Tuesday, August 31, 2021

UTAZ Day 9: Page, AZ - Horseshoe Bend & Lower Antelope Canyon

Back to vacation recapping (also, I added reviews to the meals we've cooked so far on yesterday's menu plan because man our first two have been delicious!). On Day 9 we said a nearly tearful goodbye to our yurt. We LOVED our glamping home and its homemade breakfasts, comfortable style and space, and most of all the kids *loved* their loft (the second bedroom remained unused the whole stay 😂). Landon is now going to live in a yurt when he grows up and the girls look forward to visiting him.
We drove down Scenic Byway 12 one more time, waving at the parks we’ve visited so far and saying a happy hello to Arizona- a new state for the kids! The Navajo Nation reopened the Antelope Canyon tours one week before we arrived and we were thrilled to add a stop in Page on our way to the Grand Canyon. We arrived early due to some confusion about time zones (Arizona does not observe daylight savings time, but the Navajo Nation does, it's VERY CONFUSING as you cross back and forth in the same few miles), but that gave us time to run over and hike to the iconic Horseshoe Bend!
Parking is $10 and then it's a short half-mile walk to the Bend.
It's pretty crazy to see the river turn so tightly around the rock, though seeing the very teeny tiny kayakers below gave some perspective on the size of it all.
Pictures taken, we took our now sweaty selves back to the Navajo Nation tour location. There are only two operators with permission to enter Antelope Canyon from the elder matriarch- Ken's Tours and Dixie's Tours (fun fact: Ken and Dixie are brother and sister). The tribe was hit hard by Covid and our guide Stacy explained that August was a trial period to see if they could allow tours without putting themselves at too much risk. Masks were required at all times and the tour groups were kept very small.
Our group was just our five and Stacy and it was really an honor to get to walk through the canyon with her, hear her stories, and soak up her knowledge and history. The whole experience was one of my favorite parts of a trip full of favorites.
First you walk across flat land that makes you wonder where this giant slot canyon could actually be.
Then you walk down a long line of steep steps and BAM.
There it is.
The color, the movement, the light...
It was incredible.
Absolutely otherworldly in its shapes and motion and beauty.
The kids immediately declared it their new favorite moment of the trip and we all felt blessed to be shown through such a beautiful and sacred space.
Our guide pointed out so many fun shapes and images in the stone.
Like Bruce the shark from Finding Nemo.
And this woman with her long flowing hair.
Standing under the profile of an Indian chief.
And inside the teardrop.
I keep saying it, but my overall memory of this tour is just feeling so lucky to get to walk through this spectacular fissure in the earth.
It's an extraordinary place.
To be surrounded by this vibrant orange and look up to the bright blue far above you...
At the end, you climb back up a long ladder to the sun and flat earth all around.
From Page we pressed on to the Grand Canyon and checked in to our very classic motel room at Maswick Lodge inside the park. We were in Cottonwood, which incidentally was the same name as our yurt. This wasn't quite that fancy, but it was clean and serviceable and great to be less than a quarter-mile from the Rim, shuttles, restaurants, and hikes.
We walked to Bright Angel Lodge for our first view of the Grand Canyon (it is very big; like so big it's hard to wrap your head around the scale of it all), ate a tasty dinner at Fred Harvey Tavern, let everyone have ice cream for dessert, and set our alarms for 4:30 a.m. to see the sunrise because my family loves me and humors me so.
One more big day of our epic journey left to go!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Fat Cats, Tiny Babies, and All the Food

Okay another quick break from our vacation and back to everyday life. This past week was #2 for back to school and I can't believe I haven't gotten a call yet to quarantine one or more of my children. It seems inevitable so I'm just bracing myself for impact. Speaking of impact we still don't have a nanny and I feel like I'm just making it day by day. Wednesday is the worst when Landon has swimming at 5, Cora has soccer at 6, and Claire has volleyball at 7 all in different parts of DFW, but thanks to friends and teammates (and a crock pot!) we made it work. One week at a time...
Meanwhile, this was the view behind me late Tuesday night while I was working on a legal memo and every child needed to be near me too. And all the pets, though they scattered themselves about the floor and weren't pictured.
Honestly, I love when we're all in the same space. And while I look forward to having a nanny again one day, I do love it when this girl bursts into the house at 3 p.m. each day and throws open my bedroom office door to tell me how AMAZING her day was. She always grabs at least one animal on the way. She is such a little infusion of joy.
Meanwhile, in another part of the house, while we were all sleeping and/or working on legal memos, a certain extra fluffy cat was sneaking into the pantry and using his tiny vampire teeth to open a whole in a spare bag of food to make himself an all-hours kibble buffet.
We didn't catch him until Wednesday evening when we noticed he wasn't yelling at us when his food bowl was empty and he seemed to be walking into the pantry a lot.
Obviously, he maintained his innocence while keeping a constant vigil by the suddenly always-closed pantry door to catch the thief.
On Thursday afternoon I sent our after-school schedule into complete chaos and drove to Houston to take my mom to her back procedure Friday morning. My mom has been in near-constant back pain since July 4th and finally got into a neurologist for a spinal injection. My dad had a golf tournament and I was able to be there, so off I went to drive my poor broken mama to the hospital where she walked up to the pre-op area at 7:30 a.m. in heels, a long dress, and full makeup, because of course.

The procedure went very well and we're really hoping for some relief for her, particularly after what has been a very rough start to retirement with her broken arm, skin cancer and facial reconstruction surgery, and now her back. Fingers crossed for brighter days ahead.

The visit to Houston also meant I got to meet my brand new niece and nephew!
Are they not the most perfect teeny tiny little babies?
I stayed at my brother's house the next night and just loved snuggling these little nuggets. I made food for the adults, fed milk to tiny babies, said "oh big stretch!" every time they did a big stretch, and tried to take a walk with them only to remember that Houston in August is mosquitos and misery so we turned back around and decided some days it's okay to not take any steps at all. The babies agreed and we all did more stretches.
My mom came over on Saturday and we hung out, exchanging babies and watching Top Chef while we sent my brother and sister-in-law to nap and otherwise get a little break.
I can't believe my baby brother has two tiny babies of his own.
My kids cannot WAIT to meet their cousins and everyone is glad they will be two tiny babies to share because we all know Landon will hog one.
My first nephew! Our family is bookended by boys- Landon born in 2007, then six girls, and then Wade, 4 minutes after Zoe in 2021.

I drove back last night so I could have today to sleep in, be with my family, meal plan, teach barre, and otherwise laze about the house. We watched Cruella, which we thoroughly enjoyed, took Maggie on two family walks, and I recorded a short yoga flow for Gigi to start moving her back a bit more. It was a good Sunday and we're as ready as we can be for the week ahead!
My emotional support bulldog stands ready for snuggles if you need them. Milo will cuddle for kibbles and Moose is ignoring your texts.

And finally, food!

Sun: Tofu and Brown Rice Lettuce Wraps, potstickers (frozen from TJ's). (This was SO GOOD; super fast, filling, and perfect. We skipped the spicy mayo and crispy onion and added shredded carrot and extra sauce. You'll see this in my regular busy midweek dinner rotation for sure)
Mon: Spaghetti with Crispy Zucchini (SO GOOD. We loved it and James and I stood over the stove eating the rest of the zucchini crispies like it was a contest to see who could finish first)
Tues: Crispy Baked Beef and Black Bean Tacos, Mexican Rice
Wed: Crockpot Red Beans and Rice
Thurs: Tuna Melts, Chips, Fruit
Fri: 16th wedding anniversary! James and I are going out for a fancy dinner while the kids eat blue box mac and cheese and consider themselves the fancy ones
Sat: Shrimp Boil at a friend's, I'm bringing Seven Layer Magic Bars and Sopapilla Chesecake for dessert.
Sun: Steak Salad
Mon: Chicken Meatballs with Peppers and Orzo
Tues: Oven Jambalaya (I made this for my brother before I left and now I'm craving it for us!)
Wed: Cozy Autumn Wild Rice Soup, bread
Thurs: Greek Turkey Rice Skillet, Naan, Tzatziki, extra veggies on the side
Fri: Homemade Pizzas

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

UTAZ Day 8: Escalante - Lower Calf Creek Falls

The start of Day 8 was a lazy one.
We slept in. I woke up first, made my tea, and took my mug and my kindle out to the deck to read in the chilly morning air. It was still hazy from the wildfires, but still lovely to be anywhere outdoors in long sleeves and loose pants.
Eventually my family roused and we ate our yurt-provided breakfast of quiche and fresh fruit while the kids carefully divided the freshly baked muffins.
The kids played outside, James and I drove the 3 minutes into town to do laundry, we ate lunch at home. It was lovely and needed.
After lunch we packed up and headed out for our last hike in Escalante, Lower Calf Creek Falls. Described as a 6.4 mile out-and-back trail to a spring-fed waterfall and swimming hole, we thought that sounded perfect on a hot afternoon.
The difference in hiking through terrain near a water source was remarkable - trees, plants, reeds, greenery! Things we hadn’t yet seen! And still plenty of rocks and ledges for the kids to scramble over.
We made it the 3.2 miles to the waterfall in just over an hour and the kids tore off their clothes to run in. … and then immediately ran back out.
I could tell from the mist bouncing off the rock walls that it was FREEZING.
After much daring of one another James and the kids all got in.
I never even dipped a toe as cold water is no longer something that is welcome in my life.
Landon turned purple, James put on goggles and gave himself a swim practice, and the girls splashed and waded and repeatedly told me how cold it was.
When everyone was sufficiently frozen they got out, ate a snack, and we all started the 3.2 miles back to the car.
I made chili and had it simmering on the stove while the kids read in their loft and James and I sat on the deck. We roasted more marshmallows and went to bed one last time in our yurt.
Escalante was a great stop and we LOVED the slot canyons (and our yurt!), but we were off to the Grand Canyon in the morning with more adventures to come!