Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'm Feeling Like It's Time for a Flirty Aprons Giveaway!

There's no need for too many words, but just real quick look at the ones I have...


I'm going to wear the one with pearls when I host my sushi party!

For this giveaway, you can pick whichever apron at Flirty Aprons dot com you like! Here's how to enter...

Post this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, and/or Twitter, leaving a separate comment for each post. You can do this every day, once a day, again, leaving a separate comment each time you do. If you're going to blog this, here's some easy HTML code you can just copy and paste to to your HTML compose page...

Your post will look like this....

"Jen at 11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven is giving away a Flirty Apron!


"Go HERE to enter!"

For additional entries, follow me via any or all of the following methods, and leave a comment for each method you choose.

There. Easy, right? And if you want, let me know which apron is your fave! Hope you win!

Contest ends at midnight MST on September 23rd, so hurry!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Help For a Newly-Widowed Mother of Four

Today I'd like to post about a matter that is close to my heart. Recently a photographer friend contacted me and asked me to spread the word about a family in need. Emily, of Emily Heizer Photography, introduces the Stephanie and her family as she met them on August 3rd, for a photo shoot....


"Stephanie is the mom of three AWESOME little boys. Five year old twins, and a three year old... with a baby girl on the way. They are all charmers, with big eyes, flirty eyelashes and amazing curly hair that any of us would envy. She wanted to do a session to commemorate the summer. A summer spent by the pool, playing in the sunshine and just enjoying this time before baby comes. She wanted the session to reflect just that. Her life, surrounded by her kids and memorializing this pregnancy.

The only person who wouldn't be able to be in the pictures was Daddy. Stephanie's husband was called home to be with Heavenly Father earlier this spring. He passed away without warning in his sleep."

Having lost a husband while I slept seven years ago, I would like to do whatever I can to help this beautiful family...

Says Emily: "Now that baby Johnna is here, there are four little munchkins who Stephanie is going to be taking care of by herself. A fund for their education has been set up in memorium of their dad, Justin. If you feel so inclined, Kellen, Grant, Lennox and Johnna Justine (named after her daddy) would be so grateful if you could lend a hand, or share this link.

Please feel free to share the links to this blog post on your blog, Pinterest page, Tumblr page, Facebook, MySpace or email... It's for the kids, and when it comes to the kids, I think we would all do anything.


"The PayPal donation below will take you directly to an account set up for Kellen, Grant, Lennox and Johnna."

To read Emily's entire post about this amazing family, and to view more stunning photos, please go HERE. Thank you so much for your visit and please keep them in your prayers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Flirty Aprons on sale for only $9.95!

From Flirty Aprons...

"Technically, this can be called an Irregular Sale but let's go with "Under $10". Flirty aprons go through rigorous quality inspection - most flaws are minimal and difficult to notice. The normal irregularities include: restitching, loose seams and minor print flaws. But this one is a bit different, instead of two layers of high quality Grade A fabric, the manufacturer only sent one layer aprons. So we are selling them for $9.95. No coupon code needed. The sale on the Single Layer Sassy Black aprons goes from 8/30 - 9/5."


Isn't this lovely? Get it HERE. I just got mine! :)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Homemaker Monday: Chocolate Squash Cupcakes! (Or Muffins?)


Okay, I'm throwing this up really quick, without doing the "YOURS" section of Homemaker Monday, because I just don't have time to do any better today.

So I was introduced to this recipe by the 22-year-old girl. The original poster actually calls it a brownie recipe, but to me, it is too cake-y to be considered so. Plus, maybe the one pictured above can't even be considered cake because I only sprinkled it with brown sugar, making it more of a muffin. I just don't know. Call them what you will, but when I passed the chocolate-frosted version around at the high school football game, calling them chocolate squash cupcakes, most people, especially the close-minded men around, shunned me. I eventually did talk them into trying some, however, and they always came running back for more. I promise you your kids nor husband will have any idea that this recipe is teaming with squash. Hope you enjoy! (Original recipe HERE.)

Chocolate Squash Cupcakes

<p>No one will know this recipe is teaming with nutritious spaghetti squash!</p>

See Chocolate Squash Cupcakes on Key Ingredient.


2 cups flour
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp vanilla
½ cup oil
2 cups cooked spaghetti squash


1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F degree.

2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.

3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.

4. Bake in a greased 9 × 13 inches pan at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 30 minutes or in a cupcake tin for 15 to 18 minutes.

5. When cooled, frost as desired.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Can't Stop Thinking About Male Circumcision... maybe if I get my thoughts down on paper, so to speak, I'll be able to sleep tonight.


(intact Baby Hippo at 3 weeks, dozing on his grandma's shoulder)

I'm going to offend some of you, maybe a lot of you, but I feel compelled to speak on behalf of little boys who can't yet speak for themselves.

My circumcision history: my three oldest boys are circumcised; my four youngest are intact. Looking back, I feel horrible I let myself be so naive about the issue of circumcision. I was young, and not only was I uninformed, I was misinformed.

The official statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against routine circumcision. You can read their statement HERE.

If you are expecting a baby boy, please consider a few things...

Circumcision is the amputation of an important and sensitive organ called the prepuce, which serves many functions. You can read about its purpose at THIS website.

Circumcision is an amputation performed without anesthesia, causing the newborn excruciating pain and psychological suffering. Sometimes newborns even lose consciousness because of the pain, which would be blissful relief. Parents are not allowed into the room to comfort their baby during the circumcision, where the newborn is immobilized on a sterile table, most likely because they would not be able to endure the emotional trauma of hearing their infant's screams. I remember after delivering my third son asking an intern if I could be present to comfort my baby during his circumcision. He nearly laughed me off, as if I had asked him the most ridiculous question. He gave my baby back to me having botched the circumcision, as, being a new intern, he had performed very few. My son had to endure the agonizing pain of having one of the most sensitive parts of his body amputated without anesthesia, but he still looked like an uncircumcised male.

Which brings me to my next point. Many parents argue that their babies need to be cut so they can look like their fathers. This is the same reasoning for continuing female circumcision in many parts of the world. Many of you already are aware of the horrors of female circumcision, so I won't go into it here, but this is not a sound reason to cause your baby such pain during his first hours, days, and weeks of life. If you think about it, a little boy's genitals never looks like his father's. His are much smaller, and hairless, and by the time they may compare in size and development, fathers and sons probably aren't standing in the shower comparing too often.

Having the foreskin amputated is not only excruciating during the procedure, the recovery process takes many days, if not weeks. Think about a surgical cut you may have had to endure (under anesthesia, of course). How long did it take before you didn't experience pain related to the surgery? When I was given a routine episiotomy, my wound did not completely heal for three weeks. Is this how we want our precious, perfect baby boys to start out their new lives?

I know I have been graphic in this post, but I think it's important to say it how it is when it comes to cutting our boys in their first moments of life. If you are considering circumcision, I beg of you to just please do some research and discover if it's really worth it. And I haven't even brought up the subject of increased sexual satisfaction to both male and female when the penis is left intact. For a plethora of information on this subject, a wonderful site to visit is Peaceful Parenting.

As far as our four uncircumcised sons are concerned, we have never had ONE problem related to having left them intact. We give their foreskins no special care, and they keep them as clean as you can imagine very young boys would, but still, never has there been even one issue between the four of them.

Please don't be afraid to share your thoughts in the comment section. I'd love to get a discussion started regarding this important topic.

For those of you who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and have been suggested to that circumcision is Biblical, please remember the words of Mormon in a letter to his son, Moroni....

In Moroni 8:8 of The Book of Mormon, Christ, following his death and resurrection, is quoted speaking to the people of the western hemisphere, the Nephites and Lamanites. He says, "Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me.ʺ


(intact Baby Hippo in his blessing gown at 5 weeks old)

Thanks for listening.

Addendum: I was just introduced to a site call Intact America. There is a convincing video by Dr. Dean Edell at the bottom of the home page that is worth watching. However, I fast-forwarded through the actual circumcision procedure. Go HERE.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'd Rather...

This blog post idea came from my friend, Courtney. Thanks for the inspiration, lovely lady!

I'd rather...

...photograph the twins than almost anything else.


(last summer in San Fransisco)

...go out for sushi with someone I love than buy a pair of designer jeans.

...spend 45 minutes rocking my baby to sleep than letting him cry it out.

...spend the morning on a porch swing with a friend than go shopping downtown.

...curl up with a book than watch a movie. a peanut butter and honey sandwich for breakfast than strawberry crepes. in the woods than spend the night in a hotel. my business behind a bush than in an outhouse.

...stay up late and take a nap the next day then go to bed early. down my hallway than walk.

...struggle with the kids at church than stay home.

...listen than talk. the dishes than unload the dishwasher.

...hold a newborn than not. with someone than alone. my own work than have a maid. rain than be sunny. cozy by the fireplace, with a cup of hot chocolate, then in a swimsuit by the pool.

...go through the pain of childbirth than have an epidural.

...wake up every two hours to nurse my baby than feed him formula to get him to sleep longer. married than single.

...go for drive with my man than go for a night out with the girls. on the phone to my mother or sisters than watch TV. than sleep. something sweet than something salty.

...swim in the ocean than a swimming pool.

...leave my boys intact than cut them as newborns.

...bake dessert than cook a main dish. than call.

...wear comfortable shoes than trendy pumps.

...wear my hair curly than straight. dad were still alive. closer to my sisters.

...pray than go to a therapist. housework to music than in silence.

...participate in a music performance than watch one.

...use honey than sugar.

...fold clothes than put them away.

...have housework done imperfectly because a child did it, than have a room done to perfection because I cleaned it.

...wear black than almost any other color.

...wear big earrings than small.

...wear glasses than contacts.

...vacation in Mexico than in the U.S. an apron than buy one.

What about you? Do we have anything in common? Why not leave what you'd rather do in the comments section. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Report on the 19-Year-Old Boy's Mission, With Pictures

August 15th marked the 11-month point of the 19-year-old boy's mission. The time has gone so quickly. He said it seemed as though he only gave his farewell talk yesterday. A farewell talk is an inspirational message given to the congregation the Sunday before a young man leaves for his mission.

It's always amazing to listen to a boy give his farewell talk, then listen to him as a returning missionary as he gives his homecoming talk. During the two years they are away from home serving where The Lord has called them, they grow into the men their mothers always knew they could be. They know how to talk to people, they've learned to trust in The Lord's guidance, they've learned the importance of family, and to be grateful for what they have, because they meet so many people who have so little, both temporally and spiritually.

And I've seen the change in my son. He is still the crazy, hilarious boy he always was, but he is SOOOO grown up now. He speaks of praying, and receiving answers to prayers. He asks for advice on helping companions with issues they are dealing with. He glories in the opportunities he has to share the gospel with his fellow man and he strives to keep the commandments to the utmost of his ability in order to have The Spirit with him.

So as part of this post, I have to share an anecdote. When the 19-year-old boy was the 18-year-old boy living at home, he loathed my blogging habit. He said there was something wrong with me because I wanted to take a picture of chocolate milk in a restaurant. (I honestly can't remember why I needed to do that, but I know it was because of the blog.) He did everything he could to avoid getting his picture taken, and he constantly made fun of me for thinking that people cared about my daily life. He also said I could use no stories about or pictures of him unless he was compensated. I ignored him.

But now, let me share with you a little snippet of the last letter he sent....

"So, with the pictures of us walking on the tracks, there are two different ones. In one of them me and my companion have pretty weird posture. Also, I know your probably dying to blog some of them so feel free. You have my permission."

I'm pretty sure he HOPED I would blog them. :)

Okay, so here goes....

I might as well start off with the afore-mentioned photo. I didn't notice any strange posture in either of them, so I posted the one I loved the most, with the back-lighting and the beautiful train track bokeh in the foreground...


Here he is in the mission home car, looking very pensive.... or posing...


I'm so glad he and his companion wear their seatbelts...


He makes lots of faces in the pictures taken of him, but these are my fave faces...


Missionary work can be difficult, and even bring you down sometimes, especially if you're proselyting in the rain every day...


But it can be fun, too, like when you're eating a delicious meal outside with a large extended family...


....consisting of a whole fish with mango salsa, beans, and Spanish rice....


(Yep, that was good...)


...or when you're being carried around by a large Polynesian missionary...


...or even when you're about to fight a bear...


Finding people who are willing to listen to a gospel message isn't a simple task, especially in Antelope...


....but when the missionaries do find someone who is ready to change their life, it is rewarding beyond imagination. Here is an investigator to whom the 19-year-old boy became very attached (on right)...


He wrote home about him, and when he said he would probably never see him again, it made me cry. It made him cry, too.

Being a missionary isn't...


The Lord didn't say it would be, but He said it would be worth it...


If you would like to be pen pals with the 19-year-old boy, please leave a comment and I'll get back with you. He loves getting letters, even from people he doesn't know.

Thanks for listening. :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Homemaker Monday: Complete Protein Garbanzo Pancakes

Welcome to the 134th weekly edition of...

Thank you for joining us! If you're new to this carnival and would like to enter your post, please check HERE for the rules and regs.

YOURS: This week's "YOURS" goes to "Diaries of a Whimsical Wife" for her Apple and Blueberry Charlotte recipe! I made this this week, with leftover whole wheat bread, and the family loved it. Plus, I adore Whimsical's photography. So inspiring.


For Whimsical's recipe, go HERE. We'll look forward to hearing more from her soon!

MINE: Complete Protein Garbanzo Pancakes


While riding in a van to choir practice with a friend, I learned about her garbanzo bean pancake experiment. I happen to have a very large supply of garbanzo beans, as I use them for a chicken substitute because of their texture, and when she mentioned that her family had no idea there was anything weird in the recipe, and totally loved them, I had to try it.

However, try as I may, I could never reach her thereafter to get the recipe, so out of desperation, I googled it and found something I thought would work. Upon putting it together in the blender, though, the batter appeared to be no thicker than milk, and I couldn't imagine how I could make a pancake out of it. We had just ground some whole wheat flour over the weekend, and the thought occured to me that if I added some, the pancakes would then contain a complete protein, plus hopefully be thickened up a bit. This worked like a charm, and the kids gobbled up the entire batch. I told the 15-year-old boy, a football player, that it was like eating steak and eggs for breakfast, but much better for you. He didn't buy it, but he did eat six pancakes and a few more with his lunch.

Thanks, Norma, for the inspiration! I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

Complete Protein Garbanzo Pancakes

<p>Whole wheat flour and garbanzo beans make this a complete-protein breakfast!</p>

See Complete Protein Garbanzo Pancakes on Key Ingredient.


1 c. cooked garbanzo beans
1½ c whole wheat flour
¼ c olive oil
1½ c. water
2 eggs
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
½ t. salt


Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Cook on a greased or buttered griddle until golden brown on each side.

NOTE: Pancake tops may not bubble when ready to be flipped, but the edges should start to pucker.

OURS: Okay, you're turn! What's your homemaking tip for the day? Can't wait to read! If this is your first time, feel free to dig in your archive and post anything homemaking. Thanks so much for linking up and visiting and have a great Homemaker Monday!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hallway Randomness

A few days ago after cleaning up breakfast I ran into the 9-year-old girl and Baby Hippo sitting together on the slate floor of one of the hallways. I asked what they were doing. The 9-year-old girl said, "Randomly sitting in the hallway."

Something about them sitting and hugging was endearing to me. Perhaps it was the lighting, or the randomness, or the fact that it was just so unexpected. Just another thing to capture on film!


Thanks for listening. :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Moments That Matter Most

Not only is this video's message one desperately needed, what with today's hectic lifestyles, the music is beautiful and the cinematography is amazing. :) Enjoy...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

1 Parent + 8 Children + Camping = Lots of Lessons Learned

John would have loved to join us, but being the bread winner, he was expected to work during the Tuesday through Thursday camp-out to which our family was invited by a neighboring church. I’d been camping alone with the kids before, back when there were only five, and I had a different husband, and this time would be much easier, because I had able-bodied pre-teens and teens to help out. It would be a piece of cake.

On the way home from our date the afternoon before I was to drive the 3 ½ hours over high mountainous Mexican roads, I said to John that I knew there would be unexpected circumstances, but that I hoped there wouldn’t be terribly unpleasant unexpected circumstances. He chuckled.

Here are a few things I did right….

1. First of all, it is necessary to explain that it was my ultimate goal to be completely self-sustaining. I would borrow nothing. If we did not have it, I would do without. I would never ask for help. If the kids and I couldn’t do it, it simply wouldn’t be done. Yes, this seems like a prideful attitude to adopt, but I didn’t want to go away from the camp-out being known as the needy camp widow who was unprepared and could do nothing for herself. Now that that is understood, let’s get back to what I did right… We brought our own firewood. John had been camping in the said area many times and told us that it would rain every afternoon and probably most nights. We didn’t need the headache of trying to build a fire with wet wood, so I knew I wouldn’t regret bringing our own. It turned out that we ended up giving away some to those who were less prepared. I was well on the road to accomplishing my ultimate prideful goal.

2. I brought clothesline and clothes pins. I wouldn’t have thought of it, except that I had referred to the camping list I blogged last year, and remembered how often I had wished I had a way to easily hang up wet clothing.

3. I brought lots of extra changes of clothes for the 4 five and under, and at least two extra pairs of shoes for everyone. What with the outhouse being across a wide stream, this paid off.

4. I used up a good deal of packing space to pack the pack ‘n’ play. The baby slept like he’d worked as hard as I did all day, from 8:00 to a little before 7:00 AM. It was beautiful.

5. I counted on the 16-year-old girl to plan and pack for three lunches. She left nothing to chance as far as the food, dishes and preparatory utensils were concerned. She even wrote the menu down on a sheet of paper and taped it to the ice chest so everyone would be aware what each lunch would be.

Now, for the things I did wrong…

1. I did not THOROUGHLY check every single piece of camping gear the teenagers were in charge of packing. I should have said, “Show me the lanterns… all of them” and “Show me the folding table” and “Show me the poles and stakes for each tent. When we arrived at the camp grounds, it was pouring hard. The 15-year-old boy had been in the back of the truck for three hours, making sure the tarp didn’t come up, and he was drenched. It was in this downpour that we began setting up the tents, just so the little kids would have a place to play out of the rain. We had a large 3-room tent, but when the 16-year-old girl and I began to put it together, it became immediately apparent that there were many poles missing. Where tent poles go is a mystery to me, but regardless of where they went, they were not in the bag. It was still pouring.

Fortunately the kids had packed all the tents we owned, even though I had asked them not to, so we were covered (no pun intended).

We set up our camp near a small lovely stream. I thought it would be wonderful to hear it trickle through the woods as we slept in our tents. I studied it carefully and observed that a few other families were set up next to it as well, and I thought to myself that there could be no way that the stream would overflow to the level of our tents because it had already been raining so much. If that didn’t cause the stream to overflow, I didn’t think anything would. (Foreshadowing)

2. I set up our camp near a small, lovely stream. After finally getting our camp set up, we enjoyed about an hour of leisure time, then ate our evening meal together. One man mentioned how much he admired me for setting up camp all by myself with “all those kids”. I told him that I didn’t do it alone, but that the kids had been an amazing help to me, especially the teenagers. He looked puzzled for a moment, then recognition came to his eyes as he understood that the dark-skinned young man in the cowboy hat was my son. Most people in our American community have farms and ranches. These enterprises are usually managed or worked upon by real Mexican cowboys. This gentleman thought that I had brought my cowboy to help me drive and set up. After realizing that no, this was my son, he was even more impressed.

After wonderful food and great conversation, we all settled in to our individual campsites. The kids had helped so much, that even though the 16-year-old girl said she would stay and help me put the kids to bed, I thought she should go spend time with her friends. She, along with the 15-, 11- and 9-year-olds did just that. After putting Baby Hippo to bed in his crib, Twin A in my double sleeping bag, Twin B in his own sleeping bag, and the 5-year-old boy in his very own little pup tent, I sat by the fire and drank a cup of very hot chocolate, just the way I like it. I listened to our fellow campers, warmed my feet, and marveled at the beauty of God’s earth, even though it was too dark to see. I love the outdoors. Eventually I went into my tent and took out my flashlight and the novel I was reading and read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.

At about 1:00 I was awakened by the sound of rain drumming against the tarp covering my tent. I smiled, because I love it when it rains at night when I’m in a tent. I feel so cozy and protected inside and there were no were leaks that I could see. I feel back to sleep, even though my air mattress had already entirely deflated.

At 3:00, I awoke again to the sound of quiet voices and flashlights outside my tent. It was still raining. This concerned me a bit because that meant it had been raining for at least two hours and I began to wonder about the level of the stream near our tent. I pulled out my book again, and my flashlight, and read for about an hour, putting my book down every few minutes to concentrate and listen to what was going on outside, wondering what it could be. Finally, at about 4:00, I decided to get dressed and see what the commotion was about. When I placed my hand on the floor of the tent to get up, it felt exactly like a waterbed. There must have been about 4 inches of water directly under my tent. This was of great concern to me, because I didn’t know how long the tent would actually keep the water out. I stood up, unzipped the tent door, and immediately stepped into the trench the 15-year-old boy had dug for me, which was filled with at least 12 inches of water…. 8 inches in the trench, and 4 on the ground…. where the stream had completely engulfed our tent. I just stood there, looking at the water, then at my tent, then at the 5-year-old boy’s tent. My attention was then drawn to a flashlight, and I saw that the 15-year-old boy had moved his tent, which had been even closer to the stream. Someone had come and helped him, probably the same people who had camped just as close to the stream as we did. He told me that his helpers had asked if he thought they should move my tent, too, and he said, “Nah, she’ll be okay.” Sounds heartless, I know, but honestly, I DID NOT want to move the four kids out of the tent, into the rain, while the tent was moved. I thought, “Surely the rain with stop and the stream will go down and even though some of the things in my tent are a little tiny bit damp, I can easily dry them out in the morning, by the fire.

So the 15-year-old boy and I moved the 5-year-old boy and his sleeping bag into his brother’s tent, which was now on safe ground, and I went back to bed.

I awoke again at 6:00. It was still raining. I knew this was a very bad sign. Again, when I stepped out of my sleeping bag onto my tent floor, I experienced the waterbed sensation, but this time, my hand was actually in the water. Everything in our tent was soaked, from the sleeping bags, to the suitcases with all of our clothes, to the pile of blankets I had neatly folded in the corner, to my precious purse.

So I roused the children, got them out of the tent and sat them by the fire, and started hauling our belongings out of our tent. My biggest fear that was the sun would never come out, as it had stayed hidden the previous day, and that our sleeping bags wouldn’t dry, forcing us to sleep in damp beds that night. Because there was nothing else to be done, the 15-year-old boy made a big fire and with the 16-year-old girl’s help we were able to hang all of our belongings on the line we’d strung up by the fire and on nearby trees.

While we were working, my dear friend came to visit and saw the devastation to our tent. She said, “We need to get the brethren over here to help you move!” I said, “No! I’ll be fine. The kids and I can move the tent.” “No,” she said, “You need the brethren.”

So the brethren came, and they moved our tent, and diligently strung up a tarp over it, two even, to protect us from the water that would surely fall that night. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t very grateful that they did that for me. Thanks, Bishop and the other brethren!

And because of God’s great mercy, the sun did come out that day and dried all of our clothes and sleeping bags and blankets.

3. I did not bring a baby-carrying back pack or small back packs to take food and water in for a hike.

On the last day we were there, a large group decided to go up to the falls. Of course I encouraged the four oldest to go, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hike with the four little ones alone. As I waved goodbye from my camp chair, the bishop drove by and said, “Aren’t you coming?” I said no, that I had too many little kids, but you have fun, and he said, “NO! You need to come. It’s only a short hike and they bring toddlers and babies up there all the time. Come on. Get in the truck.” How could I refuse?

Now I was excited to go. We loaded up the twins and the 5-year-old in the back of his truck with nearly a dozen other kids and headed off to the river crossing. When we arrived, I looked at the river with great fear. The bishop’s daughter, whose legs were wet to the tops of her thighs said, “Dad, the river’s deeper than it was last time. I don’t think we’re going to make it." The bishop waved his arm and said “Of course we’ll make it!” He zoomed around the two other trucks in front of him and pulled up right in front of the river. One of the brethren came up to his window and said, “Bishop, it’s higher than before. You’re not going to make it.” The Bishop said, “Sure, we’ll make it!” and he began driving into the river. My heart raced, and with good reason, because in no time the water was coming up over the hood of the truck and into the cab of the truck. My feet were getting wet again. A few seconds later, the back of the truck, filled with tiny children, began to float sideways. The bishop put on the brakes, was able to get some traction, and backed up. He looked out the window to the brother he had spoken with before and said with a smile on his face, “We’re not going to make it!”

But of course, as men always do, they found a way to cross, having the largest of all the trucks go first and pull a smaller one behind it. It was via this means that we drove up to the hiking spot to the falls.

My excitement continued as we went over rocky and muddy terrain, and I had an animated conversation with the people in the front of the truck. When we finally arrived to the hiking spot, I was ready to go. So we started walking, and what I thought would be a simple trail turned into a very long uphill, rocky hike. I was carrying Baby Hippo on my hip, who weighs nearly 30 pounds, my very large camera bag, and my purse (for diapers and wet wipes). Five minutes into the hike, I thought I was going to die. And the teenagers, who I had been counting on to help with Baby Hippo, had run forward and were completely out of sight. I cursed the bishop under my breath (just mild Mormon cursing, like “That darn bishop!”) and kept telling myself over and over again, “I’m burning calories. I’m burning calories.” It was then that I realized that when the bishop said that "toddlers and babies go", he meant that strong fathers carried their babies up to the falls. And yes, other people offered to carry Baby Hippo, but the stubborn little cuss wouldn’t go to anyone but me. The twins and 5-year-old would hold other’s hands, though, so I didn’t have to worry about them getting to the falls.

By the time we arrived, over rocky terrain and through slippery streams, I was completely spent. And I needed to go to the bathroom. However, even though I’m adept at going to the bathroom in outdoorsy settings, there were only two places to go here: next to the stream, or up the mountain. My first choice was next to the stream. So I asked the 11-year-old boy to care for Baby Hippo and I began walking. When I finally found a secluded area, I looked a little further to see that the teenagers had found this secluded area first, so, as per my only other option, it was up the mountain for me. I began climbing. The 16-year-old girl, among all of her friends, male and female, saw me and yelled, “MOM! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” I yelled back, “I’M GOING TO THE BATHROOM!” A minute or so later, I heard her male friend ask, “What is your mom doing?” “She’s going to the bathroom.” Could I BE any more humiliated, due to the fact that teenagers were watching me climb up a mountain, and I wasn’t graceful, so I could go to the bathroom? ARGGGHH!

And the climbing was difficult. I had to pull myself up with tufts of grass and branches and find foot holds and test them to make sure they didn’t give way. About forty feet up, I finally found a clump of trees that would hide me from the teenagers. As I climbed toward it, I knew that I had no idea how I was going to get off that mountain.

So I did my business and began the treacherous descent. And I did exactly what I thought I would do. I slid, grasping for the tufts of grass, and branches, some of which would break, some of which would hold. My knee caught hold of a rock once, which left 7 or 8 gashes across it, and lots of mud on my pants. I don’t think the teenagers saw me though, so that’s all the mattered.

After catching my breath, I was able to take out my camera and enjoy myself. I did find the 15-year-old boy, however, and said, “Do NOT leave here without taking Baby Hippo. You are in charge of him on the way back.”

The falls were beautiful and the kids had a great time playing in them and in their runoff. It was something we all enjoyed, so Bishop, thanks for talking me into it! It was the highlight of our trip.

When I’ve told some of my friends about my experiences, some of them have asked, “Why didn’t you just go home?” My answer is because I LOVE camping! I love the adventure, and the self-sufficient feeling of making your own fire and cooking food over it and the smell of campfire smoke and how the baby is happy all day because he’s outside and hot chocolate in camp chairs and sitting and talking with friends and family because the demands of the world don’t exist when you’re camping. And I can’t wait until the next time!

Below are a few of my favorite photos from the trip. I will tell a little bit and/or share my feelings about each one. Thanks for listening!

Our tent, encompassed by the stream...


A wider angle view, which I included just because my favorite quilt is hanging on the line in the background...


The 16-year-old girl hanging up clothes to dry while the 15-year-old boy stokes the fire and the twins study the stream. It was amazing how helpful the older kids were. I couldn't have done the trip without them...


The "cowboy", with the twins, just enjoying the fire...


The stream we had to cross every time we needed to use the outhouse. What with walking myself and four little boys over numerous times per day, my feet pretty much stayed wet continuously...


Baby Hippo, enjoying the campfire just as much as everyone else did...


The 11-year-old boy, chopping wood...


It was astonishing how much wood he actually chopped. I didn't know 11-year-old boys could chop wood, but thanks to the teaching of one of the brethren, he learned some tricks and did it with ease. I never had to worry about not having chopped wood for the fire. Here he is looking pensively after finishing up for the afternoon...


Lots of kids playing in a shallow stream...


This is a special baby who was born several weeks premature. She's 3 months old in the photo, but she still weighs less than nine pounds. She was the tiniest baby I had ever seen in real life. But she always was and still is beautiful...


The following are photos taken by a friend who absconded with my camera. For not knowing how to use a DSLR, she did pretty well! It was fun going back to edit her work, not having any idea what I would find on my memory card!

There were lots of little blond girls running around. This one is probably my friends daughter. I love how she's bounding....


I love the expression on this boy. I think he is my friend's only son. I'm not sure if he's annoyed or just chilling, but it looks like he rules the roost...


I love everything about this photo, from the clarity of the little girl's facial expression, to the kids frolicking in the background...


I do not know who this man is. He is probably the husband of one of my friends, but since they are all related, I can never keep them straight, and I don't even try. All I know is that he looks manly with his intimidating scowl and his Diet Coke.


My friend did find it in herself to take a few pictures of my kids (Just kidding, she took lots of pics of my kids), and here is one of my favorites of the 9-year-old girl...


Here's how many campers got around, especially to the outhouse...


Me, and the sun-bleached 5-year-old boy. I adore his hair...


More ATV-riding, this time with at least 4 little blond girls in tow...


Now, I have the camera again, at the falls...

The cowboy, having climbed up behind the falls...


The 11-year-old boy, protecting himself from the sting of the falls, then up close out of the falls...


The son and daughter of the previous photographer, watching their dad in the falls...


Twin A. I love photography like this where only one thing is in focus. Here, it's his eyelashes. I adore how the sun shines on his hair in the foreground...


And I LOVE the sun on Twin B's hair in this photo...


I couldn't get enough of the little girl's hair. She (and perhaps her mother) began to be annoyed with me for taking so many pictures, but to me, it was worth it...


The falls. I don't think this photo does justice to how high there were, but if you look at the people at the bottom of the falls, you should get some idea...


And last, but not least, how we went home from the falls...


I'd like to give a public thanks to the congregation that invited our family to join them. We had a great time, got to know some fabulous people, and we can't wait to do it again!