Johnny Turns 4

On the morning of Johnny’s 4th Birthday, Alli (our nanny for the last 6 1/2 years) said “Johnny, your zest for life is contagious”.  There couldn’t be a more true statement about our sweet Johnny boy.  

In Johnny’s world, everyday is “the best day ever” and every meal is “the best ever”.  He doesn’t go more than an hour without telling one of us how much he loves us.  Johnny is always the first to say thank you and express his genuine feelings of gratitude.  He is truly aware of others’ feelings and wants to make sure we’re happy, especially Charlotte, who is still his running favorite.  To him, everything is better when Charlotte’s around.  

Johnny’s favorite activity is hunting for grasshoppers, salamanders, voles, snakes, or worms.  He’s pretty dang good at it and is constantly urging me to hold one of his critters.  He gets a kick out of my facial expression as I say no thank you and proceed to tell him how brave he is.  He then will usually put a hand on his hip and show me his game face which is the cutest thing ever – a slight pucker to his lips while keeping a stoic disposition.  I die over and over.

This summer Johnny was put to the challenge of riding his pedal bike (without training wheels).  Within a couple of days and with some guidance from Charlotte, he was pedaling like a champ.  Again, when he stops to hear the praise and adoration from us, he puts his hands on his hips and gives us his best game face.  He’s like a magnet for goodness and love.  Even Prissy feels it as she’s always the last one to leave his room at night.

Johnny started soccer at the end of summer and loves his first team sport.  After every goal he scores, he pauses to put his hands on his hips and give us his game face.  We’ve had to work through not getting upset when other kids make a goal, but he was quick to learn and happy to support his team.  

At school, Johnny is eager to learn and has started to write his name and work on math. He has a natural confidence with almost everything he does which makes it hard to correct him or suggest to put the letters in order.  He can count to 28 proudly but usually skips 13 and 14.  I can’t stand how adorable this is.  

In general, everyday with Johnny is like the best day ever for me too.  He makes life easier and brings so much joy to our family.  We’re grateful for this contagiously happy little boy.  When I grow up, I want to be Johnny.  Happy 4th birthday, sweet little man:)

Below are pictures from Johnny’s birthday party – Star Wars theme chosen by him.

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Summer 2018

Johnny has a shirt that says “Summertime and the livin’ is easy”.  Not sure there’s a better way to sum up our summer.  We opted out of any travel (besides camping) and soaked in every sunny day at Mellor Ranch.

It began with endless worm hunting instigated by Johnny.  I can’t tell you the amount of hours this kid has spent looking for worms, bugs, grasshoppers, fuzzies, etc.  By the time preschool started, he was lead zoologist for the first couple of weeks as he personally collected crickets to feed the class pet, Sprinkles, a spotted gecko.

Johnny’s worm skills also came in handy when we planted our garden.  Oh the garden… We gave that garden plenty of love and attention all summer.  We were successful with carrots, peas, and way too many greens.  Our tomatoes froze … two different batches. Right before harvesting the strawberries, we had a visit from the local wildlife and overnight they were gone.  We think it was the deer which makes us feel better about not biting into a fresh, homegrown strawberry.  There’s always room for garden improvement next year.

Onto the annual hay cutting holiday our family has created.  As usual, it was enjoyed thoroughly by all.  To sow, harvest, and reap is deeply rooted in our blood and I think our kids are starting to get it too.  The very dry winter, spring, and even summer made for 50% fewer bales than last year but they were happily given away to a neighbor friend with some hungry cows.

The next memorable moment of summer would have to be our camping trip to Ferron.  We drove four hours to a very special place in the mountains above Manti where my family has gone camping for almost 40 years and where John’s dad once roamed as a sheep herder.  It’s a family reunion with plenty of cousins, dirt, fishing, bonfires, squirrels, 4-wheelers, and time away from WiFi.  We — four humans and one dog — snuggled together in one tent for two nights and I’m still giggling about those special bonding moments.  Our kids enjoyed this as much as any trip to Mexico or Europe which makes the hard work worth it and satiates the craving of connecting with our roots.

Another memory seen below is a group of photos from all of our dinners spent outside.  Thanks, John, for capturing this one.  We ate outside almost every night and enjoyed hours of conversation until sundown.  We loved hosting friends and family AND opening that second bottle of wine many times.  Ahh… we will live for those summer nights all winter long.

Things to remember:  Johnny riding his bike at 3 years old, Charlotte’s awesome summer camps at Swaner, biking, and theater, the dinner bell, landscaping, summer concerts (Amos Lee), mud, our squad, bees, lemonade stand, Charlotte and Johnny’s hideout, taking a lap, hiking to the bench, Star Wars, crickets, mud pies in the creek, Tino weekends, magpie hunting.

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Ferron

Summer Dinners

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam was a pure delight… seven beautiful days together as a family and enjoyed every minute.  There was so much to do, eat, and see.  It’s hard to summarize or even pick our highlights, but I will do my best.

It started with our wonderful hotel, the Pulitzer.  They arranged an adorable family suite where the kids had a special room and personalized pillowcases.  One of our favorite experiences was a canal ride on Pulitzer’s salon boat from 1909.  The most charming captain gave us a tour of the city while we enjoyed lunch and drinks on this iconic boat.  It was a great way for all of us to get a little history lesson and soak in the city.

Another highlight of the trip was definitely the bikes.  We rented two bikes for several days and pedaled around the city like locals.  The kids got to ride in a cart on the front of John’s bike and I was the official navigator staring at Google maps as we tried to not run into a car or a canal.  It was so fun to hear the kids singing songs and laughing behind me, but poor John had double the work load.  We hopped around town to several different parks, the zoo, restaurants, and even ventured out of town on the last day.  John was definitely ready to turn in those bikes after we made it all the way back to the bike shop, up hill and without a paddle.

A day I want to remember is when we biked to the “I amsterdam” sign.  It was a hot and sunny day.  We got a wild family selfie seen below.  We also tried to see the Van Gogh Museum but the wait time exceeded our kids’ attention span.  I took a picture of Charlotte and Johnny out front so they could tell their teachers they made it to the Van Gogh Museum 🙂  I also recorded them on the “I amsterdam” sign saying our traditional Europe line of “Charlotte and Johnny in [said city]”.  This one was extra funny as Johnny continued to call it “Hamsterdam”.  I still laugh every time; a moment I want frozen forever.

Now onto the tulips… we were lucky enough to catch the tulips a few days before the season ended.  We went to Keukenhof, the largest flower garden in the world, and it was spectacular with tulips as far as the eye could see.  When our kids maxed out on tulips, there was plenty to do with playgrounds, ponds, ice cream cones, etc.  We can now take ‘tulips in Holland’ off our bucket list.

One evening on our way to dinner we decided to walk by the Anne Frank House.  Charlotte had just turned 6 when we took this trip so we tried to keep this part of history age-appropriate.  We took her picture in front of the Anne Frank statue where flowers are laid everyday.  It was a heavy reminder for all of us to realize what bad people can do and to always stand up for what is right.  I think Charlotte got it and can hopefully reflect on Anne Frank’s example throughout her life.

On a much lighter note was our day spent at Efteling.  This place was like a Dutch version of DisneyLand (actually DisneyLand is an American version of Etfeling) minus the obvious brands and crowds.  It was enchanting with a creepy twist that felt like the setting of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.  There were thrilling rides and great food.  Charlotte and Johnny loved it!  I have a feeling we will be back someday when they are tall enough for the big rollercoasters.

To sum up, I already want to go back.  Amsterdam provided everything from a cultural standpoint to perfect weather and an abundance of family bonding throughout.  We will always have fond memories of this trip.   

Things to remember:  Charlotte sleeping until 11 am the first day, playing Star Wars in the garden, Captain Ohno, breakfast with over-easy eggs, Moana neckless, endless cappuccinos, dinner at L’Invite on the canal, the bike shop, church bells ringing, a new child monitor app, iPads at dinner, dinner at Aggassi, girl hit on a bike, van ride to Efteling while playing hang man, dinner at Venus & Adonis, Johnny falling asleep on my lap at every dinner, girl dressed in bread for the birds in Dam Square, finding a souvenir, our family together on an island in Amsterdam… be still my heart.

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Punta Mita – Spring Break 2018

We followed our heart and took a last minute trip to our favorite spot for spring break.  It was a quick trip but we sufficiently warmed up our bodies and souls!  From the long walks on the beach to a family surf session with lots of delicious food and pool time in between, our family was in Mexico heaven.  This place fills us up with a special kind of magic that makes us love deeper, believe in mermaids, and feel pretty damn lucky to be alive.  Cheers to Punta Mita and all of the memories our family has created in this special place.

Things to remember:  Johnny surfing for the first time, massages at the W, Charlotte running into a friend from school, the surfers below, Johnny saying “oh yeah”, the chef’s margaritas, the hammock, Yolanda and Evelyn, Johnny’s rollover.

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San Diego

San Diego was a quick break from the deep winter in Park City.  The school district gives us a week off in February to ski; we opted to get out of town for some sunshine.  San Diego provided plenty to do with much warmer temperatures.  Legoland was at the top of our list and as it turns out, theme parks are not our thing.  Long lines and crowds make us all a little tense.  We ended up at the beach by evening where we were “free and in the wild” as Wild Kratts would say.  Our next stop was the San Diego Zoo Safari Park where we had an up-close encounter with tigers – a dream come true for Johnny.  We were all amazed by their exotic presence.  Finally, the seals were calling for us in La Jolla Cove – just seals and sea lions being stinky and barking at the sun.  Our kids loved every minute.  San Diego is checked off the list… for now.   I’m sure we will be back to discover more.

Things to remember:  Charlotte and Johnny sleeping in the same bed and Johnny’s cough, the best truffle fries ever, long Uber rides, watching the Olympics at dinner, Four Seasons Aviara, watching Coco together, and ice cream scooper sand toys.

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Christmas in Playa del Carmen 2017

Playa del Carmen is a place we hold dear; it’s where we were engaged and where we spent several of our first holiday seasons.  It took some time to go back, but we found a family-friendly place that was just right … Rosewood Mayakoba.  The perfect combination of Mexico, kids, family, Christmas, beach, ocean, kindness, and the list continues.

To keep with our tradition, Christmas and Santa were a mere accent to seven days spent together in Mexico.  Santa did find us and brought a few small gifts which were quickly forgotten.  Going against the grain with our tradition certainly isn’t perfect, but ultimately we hope the memories of time spent together as a family make up for not unwrapping Christmas presents.  Our fingers are crossed.

The days were simple; walk to breakfast, then beach, pool and repeat.  We attempted to snorkel and after some coaxing were successful at an open water cenote.  It ended up positive, but we only have one picture due to the emotional, hands-on experience.

We also took the kids on their first catamaran experience.  The boat just happened to be named Moana and one of Charlotte’s dreams came true as we “sailed to an island on a Moana Boat”.   We anchored at Isla Mujeres and had a lovely lunch made by the captain/chef.  We were also able to jump into the open water and pretend to be mermaids (or Moana) which made mama’s dream come true as well.

Christmas in Playa del Carman was a total hit in every way!  Our little family continues to grow closer together and these days added a little more to this bond, especially between Charlotte and Johnny.  We’re grateful we can do this in such a beautiful setting.  I guess we must have been good this year… Thanks, Santa 😉

Things to remember:  Rosewood Mayakoba, Charlotte and Johnny’s sleepovers, seeing a coati the first night, outside showers, Johnny saying “oh yeah”, building sand creatures, Charlotte’s talent show, golf cart rides, green juice at breakfast, water taxi to dinner, Santa’s visit, feeding fish, ecotour on the boat, spotting a baby crocodile, the lagoon, massages, spicy margaritas, uno mas, Johnny’s doctor visit on Christmas day, the catamaran, paddle boarding, hot dogs, french fries and nachos on the beach, the hawk, my roundoff back handspring, endless days together without distractions…

Can we please go back?

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Christmas Card 2017

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Dear Santa, please slow it down.

This year’s Christmas card was inspired by Rocky Votolato’s song, “White Daisy Passing” with the lyric “please slow it down”.   We know we can’t keep Charlotte and Johnny 5 and 3 forever, but we asked Santa to at least slow it down a bit.

2017 was a year the puzzle pieces in our family seemed to fit together just right.  We’ve been looking forward to this, but it seemed out of reach during those strenuous “building years”.   Now when we have meltdowns, tantrums, rivalries, or sick days we seem to work through them with a little greater sense of ease.  The days don’t feel as long anymore and often pass too quickly.  The kids are at a special age of innocence and joy and I can’t stand the thought of them getting any older.  We’re trying to hold onto every moment knowing we can’t go back.  In a year from now I hope we will say 6 and 4 are our new favorite ages, but I also hope to soak in every day a little more and cherish each moment a little longer and maybe, just maybe, time will slow down.

Below are pictures from our photoshoot.  We ended up shooting two separate times trying to capture this essence in a picture.  We got pretty dang close.  Thank you, Phillip at Manicproject.

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“Please slow it down
There’s a secret magic past world that you only notice when you’re looking back at it
All I wanna do is turn around
I’m going down to sleep on the bottom of the ocean
Because I couldn’t let go when the water hit the setting sun
Passing white daisies taking turns
Close the door walk into the street
Catching raindrops on your tongue
And for a minute it all stops but it won’t last man
It’s just a passing moment gone
Please slow it down
There’s a secret place that I know where I could dig a grave out and climb underground for good
All I want to do is turn around
I’m going down to sleep on the bottom of the ocean
Because I couldn’t let go when the water hit the setting sun
Passing white daisies taking turns
All those evenings on the back deck of our first apartment
They meant everything but the wind just carried em off
And you can’t go back now just a passing moment gone.”
-Rocky Votolato