We left last Wednesday on a road trip to visit my brother's family in Utah.
It was a much-needed visit and it did my heart endless good. I like to get out there and visit them a couple times a year but it's been a little harder since we've had babies. Matt and Amy come out here a few times a year as well, and we have our big family trips together in the summer, but it never feels like enough time together. Then again, our time together is always extra cherished, full of fun and unforgettable.
We tried to get an early start as the drive takes us at least twelve hours. My dad was with us too, following behind in his own car. After the first couple hours, we stopped at Grandma Cherie's house in Reno for a quick visit and my mom was there too. The fact that the girls got to visit one of their favorite places: Grandpa Corry's backyard, was made extra special by a bonus treat: SNOW.
We were sent on our way with cookies and root beer and hugs and kisses and I'm sure grandma and grandpa breathed a sigh of relief when we drove away. ;)
I had promised the girls a playground pitstop but by the time we got to Elko the sun was going down and it was bitter cold. Whoops! Running around a Starbucks had to suffice. I forgot how early it gets dark and the traveling-with-toddlers-trials that might accompany that issue. They'd already napped so it was hours till bedtime. We made due. Sang songs, told stories, and bought a tiny gas station flashlight.
I kept a worried eye on the rearview mirror, at Pops driving behind us, constantly surprised that overall he kept up pretty well and never got sleepy. Good old pops!
It was 11:30 Mountain time when we pulled into their driveway. Matt and Amy have a new house since we visited them last spring and I was so excited to be finally seeing it in person. Pictures are nice but they really don't do it justice. You can't see in a photograph that utter warmth, joy, and coziness that their home emanates.
As we pulled into their driveway I could see Matt and Amy through the window, up on chairs in the kitchen hanging balloons for Jarom's birthday party the next day. I remember past years I've visited on the kids' birthdays, arriving during the exact same kind of festive preparations. They always get the house all gussied up for the birthday morning surprise. Some things never change even when your kid is turning THIRTEEN.
Even at that hour, on a school night, Bella and Jarom sprang up out of bed to greet us with the sweetest hugs. Then when we tried to quietly carry the girls in, they both woke up, so there was a crazy late night reunion and everybody stayed up til one a.m.
When we finally went up to bed, it was up in our third floor attic nook. I loved sleeping up there; we all did. When you open the shutters in the morning and look out the windows to the backyard, you get an eyefull of beautiful trees and the river flowing by. Our first morning, Polly was the first to discover this, with great delight: "River! River!"
Going up and down those stairs was their great joy. At one point during our visit I was looking for Polly (usually she was within my sight) and so I headed up. I was calling her and I could hear her little voice answering. All the way up on the third floor is a reading nook of the children's books Amy has collected and kept from her kids' childhoods. Polly was there and looked up at me; "I'm readin." I asked, "did you come all the way upstairs by yourself?" and she stated, "I be werrry careful."
First morning there, Amy had made mini blueberry muffins and was frying up a big pan of breakfast potatoes. Bella and Orion had stayed home from school. Darin and I had brought some Totem coffee. I could tell that morningtimes in this home are happy, comfortable and full of light. It was just so good to be there.
Lucy had brought her Ghostbusters costume to show Oey, and he showed genuine interest: "that's really cool!" which pleased her. Then to add to the excitement, he came down in his whole elaborate Ghostbusters get up. It is so awesome, much of it handmade meticulously by himself. He prefers the handmade, electrical-taped version of the neutrona wand to the store bought one. He posed quite proudly.
Playing with the balloons for Jarom's party, which would take place after school.
Each morning while there we would go outside in the backyard to play awhile. There is a trampoline, a hammock, a wooden seat-swing, trees and leaf piles, a pint-sized version of the big house known as "the playhouse" with a steep spiral staircase, and of course, the beautiful, lively, flowing river where otters have been known to swim. Oh and November ice on the trampoline.
Amy in her element. She always wanted a yellow house. And guess what, the girl is aglow. She has taken this life so ripely and fully into her hands and she is slurping up the juices. Haha, sorry that is gross but that's what comes to mind. She has the most abundant love and spirit; she's at a time in her life that is full of light and I am so proud of her.
Their Riverwood Home.
We met Matt for lunch at Cafe Rio and then in the late afternoon, Darin and I took the girls to a couple bookstores around Provo. By the time we got back, Jarom's 13th birthday party was in full swing. He and all his friends had walked home from school together. Amy later told me that as she drove up she came across their huge pack walking, two of the boys on unicycles! I loved eavesdropping on their jokes (they actually say "hashtag" to be funny) and picking up on some of the things they were interested in. One kid wished Jarom a happy birthday in Japanese with great aplomb. They are a wild, creative, hilarious group and it was pretty heartwarming to see Jarom in the midst of so many of his own kind.
Darin had a special beer that Matt had remembered he liked from our last visit. Now that's a host!
Amy's always serving up the fun.
The sweetest kid. No matter how contrary he acts, (too dang smart for his own good, all his life.) he has a heart of pure gold. I remember the day he was born like yesterday, and all the exciting days in between. He's going to make an amazing teenager.
The kids played an interactive video game. In the old days, we called them "board games." My girls were right in the thick of it.
Next morning dawned on MY birthday! Darin and the girls had watercolored a card for me and he had brought a few little gifts from home. My helpers made short work of them. I got a Kitchen Gardens book illustrated by Tasha Tudor and Patti Smith's new book, M Train. Plus the new Joanna Newsom album. all set!
Wore my overalls in anticipation of our hot springs hike planned for the afternoon.
Snugglebugs. I was so glad to see Polly opening up to Amy and Bella and everyone else more on this trip. As she nears two years old, and talks more and more, she has really blossomed to the world and become more trusting.
We did the hokey pokey in celebration of it all.
And went for a swing in the freshest November sunlight.
39 years old.
Matt worked a half day so that we could spend the afternoon hiking in a gorgeous canyon south of town just a bit to a spectacular set of hot springs. The canyon got little sunlight so it was bitter cold! Darin had Tootie up on his back and she was miserable and fussy along the way. Polly did pretty well snuggled to my chest and Bella and I told stories as we walked.
Frosty logs and icicles along the river!
Once we caught sight of those pools I about fainted at their beauty. The springs were scattered down the hillside with little waterslides and falls and spouts pouring into various pools of different shades of turquoise and jade. Some so bright emerald you had to squint, others a milkwhite blue like the teeth of a january storm, some a calming sage green, steam rising into the mystic. Amy says the colors are always changing.
It was a frantic rush at the water's edge to get IN. Toot was immediately soothed. (as were the rest of us!) She had been so fussy, SO COLD, and now she just completely relaxed as her bones warmed. The girl is a soaker by nature. Polly, on the other hand, was ill at ease in that warm water. She clung to me quite desperately and after about fifteen or twenty minutes had passed she was crying to get out. It was not super warm, and everyone else was smiling and content, so I'm still not sure what spooked her so much about the hot springs. But she kept saying afterwards, "I not like it." Papa was a gent and gathered her into a waiting towel and helped get her clothes back on and hold her so I could soak a bit longer.
Group shot taken by Pops who forgot his bathing suit!
Getting the kids out and bundled quickly means the adults have to be ready and waiting. We worked as a team. I'm happy to say that Lucy was warmed thoroughly enough to have a cheerful hike back! No more high-up in the backpack though; the air's too biting up there! She hiked some of the way herself, then Matt and Amy took turns carrying her the last mile or so. Darin had gathered Polly to his chest and started back with her to keep her warm. (ps. check out oey with the warm stones. now that is a kid who knows how to hot spring.)
Refreshed and invigorated I set off with my spritely little girl in her daddy's scarf.
It was an unforgettable experience for me and I am so grateful they took me there on my birthday.
When we pulled back into town we ordered fries and veggie burgers and huge shakes at JCW's and headed back to Matt and Amy's house for a picnic by the fireplace.
We all stayed up late and it turned into a game night of sorts. Orion is a master chess player, in fact all three of their kids can play well. I myself have never learned. Weird.
I absolutely love Link the cat. He has a white triforce on his shoulder and he loves me back. I could tell he wanted to sneakily be around me, although he pretends to be aloof. If only he would've slept with me. Goals for the future.
I'll be back with more memories of our Utah road trip adventures soon.