Monday, June 25, 2012

The Great Saratoga Smokeout

Thursday, June 21st, 2012: Mason had a dentist appointment in the Highland area, which is a good 20 minutes northeast of Saratoga Springs. As we left his appointment in the middle of the afternoon, he pointed to the hills on the western skyline, and asked about the smoke. I could see that it was likely a brush fire but it looked to be a long ways out. I reassured the kids that it was obviously a small fire and far away from us, so there was nothing to worry about. The smoke was pretty light in color, at the very top of the hills, and not covering much area. As we approached Saratoga again, however, I noticed that the fire was quite a bit closer than it had appeared from a distance. It looked to be directly west of our home. It was still at the top of the hills though and still a very "small" fire.

That night, I went to play Bunko at a friend's house. No one even mentioned that little fire. But as we left Bunko, it was dark. It was then that we first saw the flames. At that point, we could tell that little fire was not so little anymore. Here is the picture I took with my phone, as I left Bunko that night.

As you can see, the flames are huge, but the fire was still at the very top of the hills and quite small. We talked about it a little before heading home, but no one was bothered by it at this point. I got online and read an article about it on The article said that the fire had been started by target shooters (in 100 degree weather with record dry conditions? Really?) and had burned almost 600 acres. It said that they had the perimeter under control but they were letting the middle of the fire burn out to lower the risk of future fires in the area.

Friday, June 22nd, 2012: In the morning, I looked out the window to see what had happened overnight, or if I would be able to see the flames in the daylight. The information I had read the previous day left me with the impression that I would probably awaken to find all was well. But I was shocked when I looked out my window and it looked like this:

As you can see, the fire had obviously spread and was no longer at the top of the hill. It had burned a much larger area and had moved much closer to our neighborhoods. The light smoke from the day before was gone and this dark, black cloud hung over us. My neighbor showed up at my door, asking if I thought we should start packing, just in case. I told her no, there were plenty of neighborhoods higher than us, and I'm sure they'd be evacuated first and we would hear about it in plenty of time. I told her that since we were across Redwood Rd, a major road, I thought the chances of the fire jumping Redwood were very slim and we were probably totally safe.

I got back online to read an update on the fire. The tone of the article had completely changed, now saying that the fire was out of control due to 20-30mph winds all night long, and had over tripled in size throughout the night. This was the first moment I thought that maybe the fire could be dangerous after all. I started getting texts from friends in the Salt Lake area asking if we were okay. They were buried in smoke clear up there and were worried about us. The smoke, as you can see from the photo, was actually going up and over us, so the air here was fine, even though it was getting bad throughout the rest of the valley.

As the day progressed, things got scarier. Evacuations started in Eagle Mountain not long after this photo. The fire, it seemed, was headed towards a building that housed explosives. It was within a mile, but they were doing everything they could to divert the fire from the path of that building. Several neighborhoods in Eagle Mountain were evacuated. For those not from this area, the fire was burning along the mountain line that runs directly between Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs. Eagle Mountain is on the West side of these mountains, while Saratoga Springs is on the East. I headed outside where I visited with some neighbors about the situation. At this point, the fire was less than a mile from homes and totally unpredictable. We noticed as we were talking, that the wind was blowing Northeast- directly toward our homes. It was obvious, even from just looking at it, that it was moving quickly, and moving right toward us. I was checking KSL regularly to see what the situation was. Within a few hours, they began evacuating all of our neighboring neighborhoods in Saratoga Springs, clear to Redwood Rd. My neighborhood runs right up to, and touches, Redwood Rd. We are on the far East side of the neighborhood, maybe a quarter mile off Redwood Rd. So at this point, we realized that the evacuation line was less than 1/4 mile from our homes. At this same time, the smoke finally began descending on top of us. The ash and smoke were very heavy and we knew we shouldn't be outside for long. Our neighbors had friends and family who had been evacuated that had stopped by and updated us on what the situation was up in their neighborhood. The flames were getting very close. The smoke was terrible, and there were very worried. We headed back indoors. Soon, things got loud. Because we live right on Utah Lake, the choppers were flying from the fire, directly over our homes and refilling in the lake, before heading back to the fire to dump the water.

It was amazing to watch how quickly they would refill (maybe 30 seconds), head back to the fire, dump, and be back- all within just a couple of minutes. But at this point, besides the noise of the choppers, it was like a ghost town outside. The air quality was too poor for anyone to be playing. Where there are usually dozens of small children playing, there was only greenish, ashy air, and dead silence. It was very unsettling. The news was now reporting the fire to have burned over 4,000 acres and continued to grow. Many of our neighbors had their vehicles packed, just in case we were evacuated, as all the surrounding neighborhoods had been.

This photo was taken from my neighbor's rooftop on Friday.

Dan left work early on Friday to come home and check on us. The roads leading into our neighborhood had been closed, and he had to stop and provide his address to the policeman, so they could verify that he wasn't heading back into an evacuated area.

No one slept well that night. I could feel the pressure in my chest from even the short time I had been outside. My kids all smelled like smoke, as did my basement. My eyes were burning, my throat was scratchy, and we knew we really couldn't leave the house. We still didn't know if there would be a knock at our door in the middle of the night telling us we needed to get out.

A plane flying through the smoke.

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012: The first thing I did upon awakening was look out the window. To my surprise, things looked much better. The smoke had somewhat died down, the fire didn't appear to have moved any closer to us, and the air wasn't green and thick with ash as it had been the previous day. I once again checked the news reports. At that time, they said that once the winds had died down, the firefighters were able to get the fire under control to an extent. It was 30% contained and seemed to be moving laterally- north and south- directly between the Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs communities, instead of toward one or the other. This was great news. The evacuations had not yet been lifted for those who had been evacuated, but it didn't appear there would be any more. We were relieved to know that we were likely out of danger.

Sunday, June 24th, 2012: All evacuations were lifted and those that were displaced were able to return home. The miracle of it all was, with 6,000 acres burned, the flames came with 20 feet of some homes- 20 feet. That's like from one end of a room to another. Some came that close to losing their homes. What a miracle that they were able to get control of the fire before it touched any of them.

As of today, the air quality is still poor and we are being told not to exercise outside for the rest of the week. All our kids Tball games and cheer practices were cancelled for the week because of that. The fire still burns but it is now under control. We feel very blessed that our community came out of this situation without any loss of life, or any losses of homes. We know we owe much of that gratitude to the brave men and women who fought so bravely to save our homes and protect our families. This picture is so touching (it is not mine- it was submitted to KSL by a viewer) to those of us who were protected by these heroes. Thank you to each of them.

Firefighters try to get some rest before heading back to fight the raging fire once more.

So thank you to all of those who were concerned about us and kept checking in to see how we were doing. Thank you to all those who offered a home, a room or a couch for us if we were evacuated. Thank you to everyone who offered prayers in our behalf. It appears your prayers were heard. We are safe and sound, and home.

*A quick thank you as well to my neighbors who supplied some of these photos. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Our baby is 4!

It's hard to believe that 4 years have passed since the birth of our last little baby! On June 20th, 2012, we celebrated our sweet Jayden's 4th birthday. I can't remember any of our children ever being as excited about a birthday at this age as Jayden was. He would ask each day, "How many more darks?" and was counting down. He couldn't wait to turn 4!

In order to properly celebrate his awesomeness, I want to first talk a little about Jayden. Then, I'll give a rundown of how we spent the special day.

Jayden is the baby of our family in every way. Each member of our family does their part to take care of him and he eats it up. While Jaxon is fiercely independent, Jayden loves the attention of being the baby and is more likely to ask for help, even when he's perfectly capable of doing it himself. He loves to snuggle. He is quiet, shy and sweet as pie. He falls asleep in random places at random times. Almost every week, he sleeps through primary. At the beginning of class, he will climb on the lap of his teacher and fall asleep. They will lay him down in the corner and he sleeps through a good portion of class. It's so cute.

Jayden is a bit of a computer addict. He loves anything with a screen. He asked for a Nintendo DS for his birthday but that wasn't going to happen. We have to limit him as it is or he would play the Wii or computer all day long. He enjoys talking trash to his dad and brothers when they play games. It's quite humorous when the older boys in the family ask for his help getting past a difficult part of a game. It's not uncommon to hear him come out of his usual shell when he's playing Wii by saying things like, "Dat what you get suckaaaa!" We can't help but laugh since he is usually so quiet and sweet.

Jayden has his dad wrapped around his cute little finger. Dan has commented often about how he wishes Jayden would stay little, just like he is now. Jayden also tells me often how he loves me sooo much- but he loves Mason more :) Mason and Jayden share a special bond and are two peas in a pod. Unless Mason is at school, you will rarely find one of them without the other. We are so blessed to have our beautiful baby boy in this family. 

Now back to the festivities!  As I mentioned before, Jayden asked for a Nintendo DS for his birthday. Instead, he got a brand new bike. If he wants to be a part of this family, he's going to have to stay active ;-)

It's  16" of bright green (his favorite color) Hot Wheels goodness, fully equipped with a fake speedometer and a handle bar you can twist and pretend to rev, while making "vroom vroom" noises. Suh-weet! Now if we can only convince our timid little guy to ditch the training wheels so he can keep up with his dare devil brother!

After Jayden got his bike, we piled into the car and headed to Trafalga for a day of family fun. It was ridiculously hot outside, but we had a fantastic time. Here are some pics of our fun day:

At Trafalga, the kids climbed the rock wall, rode several rides, drove the bumper cars and played laser tag. They had such a great time. After we left, they started asking when we can go back- and since we have season passes, we were able to honestly say, "Soon."

Around 6pm, we headed home with a tired brood of kiddos, where we celebrated some more with cake and ice cream. Jayden requested a Spider-man cake and unlike the DS, this was a request we were happy to grant. Our cute neighbor, Carson Wycherly, came knocking at the door just as we were about to start cake and ice cream, so we invited him in to join the party. He is a good friend with both boys and they were happy to have him over to celebrate.

After we all had cake and ice cream, we rushed Jayden off to his very first Tball practice! It was such a busy day for our little guy! He enjoyed every second of it- which is fitting since we have enjoyed every second of him. Happy birthday little guy! We adore you!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

15 Years

This is the picture that went with our wedding announcement. I only have the teeny tiny file uploaded so it's really poor quality.
May 31st 1997- I woke up with a migraine and took some medicine to help with the pain. Because we had to be to the temple so early in the morning for the 8:30am ceremony, I didn't have time for breakfast.  My dad ran back to the house to get the ring- because I forgot that little detail. The rest of the story has been told many times (how I puked on my dress, how there was a tornado that day...) but as entertaining as that all is, it isn't what matters. That day was the start of everything we have built for the past 15 years, and everything we'll continue building throughout eternity.
A year after we were married- our trip to Lake Powell- May 1998
On May 31st, Daniel and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary. I could write a sappy blog about how amazing it has all been and how perfect everything is, but those who know and love us know that that isn't the reality of how our story has been written. The past 15 years have mirrored our wedding day in so many ways. Not much has been perfect. Sometimes one of us was ready for what was coming next while the other one drug their feet. Sometimes one of us- or both of us- forgot what was important. And yes, there has been plenty of puking ;-)  We've been through some really rough stuff. It's been touch and go for us at times. But here we are, in a great place. We are happy and in love and we have a beautiful family. I love our story. I love it because life isn't always about everything magically falling into place. Sometimes life is about fighting hard for what matters most. And fight we have ;-) We've gotten where we are with blood, sweat, tears, prayer, faith, and a lot of love and hard work- and it has been worth every single minute.

The birth of our first baby- Mason Wade- October 1999

Savannah's blessing day- October 2003
Family picture- December 2003
Family picture- June 2005

Looking back and reflecting on the past 15 years- all the good and bad- I would do it again in a second. The beauty of our story far outweighs our struggles. We are surrounded by so many blessings and so much joy. We have never been as happy as we are today. I don't expect the next 15 years to be a cake walk. We're knee deep in kids who will soon be teenagers. We're still going to be us- stubborn, spoiled and completely opposite in every way. We will have good days and bad days, good months and bad months, and most likely, good years and bad years. It is marriage after all. But what I know is this- I married the love of my life and I am incredibly lucky. There is not a person on this earth that I would rather be married to. He makes me laugh every day. He makes me love him more every day. And every time I look into those bright blue eyes, I still get butterflies.  Every memory we have made together is a piece in our own unique story. So while it hasn't been all rainbows and sunshine, it has been OUR story. It is beautiful.
In front of the Emperor's palace in Japan- 2004.
Jaxon's blessing day- Feb 2007
Jayden's birth- June 2008

Daniel, thank you for the past 15 years- and thanks in advance for the next 1,000. Thank you for loving me enough to see through the weaknesses, to stick by me when it's not easy, and to laugh sometimes, even when I'm not funny. Thank you for building a life with me. Thank you for teaching me so many things, and making me a better person. Thank you for trudging with me, hand in hand, through the mud, to the other side, where we have found so much happiness and true joy. We've made it here- together- and I love you with everything I have.

Our family as we are today <3