Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Whoa, it’s cold outside! It’s -6 on my phone ("feels like -16") and -7 on our outside thermometer. I know it’s been colder here before, but winter just barely started a few days ago. We got that big snowstorm Monday night, one that didn’t just pass us by, like most of the others. We had about a foot of snow, the most we’ve had here since we moved in. Dad even had to shovel the driveway! (Allen came over and helped.) So anyway, this winter weather is really a novelty for us.
          And Christmas 2015 is already memories! The thing we’ll remember longest is our hike up Memorial Hill on Christmas Eve. Somehow I hadn’t imagined so much snow! But the young teenagers scampered up through the drifts, while the adults plodded up. Even Kim and Eli made it, Eli being hauled and carried a lot of the way. Our toes were frozen, but everybody made it! And thanks to Heather for serving the hot chocolate and goodies afterwards, at their house. Poor Julie is recovering from having her tonsils out, so we didn’t see much of her.
          Our sledding party at the cabin yesterday was very cold. For once, the kids didn’t spend as much time out on the hill. But the food was good. Thanks to everybody for bringing your Christmas leftovers! There was a little bit of everything. 
           This morning I’ll be giving my last Relief Society lesson ever in the Spanish branch. Because of scheduling problems, I’ll be going back to Francis 2nd Ward next week. When I started out in the branch two years ago, I was on exactly the same schedule as Dad, and we both got home at the same time. We ate dinner together and told each other what had happened at church.  Last year it was almost the same, but this coming year, Francis 2nd is 9:00 to 12:00, while the Spanish branch is 12:30 to 3:00. Each of us being alone half a day is not my idea of a good Sunday, so I’m going back to the fold. The prodigal is returning. I will really miss the branch, though. I’ve felt more at home there than I ever did in a regular ward.
          But life is good! I wish you all the best for the new year! Love, Mom

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Sorry we left the party early last night! I had so many things to do for today that I was worried about it all. Dad and I have to do the music at Elk Meadows this morning, and I have to play a special musical number there. I have to play the piano in Relief Society, if I get back in time. I have to play the organ in sacrament meeting, including Joy to the World with a piano accompaniment by a woman who is a fabulous musician. I have to sing in the choir, with some difficult alto parts that I haven’t been able to learn very well. When today is over with, I can get on with enjoying Christmas.
          We keep checking things off our Christmas events list. Check on the Messiah. Check on the family Christmas party. (Thanks, Nora. It was a blast.) I guess we don’t have anything now until Christmas Eve. We’ll be meeting at Memorial Hill in Midway at 6pm for the hike! (We’re supposed to have some snowstorms before then, so maybe we can play Donner party.) I’ll bring along some hot chocolate mix, if somebody wants to volunteer their house afterwards. It’s too far to come back to our place.
          Christmas Day we’ll visit the families in Heber valley, and then be at Nora’s by 2pm for dinner. Orphans are welcome. The sledding party will be the next day, Saturday, at the cabin. (Most of you know that Allen has moved in there, but we’ll still have our regular parties, like always.) I’m going to make sloppy jo’s. If you can bring your leftover Christmas treats, we’ll eat them, I’m sure.
          Ten magpies are out in our back yard, fighting over a ham bone I tossed out yesterday. I don’t care about shooting them--maybe because it’s Christmas.
          Love to all, Mom

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Dad and I really enjoyed singing in the Messiah last night. I got to stand next to Tom, since the altos are next to the tenors, and the tallest people have to stand on the back row. (Just like school pictures.) Nora and Donna and Bevan (and Drew) were there. It was a sing-along, but most of the audience just sat there, except for Nora, who sang all the choruses, and Donna, who sang some of them, and Bevan, who sang a few Hallelujahs. After the performance, we had a great party at Tom and Kim’s. I had tried out some new high-altitude recipes for chocolate sauce and brownies, so we had those, plus ice cream.
          We get to sing the Messiah again tonight. I’m glad we can do it one more time. The next Christmas event, the party at Nora’s next Saturday, has had a few changes. We won’t be going ice skating, since the rink isn’t open during the middle of the afternoon. But I’m sure we’ll still have plenty of fun. The party starts at 5:00 pm, we’re going to eat at 6:00, and the present-opening will be at 7:00. 
         The rest of our Christmas schedule is the same. All the details are in my letter from last week.
          Dad and I were just drifting off to sleep the other night, comfortably in bed, when Oreo walked into our bedroom meowing. Of course he’s not supposed to be in at all, so I sent Dad to investigate. One of us had left the door into the garage partly open, and both cats took advantage of that. Xena had settled herself on the beanbag chair in the meatloaf position. Oreo followed Dad through the house, meowing, knowing he’d get milk, which is how we bribe him to go outside again. (If we don’t get out the milk, he squeezes his big fat self under the couch and stays there.) Dad was able to lure both cats out to the garage again. Since he’s been giving them whole milk, they always do what he wants. 
          We’re having cold winter weather now, but no snow, just like last year and the year before. We’ve had an inch or so, a couple of times, but it just blows away. Hopefully we get some kind of serious storm before Christmas. Otherwise we might as well all live in California.
          We hope all of you are enjoying the season! Love, Mom

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Dear Kids,
          I’m just getting over a sinus infection, and Dad has been sick at the same time, with a cold and ear pain. We’re both constantly sniffling and coughing. I hope we can both sing for the Messiah practice tonight. Last Sunday night we both had sore throats. It’s funny that the Messiah is always put on early in December, when people are getting their first winter colds. But it always goes ahead, anyway. We’ll be putting it on next Saturday and Sunday night, the 12th and 13th. Nora’s coming Saturday night, so that will be the night of our after-party. I’m not sure where it will be yet, only that we’ll have it.
          The next big Christmas event after that will be the family Christmas party on the 19th, at Nora’s house. Tentatively, ice skating will be at 4:00 (same place as last year) and dinner around 6:00. And of course there will be the wild cousins’ gift exchange. You can call Nora for exact times and more details. On Christmas Eve, Dad and I will be climbing Memorial Hill in Midway, and anybody who wants to is welcome to come along. I always like to climb up high somewhere on Christmas Eve, and look out over the snow, and see the town lights. It’s different from when we lived in the Salt Lake Valley and hiked Ensign Peak, and looked out over that vast valley with all its lights, but it still gives me the feeling of Christmas. And of starting my life over again.
          On Christmas Day, Dad and I will be driving around the Heber Valley seeing what the grandkids got for Christmas, and then we’re going to Nora’s house. She’s having dinner about 2:00 pm. I asked her if any Christmas orphans could also come there, and she said Yes. Nobody wants to be an orphan on Christmas.
          And then, of course, we’ll be hosting the sledding party at the cabin, the day after. That will be Saturday, the 26th. I’ll probably have soup and rolls, and you can bring your leftover Christmas goodies. It’s always fun.
          Katie’s books were finished this week, and I picked them up at the bindery. They look gorgeous. I saved out enough for our family, and Laurie took the rest of them to Boise, where she and Katie were wrapping them up. I’m so proud of Katie for finishing it! You kids will learn a lot from her story. I did.
          Love to everybody, Mom

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Our Thanksgiving was the wildest and best ever. The pre-Thanksgiving party, Tuesday and Wednesday, involved Vanessa’s, Nora’s, and Allen’s families. Vanessa and I hiked the big loop, and Meg and Sarah came along. They didn’t know quite what they were getting into, but they kept up! The goats saw us go by, but they didn’t tag along, like last year. Dad and I were there at the cabin for most of Tuesday, and on Wednesday morning, the party came to us, at our house! More fun! Thursday we had fun with John’s, Tom’s, Donna’s, and Paul’s families, and Nora’s family came Thursday night for pie. That party carried over into Friday. I think the best thing was having two babies there. We passed Josh around, but Drew mostly stayed in his bucket. 
           Now we can plunge into the Christmas events! The Messiah in Heber will be Saturday and Sunday nights, December 12 and 13. Let us know if you plan to come either night, so we can plan an after-party. The family Christmas party with the kids’ gift exchange will be Saturday, the 19th. On Christmas Eve, Dad and I will be hiking Memorial Hill in Midway, with anybody who wants to come along. We’ll probably have hot chocolate afterwards, at somebody’s house. Christmas Day, does anybody want to get together for a Christmas dinner? Let me know. And of course we’ll have our sledding party on Saturday, the 26th, at the cabin. There’s no stopping the fun.
          Some of you have asked what Dad and I want for Christmas. We love big surprises, but if you want little ideas, I always like Ghirardelli midnight reverie chocolate, and gift cards to Amazon and Harbor Freight. I have two or three bigger-ticket things I’m buying for Dad, so if you want to go in on one of those, let me know. 
          My hand has healed fine from its latest surgery. John took out my stitches on Thanksgiving, using a little kit he brought along. He said he does that a lot, but don’t ask him to sew anything up, because they didn't teach him that in optometry school. 
           We're doin' great and lovin' it!  Mom

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dear Kids,
          The most exciting event of the week was the arrival of Drew Reddick Hawkins on Friday. We knew he was going to be big, so we weren’t too surprised by his weight (9 lbs 11 oz) or his length (22"). He’ll be sharing his birthday with Allen, and with my sister Bonnie. (In such a big family, you can expect multiple birthdays, of course.) He has a cute, round face, and it looks like his hair will be light. Dad and I have been entertaining Dallin and Anna for the last couple of days, and they’ve kept us busy. It’s been pretty cold outside, but we’ve still taken them out to our playground. Yesterday afternoon Dallin didn’t want to get out of the toddler swing, so Dad kept pushing him. Every time we tried to take him out, he shook his head "no." Finally, after half an hour, he started crying, so we pulled him out and set him down to walk. He tottered around like a drunk. I think he was finally seasick. We’ve fed them on marshmallow mateys and fruit loops, and they’ve watched a lot of movies--well, half of a lot of movies. They always lose interest part way through, just when Dad is really getting into it. Overall, it’s been lots of fun. Bevan is picking them up this morning.
          I had surgery on my right hand last Monday–my third trigger finger in less than two years. The ring finger on my left hand is starting to go bad too, so I’ll probably have to have it done pretty soon. The surgeon told me that multiple trigger fingers are nearly always associated with diabetes, and I always have a lot of weird symptoms, so I got it checked out. I’m OK on that, thank goodness. My hand still hurts, and I’ll have the stitches in for another week.
           Evidently there’s going to be a pre-Thanksgiving bash at the cabin on Tuesday night, for everybody who’s going to the in-laws on Thanksgiving day. So far, I’ve heard that Vanessa’s family, Nora’s, and Allen’s are going to be there. Dad and I will be there most of the day on Tuesday. Thank goodness the fun never stops! It may be an off-year for some of you, but the fun never lets off.
          We’re looking forward to Thursday, for those of you who are "on" this year. See you then!
          Love, Mom

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Our Thanksgiving plans are shaping up. We’ll have at least Tom’s, Allen’s, and Paul’s families at the cabin for dinner at 1:00. Nora’s family will come in the evening for pie (probably at our house) and then they’ll be staying overnight at the cabin. I’m wondering if anybody will make the 10 pm run to the outlet stores. (Or is it 8 pm now? Or earlier? Pretty soon they’ll be opening at 6 am on Thanksgiving for the black Friday sales.) Donna doesn’t know what she’ll be doing for Thanksgiving. She’s planning to have a baby very soon. Little Hawk is going to be a big guy, whenever he happens to appear. 
           Dad and I spent Friday night at the cabin, for only the second time since we moved to our house two years ago. I want to get back into cabin life again. We’ve been so busy with our yard and house projects, I’ve hardly paid attention to it. But I’ve missed hiking up the hill in the morning, and watching the weir rabbits and other wildlife. Also, there are little bits of maintenance we haven’t kept up with. So we’re planning to go there every Friday night, just like we used to when we lived in West Valley, unless something else gets in the way. And it’s strange, although the cabin is only three miles away, it’s a totally different wold over there. So we’ll be there a lot more often now. If any of you are bored on a Friday night and want to come and stay over with us, we’d be glad for the company!
          Yesterday afternoon it was fairly warm and sunny outside, so we finished the final project on our playground–we fastened the bench to some wood blocks in the sand, so it will stay level and not blow over. We’ve had some pretty hefty winds lately. Our wonderful sand, our fine sifted playground sand, has been pretty vulnerable to wind. It blows away. We’ve lost at least a third of it. No problem. When spring comes, we’ll take our truck to the Heber pit and get some good coarse construction sand, which won’t blow away. It won’t be as fun for kids to burrow into, but maybe then they’ll try out the swings and the slide and the teeter totter instead.
          Life is good. I love you all. Mom

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Katie was here until Tuesday afternoon, and we finished putting the pictures in her book. When she wasn’t finding pictures for me, she was watching the horses, outside our office window. She’d say, "Oh, look, someone’s coming to feed them! Now they’re running over to get their hay! Now they’re eating it! Now they’re jumping around!" So I started noticing them more. I had almost stopped watching them, but it reminded me how wonderful it is, having horses for neighbors.
          Oh, yes, the book. It was a miracle we finished it, but miraculous things happen when you write family histories. We had them all: a dead scanner brought back to life, missing picture files showing up, a program we needed to make pdf files, which John just "happened" to put on my computer a few weeks ago–it all happened. And we felt Grandma Allen helping us. We could almost hear her saying, "Oh, look, Les, they found the pictures! Oh, look, they got the scanner working!" (Maybe Grandpa Allen tweaked the scanner for us.) We had a wonderful time.
          I hated to see Katie leave, she was so much fun. But then I spent another day proofreading, and on Friday I took my pdf files to the BYU Press in Provo. (The files were too big to email, with our weak internet.) It was fun walking into the press building again. I worked there 45 years ago, when I got home from my mission. I tried to find my old office, but they had rearranged all the walls. It still smelled the same, though–machine oil and ink. A nice lady helped us order the books, and they should be ready in about three weeks. You’ll all be getting copies! Dad started reading the pdf files on his computer, and he couldn’t stop.
          What else? Dad and I had a wonderful hike along the Jordanelle yesterday. The weather was spectacular. We’re starting the Messiah practices tonight, so we won’t be having Zorro parties, unless you want to come earlier on Sundays. We’ll be here until 5:30.
          Love to all of you! Mom

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Dad and I had a great trip to Idaho last weekend. We drove to Boise Thursday afternoon, and we had a lot of fun visiting with Katie, and going over her life story. Saturday morning we drove across the state to Rexburg, and we met Chris Harper at the temple there. (It’s high on the hill, and the air is totally clean, unlike any temples in Salt Lake or Utah County.) We stayed Saturday night with the Harpers in Newdale, and then we drove to Pocatello Sunday morning and went to church with Vanessa’s family. They were having stake conference, and we got there an hour late, but the talks were good, and we enjoyed it. We also enjoyed our Sunday afternoon there, eating pasta and going on a hike up in the hills. Early in the evening we left for home and had a nice drive. The weather was beautiful the whole way, and we saw some great scenery!
          While we were at Katie’s, and I was reading her story, she complained that it was starting to get boring, and I said we could fix that! We did–some of it while I was there, and I took a copy and worked on it Saturday and Sunday, on the way home. Katie really wants to have it done by Christmas, so we arranged for her to come here to our house so we could put in the pictures and print it. And that’s what we’re doing now. We worked for two days straight, and then she took off to visit Laurie and Bonnie. I was in a time warp, lost in the Katie’s story, so I just wandered around the house. Katie’s coming back this morning, and we’re hoping to finish the book asap. I don’t know how long she can stand to stay here and work on it, but I’m eager to keep going. You don’t count the hours on a project like this–you just keep working. 
           Tonight we’ll be having our usual Zorro-watching candy-eating get-together, but next Sunday night the Messiah practices are starting, so we’ll be tied up with that for several weeks. The performances are Saturday and Sunday night, December 12th and 13th. We’ll have an after party one of those nights, probably at Tom’s house, like we usually do.
         Winter is coming up! So is Thanksgiving! I’ll be calling to find out your plans as soon as we’re done with Katie’s story.
          Lots of love, Mom

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dear Kids,
          I was so dismayed last week when Donna’s kids tried out our playground, and the big attraction seemed to be the sand, not all our nice equipment. So I was anxious for Tom’s and John’s kids to try it out Sunday night. They ran out there eagerly. And dived into the sand. They were like little animals, digging and burrowing. They threw the sand over their heads, and at each other. They played with the sand digger, but the swings and slide and airplane might as well not have been there. I was totally deflated.
          So I focused on our next project, getting bark. Thompson’s logging delivered it to us! Dad and I spread it on Friday and Saturday, and it went really fast! Of all our projects, it looked the best, with the least amount of work, of anything we’ve done. But I must have overestimated the amount we needed, or they gave us way too much, because we still have a big pile left over. We’ll use it eventually, of course, because after you spread bark, it dries up and blows away and gets scattered. Besides that, we’ll need to put some in the strip around our house. But it any of you need a pick-up load or two, we can bring you some.
          We haven’t been anywhere in a long time, so we’re leaving Thursday for a road trip to Idaho. We’re going to Boise first, to visit Katie, and then we’re driving to Rexburg, to visit Harpers and go to the temple there. Sunday we’ll end up at Vanessa and Trent’s, and go to church with them. We’ll be home late Sunday night. We should have pretty good weather, maybe some rain, and definitely cooler. But that’s good. Only cold weather can stop my obsession with our yard projects. And we’ve done enough for one year.
          We love you all! What a family! Mom

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Dear Kids,
          We all enjoyed Stuart’s baptism yesterday, and all the fun and food at Nora’s house afterwards. I know the actual baptism was the most important part, but it sure was fun to see you all! (And we missed those of you who couldn’t come!)
          I finally finished spreading all the sand on our playground. Other people would have been glad to help me, but I wanted every cubic foot put in the right place. Then Dad helped me straighten out the railroad ties that were pushed aside by the dump truck, and I made wooden blocks to put under the legs of the bench (so it wouldn’t keep sinking into the sand), and now I call the playground completely finished. Donna’s kids came on Monday and tried it out. They ran from one thing to another, and finally they ended up digging in the sand. Oh, well, I’m sure lots of kids will play on the swings and airplane and slide and sand digger, in time.
          On Friday Dad cut our new grass for the first time. The grass didn’t really need it yet, but the weeds did. It looked really nice when he was done. I wasn’t feeling very good that day, (minor flu bug, probably) so I just sat in the pergola and read a book and looked at the scenery. After all our work, it was nice just to sit and enjoy it all.
           Our next yard project is getting bark to put around our trees and shrubs. I had figured we could take the truck to Thompson Logging’s mulching pit and bring back a load, until I figured out how much we need. 2,000 square feet, to start with, at 3" thick, makes 500 cubic feet, or 18.5 cubic yards, when our truck can haul, at most, a yard at a time. I guess we’ll be calling another dump truck. Or two. Every project seems to multiply itself. 
           We hope you and all your families are doin’ great and lovin’ it!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Here's the information from Nora about Stuart's upcoming baptism:
    2110 N. Main Street, Centerville, 3:00 pm, Saturday, October 10.  Bring a salad or a dessert or just yourselves.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Dear Kids,
          What a great conference weekend. Three new apostles! Elder Rasband lives in the Woodland ward, the next ward over from us. (It’s interesting that so many apostles and prophets live up here in the mountains–President Uchtdorf, Elder Bednar, and Elder Rasband, besides all of the ones that have cabins in Midway. There’s obviously something heavenly about living in the mountains.) Back to conference–it’s been wonderful. We had a great soup dinner here at our house last night, and I sure wish all of you could have come! After we ate, the guys went to the priesthood session, and then we had ice cream and churros at the cabin (The churros were made by Tom). Today is more of the same. My mission reunion is tonight, and I’ve made three kinds of cookies. There are two salads that I need to assemble this afternoon. I’m picking up the sandwiches at Subway on our way to Sale Lake. (I’m making somebody work on the Sabbath! Let’s hope whoever makes our sandwiches at Subway will be doing it with "singleness of heart.") But it will all be worth it when we get to my reunion and I can see so many of my old friends again. 
           Besides all that, I’ve been working like a fiend to finish our playground. Last Tuesday all the equipment was finally assembled (thanks to Dad) and I ordered sand from Staker-Parsons in Heber. It came in two big dump trucks--34 tons of wet sand! Since then I’ve been spreading it, and my shoulders are aching. I had hoped to finish yesterday, so the grandkids could play out there last night, but I didn’t make it. It didn’t matter, though, because a big rainstorm blew in about the time everybody got here. We all played inside instead. I can spread the sand later, at my leisure, while I start new projects. 
           Both Bevan and Vanessa ran in the St. George Marathon yesterday. I heard that Vanessa got a 3:32, a personal best. Bevan ran it in 3:01, and Donna says he’s mighty sore this morning. I’m so proud of our athletes!
           What a family! I love you all! Mom

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dear Kids,
          We’re off to Ogden for baby Josh’s blessing in a few minutes. I hope I’ve remembered everything I need to take.
          Here’s the plan for this coming weekend, for conference: Saturday, during the day, dad and I will be watching the sessions here at our house. Anybody who wants to come and watch it with us is welcome. We’ll have dinner for everybody around 5 pm, (soup and rolls.) Just before 6:00, the guys will drive over to our church for the priesthood session. Afterwards, we’ll meet at the cabin, for ice cream and churros, which Tom will make on our new camp stove. Sunday we’ll watch the conference sessions at the cabin, with dinner in between. I think Nora and Kim will be doing the café rio menu. If not, we’ll have the makings for sandwiches for everybody. I’m not doing my usual conference Sunday dinner because I’m in charge of the food for my mission reunion that night, and I’ll have a lot to do. However it turns out, it will be a great weekend.
          The McGettigans are visiting us right now. They came yesterday afternoon, and we sat around our half-finished playground and talked. Then we drove up to Wolf Creek pass and went for a walk at the summit, where you’re on top of the world, looking down on both sides. The yellow aspens were gorgeous, and the air was clean as crystal. Later, back at our house, we watched movies and had dinner out in the pergola, while the sun was going down. We always have fun with McGettigans. I only wished our guest bedroom in the basement had been finished, but we’ll be getting to that really soon now, when winter sets in.
           I hope you’re all doing great! Love, Mom

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dear Kids,
           Next Sunday morning, Joshua Paul Ackerson will be blessed in Paul and Stefanie’s ward in Ogden, and the address is 770 15th Street. The meeting starts at 9 am, and right afterward, there’s going to be a brunch--I think at a nearby park. Paul and Stefanie are sending out announcements, which will have more details. If you want to help with the food, give them a call. I always get excited about baby blessings and baptisms, and the fun of seeing so many of you.
          Stuart turned 8 a couple of weeks ago, and he’ll be baptized on October 10. I’m sure Nora will be giving us the details when it gets closer.
             And general conference is coming up in two weeks! We’ll have our usual get-together at the cabin, but I have a different plan for the food. Besides Sunday dinner, we’ll have soup at our house on Saturday night, before the Priesthood session, and ice cream afterwards. I’ll have more details next week.
          Dad and I always have some exciting new project, and right now we’re assembling the Lifetime adventure tower on our playground. It arrived Tuesday afternoon, in a crate that was 8 feet long. It weighed 810 pounds. The delivery man dumped it out onto our driveway, and right about then, that big storm hit. We had hail and then pounding rain, almost a hurricane. (It swept across my tender new grass and tore up a lot of it.) So the crate sat there in the storm, and later, when we unpacked things, I found the directions in a pool of water. We laid out all the pages (about 100 of them) on the dining room table to dry them out. Then Dad started assembling. I think he’s at about page 31. Some kids came by on bikes and stopped to watch. I told them they could come back in a few days and play on it when it’s finished. It might as well be a public playground. We’re right here on the corner, and everybody has seen what we’re doing. When the playground is finished, we’ll have the big swings, the airplane teeter-totter, the sand digger, and the adventure tower, with its slide and kiddie swings. We’ll be ready for anything.
           Life is good. Love to all, Mom

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dear Kids,
          On Monday, John invited us to come "soaring" with him at the Heber airport. There was a bigger glider there than he normally flies, and it was more stable. (Less nausea, especially if you take dramamine first.) Tom came along, with his video cameras. He hadn’t ever been up before. I got to go up first, then Dad, then Tom. (I think Tom’s video is on You Tube now.) It was a great day, and lots of fun. Thanks, John!
          Richard Tregaskis had called me the day before to see if he could get the digital version of the Allen/Murphy family histories, to put them up on Family Search. I said the best thing was for him to come to our house and copy them off my hard drive. He and Dedra and their girls arrived just after we got home. We had fun talking to them while the girls played. They had already come by once, before we got home, and the girls said they had been out on our playground. (Kids always run for the playground!) That reminded me that I really want to get it finished, and now that our grass is planted, we’re up for it! Besides the big swings and airplane-teeter-totter we already have, and the sand digger, which I haven’t put out yet, we need kiddie swings. There’s a nice set that Lifetime makes, with swings, a play tower, and a slide, so we ordered it from Sams Club. We spent yesterday putting railroad ties around the edge of the playground, and now we’ll need a couple of dumptruck loads of sand. Then we’ll be prepared for any and all kids that come! 
            Dad and I hadn’t been on the Jordanelle perimeter trail all summer, but now that we have more freedom, we drove down there on Tuesday and went hiking. I’d forgotten how beautiful it is. If anybody wants a nice hike, for home evening or Saturday morning or anything else, our season pass can get us all in for free! Let us know!
          Fall is in the air!  The leaves are turning red and orange. Life is good!
          Love, Mom

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Oops, here's my letter from last week, which somehow didn't make it past the draft stage:

Dear Kids,
          My grass is planted! But it didn’t come without a lot of extra aggravation. My wonderful pile of topsoil, delivered by Witt Excavation, turned out to be full of rocks. Small rocks they were, mostly under an inch, but it took many extra hours to rake them out and haul them away. I called up and complained that I had ordered "screened" topsoil. Turns out they used a big screen. The owner of the company even came to our house to look at the topsoil and argue with me. He said I had nothing to complain about. He had delivered 200 loads of the stuff to other people (later he said 600-800 loads) and I was the first to complain. I waved my arm at all the new houses being built, and said all those people would ask me where to get topsoil, and I would tell them to absolutely not get it from Witt, because it would be full of rocks. He left without saying anything. But I finished raking and hauling the rocks, and then I planted my grass! Since then, Dad and I have been tweaking the sprinkling system. It’s all lots of fun.
          Dad and I are driving to Ogden after church to visit baby Joshua. He was such a skinny little twig when we saw him three weeks ago, I’m sure he’s changed a lot. He’ll change even more by his blessing day (which I think is the last week in September.) Babies get big and chunky so fast! We’re looking forward to seeing Paul and Stefanie, too. Besides, it’s a beautiful drive from here to Ogden, if you go around the back way, on I-84 past Rockport. 
        A year ago, we bought a Costco membership. They had lots better samples than Sams Club, and it’s supposed to be a classier place. More upscale. But Costco is always so dang crowded! And it seems like they’ve done away with all those samples. And everything I used to buy is more expensive there: gummi bears, cheese, bananas, and raisins. Besides, only at Sams can you buy the boxes of dove dark candy bars that I’ve come to love so much. So, because my boxes of candy bars were running low, we went back to Sams Club and renewed our membership. I felt very comfortable around all the Mexicans and other immigrants in there. If we need something at Costco, we can always tag along with John. As you can see, there’s not much news here. But life is good! Love, Mom

Now here's my letter for today:

Dear Kids,
          Dad just pointed out that our house is two years old, today. We closed on Sept. 6, 2013. Time flies! At least we have part of our yard done, and grass is coming up! All but two lines of our sprinkler system are finished. But I’m looking forward to fall, and inside projects. Like our basement. It’s crying out for our attention. And our cabin, which has also been crying. I never did finish the tile floor completely. We’re hoping to start spending Friday nights there, and doing Saturday projects. 
           Baby Josh will most likely be blessed three weeks from today, on September 27. (Which was the birthday of our house on Stillwater Way.) Paul and Stefanie’s meetings are at 9 am, and they have sacrament meeting first. When we talked with them last week, they were thinking of going to a park right after the blessing and having a brunch-type meal–you know, donuts, cinnamon rolls, juice, that sort of food. Or, I hadn’t thought of this–maybe they’ll make us stay through the block and eat afterwards. They’ll be letting you know, and I’ll put it in my letter, when the plan is more definite.
          October conference is just four weeks from today. I’m thinking of a slightly different meal plan than usual, because I’m going to be in charge of the food for my mission reunion on that Sunday night. I’m thinking maybe I’ll make soup here at our house for Saturday night, before the priesthood session, and then we’ll have ice cream afterwards. Then, maybe for Sunday dinner, Nora and Kim and Donna can do their Café Rio meal. I’ll be calling those of you who are involved to see if that will work. However it turns out, it will be a great weekend. I’ve heard rumors of big things happening during this conference!
          Of course there are always rumors. One thing is sure: Life is good and I love you all.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dear Kids,
          I finally have topsoil! After calling the same shiftless outfit for several days, I finally called Witt Excavating in Heber, and they brought it to me almost immediately. All my sprinklers are ready, and so is my edging. Tomorrow morning Dad is going to haul the topsoil, alternating with our two wheelbarrows, and I’ll rake it out. Planting the seed will be easy. I can’t believe it will finally be on its way. There’s lots more for me to do next year, but at least we’ll have some grass.
          My sisters were here on Thursday, and they admired my trees and shrubs. Nancy especially. It made my day. Thanks to Donna, that part of the project really looks professional. We were on our way to Hi Mountain Drug in Kamas for lunch. By the way, they still have the best burgers I’ve ever tasted! After lunch, we went to the New West store in Kamas and looked at their cowboy gear. (Katie said if she had one more life to live, she would marry a cowboy.) Then we drove down to Midway and shopped at "All the Stuff in the Barn." And then we sat in the shade in the park behind Ridleys, and talked. If any of you want to know anything about anybody, ask me now. I’ve got the goods on everybody. Later we drove by Donna’s house, so they could see her landscaping, and then we had shakes at the Dairy Keen. It was an absolutely perfect day. I’m so glad most of my sisters live nearby now, and we’re planning to get together more often.
          Dad and I were buying milk at Winco, and I noticed that whole milk costs the same as 2%. Why didn’t I notice that before? Why aren’t we drinking whole milk? Dad isn’t fat, and I’m not, either. Life is too short not to have the very best. So now we have whole milk. After all those years of powdered milk (0%) it’s amazing to me how far we’ve come. Our cats like it, too. Every morning Dad takes it out to them, and they reward him by walking around his legs. It’s a good life.
          I hope you’re all doin’ great and lovin’ it! Mom

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dear Kids,
          We’ve never had such a dull week! The family reunion and my 50th high school reunion are long past. Our big piano class in West Valley is cancelled for two weeks because they’re re-doing the floor in the cultural hall. I’ve dropped most of my regular piano students, except for two teen-aged boys, who seem to be on vacation most of the time. I’m still raking dirt and hauling rocks in our yard. I haven’t been able to get any topsoil yet, but I’m hoping for better luck this week. Dad put a coat of stain on our new pergola, and we bought some patio furniture for it. It’s funny, the directions said "this furniture is to be used outdoors," and it also said, "protect from inclement weather." So am I supposed to run outside and cover it up whenever I see a storm approaching? As if. Instead, I’ve been sitting out there watching the storms approach. There’s a great view out over the Provo River valley. There are rows of mountains, all the way to Timpanogos. It beats the view from our front porch, where we can watch the low-income housing being built by the self-help people. Of course, they’re endlessly entertaining.
          Last weekend, when Dad and I were in Provo, we visited Jane and Joe at their new house in north Springville. It’s right against the mountains. I had heard that Joe was afraid a rock would fall on him, but when I saw how many rocks had already fallen, he’s got a point. It’s a nice house, though, and I’m sure they’ll be happy there. They had to fly here, because they brought their 18-year-old cat Lilly, and she wouldn’t have survived the drive. She barely survived the flight. But she’s a sweet cat, and deserved the special care. 
           Now that Jane’s living here, all my sisters but Katie are in Utah Valley. Katie’s coming this week, so we’re planning a get-together for Thursday. We’re going to meet at the Hub in Heber, and then go to Park City to look around, and probably go back to Midway. I’m really looking forward to it. When Grandma Allen was still alive, she always planned sisters’ get-togethers, but now we have to do it ourselves.
          I have to play a piano solo in church today, in the Spanish branch, so of course I’m doing Marvin Goldstein’s version of "How Great Thou Art." It’s so loud, nobody will notice if I make mistakes. 
           Life is good! Love, Mom

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Dear Kids,
          I’m looking at my calendar for the rest of August. It’s clear and blank. That will be an interesting change after all we’ve had going on. Memories of the family reunion are still bouncing through my mind. What a wonderful event that was! It seems like it gets better every year. In our yard, I’m still raking dirt and hauling rocks. If I can get topsoil, I’ll be planting grass this week. Thursday afternoon I was out raking when a helicopter rose up out of the canyon and circled over me, maybe only 20 feet up. Then he dove back down over the hill. I ran to the edge of the road and looked over to see "Tour of Utah" going by, racing towards Heber. They always do a stage through Kamas Valley, and it’s very impressive. The chase cars with all their extra bikes seem like they can barely keep up. 
        Friday night they were in Salt Lake, and they raced past the governor’s mansion while we were sitting in the garden eating pork sandwiches. It was my 50-year high school reunion. We had a huge turnout. Besides the event Friday night, there was a Saturday-morning walk up the Provo Canyon trail, and a dinner that night at the convention center in Provo. It was fun seeing so many old high school friends, but I felt awkward and self-conscious, just like I always felt back then. People called me "that girl who was so smart," and they asked me what I’d done with all that. I said I raised a big family. My academic rival, Susan Jacob was there (not to be confused with Kathy Jacob, who married Todd Christofferson. They were there, too. Todd is very nice and acted just like one of us.) (So did the governor, who was one of us.) Anyway, Susan Jacob, my rival, has 8 children who all served missions and all graduated from BYU. She now has 44 grandchildren, including twins who were born on her last birthday. I didn’t get a chance to brag at all.
           Fall is in the air. It comes especially early here. I hope my grass still has enough time to sprout and get a good start.
          Life is good! Love to all. Mom

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Dear Kids,
          What a family reunion that was! I knew it was going to be exciting, but I didn’t dream that Paul and Stefanie would go have their baby. On my birthday, no less. I felt Grandma Allen’s hand in that. She would be saying, "Oh, Les, look! They’re having a family reunion! And it’s Christy’s birthday! We have to send that baby!" We’re just glad everything turned out so well. I don’t even know yet how much he weighed, or if he has a middle name. I’ll put it up on facebook after we go to the hospital to see him this afternoon. It really worked out well that Paul and Stefanie were "away from home," since Stefanie had only seen her new doctor in Ogden twice. That doctor didn’t even know her yet. But in Heber, everybody said, "Oh, yes, we know your family. We know John and Tom. You’re an Ackerson! (It doesn’t hurt that Paul looks like all the rest of us.) Stefanie said they got a lot of special attention, and she liked the atmosphere of a small-town hospital. All’s well that ends well.
          Thanks to everybody who made the reunion a success! Thanks for the skits and games and food. Thanks for my birthday party! I’ve never had such a good party: presents, games, Costco cake! (Thanks, John) You can tell I’m still high as a kite.
         Let’s see, is there any other news? I can’t think of a single thing. Tomorrow we’ll be back to raking dirt and rocks in our yard. I hope we can plant grass within a week. Next Friday and Saturday it’s my 50-year high school reunion. Who thought the time could go by so fast!
          I love you all! Mom
          P.S. We just went to see the baby. Name: Joshua Paul Ackerson. Wt: 7# exactly. Length: 19.5".

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dear Kids,
          I’m excited for the family reunion! It’s nearly here. Thanks, Nora, for sending out the e-mail with the schedule. Thanks, Donna and Vanessa, for helping with the plans. With great food, lots of people, and a beautiful campground, it can’t help but be wonderful. I’ve checked the 10-day weather report, and although it’s supposed to be cool tomorrow and Tuesday, it will warm up for the weekend, which will be great for those of us sleeping in tents. 
           We’ve had a great week working in our yard! Dad and John put up the pergola, with extra help at the last minute from Donna and Bevan. I’m still raking dirt and rocks. My goal all summer has been to plant at least three sections of grass by August 1. I’m not going to make it, but I hope I won’t be too far behind my goal. The hardest thing has been planting trees and shrubs, because for every hole I dig, I pull out a pile of rocks bigger than the hole is deep. I have to put in lots of topsoil and peat moss to give my shrubs at least half a chance. But it’s all starting to look pretty good. 
           On Wednesday, Nora showed up at piano class driving a 12-passenger van with 10 children in it. Her kids were having "cousins week" with Vanessa’s, while Vanessa and Trent were off in the mountains hiking and camping and backpacking and fishing. Nora had borrowed the van from a neighbor. Thursday night, Nora and James came by our house with all the kids, on their way to the cabin. I wondered if they needed anything to eat, and Nora said any snacks would be welcome. So I pulled out flavor ices and gummi bears and cookies and snack cakes and ice cream, and they devoured almost everything. Nora said it would hold them off until dinner, because they needed time to get the fire pit going. I’m sure they all had a good time. Dad went over for breakfast Friday morning, but I was still raking dirt and rocks.
           I’m excited to take a break from all that for the reunion! See you soon!
          Lots of love, Mom

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dear Kids,
          We had a record crowd for Sunday dinner at the cabin last week. Seth and Charlie and Matthew were the guests of honor, and there were about 40 more people besides, thanks to Tom and Kim’s friends, the Bradshaws, and, of course, to all the rest of you who came. I’m proud that my gigantic pot of spaghetti held up! And thanks to all the rest of you who brought food. Even a really big dinner is easy with so many people helping. 
          Our next big get-together will be the family reunion, of course. Donna will be sending out a schedule really soon. I think the fun is starting Thursday night, July 30, at the same campground we had last year. Wasatch Mountain State Park? I think that’s the name. Anyway, it will be on the schedule. I’m looking forward to all the fun! 
          Because the family reunion is coming up so soon, Dad and I aren’t planning anything in particular for the 24th, which is next Friday. With luck, we’ll be putting up the pergola on our newly-finished patio, with John’s help. The patio turned out really well, thanks to Donna’s advice, and the loan of another compactor, from her work, this time. And of course we had the help of the neighborhood muscleman to get it off and truck. And back on again. While we had the compactor, Dad used the extra road base from our patio project to finish out the parking area for his truck, on the side of our driveway. It looks very professional now, and the truck is happy.
          Dad and I will be going to a party tomorrow night with my brothers and sisters at Richard’s cabin at Tibble Fork. If any of you want to find out anything about the family, let me know. All the sources of information will be there.
          BTW, this letter today is the 500th one I’ve posted since I started doing this. Time flies!
          Hope you’re all doin’ great and lovin’ it! Mom

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dear Kids,
          We’re looking forward to Sunday dinner at the cabin this evening, and to seeing Seth and the boys. We’re also looking forward to a record number of people eating dinner there. Tom and Kim are bringing their former neighbors (and friends,) the Bradshaws, who are going to be staying with them at the cabin for a couple of days. Along with the rest of you that are coming, there might be as many as 40 people eating. But there will be plenty of food! I’m making my famous spaghetti, and I used 10 pounds of hamburger to make 148 meatballs. (Dad helped me.) I will be cooking 4 pounds of spaghetti. There will be at least 2 desserts and 2 salads. The cabin loves a crowd, and we’ll have a good time. 
           Dad and I have been working really hard outside. We’re making a small patio out in the center of the large open area, and we’re going to put up a pergola on it. Donna told us to excavate down far enough to put in 4 or 5 inches of road base, and then we should rent a plate compactor to tamp it down. After that we needed an inch of sand, which we needed to level, before we put down the pavers. So we had Leavitt trucking deliver the road base, and we used our his ‘n hers matching wheelbarrows to haul it out to our pit. So far so good. Then I sent Dad to Diamond Rental for the compactor, and that thing is heavy! We got it off the truck and over to the pit with our hand truck, and Dad had fun running it around over the road base, but when we were done, we had no idea how to get it back up onto the truck. It must have weighed 200 pounds. We were rigging up a ramp of 2x4's, and we were going to try running the compactor up the ramp, but it wasn’t going very well. Just then, the neighborhood bodybuilder happened by. He practically lifted it with one hand. (Dad helped, too.) We thanked him, and our guardian angel, too. Later we went to the Heber Pit with our truck to get the sand. A convenient thunderstorm dumped tons of water on us when while we waited, and we drove around pools of water to the pile of sand. A loader with a bucket bigger than our truck dumped in our paltry 1/2 yard. We got it home fine, but we’re still waiting for the it to dry out, before we can put it down.
          So much adventure! So much fun! I love you all! Mom

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Dear Kids,
          We had a lot of fun helping Paul and Stefanie move. Dad and I left home early Friday morning, driving to St. George. I had thought it was hot here, but of course it got hotter as we drove south. It was well over 100 in St. George. Dad and Paul went to get the moving truck, and I started loaded the back of our Sienna. When we were ready to load the truck, some big black clouds rolled in, and we had a violent rainstorm–a true gully-washer. There was pea-sized hail, and lightening. Lots of drama. The rain filled up Paul and Stefanie’s patio, and I thought it might creep inside. But naturally the storm ended as quickly as it came. And we loaded the truck in plenty of time, with help from a couple of neighbors. Curt and Lynette and Brad and Melissa were there, too, and the ladies helped Stephanie clean. 
           We left fairly early Saturday morning, and had a nice uneventful drive to Ogden. Thanks to all of the family who were there to help unload, especially the young teenagers! That went really well, and then we trooped off to the barbecue at Nora’s. Thanks to Donna and Nora and Kim and everybody for the food! It was very good! The Riebens came too, which was lots of fun. We had almost forgotten it was the 4th of July! 
           Seth and Charlie and Matthew are here in Utah, and they’ll be here at our house next Sunday, the 12th, for Sunday dinner. You are all invited! Please call and let me know if you’re coming, so I can plan the food. I’m guessing we’ll eat around 5 pm. Hopefully some of that St. George rain will make it northward and cool us off here. Our thermometer hit 100 on two different days last week. That’s absolutely unheard-of here. I think the last time it happened was in the 1870's. 
           But life is good. We’re doin’ great and lovin’ it! Mom

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Can you stand one more story about John’s Porsche? The other day he opened all his garage doors, because it was so hot in there. Pretty soon he heard squawking. He went out to look, and there were four magpies walking around his car. They were inspecting the tires, looking over everything, and squawking to each other, the way magpies do. He chased them away with a broom. It’s interesting that they weren’t looking over his Sienna. There are probably hundreds of Siennas in Heber, and they’ve seen them all. But this was something brand new to them. They couldn’t figure it out.
          Yesterday our outside thermometer registered 97. That’s unheard-of here. It must have been well over 100 in Salt Lake. The worst thing is, it’s supposed to stay this way for at least 10 more days. Poor Paul and Stefanie in St. George! Poor us helping them move next weekend (which we’re still looking forward to!) It’s supposed to be over 110 there every day. What a good time for them to leave St. George, with the least possible regret!
          Nora’s barbecue is still on for Saturday, the 4th, but I don’t have any details, so you’ll have to call her as to the time, what to bring, etc., and you can also contact Paul about possibly helping unload their truck later that evening. If all goes well, we’ll all be in Ogden in the early afternoon, but when you’re moving, whatever happens, happens. With luck it will all go really well.
          A happy hot summer to you all! Love, Mom

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Fathers Day, the summer solstice, and Sharon’s birthday, all on the same day–what could be better? I hope all you boys are having a good Fathers Day. You all deserve it! I called Sharon to wish her a happy birthday, and she said Conrad had sampled the centers of both layers of her birthday cake, where they were spread out to cool. It was BT cake. If I had been there, I would have been in on the deed with Conrad. 
          The family reunion is coming up in less than six weeks. The campground (same as last year) is reserved for three nights, July 30 and 31, and August 1. That would be Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Donna is wondering if people really want to be there Thursday night, or should we start the fun on Friday? I’m for doing all three nights. If you have an opinion, contact Donna.
           I was driving down Lower River Road one morning last week, on my way to the cabin, when a small deer jumped out in front of me. Nothing new. But he took off down the center of the road. I had to follow him. (Who would dare try to pass a deer?) Every time I honked he looked over his shoulder at me, but he kept running. I followed him for maybe a mile, going about 20, and he finally ran off into the meadow. John said once he followed a fox along that road. The signs that say "share the road" ought to have pictures of animals on them, not cyclists.
            Since my plan for the 4th of July hike has fallen through, Nora has planned a barbecue to make up the difference. It will be at her house. Dad and Paul and Stefanie and I will be driving from St. George that day, bringing their stuff to their townhouse in Ogden, and the idea is that if we get there early enough, people can come to Ogden to help unload the truck. Sounds good to me. You can contact Nora for more information about the barbecue. My original idea for the hike up Wolf Creek pass will probably have to be put off until next year, because the 24th is just a week before the family reunion. So much fun, and so little time!
         Lots of love, Mom

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Dear Kids,
         I was cooking up a plan for the 4th of July, having a family hike at Wolf Creek Pass, where you’re walking on top of the world, but it turns out that Paul and Stefanie are moving that weekend, and Dad and I are anxious for the trip to St. George, to help. (Dad will be driving the U-Haul truck, again.) So we’ll plan the family hike for the 24th. Donna pointed out that we just had a barbecue for Memorial Day, and it hasn’t been very long. True. I’ll put the details here in the letter, when it gets closer.
         Paul has finished his first week on the job in Ogden, so he’s officially a railroad engineer. But he doesn’t get to blow the whistle. He’ll be using a program like Sim Railroad for designing railroad systems. He told us that the width between two railroad tracks matches the width of the back ends of two horses. Who would have guessed?
         If you were driving past the Heber Airport a week or so ago, and you saw a white blur on the runway, it was John’s Porsche going 151 mph. They were having the grand re-opening the runway, (after repairs, I think) and he volunteered to test it out. Nobody saw his top speed, because he had passed all the spectators, and the only video shows him at about 100. Oh, remember how he now has everything he wants? Not so. Now he wants to buy a tractor.
          Last Sunday night we had a bunch of grandchildren here, and of course they were outside playing in the dirt and rocks. (Dad and I are working steadily on the yard, but it’s going slowly.) I keep feeling bad that we don’t have a finished play area, but then I’m always reminded that it’s the dirt they like best. Or the rocks. Dallin was sitting in my dry creek bed throwing out rocks, which I had put there with so much care. Anna was climbing on my pile of topsoil. The adults were on the swings. It’s all good.
          We hope you’re lovin’ your summer! We are, too. Mom

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Dad and I celebrated our anniversary on Tuesday: 43 good years! We drove up the Mirror Lake Highway looking for a good hike. (Since we went camping for our honeymoon, I’m always looking for an outdoor adventure on our anniversary.) I thought we might hike Bald Mountain, but there were 2 feet of snow at the trailhead, so we drove on to Mirror Lake. The road off the highway into the lake had been blocked with snow, so we had to park there and climb around the snowbank. Other people were parked there, too. We walked the short distance to the lake, which was mostly covered with ice, and the trail around it was impassable. But it was an absolutely gorgeous day–blue sky, white clouds, pines, snow–what could be better? We talked to a couple of fishermen who hadn’t had much success. They said the water was 42 degrees.
          What else? Dad and I went to Rylee’s wedding celebration/picnic at South Fork in Provo Canyon last night. Donna came with Amy, and Nancy and Bonnie were there, too, so we had fun chatting. (Bonnie said it would have to count for the family reunion this year.) We met Rylee’s new spouse, Stephanie. So I’m wondering . . . I guess she’ll be added to the family list? Barbara is keeping it now. Will her daughter be added as a great-grandchild of Grandma and Grandpa Allen? She’s a very nice little girl.
          Our pavilion was nearly at the end of the Squaw Peak 50 Mile Trail Run, and runners were still coming down the road when we got there. Most of them looked practically dead, but Bonnie said that Becca had trotted by earlier, jaunty and waving at them, looking fresh as a daisy. Whitney was supposed to be running, too, but we didn’t see her.
           Bonnie also told us that Jane and Joe are buying a house at the north end of Springville, and she showed us pictures of it. It’s right next to the mountain. When they move in, I’ll have four sisters in Utah Valley. We’ll have to have lots of get-togethers.
          Life is good! I love you all! Mom

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Most of you have heard that Paul has a new job, and a good one! He’ll be working in Ogden, designing railroads. (Sort of like Sim City). It’s a perfect place for Paul and Stefanie to live, in between Logan and the Heber-Kamas area, with Nora and Allen on the way. Paul is going to start the job in about a week, and he’ll probably be living temporarily somewhere in the Ogden area while Stefanie finishes up things in St. George. Then they’ll move. I had thought they would be in St. George for a long time, and that Dad and I would visit them during the winter, but they’re thrilled to be moving closer to both their families. Besides that, Paul will be doing something he’ll really enjoy.
          We had new carpet laid–again. This time it was the right carpet, but of course there were some minor problems. The job isn’t finished, because the carpet layer said it was so thick and stiff that it was hard to lay, and his only assistant was his son, who was just starting out. So they didn’t finish it yesterday, and they’ll have to come back. Besides that, there was barely enough carpet, and they had to put seams in odd places. One of them, on the stair landing, really looks bad, and that will have to be fixed. They’ll probably have to order another piece of carpet for that, and it will probably take three or four weeks, but eventually it will all look good.
           Now that it’s stopped raining, it’s really beautiful here–velvety green on the hillsides, and a darker green down along the river. Dad and I have been working outside as much as possible. Dad has still been digging out cottonwood roots, which were spread out everywhere, just beneath the surface. We started calling them Moby Dick’s skeleton. But I think Dad finally got every single rib. I’ve been planting trees and shrubs, but we still aren’t ready for grass.
          Spring is wonderful! Oh, is it summer now? We’re always behind, up here.
          Lots of love, Mom

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dear Kids,
          It’s unbelievable, the rain we’ve had here! And all over Utah too, I guess. Every day the clouds build up, nice and dark, and then it usually pours. People aren’t talking about the drought any more, but they aren’t complaining about the rain, either. Real Utahns are always glad for rain. 
            Our landscaping is still moving ahead. I haven’t been able to put in sprinklers and spread topsoil, like I wanted to, but in any weather, you can always move rocks. I’m making a new pile along Hilltop Road, and I’ve put out my sign that says "Free Rocks." They always get taken. Dad is still excavating the cottonwood roots, and he’s pulled out some gigantic chunks. Oreo is still supervising. He walks by on his elegant white paws, noting how dirty we are.
           Our home improvements inside are still at a dead standstill. Wards Carpet is supposed to have ordered our new carpet, and it was supposed to come in more than a week ago, but we haven’t heard from them. I ordered some new obscure windows from Home Depot, but I don’t have any confidence in the guy who did the ordering. He waited several days to call back and ask for our Home Depot credit card number. He said nothing could happen without that. And he wasn’t sure he could get us what we wanted. At least we have our gigantic yard to keep us busy. And the people who walk by always comment on our work.
          It’s my turn to teach Relief Society today. I keep trying different ways to make my lessons understandable to both sides of the room–the Spanish-only and the English-only sisters. Luckily I do the 4th Sunday Conference talk lessons, so the ladies always have a lot to say. If I can only understand them. When I prepare my lessons, I use Google Translate a lot. Tom put it on my tablet, and it has really helped me.
          I hope you’re all having a great Memorial Day weekend. We’re looking forward to seeing lots of you at the barbecue at the cabin tomorrow.
          Love, Mom

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Thanks so much for all the Mothers Day gifts and phone calls and visits! I had a wonderful day. All your gifts were very well thought-out, and I now have a nice pile of very dark chocolate to last me for several weeks.
          I was checking our e-mail and facebook to see if Katie Brooke had her baby yet, (she did) and I saw a note from Renae that Mark and Tamri had their baby 8 hours later. I don’t know how many great-grandchildren that would be for Grandma and Grandpa Allen, but I’m sure it’s well over 100. Barbara is keeping the list now.
          I’ve been busy digging sprinkler trenches in our yard. John says he’s never seen such neat work. He says I don’t dig dirt–I sculpt it. Oreo supervises my work closely. He patrols the trenches every day, and sometimes he’ll leave a dead mouse alongside of one. I guess he thinks I need a snack to keep me going. Dad started digging out some of the cottonwood roots out along Hilltop road. They’re mixed in with some very big rocks, and there’s no way our friend with her tractor could smooth them out. We’re planning to have her come as soon as it dries out, to level out the rest of our yard. So much fun! 
           Memorial Day is a week from tomorrow. Do we want to have a barbecue at the cabin? We could also celebrate Dad’s birthday, and Dallin’s. Let me know what you want to do!
          Lots of love to everybody! Mom

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Happy Mothers Day to all my beautiful daughters and daughters-in-law! I appreciate the great work you’re doing in having children and raising them. Nothing in this life will bring you more happiness!
          We’ve enjoyed having rain and snow over the last few days. I don’t enjoy the dark dreary skies, but I’m glad to know we won’t have a terrible drought this summer.
          If you haven’t seen John’s new Porsche, you’ll hear it coming. I guess the engine has to rumble so you’ll know how powerful it is. John and Dad went joyriding up the Mirror Lake highway, so Dad could see and feel it for himself. I had sent them to Food Town for a bag of cat food, which barely fit in the trunk. (You don’t buy a Porsche for its trunk size.) John says the car was a bargain, and the fulfillment of a 9-year dream. I asked him if he now has everything he wants, and he said "yes."
          Can I stand to write about our latest home improvement disaster? I ordered windows for our stairwell, and I chose a particular pattern of obscure glass. It’s called "glue chip." We had a call that the windows had come in, and so we drove to Salt Lake to pick them up. The nice lady asked us to pay the balance, and I told her we needed to see the windows first. Of course they had put in the wrong glass! They said that was what the manufacturer was calling "glue chip." It was a pattern of little vines. After we argued for a while, we asked for our money back. Now I have to find another glass place and try again.
          Dad and I have been listening to "Gone With the Wind" in the car. I had forgotten how good that book is! It’s 41 discs long, so it will last us for a few more trips to Salt Lake. Evidently the southern lingo is stirring up old language patterns for Dad. He was bringing in a broken bag of laundry soap, and he said, "I daresn’t put it down in here!" Of course he heard all that growing up! I forget about his Virginia roots.
          Life is good! Love, Mom

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Dear Kids,
          News flash! Donna and Bevan are having a baby in November! I had a feeling there was at least one more on the way! The baby is due November 20, half way between Bevan’s birthday and Anna’s. It’s also Allen’s birthday and Bonnie’s. (In a big family, you have to double up and even triple-up on the birthdays.)
          Things are going pretty well with Dad. He had his catheter out on Monday, which gives him a lot more freedom, but it has caused him a lot of pain. Tuesday I was so distraught about him that I drank poison. No, I drank Roundup, which isn’t really a poison, according to Donna. But I didn’t know that. And I didn’t drink it on purpose. It was mixed with water in a jug, sitting next to my water bottle on the porch. I was hot and distracted and listening to "Anna Karenina," and I grabbed it and took a big gulp without thinking. I had another gulp in my mouth when I realized what it was, and I spit it out. I called 911 to get poison control, and while they were connecting me up, they said they were sending the ambulance just for a precaution. The nice man at poison control said it wouldn’t kill me, but it might cause stomach cramps and vomiting. I was supposed to drink 8 oz of water and wait. The nice Summit County paramedics showed up and took my vital signs, and chatted for a while. They said our yard was looking good. I told them I was dizzy and the side of my face was numb, but that didn’t matter. My vitals were OK. Later I had all the symptoms that poison control said I could expect, but it all turned out OK. Dad started feeling a little better, too, and since then, he has improved a little each day. Now he’s back to driving to the fitness center every morning, and then hanging out with the old guys in the deli at Food Town. 
           We enjoyed the shower for Stefanie at Nora’s house yesterday, and we missed those of you who couldn’t be there. The food was great, and the games (provided by Donna) were good, too. Thanks, Nora and Donna! After the shower, Dad and I went to the Centerville DI, probably the best DI anywhere. Nora and Kim and all their kids showed up there a while later! Who knew that the after-party would be at the DI?? We all found good stuff. 
           I love you all! Mom

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Dad is doing better every day. He was able to come to Salt Lake with me on Wednesday and help out with our piano class nursery. We usually have Nora’s and Donna’s kids in there, plus one or two others, so we absolutely have to have somebody in there supervising. Dad usually sits by the door to prevent escapees. The piano class itself is still growing, and I’ve marked 31 people on the roll in the last month. We only have 24 keyboards, and we can’t expand any farther than that, so we just have kids double up, or tell them to come earlier next week. I really appreciate Donna and Nora helping out as teachers. If any of you know anybody else who would like to teach piano in a really crazy setting, please send them to me! 
           Dad has enough energy to help out with serious project now, like working in the basement. He can’t lift more than ten pounds, so we have to work creatively. I decided to finish our big walk-in closet myself, so we’d have a place to store things when the drywall guys come. I bought sheetrock at Home Depot on Monday, and Tom helped me load it in through a basement window. Tom also loaned us his contraption for lifting sheetrock to the ceiling and holding it there. It’s the craziest thing I ever saw: there are pulleys and a big wheel with a handle and bars that rise up. I didn’t totally understand it when Tom showed me how it worked, but Dad caught on. So I cut the sheetrock and Dad worked the machine. Then he used the drill driver to put in the drywall screws. I forgot how much fun it is to build a room, and I love the smell of joint compound when it’s drying. We need to put the windows in our stairwell before the drywall guys come, but when I ordered the windows, they said it would be 6 to 8 weeks, because we need them tempered. So, in the meantime we’re going to finish our storage room, too. Maybe we’ll do even more. Nothing’s more exciting than finishing a basement! 
           Oh, yeah, working in the yard is exciting, too, but we’re finally having winter again. It’s snowing this morning. The poor little trees that I planted are nearly dead now. I’ll know better next time.
          Love, Mom

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Dad is making a remarkable recovery. He says his progress is exponential, not linear. His appetite is back: Friday night, he and John polished off most of a pizza, plus half a gallon of milk. He’s able to get up and do odd jobs, like wiring a light and a switch in the basement. He’s attending to the cats again. After his surgery I had set their automatic feeder to go off three times a day, so they wouldn’t need him, but they prefer to have him up at 6:00 am giving them their morning meal personally. This week I’m hoping Dad can get outside and clean some of our high-up windows. They’re totally plastered with mud from the big storm that came through on Wednesday.
           Before the storm, I had been out in the yard starting my projects again. I even planted two trees that I had bought in Salt Lake. Bad idea! Salt Lake trees aren’t ready for Kamas Valley. They were frozen three nights in a row, besides being beaten half to death by the wind. Now most of their leaves are black and hanging down. Maybe they can recover. I can get my money back if they die, but I feel like a neglectful mother, planting them in such an inhospitable place, without acclimating them first.
           Three weeks ago, I wrote about the disaster of our new carpet. It’s longer and thinner and less curly than the carpet I ordered. Luckily I kept the sample board from Ward’s carpet–it’s my only proof that they got it wrong. They said they had to send a piece of the carpet to the factory, so their lab could test it. I kept saying they only had to look at it to see it was different. They kept insisting they had to go through their standard procedures. I started doubting that there even was a lab–it seemed like a way of stalling people off until they started liking their new carpet. Well, I hate this stuff. It’s already flattening down on the stairs. This week they called and said the lab finally confirmed that the carpet is different, but I could have a big discount if I kept the carpet they already laid. No deal. I wouldn’t have it in a barn. So they’re trying to get us the right stuff. I still think they’re trying to wear me down.
          But life is good. Dad is getting better. Love, Mom

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Most of you have talked with either Dad or me about his surgery, and you know it went pretty well, at least the surgery part of it. He was in the recovery room for several hours because his breathing was "depressed" (dangerously low, one doctor inadvertently let out), and then they sent him to the ICU for the night. I was there with him, and I slept in the recliner. It was very comfortable. The nurses were in and out every hour or two checking all his vitals, and they said he was the healthiest person in the ICU. I asked one nurse if people died there, and she said "all the time." It was very sobering. They kept Dad until Thursday afternoon, and released him from there. They gave us a sheaf of papers to read, but not much information about the real issues, like a run-down on all his medications, instructions for keeping the incision dry, what number to call if there is trouble, etc. We’ve made out OK. He had a lot of nausea yesterday, but is doing a little better today. He makes himself get up and walk around every hour or so, and I’m sure that’s helping him a lot. He has a catheter and a bag, so don’t be grossed out if you come to see him. The contents of the bag are the same color as the crystal lite fruit punch I used to like so much. I’ll never drink it again.
          Otherwise, things are going well here. The cats are doing OK without Dad’s constant attention, but they’re letting me know they aren’t happy. He usually brings them milk at 6:00 am, and he’s not able to do it now, but I did take them his uneaten cereal this morning. Oreo brings in lots of dead mice, presumably for Dad’s nourishment. He’s been getting a lot of big ones this spring. Tom says it wasn’t cold enough for them to die off over the winter. I found one mouse eating his way through our basement screen, so I caught him in my hand and carried him out to the field across the street. He wasn’t big enough for Oreo to bother with yet.
          I hope you’re all doin’ great and lovin’ it. We are.
          Love, Mom

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Dear Kids,
          I hope you’re all having a wonderful Easter morning! The Easter Bunny visited us here and brought Dad a chocolate rabbit from Walmart and some Cadbury mini eggs. He brought me two bars of Midnight Reverie Ghiradelli 86% chocolate, plus a 90% bar of Lindt. I feel very secure, having a good supply of really dark chocolate.
          Of course it’s strange to have Easter on conference weekend, even though it happens every few years. I remember when you kids were little it was a relief not to have to worry about Easter dresses. Now it’s nice to hear the messages about Christ in conference. I hope you’re all enjoying the sessions as much as we are.
          Dad’s surgery is this Wednesday, so I’m sure you’ll all remember him in your prayers. He’s surprisingly calm about it all. We’re meeting with his doctor tomorrow morning to hear the final details. Since the surgery is on a Wednesday, I’ll still be teaching the Lighthouse piano class that afternoon, along with Donna and Nora and the rest of our great teachers. Dad will be snoozing it off in one of the recovery rooms at the Death Star. I’ll be staying overnight in the hospital and then driving us home Thursday morning. I expect everything to go very smoothly.
          Yesterday morning I was up early wandering through the house, and I decided to have a look at the full moon. Somebody had taken a large bite out of it! It was a little before five. I woke up Chuck and asked him if he’d heard anything about a lunar eclipse. He got on his phone and saw that it was definitely happening. (As if the moon wasn’t proof enough.) We watched it through our binoculars for about an hour. It was never really total–there was still a tiny spot of light at the top at it’s fullest. But the moon was definitely red! I thought about the fact that it was Easter Saturday, the time when Christ would have been in the tomb, and how the earth was darkened here in America. It made Easter more real.
          I love you all and hope things are going well for you.
          Love, Mom

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dear Kids,
          We finally have a plan for Easter/Conference next weekend. Dad and I will be watching conference at our house on Saturday, and anybody who wants to join us there will be welcome. Saturday night any of the guys who want to go to the Priesthood session with Dad are welcome; they’ll leave from here. Afterwards, there will be ice cream for everybody, either at our house or at the cabin. Anybody who wants to stay over in either place is welcome. Sunday morning Dad and I will be watching conference at the cabin, and I’ll serve dinner (King Ranch chicken) as soon as the morning session is over. Then we’ll have an Easter Egg hunt, either outside or in the greenhouse, according to the weather. If we all bring eggs, there should be enough. Then we’ll watch the afternoon session, if we aren’t too high on sugar, or sound asleep. It’ll be good either way.
           Most of you have probably heard about Donna’s poor car. She ran into the back of a truck while she was on her way to our piano class on Wednesday. She thought he was sill moving, when he had actually stopped. His trailer hitch ruined her bumper and radiator, but of course there wasn’t even a scratch on the truck. She got her car to the Lighthouse Church OK, but from there it had to be towed back to Heber. Rob Sorensen thinks his Mexican friends can fix it for less than the resale value, so she’ll at least be able to drive it for a little bit longer. 
           Meanwhile, our piano class was a zoo. We had 25 students. The last two girls who came had to share a keyboard. Donna was on her phone a good part of the time, but she still managed to teach her four students. Nora had her row of kids. Dad was holding down the nursery. I was teaching Benjamin and my two ladies from the Harman Center, and troubleshooting. (Lots of it.) It was all good. Our class is having growing pains, but when we get things settled out it should be calm again.
           I can hardly stand to write about our latest home improvement disaster. We got new carpet, which was part of our master plan when we bought the house. When the guys brought it, I went out to their truck with my sample to make sure it was the right color. It was. So I breathed a sigh of relief. It was only later, when they were halfway through laying it, that I saw it was the wrong carpet--longer, less dense, and less curly than the sample. They finished the job, and Wards Carpet is supposed to be working on getting us the right stuff. Needless to say, they aren’t returning my calls. Luckily, we only paid 40% down, but I hate the carpet. Otherwise, life is good. 
           I love you all! Mom

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dear Kids,
          Conference/Easter weekend is just 2 weeks away, but we still don’t have a definite plan. Allen mentioned hosting something, but we were distracted by Ellie’s musical. She was in "Beauty and the Beast" at her school, Wasatch Peaks. She played the part of a villager sometimes, a candlestick another time, and in the mob scene she sang a line. It was a spectacular production, and Dad and I enjoyed it immensely.
          This morning I’m putting the finishing touches on my Relief Society lesson for today. I’m doing President Monson’s "Ponder the Path of Thy Feet" from the last conference. We have four English-only ladies in Relief Society, sometimes more than the Spanish ladies there, so I’m going totally bilingual–English out of one side of my mouth, and Spanish out of the other. No, that might not work, but I’ll try to jump back and forth, so nobody will be left out. The one Spanish lady who talks the most is from Uruguay, and almost impossible to understand. (Some of the Spanish ladies have told me they can’t understand her.) She’s on my visiting teaching list, and we’ve never caught her at home, so I went to see her by myself Monday night. By focusing totally on her, I could almost understand most of what she said. I asked questions straight out of the Spanish textbooks: What country are you from? How many children to you have. How long have you been married? (Oops, wrong question.) Do you like cats or dogs? It turned out OK, and she said she enjoyed my visit.
           Our basement is moving along, and we had the rough plumbing done by J. R. Coleman, who John recommended. (I know, Dad and I have always done that sort of thing by ourselves, but we don’t have 20 years this time around.) Watching this guy was magical. Water lines appeared out of nowhere. Holes were cut and pipes went through. He glued with lightning speed. He didn’t make mistakes. There were no extra trips to Ace Hardware. Thanks, John, for recommending him. Now we only have a few minor things to finish before we sheetrock. It’s all very exciting.
        As most of you have heard, Paul has been laid off from his job, so he’s back to his old occupation–job hunting.  I'm sure he'll find something soon!  Paul always lands on his feet!           About Easter and Conference--I’ll let you know the definite plan, as soon as I find out.
          Lots of love, Mom