Best buds hanging out in grandma's yard.

A Few Gems of the Kids

My mom takes amazing photos. She’s beautifully documented so many important events in my life from my wedding to graduating from college to bringing home my babies.  Pretty sure I’ve been the recipient of thousands of dollars worth of free professional photography over the years. Every time we visit I usually get some awesome pictures of the kids.  Here are some gems from out most recent trip to Utah.

Ellen loved her photo shoot with grandma. Definitely not camera shy.
Ellen loved her photo shoot with grandma. Definitely not camera shy.
Ellen sweetly kissing Porter's head.
Ellen sweetly kissing Porter’s head.
Cooper lost deep in thought. That little boy sure can be pensive sometimes.
Cooper lost deep in thought. That little boy sure can be pensive sometimes.
It's sometimes hard to capture Cooper's smile on camera since he's not a poser like Ellen, but the kid has a great smile.
It’s sometimes hard to capture Cooper’s smile on camera since he’s not a poser like Ellen, but the kid has a great smile.
Even though Ellen is a girl, she's generally the wrestle instigator. Luckily Cooper's a good sport.
Even though Ellen is a girl, she’s generally the wrestle instigator. Luckily Cooper’s a good sport.
Best buds hanging out in grandma's yard.
Best buds hanging out in grandma’s yard.
Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells

Family Pic at Lake
Two years ago we went camping at Maroon Bells.  It was an enjoyable experience and we’ve been wanting to go back ever since. Campsites at Maroon Bells itself are pretty hard to come by, especially on weekends, so I had a reminder in my google calendar to make a reservation the second the sites opened up for our chosen days. Months ago that Google reminder popped up and I made a reservation hoping for a nice calm getaway, completely unaware that the trip would end up being bookended by a trip to Utah and Noel going to Scout camp.  Such is life.

Chris and Vanessa scrubbing the Volcano.
Chris and Vanessa scrubbing the Volcano.

We invited Noel’s sister, Vanessa Joy, and her husband, Chris to come with us. After a near death experience earlier this year, we figured they could use some R&R.

The whole crew at Maroon Lake.
The whole crew at Maroon Lake.

Despite the insanity surrounding the trip, we did our best to relax. Not having cell phone reception at our campground greatly aided that.

Ellen insisted on carrying her sleeping bag to our campsite.
Ellen insisted on carrying her sleeping bag to our campsite.
I loved our campground. You took a short trail to get it so it was nice and secluded.
I loved our campsite.  You took a short trail to get it so it was nice and secluded. This picture is taken from the “dining area” so the campground was also pretty spacious.
"Relaxing" in the hammock.
“Relaxing” in the hammock.

We did an ambling “hike” with everyone and Noel and I went on a hike alone while Vanessa and Chris kindly watched the kids.

Taking a break on our walk around the lake.
Taking a break on our walk around the lake.
Noel and me at Crater Lake, no not the one in Oregon.
Noel and me at Crater Lake, no not the one in Oregon.
A moose we saw at the lake.
A moose we saw at the lake.

The kids slept worse than they ever have on a camping trip and we experienced some frustrating potty training setbacks. (It seems Cooper was terrified to poop in the vault toilets . . . )

Kids messing around instead of sleeping.
Kids messing around instead of sleeping.

Somehow Vanessa and Chris still thought the kids were adorable though. Phew.

 Holding Hands
Holding hands with Uncle Chris.
Aunt Vanesa Joy feeding Ellen cake for breakfast.
Aunt Vanesa Joy feeding Ellen cake for breakfast. Best breakfast ever.

And because this is us, we also ate delicious food. Keep an eye on our food blog for all the recipes!

Dutch oven summer vegetable tian. Simply delicious.
Dutch oven summer vegetable tian. Simply delicious.

All too quickly, we had to pack up and head our separate ways.  We said our goodbyes to the beautiful scenery. When we got reception again Noel’s phone rang a million times with messages so I drove home so he could take care of scouting business.

Chris and Vanessa brought the kids Toy Story toys (and cleverly assigned three toys to each of them so they wouldn't fight.
Chris and Vanessa brought the kids Toy Story toys (and cleverly assigned three toys to each of them so they wouldn’t fight).

I’ll have to add another reminder to my google calendar so we can do this again next year, only hopefully not the day before Scout camp.

Creek

cousins

4th of July

When we moved to Colorado four years ago we didn’t fall into the category of people that are devastated to leave “Zion.”  I can honestly say that Colorado is “home” and that I love living here, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling a little homesick for Utah every now and again. With the birth of my first nephew I was especially missing many of the things in Utah that are near and dear to my heart, so we decided to make a quick trip over the Fourth of July.

Colorado Heart

Getting out of town was a little hectic. There were loose ends to tie up, friend’s kids to watch, a half day of work for Noel, and most importantly, a hair appointment to keep. I absolutely loved my long hair, but was ready for change (and was maybe getting tired of a certain little girl twirling my hair into knots). I took 12″ off my longest layer to send off to Locks of Love and then headed home to pack and load the car.

HaircutWe rolled into my hometown well after midnight. The kids had the hugest grins on their faces when they woke up the next morning at Grandma’s house.

cooper car
Cooper cruising around on my parent’s beautiful driveway. Photo by my mom.
silly grandpa
Being silly with Grandpa. Photo by my mom.
Being trained in the art of bagging by Uncle Mitchell.
Being trained in the art of bagging by Uncle Mitchell.

The highlight of the trip was of course meeting Porter. I wish I had more frequent opportunities to snuggle him, but I made the most of the time I had.

I'm an aunt!
Me performing my first duty as an Aunt.
Manly Snuggles
Noel adopted the role of Uncle well.
cousins
Cooper and Ellen were smitten with Baby Porter. They were also surprisingly careful which was a relief. Photo by my mom.

While in Utah, I was reminded of a few things I miss, like having relatives around who can watch the kids,

Waterfall
On a hike with my Dad, Joe, and Joes mom, Anita.
Noel, Waterfall, and Me
Posing in front of the waterfall at the end of our hike.

living so close to a temple (I know a 1/2 hour drive is nothing to complain about, but I miss the days when I could walk to the temple.),

I love to see the temple
On a pre-church walk around the Brigham City, UT temple.

and of course, the cheese factory.

Cheap CheeseWe ended our trip by driving through Bear Lake. We went on a little hike, ate raspberry shakes, and went wading.

HikingWater

Then we hopped in the car and made the long drive back home.

Watching movies in the backseat.
Watching movies in the backseat.

It was a good trip and I think it will tide me over until our next visit.

PS In case you were wondering,  it turns out Cooper is still not a fan of peacocks.

Peacock
Posing with Percy the Peacock at my grandparents house.

Mormon Message About Autism

I swear the people that work on the Mormon Messages are evil righteous geniuses. I feel like almost every one that I’ve seen has made me teary-eyed, but this one in particular had me full out crying. I guess you could say it struck a chord.

Ellen and Cooper are already good friends (they’re also excellent at squabbling) and I’ve had several people tell me they’re lucky to have each other and that they’ll help each other grow in different ways. I think they’re right.

PS I also found this interview about the making of the movie interesting.

Up, up, up

Competition

It seems my kids now have some competition for favorite grandkid, so I knew a post about my kids was in order to remind everyone who really has the best kids. Alright, so their cousin is pretty dang adorable and I am as smitten as anyone (and dying to meet him)! We’ll let him be the favorite grandkid for now . . .

PorterStill, an update is in order. We’ve had a lot of rain this spring which has been awesome for all our plants, lots of fun for the kids, and a challenge for my stain removal skills. 

Mud!

Our plants are thriving and already so much bigger than last year.

Right SideWe still have a long list of things to do that we are slowly chipping away at as our budget allows, but in the meantime we’ve got a bunch of watermelon plants and tomatoes in pots in the undone areas. Still doesn’t look too bad though.

Left Side

Ellen has discovered the joys of spraying herself with the hose.

Hose FunCooper is practicing his tree climbing. Okay, so I helped him get up on the branch, but he’s getting pretty close to doing it himself.

Monkey in a tree

Coop, CoopEllen is throwing out societal expectations and gender stereotypes. She LOVES playing in dirt which is fine with me, but I wish she’d be more agreeable about wearing pants sometimes.

Girls Love Dirt!The kids have been “helping” us with yard work.

Up, up, upEllen has found one more undesired use for the dinner table. Others include: a giant napkin, canvas, and dance floor.

Table SnoozeMy youngest brother has decided to go to Utah State next year, so these pictures are for him. Go Aggies!

Little Aggies

Go Aggies! Noel used the money he won from our race to buy himself a hammock. He’d had a rough couple of weeks with injuries, illness, and other stressors so he is due for some relaxation. Now, if only the kids would give it to him.

Hammock On Father’s Day Ellen refused to go down for a nap for me and kept yelling, “Go back . . . Dad!” so Noel snuggled her until she fell asleep. I guess that’s one way to tell your dad you love him.

Father's DayAll in all, I think my kids are still contenders ;)

I am not a playground!

For My Sister, Hope

Noel tells me I need to be more positive about being a mom–especially when I’m talking to you. Maybe he’s right, but you know I’ll always tell it to you straight. You are about to hop onto one of the wildest rides of your life.  Being a mother is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Nothing could have prepared me for it. You literally become someone new overnight. At times it’s disorienting, overwhelming, and downright exhausting, but it can also be exhilarating in ways you never could have imagined. Being a mom is weird like that.

There will be times when you realize you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, but don’t let that psych you out. All of us mommas have plenty of advice we’d love to give, but take it with a grain of salt because even if it looks like we have it together, we don’t. We’re all still figuring things out too. In the midst of your uncertainty, there will also be super-human, adrenaline pumping moments where the primal momma-bear part of you kicks in and you will know exactly what to do; heaven help anyone that gets in your way. And for the days in between, remember that right now your kisses have superpowers and your arms have the strength to keep the evils of the universe at bay.

There may be some evenings that you’ll fall to your knees in exhaustion crying to God that you “can’t do this,” but there will also be days that you’ll find your heart overflowing with gratitude.

Some nights you’ll be ready to make a deal with the devil for a good night’s rest and other nights you won’t be able to tear yourself away from your child’s bedside as you stare at their angelic sleeping face. Inexplicably, all children look like angels when they sleep no matter what sort of mischief they pursued during the day.

You’ll come to realize that the only thing separating you from the child-murdering parents on the news is the ability to close the door and take a few deep breaths.  And as long as you’re able to step away, you will still be a good parent. There will also be times where you won’t be able to get enough of the soft touch of their hair on your cheek as they wrap you in a full body hug. Strangely, the time between the two events may only be a matter of seconds.

You’ll crave silence, but then when you get it you’ll find yourself in a panic, and usually for good reason.

Some days your house will verge on being declared a national disaster and you’ll feel like you didn’t accomplish a single thing. On those days remind yourself that you deserve an awful lot of credit for keeping everyone alive and fed.

You’ll do things you would never do for yourself, have courage you never thought you had, and grow in ways you never thought possible. You’ll get used to people interrupting your showers, stealing your breakfast, and breaking your stuff. You’ll develop the survival skill of doing most everything one-handed while someone yells at you.

Some days all you’ll want is for no one to touch you or breathe on you and it’s important that you figure out a way to get that once in awhile. Even though there will be things you won’t be able to do once you’re a parent, don’t lose touch with the person you were and the things you loved to do. Both you and your children will benefit from you having other interests than their welfare. And for those times where it feels like your kid has hijacked your life, remember that there are other new and wonderful things you’ll get to do as a parent. When all else fails, sneak a piece of chocolate from your secret stash or take a nap instead of cleaning the house. Chocolate and naps are miracle workers.

Remember, you’re not just a mom, you’re a Mom. You’ll be doing the best social work you’ve ever done on the lowest pay, but your work will be beautiful and impactful. Know that just because you admit motherhood is hard doesn’t mean you don’t love it. Even on my worst days there’s something deep in my soul that whispers that these children were always meant to be mine and I know it’s the same for you and your little boy. You’re going to be awesome. Take it from an expert.

I am not a playground!

Dandelion

Shake the Dust

I’ve been in a bit of a funk the last few days. Maybe it’s because we had some serious potty training regression since preschool got out or maybe it’s because I’ve been sleeping in instead of running or maybe it’s because I feel like I lost a little part of my soul when I finally caved and joined Facebook.  Whatever it was, I was ready for it to stop and ready to get back to regular taking-care-of-business me. After a solid night’s sleep I woke up ready for change. During a few precious moments of quiet while I watered our garden this poem popped into my head.

Today I’m “shaking the dust” and “when the world knocks at [my] front door, [I'm going to] clutch the knob tightly and open on up and run forward and far into its widespread greeting arms with [my] hands outstretched before [me], fingertips trembling though they may be.”

Because there are two-year-olds that “speak half English and half God,”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAeggs with double yolks,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and sweet little boys who pick wild flowers for their mommas.

Camera Uploads

And those little gifts in the midst of life’s crazy ride deserve to be embraced funk free.

Us at the top of Windy Peak happy to have our hardest climbs behind us.

Dirty Thirty

When Noel turned thirty, I wanted to give him the perfect birthday gift. After much contemplation I logically concluded  the best gift would be registration for the two of us in a local trail race, the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty. At first we toyed with the idea of running the 50K (30 miles), but quickly came to our senses and decided we lacked the time and motivation to train for a race of that magnitude. We did our best to train despite the catastrophe known as the month of April. We took turns running, pulled out the double jogger a few times, and even convinced a few friends to watch the kids so we could sneak in a few trail run dates together. (Yes, most of our friends think we’re crazy, but I think they were glad we didn’t compete for the popular Friday night date slots.)

home-golden-gate-600x400

We’ve done marathons, half-marathons, Ragnars, and even a 5K where we wore Santa outfits and ate cookies at every “aid station,” but this race is by far the craziest that we’ve done. We started to get the feeling this wasn’t going to be your typical crowd when we started getting emails from the director about how we needed to bring our own hydration systems for the race and our own plates and silverware for the post race meal since they wanted to have a paper free event. Now, we’re all in favor of being green, but being responsible for carrying our own cups during a race sounded a little strange even to us. We ordered a fuelbelt for the event, but it of course was delivered while we were running the race (shame on us for not factoring Memorial Day into the shipping timeline I suppose). Instead, we used some large rubber bands to DIY some handheld water bottles which actually worked better than anticipated. We were worried we were going to look like crazy people, but we needn’t have worried about that. When we pulled into the parking lot where we caught the shuttle we started to laugh because the ragtag group of hippies wearing compression socks waiting outside of their Subarus was a dead giveaway that we were in the right place.

Me mid race.
Me mid race.

The race started with a quarter mile on a dirt road where everyone can get into position before heading into a single track hiking trail. Even though this was a race everyone was super polite and no elbows were thrown and no one was tripped. Heavy rains this last month had washed out parts of the trail which only made the technically difficult terrain that much more exciting. The race starts at a mere 7,700 feet above sea level (2,000 feet higher than where we live) so it was of course no big deal when we climbed and descended around 4000 feet. Okay, it was a big deal and we felt like big sissies when we finally gave in and walked, but as far as we could tell no one, not even the winners, ran the entire time. Really, the event was more of a speed hiking competition. The course was beautiful, but also kicked our butts. When we finished we enjoyed a nice soak in the creek before eating our post meal of grilled hamburgers on the plates we’d dutifully brought from home even though we were outraged to find they had a stack of paper plates for the taking. Everyone was really friendly and also in insanely great shape. (Seriously, we were starting to feel a bit self-conscious as 90% of the people looked like they walked off the cover of Runner’s World.) We were feeling pretty wussy as we listened to everyone’s ultra running resumes, but when we mentioned we had kids we found many people were impressed with us. It was a really fun environment with a good spirit of camaraderie. We were really glad we got to meet pink-tank-top, old guy, girl from France, guy-with-the-shoulder-tattoos, and guy-that-didn’t-move-his-arms among others. I guess we were all in such a kumbaya state of mind that names didn’t even matter.

Soaking our feet in the creek.
Soaking our feet in the creek.

Before the race started the director mentioned that they give a prize to the bloodiest participant so if you happened to fall you should stick around for the award ceremony. We had absolutely no intention of winning that prize, but when Noel took a somersaulting tumble down the mountain I may have gotten pretty excited about the possibility of him being a contender for the $100. When it came time for the contest of bloodiest battle wound Noel headed up to the front of the crowd along with a couple of people with bloody knees. The second Noel took his shirt off all the other contenders immediately dropped out and he walked away with a crisp $100 bill. For once, Noel was grateful for his unrivaled clumsiness. We also both won raffle prizes and got complimentary beer glasses, so we think we came out on top of this one.

Noel's award winning injury. This prize was better than if he'd won his age division.
Noel’s award winning injury. This prize was better than if he’d won his age division.

After all the fun was over we decided it was time to end our date (Yes, we considered it to be a date, and an awesome one at that!) and rescue my friend Emilie who had kindly agreed to watch our children. We’re a little sore today, but we’re already thinking about doing the race again someday. Perhaps when I turn thirty. Noel definitely showed thirty that he’s still got it in him.

Us at the top of Windy Peak happy to have our hardest climbs behind us.
Us at the top of Windy Peak happy to have our hardest climbs behind us.
Family picture

Sand Dunes and Alligators

It’s been a long dreary winter and now that everyone is feeling better we took an opportunity to get outside. We’ve been itching to get to the beach for a while now. Since there is no ocean of reasonable proximity camping at Great Sand Dunes seemed to be a worthy substitute. After playing an intense game of 3 dimensional Tetris, we got all our camping gear in the car and headed south and away from civilization.

Great Sand Dunes

Great Sand Dunes is pretty remote. It’s definitely not like most national parks I’ve seen. There’s no cutesy town right outside the park entrance with gift shops and restaurants. There is one small entrance station with no employee to take your money and give you the glossy map. Not that the glossy map was necessary, the road from the entrance leads up to a parking lot and then the campground. That’s it. It’s a pretty cool place, there are these big snow capped Colorado-type mountains with these Lawrence of Arabia sand dunes leading up to them. In the late spring (this time of year) they have a creek that runs around the base of the dunes making a nice beach-y area. It’s quite popular on the weekends, but we went during the week, so we avoided most of the crowds except for one school field trip bus.

Cooper and Ellen were very excited to go camping, so excited that going to sleep was an issue and there were many shenanigans. On the first morning there while Audrey and I were distracted making breakfast, Ellen found her way into a bunch of prickly pear cacti, then tripped and rolled around in them. I’m glad nobody called in the authorities from all the screaming she was doing as we extracted the needles from her. Nevertheless, she bounced right back in spite of the trauma.

After finally finishing up our now cold breakfast, cleaning up the campsite, and going through an elaborate sunblock routine we got to head down to the “beach.” It was a grand time. The kids loved making sand castles and destroying them. Cooper had this boat he would send down the creek and then chase. Ellen had fun in the water until she got cold from the wind, but she could be revived along with Audrey by sunning on the hot sand.

In the afternoon we made a foolish attempt to climb the dunes after the wind had really picked up. Ellen really didn’t care for being sand blasted–none of us did really. However, Cooper loved sliding down the sand. It was fun, but short lived.

Colorado Gators Reptile Park

On our last day we packed up and drove on out. Morbid curiosity compelled us to stop at another local attraction: the Colorado Gators Reptile Park. This is the craziest small town tourist trap I have ever seen. This place started as a tilapia farm in the desert made possible by hot springs then became a rescue mission for alligators and other sundry reptiles. Honestly, it was kind of like walking onto the set of a horror movie. Everything was dilapitated and every time I saw a fenced area or cage where I couldn’t immediately see the resident creature I’d feel a sudden panic. They had everything: giant tortioses, geckos, emus, rattlesnakes, a 40 foot python, and of course lots of alligators including an albino and the alligator from Happy Gilmore. It was totally creepy-cool.

Cooper was totally excited about seeing the animals until he realized that one big rock was really a living turtle that was 3x his size. He never warmed up to that turtle even though we told him it was like Franklin. Ellen was freaked out at first, but then really got into throwing alligator food pellets in and watching them go for it. (I’d really rather not know what the contents of the alligator food were.)

In Conclusion

Good times were had by all. A lot of sand found its way back to our house. We will not be getting an alligator as a pet. We’re thinking next time we’re in that area we will have to stop by the other fascinating local attraction: the UFO watch tower.

RIP Wallet

Good People

I forgot the number one rule of our family. I went grocery shopping with both kids (not my rule violation) and somewhere in between loading people and produce I put my wallet on top of the car. I was completely unaware of my infraction until I received an email five hours later from an unfamiliar address asking me to call them because they’d found my wallet on a highway onramp. The man who’d found it kindly drove out of his way to return the wallet and all its contents. Everything was a little bit trashed, but all the important stuff that could have led to the ruin of my credit score was accounted for.

RIP WalletI never thought I would be happy to have a complete stranger rifle through my wallet, but in this case I definitely was. (I’m also glad I’d slipped a few of my business cards in there so my contact info was readily available.) Thanks to my new favorite CDOT employee this reminder to never put things on the roof of the car ended without too much pain. It’s nice to know there are still good people in the world.

(Reason one and two why we instituted the never put anything on the roof of the car rule.)