Monday, August 12, 2013

our trip to "AZ" (warning: long post)

So last I left off here, I was getting ready for our trip to Arizona. Jon told me months ago (like...around end of April, maybe?) that we got asked to go to Arizona for his work. Last year we went to OKC on a work trip. He had to give some seminars and our (very nice) hotel and food was provided. I thought it was pretty weird that they asked him to go to AZ this year (since he sells to Edward Jones agents in SW Iowa and Kansas) but I generally take people at their word without any question. can say I'm gullible.
We left Iowa around 7:30am on Tuesday, July 30th. We decided to drive straight through on the way there to save time. My in-laws were watching Channing for the week so we had to keep the travel time brief. I offered to drive a couple of times but Jon said he didn't need me to. He pulled over once around 1:30am and slept for half an hour. I had only gotten about 5 hrs of sleep the night before at best, getting everything ready, so I was exhausted. I can't fight through it when I'm driving so I wouldn't have been much help anyway. I slept (if you can call it that....I think I got one hour-long stretch and the rest was 20 or 30 minutes at a time) and the boys and I woke up for good around 5:30am. I was transfixed on the sunrise over the "Arizona" mountains to my left and was trying to take a picture but couldn't get a good one. I saw one sign for San Bernardino National Forest or something and one for Sun City Storage but I thought there could easily be those places in Arizona. I almost texted my best friend joking that I was in her town (she lives in Menifee, formally Sun City.) I had my nose in my phone and didn't see any other signs.
We pulled into a neighborhood around 6:30am and I thought, this is weird. There's not going to be a big resort in a place like this. Jon and I were both making comments that this didn't seem right. He kept driving, looking at the GPS and looking at the street signs and house numbers. We were both confused and he was saying the GPS must be wrong. We stopped in front of a house and he started looking something up on his phone. I looked around and all of a sudden noticed all the license plates. They said California. It was seriously like a twilight zone moment. I said it out loud to Jon and I can't even remember what he said. He was just as shocked. I seriously thought Jon somehow missed a highway and he accidentally drove us to California. I pictured us turning around and backtracking several hours. I felt almost sick to my stomach.

Just then, someone is walking down the driveway to my left and my brain is telling me one thing and my eyes are telling me another. Its my best friend, Candy. I sat there in utter silence for several minutes with a blank expression on my face while she has a huge grin on hers. I didn't know what to do or say. Jon completely tricked me. The entire Arizona trip was a cover. We were just there to stay the week with Candy! That has to be some kind of record for the greatest trick anyone has ever pulled. I mean, he deserves an Oscar for all of that acting. Jon LOVES to surprise me. He's constantly concealing information or trying to surprise me with stuff but most of the time I either suggest we do the very thing he was going to surprise me with or guess it before it happens. He rarely pulls off a big one. Well, he was absolutely successful and he was so proud of himself!! It took me several minutes to recover (and wrap my mind around the fact that there was no trip to Arizona) but I was thrilled we would have a week with almost our whole families together! He knew the only way he could pull it off is if he drove straight through and he hoped I'd sleep until we got there. He was also too afraid to let me drive in case I saw the destination on the GPS.

The last few times Candy and I have seen each other have been with no kids (this one was a surprise too! & in 2011) or with just her oldest daughter, Ava (2010 2012). I had never even met her five year old son, Ricky, or her 11 month old baby, Roman! We packed the kids together in my van and headed off to breakfast at IHOP and left Jon at her house to take a nap.
That afternoon at a park was a hit when the ice cream truck showed up:

So Roman is the easiest baby I've ever been around. I'm wracking my brain trying to remember if I heard him cry once all week. Nope. He didn't. He melted us all with his blue eyes and giant grin where he shows all his teeth at once. He wears the windblown look pretty darn good:

The next morning we planned on going to an aquatic center but when we left Candy's house at 9:30, it was barely over 70 degrees! The weather was unbelievable out there. Amazing how cool it got at night. And it never got too hot the whole time we were there. It was far too cold to swim right away so we stopped and hiked around this boulder field that was really close to her house. Jon and I agreed this was our favorite part of the week. I'd much rather be out in nature where my kids are free to explore than anything else. It makes us all so darn happy.
The lichen on the dead branches was beautiful.
Jon spotted some animal bones. Candy's husband figured they were probably a baby coyote. Bennett thought Tasmanian Devil. We'll go with that.
Candy's kids call this Eagle McGeagle rock. So every time we drove past it for the rest of the week, they yelled out "Eagle McGeagle!"
Ava and Bennett get along amazingly well. They absolutely adore each other and play off of each other's strengths and weaknesses wonderfully. They were off together making up stories about being orphans and setting up their home with random pieces of wood they found. See how hazy it is in the background? It was so beautiful. It stayed really cool until the sun burned through that haze and then it immediately warmed up.
 I think this one's my favorite from this day:
 Stop being so dang cute, you two. Seriously.

 Can you spot those little explorers?
 Boys paradise:
 I love these next two, both unedited:
Jon joked about camping out under this rock but of course they all believed him and were seriously disappointed when they realized he was kidding:
 Awkward senior picture pose, anyone??
After the aquatic center, we drove to Riverside to hunt down Casey's cupcakes. Candy had a gift certificate and we were more than happy to help her use it. We wandered around the block where the 100 year old Mission Inn was located and I drove my husband nuts by snapping pictures nonstop. I mean....could you help yourself at a place this beautiful?? I'm sure there have been a few thousand couples snapped in this doorway on their wedding day.

 This boy's got the pouty lip down pat:
 I asked them to hold hands here for a picture and they didn't let go until we reached the cupcake shop:
 Decisions, decisions....
I sincerely apologize if you follow me on Instagram and I'm torturing you with this picture again. Really, truly, I am. (And yes....they were every bit as good as they look. I just wished I could have had a sample of every one in the shop.) I had coconut on the top left, Candy had orange creamsicle and Jon had red velvet.
Ava didn't care what flavor it long as it was PINK!! 
Candy and I left Jon with the zoo and ran across the street to quickly browse through an antique shop and get our first Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. It was goo-oood. (phone pic)
When we left them, the kiddos were dipping their feet in this fountain. It wasn't a shock to come back to this: 
The next day we went on a HOT hike at the Santa Rosa Plateau. Evidently in the spring its a marsh. But it was dry as a desert while we were there. (Oh is a desert.) Forgot my camera on this outing so these are just phone pics.
 We had the most fun under this giant shade tree. We played and climbed under here on our way out and our way back.
 The kids were being whiny so we cut it pretty short.
This was the next day, at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. This is a terrible picture (didn't bring my real camera in) but we watched a little show about dinosaurs and that T-Rex was a huge puppet! Someone was inside operating it and it was really amazing. That's the back of Bennett and Ava's heads. Since they were in the front row, they were the only kids who got to interact with the actors during the show and Ava got to go up there when they asked for a volunteer. They were so excited and Bennett would yell out and warn Ava when the T-Rex got too close.
I took this picture because as soon as we walked into this room Bennett said, "Dad! Look at all these ducks we can shoot!" (Tiffany, you're not the only one who's boys want to shoot all the animals they see!)

I kind of want to smack whoever thought it would be a great idea to have touch screen computers in front of all the exhibits. If you asked Bennett what his favorite thing was at the museum he said, "that video game where I got to move the animals around!" S e r i o u s l y...
Our last day there was Ava's birthday. We drove out to Candy's brothers' house in Costa Mesa and went to Huntington Beach. I was sorta obsessed with their avocado tree and all the fruit trees behind their fence. (phone pic)

 Isn't the color combination in this picture beautiful?
 A pomegranate tree! These two were both behind their fence.
 I was dreaming about bowls full of guacamole...
 The beach!
The water was freezing and the air was pretty chilly too. I actually kept a lightweight hoodie on the whole time we were there and was still chilly. But kids are somehow immune to cold temperatures and they had a blast.
This is the last picture I took before my camera died (and I thought our charger was at home in Iowa. I found out about two days after our trip that it was in the camera bag the whole time. Grrrr....)
Candy's cousin and younger brother, Jonathan, took Jon out surfing for his first time. It wasn't great conditions so he only got up to his knees but you know I took the chance to brag about the first time I tried surfing, (also with Jonathan) and made it up to my feet ;) I know I can't officially claim to be better than him until we go together sometime under the same conditions. But I'll rub it in while I can. He's good at everything.
I saw this painting hanging up in Mark and Jonathan's garage and fell in love with everything about it. I asked Jonathan about it and he said he found it by someone's trash can on the side of the road!! Talk about one man's trash is another man's treasure! I joked with him about selling it me and showed it to Jon and told him how much I loved it. Well, unbeknownst to me, Jon talked Jonathan into selling it to us and put it in our van without me seeing it. I saw it when we got back to our hotel that night and was so shocked and excited! I can't wait to hang up a piece of California in our house. 

I think I'm going to leave the frame as is. It's nice and rustic looking. But let me know if you think something else would look better. I also love the crackled paint. It's so perfectly imperfect.
We left first thing the next morning (on Monday) and took two days coming home. We considered the Grand Canyon but decided to stop at Arches National Park in Utah instead. It was a 10 hr drive from where we were in California. I'm so glad we drove that way. Utah is utterly amazing to drive through. I wanted to stop at every scenic lookout and take it all in but we were trying hard to make it to Arches before nightfall. I snapped this picture really quickly of this train riding through the desert. I loved the colors and the lettering. Seriously...the photographer in me was dying that I couldn't photograph every bit of it. But alas, my camera was dead anyway. SO heartbreaking. 
  We made it into Arches as the sun was quickly dropping.
 Last golden light on top of the ridge
  We did one hike around Balancing Rock until the sun was down.
 My boys are never out at sunset so it was fun to play with silhouettes for the first time.

And this was our lunch pitstop the next day in Colorado. A gas station with views like this?? Not in Iowa, that's for sure. I always wish the creeks we play in at home looked like this instead of broken pieces of concrete and muddy water.
Dawson picked this daisy for me and in his serious little voice said, "Happy Valentine's Day, Mom". Oh, that boy. His love runs deep.
So that was our trip! Completely exhausting, but well worth the memories and time spent together. It was nice for Jon and Candy's husband, Richard, to get to know each other better. The sweetest thing was how much Bennett and Dawson talked about Channing. I'm not even kidding when I say they missed him more than I did. It was so cute how much they wanted to snuggle baby Roman. He was a good substitute for the week. Channing did so well at Nana's house (better for her than he is at home lately!) It's always so comforting to know my boys feel just as at home over there. 
Back to the grind this week and nearly back to school!! It's so bittersweet. Exciting to think about a calmer routine but that also means the end of summer and my heart can hardly take it. I'll hold on as long as I can. 


  1. What a fun trip! And surprise! Well done Jon!

  2. what a fabulous surprise - I can't believe the 'cover' made it that long! your adventure looks perfect, from the time with your friend to exploring in all of those rocks. perfect haven for little kids!

  3. Your trip sounds Amazing!!What a great way to wrap up summer vacation. And I LOVE that your boys shoot evrything too! Maybe they will be hunting buddies someday :)


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