…

I took Cannon to his Thursday night soccer tryout.

After a few minutes, I was joined on the sidelines by the dad of Cannon’s friend and teammate. We talked about the team, made predictions for new players and dissected the new coaching staff. He was so passionate about soccer and I loved his energy and effort to make the team better.

Two days later I received a text sharing some heartbreaking news: Just 24 hours after chatting with him on the sidelines, at 39-years-old he had suffered a traumatic stroke and his prognosis was grim but we were hopeful he could fight his way out of it.

We joined them in prayer for a miracle.

Cannon played with their son multiple times.

There were local restaurants donating their proceeds.

There was not a day that went by where we didn’t get an update and we continued our prayers.

Unfortunately, two weeks later he passed away leaving a wife and three young children behind.

And I was still shocked to know I was talking with him just hours before his stroke and he was so full of life – how did it turn so bad so fast?!

Days later, Steve and Cannon attended a “FUNeral” in his honor and our community showed up. I’ve heard so many people say, “I want my funeral to be a party!” and then a somber church service is planned. But not this time. His wife said this is what his funeral would have been like if he could have planned it himself and she delivered a beautiful memorial in their backyard full of his favorite things.

I wish everyone could have met this special, creative and vivacious man – but his FUNeral gives you a pretty good idea of who he was and just how many people he touched. And I can’t speak highly of him without acknowledging a beautiful, creative and supportive wife who truly sought to honor her husband the best she could.

We will miss him on the sidelines. And we will miss his stories and laughter. Its hard to believe we’re starting another soccer season without him sitting next to us and it makes me sad most for his son – we will be cheering for him a little louder this year.

If you want to learn more about Brandon – he was the owner and creative genius behind LetterCraft – here’s a couple articles prior to his death: here and here

And several news articles ended up picking up the story on his funeral: FUNeral New York Post Article