Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mikayla's Baptism

Today Mikayla was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
She is our baby, and our last child to be baptized.
I am so proud of her!
She is a genuinely good girl, and a sensitive soul.
As a young mother, I happily celebrated all the "firsts."
It was exciting.
First steps!
First tooth!
First child in Kindergarten!
Each milestone was momentous, (I took a butt-load of pictures) and I looked forward to each one.

I didn't realize how soon I would hit the "lasts."
The "lasts" aren't as fun.
In fact, they are downright sad, and kinda painful.
(Except for the last potty training...)
Most of the "lasts" don't get celebrated, or even noticed.
I didn't notice the last bottle of baby food I spoon-fed into chubby cheeks.
I can't remember buying my last bottle of bubbles for an Easter basket.
Or tying the laces on the soft denim pair of Old Navy (size 1) sneakers that were passed down to all of my babies, for the last time.
Mikayla's life is all about "lasts."
She is the last one to outgrow clothes, and toys, and entire stages of life.
Stages for her, and for me.
I am so lucky to have her.
She doesn't seem to mind curling her gangly, all-knees-and-elbows, 8-year-old body up on my lap to read a book.
Or still grabbing my hand when we walk side-by-side, even if it is not so cool anymore.
She will still watch "The Wonder Pets," if the other kids aren't around to tease her.
I think she knows that I need it.
So today, we celebrated a "last."
After our company left, I cried alone, locked in the bathroom.
Those weird manic (Ineedtherapy) tears of equal happiness and sadness.
And ate frosting straight from the can.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Arches National Park

Our final day in Moab was spent in Arches National Park.
The day was overcast and slightly rainy.
That good misty rain.
I had never been to Arches. I take that back. My parents said they took me to Arches when I was little. I don't remember it.
(Sorry parents!)

Before we turned off to go to Arches, we had to make a stop.
I guess it is a Moab tradition for my husband and kids that go to Jeep Easter Safari every year, to stop and get some piece of crap from this Rock Shop.
This little store is full of rocks and crystals and other natural-type knick knacks.
Not to mention the Collections of Petrification.
Petrified wood, petrified dinosaur bones, petrified dinosaur poop...
"Fewl's Gold."
And clearly, my children HAD already been to this place, cause this year the shop owner was ready for them!
We dropped some ca$h on temporarily cherished junk that the kids will fight over the entire car ride home, and then promptly lose.

Onward to Arches!

At the entry to the park we received a couple of maps.
The maps were handy for pointing out rock formations along our path, and the names of the formations.
The maps also contained facts about the park.
(There are over 2,000 arches in the park!)
Here was the first notable formation.
Called "The Three Gossips."
Next up on our trail was "Balanced Rock."
"Picture Frame."
(In order to be classified as an "Arch" the opening needs to be at least three feet in diameter.)
Our first real "get out of the car" stop was at "Double Arches."
The kids wanted to hike around a bit.
Everything in Arches is so weird an episode of "Dr. Who."
We hiked up to the opening of this cave.
I am not sure why.
I guess cause everyone else was doing it.
There was nothing up there.
And I quickly discovered that the hike UP to the cave was not bad, but down was an ugly thing, full of bum scooting.
(Flip-flops are not a suitable choice in Arches.)
Then we decided that since we were in Arches, we may as well take on the hike to see "Delicate Arch."
(The best known Arch in the world!)
It was a three mile hike, round-trip.
The kids were grumbling a tad.
Here we are about half-way there.
You can see the unmistakable excitement on Shianne's face! Also note the teeny tiny cars in the was high up on that mountain top.
We were huffing.
Then we passed an 80 year old lady with a walker.
I am not even kidding.
There were all types of people on the trail. Runners gliding up in spandex, moms with newborns in front carriers, and tons of foreign people there. We heard a lot of different languages in Arches. I can see why it is a tourist attraction.
The landscape is so very unique.
(About 800,000 people visit Arches each year.)
Finally we reached the top, where the Delicate Arch is.
It was awesomely cool.
I was glad we chanced upon an overcast day for the hike.
It was perfect to keep us cool.
I can't imagine hiking that thing in the heat of summer!
We goofed around a bit:
And then started the hike back down the mountain.
(Diet Mountain Dew and Beef Jerky is a surprisingly delightful combination.)
There were plenty of things to keep the kids occupied.
Climbing into rock pods:
(A whole group of oriental men were also taking pictures of my girls in the rocks.)
My boys refused to wear jackets, but chose instead to wrap blankets around their necks ala Superman.
Those boys just ain't right...
But they are easy to spot in a crowd. With the capes.
The wildlife did not disappoint. Lots of pretty things blooming despite the rocks, and heat that is sure to come.
Sadly we did not see any bighorn sheep or mountain lions.
("Looking for sheep is an exercise in patience," according to nature essayist Peter Steinhart, and "it's usually rhymed with disappointment." guidebook, page 6)
Good to know, Pete. Good to know.
We did, however, see this:
Some Indian Petrogylphs.
And Jayden took this picture:
Our next stop was "Landscape Arch."
Our kids were not about to hike anymore.
I told them we would just walk until I could get a picture.
1.5 miles later...
(In 1991, a rock slab 60 feet long, 11 feet wide and 4 feet thick, fell from the underside of Landscape Arch.)
There was plenty to see on the hike.
And it was a flat, smooth path.
And we played my favorite game!
We would see a tourist group coming (bonus points if they were foreign) and we would stop and everyone in the family would point at...nothing. I would pretend to take pictures. When the group of people reached the area that we were "pointing out" they would stop and look. And look. And consult their guidebooks. And look...
The kids thought it was hysterical.
We are idiots like that.
There were gorgeous views:
And that was pretty much it.
We finished up, and drove for home, with one pit stop in Price to eat some late lunch/early dinner.
(Price will be having a Cinco De Mayo Celebration....MAY 7TH!!)
We got home in time for me to throw some red sand caked laundry in so that the kids would have britches to wear to school the next day.
All in all, we give Arches two thumbs up.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More Moab.

Us girls made it to Grand Junction, without incident.
We picked up the bags from the airport, and went shopping.
I had packed a plain white tee shirt and markers for Mikayla to make herself an "It's My Birthday Today" tee shirt.
(Lighting courtesy of Pizza Hut.)
We found a ROSS in Grand Junction.
Things were starting to balance out in my world...
Mikayla picked out a couple of presents, I found TWO(inexpensive)dresses for ME.
It was a miracle.

Then we drove back into Moab to meet up with everyone for dinner at Pizza Hut.
Our friends brought Mikayla a cake.
The whole restaurant sang "Happy Birthday" to her.
She finally felt like it was a real birthday.

Later, back at the hotel (Moab Valley Inn):
everyone went swimming in the highly chemically altered pool, and then we had a little family celebration for our new 8 year old, with candles squished into half melted ice cream sandwiches.
We stayed up late, listening to stories from Grandpa Randy and Uncle Jeff.
You can't put a price on memories like that.
Real, yet almost unbelievable experiences shared from a time long ago.
Hysterical giggling from both the kids listening, and the adults reliving the past.
My dad and his brothers are expert story tellers, with their descriptive narration- you feel like you are right there with them.
They had the most colorful childhood, growing up on a farm in Idaho.
I can't get enough of them.

The next morning, we got up, and ate some shoddy continental breakfast.
You know how I like my waffles, right?
Yeah, well, they got rid of the waffle maker.
I had to settle for eggs. And not the Cadbury kind.

Then the boys got the Jeeps ready for a day of trail riding.
Mikayla had her own Jeep.
It kept up.
The boys chose a trail that wuss-bags like myself could handle.
It was called the "Poison Spider/Golden Spike" trail.
I don't know who named those things.
I did see some funky looking spidery trees on the trail?
Spidery? Maybe?
I wasn't sure how Poison Spider was named, but I steered clear of any visible webs.
Some of the trail names made sense, because they contained the visual formations that they were named after. Like potato salad. The rocks there looked like dumped out, chunky potato salad.
Or Pig Rock.
You can see the pig...
I guess if I were to name the trails they would ALL be called "wienie rock trail" and that wouldn't be helpful to anyone trying to navigate that place. the start of the trail there is an area where you can hike up this cliff and see some actual dinosaur tracks.
Here is Mikayla overlooking the cliff. You can see how high it was.
And here are the dinosaur tracks:
Then we headed out on the trail.
We went in a group of six Jeeps.
Along the trails you would run into other groups.
Sometimes where there was an obstacle, there would be traffic jams.
It is a busy week in Moab.
This is what it looks like on the trail, behind a caravan, through the windshield:
Here is the view next to me:
And in case you wondered where exactly the trail was...there are usually tire tracks:
Moab is home to breathtaking landscape.
You have to get off-road to access most of it.
Either by off-road vehicle or hiking.
Like this:
Cool looking plants:
It really is a camera friendly place.
Seems like every hill you crest opens up to another money shot.
But here is also where Moab and I part ways.
The cresting of hills.
Color me crazy, but I don't enjoy white-knuckling it for hours on end.
I really like pavement.
My husband is a wonderful driver.
He has skills.
He knows just how to maneuver his Jeep to climb steep rock cliffs...even when there is a perfectly good, safe and smooth path NEXT to the steep rock obstacle.
Jeeping is about the challenge of conquering obstacles.
Pushing your vehicle to the limit.
Through experience, learning to navigate the best possible line to drive.

Here is my question: "Why?"
Here is his answer: "Because I can."

So we did a lot of this:
And this:
And this:
And I did this:
(image courtesy of google, not my actual praying/sweaty hands.)
Then, just when my stomach would take no more, we stopped for lunch.
That was nice.
The kids played.
I napped. That much clenching can take a lot out of a person.
The girls colored the red rock with sidewalk chalk.
I brought it, cause I am cool like that. Totally a hit.
And if you ever go to Moab, bring some. And perhaps some Depends.
The boys entertained themselves the way boys do.
Like destructive numskulls.
We wrapped things up, and reloaded everything to finish the trail.
Quick family photo, before mom has an accident?
Mmmm, okay!
Not more than five minutes later, one of the Jeeps broke down.
And this what the men LIVE FOR.
I kid you not.
They hear the grind, squeal, and ping! of metal, and they literally cackle with glee.

Every one of them had to come over, and crawl under, and give their assessment.
Then, the broken part is discovered!
And here is the exciting part!
Every man digging through their own Jeep, scouring the rusty buckets of greasy parts to see if he is the winning guy who has an extra that will fit...
More miraculous than me finding two dresses at ROSS was the fact that the broken part needed to be WELDED!
Fear not, blog readers.
My Dad has a Jeep equipped with a portable welder.
He was ecstatic to be the winner!
Sweet justification for the $$$ he dropped to accessorize his Jeep with a seemingly extravagant and previously unnecessary piece of equipment.
In spite of my sarcasm and negative points of view on Jeeping, it really was impressive and slightly cool that these men had what we needed, and knew how to fix it right out there in the sticks.
We were up and running in less than a half hour.
Back on the trail.
And headed back to the hotel.
The plan was to swim, (our hair was not yet as green as we would have liked) and get some sleep to hit Arches the next day.