Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Utah, The Highlights

Here's a smattering of the things we did in Utah...

-Hiked the Y.  We decided to give ourselves a "Provo Day," wherein we hiked the Y, walked around BYU campus, consumed BYU Creamery chocolate milk, and generally relived memories.  We also got to spend the day with Clark's sister Jessica and her then-fiance-now-husband Tyler, as we happened to pick a day that Tyler had off work.  Good times.  We missed seeing the Adams family because they woke up sick.  Less than good times.

-Speaking of Utah County, we headed down there a few more times to visit the Reids.  I went to a Zumba class with Kim, and reminisced about when I used to dance.  And then my hips were sore for days.  Clark went on a ride-along with Officer Patrick and kept the peace (so cool).  And we all headed down one day to see their house, play at the splash park, and enjoy a picnic dinner.  Good times.

-One day we rented open kayaks at the Daybreak Lake and spent an hour paddling around the lake.  This was one of my FAVORITE things we did.  Partly because it was new, and it's not often that I get to do new things.  And partly because it was outside, and so peaceful.  I would do that again in a heartbeat.  If only we lived in a fabulous community where renting kayaks (for free, I might add) is one of the amenities.

-We also hiked up Millcreek Canyon.  I think the girls were pretty excited to be hiking in the mountains, and let's be honest, so was I.  The crisp air, the sound of the creek, the trees, the birds.  Nothing like it.  (Though I will say, Michigan has the trees and the birds in abundance, and you don't even have to go further than your front yard, which is amazing.)

-Speaking of canyons, we managed to get up there again for a weenie roast with the Millars.  Thank goodness our Utah trips coincided again!  All time spent with the Millars is priceless.

-Speaking of hot dogs, holy smokes we consumed a lot of grilled hot dogs!

-Speaking of grills, we spent one night in a tent - in my parents' backyard.  We made an "outdoor" evening of it, and cooked tin foil dinners on the grill.  But wait, these were not your ordinary tin foil dinners!  The biggest pain of a tin foil dinner is waiting for the meat to cook.  So we used Costco frozen meatballs instead.  Pre-cooked, and pre-seasoned!  The second biggest pain of a tin foil dinner is waiting for the potatoes to cook.  So we used frozen hashbrowns (southern style) instead.  This plan was brilliant.  It only took 15 minutes for those puppies to cook up.  Add in some veggies, and BAM, tin foil dinners at their finest.  Everyone actually slept in the tent, which was a miracle.

-Cafe Rio.  Twice.  Enough said.

-We ate at a number of restaurants.  Julia has been asking for weeks now when we can go to a Peppers again.  She means Chili's.  I almost don't want to correct her, sweet girl.  We also scored some Sno Cones, which helped beat the heat.  They didn't have my favorite flavor of all time (Nectarine), but the Mango Peach was pretty good.  Why have I never seen a Sno Shack here?  Michiganders, any help on this one??

-Utah's Hogle Zoo never disappoints, especially when accompanied by Aunt Suzanne, knower of all animal knowledge.

-Jessica got married!  To Tyler!  GOOD TIMES.  The wedding was lovely, the reception was beautiful, and the Coldstone was delicious.  And much needed, since it was 100 degrees that day.  Along with the wedding, all the Blockburger siblings were in the same place for the first time in 5 years.  Please tell me it won't be another 5 years before we do that again.

-We met Ethan and Flynn (my new nephews).  You know how as a parent you think your kids are way cuter than anyone else's?  It turns out that's true for nephews and nieces, too.  As Julia might say, "I just can't get my mind off how cute Ethan and Flynn are!!"  I really can't.  It's an obsession.  Just thinking about it makes me want to hop on a plane right now so I can squish their cute faces again.

-We spent a lot of time with family.  This was the most precious thing we did.  Spending a month in Utah gives you ample time to do all the things on your list, leaving lots of time for hanging out, going to the park, going on walks, and playing games.  We also got to go digging around the Blockburger home, sifting through precious artifacts from their family history.  We learned a lot of stories from The Great Storyteller himself (Steve), and quite frankly, felt the Spirit.  Family history work, I tell ya.  It's more than names and dates.  It's stories.

-We also got together with LOTS of friends.  I'm reminded that I have amazing friends.  And it feels like little pieces of my heart are all over the country.  Why can't we all just live in the same neighborhood?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Food Guilt

For the past few months I have been experiencing what I call food guilt.  Nutshell explanation: The budget doesn't allow me to spend money on the foods I want to buy.

In depth explanation:  We are on a tight budget right now.  You might even call that an understatement.  Here is our current budget plan: Do you absolutely need it?  Then you can buy it.  If there is any way you can do without it?  Do without it.  Case in point: my pajama situation.  I discovered this winter that every single pair of pajama pants I own has at least one hole in it.  Someone graciously gave me a pair that she rarely wears, and they quickly became the pajamas of choice every day.  However, those pjs are made of fleece.  Fleece doesn't work so well in the summertime.  So I'm back to holey pajamas.  But do I NEED new pajamas?  Well, no.  It doesn't matter too much what you sleep in.  Though it does mean I cannot go to the store in my pajamas.  So I guess this whole unemployment thing is doing everyone a favor and keeping me from doing that.  It's the little things.

Anyway.  We're on a tight budget.  Guess what I have to go buy every week?  Food!  I used to love grocery shopping.  Planning a menu, writing a list, picking the sale items.  Loved it.  Now I dread it.  I walk through the aisles, asking myself if I really NEED that extra can of corn.  Um, a can of corn costs 75 cents.  WHY AM I WORRYING ABOUT 75 CENTS?  And yet, I do, I absolutely do. 

And then.  AND THEN.  We add in the whole foods/local foods movement.  I want to feed my kids nutritious meals.  I want to give them meat raised on a local farm.  I want to buy that free range chicken, along with the eggs.  I want to shop only at the Farmers Market, and only buy the best.  I want to be that lady.  But I just CAN'T.  And it frustrates me to no end.

I can do the fresh produce.  Produce from the Farmers Market can be cheap.  But it turns out margarine is cheaper than butter.  Though that's a bad example, because I actually have made that switch and only buy butter.  But I cringe every time I see the price.  Coconut oil is more expensive than canola oil.  Honey is more expensive than sugar.  The list goes on.  And so I am left feeling guilty in just about every section of the grocery store, and it stays with me all the way home.  It carries over every time I see a new post from the 100 Days of Real Food lady on Facebook.  I WANT to only have real food.  But I can't right now.  Wah.  Pity me.

OK, pity party over.  On a more constructive note, I'm ever seeking for new ideas for healthy snacks for my kiddos.  Healthy and yet not expensive.  Any suggestions?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Road Trip!

When Clark's sister, Jessica, announced her engagement this past winter, we knew we'd be headed to Utah in June.  We just weren't sure where we'd be coming from or how we'd be getting there (courtesy of life in limbo).  As it got to be spring, it became apparent that we'd be driving the 25 hours from Michigan to Utah.  Cue panic mode.

25 hours is a really long time to be in a car with 2 small children.  A really, really, REALLY long time.  I was intensely worried about it, so I turned to the Facebook brain trust for help.  They did not disappoint.  I got oodles of advice, and most of it was put to good use. 

Would you like to know how it all went?  Well, let me tell you.

The trip out there was great.  We did it in 2 days, with an overnight stop in Lincoln, NE.  Day 1 was like a dream.  It went better than I could have ever hoped for.  We got up at 3:30am and were out the door just after 4.  The goal was for girls to fall back to sleep and we could get a few solid driving hours in.  No dice.  But they were very quiet and restful (just not asleep) until sunrise.  The day went very smoothly, with no potty accidents or major whining, and we arrived in Omaha at 5pm.  We decided to take a long break there, see the Mormon cemetery, drive by Clark's parents' old houses, and take a quick tour at the Winter Quarters Visitors Center.  Then we headed toward Lincoln, stopping at a McDonalds along the way for dinner.  We basically got to our hotel, and went to bed.  Getting up at 3:30 made it easy to fall asleep at 8, which meant no sitting in the bathroom, waiting for the kids to fall asleep (always my favorite part of traveling with kids!).

Day 2 was still good, but not as dreamy.  We were all sort of sick of the car at that point, and it turns out Nebraska and Wyoming are both really large and quite boring.  BUT.  We managed to stay sane, had a nice stop at Little America for 50 cent ice cream cones (and a real playground, where Ella said [multiple times] while going down the slide, "My bum is shining!"), and got to Utah at 7:30, mountain time.  (For those keeping track, we are in the eastern time zone, so we gained 2 hours.) 

The trip back was long.  Just, long.  I think we were all SO READY to be home, and it's awfully depressing when you finally make it through Wyoming, only to see that you have 400 miles of Nebraska to get through before the end of Day 1.  Julia was sick at the very beginning of that long trip home.  I'm not sure if it was car sickness (we were going through a canyon) or lack of sleep or what, but I was grateful we had packed some ziplock bags in the glove compartment.  SO so grateful.  Also, we hit some nasty traffic around Chicago, which delayed us quite a bit.  And we lost 2 hours with the time change.  So we came home exhausted, but happy. 

And what did we do in the car, you ask?  What didn't we do, I say!  Because I had been so worried about this adventure, I was ultra-prepared for the car ride.  I wrapped dollar store gifts (though it was hard to decide when to give those out.  You can't do every hour, or you'll be out $50!  Every state means you get 2 gifts on day you go through Wyoming and Nebraska.  In the end, I think we packed about 7 things per girl and doled them out as we became desperate.).  I printed out Mad-Libs, which Julia got a kick out of - we're talking hysterical laughter in the backseat.  I had coloring sheets, coloring books, workbooks, and a map of the US for each girl, so they could track our progress.  I had Harry Potter on Audiobook (Julia loved it!  Ella did NOT.), and numerous chapter books to read aloud.  We had Scripture Scouts (BIG hit).  Peter and the Wolf (they are obsessed with it).  Music.  Lots of snacks and food.  And the piece de resistance: the DVD players.  This was crucial to our sanity.

Best piece of advice I received?  Print out all the rest stops that are along the way.  This was wonderful to have, especially in those long stretches of nothingness.  It made planning our stops a breeze.  Side note: Rest stops in Illinois/Indiana/Iowa are WAY nicer than rest stops in Wyoming, and Utah for that matter.  It must be that they get used more. 

All in all, the girls did great with all this driving.  And so did we, thank you very much.  Details about Utah will have to wait for another post, this one is entirely too long already.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ella's turns 3!

Today is Ella's birthday.

On the one hand...It's Ella's birthday!  We get to have cake and ice cream!  And there are presents!

On the other hand....I had to fit "bake a cake" into the birthday festivities.  And Julia has spent the entire day crying, because, "Ella's birthday makes me feel jealous."

Also....I cannot believe my baby is gone.  I have a preschooler.  It's all going way too fast.

But then again....We made it to 3!  Ella is gaining more independence each day, and she gets to start preschool this year, which means 2 mornings a week with zero children.  And she is at that delightful age where all sorts of funny things come out of her mouth, which makes up for all the tantrums and selective hearing.

I obviously have mixed feelings about today.  (I have mixed feelings about a lot of things in my life right now.)  I think I'll celebrate the good, and let the bad fall to the wayside.  Happy Birthday, Ella Joy!