15 Years

15 years ago today, I made the best decision of my life. I married David.

He's the better half of both of us.


Vacation Day 4
We woke up early and tried to hit the road as quickly as we could because our entire day was nothing but driving. The free breakfast at our hotel was actually decent, and we were constantly reminded that the Grand Canyon is a world destination. We heard German, French, Japanese all around us. Loved it! We had a few last looks at the canyon, then kept on driving.

The rest of Arizona that we saw was ugly. We were in the middle of nowhere and it pretty much looks like you're on the moon. It wasn't until we got closer to the Utah state line that the scenery became interesting. Still, I liked seeing that so much of the country is completely undeveloped and untouched.

We were a few miles across the Utah state line when I said to David, "This looks like the road where Forrest Gump was running." And about one minute later we drove by a sign that marked that very thing. It looked like this.

We drove and drove and drove. We stopped at a playground for a picnic lunch.

Next, we drove to Arches National Park and Moab. More incredible beauty!
If you look closely, you can see David, Z, and Carver climbing up the rocks. Lily is there too but she's
behind the bushes.
Cows. But next to the scenery they look like extra special cows.

And then we drove and drove and drove some more. It was an incredibly long day. We made it to Colorado and to Glenwood Springs. Glenwood Spring is a gorgeous town that is surrounded by canyons and mountains and has a gigantic public pool from natural hot springs. It's about 2 to 3 hours outside of Denver, past Vail. We swam and soaked and turned into prunes. A great way to end the day.


Vacation Day 3
The low the morning we woke up by the Grand Canyon was 14 degrees. There was wet, sloppy, icy snow everywhere. It was overcast and there were signs at the park entrances that read, "Views are obstructed due to weather. No refunds."

Yippy skippy.

I was freaking out a little bit. I told David that if we couldn't see the canyon we would have to stay longer. No ifs, ands, or buts. We would extend our stay and figure out the logistics later.  David just nodded and let me have my freak-out moment. We let the kids swim in the pool that morning, because the weather was so poor. We had planned for David and Lily to go on an hour horse back ride through the woods (the rides on donkeys and around the canyon are $250.00 a person--not happening), but when David called the stables they had cancelled all rides for the day because of the snow. Lily was heartbroken. After swimming, we got dressed and headed to the visitor's center. The roads were so icy and slippery and while they had cleared some of the sidewalks, it was a mess.

And I fell flat on my butt in the parking lot in front of everyone. Not so bad, you say? Well, when was the last time you fell--horribly, with arms flailing and feet coming right out from under you--in public? I was mortified. I tried to brush it off, but later that morning a woman actually approached me at one of the viewing areas and asked, "Aren't you the one who fell?"


OK, enough about me. Let's get to the good stuff. The clouds had started to lift a bit and the views were amazing.

The pictures just can't show the scale of the canyon. The best way I can describe it is to imagine that if a person were standing at the bottom, you would not be able to see them--at all. A group of people at the bottom of the canyon would look like a tiny, tiny pin prick on these pictures. You can see photos of the Grand Canyon, but it isn't until you are standing there that you feel the earth drop out from under you and you stare at the depths that you begin to grasp the scale. The first time I glimpsed a view I actually screamed out loud. It is that amazing.

Of course I had to take a picture of the woman in stiletto heels. And here I was feeling bad
that I hadn't packed our snow boots.

See the person in the red coat? That's David.

True confession time: the kids were tired and grumpy that morning. There are several places you can view the canyon, and David and I had stopped at a few of them and Zinabu actually said, "How many times do we have to look at the Grand Canyon? I've seen it! I'm done!" We tried to stay upbeat, but the kids were determined to spoil the morning. We pushed through until lunch.

We ate at the Blue Angel Inn (I think it was called?) which was built in 1910 for park visitors. The lunchroom was lovely and old and perfect. Great food, too. Organic and vegetarian options. Hooray! After a hearty meal, surprise surprise, the kids perked right up!

After lunch we walked the now snow-free sidewalk along the rim. There was the El Tovar lodge, which opened its doors in 1905 and has hosted the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Albert Einstein. We popped in to admire the old rustic beams. Awesome! We walked some more and I took more pictures.

I was so disappointed we couldn't do any hiking. The trails were so snow packed and icy and we were unprepared for the weather. So hiking was out. We drove from lookout point to lookout point and just admired the awe-inspiring view.

As we drove, the kids were doing this.


We ended the day by visiting a couple of Trading Posts and Gift Shops. My kids proved once again that they have horrible, ugly, terrible taste in all things. We headed back to the hotel for more swimming and called it a day.


Vacation Day 2
We left Ouray early on our second day of travel. We had to make it all the way to the Grand Canyon, and we knew it would be long. Our hotel offered a "light" continental breakfast, which turned out to be packaged muffins and coffee. As David noted, the girl at the front desk was downloading AC/DC videos on YouTube so she couldn't be bothered to do much more. Fortunately, I'd packed a lot of food and we supplemented as best we could. We drove on the Million Dollar Highway, which is aptly named because every view is worth a million dollars. It also boasts the most avalanches, but we took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and pushed through. The San Juan mountains are spectacular, and you honestly believe you are in Switzerland. They are indescribable. I divided my time between staring at the scenery and turning around in my seat to tell Zinabu to keep looking up so he wouldn't get sick. We passed by Silverton (shout out to Rebekah who owes me the story behind her wedding) and ended the drive in Durango.

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

We stopped to hit the bathrooms and refuel on coffee, and that's when major embarrassing moment number one happened. I went to the bathroom. I locked the door. The door knob felt flimsy so I double-checked that I'd locked the door. (Can you guess where this is going?) I was 100% into doing my business when a woman walked right in on me. She screamed. I sat there and died a thousand deaths. I actually called out in a feeble voice, "I tried to make sure it was locked." The woman apologized over and over. I tried to meditate and pretend I was somewhere else. I left the bathroom, grabbed David, and said, "We're leaving!"

From Durango we drove a few miles to Mesa Verde National Park. We had talked about the cliff dwellings quite a bit with the kids, and they were very excited to see them. The cliff dwellings are about 20 miles into the park, which meant lots of winding roads up the mesa and more commands to Zinabu to "look up and out." He was sick of me.

Lily at some of the dwellings. She studied all about them as part of 4th grade Colorado history.
The dwellings were amazingly accessible. You couldn't climb on them, but you could walk right up to them.
Incredibly kid friendly.
Carver coming back up the ladder from being in the "kiva."
Can you handle the cuteness?

You could easily spend 2 full days at this National Park, but we had to keep making our way to the Grand Canyon. We drove only a few more miles outside Cortez where the 4 corners are. Because what kid doesn't want to stand in 4 states at once? The wind was blowing about 50 miles per hour (not exaggerating) so we look like we are all about to be whisked away.
Carver, in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico all at once. And squinting from the dust flying around.
Zinabu trying to keep the wind and dirt out of his eyes.
It was so windy I could hardly hold the camera. Hence the off-center shot.
Out of 150 vacation pictures, here is the only other photo of me. Charming. And yes, I'm wearing
my brown vest... again. I love it so.

From the 4 corners we drove and drove and drove through a massive dust storm with ferocious tumbleweeds and everything. We couldn't see any of the rock formations or mesas because the dust was so thick. We'd heard that there would be a chance of rain/snow showers at the Grand Canyon that evening, but when we finally arrived at the park, it looked like this:

And that was our view the first day there.


Vacation Day 1
We planned that our first day of driving would be easy. We packed most of our things the day before, but there was plenty o' time on Sunday morning to get the odds and ends together before we rolled out of our driveway. And insert Life Lesson #1: It is way, way, way easier to travel with kids over the age of 5. If nothing else than they have better bladder control and aren't strapped into car seats that frustrate them. We've done a LOT of road trips with our kids ever since they were babies, and I love that it just gets better.

We drove a few hours to the Black Canyon near Montrose, CO. A great place to stretch our legs and marvel at the incredible scenery.
Lily and Carver
Black Canyon.

It was beautiful, but overcast and chilly. Most of the trails were closed due to ice and snow, so we admired the canyon and the visitor's center, then hopped back in the car for the rest of our drive to Ouray, CO. Probably one of the sweetest little towns in Colorado. There's a natural hot springs there, plus an amazing little Mexican restaurant where they make killer spinach enchiladas. Life Lesson #2: Always be on the lookout for killer spinach enchiladas. 
One of 2 photos of me on the entire trip. That's what happens when you take all the pictures.

After dinner, we hopped over to the hot springs pool, which is basically a giant pool that is naturally heated by hot springs. Sorry if I over explained that. Life Lesson #3: When all your children can swim by themselves, without your help, you have hit the jackpot. David and I sat in the super hot pool while the kids played in the kinda hot pool (104 and 91 degrees respectfully). It was so fun. We swam till they closed the pool. And the children were completely tuckered out. Just as we'd planned.


And We're Back
We did it! The Grand Canyon and back and we lived to tell about it. I don't have the time to write about it all right now, but I'll break it down over the next few days. For now, I can share that our eyeballs are tired from popping out of our heads from scenery like this...

You can't even describe it. You just can't. Someone needs to put a sign at the entrance to the park that reads, "You Are Not Prepared!" Because you're not. Pictures do not do it justice.

The trip was also filled with some of the most embarrassing moments of my life... which I'll fill you in on some other time. And we had the unfortunate experience of learning that Zinabu gets carsick on curvy mountain passes. He looked like this for a lot of the trip.

Isn't that special?


Family Vacation to the Grand Canyon
We leave tomorrow. Kinda like this.


Hippy Shakes
Guess who won the hula hoop contest at the sock hop last night?


The Final Countdown
It is officially the middle of March, which means I can officially say we are going to England in ONE YEAR! (Cue Florence and the Machine music and fabulous BBC news broadcasters with killer accents.) That's right, my darlings. In one year, I will be on my way to fabulous London, and quite possibly never coming back. The more research we do, the more we want to see. The more I read about what to do there, the more I am sobbing in a corner, wailing, "There's not enough time. There's not enough TIME!" So I told David the other day that we just plain have to go back. We can do London. As much as we can without eating or sleeping or stopping for water breaks. And we can go back and do Paris and Scotland and Bath and a million other things. I'm just plain freaking out with the desire to see everything. I've even gone so far as to suggest to David that we not worry about saving for college for our children and just go live there every summer.

I'm not joking.

I was researching how to visit Lyme and see the grounds and manor that were used as Pemberley in BBC's Pride and Prejudice, and I learned it is closed in early spring--exactly when we will be there. I actually burst into tears. Not to mention that Lily is studying about the Rosetta Stone, and I told her that I would be able to see it at the British Museum in London. She said, "Well, I want to see it too." Plus Churchill's war room museum, which Carver said, "I would love to go there." So I'm already scheming about how we could all go over for several weeks in a few summers and try renting a place to live. I refuse to believe we can't do it because I want to so, so badly. Looks like I may have to reopen my Etsy shop and make some more moolah. Or some unknown relative needs to leave us a million dollars. I can dream, right?


Giddy Up
Lily's love for dogs is surpassed only by her love for horses. David and I joke that we come in a distant third. Or fourth, if you count gerbils. This weekend David took the boys skiing, and Lily, my mom, and I galloped off to Denver to see the Horse Stock Show. (Do you like my horse analogy? Galloped? Get it?) Now, I am not a horse gal. Not so much. But because it makes Lily so happy, and because Colorado is still such a great place for rodeos, ranchers, and the Cowboy lifestyle (is there such a term as Cowboy lifestyle?) it just makes sense that we would take advantage of something like a horse show. Do horses fall into the category of "culturally rich"? Please say yes.
In her utter element.

She discovered the miniature horses. Guess how many times she asked if we could buy one? If you guessed 67, you're not even close.
See the horses? The cowboy? Lily? The perfect storm.
She's my girl.


I Didn't Know...
you could fall asleep in the bathtub. This is how I found him last night.



There is a large homeschool community in the city where we live. And by large, I mean gigantic. I'm not sure what percentage of families here homeschool, but it is a lot. I am thrilled that families who want to homeschool may do so and feel supported and surrounded by other families with similar priorities.

A lot of my blog friends have children younger than my own, and they are beginning kindergarten next year. Others are in the midst of school, like me, and wonder if they're doing the right thing trying to choose between public and private, Charter versus Montessori, Catholic versus Protestant. You get the picture.

For me, the homeschool issue is compounded by our faith. Other families who practice the same faith as we do are leaving the public school system and choosing to keep their kids at home. They feel called to do that. They feel responsible for instilling their values in their children. They want to make sure that their kids are not exposed to parts of this world. I get that. I do. Read my post from a few days ago.

David and I, however, feel called to send our children to public school. They're getting a good education. They love the structure. They have a lot of opportunities there. Is it perfect? Uh... no. Has every teacher been their best friend? No. Have mistakes been made? You bet. But it's where they should be. My faith teaches that my children are to love everyone, share with others, help the underprivileged, make sacrifices, befriend all, and shine God's love. They can't do that if they're home with me. {Hear me loud and clear right now, though. If you homeschool, I'm so happy for you. I'm just explaining what works for us.}

As I dwell on how I want to intentionally raise my kids a colorful, vibrant world, public school is one of the puzzle pieces that fits perfectly for us. For those of you with little ones not of school age yet, get ready. It's some of the best fun you'll ever have, no matter where they go to school!


Happy Monday
For all my excitement over my new camera, it's too bad I forgot to take it on our hike this weekend, or to take photos of Lily and Carver at the skateboard park, or of David's head that he had shaved because the students at his school raised enough money for a pediatric cancer fundraiser. 

We survived the weekend. We were cooped up for 90% of it, with all three kids suffering from the same nasty (but short-lived) virus. We're supposed to get a big snowstorm today/tomorrow, so if there's no school tomorrow we will go swimming or bowling or spelunking or something just to get the heck out of this house. I'm actually getting a tiny bald spot on the back of my head where I have been slowly tearing my hair out.


Counter Culture
We have worked extremely hard at keeping our kids young and as uninfluenced by the world as possible. It has not been easy. It's a day-to-day exercise in patience, determination, and practicing the art of saying "no." We want them to think that the coolest thing they could ever do is just be themselves. As they get older, we want them to be secure enough in themselves to decide what parts of the world they want to be involved in, but for now we like to keep a buffer between them and said world. For instance, if Lily were to listen to what the world says, she would be wearing fishnet stockings and listening to Justin Bieber. And she's 9. See what I mean?

Our kids may or may not win popularity contests. This may or may not hurt their feelings. But will they be well-rounded and okay with who they are? I certainly hope so. We want them to try all manner of sports, activities, cultures, hobbies, and opportunities. The world is so much bigger than video games and football.

Carver loves orchestra and he loves music. Carver had the chance to perform in front of a panel of judges with his bass. He and his two fellow bass players from school picked a piece as a trio, and today was their performance. They rocked it. It makes me so proud.
Waiting for his name to be called.

He was incredibly nervous.

Zac, Carver, and Katrina. After receiving the highest score from the judge. Are they not the cutest little
bass players you've ever seen? 


Meet My New Friend
The only good mirror in my house is in my bathroom, so enjoy the
lovely towel in the backdrop.

I have been wanting a new (real) camera for about a year now. I loved the quality of pictures I knew I could get with a Digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera. I also loved the idea of buying one now and practicing with it before our big trip across the pond so that I could actually know what I was doing while stalking Colin Firth photographing London. I hated the price, though. Upwards of $700.00. Also, I hated the learning curve. I have no photography experience whatsoever, and as I Googled my way through reviews and manuals, I had no clue what they were reviewing half the time. White balance? ISO? Aperture? It appeared more difficult than an engine review of a car.

Two things were in my favor, though. Time and a desire to buy used. My good friend Ebay did not disappoint, and after browsing for a few weeks I found a refurbished Canon Rebel XTi with extras for almost half the cost of a new one. High five, baby. Now I have lots and lots of time to decode the manual and practice and enjoy it. I would say at this point I have a most basic, basic, basic understanding of how it works, but I've got miles to go. We are going to the Grand Canyon in a couple weeks and that will be my big test.

But for now, please enjoy the photo of me with my comfy brown vest and damp orange towel backdrop. Worth every penny, don't you think?


A Little Music
This weekend was the all-city orchestra concert for elementary students. Lily was able to participate and she had so much fun getting dressed up and playing her cello. I remember when we first began music lessons with each of our kids it was overwhelming. Trying to remember to practice and to get to lessons and find the music that they left all over the house just added more headaches to my day. But our persistence has paid off. Carver is a born musician--he loves it and it's one of the best parts of his day. Lily and Z play well, sometimes reluctantly, and are getting better each day. Zinabu is still 100% tone deaf, and that is why he is playing the drums. Just so you know.
A quick smile for me. Can you tell how nervous she was?

Last minute look at her music. You can't be too careful with "Hot Cross Buns."

Can you see her? Yeah. Me neither.