The ramblings of a woman,
wife, & mother, who loves:
Jesus / my man / the three,
learning about parenting /
mamahood / childbirth,
cooking foods healthy /
international / yummy,
pretending to garden /
write / design,
attempting to run /
exercise / lift weights,
enjoying traveling /
camping / adventures,
finding ways to love /
serve / sacrifice for others.

It is not to say she does these things
with style or grace, or even skill.


Fifth Day: Bouldering & Hiking & Winery

September 30, 2014 - 11:06 AM

In 1736, Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase in Poor Richard's Almanac, "Fish and Visitors stink in 3 days." Tho, we've changed it to specifically be "3 nights," with how often Josh and I have said this over the years, you'd think we coined it. This is not a critique on our visitors/family/friends, it's about us, as our family begins to definitely "stink" after 3 nights. I can't emphasize enough, "It's not you, it's me," is actually what this is all about. :)!

It started years upon years ago, when we had our first vacation with some extended family, all staying in the same house for a week. At the end of first three nights everyone was happiest and having an amazing time. But, while we all love our family VERY MUCH, there came a point, on the eve of the fourth night that you could sense we were done, d-o-n-e, done. Too much togetherness, too much lots of people crammed in a small space, too much trying to be on our best behavior, too much trying to keep everyone happy, too much stress for mama trying to hold it all together, we were all done. The morning of the fifth day, I wanted to lock the five of us in my bedroom so that no more stress, no more insanity could be had. 

You have to remember at the time we had the above experience, I was a sleep-deprived, zombie mom with 3 little ones. For example, during my normal days, quite honestly, I loved to simply lay on the floor and let the children use me as a jungle gym while I attempted to add an extra 5 minutes of sleep to my mere 4 hours of sleep/day lifestyle. I was not ready to share this type of behavior with others around and my pride (and false teachings) kept me from simply asking for others to help me while in mixed company. 

In addition, we had a child with an undiagnosed allergy at the time. The only thing we saw was out of the blue we now had a situation that required attention. What my self-conscious mind (and false teachings) had told me was that I was a bad mom for not being able to have perfect little children all the time. By spending a week with mixed company the fact that things were not perfect was becoming ever-so-clear for others to see and, quite honestly, my pride did not like it. (Yes, I have issues. I told you, "It's not you, it's me," rings true! Oy!)

By the time we could finally leave, I never wanted to go on another group vacation ever again. It was then Josh and I made our new rule: Limit trips with others in the same place to 3 nights, that way, we can all leave on happy terms vs. frazzled and stressed, leave not wanting to go vs. can't leave fast enough. This rule has served us well even as we have all aged and matured. 

Travel Log: 24 March 2012

And now, here we were, the morning of the fifth day, spending a week vacation with friends. Even though we had our individual condos, I began to feel like we were starting to rub others the wrong way. Sometimes my feelings are all in my head, but the fact that they could be true, made me want to take some alone time and keep our distance for a bit. This morning, we did just that. Have our friends go off and do things without us. The down time was definitely good for the kids and helped to reset my mind, as well. We could do this, we could last a whole week!

When we were ready, we met up with our friends at the Big Bend Bouldering Area, just 7 miles northeast of Moab. This is a great area to boulder not only for the quantity and quality, but also, once again, for its ease of access. The parking lot is right by the boulders, the ground around the boulders is incredibly flat and perfect for crash mats, and there were countless, non-route boulders that the kids could easily play on. And, crazy enough, it just so happened, other friends were in Moab at the same time as us and everyone had gotten together for bouldering. Who knew! 



Photos taken by my friend Tracey, who we ran into that day. Crazy! 

It was another hot day in the desert and one of the things the kids and I wanted to do was go to the local watering hole while Josh went on a long road bike ride. Locals for years have tried to keep this place a secret, but over time, a trail was made, word got out in hiking books, a parking lot installed, and tourists came. (If only they would cutdown the street sign to make it more difficult to find, :)!)

The one mile hike into the canyon to the watering hold criss-crossed the mountain stream, the MOUNTAIN stream. You could see the snow-capped mountains this water came from, it was still only March, and even on a 90 degree day, this water was skin-numbing cold. At times the crossings were a few feet wide and 4" deep and other times it was 20' wide and 18" deep. By the time we arrived at the watering hole the kids were becoming frozen to the core. (Well, except our little girl, who managed a free ride over every crossing. Lucky girl.)

They tried, OH!, how the kids tried to play in the actual watering hole but the cold temperature was simply too much and they couldn't even get up to their chests. Instead, they threw rocks and ran around, trying to warm their bodies. Except for one little guy, who sat shivering in a towel with his mom wrapped around him. Poor guy!

watering hole

watering hole

Oddly enough, it was when we were almost to the watering hole that we ran into more friends on the trail who had just so happened to come to Moab for the weekend! What a small, small world!

With how many off adventures the guys had been on, us women had planned to go out this night to one of the local wineries, which there are only two to choose from. Because my friends had already been to the one, we opted for the other one. We were following our GPS to its location and when the paved road became a dirt road, you could see the young grape vines and then a group of what looked like double wide trailer buildings, or pre-fab buildings of the same size. The parking lot had 5 cars parked outside so we all went in, with expectations high.

Once in the building, we knew we couldn't leave. Not because the place was SO amazing, but because we had found ourselves in an awkward situation. This wasn't what we had expected and all of us raised-Iowa-nice-women, didn't know how to get out of the situation quickly yet gracefully.

Upon stepping in the double wide building, we were standing in a tiny 8' x 8' area sectioned off specifically for visitors. Squeezed in this area were shelves displaying random items for sale, other storage, and 2 other winery visitors. Behind the counter, was the curious man who owned the winery. With the five of us, all crammed in the space, standing on top of each other, we could have fanagled around the other two visitors and made an escape. However, I think the first two guests saw this as their opportunity to run and they quickly took it, leaving us women there to make polite conversation until we too could escape.

Though hardly 50, the man's skin had obviously been living in the desert sun for many years, it was dry, cracked, and ashy with time. He gave us a darkened toothy, and partially toothless, smile and then stared at us. It felt as if he didn't want us there either but he had us there. Trying to make the best of the awkward situation, I asked the man random questions and tried to find a way of escape. He had owned the winery for 20 years, he had water rights to the lake up in the La Sal Mountains, he had lost all his vines a few years back and was just getting them going again, he loved to eat burgers at Milts, and now that he was going, he had opinions on everything and wanted to share it with us. And throughout the conversation and the tasting, we were not convinced of his winemaking ability. Once we felt the tasting had gone on long enough, I realized we were supposed to pay for each tasting or buy a bottle of wine to get the tasting for "free." I bought a bottle and we backed ourselves to the door, cutting off his conversation to make our final exit.

Once in the car, we laughed our way to the Thai restaurant he tried to convince us out of and we completely enjoyed our delicious food and drinks. Today had been a crazy day of taking a family time-out, chance meetings of two different groups of friends, a verge of hypothermia by the kids, and a curious "winemaker." Tomorrow would be a more normal day with 140' rappels...

I should also note that the winery was put up for sale shortly after our visit and is now under new ownership. The old winery owner is now flipping burgers at Milts. The new owners are working hard to make a go of the winery. I wish them the very best! It can only get better! :)!


Fourth Day: Skating/Biking & Hiking

September 26, 2014 - 7:36 AM

Travel Log: 23 March 2012

My friend, the kids, and I took off for a morning of fun at the skatepark and downtown Moab for shopping while the guys went on a new mountain biking adventure. 



This time for their mountain biking adventure, they chose a "real" MTB trail, a black diamond trail called Porcupine Rim. Porcupine Rim is one of the original, intense MTB trails in Moab. The way the trail is traditionally ridden is riders are dropped off at the trailhead located inside the Sand Flats Recreation Area (just to the east of Moab, past the most breathtaking recycle dump you've ever seen). Depending on your start point, the trail is between 11-14 miles long. It starts off at around 7,200 ft. elevation and drops almost 3,000 ft. before it ends at the trailhead at Negro Bill Canyon.

It is the final 3 miles of the trail that are the most intense and technical because of its slick rock, its 2' drops, and its highly exposed areas, just to name a few of the obstacles. And, in October of 2012, just six months after our guys rode there, Outdoor Magazine labeled Porcupine Rim one of the seven most dangerous trips you can take. At the Negro Bill Canyon trailhead there is a monument in memory of two young men from Iowa who plunged 150' to their death on the trail.

And my husband rode this on his single speed, fixed frame MTB. Amazing.

Now, my husband had attached his GoPro to the front of his bike for this ride. It is during the video of the final 3 miles that my heart jumps up to my throat and stops beating. In the video the camera is pointed out front and a little down, catching a view of his front tire. On the bouncy video, you can see the incredibly narrow, sandy and rocky, single track Josh is riding on, the rocks jutting up to his left and a cliff dropping down on his right. Then, he hit something off. A rock, a sandy patch, a drop, I can't remember. The camera's view jumps around wildly as it instantly changes to that of falling down the cliff face, peering into the canyon below, and then yanked back up onto the trail and brought to an abrupt stop.

I don't know if it is the fish bowl view of the GoPro or the angle the camera is pointed in, but watching the video it feels as if you are right there, in the moment, and you can't help but gasp when the bike starts to fall and shout, "Oh! My! Gosh! Oh! My! Gosh! Oh!..." over and over again when the movement stops and you are amazed that the rider (The rider? No, amazed) my husband didn't go off the cliff. (Oh! My! Gosh!)


I forgot to mention, they got to experience amazing views like this above photo throughout the majority of their trip. Whoa! Beautiful!

Thinking about it now, it was truly a fluke what Josh hit, but at the time it served as a good reminder to be respectful of the fun yet on-the-verge-of-dangerous situations we were in. It's like the first time your parents give you your own pocket knife and, even with all their instructions, you immediately cut yourself. It's never a bad cut, but it's enough to shake you a little, remind you of their warnings and instruction, and to take heed for the future. For this trip, this fluke of a hit, helped reground me as a mother to make certain that I was taking heed for the safety of the children on all our adventures.

Thankfully, our three guys returned safe (Well, Josh is convinced he has a stress fracture in his wrist from the rigid frame bike, but "safe" enought, :)!) from their adventure and when we were all reunited we decided to do an easy family hike. We went into Arches National Park and visited Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch. The two mile, incredibly flat loop was the perfect tame adventure that we all needed. It did get a little interesting at one point when a dad and a couple kids went off to make a bathroom and couldn't find us again, but by the end, we were all reunited, and ever-so-thankful to be in one piece.

broken arch


Can you spy the children in this photo?

skyline arch



Third Day Moab: Slab Climbing

September 25, 2014 - 3:45 PM

Travel Log: 22 March 2012

Our "rest" day was wonderful, but let's get back to climbing! Climb ON!

Today, we planned for an all day of slab climbing in the Kane Creek Canyon on a piece of wall called the Ice Cream Parlor. Kane Creek Canyon is just west of the town of Moab. What starts off as the paved road of Kane Creek Boulevard running along the Colorado River becomes a gravel road as it diverges south. The narrow, twisting, dirt road quickly drops you lower and lower into Kane Creek Canyon. The trickiest section of road is so narrow you have to pay attention to traffic coming from the other direction. Safe passing areas are few along your descent and backing up along the steep cliffs would be a risky maneuver. For being a remote location, the road is frequented by jeeps, atvs, and motorbikes, as well as the massive trucks pulling flatbed trailers to drop off those vehicles, as well as random groups of campers using the charming, buried campsites along the canyon, and to top it off climbers, groups of friends, like us, or large climbing tour groups and their vans.

Kane Canyon

Like the spot in Donnelly Canyon, we chose the Ice Cream Parlor for its family friendly nature. You can park your car right at the bottom and have a "short" walk up the boulder field to the base of the breathtaking red wingate sandstone. The routes range from trad to sport, from 5.5 to 5.12, from 40' to 220', and, unlike the ever popular Wall Street on Potash Road where your belayer is standing ON the white line of a highway, this area has a "safe" waiting (aka play) area for little ones.


This photo was taken along the trail up to the base of the wall. If you look to the middle on the far right you can see Josh's blue shirt up on the wall.


Josh (in blue) going up 5.6 Corner a 50' tall trad route. The other climber to his right is on Parlor Game.



Max (top) and Zeke (below) starting on Black Slab 5.6 (which is actually a 5.7), 50' tall, sport route.

The Ice Cream Parlor is also a wonderful place to climb because all the routes are within 8' of each other. We picked a home base and then our talented friends were able to set up multiple ropes so that everyone had the ability to climb often. From a simple 5.5, 40' tall, sport route called Brewed Awakenings to a 5.7+, 70' tall, sport route called Slab Route 5.7 to a 5.9, 50' tall sport route called Parlor Game. (See, once again, some creative names, some not so much, :)!)

What you may notice in the above photos is the darker, almost black areas on the what-you'd-expect-to-be red sandstone. These black areas are called "desert varnish" and is a blackish manganese-iron deposit that forms over many years due to rain and bacteria. (This desert varnish is a popular surface to find the Native American petrogylphs drawn into.) The climbing routes on these flat, black slabs are slick and are at a 65-85 degree angle, and, as is typical in slab climbing, the climber has to trust in their footing and friction because they have only the tiniest of hand holds at their disposal. Once again, this type of climbing was a first for us and the boys, but it was a fabulous experience! 


What about our little girl?! Even though our girl had been on a rope at the climbing gym and on indoor bouldering walls, she wasn't interested in climbing on this trip. She mostly played in the boulder fields, chased lizards, and entertained the rest of us. If you can't tell from the above photo, it was a crazy sunny and hot day. We were literally baking on the wall. But our girl found the only shady spot big enough to hide in and spent a good amount of the day playing there in the sand. 

The truth is, in climbing, if you have anything more than a 2 climbers to 1 rope ratio, there is a lot of waiting. Waiting to make sure all your gear is secure/safe, waiting while the lead climber sets up a route, waiting while they tie off on the top anchors, waiting while the next person switches to belayer and climber, waiting while everyone checks gear safety again, waiting your turn, waiting for everyone to climb one route so you can move the rope to another area... a whole lotta waiting. This is especially true when you bring little ones on a climbing adventure and is another reason why having a "safe" place to wait is important. The kids really are troopers for waiting so much!

We ended this day exhausted and sunburned and I think we even ran out of water. Once back to our condo area, we enjoyed a meal together and began planning out just how much fun we could cram into our next day's "rest" day. :)!


Second Day Moab: Biking & Playing

September 24, 2014 - 10:06 AM

Travel Log: 21 March 2012

While it is entirely possible to go rock climbing every day, the lay climber's climbing muscles are happiest if you aim for an every other day climbing plan. Alternating in Moab is a challenge because you have infinite options to choose from! Moab is world reknown for its beauty and rock climbing, but it is also known for its hiking, canyoneering, camping, 4x4 jeeping, skydiving, base jumping, rafting, road cycling, cyclocross cycling, and its unbelievable forms of mountain biking. For this trip we alternated rock climbing with biking/hiking.

Mountain biking has many forms in Moab and even over the last 3 years has grown in number and popularity. A majority of the original MTB trails in Moab are hard core, black diamond trails, taking the rider across slick rock and along towering cliff edges. Recently, they have been building new trail areas with a number of green and blue trails, perfect for first time mountain bikers and possible on cyclocross/touring bikes. The new blue/green trails are as beautiful and scenic as the iconic Slickrock Bike Trail, but then again, you're in Moab, and even their recycle dump is considered the most picturesque one in the world.

ride adventure

Josh continually said (and says*) that he had unfinished business in Moab after our first day trip of just hiking. (*Even to this day, after we have gone back to Moab multiple times, he still says he has unfinished business. There is simply an endless amount of adventures to be had in Moab!) This trip, he brought not only his road bike to ride on the deserted paved roads but also his new mountain bike: a Niner One Nine, single speed, fixed frame mountain bike. (At the time, single speeds were the hipster thing to do, ha! :)!)


While the kids and I went out with the other kids on mini adventures of climbing the sand dune, trips to the skatepark, and shopping at the rock shop, four of the adults in our party tackled the trails. The first trail they tried was technically an OHV trail for jeeps called Fins and Things. While one should expect sand in the desert, this trail had more sand than planned, causing the group to dismount their bikes and push more times than they would have liked. 

Speaking of sand, it's come to the point, too, that I now know to only take the kids to the 100' sand dune once per Moab visit. With how much jumping and rolling and sand angel making that takes place, it is the messiest day in the desert. For days after I am finding sand in pockets, sand imbedded in scalp, sand in car... goodness! You'd think we were in the desert! I should also mention, one of the kids' favorite visits immediately after the sand dune is to the Moab Rock Shop. This amazing place can keep the kids' attention for hours with its extensive collections. If you're lucky enough, Lin himself is there and will mesmorize the kids with his stories and knowledge.  

sand dune

sand dune

sand dune

As our kids have aged, we have been able to tackle more extreme adventures with them, but for this trip the alternating of rock climbing and mild adventures served them well. Our condo area was proving a great source of fun for the kids with its basketball court and having everyone in the same location made group dinners a wonderful time for everyone to recount their day's excursions and plan the next day's outing of merriment. 


Fixing a Hole, aka Back it Up!

September 22, 2014 - 10:58 AM

"Be Bop a Do Bop, Back it up! Be Bop a Do Bop, Forward! Follow the trail of scat!"*

Travel Log: 19 March 2012

For my own remembering, I have to go back and fill in holes, like... Where did we stay in Moab?

When we went to SF we used VRBO to find our flat and house. For Moab we searched VRBO but came up empty handed. Josh then suggested checking Home Away and Flip Key. All three are similar in that they charge home owners a monthly fee to be listed on their site and, I'd guess, 70% of the rental homes are listed on all three sites. The winner for us this time was found on Flip Key.

We stayed in a new development area south of Moab, called Spanish Valley, that had pods of 4 condos together. Since we wanted all the parties in our group to be near each other, we were able to rent 2 condo units in one pod. Living 5 miles south of the city is not ideal but for this trip it worked out wonderfully. The condo area had tennis courts, basketball courts, pool, hot tub, playground, and a large garage to hold all our gear. It also had amazing views...

spanish valley

Top: View to the east. Bottom: View to the west. Tall: View of one condo.

Another thing I forgot to mention was... How did you pack it all?

For this trip we bought a new piece of travel gear: a Yakima Rocket Box. One week of this trip was Spring Break, i.e. VACATION!, and because of that we packed differently and needed to include two kinds of bikes, hiking gear, camping gear, rock climbing gear, skiing clothes, skateboarding gear, hot & cold weather clothes, as well as, schooling gear, working gear, and life gear. For our trip to SF we fit everything perfectly into our Volvo for one bike, schooling gear, working gear, and life gear (i.e. Oscar, our espresso maker). In order to bring all the additional gear AND keep comfortable space for the kids,!, the Yak Box was a perfect solution. In the two and a half years we've been using it, it has proven to be an amazing investment for us and our travel lifestyle. 


*"Be Bop a Do Bop, Back it up! Be Bop a Do Bop, Forward! Follow the trail of scat!"

Why fill in these details and why the above quote?

Back in college, my friends were obsessed with Mystery Science Theater 3000 and I humored them by watching one episode. The episode I watched was Season 6, Episode 1, for a movie called Girls Town starring Mel Torme. The quote that stuck out the most to me during the entire episode was, "Be Bop a Do Bop, Back it up! Be Bop a Do Bop, Forward! Follow the trail of scat!" I say this line so often in my day to day life, that my kids have even started saying it. 

But you know what? That's not the real quote. For the last 20 years I have been saying that quote WRONG. (Skip ahead to 1:50 for the actual quote.)

This reminds me that my memories are flawed. Even though I said we rented this condo from Flip Key, I'm still not convinced it wasn't Home Away, though, I am confident it wasn't VRBO. And as I start to piece together stories based on photos we took from a mere two years ago, I am shocked I don't remember details where photos are missing. Those physical gaps have mental gaps, and for the life of me I simply cannot fill in the holes like I once could.

It stirs in me a strong desire to write faster and get caught up to today, so I don't forget today's life-filled, joy or pain inducing, precious memories... I don't want to forget surviving the 25th time someone has barfed in our Volvo or that I recreated the animal bark/howl sound that woke me up in the middle of the night for Josh at lunch. If I didn't just write that out, I'm confident those memories, too, would be lost to the holes in my mind.

"I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in, and stops my mind from wandering, where it will go..." The Beatles

And, yes, I know FB wants that info from me, but I don't want to share my favorite memories with them. :)!


First Day: Crack Climbing in Moab

September 17, 2014 - 7:24 PM

Travel Log: 20 March 2012

To fully enjoy the next several stories, here's my version of rock climbing definitions for you. I am not an expert on climbing by any stretch, but here's my take on the terms from my limited experience:

Bouldering - Climbing on rocks without harnesses or ropes, though the climber usually uses climbing shoes and chalk. Usually up only short distances and has a bouldering mat below the climber for the climber to fall on.

Top Roping - A rope that has been placed through an anchor at the top (either through a lead climber or because you're at a climbing gym) and has a belayer on one end and a climber on the other. (Some people call this bottom roping, since the belayer is on the bottom, but tomato - tomato.)

Belayer - The person whose job it is to keep the climber safe by using an ATC or Grigri. When belaying a lead climber, they are tied directly to the lead climber. When top roping, their rope goes up to the top anchor and then back down to the climber.

Lead Climber - The person who goes up a route first. They take the most risk by being exposed between placing protective gear, whether quickdraws or cams/nuts. If they fall, it is the distance from them to their last place of gear and whatever force pulls up on their belayer. Once to the top of the route, they tie into the top anchor and create a top rope for others to climb up the same route but without having to place gear.

Sport Climbing - Climbing on rocks with a harness, rope, climbing shoes, and chalk. Sport climbing means that there are strong bolts pre-set into the rock that the lead climber can clip into with quickdraws. 

Trad(itional) Climbing - Climbing on rocks with a harness, rope, climbing shoes, and chalk. Trad climbing means that the lead climber places their own gears, cams or nuts, into the rock that will hold/protect the them should they fall. It requires more knowledge of what type of rock you are climbing on as well as knowing how to set the cams securely into the cracks. There is sometimes an actual bolt for the top anchor on trad routes, but not always.

Crack Climbing - Trad or sport climbing that ascends cracks and uses specialized techniques, such as jamming, laybacking, or stemming. 

Slab Climbing - Trad or sport climbing where the rock face is less than vertical and climber uses friction and balance with very small holds.

Climbing Scales - Class 1 is walking/hiking, Class 2 is climbing using little hands, Class 3 is scrambling using hands and increased exposure, Class 4 is climbing with definite exposure, maybe a rope and falls may be fatal, Class 5 is technical free climbing involving a rope & belayer and falls may be fatal. Within Class 5, there are ratings of 5.1, 5.2, up to 5.15, that help potential lead climbers and top ropers to gauge the technical ability required. (For reference, 5.14 and 5.15 are very rare. I believe there are only 2 - 5.15 routes in the world currently.)

Phew! Clear as mud! :)!

Would you belive today was going to be our boys' first day climbing outdoors ever?! What an introduction! Crack climbing at Indian Creek Canyon just south of Moab! Indian Creek is world reknown for its crack climbing but is also amazingly beautiful with its red and taupe canyons and serving as a gateway into the Canyonlands Needles District. Our destination within Indian Creek would be Donnelly Canyon. (The below photo was taken at the end of our day, but on it you can see the vertical cracks that were our picture perfect playground.)  


Whenever we are hiking and I am glancing upon a rock formation in the distance, it is difficult for me to judge the height. As I sit here typing, I am staring at the sun setting on majestic Lumpy Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park. The base looks within reach but I know it is 2 miles from where I sit. The rock faces look like a few hundred feet tall but I know in reality it is well over a thousand feet higher than where I sit. (Maybe I'll have to try to fill out this math worksheet for future practice, :)!) 

The same experience can be true when in the canyons of Utah. Some, like the actual Canyonlands National Park, the canyon walls are 2000 feet in height, but here in Donnelly Canyon, those beautiful wingate sandstone canyon walls are around only 250' above you and from the parking lot the routes are within sight making the car to base a nice distance for all ages. Add in a morning chill, and it was a perfect morning hike.

hiking miriam


Our friends who came to Moab with us are all amazing climbers. Molly lead up a 5.8+ trad route, about 50' high, and called Binou's Crack and set up a top rope for everyone else. (Every route has some sort of name to help distinguish it from others. Sometimes the climbers who name them are creative and other times they are just lazy, as you'll see later.) It was on this crack that both our boys got to climb outdoors and learn how to use technical hand and foot jams for crack climbing. Unlike the jugs they could grab onto in the climbing gym, here they had to make shapes with their hands, jam them into the cracks, then widen their hands, and trust that to hold them. Or they had to jam their fingers into the crack and lay back on their outstretched arms, while walking along up the wall with both hands and feet. Crack climbing is something else, but OH, so much fun! 


Zeke getting the hang of the new techniques.


Max to the top!

Amos lead up a 5.10+ trad route, about 110' high, called Unknown Pod Climb. (See, where was their creativity on this one?!) This was a long, hard lead climb, and Amos was amazing at tackling it. He was kind enough to top rope it and let another family friend, Isaac, and me climb it, before he had to climb it again to clean the route. Sometimes when climbing where it is incredibly difficult, I feel guilty about taking f o r e v e r. This was one of those situations. It felt like it took a minute to simply move an inch though the crux, a crazy pea pod shape into the crack. (In the photo below, it's near the dark area toward the bottom of the crack, which is actually about 30' up from the base.) But the joy I felt upon completing this route was unmatched and I wore my bloody, mangled hands with pride.

pod climb


We spent an entire day on this beautiful wall, with the most perfect views, playing in its boulder field, bloody-ing our hands, and chasing lizards. It ended up being a great place for kids to come with not only for the short hike to the base and the manageable routes for kids, but also for the "safe" play area around us. We ended our day feasting on Triscuits and Kipper Snacks before making the hour long drive back to our Moab home. 



Next Big Adventure: Traveling to Moab

September 10, 2014 - 7:44 PM

When we arrived home in November 2011 and life settled around us, we knew the "new normal" of traveling, experiencing new communities, schooling and working on the road, was only a reservation away, and by now our "travel every 4 months" time limit was up. To make things more fun, thanks to a glorious night of giggles and drinks, we (easily) convinced with a family and a couple to travel to Moab for Spring Break with us. New normal here we come!

Everyone had their own ways of getting there, but our specific travel plans worked into a work / play / work adventure that lasted 2 & 1/2 weeks. Specifically, we would spend 3 nights in Denver (while Josh had client meetings), 2 nights in Dillon (to (attempt to) go skiing), a week and a half in Moab (some spring break, some work), and then 3 nights in Denver (for more client meetings) before returning home

Travel Log: 14 March 2012 - 17 March 2012

Don't get me wrong, I love my Nebraska friends, but I-80 through Nebraska, in our books, is over. It was over the first time we drove the kids across it. It was over when we drove home from CA. It was over now. We have since driven to Colorado all the way through South Dakota (beautiful Black Hills!) and all the way through Kansas (beautiful Flint Hills!) and we can justifiably say I-80 through Nebraska is over. (Sorry, Nebraska! :)!)

We stayed in a great hotel, right in downtown Denver, close enough for Josh's meetings but also possible for the kids and I to travel the city by foot or bus. My plan was to do our normal schoolwork in the mornings and then learn about Colorado history in our afternoons. One place we visited was the state capitol. We actually got to sit in on a meeting of congress where they were debating abortion legislation. Sitting in on a house discussion was a first for the kids and myself. Another observer whispered to me that the topic was not suitable for children, but seeing how this was a discussion we had at length ages before (yes, in their young lives), they found the forum intriguing and could follow along. 

denver capitol

However, of our adventures around the city, our favorite was finding the most amazing Thai lunch place. Our kids LOVE Thai food with a passion. Thanks to Yelp, we had read of a tiny, and I mean tiny, Thai food cart, run by a one woman show, who serves food only at lunch (though, I read now she has moved to a storefront, :(!), who makes each order right on the spot, is as authentic as it comes in the US, and knows the definition of spicy. She was only open from 11am - 1pm and you were told to expect a huge line, but the reward was worth it.

The kids and I took on the wait challenge and when it was our turn ordered the baby spice versions for us and a nice spice version for Josh. She absolutely LOVED that the kids were excited about eating her food and was quick to give them free spring rolls and banana wrappers. Truth be told, her baby spice was almost too much for the kids, but there was no denying that the flavor was what dreams are made of and they happily ate every bite. Truth be told, we ate there for lunch two days in a row.

Thai food

Travel Log: 17 March 2012 - 19 March 2012

Now that it was oficially the weekend, and technically the start of Spring Break, we had planned to take our kids to a day of skiing / snowboarding for the very first time. I had researched the cheapest nearest ski resort that we could take the kids to and figured out all the hoops we'd have to jump through to make it possible: renting skis, renting some clothing, renting goggles, etc. We planned Sunday to be our big day. The kids were pumped. We were pumped. It was going to be AWESOME!

We arrived at the ski resort a half hour before it oficially opened so we could get the kids enrolled in lessons, get gear, and what-have-you. When we got there we were informed that their power was out, their computer systems were (obviously) not working, their lifts were not working, and they had no idea when anything would be up and running again. 

Not knowing what to do, we sat there, in the dark of their unheated lobby, for hours, waiting, hoping, something would turn on. Nothing. Finally, we decided to go to another resort but found out that it was going to be more expensive and they did not offer the amazing deals on rentals or lessons. Determined, we left there but tried to go to all the area rental places looking for better deals on the rentals so that the bite of the lift ticket would be easier to swallow. Nothing. 

Brokenhearted, especially the kids, OH! especially the kids, we called time of death at 3pm, when we made our way to a local brewery and sadly ate a late lunch in near tears. This wasn't the way we hoped our spring break to start but as parents, having to play the responsible ones, we didn't want to blow our whole trip budget on the first day because of a random power outage. Skiing wasn't meant to be for us that day, for whatever known or unknown reason, and it was going to be ok.

The next day, OH! the next day, was our drive to Moab day. That made everyone giddy with excitement and all had long forgotten the previous day's fiasco. My husband, for the first time in a year and a half / since we went to Czech, turned on his auto-response for his email.

It was official - Spring Break had begun! :)!





These photos are from the Fisher Towers area, along the back road to Moab.


The Work of a Home Soul

September 8, 2014 - 6:49 PM

Travel Log: 27 February 2012 - 3 March 2012

When we bought our home in IC, it was in the exact same condition since its 1950's construction. Thanks to the then current fad of DIY home remodel shows, we were given an idea. We ripped up the long-hair, green shag carpet and tore / scraped off the kitchen vinyl to reveal nice, tightly laid, 4' x 8' sheets of plywood subflooring. We sanded it, washed it, stained it, poly'd it, and called it done. There was a small section in the foyer, covered in some nasty tealish tile so glued in place nothing was going to move it, that we left and I simply covered in rugs. For 9 years we lived like that. It wasn't ideal, but it worked. 

While we are thankful for our IC home, it's not us. We have always dreamed of having a home like our first home in Ames: turn of the century, screened in front porch, cute character, built-ins, wood floors, dormers, etc. That winter, we made an offer on an adorable house in IC meeting all those requirements.. but we didn't get it. However, thinking about moving we realized we HAD to do something about our floors in order to sell our existing home. Exposed subflooring would not show well.  


Thanks to the kids having ITBS during the days for a week, I used my empty school time to install this beautiful bamboo flooring over our living, dining, and kitchen. I had a little help muscling out a tricky section by a closet (from Josh and Joe) and brainstorming a stair threshold (with my dad), but otherwise it was my solo project. On purpose. Because I loved every minute of it. And I didn't want to share the fun if I didn't have to.

What you may not know about me is I love wood working. I love it. I love using wood working tools (I worked in a wood shop for 3 years). I love the beauty of power tools (I sold them for 4 years). I love the smell of saw dust. I love working with my hands. I love using muscles. I love working with precision. I love problem solving. I love hard work. I love a completed project. I love the time to think. This is a happy place for me. 


At the time, I was still unable to write, but working on home projects, even though not necessarily creative-creative, were definitely a perfect outlet for me. The crucial thing was finding time to think in quiet. Some people knit, some paint, some play instruments, I cut wood. 

It has always been a constant battle for me, finding time to spend refreshing my soul and making certain I am being faithful with my husband and children. The voices on either side of the coin are very loud. When I had little ones they were loud near me, and over the years they've become louder online. Why can't we all just love one another where we're at?

The truth for my life is taking time to exercise, going for runs, being "creative," these are all important to my mental health, because I truly do multi-task and think deeply while doing them. This, in turn, helps me to be better and more focused on my work as mom. It doesn't mean anything negative against me being mom, or that I'm trying to escape from it or them, or that I don't switch gears when needed. I know Jesus took time away to pray by himself with His Father, and He also had to stop His time short with the Father to take care of His children. There have been many-a-time my "plans" have been put on the back burner. But trying to find time for it is valuable because I know my family is getting a more focused me, who's heart and soul have been refreshed.

The last 5 months had been far from perfect, oh, why!, wouldn't life simply calm down!, but I truly felt that our family was able to take on the highs and lows with greater faith and hope. Excitedly, in the midst of it all, we had planned our next big adventure. Moab was calling us back. We happily were going to oblidge.


Welcoming a New Year with a Bang!

September 2, 2014 - 6:57 AM

Travel Log: 31 December 2011

It was New Year's Eve. I was driving home from running errands and thinking about how much I loved our Volvo and how thankful I was for it. It was fancier than any car I had ever owned and I was still in shock that it was my car. I was amazed by how well it worked, what a great price we had gotten on it, and was excited to drive it forever. My heart overflowed with thankfulness for this car, silly as that seems. In rare form, I had parked it in the street when I got home because we were helping a family by giving them our old washer and dryer. I kept thinking, "I need to move the car back to the driveway," but never did.

Josh and I had plans at 8:30pm to go to a Mad Men New Year's Eve Party then drive up to our friend's house to ring in the New Year. At 8:30pm, Josh was still getting his Mad Men self on and I was impatiently sitting in a dark living room. I was twidling my thumbs since I was all dolled up and had nothing else to do but listen to the quiet of our house, when a single car alarm blare broke the silence. I thought it curious, but I continued to sit and wait.

At 9pm, we could finally leave. Josh went out to the street to warm the car and bring it back to the driveway. He immediately came back to the house and said, "Our car has been hit, we need to call the cops."

What the?! I went out to the dark street and sure enough, the driver side of the car was all bashed in, the car was pushed up onto the curb, and the passsenger side front wheel was all bent and whacked up. As we walked along the sidewalk, Josh talking with the police on the phone, we noticed other odd things by the curb: random car parts, a huge coil, and an entire wheel with part of its axel.

We also saw that another car had been side-swiped. I started going door-to-door trying to find out who owned the car that got hit and possibly if anyone saw anything. Everyone recounted hearing a loud noise and a single car alarm, but that was it. It was an out of town guest at our next door neighbor's party who had the other damaged car.

When the policeman arrived, we made mention of the random additional car parts on the road, curb, and sidewalk. He thought it must have been a pickup truck hauling old car parts and they fell out of a truck when it hit us. Josh was convinced it was related.


Proving Josh's hunch correct, over the walkie-talkie our policeman got word of a curious situation. 4 miles down our road, another policeman found a man standing on the side of the road with his car on fire. The man was so drunk he didn't know why his car was on fire. His car was on fire because he was missing a wheel. The man didn't know what happened to his wheel. His wheel was back 4 miles in front of our house. He drove 4 miles in his car with only 3 wheels. 

4 miles!

All I could think was, I'm so glad that man did not kill anyone! He was so drunk he wouldn't have known. He didn't know he was driving on 3 wheels, he didn't know he hit our cars, he had completely blacked out. And then all I could think was, I'm so glad we didn't leave on time! He could have hit one of us or the kids. The car alarm I heard at 8:30 was our car alarm. We were scheduled to leave at 8:30. Whoa.

The next day, I got a call. A man was weeping uncontrollably on the phone. He was apologizing profusely. It was the man who hit our car. Josh spoke with him at length and took the opportunity to speak truth to him. 

While upset about my car getting trashed, the truth the whole ordeal spoke to me was the reminder that our car, like our house, like our stuff, are just things. It's only a stupid car. I could have lost considerably more that night - my husband, my children, my life. 

2012 was off to a rough start but I was thankful beyond measure for the things people that are truly important. 


Northern Minnesota Adventure

September 1, 2014 - 7:58 AM

Travel Log: Thanksgiving 2011

In 2008, my father-in-law bought a cabin home in Northern Minnesota. The drive in perfect conditions could take a little over 8 hours, but with the age of our children and our old van, it would always take a minimum of 11 hours. Though we love our extended family, it was a drive that we tried to limit to once a year.

In 2011, we had no more excuses. We had our amazing Volvo and the kids were older and had proven themselves worthy road trippers for the long hauls. We planned our Cramer Family Thanksgiving to be up in Northern Minnesota with Josh's dad and his sister's family. The lake was already frozen out to 60'+ from shore and there was a fresh scattering of snow on the ground. It was a beautiful backdrop for a wonderful time of reconnecting with family.


From skeet shooting to playing on the frozen ice, the warmth of family aided our forgetting the freezing temperatures. Our daughter's dreams were made by getting to spend countless hours playing with her girl cousins, Grandpa got to be surrounded by his kids and grandchildren AND shoot guns (a favorite hobby of his), Josh and Karl took the Go-Pro, the boys, the frozen lake, and iMovie and got creative, and Maren and I got to catch up on all things life. It was sweetly memorable and is ranked as one of our best trips to the cabin.

Crooked Lake on Ice from Josh Cramer on Vimeo.

The winter brought countless swim activities by our boys. Between driving to practices, driving to meets, sitting in meets, and driving to more practices, all our free time seemed to disappear and the old normal taking over. In the midst of it all, our new normal was schemeing our next big adventure, as our subtle goal was to try to escape every 3-4 months. Sitting around joking one night, a group of us, another family and a couple, decided to go to Moab over spring break. Moab had cast its spell on our family during our big adventure and we could not wait to get back there and see what wild rides it would take us on.  



Welcome! I am glad you're here! If you are new and would like to get caught up on what's going on, check out these quick links to get you started:

About Me and This Blog...

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2012 to CA, MN, CO
   Ladies Trip to Napa Valley
   My Parents Rode in a Plane!

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2012 to MN and CO
   Vacation to the North Shore and Cabin
   Boulder for the Summer
   Life in Boulder

Begin Our Adventures of Winter/Spring 2012 to UT
   The Drive to CO/UT Begins
   Vacation in Moab
   Living in Moab / Denver

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2011 to CA
   The Drive to CA Begins
   Living in the SF
   Living in the Suburbs
   Coming Home to IC

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2010 to Eastern Europe
   Life at Czech English Camp
   Travels in Germany & Austria
   Travels in Czech & Poland


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