I've nursed a hankering to visit Utah since we last went in November for Thanksgiving. Jared received his mission call to serve in Johannesburg in April. His mission was delayed by the mission office for 6 weeks so he would be home for Easter. That made up my mind after much vacillating, the major con was leaving Justin alone over Easter. I worked on laundry Monday and Tuesday, packed up bags on Tuesday, Justin installed the rooftop carrier that night, I loaded the van Wednesday morning. Josie got a nice long morning nap while I worked. I got the kids out of school right after their lunches, Phillip, Amelia, then Everett. We waited in the driveway for Justin to get home for lunch. We bid him farewell with a flurry of bathroom stops, hugs, kisses, a prayer, and a totally unexpected rush of tears and crying. Justin started the deluge, the kids started soon after, I drove away with everyone crying and moaning. We missed our Justin Dad.
We drove 6 hours to Rock Springs and stayed at the Outlaw Inn, my goal was to allow us some time to swim and get all the wiggles out before bed. I listened to the Griffin Chronicles during the long drive. The kids did really well, we stopped twice for potty, treats, and gas. Our hotel had a cool enclosed pool with the rooms encircling the pool. Our room was a mere 20 feet from the pool! The kids were completely stoked! They had their swim gear on in seconds flat after we checked in. Evelyn surprised me by swimming across the pool on her own with her head underwater. She is a mermaid in disguise. Once again she refused to wear a flotation device. Somehow I slipped a bit on the concrete and tore a rip through my foot skin. Ouch. Sleeping in a hotel is a joke. The kids fell asleep quickly, but staying asleep was the joke. Josie kept scratching the mesh on her crib. Evelyn was restless until 2 am, Josie woke up soon after. This time I could not leave the room to wander around with her. She crawled on my face and poked my nostrils for a few hours. Phillip and Amelia woke up at 3:30 am just as Josie was drifting back to sleep. They woke her up as they wandered the room like ghosts. I finally got to sleep around 4:30 am until we all woke up at 6:30 thanks to Everett the only one to get a full night of sleep. I felt quite numb all day. We finished the last 4 hours of our drive, arriving at Miekka's home around 1 pm.
Miekka and Courtenay agreed to color eggs once Everett arrived home from school. Miekka hates egg dye so we decorated with crayons, markers, stickers, glue, and etc. I did get to use the tie-dye kit since it was not messy. The cousins had a blast! Jana was over with Hannah to join in the fun. My crew was in bed early that night after our rough night. Phillip packed his yo-yo from Christmas so James, the yo-yo master could teach him some tricks. I thought that was pretty cute. He excitedly found his yo-yo as soon as James arrived home after work.
Evelyn insisted on her daily genie ponytail, she loves it high and poofy! Amelia dared the boys to go wake up Seth and Jacob. Seth was very upset over the intrusion. We learned the truth later once I learned of the episode. During Josie's nap I took Evelyn with my to Walmart to wander around the immense store. We dined on sandwiches for lunch. We visited Thanksgiving Point for a fun afternoon excursion. I wanted pretty Easter photos of my kids since I made dresses this year. The flowers were breathtaking this year. We lucked out with partly cloudy skies that provided a lovely filtered light, the temperature was on the chilly side but still nice. Jacob taught Everett some of his hiding skills. Every so often I'd see Everett hiding behind a tree or bush. My heart melted when cousins and siblings held hands as we walked along. Feeding the Koi fish was pretty awesome, the water was roiling from all the fish fighting for food pellets. Miekka helped me change the kids into Easter clothes. I settled on taking photos in the secret garden, the kids cooperated and were done in 15 minutes! We changed them back into street clothes. I adore the little secret garden! It is so cute. Phillip loved the umbrella garden. My favorite was the new life of Christ walk. A local artist installed dozens of statues depicting the life of Christ. Evelyn found a statue of Jesus, she quietly whispered to the statue and planted a kiss on his forehead. We found a statue of Joseph Smith seeing the vision. Everett was curious which statue was Jesus. We discussed that Jesus had the nail prints in his hands, so was on the right side. He excitedly told other strangers which figure was Jesus. Amelia was pretty much done (physically) halfway through the gardens. I about carried her out on my back! We made it back to the Lances in time to help hide plastic eggs for a fun neighborhood hunt. I would love to live in an area with lots of kids for my kids to play with. The best part about Easter egg hunting is watching for the extreme facial expressions on the toddler faces. Kills me every time. James came home from work and asked the little girls to go pick the pretty yellow flowers growing in the grass. Evelyn and Penny eagerly met the task. Penny picked the largest dandelion I've ever seen, Evelyn kept trying to trade the big one away from her. Those two little cousins are pretty darn cute. Courtenay caught them sitting on a little bench pretending to be kittens. I caught them giggling over their pretty fistfuls of flowers. Miekka made pizza for dinner, the kids ate French bread pizza and the adults ate homemade pizzas. Grandma and Grandpa Lance came, Jeremy & Melissa, and Jared all came over for the evening. Evelyn was quite sure Punkle Jeremy was a terrifying creature. She resisted eye contact all evening, practically cowering in his presence. As usual, Jared soon had all the kids organized into a fun game of some sort out in the back common area. He is a very invested uncle, he really gets down and plays with the kids unlike the rest of us lame adults.
The kids spent the morning watching TV or playing computer games on Saturday. Miekka has a similar rule regarding electronics, only after 3:30 on Friday and on Saturday/Sunday. I vacuumed out the van and threw away trash collected during the trip over. We spent an hour at Neptune park nearby. Amelia was bored after 10 minutes of arriving. Jana came to play with Hannah as well for a couple hours. The only person who really played at the park was Everett. He discovered a play structure that was rigged up to a computer based game, parts of the play structure would light up and the kids had to figure out the correct sequence. He was loathe to leave before his game turn was over. I packed up the van before we drove out to spend time with Miekka's family. Marrisse invited us over for their egg hunt and dinner. I love how they did it! The girls hid empty plastic eggs, after the hunt the kids turned in the eggs for a bag of candy. Brilliant! Evelyn decided to change into her bunny dress just for the occasion. My heart felt full! Utah in the spring with family is a marvelous experience. James grilled asparagus. We dined on ham, tater tots, asparagus, broccoli, fruit salad, and rolls. I love our Henderson family! They are just as weird as we are! We drove out to spend the night with Grandma and Grandpa Lance. All the kids got a much needed bath and an early bedtime. Josie decided to cut her top right tooth early Easter morn. She and I did not sleep well, poor baby was restless and feverish. Happy Easter tooth to Josie Mae. Phillip was quite concerned the Easter bunny would not find us in Utah. He asked me to set off some Easter snoring beacons so the bunny would locate us easier.
Our Easter morning was quite refreshing. We got to sleep in a bit, eat pancakes for breakfast, and play around before church. The Easter bunny did indeed find the kids. They had fun racing around trying to find their baskets. Amelia and Evelyn had to hold up their long skirts to run around, made me smile to see that sight. Phillip found the baskets tucked away in the front yard area. Whoops of joy rang loud and clear as the kids tore apart their baskets. Soon Easter grass, plastic, and candy were flying through the air! Jared was quite flummoxed, somehow Everett managed to stuff nerf darts in places no darts should ever be in a nerf gun. Jared took apart the gun to find a mangled dart. Yep, those boys can accomplish the impossible. Right before church at 11, Josie decided she was done and ready for a nap. Grandpa, Grandma, and Jared ferried kids to church while I waited until the last moments. I raced to church took the sacrament, ran back to check on Josie, ran back and forth a couple times until church was over. Thank goodness the church is only a couple blocks away. Evelyn was well-behaved sitting on Grandpa's lap during their uber reverent service, made our Sidney meetings sound like a bidding contest. After sacrament meeting we drove up to spend the afternoon with Kenny, Charity, Libby, and Reagan. Everett played a couple games of Uno with Charity, he won quite often, even tried to rope her into a game with Everett-made rules (confusing). We had a great time visiting with them. I cannot believe Libby is about to graduate highschool. I remember her as a little 4 year old girl giggling with cookies in her hands. We left when the James' needed to leave for a family dinner. Evelyn and Josie got naps on the 20 minute drive back. Grandma was busy while we were gone. We came back to a deliciously prepared meal! It was like magic. I took some photos for Jared to use on the missionary wall at church. He makes me laugh, glad we could hug and laugh one last time for two years. My heart melted when I saw Amelia sitting in front of Kat chatting away. Courtenay came with her kiddos to play with cousins again and enjoy Easter dinner. Joe made delicious pickled onion deviled eggs as a appetizer. Um, yes, those were a winner. Once again Jared roped all the kids outside for a rousing game of something involving nerf guns, swords, teams, and such. I almost wanted to be a kid again...instead I amused myself by visiting with family. Mom's lilac bush smelled just I imagine the Primary song phrase, "whenever I walk by as lilac tree..." I sang that song a lot, each time the lovely scent came by. Phillip impressed us with his ability to read the Book or Mormon. He struggles with reading the stuff from school but can read the BofM better than any other book. Amelia went to bed complaining her tummy and head hurt. She looked quite pale and tired. Indeed that night she did not feel well, spending time in the bathroom with tummy troubles.
We video chatted with Justin a several times throughout our vacation. The kids got a kick when dog Vader stared at the screen, Evelyn howled with laughter. She is still talking about how amazing it was to chat with her Gog Vader. Justin was not feeling great while we were gone. He had troubles sleeping due to anxiety and depression. It's a tough time right now with work, changes, and unknowns. It's also very easy to over think every angle and stress out. I am glad he adjusted his anxiety meds. By the time we got home he was over the worst of it. Or maybe us coming home solved the anxiety.
I am so grateful this Easter season for my knowledge and testimony of our Savior. I know HE lives. Through him we can return home if we follow his example. I love being a parent, at times I see the gospel flare bright in these young minds we care for. I see the light when Phillip reads the scriptures. I see the light when Amelia cares for Josie or sings a Primary song. I see it when Evelyn asks to read scrippurs, when she tenderly kissed the status of Jesus on his brow. I see it when Everett excitedly tells me he prayed for something new. I am the luckiest mother and wife alive!
**side note: I headed home to Nebraska missing five pairs of Evelyn undies and one pair of Everett undies. The garments met untimely deaths due to extreme smell and damage. I hate potty training.