Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Too Much Fun

(Sorry, I was just going to make the briefest of updates, and now this turned into a huge, long travelogue -- but not an interesting one about a trip to, say, Greece or Costa Rica. Just your run-of-the-mill trip to Utah. You may only want to read on if you are my mother or grandmother, and even then it will be pretty repetitive since you were there for much of it!)

We are in Utah for a vacation, and I've been so busy having fun that I've barely had my camera out. I had considered coming for a visit in November, but decided to hold onto the travel money in case a real need came up later. But then, JetBlue had an awesome one-day sale and I was able to get round trip tickets for me and the boys for under $400 total. Score, especially since the first checked bag is free on JetBlue. When I booked the trip, our departure date was just over a week away. It was so fun to suddenly have a trip to look forward to. I booked a nearly three-week trip for us (if you're going to go to all the hassle and expense of flying across the country with two toddlers, might as well make a nice long trip), but Tyson decided not to come for any of the time. Then, a few days later, he decided that he would like to visit home after all, so we used some of our Delta SkyMiles to book his ticket.

After a lovely Thanksgiving dinner at our dear friends the Lowes' house in Fountainville, PA, Tyson drove us to JFK airport (JetBlue doesn't fly out of Philadelphia International). Since our flight was departing at 8:30 pm right on Thanksgiving, the plane was pretty empty. We had a whole row to ourselves, and had a pretty great flight experience (especially compared to the one I am relating below). We arrived in Salt Lake City very late Thanksgiving night, where my dad picked us up. There was a special surprise waiting for us at their house -- a cousin sleepover! My sister's three older kids were staying over, so they would be there in the morning to play with Sawyer and Beck. We had a great day hanging out and playing with the kids, and Kara joined us later in the afternoon and stayed for dinner.

The next morning was the Rowley Family Christmas party (my mom's side of the family), held at my parents' church. Our crowd has gotten big enough to be pretty overwhelming in any of our houses (at least those that were close enough for this gathering). The little kids had fun riding bikes and trikes in the gym while the adults visited. All of my aunts and uncles and most of my cousins were there, except for Aubrey and his family (they live in Hawaii), Song and here family (they live outside Washington D.C., but I did get to visit them a couple of months ago and will go again around Christmas), and Bryce and his family (they joined us later in the day). My sister Krista and her husband Chris were also absent (they were visiting family in Texas for Thanksgiving).

We ate a delicious brunch (highlights were Aunt Klaire's breakfast casserole, honeybaked ham provided by Grandmom, and Kara's homemade raspberry jam on Lion House rolls brought by my mom), then had a short talent show. Lots of cute piano and vocal performances, including Sawyer's stirring rendition of "Where is Thumbkin?". He was quite the ham on stage, really singing out (not always tunefully, but very adorably) and after being applauded for the first verse of the song (all I was going to let him perform), he insisted on doing another verse, garnering more applause. Beck refused to perform his talent: walking. Yes, he is a little toddler now, but is still resorting to crawling quite often.

After the talent talent show there was a carol sing-along, including an impromptu mens' chorus, solo by Granddad, and duet between Kara and I on "Away in a Manger". I felt the words touching me like never before on the third verse as I thought of my dear cousins Curtis and Logan, who have passed away.

"Bless all the dear children
in Thy tender care
And take us to heaven,
to Live with Thee there."

After the talent show we exchanged gifts and cleaned up. We had to hurry along to the next of the day's events. No, not the BYU-Utah game (though my brother-in-law Logan did defect to that event), but show at the Maverik Center (formerly the E Center), the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, starring the Rockettes. This show, a touring version of the famous show at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, was a special treat and Christmas gift from my grandparents. They were still able to secure a ticket for me at the last minute, and I'm so glad I got to attend with so many of my family members. I found the performance very engaging, and some of the numbers were truly spectacular. The next day I happened to see a film of the NYC version on PBS. Yes, it looked even more dazzling in a beautiful performance hall with twice as many dancers (and an ice rink on stage!), but the high kicks and costumes were great to see live. Thanks, Grandmom and Granddad! Matt and Wendy Meldrum, who live very near the Maverik Center, kindly babysat Sawyer and Beck for me while I attended the performance. Thanks to you, too!

We returned to my parents' house, where many retired to the family room to watch a DVRed version of the football game that was already in progress. Those of us who didn't care so much about the football game stayed upstairs with the food (me, my Mom, Kara, even my Dad -- who is a huge AGGIE fan and don't you forget it!). My mother-in-law Charlene called to see when I would be arriving at their house. I wanted to make it up to Cache Valley while Tyson's brother Ben, his wife DeAnn (sorry, I am never sure if I have this spelled right - I need to find out once and for all!), and their three children were still in town from Las Vegas. I thought they would be staying until after Sunday dinner, so I had planned to drive up after church on Sunday, but it turned out they were leaving Sunday morning, so I packed up and got on my way with my boys. I made it through Sardine Canyon before the big storm hit, and spent the next two nights with the Heatons in Paradise.

Saturday night was a fun evening of catching up with Charlene and DeAnn, and letting the kids play with their cousins until way past bedtime. Morgan's son Hudson was also with him for the holiday, so that was fun -- all the Heaton grandkids together. The house was rather full, so my kids and I stayed on the office floor, but we were very comfortable there. I like being in a house full of family. One nice thing about going up to Cache Valley on Saturday night was that I was able to attend the baby blessing of Hallie Buchanan, the daughter of my cousin Bryce and his wife Lacey, the next morning. After saying goodbye to Beck and I made our way to Smithfield through the storm while Sawyer remained in Paradise to attend church with his Uncle Andzew (Andrew) and the rest of the Heatons. The blessing of beautiful baby Hallie was tender and precious, and the rest of the meeting, delivered by the bishopric, was very nice. What I heard of it, that is -- Beck is at the age where he is a real handful at church. Luckily I had the helping hands of Grandmom and Granddad and the kindness of a Sister behind me who shared her kids' fish crackers and fruit leather with me. I had emptied my diaper bag and packed it in my luggage on the plane, then used an easier-to-carry, roomier backpack as a diaper bag/carry-on on the flight. When I hurriedly re-packed the diaper bag before going to Cache Vally I missed transferring all my necessary church-survival aids (treats, toys, books). So nice of a fellow mom to share!

After the blessing we gathered at Bryce and Lacey's lovely new home in Smithfield for a luncheon. Again I enjoyed visiting with my family, especially my Uncle Eldon who actually likes to hear about many aspects of Pennsylvania, Tyson's job, the house we worked on at the ranch, etc. Beck and I headed back to Paradise to rejoin the Heatons for a nice Sunday dinner of ham (and smoked chicken, and smoked turkey leftovers (I think?) -- they are always making several protein courses, along eith all manner of side dishes. Boy do the Sunday dinners I make for my little family (when I actually manage to make them) pale in comparison). Late the next morning I headed back down to Salt Lake City.

I can't particularly remember the evening's activities. I did fall asleep rather early that night and was barely able to rouse myself to give Krista a hug when she arrived back from Texas. She and Chris immediately drove back to Logan. We were like to ships passing in the night!

My friend Kari brought her son Jackson (just about to have his fourth birthday) over to play that afternoon (or this might have been Tuesday) while she took her other son Ethan to his pediatrician nearby. Sawyer and Jackson and I had great fun playing with toys, including my childhood Legos. The Legos remained out for the rest of the week. I admit I may have been having more fun with them even than Sawyer, but he really liked them too.

My mom kept encouraging me to go to Zumba or water aerobics at her rec center, but I hadn't brought any workout shoes. I can tell my mom really wants me to get back into exercising, I think for the physical and mental health benefits. Finally she convinced me that I would be fine at Zumba in my snowboots. Haha, that sounds worse than it really is -- they are not bulky and have an athletic sole, so with my pants on over them it wasn't too obvious. On Wednesday morning we took the kids to the drop-in care center at the rec center (a brand new facility a few blocks directly west of my parents' house), and I experienced Zumba for the first time. It was fun! It totally wore me out and there were times I felt like an uncoordinated fool (and even more times I just felt like a white girl with no funk in my trunk), but it was a great workout and I'd like to do it some more. The kids had fun in the play room, and then we headed home for lunch and naps.

The next day after an early nap for Beck and lunch for all of us, we went to the kiddie pool at the rec center. It was so much fun! I wish I had brought my camera, because my kids were having such a great time and I'd love to have some pictures to help me remember their joy. Maybe we will go again before we fly home. The kiddie pool has several water features and toys, such as a hippopotamus slide (Sawyer must have gone down in 40 times in the last half hour we were at the pool, waving and flirting at a lifeguard each time), fish that you can move around to spray water everywhere, a big blue slide, and a water umbrella. A lazy river branches out from one side. My mom spent much of the time taking Beck around and around the lazy river, while I tried to keep up with Sawyer in the toy area. When it was time to go, I thought I would have to drag Sawyer out kicking and screaming. I did have to bribe him with chocolate.

Most evenings were just spent eating, putting the kids to bed, visiting, and watching TV. My mom keeps shows she thinks I will like on the DVR for me. I watched the season opener of one of my favorite shows, Top Chef (this season is an All Stars season), and several episodes of What Not To Wear, a show I desperately wish Tyson would realize he needs to nominate me for -- maybe more about that later.

Friday I returned to the rec center pool for my first water aerobics class ever, while the kids went to the care center and my mom did some more Zumba and a weights class. The water aerobics (deep water aerobics) was the kind that isn't for wussies, and I didn't even wear the float belt to make it easier. Sometimes I felt even more uncoordinated than in Zumba, but the encouragement of the nice instructor and the other gentleman in the class made it surprisingly enjoyable. Also a much better workout than I realized it would be.

Friday night we attended my parents' ward Christmas party and Sawyer got a coloring book from Santa. That night after the kids were in bed I was able to go to Centerville to see most of my dear girlfriends. Yay! We met at Alice's house. Kari was there when I got there, and Lacey arrived shortly after. I ate the hugest bowl of popcorn you have ever seen. Kari, unfortunately, didn't feel well and left after a couple of hours, before Lara arrived. We ended up staying way too late (always my fault), but I thought we had some really good discussions and a lot of great laughter. I got to see Alice's sweet little four-month-old baby (her fourth son). We missed Emily, who has newborn twins to tend to at home. I hope I get to see Em and the newest arrivals while I am here!

On Saturday morning, Tyson arrived on Delta. The kids and I went to get him at the airport, and we were all so glad to see him! You know what? I think he was glad to see us too. I think he actually missed us a little bit! (That has probably worn off now that we have been back together for five days.) My parents took us to lunch at My Thai, which usually hits it out of the ballpark for us, but with bad luck charm Tyson in tow, we ended up with a bit of an uneven experience. Still, it was a delicious and filling meal, and very nice for my parents to treat us. They continued on to some shopping, as did we. We went to Target to get Christmas gifts for the Jones Family Christmas party (Tyson's Mom's family), which was later that day in American Fork. Santa (a very good Santa) makes an appearance at the Jones party, and gives gifts to each child. While we were at Target, we saw something we wanted to sneak into Santa's bag. In the interest of adding a little levity to the lovely but sometimes a little too earnest party, we decided to give presents to all the little kids: recorders, harmonicas, and slide whistles. How thoughtful of us, right? Ahahahaha, a good time was had by all!

The Jones party generally features a live nativity pageant acted out by the young children, but this year it was an all-adult cast, which added a new reverence. The children sat intently on the front row and watched Joseph and Mary tenderly admire the baby Jesus (played beautifully by Jared and Sarah and their tiny newborn boy, Jude), surrounded by angels, shepherds, and wise men (one of which was played by Tyson in a guest bathrobe from my parents' house). After the nativity we had a lovely roast beef and potato dinner followed by a too-die-for Oreo pie and cheescake pie and various other desserts. I am not usually a dessert person, but I ate a big plateful. Thanks to all who provided the food!

After dinner it was time for the talent show, during which the jolly old elf himself appeared. We sang some carols and then each child got a turn on Santa's lap. What's this, a bonus present? Parents had confused looks on their faces and then the presents were unwrapped, and toot-toot-toot, the cacophony began. Our practical joke played out perfectly as we watched the joy on the children's faces, the consternation on many of the parents', and the twinkle in the eyes of those who were in on it. I hope no one was too upset. We thought it was funny and it was not intended to be at all mean-spirited. But do you think we allowed Santa to gift such a very special present to our own pre-schooler? Oh, no way!

After the party we returned to my parents' house and put our kids to bed, then drove to Matt and Wendy's house for a nice night of cards and chatting. We bored them with our stories of Pennsylvania and our descriptions of the books we were reading on our kindles, but they were nice about it. We played two games of pinochle, and if I remember correctly the men won one game and the women won the other. Or did the men win both? I can't remember. I'm not nearly as competitive as Tyson is -- just there for the fun. That's why Wendy has to be my teammate instead of Tyson. I frustrate him too much as a partner.

We retired to bed late and had a leisurely Sunday morning. We intended to drive up to Paradise before church, but we didn't end up making it after Tyson got into a spirited conversation with my dad about leadership and efficiency within the church. We drove to Paradise and had a yummy dinner of spareribs (and pork chops, and chicken, and various sides). Tyson, Morgan, Taylor, and Curtis played Rook and many of us stayed up late into the night talking. The next morning I felt like I was getting sick, but I seem to be holding it off okay.

Monday December 6th was another Baker family extravaganza. We drove to Kara's house in Clearfield for Lebanese Mock Christmas Eve. What? That doesn't sound quite traditional? I hosted last year's Christmas Eve (on actual Christmas Eve), so it was Kara's turn to host this year. Last year I chose an Asian appetizer theme, and we also had a Bethlehem supper. Just your basic Asian-Judeo-Christian-Pagan holiday! This year, more of an Arab-Mediterranean-Judeo-Christian-Pagan holiday, featuring spinach fatayer (spinach filling in pastry), spanikopita (spinach and feta in phyllo), pita bread, hummus (chick pea and sesame dip), toum (aioli or garlic sauce/dip), kibbe (lamb wrapped in beef an bulgur), lamb sfihah (like a mini pizza), ful mudammas, tabullah (various spellings, salad of bulgur and herbs), yogurt sauce, fruit platter with apricots, pomegranates, grapes, and clementines, vegetable platter with red bell peppers, cucmbers, radishes, and mini pickles, oh, and there were pickled turnips, too. And perfumed water (okay, too perfumed for me -- I had to refill with regular). The food was fabulous. Hats off to my sister Kara, who made the most labor-intensive exotic dishes. (I brought the vegetables, fruits, and dips). We lingered over dinner and had a nice nativity performed by the children. There was present-opening and then for dessert we had baklava and mini cupcakes (in honor of the birthdays of Logan and Amanda). After that, we headed home.

We missed Chris, but had Jason as a fill-in. Sawyer played Joseph in the nativity (Josess, in his parlance). He was very impressed with his costume when he saw himself in the mirror, repeating, "I'm Josess!" Then he said, slowly, as though the most wonderful thought was just occurring to him, "Noooooo....I'm Jesus Christ!!!" Ahahahaha.

Since then, we've just been relaxing and enjoying our time at the Heatons. Yesterday was Rachel's birthday, complete with ice cream cake. Tyson left for the ranch with Curtis earlier today, and the boys and I are about to leave. I have just been waiting for Beck to wake up from his nap.

Well, I still have almost a week left of my vacation (Tyson will go home a few days before the rest of us), so stay tuned for the next incredibly detailed account of our time in Utah. Fascinating!


  1. so happy you have been able to visit with your family!! it is sounding like a very super trip! so i hope we can see you guys at least one time before you leave! the sucky part is that kev works tonight and saturday night. maybe we can get together sunday or something, or whenever you have time...even if i just take you to the airport (if you leave in the evening). love you darling!

  2. I'm wowed by your incredible narrative! Love to hear all about your doings, and this was great. The food extravaganza at Kara's was truly unbelievable. So glad we were able to spend time with you and your adorable boys. Wish we could have seen Tyson, too. We hope to travel to yours and Song's areas sometime next year. Just keeping tabs on our distant family members!

  3. Lisa, many thanks for your detailed account. I almost feel like we were there for so many things we missed out on! You even put in a plug for us... *tear*. It's nice to feel just a little closer to you, even if it's just for a few days! Slightly jealous of your cheap plane tickets...I wish we could get deals like that from Hawaii! I hope you guys have a wonderful Christmas! So glad you get to spend time with everyone.

  4. I feel much better when you're just a 25-minute drive away. WAAAAAAH! Come back!

    P.S. Hope you got home okay. I also hope that the "special airplane underwear" :) (I hope people read this and think that the "special airplane underwear" was for you! Heeheehee!)