A Trip to the Tetons

Steve goes on a backpacking trip with his friend, Brett, every year. Sometimes I feel left out. Actually, I always feel left out. When they chose the Tetons for their trip this summer, it was decided that I would go camping with the kids while Steve was backpacking and then we would meet up at the end. A few days before the trip, I recruited my friend, Amanda, to go with me.

She and her two kids joined me and the four little kids for a three-day camping trip to Teton National Park. In our Pilot, we had a 7-year old, a 6-year old, a 3-year old, a 2-year old, a 1-year old, and a 7-week old baby. Somehow we managed to fit everything.

Did I mention Amanda had never been to the Tetons before? I quite enjoyed playing tour guide at one of my favorite places on earth. And I loved hearing Max squeal over and over again, "Camping?!?"

First Stop: The dangerous playground near the Alpine Junction. That slide is crazy tall. And those teeter totters in the background are NOT safe for children (or adults). I will post an old video of Sam, if I can find it. He is lucky he was able to have children.

Next Stop: A nice bridge, perfect for throwing rocks into the river.

Next Stop: A little treat from Moo's Gourmet Ice Cream.

And then we made it into the park and to our tent cabin at Colter Bay Village. (Look at my friend's photos taken from Colter Bay the week before. They are stunning.)

We roasted hotdogs for dinner and enjoyed a gorgeous view of the lake. The kids threw rocks in the lake and we made s'mores.

We didn't have room to pack tents, so the tent cabins were perfect. They offered better protection from the bears too. I have about a dozen pictures of Adam like this. He did not want to smile for the camera. Or even look at it.

The next day, we took rode the boat ferry across Jenny Lake. Lucy didn't even fall in.

We made the short hike to Hidden Falls with all six kids. The general consensus among the other hikers was that we were crazy.

Adam needed quite a few breaks on the hike. He sat down on this rock and pouted for a little while because Max wouldn't hold his hand. (Max was in far too much of a hurry to wait around for Adam.)

Steve joined us in time for some swimming/wading at Leigh Lake. The sun was shining and the water was very alluring.

We returned to the same picnic site for dinner the second night. Only it didn't turn out so well. As in, I burned it. But we experienced a magnificent sunset, so it was worth it. Rachel took this picture:

On the third day, the rain finally came. But we didn't complain. Sunshine for two out of three days is pretty amazing for us. It was very convenient not to have any wet tents to pack home.

We aren't sure how we've managed to go to the Tetons as many times as we have without knowing about Menor's Ferry, but we just discovered it. Unfortunately, there was not a ranger there to operate it for us, so we settled on a little visit to the General Store for some fresh-baked gingersnap cookies and other treats.

And then we left. Connor wins the award for being the best baby ever. It was quite remarkable. And I will be taking a map with me on my next roadtrip. Just because.

Bonus: We drove through Bear Lake on the way home so we could stop and see the Maurers and their newly-finished cabin. They have spent the last two years building it themselves and it is absolutely beautiful. I am still astounded to think they could build something of that magnitude. I can't wait to go back and spend more time sitting on their deck. The views are great and the company is even better.

Double Gross

We have a winner for the identify-all-of-the-gross-food-on-the-floor-of-my-car contest.
(So I thought I would post another gross picture.)

Congratulations, Angie. You are the winner!
I am going to find a really cool prize for you.

Ummm. Didn't Mike have a rat tail in high school?
Rachel wants to know if Grandma Gloria approved. "She seems like someone who wouldn't let her kids have a rat tail."

Here are the ten snacks:
1. Goldfish
2. Pretzels
3. Granola bars
4. Crackers
5. Nutri-grain bars
6. Cheeseburger (hamburger was close enough)
7. Fries
8. Cookie Crisp cereal
9. Nibs
10. Dried pears

And here are seven more. Particles of these items may or may not have also made it to the floor:
11. No bake cookies/chocolate haystacks/cowboy cookies
12. Laffy Taffy ropes
13. Sour Patch Kids
14. Chewing gum
15. Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches
16. Raisins
17. Fruit snacks

Let's see how many cavities we have at our next dentist appointments. . . .

Pictures of the fabulous trip coming soon.


New Car, Please

This shameless picture shows what the floor of the back seat of our Pilot looked like after we got home from our three-day camping trip. This is what it looked like after we took out the shoes, water bottles, toys, and blankets.

The kids spent a lot of time in the car. There were six of them in there. And we used food to keep them happy.

It worked, for the most part.

But now we want a new car.

First person to correctly identify ten different snack items we fed the kids wins a prize.


The Second Day of School

The First Day of School was not properly photographed because of an incident that involved Rachel fainting, clonking her head on the tile floor in the bathroom, seizing up for a good 30-40 seconds while I screamed at her, cried, screamed for Steve, and then later cried some more. Lucy did her share of screaming too. It was all pretty dramatic. And way more emotional than I ever anticipated any first day of school being.

Even though she had a large goose egg on the back of her head, Rachel really, really wanted to go to school. So after she spent some time in bed, drank a Coke, and ate a brownie, Steve took her and Lucy to school. I watched the clock until I felt like she had spend enough time in class to feel like she had been to the first day.

At 11:00 am, I was, officially, the first parent of the year to check my child out of school.

We drove up to our pediatrician in Logan who walked into the exam room, looked at her chart, and declared that it was a textbook case of hair-combing syncope. I laughed because I thought he was trying to be funny, but it turns out there really is such a thing. Now that Rachel has fainted three or four times, it is possible that she has vasovagal syncope, like me. It also looks like she is part of the eight percent of syncope patients that exhibit seizure-like activity when they lose consciousness. Our doctor assured me that although children are often misdiagnosed, these are not epileptic seizures. (Phew.)

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for all the time and money you spent getting me properly diagnosed so I don't need to go through all of that with Rachel. Our doctor told us she wouldn't need any further testing unless she ever takes more than 60 seconds regaining consciousness after a fainting episode. And since I already know that salt tablets, caffeine, and phentermine (a.k.a. speed) aren't very effective in preventing syncope, we will stick to packing lots of snacks everywhere we go. . . including church. And having Rachel sit down when I do her hair.

So here is Lucy, the first-grader, and Rachel, the second-grader on their second day of school.

As expected, they look older than they did last year.

I was a little nervous how things would go at home with the two little kids, without Rachel and Lucy there to entertain them. I survived just fine and didn't even leave the house.

We spent some time working outside in the garden. Adam was way too busy to stop and pose for a picture, but Kaleigh happily obliged.

Adam takes his gardening very seriously. Sydney and Talmage came over and helped Adam find these beauties.

They were rewarded with popsicles.

. . . . .

We have now made it through an entire week of school. We have found lots of things to do in Rachel and Lucy's absence like going to the Treehouse and going shopping. I get a lot less crazy looks from people at the store and I only have to count to two instead of four. In fact, the hardest part of my day now is actually when Rachel and Lucy get home.

Let's just say that I am a big fan of school. I am not a big fan of homework.

Especially when we have more important things to do. Like go swimming.


Summer Cooking

If this post that my cooking idol, Lisa, shared on her blog the other day doesn't get you excited about the harvest, something must be wrong with you.

Lisa is an amazing cook, so you would be smart to adopt some of her recipes like I have. Her husband is quite the baker too. If you've been to the Great Harvest in Logan, you've already tasted some of his fine creations.

Eight years ago, Lisa taught me and my friend, Audrey, how to can. (Maybe you already knew the magic of canning, Audrey?) We canned Brigham City peaches. I had never used a pressure cooker and was a little scared of it.

I am making my second big batch of vegetable medley today (the rainy weather is perfect) and I am freezing more basil pesto in hopes that our supply will get us through the winter this year.

This really is my favorite time of year. I wish Rachel and Lucy were home to be my helpers, but they are already back to school. More on that next time.


Ballard Family Reunion 2010

The Annual Ballard Family Reunion was held in North Ogden last Saturday.

We duct taped our kids to tables, sat in ice water to keep cool, and took naps in trees.

Actually, we ate lots of good food and enjoyed lots of fun activities too.

There were carnival games for the kids, a bubblegum-blowing contest, a three-legged race, and most of the group played in the kickball game that was cut short because of the heat.

Thanks, Richard & Gloria, for hosting the reunion!



"It's a paradox: To achieve continuity, we have to be willing to change. Change is, in fact, the only way to protect whatever exists, for without continuous readjustment the present cannot continue. The refusal to change will not guarantee that whatever we care about stays the same. It only assures that whatever we care about has been deprived of the very thing it needs in order to survive. A marriage, a career, a dream for the future, even a picture of the past: Each of these things is being primed for destruction if it does not change over time. . . The very things we now wish that we could hold onto and keep safe from change were themselves originally produced by changes. No matter how solid and comfortable and necessary the status quo feels today, it was once new, untried, and uncomfortable. Change is not only the path ahead, but it is also the path behind us, the one which we traveled along to wherever we are now trying to stay."
William Bridges, The Way of Transition

I gave Adam and Paul haircuts on Saturday evening. Adam's hair was not supposed to end up this short. He looks a little like Cailou, which is one of my least favorite cartoons ever made. Mothers have to listen to enough whiney kids of their own. Why in the world would they want to listen to another one on tv?

. . . . .

The girls go back to school tomorrow morning. I overheard Rachel and Lucy talking to each other in their room. It went a little like this:

Rachel: I know what you're thinking, Lucy.
Lucy: What?
Rachel: I bet you're thinking, I hope I make new friends at school.
Lucy: Nope. I was thinking that I wish I had a pony.


Coeur d'Alene

We planned a trip to Coeur d'Alene to visit Steve's sister, Angie, and Derrick's cousin, Eric both shown below with each of their families.

We originally intended to drive during the day, but modified our plans so we could attend Justin Hamilton's wedding reception. Since I heard Steve tell someone that I made him drive all through the night, I would like to document what really happened. I drove from Ogden to Logan for the reception and then from Logan (10:00 pm) to Butte, Montana (3:00 am). Steve then took over driving from Butte to a little past Missoula (5:30 am), at which point he woke me up and then I drove the rest of the way into Coeur d'Alene (7:00 am, gained an hour). So, to clarify, of the eleven total hours of driving time, Steve drove two-and-a-half of them. Poor boy.

Overall, the drive through the night went very well. A little too much construction, but we stayed mostly awake and the kids stayed mostly asleep. The last couple of hours before arriving in Coeur d'Alene were absolutely beautiful, as the sun was rising. I'm not awake early enough to see sunrises very often, so it was a pretty special deal.

Steve and I took a nap while the (seven) kids ran around the house and Angie somehow managed to participate in a couple of work meetings via phone/internet (from the back deck). We started our adventure out with a quick tour of Tyler Wirick's new law office. He is located right downtown, so he took a break from work and joined us for the afternoon. The roads were blocked off for Art on the Green, a local art festival, which provided us with a variety of options for lunch. Rachel went with a funnel cake.

We naturally gravitated toward Coeur d'Alene Lake. The weather had cleared and it was beautiful outside.

When I planned this trip, I wanted to rent stand up paddle boards, but the regular paddle boats were more convenient. And family friendly.

Best money spent on the whole trip. The paddle boat rentals were only nine bucks!

After the kids were all wet (yeah, we did this a little backwards) we went for a short hike on Tubbs Hill. Suddenly, the sun was blaring hot and the little kids were dead tired. And you should know what it is like to go on a hike with Jack Wirick.

Jack: Look guys, I found mica!
Lucy: What's mica?
Jack: Gives lengthy scientific explanation with large words that neither of my daughters understand.
Lucy: Look, Rachel, we found mica.
Rachel: What's mica?
Lucy: Those glitter rocks over there.
Jack: Repeats lengthy scientific explanation.
Rachel: I want some mica.
All of the kids, in random intervals: I found mica! Look, I found mica!

We didn't even finish the hike. The two-mile hike.

Good news though, they found a lot of mica. And I keep finding little pieces of it in the dryer.

We went to dinner at the White House Grill. Eric and Kelly joined us, so we means seven adults and eight kids. The place was packed and had an atmosphere that reminded us of the early days of Cafe Sabor. The food was delicious, especially for a garlic lover like Steve. I had heartburn for the first time since I've been pregnant. But the food did not disappoint. And, as usual, the restaurant stood up to Tyler and Angie's rave reviews.

We went back to the Wirick's house, took turns holding baby Alyzah, made s'mores around the fire, and then called it a day.

The next day was spent at Riverfront Park in Spokane, Washington, located just 30 miles away. This map is for you, Rebecca.

We started out on the Spokane Falls SkyRide. The Spokane River must have been running low because our ride was not nearly as picturesque as the images we had seen online.

In fact, the fifteen minute ride in the "all weather" enclosed cabin turned out to be more like fifteen minutes of torture. For Steve, at least. The sun came out and the windows on those things acted like a little greenhouse. I was just relieved that Steve was riding with our family because you would have thought he was going to die. The rest of us tried to enjoy ourselves and the view as he moaned with his head out the window.

Next up was the Looff Carrousel. It's not everyday that I catch Steve riding a carousel horse, so I had to snap a picture. And this other photo still makes me laugh when I look at it. I know it's horrible resolution, but I chuckled every time the carousel rotated and I caught a glimpse of this man with his perfectly positioned Abercrombie bag.

When I go back to Riverfront Park again someday, I will be sure to pack a picnic lunch. The food stand by the carousel is not impressive. In fact, we are lucky we didn't all get food poisoning. After our quick, painful lunch, we were off to see the vacuum-powered Garbage Goat. I want one in my driveway. But Steve says he wasn't impressed with Riverfront Park until we got to the big red wagon.

While Steve and Tyler played on the slide with the kids, Angie and I took a few pictures of the new baby.

And got a shot of Derrick and Eric in their new matching sunglasses.

This "Spokane City" picture could have been really cool. But they ought to move those trashcans out of there. And the man in the green shirt was not the least bit perceptive and shows up in all of my photos.

So then we were off to the amusement park rides.

Lucy zonked out during the IMAX movie. We watched Wild Ocean, which documents the sardine migration in the oceans of South Africa. It showed much of the Wild Coast, including Port St. Johns, Coffee Bay, and Port Elizabeth. It was absolutely perfect.

We had planned on letting the kids run through the water fountains before we went home, but they were turned off. So Adam tried to pee in them instead. One last stop for mini doughnuts and we were off.

Did I mention these folks were fabulous hosts?

Eric and Kelly volunteered to babysit all the kids while the other adults went out to dinner. We tried to go to Beverly's, but couldn't get in without a reservation, so we went to Bonsai Bistrowhere I tried sushi for my first time. (I haven't ever been a big seafood fan, but Sonora Grill's ceviche is changing me.)

We finally made it over to our hotel about 11:00 pm and let our kids go swimming. I figured it was easier than baths.

Our last evening in Coeur d'Alene was spent walking along the waterfront and around the dock.

Our last stop was at Dockside to try their famous dessert, Gooey's. The kids loved it. I'm pretty sure the rest of the people in the restaurant loved watching the kids eat it too.

What a trip. (Please note, no speeding tickets were issued.)

Want to know what I miss the most? Watching these two boys play together.