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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Port Aransas trip

We were blessed with one unscheduled weekend in May to do one item off our Texas bucket list. (This entry is out of order- this happened before our Globals trip, right before Nathan moved to Utah to begin his new job. I was going to be packing and prepping for the move alone for a few weeks, and he was flying back the day before our move. This was our last weekend together for some time.) Also- I didn't want to risk ruining my nice camera with sand or water, so we took a very old battered camera along- which explains the poor picture quality. 

 So we took our family to the beach. I knew it would be a lot harder to visit the ocean once we lived in Utah, so this was our priority on our bucket list. We loved the Rock Port beach very much, but decided to try someplace new. So off we went to the beach town of Port Aransas, located on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico.  Oh what a blessed trip it was!

We drove down Friday after school, and stayed in a hotel overnight. Friday evening the children were so excited to head straight to the beach. For fun, we collected mussels and other shell fish. We found a fun way to vibrate our hands in the sand right when a wave washed over the area, and the hidden shellfish would just pop up onto the surface of the sand. Then it was a race to see how many we could scoop up before they dug into the sand again.  It was akin to finding treasure. 

We collected buckets of them and had such fun playing with them before setting them free again. We added some sand and water to the bucket, and would watch the shellfish expose their muscles to dig down in the sand. 

We also walked along the beach collecting shells for our Family Museum. Last year we started collecting rocks or soil from different places we visit. We label them and put them in a little apothecary jar. It's a fun collection of different colors and reminds us of our travels. Everyone had fun scampering across the sand finding shells to take home. 

After playing in the ocean until dark, we swam in the lit outdoor pool of our hotel. The air was brisk and cold to me, so I retreated to the hot tub while the rest of the family frolicked in the pool. They played for an hour, and we discovered a monstrous bull frog in the grass. It was such fun to play with him for a bit before carefully placing him in a secluded spot of the bushes. 

After spending a childhood in Idaho, palm trees always seem so exotic and magical to me. Even though they weren't uncommon in central Texas, I still felt a thrill any time I saw one.  Port Aransas was full of palm trees. I really enjoyed watching the palm trees sway in the wind.

After a lovely breakfast, we headed into town to explore the area a bit. This town had so many fun shops! One of our favorite stops was an eclectic candy shop. It was full of antiques and oddities (including a live pet rattlesnake) so it was intriguing to peruse. Each child was allowed to choose a type of candy for the family to share. It was such fun to try so many new things. The shops often had places to stop and take pictures. 

Of course there were many shops selling beach toys, shells, swimsuits, and other ocean-themed souvenirs. Our favorite shop had a giant shark for a front door. We had such fun exploring the shops and picked up some shark tooth necklaces for the boys, and a shell necklace for Sarah. 

I love the color and personality of island towns! Most of the houses were painted bright colors. It's so cheerful to be surrounded by color throughout the entire town. 

That afternoon we found a new spot on the beach to play, near the entrance to the harbor. Check out this fun optical illusion. Doesn't it look like a beached ship? 

Here the waves were bigger, so we waded into the ocean and rode the waves for hours.  It was exhilarating! 

We were in water 5 feet deep when we rode the waves.  It was thrilling and simultaneously scary to feel the waves tug at me when they receded to the ocean. I was so afraid of rip tides or being pulled out to sea...but it was such fun to feel the wave lift me off my feet. 

Sarah and Nathan took Joseph into the ocean, each of them clutching one of his hands. Then they would lift him and swing him back and forth over the water, letting him kick the waves as they rolled by. He loved it! He also dearly loved building sand castles on the beach and scavenging shells to decorate it with. 

We also caught more mussels to play with. It's so fascinating! 

 Poor Matthew was stung across his shoulder and back by a blue jelly fish. It was so sad! It hurt very badly, so we walked down to a ranger station to get treatment. They had a spray bottle of vinegar to apply, then meat tenderizer to sprinkle on the skin. Matthew was in so much pain, and was afraid the vinegar would make it sting worse. He asked me to spray the vinegar onto his hand so he could apply just a dab of it to his skin. Unfortunately the spray bottle was very powerful, so our first jet of vinegar ricocheted off his hand and straight into his eyes! It's a funny story we laugh at now, but at the time he was devastated.

It was an hour or so before he ventured into the water again. When he did return, he was soon out in the waves again with the family having fun.

 As evening drew near we headed home. The way off the island was a ferry ride. We actually rode it three times that day. We drove onto the boat and it took us across the lagoon entrance. The kids loved the new adventure.

 I am so grateful we had this weekend to spend together. This was such a special weekend to share adventures.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Idaho excursions in the summer

Earlier this summer we made a quick trip to Grandma and Grandpa Muir's farm for a few days. I must admit, it made me almost giggle at the prospect of a mere 5 hour drive to visit family instead of the customary 27-hour trek. What a treat to be close enough to family that we can visit spontaneously like this! Nathan didn't have any accrued time off at the new job yet, so the kids and I went without him.

It was such a treat to spend time with cousins (who we usually only see once a year at best). The children loved spending time together, and I was so grateful for this opportunity to strengthen family ties.

Each day was filled with activities. (Oh man! I can't keep up with my little sis- she possess an unbelievable amount of energy!) She loves to go hiking (she was also training to summit Mt. Rainier- which she did!) so there were a lot of family hikes. This hike (or rather, this one was a stroll) was just a few minutes away from the farm. The views were lovely!

Another day we hiked in the Tetons area. We had such a lovely view on the drive into the mountains!

Once onsite, we took a group picture before splitting up into two groups for different trails. 
Becky needed to do a timed hike far and fast up a steep incline as part of her training, so I went with an easier trail that would be safer with Joseph. (And- who am I kidding?- There was no way I was going to be able to manage the hike she had planned!)

Our trail wound up the mountainside and through meadows of wild flowers. It was breathtakingly gorgeous. My spirit thrilled at such beauty!

Here is the view from the top, where Becky and Robert enjoyed sharing a picnic with the local fauna.

Our days were filled with all sorts of fun. Grandma and Grandpa made a lovely fire in their backyard one evening. While making s'mores, we really enjoyed soaking in the beautiful sunset and country view of the foothills. My soul felt so perfectly content and rejuvenated in the peaceful setting.

We really enjoyed riding the four-wheelers through the pastures and dirt roads that crossed beautiful grain fields. Grandma hooked a large utility wagon to the vehicle, and added several quilts for padding. The grandchildren would pile into the wagon and the youngest children would hold up colorful pinwheels during the ride. They loved watching their  pinwheels spin in the wind!

We had many other day trips in the area. We loved exploring the lava tubes (thank you, Grandpa, for carrying Joseph at the end when he had hurt his leg! You're the best!). This picture is only half of our group- the rest of the grandkids were already playing inside the cave.

We tried to play at the sand dunes, but that didn't last very long.

Funny story...

I arrived at the sand dunes with my sister Rachael and my children long before the others arrived. We set out on foot to play in the sand and explore. There were an unusual number of bees, due to a traffic accident the night before when a truck of hives crashed. The bees were very hungry, and our clothing provided the only bright spots of color in the wide expanse of we were quickly spotted. The bees wouldn't leave us alone since they were so hungry- they would crawl all over our clothing and we couldn't shoo them away. There were over a dozen bees crawling on each of us. I was so frustrated that I started running (and of course, the bees easily kept up). I spent several minutes trying to get the bees to leave me alone, then in frustration (and a bit of fright) I finally ripped off my shirt and threw it across the sand to get some reprieve. After scooping up my shirt, we all ran back to hide in the safety of the van.

We also enjoyed afternoons spent swimming in Rigby Lake and the Snake River. We brought along picnics and spent hours playing and splashing together. The kids especially had SUCH fun playing with cousin Ryan and uncle Brian! These are two of the funnest men around, and the children just adore them!

We all enjoyed our time together. It was such a lovely visit, and such a treat to see family again!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Strawberry Festival

Our new home in Utah had a delightful tradition of celebrating it's agricultural history. The Strawberry Festival was a wonderful family experience. We loved exploring the vendor booths, riding the rides, and enjoying the festival food. 

The ferris wheel was a hit for some, and not for others. Matthew inherited my severe fear of heights, so he and I really did not enjoy the ride. I went with Joseph, who whooped with glee the entire time while I clung to the rail and tried not to hyperventilate. Matthew went with Nathan and similarly did not enjoy the experience- see his face full of apprehension? 

Every other ride was a huge hit. The faster it went, the better. They loved every bit of it!

The big kids ran off with a fist full of ride tickets, heading to all the big rides while Nathan and I stayed with Joseph near kiddie section. So we have a lot of Joseph's pictures and almost none of the other kids.

It was such a fun way to spend a summer day together.

 Matthew and Daniel begged to go back on Buddy Day, when there was a steep discount for two 'unlimited ride' passes purchased together. They brought their allowance money and carefully counted out the coins. They were SO excited to have unrestrained access to the fun!

They jointly went on all the rides many times (I may or may not have told them the discount required them to ride together.....) and had a wonderful time. They were glowing with enthusiasm all day, and were always so excited to relate the minute details of each ride. I spent the afternoon enjoying a good book on a blanket in the shade. I kept a large bag filled with iced water and healthy snacks nearby, so the boys could come take a break of the heat and refuel their energy regularly. It was such a happy afternoon, and my heart was so full of joy.

The festival food was outside their small allowance funds, so we picked up dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Matthew ordered one of our favorite drinks- horchata. There were unlimited refills, and it was a very hot afternoon, so he drank over half a gallon of the stuff. My goodness! It didn't faze him at all, and soon we were back in the park enjoying the rides.