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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Swift Family Reunion

This last week we had a fun time at the Swift family reunion. It started off a little chaotic though. Christian and I got home from our Washington DC trip on Monday night. We then had Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to do all the shopping that we needed to do for the trip, repair all of our bicycles (everyone had flat tires from riding through thorns on a previous ride), wash all of our laundry (our washing machine was still in the shop so we had a ton that we had to wash by hand and over at the neighbors house), and I had a few work deadlines on projects that I had to finish before we left. I know three days sounds like a lot, but we were rushed every moment of it up until we left. Luckily we did get a very welcomed break when Isaac and Kim came to visit for a night. It was a lot of fun catching up and playing games with them in preparation for the reunion.

Friday morning we started our travels with a drive to Missoula Montana. That went really well and only took a little over 5 hours. Some of our friends from Oklahoma (the Allreds) now live in Missoula. He works for the University of Montana so it was fun to talk to him about the goods and bads of a professor life. It was fun catching up with them and their children and our children loved playing together. Julia had been friends with their oldest daughter when they were young and they seemed to pick up right where they left off almost immediately. All of the children ended up sleeping out in the yard under the stars - actually under the smoke since there had been a lot of wildfires in that area.





When Julia was two, playing with her friend in Oklahoma.




Trying to recreate the picture, this time with Legos instead of a puzzle.





On Saturday we woke up early and drove a couple hours to the Hiawatha bike trail. We were meeting Tianna's family up there, but we forgot to account for the time zone differences. We ended up starting without them, but they were able to catch up to us not too far into the trail. The Hiawatha trail was amazing and I would strongly recommend it to anyone. The first part of the trail is a 2 mile tunnel. It was the coolest experience riding in the darkness that seemed to never end and realizing that you were riding underneath a mountain. I had fun thinking of Frodo and Bilbo. About halfway through my tunnel I got off my bike, got together a bunch of our bikes, stood in the middle of the trail, and started yelling "thou shall not pass" at the groups behind us. Just kidding, but that would have been cool. We did have some complications in the tunnels when some of the children lost their lights or crashed and got off their bikes. Still a really fun adventure though. The trail was a very gradual slope down hill that went through 8 different tunnels and over a few high bridges. It is a little over 15 miles long and then at the bottom you can catch a shuttle back to the top. We didn't want to pay the extra $10 per person to take the shuttle and we didn't want to have everyone wait for me to drive back to get the car and then drive down to the bottom (about an hour drive). So instead, we biked about 2/3 of the way down and then turned around and biked the 10 miles back up. That was hard and there were tears and people saying they were going to give up, but everyone did it. And we got to go through the big 2 mile tunnel a second time. With all of the breaks that we took I think it took us about 4.5 hours to do the round trip.























That night we drove a couple more hours to Tianna's house. They brought home some pizzas which our children just loved. They got to do a little more playing with their cousins, but then it was bedtime.

The first day of the reunion was Sunday. After going to church with Tianna's family we drove 2 more hours to the reunion site. Talitha and David found an awesome place about 30 minutes southwest of the Grand Coulee Dam. It was beautiful there. The campground was at the bottom of a canyon. There was a lake, hiking trails, and then spaces for tents, RVs, and cabins. The first day was birthday themed. It was really Doranda's birthday, but we were celebrating everyone's birthday for the whole year. Everyone brought finger foods to share for dinner. And then after dinner there was a white elephant gift exchange. We ended up with beanboozled, a book and some homemade trading cards, a heart tin with jewelry in it, a hotdog cooker and fidget spinner, some toy airplanes, sandals, and a book. Talitha and David also brought a big birthday cake for everyone to share.



After that it was off to bed. We brought our tent which still sleeps all of us, even with the pack and play set up in it for Asher. It was super windy all night long. The whole night it sounded like ten or so people were outside our tent grabbing hold of the poles and shaking them down. At first it was hard to go to sleep because I was sure that the tent would blow over. However, after about 30 minutes of strong wind and the tent still standing I figured we were probably safe for the night. After that, the wind would wake me up every 15 or 30 minutes, but then I would fall back asleep. At 1:00 am though the winds got strong enough to pull up one of the tent stakes and one side of the tent fell over. I was able to get out though, pull it back up and stake it in really well. I put our heavy stuff all along the inside bottom of the tent on the side that was facing the wind to give the stakes some more stability. That worked good until 4:00 am. That was when the wind blew hard enough that it broke all four of our thick metal tent poles. These were the 1/2 inch thick hollow kind that don't bend at all. Anyway, one broke in half and three others were bent completely down. The tent and poles were laying right on top of us and the wind was still blowing like crazy. Julia was already up, but the rest of the children were sleeping right through it. I knocked on the doors of Talitha's and Tianna's RVs and they were kind enough to wake up and help us all get places to sleep for the rest of the night. Ethan and I just slept under the stars in our sleeping bags. Since we were low to the ground if we stayed tucked into the sleeping bags the wind really wasn't too bad.


Here is our tent in the middle of the night.



And here it is the next morning.



Since our tent was ruined, Monday started with us getting packed up and moving in to the larger cabin that my parents were staying in. Caleb was nice enough to let us sleep in the main room for the rest of the reunion while he slept out in a different tent. The winds weren't nearly as bad for the rest of the trip though.

We had a really nice hike later that morning. In addition to the pretty scenery we say a bald eagle, wild horses, and some other birds. That afternoon we hit the lake.















Monday was Hawaiian day. We had lots of yummy Hawaiian type food and Talitha and David went all out with the Hawaiian decorations. We had a limbo challenge that night and of the grownups Isaac came in first. We also had my parents tell us all about their experiences on their mission. After the kids went to bed, many of the grown ups were able to get together to play games at my parents cabin. We did a few rounds of Mafia, catch phrase, and a Mario matching game. It was so nice to actually get some sleep that night.








Tuesday morning we had a game of kickball. Then after an early lunch we were off to the lake again. The theme for Tuesday was patriotic and everyone wore red, white, or blue. We had a bunch of yummy bbq type food for dinner and then games like a three-legged race, a potato sack race, and giant tic tac toe. After dinner I told all of the kids about the swamp monster that tried to kidnap me the previous day. That night some people drove up to the Grand Coulee Dam to see the light show and others stuck around to play more games at my parent's cabin.








Elliott with toilet paper around his ankles. He was told that the swamp monster wouldn't be able to grab him if they were wrapped.



Wednesday was pretty much just packing up and going. Talitha and David made a great breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Then we hit the road. We had a 10 hour drive, but we decided to do a stop at the Grand Coulee Dam which added about 30 minutes to the trip. The trip was long, but everyone did really well. There were a few times where Asher cried a lot, but luckily that didn't carry over to the other children. We made it home just after 11pm.



It was a wonderful reunion and it was so much fun seeing everyone there. We are already counting down the days until the next one.






Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Trip to Washington DC with Christian

I had a conference in Washington DC this past weekend and I was able to bring Christian along with me. Ever since our move to Pocatello I have been flying Delta. I don't think Alaska Airlines flies into Pocatello at all and even if I was to drive down to Salt Lake city, the Alaska Airline flights are more expensive. So about a year back Rebecca and I canceled our our Alaska Airlines credit card. The bad news about that is we no longer get to do the $99 companion flights. Luckily, I volunteered to be bumped on a Delta flight earlier in the year and the voucher they gave me for that more than covered Christian's flight.

WEDNESDAY

Our flight left early on Wednesday morning. We had one leg from Pocatello to Salt Lake and then a second leg from Salt Lake to DC. We planned plenty of candy and games and movies for both flights and Christian had a blast. I think Christian got extra special treatment from the airport workers, flight attendants, and even the captains of the planes because of his cast. They all asked him what happened and his reply was always "my brother pushed me off the couch."

We arrived at about 4pm that evening. From the airport we caught the subway to our hotel. It was the same one that I stayed in with Julia a few years ago and just a block away from the hotel that I stay in when I have my February meetings in DC. After checking in we walked to Walmart to get some breakfast and lunch food for the week and then stopped at Quiznos for dinner. That night Christian watched Despicable me.










THURSDAY

Thursday I had my conference presentation and meetings planned so I tried not to plan in too much else. We did start the day with a morning tour of the Capital building. In the past I either got tickets on the spot or did it through my representatives office, but they essentially just got the same tour tickets for us. This time we did it through Idaho Representative Mike Simpson's office and I am really glad that we did. One of the interns in his office gave us a personalized private tour. We met him at Representative Simpson's office across the street at about 8:30. I thought it was neat that Christian got to see that office. And they had cliff bars and some AMAZING potato chips from Idaho that we got to get. From there we got to walk in the underground tunnels to the Capital. Our guide seemed pretty young and was super nice while doing the tour. I guess he was graduating from college this year, so he couldn't have been that young. But it was great to have someone who was from Idaho, so he could show us all of the Idaho stuff in the building. He also showed us a bunch of rooms that I had never been in before on my previous tours and told us some fun stories/rumors about different senators and representatives and different parts of the building. If you have been to the Capital building before than you know that each state gets to send two statues to be placed somewhere in the building. However, he told us that Idaho actually has four people in there. Idaho officially has George Laird Shoup and William Edgar Borah, both of which were early senators for the state.
He told us that Utah has Philo T. Farnsworth as one of their statues, who was the creator of television. But Philo spent a lot of his childhood growing up in Rigby and actually presented his first plans for television to his teacher there. The second is Sacagawea which is there to represent North Dakota. She was born a member of the Shoshone in Idaho. However, when she was 12 years old another tribe from North Dakota had captured her and several other girls from her tribe. She was only in North Dakota for a year before she was taken wife by Toussaint Charbonneau, who had either won her gambling or who had bought her. It was only a year or two later when she was pregnant with her first child that she and her husband were hired by Lewis and Clark to help with their journey. At the end of the tour we even got to see some live Senate meetings.





















After the Capital tour we went to the National Botanical Gardens. It is always fun to see all of the different plants in there. Christian liked the main room, which is very tropical and has a walkway high up in the trees that you can go on. He also liked the cactus room and the small number of carnivorous plants that they had.











Then we got lunch at McDonalds and made our way to my presentation. The presentation went well and Christian was happy that he got to play games on the iPad. We also got to walk through all the exhibitors and picked up a lot of candy and small trinkets. After my presentation I had a couple more quick meetings that I did.







Then on our way home we stopped to pick up some pizza. I am surprised at how expensive all of the food was. I just don't remember it being so much. I guess when I usually come I get all of the food paid for at a pretty high daily rate, rather than paying for it on my own.

He picked out Ice Age 3 for that night.


FRIDAY

We started Friday off with visiting the National Archives. We saw the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. It went by pretty quick and Christian wasn't really interested in any of the additional museum rooms that they have there. Since we finished early, we decided to go to the Museum of Natural History right then. I am so glad that we did. This was by far Christian's favorite museum. We only had time to see four things, but Christian loved them! The first was the bones section. In this section they had full skeletons of a hundred or so different animals. Christian just loved studying each and every one of them. He would tell me what he liked about them and all the things that were different from they way he thought they would be based on what the animal really looks like.














Then we saw the mummies. He was super interested in that too and thought they were so cool, but also creepy.



Then the dinosaur bones. We played a fun little computer game in there where you try to see if you can become a fossil by making decisions about what animal you are and where you died. No matter what we tried though, we never were able to become a fossil. I think Christian was shocked that we could get it figured out - after all, I am pretty much a fossil already now that I am almost 40.





Last was the Hope diamond. We saw that super quick and Christian wanted to see all the different rocks in that section, but we were out of time. We walked to a yummy (and greasy) burger place that I had gone to with Julia. They are well-known for their burgers and fries. Christian and I shared just one order and they were really good. We did get a shake to go too and that was even better.



We made it to the White House just in time for our tour. I guess it is not really a tour, you just walk through on your own. It was fun to be in the White House, but I get the sense that Christian doesn't really get excited about things just because they are "famous" or "important". So he thought it was okay. Luckily they changed the rules about taking pictures inside the White House so here are some of the ones that we got.











After the White House we walked to the Air and Space Museum. I thought this was going to be Christian's favorite by far. He did like it a lot, but not nearly as much as I thought he would. I was worried because by the time we got there we only had four hours until it closed and I thought Christian would want more time to see everything. We probably spent the most time looking at the rockets and in the space section. But we went to all of the flight ones too. We were probably done in just 2.5 hours and Christian said that he had seen enough. There were lots of cool planes to look at, but less hands on stuff. And I could tell he was feeling worn out.






I didn't know our neighbors have a pool! We need to become better friends with them.






We made our way to Chinatown for dinner that night. On Julia's and Ethan's trips I had to make a deal with them that they got to pick most of the dinners as long as I could pick Chinatown once or twice. Christian on the other hand loved the Chinatown food. He got a potsticker soup and a plate of mixed potstickers (some were even shrimp). He ate them all and asked if we could come there again the next day.



That night we made it back to the hotel a little early. I felt like I wanted to get some exercise in, so I brought the computer down to the exercise area so Christian could watch a movie while I exercised. He watched Kung Fu Panda while I did the treadmill (3.5 miles), stairs (80 flights), and bike (6 miles). The exercise machines look out over the street and I noticed that there were a lot of police just standing around out there. As I was exercise I was watching them and noticed that they were checking all of the cars with a police dog. Then I noticed that they were not police, but secret service officers. They were there for about an hour, then the secret service officers in the suits showed up in their black cars. Then 10 minutes later a line of police motorcycles blocked off the road and the presidential limo drove up right below where I was exercising to the back door of the hotel. They had set up a covered walkway so I couldn't see who got out. Then they all just stayed out on the street and waited. We went up to our room 30 minutes later and they were still there. I don't think it was the President though since I think he was already out of town. I remembered that when we got in for the evening before going down to exercise we saw hundreds of high school aged kids all dressed up for prom going in to the ballroom. It seemed strange though because all of the teenagers were bused in together and then they had to go through metal detectors and be searched prior to going into the ballroom. When I first saw it I thought it seemed extreme, but then later I figured it must have been because of whoever was in the limo. The next day I asked the hotel people why all the Secret Service people were there the night before, but they would only tell me that there was a VIP guest. If it was the Presidential limo and the Secret Service were all there I figured it must be for someone in the President or Vice President's family. But President Trump and Vice President Pence do not have anyone in their families that are high school aged. Then I realized that the Secret Service also protect former Vice Presidents and their families. It used to be for just 10 years after they were out of office, but President Obama made it back to a lifetime protection. So it must have been prom for their youngest daughter Sasha, who is 16 now. Well, that is my guess at least. Or maybe it was Donald Trump coming to seek my opinion on a few things, but since I was down exercising they were not able to find me.


SATURDAY

This was our zoo day. We woke up early and went straight to the zoo. Christian was so excited for this that he even woke me up before the alarm went off - every other day I had to get him out of bed about 30 minutes after the alarm and after I had everything all set for the day. We took the subway to the zoo. Christian really liked the subway again - I think because they are different from how we usually travel, they go fast underground, and the stops all look like they would be the inside of the Deathstar.

This must be the world's largest escalator.



The zoo went great. I had learned a few things from last time when I went with Julia and so this time we planned the whole day for just the zoo and I packed a big lunch and lots of water. I think Christian's favorites were the elephants, the monkeys, the frogs, and the turtles. For some animals he would just sit on the ground and watch them for 15 to 20 minutes. Then he would tell me when he was ready to go on and he would run to the next animal and sit and watch again. We were there from 9 am until about 4 pm, so a really long day.













We didn't know how they got a copy of this picture we took to put on their wall, but we decided to pose for it again. I guess we are a little older now, but otherwise I don't think we have changed much since when we took it.




He was tired by the end, but the excitement of movies and dinner at night helped him push through the walk back to the subway station. We got to the hotel at about 4:30 and then went down to exercise again. Even though Christian can't swim (cast), he seemed to think it was exciting to be out in that area for a while rather than just being in the room for the entire evening. We were there for about an hour and a half and then after showering went back out to Chinatown for dinner. I didn't think about it ahead of time, but by the time we got there it was 7 pm and there was a long line at the restaurant. We waited though and Christian was really happy to be eating there again. After that he started watching Harry Potter back at the hotel, but fell asleep half way through the movie.





SUNDAY

We planned to take things pretty slow today. Mainly just attend church and went for a long walk. I just thought it would be so boring for Christian to have to be in the hotel room all day long after church. Church was about 1.5 miles away. It was a great small ward right in the Capital Hill area. I loved the diversity of the ward. There were some younger couples and some that had children, but not many. And then there were some older people. I would say probably in total there were maybe 100 people in attendance. It was testimony meeting and there were some great testimonies. A couple people even sang songs for their testimonies - not in the "I hope there are no investigators here today" way, but in a really spiritual and reverent way. Sunday School and Priesthood were good too, but I think I might have dozed off a bit during Sunday School (just been trying to get work in at night after Christian goes to bed). Besides Christian and me there were a few other visitors - it seemed like it was common in this ward. One other couple was from Idaho Falls and then a family from Utah and a guy from Oklahoma. They did have a missionary that was going home this week who is from Pocatello. He is from the neighboring stake, just right by the kids' school. And there was another guy in the ward who was from our stake in Pocatello. He is actually there for 1.5 years for work and his wife and kids are still back in Pocatello. He knew a couple people in our ward. It reminded me of my 4 months away from Rebecca and the children and I felt really bad for him.

After church Christian had a packed lunch (Fast Sunday for me) and we walked all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial. It was a long walk - a total of 8 miles by the time we got to the hotel. It was a little too long for Christian and me too without any water to drink. But we made it and I am glad that Christian got to see the memorial. And I am sure it was better than sitting in the hotel room with nothing to do all day. Christian watched a few church videos after eating ramen noodles in our room for dinner.

They had a super pretty church. It was small, but 3 stories tall. They had pictures up of what it used to look like and so I am guessing it was just recently remodeled.














MONDAY

I got a message from Delta saying that weather might have an impact on my flight and I could change it now if I wanted. Originally we were flying out at 1:45, meaning we would have to start heading to the airport at 11 or so. I was wondering if we would even be able to get anything in since the museums do not even open until 10. We also had a stop in both Chicago and Salt Lake. Well I was able to switch with no charge to a direct flight to Salt Lake that left at 5 pm. We still were on the same flight from Salt Lake to Pocatello, so this didn't put us behind at all, but allowed us to visit the museums again.

Our plan was to go to the American History museum and then eat lunch at the food trucks right by there and then go to the Natural History museum again. Unfortunately we woke up to lots of rain. By the time we got to the American History museum we were soaked. Luckily that museum has lockers so we were able to stash some of our luggage while we walked around. There we saw the huge American Flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner. We also explored their inventions section, which was pretty cool. It talked about a lot of the different American inventions and inventors and gave the background story of how the invention came about. They also allowed you to have hands on experience with some of the early versions of the inventions. Christian's favorite part of this section was a kids invention lab where they have all sorts of building stuff. We played there for about 30 minutes, but then it was time to go to the other museum. When we looked out the door it was raining really hard, so we changed our minds and just stayed in the American History museum until it was time to go to the airport. We started to walk around a few of the other exhibits, but Christian really just wanted to go back to the lab again, so we went back and stayed for another hour or so.




















And then one last ride on the subway and our flights home. It was a really fun trip and hopefully Christian will be able to have some positive memories from it for a long time.