Sunday, December 27, 2009

Church on the Edge

Today is Sunday which, since moving to a small branch, is always full of surprises. Today Gary and I didn't play the attendance game. Instead, we should have played the "How Long Will Church Be?" game. Here, you never know.

We attend a non-traditional two-hour block consisting of one hour for Sacrament Meeting and the remainder split between Sunday School and Relief Society/Priesthood. That is the norm for most Sundays but, occasionally, the block schedule is adjusted. Today was one of those days.

Our speakers were scheduled to come from Flagstaff. No one called our Branch President to confirm they were coming which was our first hint. We don't generally know who is coming from Flagstaff unless it is High Council Sunday. When the time came for the speakers, they still had not come so, our Branch President called on a visitor who was recently baptized to bear her testimony and that would be the entire meeting. Thirty minutes give or take a couple and we were on to Sunday School - our two-hour block shortened to 90 minutes. Some Sundays the weather has us just attend the first hour. Other Sundays we make it the entire two. You just never know living on the edge like we do.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's All Fun and Games Until.......

Christmas Eve plus a foot of new snow in the past few days equals one thing: tubing! We have a great tubing hill right in our neighborhood and, since we are the only little kids in the neighborhood, the lines are pretty short.

Getting the little ones ready is half the battle. Dylan thinks he looks GOOOOOD in his over the knee socks and onesie though.

It was a good thing he also added more layers. The snow is pretty deep. He is standing up in this shot. I know he isn't really tall but the snow this winter is almost unbelievable.

Dylan loved going down the hill. Who could blame him? He rode down and was hauled back up on the sled he rode down on. It was fun both directions!
This is Logan and Ethan at the bottom of the hill. They decided to go snow swimming and see how far they could get. Their energy for swimming ran out long before the undisturbed snow.
Ethan loves tubing. He climbs his little legs back up the hill after each run and can almost carry his tube too.
Toward the end, Dylan's patience began to wear out. He wanted to go down the hill now! and wasn't waiting for Gary or the sled. Ethan was at the bottom of the hill calling him and Dylan would yell back, "I coming Eth, I coming!"

Logan and Thomas started jumping off the sled at the bottom into the fresh powder. That was the beginning of .....
snow throws. Dylan kept asking for his turn so Gary threw him into the snow. He loved the throwing part.
Not so much the snow in the face landing part.

Ethan couldn't get enough of it. He laughed the whole time and loved landing in the deep, soft snow.

Getting out of the hole was a different story. It's hard when you have short legs.
Logan could do it over and over. Gary could throw them pretty far.

It started to look like they fell from the sky. Not close enough to any foot prints to look like they'd jumped and little other explanation of how they got there.

It was a pretty fun two hours. It all came to a screeching halt on the almost last run down the mountain. Ethan and Dylan were at the bottom and Gary, Thomas, Logan and myself were taking the big black sled on a fast run to see how far we could go with all the weight we had piled in. It's a goose decoy sled and does have quite a bit of room but we discovered the space limit. We piled in, biggest to smallest, and off we went. About a third of the way down the hill was a slight bump, not launch you into the air bump but enough you knew it was there each time. That was our demise.

We hit the bump and Logan, at the front of the sled, fell out. Not overboard, out of the way. Not out but with a leg or arm still in front of the fast moving sled. Not even half out dragging behind. Out, face first into the snow with the sled immediately behind him with no where to go but over him. We ran right over the top of him and, there he was, face first in the snow with sled tracks up his back.

"I had my eyes open, Dad, and I could see everything and then it all just went black."

The good news is that he is okay. The bad news is that he now tells people he was "road kill" and we aren't totally sure if he ended up with a concussion from the ordeal. A Christmas story to remember.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snow, Snow, and More Snow

The snow fall this winter has been amazing. Being new to the Canyon, I'm not sure if it is an abnormal year - like Gary keeps assuring this non-lover of snow - or if it is how each winter will be but, man oh man have we gotten snow!

It started snowing again yesterday and continued last night. The trees are again covered. They had begun to drop the snow from their branches after the last "dusting" of snow. This time we have well over a foot of fresh white snow to cover the foot we had left from the last storm. I thought I'd post some pictures of our back and front yards this morning.

Off of our front porch. The accumulation on railing post happened after the boys were done playing outside yesterday evening.

This is pointing toward our neighbor's houses out our front door.

This is the back yard. The tree branch was already bent so I don't think it's going to drop anytime soon but it does look ominous with all the snow on it doesn't it?

If you look closely, you can see the frame of our trampoline and the rocking chair I had on our front porch in Chubbuck.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow Shoeing to Grandview

We started the day optimistic. Believing that our children would LOVE the family bonding moment we had planned. Believing they would be energetic. Believing they would WANT to make it to our destination. Believing they would enjoy every last moment without whine or complaint. Believing because, after all, isn't that what the season is all about?

The preparations were in full swing when the first chink in our optimistic armour happened. Dylan did not want to wear his boots. He did not want to wear his fleece lined coveralls. He did not want to wear his snow pants. He absolutely, positively did NOT want to ride in the sled. He wanted the backpack. The backpack that wasn't going. The backpack that the kid has outgrown especially in full snow gear. The backpack that hangs in the shed and will probably be looking for a new home next summer.

We set off for the Grandview turn off and hadn't left the driveway before Ethan was wailing. Not whimpering. Not crying. Not sobbing. Wailing. Something about leaving his Leapster home and not being able to play the DS - why won't Christmas get here so this won't be an issue anymore - and Tom and Logan playing Mario when he wanted to more. The wailing continued for quite some time. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the turn off and he was still pretty upset by the time we got there. The tune had changed slightly though. He no longer wailed about the injustices of no Leapster and DS and began to wail about wanting to be there NOW. Oh to be four.

Not to be deterred, Gary and I laughed about the two little ones and knew, no, believed that this was going to be a memory of joyful Christmas break adventures in the Grand Canyon. One the boys would look back on for years to come and, one day, when they had kids of their own, tell the story of snow shoeing in the National Park.

We unloaded the car and loaded up the sled. Gary strapped five pair of snow shoes on five pair of warm boots. He put Dylan in the sled on top of the foam pad and sleeping bag to keep him warm. We put on gloves and hats and zipped coats. We loaded hot chocolate and water, sandwiches and cookies into the sled and off we went down the road to Grandview.

Grandview lookout tower is about two miles down the road. This was to be our destination. The destination with a little house waiting to warm our toes and invite us in to drink hot cocoa. The destination with perfect family picture spots to chronicle our amazing journey into the wilderness in the winter in our snow shoes. This was a perfect destination. Two miles? No problem.

Slight problem. About twenty feet down the trail, Ethan was tired. His legs "couldn't go any more" and all he wanted was to ride in the sled. The sled that Gary was pulling behind him loaded with hot chocolate and water and extra clothing and snacks and lunch and, most importantly, Dylan. He really, really, really wanted to be in the sled. He wanted it so much, in fact, that he reminded us every three steps. After a very long, snow packed, no incline what so ever, half mile, Gary gave in and loaded Ethan into the sled. The optimism began to wane about reaching our destination.

Dylan, not pleased about sharing his now coveted sled, wanted out. He wanted to walk. He wanted to be carried. He wanted to just sit on the trail. Anything but riding next to Ethan. He eventually ended up on Gary's shoulders. I don't know how Gary did it, carrying Dylan on his shoulders while pulling the sled with Ethan and all the gear.

We made it about a mile and a quarter before the optimism ceased to exist. We weren't going to reach the destination. We would be having hot cocoa on the side of the trail. We had been going for about an hour and the boys were done. To be honest, my legs were a bit done as well and McKay, who early on in the journey had been leaping and bounding through the untouched snow, was now staying firmly on the packed trail and staying close to Gary - the owner of the keys.

We stopped and had our treat and began heading back to the car. Gary put the two little ones back in the sled together and Tom and Logan started running down the trail. The running continued for about twenty minutes before they found a coveted hiding spot and tried to ambush us with snow balls.

After Gary passed the hide-out, Tom and Logan began to fall behind. Far enough behind that Gary had Ethan in the car before we got to the parking lot. Ethan and Dylan had both fallen soundly asleep on the way back to the car. Less whining and complaining. Less movement in the sled. Less room for McKay to ride and boy did she want to at this point! More dead weight for Gary to pull. We ate our sandwiches on the way home in the car. Memories? Maybe. Idyllic? Maybe not. Will we attempt it again? Absolutely!

Thomas loves being outside. He never complains about being cold or tired. He loves to do it all!

Logan was the first one off through the untouched snow as soon as he got his snow shoes on.

Once Ethan saw his shoes, he was so excited to get out running. He kept it up too, for about two minutes.

Dylan, "His Highness," didn't really mind riding around on his sled as soon as he got in it. Who could blame him with the padding and the lack of exertion?

McKay did awesome. The first half of the hike, you wouldn't even know she was ten year's old. I don't think she'll be moving much tonight and tomorrow though.

Logan and his dramatic falls. Most of his falls were just for effect, like this one.

After riding in the sled for a mile or so, Ethan and Dylan really needed a rest.

Logan was pretending to be asleep in the snow. Brrrr......

Hot cocoa break never sounded so sweet as it did at this point in our hike. The boys could sit down and get right back up. I needed Gary to pull me out of the snowbank!

My little Tommy Boy is growing up!

The family at the end of our hike in. Now for the hike out.

Ethan and Dylan intertwined in the sled. It must have been comfortable because they both fell asleep in this position! Dylan stayed asleep while Gary got Ethan out and then took off Dylan's boots and coat. The poor kid was all sorts of tuckered out from riding in the sled and on Gary's shoulders.

A sight I never thought I'd see. Five pair of snowshoes drying out after a day in the snow and all belonging to my little family.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Fun Pre-Church Game

Moving to a small branch brings a lot of changes. One that we've found kind of fun has to do with attendance. While living in a ward, we'd often say things like, "So and so isn't going to be there today." It didn't really upset the entire functionality of the meeting though. Our branch is slightly different.

We now play the "How Many People do You Think" game before church. We are usually within a couple people of guessing the entire meeting attendance. Today we guessed 15 and 16 came. Six of those came from our house. The snow was pretty bad when we were getting ready for church and our Primary President called to say she wouldn't be there and neither would her assistant because of the road conditions. She was calling us because we were the only Primary kids that would be there today. She also happens to be the branch organist so I knew I would be playing prelude music while praying for the only other person in our branch who knows how to play the piano to come. The boys just don't sit still all alone very well and Gary now sits on the stand as part of the Branch Presidency.

The weather was bad enough today that our High Council speaker from Flagstaff couldn't make it up either so the Branch President's wife - also the Relief Society President, and the clerk filled in with last minute talks. After Sacrament meeting we were all (our family and two other sisters who hadn't already done their tithing settlement) asked to stay long enough to do our tithing settlement and go home. Our two hour block shortened to one. It's definitely a change from a big ward!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Tree 2009

This year the boys did all the ornaments on our Christmas tree. It made up for not going to cut it this year. This is the first year I think Gary and I have purchased our Christmas tree but next year we'll be back out there chopping it down! Things were just too hectic to find a spot and get into town to get our permit this year. I think the boys did a great job with the tree though and they all helped each other too. The Christmas spirit is here at last!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Holly, Jolly Hiker and other Christmas Tunes

Wednesday night, the boys had the elementary school Christmas concert at the main visitor center. They sang some great Grand Canyon style Christmas carols like the Holly Jolly Hiker, The Twelve Days of Christmas - Grand Canyon style, and Bridie the Burro to the tune of Frosty the Snowman.
After singing for about 30 minutes, the big man came. It was so fun watching the younger kids light up and the older ones scrambling to get their mental Christmas lists together.

Ethan was saying something to Santa about being old and losing all his hair so Santa had to show him that it was real.

Dylan didn't want anything to do with Santa until I told him they were giving out candy canes to the kids that sat on his lap. All Dylan said was, "I like candy!" and then he wanted to stand in line. You can't tell from this picture, but he walked up all by himself and let Santa pick him up and put him on his lap. That's when he realized he wanted to be ANYWHERE but there.

Logan was all about being cool. He had a pretty sore knee from landing on a nail in the snow a few days before but somehow managed to push through the pain and give Santa his list.

Tom's face says it all. He really wants to be on Santa's lap but is at that sad crossroads of being too big at the same time. I can't believe he is as old as he is already!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Signs of the Season

On Monday, the snow began falling. It wasn't the big, heavy flakes that I usually think of when I think a lot of snow is coming, but it kept snowing all day. By noon, the school sent out the notification that school would release the kids two hours early and they would plan on at least a two-hour delay for Tuesday's start. And, the snow kept falling.

By five, Gary had the boys on a sled tied to the four-wheeler and began pulling them around the Forest Service Compound. They LOVED every minute of it. Once I got outside, all four boys were in the sled together and Gary and I were on the four wheeler. And, the snow kept falling.

By 6:00, it was getting dark and colder and we really needed to feed the kids, so we came in and began the process of undressing four soaking wet and cold boys. This is what the fireplace will look like all winter I'm guessing. And, the snow kept falling.
By Tuesday morning, school was cancelled and Tom's prayers were answered. He had been praying for snow for days and not just a little bit of snow - lots and lots of snow. It finally quit snowing and we were left with about 18 inches of beautiful snow. Before it started on Monday, we had NOTHING, zip, zilch, nada. Now, we look like a winter wonderland.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Can You Say Oops?

We've been working on painting again. It isn't easy to paint around four little people and keep the paint where it is suppose to be. We had done a pretty good job all day. Painted the hall two coats, touched up a couple high traffic areas in the kitchen, and started painting the one wall we had planned to paint in the living room. I am in charge of all the cut in and Gary does the roller after I'm done. I was up on my trusty step ladder with the bucket of paint on the ever-so-trusty shelf when........

It all happened it slow motion but I was unable to move. The shelf gave way, my bucket dropped, and paint was everywhere. Gary did his best to get it off our front door but our door may now get a fresh coat of white paint. At least none of it got on the couch!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Polar Express

Every year, the Grand Canyon Railway transforms into the Polar Express, complete with hot cocoa and cookies served by chef's on the train, Santa's village, and a visit from the special man himself. Gary and I had talked about wanting to go but figured it would be next year at the earliest. The tickets can be quite pricey. That's when being the entire Primary in the branch paid off in a big way. A member of our branch works for the company that runs the Polar Express and they were offering tickets to their employees and their families for their last training run before it opened to the public. She immediately called her boss to see if she could extend the offer to her "church family" and, once she had the stamp of approval, we were set.

It was such an adventure! We met at our house and drove to Williams together. Star Broward and Cheryl Jacob joined us for the trip and we couldn't have asked for better company. About ten minutes outside of Williams - it's about an hour drive - Ethan said he didn't feel well. I blew it off to being tired. First mistake. Two seconds later, he said he felt like he was going to throw up. Gary couldn't stop for a minute or so. Second mistake. Poor Star was in the backseat right next to him. Third mistake. He threw up all over himself and we pulled over as soon as there was a spot. Poor guy drank his whole juice box in about ten seconds and it make him sick we think.

Luckily, we had a spare pare of pj's for him in case he had an accident on the train. In about five minutes we had him changed, the car cleaned up, everyone buckled back in and were on the road. It was record time. Thank goodness he didn't share the joy with Star and she, being a grandma herself, was very gracious and understanding. I think Cheryl was more than grateful she had the other door and didn't sit next to Ethan!

Once we got to Williams, we hurried to the train and got on with only about ten minutes to spare. Whew! It was so fun. The train was built in 1923 so it was a real treat to be on such a treasure. Okay, so I love trains.
Here are the boys right before the train started going. Logan kept that look most of the night and Tom was pretty much along for the ride. The little two though, got more and more excited every minute.

We started moving and the chefs passed out hot cocoa and cookies. The train passed through a "tunnel" and we were then going warp Santa speed to the North Pole. Once we passed the tunnel, they read the book and showed the boys the pictures to get them ready. In about 20 minutes, we were at the North Pole complete with Santa and his reindeer and a couple of his elves. It was great. Ethan and Dylan are the perfect age for this kind of adventure and their eyes were as big as saucers. Tom and Logan were trying to be cool and enjoyed it but didn't want anyone to know they liked being there. I think they are on the edge of believing. Sniff, sniff.

This picture has Star on the left and Cheryl on the right. They were such great sports all night. It's also one of the last pictures before Ethan had his trademark chocolate ring around his entire mouth.
Once we were at the North Pole, the boys all got to wave at Santa sitting on his sleigh outside the train window. After stopping for a minute just past the North Pole, the train started heading back past Santa's village and this time he wasn't standing in his sled. The boys couldn't figure out where he went until they announced that he was on the train. Boy did Ethan and Dylan's eyes light up!
I was worried about how Dylan would handle Santa. He is my most reserved child and I knew he would start screaming but when Santa came up to him and handed him his own bell - like in the story - he said thank you and smiled. Ethan was beaming of course. Once Santa left, we all sang Christmas carols.
One trip on the Polar Express and your Christmas Spirit will definitely be in high gear. It was awesome. Thanks Star!