Thursday, September 7, 2017

Work Hard, Play Hard

More fun stuff to post!  I found this picture of Tyler and Eric from their pack trip.  Thought it was sweet so I'm posting it even though it is super late...

We've spent a few fun afternoons hanging out at Jessica's pool.  It's always the perfect temperature!  And you can't beat lounging around on a giant swan...

A couple days before school started I took the kids to Boondocks with my mom.  Jake had been there but none of the rest of us had.  It was super fun!  We bought a day pass and the kids went to town.  Their favorite activity was the go-karts.  It was super kid-oriented so they even had a track with slightly slower cars that Joey could even drive by himself!  I was a little nervous about him crashing and not being able to drive but he did awesome.  I think he's about ready to get his license!

Boondocks also had these fun boats that were motorized and had a super powerful water gun on them.  Let the war begin!
The kids' favorite was the cars, but mine was definitely the XD Theater.  Basically you sit in a dark room and watch a 3-D adventure where you have to use the laser guns to shoot the bad guys.  The parents (if they aren't participating) get to stand outside and watch the kids reaction on the screen below...
Let me just tell you, it was hilarious.  The kids first did a Zombie Attack one.  I didn't think they would be scary, but I was WRONG!  (Take note people, that doesn't happen very often.)  At first the kids seemed fine and having fun shooting zombies, but then there were times they screamed, Joey started crying, and Tyler was trying to cover Joey's eyes.  At this point I'm thinking, what did I get them into?!  I couldn't see the actual movie but watching their reactions was priceless.  Then at the end they all screamed together...apparently a zombie jumps out.  It was seriously funny watching them...Tyler and Jake liked it, but Maggie and Joey not so much.  I couldn't get Joey to go back in for hours (to do a less-scary one--they had 3 different shows).  But all in all it was a fun day and a great way to end summer days.

A couple weeks ago there was a total eclipse coming over part of the U.S.  In our area it was only 90% coverage, but up north in Idaho they got the total eclipse.  We thought about going up there to see it, because I've heard they are awesome, but we figured the traffic would be horrendous (we were right--it took some friends of our 13 hours to get home--it's only a 5 hour drive).  But we decided to bring a picnic up into the mountains--we would watch the eclipse and Tyler could practice shooting his new rifle he got for his birthday.  Ready, Aim, FIRE!  He's a dead eye--hit the bullseye first shot...after Eric sighted it in for him.
The eclipse was pretty cool--not as neat as a total one, but it got darker, and the temperature dropped quite a bit.  We had our solar glasses, but you can see the crescent of the sun in the shadows through the leaves...
Eric and Tyler enjoying the show....
And then there was Jake....
We brought Ziggy up with us.  And as usual she had a blast.  It is so fun watching her run around in the mountains...she prances like a deer, jumping and bounding around.  You can just feel her JOY!

Tyler decided to try his hand/foot at football this year.  It is a lot of practice, averages 2 hours each day.  Then games on Saturday nights.  We weren't sure if he'd get any playing time since he's a rookie, but he's gotten to play about half of each game so far!  So we are pleasantly surprised, as is he.  He is loving it for sure....but he come home from practice VERY stinky--teenage boy sweat.  It is like nothing I have ever smelled---PHEW!  Lot of laundry and windows down on the drive home.

Jake has a new friend this summer, Chase.  They are basically joined at the hip.  Everyday they want to hang out.  They go on bike rides a lot and seem to always get free stuff--they got free fries at McDonalds, free candy at the gas station and something else I can't remember.  Lucky kids!  They helped Chase's dad build this bridge and were pretty proud of themselves!

Jake's been building bridges and we've been working in the backyard....just like ALL SUMMER LONG!  I swear it will never end.  We just put in a border around the trampoline hole--it turned out pretty nice!  We even set the trampoline up so now the kids can play!

Over the Labor Day weekend, we thought about going camping with some friends, but Eric had had enough of the outdoors this summer.  I reminded him that although HE went on all those fun trips, he left US behind.  So I told him if he didn't want to go camping that was fine, but we were going to do SOMETHING....and something NOT at home since we both knew we would just end up working in the yard the whole weekend.  So we did a little staycation.  We got a hotel room in Salt Lake and spent some time in Park City shopping, in Salt Lake at a fun candy store, and a lot of hotel swimming!  We also went and saw Music and the Spoken Word on Temple Square (I stayed in the hotel with Joey since you have to be 8 years old) and then we all did a garden tour of Temple Square after that.  Eric and I thought that was pretty cool, but the kids thought it was torture.  HA!  Here we are after just checking in to the hotel...the kids needed an etiquette lesson on sharing a bathroom with 6 people....this was their lecture....
We also went out by Mirror Lake and did a "hike" (if you can call it that) and played in the river.  It was really beautiful.  The river was shallow enough that the kids could walk in it, which they promptly their tennis shoes.  So we just went along.  Lots of cool boulders and shale, really a neat place.

Despite the grandeur of nature, the inspiration on temple, the plethora of candy at Rocket Fizz...the highlight of the trip (for the kids) was the hotel pool.  Of course they wanted to play in it all the time.
Eric and I even got in on the action, but Dad was the hit of the party--he was strong enough to throw the little kids around.  Here's a sequence of one of Maggie's flips.  Launch off the shoulders...
Tight tuck and turn....
Feet first water entry...
And SPLASH!  He must have done it a hundred times.
Tyler and Joey liked hanging out in the hot tub.
And what pool party would be complete without a splash war?  Tyler I think has mastered the art of the water splash.  But Jake held his own.
And try as they might, the boys could NOT dunk their dad--he's too buff.  They tried to no avail and finally gave up.  So I guess Eric remains king of the pool.

And as I close this blog post you might be wondering about the first day of school...well, it went great, and it is great having all the kids in school all day.  Especially because of how busy life seems once 3:00 hits--I'm driving here and there and everywhere.  But I love having the time during the day to get things done, eat lunch and use the bathroom uninterrupted, and just enjoy the peace and quiet and the house not being messy 5 seconds after I clean it.  You might also be wondering about first day of school pictures!!  Well, there are none (hiding my head in shame).  I don't know what happened to my might be the craziness of trying to get ready, the busy breakfast making, the bleary eyed having to get up early, or just the sheer excitement of knowing I would have the day to myself...but whatever happened in my brain, I just plumb forgot to take pictures.  Then I thought about it a couple days after school started after seeing some friends/family posting pictures of their kids, but by that point the moment had past.  What would I caption it?  "Hooray!  3rd day of 6th Grade!"  Not quite the impact.  So, this year comes and goes without first day of school pictures.  But that's ok--a shrug of my shoulders and knowing those awkward school pics will be coming soon makes me feel okay!  Happy school days!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Cramming it all in!

School starts in just a couple weeks for us, so we are trying to cram in as much fun stuff in these last days of summer as we can!  It's only been less than a month since I last posted but I've got a ton of catching up to do.  

Summer is the best time to splash around, so of course we have gone to the splash pad a few times.  Maggie, ever the picture poser, must be half mermaid with how much she loves the water!

 And water is a main attraction at Grandma Calder's house (along with the oodles and oodles of candy)!  Sprinklers, slip-n-slides, water balloons galore.  Jake has mastered the giant water balloon.  Pretty cool optical tricks too!
 And just when I thought it would never rain didn't just rain, it POURED.  It FLOODED.  It DRENCHED, GUSHED, TORRENTED....whatever name you think of for a massive storm.  It hadn't rained here since spring, and when the drizzle started my kids were ecstatic!  Instantly they ran outside and started to play in the heavenly water.   But it didn't take long to realize this was no regular summer sprinkle.  The rain got harder and harder, the wind started howling, and within minutes we were wondering if a tornado was coming!  We even turned on the news to make sure!  No tornado warning, but it poured and poured.  I think the final tally was 2-3" of rain in an hour at our house.  It didn't last long, but it was enough to flood parts of the grass, the barn, make a river of mud into parts of the grass and the corrals.  We were lucky that nothing was too badly damaged, nothing a little bit of elbow grease and a shovel couldn't fix in a short time.  We had many people we know who had serious flooding and issues.  So we count ourselves lucky.  I managed to snap a picture just as the rain started to get harder while the kids were still out enjoying it....
 Jacob is my little soccer man--and he and his friend did a soccer camp together.  Of course they had a blast!  Can't wait for soccer season to start!
 Eric snapped this shot from our deck.  I love that we can see such beautiful sunsets right in our backyard!
I went to girls camp, which was amazing.  I always have so much fun with the girls and the leaders.  I am lucky to work with such a fun group of ladies.  And we have such amazing young women, they are so inclusive of each other, so kind and hard-working.  I had a great time.

The day I got home from camp, Eric, Tyler and our friend from the army, Nate, took a horse pack trip up into Montana.  Eric has been wanting to do that for SO long, and finally decided to make it happen.  They packed up and headed out to the mountains for several days.  I missed not seeing Eric and Tyler for almost 2 weeks!  But they had so much fun.  They said the horses did great, they did some fishing (Tyler was the only one who caught fish!) but the fishing wasn't great because the rivers were so high.  Because of that they actually came home a day early, but they still had a fun time.   I only posted a few of the pictures, but man, is it beautiful where they went!  Huge meadows full of wildflowers, rivers and streams, green grasses and tall pine trees.  I think it would be really fun to go with them some time!  Tyler had a blast also--he is very allergic to horses but we've been doing the allergy shots (immunotherapy) for a year and half now and it's been a miracle for him!  He used to break out in hives and his eyes would swell up and he'd be sneezing every 2 seconds around the horses.  Now he has pretty much no reaction!  They even added his other allergens to the serum so he doesn't even get hay fever anymore.  It has been a huge time commitment but totally worth it.  And totally worth it to see the smile on his face being the fish master!

Look at these two handsome men...I'm so lucky to have them both!  And that is Oreo's behind.  Nice.  
 Eric took this shot after some fishing--what a nice view to relax to!
 Here's Oreo again, from the front this time.  This was her first pack trip and she did great.  Her pack started to slip on a pretty treacherous strip of road ( a big cliff drop off on one side of a narrow path), but Eric managed to save the situation.

 And here is Eric with Nathan.  Cowboying it up!  Eric came home smelling like horse, dirty, in his cowboy duds, hat and boots with spurs, and a scruffy beard--and a big smile on his face!  He said on the way home they stopped in Jackson Hole and all the tourists were taking pictures of the horses sticking their heads out of the trailer, and then when the guys walked down the street to get a bite to eat, with spurs clanking and everything, people were staring at them saying, "Whoa!  A real cowboy!"  Ha ha.  What a fun trip for the guys.
 This picture was from our trip on the ranger up Tower Mountain last month, but I found it on Eric's phone and loved it.  My kids can drive me crazy sometimes, but then the next minute they make my heart melt.  They really are a good bunch.
 And of course, in true Swenson tradition, we all went to the Fiesta Days rodeo.  This year was a special treat because Joey got selected to do the mutton bustin'!  He has been wanting to do it forever and I finally remembered to fill out the application a month early.  Good job for me!  A few years back the favorite treat was cinnamon mini-donuts (which sadly are gone) but now they have mini scones which are right up there with the best of the rodeo treats.  Here's Ty, and me and Eric so excited to watch Joey!

 Everyone ready to rodeo!
 So, as I said, Joey was super excited about the mutton bustin'.  The week before, his siblings had been giving him many pointers about how to stay on..."Hold on no matter what!"  Maggie and Tyler would even pretend to be the sheep and let Joey ride their backs.  We really weren't sure how he was going to do.  He is a strong and stubborn kid for sure...but who knows how to practice for mutton bustin' without a sheep?!  So we hoped for the best.  Here is Eric helping him on....we told Joey to ride backwards but he refused.  He said, "That's not the way the cowboys do it!"  So he rode forward and....
 Didn't last too long before he ended up doing a backflip off the sheep!  He tumbled in a complete backwards somersault.  He was a little stunned at first and quickly ran back to dad, where he said he cried a little bit.  He said he had to let go because the sheep bit him.   Ha ha.  Okay, bud.  But he had fun and we had a blast watching him.  Maggie, however, was beside herself, hysterically crying because he fell off so soon.  She was literally sobbing, "I feel so bad for Joey!  He didn't make it to the other side!" and on and on.  We are talking crocodile tears.  I kept telling her it was okay, and it was jut for fun but she wasn't having it.  So I finally told her if Joey sees her like that he will feel bad, but if we all tell him how good he did then he will feel good!  That got her to stop...mostly.  It was pretty funny--I couldn't stop laughing.

One evening Jacob was begging to go fishing and Eric and I let him talk us into it.  We ended up going up to Payson Lakes and fishing up there.  It was a little slow at first, but it picked up a little and the kids ended up catching some fish.  I think Jake caught 2 or 3, Tyler caught 2 but he was kind enough to let Joey reel in one and Maggie reel in the other one.  How kids can be nice to each other every once in a while!  Jacob was getting pretty good at casting out!
 Here is Tyler letting Maggie reel in a fish....  She was so excited!!!  As you can see we stayed for a long time--well into the dark.  We were some of the last people there.  But that's when the fish started biting!  A fisherman's got to do what a fisherman's got to do.
 Joey REFUSED to let us help him cast it out.   And he also REFUSED to listen to us telling him to cast it out and just let it sit.  (we were just using Powerbait) He kept reeling it in, casting it out, immediately reel it in, cast it out, and so on.  He definitely wanted to DO IT HIMSELF!  I can't remember if he caught a fish on his own or not, I don't think he did.  Because he didn't leave it out there long enough for fish to bite.  He said to me at the end, "I think I should have left it out there longer...I bet then I would have caught a fish."  Yup, live and learn, buddy.  But he had fun regardless...
 It was a successful night, just the family (which is really my favorite).  The kids were getting along, having fun together, and all in all it was a really fun time.  Eric and I were both glad we took the time to go.  Sometimes doing things like that seem like such a pain--you've got to get everything together, pack all the drinks and snacks, get everyone ready (finding shoes, going potty, etc), and so on.  And sometimes you think "I just don't want to bother"  but it is almost always worth it.  And this time it definitely was.  We even stopped for McDonald's cones on the way home!  Win!
 And as if all that fun and excitement wasn't enough, we just returned from a trip to Island Park with our good friends, the Larsons.  They are some of our best friends from our army days.  They've been in Europe for several years and now that they are finally back in the states we jumped on the opportunity to take a trip together!  So glad we did.  We stayed at the same cabin in Island Park that we stayed in 2 years ago with my sister and her family.  It is such an awesome place.  The kids favorite activity was playing down at the lake--swimming, fishing, playing in the raft we brought.  Here they are for the maiden voyage!
 Maggie's favorite was swimming--here she is (middle) with Brooklyn and Ian--ready set go!
 Here's Joey taking some time off from being the official "Fish Slayer" of the trip and going for a nice dip....
 And Jake goofing around (shocking, I know).
 And Mr. Tyler--growing up way too fast.  He almost didn't catch any fish because he spent most of his time helping the little kids with theirs (which was super nice of him).  But the last day he ended up catching a bunch so it all worked out.
 Cooling off!
 There was a small pier where we were, and the kids would run together and each jump off one of the end docks...Here Jake in the front, then Tessa.  I'm not even sure who is behind them!  We had 10 kids total so it got hard to keep track.....
 Dad, like most any other time we do something with horses or fishing, spent most of his time helping everyone else and not getting to have fun himself.  But that's why we love him!  Here he is helping Maggie get her fish....
 And this might just be my favorite picture of the trip...The fish, Joey's proud expression (he did catch the most fish the whole trip), the beautiful sunset and scenery, and Eric's awesome farmer sock tan.  Heart. bursting.
 Well, as I said the Larson's are our dear friends.  And we have schemed and planned to keep our families together.  It worked out perfectly--they have kids the same ages as ours but the opposite gender (they added 2 extra into their mix just for good measure).  So we figure if we can get all these kids paired up we will be set!  Family vacations forever.  Here is match-up number one--Maggie and Ian.  What a cute pair!
 Match-up number two--Brooklyn and Joey.  Two little blondie cutie pants.  Joey is teaching her how to fish.
 Number three--Emma and Tyler.  Emma loves horses, so...set, point, match.  I love this shot of them.  They had tons of fun diving to the bottom to retrieve lost spinners and equipment.
And match-up number 4--Tessa and Jake (with Maggie in the middle here).  These two got along so well--really all the kids got along so well.  It was fun to see the kids be able to play and have fun together like they have been friends forever.  Really these kids were my kids' first best friends.  At Fort Irwin, Tyler and Emma, Jake and Tessa and Maggie and Ian were all each other's best friends.  It is so great they can pick up where they left off after so long!
The above pic was the day we spent at Yellowstone.  We saw a big buffalo herd.  Of course!  But no bears.

Another favorite of the trip was Ranger rides.  Besides driving around for fun, the kids would pile on and we would drive the short distance to the lake.  Pretty sure we were breaking many laws and capacity limits, but it sure was fun!
 Yellowstone was fun.  We were somewhat limited because my friend Mindy had hurt her foot really bad and was on crutches, poor thing!  But we managed to see a few things.  We've been there a lot and seen most everything so it was fine with us to just take it easy.  Plus we got ice cream at the lodge for the first time ever.   It was deee-licious!  Me, Mags and Tyler at Old Faithful....
 Dad and Jailbird at the Upper Geyser Basin.

 And here's Tyler, Jake and Tessa at the overlook for the Yellowstone Grand Canyon.  At one point I was walking with all 10 kids (and they all look like they could be siblings pretty much) and a few people were staring at me like I was crazy.  Ha ha.

Another favorite activity (I guess the list keeps growing) was rafting the river.  We got a smorgasbord of gear so we could try everything out.  Rafts, canoes, kayak and even a paddle board.  We switched it up and kept it interesting.  Eric and Joey liked the kayak....row Joey, row!
 Tyler took his shot at the paddle board and did a great job!  I didn't try it--it looked kind of tricky to me, and I wasn't interested in falling in--that water is COOOLD!  But Tyler sure had fun on it.
 And here's a pretty typical scene of us--kids jumping in the water, hopping from boat to boat, having a blast every second!
 And to round off the rafting with an awesome treat, we saw a momma and baby moose right in the river we were in!  We stayed as far to the other side as we could but it was still really close.  It was awesome.  This picture looks  a lot further away than it really was.  They stayed there for a good 10 minutes or so before moving on!  Maggie was very nervous about the mom charging at us.  She was certainly interested in watching us and wary, but we kept our distance.
 And then of course after rafting back in the lake!  I think the kids would just want to stay and play at the lake the entire trip next time.  Swimming was fun, the water was cool and the weather was hot, and fish were plenty.  Everyone caught at least one, most of us caught many.  And we caught them on spinners which is much more fun than just bait because you get to actually do something instead of just waiting for the fish to bite.  It's kind of funny because of all the nice adult fishing poles we had, the one that caught the most fish was Joey's R2D2 kids pole.  Ha!  Just like last trip--it was his Spiderman pole that caught the most (which Joey threw into the bottom of the lake that same trip because he was mad).   Somewhere at the bottom of that lake is the Spiderman Fish-slayer, replaced now by the R2D2 Fish-slayer!
 One, two, three, GO!
 Diving for his lost spinner....
 On our drive home we went through Jackson Hole.  The kids always like this stop.

 And the final shot of all the kids together (except Tyler who I kept telling to scoot over--but the glare was in my eyes so I didn't see that he wasn't totally in the shot...argh!)  They really look like they could all be related.  After this we parted ways as the Larson's headed home to Colorado and us back here to Utah.
 It was such a fun trip--a great break from yard work and stress, from the hum drum of regular life and the distractions of electronics.  Everyone had such a good time and the best was we got to go with the best people!  Good times, good food, good company!  And Joey even gave me snuggles on the drive home....

This summer has really been jam-packed.  Much of it hard work--in the yard and corrals and such.  But so much of it fun too.  I will miss the fun times once school starts!  But...I'm definitely ready for a little structure...and a little mommy time!

Lastly, Tyler had his 14th birthday 2 weeks ago.  I can't believe how old he is getting!  I also am shocked every time I look at a picture from just a year or two ago how much he has grown!  He is no longer a little boy, or even a tween--he is a big teenage boy now!  But still not too old to give his mom a hug and a kiss, even in front of his friends.  Love.  Tyler is really such a sweet, tender hearted boy.  Yes, he does argue and get annoyed with his siblings, but overall he is so kind and sweet and thoughtful.  I have had countless friends, teachers, scout and church leaders, pull me aside and tell me what a thoughtful boy he his, polite and respectful, kind.  He is a good kid.  I need to remember that, when I stress about his school, or other things, that in all the ways that really matter, I am so lucky that he is the way he is.  He has always been so good at seeing people's needs and noticing when people need a little extra love or reaching out.  I love that he loves music, he loves reading.  He is always there with a hug for me, and even a kiss on the cheek.  Part of me wishes he would stay little forever, but I guess my job is to raise him so that he doesn't need me anymore.  Isn't that the sad part of parenthood?  If you do a good job, then you have no job!  I love Tyler so much, my first kid, he, (like all the others) holds a special place in my heart.  Happy birthday Tyler!  And yes, I'm about to post a bunch of pictures of him--I had like 100 I wanted to post, but here are just a few....


 I. Love. This. Boy!!!!!