Wednesday, June 14, 2017

sabbatical vaca - Zion, Legoland

We're going on a vacation! A real one! Wahoo! Our last vacation was the staycation here in the Hills last fall. A couple years ago we went to Minnesota to visit Nathan and Ana for a few days. In 2014 when Ezra still couldn't even walk, we made a quick trip to Nebraska to visit the Omaha Zoo and attend a student's wedding. Before that was the only "real vacation" I think we've ever taken as a family - to Red Lodge, Montana with Terry's folks and sister in 2009. And we didn't even have the littles then because I was pregnant with Samuel. We are so due for a real vacation longer than a few days!

For months and months, and maybe even a year, Terry and I have been discussing where to go during his sabbatical. I have always wanted to go back to Zion National Park, the place I visited when I was Noah's age in seventh grade but the idea of camping and packing and planning for something like that  paralyzed me.
Nathan, me, and Stephanie

The kids have wanted to go to Disneyland or Legoland for ages but we just didn't know if that was possible. Originally we thought our dream trip would consist of going to Zion, Legoland, then up the California and Oregon coasts until we reached Seattle-ish to visit Stephanie, back through Montana where we'd stay at Terry's family cabin, and then home. But upon figuring out how incredibly far that would be and how long it would take and how much money would be required, we sort of abandoned the idea. We just let the whole idea settle for a while. Then I had the thought of doing half of that trip and looked into it. I let the idea percolate for a while. Finally in April, when sabbatical was quickly approaching, I figured if we were going to do anything I was going to have to do some research! I looked at hotels briefly but quickly switched to AirBnB. Hotels are too expensive for a family of six since that number of people exceeds their occupancy rules. I found a nice camper outside of Zion National Park and we booked it! We were officially going!
My parent's old Zion pictures

The only thing that remained to be done was plan the rest of our trip. My dad was some help since they've done that drive many times. Besides my mid-nineties family trip, my sister used to live and work there in 2012 and 2013-ish and my folks helped her move and perhaps visited her. 

Many evenings were spent by me researching where else we could stay and what else we could do but I finally booked it all up and we were officially going.

I loved Zion as a kid and I can't wait to go back. It was like heaven on earth to me even back then. It really made an impact on me. We weren't actually there nearly long enough to see everything since the Virgin River flooded and all the campgrounds had to be completely evacuated. 

I posted on Facebook on May 1 that we were gonna do it! This is our route.

When we told the kids about our trip, Evie was so excited that she had to have all the details and she wrote them all down.

Night one will be spent in Laramie. Night two in Grand Junction, CO, taking the route my dad suggested on top of the mountains and avoiding Denver.

We'll drive on Highway 12 in Utah which my dad said is the most scenic in the country and then stay at Junction.  

The following day we'll spend in Bryce Canyon before going to Hurricane to the camper where we'll spend the next four nights in. I have a whole list of things to see, plus on the last day we will drive southeast to the Grand Canyon.  

From there we will go to stay with Terry's cousin Jackson and his wife Janea in Los Angeles. The kids have never seen the ocean so we're gonna spend two days on the beach just relaxing. After that we'll drive south to Carlsbad and go to Legoland! We're staying at an AirBnB a half hour east of there.

From there we will pack up and start the long drive home, staying first in Cedar City and then again in Laramie. I have no doubt we'll be very tired and ready to be home, but hopefully, and prayerfully, we will a great time and make some special memories. 

I did some research online for ways to keep the costs of a road trip down since eating out creates an enormous bill, especially for a family of six. We can eat sandwiches for lunch every day but what about breakfast and dinner? One of my first ideas was breakfast burritos to avoid cereal and milk, etc.. I spent seven days today making ten burritos a day for a total of 71 burritos for Terry and the kids to eat every morning of our trip. Then I made myself some eggs free breakfast burritos. 

Next up were some dinner meals. So far I've prepared seven to eight meals. I would just double whatever we were having for dinner and put freeze the second half. Here's lovely chicken pot pie. 

Baked chimichangas! We're gonna be dragging food around in coolers and transporting it to the freezer of wherever we're staying for quite some time, but it should keep the cost down. Plus we'll get to eat mommy's delicious food! I feel so proud. :D

Rainbow for Samuel!

On Thursday June 8 we all loaded up and drove Samuel out to Rainbow Bible Ranch for his first ever experience there at Little Ranchers Camp. And how cute is he?!?! 

We arrived a little early and had to wait in line until they opened the door and Shari snapped this completely unscripted photo of the kids that captured their personalities so well. Noah is being all stoic back there, Evie is being whacky, Grace is laughing at Evie, and Sarah is a sourpuss. If only we could see Samuel and Ezra! Oh, yes, Grace attended as well since they are two-day-apart cousins.

Couldn't get my dumb camera to focus but here he is all ready to go!

We went inside, got the paperwork done, dumped his stuff on a bunk, the boys played foosball for a bit, and then the little ranchers were called outside for their first horse lesson. 

He wasn't upset about us leaving at all and neither was Grace.

It was definitely strange not having him on the drive back and of course at home for that day and the next. The kids were all so spaced out that we had Evie come up front. 

I snatched this photo from Rainbow's Facebook page. Samuel is right in the middle.

The next night we loaded up again to go pick him up. We got there a little late to hear all of their songs. You can't see Samuel in this shot but Grace is on the right most bottom row.

There he is sort of tucked back in there!

After some songs and some words, we all headed back into the 95 degree heat to watch the kids wait in line before getting their turn on a horse.

The line. And boy was it hot that day! What a drought we're having. :(

Almost his turn!

There's Grace on the right!

She had a great time. They both did.

Andrew is one of our youth and he's working at Rainbow this summer. 

And he's up.

And he's off.

Samuel blinks so much when I take his picture!

The kids are only six and seven so they need a lot of help.

I cracked up when I saw Samuel kicking the horse though. 

Almost done.

Waving hello. Good job Samuel!

sabbatical begins, and so do the projects - doggy door & tile

Terry's sabbatical began Sunday, June 4, which was actually the day of his half marathon. We feel so enormously blessed to be able to enjoy a sabbatical this summer. In case you don't know, a sabbatical is time of rest away from ministry work. The ministry can be incredibly draining (and boy did I feel that this year) and so a church can offer a sabbatical every once in a while to prevent burnout and give time to reevaluate and rejuvenate. Basically, REST. Rest can be in short supply, especially in the summer. Just when we get to the end of another whirl wind year and are ready for a break, that's exactly what is not in store. Summer is crazy! Terry travels on youth trips so much that we don't have energy or time for a vacation of our own. It starts to seem like the entire world is off frolicking around but your time never comes. Enter sabbatical. YAY YAY YAY! Can you tell I'm excited? I'm probably more excited than Terry. I'M SO EXCITED!

Terry has been a youth pastor for ten years now, five in Gburg and five here. Our church's policy is a sabbatical every seven years, but they graciously allowed us to go "early," even though in another sense it's been longer than they usually go. Except we weren't here then. In any case, we were ready for a break. 

We hemmed and hawed about a possible trip to take this summer and finally landed on Zion National Park in Utah and Legoland in California. But in order to make that happen, we have had many, many things to accomplish first. The very first thing we did that first morning home on sabbatical on Monday June 5, was make this list. Terry let Evie write most of it since that is totally and completely her thing
We have since found a Legoland discount and bought a sprinkler timer :)

The very first thing Terry did the day after his race, besides to make the list, was to install this doggy door. We had been dog-sitting Bo for nearly two weeks and I guess his visit pushed us over the edge. These dogs were going to let themselves out of the house, darn it!

It's been a wonderful addition.

The next thing to accomplish was work on the van, the new van we bought on June 2. As I already described in the van post, we did an extraordinary amount of work on that van. I have a share in it too since I detailed the heck out of it after Terry put in the doggy door. 

One of the other big things we did was tiling the laundry room floor. Back at the beginning of April Terry tore out all the nasty and disgusting carpet and installed a new sink. Since we're going to rent our house during our trip, we needed to have that laundry room ready to go before then. So the third day of sabbatical found Terry scraping glue and other irregularities off the laundry room floor to prepare for the tile we had bought about a month earlier.

Scraping in real time. It was so exciting!

All done.

We took everything out except the water heater. We even bought a new toilet!

The following evening, Thursday June 7, Jeff came over to help tile. That's what he does for a living and we were beyond grateful for his help. Go Jeff! Yay Jeff! Jeff is awesome!

It's actually vinyl tile so it went a lot faster than actual tile would have.

They spread a primer down before dinner and then went to town after we were done eating. Granted it took a big chunk of time and we didn't say goodbye to Jeff until 11:30pm (poor guy, we felt so bad), but we got it done in one evening.

Jeff laying the last tile!

The tile had built in grout lines, which we wanted to seal the tile in in case there was ever a toilet overflow, but boy was it a pain in the butt. Man, that stuff did not cooperate! Actually, it was because the grout lines were too shallow and the grout kept getting wiped out. Kind of a bad design or something. So annoying but in the end it was done!

Boom baby!

From the opposite corner.

From where the sink is.

Ok that's enough, but a before and after is always so gratifying :D

I wanted a picture with all the stuff in it plus the new toilet so I just now took this picture. 

Terry also hung that mirror, which is an old one of Shari's. Oh, and I forgot to add that I touched up all the paint - there were giant chunks missing behind the sink and old vanity that had been there.

We still have more than enough to do though! We have been incredibly busy so far this sabbatical!