21 July 2019

Fourth of July

 Josie heard a train and saw a jet at the same time, she was confuzzled. 

I'm writing this 2 weeks after, pardon my terrible memory. Maybe the photos will tell the story better for me. 

We met up with our ward's Mom and Tot's group Monday the 1st for a lovely day at Saguaro Lake, Butcher Jones Recreation Site. The other two families brought along huge floaties that all the kids enjoyed for the day. The bottom was a bit slimy so I kept my flops on in the water...plus I *might've* been scared of the crawfish. Brother Payne celebrated his birthday with the three women and huge crowd of kids. He was quite the entertainer, the kids had a game of some sort that looked like king of mountain. Just 5 yards away from the water we baked in the sun, that water felt amazing. The Paynes shared sandwiches with us since I did not bring any food other than snacks. I heard everyone was leaving at 11. Sister Smith did leave at 11:30 but none of our crew was remotely ready to leave. Bless them for saving my hungry children. We had Ryan along for the day so the boys were busy, busy. On the way home we fed our hot selves with ice cream cones, best treat ever! 

Tuesday afternoon I had a fun photo session for a sweet girl turning 12 months. Her theme was boho camping. We sweltered outside at Nichols park with the mosquitoes searching for a meal. Evelyn made herself and Josie leg casts out of paper and duct tape. The girls hobbled about pretending to be in need of medical assistance. I quickly edited the session because we needed to pack up for our Utah trip by Thursday. I added some work by taking fun photos of the kids in their "red, white, and bubs configuration." A joke created by Justin to poke fun at my love of dressing for holidays when Amelia was a tiny baby. Phillip managed to flip the eagle off the top of my new flag pole, thankfully it did not land in the lake. Evelyn was making me laugh with all her inventive poses. 

Wednesday Amelia got to spend the day with Chole for a change. I hear they went out to breakfast with Chole's Aunt, then spent the rest of the day working to sort out Chloe's room. Behind those words kindly read, the girls probably played Gotcha Life and watched TV most of the day. The rest of us went to see Toy Story 4 at Harkins with Ryan and his family. During the opening previews, was the exciting trailer for Frozen 2. Ryan's sister yelled, "Elsa is my BEST FRIEND!" Josie immediately yelled back, "No! She's MINE!" Toddler turf wars right there. I opened Josie's fruit snacks to avert war. The movie was a total shift from the prior three, it was good but not really Toy Story. I came home to do feverishly finish editing photos before the 4th. I accomplished that task but gained a neglected house in return. My new opinion is that the kids must LOVE to clean. They clutter so much stuff about that must be the reason. 

We quite enjoyed having Justin home for the 4th. We cleaned some, packed some, did laundry, packed some more, the usual. Justin did take the kids to the splash pad with the pirate ship all by himself! I stayed home to pack and finish stuff before we left. Justin grilled up chicken thighs for dinner. On the side we had broccoli salad and cobbed corn. After dinner we headed to Higley High for the fireworks show. Parking was not too bad, especially with my parking fairy privileges.  We marched the kids down to the football fields and set up camp chairs for the evening. The girls decorated themselves with lots of patriotic tattoos. The boys edged in on the action after most of the good ones were taken. Evelyn was especially decorated. I had a large package of glow sticks for the kids to play with. Once it started to get dark Amelia's patriotic unicorn horn was highly visible. I could see it from 50 yards away. Beam me home unicorn girl. Everett spent a chunk of time in the roped off section for games and ball stuff. He loves his sports. The fireworks were "meh" one about every other second, the Mesa show was much more explosive. I did like the venue better in Gilbert. Getting home was quite slick, no real traffic to speak of. Justin put the car-top carrier on in the dark once we got home. Best part of the day was digging into the fruit pizza masterpiece I made as dessert. Sigh, that was delicious. 

Friday morning we quickly packed up the van...after I slept in until 8. My bones are mighty tired these past few weeks. We pulled out around 9:30 so not too bad. I stopped at Lake Powell damn this time since it was actually daytime. Amelia willingly got out of the van to explore the bridge for a few minutes. We both laughed about the fake grass adorning the top of the damn base. Quite the amazing view, with the red canyons cut with blue water. I was doing pretty well driving until we got to Panguitch, UT. That is still an 8.5 hour drive for us. I messaged some friends from Sidney to see if they were around. The Gallegos moved to Panguitch 5 years ago once the rumors about Cabela's were starting to realize. They were on their way home from Cedar City temple but were less than an hour away. We found a cute little park with a slash pad and play structure for the kids to play on while we waited. The water was freezing, plus the temperature was a moderate 72, cold for my desert creatures. Josie was not keen on getting wet with cold water so she parked herself on the play ground side. As the hour drew to an end we dried off and went to find some dinner. The Gallegos recommended a pizza place. The cashier misheard my order so only made a small pizza and an order of spaghetti. We waited an extra 25 minutes after waiting 20 minutes for our first order. At least the kids were entertained with a movie. We found the Gallegos garage house well after sunset. The home was inhabited by Susan's parents until they got too old. They renovated the home to something special. An elevator whisked us from the garage floor (chock full of super fun ATVs) up to the home part spanning the entire area of the garage. The kids immediately took to two poker spinner games set up for kicks and giggles. We ate pizza while catching up on our news. Justin booked a hotel in Beaver for the night. Took us another hour to get there, arriving around 11 pm. The hotel was a complete dive, but it was high season so everything else was booked. Phillip walks into the room only to start complaining about his tummy hurting. He barfs in the toilet. The toilet will not flush. Now I've got two kids who need to pee but won't use the disgusting toilet. I finally finagle the beast to flush and bam! that issue is solved. I set up Phillip with a barf bucket just in case, at this point I thought he just had motion sickness. Nope, he barfed 5-6 times through the night. Did he use the bucket? Nope, gross animal puked all over the floor, coffee table, bed, etc. I tipped the maid. At one point Josie started talking about her goggles, she was dreaming about someone taking her precious goggles. Evelyn and Josie ended up completely entwined in each others limbs, hair, and pjs. I was quite impressed. We left early. 

Saturday we continued our journey. It was not a long one. We were at the Lances before lunchtime. Yay! My boys were quite disappointed Everett was not at home, Evelyn about threw a tantrum because Penny was gone. Somehow we managed to pass the afternoon by with just the James Lance family. Amelia and Lia went on an adventure to the gas station and shaved ice shack with Evelyn in tow. I got a much needed nap with Josie. Courtenay FINALLY arrived to provide playmates for the younger kids. It was a cousin party for the next few days. The girls got a fun bath in Miekka's indoor pool. I ran to the store shortly after getting the boys situated in the tub. The item of the trip I forgot was diapers. Yeh, not a good item to forget. About 5 minutes after I left I got a text from Miekka that Phillip had diarrhea on the bathroom floor, it smelled too gross to leave for me to clean up. Oh man, that was embarrassing. Phillip later told me he need to fart, he was not sure it was a fart or a shart so he let it fly. We had a discussion about sitting on the toilet in case you choose the wrong fart or shart scenario. Sorry Miekka, I owe you for that one. 

04 July 2019

Taking Dad to Lunch

We started out Monday with nitrile glove water balloons. That quickly devolved into the boys morphing into chicken headed creatures. They were delighted the gloves could still fit on their heads with a bit more coaxing than last time. Everett won the gold medal when his glove also made his nose stick up like a pig's, the popping noise his nose made when it was freed from the glove still makes me laugh. Silly boys. Right after piano lessons from 10-11 am we packed up to visit Justin at work. Sunday Evelyn begged Justin for a chance to "come see him at work to play in his office and eat at Jimmy John's." Lucky girl got all those items checked off her list. We had some lunch first...I am amazed that Josie can pound down an entire sandwich all by herself! She ate more than Phillip! After lunch we admired how well the crane operators across the street were moving concrete and supplies about at the construction site. The kids quite enjoyed using Justin's office supplies to make him a new rash of art decorations. The favorite supplies were: stapler, stamper, word corrector, colored marker strips, hole punches, and paper clips. Everett wrote a sweet poem on the white board, "My Dad is as brave as a tiger and as sweet as candy (heart) Everett PS. this is 1,000% Everett's writing." Phillip not to be outdone drew an evil poop emoji with words, "evil, angry, Daddy, devil, poop emoji!" Josie drew a robot, her favorite character to draw! We passed a couple of Justin's coworkers on our way out. I think stunned was a good descriptor word. I miss our celebrity status earned in Justin's office at Cabela's, visiting there was always fun.

The little girls and I made a large batch of salt dough for our Make-It Monday time. We separated the ingredients into smaller bowls so I could mix up various colors of the rainbow for each bowl. I love the recipe we use, makes a very soft and pliable dough. Our kitchen table was covered the rest of the week with play dough and the accompanying toys. We managed to keep the table clean for 3 entire hours on Tuesday! Hooray for us.

Most of Tuesday was spent deep cleaning our house. We started the torture upstairs making sure all the bedrooms were presentable. We worked for an hour downstairs until the kids mutinied. I sent them out to swim while I worked on the smaller, harder areas to clean. Evelyn and Josie helped me mop the floors! In spite of the photos, they seemed to enjoy the work. At one point Everett commented, "Mom it seems like you're having a terrible day, your face is mad and we're not listening!" Yep, that about covered it. The sister missionaries were supposed to come over for dinner but did not show up. It worked out fine since Joe and Kat were also due to arrive any moment. I warned them that the missionaires might be around, that I had no nefarious intentions on their souls. Joe and Kat pulled up around 7:20 pulling a trailer filled with all their earthly belongings. They sold or got rid of everything else! Those two are on an adventure to see Europe for the next 6-12 months. Kat settled into the little girls room with their two cats Violet and Lily and dog Samwise. We were quite concerned about how Vader would take to little Samwise. He was a nerd bonker for a while but then calmed down. The two had little spats here and there but otherwise tolerated the other just fine! The girls were quite taken with the cats! We enjoyed carnita burritos for dinner. Joe and Kat were exhausted after that long drive. They turned in after settling in.

We did not do much on Wednesday. Amelia spent the day with her Harry Potter nerd friends at Ruby's house. Some older teens made fun of Amelia's nerd group. She retorted, "Well, I was reading 240 WPM in the 2nd grade and read the entire series in 10 days!" Take that teenagers. I hear the kids enjoyed watching two Harry Potter movies, drank warm butterbeer, ate pizza, and played Gatcha Life (Amelia's newest obsession). At home Ryan, Owen, and Taylor all came over to play. Joe and Kat got to see our house in normal operation. I sent the boys over to the Payne's so they could play on their huge water slide. I hear over 14 kids were at the Payne's home. Joe jumped into the pool after Josie's nap with all the kiddos. Everett loved how high Joe could launch the kids into the water. We went to Moreno's for dinner so Joe could try out a Sonoran hot dog. My kids were puzzled over Joe drinking beer for dinner. It's hard for them to understand that not many people actually believe what we believe as members of the Church of Jesus Christ. Joe pounded down three plates of good, authentic Mexican food! He approved! We all had a chance to sign the trailer, Everett was upset he only got a palm sized space to decorate. Josie drew her famous robot. Those two drove off into the sunrise around 4 am headed to their next adventure.

Urban Jungle was calling our names! We used our Pogo passes to enjoy 90 minutes of energetic trampoline park play. Jacob tagged along for the afternoon. Our house already turned back into it's normal cluttered mess. Evelyn lost half of her toys because she refuses to pick up her messes. I started boxing it all up when she throws a fit.

Amelia's friend Makayla came over Friday for the day. The girls made pina colada lollipops as a diversion. Half the neighborhood ended up in our pool as well! Happy to open our doors! Saturday Amelia went with me to food shop at Walmart. She left her lollipop in the van, when we came back it had completely melted. It was a very hot day. Justin helped the Russo's pack up their storage units. We are so sad they moved away, especially Everett. The boys worked hard mowing the lawn with Justin. We quite enjoyed a long session in the neighborhood pool. I saw Courtenay taking photos and video under the water while on vacation. My phone can handle the water so we took some fun videos and photos while swimming! I was not feeling very well, three headaches in one week. Uck.

Amelia gave her first sacrament meeting talk on Sunday. She spoke on Family history using Elder Bednar's Oct 2012 talk. She did so well that the bishop said he can't wait to have her give another talk. I was impressed she spoke clearly and loudly! Yeah! She looked darling with cute curled hair. Here is her talk:

Family History
A couple weeks ago I was asked to give a talk on Family History. Elder Bednar gave a talk in General Conference, October 2011, entitled “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn.” My remarks are based on his talk. How important is family history? Elder Bednar describes Joseph Smith’s experience with Moroni three years after the First Vision. He said: Moroni’s instructions to the young prophet ultimately included two primary themes: (1) the Book of Mormon and (2) the words of Malachi foretelling the role of Elijah in the Restoration “of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”  Thus, the introductory events of the Restoration revealed a correct understanding of the Godhead, emphasized the importance of the Book of Mormon, and anticipated the work of salvation and exaltation for both the living and the dead. This inspiring sequence is instructive about the spiritual matters of highest priority to Deity.

We knew of the importance of temple work even before the church was restored! If we look at the number of temples in 2011 when this talk was given, the church had 136 temples, and just 8 years later, there are 209 temples. That’s progress!!! 

Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught that the Spirit of Elijah is “a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family” This spirit of Elijah affects people inside and outside of our church. People want to know where they come from. My mom loves to watch the show Relative Race on BYUtv. It is a program that follows contestants across the USA in search of their lost family members. Why is finding our family such a drive in today’s world? We want to know where we came from. My own name is a daily reminder of where I come from. I am named after my mother’s two grandmothers. I get Amelia from my Great-Grandma Amelia, my middle name is Jean which both my Great-Grandma’s share. All my siblings have family names found in our history. We talk about these ancestors so we know where our history comes from. 

We have temples, we have the Spirit of Elijah urging us on. How do we get the names from our family to the temple? That is what family history is all about! It is the process of researching our past, uncovering names and connections in our family trees, then entering that information into FamilySearch. Family Search then helps us figure out which persons need temple work completed. Who can do all this needed research? I now turn back to the words of Elder Bednar.

“I now invite the attention of the young women, young men, and children of the rising generation as I emphasize the importance of the Spirit of Elijah in your lives today. Many of you may think family history work is to be performed primarily by older people. But I know of no age limit described in the scriptures or guidelines announced by Church leaders restricting this important service to mature adults. You are sons and daughters of God, children of the covenant, and builders of the kingdom. You need not wait until you reach an arbitrary age to fulfill your responsibility to assist in the work of salvation for the human family.”

When I read this quote, I immediately went to FamilySearch and found some names. I feel excited to find names and take them to the temple. I went to the temple for the first time in February to do baptisms and confirmations for people in my family line. That was an amazing experience for me. I felt excited, nervous, and peaceful! Elder Bednar promised the youth if we respond to the invitation to engage in the work of Elijah that “you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.” Ummmm, yes please! I’d love any protection I can get!

I’d like to bear my testimony that I know this Church is true, that Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father love us, and that Joseph Smith restored the true church to the earth. I know that the sealing keys of Elijah are on the earth today. I’m grateful for Elder Bednar’s promise to the youth that if we participate in Family history work, We will be protected from Satan. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

30 June 2019

Weekend Get-Away

I finished the mountain of laundry Tuesday evening. Phew! So many towels, sheets, pillow cases, swim suits, etc. It was up to the kids to get their clothes neatly put away in drawers or hung up by Wednesday night. I always feel like a champ once the last piles are folded and ready, no matter that the rest of our house looks like a clutter fest. Small victories, am I right?

Josie had Amelia walk her around the block like a dog. She had a leash secured around her waist, a rainbow hat, pink shoes, water bottle, and snacks ready to make the journey in 100 degree heat. Amelia would pop her a snack every once in a while! Evelyn went along for moral support. Mia made the girls colored milk, pink was the best according to Josie. Evelyn was quite intent on going roller skating, we headed out at 3 pm for a couple hours of fun. We turned right around when google maps showed me it was closed until 5:30. Bummer! The kids pulled out the slip and slide for entertainment instead. Jacob wore a hair cap to preserve his purple hair! That kid is classic. Amelia really wanted to swim but let her fears get in the way, it's hard to know when swimming is possible and not that first summer of growing up a little bit more. I want to get her a period proof swimsuit, yes, those are now available. The rest of the kids enjoyed some time in Warren and Ranae's pool. Justin came home and discovered a leak in our pool! Yikes. He was all in a huff getting that resolved. He blew his top when he found his sanuk shoes dripping wet. I told Amelia to wear them for convenience's sake. Big mistake. He went to Home Depot instead of participating in FHE. We all had a round of apologies once he came back. We settled it all over fresh peach ice cream shakes. Josie and Evelyn got new fancy dress ups this week. Josie is totally living in her Cinderella dress. Evelyn is in heaven with a Greamest Showman (spelled how she pronounces it) dress. Josie insists on matching her dress with size 10 Cinderella shoes, three times her regular size. Makes us all laugh to watch her totter about in her new get up. Amelia made snickerdoodle cookies all by herself! I did help shape and sugar the dough before baking. We took over a plate of cookies to welcome the Darveau family to Gilbert. They moved here on Saturday from Sidney! Amelia and Janea spent many years in school together and share lots of mutual friends. We are quite excited to have them just a mile or two away.

Tuesday we made it to the skating rink! We stayed for 4 hours of exercise and arcade fun. Josie even joined in the fun with our kid skates. I seriously look up to folks who man the arcade prize counter. The amount of time it takes kids to decide on cheap toys and candy drives me nuts.  Evelyn improved quite a bit on her three-wheeled skates, not in-line, but a normal skate hybrid. We came home and played on the slip n'slide again. It was hot! I made quick Korean tacos for dinner. Pack meeting this month was a pool party. I was the only mom in the water, I did have two sinker-swimmers who hate floaties. I actually felt cold getting out of the pool, my skirted suit was freezing cold.

Wednesday was our water day. Instead of searching out a new pool we were home bound due to 6 extra kids playing at our house. We had Chloe and Ronald, Isla, Jacob, and Janea and Kirsten! The kids settled on playing in the pool. I'm happy we did not have to go anywhere, gave me a chance to catch up on a bit of editing and cleaning.

I used our pogo passes to get us into the I.D.E.A museum for a morning of play. Last time we went half the exhibits were closed so it was nice to explore the entire space. The closed section now housed modern American art showcasing different areas of our country. At each section the kids could stamp their maps! Evelyn made a silly robot person with cardboard and art supplies. Josie was quite amused with the castle building blocks. Like usual Everett disappeared, I saw glimpses of him at the marble run, the super-sized building set, the computers, the sound machine, etc. Amelia and Phillip were boooooored after 30 minutes. We spent quite a chunk of time in the creative play area. Josie's eyes betrayed her total visual overload. Everett and Evelyn put on plays for me. Everett was a rabbit-deer with fish hands. Evelyn was a rockin' roll character. Fun times.

Evelyn finally lost her tooth, she whacked herself in the mouth with a flashlight (I may have helped on accident). Her tooth went from wiggly to super wiggly and a little bloody. As I patted away the blood I plucked that tooth right out. She yelled at me to just pat it and not touch her tooth. I showed her my prize! She wrote a cute little note to the tooth fairy, saying "I love you!"

Five years after out last getaway Justin and I enjoyed a staycation here in the Phoenix area. Debbie Godard helped with the kids Friday afternoon until Linda Tanner could pick up the kids using our van. The kids got to swim lots in their pool. Josie took to calling Brother Tanner, my swimming friend, he was quite the amusing pool friend. I hear Josie jumped right in without her floaties, Amelia was nearby to pull her topside. The Tanners live next to the Packards, I hear they all had a rousing pool party. Evelyn got an early morning date with Justin at the car wash!

Justin and I enjoyed a quiet lunch at Ahipoki Bowl, a delicious bowl of sushi ingredients! Yum. We did a spot of shopping up in Scottsdale at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I finally replaced my gross garlic press, damaged steamer basket, and scored new flip flops. We had a romantic couples massage at 4 pm. It was romantic seeing Justin squeezed into a tiny bathrobe! What a laugh we shared! Our wine glasses were filled with Orange-Vanilla Coke Zero. Justin tipped over his glass which shattered. I'm sure all the folks out in hall could hear was constant tittering. I will say those little sandwiches were quite tasty. Those massages woke up several sore places I did not know about, the soles of my feet, my right hip, and goodness that neck/shoulder massage felt awesome. I had the masseuse work on my right inner elbow, that hurt, a good hurt. Our next stop was our hotel the Omni in Scottsdale. Justin pulled in counter traffic, those bell boys raised a couple eyebrows at our outlandish arrival. We were soon forgotten when a larger family exited the main building. After parking we explored the grounds. I felt lost in Andalusian paradise, a throwback to Southern Spain and Portugal. We had dinner reservations at 7 so we relaxed for a bit. Justin got reservations at the Salt Cellar, a seafood restaurant. I lamented we did not get any seafood in San Diego so this for sure made up for that! The restaurant is sunk into the ground, a true cellar! We both ordered fresh baked lobster stuffed with crab and scallops. It was delicious, a messy delicious mess. Our waitress did most of the hard work making the meat accessible. My mind went back to the best seafood I've ever had in hole in the wall locations near the Red Sea and another in Cozumel. I quite enjoyed playing with my lobster claws. We settled our food with a nice long wander about the hotel grounds in the 100 degree heat. Justin wanted to know if he should set his alarm for 8 am, I agreed. His alarm went off, gently woke me up. Apparently, Justin got up showered, dressed, and saw I was still deep asleep. He startled me awake with a nudge, "Jenni, it's 11 am, we need to check out in a little while!" I was in total denial. We laughed for quite some time over my denial. Whelp, we checked into a hotel so I could sleep 12 hours straight. I imagine Justin was more than a little bored for 3 hours, seriously, I guess that was much needed. I was alert for a couple hours but then felt more tired than ever! We grabbed some brunch at Egg N'Joe before going to the temple. We were able to do a sealing session, several other couples and individuals brought family names to work on. I am so pleased with the new changes to the sealing promises. Just beautiful! We picked up our kids at 3 pm from the Tanners.

I got to attend a Stake Preparedness Fair, focused on water storage in the desert. I have several empty water containers (roughly 100 gallons total). We never filled them after moving. I learned quite a bit and am enthused to get our water storage filled out. My biggest worry is having mobile water in case we have to leave with our 72 hr kits. Dad suggested hunting carts, pull our water and packs instead of trying to carry it. The speaker attached two large tanks to his water heater with PVC, those containers are just part of the heater now. Instead of 50 gallons the system always has 400 gallons of fresh water! Ingenious if you ask me. I learned our pool is not viable as water storage due to the chemicals and swift turn to stagnant water if not continuously filtered.

23 June 2019

San Diego Beach Camping Trip

I think the beach is magnificent. I love the sand, the water, the air, the sneaky seagulls, and the entire experience. Last year we spent a lovely few days in Laguna Beach (minus Josie's face plant accident). This year we all looked forward to another few days near a beach. I wanted to try camping so found a decent place for a decent price. What better way to vacation than with more kids than adults? Courtenay and her crew plus Lia Lance joined us at the San Diego Metro KOA for 5 days, 4 nights of lots of fun. Courtenay drove down a couple days early to spend time with a friend in Vegas. We arrived in San Diego around the same time, give or take 30 minutes. Justin and I realized the day before that fitting everything into one vehicle was going to challenge every inch of space in the van. We splurged and took the truck and van. It was no nice to spread out the camping gear and beach stuff between two vehicles...plus spread out the kids between vehicles. The temperatures were hovering near 98 before 8:30 am! We were happy to leave the heat behind. Well, that did take almost 5 hours to leave the heat behind. Our drive was quite uneventful, mostly just interrupted with whining questions from Evelyn every 5 minutes, "how much longer?" We set up our tent then left Justin to sort out the disc-o cot bunk while we took the energetic pack of kids on a walk about the camp grounds. A frequent vacationer said that the KOA was renovated 3 years ago with lots of fun amenities! We discovered a large pool with two hot tubs, showers, nice bathrooms, bouncing pillows, rental bikes, a cafe, gaga ball pits, basketball courts, and a large open field. The California air smelled divine! Balmy, floral, gorgeous smells. The campsites were packed close together, just feet away from our neighbors. We scored a corner lot with lots of wire fencing to hang all our wet swim stuff on. I ordered a couple bundles of wood, delivered via golf cart and employee. That was handy. We made a quick dinner of cowboy hot dogs using Court's quite handy electric skillet. The little girls sprinkled their hair with flowers! After dinner I took the kids swimming while Court took a break and Justin worked on inflating a pile of sleeping pads...and relaxing. Everett immediately made a friend (course a girl, 2-3 years older) named Lucy that he played with whenever we went swimming. Next to our site were a couple of tiny barking dogs. Seemed their owners were no where in sight, just the dogs tied to picnic table. Courtenay called the front desk to report the yapping dogs, the owners were apparently squatting and left immediately...with the dogs. Everyone around was quite relieved. Charlie finally got to sleep afterwards. We rounded out the evening with s'mores and campfire fun.

Tuesday was BEACH day! The kids woke us up to a rousing rendition of Purple Soup, sang over 40 million times. The soup kettle was the fire pit, ashes floating all over as the kids stirred. The little ones were quite amused with the song. While the adults ambled about getting ready the kids explored the gaga ball pit and bouncing pillows. We finally left for La Jolla around 9:15 am. Finding a gas station to feed our tired bodies was quite a challenge. Utah and Arizona are ripe with soda fountained gas stations every other corner. Everyone slathered up with a thick layer of sun block before leaving. The beach was overcast until after well after noon. We barely saw Mia and Lia, those two commandeered the boogie boards and spent the entire day in the water. I stole a couple of glimpses of them only when I followed them into the water for photos. I think they ate, I think they got some drinks of water....not sure! We certainly were not very efficient about sun block reapplication. All the kids ended up with some sun burned part of their body. Everett and Phillip had white stripes down their cheeks showing where their fingers pulled down some lotion. Still, the water and sand, and later the sun were intoxicating. Josie crawled into my lap after her sandy-wich for a nap. I quite enjoyed watching Charlie amble about. He is quite adept at escaping our line of sight. Evelyn and Emmie finally got turns on the boogie boards, the girls took quickly to instruction and were racing down the waves. Evelyn and Josie got sandy mermaid tails. I dug a hole deep enough for Everett to stand in up to his chest! The boys soon had my hole enlarged and much deeper. We watched the waves rolling in for high tide. It was time to go! I washed off Evelyn before we packed up. Of course she rolled in the sand like a piggie, she was crusted absolutely crusted with sand. After we hauled everything up to the grass I had to drag her back for an ocean dunk to remove her sand crust. She wailed like a banshee. The drive back was twice the time due to rush hour. We washed off all the salt in the pool and shower. Poor Lia earned quite the nasty sunburn. She was roasted on her back and face. All the adults hung heads in shame, we neglected sun blocking the mermaid twins. I made Greek Gyros for dinner. Lia commented that the meat was gross, I handed her a pita and said good luck. She later tried the meat and ate her allotment plus some! That dinner did not last long. Court provided sunbursts to toast over the fire as a treat. Yum. Poor Penny reached the end of her rope, she went to bed screaming. Girl, I feel ya! Court and I escaped for a late night Walmart run to find swimming shorts (the girls were chafing), swim shoes, and more boogie boards.

Next day Everett Call woke up all the adults with high pitched screaming at the Gaga Ball pit. His sense of rules was severely violated when he was called out for a hit that was only a brush of the ball. To be a nerd he hunkered down in the middle hogging the balls "playing with Charlie" while all the other kids yelled at him. Amelia made it worse by hitting him, he kicked her back hard, she hit back. All in all a pretty good fight ensued. Everett was banned from the pit for the rest of the trip. We decided to give all the sunburned skin a break from the beach. We slathered miles of skin with sun block to protect lobster red skin. Most of the kids were over the top crabby and whining, Evelyn, Everett, Josie, Amelia, Lia, Emmie, and Penny (and Jenni). Ha ha. We spent a lovely few hours exploring Old Town San Diego. Our first stop was a penny press machine, the kids were enthralled with the process of spending 51 cents to get a penny stretched and stamped in return. We ate some lunch first since the restaurant was not busy and everyone was hangry. Charlie entertained me unawares, he shoved all his silverware into his cup over and over again. Toddlers make me laugh. We headed toward the only store that matters...the candy shop. The kids spent their hard earned allowances on favorite candy treats. Evelyn chose a container of unicorn whips, Josie a pink lollipop, Phillip a poop flashlight, Amelia and Everett had a bag of various choices from the candy jars. Amelia and Lia also bought some fudge, mint and huckleberry. The souvenir shops caught out attention next, we skipped over all the educational stuff in favor of the glitz of the shops. Josie was fixated on getting her own fan. All the little girls ended up with cute colored leather purses, Court got her girls and Lia purses first. We went back because my girls also needed purses, am I right? The boys got leather bracelets as well. Justin sagely sat on a bench and let the ladies go. A fun street musician had us all entertained with versions of Baby Shark, Twinkle Little Star, and the Macarena. We had a dance party right there in the square. We headed toward the Mormon Battalion Museum. The Lance kids were excited to see their Uncle Nate starring in the movie there. This time we got to pan for gold, hand scrub laundry, and bake mud bricks after the presentation. We headed up to the tower for a view of the city. We tried to make it back to KOA in time for the littles to enjoy a train ride but missed it by 5 minutes. So we went swimming again! Courtenay went to Costco for pizza while Justin and I managed the swimming horde of kids. At dusk some of us went to the large field to watch The Good Dinosaur. We snacked on popcorn and loads of water. I quite enjoy how well the employees keep the sound curfew maintained. It's quite a dull roar until 10-10:30, then everything settles down to silence for the night.

Justin woke up the next morning to find all the females in the flutter. Amelia started her first period, while camping!!!! I so appreciate Courtenay's excited reaction! Amelia was all in a tizzy flapping her arms while I calmly and slowly gathered some supplies. She was soon squared away, complete with a dose of Tylenol for those pesky cramps. We headed to the beach again for a few hours. Well covered and slathered this time. Lia was not the mood at all to swim, her burn was to severe to enjoy much of anything. Amelia was anxious about missing out on swimming, she was reassured several times it was ok to swim. So she did get in the water for a couple of hours. The beach remained overcast for the day. Justin tangled up his kite strings. That spaghetti mess of string took me an hour to sort out. The kids amused themselves digging holes using sand shovels I got at Walmart. At first the boys and girls were in a contest for the largest and deepest holes. The boys won. The waves were quite substantial that day! Amelia and I spent a good hour out in the deeper water with our boogie boards. We love the waves that shoot you straight up into the air! Evelyn wanted to board so I helped her catch a few waves. She wandered back to the sand so I thought she was done. A few moments later I realized she was not with the family. I am not one to get anxious about missing kids, usually I'm quite low key. In my mind's eye Evelyn got caught in the undertow (which was quite strong that day) and pulled out to the deeper water. She did not have her floatie on as well so there was no way she'd keep her head above water. I enlisted Justin to help me find her. I found her 1/2 mile down the beach crying, she lost us. That was a good heart workout for us both. We had a pretty good spot directly in front of a play area and the bathrooms. We headed back early, everyone was tired, cold, and ready to rest at the KOA. Traffic delayed us enough that we missed the train rides again. So we rented a surry bike, three banana bikes, and a large trike for the kids to enjoy. I even squeezed myself into a banana bike made for an 8 year old. The surry gave us a really good 20 minutes of exercise. Court made walking tacos. My silly girls insisted on walking about with their tacos just because. The kids went swimming again, hogging the hot tubs, which stung our burns for a moment then felt pretty darn good. Everett played for the last time with his Lucy friend. Evelyn practiced her water handstands. She found her swimming skills from last year! We made banana boats for treat, most burned so we finished off with more s'mores. Courtenay worked on packing up her van for an early departure the next day. The kids gave Charlie and new nickname of Charzard or Charmander, a Pokemon character.

Courtenay packed up quickly since she had a 13 hour drive home. The kids played gaga ball and bounce pillows bright and early for the last time. Lia really wanted Amelia to travel back with them. She was not feeling comfortable with her current situation, lack of clothing, and supplies, plus I'm not sure there was even room in the Lance van for a Call. Ha ha ha. Hug, hug, kiss, kiss and the Lances were off...to the bathroom. We ran up a pair of shorts and caught them at the bathroom still, phew. Justin and I took our time to pack up and store things away in the truck and van. So much sand, so much. We pulled out around 10 am to head back to 100+ temps in Arizona. We miss those balmy 70 degree days already. The drive back was quiet, the kids napped half the way. That first rest stop was brutal. Walked out to dry, furnace winds at a 107! Take me back! We got home around 5 pm. Soon we had the vehicles cleared out and the house cluttered with stuff. I got the van vacuumed before the sand took over.

Saturday I worked on the massive pile of laundry. Took about 11 loads of laundry to catch up with all the dirty, smoke infused, camp stuff. The kids set up the slip n'slide as an afternoon diversion. I captured some pretty silly slo-mo videos of their antics. Our impressive 12' sunflower bloomed, several of the smaller flowers also bloomed while we were gone. Those flowers gave me some "saudades" of Nebraska. Justin and I attended Stake Conference meetings towards the evening. Thanks to Amelia for holding down the fort while we went to the adult session. One idea really stuck out to me that session: that the Mosaic Law was retired for the Higher Law of Love, now that law is retired for an even higher law, that of Ministering as the Lord does. Just a thought!

Sunday Justin woke up to a very excited Evelyn. She almost spoiled his Father's Day surprise due to her excitement. She held it together! I got Justin a huge card which we all signed. He got the card and three awesome new ties from the littles. We enjoyed a Justin approved meal of BBQ ribs, baked potatoes, and salad. We are so blessed with a humble, hard-working father for our family.

I wish there was a way to encapsulate all the emotions, busy-ness, commaderie, laughter, and tantrums, etc of our trip. I wish there were words to describe Charlie's one-word raspy way of communicating. I wish we could just wrap up all that cousin time, the feelings, love, joy, etc of spending time with folks we love. The faces on our kids faces when making emergency potty runs down the way. Everett's little feelings hurting more than possible over some small faux pas. The older girls giggling in their own tent, being big girls and all grown up, but still impossibly young. I'm really good at describing the little motions we go through it's the other things that escape me. My camera captures a bit of those feelings, better than my words at least. I wish I could tell you how my heart expanded when Everett Lance randomly held Evelyn's hand just because he was near and a great big brother. Or Josie's sticky face whining for a flimsy wooden fan that broke 5 minutes later. Those are the things vacations are made of, real life included.

**the kids reminded me, I have to tell about my well-timed toot. I could feel a good one brewing so I pointed out all the blisters on Mia's face, here, here, here, and here....and toot! I'm pretty proud it worked out so well. We had a good laugh.

Amelia: favorite part was the beach, catching the big ones, the cramps, learning to deal with being a "woman"
Phillip: Loved the KOA, palling about with Everett
Everett: Loved KOA, the pool especially, loved the waves and getting his own boogie board, the yummy food
Evelyn: I learned to boogie board on the waves all by myself! I am awesome, cool. I loved playing with Penny