Monday, June 23, 2014

A Life-Changing Event

When I was 11 years old, I experienced a terrifying event that changed my life forever. The truth is, it changed me forever. I didn't realize until just recently how significant this incident has really been in shaping my life--my values and priorities and beliefs--until I had a unique opportunity to relive it in an extraordinary way this past week.

Why on earth would I want to relive a terrifying event, you might ask? It's a valid question, and one I posed to myself a few times, I must admit, but in the end, I experienced some of the sweetest, most meaningful moments with my children and husband--and with other survivors, too--that I've ever experienced, and I wouldn't trade those moments for anything.

On May 16, 1986 our elementary school in the small rural town of Cokeville, Wyoming was held hostage by a man and his wife, who gathered the whole school into one classroom and held us captive with a bomb for nearly three hours. He demanded $2 million for each person in the room. There were 154 of us in all, including students, teachers, a couple of parents, a UPS driver and even a kindergarten job interviewee. His plan was to collect the money, blow us all up and then rule us in what he called a "brave new world." We were in a very serious predicament because this guy never planned on leaving that classroom alive, which meant he didn't care to negotiate. What made our situation even more grave was that he had a string attached from his wrist to the bomb so that if anything happened to him and that string was pulled, the bomb would detonate. It looked like there was no way we were ever going to survive or live to see another day.

This is a replica of the bomb--it looked very much like this. 

That's when a miracle happened. Not just one miracle--but a series of miracles. Angels entered the classroom, surrounded the bomb right before that string was accidentally pulled, and forced the blast upward, instead of outward. All 154 people made it out alive. Although many children were burned or treated for smoke inhalation, only our captors lost their lives that day. It was an impossible outcome.

Of course this incident left many scars, some physical but most emotional. It's just not easy to recover from the trauma of someone threatening for three long hours to take away your life with a shopping cart full of explosives. Every time you close your eyes, you see this man's evil grin; you see the line of rifles and guns along the wall under the chalkboard; you see the details of the homemade bomb; you smell the gasoline; and you feel the gut wrenching fear that your life seems to be in the hands of a mad man, and it's pretty hard to recover from. For some, it would take months and years; for others, much longer.

That's what leads me to this past week. Actually, I guess I had better start a little earlier than that. This past summer we hard news that the film director T.C. Christensen (director of 17 Miracles and Ephraim's Rescue) was thinking of making a film about this event. Some survivors were not happy about this news, while others of us felt hopeful this would be an opportunity to tell the story in the right way and share the miracles of that day. We even thought perhaps it would be an avenue of healing for those who were still struggling with deep emotional scars.

In an effort to reach out to survivors and their families, T.C. and his producer, Ron Tanner, did something extraordinary, something I've never known to be done in the film industry before--they invited the children or grandchildren of the survivors to be extras in the film. Their hope was to involve anyone who wanted to be involved and to reach out in empathy and compassion to those who had gone through this ordeal all those years ago. It was a remarkable invitation.

T.C. Christensen, photo by Sally Meyer

At first I wondered how much our family should be involved. There were the obvious reasons, of course, the first being that the film would be very scary and I wondered how my young children would feel being in scenes that replayed such a terrifying event. But, I also worried about how other survivors who are still struggling with coping with the after-effects of that day would feel about my children being in the limelight (even though they were just extras, not main characters) in a movie that would be difficult for them to watch, if they chose to watch it at all. I didn't want them to misunderstand my intentions or the fact that my heart has deep empathy for the pain they still suffer, even though I have healed in most ways. In the end, I decided to present the opportunity to my children and allow them to choose. I was surprised when they all whole-heatedly wanted to participate.

photo by Sally Meyer

photo by Sally Meyer

photo by Sally Meyer

Regyn and Boston had the most opportunity to be involved because they are the right age--seven and nine. I realized at one point that Boston is exactly the age my little brother was when we were in that school together all those years ago. When a teacher was shoving him through a window in one of the scenes, saying, "It's going to be OK. Come to me!", my throat caught in my chest and I had to choke back tears, realizing that's just what had happened.

photo by Sally Meyer
That wasn't the only scene that caught me off guard. Both Regyn and Boston were in multiple scenes that brought back vivid memories of that day: when the lady walked around to each classroom, telling us to go to the 1st grade classroom because there was a surprise there; when the man shoots his wife, who is on fire after the bomb explodes right in front of her; when the children are fleeing the school after the bomb explodes.

photo by Sally Meyer
There were times it was almost too difficult to watch. The emotions of that day would return in a flash and catch me completely off guard, and I would find myself glancing over to my children, wondering if they felt even a tinge of what I was feeling, worried this might be too much for them. Unbelievably, it never was. They seemed to be able to capture the solemnity of the event, without internalizing the fear and terror.

photo by Sally Meyer

I really wondered if Boston was mature enough to handle 12 hours a day filming, especially such mature scenes. He did amazing! Some of the other children lost their edge at times and had to be asked to leave, but he was always following directions and staying focused. He looks so serious in these photos. I wish I could have a window to his soul and know what he was thinking.

photo by Sally Meyer

photo by Sally Meyer

This is in between "takes" when the children are all lying on the ground because the bomb has just gone off. Regyn thought it was pretty cool that they had to mess up her braids and put fake scrapes on her and fake ash. It's always the little things.:)

photo by Sally Meyer

photo by Sally Meyer

This is one of the only times Regyn actually came out of character to give a thumbs up. When she was acting in a scene, she kept true to the part she was playing the whole time. When she was interviewed by a reporter, she told the reporter she liked to pretend she was me going through the event. That was very touching to me.

photo by Sally Meyer

Regyn and Boston also made some very dear friends during the week. Regyn was thrilled to meet some of the children who acted in Christmas Oranges and Christmas For a Dollar. They hit it off immediately, and she felt like a true movie star!:)

Boston did one scene over so many times, he felt a huge connection to the woman playing his protector in the scene, helping him escape out of the building. This woman just happens to be from Cokeville herself, and it was so sweet how they connected with each other.

The film crew was also very friendly and so great to work with. This guy, Bob Conder, was always so funny and easy-going. The kids loved him!

After one very long day of filming, they decided to film the high school scene. Hallee and Nate were in this one, and it was a very special experience, one I hope none of us ever forget. They actually pulled me into this scene as well. It's not a very long scene, but it's an important one. The high school principal comes into the gymnasium where the whole school is gathered, tells everyone they aren't allowed on elementary school grounds but there is something they can do. Then she says she may get fired for this, but whoever wants to can join her in a prayer. That's when everyone in the entire gym kneels to pray. So simple, but so powerful. When the scene was finished, there was not a dry eye in the whole room, including the crew and the parents watching. I only wish I had pictures, but since I was in the scene, I couldn't take any.

I talked with my children after this experience, hoping they felt something special. After all, we had all had to pretend our siblings or children were being held hostage in an elementary school and we were praying they would be saved. They both said how special it was to be there and do that. I hope they never forget it. I work constantly as a mother to help my children understand how important it is to treat each other like today is their last day. I've told them, "You just never know what could happen, so you have to love each other like you may never see each other again. Forgive each other, be patient with each other, be kind to each other, because you're so lucky to have each other." I hoped this experience helped them internalize that even more and realize how heartbroken they really would be if they lost one of their siblings.

Friday was another unique experience. Everyone from Cokeville was invited to come to be in a scene. Very few actually responded, but I think those who came were glad they did. We had to pretend we were the townspeople and had just found out about the hostage situation. We gathered outside the school, comforting each other and asking questions. Dan and I were in these scenes together, and it was neat to do that with him. The last scene of the day, we were asked to simply hold each other and cry as we would if this had actually happened. They were filming each set of people individually so the filming lasted about four minutes, which is a very long time to think about a tragedy and cry and not look at the camera. It was a poignant experience for me now that I am a mother of five children (which is what my mother was at the time) to stand there with my husband and hold each other, crying and praying as if our own children were inside an elementary school being held hostage. All kinds of emotions swept through me during those four minutes. I was so glad Dan was there to hold me.

By the end of the week, I was physically and especially emotionally exhausted, but mostly, I was so grateful for what our family had experienced together. A newspaper reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune had interviewed me, along with a couple of other survivors, asking us why we would ever put our children through what we had gone through. It was difficult to explain, but I loved what Kamron Wixom, another survivor said. It was something like, "Sometimes you have to feel the fear and the other bad emotions to appreciate and understand the blessings and the miracles."

Here is a picture of Kamron. He had a chance to play a paramedic in the movie.
By the way, another amazing part of the week was reconnecting with other survivors. Many of these people I have not kept in close contact with over the past 28 years. We've all moved on with our lives and not kept in touch, but when we saw each other again and began to talk, it was a pretty incredible experience. I think when you go through a life-changing experience with people, you are always connected with them in a special way, regardless of other differences. I truly love these people and feel honored to be numbered as one of them.

Here are just a few that came, with their children (photo by Sally Meyer).
As fate would have it, I had agreed to speak at a Youth Conference fireside in Taylorsville, UT about miracles, sharing the events of May 16th, just yesterday, two days after the filming. I have spoken at firesides many times over the years, but it was a unique experience to speak when I felt like I had just relived the incident over the past week. The other rare opportunity was that I was speaking with George Throckmorton, a man who had worked as the lead Forensic Investigator in the Western U.S. for forty years, solving high profile cases, such as the Mark Hoffman case during that time. He had simply heard of the Cokeville incident a few years after it had occurred and when he found out the facts, he couldn't believe what had happened. Being a forensic expert, he was fascinated by the aspects of the bomb and how it didn't blow up and kill us all, so he began doing firesides about it.

Unfortunately, Nate took this picture and seems to have missed the main focus:)
 It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many times I share the story of what happened that day so many years ago, there is something so special about it. People are drawn to it because it is a story of hope and faith and miracles--and it really happened! I know it is still hard for some survivors to talk about--or even think about--but I hope that will change some day. I hope they too can arrive at a point where they feel peace, where the events of that day won't haunt them anymore, and where they can feel, as I do, immense gratitude and happiness for their lives and all the good that has happened since then. I know it doesn't happen overnight, but one day at a time. Maybe this movie will be one step in the healing process for some. That is my hope.

I know that for me, it added another layer of healing to my own soul, healing I didn't even know I needed. It also reminded me once again of how much I have to be grateful for--my life and my family and so much more. I guess that's why to me, this story is one the world needs to hear. It's a story that reminds us that God is real and that He answers the prayers of His children and that angels do help to rescue us when we need it.

I remember praying earnestly to God in that classroom that day, pleading for Him to save us, and promising Him that I would do my best to follow Him if He did. I have certainly made tons of mistakes since that promise, but I've never forgotten it. It has been a driving force in my life, constantly reminding me of what really matters, especially at times when the world seems to get me a little sidetracked. That's why May 16th, 1986 changed me forever--because I realized my life was not my own and that I owed everything to God who saved us that day.

I think Nate may have summed it up best in his journal entry he wrote just tonight and shared with me:
"My mom did a great job at the fireside and helped me realize that I am a miracle, she is a miracle, my whole family is a miracle because of what happened that day on May 16, 1986."

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Movin' On Up

My goodness, I don't think I have ever been so busy! I have longed to sit and write about everything going on, but already I have been getting up at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning and going to bed past midnight each night, so fitting time in to record our lives right now has just not been an option. Finally, today I have a small window of time to breathe, so here I am.

Four weeks ago our renters moved out. I am so very, very sad that I do not have a picture of the Wardens to keep forever. It's actually not that I didn't try--Smadi (the mother of the family) is simply a very particular woman and never felt she looked good enough to let me snap one of her or her family. I almost did it anyway, but then decided to be respectful of her wishes; thus, no picture. But, this dear family became such an integral part of our lives for nearly three years. Can you believe that? Three years!

Little did we know when we first welcomed this family from Alaska into our home to rent our upstairs for a year that it would turn into two years and nine months. Nor could we foresee that we would come to love this family, to serve them at times when they needed it and to learn from them. They were sort of a unique family. Paul was originally from Davis County and grew up here, but his wife, Smadi, was from Israel and grew up in very different circumstances. They had three boys (one of them was born while living here), and my kids adored their boys.

I remember when we first made the decision to move downstairs and rent our upstairs. Everyone thought we were crazy. I'm sure it seemed like we were. It made me realize how little we really know about the integral pieces of people's lives. We knew without any doubt that we were doing exactly what we needed to do at the time. We had just adopted Berkley and needed a plan to pay off the very large loan we had had to take out to make that happen. It had been a huge step of faith to move forward with an adoption, knowing we really didn't have the finances to do it, but also knowing it was absolutely what we were supposed to do. I remember telling Dan, "I don't know how we will pay off that loan and make things work, but I know that this baby is supposed to be in our family, and so I know the Lord will help us figure things out." And He did.

After praying and praying for answers, one night, while I was up in the middle of the night feeding our precious new baby, praying and pondering possible solutions, the answer came as clear as a bell. I knew exactly what we needed to do. I talked with Daniel the next day, and he agreed. The miracle to me, though, was when we approached our four other children and explained to them that we would need to move to our basement so that we could rent the main part of our home to strangers. We told them we would all have to sacrifice for a while so Berkley could be part of our family. There was never a complaint, only complete support. And when we asked who would be willing to fast and pray for a family to rent our home, they all participated. It was so humbling to me! That very night after we fasted the Wardens called.

So, we finished the last parts of our basement and moved down. It's funny to me now to think of how much smaller we were three years ago--literally! Berkley was a little five pound baby, and my other children were just smaller than they are now. We have grown so much in the nearly three years we've occupied our downstairs. We did without a dishwasher and more than one bathroom (which was hardest of all!). We sold nearly half of our belongings in a huge yard sale and learned to simplify our lives. It really was wonderful in so many ways! I learned I didn't need a huge house or a lot of things. I learned it was nice taking care of a smaller space for a while. I learned how nice it was to have our family so close (most of the time:). I learned how wonderful it feels to pay off debt!

When the year was over and the adoption was paid off, our renters wanted to stay longer. We couldn't believe how quickly the time had flown by. We decided we were fine downstairs and thought it would be good to pay off other debt now as well, so we told them they could stay. To get the kids motivated, we hung up a large sign in their bedroom that had the loan amount of our car (Honda Pilot) on it. Each time we made a large payment on it from the rent money, we would let them cut off some of the amount. It was always very exciting!

When we finally paid the whole car loan off, we celebrated by going to Golden Corral, something we NEVER do! The kids thought they had died and gone to heaven. It's funny how little things can mean so much. It was a fun goal to meet together as a family.

After that second year had passed, I was beginning to feel a desire to have more space. Berkley was now out of her crib and our kids were starting to outgrow the space we had, not to mention I was teaching preschool in our basement as well. I had to be pretty creative at times with our room arrangements, I tell you. I was so grateful to my older kids for not complaining about sharing rooms, especially Hallee and Nate, who were definitely old enough to demand some privacy.

Hallee, Nate, Regyn and Boston all shared one room--it was pretty crowded.

This is how they looked sleeping a lot of nights.

Berkley had her own very small room, which also was wall-to-wall furniture. 
We talked it over and finally decided we would give our renters one more year. One more year! I'm not going to lie--it seemed like an eternity at this point. I was feeling so cramped. I think it was the clutter I saw everywhere and just simply not having a place for things anymore. When winter came, I thought I would go mad. Here is just one example of what I mean--no space for snow clothes, that's for sure:

The last year was definitely the hardest. One bathroom for seven of us seemed inadequate a lot of the time, and I felt like I would burst at the seams sometimes just because I needed some space--somewhere I could think, some place I could go and not see clutter and stuff and just breathe. When May 15th came, and the renters handed us the keys to our house, I could hardly believe we would have all that space again. I wondered what it would really feel like. I opened the door and just walked around our empty upstairs, and I nearly cried. That probably sounds so silly and ridiculous, but after sacrificing for nearly three years, I just couldn't help but be grateful for what we would have again. It was so much different than I thought it would be. I thought it would be all about the fabulous kitchen and the three bathrooms and such, but that wasn't it at all in the end.

When we tore the wall down (we had built a wall at the top of the stairs for privacy) and it was just our family again living in our home, I realized how wonderful it was to just be US. We decided to paint a lot of rooms upstairs and replace some flooring, so we didn't actually move upstairs for nearly three weeks. I distinctly remember lying in my bed one morning after the wall had come down and hearing footsteps above me like usual, but when I realized they were our footsteps, instead of another family's, I literally got choked up. I hadn't realized how hard it had really been to share our space constantly with five other people, and when it could just be us again, that felt so intimate and so good. I also felt like I had been set free, which is another feeling I hadn't expected. It was like I had been a caged bird or something, but I guess there is just something about owning a space you couldn't ever live in or be in or go in without someone else's permission that just makes you feel so confined. When we could walk into the front door of our own home, it felt so amazing! I'm sure this all seems quite hard to understand, but I had to record this because I don't want to forget these feelings. I don't want to forget this experience and what it has taught me.

Now, for the past month, we have all worked very hard to make our home OURS again. It was so hard for me for the first couple of weeks to walk upstairs and notice it still smelled like the Wardens (not that they smelled bad--they didn't); the fact that it wasn't "our smell" in our home was so hard for me. I wanted our home to be ours again in every way. So, the kids worked right beside me every day they could to help me make it our home again.

I forgot to take "before" pictures of most of the rooms, but here are a few of the outcomes:

Hallee's Room:

Nate's Room (now that everyone has moved out):

Regyn's room (man, I wish I would have remembered a "before" picture on this one--it was SO different):

Boston's room:

Berkley's Room:

My bedroom: Before . . and After

The Living Room:

I stenciled that far wall where the curtains are, and that was a chore, let me tell you!

At the end of it all, I gathered the children together and we talked about our home and the changes we had made. And then we talked about what really made our home special, things that had nothing to do with paint or carpet or wall hangings or bed spreads. We talked about how to have the spirit in our home so that our home would be a safe place, a place where we would always want to be and even a place where our friends would want to be. We talked about loving and serving and forgiving each other better and more. I looked around at these children of mine, and I looked at Berkley, who was the cause of this whole scheme in the first place, and I felt so much love for each one of them and for her.

Was it worth it to live in our basement for two years and nine months? Absolutely!! It was an experience we will never forget, one we will always be grateful for. The Lord blessed us so much during that time. Am I glad it is over? Absolutely! I would be lying if I answered differently. It was time to get our home and our lives back. It was time to just be our family again and to have some room to breathe and grow and share again. I don't know if everyone is as sentimental about their homes as I am, but to me, a home becomes part of a family; at least ours has. I am so grateful for this home. It is a sacred place to me--a place of learning and love and mistakes and growth and so much more.

It feels great to finally have "moved on up." Now I hope our home will be a place where we welcome friends, family and guests for many years to come and a place where our own family learns to love each other and the Lord. That's what homes are all about.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


It's been a nearly a week since Berkley's birthday and I've been meaning to get to the computer to write about that, but it will just have to wait a bit longer because today is Mother's Day, and I feel drawn to sit down and write about mothers.

Maybe it's because, with everything going on in my life right now, I haven't felt like I've been the most stellar one lately. Or maybe it's because I've been missing my own mother a bit lately. Or maybe it's because motherhood is always on my mind--always forcing itself to the forefront of my mind and heart and soul so that I never forget how important it is, so that I never lay it aside for things that matter less.

To be perfectly honest, it's been a terrible day so far. My husband, in all his sweetness, set an alarm to get up early and fix a nice breakfast for me and clean up the kitchen mess from the night before, but as good intentions often do, his fell through due to the fatigue of the weak catching up to him. The alarm got turned off and he fell back in bed. My children woke me with excitement as they showered me with homemade gifts expressing love and adoration, but that was very short-lived as well. They hadn't even left my bedroom before they were fighting with each other. And the fighting continued throughout the entire morning.

One child had an especially rough day. By noon I'd spent most of the day discipling him and giving him pep talks (which apparently were completely ineffective). No one cooperated or worked to make it a day of peace and love, which are the only two things I really long for. It seemed that everyone was only out for himself and no one was willing to change. It definitely makes this mother stop to think how things ever got so out of control.

The crazy thing is I woke up very early this morning--like 3:30 a.m. early--and thought of how much I love being a mother. I thought of each one of my children individually and what that child has taught me. I tried to imagine how different my life would be if I hadn't had the opportunity of being a mother to these children of mine, and I even tried to think of how different each of these children would be if I hadn't been their mother. Would they be the same? Would they have the same strengths? The same weaknesses? Would they be developing the same talents? Was I really meant to mother these children??

Of course I can't answer these questions for sure, but as I pondered them for a while, I felt certain once again that I am meant to be their mother! Of course I am not perfect at it. I make mistakes every single day. And maybe some other woman would do some things differently--even better--but I do believe that I have what my children need. It's actually quite difficult to explain. I just know that they need ME. Even with all my flaws, all my craziness and all my weaknesses, they need me. They need my faults--my temper, my nagging, my panic when things seem overwhelming, so that they can learn to be wiser than I am.  They also need my strengths--my unique sense of humor, my strong desire to do what is right no matter what, my burning testimony of the gospel of Jesus Jesus Christ, and I think most importantly--my dedication to motherhood, because the truth is, no matter how badly I blow it again and again, I never stop trying to be the best mother I can be to these kids that I love so very much. I never stop trying to learn, never stop praying for inspiration, never stop giving it my best effort, never stop hoping, never stop asking for forgiveness. And I just hope, when it's all said and done, that it will be enough.

So maybe today was a horrible day. And maybe tomorrow won't be much better. But I just have to keep working at it. Days like today make me feel like throwing my hands in the air and surrendering, but what good would that do? It certainly won't help my children learn to love and respect each other. It won't help Boston through this difficult stage he is going through. It won't sanctify me and help me learn tolerance and patience and long-suffering, and it won't help our family grow and stretch in all the ways we need right now. And so, like mothers do, I must keep going. I must be strong. I must try harder, pray longer, love deeper and hope stronger that a metamorphosis will occur.

I've cringed every time someone has chanted "Happy Mother's Day!" today, feeling anything but happy, holding back the tears that threatened to burst like a dam down my hot cheeks. So maybe this Mother's Day wasn't the happiest I've experienced; I'm still so grateful to know I am a mother to five children I love with all my heart and that that little fact will never, ever change. Motherhood is the most difficult thing I've ever done or will ever do, but it is also the one that matters most, the one that changes me most, the one that lasts the longest, and so it is absolutely worth it.

Besides, at the end of every day--even the most difficult ones--I am always grateful to know I am a mother!

Mother's Day 2014. We look a lot happier than we really are:). Good thing pictures can be deceiving!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Family Culture--Monthly Family Goals

Holy Moly--where have I been? Life is flying by, and I have not taken the time to sit at the computer and write about it. Not much time now, either, but I am forcing my world to stop for a few moments to record something that matters more than laundry or dishes or even preschool calendars.

One really important concept I learned from a Power of Moms retreat I went to in Park City a couple of years ago was the idea of developing a family culture within our very own little families. I had always known family traditions were important, but this takes things much further than that. It's the idea that children need as many rituals and routines as possible to bind them to us and create family togetherness that will really last. It's more than just holiday traditions, although those are certainly an important part of family culture. It's weekly routines, monthly observances, birthday traditions, and so on that create a bond in families and also a sense of security and love that will last forever.

When I first began digesting this concept, I realized it was something our family could definitely improve on, and I was excited about it. I started brainstorming ideas that would be practical (after all, traditions are repeated, so you want to be careful about what you start) and meaningful and fun. I must say from the start, I am not the party type of mom by any means, so I had to keep reminding myself to stay true to my strengths and my priorities and yet also try to go out on a limb just a little. In the end, it didn't take any sort of monumental effort, and the results have definitely been worth it. We started a few things that have really made a difference in our home, things my children have especially enjoyed.

One thing I brainstormed is to have a monthly family goal (I admit, this was mostly due to the fact I felt we needed to work on some behavior in our home, and I was trying to figure out a positive way to do it). I started by buying a chalkboard. I simply write a goal on the chalkboard and then we all work very hard on improving ourselves in that particular area of emphasis (ha! ha!). At the end of the month, the person who has worked the hardest on the goal and made the most progress gets to choose what family activity we put on the calendar the next month. Oh, I forgot to mention, at the beginning of the year we brainstormed ideas of activities we would like to do together and listed them out. We cross them off one by one as they are chosen by the winner each month.

I can't remember what January's goal was, but Boston won and chose to go swimming at the Surf n' Swim. As fate would have it, our ward had it's annual Surf n' Swim night that month on the very night we were planning to go, so the whole ward joined us for our family event! Ha! Here are a few blurry pictures taken from my phone.

You've gotta love it when snacks are provided for your activity!:)

It might be time to get Berkley a new swimming suit. Last year's model doesn't quite cover her tummy.

This was February's goal.

Hallee won and chose to go out to eat at Pepperbelly's. This is a definite rarity for our family, let me tell you. We NEVER eat out at restaurants (unless you consider drive-thru Wendy's a restaurant experience). I wasn't sure my children would even know how to behave. It was so much fun, though! And the food was amazing! Just take a look at that tostada a few pictures down. Yum!! Good thing we shared that humongous thing!

The goal for March was . . .

We have a definite problem with this in our household. Honestly, we could have this goal every month. Regyn won and chose to go bowling. Again, not something we usually do. I think that's what makes this work so well--we do things out of the ordinary so they seem extra special. Unfortunately, I had been feeling sick for days (and still am, darn it) and hardly had the energy to get myself into the car and go to the bowling alley. Therefore, I only watched the bowling--and took pictures of course, which was the most fun I'd had in a while.

They look pretty serious about this bowling thing, don't they?:)

We kept having to tell Berkley she couldn't bowl. She just didn't understand why.

Dan was a pretty good bowler and took his turns seriously. He tried to tell the kids the proper way to bowl, but to no avail. I saw the strangest bowling techniques ever! They were not interested in doing it right--they just wanted to have fun.

 Nate threw the ball down really hard and with a side spin. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before.

Nate must have actually knocked down a few pins!:)

Regyn was a little cutie. Her left-handed bowling wasn't too bad. I think she took second place, behind Dad.

Berkley only wished she could join the fun. She finally took off and started playing on the other "stuff" at Boondocks. When we finally left, she was kicking and screaming that she didn't want to go. That was the un-fun part of the evening.

Boston was adorable. He took bowling very seriously (kind of like his Dad). It took his ball forever to reach the pins, but he did great!

Hallee was definitely the worst bowler!! Ha! Love the girl, but bowling is definitely not her game.

Nate finally gave up on regular bowling and did it "granny style" on his last ball of the night. I was laughing so hard. It was pretty effective, too, I might add.

His antics were hilarious the whole night. I just kept thinking, what a kid. Man, I love that kid! In fact, I kept thinking how glad I was I hadn't stayed home and gone to bed like I had wanted to, even though I was tired and miserably sick. It was so wonderful just basking in the fun of seeing my family enjoying each other for the evening.

 Here was the final score at the end. Those are positively the worst bowling scores I've ever seen! But, we sure had fun!!

And the goal for April is . . .

I don't know yet who will win or what activity they will choose, but I'm looking forward to it, no matter what it is. I firmly believe these are the moments that will be carved in my children's memories forever; at least, I hope they are. I hope they remember we did things like this as a family more than they remember me hollering at them for not putting their shoes away. Mostly, I hope they remember how good it felt to be together, just soaking each other up. That's the best part of developing a strong family culture--the feelings of love and unity and happiness and security. It's pretty hard to find any of those things out in the world any more, but here at home. . . well, I hope they will always be found here.