22 October 2019

Ward Campout

Monday was our last day of fall break! We quite enjoy the down time from the grind of school. Amelia had a hankering for applesauce so I got out the apple peeler/corer device and let the kids take care of the apple preparation. The apple sauce slow cooked all day in the crock pot, the smell was heavenly! We all enjoyed a warm bowl of apple sauce with a dollop of cream, except Josie who declared it looked yucky. We drove up to Scottsdale for a nice lunch date with Justin. The kids love going up there. Justin scored some new whiteboard decor thanks to the kids. Everett ordered a large pickle for his lunch, he ate it all and declared himself quite content. Josie ate her entire sandwich! The kids got to have some friends over in the afternoon to play with. Everett finally had Conner over to play soccer. Justin had a very busy week at work, he did not get home until 8-9 pm each evening. I organized a picnic dinner of hotdogs cooked over the open flame, pistachio salad, veggies, and chips. We sat around the fire pit eating our grub and watching the full moon make an appearance. The kids started a story telling game around the fire. Phillip always added farts, poop, and burps to the storyline. For FHE we made trees with roots drawn with hand outlines and labeled with actions that keep us rooted in the gospel. Crafty projects always seems to go a long way in this family. Justin got home in time to enjoy a s'more with the stragglers still out by the fire pit. 

Pack meeting was super fun. Brother Broughton's nephew showed off his animal collection after the awards ceremony. He had three mid-sized snakes, a huge snake (think boa constrictor), a tree frog, a sweet chinchilla, and a tortoise. Evelyn and I loved the chinchilla, it was like holding a cloud! After the presentation we were able to hold and handle the animals! That was a super fun experience. 

The rest of the week was quite usual, with the normal piano lessons, homework battles, laundry wrestling, grocery shopping, meal making extravaganza, and such. I worked on editing the kid's photos I took at Sedona. Sigh, so pretty up there. I hear the fall colors are in gorgeous array now, we missed the color by a week. 

Friday I packed up the truck with camping gear. Somehow I managed to get all the right stuff we needed for an overnight camp trip without Justin to help me out. He was so busy at work I could not even reach him on the phone. I took the kids out of school an hour early so we could get to the campsite before dusk. Our ward hosted a campout for anyone interested at Rock Creek. We were all ecstatic for the chance to camp. Phillip sat between Amelia and I in the front of the truck, little punk kept farting and stinking up the truck. Kept me awake! Josie was covered with itchy mosquito bites, she complained about it all the time. I stopped to get some sandwiches for dinner and anti-inflammatory cream for her poor little legs. We made it to the campsite around 4:30 pm. Several other families were already there. I had just enough time to get the stuff unloaded (kids helping of course) and the tent set up, sleeping pads inflated, and bags laid out before the sun went down. The kids quickly disappeared to play in the woods with friends. After dinner I set up the hammocks. The boys immediately started a game of peas in a pod with AJ and his sisters.  As the evening progressed several more families arrived. The guys had a nice roaring fire going to warm our bones. It was due to get quite chilly up in Payson that evening, around 33 degrees.  Bishop delivered a fireside devotional to ponder before he left for home. Amelia was the lone child over the age of 11, well there was a boy her age, but that's just awkward. She roasted up her s'more and begged me to let her go to bed. She and Josie were miraculously asleep by 9:30 even with the dull roar of 8 families. Sweet Evelyn climbed onto my lap snuggled in a sleeping bag to fall asleep there, that was quite nice for me. The boys wanted to stay up until midnight with AJ but they gave up around 10 pm. We all got an amazing view of the night sky. Without the moon, we could clearly see the milky way. Everett and I spotted shooting stars we made wishes on. We sure missed our Justin. He was at work until after 9 pm, went back to work Saturday morning as well. 

The kids all seemed to sleep well. Little Tyler Webster was not keen on sleeping with her mom inside a warm sleeping bag. She cried off and on all night until 5 am. It was quite cold, Everett had the right idea, he slithered to the bottom of his bag and slept on his tummy so he was completely covered. Phillip popped up awake at 6 am when the sun started it's way up the sky. I made him lay back down for another hour. Every few moments he's pop up looking for an okay to escape from the tent. His mouth finally got the better of him and he let out a loud "Yahoo!" into the morning air. That got us all going and ready for the day. The sun quickly warmed us up, layers shed right onto the ground as the sun did it's job. Phillip somehow managed to avoid splitting his forehead open when he tripped on an imaginary leashed dog. He just flipped his cup of milk into the air (and on his face), tripped forward, narrowly missing the metaled picnic table edge by millimeters. Brother Payne organized water rockets as a very fun activity. Everett and Evelyn finished their rockets quite swiftly. They got in several rocket launches. Amelia created a Gryffindor rocket, after her 3rd launch her rockets got stuck in a tree! She was quite sad to lose her creation, so made a mini version out of a water bottle. Phillip and AJ made a fancy rocket complete with removable boosters. We were all wet and happy from that activity. Everett lost interest once someone brought out the bumper balls. He soon had a rotation going for the kids playing with the bumper balls. The kids all loved the hammocks and balance line. Josie was quite interested in staying inside the tent. She rolled about in the tent for a hour or so, I'd see her face peek through the door every so often. The girls made a dinosaur nest out of pine needles. Took me a good hour to get all the bedding and tent packed away again. We were back home before 3 pm, our chests full of lovely mountain air. The kids abandoned me in favor of a swim in the pool to clean off all the camping dirt. Josie stayed to help me unload the truck. Justin was taking a much needed nap, so I grumped along putting everything back all by my lonesome. Once Justin woke up I tasked him and the kids to clean the upstairs. I had a photo session, trusted the family to get it all cleaned up. My session went well. The light was gorgeous out at the North-East side of the Lost Dutchman area. I came back to a clean(er) upstairs. Took me a couple hours to finish up the job, but that was expected. I sure love deeply cleaned rooms, clutter free. 

Sunday I was called to be the Ward Music Chairman! Yikes. That means I am in charge of the music for the ward; choir and training included. The Christmas season is swiftly coming, was asked to organize a musical Sunday program for the Sunday before Christmas. No pressure, right? Oh yes, we just got a new choir director as well. Let's do this. Our Come Follow Me lesson this week was on the Apostasy. The kids quite loved the "cups" lesson. We had cup pyramids going up here and there the rest of the week.  

15 October 2019

Fall Break-Sedona Style

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.