We went to Yosemite yesterday. Ian booked the reservation two months ago, as that is now how you have to go. I felt funny calling the school to tell them the kids would be absent from distance learning, but it was totally worth it. Because of the reservation system, and maybe because it was a weekday?, Yosemite was practically empty. Which was SO nice. I also think we have gotten better over the years about day trips and they have become much more enjoyable. We have gotten better about our expectations of what we can accomplish in a day. We have also gotten better about packing and expecting our needs ahead of time. 

We brought chairs, a mat, the kids swimming stuff and enough food to feed us all day. We set up shop at the rivers edge and I was so happy to watch the kids play and use their imaginations. That type of thing makes my heart soar. And Willa wasn't a fan of the cold water or rocks (we aren't sure which), so stayed out of the water. That made it so much easier on us. The three older ones played in the water for a couple hours, while Ian, Willa and I chilled. I couldn't have asked for a better or easier time. 

We then changed the kids, packed up and headed toward Yosemite Village in search of ice cream. Again, there was literally no one around. We got the kids some jr ranger booklets, got some ice cream and set up shop on a picnic table in the shade. The kids did the booklet activities while eating ice cream. Once done, we headed to the ranger station so they could officially become jr rangers and get their patches. 

Then we set off in search of a good view of half dome. We found one, parked and explored a bit. Even saw someone painting the view of half done. Then we drove around a bit before leaving. On our way out of the park, we got to see a bear that was maybe 30 yards off the road. All the cars were stopped just watching. It was a little guy and felt a bit surreal seeing it walk around. Of course, I also wondered where mama bear was and if she would be mad at the cars watching her baby! 

It was a great trip. One that left us wanting to go back. Though I told Ian that we are getting spoiled going to the national parks without crowds during covid. I don't think we would normally have the same enjoyable and serene experiences we have been having. 

^^ we've gotten pretty dang good at the self timer photos in the past month or so!

I also don't want to forget the new experience of doing back to school night from my phone while driving home! We lost service halfway through Isla's teacher's presentation, but I was able to watch all of Connor's. Such a funny experience it would have been from home, but it made it all the more so from the car.

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Willa {18 months}

Likes: her mom, "reading" (looking at) books, unrolling the toilet paper roll, grabbing at anything she knows she shouldn't have, her toy phone, water - be it in the bath, sink, hose, pool or water table
Dislikes: teething, people taking toys away from her

Toddlers are equal parts adorable and exhausting. Willa is learning and changing constantly these days. She is also into EVERYTHING. And the lack of impulse control keeps her pulling down every towel and hanging piece of clothing she sees. She loves climbing up on the table, which leaving nothing on it is key. She loves finding keys and pressing the remote buttons. She also loves any small toy left where she can swipe it - from shopkins to the lite brite pegs to game pieces. And she is quick to spot anything left out too. 

Willa now says several words on the daily. This includes - hide, this, ball, thank you, trash, dog, teeth, keys and shoes. She also says several people's names, including - dad, mom, Jess (she stands at the bottom of the stairs and yells my name!), Isla, Connor, Papa and Riley. I may be skipping some words, as she is picking up new ones daily. She likes to make sure we know she knows the word. For instance, she points at the keys and yells "keys" several times a day. And she picks up something that needs to be thrown away, says "trash" takes it to the trash can, throws it away and then says "thank you". I have started working with Willa on her body parts and she knows where her head, eyes, ears, teeth and fingers are. 

Willa currently has 12 teeth with more on the way. The 13th one is close to breaking through. She went to the dentist for the first time this summer. The dentist said her teeth look great. I don't know Willa's actual height and weight, but she is wearing 12-18 month clothing and size 4 diapers. Some 18-24 month works with room to grow, but some is still just too big to wear. 

The biggest change for Willa lately (or more for me!), is Willa now sleeps in her own bed. We took the side off her crib a couple weeks ago and it has been a game changer. It is so nice to have my room back and my evenings back. She doesn't even wake when I talk Isla in there to bed. Now to get her sleeping through the night! Depending on when Willa wakes for the day, she takes one to two naps a day. It is generally one and I prefer it to be one, as then it is one long one, rather than two shorter ones. Depending on what is going on in the house, she sleeps either in the carrier on my back or in her bed. I say depending, as it really depends on if I have the time to sit and nurse her to sleep or not. With the kids back in distance learning, sometimes having that time when Willa is tired can be a bit dicy. 

Willa has taken to carrying things around and I am here for it. Usually it is her baby doll or stuffed unicorn. It's so stinking cute. And with her doll, she has tried brushing the hair after I brush Isla's hair. And she squeezes both of them like she is hugging them. It is pretty much the cutest thing ever. Like it really is. 

Though it's hard to believe it has been 18 months since Willa arrived, her birth seems like such a long time ago. And that first year is already starting to feel foggy in my memory. Time and a child's growth is such a crazy thing. 

Just for fun, ConnorIsla and Callum at the same age. Callum and Willa had the same amount of teeth at this age, Connor and Willa had many more. 
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Willa's Big Girl Bed

It sounds a bit dramatic calling it a big girl bed when really it's just a crib with the side off! None-the-less, it's a change. A big one at that. One that I usually wait as loooong as possible to make. I've even put kids in sleep sacks to keep them from being able to crawl out of their cribs. But, as having more children has taught me, everything doesn't work the same for each child. 

Willa has been fully sleeping in our bed for months. I would like to say something like, "I don't know how that happened." Except that, well, I do. For the last long while, Willa has nursed to sleep at night. And she started waking and throwing a fit every time I would lower her into her crib. I'm not a fan of cry it out, so I started nursing her in our bed and laying her in the middle with pillows around her. And it worked. Except that she would sometimes wake when I would try to watch my iPad in there at night and she always woke when Ian came to bed. Something needed to change. So, we took the side off her crib. 

It has been magic. 

She has gone to bed in her bed every night since. Naps too. It's been a game changer. I still nurse her to sleep in the rocking chair in her room, then set her in her bed. She tends to sleep until around 1am before coming into our room. The first couple nights she woke and cried. Then she figured out she could get off her bed. The next couple nights, she cried as she walked to our room. Now, she just straight up gets out of bed without crying and comes to our room, my side of the bed, and if I don't hear her, yells so I can pull her up into our bed. 

It's nice to have our evenings back. It's nice to have our room back. This change that I have always dreaded with the other kids has been a game changer and one I am so glad we did early. 

^^ Her first nap in the new set up...which obviously had to be documented! 

^^ Riley, my parents dog, was visiting, so had to get in on the action.

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First Day of School

I was sort of dreading school starting. I have gotten so used to not setting an alarm and sort of doing whatever we want...around the house. I know a lot of people aren't pleased about distance learning, but I was happy when the school announced it. I felt nervous sending the kids back, especially with there not seeming to be any practices in place for keeping the kids healthy and quarantining if anyone got sick. Anyway, a few days before school started, the school district released a schedule that had me worried. They basically wanted the kids to sit at their computers from 8:30-2:30 everyday. That had me worried. But Ian told me to give it a month and see what happens. 

The first day of school got off to a rocky start. I couldn't get Connor logged on to the school program. It turns out it was overwhelmed by so many people trying to log on at the same time. Then, the first day of school video kept freezing. I gave up on that, bypassed the school's website and logged Connor in directly to the program and got him "into" class. Funnily enough, they later told us not to bypass the school website, but it worked, so I still consider it a win. 

I had logged Isla into class a half an hour early, so she didn't have any problems. After the rocky start to the day, things went pretty well. Both kids have break and lunch at the same time. They also finish for the day around the same time, 1pm, then start "independent work" which really is just a fancy name for homework, haha!

Besides Isla missing playing with her friends, I actually think distance learning is going well. It involves way less of me than it did in the spring. Now, my time is spent keeping Callum and Willa quiet and out of the way! 

At this point, it is anyone's guess as to when school will actually go back to in person. But I am happy with how things are going at home. It is going way better and smoother than I expected. 

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Bodie State Park

This is another one of those stops that was made because it's in the middle of nowhere and one wonders when they will find themselves in this particular part of nowhere again. Bodie State Park is a ghost town that was abandoned mostly intact. What remains is actually only 5% of what was originally there. It was a town created because of gold mining. It is 12 miles off the highway and the last 3 miles aren't paved. Not paved! The park worker said it is to get you in the spirit of 100+ years ago, haha! 

It was actually pretty neat to look around. The schoolhouse, which stopped operating in the 1940's, still remains pretty full inside. Most of the buildings were not. For instance, the post office had some cubbies and things inside, but was mostly empty. Connor was excited to show us the site of a murder...actually marked for people to visit. Callum picked up a stick off the ground and played with it for a while, before getting in trouble by a park worker for it being an "artifact". That one cracked me up. He got it off the middle of the road. Sometimes I wonder why workers at places have to be like that. It just makes kids not want to go when they can't even play with dang sticks on the ground. To each his own, I guess. It was still a neat place to visit and wander around. 

^^ Callum holding said stick...and in the picture below, he is playing with it in the dirt.

^^ The mine that cost more than the amount of gold that was found and what appears to be the reason the town was abandoned. 

^^ The site of a murder. I'm assuming only one ever happened in the town, given it was marked. 

We went here on our last day of driving home from vacation. So, that's the end of our road trip. In case you missed my other road trip posts - we stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flatsstayed in Park City for a week and stopped at Zion National Park for two days. 
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Zion National Park

Our original plan for this summer was to utilize Connor's fourth grade national parks pass and do a road trip hitting up several national parks. Alas, covid changed things. But, we did decide to go to Zion National Park on our "way" home...it was a couple hours out of the way. But the thing is, when you are on a road trip, you wonder if you will ever be back there, so stopping is always a good idea. 

Ian planned ahead and booked us shuttle tickets at Zion. Part of it is only accessible via the shuttle. Well, you can bike it too, but that wouldn't be happening! The shuttles are severely limited in capacity because of covid. We chose a "hike" that apparently is the most popular one in the park. I struggle even calling it a hike because it is completely paved and really only had one small spot with even an incline. Maybe calling it a walk would be more appropriate. It was a hot day at Zion, over 100 degrees. Thankfully we got there early, around 9am. Also the hike-walk was mostly shaded, making it bearable. But, there is no air in the shuttle and it is about a 40 minute ride each direction. I'm pretty sure that's what did the kids in! 

After the hike, we were going to stop at another shuttle stop, but after waiting for the shuttle, then riding on the shuttle a bit, the kids were grumpy. So, we went back to near our car and had a picnic lunch. Then we grabbed ice cream to cool off and drove the road through Zion. I was taken by the unique landscape and how it changes as you drive through the park...it's only like an 11 mile drive or something. But this made me decide I wanted to come back later. 

So, after dinner, we headed back into the park. The sun wasn't high in the air anymore, the temps had cooled off a bit. We drove until we found a good place to park and get out and play. We spent two hours throwing rocks, climbing logs and just enjoying ourselves. This was definitely my favorite part of the day. It made it totally worth keeping the kids up past bedtime. In fact, they were in great moods, enjoying themselves so much. And driving out of the park just as it was getting dark was rather fun. 

These next pictures are from when we went back into the park in the evening. 

^^ Isla said these rocks looked like shells. With their layered lines, they really did. What was crazy is they were almost like a sand material, so if the kids threw a rock, it easily busted when it hit the ground.

If you have never been to Zion, I highly recommend it. Judging by the parking situation, it seems it was WAY less busy than normal, due to covid. It still felt plenty busy and I think would have been an unpleasant experience had we gone at a normal peak time for the park. Also, if you can go offseason when it isn't so hot, I recommend that...because it is hot, hot, HOT there. 

In case you missed my other road trip posts - we stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats and stayed in Park City for a week. 

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Park City

Our main destination for vacation was Park City, Utah. We chose this because there are so many outdoor activities, making it easier to social distance. Also, the temps are more than 20 degrees cooler than home! 

With four kids and not wanting a rushed vacation, we did one activity a day, then spent the other time playing exploring or hanging out. 

Day 1:

The first day we went and checked out the Olympic Park. We saw people practicing ski jumps into a big pool, which was pretty cool. We also realized there really aren't any activities for the little kids. So we went back to the house and I took the older kids back to have fun. The highlight for me and Connor was the zipline. I've always wanted to do one and it definitely didn't disappoint. The highlight for Isla was the alpine slide. The ropes course was a low for all of us, when we ended up needing rescuing by the workers. (insert face palm here!) We went back a few days later and I watched another lady and her kids being rescued on the ropes course and then didn't feel so bad. 

Day 2:

We drove into Salt Lake City to go to the zoo. It was actually a very pleasant experience. I was nervous about the crowds, which really ended up being a non-issue.  You have to pre-buy timed tickets into the zoo. And maybe because it was a weekday, there was not many people there. It was nice to get out and do something that felt relatively normal. 

Day 3:

We went to Jordanelle state park. I originally wanted to walk to the dam, but it was farther away from the parking lot than I thought. So instead we had a picnic lunch, then a small little loop of a hike before letting the kids play in the water. We packed up to leave just as a storm was coming, which was perfect timing. 

Day 4:

Connor really wanted to ride public transportation, so planned an outing for us in Salt Lake City with it. Funny story, neither Ian or I checked out Connor's plan. We just went with it. Well, he drove us way south of the city because he wanted to ride public transportation longer...haha! He mapped for us to go to a coffee shop, then to an ice cream place. Public transportation was basically empty. I don't know if that is normal or covid, but either way, it made the experience that much more enjoyable. 

Day 5:

We took the most beautiful and incredible little hike. Despite what these pictures show, much of the hike was covered in trees, making it a nice and cool hike. Connor passed his time telling ghost stories, Callum went between throwing rocks and filling his pockets with them, Isla collected wild flowers for a bouquet and Willa slept. 

Day 6:

We went back to the olympic park, as the kids really wanted to go back. This time Ian did activities with the kids. I stayed too, as I found a play area when I was there before. It was a little big for Callum, but he had fun. I would say the same activities were highlights for the kids. Connor went on the zipline at least six times. One time Ian took Isla on the alpine slide and Connor rode the zipline four times just in the one time they did the alpine slide. We took a picture with the bobsled track, as I am a big Cool Runnings fan...haha! You can pay to ride down it with a professional bobsledder, but I figured I would probably barf, so I didn't do it. But the younger, stronger stomach, me really wanted to do it. 

While in Park City, we stayed in an airbnb that was just perfect. The place had five bedrooms, which we really didn't need all those. We ended up sleeping in three. It had a hottub...which was the reason we booked it. We used the hottub almost every day. The nice thing about an airbnb is being able to cook all your own meals, though we did pick up take out two nights. After Park City, we headed south to Zion National Park. 

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