Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pedernales Falls

One Saturday in the fall we took a family trip to Pedernales Falls, in the Hill Country. Ella had the best time EVER (according to her) walking on rocks, and Natalie, well, she wandered around, too. I didn't bring bathing suits for everyone because I thought it would be too cold to go in the water, being October and all. Silly me. So we rolled up our pants and waded in anyway.

Those are the "falls" behind us. Who knows? After some good Texas rain the water may do more than trickle.

Ella enjoyed a snack on one of her beloved rocks.

Look at those curly locks! Stretched out, her hair falls past her shoulders but you'd never know it.
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Summertime IX: End of the Endless Summer

For months Ella had been reading about various sites around Temple Square in the Friend magazine, so while we were in Utah we spent a day in Salt Lake City visiting some special places.

Our first stop was the Conference Center, an amazing facility. The waterfall starts as a river on the roof garden (which is covered in native grasses and flowers) and falls all the way down to street level. Inside the main hall each of the thousands of seats has an unobstructed view of the stage. We visited a gallery that houses all of Arnold Friberg paintings of scenes from the Book of Mormon, and it was very moving to walk with Ella through the gallery and discuss each picture.

A family picture from the roof of the Conference Center (don't mind the cranes).

We attended the acoustics demo in the historic Tabernacle and it was impressive to be able to clearly hear a pin drop on stage. We stayed for a little bit of the daily organ recital as well.

This is the #1 reason I wanted to visit Temple Square: there is a new diorama of the Salt Lake Temple on permanent display in the, um, I think it's the South Visitor's Center. It's the one you've never been in. There are beautiful displays detailing the importance of temples and temple work, as well as displays about the building of the temple. Then there is this amazing new diorama, a miniature Salt Lake Temple with a wall cut away to reveal the interior. It is fantastic. I loved the teeny tiny floral arrangement in the Celestial Room.

Next, we walked through a crazy downpour to the Lion House for lunch, where as a grand finale at the end of our meal, Natalie ejected a cup of lukewarm hot chocolate all over Ella. Poor Ella was not happy, but I cleaned her up the best I could, wrapped her up in my sweatshirt. and walked over to the Beehive House for one last tour. She loved seeing all the things she had read about, and it was sweet to enjoy these fabulous church history sites together.
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Summertime VIII: Lagoon

I had not been to Lagoon, Utah's premier (and only) amusement park, since I was a kid. It was a delight to be there with my kids, though I do miss the old fun house with the big slides. Remember it? Anyway, Grandma and Grandpa generously sponsored a day at Lagoon, and again the cousins had a ball together. There were a TON of kiddie rides for them to enjoy, and Ella even braved a couple of roller coasters--she even asked to go on one of them a second time.

Ella, Rinda, Lindley, and Jacob on some sort of ladybug contraption.

These boats were so old-timey and cute.

I had never seen miniature cars on a track before. The girls loved them.

Yes, they have Nat-sized bumper cars at Lagoon. I loved them when I was a kid, and Natalie thought they were terrific, too. We put her in one and thought, "Well, we'll see what she does." Wheat she did was go around and around in circles, shooting offended looks at the few kids who managed to bump into her. Oh my gosh, we laughed so hard. When we asked her to smile for the camera this is what she did:
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Summertime VII: Little Cabin in the Woods

Greg's parents have spent years building a cabin on property on the south fork of the Ogden River, and it is lookin' GOOD. Ten years ago, when I first visited the cabin, it was just a log shell of a building. Now there is a kitchen, bathroom, furniture, flooring... It's an honest-to-goodness cabin! The cousins had a grand time playing together in and out of the river. Here are Laurinda, Ella, Catalina, Lindley, Nicolas, and Jacob, Willdens one and all.

Greg took time off from moving rocks (Have you never moved rocks? Oh, man, according to the Willden brothers, you have not LIVED until you have rearranged river rocks.) to help his girls play in the (FREEZING) river. You will notice I was on the bank, taking the pictures.

The cousins got to stay up late watching a movie, then bunked together upstairs.

Got to love the camping hair.
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Summertime VI: If You're Going to San Francisco...

So, my sister-in-law Lora, who married my brother almost exactly 10 years ago, had never driven down Lombard Street, a.k.a "The Crookedest Street in the World". She'd never been to the Palace of Fine Arts. She'd never walked out onto the Golden Gate Bridge or seen the famous Victorian houses called "Postcard Row" or been to Coit Tower. WHAT?!?!? I had CLEARLY been remiss in my duties as her sister-in-law. She'd never had the Katie Tour--how is that possible? (To be fair, we were just beginning the Katie Tour with her parents in 2000 when my mom's car frizzed out and had to be towed back to Walnut Creek. The only sight-seeing we did that day was from, hands down, THE wildest cab ride I have ever experienced. We crossed the entire city of San Francisco and only stopped at two lights. But, I digress...)

We had planned to go to the Exploratorium, but upon arrival discovered that it was Free Day, complete with a million kids waiting to get in. So we saved the Exploratorium for another day and instead danced like children of the night past the Palace of Fine Arts. (Note: That's a reference to the movie "So I Married an Axe Murderer", in case you didn't catch it.) Oscar was an especially fine and willing dancer.

Look at those ladies! We didn't end up walking out onto the bridge because there was no parking and the restroom was closed (it was a major issue at that particular moment). Instead we drove across the bridge and parked on the Marin County side, where the parking and bathrooms were plentiful and the photo ops groovy.

My delightful cousin Maddie joined us for our San Francisco adventure--I drove a minivan packed with two adults, one teenager, and four kids (who mostly snacked and watched "Phineas and Ferb") all over the city. It had been a while since I'd last done a tour, but amazingly enough I could still get around pretty well. Driving around the city was one of my favorite high school pastimes, after all. We did have an incident with a street sweeper that Maddie will probably not soon forget--she was nearly abandoned in front of the house from "Mrs. Doubtfire".

Does this picture cause the theme song from "Full House" to run repeatedly through your head? Sorry about that. Those are some seriously famous Victorians, sometimes called "Postcard Row", sometimes the "Painted Ladies". They are lovely. The kids had fun playing "Red Light, Green Light" on the lawn at Alamo Square park, across the street from the houses. We really don't know WHAT Livy is doing in this picture, but it makes us laugh.
Oh, and we did drive down Lombard Street. If ever you want to visit San Francisco with me, I'll take you there, too.
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Summertime V: Santa Cruzin'

You've heard of Christmas in July, right? Well, how about Summer in December? I don't know what my excuse is for having neglected the blog for so long, but buckle up--I'm about to catch you up!

In August Ella, Natalie and I flew to California to stay for ten days, then on to Utah, where Greg met up with us for another week. It was a long trip, but we had so much fun playing with cousins and friends and sucking the marrow out of the end of the summer. We went to Santa Cruz with Jake, Lora, Oscar , and Livy and it was a blast to share the Boardwalk, which I love so much, with my kids.

This picture CRACKS ME UP. It's worth at least a thousand words, I'd say.

All four kids went on this whippy race car ride four times in a row and we adults nearly wet ourselves laughing at their reactions. Livy and Natalie were especially giggly.

In the morning we took a chilly walk on the beach. Livy, a girl after my own heart, loves to "pick shells". Lora hedged her bets by buying a packet of shells in a gift shop and dropping them in the sand where Livs could "pick" them. Oh, she thought it was grand.
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summertime IV: That Nat!

We once again have a 2-year-old in the house. Natalie had been preparing for her role for many months, so when she turned two in July she was ready to take on all the lovely attributes that come with the job. All I can say as I haul her bodily from, well, any place and every place, kicking and screaming and trying to bite and/or scratch me, is, "She's two." Luckily she is equal parts crazy and hilarious, so while she makes me nuts she also makes me laugh. And sometimes she crawls into my lap and nuzzles against me and I rest my cheek on her curly head and relish the moment, knowing all too soon she won't fit on my lap anymore.

Here we were at a rockin' Joe McDermott concert. I think I asked her to say CHEESE and got a mouthful of fruit snack flashed at me.

Here's Natalie with her first "co-cone". She's hooked.

Grandma Kathie made Natalie's birthday cake and Nat was a BIG help, I am sure. When she senses that the mixer is coming out she comes running and drags a chair across the kitchen so she can help. After the first few ingredients are in the bowl, she scampers to the silverware drawer for a spoon and climbs back up into the chair, waiting for a taste. I have to watch her carefully because she's not patient about the waiting. One day I turned my back for a second and returned to the mixer to see her with a spoon in her hand and a nasty look on her face. In her impatience for the good stuff that she knows eventually comes out of that mixing bowl, she had scooped up and eaten a spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder.

Pure Nat. The eyelashes! The curls peeking out! The drooly shirt! The toothy grin! The dimples! Oh, the Natty goodness.
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Summertime III: A Walk on the Wild Side

I spent the first week in July at church Girls' Camp. For the uninitiated, Girls' Camp is a chance for young women ages 11-17 to spend a week every summer away from the world (that's right, no cell phones) and have a chance to focus on spiritual matters without having to worry about whether or not their hair is perfect, etc. It is a time of growth and reflection, AND we have a lot of fun. Every year the girls choose the theme and then we adults go nuts with it. This year's theme was "It's a Jungle Out There", which explains all the random animal prints in the photos to come. At last year's camp we walked around dying in 105 degree heat, with only two (weak) window AC units in the leaders' bunks at night. This year everyone got to sleep in air-conditioned cabins, ahhhh... After the first night, some of the girls complained that they had been too cold and were told that that was a first-class problem, indeed.

Here I am with two of my favorite girls, Emmie and Sabrina. I have known them since they were teeny tiny, and it is such fun watching them grow up.

Melva and I had mango popsicles after lunch, and I suspect the coloring was not 100% natural. (Can you tell that Melva had one and I had two?)

Here are all the girls and leaders from my ward (i.e. congregation). We had about 110 girls total at camp. There were 36 first-year girls (11- and 12-year-olds) and they all slept in one huge enclosed pavilion--wall-to-wall air mattresses and sleeping bags. I dubbed it "The Monkey House" because they were only slightly shy of literally hanging from the rafters.

We took this shot a couple of times. After the first one we all decided we looked tired, so we re-shot with jazz hands. Don't you think they liven us right up? These are my wonderful friends, the sisters I am so grateful to serve with: Melva, Kathryn, and Kari.
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Summertime II: Pass the Pie

Ah, the 4th of July. The pancake breakfast, the fireworks, the pie! It's all about food and pyrotechnics, two of my favorite things! Well, I suppose I also reflected on my gratitude for having been born in this beautiful land of freedom and prosperity. I can never get through "America" without crying. I truly do love my country. (And fireworks--I LOVE fireworks!)

Here are my chickies, posing in the front yard. I made the dress Natalie is wearing when Ella was her age. It was fun to give it another wear.

These two are BUDS. Oh my goodness, they love each other. Tyler is six months younger than Natalie (and a wee bit shorter, but bear in mind that a couple inches of Nat's height comes from her hair) and they are best friends.

For the past I don't know how many years we have been enjoying the Six Flags Fiesta Texas 4th of July fireworks spectacular from the mall parking lot behind the park. Same show, minimal crowds. Lots of friends come and we all bring treats and sit around in camp chairs while the kids basically play in traffic. (Well, near traffic.) I look forward to it every year.

You know, I'm not usually one for pie. Given a choice, I will always choose cake, then cookies, because those are usually the options containing chocolate. Well, and cake tends to be covered with frosting... mmm, frosting... However, twice a year, on Thanksgiving and the 4th of July, I must make and eat pie. For Thanksgiving they must be pecan and pumpkin, and in July I must have apple pie a la mode. I have this Mrs. Fields recipe with a crumbly top--dynamite! This year I went a little crazy because we were having dinner with lots of friends and there would be a high demand for pie. I made blueberry-blackberry and strawberry-raspberry pies from Martha Stewart Living (find the recipe here). I highly recommend the blueberry-blackberry, with vanilla ice cream, of course. This picture is my patented "get down with the desserts" pose that Greg REALLY makes fun of me for.

Summertime I: Ella Shakes It Up

So, I was recently chastised for my lack of blogging lately (come on, it's only been... 2 months?!) and I can only plead SUMMER! Holy cow, what a crazy summer it has been. We just got back from a three-week trip to California and Utah, and school starts tomorrow. Of course, it's still 100 degrees out, but let's not talk about that, okay?

Ella had her annual dance recital at the end of June. She takes tap and ballet and performed in two numbers. She prefers ballet (ask her--she'll tell you ALL about it), but she did a lovely job in both. She especially enjoyed watching the older kids perform in the dress rehearsal--they are amazing! I was mostly just glad that the costumes were both feather-free this year. (The first year both costumes had feathers and after I removed them from their protective plastic wrappings it looked like a pink and red chicken had exploded in my living room.)

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Like A Fish!

Ella has just finished her first season of swim team, and she has LOVED it! By her first swim meet she'd only had a few practices, so she only competed in one event: the backstroke. Can I just tell you how crazy swim meets are? I didn't grow up doing swim team, so this has been all new for me, too. Let me tell you, these meets are LONG and so hot, and there are screaming parents all over the place. I was intimidated by this first meet, and was just praying that Ella would be able to get in the pool without crying and make it to the finish line. Well! She jumped in to the pool like a pro, took her mark, and swam to finish first in her heat! The look on her face when they handed her a blue ribbon was worth all the time and heat and crazy parents. It gave her the confidence to keep progressing and yesterday, at her third and last meet, she swam freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke in five different events, including two relays. We are so extremely proud of her.

Swimmers take your mark, get set, GO!

Go, Ella, GO!

Ella with our pals Tressa and Brian Reading

Swimmer of the Week--WOO-HOO!
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