Sunday marks the one year anniversary of the (not my) stroke. My occupational therapist inquired if I was having a party. I don’t imagine it’s an event that warrants celebrating. (Can you see the invite… Come Celebrate at Kim’s One Year Stroke Party. Awkward.) Yeah, we could celebrate the wondrous gift of life, but I do that every day. 

I’m inclined to burn something like missionaries do at their one year mark. That idea makes me recall back to the last scene of Return of the Jedi when they burned Darth Vader. But I don’t want to lay in the fire. So what do I burn in effigy?

There is always the consuming of tasty food to (in some way) celebrate the milestone. (A reason to enjoy yummy things, I’m in!)

Please comment, and give me your opinion. How should I mark the date?

Here’s to one year of looking with new eyes and a renewed appreciation. “Cheers!” or be of good cheer. (I keep reminding myself.)

Above: My last picture before the stroke, with Whitney at the Kelly Pickler concert up at Cherry Peak.

Keeping the Tiny Humans Alive 

We had our six children in groups of three. (No bad luck in my threes!) The first group was much more difficult. I guess it’s true the learning curve starts high!

The first three arrived within three years and nine months! I was coping with two, but the first time I was left alone with all three I had a little panic attack thinking, “What do I do? I only have two arms?” Soon after, I learned the ropes.

Barney, the dinosaur, was my televised babysitter for many years. “I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family.” You do things as a parent of small children that you never thought you would otherwise do. (Bribery with candy is not out of the question.) It’s all about surviving another day in one piece. (For both parties, and it was no party!)

As fast as you clean, another mess is made at the other side of the house! One day I was doing the same old redundant housekeeping when I walked in on my oldest boy baby powdering his sister from head to toe. Well of course I flipped out, but no cleaning of the ghost toddler took place until I got my camera and chronicled this funny event. (Well, in hindsight it was funny.) They were always doing something crazy!

Kids are so destructive in their busy curiosities. I had a small village collection. I purchased a tiny scaled “H” gauge train that would highlight my houses beautifully for the holidays. (Not for long.) I assembled it proudly up high on top of an entertainment center to keep out of the reach of grabby children. But my first son and my niece climbed on the arm of the couch, balanced teetering on the edge of the arm, and pulled all the wheels off each car! We just couldn’t have nice things during these years!

My three musketeers did everything together. That was okay on the farm. It was convenient when one did something stupid, one could stand by and one could go for help. They spent many hours in the sandpile digging and building and burying. It was hilarious when they buried my third son and proceeded to make him breasts out of sand! They swam in the ditches, played in the feedpiles, and climbed on the hay bales – all under dad’s watchful eye. The tall weeds and grass were especially fun. Dogs and cats were usually part of the antics. Who needs expensive toys, we’ve got a farm! 

It was eight and a half years later, and we were content with our three. They were finally self-entertaining. (Whew!) We had cleaned out and donated all the baby clothes and equipment. (Three kiddos will wear most things out!) We assumed we were finished having children, but you know what happens when you assume? God says, “Not so fast!” I was unexpectedly expecting a fourth child.

Within about four and a half years three girls graced our home. It was a wee bit easier having built-in babysitters, but now we were raising six ankle biters! Whenever we went somewhere as a family I would instruct the older trio to watch their personal “Mini-Mes.” 

Laundry and dishes were never-ending. It was an eternal round of dirty things. 

Kids do say the darndest things. My youngest had a thick toddler accent. The best was when she asked for, “Ass-cream,” especially with hot fudge and bananas! I loved when my second had to go. She was really doing wildly uncomfortable motions. My husband asked her if she had to go. She said, “No, I just like to dance this way!”

Three littles girls under four made for a crazy estrogen-filled madhouse. Dora, the Explorer, was our go-to tv fallback for quiet time that was usually snack related. “D-d-d-d-d-Dora! Grab your backpacks. Lets go! Jump in! Vomanos!” (I can hear her annoyingly high-pitched voice right now!) It was like a land mine field of naked Barbies and razor-sharp Legos strewn from heck to breakfast across the floor. (I got that from an older generation.) Housecleaning was frequently done, but it was a futile exercise. Keeping the house clean while they were growin’ was like shoveling before it stopped snowin’! (I love that saying. Don’t know who said it.)

I had fun with those girlie girls, I could dress them the same until they started protesting. Hair ties littered the bathroom. (Still do!) Each of my triple sets had a random large-scale haircutter. It was very traumatic for mom. In both cases, we had to just wait it out and do hairstyles that accommodated the situation. Dolls lost their hair, also. I reluctantly witnessed the sacrifice of many pairs of scissors when an angry dad would toss them.

Girls and costumes were synonymous! We had all the princess dresses, wings, boas, shoes and every other accessory associated. I had amassed a whole box of costumes through the years. (You never know when you’ll want them again!) Dressing up is a key part of childhood. The year #5 wanted to be a fairy Snow White for Halloween, I knew it was not a battle worth fighting. I think the fourth daughter wore the Cinderella dress for a good six months straight. I had to wash it while she napped. It ended up being Cinderella’s rag work dress.

But getting them ready was quite a task. There was ALWAYS a shoe missing, it never failed. (Every time!) It habitually happened when you were running late. Someone had to consume something messy, or screw up my well-planned strategic dressing system. Being on time was really not an option. Trying was quite unrealistic, but we attempted it anyway. I would stressfully exclaim, “Don’t make me be a mean mom!” (I said that a lot!) I won’t even start on how dirty the car interior was, constantly!

Raising six kids is quite a daunting endeavor. It is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. Many unpleasant diapers were changed, cartoon bandaids unwrapped, and late night vomit messes cleaned. Looking back, I know it was all worth the exhausting effort. And I will thoroughly enjoy the sight of them experiencing the unbelievable pleasures themselves with their own kids. (What comes around, goes around!) “The circle of life…”

Mud Run – 7/6/17

I remember back to an incredibly dirty time in my life. My work friends and I participated in a Mud Run! I had just lost a ton of weight, and I was feeling adventurous. So of course, I dragged my husband along for the craziness.

We started planning early. I designed the t-shirt which said, “Never fear… the accountants are here!” It drew an altered super man logo with our company initials on it. (Pretty proud of that one!) We planned a whole presentation. We got dollar store glasses, and popped the lenses out. Then we dressed in thrift store shirts and ties.

We then stripped off the shirts, like Superman does when he’s running to help.

To reveal our awesome shirts, ready to run this filthy obstacle course.

We had a great time running, climbing, splashing. I don’t even want to think of the muddy pools of disgusting germs we were crawling through!

But we had a hilariously dirty time, and it was a fundraiser for a good cause! We gave our shoes to an African shoe drive, too!

That is me with my hand straight up in the air!

After, we hosed off all the muck and straw to get in our cars. What other time do grown adults get this dirty on purpose? (Good times!)

Independence Day – 6/29/17

My little hometown celebrates July Fourth with gusto. It’s patriotism is legendary around these parts. It kicks off with a rooten-tooten rodeo the night before. You can hear the announcer and cheers for miles. 

We join together at my parent’s house in a larger city the evening before. They live near the stadium, so their house is party central. Almost everyone sports some kind of red, white, and blue apparel. Mounds of yummy treats and delicious concoctions are consumed, and the kids gather around to witness amateur fireworks and popping parachute guys. Oh, and don’t forget the snaps! When darkness comes, we break out the sparklers, and construct our glow-stick jewelry. 

The sun is setting. Hurry and find your well placed lawn chair with blanket and grab your favorite treat, the light show in the sky is about to begin! (Anticipation!) The firework’s soundtrack is broadcast on the oldest radio station in town. The string of smart phones act as a sound system. No celebrating show of festively colorful explosions is complete without the songs “Coming to America,” “God Bless the USA, ” and the “William Tell Overture.” Many ohhh’s and ahhh’s are shared as we marvel at the celebrating wonderment we are witnessing in the sky. (Some kids love it, others hide under a blanket.) The comaraderie of friends and family add to the holiday excitement. We know it’s the grand finale when the sky shines unceasingly with color, and it sounds like a war zone. After a few minutes of chaos and some ear-plugging, the. show. is. over. 

We take in a big sigh. (Ahhh!) We gather up our belongings and head to the house for ice cream and idle chit-chat. Once we feel like the bumper to-bumper traffic has lightened up, we head for home and hope there’s no accidents to hinder our trip. (Fingers crossed…) It’s late when we arrive home, and we collapse into bed, undressing optional.

The morning of the Fourth the boom of a vintage cannon rings through the air. (Boom, boom, boom.) The sound wakes us up, and we think, “It’s morning already?” (Many say “really?”) The fireman’s pancake breakfast begins, and the runners start the Patriot’s Race. My kids go back to sleep, but now my brain is planning out the day, so I’m up. My husband and I go stand in a very sunny breakfast line, and chit-chat with neighbor friends. After eating an early morning feast, we hurry home, wake the kids up with incessant begging and a few threats (our kids hate to wake up), and make our way to the parade. We live about a half-mile from town center on the main road, and cars are already parking in front of our house. Everyone comes home for the Fourth! It’s better to walk to the parade, because the police close the road several minutes before the parade. We sometimes take our four wheeler, and just pray they let us through! If we can’t get through, we leave it in somone’s front yard. No worries, this is a small, trusting town. We get to our reserved spot in front of an empty lot (some park unneeded vehicles up to a week before,) we’re very lucky if it’s in the shade. Homes on the parade route count their blessings, they have a premade spot. The flag waving and balloon speckled crowds eagerly line the streets. The kids in front, bag-in-hand ready for flying candy. 

You hear a drum and see the flag, usually held by volunteers from one of armed forces. All stand, hand on heart, showing their quiet respect for the Stars and Stripes and the people who defend our nation. As they pass by, the crowds are brimming with excitement, and the adults take their seats. Firetrucks blow their sirens, and the candy fest begins! We see businesses and clubs display adversity and color, dignitaries wave proudly from shiny convertibles, and beauty queens in fancy formals wave prettily atop bright floats. A few synchronized marching bands add to the musical background as we see costumed dancers, tumblers and cheerleaders brave the heat and hot blacktop to perform. Horses trot by with rodeo queens on board trying to stay together. Scouts get the pooper scooper job done, reluctantly. Excessive candy is thrown and people are yelling as we witness a salt water taffy frenzy.

My son found a five gallon bucket in the truck one year, and made a candy haul. Everyone was trying to make the shot into his bucket! 

When you see the antique cars and tractors and you know the parade is winding down. The police car follows the last entry signaling the end, and people disperse as they wave and chat with each other. 

Some patriotic celebrators head home, but most rush to the park for the festival or the basketball three-on-three. Booths with food and other merchandise dot the park as the stage rings with locals showcasing their talents. It the place to be. Every piece of shade is taken for relief from the 100 degree heat. Neighbors crowd under the trees and tents. The snowcone line is incredibly long (mostly kids) in addition to anything food related. The fire truck sprays those (mostly kids) seeking a wet cool down. Fun inflatables are shaking with players jumping around. A train made from cut out barrels driven by a riding lawnmower weaves around like a snake as kids scream with joy. Animals are being ridden or petted. No frowns found anywhere, except maybe a pouting child. Food, buying, shade, eating, music. See and be seen. Connecting with old friends. (What a day!)

After a visit to the park, there is a mid day rodeo or a family movie matinee in the air-conditioned theater. Many are home with loved ones, barbecuing, sleeping, watching the kids run through the sprinklers or in the backyard pool. The kids (and adults) eat their well-earned candy. (Slow down or you’ll get sick!) Hopefully, no matter where one is, they have a cold drink or chilled watermelon in their hand. The exhaustingly busy day ends with an old-time horse pull and thrilling fireworks. The rodeo grounds fill up with revelors who want an improved view, but locals sit outside their houses for a conveniently spectacular show. 

The fireworks aren’t as huge and impressive as the bigger city, but they are wonderful for a small town. I think it’s a rule you must have a blanket and treats to watch fireworks, no matter the temperature. (Stops the mosquito bites!) Your neck begins to hurt from trying to see professional fireworks and all the amateur’s displays, too. My kids pile on the trampoline to watch. We live on a main road so at the conclusion, the cars start zooming by as people are anxious to get home after the hectic day. For a few years now, the kids and teenagers, have stood by the road waving at the procession of cars, and counting the honks they get.

Fun memories. Great traditions! (Exhausting, but fun!) American celebration at it’s finest.

That Look – 6/22/17

My girl, I will call her SM, produced this look since she was very young! It involves pulling up one side of her lip, and squinting her forehead. (So funny!) That was usually her confused look, but sometimes it was donned for no reason. My kids have created memes from this picture! (The best was- When someone says you owe them money.) This kid metamorphed from a shy preemie who never talked to a crazy daredevil who can seriously talk your ear off! (She’s a hoot!) SM possesses an awesome personality and is my resident peacemaker! She still generates that face, but now it’s being comical. “She’s got the look…”

Boating – 6/15/17

Nothing says summer, like a day on the lake. Sitting back on a reclining chair, refreshing drink in hand, the sun’s blistering rays beating down on you, the kids recklessly splashing in the water, and the sound of the recreating boat in the background. I named the family boat “Holy Mackerel” since my husband says that quite often. (Glad I googled mackerel, not how I would’ve spelled it!) My work vacation days were chewed up a few hours at a time, as I would escape from work a few hours early to hit the lake. I didn’t enjoy driving the boat (too much stress,) but I made great ballast at the front of the boat. Since little kids weren’t that heavy. I’ve seen many fun-filled rounds with someone behind the boat on assorted apparatus. My times behind the boat were few and far between. (I enjoyed spectating more.) Usually, it was at the insistence of one of my children. (They just wanted to see mom get wet!) 

We all had our time on the boat, but I usually ended up on the beach watching kids play in the water while the big kids went to play. I preferred it that way. I worked on my tan and carried on a nice conversation with my sister or a child. There was always a spectacular view in front of me. An occasional, “look mom!” would interrupt us, but we didn’t mind. (Kids are crazy!) I always made sure there was food available for famished fun-seekers. The nacho cups, I would purchase in bulk, made great plate-like bowls for a snack or a sandwich. Water toys, towels, t-shirts, and sunscreen lived in my trunk all summer for everyone’s unexpected (expected) needs. Life was good. It will be good again. We will go out again on a regular basis. We are going to employ an assistive needs company to show my guys how to get me in the boat. I’ll wear a life jacket. It will be like it was, someday. We have just been interrupted by this bump in the road of life. “Good things are worth fighting for!”‘ Boating is a good family activity. It builds comaraderie.

Our Wedding 29 Years Ago – 6/8/17

29 Years? Wow, has it been that long since June 7, 1988? I remember it like it was yesterday. The utter anticipation was unbearable. I was getting married to my best friend. We had known each other (and saw each other everyday) for almost an entire year. (11 months!) He picked me up for the temple marriage, that morning, and said, “You can get out of it right now… you wanna run?” No, I was ready to be with him, as a married couple, like, forever!

Our wedding was picture perfect, although we decided against having a professional photographer. It wasn’t like today, with multiple shoots, including still and video. We had various family and friends take them, and we had to wait weeks to ever see what we got! (Oh the 80’s!) And a Facebook event? There was no Facebook. We had to gather the addresses the old fashioned way, phonebook.

I created our invitation in calligraphy, then we had them printed. (Like on a press!) I also addressed them all in calligraphy. (Yes, all of them!) Back then, we didn’t compile a database and have them printed. We glued the picture in with a glue stick. Everything was pretty basic.

My aunt, Candy, rented wedding dresses, so she kindly let me borrow one. Our colors were peach and teal. (Doesn’t that scream 80’s?) I thought they were great. The bridesmaids and flower girls had shiny taffeta puffy armed dresses. We put teal suspenders on the nephews. The moms wore matching print teal dresses. All in the height of fashion. My flowers were silk peach and white roses with fern.

Our reception was at USU in the Walnut Room, because my dad was the food service manger. (So no worries about food!) It was a dark venue, which was not conducive to pictures. They were mostly dark. Poor Darin had tuxedo stress. He used a company that went out of business right before the wedding! So Darin had to run to another place very last minute. They got him a snazzy white tux, but they only had white shoes a size too small! He spent all evening in agony. He stood in the line while smashing the back of the heels. I can’t remember all the refreshments, but I do recall the chocolate covered strawberries. They were the ultimate in fancy! No dancing, cuz it wasn’t the thing. I regret that. We did have an ice sculpture that my dad made. That was cool. (Pun intended.)

Even though, I would do a lot differently, I am glad I married my best friend. (Next year is the big 3 0!) Our goal is a cruise next year. (No rest for the weary.)


Wood Creations – 6/1/17

I have an uncle, Burke Gunnell, who worked with wood. He was the kindest guy you would ever aquaint. He consistently said yes. We kept him busy often with our numerous crazy and far-fetched ideas. My mom reigned as one of the guiltiest. She was always hatching some sort of project. But he could not deny his little sister. (And he had many creative sisters!) He made puzzles and stools and shelves. (Oh my!) Some were utilitarian and some decorative. Me and my sisters were budding tole painting artists, therefore we were kept sufficiently occupied. Some creations were painted decoratively, and some were stained. 

Around Christmas of 2000, my mom decided all the cousins needed treasure boxes, and a fun family bonding project would be to allow them to decorate for themselves together. So we got the kids assembled, armed them with paint and brush, and the kids artistically attacked. (Messy, but fun!) Some embraced the idea, and some were just there for the treats. It was an entertaining day, and they all departed with a keepsake box for their little treasures. 

I recall many hours spent in Uncle Burke’s workshop assembling and sanding our assorted projects. (He put Santa to shame!) One very excellent project he built was utilizing a scroll saw. He created square lamps with intricate cutouts for the light to eminate through. We could replace the design to fit the season. Each lamp came with multiple inserts. (They were extremely cool!) 

Many cherished memories were created in his shop. (Thank you, so much, Uncle Burke!) He has passed on now, but I have learned from his kindness, willingness and happy attitude. We have countless memories and mementos of love he constructed for us.

Birthdays – Throwback Thursday 5/25/17

We have a tradition in our house. When it’s time for cake everyone, who is home, gathers around on the window seat in our dining area. We sing  (Happy Birthday to you, cha, cha, cha!) the birthday boy (or girl) blows out the candles! and so one takes a group picture (Cheese!) A great way to chronicle time. (What a crazy bunch of youngins! The kids, too.) Ahh the memories!

See many cute pictures!

But I’m a little biased!

Italy & Adriatic Coast 2012  – Throwback Thursday 5/18/17

My husband’s family planned a trip to Venice, Greece, Croatia, and Turkey. I was resigned to the fact that I was working full time, kids had school, and we had herd of dairy cows that could not be left for very long. No chance. But one day, slaving away at my desk, I got a phone call from my husband. He said I should go on the trip, at least one of us should have a good time. (Husband of the year!) In October or 2012, we headed off on our long three-stop flight to Venice to stay a few days before we met our cruise ship. The picture above shows Arsenale streets where we stayed. This was the military complex for the city. We walked this street many times to get back to our second floor flat. I attempted to learn Italian before we departed, but when I got there the speaking speed was way faster than this beginner was could fathom!

Venice is an island build away from the coast of Italy pretty much on other structures and a little land. The beauty of the historic buildings and the age-old art is extraordinary. You walk the car-less colorful streets and ride around in the Vaperetto (water buses) and just stare in amazement. (And take many pictures!)

We visited a neighboring island, Murano. They are well-known for glass blowing and glasswork. We saw many awesome works of glass, but my quest was for glass beads. Much money was spent for a handful of wearable treasures. (My passion!)

We devoured the authentic cuisine and ravenously enjoyed one (or two) cups of gelato each day. (Ice cream on steroids!) The food was served in many courses, but we Americans want one thing with maybe soup or salad and bread for one price. The food had weird names, and they charged for each course. We were happy to get on the cruise ship with Americanized food that we were familiar with. If you didn’t ask for “stille” water they would bring you sparkling bottled water. (I guess it’s an acquired taste.) When I first got there, I sat down at a sidewalk cafe. I put my feet up on a chair. Big mistake! (Note to self: putting your feet up there is unacceptable!) My mother in-law was my roommate throughout. (My travel buddy!) And I was the designated shopper since I knew a little Italian, I could haggle.

Piazza San Marco is the tourist hot-spot in Venice. It was the ancient gathering place. I found this statue-type head sitting high on the corner of a building with a angry scowl. (I don’t know why? If anyone knows, please comment to tell me the reason.) There is a cathedral, a clock tower, and many other government buildings. I started collecting money, they round up when they give change. So they just give you their small change, they don’t use it much. They use Euros here. They were about 1.30 to 1 dollar.

Our first stop was Dubrovnik, Croatia. I thought it was a war-torn country. It was until about 1991. Now it’s a quaint, European tourist city. I was totally awe-struck at the charm it possessed.

Dubrovnik has new city and an old city. Dubrovnik’s old city is on the coast with a wall around it. The harbor is very famous and picturesque. We rode a tram to see it from on high. The city is very beautiful, and my nephew says the women are the cutest in Europe. (I wasn’t looking!) Croatia’s money is the Kuna, and it is worth about 15 US cents right now! It’s where the necktie was invented. (If you care.)

Our next stop was Athens, Greece. The Parthenon was very historic and all, but they were restoring it. So we were lucky patrons of all the scaffolding, too. There were a lot of photo ops. I’m not sure how I felt about Athens, because you’d see many ugly grey buildings then an lovely peice of history would pop up. On our tour we came across a riot. It made me very uncomfortable. The tour guide said it was not a bad one. It was young people wanting something done about the 55% unemployment rate. We got out to see the old city, Plaka, but I think the tour guide had an ulterior motive. She disappeared, then we were ambushed by little old Greek women selling tablecloths. (They got us all pleading poverty!) I finally found a Dr. Pepper, but it tasted different. The gyros were tasty. Dogs could be seen everywhere. (I hope there wasn’t dog in my gyro, no, probably lamb!)

The next place we docked was Thiebes, Turkey. We took a bus to the site of Ephesus. This is where the Ephesian civilization lived. They were unearthing the ruins. It was quite a large area, with many artistic structures. Paul, the apostle, taught the people Christianity back in the early A.D.s. It was very interesting to behold a site that was in the Bible. Ephesians was the book that talked about “putting on the whole armor of God.” Paul spoke of things they could relate to. They performed a renactment of royalty and soldiers. The countryside looked a lot like Utah, I had to remind myself I was in Turkey-a. (That’s how they say it!) Turkey’s Lira is worth about 28 cents in USD. There were many cats loitering around. The first picture is of the library. We then went to see rug making and silk worms! (I thought they were only in China!)

Coming back, the last town we ferried into was Split, Croatia. It was a very beautiful place. The town was quite interesting with that old-world feeling. I would bet it was very expensive to live there, since most of the cars and people looked high-class. I enjoyed Snickers flavored gelato at the beachfront cafe. There was a famous 28 foot statue of Grgur Ninski, or Gregor of Nin, he was a famous Croatian bishop who was a rebel towards the pope, and made great strides in making Croatian rather than Latin (which no one understood) mandatory in the churches. Legend says, if you rub his toe, you’ll have good luck. It was quite worn and shiny. They had outside fish markets, but the most interesting thing was there were no flies! This was seriously the most scenic place since Venice!

We disembarked in Venice, and took a train to Milan, Italy where we stayed a few days and flew home. The countryside was not much different from Utah, but now and then you would see something that was definitely Italian. Milan was a big city with lots of buildings and traffic! I was feeling ill, so I spent that evening in bed while they saw some sights. I watched “Twilight” in Italian. (With my limited language skills and solid knowledge of the movie, it wasn’t bad!) The next day, we visited the Duomo, which was a large awesome cathedral. They had former popes (or what was left of them) on display. The interior was as spectacular as the exterior. We spent most of the afternoon people watching. At one point, we heard a bunch of teen Italian girls screaming “One Direction, One Direction!” There were all of a sudden so many people around, I couldn’t get close enough to capture a good picture. Then the place emptied just as quickly. We also visited the church where Da Vinci’s Last Supper was displayed and he frequented, but we couldn’t get in. (I guess the tickets are a rarity!) We went to Sforza castle, the fortification and fountain. My brother in law was almost pick pocketed on the subway, but he was too fast. (They felt that in the morning!) Gelato was consumed many times. Milan is supposed to be the fashion capitol, but I went in a few stores and was not impressed.

Aside from being long and arduous, it was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime trip. I would highly suggest! (Get out there and see the world, I’m so glad I had the chance!)

Picture credits: D. Blauer and I