Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Spring Fling

I called this post "Spring Fling" because I am going to fling up some of the best photos that cover a four month span and call it good!  I have got to get caught up on this blog or else I am going to give up on it altogether!

Noah got to take a special weekend trip with his dad to be at Callum's baptism!  The plane tickets were too expensive for all of us to go, but we really wanted Noah to be there for this milestone in his best-cousin's life.  (Noah doesn't have any other older cousins, so this is the only baptism he will really get to be excited about until his own.)  Sarah and Logan were also performing in Lamb of God that weekend, and Ryan had never seen it, so we decided that he should go with Noah and be there for both events.


Noah was so excited to go and celebrate with Callum that he even made his own count-down sheet and checked the boxes diligently each morning right when he woke up.


While the boys were gone, Sally and I enjoyed a weekend of girl time.  I love this photo of us riding her plasma car with the spring blossoms overhead.


We spent Easter this year in Pocatello with our Nielson grandparents and cousins.  It was a crazy and fun time, as always.  Look at all these little children!  It's madness!  (And check out Sally's impressive choke hold on poor Gracie! Ha!)  Grandma also bought the world's cutest playhouse for them, and they spent hours enjoying it out in the yard.




And I'm sorry, are my kids not just the cutest in their Easter outfits?  And I love all of Sally's expressions--she was so excited for Easter.




After four years of working with the Young Women group at church, I helped to plan my last New Beginnings for them in March.  We did a values fashion show and got them all beautified--it was a super fun and meaningful night.  I started out in YW as the Mia Maid advisor, and then I got put into a new presidency.  Four years is a long time to work with the youth (I calculated that I had spent about 190 Wednesday nights and Sunday lessons with them), but I grew to love them so much.  I feel like if I made a difference to anyone during our time in Twin Falls, it was the girls I worked with.

I also grew so close to the leaders I worked with.  They became some of my best friends in Twin.  Serving in the church is such a blessing for that reason alone!




Noah played in a little soccer league with some of his buddies.  I can't tell if he really likes soccer or has any sort of a natural knack for it, but before the season started, I made him promise that he would actually play instead of just lying in the middle of the field like he did last season. Ha!  I said, "You DO NOT have to play soccer.  If you don't want to, that is fine with me!  But if you tell me that you want to and I pay the money, then you can't whine and you can't mope around the field."  He said he wanted to, and I am pleased to report that he kept his end of the bargain and got out there and hustled.


Noah "graduated" from kindergarten.  (Why is that even a thing?) He had a great year.  Since he is so young for his grade, and I wasn't sure if he was ready to sit quietly at a desk, I put him in an alternative kindergarten that is based on Waldorf-style curriculum, and it was a perfect fit for him.  They did so much building, experimenting, frolicking in the mud, and exploring nature.  They built a "wormery," watched baby chicks hatch, developed models of the solar system, created fairy houses out of natural materials, and all sorts of creative, hands-on learning.  I am a little concerned that they didn't do much reading and writing, and thus Noah might not be quite ready for 1st grade, but I still think the kindergarten was the right choice for him.  It was most important to me that he learn to love school--and he did!  He is excited to go to a Spanish immersion school this fall.





His best friend from school was a darling little boy named Porter.  They called each other "Porty" and "Noey" and hugged each other upon arrival at school every day. ;)

For Mother's Day weekend, I asked Ryan to take the kids to Pocatello so I could spend the weekend organizing before our move to Hailey. The irony was not lost on me: Happy Mother's Day to me, now please get these children out of my hair!!  Ha!  The biggest project that I wanted to tackle was organizing all of my lesson plans, papers and materials from my 5-year career as a high school English teacher.  I had six crates packed with materials, and it took hours and hours to sort through.  But I now have neat and organized binders for each of the books/units that I taught, and I condensed it all down to two crates of my very best stuff.  Such a big project, but I am so happy that it's done.  I am hoping to tutor high school and college students in Hailey, so it feels great to have my materials ready to access and use!


Our favorite Ashlyn got married!  The Sumpsions have been a huge part of our life in Twin Falls these past four years, and we will always be grateful for their friendship and the way they have loved our kiddos.


And speaking of those cute newlyweds, they watched our kids for a few days while Ryan and I went to Washington DC over Memorial Day weekend.  He had a dental conference there, and I couldn't resist tagging along because I wanted to see my little sister!  Laura and Sam moved to Virginia about a year ago, and they live super close to DC.  So Laura and I hung out and saw the sights while Ryan went to all of his nerd classes. Ha!  He really does love his CE courses and when he goes to conferences, he is not there to vacation--he is there to learn as much as he can.  I could hardly convince him to leave an hour early a few of the days so he could spend time with me.  I love that little dental nerd of mine.

Some of the highlights of the weekend included: seeing Taylor Hawes, one of our best friends from the Buffalo years, who happened to be in town for a lawyer conference; spending time with my insanely cute niece and nephew; spending time with my wacky sister who makes me laugh more than anyone (we decided that we need some serious selfie lessons); eating all sorts of delicious food, such as homemade doughnuts (it's possible we went more than once); and of course going to the inspiring and patriotic memorials around DC.









My favorite memorial was FDR.  I have always admired him and how he lead the country through the Great Depression.  Walking around the memorial, which was so beautiful and peaceful with the waterfalls and gardens, I loved reading his quotes on the walls and thinking about the service that he gave to our country for so many years.  I loved the corner of the garden that was devoted to Eleanor, as she was my childhood hero and I read all the books about her when I was in elementary school. ;)




Another highlight was going to Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend.  There were so many American flags, and it was just beautiful.  I feel like so much awe and respect was in the air as visitors thought about the upcoming holiday and how much these men and women had sacrificed for our country.


A few of the lowlights of the trip were getting lost in a torrential downpour as we tried to find the Metro--and then getting on the wrong Metro line and ending up lost again.  Ha!  Despite a few bumps, it was a fabulous trip. 

We made it home just in time for our new niece to be born!  Emma Mae was born on May 31, which just happens to be my birthday!!  Yay!  So now I have a birthday buddy, and I've sealed "favorite aunt" status forever.  She is a precious little bundle, and we are so happy for Ashley and Nate.  And yes, the babies on Ryan's side of the family just keep coming!


Other than the excitement of Emma's birth, my birthday was pretty chill this year.  I figured the trip to DC was my gift, and I didn't expect anything else--but Noah made sure that I felt extra special that evening when he planned a birthday party for me.  It had a "princess" theme, and the guests were Ryan, Noah, and Sal--which worked out perfectly because those are my three favorite people! ;)  Before the party began, Noah went out to the backyard and told me that under no circumstances was I to go out there.  When he came back in, he insisted that I put on my Elsa dress (ha!), and then he explained that he had set up an obstacle course where the brave knights (he and Dad) had to get through all sorts of obstacles and defeat a horrible monster in order to save the princesses (me and Sal).  Not exactly a feminist plotline, but it was so darn cute that I didn't care!




I absolutely love that he came up with all of that on his own.  It made me feel happy to know that the birthday parties I have planned for him have made an impression, and that he wants to show me that he loves me, too.  I ended the night by reading him stories in the hammock, and it was just perfect.  Couldn't have asked for a better end to the day.


It was a great spring with lots of happiness and family time.  And I had no idea what was coming for me at the beginning of June...during the very week that we were moving.  I will give you a hint: It's kidney stones.  More on that nightmare in my next post!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Pura Vida with the Daytons



I wrote in my last post how hard this past winter was for me.  But in the midst of that long, hard winter, we had a really bright spot: We got to go to Costa Rica with our best friends from the dental school years, the Daytons!  We had been talking about going on a trip with them forever, but I had been hoping to do IVF again in the fall or winter. Once we found out that IVF was off the table for a while due to my health issues, we decided to just go ahead and take the trip.

It was paradise and just what my sad little heart needed. We laughed so much. That's what I will always remember most from the trip--all of the laughing. Adrian is a natural comedian and cracks jokes about everything, and it just makes everyone else comfortable making witty comments constantly. I love people who love to laugh, and that's definitely the Daytons. They make life fun.

They are also great conversationalists and deep thinkers, and we had lots of good talks about life over delicious dinners and during our long car rides around that beautiful country. That was another highlight of the trip--just the long, beautiful drives. We rented a car and were so glad we had the freedom to explore.  It was actually easy to get around with the help of the Waze app, and we were able to spend some time inland in the beautiful Arenal Volcano region and then head to the coast to see Manuel Antonio for a few days.

Some of my favorite memories from the trip:

-Pulling into our resort in rain forest of the Arenal Volcano region, blasting Shakira's "Try Everything" and singing our lungs out.  This became our theme song for the trip.  We were greeted at the Concierge with fresh fruit smoothies, and we were ready for the fun to begin!

-Adrian serenading us with his ukulele.  Our first hotel room had a great jungle view, and we sat out on the porch overlooking Arenal Volcano and sang the Lava Song, of course.



-Going for sloth hunts.  I became slightly obsessed with these slow-moving, lazy, likeable creatures on this trip (I decided they are my spirit animal), and we were on the look out everywhere we went!


-Mountain biking around Arenal Volcano.  This was so beautiful and such a unique experience!  We could've paid for an expensive tour company to take us to do this, but instead we rented mountain bikes in town and somehow got them into our tiny car, then we drove to the volcano and paid the $10 fee to ride the path ourselves.



The area is called Arenal 1968, and it's beautiful to bike or hike.  You can do long trails or short trails, and I will say that I could've been done after the initial loop--it turned into a really long, hilly, and muddy ride.  But it was still totally worth it for the views!   I'm just grateful that the Daytons and Ryan were willing to wait for me because I was definitely the sloth that was slowing the group down by the end!



-Pina coladas.  Need I say more?


-A day with Ryan hiking to the insanely, amazingly, stunningly beautiful Nauyaca Falls.  I've seen some gorgeous waterfalls in my life, but none of them compared to this.  Two levels of waterfalls cascading down sheer cliffs in the heart of the jungle.  It was a hot hike to get there, but oh boy was it worth it!  There was a big, deep swimming hole at the bottom, and we spent the afternoon swimming and relaxing in the sun.



Of course Ryan had to devise a way to jump off the waterfalls. No one else was doing it, but there was obviously a safe ledge to jump from--the trouble was how to get to it because there was no easy path up the rocks right beside it.  So Ry scaled up the opposite side, walked across the waterfall itself, and got to the ledge.  And just because he's a maniac, he did a gainer into the water and nearly gave me a heart attack.  (One day he will realize that just because he still looks like he's 20 doesn't mean he actually is! Ha!) 


We ended the day by hiking back to the car and talking all about the dental practice we are buying and discussing dreams for the future.  This was such a nice day with just him.  The Daytons had gone on a ziplining excursion for the day, and we missed all the laughs and adventures that inevitably would've happened if they would've been with us, but it was also fun to just have a chill day of talking with Ryan.


-Beach days!  Is there anything better?  The boys got to surf, and the girls got to parasail.  We literally stayed from about 8 a.m. until sunset and every moment was pure perfection. We watched the sun go down and Adrian even did a few of his old gymnastics moves so I could get some fun photos (he was the BYU mascot, Cosmo, while he was in college.)





-Tobacan Hot Springs, especially sneaking into Shang-ri-La.  One night we went to some really posh hot springs near Arenal.   A river that is a natural hot spring runs through the property of a fancy hotel, and they've created all these different pools and waterfalls and secluded spots, and it was absolutely lovely and romantic to snuggle with Ryan is the warm water under the stars.



But the real fun began when we saw a sign for an area that was "Hotel Guests Only" called Shang-ri-la.  A sign like that might as well have Adrian's name written on it--because there is absolutely no way he is staying away after he sees an area where he is forbidden to go.  "Let's go check out Shang-Ri-La!" he kept saying. "What's the worst they can do--tell us to leave?  I bet they won't even notice!  We'll just walk in there like we own the place!"

I am a total rule follower by nature, but it's either Adrian's persuasive abilities or the fact that getting older has made me stop giving a damn about getting in trouble for things--but we walked right into that Shang-ri-la and hopped into the exclusive  pools and aint nobody was gonna stop us.

I'm pretty sure the rich people knew we didn't belong, but we didn't care. We are rebels.

-Amazing scenery, sunsets, and animals everywhere we went.  We woke up to the sound of howler monkeys in the trees around our hotel, we walked through lush rain forest on hanging bridges, and we found all sorts of fun waterfalls and adventures.


 



In Costa Rica they have a saying that is used everywhere, all the time: "Pura vida," they will say instead of thank you or when they are acknowledging something good happening in their day. Directly translated it means "pure life," and I love that.  Going on a trip with our best friends, seeing God's amazing creations, definitely felt like Pure Life to me.

So, Adrian and Natalie, where are we going next??