Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Highland Cousins

We spent the Sunday between the Heber Derby and our next reunion relaxing in Highland with my brother and his family, which was a great opportunity for Scott and Katie to get reacquainted with their cousins in smaller setting. Adam was really great about playing with Scotty in the sandbox, despite the massive age gap.

Livvy decided to be Katie's personal guardian, as well as Scott's primary playmate. That might seem like a tall order for one girl, but Livvy has more than enough personality to pull it off. Both our kids were in heaven in the playroom with Maddie and Livvy, and could have stayed there forever.

For some reason, while we were there, Katie suddenly decided to open her mouth for her baby chatter for the first time, rather than the zipped-lip pronounciation that she has been using to date. She still reverted to the zipper-mumble occasionally, but it was a major breakthrough for her.

Aunica is the only person I know who lounges around the house in heels, napping in the yard in a dress. It's like she's just waiting for the photoshoot to begin -- and then her life will effortlessly spill onto the pages of a lifestyle magazine.

I loved being there to visit. Partially, it was just nice to relax in a comfortable room without our kids sleeping with us. But more than that, it was just fun to be with them. Love those guys.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Heber Demolition Derby

I am an unabashed fan of demolition derbies.

I went to my first derby in West Valley City, Utah with some some friends while I was in university and I was hooked immediately. We went to a one or two more before I graduated and we moved to Ottawa, where we managed to see two derbies that were part of small town fairs, but they were held on small tracks with compact cars and just didn't compare to "the real thing" that I'd witnessed in WVC. So when we were planning our reunion tour through several US states over a period of 16 days, I did searched out derby dates and found us a winner: The Wasatch County Demolition Derby in Heber, Utah.

I invited my brother and his family to join us, and volunteered their home as the launch point for our venture. My next job was to buy tickets, which nearly didn't pan out. I went on the website and noted the start date for ticket sales into my calendar. I went online on that date and found a notice that it had been delayed for technical reasons and a new date was given. I happened to be up late the night before that new date and tried the site after midnight but it didn't work -- I figured it was more technical problems and they would need to reschedule. The next morning I tried it again just to see and found that tickets were selling like hotcakes. I barely managed to get 9 tickets all together in a decent section of the grandstands. Who knew that I had settled on one of the most popular demolition derbies in Utah?

The hype was well justified. There were tons of experienced entrants and the elimination heats were savage. I screamed myself hoarse (as usual), calling for bigger hits and leaped out of my seat with the rest of the crowd when a car was tipped right over. I may be a city boy raised in peace-lovin' Canada, but watching a driver ram his car into the side of an opponent tears me right down to a barbarian.

My brother managed to snag a box of popsicles tossed out into the stands. We also came away with a small ball, but I totally let the t-shirt slip out of my hands (I decided not to fight the lady for it -- I guess I'm not quite 100% barbarian). You might wonder how an 18-month-old baby would enjoy such an event. She did okay as long as the treats held out, and she quite liked to get up and dance when the music came on between heats.

When one of the trucks was turned over, even the victim-driver could be seen pumping his fists and cheering -- hanging upside down by his seatbelt. Everybody loves a good collision.

I was thinking about it. Watching the derby is like watching a fight break out at a hockey game -- everybody is thrilled at the fights -- but the derby is like a bench-clearing brawl that resets every few minutes. I don't understand why it seems to be dwindling in popularity in many places. You would think people would be screaming for more. I sure am.

Brian Head: Family Photos

Friday, July 29, 2011

Brian Head: Fun & Games

There were too many fun things going on at the reunion to try to mention them all, but I will try. It seemed like there was something going on every minute of the day, and Scott filled any remaining time with air hockey or foosball -- with ANYONE who would agree to play with him. Katie preferred to just follow Grandpa around. Grandpa is her good buddy.

Grandma Walters wrote and directed a melodrama that final evening with a history of her siblings and Grandpa Walters' siblings -- many who have now passed on.

There were organized "Minute to Win It" challenge games one afternoon (I was terrible) and crafts for the kids as well. When bedtime came for the kids, the rest of us stayed up for a huge game of "Psychiatrist", which resulted in a few hilarious moments.

The kids were in a game of water balloon hot potato, where you have to break the balloon over your head if you are caught with it when the music stops. Scott and Hayden were both thrilled with this strange, new experience. We also told Scott to go get Aunt Michelle in the back with a water balloon (twice), which didn't break (either time).

It's like Scott said when we first drove up to the lodge, which we explained was on top of a mountain: "I can't believe it!"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Brian Head: Feats of Daring

I would describe Scott as "cautious." Even when he learned to crawl and to walk, he was careful not to fall down or get hurt. We still see it when he plays soccer -- he hardly falls down because he keeps himself safely out of the middle of the pack. In addition to being cautious, he is scared of dogs and suspicious of most other animals.

Given this history, I wasn't too surprised when he declined the offer to ride a horse at the lodge. I was surprised, however, when he suddenly said that he would try riding the horse as long as his dad (yes, that's me) held the rope and lead the horse. I was shocked, actually. Once he had watched the first group of kids ride the horses without injury, he must have decided it wasn't so terrible.

After a few minutes of riding he became comfortable enough let go of the pommel to ride with no hands (his fingers were probably 2 inches from the pommel -- pretty daring). He also called out to anyone who would listen, announcing that his horse's name was Belle.


The horseback riding was taking place right next to the climbing tower, which had a zipline running from the top. We didn't even bother asking Scott if he wanted to go up. He watched people going on it for a while and then when he saw a few of his 2nd cousins going on it (who were all a few years older), he again came and told us that he wanted to try. Shock.

I helped him get suited up and insisted that he climb up the ladder rather than the rock wall, since I didn't want him to get stuck on the wall and lose his nerve. I shouldn't have been concerned. He ripped right up the ladder (including the wide gap between the lower and upper sections), gave us the thumbs-up and took off without any hesitation.

He told R afterwards that the guy that clipped him in at the top told him that he could jump off or just lift his feet up. Scott said that he was too scared to jump. He didn't look too scared to me. In fact, he asked to do it 2 more times, and we let him climb the wall too.

The third time he opted for the ladder. I asked him why he liked it better. He said it was because it got him to the top faster. This boy is a daredevil now, and he's all business.

Hayden and Alli also climbed the wall, although Luke had to go rescue Alli from the top because she looked down and got too freaked out to do the zipline.

I was apparently "too fat" to try the zipline. I believe I crossed the weight limit sometime between high school and university, so I guess I never had any hope. It's good that Scott is getting this stuff in while he's 40 pounds -- he may have never gotten another shot at it if he had waited to grow up a bit.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Brian Head: Questions for Candy

The next stop after Bear Lake was Brian Head, Utah for the Walters 3-day reunion. Apparently, the last such reunion was held 20 years ago on a houseboat on Lake Powell. With over 80 of us present (I honestly have no idea how many there were), the family rented a mountaintop lodge instead of a houseboat. Fortunately for us, anyone with babies got a hotel-type private room. Most of the others were relegated to the bunkhouse.

There were lots of fun activities planned but one of the best things was the ongoing questions-for-candy program, where great grandchildren could ask Grandma and Grandpa Walters questions and then pick a candy from the bin. Scott was a big fan of the candy and even hung around to hear some of the answers. He asked Grandpa about learning to fly airplanes and catching fish, and he asked Grandma about her car accidents (she said that none of the 3 were her fault). The activity was a great way to bridge the generations and get the kids to know their great grandparents.

Katie's questions (if she were to ask any) would be generally unintelligible, so we tried to get her to snuggle up with Grandma and Grandpa a bit. She was a bit shy, so she just slapped Grandpa fives to earn her candy. However, Grandma was more successful, getting Katie to sit in her lap (thanks to the candies in her hands).

Katie had a troop of three boy cousins who sat with her on the couch for about an hour asking her questions and waiting for her to shake or nod her reply. I think they mostly asked ridiculous questions and giggled when she would nod her head, but it was cute all the same.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bear Lake

Our cabin in Garden City, UT was right on the shore of Bear Lake, and the kids played in the sand at the water's edge from dawn 'til dusk -- literally.

We did a good job of keeping the kids covered up from the sun, but I didn't fare quite so well. The shape of my life jacket was very obvious on my shoulders and chest.

There were several little squirt guns and Katie liked to hold one in her mouth and just drink from it. This would be fine, but she kept trying to refill it from the bucket we used to wash the muck off our feet before coming in the cabin. Finally, we got a special ice cream pail full of water just for the little kids.

The lake is quite large and with storms in the area each day there was always enough wind to churn up the lake and create fairly large waves. Although we had arranged for a boat rental 2 of the 3 days we were there, we ended up exchanging it for an extra wave runner in the afternoon both days. With huge waves everywhere, those were lots of fun. Even the kids got into it, taking turns to help steer a bit. Scott liked to keep it at about "11" (mph).

Hayden was hilarious. Each time he went out he was given a bit more control until the last day when I took him out and he ran the whole show -- I was just there to hold on and make sure we didn't crash into anything. He was running it with the throttle wide open and cutting hard turns all over the place, laughing like a maniac and jumping over the other wave runner's wake. The only thing that could slow him down was getting splashed in the face. He didn't like that.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Old Faithful

The second leg of our journey took us south through Yellowstone National Park, including stops at Midway Geyser Basin and Old Faithful.

Despite my much-lampooned concerns about 30-minute lunch delays, we were able to eat our sandwiches all together in front of the lodge while we waited for the "volcano that shoots water" to erupt again.

Apparently, Old Faithful isn't as reliable as it once was, so we were caught out in the sun for quite a spell while we waited.

I wondered if kids would be that interested by something as simple as a geyser, but when the time came, it was much more impressive that I expected. Scott really enjoyed it, and was both frightened and excited at the prospect that there were volcanoes underfoot that created these phenomena.

After the show, we went for a very quick loop to see the other geysers and pools in the area. Katie probably enjoyed it more than Scott, since she got a bit of a lift from Grandma and Grandpa, while Scott mostly worried about whether he was out in the front of the pack acting as "leader."

We had planned to hit another sight before leaving the park, but everyone was a bit tired and we decided instead to just head towards Bear Lake.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Feeding the Fish / Mosquitoes

This post marks the beginning of our 16-day 4000-kilometer odyssey that covered four US states, three family reunions, two incidents of carsickness and one blown tire.

The first leg of our southward journey took us to a cabin in Island Park, Idaho. Katie threw up at the Granum turn-off, about 1.5 hours into our trip. The remaining 8.5 hours were puke-free all the way to Island Park. After scarfing down some pizza, we went down the creek to Big Spring to feed the fish. At first we could hardly see the fish through the thick swarms of mosquitoes, so I didn't get much of a photo before we quickly retreated to the cars.

I asked the kids to show me how big the fish had been that we saw under then bridge. For the record, the largest estimate is probably the correct one. Perhaps Alli misunderstood the question and is demonstrating the size of the largest mosquito that she saw.

Although the cabin had 6 bedrooms, the kids opted to sleep in the upstairs storage room, which had no windows and a sloped ceiling. Fortunately, the only things being stored in the room were beds, so it was a reasonable request.

The following morning, Grandpa took all the kids out for a walk around the neighbourhood to let the parents try to reassemble the wagon train.