Monday, August 22, 2016

Annual August Adventure

This year for our Houghton Family August Adventure, we decided to visit Dad's old stomping grounds! We started in Sequoia National Park with some big trees.
The General Sherman Tree is supposedly the most massive tree in the world!

Eliza really wanted her picture taken with the President.
Moro Rock has quite the view, but only if you make it up the 300+ steps.
I told you they were big trees!
Luke took a nap on the shuttle around the park.

And so did Dad and Eliza...

...and Levi too!

The next day, we went to Kings Canyon National Park and played in the frigid water. Everybody got in and fought the current. Levi even admitted that if he wasn't trying, he might just swim in place. Sadly, I failed to take pictures, but they wouldn't have done the icy water justice anyway.

Then, we spent a day with family in Sanger! Dad's brother, sister, and a variety of nieces and nephews were there, along with lots of delicious food. Once again, I failed to document our time there.

Next, we headed to Morro Bay State Park!

Luke and Levi were feeling lonely in their tent, so they decided to join us in ours!

It wouldn't be a Houghton adventure without bikes!

There was a group of otters sleeping in the bay.
Can you spot the momma and her cub?

Mom recently started working at a care facility called Avalon, so when
we saw this submarine, we insisted she take a picture with it.
We finished up our adventures at Avila Beach and in San Luis Obispo.

Nutter butter goggles anybody?

We even caught some good waves on the boogie boards!
On the last day of our trip, we celebrated Mom's 27th (x2) birthday! We certainly had fun being all together and seeing some pretty cool things. Without a doubt, we all have the best fun when we are together.

- Tess

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day

Yesterday, as I was shopping, I smiled to myself at the sights and sounds of men, obviously stretching their planning and shopping and culinary capacities as they consulted with each other on Mother's Day preparations.   I was impressed by their efforts to do something special for the women they intended to honor.

This morning, the scene at my house demonstrated this same effort. Levi rose early-ish, carefully closed my bedroom door, and proceeded to create and present a beautiful and delicious crepe breakfast. Luke spearheaded the effort to ensure information systems are in order to support the much anticipated missionary chat with Marta later today.   And, he was tremendously patient with my clumsy and probably excessively intrusive attempts to give him motherly counsel.  Mark, after working till late last night and needing to address many tasks for his responsibilities as Bishop today, Sunday, is putting thoughtful touches on dinner preparation. I know this because he occasionally asks where he can find ingredients he needs, and I can hear cupboards close and water run in the kitchen. (I have been banished from the kitchen for the day.)

On this day of honoring mothers, I love that the men in my life make an extra effort to do things outside their comfort zone, that they know are meaningful to their mothers and the mothers of their children.  I am grateful for mothers who teach their children this is important.  I am so thankful for generations of amazing mothers in my life.

And I am in awe of God's plan that provides mothers, as well as the opportunities and blessings and growth that come with being a mother!


Did I mention I love the blessings of raising daughters too? This year is somewhat unusual in that none of my girls are nearby. But they make me happy too!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Not Dead Yet

If we were dead, most of us could attribute it to this:

Luckily, though, we're not dead! Right now, however, we are all over the place. Dad is in Washington DC for the week at a conference meeting important people! He admitted today that it wouldn't be so bad if one of his children ended up living there. We'll have to see about the humidity...

Before he left yesterday for DC, Dad was supposed to participate in a 100k bike ride with Mom. However, due to a poorly timed illness, Mom had to do it on her own. 62 miles, 5000+ feet of climb, and 6 hours later, she was done! Here's a picture from a few weeks before the race when she and Dad were training together.

While Mom and Dad have been exploring the world and having adventures on wheels, Eliza, Luke, and Tess have been working through another semester at BYU. Eliza has one more semester before she'll graduate and Luke and Tess aren't even ready to think about that right now. They've been doing their best to have some fun every once in a while, though. Occasionally they even spend time with cousins!

Levi has been swimming his heart out since his siblings all left him with nothing else to do. Just this last weekend he broke his personal record for the 500 yard freestyle event with a 5:14-something. He just keeps getting faster! A few weekends ago, Mom, Dad, Jo (Tess's friend who is practically a part of the family), and Levi went out to Utah for LDS General Conference. Although very few pictures were taken, everybody had a blast, even though very little sleep was gotten. :)

Marta is still working hard in Mexico City. For an update on her life, see her blog (updated weekly by Mom).

Basically, our lives have just kept being busy and semi-crazy, but that's okay! What's life without a bit of adventure?

- A Procrastinating College Student During Finals Week

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Houghton Adventures 2015

Houghton Adventures 2015
20451 Charlotte Court, Soulsbyville, CA  95372 * (209) 536-9231 *

We’ve so enjoyed hearing from many of you over the holidays that we’re inspired to, once again, recap the past year’s happenings in efforts to keep in touch with friends and family who seem scattered far and wide!
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
In early June, we celebrated having all seven of us together for the 
first time in two and a half years with a Houghton “epic adventure”—
biking 430+ miles along the California coast from Oregon to the Golden Gate bridge.

Who knew what “swole” meant?  We are learning new vocabulary from Levi (15 ½) relating to his most recently acquired activity of  “lifting,” upon which he has embarked in efforts to add width and strength to his lean 6’ 2” frame.  A Sophomore, Levi  spends his waking hours eating, learning (well) in seminary and school, swimming (fast), lifting, eating, playing water polo, studying, eating, reading, and playing the trumpet at band events.  He has also been granted a piece of paper that he claims allows him to drive.  He was the only Houghton to complete the entire family bike trip.  Then he got to spend a week backpacking in Montana’s Beartooth wilderness with his Dad, uncle, two cousins, 150 million mosquitos, and a few grizzly bears that left cool tracks and hairballs.  

Tess (18) wrapped up her High School swimming career with a league championship in the 500 free.  A month later she graciously accepted the call to speak as Salutatorian at graduation.  After a summer of lifeguarding, she was the first Houghton to be able to start her college career (BYU) with a sibling (actually 2), and she seems to be enthusiastically embracing (and responsibly organizing) all aspects of her newly independent life.  Academically, Tess surprised us by declaring a major in Computer Science with an emphasis in Bio-Informatics, and despite some shell shock at the intricacies of coding and the rigors of college grade curves, she excelled in her first semester, is finding great mentors in the program, and (much to her dad’s delight) may actually stick with her major!

As the family reviewed the highs and lows of 2015, the first regret voiced was “We let Marta go.”   Indeed, we miss Marta (20), who departed in June--a little scared and a lot excited--to begin an 18-month mission in Mexico City.  She had a great training experience in the Mission Training Center there and so far, she has been blessed to be paired with native Spanish speaking companions.  She now confidently shares her testimony of Jesus Christ in Espanol.  She’s learned to appreciate Mexican culture (especially ice cream), walk everywhere, and truly love the people she meets.  Before departing, Marta finished her second year at BYU, did a bang-up job as a Resident Assistant in the Freshman dorms, happily welcomed Luke home, and was a hardy peddler and camp organizer on our biking adventure,

Luke ( 21)  concluded his two-year service in the England Birmingham Mission with a happy five month assignment in Wales.  Returning home in April, he amiably acknowledged his status as shortest brother and promptly dashed off to Utah to see sisters and friends and gain employment as a Counselor for EFY summer youth conferences, where he wrangled teenagers and built character (his and theirs) in Texas, Massachusetts, and Utah.  Then it was back to BYU in the Fall to re-enroll in Chemical Engineering studies--gratefully, he remembers more than he thought he did.  Luke is enjoying his courses and related academic activities (including designing a chemically powered car for an engineering competition), and he even ekes out time to cater and host weekly parties at his apartment.   

Upon meeting the CEO of a “Customer Service Experience” company who was giving a keynote address at a BYU event, Eliza (24) introduced herself and proceeded to procure an internship with the company, where she spends most of her time as blog manager, soliciting articles then “rewriting” what experts have submitted for the company’s blog (fits her perfectly since she was the high school newspaper editor as a Freshman.)  The opportunity has provided good experience and funding as she continues as a full-time student in Business Management, expecting to graduate in December 2016 (which makes Mom and Dad happy). In her spare time, Eliza has taken to running (sometimes with Tess)—finishing several 5k’s last year.  

Mark (still young and good looking after 25 years of marriage), dodged major house projects in favor of spending time on the bike he bought in college.  After the family ride, which he thought was a practically perfect trip with everyone safe, sore, and happy, Denise surprised him with a new bike for next year’s adventure!  Then he enjoyed a reunion backpack trip with his brother in gorgeous Montana.  Mark also managed a few lengthy peak bagging trips with Levi, including Tahoe area’s Mount Houghton.  In between his hiking and biking (and swimming) he continues to serve as Bishop in our congregation and to endure his 3-hour a day work commute.

Denise (younger by the day) survived another year with family more dispersed than ever.  In addition to “adventure support,” teaching seminary, coordinating comings and goings, making dinner most nights, biking, outfitting missionaries and return missionaries, chauffeuring, swimming, and occasionally putting the household in order, she has rediscovered the joys of travel--making several expeditions to visit/deposit/retrieve college kids in Utah, and thoroughly enjoying our 25th anniversary trip to Charleston and Savannah.  She managed to have an Amazon package delivered almost every day in December in preparation for Christmas, the celebration of which capped a wonderful year, and which delighted us with a beautiful 5” snowfall on Christmas Eve. 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
As we reflect on the events of 2015, we are deeply grateful for God’s blessings, for our good health, and for the faith and love we share with family and friends.  We now look forward to another year of excitement and adventures, and hope that we can bless and enrich others’ lives as we have been blessed.

Love,  The Houghtons               

Eliza, Levi, Tess, Mark, Denise, Luke, and Marta


For updates on Marta and her mission in Mexico visit:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Everything's Okay! Because we were on Vacation!

This past week has been very exciting for us. To begin with, Sunday was Fathers' Day. Marta gave her farewell talk in Church and we spent the afternoon/evening playing games and eating homemade ice cream.
On Tuesday, we headed down to Manteca with our Uncle Matt, where Marta was set apart as a full-time missionary! After that, we were able to meet up with our aunt, Greta, and cousin, Maren, for dinner and ice cream.
To hear about Hermana Houghton's adventures, see her blog!
Early on Wednesday morning (and I mean 4 a.m. early), we took Marta to the Sacramento Airport and said our goodbyes. After she got through security and gave us a final wave goodbye, we went back to the cars and started the long drive to Sandy, Utah, where we were expected to start the 2015 Houghton Family Reunion! By 6, we joined the various parties going on and jumped into the reunion, which we decided to theme after this video about vacations. Our go-to excuse was that "Everything's okay, because we're on vacation!"

Here's the picture version of the reunion.
Thursday: We went to Snowbird and played for a day on the various rides. It was great!
Thursday: Somehow, we even managed to take a picture at the top of the
mountain after getting off of a crowded tram! Left to right: Luke, Levi, Tess
(me), Dad, Eliza, and Mom.
Friday: Grandma took us through the Salt Lake Cemetery to see the graves of
people from Church history and our great grandparents. This picture is of her
mother's (my great grandmother's) grave after we decorated it with flowers.
Friday Night: We attended a pre-wedding dinner and had a blast!
Left to right: Dad, Mom, Tess (me), and Dad's sister, Mary.
Saturday: Cory (the Honorary Junior Uncle) was sealed to Jessica
(who is now the Honorary Junior Aunt) in the Draper Utah Temple.
We finished the reunion that night with a beautiful reception and cleanup.
This morning we all went our separate ways (most of us through desert), but we
can't wait for our next big get together!
To finish up, here's what's going on:
  • Levi and Dad are going to spend this week fending off grizzly bears as they hike through Wyoming and Montana with Dad's brother, Uncle Jack.
  • Mom is going to spend a week relaxing and taking a true vacation.
  • Eliza is working at her internship for MaritzCX.
  • Luke is being an EFY counselor in Texas for a few weeks.
  • Marta is in the Mexico City MTC, learning Spanish and getting ready to share the gospel!
  • Last, but not least, I (Tess) am at home, working as a lifeguard.
Until next time,

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Bike Adventure Wrap-Up

We Made It!

First a note to the potentially concerned follower: Due to a lack of wifi or mobile network at all of the campgrounds after Monday night, we were unable to make daily reports as planned. So, here's the final story now.

On Tuesday morning, everyone woke up with a significant amount of pain in knees, legs, necks, posteriors, ankles, etc. We have gotten into the habit of jokingly referring to padded biker shorts as "diapers." Those who did not wear their diapers on Monday, quickly came to the realization of the value of a padded posterior upon recounting the bikes on Tuesday morning. Others who did wear their diapers on Monday quickly discovered that diapers really aren’t for them. Enough said about that.

So, on Tuesday, we did the Eureka to Humboldt Redwood State Park leg. It involved some beautiful scenery through California Redwood groves including the famous Avenue of the Giants.

The rig.
About halfway along the Avenue of the Giants is where we stopped to camp at a state park campground.

All the kids and Jerry then went for a swim in the remarkably warm Eel River.
We went for a walk on a 0.5 mile nature trail across from the campground we were in and Jerry helped us take a lovely family picture, complete with bad color coordination and matching! :)

Levi, Jerry, and Dad were the only ones who did all seventy-ish miles of Tuesday. Everyone else was too damaged from Monday.

On Wednesday morning, we got a decently early start and all the boys headed out early for the first leg and the girls took some time in our trusty sag wagon. Wednesday was a big climb day- lots of hills. Eventually, the girls all got on bikes and enjoyed tearing down some really big hills on winding, steep roads. Tess even earned a reputation with Jerry of being a bomber jet speeding down the biggest hill.

This picture isn't actually from Wednesday, but it is of Levi, our speedy, fearless, front-of-the-pack-the-whole-time leader. We love this kid, who wants "to be in assisted living by the time [he's] 30" (Levi after a long day of biking, as Marta helped him finish his dinner).
We ended the day at MacKerricher State Park and we got to go on a walk near the campsite on the beach and see the colony of harbour seals there. It was pretty cool. Everyone was exhausted after a long day of biking though and we all decided that bed sounded pretty good very shortly after dessert.

Thursday was a nice day. (*Note, we had near perfect weather the entire trip). Biking down Highway 1 was gorgeous! The tough ones made it out all the way from MacKerricher to the small town of Gualala. We then all got in the car and went back to camp at the Manchester Beach KOA. We had already had lunch and set up camp there. Each night, different family members had responsibilities for meals. Thursday was the British classic Toad-in-a-hole which turned out a bit differently in a Dutch oven when made by Luke, Mom, and Tess than it would have been if made by a proper British person. It was delicious anyway, which may have been due to our almost-starving state.

Thursday morning was gorgeous!
Friday, we started in Gualala and the hard-core, most committed people (Levi and Jerry) made it out all the way to Point Reyes. Everyone else did portions as per usual.
Ready for some action! Dad: "I've got this." Levi: "No. I am too cool for this picture." Marta: "I just ate a handful of Red Vines! I have so much energy! Let's go!"
In Gualala getting ready to go!
We realized that the campsite we'd selected for Friday night was only a few miles past Gualala and so attempted to get a different spot at another campground. Luckily, the rangers were helpful and we managed to find a spot at Bodega Dunes near Bodega Bay despite the sign saying “Campsite FULL” in multiple places near the entrance.

On Saturday morning we woke up early to head out to Point Reyes and then from there in bikes to the Golden Gate Bridge. Most of us at this point had major pain all over our lower bodies as though we had been biking all week- isn’t that curious. So the final leg began. Levi led the pack as usual. It was a bit dicey getting through the North Bay suburbs. There were thousands of intense looking bikers mostly going the opposite direction to us (we later discovered that their was a bike parade in one of the towns we were riding through). Also, navigating in a city with a trail of seven bikers is a bit more complicated than with a small group in a long coastal highway with little traffic. Levi commented that though all the bikes we saw were decked out with nice gear, he was definitely faster than them going up the hills.

Miraculously, we made it to Sausalito where Dad joined us after parking the sag wagon (we first recognized him by him extremely squeaky brakes). He had tried to be sneaky but was instead rather squeaky. Pun intended.

We made It across the bridge despite strong, cold winds and the fact that the whole ride across and back was combination of a duck and weave maneuver through the flocks of tourists on rental mountain bikes taking selfies while blocking the path and going really slowly on the one hand and playing chicken with the real bikers who, like us were trying to pass them. Quite an experience in itself.

So, we took some pictures and raced to the car to head back to Soulsbyville (of course stopping at In-N-Out on the way).

Some additional tidbits:
  • The theme song for the entire trip (or at least the chorus everyone had in their heads and were singing) was "Cows With Guns" from a YouTube video of the same name.
  • Jerry said it was the best camp food he'd ever had. Props to our amazing mom!
  • Levi and Jerry finished the entire trip. Others took various amounts of time in the sag wagon. "The only thing harder than riding a bike is getting back on a bike when your bum is sore and you've been in the sag wagon." -Marta
  • No major injuries or bike issues needed to be addressed. Just a couple of flats and some scrapes. Oh, and Tess tried to feature her finger into the Dutch oven pizza using the cheese grater but it didn't really work.
  • Jerry is a beast. He finished at 68 and Levi at 15. Oldest and youngest.
  • Our ingenious homemade bike rack was awesome.
  • Some of us have some really interesting tan lines. For example, Dad has brown mesh pattern and an oval on each hand along with a well-defined color-change line on his wrist. For real.
  • Watch out for Peloton Busters. They are deadly.

One more thing: each person and bike had a special name. Big Diz (Jerry) rode Lil' Diz, Mountain Mama rode the Brain, Bad Dad rode Ol' Blue, Elkazina (Eliza) rode the Patriot, Lucky Duck (Luke) rode the White Rocket, Max (Marta) rode the Red Giant, Tessalon (Tess) rode Turley, and Yoci (I have no idea where that name came from, but that's Levi) rode the Dark Knight. Oh, and our 15-passenger van is Babe the Big Blue Ox. Yeah, we're pretty cool.

Babe and her twin.
This post was mostly written by Luke, but edited (a lot) and finished by Tess. We hope you like hearing about our crazy adventures, and in case you were worried, this is not the last one. On our way home from San Francisco we started brainstorming ideas for next year...

Your Favorite Adventuring Family,
The Houghtons from the Mountains
#houghtonsinthemountains #werooc

Monday, June 8, 2015

We Made it But We're Dead-Day One

"We Made It But We're Dead!"-Marta

Oregon to San Francisco Day One

Today the Houghton Family plus Jerry Disney crew woke up at 5am in tents at the Eureka KOA and got in babe quickly to head up to the Oregon Border. The whole waking up/driving to the border thing took a bit longer than planned so we got there late.

Today was the longest day by miles and one of the tougher ones on climb-101 miles and 4500 feet of climb. (Each day is broken into segments with checkpoints were we meet up with Babe "The Sag Wagon" and can swap out and take a ride in the car if they want). Levi, Luke, and Jerry completed all the segments. From a self-reporting survey, Dad did about 70 miles, Marta did 65, Tess did 60, Mom did 51.45, and Eliza did 40. Tess impressed everyone by completing over 4 times as many miles as she's done in any day before. Eliza's accomplishment was that it was her first time ever riding a road bike. Marta's greatest success was defeating the biggest hill of the day between Crescent City and Klamath. Levi is very happy to have completed his first century ride as am I. The two of us got back to camp at about the same time. Levi was first into the campground and I was the first to our campsite.

After everyone got back to camp, we did some tidying and all took much needed showers. It felt so good. Then we headed out you eat at an old fashioned Lumberjack all-you-can-eat place called the Samoa cookhouse in Samoa, near Eureka. We ate A Lot of classic lumberjack food and it was quite the experience. As we got in the car afterward, we all proceeded to name all of the parts off our bodies that hurt. Needless to say, there were quite a few.

Here are some pictures from throughout the day. They're in reverse order. We came across Paul Bunion and his Ox, Babe in gargantuan form. Babe the big blue ox is the namesake for our trusty blue fifteen passenger van.

The big redwoods and the coastline were beautiful. We are so blessed to be able to go on this trip.

- Luke