In August, we left Sam behind at his new job and headed to Utah to spend time with friends and family. (I forgot my camera, so these are all from my phone which does not have the best camera.)
We started off with a goodbye lunch at Chick-fil-A with Daddy and then the kids did great on the flights to Utah, despite layovers and getting in Utah very late at night. Our good friend Alisa from our time in Katy, TX met us to bring us home and tuck us into bed.
The next day Alisa took us to the new Natural History museum near the University of Utah. We had lots of fun exploring together and I'm looking forward to going back next time we're in SLC.
Afterwards, she dropped me, my kids, and her twins at the planetarium to watch a movie there while she took Trent home for his nap. Though Anna was a little scared at the realistic depiction of the beginning of the universe, the kids generally loved it. We admired all the cool toys in the shop and then crossed the street to the Discovery Gateway children's museum where the kids mostly played in the Kids Eye View area where everything is kid-sized.
Alisa and Lonnie have a beautiful home with a beautiful view in Bountiful Utah and the kids loved playing in the yard together. Anna is just a few days older than Max and Maya and they made good playmates. Personally, I enjoyed staying up late and talking with Alisa and Lonnie which has always come easily. They are both so thoughtful and funny and make everyone at ease.
The next morning we played at the splashpad and then Alisa dropped us at the train station to get to American Fork where Karen lives. We took the new Frontrunner line and loved it. It passes by all the stops between north Salt Lake and South Jordan and runs through the a canyon along a river. It was such a fast, pleasant trip, so much better than driving along I-15. It was nice to be back on public transportation after 2 months away from Boston. It's so nice to sit back and read a book rather than driving, and the kids think riding on a train is right up there with an amusement park.
Karen picked us up in AF and brought us home to relax a bit. She had all our rooms and beds ready for us and it was fun to see their new house. Not long after, we used the car she had for us for the week to go meet up with our friends from Cambridge, the Jensens. They were all SO excited to play together again (as you can see from these pictures), and it was fun to talk with Shelly again.
The rest of the trip was spent with my three siblings Karen and Mike (who live in UT) and Steve who lives in Qatar and was spending the summer in the US. I stayed with Karen and Steve stayed with Mike. It was such a casual, fun vacation. It's been a long time since I've spent time with just my siblings and I really enjoyed it. I've since visited my other two brothers and I look forward to many more sibling vacations.
Karen got us into the zoo with her passes and our Great Aunt Shirley met us for lunch.
Here's Levi with his "Mater face" and Elizabeth running in the background. She penguin slided down that slide about 30 times.
Another day we drove up Provo Canyon to catch butterflies and go hiking. After lunch Anna, Elizabeth, and Elliot all got in the the freezing Provo river. I loved watching them since I had so many fond memories of playing in cold Utah rivers as a kid and hiking with my parents in the same mountains. They loved it just as much as I did. We went hiking on Sam and my 7th anniversary, so I stopped on the drive up to show the kids where he proposed to me and Karen lives just down the hill from the temple where we were married, so I drove by that, too.
After they played in the river, Anna and Elliott were complaining that their feet were cold so I told them to come walk on the warm (asphalt) path back to the car. Elliott thought I said "worm path" and for the rest of the trip the kids would randomly yell, "warm worm path!" at any moment and all the other kids would burst out laughing. Kids are weird.
Meanwhile, Sam took it upon himself to use every piece of the new train set I'd bought at a garage sale. He texted me pictures to show me his handiwork.
We went to church at Mike's ward one week and it was cute to see all the kids holding hands. I don't have any pictures from Mike's backyard, but it was a huge hit of the trip. He has an in-ground trampoline, a swing set, a long rope swing coming off a tree branch, and a two-level tree house. Not to mention a cute little dog and some chickens. It was paradise for those 7 kids under 5. One night when the sprinklers came on, one of my kids stripped naked without telling anyone to run through them, so all the others did it too. No pictures of that, but it was adorable. Sunday evening, Great Aunt Shirley, Uncle Steve, Aunt Sue, and their son Ryan and his wife Trudy and their kids came over. And another night, after we spent the day at 7 Peaks, Martha and her kids came over for pizza.
I took Anna, Levi, Elizabeth, and Bridget to this park near Karen's house one afternoon and everyone liked climbing this tree.
One morning, I woke up around 5:30 and drove down to Provo to hike the Y. The lights in the valley were pretty when I left.
The hike nearly killed me since it is so steep and I was not used to hiking at all, but I love being in the mountains, and it was especially peaceful that early in the morning.
Here's the view from the Y. I didn't die on the way up.
And by the time I got down, the sun was over the mountain.
We took the kids for a quick trip to Trafalga since we'd bought the Pass of all Passes and as usual the kids had a great time. The airplane ride below was a big hit, and I got both my kids to ride the go-carts with me. After Trafalga, I took my kids up to go to lunch and shopping with Aunt Shirley.
Here's one last shot of Anna reading to Bridget. One thing I loved about this trip was that there was lots of casual cousin play, reading together, singing songs, building forts, and playing outside. They're all good friends and it's nice to see them enjoy each other (most of the time :).
Oh! I almost forgot. One night in the middle of the trip, I couldn't find Levi's pacifier. I looked for it everywhere, and he cried for a long time, and woke up a few times in the middle of the night crying. The next night was the same and he cried again on the third night, but seemed more resigned to his fate. I found his pacifier while packing up at the end of the trip and kept it well hidden in my backpack in case of emergency on the flight home, but I'd already had Sam hide all the pacifiers at home. Levi cried a little bit for the first couple nights back home, but has been pacifier-free ever since this trip. It wasn't the way I'd planned on doing it, but it worked, and he doesn't remember the trauma anyway.
Finally, here are a few shots from back home in Grapevine. I took the kids to a tiny space exhibit at the Grapevine visitors center where they pretended to be astronauts.
And here's Levi playing with cars. He might look like he's sleeping, but this is serious play. Though he doesn't do it as much anymore, this was how he played with cars for months, maybe years. He liked to get right down on their level and line them up just right and have his face close to the action while he drove them along. I didn't want to forget that since it was a daily occurrence for a long long time.