Friday, August 5, 2016

We've Been Everywhere, Man (Part 2)

So when I left off, we were heading into this terrible thing:

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good thunderstorm. This baby was a doozy though. Nothing like some sideways rain, wind, and a semi-truck driver who thinks he's driving a race car to make for an exciting time on the highway.


Anyway, we made it to my parents' house in Kansas, and we were all very glad to pile out of the car.


My folks live on a beautiful farm in northeast Kansas - idyllic, really. They bought it about 21 years ago and rehabbed it from the bottom up into a gorgeous, comfortable home that is worthy of a Better Homes and Gardens spread. James and I had our wedding there 15 years ago, and my brother and his wife got married there as well. Apparently, I did not take a photo of the actual HOUSE, which is ridiculous, but you can enjoy all these other pictures I took on a walk we went on with my dad.








We spent almost a week with my family, enjoying time with my parents and siblings.






The kids got to "drive" Papa's tractor.











Mom and I went shopping with my sister, Emma.



This is the house I lived in for four years in college! It was a lot less...moldy then.



We made crafts




Made monster bubbles






And James and I took the kids up to KU to see James Naismith's original rules of basketball - recently acquired by the university.










I went to see the Rules twice. My dad couldn't go the first time, so we got a little one-on-one time to go check them out.


We also stopped by Murphy Hall - the music building where I spent a gazillion hours in college.



The kids swam and swam and swam


All the girls went for a pedicure, including Miss V, who got her first one!





It's always great to spend time with my Kansas family. I've lived away for almost 15 years now, which is hard to believe!


Here's my stunning sister, Tassi


Gorgeous Emma

Precious Olivia

 My brother, Joe




And my sweet sister-in-law, Denny


The whole crew! (minus my children, who were asleep)




James's folks, my darling in-laws live about 45 minutes from my parents, and they were hosting a family reunion at their house over the 4th of July, so after our time with my family, we packed up and made the short drive out there.



The kids had a blast playing with cousins

And we got to see a lot of relatives we rarely see, including James's grandma, Doris, who is 98 and fantastic.



The Houx family!





My sweet niece, Eva


cousins


This was Miss V's 4th of July hairstyle.





I got to have supper with some high school friends while we were in town. We laughed and talked and solved all the world's problems.


We also spent some time with our buddies, Laura and Elliot, and their girls, L and S.

James and I met Laura and the girls at Deanna Rose Farmstead to walk around, play,  and look at animals in the hot, hot, hot heat one day. The kids had a blast, and I got to remember the time I accidentally dumped my expensive and beloved camera into the duckpond there.
















Aforementioned duckpond of doom.




Laura, Elliot, James, and I all went together to see Flight of the Conchords play. THAT was a good time, let me tell ya.



We drove out to the small town in Missouri where James's other grandma, Olivia lives, so we could visit with that precious lady for a bit.








We had a great time with James's family. The kids got to relax, hang with cousins, run through the sprinkler




swim



Just have a nice time




We spent our last couple of days out at my in-laws' lake house in western Kansas. We rode on a boat, went fishing, had a quiet celebration for my father-in-law's birthday, and I went for the single hottest, most death-defying run of my whole life. Thanks, Kansas.






















The kids and I meant to bring some Love Rocks with us to leave at all the places we stopped, but in the whirl of packing and getting out the door, we forgot them. We decided to collect some rocks out at the lake and add hearts with crayon. These went with us from Kansas on, and we left them along our way.






Thunderstorm over the lake at night!


Fully rested and ready to go, it was time to jam.


We made a brief stop in Salina, KS to visit with an artist pal.

And then we beat it for Colorado. Oh, Colorado - so pretty.


We met up with another good friend for breakfast in Colorado. Hi, Aaron!


 Then, it was more driving.  Our destination was Bryce Canyon, but we had a long way to go.




On our way, we stopped by Arches National Park. This place is a wonder (probably why they made it a national park, eh? Almost like someone else thought of this before me, huh?) The rock formations are gorgeous and gravity defying - arches and balancing rocks and all sorts of other crazy results of the earth heaving up and buckling and moving, of erosion and minerals - nature, man.






We hiked out to this double arch, with only minimal whining and complaining, and then we climbed and explored, which cheered the two littlest ones up considerably.






The kids scored their second Junior Ranger badges of the trip at Arches, and then we hit the road again.



Have you ever driven through Utah? HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS, IT'S SO PRETTY.







We were all very happy to reach lovely Bryce Canyon. Another absolute wonder of the American West, Bryce Canyon is STUNNING. I could have just sat and looked at it all day, but we did a good bit of hiking. In fact, one of the most strenuous hikes of our whole trip was one we took in Bryce. That one did NOT involve "minimal whining". It involved MAXIMUM whining, but only at the end, when we were hiking straight up on already exhausted legs. I'll be honest, if I hadn't been striving mightily to set a good example for my kids, I'd have been whining a little myself (ok, probably not, but still. It was a tough hike). The moral of that story is this: if you hike down into a beautiful canyon, remember than you have to hike back UP to get out.

At any rate, I'd still go back to Bryce, because it's wonderful.






























There was a geology festival going on, and Parashant National Monument had a tent there. They'd brought along their Junior Ranger program, so the kids went through it and got their badges. They also, of course, went through the program for Bryce.




This ranger's name is - not kidding - Joe Park. Is that not the most perfect park ranger name of all time? He made the kids promise not to feed the animals, only the rangers.



We drove out of the park one day to take a hike to Mossy Cave. Gorgeous hike and a very fun day.













My great-aunt, Karen and great-uncle Lynn live in Las Vegas and have roots in the Bryce Canyon area. They drove out to see us, and we got together a couple of times. How sweet and wonderful is that, that they would go to that much trouble, just to see us?! Lynn even gave me a mug from the bed and breakfast his folks used to run outside the canyon. It is now a prized possession.




We left Bryce with some wonderful memories, including these, from just outside the canyon at a rock shop we stopped at for souvenirs (you can't take rocks from the parks).








Sweet memories of a quiet, introverted family...




Next stop: Beautiful Zion!






Ho.ly. Smokes. No possible photo taken by any camera can do Zion National Park justice. It's overwhelming.




We hiked and hiked and hiked. I could have hiked forever in Zion.

You can tell by my face in this photo how much fun I was having. OK, ignore my face and look behind me at those mountains and just trust me that I was genuinely enjoying myself.
















An accurate representation of my children and I by this point in the trip. We were about 30 days in, and we were having so much fun, but boy howdy, were we tiiiiiiiiirrrred. And sometimes cranky. It's a bummer to feel that way, when you're in the middle of so much beauty, seeing such wonder, realizing how grateful you should be feeling at every moment. It happens though. 44 days is a lot of togetherness, even with the people you love most in the world, even when you're in the middle of some of the most gorgeous places in the country. Just breathe. Think positive. Count your blessings. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so experience it.













The J-bird and I took a horseback ride in Zion. We enjoyed that so much. Unfortunately, children have to be at least 7 years old to ride horses in the parks, so Miss V wasn't able to go (they did let her ride around the paddock, but her horse had to be led, even though she knows how to ride). Miss V and James spent some special one-on-one time while we went for our ride


into this amazingness





MORE HIKING























And Junior Rangers, of course.


Are you still here?!

Our time in Zion came to an end, and it was time to Tetris up the car again and move on. We were headed for the Grand Canyon, but this post is LONG, so I'll put that in PART 3!




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