Sunday, October 31, 2010

6th Grade Camp With Jessica

I survived 6th grade camp, pregnant and all!! I loved every minute of it! Last year, I told Jessica that I would go to 6th grade camp with her, but I wasn't planning on being pregnant. I'm so glad I decided to go anyway. It was an amazing experience.

We stopped along the way to camp to visit the old town of Columbia. Here is me with my two friends and co chaperones for the trip.Heather, Me, and Shelley
These are the cute girls we were responsible forAlison, Kylie, Carrie (in the back), Jessica, Megan, and Sami

In some ways, camp was just as I expected. We slept on bunk beds.

My bed

The girls slept across the hall. (Slept is a term used loosely in this situation, which was also expected.)
There were "cool" chaperons and grouchy ones. (Well, more like one grouchy chaperon, but she kept things interesting and made us giggle.)

The food was... what you would expect. Luckily, we counted on that and brought lots of snacks!

The rest, I didn't know what to expect and I had no idea it would be such an amazing experience for the kids. After breakfast each morning, we got ready for our classes for the day. I loved the outdoor setting and all of the hands on experience.
this is a typical "classroom"
We did a lot of hiking. If we ever came across anything interesting or someone had a question, we would all strop and talk about it. Jessica almost stepped on this snake during one of our hikes.The teacher giving the kids a chance to touch the snake before sending it on its way.Because so many of our "classes" were spent sitting in the dirt, the teacher encouraged the kids "to become one with nature" and get a little dirty. Jessica LOVED this idea!My group with cute little hand prints on their faces.And Jessica taking it to the extreme! ( love the earrings Jess!)
One of my favorite things we did on the trip was the silent mile. We were all spread out, on this beautiful trail and asked to walk alone in silence.
I have always loved nature. It gives me such a sense of peace and always make me feel closer to my Heavenly Father. I found myself being so grateful this beautiful world and all that I have.
It also made me realize how much I think about Jason. When ever I am doing something new or anything happens, I always wish he was with me. My mind wandered to all of the experiences we have had and it left me feeling so grateful for our relationship. There aren't really words to describe the type of comfort and satisfaction that I find in our friendship. He is my other half and he makes me feel complete.
At the end of the silent mile was "heart attack hill." This picture isn't even close to doing it justice.
Some of the kids decided to race to the top. Of course, Jessica was among them. She was so proud to have finished 3rd, behind "two of the fastest boys!".I was starting to see a side of Jessica that I didn't really know was there. I know how she is at home and around family. I see her when her friends come over, but I don't hover or follow her around, so there are things you just don't see. I can definitely say I gained a new understanding and a new appreciation for Jessica.
I love how she isn't afraid to just be herself. She is incredibly confident, which makes her really funny to be around. She doesn't get embarrassed easily, so not much holds her back.
rockin' out to YMCA
Kylie doing one of the relays.
Another really fun class we had was called, Wilderness Survival. We learned how to use a compass and with our group, went on sort of a scavenger hunt using our compasses.
We had to get through some pretty thick brush at times to stay on course! We were a little scratched up by the end, but it was a great way for the kids to learn. We also learned what to do if you ever got lost in the woods and how to build a shelter.
our group in front of their shelter Me and Jess
One of Jessica's favorite classes what about the animals. I can't remember what it was called, but I sort of check out when they started feeding the vulture a dead animal. I am not usually squeamish, but being pregnant is almost like being a different person. I saw blood and guts being ripped from the little things and I had to leave unless they wanted to a mini lesson on what I had for breakfast. I did come back to get this great picture of an eagle.
We had a little bit of down time in between meals and classes.

Kylie and Jessica

Shelly and Kylie, and Jessica and Me
I loved every minute of it, but I definitely felt like this by the end of the trip.

a few of the chaperones asleep in one of the classes on the last day

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Goodbye Dennis

Dennis Allen Shull
July 1, 1950 - September 9, 2010

We were gathered in the living room getting ready for family prayer, when Jason got a call from his younger brother, Sam. We could tell from his expression that something was wrong. We all sat quietly trying to understand the pain in his voice, and wondering who it involved. Even Ashlyn felt the sadness and stood quietly, watching her dad until he hung up the phone.

"Dennis has cancer. They said he may only have six weeks..." he said quietly. I immediately thought of Sam. I couldn't imagine losing both your mom and dad to such an awful disease just a few years apart.

I saw the tears begin to fall from Jason's eyes and before I had a chance to get to him, he was surrounded by the kids, all trying to hug him at the same time. Surrounded in the cocoon of their love, he let his guard down and let the emotions flow. My heart took a picture and I felt so blessed to have the family that I do.

As we gathered around Jason, he explained to the kids that Dennis was his step dad, just like he is to them. Dennis was part of his daily life from the time he was 8 years old until after he graduated from high school. Austin and Jessica's eyes welled up with tears as they expressed that they didn't know what they would do if something ever happened to Jason. Jason went on to tell them how he owes a lot of who is is today to Dennis. Dennis taught Jason how to be a hard worker. He didn't always like Dennis for it, but he appreciates it so much now. He told them about how hard Dennis worked to provide for their family. Dennis always told Jason that he was "better than this" and how important it was for him to go to college and get an education. We listened as Jason recalled memories from his childhood.

I had only met Dennis a few times, but my respect for him grew as I recognized how he helped shape Jason into who he is today.
Being a parent isn't easy and we don't always do it all right. It made me wonder what my kids will remember about me and what lessons will they take with them.

Having been down this road with Ronna, we knew we needed to go see him sooner than later. We jumped in the car that weekend and went to visit Dennis. Dennis with his granddaughter Lily (Sam and Mindy's baby)Jason sitting by Dennis' bed reminiscing about old times
I was touched and I guess a little surprised by the pictures around the room. Dennis had never remarried after he and Ronna were divorced. Their family pictures still hung on the walls. There was a framed picture of Ashlyn's birth announcement that Ronna had sent him sitting on the coffee table. This was still his family. I felt bad for not being better about keeping in touch. The yearly Christmas card seemed a little weak when you realize how short life is.

Just a few days later we got the call that Dennis had passed away.

Jason posted this on his facebook status:

"For those of you that knew him, my step dad Dennis passed away today from Liver Cancer.
I just found out last Thursday that he was sick. He didn't tell anyone and didn't want anyone to know. Danale, Sam, and I went up with our families last Sunday to visit him. We looked at pictures, talked about mom and told stories about "the good old days".

He was a good man who worked hard his entire life (he received his first retirement check two weeks before he died after working at Wonder Bakery for over 35 years). He gave all that he had to support our family. "Thank you" doesn't seem to adequately convey my gratitude to him for making the sacrifices he did. I love you Dennis, and say "Hi" to Mom for me and tell her that we miss her.

The funeral was a few days later.

I was so impressed by the men in Jason's life who showed up to pay their respects. Danny, Jason's dad, was there. He lingered as he placed his flower on Dennis' coffin, putting his hand on it for a moment. I could feel the emotion and the respect as if he could appreciate all that Dennis did in helping him raise his children.

Stephen came with Skyler. Stephen and Ronna were married after Jason came home from his mission and Sam was just entering into his early teenage years. I imagine Stephen came to pay respect to Sam's dad, be a support to all of his step children, and be there to represent Ronna. I don't know why for sure, but the maturity and example of these men impressed me and I'm grateful to have them in my life.

Ronna's mom, sister Linda, and brother Ode were all there along with Danny's brother Kirk. It was nice to see so many family members.
Dennis was buried just a few plots away from Ronna and just down the way from Ronna's dad. I really miss Ronna. Seeing her grand kids smelling the flowers at her grave site gave me such mixed emotions. I could feel the joy she would have just seeing them and it made me so sad at the same time that she can't be here and be part of their lives growing up. I feel sad for them that they won't know her in this life. Sometimes I imagine her laughter as I watch Ashlyn doing something that I think is adorable. I know she would enjoy the little things as much as me.

Before I got pregnant, I had a dream that wasn't very clear. They never really are. But in it, Ronna was holding a baby in heaven. I like to think she is up there with our little one and Danale's baby that is due next month. I imagine her "lovin' them up" as she used to say, and taking care of them until they come here to be with us.
Ashlyn and Colton by Grandma Ronna's headstone.

Danale looking fabulous!
(and still sassy!)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Jessica's birthday is in the summer, so we decided to wait until school started to have a party to celebrate. There is no better way to start off 6th grade, than with a party! We decorated the back patio and invited her friends. We set up tiki torches for the evening and put 15 beach balls in the pool! Jason set up speakers outside and had Jessica put some of her favorite music into a party play list.
Jason and I had blast, just sitting back and watching these kids! They are so funny! Jessica felt like a rock star for the day!

Megan W. and Ashlyn

dancing by the poolThey had a hula hoop contest.

the party girls a pinata (that broke on the second swing!)

trying to decide what to wish for

Jessica opening a present from Alli

Jessica and Megan

Jason popped some popcorn in the popcorn machine and put a movie on for the girls to wind down the night.
The party was a hit!