Saturday, October 20, 2018


Cutest Rapunzel ever!

Here is what I wrote on FaceBook about Halloween 2017:

We have a pretty tough neighborhood for trick or treating I guess. We walked quite a ways and didn’t get much. They got a much more reasonable amount of candy though....
Weston refused to accept the candy (“candy is bad for you”) until near the end when Alex told him that there are monsters that come around and get people that don’t have candy in their bucket. He grabbed 5 candy bars at the next place. 😁
I told the kids that costumes this year had to come from the store because I don’t have a sewing machine, paint, or anything to make costumes. Owen insisted on being an Anglo Saxon, which was not at the store, and he refused to do a store costume. He tried to make his own costume... I probably should have helped.
It was nice to have a year off on putting costumes together though.

Nathan and Jared got to buy £8 of the candy of their choice, instead of buying a costume and trick or treating. Owen got to pick out some candy too, since we didn’t buy a costume for him and his trick or treating stash was small.

Friday, October 19, 2018

France, Barcelona, and Edinburgh

The kids had a week off of school in October, so we took the opportunity to go to France.  We found plane tickets to Paris for our family for about $17 each ($118 total)!  We bought those quickly, before we even searched for flights back.  We had a hard time finding anything decent for the return, so we ended up looking around for cheaper flights from somewhere else.  It was cheaper to fly to Barcelona, Spain and back to Edinburgh than any flights from Paris back to the UK.  That worked out for us, but did shorten our time in Paris.  

We just barely made our flight there:  We left church 5 minutes early so we could make it to the train station for our trip to Edinburgh.  Alex dropped us off at the train station in Durham (we changed our clothes in the car on the way), drove our car home, and took a taxi back to the train station.  I wasn't sure if he was going to make it, but he did get there 10 minutes early... and then our train was delayed.  We waited almost an HOUR for our train.  We didn't get to Edinburgh until about 5:10pm.  Our flight was at 6:30pm... and we still had a bus ride to the airport, which was a 30 minute ride.  Luckily I had paid for and printed out our bus pass beforehand, so we just had to take off running to catch that bus to the airport.  We arrived at the airport at 5:48.  The gate was supposed to close at 6:00.  We already had our boarding passes and no bags to check, so we ran to the security check.  The line was LONG... I asked a lady if they could push us through because we had a flight leaving at 6:30.  Luckily she pointed to a "family gate" - they let us right through.  We tossed everything on the security belt. Savannah and Weston both took off their shoes, which they didn't need to.  We didn't stop to put them back on.  We grabbed our stuff and took off running.  It seemed like our gate was the furthest one away... When we were almost to our gate, we realized that we had left the food bag and Savannah's bear-bear at security.  The kids and I kept running, hoping to get to the gate before it closed.  Alex took off running back to get the other things.  We got to the gate right at 6:00 and luckily there was a long line that wasn't moving.  Whew!  Alex made it back, despite having to wait for 8 bags ahead of him to be manually checked before he could go with the bag we left.  I'm glad I swapped out my church clothes for pants and running shoes - we did a lot of running that evening.  (The health app on my phone said I went 1.7 miles.)  

It was a stressful day, but I consider it a tender mercy that we were able to get from the bus and through security to our gate in 12 minutes, with 5 kids and our stuff in tow!  We did make it on our flight and got in to Paris on Sunday evening. 

On Monday morning, we were still worn out, so we didn't head out very early.  We planned on seeing some sights in the morning and meeting friends for lunch.  We just made it out in time for lunch.  We really enjoyed spending time with our friends, who were from our hometown, but currently living in Paris for a few years.  It was good to see them.  We met them at Notre Dame and toured inside.  Then we went out for lunch and gelato.  

After we parted with our friends, we went to see the Eiffel Tower.  It rained on us most of the afternoon, but it was fun to see the iconic Eiffel Tower.  We walked underneath it, but decided not to wait in line to go up the Eiffel Tower.  We wandered around a bit, but didn't have much time to see anything else.  By the time we saw the Eiffel Tower, it was time for dinner.  We did have a pool back at our hotel - swimming was actually one of the kids' favorite things of the trip.  They were tired of walking around and riding the metro. 

The next morning, Alex and I went to the Paris France Temple (the kids hung out at the hotel).  It took a while to get there and back from our hotel, and 2 hours at the temple.  So that took a good portion of our day.

Alex wasn't feeling very well by the time we got back from the temple, so we opted not to go explore other sights in Paris.  I wasn't too keen on wandering around Paris by myself with the kids (or even without the kids).  Instead, we took the kids to a nearby park and let them play (while Alex rested in the car).  That was probably more fun for them than walking around museums anyway.  The park we went to had some pretty cool things - one of them was a really long slide, as shown in the first picture below.    

I need another trip to Paris because we just barely scratched the surface on places to see... did I also mention that it's hard to travel with kids?  It takes a long time to get anywhere.

The next day we drove to Le Mont Saint Michel.  I'm really glad we made the drive there, because we loved the castle and its setting.  It's a castle right out of a fairytale.  This one actually was the inspiration for the castle in Disney's Tangled movie.  

photo from:  (this link talks about 6 other real life places that inspired other Disney movies)

The next morning on our way back to Paris, we wanted to see Etretat, on the northern coast of France.  We were so disappointed when we got there and it was all foggy.  We stayed for a while, hoping it would wear off, but it didn't.  We didn't have all day to wait, since we had to be back in Paris for our flight to Barcelona (although if we had known our flight was going to be delayed, we could have stayed a little longer...)

This is a picture of what Etretat is supposed to look like - it's gorgeous:  

(photo on

Back in Paris, we arrived with plenty of time before our flight (not wanting the stress that we had with the previous flight).  We had 2.5 hours to wait, and then our flight got delayed 3 hours due to technical issues.  Blah.  Lots of waiting time... we finally got to Barcelona.  

We only had one day in Barcelona, so we made the most of it.  The first place we visited was Castell de Montjuic, an old military fortress.  (We had a little bit of a hike up a hill to get there, as we decided not to take the gondola when we could.)

We also visited La Sagrada Familia - really pretty inside!


We got ice cream and played at a park in the afternoon near La Sagrada Familia.  Weston liked chasing the pigeons.  We wandered around the city a bit.  By the time we ate dinner, we saw a lot of people walking around with flags draped over them.  Turns out we were there the day that Catalonia declared independence from Spain. 

 At night, we made our way over to the Magic Fountain of Montjuic to listen to music along with the changing colors of the fountain.  We all really loved the fountain - it was mesmerizing!

"Pole dancing" on the Metro, on the way back to our Airbnb... 

On Saturday, we had a 7:40am flight from Barcelona to Edinburgh, Scotland.  We were all pretty tired from the late night before, but we managed to spend the day wandering around Edinburgh.

We went to the Edinburgh Castle.  The kids liked all the cannons and the sword demonstration.  

It was actually a really chilly day, so we mostly wanted to get inside somewhere and sit down.  We wandered around the Royal Mile, but it was a great day to sit down in a restaurant.  We ate hamburgers at Five Guys and dessert at Frankie & Benny's.

 We took a train back to Edinburgh, but wished we hadn't waited until the evening to do so.  Apparently there was a rugby or soccer game that had just finished, and our train had a lot of drunks on it.  They were really obnoxious - singing, cussing, and just being loud.  I felt bad for the lady who was trying to get her 4 month old to sleep.  At least we didn't have to keep our kids quiet!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


 Our next weekend outing was to see High Force Waterfall and Barnard Castle, about an hour southwest of Durham.  The waterfall was cool, and the hike was pretty, with all the colorful leaves. 

The kids enjoyed running around in all the open area of this castle and playing on the nearby playground. 

New Calling

On Sunday, October 8th, I got called to serve as Young Women's President in our congregation.  

      Here is what I posted on FaceBook:  

Introducing the new Young Women's President in the Stanley Ward of the Sunderland Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints... for those not familiar with the church, that means that I was asked to lead and serve the 12-17 year old girls in our congregation. I'm excited for the opportunity to serve, but I haven't served in Young Women's for 17 years (and that was only for 9 months). Looking forward to helping teach Sunday lessons, Wednesday night activities, firesides, and other activities. I met some of the girls today, and they are amazing. I'm humbled thinking about the trust placed in me to lead these great girls. I'll do my best, hoping God will magnify my abilities and efforts. Pres. Uchtdorf said recently, "There may be many things about life that are beyond your control. But in the end, you have the power to choose both your destination and many of your experiences along the way. It is not so much your abilities but your choices that make the difference in life." I thought about that in regards to church positions and feeling lacking in certain abilities. I am trusting that my choice to serve, to be in the right place at the right time with the right attitude will make the difference. Showing up is half the battle! Hoping that in the process, my abilities will also be strengthened. Grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow!

And then just a few days later, we had our first Wednesday night activity.  I put together a get-to-know-you activity, which involved some personality tests.  Here is what I posted on FB about that: 

Successfully got through our first activity on Wednesday for Young Women's. We did a basic questionnaire (favorites, family info, etc), then we did a couple of personality tests and played a couple of fun get to know you games. What was interesting to me was the personality tests - I don't know if the girls liked them that much. One of them was an introvert-extrovert quiz and the other was a color personality test. Have you taken a color test? The one we did had red, yellow, green, and blue. I took the test - solid green (on 17/27 questions I identified as green). I got 2 red, 3 yellow, and 5 blue. I made Alex take the test too - he's more well rounded but also had the most green. He scored 7 red, 7 yellow, 2 blue, and 11 green. Jared and Nathan also took the test - they were also pretty even - both scoring with blue as their highest at 9. Nathan was 5 (R) 8(Y), 9 (B), and 5 (G). Jared was 7, 5, 9, and 6.
Here are the descriptions of the colors, according to this test -…/personality-test…
RED: task and result oriented, likes recognition, likes to be on the move, doesn’t like to be late, enjoys individual sports (golf, tennis, track, piano, individual dance, etc.) likes expensive showy things, generally honest, but their moral compass might deviate during a competitive showdown. Red personality types tend to make good leaders. They love leadership roles and enjoy “managing” people (sometime perceived as bossy or having big egos). In the classroom setting, their hands will fly up when they know the answer. Generally, 1 out of 5 students will be red (I found a higher ratio, however, in my GT classes). They like to leader of the pack. Car of choice: something flashy and expensive (e.g. sports car) If they were an adult and had to put a swing set together: would pay somebody to do it for them 
YELLOW: people oriented, expressive, friendly, loves to talk, extravagant, optimistic, enjoys team sports (volley ball, baseball, football, basketball, drill team, cheer team, etc.). Yellow personality types are the glue that holds groups together. They are generally outgoing and fun loving. They are your classroom talkers. Yellows are usually the principal color in most groups. They like to run in packs. Car of choice: one that’s big enough to hold their friends If they were an adult and had to put a swing set together: would invite their friends over to build and barbeque 
GREEN: detail oriented, precise, controlled, likes to do things right the first time, likes to complete jobs, tends to be thrifty as adults. Green personality types like order. They generally have neat lockers and organized notebooks. They are often perceived as “neat­ freaks”. They make wonderful treasurers, secretaries, or committee chairs in clubs. They will keep your group organized. Generally speaking, 1 out of every 7 students will be green (once again—more in GT population). Likes to keep the pack on the trail. Car of choice: hybrid vehicle (energy efficient) If they were an adult and had to put a swing set together: would pull out the directions, carefully count and arrange the parts, then systematically build the swing set 
BLUE: creative, freethinking, sincere, loyal, caring, perceptive, understanding, open‐minded, oftentimes enjoys nature, many like the arts. Blue personality types are often perceived as quiet, sometimes shy individuals. Oftentimes they may be loners or have one or two other “blue” friends. They are very innovative, idea people. They tend to be quiet in a group and should be called upon to share their ideas. Generally, 1 out of every 8 or 9 students will be blue. Blues don’t usually run with the pack. Car of choice: jeep, recreational vehicle, unusual car (off­road adventures) If they were an adult and had to put a swing set together: would design their own swing set
I liked their description of putting a swing set together, and I had to laugh at myself when the next day I showed my green color. I had ordered a cabinet for the bathroom. It arrived in the mail, but of course was not put together. But I knew I could put it together if I carefully followed the instructions. So I first laid out all the pieces according to their letter or number and made sure I had all the pieces. I lined up all the numbered bags with screws and such in number order. Then I tried to go step by step through the instructions. It turns out the pictures with arrows and little numbers were hard to understand! (And a couple of the pictures were actually incorrect! ) Not cool. Anyway, had a good start, but then got to a part where I couldn't figure out how the screws worked. I needed help! I needed my friend Amanda because I think she is more blue than me (she DID design and put together their swing set)! 😊 Nathan and Jared got home from school, and Jared was eager to help. We did pretty good together, nearly completing it. When Alex got home, we had about one thing left to do. Alex finished it off pretty quickly, barely looking at the instructions! 😀 Anyway, Alex and I were talking about the different color types, and although he scored more green, he doesn't seem to fit one color a lot more than the others (and I don't see one strong color trait in Nathan and Jared either). I think it might be a S family thing, because S are task oriented, honest, friendly, likes to do things right the first time and complete jobs, thrifty, loyal, and enjoy nature. They can be leaders when they have to and can hold their own in social settings, but don't really enjoy or thrive on social gatherings. As far as the swing set analogy, they probably most fit the green, in systematically building the swing set. But at least for Alex, he isn't very precise or detail oriented. And he doesn't really enjoy the work of putting something together - "too much work" might be a typical thought! Alex said he would probably buy the swing set and then leave it in the box for about 6 months... or question why they needed a swing set in the first place when you can take the kids to the park! 😄 I may never figure him out.
The good thing about me though 😊 is that I fit the green mold pretty well - detail oriented, precise, likes to do things right the first time, complete jobs, thrifty, likes order, and will keep the group organized. Probably makes me a good mom, as far as keeping the family organized and "on the trail".

That was the first of several activities planned for the year.  It was a great opportunity to serve, and my testimony was strengthened this year about the gospel of Jesus Christ and about coming unto Christ as the source of power in our lives.  I also grew in my leadership abilities.  I was really motivated right from the start to ponder and seek inspiration for the girls this year.  
Bishop (who receives inspiration and asks people to serve) shared with me the lead up to the calling.  They needed a new presidency, because they hadn't had one the whole summer.  But he felt like he should wait on calling someone.  At this point, he knew we were coming and that a couple of other people were coming towards the end of summer.  He shared that sometimes in making callings, things make sense logically and you receive confirmation that the call should be extended.  And other times you receive really clear inspiration that a certain person is to be called.  The latter was the case for me - he knew clearly that I should be called as the new YW president.  

Along with sharing that with my family, here is what I shared with them at the time:  "It makes me a little emotional thinking about it, but also gives me motivation to try my best to make a difference in the short time I have to serve."

With the year behind me now at this point, that did motivate me to ponder and pray about the lessons and activities with more purpose.  It was a short time to serve (9-10 months), but I know now that the main reason we were given the opportunity to go to England was so that I could serve as YW president.  I'll probably share some more thoughts and feelings in some later posts.   

Holy Island

In October, we did a day trip to Holy Island and Bamburgh, on the Northumberland Coast - it was about 1.5 hours north of Durham.  These were some of our favorite places, and we took a lot of photos!  Unfortunately, the Lindisfarne Castle was closed for renovations, but we loved exploring the area.  It was a really windy day, but that ended up being one of the kids favorite things - playing in the wind.  Despite the wind, it was a gorgeous day.  

Holy Island is a tidal island, so access to the causeway is covered by the sea twice a day.  You have to pay attention to when the tide comes in so you don't get stuck on the island.  

The kids added their own rock piles to the existing ones - there are lots of rock piles in this one area of the island.  

The picture of Nathan and Jared below is Lindisfarne Priory.  

A little bit south of Holy Island is Bamburgh, which was one of our favorite castles.  It's on the coast, so the beach is right there.  I think the kids felt at home when they got to play on the beach.  

That second picture below was in one of the rooms - we had to snap a photo of it because the boys recognized the picture from their Splendor game.  I think that's Henry VIII.

Still windy - gotta love the windblown look...

The walk down to the beach had a sandy hill that the kids loved running and rolling down.

I think the first picture below captures how the kids felt about being on the beach...

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


We took a fun outing nearby to Seaham, where we had fun looking for seaglass.  The entire beach was rocky and filled with lots of little pieces of sea glass.  The goal was to find large pieces, but most of them were really small.  This is what I found about the history of the sea glass:  
"The Seaham Chemical Works operated from the 1860s until it closed in 1885 and much waste and glass was dumped into the sea. A “better” method of waste disposal was created, dumping the glass further out to sea, north of the harbor. This meant that over time, the tidal drift brought pieces, smoothed by a century of sea tumbling, onto the beach with every tide." (

Preston England Temple

We didn't give up our monthly temple attendance just because we were away from the states... our temple for the year was the Preston England Temple.  It was about 2 hours 20 minutes from Durham to the temple - a little bit further than our CA drive to the temple, but a much more pleasant and peaceful drive than in LA traffic.  The countryside was really pretty and so was the temple. I think Freiberg Germany was #40 and Preston England was #41 for temples we have visited together.