Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vacation - Epilogue: The Ride Home

On our last night in Vegas, we took the boys to buy a couple of souvenirs with the money their grandparents and aunt had given them. Gus stepped out into the night-time heat, looked around at the flashing, dancing lights of the city, and, pumping his fists declared, "This is Vegas, baby!"

We knew it was time to go home.

Somewhere outside of St. George, Kelly turned to me and said it was probably a good idea to go back to the Bumbleberry Inn just in case Wildcat Willie was there. If he was, Kelly argued, it was a sign that we should bring him home with us.

So we went out of our way - 44-miles round trip - to see if a feral cat was waiting for us to bring him home. The boys were delighted,convinced Willie would eagerly jump into the arms of his new human family. For my part, I prayed to any and all deities who would listen that the feral mouser would be nowhere to be found.

With great anticipation, we turned into the hotel parking lot and pulled around back to where our room had been. Willie was nowhere to be found. Kelly and Gus walked around the hotel's perimeter searching for any sign of the cat, but came up empty handed.

With equal disappointment, we left the Bumbleberry Inn to head home: cat free.

But all was not lost! On our way out of Springdale, we stopped off at the Springdale Fruit Company to enjoy the shade and fresh organic ice cream and smoothies. If you ever get to Springdale, make sure to visit the Fruit Company!

This first family vacation provided us with some great memories and brought us closer together as a family. And best of all, we didn't come home with any cats!

There goes the college fund!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Vacation - Part II: Vegas, Baby!

For the second half of our vacation, we left the pristine beauty of nature for the man-made glitz of Vegas.

Las Vegas, rose out of the desert like some sort of tacky, neon mirage. Gus took one look at the Strip and said, "That's Vegas? That's awesome, man!"

We stayed at the world-famous Circus Circus. Here's the thing, with all my love for my cousin Joanne not withstanding, I freakin' hate clowns. They creep the bejebus outta me. And at Circus Circus, you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting an image of a clown somewhere...everywhere, actually. (Thank God I didn't see any wandering the casino...)

And man, Vegas is hot. It's Africa hot. Zion felt chilly compared to Vegas. Every day we were there the thermometer tipped 105 (40 C). So right after lunch, we made a bee-line for the pool. In an ironic twist, unlike the Bumbleberry Inn, Circus Circus heats their pool. Actually, it was perfect, and we had a lot of fun.

But there's more to Vegas than heated pools. And our first night we drove a couple blocks from Circus Circus to Treasure Island to catch the Cirque du Soleil show: Mystere. If you've never seen a Cirque show, you don't know what you're missing. It was phenomenal, and the boys were spellbound.

After the circus, we decided to check out the Strip. Fun fact: giant hotels look much closer than they actually are! What visually appeared to be just a couple of block stroll to the Bellagio, ended up being a hike and a half. The boys were tired, the sidewalks were packed, and as each person dropped another Girls! Girls! Girls! card on the ground, I barked at Gus, "Eyes up!"

But the trek was worth it: the boys loved the dancing waters.

The next day - after a dip in the pool - we hit Circus Circus' Adventure Dome: an actual theme park right inside the hotel!

On our last day in Vegas, we visited a couple of museums: The Children's Museum and the Las Vegas Natural History Museum.

The Natural History Museum had a very nice Egyptian exhibit.

In one room, we walked through a maze, created too give you a sense that you were discovering King Tut's tomb. To give the visitor a more authentic experience, the lights were turned down low, very low - we only had flashlights to guide us. Adding to the creepy atmosphere, the room's permanent exhibit of large animals - bears, big cats, ungulates - was pushed to the sides; a stray beam of light might shine back through glass eyes. At the end of that exhibit, the museum played the Boris Karloff movie, The Mummy. Niko, already spooked by experience, sat quietly watching the film, when Gus creeped up behind him....

Big brothers, watcha gonna do?

In the morning we geared up for the long drive home. Vacation was over.

But what happened to Wildcat Willie from the Bumbleberry Inn in Springdale?

You'll have to wait for the last installment of Who's Your Daddy: Vacation Edition!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Vacation - Part I: Zion National Park

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful place in the world than Zion National Park. The cool river running through the red bluffs is just amazing. It was also the perfect introduction for the boys to vacation.

The last time Kelly and I were at Zion, we camped out. This time around, we stayed at the Bumbleberry Inn Hotel. The boys were enthralled with everything about hotel life: the key cards, the little soaps, the ice machine, the nurses. Nurses, you ask? For reasons that we have yet to fully understand, Gus continually referred to the housekeeping staff as "nurses." As in, "Did the nurses make our beds?"

As with all kids, the pool was a big hit! Practically every moment we weren't hiking, eating or sleeping, we were at the pool. Now, I'm not sure if I believe the gal at the front desk when she told me the pool heater was broken, or maybe the Bumbleberry just doesn't heat its pool seeing how the day-time temperatures were right about 100 (37 C), but it was cold. I mean cold!

Of course Gus and Niko didn't mind. Gus has become quite a good little swimmer and enjoyed flinging himself into the icy waters - especially if he had some buddies to join him. Jimmer and Ellie from Park City were always up for a good jump. But Jordan and Elliot from France preferred lap racing.

The pool was fun, but we came for the hiking. And on Friday and Saturday, we jumped on the town's free (natural gas) shuttle right from our hotel and rode to the entrance of the park. Once there, we grabbed Zion's free (natural gas, also)shuttle that runs the length of Zion Canyon.

The first day we hiked to the Emerald Pools. The trail meanders through red rock cliffs until waterfalls cascade down from the top of mesas, forming clear pools turned emerald by algae. Literally, oases in the middle of the desert.

Since the middle pool was closed due to a rock slide, we grabbed a connecting trail that circled through some really amazing views of the canyon, until finally dropping us off at the Virgin River.

There's nothing like wading in the Virgin. So that's exactly what we did. The cool water felt so good after hiking in the sun, and I taught the boys a new trick: how to catch tiny river frogs. They were everywhere - and in all phases of their evolution: from tadpoles to full-fledged frogs.

On our last day we took the park shuttle to its end, the Temple of Sinawava, where we hiked the River Walk Trail along the refreshing river, to the Narrows. This is a really amazing part of the park - you can actually hike in the river through the canyon. Now when we were last there, we probably hiked 2-3 miles in. This time, since the water hit Niko's thighs, we made it 2-3 hundred feet.

On the way back down the River Walk Trail, we made a detour: finding a huge bolder in the middle of the Virgin River, we forged out to it, climbed aboard, made fresh mozzarella and tomato sandwiches and enjoyed lunch in the middle of the river.

Our last hike in the canyon was to Weeping Rock. This was a short but sometimes steep jaunt to an overhang, where water literally seeps through the sandstone from the mesa above. It takes 1,000 years for the water to make its journey, so the water that got us wet hit the top of the meas about the time Leif Eriksson and the Vikings were hitting the coast of North America.

After a hot day of hiking, there's nothing like a refreshing ice cream. So we enjoyed a cone under the giant cottonwood tree at the visitor center, and listened to a ranger-led talk about big horn sheep (the boys got to touch a skull and the horn!).

Speaking of sheep, next to the hotel there was a small herd of plain old, regular goats. Niko asked if we could buy one. They also had chickens and ducks. On our hikes we saw a couple deer, lots of squirrels, what as either a very large eagle or one of the re-introduced California condors. And in the evenings we watched little bats dart about keeping the skies bug free.

But the most exciting animal sighting was the feral cat that hung out by our room. Kelly took pity on it and fed it. The boys' failed miserably at keeping it out of our room. Conspiring against me, the boys and Kelly hatched a plan to bring the cat back to Salt Lake with us. They even named him, Wildcat Willie (after the nearby restaurant). Only Willie looked more like a Wilhelmina to me!

After really pondering it for a while, the morning we left for Vegas, it was decided that Willie should remain in Springdale. Kelly had come to his senses...or had he? Read all about Willie and our trip to Vegas in the next Who's Your Daddy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Vacation: Day One - In Which No One Died

For us, we left at a decent time - just before 10:00 am. 40 minutes into the drive, just outside of Provo, Niko asked the dreaded question, "Are we there yet?" We weren't.

Thanks to the joys of portable DVD players, the trip to Zion was relatively uneventful. We did stop in Fillmore for veggie burgers at Burger King, where the boys enjoyed a special treat: sodas! (Amazingly they were rather unimpressed with my trivia: Fillmore was Utah's first capital.)

While the boys watched their DVD, Kelly and I listened to a collection of "This American Life," which must have been very good since we found ourselves in lovely Hurricane - lost. A heated "discussion" later and we were back on track. NOT that I keep score of these things, but, um, I was right on this one; although at one point Niko did demand, "Give me the map!" (There's a lot of testosterone in our family.)

Our little side trip to Hurricane, which for all the non-Utah readers out there is pronounced not like the storm, but rather "Her-kun," we arrived at the Bumbleberry Inn in beautiful Springdale at the mouth of Zion National Park. A little late to do any hiking, we decided to hit the pool - Gus' favorite part of the vacation. Fun fact: the Bumbleberry Inn's pool isn't heated... You all know about shrinkage, right?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Into The Heart of Darkness

Tomorrow's the big day. We're taking the big plunge. We're taking a road trip with the boys. We're heading to Zion National Park for three days

and then it's on to fabulous Las Vegas!

Assuming I don't toss the boys out somewhere along the trip, I hope to blog about our adventures regularly! Wish us luck!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Here Chick, Chick, Chick

It's been a week since Mabel-the-rooster moved to Richard's farm in Green Valley. That means we've had seven peaceful mornings free from cock-a-doodle-doing at 5:55 a.m. That means seven long days since the neighbors probably dreamed up ways to seek revenge upon us!

Mabel Two seems to have settled in pretty well. She's still rather stand-offish with Eleni and Yia Yia Peeps, and tends to keep to herself. For their part, the girls seem content to keep their distance. And it might be anthropomorphic of me, but they seem to think she's a bit off her rocker for not proactively hoping to get cuddled and petted by the boys. She is growing more comfortable, however, to both her new roommates and the human contact.

At least she's paying her way: a half-dozen fresh green-blue eggs laid since she arrived!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Maybe a Musical Number is in Order

I think when most people hear the word, "monsoon," they immediately conjure up images of desperately poor people in south Asian countries walking in water up to their wastes, tugging an ironically uncooperative water buffalo behind them.

Of course, I'm slightly weird: I always think of those 4-hour long films from India, where just before the intermission, the sky pours forth rain and a big musical number follows!

Many people probably don't realize that this time of year we get monsoons in Utah as well. They come in fast - the skies darken as night-black clouds race across, immediately cooling the near 100 (38C) degree temperature. And like a scene befitting the ancient gods, the rain bursts out, pelting the ground.

Almost as quickly as they arrive, the clouds disappear - giving way to summertime blue skies again.

For me, the monsoon that drenched Salt Lake late last night, was typical of my new reality. The deafening claps of thunder, sent a tearful Niko racing into our bed; while a terrorized Gracie simply tried to hide all 85 lbs (39 kilos) of herself.

Although nothing I can do will ever really reassure Gracie - if she's alone during a storm she crams herself under Kelly's desk - there is something very satisfying about seeing Niko almost immediately fall back asleep, feeling completely safe and protected nestled between his dads.

I don't know, maybe next time a monsoon rolls in, we should just take a cue from those Indian movies I secretly enjoy, and simply run outside to perform a snappy musical number!