Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy Holidays!

It's the most wonderful time of the year!  We had so much fun over Christmas break.  Our kids had two full weeks off and enjoyed every minute of it.  We had snow and presents and basketball tournaments and time at Grandma and Grandpa's house.  So much fun:)  Of course the highlight was Christmas day.  Because we had 10:00 am church, mom and dad actually woke the kids up this year!  This has never happened before and will likely never happen again:).  The kids came upstairs to discover that Santa is helping us out with our vacation that we've been planning for the last eight months!  Yay!  Our entire family (except Elli :( who doesn't travel well) will be going on a family cruise over spring break.  All the kids have also been pitching in and earning money to help.  We'll be going on a six-night Western Caribbean cruise with ports of call in Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Costa Maya.  So exciting!!!

After seeing what Santa brought we got ready and went to a beautiful church meeting with some amazing and inspiring musical numbers and beautiful talks as well.  When we came home the kids opened presents they had purchased for each other.  This was such a fun experience as a parent.  All of the kids seemed more excited to give their presents than to receive.  It was awesome.  We drew names out of a hat early in December and each child gave presents to three other kids.  Most of the pictures below are from this part of the day.  

I love Christmas!

As they do every year, our dear laundry fairies brought us jammies for Christmas Eve.  So comfy!  I wore mine for about 48 hours straight:).  You would think laundry fairies would be wary of giving us more things for them to wash, right ;)

Somehow these six ended up in a tangled mass after the pictures...

 Too cool in her new sunglasses and soft blanket:

Elli loves musical toys.  The kids are all so attentive to her needs.

Sophi got Xander some bongos:

This was one of Taylor's top requests: a Baby Groot dashboard bobble head:)

Some perfume and mascara from Parker.  Can't believe how fast they grow up!

Excited to open a present from Cali:

Graci is always needing more art supplies:

Anything Moana was at the top of Sophi's list:

Sophi could hardly contain herself as Cali began to open the huge present that Sophi had wrapped herself, only to discover...

 ...that Sophi had fooled Cali by putting a tiny iPhone case in such a large package.  She's probably the first person to ever pull that trick!

I love watching Sophi use those talented toes of hers:

Lexi is pretty much the most joyful person on the entire planet.  Her exuberance completely lights up a room:

 Sometimes Conner and Jessica find it a bit challenging to get along, so Christi and I were happy when Jesi drew Conner's name.  She got him a Marauder's Map case for his phone:

 Taylor and Parker got matching backpacks:

Taylor got Xander some clip-on heelies.

Parker got a guitar book from Jessica:

Sophi and Conner were both super excited about the magnetic building kit that Conner got for Soph!

Bop it!  The best game for kids who are visually impaired!

A Gryffindor shirt.  So many Harry Potter fans in our home!

Jesi was pretty excited about her new curling wand:

Conner got Graci a Moana snow globe:

Love these two together!  Is it any wonder they are sometimes mistaken for twins?

Conner and Lexi both enjoy Bop It! toys.  They are quite amazing with them.  In the video, I love Conner's response when he loses, but feels like he actually did it right.

Christmas is such a wonderful time of year for so many reasons.  I'm so grateful the world in general celebrates Christ's birth together and that so many people serve each other in so many different ways.  Acting out the nativity on Christmas Eve is one of our favorite traditions.  I also love how His spirit seems to permeate everything during this season.  I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and that 2017 is a wonderful year!


PS:  Here's our Christmas Card for 2016:

Monday, December 19, 2016

Fall Break Camping

Every fall my dad comes down from Oregon and goes camping with Taylor, Parker, Xander and me.  We've had some amazing trips over the years.  We spend three or four nights in southern Utah soaking up the amazing scenery.  This year we returned to one of my favorite campsites.  It's near Zion National Park, but it's super isolated.  It's on the Smithsonian Butte National Scenic Byway.  One way to access the site (and the only way we had been there before) is via an absolutely terrible, rocky, steep road that should only be attempted with 4-wheel drive, high clearance vehicles.  We got there after dark and, since we had been up this road several years before (albeit in an all wheel drive vehicle), we decided to attempt it in our van.  Bad choice!

Since it was dark, we couldn't really see what we were getting into.  We started up the road, which at first wasn't too bad.  But it kept getting worse as we went up.  By the time we were completely sure we shouldn't be on this road in this vehicle, it was too late.  There was no way I wanted to back down in the dark.  It was way too narrow and steep, with sharp drop-offs on one side.  So we decided to press on.  We knew that at some point the road became a fairly smooth, fairly level dirt road.  We just couldn't remember how much longer that rough part was.  We were all starting to get nervous.  The rocks in the road were getting larger and we were worried we were going to puncture something.  My dad suggested everyone but me get out so the load would be 600 pounds lighter.  They did.  With some divine intervention, I was able to get the van the rest of the way up the hill to that beautiful level road.  Poor Xander, Taylor, Parker and dad got to start their hikes a day earlier than anticipated. Up a very steep grade.  In the dark.  But we made it!  We found our same spot from the previous time.  It is amazing up there.  These are pictures from our campsite.  We only had one other group camping anywhere near us.  Smithsonian Butte is in the background.

I spent one of the night toasty warm in my hammock:)

This two-and-a-half foot long rattler was our neighbor!

The first day we visited the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park.  This was our first time visiting and it was amazing!  Such a beautiful location.  Stark red-rock cliffs. Rugged canyons.  Overlooks where you can see for miles.  So beautiful.  The foggy pictures below are from a return trip I made on a rainy day when I was down there for work.

While we were in Kolob Canyons we went on the Taylor Creek Trail.  This 5-mile round trip hike took us along Taylor Creek, past a couple of old cabins from the early 20th century to double arch alcove.  One of the highlights of the trip came on this hike.  Parker shared with us some of the secrets he has learned as he has studied the difficult training discipline known as Parkour.  Thanks to Taylor for the Richard Attenborough-style narration.  You can see Parker's Parkour here:

Some pics from the trail:

There was a big BYU football game that night, so instead of returning to our campground, we stayed with some good friends in Hurricane, Mike and Kerry Dorious.  We watched a close but disappointing game and slept in warm beds.  They fixed us a big breakfast in the morning and then we headed into the National Park where we hiked the short but spectacular Canyon Overlook trail.  The views at the end of this trail are unsurpassed.  

 Notice Taylor peering over the edge of the cliff about halfway up this picture on the left side:

My Dad must have felt some sense of power in this one:)

If there's a tree to be climbed, count on Taylor to climb it!!!

On the final day of our trip we hiked Kanarra Creek Canyon.  This is beautiful slot canyon several miles north of Zion.  I've hiked it before in September, and the water was invigorating.  Towards the end of October it was icy!!!  We all decided this would be best as a July hike in the future:)  I was proud of all of us for sticking it out.  Kudos to my dad for doing it at age 76 and kudos (or condolences) to Parker for deciding to man up and get completely drenched in one of the waterfalls.  It was a fun hike.  For the record, we were not the only crazy ones to do a creek walk in mid-fall.  There were well over 100 people on the trail that day.

Notice the long line to ascend the ladder.  We had to wait for everyone coming down to descend first.

I'm so grateful for the tradition our fall camping trip has become.  It's so great to spend time with my boys and my dad.  Thanks so much to Christi for holding down the fort while we're gone every year.