Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Grand Canyon Trip

We have been in Arizona for 6 years now but never up to northern Arizona to see some of the sites up there. We took a short 4 day trip and saw some amazing things.

Thursday we first went to the Mesa Temple. The kids had fun looking at things in the visitor's center while I went. Then while Steve was inside, I took the kids to the Natural History Museum. There was a dino dig pit and panning for gold to do outside, plus much more than we expected to look at inside. We ate a delicious lunch at Rudy's BBQ and then drove up to Flagstaff.

The kids really liked staying in the hotel, watching movies later, eating the free breakfast with made to order omelets, and drinking hot chocolate. Friday morning was kind of funny - we knew it would be cooler than the 100 degree weather in Tucson, but we didn't look at the actual forecast. Arizona had a crazy wind storm come through which cooled things off. Friday was actually good temps just slightly chilly with the wind, so first we went to Target and all got jackets. Then we headed to Sunset Crater. This was a volcano that erupted about 1000 years ago and left a big lava trail. There were a few places to get out and just look and then we went on one mile long hike around the base of the mountain. It was great seeing the lava from big rocks down to tiny black lava sand.

Nearby there is another park called Wupatki that has some Native American ruins. Rand saw his robber fly in the visitor's center. It was interesting for Rhianna I think because she studied Arizona history this past year. Down below the big house was what they called the ball court. We are pretty sure this is where they sent their kids to play and Rand and Seth tested it out.

I must mention we also ate well on this trip. Steve had looked up restaurants ahead of time that were either on TV shows like Diners, Drive-ins and Dives or on the Best of Flagstaff list. So most meals were quite good. We also attempted swimming this afternoon, but the wind was just too much.

Saturday was even crazier. We drove out to the Petrified Forest. There were just tons of logs turned to stone all over. There were several places you could get out and do small hikes. We tried a few but it was even hard for me to fight the wind and walk. One time it almost felt like the car door was going to blow off. Besides the petrified wood, there were other cool rock formations and some petroglyphs.

Back in Flagstaff we stopped at the visitor's center for a few souvenirs and to buy our pass into the Grand Canyon. It is right next to the train tracks and the kids liked standing a few feet away. Rand counted 94 cars on the train that passed.

Sunday we went to sacrament meeting and then headed to the Grand Canyon. Part of the drive was hilarious because Steve started telling the kids how much he would pay them for spotting different animals first...$5 for a deer, $100 for a bear, $1000 for a jackalope...and Seth was hooked. Then Seth began asking how much he would get for finding a jackalope eating a bear that was eating a moose. It kept him busy for a long time looking for a "bunny with deer ears" and all kinds of creatures. The only things we did see were cows and elk and squirrels.

The park was super busy with Memorial Day weekend. The pass got us in faster and it just took a little while to park and wait for a few buses. I didn't really realize there would be so many places to see the canyon. There are shuttle buses that bring you to different spots. We first went to the main trail head. We also didn't realize the trail just starts right there. It is a big hike all the way to the bottom and we thought it would be more heavy duty but anyone can just head down. I think you really need to be prepared if you are to do the full hike and they suggest taking 2 days to go down and back up. The path is a fairly good one, but with no rails and the huge canyon it made Rhianna especially nervous. She and I stayed at the top and Steve took Rand and Seth down a little ways to the hole in the rock you can see. We could look way down below and see people hiking farther or riding is a long ways down.

Some of the other viewpoints we stopped at had rails, some did not. Our kids did good at being cautious but still enjoying all we could see. We did one small trail on the rim between 2 viewpoints. It really is amazing how wide and deep and long the canyon is. I liked seeing the different colors of rock layers. There are only a few spots you can see the river far below. We stayed for about 5 hours and then headed all the way back to Tucson.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Final School Projects

The kids finished school last Wednesday, May 23. The last few weeks were filled with music performances and parties. It was a wonderful year for both of them and they are looking forward to next year. They are both happy with the teachers they will have for 5th and 2nd grade.

Rhianna's last project was an invention. She created a Massage Alarm Pad (especially for me...I hate the noise of alarm clocks and turn mine off after 1 beep if I can). She made a poster with her ad for it along with a model of what it might look like.

Rand's last project was about an insect. He chose the Robber Fly because he liked how it would snatch other insects out of the air while it was flying and then suck their juices. He also did a poster and a model. I had the idea to try to find different metal screws and pieces at Ace Hardware and hot glue them into a Robber Fly. Rand had fun finding the pieces and it worked. It turned out really cool looking.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Solar Eclipse

Astronomy is one of the areas in science that I really like. Rand got excited last week when he learned about the solar eclipse and so it was easy for me to get into it too. The Tucson area actually has several observatories. I went to the U of A Flandrau Planetarium and got eclipse glasses. There is also someone in our ward who studies astronomy. She focuses on galaxies, but it was interesting to talk to her about the eclipse and learn more.

So we were prepared and excited! Some of the areas in northern Arizona (like the Grand Canyon) got to see the full Ring of Fire effect. Since we are farther south, it was a partial eclipse. But it was really fun and cool and interesting for the kids and me. We went outside right at 5:30 and the kids said that maybe it was starting, but second guessed themselves. I looked and said that yes just the tiniest part of the Sun was getting covered. We stayed outside for about 1 1/2 hours, sitting in the shade of our carport since it was super hot, getting up to look every 5-10 minutes. We took an ice cream break, Steve came out to look a few times, Rhianna told jokes, Rand got hot and went inside, Seth shook water from his water bottle all over himself. It was a fun evening and really fascinating. I am glad I got the eclipse glasses and that we could see something so unique.

Now we are also looking forward to watching the Transit of Venus using our same glasses on June 5.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Piano Recital

Rhianna is still doing great as ever at piano. She really likes it and practices and works at it all on her own. She is into these longer pieces that now take her several weeks to work at, but I think she did a great job at her recital last Saturday. All the kids played 2 more classical pieces and 1 that was more a pop song/movie song/etc. I recorded a few for you to see and hear.

This first is a slower song for Rhianna. It is called Sailing by Moonlight.

The second is an oldie I think you will recognize - Rockin' Robin. This is the speed she really likes - fast! (And she was amazed a few of the older students could go even she has something to look forward to!)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Parks & Rec Classes

Yesterday Rand and Seth finished up their Parks & Rec classes. Seth's class was called Happy Feet. It was the class that best fit into our schedule. Seth was the oldest in the class and I was worried it would be too boring or simple for him. But he is a social, active kid so I think it was just fun for him to get out. We would do stretches to start and then other simple activities (like jump the river, dancing dots, train, bean bag toss) that are sort of dance related. My favorite was that as we would do stretches and the teacher would count slowly to 8, Seth followed exactly what he was supposed to do - just as speedy as he could. Then he would turn to me and say, "I made it to 26 (or 17 or 22 or whatever)."

Rand did Tae Kwon Do. He was really good and really liked the class. He is good at paying attention and following directions. During class they would learn and practice different kicks, hits, and blocks, and talk about safety as well. All the kids then liked practicing the moves at home and were good about not practicing on each other. For the last day of class, they even got to break boards. These are re-breakable boards of varying hardness. They don't use the wood boards because they are harder and more money and then only break once. The teacher was really great and Rand had a fun time.