Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Aspen Grove: Heaven on Earth

This summer we made a long overdue trek to the homeland visit to Utah for our Ellis family reunion in Aspen Grove.
Off to Utah!!
Utah in the summer is magic; warm, blue skies, no humidity, soft green grass, beautiful mountains, and always lots of family and friends to visit.
Tired children resting whenever and wherever possible
We made a few stops before heading up to Aspen Grove.  First order of business was Jacqueline/Jacob picking us up at the airport (thank you!) and going to visit Grandma Emma's new pad at her retirement home.

We got the grand tour, had a delicious lunch in her fancy restaurant, and disturbed all of the peaceful residents with our crazy-train of kids.  It was nice to see where she is living now and hear about her new life in Utah.  We love her so much!
Aunt Lani met us for lunch and we got cozy on Grandma's couch
For our next stop, Jacqueline and Jacob let us use their car for the rest of the week (THANK YOU!!!) and we headed south to Provo to revisit our days at BYU almost 10 years ago (!!!).  
Our first apartment after we were married
Rob shared a Peanut Butter Moo'd with the kids--his traditional post-testing center celebratory treat 
We also visited some old professors, ate lunch at JDawgs with Mary and Spencer, and stocked up on BYU paraphernalia at the heavenly BYU bookstore.  

Then we had dinner with some of our best, best friends from law school who happen to be live in Utah now.  I can't believe we didn't get a picture!!!

The next major event of our trip was a celebration of Nolan and Elle's decision to be baptized!  It's so fun to see these kids growing up, making good choices, and turning into such wonderful people.  We are so blessed to be a part of such a WONDERFUL FAMILY!   
Kit & Elle, Joy & Nolan
This girl has never taken a bad picture.  
The blessing and curse of big families--everyone is just a teeny blob in the group photo!
Finally, after spending a few nights at Chez Linkous with a lot of our Ellis cousins (a dream come true to our girls), we all headed up the canyon to Aspen Grove.

Aspen Grove is a family "camp" owned and run by BYU.  It is basically heaven on earth and the perfect spot for big family reunions.  The setting is spectacular; nestled in the mountains above Sundance.  The lodging was ideal; all of us in separate family suites connected to a big main common room.  The food was adequate; 3 square meals/day prepped, cooked, cleaned up with zero effort from us.

Where Aspen Grove really shines is all of the age appropriate activities they offer for campers from 0-100.  All of the kids spent most of each day in their age-specific groups (with their cousins), run by fun-loving counselors, doing activities and games that kept them busy and happy for the entire week.  Meanwhile, the parents are free to participate in any (or all) of the games/tournaments Aspen Grove sets up for the adult campers.  Rob and I won the shuffleboard tournament (we're kind of a big deal), I almost won women's badminton, we played tennis most days, had our traditional Ellis Ultimate Frisbee game, dominated sand volleyball, and basically were outside enjoying life all day long.

In the evenings they arrange big themed activities the whole family can enjoy.  Water games, Western Night, Aspen Follies, etc, etc.

By the end of the week, everyone was still having a blast in the fresh mountain air, and just not quite ready for it all to end.  Perfect.

And now, a million pictures:
Sweet Sam, Matt, and Mia
Emily, Mary, Natalie, Spencer
Kit, Darren, Hope
So cute
Eden, with dimples galore
Wuv, twoo wuv
Family games are serious business!
Darrell and Marguerite 
Blondes everywhere!
Our view every day
Lily ringing the train bell in the Western Village
Tess, total doll
Conlon having as much fun as Jane ;)
Conductor Coco
...are the best!
Look at that view!

Mama KK is in heaven
Digging in the volleyball courts
Around the camp fire
Sometimes you just need a little screen time
So, so, so blessed. 
The week at Aspen Grove was such a hit that we've decided to do it again in 2017 for our Ellis reunion.  I can't wait.  

Halloween a la Frozen

This year may have been the last for awhile that we can force encourage our children to pick "themed" Halloween costumes.

We pulled off the Frozen crew... sort of.  Rob wouldn't let me wear my Sven reindeer antlers to his work party, and I wasn't creative enough to figure out much of a Kristoff costume for him.  And the kids just barely managed to round out the rest of the cast.

Savannah really wanted to be a ninja, Caroline wanted to be a generic princess, and Lily was pretty happy with the Ana idea.

Nevertheless, by the time Halloween finally rolled around, 2 of the 3 were pretty much sold on their costumes.
Everyone "smiling"
Caroline was never really convinced and she stripped out of her Olaf costume in about 20 minutes, never to be bribed/begged/cajoled into it again.  
It was cute while it lasted
Rob's work office party is always a Halloween highlight for us.  They go all out with trick or treating, decorated offices, and a killer Disney themed balloon/face-painting crew. 

Rapunzel and Flynn Rider showed up this year to WOW the kids and win them over with elaborate balloon creations and face paint.  

Rapunzel working her magic
Lily didn't want me to wash this off for the next few days!
Savannah showing us her Elsa "Ice Powers"
Halloween was great this year and we even managed to give away most of our (non-Twix/Reeses) candy to the last stragglers to knock on our door...which means much less post-Halloween guilt and sugar crashes!  Win win win!

Monday, January 11, 2016

More Christmas/New Years 2015

I want to get the rest of these pictures up here, lest they languish for eternity in iPhoto.
Cutest, nicest, happiest of families
Rainbow Dash looks good on Lily!
This is serious business for Louise
Savannah @ 4.5: Cuter, Sillier, more Dramatic every day
Lily @ 4.5: Sincere, Sweet, In Charge of Everyone
Erik snuggling his Christmas Elf
Megan snuggling her Christmas Elf
Russ & Katie, sharing a chair just because.  Wuv, twoo wuv.
Jacqueline could be a twin-mom, no problem.  
Savannah playing the part of Baby Jesus in the nativity
A week over New Years with our (mostly girl) Dallas cousins!
Girl power!
Chilly (48 degree) walks around the neighborhood
Practicing on the new bikes from Santa!