Friday, July 13, 2018

Arkansas

About a year ago, Stacey bought a Lakehouse about 20 minutes away from their full time home in Arkansas.  With a slice of paradise in her own backyard, we decided it was definielty worth a visit.  It turned into a family reunion with all my siblings + kids, my parents AND even my grandparents making the trek out.  A week spent on a private lake with the people I love the most made this summer one for the books.
Since everyone was together, my sister had a friend come out and take pictures.  She even did individual families but I'll make you wait to see that one until Christmas cards come out.  How awesome is it that it's July and I've already got my picture!?  High five!!! As for the group shots, I'm in love.
My entire family

Grandparents and Grandkids

Great Grandma and Grandpa Sumsion
One of my favorite vacations that I ever took as a kid was Lake Powell.  We spent a week on my mom's cousin's houseboat and all we did was lounge, hike, swim, ski, boat, and eat.  This last week was basically a reenactment.  I hope my kids will always have it as one of their favorite memories as well.  They shocked me from the get go with their bravery.  Mariah and Clay were jumping off the 12 foot dock the first 30 minutes we were there...I wish I had a video of Grandpa diving head first off the dock and then Clay with no hesitation immediately following...although he more went face first then head first.  He ended up with a red face and sore eyes.  After that, it was "straight like a pencil" jumps for him only.
All the kids loved the tube, even Zach and Benson.  They liked it even more when they were getting bounced all over the place!  I couldn't believe how rough Todd was with them at first but they were all smiles so I guess he knew what he was doing.
They also loved the knee board.  It's a great option for kids because it's actually something they can get up on when water skiing or wakeboarding is still way over their skill level.
One of the highlights for me was the Fourth of July.  Watching fireworks from a kayak could be a new tradition for me.  I however, didn't last very long because my boat partner was anxious to get back to the dock so he didn't miss the sparklers.
I thought Todd spent too much money on fireworks until I saw the show the neighbors put on.  It had to have cost over $1000 for all their stuff.  I guess we were lucky to enjoy watching them burn their cash.  It was as good a show as the community puts on.
Over the past year, The Sears have accumulated several water toys.  It was so much fun for all ages.  I got plenty of laughs watching everyone take a good spill on the paddle board (myself included).  It's not as easy as people make it look when you are just learning.
Grandpa, Mariah and Hayden take a spill
And more laughs when the adults tried to stand on the floating island.  The kids however, can run all over that thing and not fall in once.
We also kayaked around the lake a couple times each day and by the end even Mariah got a hang of how to control it.  The views were stunning and peaceful and a strong reminder that we live in a desert where life isn't near so green.
When the kids would get sick of the heat or too much sun, they could come inside and play in the game room.  Air hockey, foosball, and ping pong.  Clayton's three favorite past times.
Besides play in the water, we did do a few other things including a Sunday nature walk to a beautiful church and simple waterfall.
Great Grandma planned a few activities as well helping all the kids make t shirts out of money and gift boxes out of cards.  No small feat to get so many little kids to follow instructions.  Of course, their shirts didn't last long when we ended up at the 5 and Dime store and they wanted candy!  Except for Zach, he'd keep the shirt (or any other thing he's made) any day over candy.  Hence the picture with Mariah, she at least wanted to document the shirt before it came apart.
We took a group of 26 people out to a Mexican restaurant for my birthday and I'm sure the waitress must have cursed us under her breath when she saw that we stuck all the kids at one end of the table to fend for themselves.  Ha ha ha.  Pure chaos.  In fact, that can describe much of the week because it also means 26 people in one house.  Luckily we didn't need to get ready much with a lake vacation or the bathrooms would have been a problem!
Our Thanksgiving Point membership got us into the Amazeum Children's Museum for free so we took advantage.  It probably ended up being Benon's favorite part of the entire vacation.  He could have painted and squirted water bottles on this glass all day long.
It's an impressive museum with more climbing structures that I couldn't easily fit into...remember St. Louis?
Of course, Walmart is a huge contributor to the museum so they have a kids grocery store and distribution center.  Funny how play for kids is doing adults chores.
We would finish most nights sitting outside while the kids caught fire flies and played in the cooler weather.  We got to roast marshmallows and eat smores while we chatted and laughed.  I wish every summer night was spent that way.  I had to laugh when the twins saw that Benson had brought his monkey the first night we were there and then ran in the house to get their monkeys too.  This is what life is about.  Time with family, those we love the most.  It's certainly a week that I will cherish for a long time and I hope that relationships were strengthened and memories made for my kids as well.  One things for sure, pounds were gained...ice cream and ribs in abundance!
Alas, the time came for us to go home.  Although I hated to see the fun end, the kids were ready for more of a routine and decent sleep.  After all, when you fall asleep like this on the way to the airport, you know you were tired.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Missouri and Kansas

In a perfect world all of my family members would live close by.  But my world isn't perfect and I have to deal with people I love being far away.  However, if I'm going to have to deal with this, I'm at least grateful that my sister and two sister in laws live close enough to each other that we could visit them all in one trip.  We took our big summer vacation to the Midwest and it was amazing!  Mariah is the only one that ever remembers having been on a plane so flying was as exciting as anything for my boys.  Zach was a little nervous but quickly realized how calm and cool it really was.  They did great...even though we didn't land until 2:00 am.
Our first stop was the Sonboul home in St. Louis.  We knew we only had a few days here so we had to pack in my bucket list.  First stop was Gateway Arch.  The memory that will probably endure the longest of the arch was the humidity.  The forecast said 95 degrees with 95% humidity.  The arch has no A/C, only fans, and with it being a holiday weekend it was so crowded.  Two words.  Body odor!  Holy cow do you sweat in that kind of humidity.  In fact, when I stepped out of the air conditioned car, my sunglasses fogged up and they kept slipping off my nose all week.  That being said, we loved the arch.  The views were spectacular, and the history is impressive.  The only part that my oldest two didn't like was the ride up to the top.  You ride in little pods that feel kind of like a ferris wheel and they were nervous!  I'm glad that they are at least willing to try because Mariah admitted she only did it since it was a one time experience and that it was so worth it!
After the arch we headed to Fitz Bottling Company and restaurant.  When Mariah heard about this place she said it would make her entire trip if we went.  Her favorite treat in the entire world is root beer and Fitz has a working factory where they bottle about 25 different flavors.  It's fun to see how things work behind the scene.
Best root beer floats you've ever had.  Best and biggest!  We had Ghostbuster root beer floats, peanut butter cup, and nutella.  I'd recommend it to anyone visiting the area and now that we are home, Mariah still counts it as one of the highlights.
The other thing I just had to do was the City Museum.  It's the most unique museum I've ever seen.  Hard to even describe.  But if I did have to describe it, I'd do so by saying it's the easiest place in the nation to lose track of your kids as you crawl through a variety of chutes and ladders having no idea where they will come out and if you will even fit through until you are half way stuck!  It's a perfect place for teens and a little too much for little kids (mostly because you can't keep track of them) so I was glad we had some older nieces and nephews (Shaleigh and Emily were in town too) with us to help out.
The slides were seriously impressive.  The 10 story slide was the craziest part and the one that gave me the biggest wedgie as you go around and around and around with your shorts sliding higher and higher and higher with each turn.
Mariah's favorite part was the circus show.  It may have something to do with The Greatest Showman obsession but she especially loved it.
My kids all got braver and braver as the day wore on making it even harder to keep up with them.  Next time I'm taking my knee pads and losing 10 pounds to squeeze through all the tight spaces and we should be just fine.
Later that day we hit up the Sonboul's local pool and could have stayed all day.  I forced Zach to go down a waterslide and he probably went down 30 more times.  They all had so much fun and it's the best way to beat the humidity.
It was fun to see how well Benson and Miriam played.  They quickly became best of friends, giggling all weekend long.  It's just sad they can't spend more time together.
Later in the week we headed to the Araya's house in southern Missouri.  We only got to spend a day with them since their vacation overlapped with ours but at least we got to meet our two new cousins,  Lebron and Noah, who we'd never met in person yet.  The kids immediately warmed up to Uncle "Cheeto" when we pulled out his puppets and put on a show for them.
We also went fishing with Huck Finn aka cousin Hunter.  He helped the boys catch their very first fish!  They were so proud of themselves but not about to put the worm on their hook or take the fish off to release it.  I don't blame them!
On our way out of Joplin, we took a small detour to Fort Scott, Kansas.  I have to visit all 50 states and Kansas has yet to be checked off so it seemed necessary!  It was a stop worth while and the kids enjoyed it.  It's where the battle of Bleeding Kansas took place and a lot of civil war conflict since Kansas wasn't yet a free or slave state.  The kids learned what a hospital looked like back then as well as how to do laundry and work in the stables.  The Junior Ranger booklets they had kept them completely entertained and they even earned a badge afterwards for their work.
It was fun to have new experiences and see new places.   I heart travel and could live on vacation.