It was this time last year that we were enjoying the beautiful red rock of Moab, Utah and Arches National Park. Our young family of four kids, with my expanding pregnant belly, hiking through the dirt and sagebrush. My older kids climbing up and over rocks and exploring. It was pretty great.
One year later, same fall break, we’re hitting up our favorite national park – Zion. Now with 5 kids in tow, one carried on my chest, one carried on Steve’s back, (We’re ditching the stroller this time around!) I’m sure we’ll get the same crazy looks from tourists, “Are they all your kids?” Yes they are and our love of national parks runs deep. So much so, we want them to experience them over and over again. Even if its not convenient or ideal – and we’re sticking to easy hikes – no angel’s landings for this group anytime soon!
Also – Don’t forget those with fourth graders can get a free national park pass for the year. We took advantage of it last year and wish we had it again this year!
We gathered with Steve’s siblings and spouses along with his parents in Carlsbad, California for an adult reunion. The last adult reunion was 10 years ago and we were brand new parents and Hallie joined us at the reunion. This time we had another baby but we left him in loving hands so we could fully enjoy our time with the family.
The idea of an adult reunion starts out like this: Someone throws out an idea, “I think we should all go to XYZ together.” That idea never makes it past the initial conversation. Instead a million ideas are thrown out, everyone with an opinion on how and where and when it should be done. Everyone goes home and some never think about it again, while other’s go into full research mode. After some research, a more thought out plan is presented through email. “We are going to go to this place, at this time and we’d love all who can join to join.” And people jump on board, it’s surprising how many can make it work.
This year, Steve had a sister who wasn’t able to make it – 8 out of 9 kids isn’t bad, but we really missed the one. Nobody is a number in this family!
We spent the morning sleeping in, walking to breakfast and exploring. One morning we went on a long bike ride – our brother-in-law lost his uncle at sea a couple years back and we were able to ride our bikes to the memorial in Oceanside. It was a beautiful ride and a fun way to see the area and between the huffing and puffing of going up hills we were able to have some great conversations.
The afternoons were reserved for beach time. I’ve mentioned before my dislike for sand but my time on the beach was surprisingly good. When we left for Carlsbad, I had been sick for 10 days. I was able to get on an antibiotic the day before we left, but my body was still weak and tired. Afternoons sitting on the beach was some good recovery time. I think when we go again, I’ll be much more active and into playing but this time I enjoyed sitting. And conversing. And observing. Steve on the other hand couldn’t get enough activity. He was in the ocean, he was out, he was back in and had a permanent grin plastered across his face.
And as much fun as the afternoon was on the beach – the evening was even better. The sun going down, with the beautiful orange glow that seemed to paint everything in sight. That alone was worth having my feet touch the sand.
The evenings were reserved for great dinners and important and meaningful conversations. This family is full of laughs and fun…and occasionally they can be serious and talk about things of a more sensitive nature. Steve’s oldest brother led a discussion the first night that went late into the night and still has Steve and I talking and pondering about. This family has such strengths and discussing opportunities to serve and be served (why is it so hard to accept help, even within family!?) was nothing short of insightful. So many great takeaways.
Another strength of this family – their ability to find, eat and then continue to discuss great food. I’m not passionate about food – but there are plenty who are and they did not steer us wrong.
Do yourself a favor – if you’re ever in Encinitas, stop by the Taco Stand. Grab yourself an al pastor taco and a side of fries. YOU. WILL. NOT. BE. DISAPPOINTED. And that’s coming from me who could take or leave food on most occasions. By far the best fries I have ever had and they came from a taco shop. And after the Taco Stand – you’re not very far from VG doughnuts where you can wash your taco down with a maple doughnut. Weird combination? Yes. But they’re close to each other so it would be silly to get the one and not the other. It was so good the first day for lunch, we went back another day!
It’s never easy to leave kids. There were a million things I was worried about. We almost cancelled our reservation on Wednesday because I had been sick so long. It wasn’t ideal to pump the whole weekend away from Briggs. But it was worth it. We had a great time and my body continued to recover and repair. This is a really fun group – we’re talking stuck-on-a-desert-island candidates. It’s great when you consider your family friends!
In all our marriage, Steve and I have never been to an ocean beach together. Ever. Many ask how that is even possible and I’m scratching my head asking the same thing. But I’ll let you in on a little secret – I’m not a big fan of sand. I’ve not had a lot of experience with sand, but what I knew of it, I didn’t enjoy. Particularly, I don’t like sand touching my feet. Weird, I know.
Steve on the other hand has been dreaming of a beach vacation. He wants to go on a cruise, he wants to go to Hawaii, he wants to go anywhere with a nice beach and run through the sand and play in the water. His dream came true this weekend at a sibling family reunion in Carlsbad. Steve was a kid in a candy shop, there was just not enough time to soak it all in.
Me, on the other hand, tried to be cool with the sand on my feet as I first walked across the beach in my flip flops. I quickly realized it wasn’t necessarily the sand on my feet that I couldn’t stand, but it was the sand in between my foot and my flip flop that was like nails on a chalkboard. I took off my shoes and was much better. And I much prefer wet sand over dry sand. Although finding sand in my pockets, or around the lip of my water bottle was less than desirable, everything else was amazing; due in large part to the people that surrounded me.
Proof to my children that I indeed touched the sand! I’ll admit, I was left wondering why we can’t have grass beaches?? 😉
While we were in Utah this summer we met up with our Wisconsin friends for an evening pool party. It takes a few minutes for the kids to warm up to each other again, the older they grow, longer the warming up takes. But then they’re inseparable again, just like when they were young. Everyone has a buddy their age.
The house we went to swim at was our friends parent’s house and it was more than just a pool. When the kids were done swimming they could roast mallows at the fire pit, play some basketball/tennis or go visit the horses. It might as well be considered a resort!
I’m not a big animal fan, but these horses were beautiful. Perhaps it was the sun set casting a warm light on their shiny hair. Or perhaps it was the perfectly manicured stables that were nice enough I wouldn’t mind living in them. Either way, the boys enjoyed their time admiring and feeding the horses.
We definitely scored in the friend department when we moved to Wisconsin. Grateful we’re able to keep tabs on each other over the years.
While we were in Idaho, I made a comment to Hallie that I wanted to show her where I went to school, nothing was planned but I threw out the idea. Hallie, with the help of Hunter and Steve created a plan. Without my knowledge, they worked on a super secret scavenger hunt for me to visit my old stompin’ grounds around the small town I grew up in. Have I mentioned how small the town is? It’s pretty small so even seeing several places in town only takes minutes! They had me stumped on a couple clues and their creativity was top notch.
The start of our hiking spot to go find treasures.
When I was younger I used to ride my bike down to the library on a weekly basis. Although the library has been torn down and rebuilt since then and the creepy cat they used to let roam among the books is no longer living.
We picked up a scotch n’ soda and fries at the A&W, where I worked when I was in high school.
And we landed at the “Dome” – our high school gymnasium. There aren’t many gyms that can top this in the coolness factor. A lot of hours were spent in that place!
Don’t be fooled by this picture. These two hated each other. Any chance they could get, they were stealing toys, pushing or wrestling one another to the ground. We tried to keep them separated which proved to be harder than expected and minutes before my sister and her son left for the airport to head home I snapped this picture. Years from now we’ll tell them just how much they fought and we won’t have any pictures to prove it. I’ll pull out this picture and they’ll think I’m a liar! And funny enough they both appear to be sporting Christmas jammies in July.
We made a visit to my happy place in McCall. The lake, the boats, the weather – I soaked it in. Although the water was a little too cold for my Arizona blood children. They want warmer pool water, not cold lake water!
The night before we left, we kidnapped the older kids after they had already gone to bed to enjoy one last late night treat with Grandma. Kids love all surprises no matter how small and these two thought this was just about the coolest thing.
As we made the drive home, we stopped for lunch and enjoyed Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls. The perfect pit stop to stretch some legs.
Can’t thank these two enough for putting up with us. Hopefully we’re welcome back next summer.
And that concludes our month long road trip – props to anyone who got through all those pictures over so many posts!