Friday, October 10, 2014

Oh, What a Summer!

Warning: Super duper long (after all, it's a whole summer's worth, right?)

The fact that it has been three months since I have written saddens me greatly. I hoped this summer would be different and I would be able to keep up with recording our lives, but evidently, I was wrong. It's hard to know where to begin when I am three months behind, but here goes . . .

Our summer started off with a houseful of cousins, cousins, cousins! We loved it! After spending nearly three years with very limited space and limited guests, we were so excited to have all of the Nate cousins over for a week for swim lessons. Boy, did we soak them up (no pun intended-ha!). Meal times were especially busy.

Berkley was the only one in our family who took lessons this year. She was not exactly thrilled every day to go, but she was a trooper in the end. She would hide from us, throw a huge fit, tell us no. . . and then hop right in and do great! What a girl!

A couple of weeks later, on July 1st, we said goodbye to Berkley and caught a redeye flight to New York.

We all look very happy, but I have to say, it was not easy walking out the door and leaving that little bundle of joy behind. We felt a little empty at first.

It was so much work to get ready we were exhausted by the time we got to the airport, but we were also very excited.

Of course, when you fly redeye, it is mandatory you wear these blue eye shades over your eyes:).

The first obstacle we encountered was simply trying to get to our hotel from the airport. The worst part was that the subway station would only let us put 2 tickets at a time on our credit card; then we had to wait 30 more minutes before it would let us use that same credit card again. We were stuck in the hot, very muggy, smelly subway for what seemed like forever early the next morning, just wishing like heck we could get to our hotel. I love this picture I happened to snap at one point. Hallee's face says it all!:)

When we did finally get to our hotel, we were oh so grateful they let us check in early--like, way early--because by this time, we were exhausted! Nobody had slept on that redeye flight, and after the two hours it took us to maneuver through the subway system of NYC, we were all ready for a nap! Notice how tired Regyn was--she didn't even notice Hallee's feet on her head! Ha!

After nearly four hours--yes 4 hours!--we felt rejuvenated enough to start vacationing. I took Hallee, Regyn and Boston and headed for Central Park. Boy, was I proud of myself for venturing out alone like this. I mean seriously, let's not forget I am a little Wyoming ranch girl who grew up in a town of 500 people here. This was major! Ha! We rented bicycles (and felt like we would get hit by taxis the entire time we rode them:) and maneuvered around the park for a while, then the kids bought hats (it was blistering hot, I tell you) and we marveled at Times Square.

Meanwhile, Dan and Nate went to a Yankees game. I mean, you can't really go to NYC and NOT go to a Yankees game, right?

Everything went great . . . until the ride home. That's when Dan and Nate got separated on the subway. Dan told Nate to hurry and get off at the next stop. Nate did. Dan didn't. The train kept going. Panicked, Dan motioned for Nate to stay right there and he would be back. Nate said he felt like crying but he didn't know what to do except wait there. Just then, a man approached him and told him he had seen what had happened and to follow him. Now, what do you do in such a situation? Do you follow this stranger? He was not a clean-cut guy (we were not in Utah) and Nate wasn't sure if this guy was going to kidnap him or murder him or help him, but he only had an instant to make a decision. He went with his gut (and what he felt in his heart from the silent prayers he was offering) and followed the man. Thankfully, this guy knew exactly where Dan would be getting off and led Nate right to where he needed to be to meet up with Dan. In just a few moments, they were reunited. How grateful we all were that night for this kind gentleman's intervention on our behalf. Nate, however, was panicked about the subway the whole rest of our time in NYC. We had to all hold hands and form a train any time we entered or exited. I guess we can cut him some slack for that after his traumatic experience. I think everything can be learned from, and I hope Nate remembers this for a long time.

After going to bed early and getting some great sleep, we were ready for a full day in NYC. The kids were all dying to see the Statue of Liberty, so that was our first destination. Dan and I had planned to take them on a rather long tour around Lady Liberty, possibly even exiting on Ellis Island to look up family names. Well, this is NOT what our kids had in mind. We got to the boat rental/tour place, and the kids immediately locked eyes on "The Beast." They wanted the speed boat tour, and that was that. I must admit, it was a hit for me, too. We may not have had a large history lesson, but we sure had a lot of fun!

Here we are walking to the ferry. We did A LOT of walking those first few days, so I had to snap a couple of pictures.

I think this is one of my all-time favorite pictures. I just love it!

Here we are at the ferry. Notice "The Beast" behind us. We are all very excited to get on that thing.

Is this a great picture or what???!!

I must admit, it felt great having the wind blow through our hair.

The New York skyline was beautiful from where we were.

And that's when it happened. We were told we might get wet on this ride, but there were not big waves splashing over the sides, so I wondered how it was possible for us to get wet. Here's how. One of the tour guides gets a huge water gun and starts squirting kids. Some of them have great attitudes about it (like this awesome girl) and others cry (I'm afraid I might have been more of the crying type when I was young).

Here is the culprit. Boy, did he enjoy his job!

The best part is when we left the ferry and Dan grabbed the water gun and squirted him as we disembarked. It was pretty awesome! I have to say, I was pretty surprised though. Dan isn't the quiet shy guy everyone makes him out to be.

All that fun made us pretty hungry, so we stopped for some cheap NY pizza.

From here we went to Ground Zero, which is a pretty humbling place. I know my kids can't possibly take in the tragedy that happened there, but it was good to stop by and just try to imagine it for a moment.

 After the solemness of the Memorial, we decided we needed to have some fun again, so we went to Canal Street. My kids weren't all that excited . . . until we got there and we started shopping! Then they had the time of their lives! Their grandparents happened to have given them a little spending money, and they were all too eager to use it. If you've never been to Canal Street in NYC, you must put it in your bucket list. It's pretty fun, I must admit. Every child found a treasure or two to take home. Nate found a suitcase of all things and we wondered how we were going to travel with an extra bag. I knew he wasn't feeling to hyped about going to Cooperstown and greeting his baseball buddies with the hot pink suitcase he had borrowed from his sister! Ha!

We were exhausted by the end of the day, and this is how we looked on the subway heading back to the hotel. Some of us never lose our excitement, while others of us. . . well . . . I think you can tell:)

Since most of the children were too tired to go out to eat when we got back, Dan and I took Nate out for Thai food all by himself to this little restaurant called "Yum Yum" (in the background). It was definitely yummy. 

Here is Nate after a full day in NYC. I felt the same way.:)

The next morning we were off on a new adventure. We hopped on a bus and headed out for a very long bus ride to Oneonta, NY, where we would stay for one week while we watched Nate play baseball just 30 miles away in Cooperstown. The bus ride was a welcome change from the subway. It helped that we had friends on the bus with us. And maybe because it was the 4th of July or something, we were in pretty funny moods. The bus driver, however, did not find us funny.

Upon arriving in Oneonta, our friendly house rental lady picked us up from the bus stop and dropped us off at our new "home" for the week, a cozy little cottage that had the narrowest staircase we had ever laid eyes on. Seriously! We mused at how some people might innocently rent the home and then be too large to ever be able to use the largest bedroom of the house because the simply couldn't make it up the narrow staircase!:) I'm telling you, this picture doesn't do justice. These stairs are about 12" wide!

We realized how hungry we were once we got settled, so we walked to a nearby Italian restaurant, and boy, was the food delicious! We loved the atmosphere, too. We tried to ignore the pricey pizza and just enjoy it:)

Since it was actually the 4th of July, there was a big celebration going on. We walked down to see what this little town had to offer. Surprisingly, it was chilly, so we decided not to stay long, but there were fire-throwers, bounce houses and all kinds of food booths. It looked like a regular county fair to me. I think we might have felt more festive if we hadn't been so tired and cold. As it was, we hurried "home" and watched the first of many Christmas movies for the week (for some crazy reason, the Hallmark channel was featuring Christmas shows all week, and since we didn't know what else to do, we fell victim to their snare-ha!)

The next morning we awoke to Dan's famous buttermilk pancakes (he got up early every morning to cook us breakfast--what a man!) and then anxiously hopped in our rental car (did I mention Dan also went on an early-morning run to the rental car place to snag our car??? He really is fabulous!) and headed for Cooperstown--about a 25 minute drive. We pulled in to see our very own Davis Dawgs right at the front gates taking pictures. We hopped out and snapped a few ourselves.

Cooperstown Dreams Park is a dream in and of itself; I mean, this place is amazing! It's truly like the Disneyland of Baseball. Music plays throughout the park, and it is clean as a whistle. The fields are pristine and friendly workers are everywhere, waiting to help you out. You can even hop on golf carts and be driven to far-away fields so as not to have to walk too far. I really worried about Boston and Regyn during this trip. Knowing baseball isn't really their favorite extra-curricular activity (especially Boston's), I thought they would get tired of the long baseball days in a big fat hurry. Not so. They loved it! It's hard to explain the magical feeling in the air or why the games are so much more fun, but we all enjoyed every minute and hated to see it come to an end.

The Opening Ceremonies were something else (and way too long, if you ask me), but one cool thing they did was bring the American Flag down from the sky--literally. Two sky divers got dropped from planes with flags--and the astonishing part was that these divers were old geesers! They had to be at least 70 years old--I couldn't believe it!

All of the baseball teams (I think there were over 100 that week) marched around the field, one by one, carrying their team banner. It was pretty cool.

Finally the games began! And oh, was it fun!

We were a bit sad that they had to play on Sunday. We watched part of the first game that morning, then left to rush off to the nearest church (about 45 minutes away). We were in the car about 10 minutes when we got a text saying that Nate had hit a grand slam!! We were so excited (and maybe just a little sad that we had missed it). We absolutely loved attending church though, especially since it was Fast and Testimony meeting. It so reminded me of my mission 20 years earlier (yes--20 years--yowza, time flies!) and the many experiences I had working with members to share a message I believed with all my heart to be true. My heart was so full as now I sat here with my children and husband all these years later, realizing how much the gospel of Jesus Christ had truly blessed my life.

After church, we went back for more baseball and then left for Greenville, New York, an area I had served in for nearly 6 months--a long time for a sister missionary to be in one place! It was a place dear to my heart, and I was anxious to see couple that I loved very much. I had been in contact with Wayne and Maria Marquitt to tell them of our arrival, but I certainly did not expect the wonderful welcome and fabulous dinner they had prepared for us when we got there.

We shared precious time together and memories and got caught up the best we could in a few hours' time, and to my absolute delight, my children adored them as much as I did immediately. They didn't want to leave when it was time to say goodbye. I was so grateful we had made the 2-hour trip out of our way to see them. It was priceless time together.

During most of our time in New York the weather was beautiful, but near the end of the baseball week, there began to be some severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings. It was crazy. One minute the weather would be absolutely fabulous; the next a torrential downpour. Then back to beautiful again. It was like Mother Nature was bipolar or something. Either way, the views were magnificent!

Regyn made fast friends with another girl whose brother was on our team. They had all kinds of fun together.

Of course we had to take a few trips into the village of Cooperstown and visit the Baseball Halle of Fame (actually, it was too expensive to go inside, so we opted for just being satisfied for a picture of the building-ha!).

We saw this t-shirt and decided we definitely fit the description:)

The architecture in New York is definitely different from what we are used to in Utah. The homes are all two-story, antique, old-style homes. This one was hard to miss. I wondered who on earth would dare paint their house such a bright yellow, and then we realized it was a Bed and Breakfast, and I was immediately impressed. I wished we could have stayed there one night.

The boys were very serious during game-time, so I loved catching moments of pure fun.

Regyn and her new little friend latched on to one of the boy's baby sister, the sweetest little girl with down syndrome, who reminded us of our little niece as a baby. These two mothered this poor baby almost to death. But they were pretty cute about it most of the time.

Sure love that number 9! It was hard catching some great photos from the parents' dugout we were in during all the games, but man alive, I love watching this boy of mine play ball!

Hallee was given the coach's super nice camera for a while and told to take some great pics. She loved this assignment! She's an artist at heart, and this was a form of art for her, so she took this job very seriously. I loved that I was able to catch a few pictures of her taking pictures. She got some good ones, btw.

Here's Regyn snuggling that baby.

One thing I love about Regyn is that she's always up for learning something new. She decided she wanted to help keep the books, so by golly, she took a basic course from the professional team mom book keeper and helped with books late one night when our games had been rain delayed and we were playing until midnight. Love that girl's smile!

Our team did so well in this tournament! They ended up losing late one night to an amazing baseball team. It went down to the very last hit, and boy, were we ever proud of these boys!! It was a fantastic experience, and we were so grateful our family could share it together with Nate.

The Closing Ceremonies were almost as long and boring as the Opening Ceremonies:) but I guess it was worth it because Nate got the most amazing ring! I'm talking this looks like a Super Bowl ring. We were sad to see the baseball come to an end, but so excited for the last leg of our journey to begin.

Nate was a little worn out from his exciting week of baseball (notice that humongous ring on his finger), but that didn't stop us from having a great time as we headed off for Palmyra, New York to see the church history sites.

Did I mention our rental car worked just dandy when Nate was with his baseball team, but when we added him to our journey . . . well . . . we weren't exactly legal. Ha! I hate to say it, but this is how we had to spend the last few days of our journey. This is what you call "family togetherness!" Ha! See those smiles? They didn't exactly last the whole time.

As were were traveling along, I saw road signs that said "Tully." I immediately got excited and told Dan to pull over. The kids were rolling their eyes, but this was my first area as a "greenie" missionary way back when. Man, do memories come flooding back when you visit a place you haven't visited in a long time. It was great telling my children stories about my experiences here.

We got to Palmyra and visited the Visitor's Center at the Hill Cumorah. I was wishing our children weren't in such a rush to get to our hotel. There was so much there to take in. I guess they thought it wasn't worth spending a lot of time on because most of it is info they have heard their whole lives. Even so, it was amazing to be there--in the very place where these events took place--and I hoped they would feel the power of that.

The Hill Cumorah itself was nothing too large, especially considering the amazing mountains we are used to in Utah, but it was neat to see the Angel Moroni monument and to look down on all the seats down below, knowing we would be sitting down there later that night to see the amazing Hill Cumorah Pageant we had heard about our whole lives.

We try to stop by a temple every chance we can, so we had to make a stop at the Palmyra temple. It was small but beautiful. Of course I encouraged my children to touch the temple.

My favorite part about this temple were the stain-glassed windows--something most LDS temples do not have. These windows told the story of Joseph Smith's experience in the Sacred Grove, just down the road, where he prayed to know what church he should join, and received a heavenly visitation from God and Jesus Christ in answer to his prayer. Beautiful!

Our walk through the Sacred Grove was beautiful. Again, our children were wanting to take things at a sprint. Still, there was a special feeling there, and I was grateful we could be there together.

I loved it when Regyn pointed to this spot and said she thought this was the very spot where Heavenly Father and Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith. I had to take a picture. That moment was thick with a special feeling, and I wanted to just soak it up. Maybe she's right; maybe she's wrong. It doesn't even matter. I love that she felt in tune in that moment.

It was incredible to visit the homes where the Smith family lived and learn more about their lives. Oh, what they went through to protect the gold plates! They were truly remarkable, humble people. I was so glad to be there with our children and give them the opportunity to hear from missionaries their testimonies of these events and walk where the Prophet Joseph walked and experienced these events. I prayed their testimonies would be strengthened.

It was finally time for the pageant. We talked with some of the participants walking around--just ordinary people who gave a few weeks of their lives to voluntarily come from all parts of the country and be a part of this amazing event. It was so fun!

The Pageant was truly amazing. We were in awe at the special effects and how efficiently the story of the Book of Mormon was portrayed. We only wished we hadn't been so tired and that it could have started earlier (of course they have to wait until dark, so it goes until late at night). This is how we looked only a short time after it ended.

The next day we got to go to the Book of Mormon publication site and learn more about the history of the publication of this book we love so much. We got to walk on the very floor Joseph Smith walked on and learn of the inspired and miraculous events leading to the Book of Mormon's publication. It was wonderful!

We spent our last night in New York with some very dear friends--from Utah!! Our neighbors, Dennis and Sheri Ray happen to be in New York serving a mission themselves, and we had the opportunity of meeting up with them, going to Pageant with them and staying with them for an evening. It was wonderful catching up and being with them again. The kids loved swimming in their pool, swinging on their swings, eating their delicious food, and going on a picnic to Lake Ontario with them. It was a wonderful way to end our vacation.

We got home from two weeks in New York happy, exhausted and grateful for time spent together and wonderful memories made. I realized how important trips like this can be and vowed to save up to go on another family trip again in a few years, before Hallee graduates and moves away--this time with Berkley joining us. There is just something about getting away from normal life--from the stress, the routine, the pressure, the constancy--for a while and just being with each other, having new experiences that bond you together in ways that are a little unexplainable. I knew none of us would ever forget our time in New York and that it was worth every penny to make that trip work.

The rest of the summer was spent like this: volleyball camp, Young Women's Camp, Baseball State Tournament, Family Reunion at Bear Lake, High School Volleyball Try-outs, dreading the first day of school . . . and Wham! Summer was over, just like that.

But oh, what a summer it was!