Sunday, March 30, 2008


I know it's been a long time since I've posted....but least I can make some cute changes!
I went with this template because it reminds me of where a chunk of my heart is....Africa.
Those darn gazelles are everywhere! And the elephants are my favorite...especially when the little babies tag along behind. :) Anyway...this is for you, Mom, Dad & Lindy!
Love you guys and miss you!

And I promise to give you a big update soon....especially about our pioneer trek!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pioneer Children....walked..and walked...and walked!

So....the months of preparation & planning finally ended and it was time for our Pioneer Trek, where Brent and I were asked to be a Ma & Pa. We had something like 45 hours of training & we even practiced killing and skinning chickens!

But nothing could prepare us for what lay ahead....

Day 1

So we arrived, out in the middle of the desert near Arizona City & Pichaco Peak on Wednesday, March 19th at a bright 6 AM....dressed to impress!

Then they read out the names of our children in our family....

We couldn't have been more blessed .....5 girls & 4 boys!....

Kristina Tryon, Nicole Germaine, Lynsie Hammond, Daizsha Stempniak, & Meg Higginson

McKay Bagley, Dakota Redd, Andrew Schneider, & Lorin Merkley

After putting the handcarts together, getting to know everyone with a name game, and gathering our chickens for the next day we started walking about 11:00. We ate biscuits & gravy around 7:30 for breakfast. That was the only food we had for the rest of the day. And then we walked, and we walked some more. We were originally supposed to walk about 16 miles that day- with only water. It was a hot day....around 84 degrees that day so things were hard.

The sun just drained our energy that day, and all we could do was just keep putting one foot ahead of another. We had a break around 6:30, with many of the kids thinking this might be the end. After a quick Ma & Pa meeting, we continued on the trail in silence. And then came the most touching part...the women's pull. It represented the Mormon Battalion. One by one Pa pulled of the boys & the girls were left to pull up a little hill. I was added on at that point. I had a very difficult time & was completely exhausted. But the lessons learned from it were amazing....we were so grateful for our men & it was so hard for the men to not be able to help us, but we knew we had strength and could do it.

Then we had our last stop around 9:00 & it took every last little bit to get up and keep going. We were very hungry & tired. We were told we'd probably get in around 10:30, so we were getting anxious to be done around then. And then, when we thought we couldn't go anymore, they told us, "just 20 more minutes!" But when a 1/2 hour came, then 45 minutes, then an hour, we were just spent. I've never seen such exhaustion, injuries, and people just feeling defeated. When we'd stop for 15 seconds with backed up traffic, everyone would just collaps & it looked like dead bodies just lying up and down the sandy road.

At some point in that stage, my feet were killing me. I had blisters between my toes, so I walked as far as a could spreading my toes apart in my shoes, but I couldn't take it anymore. I finally took my shoes off and walked in my socks for the last 3 or 4 miles, with a nice full moon- through the sand, just hoping I wouldn't step on a cactus.

So after the 20 minutes turned into 2 hours, we finally saw the light of a fire. We had one girl, Meg, that fell and hurt her hip, so I helped her hobble in as she lagged behind right at the end. But then there was relief! And food.....just a small cup of broth and a small roll. It was truly the most humbling experience. I will never forget the faces of the crowds of people, just hoping to get a 1/2 a roll more. So we finally made it in around midnight and crashed and slept for 6 hours.

Day 2

One of my most memorable moments came after breakfast on the second day. After one of the most difficult days of my life, we came into camp the night before and were only given a little bit of broth and a roll. It was very hard for me to see the big boys in my family have to go to bed without feeling full. I was so grateful for the broth & roll, but I remember really missing my normal “Fast Sunday” meals. The next morning, I woke up very hungry. Our cornmeal mush wasn’t what I would call a wonderful breakfast, but it was sufficient. Many of the kids didn’t like it, and honestly, there was not that much to go around, especially since we needed to save some for lunch that day. As I was cleaning up the breakfast, and still feel slightly hungry, I was completely humbled. I have never had a moment in my life where I went without—where I didn’t get enough to eat when I wanted it. I imagined what it might have been like to be a pioneer and have to always ration your food. How blessed I felt that I did not have to live like that every day. I am now so grateful to have such wonderful meals whenever I want & so grateful to the pioneers for the struggles that they went through for our sake.

Then we had a big group meeting, where the truth came out. They told us they accidently set up the camp that night in the wrong spot, and couldn't move it, so we had to go the extra miles.....we walked 20 miles that day. It was truly amazing. But then they told us that the pioneers did that every day....for 1500 miles. We just had a taste.

Then our walk that day was only about a mile, since we had walked so far the night. So we set up camp for the next two days under a nice was perfect! That day we had some fun workshops in the draining sun....rifle shooting, candle making, hair washing! (since we couldn't take a shower for 4 days!)....and taffy pulling! It was great! And then we finished the night with a fun hoedown & skits by the Ma's & Pa's (ours was Nacho Libre)! We had a wonderful stew with our chickens that they killed & skinned (nothing looked better!) & yummy dutch oven bread! The night couldn't have been complete without a little singing by Pa with Mayor Sanders on his guitar....beautiful moments.

Day 3

This was our Sabbath day. We had RS & Priesthood & Sunday School in the morning, and then 5 hours of solo time to was a great day. At night we had an amazing testimony meeting with everyone, and then came back & had a family testimony meeting around our fire. Wonderful times. We grew so close to our kids & just loved each one of them so much.

Day 4

The end was here! And sure we were ready to go back to our beds, but we knew we'd miss everyone and the experience. We walked maybe 4 miles that morning to get back to our base camp- and I really shouldn't say "walked" was more like a jog the entire way! They were anxious! I lagged behind most of the time! We finished with yummy cinnamon rolls there waiting for us! It was glorious...and so was our shower when we got home! It was so good to come home to our kids, but we will always miss our kids from the trek. (But we have family reunions planned!)

An experience I'll never forget....