We drove and realized while packing (the day that we were leaving) that we were racing a big storm. So, we threw the last of the clean laundry that we were ready to fold into garbage bags and into the van, and hit the road just ahead of the storm. This storm brought hurricane force winds, toppled semi trucks all over the freeway, uprooted tons of trees, and caused power outages that lasted several days (in our area). Noah's kindergarten teacher (forgetting that we were out of town) even called to let us know that school was cancelled. Church was cancelled in our area that Sunday and members were asked to assist in local cleanup efforts. We were grateful that our home didn't sustain any damage and, frankly, we were glad to have missed out on all the craziness.
So, here is what we were doing while all of that was going on back at home:
We left on 11/31/11 and drove until we crashed for the night a little motel that was not my favorite. Here we are the next morning (12/1/11) stopping the van to stretch our legs and snap a couple of photos.
Noah and Mark...
Lincoln and me.
Noah - "Look, Ma! No hands!" (This took a serious amount of coaxing)
And then we hit Flagstaff and a storm caught us there. It dumped snow and there were a bunch of slide-offs and accidents that brought the freeway to a standstill.
We made it there before dark that night, so we drove straight to one of the boys favorite parks - the train park! This also happens to be the park where we held Lincoln's 3rd birthday party! Here are the boys riding the carousel at the park one last time...
The park had this big fun Christmas tree set up, which seemed to say to me "obligatory photo op" even though I knew what I looked like after traveling for two days (with 3 kids)...
Our sweet little Max (just over 5 months old here)...
Noah requesting this photo before we took a ride on the train...
The next day (12/2) we had the aforementioned family pictures done with Barb. Before going we were able to meet up with my bestie, Shauna (in town from Michigan) and she came with us! This was a huge help by the way. We had pictures done in a pecan grove, and Mark snapped this one of Shauna and me after we were done. It was so good to spend time with her again, I miss her so much!
12/3 Shauna and me (and Max) at a shopping center in North Scottsdale.
Then it was off to the Phoneix Zoo (which was handy because our annual family zoo pass was still valid through the end of that month)! We love that zoo. Here is Noah looking at the savanna animals.
Noah and Lincoln eating cookies at the zoo.
Max and Mark.
Linc in the monkey exhibit. You go inside the enclosed exhibit and the monkeys can run all around and above you in the trees! You can see a little monkey in the distance behind Lincoln.
Noah with a monkey behind him too.
The monkey itself.
Time to head to Lincoln's favorite exhibit - the elephants!
Shauna and Josh. We love you guys!
Noah by a random palm tree at the zoo.
The Fairmont Princess Hotel held a public Christmas event that I read about, so we decided to go check it out. We didn't quite know what to expect, but wanted to do something Christmas-ish with the kids. There were gingerbread exhibits, Santa, and a Christmas tree that's lights were synced to music.
Who cares that they just saw Santa a week earlier...putting in their requests a second time can't hurt, right?
12/4 We were able to see a bunch of our friends from church! It was so fun to get to see everyone again!
Here is my friend Emily with Lincoln after church.
My friend Sarah and I after we stopped by to drop off our "wish" for their 100 good wishes quilt as they await being matched to adopt their baby girl from Taiwan.
Mark with our good friends Jayson and Dani (I love how they happen to be in the same pose - nice work, guys).
Jayson with Max.
The Howes - thanks for having us over!
12/5 We were able to connect with one of Noah's good friends from preschool (whose name is also Noah). They played and had a good time and Noah was so happy to get to see him and to be able to say goodbye.
Lincoln, Noah, Noah S., Molly.
12/5 While in Scottsdale Mark's aunt and uncle were nice enough to let us crash at their house. We feel so blessed to have been able to live so close to them and for our children to have gotten to know them! To the boys Ron and Diane were lovingly referred to as Diron. I guess that's kind of a Brangela thing? Anyway, here is Ron indulging Lincoln in looking up requested video clips...
And Diane was looking up information for Noah on various animals (he looks concerned that I may be informing him that his computer time is up)...
Ron and Diane with all three boys.
12/6 This is what lots and lots of driving looks like for a barely 4 year old:
Time to stop for a bite to eat...and we even talked Dad into some extra time for dessert!
And a series of pictures of Max because he was being so stinkin' cute!
A big part of our life in Scottsdale centered around swimming at the community pool next door to our house. Obviously we couldn't go swimming there in December, but instead I promised the boys that we would stay at a hotel with a pool on our vacation. So! We got an early start the day we left for home and drove all the way to Richfield, Utah where we stayed at the Holiday Inn! I got a good price on our reservation and it was actually pretty nice for being in a place that I consider the middle of nowhere. Anyway! Here are the boys heading to the hotel pool!
Max was only 5 weeks old when we left Arizona, so he actually never went swimming there. So this was his first time in a swimming pool!...