We had a beautiful Memorial Weekend up in the mountains with Steve’s family – our annual tradition – and each year it gets better and better as our kids get a little bit older and they have a little more freedom to play and roam with cousins.
There was pool time – we would play all morning (tennis and playground) – work up a sweat and cool off in the pool. Or sweat on the sidelines watching kids in the pool! Fortunately the weather was 25-30 degrees cooler than back home or else we would have been melting on the sidelines.
We spent Sunday going to church and spending time as a family. With the size of Steve’s family, we’re spread out over several cabins. But each year on Sunday, we come together in one cabin to eat, hang out and play games. This is always my favorite day of the trip. There is something about being under one roof with all these people that is deeply gratifying. It is anything but peaceful – but it’s comfortable. I enjoy sitting back and being a spectator to conversations and games. And the great part is you can talk and participate as much you like. For me, sometimes thats a lot and sometimes its a little. I enjoy being in it as much as I love watching my family being in it. Like watching Steve with his nephew doing a magic trick!
Eight of the nine siblings with their spouses. These people are amazing…and they are witty and fun and completely selfless.
What made this year a little different than the rest is one of Steve’s sister and her family from Utah joined us in the mountains for the first time. They add a whole new level of fun and life to our already large party! They are sending two kids, a daughter and son, on a mission this summer so we spent part of the afternoon hearing from them about the countries they’ll be serving in. My kids are surrounded by such good examples in all of their cousins – they’re fortunate in that way.
We closed the night out with some s’mores – nothing says mountain living quite like a sticky, burnt s’more!
The other highlight of the trip was tennis. Saturday and Monday morning were dedicated to family tennis. Two courts – 40 people – and a game of live tennis. (fast-paced points that rotate quickly and lets everyone play – all levels continuously.) We played for hours. And after a while, the adults started to putter out and yet the cousins kept going. This family is made of talented tennis players and it’s fun to watch old and young play together. Hallie has been taking lessons for a while and this was her first time playing with the family and she totally held her own. The youngest one on the court and she didn’t back down. Lessons are finally paying off!
Steve grew up spending spring break on the slopes, it was the only time they skied. And yet, a couple days a year in the Utah mountain air created a family a phenomenal skiers. It had been years since Steve had skied with his siblings. He had one day of less than ideal snow to get two kids skiing (they’ve skied one day before) and enjoy some time himself. I tried getting him to take Bennett – but that was a deal breaker. Luckily he had his dad – the master ski instructor – to help him out. It was a fun, yet exhausting day for all involved!
We toured Mrs. Cavanaugh’s chocolate factory. My kids love tours where they see the process – this particular day we were watching a lady hand make chocolate covered nut clusters. Her precision and grace was mesmerizing. We also had a healthy share of samples!
We met up with some good friends, who live near my brother, for an afternoon – which is never long enough. I’m convinced we need more time in Utah just to visit all the friends who have relocated there. We need some of them to migrate to sunny Arizona!
We went to an Escape the Room which was a first for Steve and I. There were only four of us in a room made for twelve and we could’ve used a couple more people working on puzzles. We had a great time, but sadly didn’t finish in time.
We played with cousins and watched their soccer and basketball games. We would tuck them in at night and party hard for several hours eating ice cream and playing games.
I pretty sure every time we got in the car and saw snow covered mountains, I gushed. They are majestic and beautiful and it took me by surprise each time I saw them.
We visited Antelope Island State Park which seemed completely out of place. It seems so desolate and rural – but it’s two miles from the city.
We saw the Great Salt Lake and took turns imagining what it would be like to swim in the salty water. We want to go back in the summer and try it out.
Just around the corner from the Great Salt Lake was a herd of Bison. They were roaming on the side of the road and they were more than a little intimidating. It’s not like a zoo where the animals were caged. We were fully aware of the danger and kept a healthy distance.
The last day we were there – we gave the kids some options of activities and surprise, surprise – they wanted to go back to the snow. Such a novelty for the Arizona kids!
We knew where to find snow, we went back up Ogden Canyon to the area we rented snow mobiles. But instead, we just went sledding. Let me tell you – these were large steep hills and we were exhausted trekking up just to sled down. We were stripping coats and sweatshirts it was so warm. In fact, the snow had melted considerably in just the six days since we had been up there.
As exhausting as it was, we climbed up those hills time and time again and we’d take long breathers once we finally reached the top. We made trains. We had crashes, we had mishaps and we laughed as we cleaned snow out of our pants. Three days of snow for spring break was just what we were looking for.
In an attempt to break up our drive home we stopped in Vegas – the halfway mark. We were looking to make a long stop to get some dinner and let the wiggles out. Our genius idea consisted of taking the kids to M&M world on the strip. We’ve had better ideas.
The kids enjoyed M&M world – several floors of chocolate goodness and paraphernalia. But 5 kids in Vegas is crazy and we did not fit in. Not only that – the whole environment was a little hard for our kids to comprehend. Hallie asked why everyone was in their swimsuits when they weren’t swimming. Hunter wondered why so many people smoked, it made everything smell bad. And Bennett just wanted one of the cool drinks everyone seemed to be carrying. (The long glasses filled with alcohol that had a light at the bottom.) We got our dinner and quickly made it back to the car before it got dark and the real crazies came out. We wanted to avoid any further explanations of other’s behaviors!
The second half of the drive was quiet and uneventful. Just the way we prefer it, especially in contrast to our drive up.
The week with family was more than we had hoped for. My brother and his wife were amazing hosts and made it too comfortable – we might be back sooner than they had hoped! 😉
This is the first year we’ve ever gone anywhere for Spring break. Last year at this time, I was drowning with a newborn and kids home from school for spring break. This year, we’re in a much more manageable position. We went to Utah in search of snow and we found it…barely.
The 12 hour drive could easily go down as one of our most miserable drives. The forces of nature were against us. Traffic, miserable kids, more traffic, car sickness, throwing up, tired kids who wouldn’t sleep…not our best moments. But once we pulled into my brother’s driveway, we had a week of fun and adventure and we nearly forgot about the awful drive…until we were packing up back in the car to come home. Luckily the drive home was an average drive without any major hiccups.
The first day, we went in search of snow. Utah has had an unseasonably warm spring and most the snow had melted. We drove up Ogden canyon until the road closure for the winter and we found more than enough snow to suit our needs. We rented snowmobiles for the afternoon and shuttled kids to the top of rather large hills for them to sled down and then we’d shuttle them back to the top. Between sledding and building forts, the kids were entertained for hours.
The nice thing about spring snow is it ends up being warm enough you don’t need heavy jackets. Cannon couldn’t figure out why he was so warm yet every time he took his gloves off and touched the snow, his hands were cold! He’s still trying to figure this stuff out.
Hallie and her cousin won the award for most trips down the mountain. These mountains are for snowmobiles, so they’re not little hills. They were flying.
Steve and I took a couple turns down the large mountain. It was ridiculously fun.
Bennett did a few runs down the mountain – but he really just wanted to play in the snow or ride on the snowmobile.
He was happy – until he tried taking his coat off without taking his gloves off. He’s got a short fuse sometimes!
The first day of spring break was so great, we could’ve stopped right there. But we didn’t! 🙂
Long post with lost of Zion pictures: I can’t say enough how much I love this place and I can’t stop taking pictures when I get there!
Our love for the national parks runs deep – but there is an extra special place in our heart for Zion because we spent several summers working there while we were in college. I know that park well. We drove through that park so many times over the course of three summers; day and night. I know each turn, what landmark is around the next bend and trails that weave throughout. The minute I drive into the park, there is this nostalgia that swallows me up. I love Zion.
And that love and appreciation is being passed on to our kids. We spent a whole day in the park last week and it was surprisingly enjoyable. I say surprisingly because with 5 kids in tow most experiences are unpredictable and exhausting. But this day was nothing but rewarding.
The weather was beautiful. We’re used to Zion in the summer with it’s scorching hot sun – but October brought cooler weather which made hiking more enjoyable. We parked at the visitors center and took the shuttle (or the train as Cannon excitedly called it) up the canyon to the very last stop. With Briggs in the chest carrier and Cannon in the backpack carrier we hiked up to the Narrows. The colors and texture of that canyon are captivating. I couldn’t put my camera down.
Once we reached the end of the riverwalk, the kids ran around, skipped rocks and played games. With Briggs sleeping on my chest, I continued to slowly move around as to not disturb him. I watched people, listened to their conversations and engaged in conversations with many people. There was a peace in that canyon that I wanted to bottle up and treasure.
We hiked back out, got back on the shuttle, returned to our car and drove through the park and through one of the tunnels. We parked, got back out and situated and hiked canyon overlook. This was a little more difficult than riverwalk because it wasn’t a paved trail. In fact, its trail was made up of boulders, steep and narrow areas, bridges and such. Bennett did a great job, but the .5 mile hike took some time and we slowly maneuvered the trail. But the view was totally worth it. The kids felt they were on top of the world. If you’re afraid of heights this might not be the hike for you!
You want to know what I learned from this day? We don’t have to wait until the kids get older to have adventures. Will it be easier when they can walk themselves? Absolutely. But we don’t have to wait.
You want to know what else I learned? A lot of people think 5 kids is crazy! Mind blowing. In fact, I wish I could’ve recorded all the comments people made to us and about us when they thought we were out of ear shot. Here’s just a few:
On the trail: Did you see they had 4 kids? No, they had 5! She had one strapped to her chest as well. That’s nuts.
On the shuttle: You don’t think those are all their kids do you? Well, they’re sitting by them, who else would their parents be.
On the trail as we were hiking in a line with one kid, then Steve, then two kids, then me: One, two, three, four. Are you the mom? Yes. Wow you are the mom! Wait, there’s number 5!
On the trail: Wow, you are a brave family!
While the kids were skipping rocks in the narrows, a couple from the Ukraine approached me. “Are those all your kids?” Yes. “Wow. Can I take a picture of you with your baby to show our kids back home?” Sure. “They will be shocked to see a family of your age doing stuff like this. They have this mindset that they can’t do anything because they have kids but you’re proving them wrong, I love it.”
On the trail: Good job mom and dad!
On the trail: Did you see all those kids? They were even carrying two of them.
We had a good chuckle after every comment. Evidently 5 kids is mind blowing to most people. And even more crazy that we would take them hiking for the day! But they were champs. Every single one of them made it an enjoyable experience. And the biggest success indicator is they all want to go back. And I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to make that happen. If you haven’t explored Zion, you are missing out!
We went to Utah last week for our fall break. We made a two day stop in southern Utah to enjoy the beauty of the red rock and our favorite national park, Zion. I strapped this guy to my chest and we walked and hiked and walked some more. We logged many miles that day and Briggs was a champ. He was overly exhausted by the time we boarded the canyon shuttle and I was second guessing our plans to hike with five kids for the day.
But once we started on the path towards the Narrows, the movement, beauty and peace of the area lulled him to sleep. He missed the beautiful fall leaves. The narrowing canyon. The rock skipping. The aggressive squirrels. The trail games. He missed it all. He awoke two hours later as we made our way back out of the canyon. He did manage to stay awake the entire time we hiked canyon overlook and enjoyed it’s majestic view.
Hiking looks good on him. Long car rides on the other hand…not so good. In fact miserable and really bad!