We’ve had some fun adventures lately that deserve documentation.

First off – the rocks by our house:

There’s a trail by our house that we like to walk/scooter/roller blade/bike on. It takes us past a huge pile of rocks that the kids love to climb on. The rocks also break apart really easily, which means they do a lot of Minecraft pickaxe imaginary play. It’s adorable.

Dallas and I decided to plan a day down in Provo. We began by taking the kids to the Provo Library. You may or may not know that Dallas and I met in the Provo Library. We took the kids to the very spot where the magic started and reenacted our first conversation. It was the best.

The BYU Museum of Art had an Escher display. Escher’s art is so fun to look at; we thought our burgeoning artists would appreciate his drawings.

Madison appreciated the hard floor:

The other kids really enjoyed seeing the pictures.

Especially Brooke. I loved watching her study the pictures.

We can’t go to Provo without visiting Dallas’s beloved Provo mountains. We finished our day with a hike in Rock Canyon:

Our next adventure happened in between the Saturday sessions of general conference. The day before Dallas had come home from the store with six CamelBaks. My skeptical stare and raised eyebrow prompted him to assure me that we definitely needed these spiffy hydration systems because then the kids can carry their own water on hikes. “That would be really great,” he said. “You’ll love these,” he said. “Trust me,” he said.

Before now, when we went hiking Dallas would just carry all the water. Apparently one of us was tired of that arrangement and decided to do something about it. I guess I can’t blame him.

We broke in the CamelBaks with a little hike up by the Bountiful Temple. The hike was short enough and it was a cool enough day that the CamelBaks weren’t actually needed, but it gave me a good chance to prove to Dallas that the kids wouldn’t like hiking around with these contraptions.


And wouldn’t you know, the kids LOVED hiking around with these contraptions. I don’t think Dallas has ever seen a more beautiful sight than his four kids scampering around in nature with hydration packs strapped to their backs instantly elevating their appearance from casual hikers to serious, authentic-looking mountaineers.

Errrr….at least they looked authentic from the waist up. Madison never did quite manage to change out of her way-too-small pajama bottoms that day:

With our CamelBak maiden voyage out of the way, we were ready to take our water packs where they would really be needed – Goblin Valley. We woke up early and started out. Thirty minutes later we came to a screeching halt when we saw red flashing lights in our rearview mirror. Speeding. Curses. Do we look guilty?

Turns out they had just instituted a construction zone on I-15 and we were caught going too fast. Never mind that we weren’t anywhere near being the fastest on the road at any point of our four-hour journey. Eye roll. Who did that officer think he was? Didn’t he know who¬†we were? We’re official hikers on our way to explore southern Utah, and we’ve got the CamelBaks to prove it!

Thankfully our officer had a heart, and we only got a warning. The day was saved! We made it down the rest of the way without incident.

We ate a quick picnic lunch and decided to begin our exploring by hiking to the Goblin’s Lair. We had never been to this portion of Goblin Valley. The hike was hot and longer than the kids wanted, but the Lair was fun once we got there.

You have to climb down into the Goblin’s Lair which is a big cave. Here we are making the descent:

This is what the inside looked like:

The Goblin’s Lair was fine to do once, but we were ready to get down to the main part of Goblin Valley. That’s our favorite.

Madison could not get over how smooth and soft the sand was. She would constantly fall behind and, without fail, when we turned back to see where she was, we would find this:

We found a cave where we huddled inside to tell ghost stories:

After we were done, we all sat on the curb and dumped the sand out of our shoes. Madison poured an entire sand castle out of her shoe.

Goblin Valley is magical. The kids never tire of climbing rocks and exploring…and I must admit – the CamelBaks were awesome to have. I thought the backpacks would bug the kids as they were climbing up and down everywhere, but the kids never complained about wearing them. It was so nice not to have to stop every three minutes for a drink break. Each kid was free to drink whenever he/she needed to without holding up the group. The kids also liked having a tiny backpack area to store snacks, chapstick, hair bands, etc. I am now a CamelBak convert. Those things are life-changing, and (am I really saying this?) if I could turn back time, I might encourage Dallas to buy them sooner.

Moral of this story: get yourselves some CamelBaks and get down to Goblin Valley. You won’t regret either decision.

Spencer turned seven!

His favorite food lately is cheeseburgers. The week of his birthday he earned a pass to get a free burger at the Burger King right by our house, so I busted him out of school, and we had a fun lunch date.

We went to a bounce house place to play for hours after school. This is the only picture I got of him. A moment earlier he had been smiling at the camera. He wasn’t able to hold that pose long as he was itching to get bouncing again. At least you can still see the remnants of the thumbs up he was giving me:

Slushies are mandatory after all that bouncing:

Spencer has turned into the cutest little artist. I was impressed with the bird he was able to draw after looking at the picture in his bird book:

One day we had been driving in the car for a while. I noticed Spencer had been quiet. I found him meditating:

We sure love this sweet little guy!

Madison recently had a birthday and turned four. We love just about everything about this little girl.

She is now a sunbeam and gave her first prayer in Primary. She was the model of reverence waiting for her turn:

She’s also reverent when she sleeps!

Madison is obsessed with Hatchimals which are little eggs that have a heart on them. You rub the heart and when the heart changes colors, the egg is ready to hatch. Inside the egg is a tiny toy animal.

Madison wanted a Hatchimal cake. Easy enough:

We decided to celebrate her birthday with Chuck E.

New toys prompted the kids to play together nicely for a time:

I have some Madison funnies I’ve been saving up. Now seems like a good time to share them.

***

Madison: “Mom! Come quick! There’s a rattlesnake. It’s pinch black!”

Interested to see a “pinch” black rattlesnake in our backyard I followed her outside.

It was an earthworm.

***

We were meeting my sister and her boys at a museum. We saw them coming down a long sidewalk.

Me (jokingly): “Go run and give the boys a hug and a kiss!”

Madison (indignant): “No! Lincoln is not a prince, and I am not a princess!”

***

Madison was playing with her toys. I called her to dinner. As she was getting up to come to the table I heard her say, “Thanks for watching! Please like and subscribe!”

Apparently she has been watching way too much YouTube.

***

As further evidence of her YouTube addiction, Madison saw her presents on her birthday. She held them in her hands and kept trying to figure out what could be inside. Finally she said, “I wonder what this could be? Trolls? Or Hatchimals? Leave your answer in the comments below!”

***

We sure love this little girl!

 

Christmas was fun, but the week after Christmas was even better. My brother Ben and his wife Haley surprised us with a visit. The first thing Ben said to me when he told me he was coming was, “Get a babysitter. We need to do an escape room.”

I told him I had an even better idea. Enter Lockbox Mysteries. My super clever and creative friend started this business which is basically an escape room in a box. You rent the box from her and inside there are clues and codes and locks and boxes that you have to crack in order to solve the murder mystery.

We went over to Jeff and Sarah’s house and the six of us shooed the kids in the basement with a movie and popcorn while we (literally) donned our detective hats and got to work solving the mystery.

It was so fun. I had done one escape room before and this was every bit as good as that was, but we were able to do it in our own home! No need to pay extra for babysitters! No need to possibly be grouped up with weird people you don’t know! You just play with all the weird people you already know!

Not to brag, but we solved the mystery in 46 minutes and used zero hints.

If you’re local, you should definitely get a group of friends or family together to try this out. We all loved it!

We took advantage of the first real snow of the season and went sledding:

What is is about kids all bundled up in snow attire that’s so adorable?

Someone please give Haley the best aunt award! Turns out Madison is a total thrill-seeker, and she loved going down the biggest hill. Haley walked Madison up that hill and slid down with her at least five times. Each time Madison would jump up out of the sled before Haley could even catch her breath and yell, “Again! Again! That was so fun!”

We went back to Sarah’s house to warm up and take cute cousin pictures:

But SOMEONE wasn’t having it.

Sarah’s boys got a lot of dress ups for Christmas that were put to good use during our stay:

Brooke went cross-eyed over her cross stitching:

Dollar skate night was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up:

Bonus! Princesses were there!

Brooke helped Haley and Sarah make pizzas and was very proud of her accomplishment:

Ben and Haley love to play games. They always introduce us to fun, new games. Codenames quickly became a favorite:

If Codenames quickly became the favorite, we might say Legacy Pandemic: Season 2 slooooooooowly became the least favorite. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, here’s an amateur’s synopsis of it. It’s a cooperative game which means you all work together to beat the game. In this case, we were trying to find a cure to save the world from a pandemic.

When you start the game, you’re happy and excited and smiling:


As the play progresses you draw on the board and add stickers and pathways. Some cards have things you scratch off. You can only play the game in its entirety one time. However, the game consists of 12-24 rounds, and each round takes about an hour to play and an eternity to set up, so when you tell your brother and sister-in-law that you’re “game” to play the game, you better know what you’re in for.

Sarah and I most certainly did not know what we were in for.

I think we knew how seriously Ben takes his games, but we had never seen this type of serious. There were multiple dramatic pauses, giddy exclamations, and intense shoulder rubs during each round.

This was a game of logic and strategy playing to Ben and Haley’s strengths…and not so much to my and Sarah’s. Sarah bailed on us about four hours into the game. Some of the more invested players did not mourn that loss, though others keenly felt the absence of her cheers, hollers, and dance moves.

We took a break from our game playing, and I was able to remember I had a husband and a life outside of supply cubes and Hollow Men. We had a fun group date at Boondocks for some bowling, laser tag, go-karts, and 4-D movies.

We saw the princesses again!

Do we look like expert bowlers? Because we are not.

After our Boondocks break we went right back to our marathon game. Hours and hours and hours and hours later we did it. Against all odds we saved the world from disease. Our score was kind of crappy, but we blame that on the fact that we misread a few key rules which made our play much more difficult than it would have been had we demonstrated better reading comprehension skills.

The game ended and I felt a strange emptiness. My brain had no idea what to think about. I kept worrying about our cities and hoping they were doing okay. Now that several weeks have elapsed since we played, I no longer dream about epidemics and outbreaks…but I think it will still be some time before I agree to play a game like that again!

We had the best Christmas. I have lately resolved to get out and do more things as a family. I’m a huge homebody, but I want to take better advantage of all the fun to be had around us…starting with a festive trip to Temple Square!

We love to visit Temple Square with our friends from our Orem days. Brooke and Emma hit it off as if no time had passed…except time has passed and now instead of running off to play with stuffed animals they take selfies when they see each other?! They’re growing up!

I forced the family to humor me on a two-hour roundtrip road trip to look at Christmas lights. They grumbled the whole way to this office building which had lights set to music:

They complained a little less when we saw the magnificence of the Tree of Life in Draper (though in spite of the fact that I hollered ten times for the kids to get their coats before we left, Caroline apparently didn’t get the memo):

We hit up the Christmas streets in Taylorsville and South Jordan and ended at this house:

The kids were completely awed at the unbelievable number of decorations and lights that this house had and finally conceded that they were glad I had dragged them out on an adventure.

The kids’ favorite holiday tradition is making candy houses:

We always get together with Dallas’s cousins for a Christmas party. Brooke got a good hug from Oma during the party:

We lit luminaries at the cemetery and sang to Opa and Great Grandma and Grandpa Stadelbauer:

Christmas day came and the kids were super excited:

We had a couple Santa mishaps this year which threatened to ruin Christmas. Santa got Caroline a Lego set she already had and he also got Brooke a Lego set that ended up NOT being a Lego set but a knock-off Lego set. Oops. Get your act together, Santa. Sheesh.

 

The girls got socks and underwear. I jokingly asked them to hold them up for a picture and they surprised me by complying immediately. Ha!

I’ll end with a sweet Spencer story. My parents went to Jerusalem a few years ago and brought all the kids back a nativity. When I was putting it out this year Spencer was sitting on the couch quietly watching me put each piece in its place. When it was all set up he peacefully sighed and said, “That’s my favorite Christmas decoration.”