Thursday, October 25, 2012

Second Miler Award

Ryan's been in Scouts in one form or another for the last 10 years. He was just awarded by our District with the Second Miler Award.

They served a delicious baked potato banquet and presented Ry with this nifty certificate.

He's standing up there with our former bishop (who received the same award) and a few of the council leaders.

Ryan tries so hard to help all of the Scouts and leaders in our ward do their best. The award was well deserved!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cute Kate

We got to go to St. George for a quick visit to see my sister Lindsey's new baby Kate. My sister Erin came with us too. Kate is adorable... Lindsey is too... and while we are at it Lindsey's boys Jonah and Jaxton are also. We were hoping to have some sunshine so we could go for a swim, but the weather was rainy and chilly. The kids loved playing with each other and did some fall crafts and watched some movies. Lindsey and Erin and I made yummy food and ate it.

I loved snuggling that cute girl... so did Olivia and Erin and Sophia and Coleman too.

We made the first batch of caramel apples for the season... Lindsey's boys weren't sure about them and took a little convincing to get them to try them. In the end they decided they didn't love them. What?!?! More for us!
We got to hand deliver Jonah's birthday gifts! The kids liked exploring all of the new wildlife outside... the rain in St. George brought out all sorts of cockroaches. I love seeing my kids with their cousins... they love to  be with them!

Hooray that Lindsey lives close enough to run down for a day or two!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rocket's Away

One of the most anticipated activities at Olivia's school is the 6th Grade Rocket Launch. According to Liv all of the students can't wait for the day to come when it is finally their turn to buy (cha-ching!) a rocket and some motors, assemble it with specialty plastic cement (that may or may not be available through the school), and launch it into the heavens in front of all the other sixth graders and their cheering families. She picked out the rocket she wanted and built it herself (with minimal supervision from Ryan). Today Sophia and I got to go and be the cheering family and we got to watch Liv and her friends (and all the other sixth graders) launch their rockets. Olivia had a great time and when I asked her if it was as wonderful as she thought it would be.. she said it mostly was, but she regretted that her rocket didn't do anything crazy like spin out of control or burst into flames... maybe next time around, Sweet Liv.

There's a Bear in the House

Coleman's ninth birthday meant rank advancement in Cub Scouts. He went from a very fun Wolf Den (where he worked hard and completed all of the requirements and earned several arrow points) to a great Bear Den where I know he will have just as much fun. His new den buddies gave him some bear paw stamps all over to show their warm welcome and he got to sport the awesome bear hat for almost all of Pack Meeting.


This handsome boy turned nine in September!

He is such a fun kid to be around. He has a funny sense of humor, he loves, loves, loves reading and Legos. He loves to be with his friends and goof around and invent games. He is thoughtful and sensitive and kind. He loves playing games of all kinds... video games, board games, iPhone and iPad games, word games, logic games, riddles, math games, you name it, he loves games.  He also loves the Disney show "Phineas and Ferb" and the rest of us love it too.

I made some Perry the Platypus cupcakes for his soccer team and for our family gathering. We were so excited that some of our family members could come and celebrate with us! On Coleman's birthday Ryan made colorful pancakes (and carried on the Phineas and Ferb theme) and later in the week Coleman invited a few friends over for a late-night. I did my best to make Phineas' and Ferb's heads for the cake and we had to have another Perry to go along with them...

We are so grateful to have Coleman as a part of our family... he brings so much happiness to our family!

(Stay tuned for more Phineas and Ferb excitement in the coming months...)

Faithful & Fabulous

The first weekend of September we had a Relief Society retreat... think of it as an extended Girls' Night Out with a lot of yummy food, a lot of visiting and laughs, some service, games, high adventure, a few gospel messages, and a whole lot of bonding going on between the sisters in our ward. We spent a night at HeberValley Camp where they have bunks and bathrooms (hooray for flush toilets!). Our site had a little cooking pavilion and a few picnic tables.It only lasted for 24 hours or so... some sisters came up just for Friday evening and others just for Saturday morning and afternoon. In total we had 50 sisters come for part or all of our retreat... that is just about half of the ladies in our ward. I loved that so many took the time to come!

Our focus was to help the sisters know how "Faithful & Fabulous" they truly are... we made cute notebooks out of inexpensive composition books to give to each person so they could jot down a few thoughts.  Each person brought their own dinner on Friday night and then we had a wonderful speaker that evening. She talked all about prioritizing and based her talk on one that Susan Tanner gave (first take care of my testimony, next my family, finally my calling). We ate fondue.... in the mountains... and it was wonderful!

Before bed we had a wonderful devotional by Jacque (2nd Counselor) about light and our ability to reflect the light of Christ. Then we departed to our separate cabins (we divided into Later Gators for people that wanted to stay up late, Early Birds for people who wanted to get to bed early, and Monkeys in the Middle for people who just weren't sure... ironically enough the Early Birds stayed up the latest... but got up the earliest. Go figure!) and played games until we couldn't keep our eyes open anymore.

Saturday morning we had Kneader's French toast with caramel syrup and strawberries for breakfast, then a devotional by Jessica (1st Counselor), and a little workshop about being fabulous.... not that I am an expert by any means, but we wanted to look at the basics... we are fabulous because we are daughters of God and because we have a desire to do what is right. Our vision gets obscured for so many reasons and we aren't able to see clearly who we are or what our potential is. We had each person do an acrostic poem with the word FABULOUS--they had to write a word or phrase for each letter of the word that described something positive about them. I think a lot of times we can recognize and verbalize positive traits in others, but it is hard to do that about ourselves. Finally we shared some positive affirmations about ourselves... statements that are positive that we know to be true. I loved that so many people contributed to the discussion.

We made a fun, simple little craft (stuffed pumpkins!) and then after some tidying up we walked down to the Challenge Course which included some team building exercises and a crazy-fun swing.

It was such a wonderful time to build relationships with sisters in our ward... I hope we get to do it again!

**What makes YOU fabulous?

It's A Zoo Out There

My brother Matt and his family came to visit and we got to spend a day at the zoo with them. My mom brought Erin's boys too and we had a great time. We had a fun visit with everyone and saw some of the new exhibits at Hogle Zoo.  I loved watching Sophia's cousins take her by the hand and point out the neat things they saw.

Olivia and Coleman were sad they missed it... and insisted that I check them out of school to go with us, but I remained the firm, mean mama and made them stay in school.... we'll make another trip to the zoo another day so they can come too :).

Another School Year

The end of August brought the start of another school year.

 Olivia was excited to start 6th grade! It's hard to believe she is one of the "top dogs" now. She loves school and loves being involved with Service Club. She fought long and hard to convince us to try out the early track and so far it's been great (although I admit that many mornings I am still a little bleary eyed while we are getting ready for the day). Before school started she was a little nervous about her teacher assignment... we talked about giving him a fair chance and judging him on her own experience instead of what she heard others say. She came home the first day so excited and happy and didn't want to tell me how great her teacher was because she was afraid that the words "I told you so" would come out of my mouth.  Give me a little credit... but I did tell her :). A few more months of sixth grade and it's junior high for this little lady!

Coleman was so excited (and a little nervous) all summer long to start school. He changed schools this year to be a part of the A.L.L. (Accelerated Learning Lab) program at a neighboring school. He has loved his teacher and his classmates and it's been a great change for him! His teachers in previous years were great to work with him and give him opportunities to be challenged, but it has been wonderful to be a part of a program where the students are like-minded and motivated to learn and do as much as they possibly can. On his first-day picture he showed three fingers on one hand for third grade, and on the other did a sign-language "A" to represent A.L.L. (He thought that was pretty clever!)

Coleman and Olivia realized that they will never again be in the same school (except for maybe college) so they wanted a photo together before they went their separate ways. Sophia wanted in on the photo action too... we took the early photo just before Liv left (while Soph was still in her PJs) and another one by the bush when Coleman left. After things finally settled down I actually did something with her poor hair and had to photograph the cute little ponytail. It still isn't super long or thick, but we can get it gathered into one or two "little piggies." The bottom right photo is Sophia's go-to position once the kids are off... a "Fro-Yo-Yo" (frozen Go-Gurt) and an episode of "Lil Ty-Ty" (Little Einsteins). She loves that corner of the couch! I think she was pretty bored at first with just me to play with... and she often pulls my hand and asks me to play "tea-party stuff, now!" which is much more enjoyable than doing laundry or dishes or any other housework :). I love that I get to spend some focused time with her during the day while the older kids are gone.

The school year is already passing by quickly... and my summary of it so far is "Thank goodness for carpools so I don't have to drive to both schools twice each day!"

Lovin' the '80's!

One of the items in our reunion packet was a pair of tickets to an '80's reunion concert at the Usana Amphitheater.  We met our friends Rinehart and Lisa there and listened to the likes of Eddie Money, Kenny Loggins, and even Belinda Carlisle (she's still got it!) with a few others. The irony wasn't lost on us that the concert was put on by and for employees/consultants of Usana... a company that sells health promoting supplements... yet many of the artists were NOT examples of people who had taken care of their health or aged well... despite all of that it was a fun night... and we ended with ice cream at Leatherby's which is never a bad thing :).

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Twenty Years

Can 20 years really have passed since I graduated from Cottonwood High School? Indeed they have... in August we celebrated 20 years since our high school graduation.

In many ways I was excited to see old friends and renew acquaintances. In other ways I was dreading feeling the same insecure feelings that I had during high school. When it came down to it though I decided that I needed to face my fears and get over my insecurities. I am so pleased with my life and I feel like I have accomplished great things! Even with that "comfortable in my own skin" feeling, I still wasn't completely sure I wanted to go to the reunion. I knew that if I didn't go I would likely regret it (just like I regretted skipping the dinner for our 10 year reunion) so I decided to suck it up and show up.  I was so glad I did!

Our reunion committee planned lots of fun things... on Friday night we had an alumni only night at the school (which to be honest was a little on the weird side to be there) and on Saturday there was a fun family picnic which I dragged my cute family to. Later that night was the fancy soiree at Snowbird. My high school best buddy Kim flew in from the Indiana to be my "date" since we weren't going to force our husbands to come along with us. The printed programs included so many references to pop culture in 1992 and they even included our senior photos on our name tags. We decided that (for the most part) all of the women looked the same or better... most of the men looked pretty good too, but there were a few of us that the years had not been kind to.  The program included a slide show of then and now photos, a tribute to those who have passed on, some love shared with a few teachers that attended, prizes for various things (like who had the most kids, who married other '92 CHS graduates, who was the most pregnant, etc.) and a hilarious, remarkably professional video that a few alumni put together (said video can be watched here if you are so inclined: 7 Tips for a Tolerable Reunion).

In the photo above is a picture of me with Lisa, Sara, and Brooke at the picnic (photo on the left)... and a picture of Noelle (who came from out of state), Kim, me, and two of our buddies Dave and Adam. In the group photo you might be able to find me if you enlarge it... my head is just poking out in the upper leftish area right behind the brunette guy in the light blue shirt.  The photo booth was fun... the photo strip on the left has me and Kim and our fun (kissing) friend Rebecca... the one on the right is me with Sara and Lisa. I was so sad that I couldn't talk our other closest friends Patrice and Loretta into coming... but I guess everyone had to do what they felt comfortable with. Maybe for our 30 year reunion they will come with us :).

When it was all said and done I think I worried about the dumb thing more than I needed to... it was so fun to see everyone and catch up with people that were so important to me during those formative years.  I loved learning that although most of us have gone through hard things in the last 20 years, we are mostly doing okay or better (and that there are really a few crazies in the mix too!).

**Do you attend high school reunions?
**Do you regret going (or not)?

The Long Road Home

In the afternoon it was time to make our way to the airport in Rhode Island... flying out of Providence was an experience... Chicago was experiencing delays due to a severe thunderstorm (multiple lightning strikes per minute) so we were unable to take off for several hours. Our plan had been to find dinner during our two hour layover in Chicago... but when it became clear that we wouldn't have two hours (if we were able to catch our connecting flight at all). The airport is small enough that the few restaurants they had closed early and we had a hard time finding food to buy. Thank goodness for prepackaged sandwiches and fruit at Starbucks... and for the packages of fruit snacks and Oreos that Bruce and Terri insisted we take :).  We finally got word that our plane could take off, and the flight attendants all but promised us that all the other flights going into Chicago were delayed too, so we should be just fine. Maybe it was good to have that false sense of security on the flight to Chicago?

When we landed in Chicago we were welcomed with a wait on the tarmac... so many planes had finally been able to land that there was a big back up and no empty gates... so they had to start clearing out the planes and of course our plane to SLC was one of the ones to go, without us on board. There would be more flights the next day...We were informed that because the delay was due to weather the airline wouldn't help with food or a place to stay.... but they kindly told us they would be setting up cots in the terminal for our "convenience." Hah! Maybe if it were just Ryan and me... but there was no way I was going to stay the night in the airport with our kids... especially a busy two year old who is prone to wandering.

Coleman was devastated... he was so concerned that we weren't ever going to make it home. I think he was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack. He was worried that his stuff was lost forever (including his beloved dinosaur pillow pet).

Bruce and Terri to the rescue! They secured a room (the last one, anywhere) at one of the nearby Marriott hotels and the kids and I hopped on a shuttle bus with our carry on luggage to get settled for the night. Ryan stayed at the airport hoping they would find the suitcase that held our extra diapers and wipes... wouldn't you know that the ONE time I don't over-pack our carry on bags is the time we will surely need it the most!?! The very kind woman at baggage claim tracked down some diapers for us along with another of our bags (the one with the pillow pets, hooray!).

We were all so hungry... the kids were begging for "real food"... so right when we got to the hotel we ordered pizza and Chicken Parmesan from Barraco's which came highly recommended from the guy at the front desk. While waiting for said food to be delivered all three children promptly fell asleep... they were so exhuasted! I wasn't the nicest mom and woke them up so they could eat the pizza that they had wanted so badly... Sophia had nothing of it though and refused to open her eyes :). Both kids ate a couple of small squares of yummy pizza and fought to keep their eyes open. They were so glad when I finally said they could climb back in bed. Ryan finally got back from the airport (after fighting the Lollapalooza crowd to get onto the shuttle) and ate what he could... then we put the rest of the pizza on ice and saved it for our breakfast the next morning (we totally forgot it was Fast Sunday). We woke to find that an army of ants liked our leftover chicken and cups with root beer residue... but luckily the pizza was left alone. Despite the ants, the room was great and we were so, so happy to have a safe place to rest our heads and a place to shower before putting back on our dirty travel clothes (also because of my grand idea to "pack light").

We slept well and made it back to Midway airport... got through security (again!)... and enjoyed a non-denominational Christian church service in the airport. We had an uneventful flight to Denver and then to Salt Lake City. We were most grateful that all of our luggage made it home (likely long before we did). Home Sweet Home! We were grateful that my mom picked us up from the airport and took us to her house where she fed us dinner before returning to our home.

We LOVED being in Connecticut for a week--it was so fun to be with Ryan's parents and see and do so many fun things... and we loved coming home too.

Thimble Islands

Our last day in Connecticut was Bruce's birthday! It was fun to be there with himon his special day :). We didn't fly out until later in the afternoon... so we got to go on a little boat tour of Thimble Islands (off the shore of Branford, CT) in the morning.

The Thimble Islands are a group of small little islands that are in Long Island Sound and are part of Stony Creek Harbor. They are made of pink granite so are very sturdy... 23 of them are actually inhabited! Only six of them have electrical power. Some of them are too small to build on and one actually had just a pavilion  (and had been for sale for many years). Historically they were a spot for pirates to hide out (Captain Kidd!) and buildings on them have been built and rebuilt following tropical storms and hurricanes.

We were on Captain Bob's tour boat and he gave us a great guided tour. Some of the homes on these islands were crazy big and some were very, very rustic. It was interesting to hear about some of the stories with the various islands.

We stopped (again) at Rita's on the way back home.. It was a great way to wrap up our fun-filled trip!

Lyman Farms

We spent our last full day at a wonderful orchard called Lyman Farms. They have a store where they sell all of their harvest (and other delicious things) and a fun pond with ducks.

We loved the apple cider donuts to start off our day... and a little later on came back to try out a few other tasty things. Coleman's eyes got as big as the cookie when he saw the Black & White cookie... which again, wasn't as good as the ones from Costco, but still yummy. Liv got a croissant and Sophia, Ryan, and I enjoyed some freshly picked blueberries. Yum! Everyone loved feeding the ducks!

Lyman farms is also home to a beautiful sunflower field that they cut a maze into... much like the corn mazes we have here in the west. They had clues and check points to get us through the maze with a pirate theme. We only got lost a few times :). The sunflowers were beautiful. I don't know if I have ever seen a red sunflower before, but they were beautiful too!

After Lyman Farms Olivia and Terri and I did a little shopping and drove to a lovely and charming little town that had fun shops and neat old buildings. I love the architecture in the East. Homes and office buildings and stores (although likely much older than most buildings here) look so new and well taken care of. I especially love the white homes and buildings with black shutters... they are beautiful!

In the evening Bruce and Terri treated us to the best seafood in the area and I hoped and hoped that I would like it. I just have never, ever liked seafood...even tuna is a stretch for me... Captain Scott's was highly recommended to them and they loved it when they first tried it. I was willing to taste... but was grateful for the landlubber's menu that included chicken fingers and fries. Ryan likes seafood much more than I do and enjoyed the sampler platter with his parents. He also ate "lobster roll" which is sort of like a hot dog bun with lobster meat and melted butter. I couldn't do it... although I did taste a little bite :).  The kids seem to have inherited my (dis)taste for seafood and they ate the chicken and fries with me. This place had so many people there! It was tucked behind some buildings and not at all easy to find... but it was obvious that it is very well known and was super busy.

It was fun to see some of the places that Bruce and Terri have grown to love. Driving through so many little towns and through beautiful back roads gave us an opportunity to see a whole lot of the countryside. We loved it!

Mini Golf and Hammonasset Beach

Have I mentioned that there are so many fun things to do in Connecticut? Thursday, August 2nd was our 13th anniversary! It is amazing in some ways that we have been married for that many years... in other ways it seems like we have always been together. That is a happy thing.

We spent a fun (hot and humid) morning playing miniature golf close to the dock where Bruce catches his ferry to and from work each day. I have decided that living in the humidity would be hard for me because I would always have bad hair (judged only on my experience with my hair, not any of the hairstyles of the lovely people that we were with or saw). The kids loved mini golfing and they loved even more that my lack of talent made them feel very gifted with their abilities.

We spent the afternoon at Hammonasset Beach State Park. In the park is Meigs Point Nature Center where they have all sorts of sea life that have "come" to the center for rehabilitation from injuries. The kids got to hold so many crabs (hermit and otherwise) and learned that clear jelly fish are okay to catch and hold... the colored ones are the ones that sting (although I am not really willing to take the chance...). Sophia kept moving over to the rubber animal area--definitely my kind of petting zoo :). Ryan got some great photos of some of the creatures the kids caught (and later released) at the beach.

The beach at Hammonasset was so nice... the "sand" is really a rough mixture of tiny seashells and doesn't feel too great on bare feet... next time around we will for sure bring water shoes. The water is different than what we are most accustomed to (SoCal beaches) because there aren't big waves to ride on... it makes it nice for younger kids though that you don't have to worry so much about them getting clobbered with frothy crashes of waves every 10 to 15 seconds. The kids found some friends Massachusetts to catch ocean life with and brought many creatures to shore to show them off. Sophia and I entertained ourselves by "washing her hair" and playing "In and Out" where we name a body part and put it in the water, then bring it out, then back in, then back out... Elbows were the body part of the moment in the bottom right photo. The bottom left photos should be picked up by Dasani for a little promo, no?

The kids and I LOVE the beach and could spend endless hours there. This time around Ryan loved it too since there was so much animal activity to photograph and video.

Ryan and I ended our anniversary with a lovely dinner at a Brazilian grill that Bruce and Terri gave us a gift certificate to. They stayed with the kids (again!) so we could have a quiet night out. We spent a few minutes at the local beach (once we found it!) chatting and enjoying the sound of the water. Why don't I live closer to an ocean?

All in all it was a lovely day and we all went to sleep tired and happy.

New York!

Ryan's parents were so kind to offer to watch the kids for a whole day (5:45 am until almost midnight!) while Ryan and I rode the train(s) into the city to celebrate our 13th anniversary. It was a long, long day and we filled it as much as we could. I really wanted to do a session in the Manhattan temple, but as luck would have it, the time we were there was during their annual cleaning. We managed to fill our day with other fun  activities...

After our three hour commute (via a train from Old Saybrook to Stamford and then another train to NYC) we arrived! I love the hustle and bustle of the city (although I am not sure I would thrive living there...). We relied on the subway and our feet to take us where we needed to go. Despite a blister on my foot from all the walking it was the perfect way to get around. Our first stop was the TKTS booth to see what Broadway show we might be able to find discount tickets for. We stood in line next to a nice guy from Long Island who chatted with us for the whole 40 minutes that we were in line. Our photo made it onto the jumbo tron (maybe you can see us in the bottom left corner if you click on the photo to enlarge it? Maybe not...). The guy was colorful in his language and felt sheepish after we had talked long enough to realize we were from Utah... his question was funny to me... "You aren't one of those Mormons, are you?" to which I confidently responded that "Yes, yes I am." He apologized for his language and kept it fairly clean for the remainder of the time. They had so many tickets available... and we settled on Evita. If we are honest, Ryan let me pick Evita even though he really, really wanted to see Spiderman (because he loves me so much, I am sure). Hopefully he wasn't disappointed. After we had our tickets in hand (and a lot less cash, even at the discounted price) we moved on to the favorite store in  Ryan's world... B&H Photos. It is a multi-level store that is like a little city complete with a conveyor belt to carry your things to the checkout area. The workers are so helpful too! Then we went to visit some of his old coworkers from his previous job (The Cable Building is shown in the bottom right photo) and went to lunch with one of them. It was fun to see them again and we ate at a tasty little bistro in SoHo. We had to get an authentic Black & White cookie from a bakery... admittedly it wasn't as good as the ones that Ryan's parents bought at Costco (go figure!) but still fun to eat :).

After lunch we made our way back to Broadway just in time to see Ricky Martin and Michael Cerveris rock the parts of Che and Juan Peron in Evita. The music was amazing... and a man sitting behind us made the accurate statement that, "Wow, she really just slept her way to the top, didn't she?" Probably not the best example of moral purity... but still an entertaining story and moving music. After the show we rode the subway to the site of the World Trade Center. They have constructed an amazing memorial there to honor all of the victims of 9/11 and the earlier bombing of the WTC. There are two pools/fountains where each of the towers stood with each name engraved around the pools. The Memorial is still under construction and we did a whole lot of walking to get into and out of it, but it was worth it. There was a light rain while we were there and it seemed like such a peaceful place. While we don't have direct ties to anyone who lost their life in any of the attacks, I still felt a profound sense of loss as I read the names and thought about the people that were left behind to mourn their loved ones. I also felt a strong sense of resiliency... as a nation we will not be beaten down. I am so glad it worked out to go there.

Our final stop was an indulgence for me... I love the show "The Cake Boss" which is set in Hoboken, NJ. It is a short train ride away from the WTC site. When we got there we realized that there is probably never a slow time for business for Carlo's Bake Shop so we took a number and waited to GET INSIDE the building. Once inside we were sardined together with so many other adoring fans of Buddy and his family. We had plenty of time to look over all of the lovely creations and when it came time to order we just about took home one of everything :). We decided that we weren't going to take home NYC souvenirs, but we could always look on our tummy rolls with fondness and give credit for at least a part of them to the $50 worth of pastries we purchased. (We did haul them all back to Ryan's parents and the kids... so we didn't eat ALL of them by ourselves :).) Favorites were the cannolis and lobster tails... the cupcakes (caramel, PB cup, carrot, and red velvet)were pretty tasty too and I loved the cream puffs. Someone in front of us in line bought the last eclairs, so we missed out on those. Only the chocolate dipped cookies disappointed.... I thought they would be like shortbread or an almond butter cookie with dark chocolate, but they weren't that tasty, kind of pasty and bland. At any rate, we had enough for many tastes of these sweet treats when we got home and some for breakfast the next morning too :).

We sped back to Grand Central Station and for dinner ate crusty baguette bread and NY Style Cheesecake for dinner that we purchased on the fly. Our long train ride home was a good time to think back on our fun-filled, exhausting day in a fun, energetic, and vibrant city.

I'm not sure when our next trip to New York will be... but I'm determined to go to the temple and to Central Park to sit and read and people-watch the next time I get there! We are so thankful that Ryan's mom and dad were such good sports taking us to and from the train station and entertaining our kiddos while we were gone.

Rhode Island

 One of the things I love most about the East Coast is that so many states are so close together... we spent a lovely day in Rhode Island. Ryan's parents had four adult bikes and a trailer and (after some trouble finding a place that had bikes available) rented two smaller bikes for Olivia and Coleman.

The trail was awesome... it was paved and very well marked for pedestrians and bicyclists. The scenery along the trail was beautiful. We saw wildlife and lush greenery. We stopped at a fun park for lunch where Olivia biffed it (hence the "Capri Sun ice pack" on her wrist) but the day was otherwise perfect. We had a couple of drops of rain just as we were returning to our cars. We rode just over 13 miles! Our bums felt it. Olivia and Coleman did great though... and if their old, out of shape parents hadn't been a hindrance I am sure they could have ridden for many more miles with their young grandparents.

The rain really started to come down as we drove to Little Compton, RI which is the place that some of Terri's Wilbur ancestors were original settlers. They even have a Wilbur General Store there! It was neat to take a rainy walk through the old cemetery and see so many headstones with the name Wilbur (with varied spellings as the immigrants assimilated into US life). Our kids enjoyed being where their ancestors had been and it sparked a renewed interest in indexing and family history work. We ate dinner at a little local restaurant next to the Wilbur General Store (Commons Lunch) where we had some good comfort food... mac and cheese for Coleman and Sophia... chicken pot pie for Liv, Bruce, and me.. .and Ryan and Terri were brave and tried some sea bass with a sauce made from some type of funky seafood sauce. They liked it!

We arrived back in Connecticut dry enough and hungry enough to stop at our favorite treat spot... Rita's. They serve Italian ice in so many flavors with custard. We heart Rita's!

Devil's Hopyard and Chapman Falls

Our next stop (only a few miles away) was to Devil's Hopyard State park which is home to Chapman Falls. The falls were lovely and it was so peaceful there. I loved seeing Sophia walking with her Grandma and Grandpa... she loved being with them! Olivia and Coleman liked exploring on all of the big rocks and Grandpa helped them cross over the water to get closer to the falls. This was one of those hidden gems... I don't think we would have even known to look for it if our favorite local tour guides hadn't taken us there.

Close to Bruce and Terri's house is a really cool bridge that lowers for trains to cross. We stopped and walked along a pier where many people were fishing and crabbing. Throughout the week we saw a few birds native to the area and only got photos from pretty far away :).

We ate dinner that night at Pizza Works in Old Saybrook... which had some very fun trains that kept the kids busy until our yummy gourmet pizza arrived. I love Sophia's expression while she is talking to Terri... she very clearly adores her Grandma and loved all of the attention she gets from her.

Gillette Castle

Our biggest challenge during our week long stay in Connecticut was deciding what to do... there were so many options! Bruce and Terri have been there long enough that they have seen quite a bit and made great suggestions. We loved everything that we did and know that we could have easily spent several more days checking out all the Connecticut (and all of the surrounding states) have to offer.

After a fun few hours at the local beach (which I neglected to take any pictures of!) we took a drive to Gillette Castle State Park, which is home to Gillette Castle, commissioned by William Gillette. He was a famous actor in his day (the early 1900's) who is most well known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. He was kind of a quirky, eccentric guy and his personality came through in the home that he built. From the outside it looks like a medieval fortress, but on the inside had all of the modern conveniences of the day. He designed secret passageways and a state of the art water system to put out fires if necessary. He also positioned mirrors so that he could observe his guests' arrivals and actions without them noticing. It was really interesting to see how he lived and got me wondering about which of today's famous people might someday have their homes preserved for tours and such. We have plenty of movie stars and athletes that (to put it kindly) are "eccentric" in their own right.

I loved all of the rock that was used around the castle. It was great for some photos of the kiddos... I especially love the one Ryan got of Sophia hanging from the rail... those blue eyes just pop!

New Canaan and a New Babe

We were so lucky to be in Connecticut at the same time that my brother Matt and his wife Ashley were going to bless their newest baby girl, Cecelia. They live in New Canaan, about an hour away from Ryan's parents, and they were kind enough to let us use their car to go to church with Matt and his family. Matt and Ashley even got to teach a portion of the combined RS/Priesthood meeting which was fun for us to hear.

It was so fun to see Samuel and Eli... Sophia is still talking about them!  Liv was great with CeCe and Sophia really wanted to get her hands on that cute girl...  we kept telling her to "hold her piggies" so she wouldn't jab her in the face or spread too many germs. I love the photo of her dutifully holding those piggies. It was fun for all of the kids to spend a little time with cousins that we don't get to see nearly often enough. We ate a yummy lunch with Ashley's family and loved having a chance to visit with them.

Before we headed back to Old Saybrook (where Ryan's parents live) we stopped by a new facility of Blue Streak inside Chelsea Piers in Stamford. Matt works so hard running this sports training gym (now with multiple locations). He showed us all of the neat equipment that they use to train athletes in all different kinds of sports--back there lacrosse and hockey are a pretty big deal, but they also help athletes with soccer, football, track, etc. Liv and Coleman loved trying some of it out and they thought that posing for photos was pretty fun. Sophia napped in the car with Ryan during our tour :).

It was so good to be with Matt and his family! 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Plum Island, New York

Bright and early on our first day in Connecticut we woke up and got to go to Family Day where Bruce works for the Department of Homeland Security on Plum Island, New York. The day started out a little bit cloudy, and on the ferry ride over we hoped for good weather since they had a beach party BBQ planned for the day. We had a few drops of rain on the boat... and after our bus ride to the beach there was a torrential down pour. The kids still loved going on the slippery slide (and Bruce even raced a co-worker... I'm pretty sure Bruce won!) and we laughed at all of the water that was coming down. The people there were so kind and did everything they could to make it pleasant despite all the rain. They finally invited us all inside to eat our hamburgers. I would estimate that between the three kids there were at least 17 bags of Cheetos consumed. Even though the beach party got rained out it was fun to see where Bruce works. His coworkers love him and it is obvious that he does a good job there!

After our dry ferry ride home (we rode inside on the way back :)) we all crashed for several hours for a glorious afternoon nap.

Traveling to Connecticut

We were so excited to travel to Connecticut at the end of July to visit Ryan's parents. Ryan got to be Sophia's travel buddy... for some reason she behaves a little better with him (much to Olivia's and Coleman's  dismay... they wanted to sit by him too.... I agree, he is fun to sit with!). They all did great. Sophia watched her favorite "Rella" (Disney's Cinderella) over and over again. Olivia was more nervous about the take offs than she wanted to say and Coleman thought flying was really cool. We had a stop in Chicago and tried some official Chicago pizza... I don't think airport food can ever count as anything official. We changed Sophia into her PJs for the last leg of our trip and finally landed in Hartford late, late. Ryan's parents were so kind to come and get us in the middle of the night... and with both of their cars so we could fit all of our bodies and stuff. We were so happy to arrive! Terri and Bruce were wonderful hosts and we got to see and do so much while we were there.

Monday, October 1, 2012

St. George

Since it's October already it is probably time for me to share some summer photos! We had a great summer... full of activities and busy days. 

In July we took a quick trip to visit my youngest sister Lindsey who just moved back to the southern part of our fair state from Arizona. We braved the heat and spent a whole lot of time in the water! We loved being with her cute boys Jonah and Jaxton. We had fun going through all sorts of cute little girl baby clothes to help Linds and her family get ready for their sweet baby who came in September. We packed in a few sessions at their community pool, a trip to the splash pad, and of course lots of playing and yummy food. We were so happy to spend a couple of days with them and even more happy that they finally live close enough that we can zip down and back.