Sunday, July 9, 2017

Summer 2016

After three months of planning a wedding, followed by our wedding, a brother's wedding, and a two-week trip across the country, we were ready to slow down for a while! We were also happy to be home and spending some time with Jackson while we all adjusted to our new life together.

 Jackson and I visited the library, where he comfortably watched some kids play on a soundstage. :)

We celebrated the 4th of July with Brandon's family and lit fireworks in the street. 

Brandon and I found our fishing groove - he fishes and I read... and then take pictures of him with the fish he catches.

The missionaries in our ward - Elders Boutoille and Tyler visited every week to teach Brandon the new convert lessons. We became close to them and celebrated Elder Tyler's birthday together.

Camping in the living room

Little by little, we got the house put together and decorated. We were very blessed by the generosity of those who gave us gifts and gift cards and money for our wedding and were able to cover all of our needs and most of wants!

We checked out a drive-in movie.

Jackson and I had a couple play dates, including a Children's Museum play date with my friend Chrissi Harris and her boys.

Brandon and I planned weekly date nights, and one week his idea was the go camping at Monroe Lake. I consented because I was in love and wanted to do anything with him, even thought it was disgustingly hot outside. We spent time in the water, though, and enjoyed our shady site. When we were packing up, though, I had to tap out and sit in the car for a while cooling off while he finished packing up the tent. :)

Summer Road Trip 2016

After the wedding frenzy of June 2016, my entire family packed up and headed to Utah for our Green (my mom's side) family reunion at Bear Lake. Brandon and I drove, so we made it into a 2-week-long trip, making a few stops along the way.

First stop - roadside attractions in Casey, Illinois. There were some signs along the interstate claiming "The World's Largest _______", except instead of that blank line, there were actual objects. We saw the world's largest rocking chair, the world's largest windchime, but this town claims 7 record-breaking items. Among their other monstrosities, knitting needles and crochet hook, a golf tee, wooden shoes, pitchfork, and mailbox. So...yeah. Pretty exciting stuff.  

 Photographic evidence

I think we stayed in Kansas City that night, and then drove on to Loveland, Colorado. That day of driving is rough. I appreciate heartland scenery, but Kansas and eastern Colorado just really are not much to look at. But we finally made it to Loveland and the beautiful Rocky Mountains. We got in right at sunset, so didn't get to see a ton, but we stopped by Devil's Backbone and Brandon got his first taste for the Rockies.

We stayed with the Rawsons - a senior couple from my mission who are my dear friends. Their home is warm and inviting and I love being there. Not to mention they've got a pretty sweet backyard set-up.

We went to church with the Rawsons then set out over the mountains for Utah. I'd never driven the I-70 route from Colorado to Utah, so the sights were first for me, too! I've got a personal rule to always stop at scenic overlooks, and I'm rarely disappointed! 

We stayed in Provo that night at my aunt and uncle Jared and VoNique's house, although I can't remember if we ever actually saw them...they were gone when we got there and maybe I saw Vo for a minute when we left? I don't remember. But the next morning we visited BYU, Brandon fell in love with Sugar & Spice at the Cougareat, and Thomas gave us a BYU football tour, including a personal meet-and-greet with his coach. We've all loved watching him play, and it was fun to see what his daily life looks like.

We checked out the grounds of the new Provo City Center temple, which had recently been dedicated.

I had lunch with some friends in Orem...and then we headed up to Bear Lake! See what I mean about scenic overlooks?

We spent three days at Bear Lake with my mom's family, eating, playing games, boating, swimming, and eating lots of raspberry milkshakes. We had our traditional talent show, and I convinced Dominika to sing the song she sang at our wedding - it was fun to hear it when I could really focus on her! This was a fun bonding experience for my immediate family, too, since we had two brand new members of the family - Brandon and Alisha - who were still settling in.


Adelina with Leo (JaNel's son)

Adelina LOVES Jonah. Like really loves him.

The resort we stayed at was three levels, and my immediate family took up most of the basement. We had a kitchen and living area down there, so we spent a lot of time down there together.

We did some family pictures one day while we were there, which is just chaos when you're working with 50+ people. 

VeNicia and Spencer Glazier and JD and Colleen Green and families

 Isaac and Dominika Shoaf and family

Our whole crew

The original 6

Jacob and Alisha Shoaf and Nalon

Micah and Thomas

 Mom and all her siblings

The scenery at Bear Lake does not disappoint!

After our time at Bear Lake, we headed down to southern Utah for my immediate family's yearly family vacation. On the way, though, I had to grab some Happy Sumo, because obviously.

We stayed in Lydia's Canyon and spent a day at Bryce Canyon and a day at Zion. The first day at Bryce we did a hike all together with our big group (minus Jacob and Alisha who met us there at the end), and it was actually my favorite part of the trip. I loved the scenery of Bryce and it was really fun to be there with my whole family. That's a rare occurrence for us these days!

Jonah had to scale every incline possible.

Isn't my dad just the cutest? I love seeing him as the leader of our family. He's the best.

10k in the sky. NBD.

We rented a big house that we all stayed in and had lots of fun hanging out and playing games when we weren't out enjoying the parks. The first night there, my cousin Melissa even came over to hang out since she lived just 10 minutes away! Everyone loved on Baby Ephraim.

Day 2 was Zion National Park. Tessa, Jonah, Thomas, Isaac, Dominika, Brandon, and I all set out early in the morning to hike Angel's Landing, seen below. It was daunting, but fortunately by starting early we were shaded most of the ascent, so at least we were scorched!

 Zion's scenery is so different from but equally as gorgeous as Bryce's. I think the stunning part of Zion is how high and steep the cliffs are. They just shoot straight up from the canyon floor!

This hike is not for the faint-of-heart. The switchbacks are killer!

Here we all are at Scout's Landing - the last major stopping point before the final ascent. Brandon had hurt his ankle so he decided to stop here. I started up, but my legs were feeling pretty shaky and you're literally holding yourself on the side of a mountain with a chain so...I decided to choose life rather than falling to my death. Ephraim had just had a huge blowout, so after being wrapped in Thomas's shirt (they had run out of diapers), Dominika followed the rest of the group. To the top. With a baby strapped to her body. Two months post-partum. She's a superstar. I hear the view from the top is beautiful, but the views from this spot were nothing to be sad about!

 The final climb to the top

 After resting a minute, Brandon and I headed down and set out to find a watering hole for the family to visit later, but we never found it. Meanwhile, my parents and Micah had taken the kids on a different, easier hike (Emerald Pools) and I think Jacob and Alisha drove around the park, checking out the viewpoints.

The view from above - so happy to be going down those switchbacks instead of up! Fun fact - we ran into Madison Pachner, Thomas's future bride, on these switchbacks. Must've been on the way up, since we didn't come down with Thomas. At the time they were barely acquaintances in the same ward, but starting dating not too long after that!

After eating a picnic lunch in the park, we were all pretty exhausted, so we headed back to the house to play games and hang out together. The next morning we parted ways. Brandon and I had breakfast with Melissa and her family before going to church with them then heading out by way of the Navajo reservation in Arizona. Along the way, we stopped at the Four Corners monument, which is this random market and monument set up literally in the middle of nowhere. There is nothing else around it. But who can pass up the chance to be in four states at once, even if you have to wait like 20 minutes in line to take your picture?

We set a goal to visit all of the national parks as a couple, so when checking out the map with Thomas and Melissa, they recommended stopping at Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado, which was right on our way. We drove around and around up a huge plateau and saw some pretty sweet cliff dwellings. If we'd had more time, we could have taken tours of some of the dwellings but for this trip, we settled with cool views. We also saw some firsthand damage from a recent forest fire - a forest full of dead trees is so strange-looking!

That night we stayed somewhere in Colorado. I don't even remember where. I do remember, though, that we loved the little mountain towns we passed through on the way and vowed to return! The next morning, we visited Great Sand Dunes National Park, also in Colorado, and also wished we had more time to actually climb the dunes to see the whole dune field.

We did drive up as close as you could and got out to at least venture onto the dunes a bit, but we were instantly swarmed by mosquitoes and decided it just wasn't worth it if we weren't going all the way. I'm pretty sure I got like 20 bites in less than 5 minutes.

On our way out of the park, we look Suze on little off-roadin' detour to get a better view of the dune field. It's a lot bigger than it looks!

We spent the last night in Kansas City and battled some serious midwestern storms. I was so grateful Brandon was willing to do most of the driving!

We swung by the Liberty Jail, where Joseph Smith and a few of his associates were imprisoned for a while in rough conditions. The Church has a visitor's center there and has reconstructed part of the jail complete with mannequins and props. It's actually a cool place, and they focus a lot on the revelations Joseph received there, which are some of the most powerful sections in the Doctrine and Covenants regarding suffering and trials. I'd never been there, so I enjoyed visiting it for the first time with Brandon.

It was such a fun, but very long trip! We were happy to get home and start settling into married life.