Sunday, October 11, 2015

Third Quarter, Part 2: Adventuring with the Familia

In addition to the trips with Ryan's family (and in between the dailiness of chores, Ryan's work, and everyday life) we went on a lot of family adventures this summer.  It helps me to actually schedule "fun" on my calendar (yes, I have a category for "weekly fun" on my to-do list) or else I get caught up in projects and household tasks. Early in the summer, I made a sheet of ideas for day trips, fun with friends, and date nights, and I'm happy to report that we did most of it.

There is no one I would rather adventure with than Ryan and the kids, and I find that I feel so much closer to them when we are out in nature. I guess it makes sense: it is much more bonding to walk through a pine forest together or look at the stars around a campfire than it is to pick up toys, do dishes, and work on jobs around the house!  (Though we do have some wonderful and special moments in our home, of course.)

It is always so hard to get out the door for any sort of family adventure, and I often feel like saying, "Oh let's just forget it!" when everyone is melting down and crabby with each other before we've even left--but I almost never regret making our adventures happen once we get there.  Notice that I said *almost* never. ;)

We camped three times this summer: once in our backyard and twice in the wilds of nature (okay, so we consider "the wilds of nature" to be forest service sites with our minivan parked 10 feet away--but hey, it's better than nothing!).

I must point out that it never rains in Idaho--except when the Nielsons go camping.  Truly.  I must also point out that the Nielsons are morons for pressing on with our camping plans despite rain in the forecast.  Don't ask why we did this not once but twice this summer.  It's just so hard to change the plan when we are all packed up and excited to go.  (I have learned my lesson, and in the future, I will flat-out refuse to go on a camping trip if there is a high chance of rain.  Hold me to it, please.)

The first time we camped in the rain, it actually ended up being quite fun.  We roasted hot dogs in the midst of the downpour with our umbrellas, and then the rain stopped so we made s'mores and enjoyed time around the fire in the nice cool weather.


Sally had a hard time in the middle of the night, and I couldn't get comfortable on my lame camping pad anyway, so she and I ended up sleeping in the van, but all-in-all, it turned out to be a pretty great camping trip, and she sure enjoyed playing in the tent, eating her first s'more, and lounging around the fire in the morning.

The second time we camped in the rain was a different story.  I had a terrible attitude--I'm not totally sure why.  We had a gorgeous campsite in City of Rocks National Reserve, but the scenery did nothing to lighten my mood.  If anything, it made me madder because we could not even leave our tent to enjoy the beauty.  In the morning, when it was still raining, I was going on and on about how horrible everything was, and Ryan (understandably) got frustrated with me for my bad attitude, and then I got defensive and said, "I'm not saying this is the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone; I'm just pointing out that it's not worth it to go camping when it is raining!  Families go camping to have fun, and this is not fun!!"  Noah, who adores everything about camping, piped in at this point, "Well, Mom, the fun's about to start!  We are having cinnamon rolls for breakfast!"  Ha!  That comment actually did lighten my mood.  Hilarious!

It is amazing how happy Noah is when we are camping.  He skips around and hums and talks a mile a minute, and he doesn't seem to notice the rain, cold, or any other inconveniences.  I should take a page from his book!

The highlight of that second rainy camping trip was definitely trying out my new two-person sleeping bag and air mattress.  After I ended up sleeping in the van earlier in the summer, I took matters into my own hands and ordered a highly rated camping mattress and a truly ginormous sleeping bag so that Ryan and I could snuggle and keep warm on our camping adventures.  This sleeping bag is a complete beast, but soooo comfy and worth every penny, in my opinion!  (Noah only got to come in for the picture--and at 5 a.m. when he was cold.)

The backyard campout was uneventful.  We got out our firepit, pitched our tent, and after s'mores and stories, Sal and I slept in the house.  (Insert thumbs-up emoji here.)

In addition to camping, we went on some short hiking adventures.  This is something we've loved to do ever since Noah was a baby, and for the most part, he still does really well on our mountain escapades, as long as we keep it to under three miles or so. We hiked to an old miner's cabin near Sun Valley, and we hiked the trails closer to Twin Falls several times.  Sally is a trooper in the hiking backpack, especially if she has her beloved binky.

We involved our friends in the fun when we could, hosting a kickball game at sunset for Family Night one evening, spending time in the backyard hammock, inviting our besties over to make paper mache masks, and even going for hikes around Dierkes Lake or at the bottom of the canyon to watch the parachuters.

Other family adventures included a father-son date to an amusement park in Utah for Ryan's summer work party (Sally and I were tired of driving and vacationing by that point), a family date to go twilight golfing at the course in the canyon (funnest part for all of us was speeding down the fairway in the golf cart), and plenty of impromptu walks to the park near our house on warm summer evenings.

And then there is the dailiness of life, which can be just as precious as the outings.  I love these kiddos of mine.  I feel like this post makes my life look like it's all fun and games, which it isn't--I have plenty of extremely mundane and frustrating days at home trying to manage these little ones and plenty of meltdowns and moments when I totally lose my temper--but I do know how beautiful my life is, and I try to savor the best moments and let the harder moments pass by without dwelling on them too much.  (Easier said than done, but I am consistently trying!)

Even in the midst of the mayhem, the everyday moments of motherhood are pretty priceless:

From camping trips, exciting hikes, and family outings to bedtime stories, chaotic trips to the grocery store, food-smeared faces, and groggy morning snuggles--there's no doubt about it: motherhood is the best adventure I've been on to date. I'm grateful to my crew for taking the journey with me!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Third Quarter, Part 1: Partying with the Nielsons

Can you believe that we got every person, including the babies, to look at the camera for this photo???  I had to feature it at the top of this post because it was just a straight up miracle. 

We spent a lot of time in July, August, and September partying with the Nielsons.  Here are a few of the highlights:

-We spent a fun long weekend in Pocatello for the Fourth of July.  It included everything that the 4th should: a parade, popsicles, homemade pie, cousins, water games, a slip-and-slide--and of course bouts of the stomach flu (we truly can't get through a family reunion without this happening).  My favorite part of a Pocatello Fourth of July is always the fireworks show.  You can just walk down to the fairgrounds fifteen minutes before, lay out your blanket, and they are right overhead.  It's magical.

-In August, we welcomed Tanner home from his LDS mission.  In the two years that he was gone, five babies joined the Nielson family and one more is on the way! My mother-in-law, Sally, made some adorable shirts for the little ones to wear when Tanner arrived at the airport: "Hi, Uncle Tanner! My name is _______. " Obviously, he knew their names while on his mission, as he got letters and emails from us weekly, but he had never met the minions in person.  I think he's a tad overwhelmed by the chaos of it all, but he is the cutest uncle, and we are so glad to have him home!  Noah is especially smitten with his Uncle Tanner and wants to be just like him when he grows up.  I totally approve!  I have loved Tanner since he was 11 years old, and he will always be a little brother to me.


-Ryan had a dental conference in Utah, so we spent a couple of days there and stayed with Derek, Alli, Lily, and Baby Annie.  I loved my newborn snuggle time (even better when I'm binge-watching a BBC show--Poldark, you've gotta watch it!), and we all loved escaping to the mountains for a (very) little hike with the young ones.

-We were back to Utah for Annie's baby blessing the following month and she was the sweetest little old-fashioned princess in her crocheted blessing gown and bonnet.  Derek said she looked like a pioneer; but Grandma insisted that she looked like Princess Charlotte in England.  Ha!  The day before the blessing, we also fit in a family hike to Doughnut Falls in Utah and had fun. 

-We went to Sun Valley with the crew for Labor Day and enjoyed time at the cabin.  Amazingly, we hadn't spent any time in Sun Valley all summer (I guess because of all of our other travels and adventures?), so it was high time that we got up there.  We loved going for walks with the family, sneaking out for a girls-night at the ice show (and the guys sneaking away for a day of fly-fishing), enjoying the sunshine and mountain air, and eating Sally's delicious meals.  And now that I think of it, no one got the stomach flu during this trip!  It's some sort of miracle!

It was a fun summer of memories with family. Sometimes it is hard for me to travel so much with the kids--I am a homebody, and I love my routines and schedules--and sometimes the chaos of having seven children under the age of four crammed into one house or cabin about does me in--but watching my kids develop relationships with the ones who matter most is priceless.  Noah absolutely adores his grandparents.  Ryan's parents handle the mayhem so well and genuinely seem happy to have all the whining children around.  I think they have perspective and life experience that I don't have yet (well, and they get to send those tired children home at the end of the weekend!).  I love each and every one of the Nielsons, and I am grateful for the goodness that they bring to my life.

Now if only we lived this close to my family too!  I'm thankful for technology that helps us stay connected to them, but it's not the same, and I miss them.  We are looking forward to Christmas in Denver this year!

One of the apostles in our church, L Tom Perry, recently passed away at the age of 92, and in his last sermon he said, "The family is the center of life and is the key to eternal happiness."  I know this is true, and my heart fills with gratitude as I scroll through all of the photos in this post and reflect on the joy found in family relationships in this life and beyond.