Birthday Portraits


Trying to get a good picture of a two year old is really hit or miss, so on her birthday, I was snapping my shutter basically nonstop, trying to get a good one. I think this one above takes the cake, but I think the rest these photos really show how much this young lady likes to move. She has been trying to teach herself to jump for months now, and finally she got acquainted with a trampoline, which has made all the difference. This weekend, she was basically jumping from dawn until dusk. On the trampoline, on the floor, on the couch, on the road. She didn’t even try to land on her feet. It seemed to be even more fun to pull up her knees, and land on her seat. And every second of in-the-air and hitting-the-ground was laughter.

And I guess if I had to sum up what Eliza is right now at two years old, she is just that: movement and laughter. She is always asking to go running, hiking, jumping, dancing, camping. She loves being outside and she loves building tents inside. She is an affectionate sweetheart, always asking how are you doing, did you have a good nap, did you have a good shower, did you have a good privacy, do you need a hug, do you need a bandaid? She knows what makes her feel good and valued and she is ever giving of that to others as well.

The birthday was spent at the Merkley cabin in Strawberry, AZ. Her British uniform from last year’s birthday doubled as her patriotic outfit for the 4th of July weekend this year. Last year we went strawberry picking on Eliza’s birthday, and we thought it was so great we should make it an annual birthday tradition. This year was in the town of Strawberry, so we’re calling it close enough.  She did get to do feed some animals on her birthday, which is probably Eliza’s second favorite activity, after feeding herself fresh strawberries. There were horses at a neighboring property and a goat and llama farm up the road.

She met lots of cousins and second cousins, many of whom I haven’t seen in years, and a few whom I met for the first time myself. Eliza still gets overwhelmed in crowds and is slow to warm up to people. This weekend in particular, she had some emotional breakdowns over sharing toys with a second cousin a year older than her.

But lots of cousins also made for a great chorus singing “Happy birthday” with cake and ice cream, and of course candles. She was talking about birthday cake for weeks afterward.















Matt and I also took advantage of the free babysitting and went on a hike of our own.  We got to this first vantage point and said we were going to hike through the valley to that point in the picture below where the cliffs pop out above the pines. So we did, and that’s where we took the final two photos, below.







Andrea’s Wedding


Two weeks in British Columbia was exactly what we needed this summer. For now I’m just going to slap up some pictures from the big event to share with the family, but hopefully we’ll get some more pictures of our Penticton adventures up on the blog soonish.

Eliza was the flower girl. She was handed a little bouquet right after the sealing, and by the time the bride and groom came out of the temple, she had already broken all the stems by swinging the flowers around like a paintbrush.

And Matt and I were invited to be the MCs at the reception because we are “funny and awesome.” I think we actually had a good time doing that too.

Anyway, it was a happy couple of days and it was so good to be back in Penticton (and Vancouver!) in the summer. Lots of good things to come for Andrea and Zak.





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A quick note and lots of pictures about the holidays

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The holiday season started out with a happy and warm Thanksgiving with a crowd in Tucson. Some friends from church, some friends from school. We all gathered together and ate our hearts out. The following weeks were filled with much caroling, decorating, and festivities in preparation for Christmas.

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On the solstice, we had a little family nativity and gift exchange. Eliza made a perfect little shepherd with her small flock of sheep. Eliza didn’t know what the date was anyway, and I finally got to have my quiet family Christmas that I’ve been dreaming about for years, so everybody was happy. You see, this was the year that I put my foot down and said I’m not traveling for Christmas, so Christmas in Arizona it was. But we ended up traveling to Mesa to be with all the family. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, because some of these siblings of mine don’t come around that often. But maybe next year it will be a quieter Christmas.

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We were lucky enough to get a few days with just my brother and my mom here in Tucson (more on that to come), but we also got to meet up with two more sisters in Mesa, my aunt, uncle and cousins, and Matt’s grandpa and great uncle at his cousin’s wedding in Gilbert. So there were family reunions all around! We really did enjoy our time with everyone. Eliza especially loves her baby cousin and frequently requests to see this picture (above) of the two of them together.

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Christmas morning, of course had lots of presents, sweets, and joy. Christmas night we went to see the lights at the Mesa Temple. And then we finished the year with a bang, welcoming 2015 at a house party with our good friends in Tucson. And lots of noise makers ;)


Mount Lemmon









The top of Mount Lemmon is a one hour drive from our house, up the Catalina Highway and through five different ecosystems, from saguaro cactus to pine trees.  We did one hike pretty soon after we moved to Tucson, and it was incredibly refreshing to escape the summer heat in the fresh mountain air.  It didn’t take long to get us camping up there too. This first night was at Spencer Canyon.  Eliza did surprisingly well, and we couldn’t wait to plan our next trip.

Fortunately, the next camping trip was planned for us.  We had a group of friends that decided to rent a group camp site at Showers Point, with 8 couples, and probably about 8 kids. This last snapshot is most of that group.

Our latest time up the mountain was a November hope to see some fall colors. Matt’s mom and sister came for a visit and wanted to see the scenic drive, hike the Butterfly Trail, and eat a cookie the size of your face at the Cookie Cabin.







The Mission

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Matt treated me to a surprise on my birthday, back in August. We got in the car and he said it would be about a half hour drive, but we would stop for breakfast on the way. I had no idea where we were going, but about half way there (and after many wrong guesses), I finally figured it out: the San Xavier Mission. He knows I’m a sucker for interesting architecture and religious sanctuaries.

We stopped for breakfast at La Estrella mexican bakery and got some hot, fresh tortillas and some sweet pastries, then continued on to the Mission. We had just enough time to shoot a music video to submit to the Mara Lake Family Talent Show before our tour. The Mission is on the Tohono O’odtham reservation and the tour was actually a great historical introduction to Tucson. We learned a lot about the Spanish influence and the history of this area.

Then we came home and feasted on fish tacos, because that’s what you do on birthdays.