01 January 2018

Ft Verde, Montezuma's Castle, and Montezuma's Well

Saturday we headed north to the Fort Verde area, south of Flagstaff. I was pretty excited to get out of our house for a day. The drive took about an hour and 45 minutes, not too far away! We stopped at the Fort first since it was closer to food for lunch. The docent at the fort passed out Jr Ranger papers for the kids to work on. This was our first attempt at the badges without the Lance cousins. Ft Verde was the base of operations for General Crook from 1870-1880, it stayed operational until 1891. The army's task was to place and keep Indians on the reservations. As the reservations were moved farther away the fort became obsolete. We toured the main museum first. The kids loved trying on period style costumes for fun. The fort was decorated up for Christmas so that was a fun plus. The other three remaining homes showed what family life was like for the general, what the bachelor quarters looked like, and the hospital area. We grabbed lunch then drove to see Montezuma's Castle.

The park containing the castle is well-paved and beautifully situated in a Riparian oasis. The coolest trees, Arizona Sycamore, has the most amazing skin of camouflaged bark. The trees were often used to support the cliff dwelling ceilings. The Sinagua Indians built and inhabited the castle nearly 600 years ago, using the dwellings for 400 years. I wondered how closely the cliff dwellings are to the Anasazi dwellings. I had to smile over Amelia and her tablet, taking dozens of photos searching for the perfect "sick" capture. Lots of peace signs were involved. Justin amused us all with his powerful binoculars. Phillip found a sycamore tree with a hollow depression, he immediately sat in it!

Josie fell asleep while we drove to the next spot, Montezuma's well, a few miles away from the castle. Justin stayed with her in the van while the rest of us explored the well. The well reminded me of the cenotes that dot Mexico. A constant current of fresh water leaks into the well and drains out of one side. Half of the well is covered with paths and vegetation folks can explore. Along the walls are burrowed Sinauga dwellings. Everyone had a great time running up and down the stairs. The boys had some game with exploding bombs going on. Once back on the well's rim we headed down the hill to climb more steps down to where the well emptied into Beaver creek. I bent over to check the water temp, my camera hood decided to also take a dip. Thankfully, the water current was not swift and the creek not to deep. I buried my arm to the shoulder to get the errant lens hood. Evelyn decided to rub dirt in her "hort" (aka wart on her hand) just so she could wash her hands in the water. The water felt lovely. Back at the van Josie woke up so Justin took the older 3 kids to explore the area. The girls and I stayed back, Evelyn's legs were not working by this point. The park was near to closing time we did not make it to Tuzigoot, an Indian pueblo not too far away.

What a fun day out hiking and getting to know our new area. I can check that destination off my bucket list now.

Sunday's music time was quite fun. The kids "popped" balloons with a Nerf gun to find songs they sung last year for their program. It was a fun review of the year's songs. New Years Eve was quite boring. We let the kids stay up until almost 10 pm playing games and watching a documentary on baby animals. New Years Day was just as boring. Justin was not feeling well so he parked himself on the couch for 6 hours napping and watching TV at intervals. I had an engagement photo session at Riparian Preserve. I convinced Justin and the kids to go hang out and play outside for a while. We had Jacob Godard with us as an extra diversion. During the session we figured out that Eve knew the parents of Sister Jarreau in Baton Rouge. They were in the same ward! Never imagined I'd meet friends of someone from Baton Rouge whose daughter I know from Sidney, NE...in Gilbert, AZ. Small world sometimes. We celebrated the New Year with dinner at Cafe Rio. Justin goes back to work tomorrow. He enjoyed quite a long vacation for only taking 4 work days off!

**a common annoyance we all share lately: Evelyn screaming and crying each time I park the van "Mom! Don't leave me! Don't leave me in the car!" You might think this is a common occurrence. It is not. I am unsure when and how she developed this fear. It grates on us all when she starts whining about being left in the van. Every. Single. Time.

Christmas 2017: The Year of the Hatchimals

Our Christmas Eve was low key but filled with tradition. The kids finished decorating sugar cookies before dinner. I opted for cheap store bought frosting this year since no one in my family really enjoys sugar cookies. Evelyn and Everett had the most fun decorating cookies. I managed the sprinkles this year, guess I'm slowly learning from my mishaps. Oh the clam chowder! It's the best soup of the entire year. This year's chowder was magnificent with fresh thyme, extra bacon, and extra clams. The loaf of Winco sourdough bread just topped off the perfection. Amelia did a sweet job decorating the table. She used our nicer dishes, real glasses, and name tags. We ate by candle light to top off the ambiance. I found a bottle of Tabasco sauce towards the end of the meal, a little kick makes the chowder extra delicious. Justin and I opted to enjoy the carbs in the potatoes, tasted like a slice of carb heaven. The kids played on Santa Tracker while the dishes and kitchen were cleaned up by the one-woman cleaning show. I think we need to have another kitchen clean up training session (Justin!). We used the Nativity costumes from the Primary since I still had the bucket from our ward party. The kids had a lovely time choosing characters and dressing up several times. Justin read the account in Luke one time then we sang the Nativity Song another time. Our Nelves came a bit late this year, but come they did. Wrapping paper went flying as the kids shredded open gifts to find new pajamas. The girls were so delighted the Nelves brought PJs for their dolls this year. We got a plate of cookies and mug of milk ready for Santa. Justin administered some melatonin to each kid before we trucked them up to bed.

I heard someone rustling about sometime that Christmas night. I heard balloons squeaking, wrapping paper crinkle, and whispers of excitement. I even heard Santa using our printer. The tree lights kept me out of deep sleep since I am now used to sleeping in the deep dark of our room's black out shades. Once again I am amazed that the kids slept in til past 6:30! They woke up at their customary time of 6:45! The kids opened up their stockings in our bedroom. Josie was oohing and awing over her new Shimmer toothbrush. Evelyn was by far the most excited about all her stocking treasures. The kids headed down the stairs in order with Josie at the front. Phillip, Everett, and Evelyn all screamed when they saw new bikes waiting for them. The level of sound was impressive, I think the air space literally popped. Justin got his own Nerf gun, it was a sale perk, buy two get one free! After trying out their new bikes the kids turned their focus to the Santa gifts! The kids each got the Hatchimal wished for when they visited Santa. Somehow by miracle each Hatchimal is a different color, how Santa arranged that I will never know. The kids worked on hatching their eggs before moving on to other gifts. The aftermath of all the gifts left a swath of paper, boxes, plastic ties, and instruction pamphlets. I almost lost Josie in the mess a couple times. Evelyn sat herself right in the center with her Barbie house and bath tub sets. She has not stopped playing with her toys in over a week. Amelia can be seen wearing her unicorn trucker's hat, I am pretty sure she sleeps in it. Justin took the kids outside to ride their bikes and make adjustments if needed. The boys had several Nerf gun wars throughout the day. Darts littered the street and sidewalks. Breakfast was a simple affair of scrambled eggs, sausage, and milk. Justin tested out the smoke detectors. They all work and are even networked. If one goes off the rest soon follow. He was roasting a Prime Rib for dinner at high heat. The alarms went off and on for quite some time. I found fans to keep the smoke away from the two main trouble maker detectors. Dinner was delicious! A special meal of meat, mashed potatoes, vegetable, and Martinellis. We walked off part of our meal with a forced march around the oval. We enjoyed the ability to try out new bikes and play outside in 70 degree weather this year.

Our normal schedule was off most of the week. We all lost track of the real day of the week! Our normal laundry day was moved from Monday morning to Wednesday. We spent a morning at the park trying out the new bikes. We did not go anywhere fancy just stayed home and played as a family. Tuesday afternoon we took the kids to Build a Bear because Evelyn wanted to spend her Christmas dollars there. All the kids ended up spending their money there as well. The store was crazy busy. The older kids all got Pokemon stuffies and Evelyn got a cute pink bear. They loved the whole process of filling the bears, putting a wish-filled heart into their stuffies, and giving the animals their first wash. Justin helped them complete birth certificates at the computer station. Josie wandered about for the entire time, she found a little couch just her size!

Seems Christmas colds were also gifted us at the same time. Our entire family came down with a hacking cough, stuffy noses, sore throats, one barfer (Amelia), and headaches. Instead of playing we just stayed home and got better. Thursday the kids put their clean clothes away in order to earn a theater trip to watch the new Star Wars movie. I hired a sitter for Evelyn and Josie. The movie was funny, with lots of good movie stuff. I sat next to Everett, he asked me questions every couple of minutes. Now I know how Justin feels when I pester him during a movie.

Friday morning our house was filled with lots of yelling and complaining. Can you guess why? Well, we tortured the kids into cleaning up the entire bottom floor at the same time. It was terribly unfair and cruel. Justin turned into an ogre. Amelia was so mad and upset because I made them work until 12:30 without lunch. Sister Morgan...now Stephanie West...came to visit us with her kids and husband. They are in Arizona to visit the older Wests who are serving a mission in Tuscon. We enjoyed the afternoon watching kids play and chatting. The boys had a good long nerf war. The little girls played dolls and barbie for most of the time. Thanks for the fun visit!