Friday, February 26, 2016

Texas Trip

We'd been planning on a 2016 Texas trip to see the 10 aunts and uncles, 4 grandparents and 18 cousins that live within 4 hours of Dallas. We had a hard time deciding on a time to visit because Texas in the summer is sucky weather and half of the people we visit have their busy season at work in the summer.  Spring break doesn't work for track stars, apparently (Gabe!) and so we'd thought about Thanksgiving.  I noticed in November that Southwest was having killer deals and when I looked at Dallas, I realized we could fly our entire family to and from for just under $1500.  The only catch was that we'd have to go in January, which meant pulling people from school for 6 days, but we are so glad we did.  The weather was so great and so needed, everyone had lots of time to hang out and we filled our day with pretty cool attractions.

We left out of Seattle because it was about $500 cheaper but it was dicey deciding whether to risk trying to get over the mountain passes on the west side of the state.  At the last minute we decided to leave the night before and stay at Ryan's aunt's house.  We woke up at 3:00am, loaded our crew into the car and made it onto our 5:50am flight.  I had been pretty nervous about the whole thing and felt so relieved to be done with that.  Levi was so good the whole time, even letting his dad take some pretty decent naps inflight.


We stayed with my mom the first few days.  We'd decided to buy the Dallas City Pass and think that was a good call.  We knew we'd want to do lots of sightseeing stuff and it really saved us money. The weather was 75 degrees and completely sunny.  After 3 straight weeks of gray, drizzly Spokane weather, we felt like we'd time traveled to June.  It was awesome.

We drove from the airport to downtown Dallas, ate lunch and hit our first spot: The 6th Floor Museum, which is about the assassination of JFK.  It's so well done.  The littler kids were slightly bored by the end, but our oldest really learned a lot.  Levi slept in his stroller so we felt pretty lucky.

We walked from there to the Reunion Tower.  (I feel like there are these types of places in every big city.) I probably wouldn't have done it if it wasn't included on the City Pass, but it was a beautiful night and we got to see the city as the sun was starting to set. Dinner was fabulous burgers where we met up with some of the Romney side of the family.

The next day was Sunday and we enjoyed Grandma Dorrie's super comfortable accommodations.  We went to church, tried to see the under construction, closed-on-Sunday Dallas temple (Ryan found my family's die-hard sightseeing efforts here pretty hilarious), and checked out Klyde Warren park built over a freeway in downtown Dallas.

Monday we spent the day at the Ft Worth zoo, one of the most highly rated zoos in the country.  Meridith, Zaundra, and Grandma Nut met us there, too and it was so fun to do the zoo with cousins.  The highlight was definitely the baby gorilla, though all of the exhibits and animals were incredible.  We ended up getting kicked out at 4pm (early winter closing) and headed down to the Ft Worth stockyards where uncle Bart (who works as a policeman in the area) was a fun tour guide.  We left that night for San Antonio, pulling in a little after midnight.

My brother Matt lives there and is the best host.  We had yummy food and his fabulous huge backyard to play football, do cookouts and explore.  One of my favorite parts was getting to go on a few runs with him...he made me go fast!  We checked out the Riverwalk and the Alamo (again) and visited beautiful Hemisfair Park.  The highlight of the day for me was probably lunch at Rudy's.  I dream of that place.  Matt is a big strategy-game player, so they ended both nights with some Dominion.

On San Antonio day2, we visited the Natural Bridge Caverns, which we LOVED.  We also got a groupon for the San Marcos spring glass bottom boats and had a pretty fun tour guide and loved enjoying the sunny day on the river.

We headed back to Dallas the next day, stopping downtown to do the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.  It wasn't quite as cool as some science museums we've been to, but the kids still enjoyed it.  Ryan's brothers Greg and Grant live 5 minutes from each other and so we divided the family between the two locations.  We were so excited that Brooke drove down from Oklahoma to spend the weekend with us!

We went on a nature walk with a million kids and spent the day at a fun nature preserve.  Ryan went on some bike rides with the guys and the teenagers scored some Mavericks tickets from uncle Greg.  On Saturday morning, we checked out the George Bush Presidential library and it's 9/11 section was really really good.  Ryan had organized a kickball game that we played despite trespassing signs and the worse weather we'd seen so far. Also, In-N-Out.  Twice.

On Sunday we got to watch the newest Romney cousin (Amelia May) get blessed and just hung out at houses eating and talking and watching the SuperBowl.

We were so sad to go home the next day.  It had been a pretty perfect vacation.  The flight went well, the stop at IKEA to replace Faith's broken bed and strap it too our heavy car went well, and the ride home frantically doing the homework everyone had sworn previously they'd finished went well.  (Insert eyeroll emoji here).  We arrived to a newly renovated kitchen, which was the best thing about coming home.

I love vacations because I love seeing new things, being with long lost family, taking a break, but most of all, I LOVE lots of uninterrupted time with our family all together.  It's a precious commodity around here and worth any amount of money and effort and planning to make it happen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Winter and the Holiday season

I remember when I used to WEEKLY updates.  It's apparently become seasonal and honestly I can't really decide if it's really worth it.  But then I read old posts and am glad I have a least a little bit written down.

We got our first snow right before Thanksgiving and I have been trying to be positive about it. We had none last season and while I, frankly, loved it, I know it's not good for the ecosystem and caused lots of fires and issues last summer.  Sigh.  I'll keep trying to appreciate winter.

Emma got to sing with Alex Boye in a concert at the INB performing arts center downtown. It was fun for her to practice and get a behind-the-scenes look at professional singers and concerts.

Gabe was put on the All-League team for his cross country season and had his picture in the paper.  He was also invited to run at the regional Footlocker race in Southern California the first weekend of December.  It's a big honor and is partly sponsored by the local runners club here.  He flew there, stayed in hotels,  shopped, spent a night at Disneyland.  It's a legendary course, known to be very hilly and difficult and he ran his 5k in 16:48 and finished 63rd out of hundreds.  The best part was that Grandpa Sherrill and Grandma Genie made the 6 hour drive down to watch him in Anaheim.  They were excited to see him race and he appreciated the support.  I loved getting pictures and real time updates! He also made some really good friends with the other runners from the league and he sees them regularly.

Levi got into the super "MINE DO IT" phase during December.  So cute and excruciating to deal with!

Christmas felt stressful and busy this year.  I work constantly on how to make it a happy, peaceful time and don't quite have it down yet.  We visited lights, nativity walks, did our neighbor cookie plates, wore matching outfits, did the 12 days of Christmas for a family, made gingerbread houses, hosted my mom and Jeff AND decided to start the kitchen renovation (we got a significant discount be agreeing to tear up our kitchen in the middle of december). I hope the things we do have meaning and add to the happy memories and meaning of the season.  Who knows?

We had lots of snow right before Christmas and did some sledding with the kids.  Ryan as always was doing the 12 days of Christmas for ME and my favorite day was when we drove out to Idaho for a snowy 5 mile run and a yummy breakfast afterward.

Grandma Dorrie came a few days before and we took her to Coeur d'Alene to show her the lights and try a Hudson's hamburger.  The next day was Christmas Eve and we had a few kids and adults come down with a barfy stomach flu in the night.  We went back and forth about whether to do the traditions and decided it would be more fun on another day.  We laid low on Christmas Eve Day and everyone perked up by the evening and we continued with our plans with our friend's, the Haslams.  Usually we do a dinner in Bethlehem with the Daines, but they were gone, so we did something totally different.  We had YUMMY Mexican food, a piñata, games and an always amusing reenactment of the Nativity.

Unfortunately, the rest of the family came down with the flu during Christmas eve night.  Sigh. We woke up Christmas Day and did the usual and despite illness (it was a pretty short lived thing), had a fun day playing games, eating clam chowder, doing puzzles, etc. We did our Christmas Eve traditional movie (star wars!) and lunch out (brazillian) on December 26th when everyone was feeling much better.

The next big event was Levi's second birthday.  It's crazy having a birthday so close to Christmas but we sure love Levi.  I thought of activities I knew he would love and we did them all morning.  Pet store, ride on the mall kiddie train, an indoor playgroup and Costco lunch.  Grandma was still around and it was fun to celebrate with her.  We made homemade (super yummy) chicken nugget for lunch and had a ice cream sundae for a birthday dessert.  He knew it was his birthday, was dying to blow out candles and told everyone he was "two!"

The end of the season was a fabulous New Years Eve party at the Haslams.  We dressed up, danced, ate yummy food, had a balloon drop, and kissed at midnight.  The next day, Ryan headed up in 7 degree weather for the Boy Scout Klondike campout (he survived) and the kids and I visited the Lego exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Culture. Gabe is dealing with a stress fracture and has to spend 6 weeks not running to fully recover.  We are praying he's ready for track in 3 weeks.

For the second year in a row we took advantage of the free cross country ski day up at 49 degrees North.  This year we were lucky enough to have Grandma Nut visiting us and she was the best sport and headed up to learn to ski.  It is such a fun day and plan to make it an annual thing.

January was SO SO SO SO gray and rainy.  Most of the snow melted but it just was so overcast that I really struggled this year.  I love January with it's new starts and NO major activies, but the weather was a big bummer.  We usually only ski once a year and kept trying to find a good saturday to make it happen (this saturday I think).  The highlight was anticipating the finishing of our kitchen remodel and our trip to Texas the end of January and beginning of February.

I'm always pretty happy when I realize I'm making it through another Northwest winter. It's good to write this stuff down so I remember the happy things that happen during those dark cold months!