Thursday, August 16, 2018

It's an Alpaca Alpaca day!

On Friday morning (the 10th) we took the children to visit Circle Cliff Ranch, an alpaca ranch just outside of Bicknell. It's run by Diena, a retired elementary school principal, who (along with her husband) sold her home three years ago to live her dream of raising alpacas, spinning yarn from their fleece, and selling her handiwork.

Though retired, Diena is still passionate about education and opens her ranch up to visitors. Zoë, our resident llama lover, was particularly excited about our alpaca day. Alpacas aren't llamas, which we knew, but they are both closely related members of the camelid family and they look like alpacas so Zoë was thrilled (though intimidated) by all the alpacas.

Zoë, excited but scared
And so, for her, I decided to write this post about alpacas following the scheme of Llama Llama, as a tribute to one of Zoë's favourite authors, Anna Dewdney (keep in mind that I am not Ann Dewdney, however, so my poem isn't quite as cutesy as one of her would have been):

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Alexander at 10 months

Alexander is ten months old today and he has a little something to tell you:

Making it to actual heaven

Ever since learning about the Plan of Salvation, Benjamin has been obsessed with making it to "actual heaven" (or the Celestial Kingdom) and avoiding being cast into "pit darkness" (or Outer Darkness).

Tonight at dinner Andrew asked Benjamin to give the blessing on the food and Zoë, who is a bit of a prayer-hog, started pouting.

"I never get to say the prayer!" she shouted.

"You always say the prayer," Benjamin said.

"You just want to keep all the blessings for yourself, don't you?" I asked Zoë, jokingly.

"Yes," she nodded gravely.

"Really?!" Benjamin gasped. "Do you want to keep us all out of actual heaven!?"

"Yes," she answered matter-of-factly. "I do."

"Alright, alright," Andrew said in his best moderator's voice. "How about Benjamin says the prayer now and Zoë can say family prayer tonight?"

"Yippee!" Zoë shrieked happily.

So Benjamin began our dinner prayer.

"Dear Heavenly Father," he said. "We are thankful for the food and please bless it." Then he added vindictively, "And please help us to keep Zoë from taking all the prayers so that the rest of us can make it into actual heaven, too."

Stifled laughter echoed around the table, but we all managed to remain mostly reverent for the duration of the prayer. That silly, silly boy!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls: Hiking Sulphur Creek

Sulphur Creek is more or less an off-the-beaten path trail. It's never been maintained by the National Parks Service, though it's clearly inside Capitol Reef, and in the past there hasn't even been a map or anything to guide hikers. However, it has been gaining popularity over the past few years and now they have dedicated pull-outs for parking cars at either end of the trail (and although its still an unmaintained trail (on account's a river) you can now get a map from the visitor center).

We didn't know any of that, however, because Andrew and I hadn't been to Capitol Reef since 2012 (just a few weeks before Benjamin was born) and Karen hadn't been to Capitol Reef since 2013 (when Dorothy passed away on Brimhall Double Bridge Trail (though Reid went just a few weeks ago with a scout troop)), so we just started doing what we'd normally done and had Karen drop us off at the Castle Rock trail head. But there's a new pull-out/parking area about a third of a mile before this now (just so you know).

While I nursed the baby, Grandpa took the other kids across the road to the dry creek bed (come to think of it, that's probably why they have the new pull-out area—so that you don't have to drag all your kids across the road to get to the proper trailhead). By the time I caught up with them Benjamin had found a rock that reminded him of a guitar and he was rocking out (in every way possible).

The Grover Chronicles are interrupted to bring you this update...

On Saturday morning after packing up camp we went to gas up before heading to Goblin Valley. We didn't get there though because I took the opportunity of being in civilization to check my phone (there's no service in Grover). That's when I found out that there a huge fire burning at Coal Hallow was threatening our use of Highway 6 (which is the road we'd be taking home from Goblin Valley). 

To be on the safe side we decided to skip Goblin Valley and just head home (on I-15). 

We probably would have still made it through the canyon, since they didn't close the highway until Sunday. But it would have been a smoky, smoky drive. 

We had to drive past an older burn getting home, anyway (which the kids (mostly Benjamin, I guess, since the older girls rode in the RV with Grandma and Grandpa on the way to Grover and Zoë is pretty clueless)) had panicked about on the way out to Grover. Benjamin was worried that the California fires had somehow made their way out here. We assured him that this had been a different fire and that everything was fine.

Driving back through that burned out area felt ominous, however, knowing that we were heading home to a raging fire in our canyon. All that remained on the ashen landscape were the blackened skeletons of trees. We passed a highway sign that had been melted and twisted into a misshapen, empty canvas. We could see where the fire had hopped the highway. We could see where it had finally been put out, giving way to mile after mile of bone-dry fields, ready to burst into flames at any moment.

We returned home to a hazy valley. Everything smells like smoke. We can hardly see the mountains. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Musings from Miriam

When we were at Grover some of the things we did were Calf Creek and Sunset Point. The hike of Calf Creek was really hard. First we had to climb down a mountain, then it was just sand until we had to climb on top of a cliff. After we got to the pool, Rachel, Ben, and I jumped in the freezing cold water. We dared Dad and Mom to jump in. They both said they would, but they never really did. The hike up was harder. My dad said, "Go at your own pace. It isn't a race." And then he sped ahead...
And perhaps one day she'll finish that story.

But then again perhaps she won't because my children are notoriously terrible at journaling and I can't figure out how to motivate them to do it which is totally confusing to me because journaling is my favourite.

Calf Creek

I haven't hiked Calf Creek since 2005 (when I went camping in Grover with Andrew's family while he was still on his mission (not at all awkward; it's fine)). Ever since then I've just hung out at the cabin with the babies while Andrew's gone off hiking. This year, however, we decided to lug the baby out there (leaving Zoë behind with Grandma). 

We borrowed a hiking backpack from a friend because we imagined, from the comfort of our air conditioned home, that it would be "fun" to take both Zoë and Alexander on a hike or two with the big kids. But to do that we'd need two hiking backpacks (because Zoë is a bit of a whiner/three-year-old and we wouldn't be able to make her hike more than a mile). Even though we decided to only take Alexander to Calf Creek (because the hike is a little brutal, especially the hike back to the parking lot) we used our friend's backpack because it came with a sunshade and a pocket for a water reservoir/bladder/thing. In fact, I was so impressed with the backpack that the girls suggested we get a new backpack (since ours is rather ancient). 

I told them that our backpack was a wonderful backpack, that it had served us well for years, and that we weren't really in the market for a new hiking backpack since Alexander is the intended caboose of our little train. Getting a new backpack at this stage in the game would be somewhat pointless.

Anyway, we loaded Alexander into the backpack, which I wore for the descent, and we headed off into the rather desolate-looking landscape.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The faces of Grover

We just got back from Grover and, boy, do I have stories to tell! It is rather late, however, so in following Elder Eyring's advice to never miss a day, "no matter how tired I [am] or how early I ... have to start the next day," I'm going to go ahead and post a little bit today (and I know I didn't technically write while we were camping, but I did take notes and that's just about the same thing).

Grover is heaven for mess-loving children like mine. There's rocks, there's sticks, there's dirt. There's sticky treats and sweaty feet and sappy trees and a dusty breeze and...all things dirty. 

And they love it. 

While my older girls have somewhat outgrown little kid messes and managed to survive the entire trip looking somewhat glamorous, their younger siblings did not fare so well. In fact, they're well-practiced, rather accomplished mess-makers.

Here are Miriam and Rachel, looking fabulous (in spite of having boycotted both showers and hairbrushes for the week):

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

All the Heiss Grandkids (July 28)

We held a family dinner at our house so that everyone could come see Emily—Grandpa Frank and Grandma Pat and Matt and Becky and Nicki all came (and I'm sure I'll write more about it once I go through pictures). We were lucky enough to have all twelve grandchildren together so we took an updated picture (since Alexander and Arwyn have both changed so much since the last time we had all the grandkids together—at Thanksgiving (now that I've gone back to look at the picture I can see that they've all changed a lot since Thanksgiving)).

Here is them then:

Thanksgiving 2017

And here they are now:

July 28, 2018

Monday, August 06, 2018

Teething woes

Alexander has been teething nonstop for over a month now, but his sixth tooth is just about here and once it comes through I'm hoping we'll find some respite from his grumpiness. I can't say that I blame him for being a bit ornery because his gums have looked awfully sore, all swollen and bruised.