Sunday, March 29, 2015

Zion, Grand Canyon, Phoenix, and Cubs, Oh My!

Our week continues! : )  After all the amazingness at Upper Antelope Canyon, we went up into Zion National Park, and stayed in Springdale, Utah, inside the park.  It was a beautiful little mountain town.  We had an awesome new hotel, and even Carter had his own “bedroom” (there was a huge walk-in closet big enough for his crib and some play space!).  We walked out of the hotel and up and down the street to see all the shops.  There was a great little store called The Prospector’s, and we bought some fluorite, copper ore, purple pyrite (high iron content, I think?), polished slices of geodes, and Clay even got a Mosasaur tooth!  It was still in the dirt/stone it was found in..but he just had to dig it out. ; )
The hotel had a big steep hill right behind it-perfect for Clay to excavate, ha!

Checking out the little town.

Look at all the minerals!

Yes, please.

And yes!

Getting ready to go into the very long, dark tunnel.  We had to wait on a large RV that was coming our way..they measure the wide vehicles, and if they are too wide, they get an "escort" and oncoming traffic is stopped. ; )

Halfway down the mountain, we stopped to catch the sunset on the big arch.
We had dinner in a Mexican restaurant, and they had the best green salsa!  We played some games, had a late dinner, and walked back to our hotel.  The next morning, we drove back through Zion and its crazy STEEP roads, back through the 1.1 mile tunnel (completely dark, no electricity, built in the early 1930’s I think)There were windows cut into the thick mountain side, and when you got out, and wound back and forth on the switchbacks, the 30 foot wide “windows” looked like dots up on the mountain!  It was scary big and steep.  Not much in the way of walls or rails.  Eeek!!  I even wanted to stay in the van to take pictures.
Can you see the *tiny* window cut into the wall of the mountain? (it's right of center)  That's one of the 30 ft. wide windows cut in the tunnel!

Looking down at the switchbacks (I think there were five..I got lost counting!)

Checking blood..and dinner : )
There is a lot in the way of trails (and The Narrows!) that we didn’t get to see, it would take a week to hike it all. (and The Narrows is a long two-mile hike wading in 60% icy cold water)  (You should have Respect for anyone who’s been, seriously.)  It is gorgeous, and there was still ice/snow in spots not hit by the sun’s light.

Next, we drove down to the Grand Canyon.  I run out of amazing adjectives to describe the majesty and the varied beauty of our country.  For real.  It quiets you to look out over this canyon, weathered over thousands of years.  I’ve always wanted the kids to see it, but I was so worried for their safety.  I went in 1998, and it was mostly unsafe, no railing.  Now, it’s amazing!  All safe boundaries (at the South Rim, anyway!), guard rails, visitor center, gift shop, coffee shop, it was definitely a destination!  Years ago, there was only ONE hotel nearby (and it was NOT nice) (ok, it had hot water..I think I remember crying there).  Clearly, the people were missing out on potential business, wisened up, and now it’s full of restaurants and beautiful hotels!  Smarties, they are.

The kids really enjoyed freaking me out.  Ches and the kids all walked out onto a lower, railed area that reached into the canyon, but not me.  Nah.  I’m older and wiser (and scared-er, haha!).  We did get some good pictures up on this huge rock inside the safe zone. ; )

Clay took this one!  A great close up of looking down. : )

On the big rock, above the people, but totally safe. ; )

Clay was taking pictures, and Ethan didn't want to get up on the rock!
She is looking fashionable in the breeze, and he yelled, "I think I found a geode!!"
Then, on to Flagstaff.  We drove through the beautiful mountains (colder temps), and then stayed the night there.  It’s a great mountain town with a lively downtown area, full of little shops.  (We even just stopped back through there on our way back!)  The next morning, we drove back north (yes, backtracked..) up to see Lava River Cave.  Clay was dying to get his hands on some obsidian!  The road was closed, so we parked at the entrance and walked.  We gathered obsidian (super shiny black lava that cooled super fast in very cold temperatures).  It’s only found where volcanoes and ice/snow exist together.  It looks kinda like glass.  We loaded him up, and went back south toward Phoenix. 
Flagstaff is at 6000 feet, so the temperature is about 30 degrees lower than Phoenix, and you have evergreens instead of cactus!
We got in, ate, swam, and shopped a bit at the Chandler Fashion Mall.  There was a Lego store (new Legos!), and an animal adoption center.  Yes, I’m a wimp.  We filled out paperwork to see a precious one year old puppy, but I’m strong.  He is not going home with us.  He’s a great dog, super friendly and calm..but it’s not quite time. : )
His name is Bosley ; )

The next day was more playing around, and a meet up!  We met Stephanie and her kids at the Riverview Park!  (More rock for and maybe Emerald chunks in their gravel?)  They sweat, climbed, ran, found a wounded duck (made Stephanie feel guilty for not calling 9-1-1 for him!), slid, found fish, climbed some more, and had so much fun!  Her daughter, Sydney, even brought two of her American Girl dolls! : )  It was a wonderful visit, and she’s SO sweet!

Then we walked to the ballpark to see the Cubs vs. Angels game!  We had left field tickets..Ches was really hoping to catch a Kris Bryant homerun ball!!  There were three into left field while we were there..but we didn’t get one. : (  I was super surprised at how PACKED it was there!  We’ve been to spring training in Florida a few times, but the games were never SOLD OUT!  Apparently it’s the Cubs big year (haven’t won a World Series since 1907-8!), and this team has promise!

waiting on Kris Bryant to hit us a homerun ball!

It's a beautiful new park, sunset, and FULL! : )

Ethan is up at the fence trying to get the players warming up to throw him a ball!  (Every now and then they throw them up to the kids!)

Sometimes ball games are not all about the game. ball yet.
I spent the better part of the game shuttling children back and forth to the restroom/snack bar/Italian Ice truck/shelling peanuts for them, ha!  On the way out, I saw all the gourmet food trucks, big mustache pretzels, pulled pork, and clearly I didn’t do enough walking around!!  I missed it big time, haha!
I was getting this amazing picture of Sissy with the row of palms behind her..and Clay ran up (she didn't even know it!)

..and then she heard him breathing! : O
The last Day in Phoenix, we met Heidi, and her husband, Greg, for lunch at Oregano’s!  It was great pizza (and they get to go all the time!).  We had a wonderful lunch, they are SO sweet!!  We got to visit, catch up, talk kids, travel, and health.  I didn’t want to leave.  My youngest felt otherwise, ha!  He was soo tired..and acting goofy.  It was fine, Greg needed to get back to work, but I would’ve loved to have all afternoon!! : )
Sweet, sweet Heidi!  SOOOoo glad to finally meet her in person!  Prayers bring you soo close together.  Love her!
Then..we left town.  Our big vacation was winding down.  We drove back up through Flagstaff to get on I-40, and to revisit that sweet town.  Then East!  We drove by Meteor Crater, the Petrified Forest, and the Painted Desert.  It has to be one of the most exciting roads! : )  We will stay the night in Albuquerque (I finally spelled it right!!) tonight, and see how far we get tomorrow.  The kids want to do a super long day (11.5 hours driving=14 real-time, kid hours) to get home..but it’s us doing the driving, ha!  Maybe it’ll be Sunday. ; )

Hope you are having a great week, blessed coming and going. : ) Hugs!

..the Lord will watch over your coming and your going both now and forevermore.  Psalm 121:8

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Upper Antelope Canyon!

Headed in!

Upper Antelope Canyon was AMaZiNG!!  We intended to just drive through..but after learning that they had canyons similar to the Narrows (in Zion), which I REALLY wanted to see..we paid for a guided tour! (it’s the only way you can get in, ha!)  It was totally worth every penny.  I’d go again in a heartbeat! : )

Our tour guide, Lance, said his family had owned the property for five generations.  His grandmother had played there as a child!  Imagine that as your back yard.  Wow.

He gave us some amazing tips about taking photographs that captured the beauty.  We were having a really difficult time.  It is GORGEOUS to see the levels and the way the light tunnels down into the caverns, but you can’t catch it on film.

We all had nice cameras, but we got the best shots on our iPhones.  He had us switch to the chrome lens (when in camera on your iPhone, touch the bottom right, and choose the middle right option, chrome).

Then you stand up against a wall of the cavern, point it upward, try not to get direct sunlight in your picture, then choose where to focus with your finger on your phone screen.  It changes how much light it allows in, much like your eyes do!

My Canon just couldn’t get it (I’m sure it’s user error, ha!).  We changed the ISO to 800 like he recommended, and dropped it to cloudy day (just allowed more light in), but it just didn’t have the same effect.

So, you play with each shot until you are happy.  Dark, light, tight focus, wider, and we got the best shots.  Here are some shots.  Try it sometime, maybe in a tunnel with light at the end, or looking down a hallway. : )

We had a moment alone at the end of the tour! ; )
Hope you are having a great week!  Can't wait to meet some favorite D-mamas this week in Arizona!!  Woohoo!! : ) Hugs!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Headed West!

I made the trip to Little Rock again on Wednesday to fight House Bill 1395 (which pushes for three “care advocates” in a school, and rules out the need for real nurses, with degrees in caring for our kiddos).  I went alone, but I felt it was worth trying.  Again, it didn’t get presented by Senator Elliot-I swear she waited until Friday when there weren’t any of us there to speak against it (I didn’t go again Friday when it would be continued).  If we’d been there on Friday..I feel pretty sure she wouldn’t have presented it.  If I had it to do again, I’d skip signing in, so she wouldn’t know I was there, ha!  The chairperson asks if anyone in the audience wants to speak anyway! : )

So, passed the Senate Education Committee.  It now moves on to the Senate.  It’s already passed the House, so it’s a bigger deal!  I’m drafting letters to send to ALL of the Arkansas Senators now.  You can see the first draft here. ; )

The reason I couldn’t go back because we left town Friday to head west for Spring Break.  In search of gold, haha!  Just kidding.  We traveled interstate 40, and we are still 4.  Friday we stayed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-only about 3.5 hours of driving.  Two nights ago, we stayed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  It was a long day-maybe 8 hours on the road..but including bathroom breaks and takes us ALL day!

Yesterday we were in desert-y area and going through Gallup, New Mexico, and up to Four Corners (Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico)!  We played around and took pictures, and found lots of unusual rocks on the west side: green, powdery-fall-apart-rocks, lots of quartz and granite, sandstone, the kids had so much fun.  I was worried they’d slide down the hills of crumbly rocks.
This one is called The Mitten.

Right-handed Mitten. ; )

It's soo windy up at the top (the lookout by the gift shop and restaurant!)

Merrick Butte

Elephant : )

Three Sisters (Catholic nun looking to two students on right)

He's gotta learn sometime.

Then we drove to Monument Valley, Utah.  We got there before sunset, so we got amazing light on the monuments! : )  The kids kept wanting to get out as we drove through the red, sandy dirt roads inside the park.  Carter and Ethan wanted to run their hands through the silty, fine sand.  Clay was into the red bedrock.  It is so beautiful there.

As the sun disappeared over the horizon, we went back up to the front and had dinner in the restaurant and checked out the gift shop.  We stayed in a little city south of there, Kayenta, back on the Arizona side.

Today, we are driving through Upper Antelope Canyon, taking a tour down into the canyon, and then west to Zion National Park.  It is back on the Utah side, so we’ll cross back over again.  We keep driving by wild mustangs grazing along the roads.  No fences to contain them.  There are signs warning to watch out for them crossing. ; )  SUCH beautiful country!