20th Anniversary Trip {Zion morning 2 ~ Angel's Landing}

Tuesday morning offered strikingly beautiful skies and delightful temperatures.  We had our morning coffee on our terrace, watching the rocks change color before our eyes and then headed over to Cafe Soleil for a hearty breakfast to fortify us for the first half of the day...we had a mountain to climb.  

While I had no intention of going to the end of Angel's Landing, it was apparent that Ian wanted to experience it.  Getting up to Scout Lookout where there is an optional stopping point is a four mile round trip hike and provides a fabulous view down the canyon. We had plenty of time and the desire to see as much as possible.

So up we went...

The initial ascent covers a lot of elevation change and is pretty much in full sun, so we were quite relieved to come to the section of the hike that passes between two rock formations known as Refrigerator Canyon.  We had read ahead of time there was a section of the trail dubbed "the fridge."  There was no doubt when we reached it...the cool breeze was unmistakable.

Next came the section known as Walter's Wiggles.  It is an insane ascent along 21 switchbacks that take you as a hiker around 250 feet up a sheer cliffside.  We may have stopped for a ridiculous number of selfies on this section just to catch our breath.

And then finally we were at the last bit before Scout Landing.

This was where I decided to stop.  27 years ago my sister, my dad and I (Mom wasn't feeling well that day and stayed in our motor home while the others hiked) were at this very same spot where I came to terms with my fear of heights.  I remember then inching my way to the edge at that very spot to look down the cliff...

recreating memories..and becoming friends with a chipmunk
This was where I set up camp to wait for Ian as he trekked on.

It was the weirdest feeling watching him grab that chain and take off...I remembered just how narrow some sections of that trail were from my encounter with Angel's Landing back in 1992.  I cried most of the way across back then due to my fear of heights, so I decided to just sit back and watch.

I talked with a bunch of folks who were also waiting for companions to come back in the hour or so that Ian was gone.  Met some good people from all over our country and enjoyed the comradery of fellow hikers.

As nice as they all were, I was so very happy to see this smiling face headed back my way!

Since we had already made it up Walter's Wiggles, we decided to continue upward before heading back to Springdale for lunch.  

West Rim Trail offered us a chance to gain just a bit more altitude.

And best of all, it gave a different view of the Angel's Landing trail Ian had just completed.

yeah, that skinny knife-like section with over 2000 foot drop offs.
that's what I decided to skip this go round...
At this point breakfast had long since left us and it was getting quite warm.  Time to head back down to the Grotto to catch the shuttle back into town to get lunch.

The way back started with going down Walter's Wiggles.  I'm still not sure which was worse, going up or down...both were BRUTAL!

Once we finished wiggling and passed back through Refrigerator Canyon, it was back down the remaining eight hundred(ish) feet back down to the trail head.

Again, these views.  I totally get why people visit southern Utah and never go home again...

This 5.4 mile hike, with a bit added from our West Rim trail addition, with just shy of 1500 ft of elevation change, took us just over three hours.

Plenty of time to take on the other iconic Zion hike for the afternoon...


social distancing {week one}

And so, with the finish of the day, we find ourselves a week into these strange times of extreme social distancing.

Ian and the kids (except Kylie) have not left our property save for our evening walks together since last Friday when they got home from school. I've gone to meet Mom...Kylie went with get her sweet companion puppy back to her, and gone to the grocery twice.  At this point I'd say we're in a pretty good place, but I find myself wondering what I'll be thinking at this time next week...let alone possibly weeks later if our city/county/state/country governmental leaders follow the lead of others around the world as we face this global crisis.

Ian and I bounced between the rails of "panic and alarm" (having a son with BOTH a severe unprepared heart condition and advanced lung disease will do that to you in the face of a disease like this) and "hopeful optimism" and have settled somewhat in the center at "cautious and careful."  To that end we're creating some schedule to our weekdays, trying to strike a balance that gives time for creative exploring and honing of skills nobody has had time to work on in our usual schedule of life, but also keeping enough structure for those of our kids that need some sort of daily routine.

School for the kids at this point is pretty loose.  As this stretches on at some point we will likely get some guidance from the system, but for now it's pretty informal at the M8 Academy (which I guess is re-open for business through the end of the school year).  Math has looked like the middle school bunch woking on some math olympiad challenge problems and the elementary set doing challenge problems and 100s Board mental math activities, all stuff from my former teaching days.  For EL there has been family wide reading time and they've been writing letters to friends and family or recording their thoughts and feelings about the home quarantine in poem or traditional journal form.  Science has looked like the home safari live casts from the Cincinnati Zoo though I've been given a link to some family science experiments that we'll give a go this next week.  I feel like keeping up with current world events has been enough for social studies this week, but since I'm a map geek we'll be doing some sort of map skills starting soon.  And everyone has been assigned to select a skill they would like to hone in this time where we have more time.

Kylie has selected to ramp up her baking and work on her calligraphy/drawing skills.  Caleb is determined to learn to juggle, Darcy is furthering her calligraphy/fancy font writing, Daniel is both baking on his own and drawing and both Natalie and Nicholas have been enjoying learning to sketch favorite animals and characters.  Ian and I worked in the yard a good bit of Saturday and have each been reading, taking lots of walks together (and with various groupings of the kids) and both are trying to figure out what skill we'd like to take time to learn.

Following is a digital scrapbook of what our week has looked like...

Kylie's first baking project...Dole Whip cupcakes.
took us right back to Disney!

visiting Daddy in his office while reviewing her high school credit math class
(totally motivated on her own at this official assignments have been sent yet but she wants to keep up)

reuniting Mama and her sweet bizarre to see Mama and not touch her, but I didn't want to risk possibly exposing her to this virus if one of my kids is carrying it
(Mama and my sister's family had been in Honduras for a week..Lacie stayed with us while they were gone.)

sweet moment captured on our nightly walk Monday

sister bonding
one positive thing of all this is relationships are being re-established

evening walk...Tuessday edition

free time with the 100s board cubes
the next day we established a "come downstairs dressed on weekdays" guideline just to create some structure...weekends are still pjs all day if you please

waiting for the "campfire" to be just right

campgrounds may be closed, but we can still have a fire based dinner/dessert at home!

Kylie was proud of us for "being adaptable" as we had hot dogs on hamburger buns because that's what was available

only one package of hot dog buns meant seconds were bunless...he'd already tossed his plate, so getting ketchup on the dog called for creative measures

Lego avengers meets midievil castle during free play

porcupine zoo cast

I've lost track of how many VA Techopoly games have been played

working on the Mandalorian 

writing/drawing something to send to grandma
At this point we're finding meaningful ways to connect with each other and overall finding the silver lining.

celebrating his first decade in a galaxy far, far away

**February 17, 2020**

When you make a wish to celebrate your birthday away from home, you may as well go BIG in your wish!

"Hollywood" maybe?

Because what is more exciting on your big 10 than flying off your seat on "Tower of the Terror?"

Not far enough?

How about a quick jaunt "across the pond" to London for some fish and chips?

Or perhaps a galaxy far, far away is more your warp speed...

 Then let's hop aboard the Millennium Falcon to Batuu.

We may be stopped by some storm troopers who think we have information about the rebel alliance, 

but we'll also probably get to meet Chewie who may stop to chat (via his translator) about flying the most famous "bucket of bolts" in the galaxy.

And you may also get a private audience with Rey who will valiantly attempt to draw your shy, star-struck self into conversation about your birthday...and who will also promise not to tell Chewie that you aren't such a great pilot after all.

 Happiest of decade birthdays to you sweet boy!  I'm glad it was a day that dreams came true!

**There is much more of our Disney/Universal/Sea World Make a Wish extravaganza to write about, but my laptop is frequently in use during these strange "let's jump into homeschooling all six kids" times.  


KB is 14!

March 10.

Another day, another cake...

This time with 14 candles.

Because she is our "leader of the pack" and ready or not, she just keeps leading the way.  

In all ways, including getting older.

While she only had one specific request this year, a favorite book that she's checked out of the library several times since October, thankfully she's dropped a few hints over the last few months.  Simple jewelry, a sizable gift card to the bookstore,

...and proving that there's still a bit of "a little girl" inside, a Squishamal.  Because who doesn't love a squishy blue rabbit that can double as a pillow?

There are moments that I wish I could jump back in time about 13 1/2 years to when we first met her...when she was most content to be against my chest in the snuggli carrier.

Or a decade to revisit that chubby little toddler/funny little pre-schooler who kept me on my toes.

Or just several years to experience again that time when her self confidence blossomed during the end of her elementary career.

But then again, I am crazy about where she is/who she is today.  Despite her moods occasionally getting the best of her, she is developing into a young woman who is passionate about justice in the world.  She is interested in saving marine wildlife (attending a sea turtle camp this summer is a way for her to explore a potential career choice) and standing up for those that are marginalized in various ways in our community and the bigger world.  I found myself humbled to be the mom of a teen,  who while enjoying the blessing of a Make A Wish trip at Give Kids the World Village in Orlando, that said, "I think it's great that kids with critical illnesses like Nicholas and their families have a week to be celebrated and taken care of like they do here.  I think there should be something for kids who've been abused too!"
Watch out world, she's got some ideas, hopes to intern at Give Kids the World when she's in college and just may start a new organization to benefit a whole other group of kids.

Happy birthday my love!  We may have moments where we don't see eye to eye and I can occasionally hear your eyes rolling at me...but I am so very grateful and humbled to be the one you call Mama.  Your beauty shines from a pure heart and it creates a presence that draws others in...always use that quiet attraction to bring His kingdom to earth!

[Find it within you to love exactly who you are and to know you’re capable, you’re loved and you’re beautiful. The world is a better place, because of you. You are unique because there is only ONE of you.] 
– Shantel VanSanten