Six glorious days of no school! What better way to spend the Arizona fall than a school break? We got to explore Sedona, check out a new park, enjoy the zoo, and spend downtime with friends. Mia especially needed a mental break, she rested that huge noggin of hers and is ready for more now.
There is a new large park in South Gilbert we went to check out along with half of the other kids and mothers on vacation. It is a huge park with several areas for different ages of kids including an awesome splash pad. The weather was quite splendid, bordering on hot but cool enough to enjoy the park. The kids were off playing the moment the van doors opened. I actually had to drop them off and troll for a parking spot because every spot was taken, out of all 3 lots. Mia took charge of the little girls and helped them until I got a spot and joined the party. Evelyn showed off her monkey climbing skills, she is quite talented! After we got a bit sweaty the cold water cooled us off in seconds, the water was actually cold. Phillip, Everett, and Josie all got thoroughly wet, Josie reminds me of a little bird in the water ruffling feathers for a bit before flitting to the next spot. Evelyn does not like to get cold so she dipped her toes in a bit but mostly stayed out of the water. We lasted a couple of hours with lots of water and several snack breaks. During naptime I took the van to the tire shop hoping they would fix a slow leak in the rear passenger tire. The front tires are in need of replacement already. Seems like those tires don't last very long with all the driving we muster in. The 30 minute wait time turned into 2 hours. I walked over to Goodwill hoping to find some cheap shorts or swimwear the kids could ruin at Slide Rock. Check! I packed overnight bags for all the kids except Amelia and myself of course. The kids slept in their tent forts Saturday and Sunday nights. I dismantled the blanket forts on Monday. The kids were fighting over who was in charge of the tents. That was the last straw for this grumpy mom. Everett, Phillip, and Evelyn were overly distraught when I took down the fort. Lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth.
We left early-ish in the next morning for our fun little surprise. Phillip guessed our destination the night before so the kids had a few hours to get all excited. Sedona is only 2h45m away from Gilbert, so not close but not far away either. Our first destination was Slide Rock. I googled all I could to gather information about the lay of the land, not much was available. We got a nice parking spot and first enjoyed a picnic lunch. Everett was determined to find the most difficult hike around, he grabbed his sandwich and hike straight up the mountain until his little heart felt it was difficult. The boys soon had an enviable pile of sticks and stones gathered up. We changed into our swim gear and water shoes for the fun part. I borrowed a fancy collapsible wagon from a family in our ward to tote our water stuff and chairs. Amelia took charge of the cooler and I had the wagon. We both stared in dismay at the collection of ragged stairs and rocky terrain DOWN to the actual Slide Rock. Phillip and I managed the wagon with teamwork, Amelia somehow wrestled the cooler down the rocks. Next time I'm only bringing what we need in backpacks! Finally the way smoothed out a bit, Everett chose a sheltered area to store our cooler and the wagon. Oh my gracious, that mountain water was freezing cold, I'm guessing the temperature was hovering near 45-50 degrees. The little girls just got their feet wet before calling it quits. The rest of us braved the cold to slide down the rock. It's an 80 foot natural slide made of sandstone, a very slippery algae makes the slide extra slick. Even with my Keen shoes on I was slipping and sliding about. I went down the slide twice, got my hips stuck the second time for a couple seconds. After the main slides the water depth is over 14 feet deep in a 4 foot wide crevice. Some brave souls were jumping off the rocks into the creviced area. Amelia went down a few times. The last time she went down she banged up her head and knee, went into a sort of shock from the water and bumps. She came to me crying and shivering. A bit of food and sugar helped perk her back up. She thought she had a close encounter with her life, poor kid. Phillip got stuck in the same part I did, a very narrow 2 foot gap after a steep slide, he made it out unscathed. Everett was the most silly. He was not convinced that getting wet and cold was worth the experience down the slide. He finally braved up after several minutes of coaxing to just slide down the shallow parts. His expressions will live with me forever! He went down several more times because he loved it so much. Out of the 4 who went down the slide, Amelia went down the most times. We took our freezing selves back to out wagon and plopped down in the hot sun to warm up. The boys soon discovered large rocks and water make huge splashes! Evelyn and Josie amused themselves with buckets, shovels, and watering cans. The river smooths out and is quite nice for wading after the slide potion of the park. Amelia felt much better after changing and taking a break, she needed lots of hugs. The boys took their chairs across the stream to a sunnier area, they looked quite comfy over on the other side. We stayed until 4:30ish, stayed until the sun set in the ravine. A very nice Indian young man grabbed the cooled and hauled it up the rocks and stairs for Amelia! She was much relieved, that boy deserves a hearty "Thank You". Phillip, Mia, and I managed the wagon back up quicker with the extra help. I tortured my kids into a photo session to end our day at Slide Rock. I made them get all dressed up and spiffy for the occasion. May as well take charge of the chance to have the red rocks of Sedona as our Christmas Cards this year. All went well until Josie took a tumble in a goathead patch, her socks and shoes were covered with stickers. Phillip patiently helped her pick out the stickers and remove her shoes while I finished up photos with Evelyn and Amelia. I needed another dip in the creek afterwards. We found our hotel 40 minutes down the way, mostly because the roads are winding and steep. We got changed and settled into our room before the sun completely set. Across the road was a decent looking Pizza and Pasta restaurant, we walked to dinner carefully crossing a busy road. A guy behind us told me what a brave woman I was for having so many children in a restaurant alone. I wanted to impertinently reply, "well, why don't you cover our meal if you feel so sorry for us?" We managed the meal without a scene thank you very much! Everett was covered with pizza cheese before he even finished his first slice. I thought the meal was quite delicious. We walked back then decided it would be awesome to go stargazing, so we piled back into the van and headed away from the small city lights. Amelia and I got some awesome views of the Milky Way. She used this fun star app on my phone to find stars and planets. I used up two camera batteries taking photos of the stars. Phillip joined us for a few moments, long enough to find Polaris and the Big Dipper. We were back in the hotel room and asleep before 9 pm. Not quite true, I kept jolting awake each time Josie moved, afraid she was going to roll off onto Phillip's head. Phillip and Evelyn slept on the floor on our comfy sleeping pads.
Phillip woke us all up at 6:30 am making shooting sounds, pew-pew-pew, for some odd reason only known to him. We decided to hike Bell Rock before check out at 11 am. Amelia talked to the attendant overseeing breakfast for his opinions about the best hike for a family with small kids. I sure appreciated her efforts, he also recommended Bell Rock. Josie and Evelyn were on the grumpy side that particular morning. We managed to drag the wagon up to the trail head where another set of stairs blocked the way. Phillip and I managed to get up the stairs where the trail leveled off. I sent the older kids to explore the trail for wagon accessibility. That was a negative. Everett was still anxious to find a difficult hike, the trail leading up to the base of Bell Rock fit his agenda. The older kids set off to climb as high as the trail allowed safely! Phillip left his sneakers at home so made the hike in flip flops! We caught several glimpses of the kids as they made their way up to the top. Amelia took my phone to document their part of the hike. The little girls and I enjoyed jumping on rocks, making rock towers, discovering a rainbow impression, and crystals embedded in the sandstone! The views surrounding us blew my mind. We barely made it back to the hotel in time to check out. The hotel manager said we could swim even though we technically checked out. The kids swam in the freezing water, a balmy 80 compared to the creek water. We lunched on leftover pizza, calzones, and pasta. Josie declared she was tired and wanted her carseat, so she climbed in and promptly fell asleep. I did not realize she was unbuckled until her nap ended, that was a bad mom moment. Evelyn and Amelia were lollygagging in the pool enclosure. Evelyn yelling at me that the gate was stuck. Turns out the gate really was stuck could not get it open from the inside or outside. The manager came to help us out, she was dismayed that the lock was completely stuck even with her master key. We finally got the girls out with ladders and a measure of bravery. Scored two free nights in the same hotel next time we visit for our troubles!!!!! Yee Haw! We toured Sedona vehicle style while Josie napped. I noticed a beautiful art themed shopping center, Tlaquepaque, the previous day. Oh my gracious, so gorgeous. It was a little slice of Portugal right there in Sedona with Ivy-covered buildings, lush flowers, fountains, tiny churches, and a lovely ambiance. We headed back home around 4 pm taking our time along the way. We arrived home shortly after Justin got home from work.
We took the rest of our vacation easy. Took me a while to catch up on laundry and housework. Everett is obsessed with soccer, He asks me to play 4-6 times each day. I try to get dinner on the stove and play while the meal is cooking. We played lots of soccer this break. A few weeks ago I took down the baby swing and hung a proper swing. The kids are loving the new swing. Josie will go outside alone just to swing on her belly. Yes! Everett opened a chip and soda store under the front table in the hall. Friday afternoon the older kids wanted to swim in our neighbor's pool. The littles and I went on a bike ride to the park just for a change of scenery. Evelyn's friend Alta was also at the park so that was a fun bonus. It is so nice to be outside again.
Amelia caught a tummy bug Friday night. She stayed in bed until after 10:30 Saturday morning. The rest of us went to the Phoenix Zoo with Justin. Josie was delighted to match her favorite Zebra animal and Evelyn matched her favorite animal the Giraffe. We started this zoo trip going to opposite direction we usually start. We got to see a lot of animals for the first time, we're usually so tuckered out we only see half of the Zoo. Josie loved the flamingos. She hated the goats; the goats were too stinky, pee-yeou. The boys were all over the place! I wish some of their energy went to their parents. You know when it's time to go...when the whining exceeds the fun. We picked up slurpees on the way home to revive our flagging energy. Yum.
I was asked to teach RS this week on Elder Villar's talk, Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles. It's amazing what you learn when you listened and actually study the conference talks. I listened to that talk about 20 times over the past week. Amazing. Everett had a goal to not watch TV Sunday morning. So he busied himself making a cardboard suit of armor, the Armor of God. After a good 40 minutes he came to me frustrated by his efforts. His original shield was about 5 inches, the helmet 7 inches. I helped him measure, plan, and create some armor that was more life-sized. He was delighted with his creation. Towards the end of the RS lesson I had Everett come in so we could talk about the Armor of God and how it protects those spiritual muscles we work so hard to develop. We had Call family dinner at the Chandler Calls. Spenser and Laura made Ramen, I brought toppings and Wendy a dessert. The boys had a full scale war going on outside! We sure love our cousins.