Saturday, February 28, 2015

Snow Day!

The beginning of February was unusually HOT, so I got a little worried when I realized we hadn't driven up to Flagstaff for our annual snow day yet. The last rain had been two weeks before, and I really thought I probably blew it for the kids. I'm never one to let that sort of thing get me down, though, so we just packed up the car and went to see if there was anything left.

The fields that are normally blanketed in white were completely brown. Not one single patch of snow could be seen on the drive up. I was trying to prepare the kids for the worst, as we headed toward a trail near the ski resort, thinking it would be our best chance of finding the white stuff.


Kyle found a log to use as a bat while Russ pitched snowballs. Home run!

Dad loves a good snowball fight.

And Kallie loves to sample the snow.

Throwin' the snow again. I love Kyle's reaction to the snowball blur heading straight for him!

By the way, I was practicing shooting all on manual mode, so I took lots of pictures, and I didn't really play in the snow at all. I felt bad about that and getting on Kyle's case for throwing snow at me while I was holding my camera, but I am happy with how the pictures turned out. Three cute kids.

The four inch "Chinese" snowman.

Snow angel.

Russ agreed to help Paige build a bigger snowman. The snow was not the best, so the snowman didn't get very tall.

She didn't give up on it, though.

Father and son. Love it.

Poor Brandon had a big blue slushy, and he ended up getting sick and barfing it out on the snow. All I can say is... don't eat blue snow. It kind of bummed him out. Later, Russ had his gloves and his fingers were cold, so I suggested he put them in his pockets. Bad idea. Not a minute later, he biffed it and did a face plant. Worst of luck for the little guy!

I begged and begged for this fake, cheesy grin. It was better than all the sad faces... in fact, it's kinda funny. I was practicing taking pictures in different lighting conditions. I call this "Sunshine Kids."

Kallie is probably my biggest collector. She finds beauty in the simplest things.

Kyle never misses an opportunity to use his new knife.

As a study in light, I exposed for the trees...

and then for the sky just a few moments later. The results blew me away. Light. Incredible.

Except for missing both of our chances to buy some Girl Scout cookies, the day was a success. Goodbye to the snow for another year!!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

So Kallie had been asking to go roller skating for a while, and I thought it might be a fun thing to do while Russ was in DC. On the very day he left, a $.49 coupon for skating landed in my inbox, and I knew we had to go!! Since it was very last minute, we were lucky to get the McBurneys to go with us.

I forgot to think about how hard it would be for one parent to help three kids who didn't know how to skate very well. I rented one skate mate for them to share, thinking that I could help Brandon while one of the girls held onto the side and the other one held onto the skate mate. When I got Brandon out on the rink, he was like this short, heavy, boneless, slippery blob. He couldn't even stand on his skates, and I wore my back out trying to get him around the rink for the first time. Kids are often surprising, though, and he soon learned to stand and take baby steps to skate. I was so glad when a lady had pity on my soul and gave me her daughter's skate mate for him to use.

Yay, I finally had a chance to skate around and get some pictures!!

Paige made a friend, and I think that helped her find the confidence to go out on the rink without the skate mate.

Meanwhile, Brandon decided he didn't need the skate mate anymore and pushed it away. The first time he did that, he started doing a jig with his feet and saying, "Look at me go!" just before rolling right onto his rump. Later, he would push it in front of him and then skate up to it. I was really surprised.

Did I forget to mention that Kyle was there? He was so fast that he only showed up as a blur on my pictures. We're glad we brought him because it was fun to watch him wipe out and roll across the rink.

By the time we left, all the kids wanted to go again soon!

Saturday, January 31, 2015


New Year's Day was cold, but that didn't last long. The beautiful winter weather in Phoenix made me long for a hiking adventure. Still feeling a little stung from our Thanksgiving Day fail, I decided to try Camelback again on MLK Day. I should have known that since it was a holiday weekend again, I was going to have trouble with parking, but I didn't let a bummer thought like that cross my mind! I mean... I didn't even have anyone to hike with me, but that didn't stop me. Optimism. Pass it on. Hehe.

After going around in a few circles, I managed to find a place to park about a half mile away. It was not a bad walk, but I was a little miffed when the parking attendant removed the "Lot Full" sign and let a bunch of cars through right as I was walking up to the entrance. Oh well, I thought of how many extra calories I burned. And then came the trail...

Lots of steps, lots of scrambles up steep rocky areas, and quick elevation gain. The terrain was easier than Squaw Peak because it was more of a steady grade (although I did have to use my hands more), and it lacked the tall, jagged rock stairs at Squaw, but it was just as challenging of a climb. Surprisingly different, though, considering the proximity of the two. Steep meant I was treated to some great views very soon after setting out.

Where was my selfie stick when I needed it? There were quite a few people sharing the summit with me, but I like to make it look like I was alone on top of the world.

My phone was about to die, but I couldn't resist getting a few more pictures of the view.

And my beloved Arizona desert.

Its shapes never cease to inspire me.

Near the bottom, I saw that there were about ten emergency vehicles in the parking lot, and then I noticed a group of firemen escorting a woman down the mountain. I was expecting a stretcher, but she was going down under her own power. When they got to the picnic area, they sat her at a table, and two women started massaging her hands. I think she just called to get rescued by a bunch of men in uniform!

On my way out, I heard a young man telling people the park was closed because his dad took a nasty spill on a scooter. Then I was just confused, but later I read the news story that one woman in her 40's was rescued after complaining of being dizzy, and another older man was treated after falling off his scooter.

Glad I wasn't her. Also glad that January, one of the two most boring months of the year, is OVER. Maybe I'll actually have something to blog about next month.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Beautiful, Cold New Year

I don't know when or how it started, but now it just seems right to go on a bike ride New Year's Day. The cold weather tested our determination, but we broke out the hats and mittens and pressed forward. Our pioneer ancestors would be proud!

Then there were the bikes. Just try to fit six people and two full size bikes inside an Expedition! Russ was so frustrated that he eventually walked off, but I have this stubborn will that sometimes tries to force things at all costs. Broken reflector, bent spoke, marks on the ceiling of the car... and a very uncomfortable ride for me and Paige in the very back seat.

To add to the circus act, one of the bicycle's tires wouldn't hold air, so we left it in the car anyway. That meant Russ was on his feet.

Happy day, all is well. That's the spirit of '47!

The autumn leaves were picturesque. I framed all sorts of beautiful photographs in my head, but when it came to snapping them, the people didn't always cooperate. All you can see of Kallie is her foot sticking out of Paige. This is the photographer's burden.

Everyone spent some time walking except me, since I had on Rollerblades. I did, however, spend some time carrying the scooter. Lugging a scooter and taking pictures with a DSLR camera while on skates... pretty talented, right?

Okay this one turned out just how I planned. Oh how exciting to come upon a tunnel!!

There were many backdrops for our journey, but I think this one was my favorite.

"Paige, hurry! Get up and start going so I can get the perfect picture!" It was to have some people and one big overhanging tree in the foreground, some people in the background, and a path lined with more beautiful autumn trees... but just a few moments too late. Aw shucks. Crop. I'll take what I can get.

Snapped this just before another dude came riding up the hill the other direction. You win some, you lose some. Okay, is this post about me taking pictures or about our journey? Somewhere on this path, we decided to ride to Goldman's Deli instead of going back to the car. The plan was for me to ride Kyle's bicycle back to get the car while everyone enjoyed some refreshments. (Why couldn't I remember that I didn't have shoes?)

Google Maps didn't show us this locked gate, though. That didn't stop us. Does little Brandon look like a champ or what?

What did stop us was the fact that Goldman's Deli was only open until 3pm and it was already 4pm. Oh shoot... holiday hours! Luckily there was an Albertsons in the same shopping center, and we slipped in for some doughnuts and milk (and much needed warmth). You know, people don't generally bother you when you skate around the store slowly. I figured I could say the skates were medical devices... they would have fallen for that, right?

The kids laughed that they looked like homeless children. I had to agree. Kyle especially, with his bum hat and fingerless gloves.

The sun was going down, so it was getting a lot colder by the time it came time to discuss retrieving the car. Russ, in his shorts, offered to do it if I didn't want to... he's my knight in shining armor! Sometimes it's lucky that his body runs at a warmer temperature than mine... at bedtime when I need someone to put my popsicle feet on, and on cold New Year's Day bike rides. Yes, we crammed both bikes back in the car (I was a little tempted to leave one). This time, we couldn't close the back window, and Paige and I froze all the way home. Not to worry... I had purchased our traditional New Year's Day food while Russ was retrieving the car... some nice, juicy steaks. That fixed everything!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve was what I like to call an accidental party. We wanted to see Brian Regan live, but I failed to buy tickets before there were only single seats left. Since we had invited friends, I felt like a doofus and invited them over to our house instead. Then the thinking went something like this... if I already have some people coming over, I might as well have more... and once a couple more families accepted, I felt like I had to plan games and mop the floor, too. That's how the party was born, folks!

This year we decided to do the fireworks first, out of courtesy for our neighbors. Apparently some people just like to go to sleep New Year's Eve... nobody I know, of course. Wink, wink. We had two big bonfires to keep people warm because it was unseasonably cold... it even snowed in Mesa that night!

When we ran out of fireworks, it was time for games. One of my other friends was planning "Minute to Win It" for her party, so she shared some ideas with me. Being that it was an accidental party, I was planning this all around 4pm, but I managed to pull some fun activities together. This pantyhose elephant challenge really got us laughing.

Shawn knew my social media plans, so I wasn't able to get a picture of him in these fabulous antlers.

While Russ and I were doing the cotton ball challenge, someone mentioned that we looked like chickens pecking at our food. I couldn't stop laughing, and I couldn't get the second cotton ball off my nose, either, so the ladies ended up 0 and 3.

These two gymnasts weren't supposed to touch the ground with any part of their body except their feet, so even though the guys claim a clean sweep, I'm thinking they cheated!

Meanwhile, the kids were playing games of their own.

And rocking out to our awesome New Year's Eve playlist on the party rocker.

After "Minute to Win It," we dusted off the old Cranium game. I forgot how fun it is!

I don't think I'll ever forget Shawn's sign for bull. I didn't get a photo of it... DARN! It was best with motion and sound anyway.

These two had to unscramble "rescue rump." Fail.

We totally didn't cheat... we just got lucky and landed on all the right spots! Nobody wanted to see us play the last round just to rub it in their faces.

The game ended at 11:45, and our friends' daughter was so done with the New Year's Eve party, so they went home just ten minutes before midnight! The rest of us prepared to celebrate.

Everybody else made it without too many tears, surprisingly. Here we are waiting for the strike of 12.

Since we were out of fireworks, Russ went ghetto on us and banged a pot... this picture turned out super freaky. He looks like he's doing some ritual.

We lit the remaining sparklers and let the sparkling apple cider flow... HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Looking forward with excitement to 2015!