Saturday, August 22, 2015

Utah in the Summer

At the beginning of July we took a family vacation to Utah to visit Marcos' family.  When we left in the dead of winter after visiting for Christmas a year and a half earlier, I feel like it took us a while to be on speaking terms with the state again.  We loved our family time, but the state was just...  too cold, too sick, blah.  This time, I was determined to be positive and look for the things I really enjoy about Utah.  A step in the right direction was deciding to kick off our vacation with a day down in Moab and Arches National Park.  We just thought, if we're going to Utah, we're going to do this the right way and see some of the beauty that place has to offer.

If you've never been there before, Arches is definitely worth putting on your bucket list!  Imagine a thin winding road snaking through miles and miles of untouched desert and crazy rock formations.  We arrived in the late afternoon and we hiked to Sand Dune Arch, which was really more of a short stroll than a hike - perfect, since we were squeezing out some of the last hours of the day.  The red sand around the arch was so fine that the kids immediately took off their shoes and ran their fingers and toes through the soft powder.  

Somewhere in my identity I have this idea of myself as being very adventuresome (perhaps I haven't updated my self-image since before I had children...), but in our day to day reality, I am quite good at being a fairly boring person.  So getting out and doing this crazy thing with the kids in tow was really energizing.  I think that we really impressed ourselves, like, wow, we are DOING it!  I know this kind of thing comes so naturally to families who live and breathe The Great Outdoors, but it was a little bit out of our comfort zones which made it a very satisfying journey.

Marcos and the kids watched a magical sunset from the top of this huge rock.  I prayed that Orion would make it down safely, and he did.  That night we enjoyed the childhood magic of staying in a hotel room in Moab.  We paid extra for a hotel with a pool, but with our hiking schedule of coming back late and leaving early, we didn't end up having the time to so much as put our toe in the water.  Oh well.

The next morning we woke up early, ate a generous continental breakfast in the hotel lobby with a biker gang, and headed back to the National Park to tackle the hike to the biggest and best arch in the park - the Delicate Arch.  About three minutes in, Gigi was asking to be carried and said that she was tired.  After a quick pep talk, we set off again and she was a trooper for the rest of the 3 mile hike.  It was a challenge!  Marcos was in charge of the morale of the group, and kept the kids distracted by hunting for the rock piles that marked the path.  Gigi was in charge of rest breaks, Orion was in charge of water breaks, and I was in charge of snacks.  Here is Orion adding his smallest rock to the top of the pile while Gigi takes her assignment as the rest-boss very seriously. 

The final bend before the Delicate Arch was very "exposed", which is the hiker's way of saying that you can easily fall to a sudden death.  The pathway was wide enough to fit hikers going either direction, but Gigi preferred to run her hand along the inner wall as we hiked.  Sometimes I really appreciate my cautious child.

And those little specks are us at the Delicate Arch!  WE MADE IT!  I was so incredibly proud of our little team, especially Gigi who hiked 3 miles that day, and was a really good sport about it.  It was very helpful that with the cloud cover we had during the entire hike, it was 88 degrees instead of the 106 that had been forecasted a few days earlier when I was packing up for the trip.  Such a gift.

And that was our adventure to Arches National Park.  We were really only there for one day, but it was just what we needed as a family, to see some of the beauty of this country and stomp around in the big outdoors.  

The rest of the trip was highlighted with 4th of July celebrations and lots of fabulous family time.  On the morning of the 4th we got up early to watch the Provo Parade on a prime spot of blanket with our great friends the Mudricks, who were also in town visiting.

Maybe this is a small town thing, but it seemed like every bump of a village within 50 miles of Provo had a float in the parade representing the township and adorned with the Jr. Miss and her attendants from their local pageant.  As a non-pageant oriented person, I couldn't even make sense of the phenomena enough to explain it in empowering terms to Gigi.  When I finally out of curiosity asked her what she thought those girls were doing up there waving on those floats, she said casually, "I don't know.  Maybe they're the welcoming committee?" 

We rather preferred Darth Vader and the storm troopers ("are we really cheering on the bad guys?"), and the local LDS missionaries marching by.

And the rest of the weekend was family time.  Marcos' brother Danny, his wife Marie and their daughters Kaitlyn and Grace spent the weekend with us at our favorite ever airbnb rental spot in Mapleton, Utah.  We watched fireworks together on the night of the 4th at Rock Canyon Park with friends, we went to church together on Sunday, ate dinners together with Marcos' mom and Tom, stayed up late playing Ticket to Ride, and had a really dreamy weekend watching the cousins play in cousin paradise.

Danny and Marie and the gals!  And the Cousins Slumber Party.  

Here are the cousins doing a bit of early morning dance party.  "And you're gunna hear me ROO-O-O-O-OAAAR".  

Monday morning was a very special day to be a Prieto cousin.  Marcos' mom is a wonderful grandmother and had been planning for months to do a Cousins Birthday Party to celebrate all of her (local) grandkids at once.  It wasn't any of their birthdays, but she had the great idea to make a cake for each of them and we celebrated in style.  We chose the splashpad park in downtown Springville, UT for the festivities, and it was the perfect location.

In the splashpad department, the score is definitely Utah = 48, North Carolina = 0.  I can't figure out why we're so far behind in this awesome trend of parks with some sort of amazing water function.  Check this place out!  A winding "river" in the park, with all kinds of fountains, sprays, a flowing creek of water down the middle...  splashpads are the perfect marriage of kids getting soaking wet and keeping cool and having a blast, while parents don't have to so much as don their swimming suits or worry about their kids drowning.  I can't think of anything more perfect for a summer day.

The kids had so much fun, and I enjoyed kicking off my shoes and walking through the little creek to keep cool.  

Our new(ish) step-dad Tom, Marcos' mom Vitoria, and four of the six grandchildren (two live in Brazil).  Vicky and Tom did so much to put together a beautiful lunch potluck and cakes to celebrate our children, and we really appreciate their thoughtfulness.  For some reason we didn't get a photo of all of the family together, so you'll just have to mentally merge all of our heads from the various photos we did take that day.

Danny and Tom, Marie and Danny.  It's a super family that I married into.  

And cake time!  Pure goodness covered with M&Ms?  Yes, please.

These brothers...  I found 42 photos of them on my camera, in various states of flexing their muscles.  Some things don't change!  I swear we have a similar photo taken 20 years ago.  (Oh, found it!  Heh heh...)

And here she is, the Master Planner of all things fun for Grandkiddos!  Thank you so much Mamãe for having the grand idea to celebrate all of the cousins and their birthdays.  It was a real highlight of our trip to Utah and I hope that we can keep the tradition of the un-birthday party as an important part of all of our reunions.

And if that day weren't great enough, that afternoon we drove up to Salt Lake City with Danny and Marie and the kiddos, to tour the Conference Center, wander around Temple Square, explore City Creek, have dinner together out and just really enjoy each other's company.  

I guess that with all of the kiddos finally old enough to look and smile, taking family photos just didn't get old.  Sorry in advance...

Cousins photos!

Although I don't have any siblings, I was lucky to have chapters of my childhood that involved a lot of time playing with my cousins, and so it felt like a real gift for the kids to have that quality time together.  Thank you Danny and Marie for making the time to be with us in July - what a highlight of our summer to have family time together!

And then there was one more day.  We spent a few hours with our friends the Thaynes, who recently moved to Provo from North Carolina.  We did great things like watch the kids play at the neighborhood pond, the kids jumped on the trampoline, and I got to do what I love to do - help my sweet friend Becca fold clothes, organize and move into her new living quarters.  Seeing them again has made every departure easier, because we can just say, "See you later!" instead of the farewell feeling too permanent.

And so on that note, we will say See You Later, Utah!  Thank you for providing us with family time, your perfectly cool and bug-less summer nights, and all of the beauty you have to offer!

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