Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts featured by popular lifestyle blogger Design Mom

I think it’s about time for a Random Thoughts post! Here’s what’s on my mind right about now.

Random Thoughts:

– This is a funny week at our house. It’s unlike any other that I can remember. On Sunday, we dropped off Maude, Olive, Oscar, Betty, June, and their cousin Henry, at the airport, so they could fly out to Cousins Week. June turned 8 in May, and this is the first year she’s old enough to go.

I always feel so emotional sending them off. I stand there at security, waving until I can’t see them anymore. It feels so different when I fly off to a conference, versus sending them off into the world. Do you feel the same way?

– After we dropped them off, Ben Blair and I realized this was the first time we’d ever both been home with all the kids out of town! Could it really be the first time? It’s hard to believe, but we can’t remember ever having this happen before.

Have you ever experienced this? Being home with all the kids out of town? What do you like to do when you have the house to yourself? Or as a couple?

I asked this on Instagram and people had the best ideas. Things like no cooking, sleeping in, and hanging out naked. Hah!

– The other strange part of this week is that on Thursday, the kids will fly home (Cousins Week goes Sunday to Thursday), but Ben and I will be gone! Early on Thursday morning, we’re heading out of town on a Pioneer Trek with Mormon teens (14-18 age range) from around the Bay Area.

I’m sure it will feel odd for the kids to arrive home to an empty house. I’m so grateful for Maude — I know she’ll do a great job taking care of everybody.

In case you’re curious, Pioneer Trek is an interesting Mormon tradition that happens every four years in some areas of the country, and doesn’t happen at all in other areas. It really depends on whether or not the local leaders are up for it. Basically, it’s a 3-day re-enactment of the Mormon Pioneers who crossed the Plains by foot back in the 1840s.

Everyone participating puts on Pioneer clothing, and pulls handcarts along a trail. In our case, we’ll be walking along a section of the same trail that the actual Mormon pioneers walked. But depending on where you live, that’s not always possible. Trekkers sleep under the stars, they learn Pioneer songs and dances and stories. They try to imagine what life was like for the early Mormons.

The kids get grouped in “families” and Ben and I will be a Ma & Pa for one of the groups. I haven’t been on a Trek since I was a teenager and only have vague memories of it, and Ben hasn’t been at all, so we’re not totally sure what to expect. From what I can tell, our job will mostly be cheerleading the kids in our group, and making sure they get fed, and stay healthy and motivated. : ) We’re wondering if it will feel like a pilgrimage.

Our daughter Olive will be on the trek too! She’s flying home from Cousin’s Week on Wednesday, a day early, so that she can head out with us on Thursday morning.

Which means, Ben and I hanging out at the house with no kids, is really just happening Monday and Tuesday. Our week-without-kids is really two days. Hah! And of course, we’re trying to get a week’s worth of work done in 3 days, since we’re heading out on Thursday. So we’re not really taking advantage of our two kid-less days as much as we should be. Oh well. It is what it is.

– We saw two movies recently that I keep thinking about. One is called Sorry to Bother You. There’s some sort of awesome renaissance in Oakland filmmaking going on, and this movie is part of it. We watched a late viewing, at 10:00 PM, at Oakland’s famed Grand Lake Theater. And after the show, at midnight, there was a Q&A with the director, Boots Riley. (A midnight Q&A feels so Oakland!)

The movie was fascinating and unpredictable; social commentary mixed with lots of humor, and… surprises. I hope you get to see it. It’s one of those movies where it feels like the director is finally getting to make the feature length film of their dreams.

The other movie we saw recently is the Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor. Have you seen it? It’s so well done, and made me pretty emotional. His advocacy for children was simply remarkable. I kept thinking: Who will be our next Mr. Rogers? And I couldn’t help but imagine how distressed he would be about what’s happening to children at the border.

It’s a movie I hope every parent and teacher of young children will watch.

– Have I told you the latest Alt Summit news? It’s a landmark year for Alt Summit. Our 2019 flagship conference will mark 10 years and 15 sold-out events.

To celebrate, I decided we should go BIG. So we’re doubling the time frame with six days of content instead of three. We’re tripling the size with 2000+ attendees. And we’re quadrupling the locations with classes and sponsor spaces at four beloved Palm Springs hotspots — the Parker, the Ace Hotel, the Saguaro, and the Riviera.

We’re calling it Alt Oasis — a week long retreat to inspire your whole year. It will be held on March 24th-29th, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. And tickets go on sale this Wednesday, July 18th.

It’s for sure the biggest, scariest thing I’ve ever done professionally. And for weeks now, I’ve felt that pit in my stomach I get when I take a big risk. Last year’s tickets sold out in under two hours. Will the same thing happen this year? We’ll find out on Wednesday. Wish me luck.

– Speaking of risks, I’m feeling the same nervousness about the podcast too. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your feedback last week. The latest progress? Today, the last piece of equipment arrived, and I’ve got everything set up. Don’t laugh, but my consultant recommended recording in my closet because it’s a small space and the clothes will absorb the sound instead of echo it.

Next, I’ll be sending in recording samples to my sound engineer (hopefully today), so that he can make sure everything sounds amazing, and help me tweak things if it doesn’t.

– We heard from Ralph in Colombia today that he’s been deathly ill. I’m so worried about him. Missionaries tend to get in self-sacrifice mode, and I worry they he won’t take time to get healthy, that he’ll push himself too hard, and that he won’t see a doctor. He’s six weeks from coming home, and suddenly it just seems like six weeks is too long. You, know? Like we’ve made it almost two years, but now I’ve hit my limit. I just want him home.

[ UPDATE: Great news: Ralph seems to be on the mend! We got a call from the mission office. One of his best friends there called us, and told us he’d talked with Ralph and that Ralph’s in good spirits, feeling better, and even cracking jokes. : ) Thank you so much for the well wishes! ]

– This summer, we’ve packed in more lessons and activities than we’ve ever tried before. The kids have been experiencing first swim meets, first drum lessons, first skate board camps. June learned to climb our trees. Olive is taking sewing classes. Maude trained to be a barista. It’s been a full, interesting summer so far. Busy in a good way.

That’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to my random thoughts, or you can leave your own random thoughts in the comments. I always love to hear what’s on your mind.

P.S. — More random thoughts.

33 thoughts on “Random Thoughts”

  1. I really love your random thoughts posts. They are my favorite! My heart absolutely just sank reading about Ralph’s health though. Sending well wishes his way and cannot wait for y’all to be reunited back in Oakland soon. Also, wishing you a fun and memorable time on the Pioneer Trek!

    1. That’s my question too. If he’s deathly ill, surely there’s a way to emergency evac him out or something?

    2. Certainly that would be totally fine with me. And it’s not unusual for missionaries to head home when they’re seriously ill.

      But I don’t even know how sick he is yet. And it’s not as simple as calling his cell phone to check on him. I’m still trying to find out his current status, or figure out if he’s on the mend or getting worse.

  2. A daughter who brews fancy coffees? Sign me up.

    I am so sorry to hear about Ralph. I cannot imagine the anxiety that must leave you with. Is there ever a point where the folks organizing the mission make the call that a person is too ill to remain and must be sent home? Or because missions are taken by young adults, it’s up to them to decide?

    My random thoughts have everything to do with moving. We are in the throes of the closing process on selling our house. We’re waiting with baited breath to see if the buyer has any issues now that the inspection has occurred and waiting to see what our home has been appraised for…I didn’t realize how vulnerable the seller feels in this situation. I just want our home to sell so we can move in time for our kids to start school in their new school. The timeline is SO short. I am hopeful to do some final walkthroughs on houses and make our own offer on a house, so we can enter the dance from the buyer’s role as well. This is the first time we are looking for houses while having children in our family: gosh, picking a home is hard enough without the weight of schools added to the mix. Your previous posts about “good” schools has helped my mental state about that immensely. I’ve reread those posts several times in the house hunt process.

    All that to say, your posts about relocating and schools and whatnot are helping me out a lot these days, even though we are only moving about 20 minutes away. Thanks for that.

    1. Moving — even across town — can feel so traumatic. There are like a million tiny decisions you have to make in a very short time. It’s hard!

      I’m so glad my blog posts have helped you out. I really appreciate you saying so.

      I’m sending happy moving thoughts!

      1. I must say gabby- that your posts about “Good Schools” has really helped me several times since you wrote it. I also follow several “urban missionaries” on instagram (not LDS) who talk about how important it is to have their kids go to schools with a variety of children not isolate themselves into “rich Christian enclaves”. It has been so helpful with me deciding on my kids schooling. I love helpful thoughtful women- and you are definitely one of these!

  3. I hope Ralph recovers quickly and finishes his mission strong. He will be in your arms before you know it. And won’t it be interesting to get to know this young man who will undoubtedly have changed so much in his two years away?

    Ha! I remember the first time our boys went off to visit cousins leaving us home alone. Before they even landed we had the porch ripped off the house and their bunkbeds dismantled. I did a refresh on their room with new beds and we expanded the porch to four times its size. And we got a new puppy to surprise them! All while working full time so the two weeks flew by!

    1. My husband is of the dinner out and a movie when our daughter is away. I’m much more like you, now is the time to tackle those projects that we can’t do when we have to worry about putting three meals on the table, entertaining (or at least supervising the safety of) a kid and bedtimes. Rearranging rooms, taking apart furniture, deep cleaning the kitchen–all the stuff that drags out for weeks when my daughter is around, but can be done in a weekend when I/we can focus.

      I hope all turns out okay for Ralph! This has to be a frightening time, but hopefully he’s already on the upswing.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing! Alt Summit sounds so exciting! I’m betting those tickets will sell out just as quickly as last year!

    I’m keeping Ralph, and you, in my prayers. I know how this feels– my daughter is leaving for Italy next month, for the entire school year, and all I want her to do is take good care of herself! This past March, on her last day of spring break she had to have emergency surgery. I thank God every day that she was still at home, and not on the plane, or in the little town where she attends college (which doesn’t have a hospital).

    I hope you can breathe and enjoy a few days of quiet time.

  5. I read all of this with a smile and then those two words…Deathly Ill? Can they not force him to go to the doctor or hospital? My first reaction is to want Ralph to come home early. The most important thing is his well being. I’m thinking of and worrying with you.

    1. “The most important thing is his well being.”

      I fully agree. This is one instance where the strict communication rules on the mission are stressing me out. I feel like I’m working with partial info here.

      It’s so hard to know what’s going on.

      He wrote yesterday afternoon and said:

      Dudes, I almost died this week.
      Had the most gnarly virus.
      Sickest I’ve been so far.
      Imagine your entire body hurts, you have a cold, it’s really hot, and you are abnormally exhausted 24/7.
      But I think it’s finally coming to an end.


      Ralph is not one to say things like “I almost died this week” flippantly, so you can imagine, it freaked me out. And he says it’s finally coming to an end, which is great, but I need more info before I can trust that it’s true and that he’s really getting better.

      I mean, I’ve lived much longer than Ralph, and I still find it hard to judge my own health sometimes. It can be hard to know if I need to see a doctor or if I just need to ride something out. So I’d love some third-party reassurance that he’s actually getting better and there’s not cause for concern.

      We’ve called the mission office in Bogota. Ralph is currently working in an area (not near Bogota) called Bucaramanga. When we hear back, we’ll make sure they have someone check on him.

      Hopefully he’s fine. And thanks for your note.

    2. Well, there’s a certain common thread here. Have you ever read about the handcart pioneers? The Mormon church didn’t care one bit at that time about its followers physical well-being (“God will take care of you, if you set off across the Great Amercian Desert without supplies or tools!”), and it seems like maybe not a whole lot has changed, as far as that goes. Pawns are expendable, you know.

      1. Are you suggesting that Mormon missionaries are treated as expendable? That seems like a bizarre claim to me. Do you have a particular story in mind? A news article?

        I gotta say Anna, your hate for Mormons (in this comment, and on previous posts) catches me off guard. I mean, lots of people hate Mormons, but I imagine they generally stay away from blogs written by Mormons. Is there a back story I should know about?

      2. You could look at it that way but probably most people at the time had no where else to go since they were literally exterminated from one state, people had been murdered, tarred and feathered, homes had been burned. It’s true that lots of them didn’t know what they were doing but that is also true of people on the Oregon trail and the gold rush. It’s hard for us to imagine now with our gps and air conditioned vehicles ( I’m not being sarcastic). I can get frustrated being late somewhere when I’ve never been there before but pioneering the way they did is another game! Though pioneering has been romanticized in literature like a grand adventure I’m pretty sure they knew the risks! Interestingly, the persecution of the Mormons centered on many of the things we’re talking about now: voting rights, blacks, immigrant rights and refugees. Considering how they were treated by the states and the US government it’s surprising they wanted to become a state! (I’m aware of faults and mistakes made by leaders. Not saying those things didn’t happen or that the Mormons as a people were perfect. Just pointing out that the people themselves more than likely caught onto the “spirit of the age”—expansionism and pioneering)

      3. Dear Gabby, I know Bucaramanga and be reassured, there are excellent doctors there, hospitals, etc. It’s not a small town, there is an excellent infrastructure. Keep us posted of course, Best.

  6. I love these random thoughts posts as well! I’m curious as to how things are coming along with the potential move back to France.

    Also, thoughts and prayers for Ralph and safe travels and fun times for cousins week!

  7. My husband and I have been on trek twice (once as a Ma/Pa in a traditional stake youth trek in Wyoming and once, just last summer, in charge of a ward, family trek near Logan). My best simple suggestions are–carry Jolly Ranchers or something similar. Treks are notoriously hot and dry and with long stretches of time spent just walking. Sucking on a piece of candy was great for myself and was a great motivator for those around me. Also, I don’t know if you will have access to coolers, but mandarin oranges are also great for a healthy, hydrating treat. Since I’ve done it two different ways, I feel slightly qualified to say the ward, family trek was way better. Logistics were way easier and any cooperation/discipline issues were taken care of by parents, instead of leaders. It turned into a 3 day ward camping trip with just enough “we can do hard things” to justify the ridiculous amounts of fun we had! Who knew trek could be this much fun–such great bonding time for the ward. And it was so great getting to trek with all of my kids, not just those 14-18 at the time. Also, maybe the best part, is that when all ages are invited you don’t have to do it every 4 years–you can stretch out the time frame. So, in case you ever get put in charge of trek, or anyone asks, just know there’s different ways to pull it off. PS–I should mention we even had catered food brought in to our trek last summer so nobody had to work that hard. See what I mean by our ward having a lot of fun? And people are still talking about that fun a year later. So I’m chalking that up in the “win” column. Have fun this weekend!! I’ve had two sons serve missions recently and I also felt like those last weeks/months were a killer. “Just come home already!” I kept saying in my head. My oldest was in the Congo and dealing with/living in a civil war zone those last couple of months. And it was kinda scary–but maybe mostly for me. You’ll make it through…and then be prepared to be blown away at what a great young man Ralph has become. Having a missionary come home is a little bit like having a new baby in the house. Those first few days they come home are such a unique and wonderful time. Truly one of the best times for your family. I’m so excited for you to get that experience! You’ll know what I mean very soon!

  8. my sister became very very ill on her mission to chile. she had about 7-8 weeks left and her district leader basically said “the Lord will keep you strong and healthy to finish out your mission” and she truly believed that as well. so she didn’t go to the doctor, instead choosing to pray and have administered blessings to be made well. She got more and more ill until she ended up in a 23-day coma. She has permanent hearing loss and a compromised immune system.
    If Ralph is truly “deathly ill” as you write, please contact his mission president and make sure he gets medical attention. 6 weeks is not worth a potential lifetime disability.

    1. Oh my gosh, yes. You have totally named my fear— that he’s seriously sick but feels like he shouldn’t bother anyone, or that he should just try to pray it away. Ugh.

      I responded to his message right away, trying to capture my most worried mom voice, saying:

      Please take time off to get healthy. See a doctor. Do whatever you need. Prioritize your health over missionary work!!!

      But I haven’t heard back from him. I’m waiting on an update from the mission office.

  9. “Like we’ve made it almost two years, but now I’ve hit my limit. I just want him home.” And these are my same sentiments. And the email waiting game, ugh. I’ve recently gone through that too and probably have made a name for myself (not a pretty one, probably) in the mission office as I email the secretary often. I don’t really care at this point as my missionary has 4 weeks left to come home from Vietnam. I try not to worry, but come on, we’re human and we’re moms!

  10. I updated the post, but I’ll comment here in case you missed it:

    Great news: Ralph seems to be on the mend! We got a call from the mission office. One of his best friends there called us, and told us he’d talked with Ralph ,and that Ralph is in good spirits, feeling better, and even cracking jokes. : ) Thank you so much for the well wishes! It means a lot.

  11. I’m so glad to hear Ralph is doing better. How stressful to have that happen in a situation where you have limited ability to communicate with your kid.

    Your summer sounds busy and fun. As always, I feel like it’s passing too fast, especially since we’ve got the college application process looming this fall. That’s already on my mind – I’m trying to encourage my daughter to do as much as she can over the summer so her fall is less frenzied. I don’t think she’s taking the bait!

  12. I saw Sorry to Bother You just last week and STILL think it’s the weirdest movie I’ve ever seen, which is saying a lot lol

    I loved the message and it was so creative and artistic there’s no getting around that

    I just feel weird saying I liked it ha

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