The first leg of our journey started after work on Friday night as we drove to Moab, and stayed the night in Grandma's condo.
We spent about five days in Surprise, AZ with The Wife's brother Tyler and his family. When Tyler's wife Sarah and two daughters came to visit Utah a couple weeks ago, I was determined to get four-year-old Lily (who was ever so shy of me at the wedding) to like me, and by the time she left, she was calling me her "favoritest." This trip, my goal was to achieve the same level of acceptance from one-year-old Ivy, who is going through a Mommy- and Daddy-only phase (though for some reason she took to Julie right away). We spent several days in Arizona spending time with Tyler and Co., staying indoors as much as possible, out of the 110-degree heat (yes, one-hundred-and-ten degrees!), shopping, getting ice cream at the local water store, going to see Toy Story 3, which caused the slightest bit of concern for Lily (and the ladies going to a midnight showing of That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named, JUST FOR THE LOLZ!!!), visiting the local aquarium (where we met some nasty crocodile-neck turtles, a six-foot snapping turtle named Bubba and an albino crocodile), eating delicious deep-fried cheese curds at my beloved Culver's, getting better acquainted with Ivy Mae, introducing Tyler to golf on the Wii and getting slaughtered by Sarah while playing Swordplay on the Wii, eating Sarah's delicious cooking and watching a lot of The IT Crowd. I managed to go running in the mornings, though it would already be about 90 degrees at around 9:00 am, and even was able to bring my work equipment along and get some work done in the evenings.
Culver's! I have missed it so!
As the holiday weekend was drawing closer, it was time to leave the land of cacti and incredible heat and head back for the land of red rocks and home! We headed back, via Tempe, where we had a nice lunch of Cornish pasties and treacle pudding with Julie's former roommate Ann.
We met Julie's family in southern Utah (where the weather was blessedly thirty degrees cooler) and soon were involved in many family festivities. It was really nice to see so many of Julie's relatives, some for the first time since the wedding, and some for the first time ever! We enjoyed the very well-organized extended-family dinner in the local church building's cultural hall and took advantage of the complete reservation of the town pool, then were happy to host Wii Party Central in our hotel room for the immediate family. The next day it was time to take part in the legendary Blanding Independence Day festivities, starting at 6:30 am for the 4th of July 5K/1-mile Fun Run! We learned about it from flyers announcing holiday events posted around town, and Julie, Tyler and I had a really good run at a very early hour. The turnout was pretty good (about 250), and I placed first in my age group and 20th overall (at 21:47). I like to think we would have all placed a little higher in the overall ranking had the race not been to benefit the local high school Cross Country team, and as such featured many very young and very fast runners (the overall winner was 13 years old), but this race gave medals and a lot of great raffle prizes, including my win of a $25 gift card to a local diner and Mom's win of a coupon for a free pizza.. Then came the Fun Run, which Mom, Marci and the kids enjoyed, and the kids were so excited to receive their ribbons at the end, and went around telling everyone how they won and how they were faster than their relatives who were running just behind them.
Then we watched the parade, where the kids ran around picking up the candy and beads thrown from the passing cars, and I saw all three of the sights I was hoping to see:
3. A band! Best uniforms ever. Their form was okay, but their playing was pretty good for such a small group.
They even had Indian royalty!
And tiny horses!
And missionaries! (This is such a great idea, I have no clue why it never occurred to me in Wisconsin.)
After a visit to the park and lunch of fresh Navajo tacos, we visited the dinosaur museum, where we watched a short film about the similarities between dinosaurs and birds which SOMEONE must have realized would have been dead boring while they were recording the narration...
(You may notice that I am wearing the race shirt. They were all out when we signed up, but they ended up with a few extra women's shirts after all. Julie wanted one, but she doesn't really wear them out and about, and it fit me too, so I decided to wear it to celebrate my victory from the early morn. Yeah, I'm man enough to wear a ladies' shirt. No big deal.)
Best celebrity endorsement of a toy ever. "...For really it is cunning."
This museum had a lot of pop culture dinosaur references from throughout the years. Julie just loves those Jurassic Park dinosaurs.
I just love those Fantasia dinosaurs.
After a much-needed rest at the hotel, we had a nice, relaxed barbecue with the remaining family members, and later we all enjoyed the fireworks spectacular from the back of Tyler's truck in the hotel parking lot.
The next morning after attending church, we had a short lunch at Granny and Granddad's house, said goodbye and took a few more pictures, then went our separate ways. I am happy to report that I spent a good portion of church playing with Ivy, and at one point she even reached for me, yea, while in the arms of her daddy, and I felt honored.
I was so glad to spend a lot of time with The Wife's family, whom she has been missing so dearly, and whom we hope to see again very soon!
This isn't our child.
How about a little blast from the past? Let's relive some of our engagement photos!
It was a well-needed little break from work and life and such, but still, it's hard to deny that it's really nice to get back home after a long vacation and sleep in your own delicious bed.