Monday, July 31, 2023

Conrad visits (June 14 & June 19)

My Uncle Bruce took our family out for lunch at the Cannon Center on June 14 (Uncle Patrick's birthday!). We had quite the time finding our way there because all the regular routes are under construction and we didn't know how to get into the pedestrian walkway around the construction, though Uncle Bruce knew the way and helped us find it so we could get back to our cars easier.

A day with the Heiss cousins (June 13)

Spanish Fork has funded a number of social spaces since we moved away. They built a beautiful new library, for example, as well as this beautiful splash pad. I think they got an all-abilities playground and there's talk of building a recreation center as well. Not everyone is happy about these plans, finding public spaces to be superfluous to society (I'm friends with many of these people on Facebook), but I personally love to see my tax dollars at work in this way! Public spaces are so important to communities! 

I'm sad that they didn't have anything like this while we were there, but we survived without them...and got to enjoy them when we visited!

Grandpa suggested that we spend the day at the splash pad with our cousins on Tuesday the 13th, so that's what we did! Emily had driven down from Idaho with her kids; they stayed at Uncle Jacob's house. We didn't expect Uncle Jacob to come to the splash pad (because we were under the impression that he had to work), so we were surprised when not only Emily but also Jacob showed up! It was fun to have them both there. Andrew, Emily, and Jacob had a nice little visit together while the kids played. 

Carter and Dean were with Aunt Shayla this particular day. Aunt Shayla had taken the boys to go stay at her mom's house...because Jacob just recently asked her for a divorce. But Jacob hadn't yet told any of us this (silly guy), so there was some obvious tension in the air surrounding things unsaid. I believe their split is public knowledge at this point (like, I think they've signed papers and everything). Jacob is living in a friend's basement up in the SLC area and Shayla is in the house with the boys for the time being. So, yeah...that was a bit of a...tension...throughout the day. But it seems like things are going better now. 

Anyway, Carter and Dean missed out on the fun, and we missed seeing Shayla. But the rest of the cousins present had fun together.

Below are some pictures of them playing (I'll try—but will probably fail—to limit the commentary):

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Yellowstone: Fountain Paint Pots, Black Sand Basin, Emerald Pool, and things (June 21: coauthored by Benjamin and Mom)

On Tuesday night (June 20) we slept in Rexburg, a city in Idaho, at the AmericInn where I slept on a couch. The next day we had a two hour drive to Yellowstone. It took us a long time to get to the entrance gate, but once we got inside the park things were smooth sailing. 

We started to drive a twisting mountain road. A few moments later we saw steam rising off of the hills. 

Mom said we should probably pull over to explore, so we drove down the road to investigate and stopped at a parking lot next to a trailhead. 

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Mount Rushmore (June 22)

The drive from Devils Tower, WY, to Mount Rushmore, SD, is only 2 hours and 20 minutes (130 miles or so). Alexander, who had been feeling find at Devils Tower began wilting at Mount Rushmore. 

It's been so long now that I can't quite remember which of the children got sick when. Phoebe got sick first. On a Sunday? I feel like it was on a Sunday. Was it on June 18th? Andrew ended up going home from church early with her because we realized part way through sacrament meeting that she had a fever. She was a miserable baby all day Sunday, but woke up feeling better on Monday. 

Zoë was the next child to get sick. I can't quite remember when she got sick, but her illness followed the same trajectory as Phoebe's. She felt sick for a day and then felt better. She must have been sick on Monday because I don't remember her feeling sick while we were traveling and we were counting our lucky stars until Alexander started feeling sick at Yellowstone (June 21). 

At first he attributed his feelings of malaise to breathing in vapours from the geysers and things, so he kept saying that he wanted to "get out of here," away from all the steam. Now, granted, "toxic gases may accumulate to dangerous levels in some hydrothermal areas"so he his assumption wasn't necessarily unwarranted. But everyone else seemed fine, so we were pretty confident it wasn't toxic gasses (and we didn't spend a ton of time at any particular hydrothermal area). 

But, boy, that steam was just blowing into his face and stinging his eyes! And that sulphur smell sure was giving him a headache!

It took us an embarrassing long time to realize that he had, in fact, spiked a fever and was downright miserable. (Fortunately, all our activities were outside, so we felt we were giving others plenty of fresh air around us). 

He was so happy when we finished dragging him in and out of the car at Yellowstone and let him have a big, long rest in the car while we drove through Wyoming!

The next morning he was feeling much better, as we assumed he would be (if his illness followed the same course his sisters had experienced), and was running and climbing all over everything at Devils Tower. As I mentioned, however, he began to wilt at Mount Rushmore.

Here we all are standing in front of the monument (you may also note the thunderstorm gathering behind the hills):


Friday, July 28, 2023

Zoo trip (June 16)

Knowing that she would be doing a lot of entertaining this summer, my sister Kelli bought a fancy-schmancy pass to the zoo that allowed her a generous number of guest passes, so she treated our family to zoo visit while we were out in Utah. (Later she'd take her daughter Amy and Amy's three kids, as well as some other grandkids to the zoo; she sure is a lot of fun!)

We haven't been to the zoo since June 2019—right before we moved to Georgia—the trip that ignited Alexander's passion for all things owl. He's been quite the strigiformesphile ever since!

At first I thought it was interesting that we always take pictures of the giraffes when we very first get to the zoo, but then I realized that they're the first major attraction after the entrance, so it only makes sense to start with them.

So here we are looking at the giraffes:

The Cursèd Bathroom

We have come to the conclusion that our hallway bathroom is officially cursed. 

When we bought the place, we knew we'd have to redo the bathroom floor. We still haven't done that, but we knew that we would have to do so eventually. The tiles are all just falling apart. 

For a while the shower was leaking into the basement, but we got that fixed.

And then the upstairs bathroom fell into the hallway bathroom (both bathrooms were cursed, honestly).

And then most recently we found out that we'd screwed our towel rack into a pipe in the wall. 

As we stand, our ceiling has "naked" drywall up (to replace all the drywall that fell down when the upstairs collapsed into the downstairs), the tile floor is completely cracking up, and we have a couple of lovely holes cut into our wall. 

Well, today, Zoë was washing her hands and...water started running out of the bathroom cabinet and streaming all over the floor. 

The sink pipes have completely corroded and just...popped apart! 

To fix it, I think we'll have to do something like this (which doesn't look too complicated):

For now we just have a big "OUT OF ORDER" sign taped to the faucet. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Springville Museum of Art (June 15)

Uncle Rod has a lovely piece on exhibition at the Springville Museum of Art, so visiting the museum was on our list of things we had to do while in Utah. We unfortunately didn't get to see Uncle Rod in person, but it was fun to see his photograph. 

Monday, July 24, 2023

When is a $30 towel rack a $600 towel rack?

We came home from Utah to a leaky basement and ten billion fruit flies in the kitchen. 

Finding the cause of the fruit fly problem was relatively quick and easy—we'd left a singular banana on the kitchen counter. And then let it sit in the house for three weeks. So...fruit flies. 

We're still battling them a bit, but they're much better controlled than they were when we first arrived home. They were everywhere. Why did we leave a solitary banana to rot on the counter? I'm sure I had planned on feeding it to Phoebe with breakfast, or something. And then didn't.

Much like the cucumbers in the fridge that I had meant to prepare to take with us...and then didn't...

Anyway, the fruit fly problem was easy to diagnose. The drip? Not so much. 

Friday, July 21, 2023

Strm damage and sblng beatngs (and thngs)

I'm supposed to be working on my thesis right now, and I am! But I'm also taking a quick break to write a few funny stories about our day. Because those are important, too. Perhaps more important? Like so many things in life that are seemingly less pressing but ultimately more important. 

I really ought to hurry though because we're under a severe thunderstorm warning (it's already getting dark and stormy outside) and we all know what happened last time we were under a severe thunderstorm warning. To that end, allow me to share some pictures of Grandpa's house and yard (which suffered quite a bit more than our house and yard):

The tree that is resting horizontally in this picture? It used to be vertical.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Rachel is 16!

Today was Rachel's birthday and in the spirit of Throwback Thursday, we had a massive storm roll through right at dinner time, which knocked out the power, so we celebrated her birthday in the dark...just like we did four years ago!

Fortunately, Miriam had already finished decorating the cake and Andrew had already finished cooking dinner, so all we really had to do was break out the candles and finish eating. The lights flicked off and on a few times before snapping off completely. This was soon followed by a big crash, which set half the table to screaming. 

Grandpa was sure our house had been hit by lightning, but it was only a branch that had landed on our roof. Alexander and Zoë were already panicking and Phoebe evidently wasn't feeling too safe, either, when I decided to stand up to find the emergency candles. At that point Phoebe started screaming bloody murder, so I sent Rachel and Miriam down into the basement to find the candles while I calmed down the children. And then we all finished our dinner (which was orange chicken, made by Andrew (who didn't eat any because he doesn't like chicken)).

After we finished eating we got the cake ready...and went outside to assess the damage to our house (which all seemed to be superficial, thank goodness—when Grandpa went home he discovered that his neighbour had two big trees topple, though both trees decided to land away from any buildings, which was good news).

Here's the cake that Miriam made for Rachel:

Sweet Alexander

This morning (after catching up on reading the blog), Alexander spontaneously ran to me, gave me a big hug, and said, "Mom, thank you for creating Heissatopia! Because I love to read it and remember good memories about our family!"

I realize that sounds nothing like what a five-year-old kid might say, but rest assured that Alexander often talks like a 90-year-old man and he routinely melts me into a puddle of sentimental goo. 

The other night I heard my door creaking shut around 3:00 in the morning. 

Quizzically, Phoebe was not in bed with us yet and I knew it was not her in the hallway because the light flicked on and then off really quick. I decided to get up and investigate what was going on and found Alexander slowly turning circles in his bedroom. He was suffering in terrified confusion, unsure of what his next move would be. 

"What's up, buddy?" I whispered.

"Oh, Mom! You're awake! Good!"

"What's going on?"

"Well, I woke up and it was dark and I was afraid! I tried to turn on our fairy lights but it's so dark that I couldn't find the switch, so I thought I would turn on the hallway light—but I made sure to close your door first so that I wouldn't disturb you with the light—but then when I turned the hallway light on it was too bright even for me, so I turned it off and then my eyes felt like things were even darker than before and I want to go back to sleep but I really need a light on and I don't know what to do!"

I helped him switch on the fairy lights (a string of gently-glowing LED lights), tucked him back into bed, and didn't hear from him until the morning. 

He's just the sweetest little thing though.

(I mean, sure, he has his rough and tumble moments, but overall he's just the sweetest little thing!)

Goblin Valley (June 9)

First, I should warn you that there are a million pictures from our short stop in Goblin Valley. And although Goblin Valley is a whole lot of fun to visit...there's not really a big variety of things to do there. You just kind around in the desert...and climb on hoodoos and things.

This means that pictures will very likely outweigh my text. This happens routinely with my Goblin Valley posts.

To quote from my 2012-self

Even though Goblin Valley is an interesting place to hike around and explore it's apparently not a very interesting place to write about—I believe I ran into the same problem while discussing Goblin Valley last year [when I said "the trip could be summed up as: we climbed on rocks—a lot"].

In short, we climbed on things, we jumped off of things, we played in the dirt, and we got hot and sweaty.

This year was no exception. We hiked around. We climbed on things. We had a blast. And...yup.

There are, however, a few important stories to share...

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Potty training (day 12)

After being so excited that day 3 of potty training went so well, we certainly hit a rough patch. I do not care to mention or dwell on days 4, 5, 6, 7... of potty training. They were frustrating and often seemed to be one long accident. But, we seem to have turned another corner and things are going a little better.

Phoebe still refuses to say "potty."

She can say "tomato." But she won't say "potty." Here she is eating a lovely ripe tomato she stole from the garden. She's eaten nearly every tomato we've grown!

Loveland Living Planet Aquarium and visiting Kayl (June 17th; A guest post by Miriam)

The drive to the Aquarium was pretty smooth. Even though it was our first "long" drive all being crammed into our van together, there wasn't very much fighting, and Phoebe was pretty good. We got there a little earlier than Naanii, Bumpa, and Josie, so we were walking around the outside, which had an interesting structure, a surplus stage from a U2 concert that the Aquarium bought.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

One inch

We've been discussing what we want to read and learn about this coming school year. The kids want to do some mythology stuff and Shakespeare was thrown out as well, so I thought a good place to start might be with The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. That would get us into both Shakespeare and would lend itself to studying the history and mythology of the Roman Empire. 

So I ordered some books for us to have on hand and a few of them came in today. Andrew opened the packages and brought them to me. One of the books surprised me. 

"Huh. This is shorter than I thought," I remarked. 

"So is Dad!" Rachel quipped. "He's only 5'11"!"

Andrew's jaw dropped—that girl's comedic timing is impeccable!—and he doubled over with laughter.

You see, he has always claimed to be 6 feet tall...but he's not! 

We were doing a family activity on human body ratios a while ago and we learned that typically your arm span is equal to your height from head to toe, so we measured everyone's arm span and Andrew's came up an inch short.

He was certain this would prove that his arms were, perhaps, a little on the short side, but when we measured everyone's height against the wall...he still came up as 5'11". 

He had us measure several times, but no matter which measuring tape we used, or who did the measuring, or how we measured...he was always 5 feet 11 inches. 

So we've been teasing him about this for several months now...and I'm not sure when we'll stop.

Devils Tower (June 22, a guest post by Benjamin)

The time that we arrived at the monument was just perfect it was approximately two hours before all off the people and tourists started to arrive. We could just park literally anywhere, so we chose a parking spot a little walk away from the visitors center (we did not go in it; we took the booklets from a news stand outside, and mom took the badges from a box that said Junior Ranger Supplies (Mom edit: Hey, if they didn't want us to take them, then they wouldn't have left them out in public like that (and I made sure the kids did the work))).

One interesting thing is that more than twenty tribes in the area want to rename the monument because the tower which they call Bear Lodge is a sacred place for them so the word devil in the name is offensive to them. A misinterpretation made the name Bear Lodge into Bad Gods Tower, which was made into Devils Tower by some dumb interpreter.

After we got the books we realized that there were no pencils so we decided to do them in the car after we were done at the monument. 

At 865 feet tall it is a behemoth but people still climb it! Wow! 

It does not take days to climb but if you are adventures and like climbing and have a few spare hours on your bucket list then do it with the help of a ranger. 

Another cool thing to see in June is all of the healing prayer cloths. 

I know they are pretty  but do not take pictures with them; it is disrespectful. The National Park Service even put signs down so that people will not do that in June, which I think is like prayer month or something (see above for a picture of one of the signs). 

Another thing you can do is try to see the aliens (which Grandpa joked about a lot).


The following is by Mom, not Ben

Monday, July 17, 2023

The Red Shirt

On Friday morning my dad texted my mom a message from work that was ultimately perplexing (yet rather uninformative): "really really sick can't drive go to room one hospital. send."

So she went to the hospital, but he wasn't here. When they saw the text she got, they started calling around but couldn't seem to locate him at any nearby hospitals. 

Finally he answered my mom's text asking for clarification to tell her more of his symptoms and that he had checked into a hotel room (at the hotel that he works at) so that he could sleep it off, but that he was too sick to even sleep, and that he would really like to go to the hospital. 

So my mom went to the hotel to pick him up to take him to the hospital.

His heart rate was off, so they gave him an EKG (because his heart is a going concern), but although his heart rate was off, they didn't seem to think his heart was the problem. So they gave him a CT scan (or CAT scan or something) and found that his gallbladder was severely inflamed and full of kidney stones and that it would have to come out immediately.

Now, my friend Shallee also had an emergency surgery for her gallbladder this weekend. She went in on Saturday and they held her overnight for an emergency surgery the following day. She went home Sunday afternoon.

They didn't wait at all for my dad, just pulled my dad into surgery immediately. Like, "Let's cut this guy open!" 

So he had surgery on Friday and has just been in a bad way since then. I was starting to get concerned about sepsis or something because his white blood cell count was elevated and didn't seem to be responding to the antibiotics they had been administering through his IV (his white blood cell count was 19000 on Friday when he was admitted and by Sunday it was only down to 18000 (normal is like 4000 (with anything over 10000 being concerning)). 

But today his white blood cell count is "borderline" and he's feeling...better...though he still hasn't managed to keep any food down at all (so that's still an issue). 

He has been up for texting and things, though, which he hadn't been all weekend, so I thought it would be a good time to do a 16th anniversary of the red shirt he gifted Rachel when she was a wee baby, shortly before he went in for an emergency triple bypass surgery. 

I can't even remember what size it was meant to be, but all of my kids have worn it around age two (anywhere from 12 months to 4 years, honestly). 

Here's Phoebe wearing it tonight, with all of her siblings who wore it before her:

Friday, July 14, 2023

Antelope Island with Auntie K (June 16; a guest post by Zoë)

Me and Ben went to Antelope Island with Auntie K because two certain somebodies thought it would be funny to make me and Alex stand on a fake geyser at the playground at the zoo.😒😒

[Mom edit: That was me and Dad. We thought it would be funny to tell Alexander and Zoë to stand on the fake geyser at the splash pad because they were being mopey-dopes. So they did stand on the geyser and it was kind of funny when the geyser went off...but, boy, were they mad!]

Alex couldn’t go in Auntie K’s car, because his car seat was hard to move, so Ben took his place. My car seat was easy to move, because it’s a Mi-Fold, so I went in Auntie K’s car too. 

[Mom edit: I'm not sure that this excursion was specifically to make up for getting the kids wet. I think it was more simply because Auntie K wanted to spend more time with those two. Below is a picture of them hanging out of the sunroof of her car after Zoë's baptism (the car was not moving at the time). They're just at the perfect age where they can have a lot of fun (aren't moody teens) and can buckle their own seatbelts and things (aren't toddlers).]

Pre-Birthday Celebrations (June 19)

On our last evening in Utah, we went to my parents' house for a little pre-birthday celebration (since my birthday would be happening somewhere in South Dakota). Kelli picked up some cupcakes from a place called The Sweet Tooth Fairy (or something like that, I think). She got an assortment of cupcakes, including some individually-wrapped gluten-free cupcakes for herself. 

They were very yummy!

My mom had the brilliant idea to take a group picture at the start of the evening—when everyone was (1) present and accounted for, and (2) relatively happy. My dad has a tendency to get peopled-out and sneak away, but we wanted to make sure he was there for the pictures. And goodbyes can get ugly and weepy. A third benefit was that we wouldn't end up forgetting to take them!

BYU Museums (June 12)

It's possible that my sister Kelline was the most excited person to have our family visit Utah. She must have driven down from Layton a handful of times! She came to Zoë's baptism, she came for "museum day," she came to the Heiss gathering, she drove Benjamin and Zoë back after their post-zoo excursion, she drove down to deliver birthday cupcakes and say goodbye—by my calculations, that's a handful of times! It's at least an hour one way, so that was quite a lot of driving that she did for us, not to mention all the fun things she planned for us to do!

On Monday she ended up having a couple of her grandkids for the day (long story*), so she invited us to visit some of BYU's museums with them. We ended up being late (which is quite the feat considering we were staying only 15–20 minutes away and my sister had to drive an hour), so they already enjoyed the Museum of Peoples and Cultures without us. We met them at the Museum of Paleontology. 

Here are pictures of my four youngest kids:

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Center Steet (June 12)

We stayed at Aunt Linda and Uncle Trevor's house in Spanish Fork while we were in Utah. This allowed the kids to get together with their old friends (specifically Rachel, but also—though to a lesser degree—Miriam, Benjamin, and Zoë) and for us to visit our old stomping grounds. 

One evening we took the kids on our old "loop" walk, where we looked for goatheads, sunflowers, thistles, and darkling beetles. We really struck out on the plants (though we weren't very sad about missing out on goatheads) but the darkling beetles were out in full force. 

Benjamin bravely picked one up:

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Heiss Family Gathering (June 14; a guest post by Rachel)

On June 14th, we planned to have a family gathering outside at the neighborhood park after a brief organ recital at the church. Unfortunately, that day it decided to rain at the exact time we’d planned to have it (it was quite stormy the whole time we were in Utah, which was strange). This complicated our plans. We hadn’t reserved the gym in the church, but we decided we’d try to gather there anyway and leave if anyone else needed it right then, which was unlikely. 

While we waited for people to show up, we played duck duck goose, Simon Says, and parachute games with the kids (resulting in only minimal tears!). It took some of them a while to actually understand how Simon Says works; when Ben was it we told him that he had to try to get people out and he gasped and went, “But why would I want to trick them?!” I think all the little cousins had a lot of fun together, though! 

Monday, July 10, 2023

Potty training (day 3)

Today Phoebe only had one accident, so I guess she's pretty committed to the idea of potty training. So committed, in fact, that she didn't go potty at all between the hours of 11:00 am and 4:00 pm!

I mean, sure—she sat on the potty (often). She just wouldn't go!

It was getting to the point where she really needed to go down for a nap...but I just couldn't put her down yet because she refused to empty her bladder...and I was getting a little desperate. But she finally did her business and then went down for a quick pre-dinner nap. 

Just for comparison's sake

 Here's Miriam and Phoebe side-by-side:

Grover and Capitol Reef (June 7–9)

We left the Grand Canyon around noon, stopping in Kanab around 3:30 for our traditional lunch of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, as well as a quick grocery run so we could eat while we were at Grover.

Here are the kids enjoying their food:

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Mission completion!

I submitted my thesis to my advisor last night (Friday night).

Technically it was 2:00 am on Saturday morning (just as the Alamo was closing)). 

Technically I had until Monday, but Andrew encouraged me to finish up sooner so that I wouldn't have to worry about it all weekend. And that was probably a smart move because it did feel nice to wake up this morning knowing that I didn't need to touch it.

Now, I'll still have to make edits on it (and I'm not completely looking forward to that process), but for right now all I can do is sit tight.

My kids were all excited for "when I'm done with my thesis" because I've been saying that for so long, putting off all the things I couldn't do before because I had to work on my thesis. 

Turns out the first thing on my list of things to do "when I'm done with my thesis" was to make the kids help me deep clean the bathrooms and organize the storage room, so they were all like, "Ugh, can't you go work on your thesis some more instead?"

Roadtrip Day 3: San Antonio, June 5 (a guest post by Miriam)

We started bright and early; we had a long drive ahead of us, and we wanted to get to Downtown San Antonio before it got too hot, and we had tickets to go in the church at 9:00. The day before, we read about Davy Crockett and the Alamo (the "Who Was" books for them), so we considered ourselves well educated about the subject. We were down in the lobby eating breakfast by 7:30, with the cars already packed. We weren't super worried about it getting too hot, because that morning it was in the 30's, and Dad could see his breath, but by the time we got there, it was the perfect temperature. 

It took us a little while to figure out where to park, but we eventually found some parking on the street. Here's Zoë pretending to drive the car while Mom was executing a diaper change (Phoebe got really good at car diaper changes while we were on this trip!).

You can see Dad and Grandpa figuring out how to pay for parking while all this was going on.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Thesis Report! Thesis Report! (Thesis Report!)

Andrew has dubbed this week "Thesis Week"—the week in which I make the final push to finish my manuscript...which is currently sitting at 144 pages. He printed out my thesis so that I could go completely old school and read my words not on the screen. That's a thick pile of paper!

Monday, July 03, 2023

A day in my life as the wife of a data scientist...

Andrew—of course—went all in on keeping statistics as we made our way across the country and back. He started out keeping copious notes about start and stop times...before he realized that our cell phones track all that information anyway and he could simply harvest that data and analyze it later. 

And that's exactly what he did, which is equal parts fascinating and terrifying. 

Our phones have information about where we are right down to the millisecond of every day, right down to the latitude and longitude of every footstep. It's...wild...and fascinating.

Anyway, if you want to read about all the statistics of our trip (including about the moment I cut the kids off from (sugary) beverages because we were stopping for potty breaks every half hour) you can read Andrew's blog post here.

That link will skip you right past all the coding tutorials he included at the top (so you don't have to wade through those). 

The Grand Canyon (June 7; a guest post by Benjamin)

The drive out to the grand canyon was pretty bleak for the last half of the drive the first half we were driving on this mountain road with trees all around us then about an hour on that road we started to descend and suddenly we were in a beautiful mountain meadow with only a couple houses scattered about. (we were on the Indian reservation) and I just thought “this is so peaceful.” With some cows in the distance grazing it was a sight to behold. Then a few moments later we smelled smoke and thought, “What!? Smoke!” Then we realized that it was probably prescribed burning to protect from even bigger fires. 

When we got to the canyon we could not go to the visitors center because it was closed so we had to go to this bookstore that was open to get our junior ranger books. 

Rainbows (a guest post by Miriam)

After our Carlsbad adventure, we realized that we would not make it to the hotel in time for dinner. We would make it there around 11:30 pm, and we were still slightly jet-lagged from crossing over time zones, so it would feel like 2:30 am, so we decided to find a McDonalds somewhere. We chose Gallup, NM, as our stopping place.

[Mom edit: That may have been a mistake.]

We had to stop at a gas station in Albuquerque, because Phoebe was being a pill, but while we were there, it started getting really windy. Like really windy. So all of us rushed back to the cars, and tried to get on the freeway as quickly as possible. It started pouring almost right as we got onto the freeway, and the lightning was crazy. We didn't hear any thunder, because the rain was too loud. 

Also because it wasn't just rain hitting the car, there was also hail. The hail didn't last very long, but it was very loud. It kept raining for a long time, and only lessened about 30 minutes before Gallup. This was a very big storm that stretched across almost all of New Mexico, and it hit Gallup as well, and so everything was still very wet when we got there. 

While Dad and Grandpa were inside getting our food, we were all huddled in our car as it was about 50 degrees outside, and still sort of sprinkling. But we saw a rainbow outside, and had to get out to see it! 

Carlsbad & Caverns (June 5th and 6th, a guest post by Miriam)

After we got out of San Antonio, things got really boring. It was all just flat and desert-y. I don't remember a lot of Texas, as it all looked the same. I remember that we got of the car at least twice, once for a bathroom break, and once for lunch. I don't remember lunch at all.

During the bathroom break, we got out and walked around the gas station, and then stood next to a rock bed to let the little people play for a while. Phoebe loves rocks, so she was enjoying herself. She was picking up rocks saying "This? This?" She picked up a somewhat sizable rock and was struggling to hold it so we told her to put it down. She very obediently said: "Bup!" (which means yes), and then summoned all her strength and chucked it at Alex's head! Luckily, she is a baby and can't aim very well, but we were inches away from disaster!

When we got to New Mexico, everything looked the same as Texas, there were just more trains and oil/gas pumps out in the desert. There were still billboards though, for things that were 60 or more miles away.

We got to the hotel at a very reasonable time, around 5:30, so we had dinner, and got ready to go to the pool. I didn't, as I was going shopping for sandwich supplies for the next day with Grandpa, and it was a very good thing that I didn't, because when we got back, I went to the pool and it. was. disgusting. It smelled like cows, the water was tinged brown, there were multiple cigarette butts and bandaids, and it was just gross. I didn't get in, but all the kids did, so they all showered when we went back to our rooms.

The next morning, we all got up and packed up the car (as much as we could) and headed to breakfast. Then we piled in the car for a 30 minute drive to the actual Caverns. We got there at like, 9:00, which is half an hour earlier than our allotted entrance to the Caverns, so we were able to do some of the Junior Ranger booklets. We also enjoyed the view and spotted some wildlife.

[Mom edit: We were all blown away by how far we could see from up on the mountainside. We've been living in such a tree-filled area of the world that we're not even sure what a horizon looks like. This view took our breath away.]

Sunday, July 02, 2023

Zoë's baptism (June 10)

Zoë chose to be baptized in Utah so that she could have family members attend, which I think was an excellent decision! It was lovely to have family witness her special day.

Saturday, July 01, 2023

More wasp stuff

I forgot to include any pictures in my last post, so here are a few...

This is Benjamin's back immediately after his shower:

I think I see six or seven stings there, so not too bad. He has 3 or 4 on his stomach. At least three on his left arm. One on one of his fingers. His legs easily have 10 to 15 bites between the two of them—those things were crawling right up his pant legs.

He was a pretty miserable boy.

Considering our neighbour sustained three stings herself and reported that her entire legs felt like they were on fire, I'm pretty sure Benjamin was in a world of pain. He mostly watched television or played video games for the rest of the morning with ice packs tucked here, there, and everywhere.

He was interested in the stories people were sharing on Facebook, so I'll put a couple here:

Would you wear a yellowjacket?

Upon reaching the ripe ol' age of eleven, Benjamin decided it was time for him to become a working man. The best way to do this, he decided after the first time he mowed the lawn, was by doing yard work. He's absolutely my best helper in the yard, so this conclusion made sense. Unaided, he made up a flyer for "Ben's Yard Service" (just one) and walked around to show it to the neighbours.

To his delight he was immediately hired for several tasks—picking up sticks, clearing weeds from this pathway, spraying deer deterrent. 

Turns out there are a lot of things grown ups don't really want to do! 

Fortunately for us, we have a bunch of teenage-sized kids around who will do those tasks for us. Our neighbours are less lucky. Their kids are either grown and gone or are too little to do manual labour of this scope, which just leaves them to do it on their own.

And that right there was Benjamin's brilliant market niche. 

Or whatever.