Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Country Club Life!

For the most part of July, we lived what many would refer to as the country club lifestyle. Many of our planned activities consisted of swimming, tennis, golf, and enjoying a movie.  On July 9th, we had the Hill family over for a pool party at the Aix La Chapelle apartments.  We provided pizza and they provided the party.  We swam around, played tag, and even had an "entry into the pool" contest.  In the contest, you had to provide your most entertaining, most excellent, entry into the pool.  Though there was no clear winner, it was rather enjoyable to watch.  A favorite activity though was the human ladder.  We would stack on each other's shoulders and got up to four or five people tall.  Mike or Big Jon would be on the bottom, then tall Jon, myself, and the kids on top of me.  It was a riot to see how tall we could go without tipping over.

This summer, Mike was kind enough to let me join a tennis league.  I had not played tennis in a long time and so it was interesting to say the least.  My first match was awful.  I played an older lady which I should have beat rather easily had I been playing.  Instead, I couldn't keep it together mentally and had a major breakdown.  Looking back it was rather embarrassing, yet, I learned my lesson going forward that I cannot act like a baphoon on the court.  After a couple of matches, they paired me against the former U of U tennis coach.  She had played professionally back in her day.  She was the best in the league.  Even though I did not win it was a great match.  I believe I lost 6-3, 6-4.  However, we had great points and it was a lot of fun.   I aced her several times and I was the one to make her frustrated. Though it may be prideful, I was excited to do so well seeing she didn't even take a second look at me for a scholarship to the U of U.  Mac was also playing in a league as well.  She was on a team with Sarah and the regular group of older, well-to-do, and very entertaining ladies.  They always had their snacks and alcohol to accompany the match.  They are always good for a laugh and added to Mac's enjoyment of league.  It was fun to be able to party with her at tennis as well.  We even celebrated our losses with a dinner at the Training Table.  Can't get much better than that.

Mid month we took a trip to Cedar City to view the live theater. My parents had two extra tickets to see Les Miserables at the Shakespearean festival.  We were invited to join them since Levi and Michelle had other plans.  Prior to the show, Mike was able to locate a couple of North Face shirts on clearance. Obviously, we couldn't pass that deal up.  We then went to Top Spot Drive-In and enjoyed not only some ice cream, but a few games of Monopoly Deal.  We then made our way to the theater and saw the famous Les Miserables. At intermission, Mike and my Dad were able to sneak us in some ridiculously hard pretzel, which the snack shop would have been better off throwing away.  It was well done.  However, one of the actors, who was in love with Cosette, was a little over the top at times.  When Jean Valjean was carrying him after he had been wounded, he had the craziest bug eyes and weirdest facial expressions we had ever seen.  At a climatic point where we should have been serious, we couldn't help but laugh.    

In keeping with our country club lifestyle, we frequented the movies on a couple of different occasions, had a dinner date at Jim's restaurant, and on the 21st, Mike and I went golfing with many of the Hill men.  We were paired up in teams to do a little bit of scrabble golf.  The teams were as follows: Mike, Curt, Papa, and myself versus Big Jon, Danny, Marty, and Ben.  Mike was pulling in the long shots for our team where Papa was filling in on the mid range.  Curt and I got our occasional shots in and even though I would love to say we won, I'm pretty sure we lost.  Yet, we still had a great time.  Since we were at the Eaglewood golf course, Uncle Curt was gracious enough to invite us all over for pizza.  He also let us try out his hunting bows in his backyard.  He created a little shooting range for himself.  It is marked out every five feet or so and shoots into a big target.  The boys were pretty good.  Mike and some experience shooting bows.  Jon owned his own bow and had been practicing for the big hunts.  As for myself, the target wasn't always big enough for my arrows.  I may have even lost an arrow in the back woods.  Though it did get significantly easier when they let me use Kenna's bow.  I think the pink camo really helped me out.

Friday, February 14, 2014

4th of July Holiday Celebration!

As tradition follows, we attended the Eaglewood fireworks on the 3rd of July.  Although the fireworks were nice, as always, the night itself wasn't anything spectacular.  My mom had come into town but preferred to stay at my Grandma Bingham's house.  Levi and Michelle went to the fireworks as well but they had other parties to join.  We met with Levi long enough to say hi and sign some paperwork for our life insurance.  The redeeming factor of the night was seeing Kash and the Wood family.  It's always a pleasure to talk with Kash and Kacee was kind enough to let us join her family for the firework show.  It was fun to catch up with her seeing as they were living in Washington. She was close to having her baby girl and still looked so cute even with her pregnant belly.

Don't worry we were able to still make the holiday eventful by going into the mountains.  On the fourth, my grandma gathered the family in Mueller Park canyon.  Jake, one of Mike's college roommates, joined us as well.  His wife, a nurse, was on duty for the day and so he was looking for some company for the holiday.  My Grandpa loved to hear that he was a biology teacher.  In his typical fashion, he brought to attention that he got to teach about the birds and the bees.  However, my favorite was when Jason thought he was Mac's boyfriend.  Unfortunately, they were unaware of the misunderstanding and we could have really played it up.

After filling our bellies and spending some time around the family, a group of us decided to bike up to Elephant rock.  Mike Brose took the lead with my mom, Mac, Jake, Mike, and I following his lead.  It was a pleasant ride up as we enjoyed the scenery, the company, and biking of course.  Jake's bike didn't make his journey any easier, nevertheless, he was a great sport.  We spent some time up top enjoying the view, trail mix, and re-hydrating.  One of my favorite moments, as always, was coming down the mountain.  I was ahead of Mac and would periodically turn to check on her.  One time as I did so, she nearly did an endo over her front handlebars of her bike.  Luckily she was able to get back on track without eating the dirt.  Knowing she was OK, we had a good laugh.  It was a great bike ride and one we vowed we would do again in the future.

On Saturday, the 7th, my mom had lined up Mt. Timpanagos with the Brose's and the Matt and Val Baldwin.  It was a good hour or so hike up to the top of the mountain.  Val and Matt are always very good at keeping conversations going.  In fact, Mike and I decided after the hike we want to be more like them when it comes to this area.  They are very good at making you feel important by learning more about you.  Plus Val is very good at bringing up interesting conversations.  By profession she is   a relationship coach and thus posed three questions to Mike and I.  She wanted to know what the best part of marriage is, the hardest part, and what was the most surprising thing we learned.  Though she didn't just want quick answers, so she gave us the hike to think about it.  Sheree was also curious to hear the answers as well.  Sheree and I also had great conversations about kids.  She told me about her first time finding out she was a mom and how she was not really a "kid" person herself.  Yet, here she was with 5 boys and she loves it.

It took us about an hour or so to get to the top.  The cave was really neat.  Mike and I were feeling pretty good about our cave knowledge seeing we had just done the Minnetonka cave the previous month.  Everybody really seemed to like it.  Val was super impressed.  One of Sheree's boys was told it was his cave- he like any boy- thought that was pretty neat.  The tour guide was trying to illustrate the point that it is a public cave and so it is all of ours and as such we should treat it well.  We had more conversation on the way down.  We then decided it was time to go to JCW's and get some food.  On the drive over, we revealed our answers to Val and Matt.  We both thought it was great just having a best friend, confidant, and somebody to be with all the time.  I remember conversing was, and is, one of my hardest parts of marriage.  Mike's most surprising thing was the amount of hair that girls shed.  We then went in to JCW's to enjoy some awesome hamburgers and shakes.  Happy Day.        

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Yellowstone, take three!

The time had arrived yet again to brave Yellowstone.  As in past years, we were trying another route.  My first year we stayed at the original cabin where the family had gone for years.  It was quickly realized the family had outgrown this cabin.  The next year, Mama Deb and Papa Hill rented a cabin large enough to house the whole family.  Again, it may have been too close of quarters.  So this year we ventured into Yellowstone Park and stayed at Madison Campground.  Dave and Amanda had a trailer, along with Jon and Julie.  The parents rented a trailer for the week.  Becky and her girls stayed with in their trailer seeing Ben was still in Mongolia for work.  The rest of us set up camp in tents.

Madison proved to be a good selection.  It was shaded with lots of trees, bison roamed through the camp, and the river was within walking distance.  The river proved to be one of the favorite play areas of the trip.  The river was warm in places due to the runoff from the Firehole.  The kids put on their life jackets and we had a huge swimming pool to play in.  One area of the river had a little rapid section, where you could float down.  If you weren't careful, you could go further down river than anticipated.  Mark lost a shoe and I, myself, went further than I was comfortable with.  Thankfully, I have Mike who knows and understands rivers.  After playing in the river for a time, Big John, Mark, Danny, and Mike all went on an adventure.  We don't really know exactly what they were doing, however, when they came back they were covered in war paint, aka mud.  All of them had decorated their bodies to their liking, one had a superman sign, another a smiley face, and so on.  They truly are a wild bunch.

As expected, we did the traditional Yellowstone activities.  We did the upper and lower loops.  We stopped at the traditional sights.  We ate at the Wild West Pizzeria.  We got shakes at Eagle's.  We went wolf watching.  Only this time, it was as if we were on national geographic.  Typically you wait for a while until one of the regulars spots a wolf.  They then describe where it is to the others.  Upon looking through the binoculars, you can see way out there a wolf.  It will stay for a little while and then usually reverts to the trees.  But not this time.  We were able to see a pack of wolves.  They were closer than normal and you could spot them up on the hillside without any binoculars.  Small, yes, but visible. They were also on the move.  They were hunting a herd of elk.  We followed them for a few miles and watched them in their element.  They would circle around the elk and appeared to be just watching and waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack.  Though they didn't attack while we were there, it was amazing to see their strategic approach.  As if that wasn't enough, on the hillside you could also see a grizzly bear.  It was really neat.

One of my favorite activities, was sitting around the campfire each night and talking with the group.  One of the nights, Danny introduced a question that would forevermore stick with the family.  The dreaded life jacket question.  Danny had felt there was some favoritism going on with the larger families.  It became a joke that all families needed to have at least five kids before they received special treatment.  As the discussion progressed, many tried to ask who was the favorite child.  Of course, Mama Deb refused to answer.  They then pursued a different course.  A course to see who the least favorite child was.  Danny posed a scenario to Mama Deb.  She was to answer if she had one too few life jackets, which of her children would not receive a life jacket and hence not survive.  She refused many times to answer the question.  However, after much pestering, she finally decided Mike would not receive the life jacket.  Her reasoning being he could swim better than the other children. Poor mike had been singled out.  One could take it as a compliment as she thought he was the most competent of her children. Or one could take it at face value.  Either way, we have made sure to stock ourselves with plenty of life jackets, just in case.

Cabin Getaway!

*Not Actual Cabin*
 Druanne, one of my college roommates, had planned a getaway to her cabin just above Cedar City.  As always, Mike and I jumped on the bandwagon.  Some of the other roommates were invited but were unable to attend.  We drove up late and were given instructions on how to get there.  Cell reception was very poor and the directions were mainly based on landmarks.  So Dru and Landon, Dru's fiance at the time, were going to meet us at a particular gate and take us the rest of the way in.  After driving for some time and not connecting with them we began to doubt ourselves.  We kept pursuing, nevertheless, and were able to spot the razor headlights to take us to the cabin getaway.

The cabin was owned by Dru's extended family.  In fact, they own three cabins in the area and lots, and lots of land.  Turns out posterity benefits from ancestors who decided to settle an area.  Lucky ducks!  Anyways, her aunt had set up a hunt in the surrounding trees.  Cat eyes, aka red reflectors, were placed on the trees.  By flashing a light onto the reflectors you had found your next searching spot.  The hunt continued until you made your way back to the cabin. What we weren't expecting was to find a real animal.  Whether it was a cougar, a fox, or a deer we will never know.  But we saw something in those woods that night.  To top off the night, we turned on the incredible green monster, known as the Hulk.  

The next day we lived it up.  Landon had packed up quite a collection of guns.  Mike couldn't have been more pleased.  They spent an hour or so in the morning shooting off guns.  One shot in particular made the boys smile, the bullet had spliced a huge piece of wood proving how powerful the shots were.  We then hopped on the razors and cruised around the local area.  We drove to a lookout spot where we were able to overlook Zion's National Park.  It was really neat to see it from this view.  We then went to a small pond where we could catch frogs.  Mike was an expert frog catcher.  I, on the other hand, struggled to catch one.  I would get so close and then get panicky to grab it at the last second giving the frog a chance to get away.  Mike tried teaching me a technique where you could swat the frog onto dry ground thus giving yourself a better opportunity as the frog was not in it's comfort zone.  I tried the technique and with my luck the frog disappeared into some brush.  The others were kind enough to let me hold their frogs.  They even tried racing the frogs at one point.  Yes, you could say we are easily entertained.

Later in the day, Dru's uncle, a friend, and a couple of her cousins came up.  They took us on a long four wheeler adventure to see their property lines and to check out more of the area.  We drove around a lake for a bit and ended up pretty dusty!  We thought there was no better way to get cleaned off then jumping in the frog infested lake.  We made our way back to the lake and after some convincing, Dru and I jumped in together.  Thankfully, we had the men to pull us out so we didn't have to walk along the bottom of the pond.  It was time to shower and get cleaned up and get our tin foil dinners cooking.  Little did we know, we were going to meet a celebrity of the news in connection with the presidential election.  Her name, Nanette Billings.  It was Dru's cousin's mother-in-law who had just stopped by to say hello to their daughter at the cabin.  Now for a little bit of background.  Nanette's husband, Willie, was the Washington County Republican Party Chairman.  As such, he was going to meet with Fred Karger, an openly gay presidential candidate.  He had come to Utah to try to get local Republican leaders and the church to stop funding efforts against gay marriage.  Willie's meeting went rather well and Karger sent him home with some campaign paraphernalia.  Well, this did not go well with Mrs. Billings.  She threw the paraphernalia away and wrote an email to Mr. Karger calling him a radical idiot and saying "thank goodness he can't procreate."  Needless to say, the press was notified and she became headline news.  Not one of the brightest moments, but it was rather entertaining to listen to her side of the story.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

First Mountain Peak!

On June 16th, we set out to redeem ourselves and yet again tackle the great Mount Olympus.  On our first attempt, we were not ready to tackle it.  I was not well prepared and a short ways into the hike I already had a pretty good blister forming.  My socks were too low, sliding off my feet, and not providing my heel any protection from my shoes.  Mike was prepared, as he always is, but was not physically capable that day.  He had to take several pit stops on the side of the trail, if you know what I mean.  Needless to say, we turned back and ventured we would tackle it some other time.

The time had arrived to redeem ourselves.  We got a later start than expected.  It was already starting to get warm by the time we started climbing, but we were determined to complete it this time.  We kept a pretty steady pace and were already faring far better than last time.  No blisters and no pit stops in site.  We were able to make it to the top of the mountain in about three hours.  It was the first peak I had ever climbed.  Feeling pretty accomplished, we enjoyed some snacks and the view from the top.  We shared the company of several other climbers.  One man was with a club and they just get together and hike different spots.  We spoke with another man about how Utah is so great for the diversity and the joys of mountain biking.  However, one man stuck out in particular.  He was proud to let everyone know that he had climbed this peak multiple times in preparation to his upcoming Spartan run.  He was so good he even ran it with chairs on his back so he could have a place to sit at the top.  Don't worry, he was representing USA well with his lovely stars and stripes bandanna.  Let's just say, he didn't appear to lack any self confidence.

After we had our fill of the top, filled our bellies, and chatted with the mountain clan we booked it down the mountain.  We found it much easier on the joints to jog down the mountain, leading us to make it back to the car in about an hour.  We cut our climbing time in a third.  Thankfully wewere able to get Mike refueled before the effects of dehydration set in too heavily.  For months to come I could proudly look up at the peak and say, "Hey, I climbed that!"  You could say, I was a wee bit proud of myself.  

Lake of Bears!

For the first year or so in our Holladay apartments, we had a young couple, much like ourselves, who were living above us.  Our primary interaction with them was to make sure we paid our internet bill and stayed current with them.  Occasionally we would do things in a larger group setting because we were both friends with the Skokos's.  However, as there time to move drew closer, it seemed as if we started to hang out with them more often.  A friendship developed to the point, where they even invited us to join them at their cabin in Bear Lake.  We jumped on the opportunity.
On the drive up to the cabin, Mike and Adam discussed career opportunities and desires.  Adam was either close to graduating or had just graduated.  Currently he was working at a construction job with good hours, good pay, and a sweet truck.  To top it off, the owner wanted Adam and his son to take over the business. However, this is not what Adam wanted.  He wanted to make it big in the finance world.  He wanted more of a challenge and didn't want to go into business with the son.  Mike, on the other hand, thought he had it made.  Especially after putting in long and treacherous days at Zane Benefits for almost a year now.  I guess the grass is always greener on the other side, eh?

Once we arrived in Bear Lake, we had to stop at Labeaus's for a traditional raspberry shake.  As Megan was eating her corn dog, she had a sheer look of terror come over her face.  Words cannot even describe how great her facial expression was.  She let out a gasp as we are all trying to figure out what was going on.  Turns out a skunk, yup a skunk, brushed up against her leg.  It was at this moment when we realized this was going to be a great weekend getaway.  However, this was just the beginning.  Later that night as we were hanging out in the main living room, we saw a small creature run across the floor.  Mike, the Mighty Mouse Hunter, was born.  The boys quickly got to work.  Mike located a plastic toy putter and some fire tongs and began his hunt. To all of our amazement mice kept appearing.  Needless, to say they found a system to quickly trap and kill the mice.  Mike would use the putter to trap the mouse and then Adam would use the fire tongs to squeeze the mouse to death.  Admittedly a little grotesque, but also relevant under the circumstances.  By the end of the hunt, six mice had been killed and laid to rest in front of the cabin.  Later we would learn, Adam was and is terrified of Mice.  Yet, he pulled through strong.

The next morning we would start a different sort of adventures.  We decided to check out the famous Minnetonka  Caves in the Cache Valley National Forest.  The cave was definitely worth seeing, however, what made it most enjoyable was our tour guide friend.  He was a young lad of about 15 what he lacked in stature, he made up for in personality.  At one point, he was explaining about the composition of the cave.  It was made of carbonic acid.  He then went on, "Do you know what else has carbonic acid, soda pop.  You drink soda pop."  Having said what he needed to say, he turned on his heel, and was off to the next site.  Another classic moment was in a part of the cave which apparently had good acoustics.  He said, "For example" and then proceeded to sing "Don't waste your time on me..."  We loved every minute of it.  After exploring the cave, we set out on our own explorations.  We were driving around the mountains looking for a rope swing.  Unfortunately, it was snowing, and we were unable to find it.  However, we didn't leave empty handed.  We discovered a huge half-pipe of rocks.  Mike quickly deemed it, "Hell's Half Pipe."  It was nature's playground for the boys.  Still having some light, we decided we would try braving the lake.  Being as cold as it was, only Mike and Adam dared to go into the water.  They played around in the Kayak for a little bit.  Then Megan and I joined them in some warmer water, aka the hot tubs.  It was a great way to soak up the activities of a great weekend.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make me a Match!

It has been on my bucket years to be a matchmaker.  Not simply where they have a good time and could possibly go on a couple of dates.  My goal is to get two people hitched!  The only problem is I'm not very good at it.  Usually my criteria is along the lines of they are both single, friends with us, and pretty cool person so they must work out.  One weekend we decided to give it a go and set up two of our college friends on a date.  I had a good friend, Britney, who had just gotten back from a mission and was looking for love.  Mike had an old buddy, Mark, who had played the field many times over and wouldn't mind settling down. We briefed our pals, told them we would double date, and it was scheduled.

Mike and I were in charge of the planning.  After throwing around several ideas we nailed down a final plan.  We were going to go to Cafe Rio, the Nickle Arcade, and then play it by ear.  Mark arrived at our place and we hopped in the car to retrieve Britney.  After knocking for several minutes and getting no response, Mark came looking for help.  I called Britney and out she came.  Off to a strong start, we were now officially ready to party.  On the drive over to Cafe Rio, Mike and I decided we would further educate our friends about their date.  Mike started out by taking the liberty of sharing all of Mark's fine qualities with Britney and then I followed suite.  Yup, we know how to make it real awkward.

Despite our attempts at awkwardness, the dinner went rather smoothly.  Brit spent a few minutes chatting with old acquaintances and then they continued to get to know one another better.  After doing the small talk thing for a bit, it was time to have some real fun.  We spiced it up at the Nicklecade.  We went around trying various games.  Brit and I found we had a particular liking for Deal or No Deal.  Our highest win was at $750,000! Unfortunately, it was only paid out in tickets.  Fortunately for us we were able to get some sweet prizes, aka mustaches and candy!  After all our nickles were spent, and our prizes claimed, we decided to go to Britney's house to play a little tennis.  It was a fun evening, nevertheless, love was not to be found.  Brit was maybe still slightly awkward from just returning from the mission and Mark was leaving for Jackson Hole the next day. Oh well.

Even though love didn't work out for them, later that weekend we were able to find a different kind of love.  We met Ryan and Kenzie at City Creek.  Ryan was able to convince Mike to finally purchase a pair of Salomon shorts that he had been eyeing for a while now.  Ryan also purchased a pair.  For many upcoming adventures, we would see the boys in their matching Salomon shorts.  A pair of shorts worthy of love.