Sunday, August 14, 2016

We sold the family car

Almost five years ago we purchased a 2010 Buick Enclave CLX. We had been driving a Toyota 4Runner Limited but we were expecting Stella and needed the extra seating space the Buick provide us.

After five years of driving our family everywhere across the United States on it - from California to South Carolina; from Texas to as far north as Idaho - we decided it was time for a new car.

We've been eyeing the 2016 Honda Pilots since February and talking to dealers trying to get a good price on them. Unfortunately for us the are so popular that there is little negotiating room and hardly any in stock. They sell before they even hit the lot. Case in point, the one we saw was at an auto show. I have been to Larry H Miller Honda twice and they have never had one in stock to show me.

Todd spoke to the sales representatives at three local Honda dealers and found out there were a few coming in that match our criteria so we decided to get out Buick appraised at CarMax to know how much the trade in value would be.

CarMax was a great disappointment. They low balled us an offer that was three thousand below the lowest trad-in price on  Kelly Blue Book. They are not very interested in our car because they are so ubiquitous.

So I decided to clean the car real well. It really needed it after our trip to Riffle and Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

I spent a whole day vacuuming sand and dirt, picking up trash, wiping down surfaces and cleaning stains off the leather upholstery. After washing and detailing the exterior as well it looked pretty darn good so I snapped some pictures and posted it on and on some local yard sale Facebook websites. I also recorded a virtual walk-through video of the exterior and interior of the car that I posted with the ads. I think it gave people extra confidence about their purchase and differentiate our car from the other ones listed on the site.

We priced the car at the KBB value for a private party sale of a vehicle in very good condition - which was 75% more than what we had been offered by CarMax.

I expected we'd get some inquiries and it would take a couple of weeks to sell, which would allow us to decide on another vehicle.

Instead, we had a constant stream of inquiries and three people who came to see the car that evening. We had some additional people contact us that night, but I didn't see their calls until later that evening.

The first couple was really interested and asked to schedule a time to take it to the mechanic. The second was a neighbor who was not quite ready to buy. The third was a family of five all crammed into a little white car. They are in the process of adopting a foster child and need a vehicle that seats at least six people.

After taking the car for a test drive and looking at it, they offered us cash on the spot. How could we turn that down? We absolutely needed the car the next day.So we agreed to let them have it the following evening.

Then our roles were reversed: the drove off with the big car and we were the family all crammed into a little white car. Except we couldn't fit our whole family in it. ;)

Here is the KSL ad:

One of a kind, fully loaded SUV for a great price. This deal won't last long!
Virtual video walk-through at
Features include:
All Wheel Drive
Premium BOSE speakers
DVD Entertainment System
Heated/Cooled Leather Seats
Tow Package
Luxury Package
Remote Start
Back-Up Camera
Parking Sensors
Spacious Captain Chairs
Third Row Splitbench Seats
Satellite Radio
Dual Zone A/C
Rear air
Power Liftgate
Sunroof/ Dual Moonroof
CD/MP3 playback
All weather mats
Auxiliary audio jack which enables plug/play connection of all auxiliary audio players
And much more…
More pictures and information at

Stella's First Day of Preschool

On Monday, August 8th Stella began attending a new preschool for the year. She will be going to Ms. Jean's three days a week. She also began the web learning program UPStart offered for free by the state of Utah and administer by the Waterford Institute.

Her older brother, Carson did upstart the year prior to entering kindergarten. I attribute his confidence and success with reading and math to the program. It's a commitment: 20 mins a day x 5 days a week (no exceptions for holidays or vacations), but like everything that is worth doing it takes work.

Upstart is actually a fun web-based system that teaches the kids through games and songs, so I hope I won't have to work too hard to motivate Stella to do it. So far she's been willing to get on the computer without problems.

I have my reservations about Ms Jean. Everyone raves about how great she is, but I am not sure that her school alone would be sufficient to prepared children to attend Kindergarten. Maybe a public school, but not APA. 

Stella however was super excited to attend school with her good friends Caitlin and Everett and I get to carpool, which is a great time saver. And more specially, it means that I don't have to wake Andrew up from napping to pick her up three times a week.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pie-oneer Day Celebration

This year the Primary presidency decided to elevate our annual Pioneer Day celebration from a kids bike parade into a ward activity.

As we discussed the theme for the party we came up with having a Pie-oneer day celebration. One of the things I have found is how hard is  for people to accept change. Why put in the work to have a ward activity when we could just have an activity for Primary children? Well, let me tell you... there is no reason to leave out half of our ward simply because that's how it has been done in the past.

Our ward has a goal to have a ward activity every quarter. We have only had two this year, so this was a chance to bring everyone together. In the end we kept what the kids loved - the bike parade,added a water melon eating contest to engage the youth and brethren, a pie-baking contest to involve the sisters and better food than what's been served in the past.  It was a roaring success!

The greatest compliment I could have received came from someone in the ward who told me: "My family and I stopped by to drop off the food we signed up to bring. We were going to go out to dinner with our teenage boys but ended up staying. It was so much fun visiting with fellow neighbors and ward members. Is this an annual tradition?"

The missionaries were able to meet some of the families in the ward who don't come out to church. The event itself was held on the property of a part member family. Two of the winners of our pie baking contests are sisters in part-member families.

It was a lot of work to pull off, simply because it hadn't been done before, so we had no idea what to expect. How many pies do we need to feed everyone? How many watermelons to buy for the contest? How many tables and chairs should we set up? How many will attend?

The afternoon of the event we had a rainstorm cool everything down. It was heaven sent. No doubt!

Some of the neighbor kids came over earlier in the afternoon to decorate their bikes, scooters and roller-blades.

We had to close some of the roads for 15 minutes for the kids to parade through so we had to stick to our schedule. Sister Wang, my first counselor, led the kids with a flag around the block.  Afterwards, Emilia's primary teacher, Bro. Harvey was our MC for the evening. Even though we had a microphone and speaker, the area was so large that the sound did not carry over conversation at the opposite end of the yard, where people where lined up for food so by the end of the night, his voice was gone.

Our good friends the Davis' opened their house to the ward for this event. They have been slaving over their huge yard for weeks to get it into good shape. It looked really nice. Kevin and Todd manned the grills, while Sally oversaw the judges to the pie baking contest. We had 15 contestants and they were all excellent.

I just ran around making sure things were running smoothly and snapping pictures whenever I got a chance.

Sally's niece Amanda was visiting from Colorado. She too was a heaven sent. She didn't really know anyone aside from Sally's family, who were all occupied with the event, so she spent the evening playing with Andrew who loved all of her attention and her cell phone.

 Both Emilia and Stella participated in the watermelon eating contest. Stella was so persistent she didn't care her time was up. She kept eating until her entire wedge of watermelon was eaten to the rind. I couldn't believe she could hold that much watermelon in her little stomach.

That night at 2 am she came to find us to tell us she threw up on her bed. I wonder how many other contestants had the same problem.

Emilia told Todd that she didn't eat too much of her watermelon because she didn't want to beat her friends and make them feel bad.  That's a good friend for ya!

2016 Summer Activities: Hiking and Geocaching

This summer our family took geocaching as a new family activity. We downloaded an app on our phone that indicates geocaching sites on a map with exact coordinates, clues and comments from other geo-cachers who have previously searched for the hidden treasure. They are all different levels of difficulties. Our first geocache was at Holt Farms, across from the Jordan River Temple. It was a really hard one to find. Luckily, by reading some of the comments we identified the approximate area and Todd found it.

The city of South Jordan had a geocaching challenge for its residents. There were six locations across the city. We had to collect a token at each place and turned them into the utility building for a geocaching bug. The geocaching bug looks like a dog tag and has a unique number identifier that allows a person to track its movement.

The idea behind geocaching is to locate a hidden object based on its GPS coordinates. You can trade the object with one of your own and place your new found object in a different geocaching site. That is how the geocaching bug travels.

The city's objects were not hard to locate, so the kids really got to participate and help find the token. It is fun to go to places like our local library and know that a hidden treasure is located on our path- something most people don't even realize is there.

My second goal for the summer was to hike with the kids. To keep me motivated I organized a neighborhood family hiking group. So most of my hikes were during the week with other moms and kids my children's age. On a couple of occasions, Todd also joined us.

We have been hiking regularly as a family so I thought for sure we would just be going to the same places we'd been before but we actually discovered some new hikes.

The hikes I completed with the kids this summer were:
1. Rocky Mouth Falls Trail (0.9 miles)
2. Donut Falls (3.7 miles)
3. Ghost Falls x 2 (3.5 miles, each time)
4. Hidden Falls (short walk)
5. Mary, Martha & Catherine Trail (3.5 miles)
6. Bald Mountain (2.6 miles)
7. Silver Lake loop (.9 miles)
8. Riffle Falls loop (2.1 miles)

Each hike had its own adventures. In one a friend of mine twisted her ankle badly and had to be carried piggy back part way down. On the ghost falls hike we came across a truck stuck in a ravine overgrown by vegetation at the end of the hike. None of us could figured out how it had gotten there.

I carried Andrew in a pack on most of the hikes. That was at least 33 lbs of weight. He was a good sport and didn't complain very much. I had to teach him not to pull on my hair while on the pack. He loved yanking at my ponytail, which was probably the only think in grabbing distance while on the pack. 

I still have a list of hikes that I would like to do before the weather starts turning too cold. If not, there is always next year!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Emilia's braces are off!!!

Wohoo! On July 28th, after almost one year of treatment, Emilia got her braces off.

The kids were sad that we would no longer have a reason to go to their office.  They loved playing in the arcade and watching movies while she was being seen.  Unfortunately, I bet this will not be my only time  visiting the orthodontics with the kids.

She is so excited about her new smile and her clear retainer. She has done a great job at putting it on and taking care of it since she go it. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Pioneer Float Preview

Each year the Pioneer Day floats get more and more elaborate. My favorite was the waterfall created by the Bennion Stake. There was a lot of thought put into how to get the water to flow without splashing out and how to make the Plexiglas to look like water by painting individual squares blue or 

Another favorite float was number 13. It depicted a caricature of the seagulls that ate the crickets. They showed the seagull's family history from early pioneers to modern day birds armed with selfie sticks and cell phones. 

As in years pasts, the kids had their faces painted. The lady was so talented, I was impressed by how quickly she could draw on kids faces. She tried to paint a mustache on Andrew's face, but he would have none of it, so he looks like a mix of Charlie Chaplin non one side and Hercules Poirot on the other.

The kids also got balloon animals, played a variety of musical instruments, and got their pictures taken with aliens.  There was a girl dressed all in green. Her face was covered up as well. Andrew found her incredibly fascinating and she him. He would crawl up to her and stare, trying to make sense of what he was looking at. The girl thought he was darling. I can't blame her- he's a charmer.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Spruces Camping Trip with Whitneys

I have been to Big Cottonwood Canyon many times, but I had never spent the night there until this year. In mid July our family spent two nights camping at Spruces campground with our friends, the Whitneys.

The campsite was beautiful. We had a stream along two sides and colorful mountain flowers in full bloom. The kids enjoyed playing in the stream as well as crossing it to explore further behind our site.

After dinner our first evening we decided to drive to Hidden Falls on the S curve half way up the canyon. It is a very short walk to a beautiful waterfall.  We saw a group of men rappelling on one of the walls as we walked to the falls.

The kids had fun crossing the stream and climbing up the rock walls near the bottom of the falls. Stella, who believes she is as old as her older siblings had to keep up with them and climb up too.

That first night was rough. It was our first time camping with Andrew and we didn't know how he would do. He woke up several times during the night. The temperatures were also a lot colder than we had expected so we were all cold in our sleeping bags that night.

The following morning after a hot breakfast we hiked to Lake Mary, Martha and Catherine. It had been more than ten years since I've been up there, yet as we approached lake Mary I remembered parts of that hike very clearly. I wished I had remembered to wear bug spray! The mosquitoes just ate some of us alive.

Todd and I traded carrying Andrew. He is much stronger than I but I have been hiking with Andrew a lot this summer so I think all of that exercise helped me build up some endurance.

My friend Claudia injured her ankle earlier that week hiking to Ghost Falls with me so we took the hike easily to make sure she would not stress her ankle. The pace also worked well with the little ones. Sierra, their 3 year old and Stella hiked a lot of the way.

When we finally arrived to lake Catherine we came across a group of  tourist doing yoga. The invited us to join them, but we were all ready to just rest and head back. It was fun to watch them though ;)

Although Carson is the only boy in the group he really gets along with the twins- Zaylee and Zoe. The girls are a year older than him and don't shy away from adventure. The three of them hiked ahead of the group most of the time and played all kinds of made up games.

We gave hiking sticks to the kids for Christmas last year. They have been really useful especially when descending. I like having the extra support when hiking with Andrew.

The pack can easily affect my balance one direction or the other, and although I have not fallen hiking with him, it is a concern. The kids also like to use it. They keep passing it between each other.

By far, the most beautiful part of the hike were all of the wild flowers in bloom. We saw red, white, blue and yellow flowers dotting the greenery all around us.

By the last three quarters of a mile Stella was dragging behind us. Finally she refused to take another step. We were all done and ready to get back so I picked her up and carried her the whole way back to the car while Todd carried Andrew in the pack.

I honestly don't know who was carrying the heavier weight, but I feel I got the better end of the deal.

I just booked it down the mountain until we arrived to the car and crashed with exhaustion.

That evening we cooked s'mores and tried to make a peach cobbler. The coals were a few years old so it took forever for them to heat up. What should have taken an hour, took several. In the end the cobbler had the consistency of pudding but still tasted delicious.

Claudia's sister Cynthia joined us with her family for dinner. She brought with her much needed blankets and we spent the evening playing games.

One of my favorite things to do when camping is stargazing. We have so much light pollution in the city that we only see a small number of stars compared to what's visible in the mountains. There stars at Spruces were a lot brighter and looked so beautiful against the shadow casted by mountains and pine trees. They were worth staying up for, even though we were all exhausted from a rough first night and an exhausting hike.

Camping is always so much work but the memories are priceless!