Utah wrap up…

While Hallie and Hunter were living their best lives at sports camp, we spent time with family and friends in Utah. We stayed with my brother for a few nights which was a little different for us because their two kids left at home are Hallie and Hunter’s age. But they were great to play with their younger cousins and entertain them some while we were there. They even took them to the new Minions movie in hopes of securing favorite uncle/aunt status.

While our kids were at the movies, we enjoyed an evening with our Milwaukee/Lake Powell friends. We always leave our conversations and time together wishing we lived closer, but we’ll take dinner when we can get it.

We enjoyed some of the Days of 47′ festivities. (A state holiday honoring the early pioneers and settlers of Utah).

We attended the rodeo which was a little intense. We always attend the small local rodeo our church puts on each year, but this was the real deal. They had a section for kids to try their hand at bull riding and calf roping – they did great for being city slickers but we felt out of place without a fancy cowboy hat and matching boots.

We also went to the Days of 47′ parade float preview. This was one of those last minute decisions that my kids weren’t overly thrilled about and it ended up being a great time. We weren’t in town for the actual parade, so it was fun to be able to see the floats.

One of the themes for the parade was “courage” so two of the floats had fancy lions on them and not surprising, they were the two floats my kids voted as their favorites. As a side note: I could totally get behind building parade floats! I think I would really enjoy it – but they are a ridiculous amount of work and take tremendous talent.

Briggs fell in love with the puppies next door to my brother. The rest of us tolerated the visit but Briggs couldn’t get enough of them.

We took nightly rides on scooters and then followed it up with ice cream cake…yes, every night!

Hunter finished his camp a day earlier than Hallie so the last night we stayed close to campus with friends from Arizona who have decided to make Utah their long-term home. 🙁 They are so fun and we miss them greatly. A quick overnight stay wasn’t nearly long enough, but it was good to catch up.

We watched Hallie in her tournament and then added her to our already loaded car and we made the 10 hour drive home. It gave both her and Hunter plenty of time to catch up on sleep.

This is the last picture of a summer full of fun and memories.

Idaho wrap-up…

This is going to be picture heavy because I have far too many random pictures left of our Idaho trip.

We made it to my friend’s farm where the big kids picked cherries while the younger kids entertained the goats. I’m pretty sure my kids were more entertained than the goats.

My brother put my kids to use cleaning up the yard of one of his properties.

We spent so much time playing sports/games. Evening soccer and tennis was always on the schedule and we spent most afternoons in the church gym playing more games and the kids did their sports workouts.

My brother’s pond got so much use. If they weren’t fishing it, they were playing in it.

We visited my grandparent’s grave and then spent some time walking around the cemetery. We had some great discussions looking at headstones that evening.

My brother took my older kids up to McCall to do some natural river surfing. My kids were expecting it to be like lake wake surfing – which is so far from what it actually is. But they all got the hang of it eventually. (The clouds in this picture look totally fake!)

We always make a visit to the local city pool which is funny since we get so much pool use at home, but they are all big fans of the high dive.

Hallie and Hunter both participated in some tennis tournaments. And evidently, we like Hurley sweatshirts.

My brothers really enjoy tennis as well and Hallie has been playing against my younger brother for the last couple years when we visit. She was close to beating him last year, but he pulled through in the end. You can imagine the trash talking they had been slinging back and forth. It was a fun night when we were all able to witness Hallie beating him. Of course he was looking for a re-match the rest of our stay and they couldn’t ever find a time. So the is the picture in which we will remember their one and only battle this summer.

I was able to visit with several friends and managed to snap a picture at on of our meetups. The lady in the middle was my teacher and then coach all through high school. Every summer we meet for lunch and every summer I wonder how I was so lucky to cross paths with her.

We played hard. Every. Single. Day.

I can’t even count how many air soft battles were fought this summer. These boys couldn’t get enough of it.

One morning Hunter and my mom were twinning in their turkey trot shirts.

The local Wendy’s was crushing it with their wall art and failing at actually having frosty’s available – and we went more than once!

The fishing/camping trip was definitely a highlight for my boys and they had stories for days!

I’m not going to post every sunset picture that I found on my camera, but those sunsets never got old.

My parents and brother were such good hosts – obviously making it a little too comfortable for how long we’re willing to stay.

Our Idaho summers always hold a special place in my heart – and it’s taking root in my kids’ hearts as well. As one of the songs on our road trip playlist says, “I’d rather be in Idaho…” at least in the summer time. 🙂

Multnomah Falls…

A couple years ago, we were driving from Washington to Idaho and we came across Multnomah Falls. Our friends told us to look out for it as we were driving but we took it a step further and stopped to take a look. Unfortunately, there had been fires that summer and all the trails had been shut down. So we looked from afar and then got back in the car and kept on driving.

This year, on our way from Washington to Idaho we made plans to hike up to the overlook bridge which is the easiest paved .2 mile trail. (We had to make a reservation on the reservervation.gov website.)

Multnomah Falls

Within minutes, we were standing on the bridge looking at the waterfall a little closer than the previous vantage point. But when we stood there looking up at the beautiful waterfall cascading down, we realized there was an even better vantage point if we hiked further. We asked a few people who were making their way down the trail and they said it was a climb, but it was worth the hike. The map showed it was a mile up…switchbacks.

4 of my 5 kids wanted to keep hiking. We were this close, and we probably wouldn’t hike this again. I had one kid (who shall remain unnamed), that was overly anxious for the 6 hour drive ahead of us that day so he could see cousins. He was outnumbered and so we pressed forward hiking.

It was quite the climb. It started out fairly easy, and it got progressively more steep the higher we climbed. We took some shady breaks between switchbacks, cooled off and enjoyed the beautiful views.

Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls

In the end, we were rewarded with a beautiful (but cold) stream that turned into the magic that is Multnomah Falls. It’s amazing that something so calm and peaceful can flow with such force over the side of a mountain.

Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls

In the end – they were all good sports. It was hotter and took longer than we anticipated (and we played at the top for a bit) but that is part of the adventure. We had a long car ride ahead of us and it was nice to get out and stretch for a bit before making the drive – not to mention, we had a car full of fresh berries waiting for us when we were done!

Highly recommend!

Lake Powell…part 1…

I’m not sure how it’s possible, but this trip gets better every single year. The kids get older. They’re happier on the lake. They enjoy more activities. They can put sunscreen on themselves! 🙂 Our relationships with our friends are stronger than the year before and we have more shared experiences.

If you ask my kids, Lake Powell is their very favorite week of the year – more so than any other vacation we’ve ever been on and I have to agree. If you haven’t been to Lake Powell before, your only experience might be the media telling you how much its dropped in water level over the years and it’s true. We stayed in the exact cove we did last year but it looked different since it’s sitting almost 25 feet lower than last year. And yet, there is still so much to enjoy.

The weather was warmer than we’ve ever had with multiple days in the triple digits and yet I would argue, it was our best weather yet. The daily heat warmed up that water so even I found it to be enjoyable and luckily the houseboats have AC.

Every year our group has a few mishaps – broken props, stitches, boat issues or unpredictable weather – and yet every year we can recount God’s fingerprint during the week. Hunter will have a scar from a simple encounter with an underwater rock (hours into our first day), a simple reminder of God’s fingerprint that day. Luckily, we had Utah’s best maxillofacial surgeon taking care of him. (Between all the doctors that join us on this trip, they bring enough medical supplies/equipment to run a small medical office – every year it comes in handy.) Unfortunately, it did put a damper on Hunter’s experience for the week and he’s claiming last year was a better year than this year. 🙂

Bennett has been working on his surfing skills and has been using a trainer board with straps to get comfortable. This trip was the first time he not only used a real board, but was able to let go of the rope and start carving. A far cry from previous years when he was crying in the water frustrated and ready to be done. I’m convinced learning to surf is a labor of love and we’ve been fortunate to have so many great people teach our kids. This year, it was our turn to teach someone else’s kid and she did great – our experience has been kids always learn better when its someone besides their own parent teaching them.

If this picture had a sound (ie a video) you would hear a gaggle of kids chanting “Jared, Jared, Jared” over and over again. You see, Jared brings a boat every year strictly dedicated to tubing. It’s a smaller ski boat, doesn’t throw a large wake, and gets the best gas mileage. Every morning, my kids would wake up and run to the other house boat to ask Jared to take them for a ride – and he always obliged. The kids loved him so much, they started chanting his name with love every time he was taking them out for a spin. The chanting became a thing during the trip and it made me smile every time. At the end of the trip, as we were driving the house boats back to the marina, we caught up with the other house boat as they had stopped to remove the boat they were towing behind it. From the top of our houseboat, I could hear the chants. I walked out to find the kids chanting Jared’s name as we passed them on the water. The perfect send off for him!

The whole crew – all of us crossing paths for various amounts of time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin years ago. Oddly enough, we weren’t close with all these families while we lived there, but we all have a shared experience of our time together and that was enough to form an unbreakable bond and we have grown to love each other and we look forward to catching up each and every year.

San Francisco with kids…Part 2…

Our must see/do was the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the Hop on Hop off bus. After that, we just let the exploring take us around this fun city.

I was really hoping there was a chocolate factory tour here, but instead it’s some cute shops, a couple restaurants and of course some great ice cream – and the atmosphere is fun. We actually visited this area more than once – but only overpaid for shakes once!

Someone told us that seal watching at Pier 39 was a highlight of their trip. So we walked down to the pier expecting an industrial area with seals. We were surprised to find Pier 39 as a shopping and eating area and it wasn’t until we walked through the whole pier that we found the seals on the backside of one of the buildings. Oddly enough, the seals were just as fun to watch as people had said! The kids named them. They told stories about them. They were invested in the seals – so much so that we returned the next day to continue the seal saga!

The crazy crooked street was more steep than I imagined – which is true for most of the streets in San Francisco. I think it said it was a 27% grade and I’m pretty sure freeways warn you when it’s 6%! I can’t imagine actually living on that street with the amount of tourists that want to drive down it everyday.

We found this area riding our bikes back from the Golden Gate Bridge so we stopped to play for a while. There were so many kite surfers and we marveled at their skills and even more importantly their willingness to get in waters that I’m pretty sure cause hypothermia. We were all a little chilled by this point but that didn’t stop the boys from creating an adventure. Before long, socks and shoes were off and they were running across the sand. What you don’t see is the rest of us huddled in the corner trying to find refuge from the wind and stay warm.

These pictures were only an hour and a half a part at Chrissy Field and yet the weather turns so quickly.

This is right on the water at the Wharf and let me tell you, you’ll want to grab bread every. Single. Day. They have an area where you can watch the bread being made and I could have sat in that warm area, enjoying the sweet aroma of bread all day. I’m pretty sure we stayed for 45 minutes, but it could have easily been longer. We also found it a great place to grab dinner.

Every night we retired to our hotel at dark. And every night we found ourselves in the courtyard enjoying the most peaceful atmosphere. We’d turn on the fire and chat. The kids would play ping pong and lawn jenga. And then when they tired, they would head to the rooms to watch movies while we continued to sit right here. It was my favorite and I looked forward to it every night. One night we even grabbed some dinner and brought it back to the hotel so we could start our fireside early!

The last morning we were there, we had plans to board a cable car. But we had seen most everything we wanted to see, so instead we found ourselves at Musee Mecanique by Pier 39 – an antique coin operated arcade. (They had games new, old and really old!) We gave a few dollars in quarters to each kid and we passed the time away until it was time to return to the airport. We Skee ball contests, and driving competitions and saw some old arcades that warned of being offensive in nature! I was skeptical that it would keep the kids interest and I was happy to be wrong. Arcade for the win!

This little scooter saw so many miles. We brought it in our suitcase for Briggs to ease some walking on his little legs. We underestimated the hills and sidewalks in need of repair. Which means most of the time one of the other kids was using the scooter for fun while Briggs was a champ and walked without a single complaint.

There was really only one area that didn’t live up to our expectations – and I’m sure it was us and not the area – but Chinatown was a disappointment. Years ago, I went to Chinatown in Philadelphia and it was awesome. So many cool shops and it was really clean. This was not the same experience. We heard that San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest outside of Asia – but it just didn’t peak our interest. But they did have some cool murals! And some decent Chinese food.

We really did have such a great time. Some tried warning us of how much the city had changed in the last couple years and how dirty every thing was with homeless people abounding – that just wasn’t our experience. We came and we conquered and we left with nothing but good things to say about the area and dreaming about the Boudin Bread.

San Francisco with kids…part 1…

When we were planning our fall break to San Francisco with some family friends, it was overwhelming to choose what we were going to do with the limited time we had. We narrowed it down to the must-dos – and then we had a couple optional items we didn’t want to commit to, but were on our short list if we had time.

Between the two families, we had 9 kids and we walked and biked and bussed all over that city. We find that our kids rarely complain when they’re having fun with friends, even if that means walking 9 miles around the city!

The thing our kids were most excited to see was not the bridge – although that came in a close second. They were most excited about Alcatraz. Bennett has just learned about Al Capone at school so when we mentioned this as an option, his eyes lit up because he knew exactly what prison we were talking about. Oddly enough, all the rest of the kids were equally excited without knowing much about it.

We booked our tours through the official Alcatraz website, alcatrazcitytours.com (Alctraz is run by the National Park Services, but the ferry is run by an authorized concessioner.) There are several services that will ferry you around the island, but only one allows you to go inside Alcatraz and take the audio tour. The audio tour was totally worth it. Each person got their own listening device and it’s a self guided tour. It was fascinating. I’m not sure Briggs caught much of the audio tour, but he loved being there. The audio tour is only in one building, but you’re allowed to explore the island and some other buildings which was interesting. We spent 2.5 hours there and we could have spent a little longer, but the kids were getting hungry and it was chilly as the fog started to roll in.

The older kids ended the night by watching the old movie “Escape From Alcatraz”. They kept repeating over and over again, “I can’t believe we were in that exact room. We were in that building!”

It kind of had some haunted house vibes!

I’m not sure how you go to San Francisco and not cross the bridge. We actually crossed it both by bus and bike and I think everyone would agree biking was better. We purchased a GoCity pass for everyone which gave us two experiences to choose from and one of those was renting bikes for the day to cross the bridge. (In hindsight, I would have probably added more experience options to our pass – we just didn’t want to wear everyone out or be tied down, but we could have easily done another activity or two!)

We rented bikes at the Wharf and rode all the way across the bridge. Most kids were on their own bikes and then Briggs and Cannon were on tagalong bikes with Steve and I. I will be honest – we didn’t know exactly what we were getting into. We knew how long the bridge was, and roughly how far away from the bridge we were, but we underestimated the hills! (Shocking, I know, because the city is full of hills!) Within the first mile, both Steve and I were second guessing our decision. Our legs were burning early on, but we just kept pedaling.

The original plan was to keep riding into Sausalito and then take a ferry back. But when we got half way across the bridge, we put it up to a vote with all the kids and the majority wanted to ride back across the bridge back to the wharf. (We climbed a lot of hills to get to the bridge so I think the kids knew the way home would have some fun downhill rides and they were right!) So we made it all the way across the bridge and then turned around and came back. We were surprised to learn that they only let bikes across the bridge at certain times and we were lucky we were in the time frame. Had we arrived an hour later, we would have been disappointed to learn it was closed to bikes. Check ahead!

We ended up biking 13 miles – and I’m confident if we had known that number at the beginning, we probably would not have committed! But it was so worth it. It was a little foggy which was initially disappointing, but it ended up giving the experience another dimension that we weren’t expecting. (Arizona kids are not familiar with fog, so riding through the “Clouds” was entertaining)

This was the second experience we had using our GoCity pass. We boarded the bus in the morning at the Wharf and we jumped on and off multiple times throughout the day to see different areas of the city. This was a great way to see the city and we strategically decided where we wanted to spend time. The kids loved the Ferry building which happened to have a farmer’s market open and some random water structure across the street that our kids could have spent the whole day running around.

We drove through the downtown area and our kids were in awe of all the tall buildings. We have similar buildings in downtown Phoenix, but it always looks more cool in another city.

We stopped at the painted ladies (the victorian homes featured at the beginning of the Full House credits.) It was at this point that we realized our kids didn’t know what Full House was and they weren’t nearly as enamored with them. I thought they were pretty – similar to many victorian homes in SF – but because they were in the credits of my favorite childhood show they meant something a little more. There was a park across the street and once again, the kids found more than enough things to keep their interest and we got to sit in the grass and marvel at the beautiful day and beautiful area. It felt as though every stop we got off the bus, we were pulling them to get them back on the bus. They were easily entertained and very easy going.

We got off at the Golden Gate Park to play and grab some food and then took the bus across the bridge. Same bridge as the day before, but a different experience on a bus rather than riding bikes. The main advantage of the bus was it was easier to grab some pictures (and it required next to no physical effort), but it was way colder/windy riding on the top of the bus!

To be continued…