Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Grand Canyon

Monday morning we woke up early and headed to the Grand Canyon.  It took forever to get into the park.  After an hour of inching along, we found what was holding up traffic - a deer on the side of the road that everyone was stopping to take pictures of.  Whatever.  We eventually made it to the Visitor's Center, parked, and headed out toward the Canyon.  I made Jeremy and Kirsten close their eyes and I led them to the lookout point.  When Jeremy opened his eyes, he audibly gasped as he saw this....
 They were all three entranced with the beauty of it.  The pictures really cannot do it justice, but we took them anyways.

Kirsten was very good about not going too close to the edge and staying where there were guard rails.
And Katie was back in her seat of honor for the day.
Looking down at Phantom Ranch
Indian Springs Campground
After we walked the rim trail and got some lunch, we went to a story time at the El Tovar.  They have teachers who spend their summers working at the park and doing education  programs for kids.
They read a book called "Mule Train Mail" all about how the mules go down the Canyon Monday through Friday year round, regardless of weather, to deliver the mail to the bottom of the canyon.  Crazy.  Then the kids had a relay race carrying bags of mail.  Kirsten's team won!
Kirsten completed her Junior Ranger requirements and then had a swearing in ceremony with a few other kiddos.
We ended the day by hiking about a mile down the Bright Angel Trail.  Kirsten wanted to go further down, but knowing we had to go back, I made her turn around.  It was a good thing too, because by the time we got to the top she was begging to be carried.
We took the shuttle back to our car and headed back to the hotel in Flagstaff.  I feel like we hardly made a dent in what we wanted to do.  We are hoping to go back in a few years and stay at the Rim for a few days so that we can have the full experience.  

We got to the hotel and pulled the blackout curtains and had the kids in bed by 6:30.  Love it!  We were all exhausted, but it was a wonderful day.

We headed home on Tuesday and decided to drive straight through, which got us home at 1 o'clock on Wednesday morning.  We had such a wonderful trip and the girls did so well in the car.  No tantrums, no meltdowns, no fights, anything.  It gives me so much hope for future car trips!  I love my family so much and feel so blessed to have been able to spend 8 wonderful days with them.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Side Trips

We left Sunday after lunch and headed up to Flagstaff.  On the way there we took a side trip to see Montezuma's Castle.  I have to admit that I love seeing the look on Jeremy's face when he sees all of these incredible places that I grew up with.  

 Kirsten also got to do the Junior Ranger program here too.  She kept saying that she wanted to stay the night in the castle rather than going to our hotel.  Katie slept through the whole thing.  I guess we will have to go back some day.
We stayed Sunday night in Flagstaff and woke up early Monday morning to head to the Grand Canyon (more to come on that later)  On the way, we took another side trip to Arizona Snow Bowl.  There is not any snow this time of year, but this is where we used to go skiing as kids.
It was pretty funny that when we got there, Jeremy said "I didn't think there were trees in Arizona."  HA!   He loved it there and swears that he wants to move to Flagstaff now.  I am sure it had something to do with the fact that it was 65 degrees and overcast, but that is just a guess.
Jumping ahead, on the way home, we stopped in Holbrook.  We had to drive by the WigWam Hotel.

In case you can't tell, this is the hotel on old Route 66 that the Cozy Cone Hotel from "CARS" was based on.  It is only a few blocks from the house my Grandparents lived in for over 50 years, and where my dad grew up.  I have so many great memories of this place as a kid and teenager.  We loved to play in the mountains and go to the lake on Grandpa's boat.  We even made some good friends there over the years.  I am so glad that I finally got to share it with Jeremy.
These little side trips helped break up the driving some and were a ton of fun.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mesa

Thursday morning we left Carlsbad Caverns and headed to Mesa, Arizona.  It was a pretty uneventful and boring drive, there is not much between the two.  The highlight was probably driving through Thatcher and all of a sudden there was a temple.  Just right there on the highway, out of no where.  It was pretty cool.  

I went right over to see my grandma and grandpa when we got there.  I wanted to make sure they were up to visitors before I took the girls over.  

Friday we spent the day with my Aunt Christine.  We went to the Sea Life Aquarium.  We all had such a great time.  I loved being able to spend time with my amazing aunt, and loved that my girls are getting to know her as well.
 Katie was fascinated by Stingray Bay.  She was not scared being so close to them, and we probably could have spent hours there.
 We were there just in time to see them feed the Sea horses and learn more about them.  There were places where you could go inside a bubble in the aquarium and have a 360 degree view.
 On the way home we went by the school where Christine teaches, which happens to be in the old white church we went to when I was little.  Then we drove around the corner and visited the Mesa Temple.  I was hoping to be able to do a session, but it was closed for cleaning.  We enjoyed the grounds and visitors center with our girls instead.
 My Grandma Lowe loved having two of her Great-Granddaughters to dote on.
 The biggest blessing of this trip was that we were able to see my Grandpa Lowe.  We were honestly not sure if he would make it until July, and I am so grateful that we were able to see him one last time.  He is so thin and seems so fragile.  He did not remember who I was, but I was able to help him remember.  I had to re-introduce myself everytime I saw him over those four days.  It was heartbreaking to see his memory so far gone, but still wonderful to visit with him.
 I took this picture on one of my morning runs.  I lived in Arizona for 14 years and I have lived in Texas for 17, but the Superstition Mountains still feel like home to me.
 Kirsten stayed busy helping my Uncle Steve make tokens for Scout Camp.
Katie was scared of the two big dogs, but finally on Sunday mustered up the courage to actually pet Dusty.
Friday night, my cousin, Stephanie showed up.  She is teaching school in Bountiful, Utah, and we coordinated to be there at the same time.  She did not tell her parents she was coming, it was so fun to surprise them!  She brought her boyfriend, Tim, with her.  It was great to get to know him.  Stephanie is like a sister to me and this is the first time I have gotten to see her since her mission.  We are already making plans for a visit in September.
Saturday we went to see the new Winnie the Pooh movie, which was totally cute!  We spent the afternoon visiting, had a family dinner, and then Stephanie, Tim, Jeremy and I went on a double to date to see Harry Potter 7.2.  I have to say that I enjoyed it much better the second time.

Sunday we were able to go to church with them, and my Grandpa was even able to make it.  I miss my family so much and was so grateful to be together with them.
As we said goodbye on Sunday afternoon, I held up okay until I took a step back and looked at my Grandpa.  I know that this was the last time I will see him in this life.  If I did not have faith in the Resurrection and a knowledge that our family has been sealed in the temple for all eternity, I am not sure that I could have driven away.  I am so grateful for family, and for the gospel and the sealing power that binds us together.  I am grateful for Christine and Steve for opening their home up to us, and for an amazing husband who was willing to drive us all the way out there for this visit.

This was not the end of the trip.  Stay tuned for more....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Carlsbad Caverns

Our adventures started this morning when we pulled out of the driveway at 5:15.  We tried to get the girls into the car asleep, but of course they woke up and were both so excited to be in the car that they never went back to sleep.  Seriously, they were both awake the entire time.  The greatest was when we turned on the DVD players and Katie's eyes got big and she started dancing and clapping.  They were both entranced for hours.  Kirsten loved reaching over and holding her sister's hand.  They were both so great in the car!
 We got to Carlsbad Caverns at 2 pm and headed straight down.  I think that Katie had the best seat in the house!
 Kirsten loved looking for shapes in the rock formations.  She found bunnies and corn dogs, waves and sharks.  She loved it!
 Katie loved being up high and was entranced by her surroundings.
It was really dark in the caves, and our pictures did not turn out for the most part, but I did get a few that are okay.


These pictures just don't do it justice.  It is really an unbelievably beautiful place.

We were all pretty tired after our 2 mile hike inside.  Kirsten was a trooper and made it the whole way.
While we waited for the elevators, she talked daddy into carrying her as well as Katie.
Kirsten loved doing the hands on activities where she got to see up close how the sulfuric acid forms the rocks.
She even earned her Junior Ranger Badge!
The entrance to the cave
We ate dinner and then checked into the hotel.  I came out of the bathroom to find Kirsten crashed in Katie's bed.
Katie thought that the tissue dispenser in the bathroom was the best toy ever.
So I have to consider day one a success.  We still have another ten hours in the car tomorrow and then we have to make it home, but right now we are having a great time and are loving all of the time together as a family.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Little Cheerleader

Kirsten spent this week at a Cheerleading Camp that was put on by her dance studio.  She had so much fun and even says that she likes cheerleading better than ballet.  They did crafts everyday - made pom poms, t-shirts, picture frames, got a "cheerleader makeover", learned stunts, tumbling, cheers and dances.  She absolutely loved it.  Today we got to go and watch their performances.  My camera stopped working when they did the tumbling, so no videos or pictures of that, but she learned how to do a cartwheel, a backroll, backbend and handstand.  So impressive!
My little Cheerleader
 She did not like the all black dress code for her Cheer Group, but I think she looked pretty cute!
 Her friends Jada and Jessica from school were in her group too, and she loved being able to see them again!
Hip Hop Dance
Pom Dance
Cheer Group

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fourth of July

This year may have been the first Fourth of July in 8 years that all of my family was not in town.  They all left on the 2nd and 3rd, so it was just us in our house.  We started off the day at our church for a bike parade and pancake breakfast. 
 It was Katie's first time on her bike, and I think that she loved it!
 Kirsten had fun riding too, but insists that we decorate her bike better for next year.
 In the afternoon, we headed over to Jeremy's parent's house for a family get together.  His brother Jason and his wife Ellen and son Gavin were in town for the week.  So I guess we traded one family for another!  We loved being able to see them.  Kirsten and Katie loved being able to play with Gavin, and he took a special liking to Kirsten.  He even came over later in the week to swim with her.
We had a huge group over for dinner and had smoked brisket, rolls, potato salad, and about a thousand other things.  After dinner we headed out back for some water fun.  The baby pool was the favorite place for these little ones.
Surprisingly, Zach was able to get Katie to go down the slip n slide.  Last time she screamed her head off if we even got her close to it.
The highlight of the night was setting off bottle rockets.  This is something I have never seen before.  They fill up 2 liter bottles half way with water, then set them on a contraption his dad built and hook the air compressor up to it.  When you let go, they shoot up in the air.
The kids favorite part was chasing them down.  The boy's favorite part was trying to aim it just right to soak all of us in the chairs watching.
I am especially grateful to live in this wonderful country.  I am always very mindful of my brother serving in the Marines and his wonderful wife who is stationed in Afghanistan.  She was deployed shortly after they got married and her tour length was just doubled.  They are both sacrificing so much to keep us safe.  There are so many things we take for granted.  I am thankful for those who put themselves between harm and my precious family.  I love you John and Sarah!

Happy Fourth of July from all of us