Life has been too crazy lately for me to blog about our spring break trip that we took a month and a half ago.  I still don’t have time to do the trip justice.  This short post will have to do.  I polled the family members who went on the trip (Juju didn’t go because she had school and work, and Shroom didn’t go because he opted to go with a friend’s family to Las Vegas) on their top three favorites on the trip.  Here are their results (with a few pics from each top choice carefully chosen to preserve our anonymity):

Hub

1.  Scorpion hunting! (We stayed with my sister who happened to be experiencing a scorpion infestation.  We learned that scorpions glow in the dark when you shine a black light on them.  Hub loved going in the backyard after dark and hunting for the little nasties).

2.  Making Japanese food.  (Hub made some of his yummy Japanese food for all of us one night)

3.  Going to Oreganos for pizzookies.  (Oreganos is an Arizona original with the best dessert in the world–the pizzookie is a partially baked cookie topped with ice cream.  Yum!  I want one right now!)

Actual glowing scorpion

Huh (joined us on some of our activities since she just happened to be attending college in Phoenix at the time).

1.  Visiting the Phoenix Zoo.  Especially feeding the random squirrel on the trail, and going into the monkey enclosure.

2.  Taking pictures.

3.  Playing games with the family

Our squirrel friend

 

Mack:

1.  All day Thursday.  (The day consisted of kayaking at Tempe Town Lake, a picnic, renting tandem bikes and riding trails at Tempe Town lake, and then later that evening seeing the movie “Rio.”

2.  The warm weather.

3.  Phoenix Zoo.

 

 

Hoob:

1.  Feeding sting rays at Phoenix Zoo.

2.  Oreganos

3.  Riding the tandem bikes.

 

 

Yawlin:

1.  The Arizona Science Center.  (My scientific little boy loved all of the interactive exhibits here).

2.  The Tandem bikes.

3.  A tie.  Oreganos and spending time with family.

 

Me combined with Mack

 

Me combined with Hoob.

 

Me combined with Yawlin

 

Yawlin

 

Hoob

 

Mack

 

Me

 

Kweenmama:

1.  Seeing family.  Namely my daughter who had been living away from home at college and seeing my sister and her family.

2.  The tandem bikes.

3.  Relaxing….

My nieces' pet baby turtles

 

Huh showing her siblings around her campus

 

It was a great trip!  I wish I had time to write more about it, but life keeps getting in the way…

…at least we have the memories!

 

 

So why haven’t I posted on my regular schedule?  Because we have been doing the “Adventure Thing.”   Here are some pics to tell the story:

Kids climbing rocks

Yup, we are in Moab.  Yesterday we rented atv’s for an all day trail ride.

Hittin' the trail!

After riding all morning we stopped at Catacomb Rock for a picnic lunch.

View of picnic from inside Catacomb Rock

We explored Catacomb Rock and discovered that someone was using it as a campsite.

Tent inside Catacomb Rock

We rode to the Chicken Corners area and enjoyed the view.

Bein' brave looking at the Colorado River below.

Son on the edge.

Hub and Huh decided to walk the rest of the trail to see where it ended up.  The rest of us didn’t dare…

Huh and Hub walking the trail (Hub near the point)

Close up of Huh and Hub on the trail.

Today our adventure continues with hiking in Arches National Park, sledding on a sand hill, and checking out a swimming hole we’ve never visited.  

Got Adventure?

I’m back from being “unplugged” and I’m rarin’ to do some blogging!  One of the things I want to share is this game called Morph that we played while being unplugged.  Mack learned the game at work and kept telling me she wanted the family to play it.  Finally, one night, we did.  (BTW, I named it Morph because Mack didn’t know the name of the game.)  Our family liked it so much that we played it twice that night.  Here is how you play:

Each person has a blank piece of paper and a pen or pencil.

Each person writes a sentence at the top of the page and then passes the paper to the person on their right.

Each person reads the sentence on their new piece of paper and underneath the sentence draws a picture to match the sentence.  Make sure to not draw the picture too big because several sentences and pictures will go on each paper.  Once the picture is drawn the person folds the paper down so that the sentence is hidden but the picture can still be seen, then passes the paper to the right.

Each person now looks at the picture on their new piece of paper and underneath the picture writes a sentence to match the picture.  They then fold the paper down so that the picture is hidden and only the new sentence is showing.  Pass to the right.

Each person now reads the new sentence and, you guessed it, draws a picture underneath it to match, folds the paper down, and passes to the right.  And so forth…

Keep passing papers as long as you want.  Mack kept count and had us stop once our original paper reached us.  The fun part is when each person unfolds their paper and shares with the group the morphing that has taken place.  It was hilarious to hear the sentences and be shown the pictures that were drawn.  

I can’t show the funny drawings our family came up with, but here are how some of our sentences morphed (keep in mind that we have a bunch of teenagers, so their humor can sometimes be quite crude):

“Tomorrow I will take a shower”  morphed into “The teacher threw up and scared her students!”

“Yawlin kicked a home run in a game of boccer”  morphed into “The ball was hit so hard that it passed an alien and three black holes.”

“Max grew longer legs so Trent couldn’t make fun of him anymore”  morphed into “Kweenmama became an evil dog trainer and trained her dogs to chase the bad kids at her crossing.”

“Yawlin’s feet smell like moldy cheese” morphed into “The ugly, big-headed baby made it to the circus and was everyone’s favorite.”

“The Kweenmama family went to Moab”  morphed into “Hover craft Honda is fun to drive.”

“007 is a way cool spy” morphed into “She wore a diaper and had double muscles!”

“Share your toys” morphed into “He pooped out a ball and killed the poor boy in the middle.”

“Max is a very fat, fat, fat, fat dog” morphed into “The rat-wolf could talk!”

“This is a statement sentence” morphed into “Then the Pillsbury Dough Boy poked Juju back.”

“Hoob was watching ‘Criminal Minds'” morphed into “The end of the world just came!”

“It takes two to make it right” morphed into “Grandma got run over by a semi.”

“Yawlin fell off the trampoline and hurt his face” morphed into “A cookie likes biology.”

“My mom turned Yawlin into a clown with a hammer” morphed into “Shroom had a big hand and hit a kid with it.”

“Huh farted so big that the house blew up” morphed into “Hoob blew a giant snot bubble and scared Shroom.”

Try it with your family/group and see what laughs you create!

Blending a family can be very challenging, and we have certainly had our challenges over the last 4 1/2 years that we’ve been “in the blender,” but, we have also had some good things happen.  Here are a few recent, every-day happenings that have occurred that makes me feel that our blended family is doing okay:

*Mack, Shroom, and Hoob stayed up late last Sunday evening playing DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) on the X-box.  Hub and I could hear peals of laughter coming from the basement.  The next morning, because there was no school, they were back in the basement playing.  I went down to check on them and they invited me to see the dance they’d made up the night before.

“Now keep in mind, we were tired when we made this up,” I was cautioned.

The three then proceeded to show me a dance in perfect unison that had the silliest moves I’d ever seen.  I laughed so hard that I had tears coming out of my eyes.  “Has Hub seen this?”  I asked.

“No.”

“I’m going to go get him.  He needs to see this.”

Shroom ducked and said, “Noooo, he will disown me!” 

The rest of us laughed and I went upstairs to get Hub who was working in his home office.  “Come downstairs.  There is something you have to see.”  Hub looked at me curiously and got up from his chair.

When we got to the basement the three goons performed their dance for Hub.  He laughed just as hard as I did.

Step-siblings together.

*Shroom sent Huh a Happy Birthday text:  “Roses are red, violets are blue, you look like a Huh, and you pitch like one too!

Step-brother to step-sister

*Hub and Yawlin spent some time together last night while the girls and I were at a Young Women activity for our church.  They visited my parents briefly and went to Wendy’s for dinner.

Step-dad with step-son

*We are all being patient with Yawlin who has been learning about crystals in school and who now has four different crystal experiments lined up on the kitchen counter.  It was Hub who took him to the store to get the materials for his new-found interest.

All family members

Playing games, laughing, dancing and being goofy, texting silly messages, eating fast food, fostering interests, showing patience and spending time together–those simple things are what make a blended family, any family, work.

The t.v. was on showing the Grammy’s, mostly so Mack could check out the fashions for her fashion design class.  Most of us weren’t paying attention to the t.v. though.  Hub and I were cuddling on the couch and playing footsie.  Huh was sitting on the floor doing homework on my laptop.  Juju and Yawlin were making sock puppets–Juju for the upcoming youth talent show for our ward, and Yawlin just for the heck of it.  Between Grammy acts, Mack was flipping through old magazines looking for certain color schemes in outfits for her fashion design homework.  Shroom was also quietly doing homework.  Hoob was intermittently watching and commenting on the Grammy’s and packing her lunch for school the next day. 

Also present in the room were Plumber (Huh’s boyfriend), and Max, the dog.  Plumber had his own observations about the Grammy’s and Max, he just wanted people to pet him.

My family all together, just hangin’ out…

…My kind of night.  🙂

The other night our Family Home Evening was a Family Trail Evening as we explored a nearby trail that most of us hadn’t visited before.  Three of Yawlin’s friends joined us (after calling their parents for permission first).  We didn’t get very far on the trail before the kids discovered “the silica pit” and started to climb:

Misc. 014

Misc. 010

I didn’t do any climbing because it was my job to take pictures (a great excuse that has served me well many times).  And Huh didn’t climb because it’s the state softball playoffs for the next two weeks and she didn’t want to “risk getting hurt again.”  Every other person in our group made the climb, including Hub.  Thankfully, no bodies tumbled to the bottom, although some denim bottoms probably received some wear and tear as kids made it back down by sliding on their rear-ends.

While the others climbed, Huh and I enjoyed the view:

Misc. 015

After the climbing and sliding and cheering and laughing and screaming, we no longer had time to explore the rest of the trail because Yawlin’s friends needed to get home.   We went back to the cars and made sure to drive around this:

Misc. 017

The entire activity took only one hour.  One hour of precious family time.  One hour to laugh, explore, and enjoy our family relationships.  The kids had so much fun spending time together that they didn’t want it to end.  We like to take advantage of times like that so, after Yawlin’s friends were dropped off at their homes, Hub lit a fire on the patio and got comfortable, just to keep the good feelings flowing:

Misc. 007

We made s’mores, some of the kids played basketball, and we ended the activity in time for the evening news.

New memories were formed at very little expense or effort.  Simple activities, like our evening together the other night, are the mortar that holds our family relationships together.   Not needed was a big, expensive trip or $10.00 movie tickets, or a check-list of must-haves.  It was simple and fun.  Kids are usually creative enough to make their own adventures–such as challenging each other to make it to the top of a silica pit.

If we provide our time, the kids will do the rest.

There is a tip in an article in yesterday’s Parade magazine that I like.  The article, titled “5 Easy Tips to Save Money and Energy” does just that–lists tips on ways to save money and energy.  Tip #2 is the one that caught my attention.  David Applebaum, who has designed homes for celebrities and is a “green” advocate, is quoted:  “My family takes a 30-minute energy break together.  We go through the house, turn off all the lights and appliances–including the heater or air conditioner–and unplug unnecessary things like phone chargers.  Then we take a walk or go for a ride on our bikes.  Along with adding extra family time, it gets everyone in the habit of turning things off before going out.”

Having been “unplugged” for the last week, I am taking notice of things families can do to spend more time together.  It seemed that the things I read this last week promoting “National Turn Off Your t.v. Week” focused more on the “green” aspect of the week–“unplugging” would save energy–than on the valuable family time unplugging could provide.  Unplugging can do both, if you choose to use the time wisely.  I don’t want to take away from the importance of taking care of our planet and saving energy, but the purpose of my blog is to promote family, so that is what I focused on while I unplugged for the week.  In the David Applebaum quote above, I zero in on the fact that his 30 minute energy break also provides added family time.

Since my son is off-track from school, most of my unplugged time was spent with him, but I was also able to get in some extra time with my girls.  Here are some of the highlights of my week:

*Yawlin and I were able to explore a different local trail every day.  Most of the days we took the dog with us so that he could get some exercise too.  Tuesday Huh was home for lunch, so she joined us on our walk and Hoob joined us on Friday’s walk since she didn’t have school that day.

*One day Yawlin and I left the dog home so that we could explore a new trail more extensively.  Yawlin made us some trail mix before we left and we brought along water bottles.  As we hiked we chatted together about all sorts of things.  I allowed Yawlin to lead the conversation.  We stopped and ate our trail mix and continued to talk about things important to a third grader–cub scout stuff, friends, soccer and baseball, what he wants to do on our upcoming trip to Oregon.  On the hike back to the car we played alphabet games that Yawlin made up.  When the hike was over he spontaneously gave me a hug and said, “That was fun, Mommy.  Thank you!”  🙂

*We played the “Life” board game so that Yawlin could practice counting money.  He was the banker and he won the game.

*Yawlin and I baked chocolate chip muffins one day as a surprise for the girls when they got home from school.  The muffins didn’t last long!

*We found Yawlin a nice pair of baseball cleats at a thrift store for only $4.oo.  Ya gotta love deals like that!

*Squid and Shroom still dropped by a few times during the week even though arrangements had been made for them to stay with their mother while Hub was out of town.

*Yawlin invited a friend over on Wednesday night to roast marshmallows with us in the back yard.  The two third graders took it upon themselves to make sure the fire never went out.  Mack insisted on burning every marshmallow that she roasted.

*Hoob and Yawlin went on a Costco run with me on Friday.  We made sure to go around lunch time so that they could try all the good food that was being sampled at that time.  They enjoyed it and ended up so full that they didn’t want much of a lunch when we got home.

Of course there were also the usual things that keep us busy during the week–soccer and baseball for Yawlin, softball for Huh, dance for Hoob, homework, parent/teacher conferences at Hoob’s school, grocery shopping, housework–all that “mom” stuff.  It was a great week and solidified in my mind the importance of making time for my family.  It is so easy to do.  The suggestion at the beginning of my post caught my attention because of the simpleness of the tip.  It isn’t that hard to take 30 minutes each day to focus on your family.  Step away from the computer, turn off the t.v., get the kids away from the video games, and spend time together.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, heck, none of the activities we did during the week could be considered fancy.  The important thing is that you are together. 

Just be together.

Who knew alpacas could be so interesting?  Some of the animals came right up to us and let us pet them.  When the girls spotted two that had been shaved entirely except for their heads they pulled out their camera phones and started taking pictures.

“They look like dandelions!”

“I’m sending this picture to all my friends.”

“I’m making the picture my wall paper.”

The National Alpaca Show had come to our town.  I’d read about it in our local newspaper and decided to take the kids when I saw the word FREE.  Free admission always catches my attention.  Free is good.  The kids were a little skeptical at first.  What’s so cool about alpacas?  But once we were there they had a blast.  Owners answered our questions and let us get in the pens with their animals.  One vendor of Alpaca products let us try on some hats made from alpaca yarn and then she took our picture as a group and asked our permission to use it in her next catalog.  The kids now claim they are models.

I’m always on the lookout for a free activity.  One time last year I read an article about a house that was about to be torn down to make way for commercial building.  The owner had opened the empty house to local artists who were allowed to turn the rooms into anything they desired.  I dragged my family to see it.  Again, they were skeptical.  Why would anyone want to see some “art house?”  Once there though, they enjoyed themselves.  The entire house had been transformed into a work of art.  The brick walls outside were murals.  The interior doors had been removed, painted on, and placed in the parking area outside.  Inside the house, every room, including bathrooms, had been used as some artist’s interpretation of the world.  Some of the rooms were downright creepy.  And, of course, those were the rooms the kids favored.  The public got to view the house for one week before it was closed for good and then torn down.  It was a brief opportunity not to be missed.  And the kids ended up saying that they were glad they had gotten to see it.

Sometimes opportunities to do something different present themselves unexpectedly.  Like four weeks ago when my sister, my daughter, and I were driving home from a weekend softball tournament and passed a graveyard unlike any we’d ever seen before.  I immediately turned the car around and went back.  It wasn’t like the cemeteries with carefully manicured lawns and marble headstones we were used to seeing.  There was no lawn, only dirt.  And all of the graves were mounded up and decorated elaborately.  Some had stones marking the perimeter.  Some had crosses and statues.  Others had deer antlers and plastic flowers.  Almost every kind of trinket imaginable was used to decorate graves.  Some of the graves had animal holes where animals had burrowed down.  We took many pictures and tried to figure out some of the stories of the people who were buried there.  When we got home we posted some of the pictures on our family website so that the rest of our family members could share in our adventure. 

None of the activties listed above cost us a dime, and yet they are the activities the kids like to talk about.  This week we are going to get lots of practice finding free activities.  Hub took his kids to our condo in Moab to entertain a client.  Because of work and sports schedules the rest of us stayed behind.  But, just because we couldn’t leave town doesn’t mean we can’t do a little something fun and different each day.  We will work around schedules, and all chores will have to be done before we do anything, but I have compiled a list of activities for the kids to choose from.  And the challenge I have given to all of us is that the activities have to be free and they have to get us out of the house.  If the kids want to add to the list of ideas they are welcome to do so.  Each day this week we will pick one of the activities and do it.

Some of my ideas:

*Our library is featuring a performance by a local ventriloquist.

*Many of the museums in our city are free.

*My daughter’s orthodontist is offering a free party at a local waterpark one day this week for all patients and their families.

*Even though we have lived here our entire lives we have never been to the observation deck at the top of one of the office buildings down town.  We can go, armed with our cameras.

*There are a few lakes/reservoirs within an hours drive from where we live that we can go to to picnic. 

*Our state capitol building has recently been restored and offers free tours.

*The Jordan River Parkway winds through the entire county.  We used to walk the river in the city where we used to live, but we have never walked it where we now live.  We can go explore the “new” areas of the river near us.

*Playing games with Grandpa is always a good activity.

Tomorrow we begin our week of FREE.  The best part is that the memories built will be priceless.