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Spring Break (Catching Up)

Spring Break (Catching Up)

How did I miss posting about our spring break road trip?!!  We traveled to St. Louis (as we have done before) and took with us special guests Uncle Nate and Aunt Kerry (which we haven’t done before).  I suppose it is a bit late to write a long play-by-play of our visit, but it is worth noting that we went and were SO glad we did.  We visited some old favorite places and some new spots, but were especially happy about having rich times with so many different parts of our family.

Escape to Santa Fe

Escape to Santa Fe

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When my parents were in town a few weeks ago, we managed to escape south for a few days and spend some time in Santa Fe, NM.  It was a fun adventure, punctuated by excellent food, family game-playing, and tons of museum time.  Something for everyone!!

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Here are our top picks:

Best breakfast: The Chocolate Maven (not Southwestern, but such wonderful baked goods and we could watch the bakers at work while we ate)

Best lunch: I can’t even remember–pretty much, Mexican food here is just really good all the way around!

Best museum: My personal favorite is the Folk Art museum that features a HUGE room full of toys and miniatures.  That’s where many of the pictures are from, and was one of the places the kids also enjoyed most.  I think Than’s favorite was the art museum, and my dad liked the history museum.

Best memory: TIME together–car time, eating time, game time–I just like to be with my family!!

Fabulous 4th Part 3

Fabulous 4th Part 3

After the 4th of July festivities on the west side of Idaho, we said goodbye to Uncle Nate and Aunt Kerry and headed back to Grandma’s house.  Here’s a look at a strange sculpture we passed, driving through the Craters of the Moon volcanic area.

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Back in Idaho Falls, we snuck in a few more games and I even stole away with each of my parents in turn for some “alone time,” a welcome treat.  There may or may not have been some more silliness going on as well…

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It is always sad to say goodbye, but this time was easier because we had one more destination left before home.  With a car packed unusually full, we headed off for one more night on the road.

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A few hours later, we arrived in Salt Lake City.  While Uncle Nate and Aunt Kerry finished their day of work, we ate a delicious lunch outside the fancy downtown mall and then toured Temple Square.  That prompted some interesting conversations about ways we agree and ways we disagree with what other people believe–always a good thing to go over.  We spent the rest of the afternoon at the excellent Natural History Museum of Utah.

Unfortunately, Than ended up with a very nasty migraine that put a damper on things for a few hours.  Fortunately, it was time to head to our hosts’ home and some rest, medicine, and quiet did the trick.  By the time dinner rolled around,  he had recovered and we enjoyed a pleasant walk to a nearby Italian/pizza place for a delicious meal together (marred only slightly by the fact that the TVs were playing the National Hot Dog Eating Contest.  Gross!!)  Then back to Nate and Kerry’s to put the kids to bed and share a pleasant evening of games and conversation.  It was so fun to see their home and enjoy their hospitality.

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And after all that, it was finally time to head home.  A long day’s drive, cooperative travelers, Adventures in Odyssey, and then we were there.  Phew!

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Thanks again to all our kind hosts for their warm welcome, their great ideas for things to do and places to eat, and the joy of time together.  Another year in the memory books, and we are already looking forward to the next one!

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Fabulous 4th Part 2

Fabulous 4th Part 2

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The center portion of our Idaho trip involved a new adventure.  We traveled across the state and ended up at my Aunt Lynda and Uncle Charlie’s house outside of Boise.  They have 15 acres on the Snake River, and we were graciously welcomed to celebrate the 4th with their family.

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Katya was in heaven!!  There were 6 dogs running around the whole weekend, along with cows, chickens, and horses.  She wanted to move in!  She got to help with feeding, finding eggs, and even rode a horse for the first time.

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Our time was full but somehow still relaxed–bountiful meals to eat on the back deck, a day spent playing in the river, fresh cherries picked from a nearby orchard, games, and plenty of conversation.

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To celebrate the 4th itself, we started by enjoying a fireworks show the evening before.  It was impressive, especially for such a small area!  On the morning of the 4th, Katya and Than went into town early with my aunt to get ready for the parade.  The rest of the gang came along later and we watched fire trucks, antique cars, old tractors, and a few horses and floats make their way past our corner.

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Later on in the day we got to watch a tractor pull–a contest where farmers test their machines and see which one can pull a heavy load the farthest.

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After dinner we hopped into Jeeps and a truck and headed up a nearby hill/mountain.  Idaho still has amazing sections of untouched land available for recreational use and we were grateful for the chance to enjoy some of it.  My cousin is a fearless 4-wheeler, so Than and Nathan got to enjoy some particularly crazy driving while the rest of us watched, cheered, and climbed on the rocks.

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As the sun began to set, we drove up to the top and settled down with snacks and blankets to wait for the fireworks.  Looking out over the valley, we were able to see the shows of 4 or 5 nearby towns and cities along with tons of little displays from houses and farms.  It was a whole different experience from the up-close fireworks of the night before.  It was neat to do it both ways.

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The next day meant a return to the ordinary–my cousins and uncle headed back to work, Katya bid farewell to all her animal friends, and we headed back across Idaho.   Our time on the farm was a memorable way to celebrate many of the things that make our country great.

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Fabulous 4th Part 1

Fabulous 4th Part 1

Our annual Independence Day visit to Idaho was divided into three parts this year, so I’ll split my posts accordingly.  The first leg of our journey involved getting there–a late night affair this time, arriving after midnight to slide gratefully into bed.  Highlights of the first few days included Reed’s Dairy ice cream, putting new fish in Grandpa’s pond, visiting the Revolutionary War exhibit at the museum, and a special trip to the Idaho Potato Museum.  How have we missed that gem?!!  “Free taters for out of staters,” a singing video-projected potato family in the spud cellar, lots of potato farm equipment, the world’s largest potato crisp (not to be confused with a potato chip) and a Mr. Potato Head play area.  And, of course, we had to have “Idaho Nachos” for lunch.  French fries with nacho toppings-yum!

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Of course, one of the favorite nights of the trip is the evening of the home fireworks display on the driveway.  Uncle Nate and Aunt Kerry arrived in plenty of time for one more stop by the fireworks store, and then the boys spend a good while planning and assembling the annual extravaganza.  Katya wasn’t so sure she liked the idea of all that noise and fire, but some ear protection from Grandpa helped…

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Sparklers, fountains, smoke bombs, snakes, crackling balls, ground blooms, fireworks that lay “eggs”, a pop-up pagoda–the list goes on and on!  Each year the creativity blossoms and the show never fails to disappoint.  Thanks, boys!

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St. Louis Summer Part 2

St. Louis Summer Part 2

And now, the conclusion of our St. Louis story.  (How did you ever manage to wait in suspense this long?!!)

Part of the fun of visiting my grandparents is that there are always new things to do, mixed in with the familiar favorite activities.  Here were some new adventures from this visit:

Sharing our Senegal stories with the extended family–we made our best approximation of our favorite Senegalese meal and served it on the grass outside.  Aunts, uncles, and cousins participated with good spirits!

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A visit to the CityPark sculpture garden in downtown St. Louis–This was a fairly new outdoor sculpture park and it was fun to have my cousin’s daughter along for the adventure.  There were fountains for splashing, a sculpture that involved a video screen where you could see yourself, and lots of interesting art to explore and experience.

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There was a new puzzle to assemble, new flowers to plant, a new tea house to enjoy, and plenty of new stories to tell and conversations to share.  I am so grateful that we have a hospitable family that welcomes us, entertains us, and adds to our rich store of memories together.

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Summer Starts in St. Louis

Summer Starts in St. Louis

“Take me to St. Louey, Louey, Take me to the fair!”  (Now, if you know that song, keep humming while you read.  It will add to the effect, I’m sure.)

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Our first big trip of the summer started as soon as school let out.  We found ourselves on the road for St. Louis!  Road trips have become easier as our kids grow up, and at this point we really just need new Adventures in Odyssey episodes, a few snacks, and the occasional pit stop.  Don’t worry, I still pack a big bag of new road trip ideas anyway–we just don’t use very many of them!

A good portion of our week with my grandparents is filled with activities we love, that we look forward to doing each time we visit.  (Stay tuned for a future post, part 2 of this one, with things that were new or different this time!)

I am so glad for the memory of my grandmother happily riding the carousel.  There is always a kid in there somewhere!

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A trip to the carousel generally goes with a trip to the Butterfly House, and this time was no exception.  I’ll save most of the butterfly pictures for future “Random Quotes” posts, but here is a little taste…

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And no visit to St. Louis is complete without a stop at the City Museum.  I stayed home to help with work around the house while Than and the kids enjoyed a fantastic day exploring this all-time-favorite place.  This year they even got to go on the roof and ride the Ferris Wheel up there, a special new experience.

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One final “traditional” highlight was a trip to the vast Missouri Botanic Gardens.  We were delighted to share our visit with my cousin’s wife and his daughter, who is just a year younger than Nathan.  Family time, a delicious lunch, and beautiful surroundings–what more do you need?

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They Tied the Knot!

They Tied the Knot!

Check out this cute couple!

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Nope, those aren’t the ones who got married.  (This is a G-Rated blog, after all!)  That’s just the excited flower girl and ring bearer, testing out their new clothes for the highly anticipated wedding of my brother to his wonderful new wife.

We got to travel to Chattanooga, TN for the event.  That in itself was a treat, since it was a state no one had visited before.  Boy, was it beautiful.  We took a little time the first day to walk around the downtown, enjoying lots to see despite a drizzly rain.

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The weekend didn’t leave much time for sight-seeing, though.  We had an event to help with, and what an event it was!  Dinners with family members new and old, meeting lots of new people, rehearsal, decorating, scone baking–never a dull moment!

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Although the bride and groom were understandably occupied with their own details most of the weekend, our family of four enjoyed celebrating with them, supporting them, and spending lots of good time with my mom, dad, and sister, as well as other family members from the St. Louis clan.

The wedding was classic and elegant, and my sister transformed this coffee shop patio into a lovely reception space.

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The focal point was a flower photo wall, all paper flowers made by Kaye (or mom, or me, but she did the best ones!!)

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The bride and her mother had been collecting tea cups for ages, so each guest got to go home with a lovely cup and saucer, in keeping with the “afternoon tea party” feel of the reception.  There were fresh flowers, nice food, and happy people all around.

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The best part, however, was the ceremony.  My son, all gangly and tall, proudly bringing the rings…  My daughter, lovely and excited, carefully scattering her petals…  The honor of reading God’s Word as part of the service…  My handsome husband, strong and supportive at the right hand of his good friend…  The time-honored words of the service and the vows, nearly identical to the promises made at my own wedding almost 15 years ago…  The overwhelming joy on my brother’s face, and the anticipation in the eyes of his precious bride…  HOORAY!!!

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Of course, all is not perfection and roses.  There were plenty of funny things, unusual things, problems to be solved, wrinkles to iron out, and crazy memories made.  Weddings are weddings, and there is no other celebration quite like them!

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We ended our trip with an afternoon in Atlanta before boarding the flight for home.  I can’t wait to see the “real” pictures from the wedding photographer–I was too busy having fun to take many of my own, but it is a time we won’t soon forget.  Thanks, N & K, for letting us be part of your special day.

The Last of the Summer Goodness…

The Last of the Summer Goodness…

A few random photos of summer outings that didn’t make it into other posts…

Picnic with friends at the Denver Botanic Gardens

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A trip to Tiny Town with our dear friends from Houston

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Another outing with the Houston clan, this one to a cool outdoor sculpture park in Loveland

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A morning out with Grandpa Train to ride on the refurbished trolley and visit one of his friends’ garden railroads

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That’s all from summer, I promise.  Time to move on and look ahead…

Idaho-Katya’s View

Idaho-Katya’s View

This is the last Idaho post, I promise.  We gave Katya the camera for a bit while we were camping, and I always find it interesting to get a glimpse into how my kids see the world.  These are the pics she took…

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And there you have it, folks.  Another Idaho vacation filed in the memory banks.  I’m already looking forward to next year…