Grand Canyon 2012

Posted May 16th, 2012 by Sally and filed in Adventures, Doozy, Family, Firsts, Kiddos, Whoozy

Even though we’d lived within 400 miles of a natural wonder for four years, we didn’t get around to visiting until a month before our PCS. (That’s the way it goes, right?) We were so fortunate to make our first trip to the Grand Canyon with Grammie & Grandad, who were also on their first trip.  We all met at a McDonalds in Williams, AZ, and then drove into the park together. Of course, when we got to the sign to make it official, we had to stop for a photo opportunity!

From there, we headed straight to the visitor’s center to pick up some maps (Whoozers was demanding one since we wouldn’t give up the one we were navigating the car with) and to get our first view of that big hole in the ground. Let’s just say…it definitely delivered a “wow” moment. They weren’t kidding when it was named “Grand.”

We were fortunate to be staying in one of the in-park lodges with an adjoining room to Grammie & Grandad.  Oh, the luxury of adjoining rooms!  Easy access to hand kids off one direction or the other so everyone has a chance to shower, a place to hang out after bedtime and, most importantly, double the space for kids to run amuck during the short time we spend inside on this trip. Such a great thing!

After we got the lay of the land from the visitor center, we watched a short movie about the history of the canyon and then went to check in at our room. We got settled, grabbed some dinner and then headed out to watch our first sunset. Because we had heard a few horror stories and were extremely paranoid, Ava spent her visit to the Grand Canyon on a leash. We wouldn’t normally go for something like that but we figured better safe than sorry. Whoozers was mostly cooperative when we explained that we just wanted to keep her safe.  But, when we got out of the van to head to the lookout point, she cracked us all up by saying, “OK, who’s going to walk me like a dog?”

The next morning, Grammie and Grandad went to watch the sunrise while the rest of us caught up on some sleep.  Then, we headed for a wonderful breakfast at a historic lodge before our big hike down Angel Trail.

Let’s be honest, there’s not a bad view of the Canyon.  Even the little spot right outside of the restaurant was a scenic vista!

Since our bellies were full and we were full of energy, we geared up and struck out down the Bright Angel trail.  This is one of the trails folks who are hiking the whole Canyon would use to reach the bottom.  We only intended to go a little ways down before turning around and heading back out.  We were carrying a baby on one back, had a pre-schooler on a leash, and a woman deathly afraid of heights along for the ride.  Needless to say, we took our trip pretty slowly and were careful not to push too far.

This was about as far as Grammie got before she turned back to go enjoy the Canyon from the safe space of a large window. Grandad walked her back and we kept on moving downhill for a ways.  Then, we found this….

It’s a very valid warning about the dangers of hiking the canyon unprepared.  However, signs like that are just begging to be mocked. Exhibit A…

Eventually, Grandad caught up to us on the trail and we climbed down a bit more before turning around.  The path back up was more of a mental journey than a physical one, as we had a very tired preschooler on our hands.  But, she was able to press through and make it back to the top.

Do you see Grandad in that photo?  Look at the clearing in the middle…he’s wearing a yellow shirt.  Didn’t seem like that far, but photos don’t lie!

Of course, when we were done, we all felt a little like this…

We grabbed some well-earned lunch back at the top of the canyon and then spent the rest of the afternoon attending the necessary lectures to earn Ava her Junior Ranger badge. We learned about California Condors and did a few activities in here Junior Ranger book. The swearing in ceremony was so cute!

And then, it was time for another sunset at yet another lookout point.

The next morning, Matt and I went to check out the sunrise while the kids slept safely in the room (hooray for adjoining rooms!). It was gorgeous and I think there are some photos somewhere, but I don’t have them ready for this post. Because we’d exerted ourselves so much the day before, we were all running a little low on energy and decided to take a bus tour out to one of the edges of the Canyon.  We got off the bus at several stops to take a ton of photos and look for Condors (we actually saw three on this trip!).

Even though this was a bus tour, we still ended up doing quite a bit of walking.  First, we felt like this…

And then, we ended up feeling like this…

So, it was time to take a break and just sit and look out at the very edge of the world.

The bus ride back to civilization was crowded and we had a couple of squirrly kids on our hands.

So when we got back to the hotel, we figured a little “off leash” time was in order.  And, by, did they ever love that.  Some previous resident of the hotel had set up an amazing fallen-log fort and it was just what these safety-confined children needed.

After that, it was one more sunset, one more breakfast and then a last look at a piece of majestic American terrain.

We piled back into the van and headed for home. We were so glad to share this experience with Grammie and Grandad and don’t know how we would have managed without them.  Now we can consider that major item on our American West bucket list checked!

Ava & Noah – Children of God

Posted May 13th, 2012 by Sally and filed in Doozy, Firsts, Kiddos, Whoozy

In November, on the first Sunday of Advent, we attended our first church service at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Boulder City, Nevada.  It’s probably no coincidence that we would find our church home (after a long search) at a place named after the patron saint of travelers.  The congregation there welcomed us with open arms and a tolerance for noise during service and we’ve been going ever since.

We’d been attending for a couple months when Father Jim came to us during coffee hour after the service and asked, “Well, what are we going to do about baptizing these kids?” That was all the invitation we needed to get the ball rolling on just such an effort. Finally, on April 29, 2012, both kids were baptized in the presence of many family & friends, and welcomed by a church family that has shown them wonderful love.

All dressed up and ready to head to church.

We named our siblings and Brooke as godparents, but were lucky enough to include special friends in the ceremony also.
Thanks to John, Liz, Ricardo & Brooke for joining us for the service.

Grama Sue & Grampa Steve made the trip for this special event also.

Rev. Shirley always serves as deacon for baptisms at St. Christophers. Such a lovely lady.

Noah didn’t like the first bowl full of water, but calmed right down for the second and third.
He had decided that John was his “person” that day and wouldn’t give him up for anything.

Ava was so ready to be baptized.  She answered all the questions in the service herself and then hung her head over the bowl like she couldn’t wait. She even took out her headband before they started so she could really get wet!

Both kids were anointed with oil after baptism. It smelled really nice!

In the Episcopal tradition, all one must do to receive communion is be baptized.  That means that Ava’s first communion was immediately following this ceremony.  While Father Jim said the liturgy, Ava was hanging over the railing begging him to hurry up! He could hardly get through it because she was cracking him up so much. When it was time, she practically leapt over the railing to take communion.  She was so excited!

Following the service, the congregation hosted a lunch and cake to celebrate the kids.  They also gifted them with beautiful crosses which now hang right over their light switches (because for some weird reason, that’s just where they go in our house).

Rev. Shirley always provides the cake for baptisms.  Such sweet people here.

The fam with Father Jim in front of church.

These kids are so loved and St. Christopher’s has been a blessing for our family. What a wonderful day!

Art Expo

Posted May 12th, 2012 by Sally and filed in Doozy, Kiddos, Whoozy

We love the kids’ school here and one of the reasons is that they truly go above and beyond to help our kids grow and then share their learning with the families.  They routinely welcome families into the center to celebrate the kids’ efforts and we so enjoy getting to visit for something more special than drop-off and pick-up.

At the end of April, school hosted an Art Expo to showcase all the artwork the kids have worked on this Spring.  It’s astounding to me the level of effort put forth by the kids’ teachers to set this up so wonderfully (and to get the projects done in the first place!).  Even though both of our kids had been out off and on for a couple weeks (vacation and illness) beforehand, they both had something to share for each of the exhibits put on by their class.  Amazing.

So, first, here’s Ava’s artwork.

A flower, painted during their week-long focus on plants.

Water color painting.  Not sure what it’s supposed to be, but it’s pretty!

Family portrait. From left to right, Ava, Daddy, Noah, Mommy.

Decorated picture frame.

Class group project – tissue paper heart.

And, Noah’s artwork.

3-D paint art.

Tissue paper collage art.

Salad Spinner Paint art.

Painting on an easel.

This event was so special – not only because we got to see the kids’ work, but also because of the pride everyone there was feeling.  The kids did all of this themselves, which made them feel good, and the teachers are genuinely proud of their efforts.  I just love that they are all so thrilled to share with us. All the art is still hanging on the walls and displayed on tables in the hallways and Noah runs around saying “Art! Art!” every day. Thanks so much to the wonderful teachers and staff at the school…you all are truly amazing!

A Bunch of Monkeys (and a trip to the zoo)

Posted May 9th, 2012 by Sally and filed in Adventures, Doozy, Family, Firsts, Kiddos, Vacation, Whoozy

First exhibit of the day were some monkeys (chimps?).  Our little monkeys loved it!

It would have been insane to go to San Diego and not visit the world’s best zoo.  And, since we’re not really crazy, we went.  Rain was in the forecast for most of the days we were visiting, so we took advantage of the sunny weather on our first day in town and went to see some animals.  The truly lovely thing about San Diego was that it wasn’t hot or cold, just pleasant, so the animals were out and about doing their thing.  So much more fun to visit them when they’re playing than when they’re scrambling for shade because it’s a bajillion degrees outside.

We got to the park right when it opened at 9am and stayed until about 2pm.  I think we saw everything but the tigers.  The kids did great with all the walking and the no-nap day and Matt and I were in vacation mode (i.e., give them whatever they want so that they’re happy and we all enjoy this).   We had so many pictures from the day, it was hard to choose just a few.  So, will share a bunch with captions to tell this story.

Taking the double jogger was key.  Ava needed a place to sit by the end of the day!

These statues were all over the zoo and the kids loved climbing on them.

Early morning outing for the male gorilla, so that he can “take care of business.” This was pretty hilarious.
He walked right over in front of us, turned his back and got to work.

When he was done, he walked right over to the glass and got nose to nose with Ava.
Guess he wanted some privacy. ;-)

More playing/posing with the statues.

Totally her idea.

On Ava’s insistence we rode the gondola before lunch, from the top of the hill. Turns out she’s brilliant.  No line, and we got a roundtrip ride with no wait because our stroller didn’t fit.  Awesome! 

Noah loved this ride.  I was a nervous Nelly and had a pretty tight hold of him.
The kid has no fear and is a total thrill junkie.

More gorillas out to play as we coasted overhead.

The polar bears put on quite a show! They played a little water polo together and were very entertaining!

Can’t go to the San Diego Zoo and not see the pandas, right? We waited in line for about forty minutes, but the kids were pretty patient. I will say that I’ve not seen pandas this close before.  The ones in DC are far from the fence and usually hiding.  These guys were cute!

Noah LOVED the giraffes.  They were pretty busy and very near the fence, so he had a great view of them.

At the end of the day, we wound up at the petting zoo. The kids brushed the goats and Noah played with their dirt.
Gross, but they had a great time.

This about sums it up.  One last pose with a statue and, yes, we were all wiped out!

Passed out snuggling his new giraffe buddy on the ride back to the hotel.

Thanks for the memories, zoo friends!

A Trip to the Beach

Posted May 8th, 2012 by Sally and filed in Adventures, Doozy, Family, Firsts, Kiddos, Vacation, Whoozy

At the beginning of March, Matt called me at work one day (totally out of the blue) and said, “Want to go to the beach?  Let’s go to San Diego.  I’m online booking it now.” So, in early April, we went!  We stayed at the awesome Navy North Island NAS in some of the nicest TLFs we’ve ever visited.  I suppose, really, the rooms weren’t anything truly luxurious (and we were in the old building) but we weren’t there for the hotel room.  We were there for this…

See that ship?  It was waaaay out there.  It’s a BIG ship.

From our room, we walked across a lawn and then hit the beach…leading straight to the Pacific Ocean.

Needless to say, we absolutely loved it.  The weather wasn’t the most cooperative (we were freezing!) but that didn’t stop us from getting some play time in with the waves and digging up as much sand as possible.  This was Noah’s first trip to a beach and Ava’s first that she would really remember, so it was a highly exciting time!

Chasing waves.

Bundled up because he face-planted in the (cold) water.

“Ladybug Girl LOVES the beach!”


Each day we were there, we spent a couple hours just wandering the beach or going to check on the waves.  These kiddos are definitely water lovers, so it did take a little effort to keep them from just running straight into the water.  But, if we stayed back from the tide line, they were just as happy to play in the sand and make a total mess.

Nothing says “Day at the Beach” like winter coats and sweatpants, right? :-)

Like I said, they enjoyed getting messy.  Ahh…sand in fleece.  That’s so easy to shake out!

This guy loves the beach.

So does this girl.

A great start to a wonderful adventure.  More from San Diego soon!