Friday, November 2, 2018

Halloween 2018

Our zoo crew sans Asher...where was he anyway?

We did a fun and fitting theme this year.  Simply put, we were the 'Reitz Family Zoo,' because let's face it, most days that's what we are.  Or maybe a traveling circus.  That would've worked too.  Corey and I were the zookeepers of course, and the boys chose an animal.  Beckett begged for me to make him a hoodie costume, so I did my best. We kept the big boy's costumes simple and not too cutesy for obvious reasons, and Dawson was adorable as a tiger complete with a well practiced roar.

We hit the ward Trunk or Treat first on the Friday before Halloween.  There was a chili cookoff and games for the kids.  While we were eating dinner, Beckett plopped himself down at the table and excitedly let us know that he had voted for our chili (#16) about ten times so we had a good chance, BUT, he added, we wouldn't need to worry because he had changed his handwriting each time.  Oh dear.  So when it came time to announce the winning chili (which Corey made this year), I sat and listened as they announced our name. Now, it's not that I don't think our chili was the best because, well, it really was, but I highly doubted that 10 other people happened to vote for ours too.  Um, thanks Beckett!  (And he was so proud of his deceptive handwriting skills)

The kids had a great time running around the church parking lot collecting candy, and Dawson thought it was a pretty great deal.  Being three means that he's remembering a lot more this year and Halloween is starting to seem like a fantastic holiday with all the free candy.

 Halloween day, Dawson and I watched Beckett's costume parade at school in the morning, then that night the Christisons invited a bunch of people over for soup, etc.  It was a nice way to kick off the night before we all headed out for trick or treating mayhem.  Our boys met up with Jake and Noah on scooters and they zoomed from house to house, bags in hand.  Truthfully, I think Dawson hit more houses on foot than they did, but I don't think we could've convinced them to hoof it when wheels were so much more appealing. Corey and I stayed with Dawson and he was thrilled with it all.  He announced proudly that he liked the spooky houses and wasn't afraid, and by the last few houses, he didn't want me to go to the door with him.  "Stay back there mommy."  My instructions were clear, but I still headed to the doors when he needed help reaching the doorbells.  Funny, independent little boy. He announced to us that trick or treating was great, and was so disappointed when he realized the next day that we wouldn't be going again that night.  At home, all the boys organized their loot and had fun comparing treats.  Noah and Jake had cocoa and watched 'It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown' at our place (somewhat of a tradition at this point).

Daddy, 'helping' Dawson with his candy (wink, wink).

Happy Halloween from our zoo to yours!  Can't wait til next year!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

NYC Adventure

A few months back, we decided to take the leap and buy some tickets to New York.  Bringing 3 kids to a gigantic city that I personally have never been to made me a little nervous.  We planned and searched and hoped for the best!

The journey East made for a long day, but the kids did great!  Backpacks full of movies, games, and snacks helped keep things happy, and thoughtful flight attendants who create crowns from bags of pretzels were a nice bonus.  Upon our arrival we found that the airline had misplaced our stroller, which was a real annoyance.  Carrying a two year old from the airport to the subway to the hotel wasn't in the plans. We finally made it safely to our hotel, the Best Western Premier Herald Square. The hotel served breakfast in the morning which we decided was a MUST with the kiddos in tow. Once we dropped off bags and regrouped, we decided we should make the best of our first night in town.  There was a Target (opening day as luck would have it) right across from Macy's...and we knew our stroller woes would be over and we'd be saved! Next on the agenda was food so we tried out the Shake Shack down the street (oh my yum), and ate it outside in Herald Square. Then we checked out the Empire State Building, which was conveniently only around a few minutes walk away. The views were fantastic and the boys were in awe of exactly how many stories high they really were!

Our first full day in the Big Apple was loaded with new sights, sounds and tastes.  Our morning was spent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I knew it was large and world famous, but I was totally wowed by its' grandeur and spectacular exhibits.  It was one of my favorites of the trip, and I look forward to seeing more of it the next time around.  In the afternoon, we planned to explore Central Park (another favorite).  The leaves were just starting to turn color and everywhere we walked it was stunningly beautiful.  The kids played on a playground while we ate lunch and had a great time.  While in the park, we made our way to the zoo, which was a perfect way to end the afternoon.  Oh, and as a side note...we did see our first NYC rats there, which are indeed large.  Apparently they love the free food they can snag in some of the animal enclosures.  Ew.  That evening we had our first glimpse of Times Square.  Loads of lights and hoards of people.  We maneuvered it well with our crew but getting thru it with a stroller added an extra challenge for sure.  Especially when D fell asleep.  I was dodging people on packed sidewalks with a stroller propped back on two wheels.  Exciting stuff. As a whole, our day was a success!  I had been apprehensive about using the subway to get around, but it proved fairly simple and dependable.  Yay!
The next day we started out with the 9/ll Memorial and Museum.  The ride over was fairly easy and after arriving at the Oculus (a huge, ultra modern and all white mall where the subway lets you off), we discovered that the security in the area is amazingly good.  Corey and I had taken turns in restrooms, and the kids were alone for about 20 seconds.  A very nice security/police officer was standing by the kiddos when I walked out.   She said they just like to be sure nobody gets lost.  Crazy!  The Memorial was beautiful and somber.  The fountains they've built are a stunning tribute to the buildings that once stood there.  The museum was also worth a visit.  I had an especially hard time seeing a firetruck displayed with a marred and somewhat melted in the front end.  It was all that was left of the group of firefighters that had gone in and continued moving up into the building until it collapsed.  Heartbreaking. All of it was, and the memories of that day flood back so easily still, so it was an emotional morning.  For the afternoon, we had tickets for the Statue of Liberty.  Even a couple of months ahead of time, we weren't able to get reservations for the Crown, but we did snag some for the pedestal, which was still up high enough for some great views.  Lady Liberty was awesome to see up close.  The tour includes Ellis Island as well, so we were able to go thru the Immigration Station.  That was fascinating also.  The idea of so many people coming thru there in hopes of joining family, starting a new life and achieving dreams is pretty inspiring.  Sad too, though, when I realized half the island was a hospital for sick people, some who never recovered, and then there were some who were denied entrance altogether and were sent back on ships to their homeland.  So much history, so little time.  The kids didn't like the latter part as much as The Statue itself, but the redeeming moment was getting their Jr. Ranger badges!  Even Dawson was sworn in.  The ferry rides were a boon for the boys too.  The number of people they pack on them was a little crazy though, and Corey and I started wondering if herding us like cattle onto packed boats was a part of the experience.  Right off the ferry in Battery park was another Jr. Ranger opportunity at Castle Clinton.  The boys needed our help bigtime on this one because they were closing so soon, but the rangers let them do it, so we helped. On our way back to our hotel, we stopped and bought a couple of tickets to a show at TKTS.  Asher and I went to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that night and it was really spectacular.  The show was funny, well done and we loved indulging in some fun chocolate bars during intermission.  No golden tickets though, bummer.  I was a little nervous maneuvering the subway and Times Square alone late at night, but all was well and the night was just perfect.  Asher made for a sweet, fun and enjoyable date!
Day 3 we visited the Intrepid air and space museum.  Beckett was beyond excited to see a Blackbird up close and personal, and all of us were wowed by the space shuttle displayed there.  It was amazing!!  The boys really enjoyed the hands on displays and exhibits they had and loved our time there.  We ate our lunch under the belly of a Concord jet sitting there on the grounds, so cool.  The boys couldn't understand why they'd stopped making an aircraft that cut travel time so significantly.
After the Intrepid (which was the boy's hands down fave I believe), we took a bus out to the start of the Highline and walked it back to the pier, where we caught an afternoon Harbor cruise.  The views of the city did not disappoint and we loved being outside on the water.  It was a fantastic day for it too, the weather was perfect.  A nice Anthony Bourdain look alike sitting behind us gave us some great tips for things to see and places to eat.  We took him up on his suggestion to check out Eataly, by the Flatiron Building.  What a cool place!  Totally packed with people, this one is not a secret, but it was like a really classy enormous food court with authentic Italian food and markets.  We had focaccia pizzas and gelato and a few pastries for the road.  There's a Shake Shack across the street and Corey couldn't help himself...he had to have another strawberry shake.  As we headed across the street again, and couldn't believe our eyes when our friendly fellow Harbor Cruise friend and his visitors ran into us!  Seriously, I can't imagine that the chances of running into someone twice in the same day in New York City are good at all.  We let him know that his recommendation was perfect and wished them all a great night.  Too funny though...and very surprising.

The next day was Sunday, and with rain threatening we traveled to the lovely little part of Manhattan where the Temple is.  What a strange thing to walk into a building, go up in an elevator, and when the door opens it looks just like a normal church building inside.  So strange, but really cool.  It's always fun going to church in different places, but this one was the coolest by far, and sometime I'd love to go inside the actual temple.  After church, it was pouring rain, so we pulled out the raincoats and headed to the Natural History Museum.  When we arrived, there was a line out and around the just kept on going, and the rain was more of a deluge by then.  We also found out that Dawson's jacket was not in fact a waterproof one.  The poor kid had fallen asleep and woke up soaked completely thru.  We decided to forgo waiting in the line and getting wetter.  Instead, the kids played some games at the hotel, watched a little T.V. and we all rested up as we dried off.  Later on, to be sure we didn't waste our day away, we went to Rockafeller Plaza and went to the top of 30 Rock.  The funniest part was that NOBODY else was there.  I mean nobody except for the people who work there.  They even tried to dissuade us from going up because the views "would be awful."  But, we decided that fog could be cool too, that, and we didn't want to miss out on anything on our CityPass.  It was foggy, and the views were awful, but it was so eerie being up there in the fog, all alone.  There isn't anywhere in the city where you're alone, but I'm telling you, that the 'Top of the Rock' on a rainy day is the place to be if you needed some alone time.  For the record from the 68th floor did have some limited visibility, but not the normal spectacular views that would normally be had.  Next time!
On our last day in the City we had breakfast at the hotel (which was surprisingly good, by the way), packed everything up, checked the bags with the hotel and headed out the Natural History museum, which had eluded us the day before.  After a nice 45 minute line to get in, I asked the guy at the register if this was normal. Yes, it is.  Wow.  After we were finally allowed to get in, we were able to see some really amazing exhibits.  The boys really wanted to see "Dum Dum" from the movie, Night at the Museum, so we were sure to find him.  The dinosaurs did not disappoint...what a collection.  All three boys enjoyed that part.  Corey's must see was the life size blue whale hanging from the ceiling, and it was impressive!  The museum was awesome.  The lines and crowds, not so much, but I think we'd do it again.  Lunch before we let was Halaal food truck eats and more Shake Shack.  The street food was surprisingly yummy.  Now I want to try making some Falafel at home, and I think the strawberry shake at Shake Shack is a fave for Cor (their burgers were delish too). The trip home was great, and fairly uneventful.  The boys were very well behaved and nice people always seem to end up by them, or maybe it's that only nice people would be willing to sit next to two kids sitting alone.  On the final leg of the trip, it was getting pretty late and while Asher was talking to a very nice lady, Beckett fell asleep on her shoulder. Sweet, I just hope he didn't drool on her. Dawson didn't feel well the last couple of hours, but we made it home without too much trouble.

Some things I learned while in NYC:  Episodes of Super Why on your phone with some headphones can get you thru the Met with a 2 year old, people in NYC smoke a lot, NYC rain is the real deal, Shake Shack lives up to the hype, the subway isn't too bad, subway panhandlers are extremely creative with their methods (rather talented singing male quartet begging for money while walking thru subway cars), rats have very long tails, New Yorkers aren't into smiling or making eye contact but are totally helpful and friendly when it comes down to it, Times Square is full of crazies, there are lines for everything, it's hard to find a place to sit and eat because all the seats are already taken, French tourists are everywhere, Central Park is wonderful, and NYC with kids can be done.  Oh, and
after the trip you might need a good nap!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Amazing Yellowstone

This summer we finally decided to do Yellowstone!  We've tossed the idea around for a few years now, but it never seemed to be the right time.  This was our year, and what a fantastic adventure. My parents went with us, well actually they drove us from their place in Utah, which was so nice...sort of like having our own personal tour guide to take us through the most fascinating landscape imaginable.  Plus, family time.  Lots of family time in the car. It was a nice chance to just hang out with my parents without all of life's distractions. I personally had not been to the Park since I was probably 13, and Corey had never been so it was one big trip full of discovery for everyone!
Day 1 was our drive in from the West Yellowstone side.  We'd stayed at my sister Laurie's in Idaho Falls the night before to get a jump on our day.  In West Yellowstone, we had lunch at a restaurant which was quirky and fun, but really the most terrible food.  We stopped before entering Yellowstone and walked out to a gorgeous waterfall called West Mesa Falls, and saw some hot springs on our way into the park. That night we stayed at some nice, clean and very new hotel rooms at Canyon Lodge.

Day 2 was amazing.  I'd dub it our 'Wildlife Day!'  My dad drove us up to the upper loop (a place he hadn't been before) where the crowds were thin and the animals were aplenty. Spectacular! We started the day with buffalo right off the side of our car, and from then on out we saw bears (no joke...2 black bears and a grizzly, WOW!!), a coyote, elk, an osprey nest complete with hungry babies, deer, and fields full of antelope.  It was like living in an I Spy book.  I took a ton of pictures, but one huge regret was leaving my zoom lens at home.  Bummer on that one.  Mammoth Hot Springs was much changed from what I remembered from my childhood visits.  The colors were less varied but it was still a wonder.  There was a steady drizzle while we were there so we walked around the area quickly before ducking in for some ice cream at the gift shop.  For the record, the boys were obsessed with the gift shops in each area.  (They came home with some fun souvenirs too...postcards, pencils, pens, notebooks, necklaces, hats, stuffed animals and more.)  From there, we skirted the plaza area, dotted with resident elk and the kids snagged their Junior Ranger kits at the Mammoth information center. We saw Tower Falls, the Petrified Tree, Lamar Valley (loaded with herds of buffalo), had sacrament at an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by pines, had dinner at canyon lodge, and heard the boy's Jr Ranger talk. That night we played some cards with my parents (they killed us), and Corey and the boys went to a night ranger talk.

Day 3 was an adventure of a different kind.  Animals were fewer (although we did see pelicans and swans), but the geological wonders were in abundance (so were the people). We drove to the lower falls first thing in the morning and hiked down the switchbacks to a breathtaking vantage point at the edge of the falls. I needed the restroom once we made it back up, and there, hanging out two feet to the right of the ladies restroom was a huge buffalo.  Oy.  I could only see it's backside, so I snuck in nervously. The kid's Jr Ranger talk had been heavy on the warnings of messing with the buffalo so I was a bit leery or getting too close! We had a picnic lunch at Yellowstone Lake where the boys played by the water and Grandpa tricked Dawson into eating his food ("Don't bite my fingers," he begged!). Later we walked to Morning Glory (also much changed since my youth) and the other hydrothermal pools on that same route, saw the amazing Old Faithful, and topped it all off with some tasty ice cream (tradition, my dad says....not going to complain about any tradition involving ice cream!).  It was a fun filled day, and my older boys both agreed that the geysers were their favorite thing at Yellowstone.  That night, at the Old Faithful lodging complex, we stayed at some rustic cabins (the boys LOVED it, me, not as much after killing a few mosquitoes and spiders before bedtime) near a stream.  As the sun went down a very vocal chipmunk chattered away just feet from our window.  Luckily he must have been as tired as we were and went quiet once it was dark.

Day 4 was our drive home, but not before exploring the Grand Tetons for the entire morning.  We all regretted not having an extra day to spend hiking around Jenny Lake and seeing more of the valley surrounding the majestic mountains. Gor-geous.  Seriously, I had no idea how beautiful that park was.  I look forward to another trip when we can really enjoy it more.  Despite our lack of time, the boys still pulled off completing their Jr. Ranger programs for Grand Tetons too! We looked around the information area, admired the open marshy splendor at the Teton Lodge (but no moose, darn.), and even made it over to Jenny Lake where we took a short boat ride across and back again.  Next time we'll do the Hidden Falls hike on the other side.  We headed back through Jackson Hole, and just before we hit the town, we saw an amazing baby grizzly bounding through a huge green field.  He just ran and ran, and half of the people driving by pulled alongside the highway just to watch.  After a few fun touristy pics with the antlers in the town square, we had a quick lunch and set off again.  The next stop was Star Valley, Wyoming where my dad's mother grew up on some of the prettiest farmland I've seen.  We drove around a bit, hearing stories and fun memories before heading out again. Maddox (meh, the food was just ok) was our dinner stop and we made it home to my parent's house around 10:30.  What a day! Everyone was ready to conk out the minute we made it back to my parent's.

This was one of the best trips we've ever done, hands down, and everyone came home with some wonderful memories.  My parents were the best trip buddies and tour guides we could have asked for and really made the trip perfect.  Yellowstone, you were fantastic!!  Til the next time...