July 4th, you are a fave

Last year I realized I absolutely love Independence Day. This year, that love was confirmed. It was especially good this year because family from both sides were in town visiting. 

Jess’s parents had a wonderful get together at their home. Their new backyard is amazing and we were able to enjoy it. Grandpa filled up the pool and the kids had the time of their lives getting all adults wet, most specifically Jess. Even Ian learned how to use the water shooters. The one above was bigger than him!

The little cousins got caught in the crossfire of Oliver and Ansel’s water battle! They were very patient though. 

Jess threw balloons for the kids to try to kick with their feet while on the swing set. It was tough!

That evening we finished off the day at my brother’s home. We found out that no fireworks were allowed on their street. Big bummer! Luckily, Grandma and Grandpa brought glow sticks and the kids went to town. 

Later in the week, we went up to the cabin and did some go-karting with my sister’s fam. 

Gramps tuned up the machines before we got going. 

Ian liked the ride. 

And once Oliver got the hang of it, he was taking all the cousins and his brother for rides. He said to me later, “You know what’s great about go-karts, mom? I don’t have to wait until I’m 16 to drive.” Needless to say, Ansel is eager to grow a few inches so he can drive soon :)

We went swimming too. Oliver and Jess had fun on the diving board. 

Jess did a swan dive that he learned all those years ago during his life guarding days. 

Ansel, Ian and I enjoyed snacks as we watched. It was a wonderful way to end a week of celebrating the 4th!


8:00am doorbell

Yesterday a woman walking her dog discovered a baby robin in our yard who had fallen from its nest. She rang our bell and asked if we could help by grabbing a ladder and placing it high up in the aspen tree where it fell from. I went outside to assess the situation and told her my husband was still getting ready for work. Due to our slow response, she started asking if there were any other neighbors we could call on or if the fire department could help. At that point I went inside to tell Jess that the woman would not leave until the bird was in the tree. While we waited, I tried to introduce myself, but the woman had no interest in getting to know us. Saving the bird was her one goal. After he finished getting dressed, Jess came outside, fetched the ladder, extended it and placed the bird back in its home. By this point, he had a little audience who clapped at the rescue. “Good things will happen to you today!” she said.  Then she was off on her walk again disappearing into the horizon. The whole thing kind of had a Field of Dreams feel to it. In my mind, she will ever be remembered as the bird lady.


Excellente Escalante

Back when snow was on the ground, my sister and I made a reservation down in Escalante Grand Staircase. When Jess and I were dating, my family and I went down to this exact spot and Jess didn’t get to come. He’s been wanting to go ever since and we finally made it happen! We had a group site and lots of family members joined us. It was a wonderful time. 

The hike to Lower Calf Creek was beautiful and the final stop was stunning!  Oliver jumped right in! Ian took the plunge and then Ansel. The waterfall was cold! But the kids loved it. 

We swam in the reservoir lots. One morning Ollie caught some fish with his uncle and cousin. They brought it back to camp and ate it for breakfast. 

We took an evening hike to see petrified wood. Ian loved the hike. He said, “I do it!” as he walked up the inclines. 

Our last stop was along the Escalante river. It was perfect for a hot day. Oliver floated down the river and said it was better than any lazy river he’d played in at various water parks. 

It was a great camp out we’ll have to do again!


Father’s Day

This guy is such a great father.

My father and father-in-law deserve a huge shout out too! Happy Belated Father’s Day. 


Road Rally

I don’t know why I have such a strong affinity for cars. But I do, and the morning we took to the canyons in these was a lot of fun. Jess had to leave early to coach Ansel’s last soccer game, but he was there too!



One year we stayed home for Memorial Day and I just about went crazy. So now, when May rolls around, I try to have something planned for the long weekend. Plus, it’s amazing to see how much my kids remember trips and talk about them even years after so I always think a trip is worth all the effort. This year, we planned to go to Arches National Park and it was awesome. 

Apparently, Memorial Day weekend is the busiest weekend for the Park but they do a great job keeping order (plus they close the park if too many people are in it). The first morning we were there, our goal was to reach the Delicate Arch. We did it and enjoyed quite the view when we made it!

We got a bit closer while Jess or I took turns watching Ian where there wasn’t any slope. We saw people from all over. We met a couple who had driven down from Park City (they were visiting from DC) and were on there way back after the hike. That’s a 7 hour drive in one day to see this view! While hiking back, Jess was a champ giving Ian and Ansel a ride. 

We then visited Double Arch. This was one of our favorites. Both Ansel and Oliver climbed to the opening of the arch and were very proud of their accomplishment because there was a big drop on the other side. 

See Jess (in the green shirt) up there assisting Ansel? He was very proud to have made it to the top. 
We finished off the day swimming. The kids LOVED the swimming pool. Here Ansel and Ollie are playing a game Oliver made up called pool soccer. 

Ansel learned how to almost swim in the hot tub here. He was so proud of himself. Ian was a fan too. Who wouldn’t be when you’re doing this kind of stuff? 

The next day we decided to go back to the park. Too many good things to see. Cool trees that looked like an arch being one of them. 

Spotting bugs (this is a talent of Ian’s), and lizards, and seeing more arches. 
Landscape Arch is a favorite of mine. 

We ended our day with a view of Tunnel Arch and found a shady spot next to Pine Tree Arch. 

The kids were great hikers. Jess was patient with Ian and often stayed back and arrived at an arch 5 minutes after Ollie, Ansel, and me because Ian wanted to walk everywhere. 
It was a great time and another Memorial Day in the books. On the way home Jess and I discussed the gratitude we have for all the individuals who have served our country, some of whom we are acquainted with. We also spoke of the people we miss who have gone before us. We consider it a great blessing to have had such a wonderful time with our little family. 


Aargh! Social Media

We recently had a huge discussion on social media in my neighborhood. There was a group of speakers who came and presented a lot of information regarding it. I listen and read a lot about technology, even though I’m mega old school when it comes to using it, and I’m always interested in hearing how it affects us. Humans are social animals and having healthy social relationships within your family and community is a huge factor of your health. Eat well and exercise but don’t have good relationships? You can see how that’s a recipe for failure. Social media is using our need for social connections against us. The natural dopamine rush we get when someone we like waves at us or we have a discussion with someone we care about is an important part of our biology, psychology, and physiology. But when that dopamine is manipulated by how many likes we get, and the likes we get are programmatically shown to us to keep us coming back, we get short spurts of dopamine that don’t last and then we want more of it. We become addicted. And we start comparing our photos and our likes to other people we follow. Then we start following people we don’t even know. We forget to spend time on real relationships. We don’t make eye contact with real people hardly ever and our health takes a big hit. 

Kids are given phones at age 12 and I’m thinking, what? My 12 year old self could hardly keep up with all the friend stuff going on.  Imagine social media being thrown into that preteen, trying to figure it out, puberty phase? Teen suicide rates are higher than ever. Kids don’t want their driver’s license; instead, they prefer to hang out at home and be on the phone all night. Sounds so lame to me. And unhealthy. 

The professionals at the meeting highlighted things a child needs to feel loved and balanced so they can survive the ups and downs of life. Nature. Music. Hugs. A listening ear. An opportunity to fail and see that they can recover from it. Some of these things seem so intuitive, but why aren’t they being done more often?

During the Q&A, a father stood up and mentioned that his sons were 18 and 20 and suffering from most of the problems caused by social media: lack of independence, depression, and porn addiction. He asked the professionals, what now?  For those of us with young children, take heed. Myself completely and totally included. 


London time

When Jess mentioned that he was going to Dublin and London for business travel, I couldn’t pass up the chance to join him. And since Oliver has been asking to go on an international trip since before Ian was born, we had to take him with us. I had grand plans to take Ansel and Ian too, but when I considered the time change and the 10 hour flight, I thought it better we let them stay home. 

We had a wonderful time and saw so many things, yet, we felt like we only scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. Some pictures with explanations below:

When we arrived in London we were pumped! Then we got in the customs line and it was a 2+ hour wait due to people entering the country to see the Royal Wedding. Luckily, a nice border patrol guy bumped us up in line since Ollie’s a kid and then it only took about 1 hour 15 minutes. 

We met up with Jess and stopped at Selfridges (ever watch the show on Masterpiece?), where Oliver got the most expensive hot dog known to mankind (£11.95). Haha! Then we stopped at Hyde Park with a friend from home (she was in London at the same time!) and she took this pic of us by Marble Arch. Do Ollie and I look tired? Jet lag was in full swing. 

As we walked through London, Ollie asked to take this photo of us with the London dragon. We were off to the Tower of London. 

We walked past the Ghirken and Ollie took pictures. What a skyscraper!
We spent pretty much all day at the Tower of London going on a tour with a Beefeater and enjoying all of the museums.  We saw the crown jewels and visited the Tower ravens.  It was a nice time.

We watched the Tower Bridge open from the Tower of London. This doesn't happen very often, so it was neat to watch.  Afterward, we went on a walk over the Tower Bridge which was a lot of fun.  

We finished the day off with dinner along the Thames and found out, via a magazine given out on the streets, that we were invited to the Royal Wedding the next day. Haha!

We woke up to watch some of the Royal Wedding festivities, although we didn't go to Windsor Castle.  Instead, we went to St James’s Park. Here Oliver and Jess are looking at the swans with their babies swim under the bridge.  This park was beautiful and so full of birds! In the back, you can see Buckingham Palace. We made a short stop there too.  

Some kind Brits gave Ollie some peanuts to feed the birds and the pigeons were eating them right out of his hands!

The three pelicans were fun to spot. We have tons of bird pictures from this stop, I mean a lot. This park is known for it's birds and keeps a bird keeper on staff.

We walked across the street and visited Churchill’s War Rooms underneath Whitehall. This visit was fascinating! We watched The Darkest Hour on the plane ride which was perfect prep for this visit. 

We then walked a bit to find that Big Ben had scaffolding on it. That’s why you see faces of disappointment. Oh well. 

We had dinner at Covent Garden and enjoyed the wonderful weather. 

The next day we went to church at the Hyde Park Ward then visited Kensington Gardens. This Italian garden was beautiful. We met a nice family from Israel who’s kids shared bird food with Ollie together they fed the birds. 

Jess and Oliver were willing to do afternoon tea with me at the Orangery at Kensington Palace. Again, the weather was perfect and tea was just right!

We finished the day off with a church service at Westminster Abbey. Jess and I missed going in when we were younger, so this was a highlight for us.

Here we are walking the streets of London. This very thing is great to do in London.  

The next day we traveled to the countryside. We ate at a pub and Ollie tried (and enjoyed) the classic fish n’ chips.

We walked along this beautiful trail and through a gate that looked like every country gate I’ve seen in every British show I’ve watched. The day was perfect!

We saw cows and sheep along the trail. These baby cows were curious about us.

Then we got up to view the Seven Sisters. What a sight!

We went down to the beach and found shells, wildlife, and neat rocks. 
Jess re-enacted a scene from one of his favorite childhood movies. Remember when Kevin Kostner arrives home in the beginning of Robin Hood Prince of Thieves? It was filmed here, so we couldn’t leave without some drama. 

The next day we stopped at the Bristish Museum. We thought we’d spend half a day here. We were there until closing time. The place is never ending! It reminded me of the Louvre in it’s enormity. 

A neat mosaic and a kind person willing to take our photo. 

Oliver loving the clock exhibit. 

8- (nearly 9-) year old humor among the antiquities.

Jess and I making the same face at the Easter Island statue. And how do you like my red jacket/skirt? It had a kangaroo pouch in the front and so I used it to carry all our stuff (seeing as I failed to bring a small backpack). Highly fashionable, right?

Our last stop was a church that was partially destroyed in the bombings of WWII and now served as a park. It was in the heart of the city and many buildings had been built up around it. Crazy to think how the area has changed in ~75 years. 

We walked back to the Tube to get to our hotel and took one last pic with the Shard in the back as we crossed the Thames.

It was a wonderful time. We did so many things but there is so much more! We got back about a week ago and just last night Oliver said to us, “So when should we go on our next international trip?” Hopefully soon!