Sunday, July 24, 2016

A breath of fresh air

My sister-in-law, Margaret, has a family ranch in Joe's Valley. I've been hearing about it for years and was so excited when she invited our family to stay there for the reunion. It is the stuff childhood dreams are made of. Completely unplugged and an idyllic setting for fort building, river wading, critter catching and imaginations running wild. Made only better by sharing it with cousins. We were sad that Tyson and his family weren't able to make it to this part of the reunion since he was starting his dental rotation, but the rest of us made some memories that will last a lifetime. 

We couldn't have planned it any better to have our group of girls born together then our big group of boys. Everybody has a best friend and it is pure magic watching those friendships grow over the years. It was also pure entertainment watching these girls trying to get the paddle boat out of the shallows. It ended with Kylie in her underwear and Jayci excitedly announcing, "this is exactly why I always wear spandex under my jeans!" as she peeled hers off. Way to prepare for the unexpected, Jayci.

That moody overcast sky was the perfect back drop. I wasn't too heart broken about missing the heat wave going on back in the desert right about now.

These boys spent hours building forts and shelters on the side of the mountain and collecting bones, skulls and wooden weapons. Boy heaven, I tell you.

Tyler's dog, Cub, was the camp mascot. The only way to make this boy heaven even better is to add a dog.

If they weren't building forts, they were at the river building dams, playing in the mud and floating down the river on logs.

That water was ice cold, definitely not for the faint of heart or the Arizona bred kids. Of course Jayden and Ryder couldn't pass up a good dare and had to earn their man card by going all the way under.

Jayden got what he bargained for when he kept trying to push Tyler in.

I couldn't get enough of these beautiful wild daisies. Which are apparently toxic for the soil and are in the process of getting removed (where's the cry face emoji when you need it??). I just wanted to gather a whole bunch to bring home and put on my kitchen table.

My favorite part of vacations is that I'm free from all the household duties leaving me with all the time in the world to just be present in the moment with my kids. Ryder and I went exploring one afternoon where I showed him the carving rock that Margaret's family had been carving initials into ever since she was a little girl. Ryder found his own little carving rock and went to work with the tools to make his own little "R" and then he wanted to make an "M" next to it because Maddox is his best friend.

Then we took the paddle boat for a spin. Literally. I was peddaling and he was steering us in a circle. We stayed out there until the rain brought us in. I loved our time together and his little conversations. Not to mention, this is the first time this side of April that we've been able to wear jeans. Fully embracing Utah and it's beautiful summer.

Riding the quads was a huge highlight for us city folk. Driving the kids all over creation on those things was the best. Utah is so beautiful in the summer, it makes me {almost} want to pack up and move to the country.

Campfires and the conversations around them always make for the best memories. I loved having us all together sharing stories of when we were growing up. It was fun having Kylie and Jayden old enough to sit in on the stories too. I really missed having Jason here since he had to fly home early for work, but I felt like I had such good bonding moments with the kids. From Kylie sitting on my lap at the campfire, to sharing a bed and midnight cuddles with Maddox and Ryder, to caring for Jayden the way only a mother can when he got stung by a wasp.

These next photos capture summer perfectly. Sun shining on shirtless boys wading in water while the long grass blows in the gentle breeze. Buttery golden summer perfection.

They loved catching these little critters that they thought were shrimps. I loved the way Ryder would call them "shwimps" but he got so mad at me when I commented about it, saying "I don't call them shwimps, I call them.....hmm....shwimps" with this confused look on his face. You could just see the wheels turning in his brain trying to figure out how to make it come out the way he is thinking it in his head. I love this age and love their little words.

It drizzled off and on while we were there so we weren't too concerned to see rain streaking the windows while we sat around the table inside playing card games. Then the wind started picking up, lightning started striking and the rain started pelting down harder and we realized the little boys were up on the hill working on their forts. I threw on my hoodie and ran through the pouring rain expecting to find them crying in fear. Instead we found them all smiles sitting inside their forts for shelter. Maddox was just beaming with excitement for the chance to put his shelter to use.

I took cover with them, hoping to wait it out but it only got worse. Tyler met us up there with the quad and as the rain turned to hail and steady leaks from the roof turned the ground into mud, Ryder began to cry which had a domino effect and before long all the little boys were in hysterics. We decided to make a run for it, the mountainside had turned into a muddy river and we were sliding all over the place as we made our way to the quad. We all piled on and made it to the cabin where we exchanged our sopping wet clothes and tears for warm pajamas, laughs and snuggles under the sleeping bag. It took Ryder quite some time to calm down, he was pretty traumatized. But Maddox declared it the greatest adventure ever and couldn't wait to tell everyone that he had survived a flash flood.  We were planning to leave that afternoon and I was nervous to traverse the steep, narrow, dirt mountain road out. We waited until the sun came out then my brother drove out with me to make sure we made it safe. It was tricky maneuvering around the small rock slides and areas where part of the road had been washed out, but eventually we made it out. Grateful for good brothers! We had a good drive home, dinner at Costa Vida where I shared a salad with Jayden and had to drive across the street to get hamburgers for the littles, seats reclined with Aladdin on the DVD player and my rediscovered 2002 mp3 player spinning hits from Counting Crows and Dave Matthew's Band into my headphones while we drove into the sunset. We spent the night in Vegas, swam all morning in the hotel pool, then made our way back home with enough memories to make it through until our next summer adventure.

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