Friday, June 29, 2012

Girls Camp Redux--Tubing and Testimonies

Our last day was pretty great. We took two groups to the river to go tubing.

Isn't that pretty.

We were told that the river was more shallow than in years past and so the current wasn't swift. At first that seemed like a good thing to me. Lazy river! But I soon realized that very shallow water means getting stuck on and between rocks every 10 feet. Nothing lazy about having to paddle for your dignity.

This group looks just like ours but our tubes were blue and our girls more modest.

Mary and her friend Taylor wanted to stay at the back of the pack to prolong their experience. What they didn't count on was helping Sister Hashmi and I, who were also at the back because . . . hm . . . we were enjoying the scenery? Let's go with that. I thought they would pass us up but they were super helpful and sweet to us. Mary had a huge stick she used like an oar to help navigate; she was in the front and instructed the rest of us to hold on to the tubes' ropes and form a chain during difficult passages. She was truly invaluable in keeping us together and our spirits high.

At one point she said, "You know . . . taking care of you guys is hard work." Ha! Really, I know the feeling.

Finally we made it to the finish line, after 3 hours. We were the last ones. Those skinny little girls (and Sis. McEwen) beat us by 20 minutes. My sunscreen fell out of the tube at the beginning and so my legs were really burned by the end. I was careful of my face and shoulders but I didn't do enough on my lower half and I'm still paying for it.

I was kind of glad to hear that the older girls took even longer than we did getting down the river.

Later that night we gathered for testimony meeting. As a leader I always appreciated the girls' sharing of beliefs and feelings. But as a mother I gained an added sense of gratitude; those sweet young ladies who shared their struggles, triumphs, and desires to choose the right were just what my own daughter needed to hear. She's only 12 and has so many decisions, obstacles, and distractions coming down the road to growing up. I was so grateful for shining examples to show her that true happiness comes from obedience and sacrifice. One of my favorite testimonies made me laugh though:

"I know that my older brother will always be there for me! Not that my mom won't, but she has anger-management issues."

Since I know this girl's mom well it really struck my funny bone.

My heart grew in love for those girls that night, for all that they are and all that they want to become. I am so glad my own daughter can associate with such lovely and virtuous young women.

Later than night Sis. Smith gathered the YCLs for a special meeting where she presented each one with a word she felt described them. It was a beautiful and emotional end to the evening and I think we all went to bed feeling good about the world.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Girls Camp Redux--Fear Factor

Thursday was a quiet in-camp day. That meant lots of swimming and chilling out, which was much needed. Mary was very tired (after staying up until 4:30 the first night, 1:30 the next) and wanted to read in the tent. But the tent was a million degrees and she started to look terrible. I took her hand and made her drink a Powerade take a cold shower because she'd lost the clarity to make those decisions for herself. That did the trick and she was back to normal.

After some certification the girls spent the day swimming. That night we played a super fun (and gross) game of Fear Factor!

This where we did certification.

The YCLs made these gorgeous decorations for our sun shades.

The girls loved singing camp songs, especially "I'm a Nut" and "Boom Chicka Boom".

Camp leaders and friends!: Stephanie, Jenni, Rachel, and me.

First Fear Factor challenge: "Unicorn phlegm" (vanilla pudding). It was hard to suck it through a straw.

This was "Pixie Blood" (tomato juice and hot sauce). The girls had a hard time but Bro. Simmons rocked it.

"Pig tails" (spray cheese on a plate): this one was hard because they had to lick it off the plate but cheese had hardened like cement.

The one that gave the girls the hardest time were the canned oysters. Check out the faces of Adi, Maddie, and Makayla!

There were several physical challenges as well--this was to see who could hold the plank position longest. Our strong and awesome YW president Rachel won that challenge!
It was a fun activity and very nice to gear up for what was to come--tubing on the river the next day.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Girls Camp Redux--The Hike

We got to camp and took forever to set up. Probably because I was tired from hardly sleeping the night before. I gathered everything I needed to pack and yet . . . I brought no brush or hair dryer, no pillows to sleep on. I did bring 2 towels though, one of which I rolled under my head and the other I gave to Mary because she dropped hers in the dirt.

The leaders' tent within a tent. 
The next day we set out on our hike to Emerald Pools. However, we ended up on the wrong trail and went halfway to Angel's Landing (a very treacherous hike) before turning around. It was really hot and so I don't think many people minded when we turned back and headed for the river.

The entrance.

The shuttle.

Bridge over shallow, rocky water.

Our 29 girls and fearless leaders crossing the bridge.

Up the trail.

Resting for a moment on the way back down. These girls were the leaders of the pack. Savannah, Sara, Mary, Makayla, Courtney, Maddie, and Emily.

A highlight for the girls was playing in the cold, cold river. They had a blast.

Isn't that lovely?

Girls and more girls.

Half of the group posing on the bridge.

Mary and her sweet, quiet friend Taya.
After hiking we couldn't wait to jump in the pool at camp. This was a first for me to see at girls camp...BOYS! There were Scout troops, school groups, and youth conferences at our facility and as you can imagine, our young women were delighted. Mary had a conversation with a cute boy that went like this:

Cute Boy: Hi, What's your name?

Mare: Mary.

Cute Boy: Oh, that's a pretty name. I'm Max. How old are you?

Mare: I'm 12.

Cute Boy: I'm 16. Will you be swimming here again?

Mare: I'm not sure, but I might.

Cute Boy: Then maybe I'll see you around. Bye.


Giddy laughter all night long followed that exchange! She never saw him again but she sure talked about him a lot. Maaaaxxxxx!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Girls Camp Redux--St. George

This will probably be Part 1 because I have a lot to say but it boils down to this: It was a ton of work but worth it in the end.

We met at the church early in the early in the morning. On our way to Zion we stopped by the St. George temple. It was a really great way to kick off our camp.

Girls and leaders waiting to load up vans.

Taya and Mary.

The girls who rode with me: Kaycee, Mary W., Adi, Mare, and Taya. Some of them were really, really chatty.

So beautiful.

We had a wonderful tour of the visitors center.

The cutest sister missionary from Ireland talked about the Savior. Then she took us to an exhibit of paintings depicting scenes from the pioneer movie "17 Miracles". It was extremely moving. The girls also saw a short film on the importance of families.

Holiness to the Lord, The House of the Lord. I heard several girls say this was the temple they wanted to be married in!

The 29 girls who came to camp in serious mode.

And in silly mode.

After the temple we at sack lunches at a nearby park. Then we were back on the road, on our way to camp!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Girls Camp Tomorrow

And I'm sitting here amidst lists and piles of clothes and WalMart bags trying to finish up the packing. To be honest I'm almost done and really looking forward to a good night's sleep. I am giving myself a big pep talk about how everything is going to work out even though it doesn't seem like it right now. (I know it will!) The camp is all about the young women and if we just keep focusing on them we'll be okay regardless of what we do or even how well we do it.

I just hope I'm the princess and not the evil queen by the end of this experience. (Do you like these cute shirts? That is our theme, based on President Uchtdorf's talk.)

P.S. Mary packed herself so we'll see how well she did by week's end. Ha.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Letter Q

Mary went to the salon yesterday and she looks super cute and ready for camp with her new braids. I left her with LaKeisha and then Bryce picked her up later. I had the twins in the car on the way home and Harrison was throwing a huge tantrum until I said, "Let's look for all the letters of the alphabet on the highway signs and billboards. I think the hardest letters to find will be K, Q, X, and Z." Well the boys were very intent on looking for those letters (although I was wrong about X because of "Exit" and "Next" which we saw a dozen times).

But the letter Q alluded us. Harrison and I brainstormed words like "queen", "quilt", and "quiet" to which Cameron would tease, "I saw that word!" I tried to come up with ones that had Q in the middle like "require" and "aqua". Cameron also racked his brain and went through a few nonsense words before shouting . . .


I was ready to push the parental panic button but neither boy seemed to find any significance to this seemingly made-up term and went along looking for other letters. Thank goodness for that, right?

Such a naughty member of the alphabet.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

School's Out For the Summer

Remember when I said I had a last day of school gift for the kids? I decided to get them towels for swimming, goggles (sunglasses for Tyce), flip flops, Pringles (for Tyce--Takis) and Powerades. Yay.

I was told I picked these gifts "like a boss."

I'm not gonna lie, our summer schedule has not turned out as expected. The best laid plans and all of that. To our unpleasant surprise, the big black cloud is on the horizon again and it remains to be seen whether it will pass with a few showers or become a raging storm. That colors everything else we do in the coming months. All I can say is that when it rains, it pours.

So far we have been swimming, and that's pretty much it. I have chore charts and workbooks but they've only been followed with marginal success. My mind has been elsewhere, including finishing up preparations for Girls Camp. The kids have been watching way too much TV. So maybe for them the summer has actually been great so far.

I took the kids to see Madagascar 3 and it was pretty much just like I imagined it would be. My expectations were low and they were almost met. I am looking forward to seeing Brave though. Did I tell you Bryce and I saw The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel? I loved that one. As part of my "when it rains it pours" I got a ticket for expired registration (1 day!!!!!) on the way to the theater. Wah wah.

Also, today the minivan was in a car accident.

Luckily no one was hurt.

I will end with a grammar joke Tyce told me.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
To who?
No, it's to whom.

Now I'm off to YW to do final preparations for Camp. I know it will be great. But  maybe you'd better wish me luck anyway, you know, just in case. Ha.

Friday, June 8, 2012

I Found this in the Bathroom

Which is not unusual--there are Mary's poems, parts of short stories, drawings, and chapters of several novels scattered throughout the house.

I've not wanted to share any of her novels in such a public forum because I don't want anyone to take her work and call it their own. Seriously, they're that good. But here's an excerpt from a little short story (fiction!) I found this morning that I thought was amusing (if not a little disturbing). By the way, there were several tic-tac-toe games doodled in the margins and I remembered her telling me, "It's really hard to outsmart yourself when you're playing both sides."


"Please, Tyce!" I begged. "Just one little piece? I'll leave you alone if you just give me a piece!"

I don't know why I expected anything more than the door which was slammed in my face. I pounded on my brother's door and shouted several words I'd heard my dad say. 

"Go away, Mare!" Tyce's voice was muffled by the door. I only wanted one little stick of gum, just one stick and he wouldn't give me it. Usually I would have just let the matter go but I was angry.

"Rachel, why you strangling my bear?" I turned away from Tyce's door to see my twin little brothers Cameron and Harrison. I looked down at my hands which were clenched in a fist around Cameron's bear. I'd thrown it at Tyce earlier. "Rachel?" Cameron persisted. I sighed.

"Stop calling me that. Here's your stupid bear," I said grumpily. 

"Do you want to take us to the park?" Harrison asked hopefully.

"Hesin, Cam, please leave me alone," I sighed.

Harrison frowned. "Why were you screaming?" I noticed he was talking funny and opened his mouth.

"He gave YOU gum!" I was furious. I grabbed a penny and jammed it in the lock to Tyce's room. 

I burst in and he yelled at me, "Get out!" I yelled back.

My mom came running up the stairs (she probably thought we were murdering each other) to find Cameron and Harrison sitting in Tyce's doorway grinning as they watched the two of us roll around on the floor. Tyce might have been stronger but I was like a cat. I didn't just use arms, legs, hand, and feet but also my nails and teeth. 

Mom yanked us apart right as I bit Tyce's arm. "Mare, let him go now!" my mom yelled.I growled at her around my mouthful of brother. She smacked my head. I didn't open my mouth. She pinched my nose. I stubbornly breathed through the gaps in my teeth. Finally Tyce, whose face had been squinched up in pain, said, "Okay, I'll give you gum!"

As soon as he gave me the gum I grabbed it and tried to run but Mom snatched me. She held me by my arm and shouted for a long time. I considered biting her but I figured if I did that I soon wouldn't have any teeth. And then how would I get my gum from Tyce?


On a different note, Mary found herself in a pickle regarding her grade in English. I emailed the teacher about make-up work and this was part of her response. You can tell she really knows our girl.

Hi, Mrs. Jones,
Your daughter is creative, and marvelous and scattered and brilliant and has more ideas and enthusiasm in her thumb than most of us do in our entire body.

In a global sense, she is one of my best and brightest. She WILL do great things. In the meantime, she reminds me of Belle, with her nose in a book or writing.  Her ideas are spectacular. Her spelling is not always the same but I have begged her to hire ME someday to edit for her as editing requires a technician and she is definitely going to be the professional. Her ideas and sentence structure are far beyond that of the average sixth grade student.  Harnessing her energies for mundane tasks such as spelling and grammar is my challenge, without discouraging her talent.

Ms. Jennings


That's how I feel as well. You can't use a steel trap to catch a butterfly, you know? And yet she has to function in the real world with normal people. I hope this summer she can write and write and spread her wings without anything to get in the way.

Creative, marvelous, scattered, and brilliant girl.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Joneses Got Talent

Do you watch America's Got Talent? There are some crazy people out there with some amazing abilities. This week, in addition to a few freak shows (literally), some inspiring singers, and various other performances we saw incredible balancing acts. And as you can imagine, when Nick Cannon says, "Don't try this at home," our kids hear, "You're missing something fun."

Cameron on top of Tyce's back, sporting his new green WATERPROOF cast!

They couldn't ever get Harrison to stop laughing and going wet-noodle on them. They were close to balancing everyone but never quite made it.

The return of Super Baby! When the twins were younger Tyce and Mary used to do this all the time.

Mary's turn to fly!

I love to see the kids having fun with each other!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mother's Day Love

The kids gathered in my room to give me breakfast in bed and to present their gifts to me.

Bryce ordered these pretty flowers from the Newport Ward. I love the boys' faces.


Cam's presents he made at school.

How sweet is that?

I'm not really into chocolate but I do look good at parties, I will admit.

Harrison's page. He also made me a tile.

Do I have a sweet boy or what?

I am blessed to have great kids.

Me, dressed up for church. The Mother's Day gift to the women was a Dove chocolate bar.

My good-lookin' bunch. Cameron kept moving and making crazy faces.

But check him out now that Tyce has held him still!

I can't express how much these children mean to me. I know down to the deepest part of my soul that they were meant to be in our family. My husband and I can't call down the powers of heaven to create lives ourselves, but we can honor those who do, who created and brought forth our wonderful kids. I am happy to share the title of Mother with those ladies because there's enough love to go around. We are all part of the plan and I know that one day I will be able to thank them for giving me the greatest gift of all--the opportunity to be MOM to some of this world's most special sons and daughter.

Once there were two people, who never knew each other.
One you do not remember, the other you call mother.

Two different lives shaped to make yours one.
One became your guiding star, the other became your sun.

The first gave you life, and the second taught you to live it.
The first gave you the need for love, and the second was there to give it.

One gave you nationality, the other gave you a name.
One gave you the seed of talent, the other gave you aim.

One gave you emotion, the other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile, the other dried your tears.

One gave you up, it was all that she could do.
The other prayed for a child, and God led her straight to you.

And now you ask me through your tears, 

the age-old question through the years. 

Which are you a product of?
Neither my darling, neither - Just two different kinds of love.

--Legacy of an Adopted Child, by Unknown