We spent our first day all skiing together in the morning. We took Madeline with us up Gondola One to the middle of the mountain. We decided to head up Wildwood Express to take Madeline on The Meadows run which was the easiest green run. Peter and Emma went down Hunky Dory twice in the time it took us to go down the long Meadow run. Madeline did really well on her very first real green run. The Meadow had too many flatter sections, so we opted to head up the Mountaintop Express Lift to the left side of the mountain to try all the green runs over there. Peter and Emma headed over to Game Creek to do some harder runs while the rest of us took the Timberline Catwalk all the way over to the Sourdough Express lift and spent the rest of our morning taking Madeline down the Boomer and Sourdough runs. Madeline amazed us with her awesome turning and fearless nature. After a few runs we headed up to Two Elk Lodge to eat lunch. We found a table outside right away and waited for Emma and Peter to show up. It was a bit cold, but we managed. After lunch Abby and I took Madeline down some more fun green runs and Mike went with Emma and Peter over to Blue Sky Basin. Madeline ended up loving the Flapjack run and she crushed it, even the steeper sections. We had initially planned on just heading down the mountain, but when we realized that we got headed down an annoying catwalk, we decided to head back up the mountain on the Highland Express and take Flapjack down again, head up Northwoods Express, down the Swingsville run and then ride Gondola One back down to the bottom. We had several people ask how old Madeline was because people just couldn’t believe that she was only 4 years old. She crushed every run, was happy doing it, took all her turns like a champ, and hardly ever fell. It was quite amazing to watch.
We took our time getting up and ready to leave for our ski trip. We made it to Vail in the early afternoon and unpacked the car and settled into the condo we were renting for the next few days (Vail Core Condos). We knew this place would be much smaller than the last condo we stayed at in Beaver Creek, but we were all pleasantly surprised at how awesome it was. The kitchen was plenty big, the living room area was cozy, the master bedroom was spacious, there was enough storage space for our boots and skis plus a washer and dryer, and the kids had the coolest area to sleep in up in the loft with two bunkbeds. What was even better was the kids had their own bathroom up in the loft. This condo had clearly been updated which was awesome and the walk to Gondola One was only 5 minutes away. Mike and I ventured out to walk around the village and we were shocked at how many people were there. Most were wearing masks, but there were plenty that failed to follow the mask mandate. We found an ice-sculpture path and walked all the way to Gondola One and the Riva Bahn Lift. On the way back we saw a really cool pirate ship playground that we knew Madeline would enjoy. The village was so cool to walk through and it made us feel so lucky to be staying right in the center of the village.
NORTH POLE BREAKFAST (DECEMBER 6)
BEAVER CREEK SKI TRIP . DAY 1 (DECEMBER 18)
BEAVER CREEK SKI TRIP . DAY 2 (DECEMBER 19)
BEAVER CREEK SKI TRIP . DAY 3 (DECEMBER 20)
BEAVER CREEK SKI TRIP . DAY 4 (DECEMBER 21)
CHRISTMAS EVE (DECEMBER 24)
CHRISTMAS DAY (DECEMBER 25)
ANDREW'S MISSION (DECEMBER 29)
SLICES OF LIFE (DECEMBER 30) - not posted yet
After leaving Texas the beginning of the month, Andrew flew from Houston directly to London. Then he got on a bus with the other missionaries who left Texas and headed to Preston, England to quarantine for 2 weeks at the Preston MTC. He was put in a room with Elders Felt, Helmer, and Sumison. Although he missed his friends back in Texas, he had a great time with those elders. They were low key and funny and compared to his first companion in Texas, it was a heavenly situation. Their Frankfurt mission president, President Hammon, contacted them in the MTC and spent some time getting to know them with one on one interviews. President Hammon is incredibly passionate about missionary work, and truly loves all of the missionaries. Andrew and the other missionaries were able to tune into some of the Frankfurt zone conferences and Monday morning prayers. President Hammon told the elders to really hit the German study hard, as it would be very possible that they would only have 4-5 weeks of training before they were on their own training other missionaries.
Upon arriving at the MTC, they were put into rooms of 4 with strict rules. They had to stay in their rooms unless they were going to their assigned bathroom. Food came 3 times a day and they had to stay in their rooms while the food was being delivered. Mayonnaise and cheese sandwiches were not one of Andrew's favorites. It said it was by far the worst lunch idea he's tasted in a long time. On the flip side they got plenty of Nutella packets with their meals, so they used them to trade for other food items with each other.
They were allowed outside time twice a day for 30 minutes, but had no room to really exercise. The classes that were recommended they attend online were basically MTC classes so Andrew and his roommates skipped most of them and practiced German on their own. Although it was easy to get bored, they had nearly daily devotionals from the area 70 which was uplifting.
Due to some changes in the UK their quarantine was shortened to 10 days. Although they still had to stay in their rooms when the food was delivered, they had unlimited outside time and were allowed to go throughout the entire MTC campus. They had the opportunity to visit the temple grounds daily, and went on runs through the town of Chorley. It rained most everyday but they had one or two days of sun and no rain.
On December 18th, Andrew flew from Manchester to Frankfurt, Germany. He was greeted by President Hammon and his wife. He then headed to the mission office building where he quarantined for 5 days. He was able to take a COVID test which was negative and was then sent on a train to his first area in Darmstadt. It was an interesting train ride with one of the sisters that was also heading to Darmstadt. Andrew met his new companion, Elder Jenks (District Leader) and the two other Elders in Darmstadt, one of which is the Zone Leader. One of the members fed them on Christmas Eve and they all sang "Silent Night" in German at the end of their evening. This member gave Andrew and his companion really cool pens in a wooden engraved Darmstadt case. On Christmas Day, they spent time during the day at two different member's homes. It was nice that they had somewhere to go on Christmas. The work moves on, even during COVID. Although there haven't been a lot of service opportunities, the members have been awesome. Andrew really loves the people he has met in Germany.
LAST DAYS IN TEXAS
ORIGINAL MTC DISTRICT ALL IN ENGLAND
1ST AREA - DARMSTADT
It doesn’t matter how old you are because Christmas morning in our house is still a blast. Even Peter who is getting ready to head off to college next year was still excited to run down the stairs to see what Santa brought him. Everyone’s reactions to their big gifts were priceless. Peter couldn’t believe that he got a 3D printer, Emma was so surprised by her turntable and vinyls of her favorite artists, Abby was so happy with her new electric piano, and Madeline was just happy as could be with her new rainbow teepee and all the chocolate in her stocking. Everyone actually had fun on Abby’s piano and thought that was the coolest thing ever. After eating some chocolate Madeline saw that Santa had eaten the cookies and left a note. She tried reading it by herself. Then we got a call from Andrew from Germany. We each took turns talking to him and those that weren’t talking to him were in the kitchen eating cinnamon rolls. The kids were getting anxious to open up presents so we finished our conversations with Andrew and headed to the family room to open up all the presents. It was a mass of presents being opened left and right. Abby got to open up the first present since she found the pickle ornament first. The thing I love most about Christmas morning is watching the kids’ excitement every time they open up a gift. One of my favorite moments was when Mike opened up his gift from Peter. It was really more of an inside joke and we all loved watching Mike’s face when he opened it up. Mike had previously told the kids about how his dad bought him a plastic boat for the bathtub when he was 13 years old and how ridiculous that present was. So, Peter and I found a similar boat online and wrapped it up for Mike. It was such a fun moment to watch. Some of the other fun gifts that people got were the Nintendo Classic Lego Set for Peter, Diagon Alley Lego Set for Mike, Studio Ghibli DVD’s for Emma, Calico Critters Department Store and hand-knit animal dolls for Madeline, a Japanese heated toilet seat for Sara (oh yes), and LED rooms lights and Audio Technica headphones for Abby. It was a rather bounteous Christmas for everyone.
Christmas Eve in our house is usually a day spent cooking and playing games, very similar to Thanksgiving. Mike, Abby and Madeline helped a little in the kitchen which was very nice. Madeline loved helping me with the pies kept sneaking the apple slices meant for the apple pie. Apparently, she likes green apples better than red apples. Who would’ve thought? After most of the morning cooking was done, Mike played a quick game of Life with Madeline before we all got together to play Monopoly. I forgot how long this game can take to play. Poor Emma was not having much luck in the game and kept landing on everyone else’s properties and didn’t have any of her own. I ended up bailing out of the game after about an hour of playing and it was just Mike, Peter and Abby left to finish the game. Of course, Mike won the game not without a total upset by Peter who really thought he was going to win. After that game was over and done with Mike and Peter headed into the dining room to work on Mike’s Lego from last Christmas…Stranger Things. It ended up being one of the coolest Lego’s we have ever seen. As dinner time drew near, we were all excited to stuff our faces full of good food. Our dinner consisted of ham, sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, jello, homemade rolls and sparking cider. For dessert we had chocolate pie and apple pie, although we were so full that none of us ate any of the pies on Christmas Eve. After dinner was all cleaned up, I went to work on making our cinnamon rolls for the morning and Emma made the sugar cookies. The rest of the crew went back to the dining room to finish The Strangers Things Lego set. While the cinnamon rolls were rising, we got our pajamas on and read the scriptures. After family prayer, we grabbed “Twas The Night Before Christmas” and sat with Madeline while the story was being told by Grandpa Al who pre-recorded himself reading it several years ago. She liked it so much that we listened to it twice. Then it was to bed for Madeline. The older kids sat in the dining room chatting it up and laughing with Mike until the Lego set was finally finished. Then it was off to bed for the older kids so they could dream away at what would be waiting for them the next morning near the Christmas tree.
Today was our last day of skiing at Beaver Creek. All of the girls had lessons again. The older girls took off with their groups from the day before and Madeline had another 1-hour private lesson in the morning. After we dropped her off Mike, Peter, and I headed up the mountain. The soreness above my ankles was so bad that I just skied all the way down to where Madeline was having lessons. Her instructor was having her follow her down the longer magic carpet and eventually Mike made it down there as well. We asked her instructor if she was ready to head down the green catwalk to the bottom and she thought she might be ready. Mike and I followed them down that run and were floored with how well Madeline was following her instructor. She kept turning and following her instructor and didn’t fall at all. It was amazing to watch. When she got down to the bottom, she was so excited that she wanted to keep on skiing. So, I let Peter and Mike go off and ski and I took her back up the gondola so that she could ski down the Cinch run and take the Highlands Lift back up to the top. It was the perfect little run for a beginner, and she skied it like a champ. We met everyone again at the same place for lunch and then had fun skiing the remainder of the day. I went up with Peter to the top so that I could take video and photos of him skiing. I tried to lean forward more in my boots and that seemed to help with the leg pain. Then I skied the rest of the day with Madeline. It was so fun being able to ski with her. She was just so excited to be able to ski all by herself and get on the small chair lift. It was an awesome breakthrough to get her to this point and it made the rest of our ski trip so much fun.
Today we decided to put the girls in ski lessons. Abby skied with Level 5 and Emma skied with Level 7. Madeline skied with us in the morning until her lesson at 1:00pm. Since I took Madeline first the day before, Mike started out with Madeline and Peter and I headed up the mountain before the crowds came. We skied down most of the runs on the Red Buffalo Express Lift. I had a hard time keeping up with Peter since he seemed to be faster on his new skis. My new boots were extremely warm with my new boot liner heaters, but I was having problems with pain in my ankles, so I took it easy today and skied at a slower pace. Although Beaver Creek is very family friendly and a quaint place to ski, there aren’t that many blue runs. Everything is either green or black and since many of the black runs were not open yet, we ended up skiing more greens than anything else. We skied down Gold Dust again to meet up with Mike and Madeline and then I took over with Madeline so Mike and Peter could see for a little bit. We all met down at the bottom and ate lunch outside in a nice cozy area with a firepit next to the outdoor ice-skating rink in the plaza. Emma and Abby ate lunch with us as well. One of the biggest changes in group lessons during COVID was the fact that the kids didn’t eat lunch with their ski instructors. I actually liked that we could all eat lunch together. After lunch the older girls went back with their groups and we dropped off Madeline for her 1-hour lesson. They didn’t offer group lessons for the 3–4-year-old group this year so we opted for a 1-hour private lesson. Mike, Peter and I headed up the mountain to ski for that hour before heading back down to pick her up. We were amazed how much she learned in that one hour. Her instructor was awesome, and she did so well that he graduated her out of the 3–4-year-old group into the regular Group 1 where she would now be able to go up the gondola with her instructor. We were beyond excited. We decided to head back to the condo and drop off Madeline and then head down to Christy Sports to see if someone could help me with my boots. They gave me some heel lifts so I could wear them the next day. Then we headed back up to get the older girls from their lessons. The kids stayed at the condo while Mike and I headed over to the Park Hyatt for our reservation time to use the water sanctuary and to get massages. It was a nice treat that Mike surprised me with, and it did not disappoint.
The first day we all skied together. I took Madeline up the Haymeadow Express gondola so that we could work on remembering starts and stops while Mike took the other kids up the mountain to the top where they could get their ski legs back on the greens and easy blue runs. Madeline was a little timid at first, but she quickly started to remember how to shuffle on her skis, slow down and stop by making a wedge with her skis and following directions. After a few hours of skiing with her and enjoying a yummy snack, Mike came down the mountain with Abby and swapped with me. I headed up the Centennial Express Lift and then headed down the very icy Redtail run to meet Peter and Emma at the Larkspur lift. We headed up that lift and then skied down Larkspur which had some great sections and some icy sections which we didn’t love. We decided to head up the Birds of Prey lift and then ski down to the bottom. Since many of the black runs were still closed, we headed down the green catwalk until we met the blue Gold Dust run. That was such a fun run and a good way to get down. We headed back to our condo for lunch and relaxed for a bit before heading back out. We left Madeline, Abby and Peter back at the condo while Mike, Emma and I headed all the way to the top near the Cookie Cabin at the top of the Cinch Express Lift. We skied down Powell, Piney and Booth Gardens a bunch of times. Peter was supposed to meet us at the top but since he left late and the lifts were going to close at 3:30, he did his own thing. It was definitely a fun day for our first day of skiing in a year.
We loved skiing at Beaver Creek so much last season that we thought it would be fun to go back again this season. We found a nice condo at the Centennial Lodge just down the street from the main resort area. It was a short walk to get to the ski lift. After settling in, Mike and I headed into the village to walk around. We went to Christy Sports and another ski shop to look at new ski boots for Mike. He ended up not getting new boots, but it was good to try things on to see what may work for when he is ready to grab new boots. Everything in the village was decorated for Christmas. We loved all the cool ice-sculptures everywhere. It was fun to be in the mountains before Christmas.
Oh, how we love our annual North Pole breakfast. The older kids were really excited for the elves to come this year because they knew that Madeline would be really excited by their silliness. We ate a fabulous breakfast of buttermilk pancakes, berries, bacon, and powdered donuts. We told Madeline that she couldn’t touch the elves but could only whisper in their ears. She was super curious, and it was fun to watch her excitement. and she was really curious to know what their letter said. After breakfast she went off to play and when she came back downstairs, she saw that they had moved. They were being silly in the fruit basket and she just thought that was hilarious. She talked to them throughout the day, telling them little secrets and things she wanted for Christmas. It was just too cute.
ABBY'S SWIM MEET (NOVEMBER 14)
ST. GEORGE TRIP - DON'S FUNERAL (NOVEMBER 18)
ST. GEORGE TRIP - SPENDING TIME WITH MOM & DAD (NOVEMBER 17-21)
THANKSGIVING (NOVEMBER 26)
DECORATING THE CHRISTMAS TREE (NOVEMBER 29)
RUNNING AND BIKING (NOVEMBER 7-29)
ANDREW'S MISSION . WEEKS 6-9 (NOVEMBER 29)
SLICES OF LIFE (NOVEMBER 30) - not posted yet
After a little over a month in Texas, Andrew has finally gotten into the groove of being a missionary. He has been staying busy, recognizing that 12 hours sometimes is not enough time to get everything done. He has been working hard on finding more people to teach and working on setting up a ward mission plan alongside their newly made family history plan. He worked hard this month on connecting with ward members, both active and inactive. They are technically allowed to knock doors and check on inactive members or people who have been taught by the missionaries if they don't first respond via text or call. He knocked a lot of those doors and had plenty slammed in his face. He definitely got a solid taste of the classic pre-COVID missionary experience. They have an incredible new bishopric and ward mission leader, and he was glad to see the positive impact that they were having with the new ward mission plan.
This month Andrew got to do a lot of service including a Thanksgiving food drive and setting up rooms for kids at Christhaven. He felt great helping others and had a fun time doing it. He got to have some fun during his p-days this month. He went with a big group of missionaries and went to the driving range to golf one day and went fishing on another day with the other elders in his apartment. Some members who have an enormous ranch let them fish at one of their ponds. Only Elder Larson caught a fish, but Andrew got a couple bites. Andrew has really enjoyed the trio of elders in his apartment. Andrew's last p-day in Texas was spent shopping for boots at the boot shop. He found a great pair of nice dark brown waterproof and warm boots to wear in Germany. He was so excited when we told him we would buy them for him for Christmas.
This month he found out that Sister Schellenberg, the other German missionary in his zone, left to quarantine in the UK. This news was encouraging and gave him hope that he would be able to leave. Closer to the end of this month Andrew found out that he would also be heading to the UK on December 3 to quarantine before heading to Germany. He was so excited by this news.
It is always fun to start decorating for Christmas and we are always eager to do it the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year we decided to give the kids their Christmas pajamas on the day we decorated the tree. It is a slight change from our original tradition of opening up Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve but everyone loved getting their pajamas earlier so I think we might stick with this new tradition. As always, I make our holiday poppyseed bread so we can enjoy it while we decorate the tree. My mom always sends each of the kids a new ornament every year so before we started decorating the tree the kids opened up their new ornaments. Peter and Abby got swimmer ornaments, Emma got a cute blonde runner ornament and Madeline got a unicorn ornament...all were so fitting. Madeline enjoyed decorating the tree more than anyone else. It is so much fun to have a little one in the house to witness the pure joy of the season. The older kids printed out a picture of Danny DeVito and put it on the tree in remembrance of Andrew. It is kind of an inside joke but in a nutshell, one year Andrew replaced one of his picture ornaments with a photo of Danny DeVito and it took me a long time to notice it. When I did, I laughed then I changed the photo back to my sweet boy. Unbeknownst to me, Andrew changed it once again. It became a running joke in the family to have Danny DeVito on the tree.
The beginning of this month didn’t start out too well with 2 weeks of being sick with what I can only imagine was in fact COVID-19. Add kidney stone issues on top of that and this was a slow month of exercise. Nevertheless, I managed to get out a few times to run, bike, and do some Cross-fit with Mike. This was Mike’s best month of exercise. While I was sick, he was diligently in the garage doing a variety of Cross-fit workouts and then lifting more afterwards. He also went on a few mountain bike rides by himself. It was a good month for Mike and just an ok one for me.
This was the easiest and most relaxing Thanksgiving I have ever had and that was mostly in part to the incredible help from Mike and the kids. While I was getting myself ready in the morning, Mike was already down in the kitchen peeling and slicing potatoes. Much of the morning was spent cooking and preparing for our Thanksgiving dinner. Madeline and Abby joyfully helped with the pies and the deviled eggs while Madeline and Emma helped to baste the turkey. We took plenty of breaks throughout the day to play games, ride on the moped outside, put together our new puzzle, and Mike and the older kids prepped and put the lights on the outside of the house. After dinner we just sat fat for a while before cleaning up the dinner. Everyone pitched in and helped with the clean-up. It was a Thanksgiving miracle to have so many helpers make this day so pleasant!
I was really glad that I was able to spend a few days with my parents after going to Don’s funeral. I really needed that time to just be with my parents without other distractions. Madeline loved spending time with each of them either playing with toys in the house or walking to the park and playing there. I was able to run once and bike twice with my dad. We took advantage of the gravel bikes and did Snow Canyon one day and then rode Turkey Farm road and went a little longer to connect with Snow Canyon. That was a really long bike ride but a lot of fun to do with my dad. I loved spending some quiet moments with my parents at home, eating good food and binge watching The Chosen. It was a trip I didn’t know I needed but realized after how much it helped me to heal and feel whole.
LEAVING ON A JET PLANE
MADELINE WITH GRANDMA AND GRANDPA
RUNNING AND BIKING WITH MY DAD
It was a Sunday when I got the text saying that my Grandpa Don had passed away. He was the only grandpa I have ever known. Grandpa Don married my grandmother a little less than 50 years ago. He was 89 years old and lived such a full life. I have so many happy memories visiting Don and Grandma and doing things like riding the horses, driving up to the cabin, teasing the cats, going snowmobiling, riding on the boat, feeding the baby deer he was nurturing and many more moments during the time he worked for the Division of Wildlife in southern Utah. He was adventurous and caring. When my grandmother passed away in 1995, he was so lonely until he met JoJo who has taken such good care of him these last 20 years. The last time my older kids saw Don was 6 years ago. I just can’t believe it was that long ago. Madeline and I flew out to attend the funeral. Death is a hard conversation to have with a 4-year-old. As much as she didn’t understand what I told her about dying, she definitely understood that all JoJo needed was lots of love. My Madeline is such a sensitive soul. It warmed my heart to see her give JoJo the love she needed. Death is hard. But more than that is the regret of not having visited more these past 5-10 years. All we have when our loved ones leave are the memories we made together. I was really glad I was able to attend the funeral.
It was so fun to watch Abby in her swim meet with her new swim club, Pikes Peak Athletics. Due to the new restrictions with COVID we weren't able to watch from inside the building but rather watched from the windows on the side of the building. Abby has had such a good experience swimming with Group 3 at PPA, partially because her friends are in that group but mostly because she has been challenged and had to swim up a little bit. She comes home from practice exhausted but so happy. Abby loves to swim and although she isn't the fastest swimmer, she has pretty good form and is a hard worker. At this meet she swam in the 200 IM, 50Y Butterfly (52.79) and the 50 Backstroke (47.67). I missed her 200 IM but was able to see both of her other events and was so proud of her for pushing hard even when she wasn't having the best swim day. Abby's best event is definitely freestyle, but those events were only being held on Sunday. Hopefully next meet she will be able to swim in the freestyle events.