We're Alive!!!

Geesh I have not blogged in a LONG time. Most likely because the last two months have been insanely busy. Everything from bed bugs to Disney World and everything in between. Definitely a lot has happened. I would love to go into detail about everything but that would probably take an incredibly long post which I know a lot of my family is not interested in reading through to the end. To start with though, back in October I was supposed to go to my sister Emily's house in Vegas. However, my neice on Topher's side got the swine flu and passed it along to Grace, who then unknowingly exposed all my brother's kids as well as my sister Dacia's little girl. All three of us and our kids were planning on traveling to Emily's house, but because we were all potentially sick and exposed to Swine Flu, the trip was cancelled. :(
We were so disappointed and sad, but, again, Heavenly Father demonstrated his all knowing and we were actually being given an answer to prayer. Those of you who have seen Grace at any point since EASTER, know that she has consistently had a rash. Not just any old rash either. It was terrible. Red, itchy bumps took over her entire face, neck arms, legs and sometimes her tummy. It was awful. She didn't even look like a beautiful little baby. She looked diseased, and sick and she would itch all the time and it was just awful. We had been to dermatologists, pediatricians, cardiologists and family doctors about the rash numerous times. Everyone who saw her had a different idea of what the rash might be, from chicken pox to rosacea. A dermatologist we like had prescribed a cream for her that would sometimes work, sometimes not. We had been praying for months that this rash would subside, or that we would be able to discover what was causing it...but we never thought the answer would come in the form of Swine Flu!
When Grace came down with the Swine Flu, I decided it was time for a deep cleaning of her room. I sanitize it frequently, wash the sheets frequently and lysol her toys a lot also. But I hadn't stripped her bed completely and washed the whole frame or the surrounding floor and walls in quite a while, so I decided I would do that to try and get her room really sanitary again.
I took off the blankets and pillows, then I went for the bumpers around her crib. I undid each tie around the posts of the crib, and found this...

not just one of this either...but in extreme numbers. Each tie of a post was undone only to unleash over 15 bugs that would scatter all over her bed. I remember being frozen in shock for a split second, and then I screamed, then I gagged, and then I cried. Bed bugs in my baby's bed! TONS of bed bugs in my baby's bed! Disgusting, creepy big bugs! It still gives me the heebeejeebies.
It was a horrible couple of days, however, we were so grateful that we were finally able to discover what was causing Grace's rash (which was in actuality bed bugs, eating my baby's flesh every night) and then put a stop to it.
Yes Grace got swine flu, as did Topher and I. But Grace was sick for a total of a day and a half. As soon as we found the bed bugs, and Topher and his Dad gave her a blessing, she was back to herself by that evening. So miraculous. Swine flu SHOULD have put her in the hospital. But all it did was serve as a means to an end. It was the only way I would have found those bugs, and so it was the only way Heavenly Father could answer our prayers.
We had an exterminator come that same night and spray the entire house. Curtis and Topher also took over 9 jumbo size garbage bags to the laundromat because the exterminating company said that any laundry around or near Grace's and our bed needed to be washed at extreme high heat to get rid of any possible bugs/eggs/feces.

It was an exhausting and upsetting couple of weeks what with cleaning and being sick. The day after we found the bed bugs, I came down with the swine flu, and the next day Topher did as well. However, we came to realize even more how very blessed we are with loving, helpful and supportive family and friends. Our "adopted" sister Francesca, AND her mom came over to our house the night we found the bed bugs and brought us dinner. They also took some laundry for us and then stayed to clean and sanitize different rooms in the house. Toph's dad came twice to give us all blessings. My adorable sister came and brought us about 10 bottles of juice and snacks and medicine. My sweet sister in law also came, bearing medicine and pie. She also took Grace in the days that followed so I could recuperate and clean. And my even dropped off soup and medicine. We felt very loved and are still so grateful that we had friends and family so willing to help. Thanks to all of you! You are wonderful!
After the laundry, coughs, fevers, and bugs had subsided, we were left with a destroyed house, which kept me too busy to ever post about the adventures we'd had.
Then came Halloween with my family, (my awesome sister even came up from Vegas!!) Grace was a "Fairy Witch". Topher and I decided she needed to be something that fit her personality. My sister's adorable angelic baby Ellie was being a fairy, and Daysh said we should do the same thing so they could be fairies together. But...you see, Ellie is angelic....Grace is destructo girl. So it didn't fit right. But when we added the adorable little witch part...it suited her just right. Adorable, yet sassy. My mom and I made the costume together, which was a blast, and it turned out so so adorable and fun.

A trip to my Mom's (including the Tetons)

Thanksgiving in St. George (which included a 5k with my whole family!! Dacia & Joe participated as well but left early to get dibs on the shower),

Thanksgiving in Preston and a Thanksgiving in Farmington (yeah...probably gained about 10 pounds that week)
and finally this last week...DISNEY WORLD (!!!) with my Dad, Karen and Rachel.

I am finally home again. And hopefully will be for a while. It would be nice to finally get my house in order and get back on a schedule.
Here's a couple of my favorite moments of late though...
In St. George there was a sweet garage sale...I got matching dresses for all the little Johnson girls, new shoes for me, and they had a stack of barbies and a barbie car. I asked "how much for all of this?" She answered "2 bucks for the whole stash." In my mind I was jumping up and down like a school girl, on my face I was the image of absolute maturity. So I bought them all for Grace, then went back to the St. George condo we had, and gave them all a bath in soap and lysol, washed their hair, brushed and styled their hair, dressed them with Barbie clothes I just happened to have in my trunk and then let Grace play with them. I only creeped out about every person that walked past the bathroom and saw me primping and styling my barbies. hahaha.
To put it simply, Grace has found a new love. And that's her barbies. She loves them, hugs them, kisses them, rocks them, puts them to sleep in a shoebox we fashioned into a bed and carries them around everywhere saying "baby baby". She is so cute.
Also, her newfound talent....snorting. She has always snorted if you get her laughing hard enough. And it was made me laugh hysterically. But she has finally reached that age where she loves to make me laugh, so she'll do it on command now, just to make people laugh.
I got this video of her for your viewing enjoyment. Sorry it's so dark, but the noises its what you want anyway.

She is so adorable and I love her so much. She was so good at Disney World. I Really wanted to go and I felt fine about taking her, but that didn't stop the worries and fretting over if she would scream the whole plane ride, or if she'd sleep and eat enough, or if I'd be able to keep her clean and healthy, but she was an angel. Or, at least, she was on her best impish Gracey behavior. She was still her sneaky mischievous adorable self, but she was so happy and energetic and sweet too. No tantrums (except when I took her off the carousel),
hardly any whining, she ate well, slept well and was just a joy to be with. It felt like a mommy daughter date that was too good to be true for 4 days. I loved it!

This is her on the carousel. It was easily her favorite ride. She loved being on it and each time I took her off the ride she would go nuts. I asked my brilliant dad to take a video of me taking her off the ride at the end because I just had to show Topher how much Grace loved it. Somehow...there was a communication break down between my Dad and myself. So when I handed him the camera, he thought it was recording. I thought it made sense that I just had the camera on the record setting...but not recording when the ride wasn't started yet, and I was handing it to my Dad...but that aside...the best tantrum thrown the whole trip...was not actually caught on video because Dad was not recording as he thought he was. So, she used up all her could fetal position screams and shaking in anger for nothing. So, when we went to put her on the ride AGAIN, she was a little less energetic. So, watch this video and then imagine her being three times as upset. Because that's what the norm was. :) Knees locked up against her chest, arms at her sides shaking, and screaming in distress. That was how powerful this little girl's love was for her horsie. haha

Her two new favorite words of late are "wee" and "side". She absolutely loves to swing and slide. This video is really cute, its her saying her two favorite words, and then also talking about ellie and dacia who were in the room with us. It was also a demonstration of her ability to clap for herself when she eats. Such an over achiever. Her favorite food is bananas and we clap when she eats, so she was trying to remind me to clap for her. When we were in St. George there was a little playground in the back yard of sorts, and the slide was all she ever wanted while we were there. Day in and day out, she would ask for it.

I love this picture of her on the carousel. It should have a title like "baby on cloud 9" or something.

When we tell her to smile, she goes "eeeeeeee" with this big cheesy grin.

Disney World was so neat with the Christmas decorations. The castle was all lit up in icicle lights that made it look so neat and frosted! It would change color too which was awesome.

Karen and I were the model of poise and maturity during our Disney vacation.

My dad, seriously, he needed a time out every now and then. Seriously.

Or maybe...its just that the picture of Karen and I is one of a series of pictures that became less and less poised and mature looking....hmmmm....
This is my favorite picture of her lately. Her skin is finally getting back to the baby softness that its supposed to be. And I just think she is so pretty and so adorable. I love those eyes and that perfect little nose. I just love this little girl so much!
Anyway...that's about all the time I have to post...so...although this is a very random post, I'm gonna be done now.
Just know that we are alive and well and having fun with our ever growing and adorable little Gracelyn. :)
I will try to post again soon! Thanks for keeping updated on our little family!


End of Summer At a Glance

Yesterday I finally gave up trying to find the cable for my camera. I ran to the store in my pjs with grace bundled up with me and got a card reader.
So, I had over 650 pictures to upload onto the computer and all of them were from the last 2 weeks of July to now! That's a lot of pictures. And all those pictures have a story behind them.
Since I knew it would take me months to tell all the stories of the rest of the summer, I decided to this instead. A quickie glance of our happenings. Perhaps later, I will be able to go more into detail on some of the events. Like Grace's Heart Birthday and how special it was to be with Topher's family. Or about our surfing adventures, and my actually being able to get up! Or maybe the very fun weekend at my mom's house where Grace discovered her wigs. There's also the amazing Girl's Weekend my sisters and I were able to pull off. Lots of beading, movies and good food. As well as a lack of personal hygeine. ;) But, since these all could merit a blog of their own, this will have to do for now. :)
For those of you who always want more pictures...ENJOY! This is just for you!
ANDDDDD....since I can't figure out how to make the collages show up on here bigger...click on them and it will take you to a larger view. :) I have text on them you won't be able to read unless you view it larger. :)

July had some fun outings. California with Austin. Girls Weekend with the ladies in St. George. Camping at Utah Lake with the Andersens. Kite Outings. I'd say we were home a total of 2 weeks...off and on.

Disneyland with the Andersens. Trips to see mom in Idaho. Again, a busy and VERY fun month!

September was slower since school had started up. We were able to get away for one fun weekend with Daysh and Joe though! We mainly went for the food....and the boat. ;)
Thanks for checking in!
Now that I have my camera AND a method of depositing pics. onto the computer, there will be many more pictures and posts to come!



Before your imagination gets carried away, no, none of our household was drunk. At least not literally. But in a manner of speaking? Perhaps.
I mentioned that Grace had her Biopsy in late August. Although it went really well, Grace's Dr. (Dr. Everitt) said they wanted a more clear picture of her ascending aorta, because the gradients/pressures were shown to be a bit uneven. They weren't particularly worried, but just wanted to be safe. So we scheduled a sedated echo for a month after her Biopsy. That was just a couple of days ago and boy oh boy, it was quite a day.
When Grace goes in for a sedated echo, she has to be fed differently beforehand, so I set an alarm on my phone for the day before, so I would remember to feed her differently. But, setting it the day early proved to be too early, as I had forgotten by the time her evening meal rolled around and promptly fed her a bottle. Her echo was supposed to be at 8:30a.m, but since she had the bottle the night before, we couldn't do the 8:30 echo anymore. Which was a bummer, because it would have been much easier to not feed her the night before and all night long. She doesn't typically wake for midnight snacks. But, our rescheduled echo time was 2:30... now I'd have to keep her hungry all morning and afternoon. I knew it would put her in great spirits for the echo... starving and mad. I tried to postpone breakfast as long as possible, and made sure we ate the same thing, so she couldn't ask for something else. Raspberry Jell-o and apple juice isn't the best breakfast in the world. But, oh well.
We got to the Dr. at 1:30 and she was angelic. Completely the opposite of how she usually behaves for echos. She is always kicking and screaming and sprawling all over, but this time she was so good!! She insisted on holding her baby doll, and she would rub its head and give it kisses and tell people around her to "shhhh" because baby was asleep. She was so sweet.
For the first 15 minutes.
The doctors felt like she was pretty cooperative, but not "still" enough, so they figured they would try to just give her half of the sedation dose. Just the feel of the medicine going into her vein sent her over the edge. Strange, I know, but its true. How she doesn't love cold liquid streaming through her arm is beyond me. She didn't like that feeling one bit. So, they had to give her the full dose, plus a dissociative, (relaxant). I had to hold her in my arms because no one could restrain her little body on the bed as she kicked, screamed, arched her back and tried to roll away from everyone. Holding her little body in my arms as different parts lost complete control was so hard!! She was fighting me with every fiber of her being, but was slowly losing control of her head, and her eyelids, and so on. Poor thing, even once her eyes were closed and she couldn't lift her head anymore she was still pushing against me. It took her a good 10 minutes until we could put her back on the bed, and even then, she continued to whimper in her sleep, just to show she was still protesting.
They said that most babies will stay asleep for 2 hours, and not to wake them early, because they will be very very grumpy. Since Grace can so easily have a mean streak, I really didn't want her to wake up early. However, I also knew that if Grace had any say in the matter she'd wake up the second her eyes could open, whether the rest of her body was ready or not.
And that's just what she did. Exactly 45 minutes after they'd administered the sedatives, and only 2 minutes after finishing the echo, she started to wake up. Go figure they were moving her upstairs in a bed, so her floppily trying to sit up in the bed was NOT a good thing. She smacked her head into the side railing, then on the oximeter and was just all over the place. When we got to the post-op floor she was writhing in my arms, with no head strength mind you, and her eyes rolled back into her head, and moaning loudly. Of course, for comic relief, she was doing all of this verrrryyyyy sllllooooooowwwlyyyyy. Sort of like someone had hit the slo-mo button. I would ask her a question, and she would nod "yes", but when she lifted her head up, it would roll back and stay for a second, then she'd push it forward, and it would roll way forward onto her chest and be stuck there until I held it against my chest. So I decided to stop asking her questions.
They got her a warm blanket (they have these amazing blanket ovens) and put it over her, she immediately responded with "aahhhhhht" "aaahhhhhht". "Yes baby, its hot, huh?" Then another nod of the head, locked backwards, and then locked forward. "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhht". It was so hysterically adorable, and sad at the same time!
Even though her eyes were still practically closed, she wanted to get down from my lap and walk around. They warned me she would be VERY dizzy, uncoordinated and to watch her very closely. I underestimated their meaning. She had NO coordination WHAT SO EVER.
So, back on to my lap she went, complaining, and moaning the whole time.
She tried to drink a bottle of juice, but drooled a lot of it out. Also very funny. And finally was happy with oreos. Most of the filling ended up up her nose, because she couldn't use her hands. She had a big band aid on one from the labs they drew, and an i.v. in the other one, (which means the cardboard up her hand) and so she had no control of her hands and where they were putting the cookie. So, up her nose they went. But she was happy anyway.
When they said we could be discharged from post-op and head downstairs for clinic, Grace was completely awake, but still very loopy.
But she insisted on walking. Gratefully, Topher was with us by this point and could help her. But, she didn't want any help. She wanted to walk and dang it, she didn't want Dad's help. He would try to hold her hand, and she would shove his fingers away from hers, and begin to walk. She couldn't put one foot in front of the other without tripping over it, and couldn't walk even one step straight. She swayed this way and that, tripped over this foot and then the other one. Fell over, then tried to get up and fell back wards. Then cried for help, and started all over again. But she didn't lose her grip on the Oreos in her hand.
The rest of clinic had to be performed in the hallways of Cardiology because she was not about to sit on some hospital bed in a hospital room. She was done sitting. She wanted to be walking around putting on her best impersonation of a tipsy 18 month old. Everyone that saw her laughed hysterically. Her Doctor could barely get out a sentence before having to pause and just laugh at Grace's attempts to walk without tipping over.
When they sent us home they said she would need constant supervision, and that she would be grumpy and clumsy at least until the next morning.
She slept on the way home and another 40 minutes once we got home. When she woke up and I went in to get her out of bed, she was leaning her arms and head against the railing of her bed, crying. But, she was crying very slowly, and in a much lower tone than usual. It was crying in slow motion! Once she saw me, she gave me a crooked smile, reached her arms up for me.....and fell backwards into her bed.
I pulled her little body up, and took her into the living room, where she of course, just wanted down. I put her down......and she fell over into the movie case. So, I decided to just put her in her spot on the couch. I tucked her as far back as she goes, put pillows around her and put a movie on. In the time it took me to lean away from the couch and push play, she had tried to turn around and climb off the couch. Instead, she managed to fall off the couch and land on her back. So, I propped her up, between the couch, and the coffee table, while I went to push play again. This time.....she fell over side ways, hitting her head on the coffee table leg, AND the chaise. And since she never cried after any of her falls (she just looked very, very confused each time she fell), Topher and I didn't have to feel guilty for chuckling.... perhaps even laughing hysterically. each time she tipped over.
The poor thing had such a hard night. On top of the clumsiness she was also EXTREMELY grumpy. So, it was a good thing there were things to laugh at every once and a while, or we might have gone crazy with such a grump on our hands.
Anyway, I just had to post about this. As I've said before, this is a form of journaling for me, and I don't want to forget how hysterically cute she was that whole day.
I wish more than anything I had had my camera. Pictures wouldn't have done the day justice, but video for sure would have. But, alas, its still at my sister's. However, they said these sedated echos will be a twice a year occurrence...so next time, I am GOING to have my camera in hand, ready to capture my stubborn and tipsy Grace.


Grace is 18 months old!

I know I haven't finished my California Dreamin' posts, however, I still can't find my camera cable, and now, to further the situation, I've left my camera at my sister's house. So, it may be a while before my trip diaries are completed.
But, since this is a form of journaling for me, I couldn't let another day go by without mentioning that my baby is 18 months old!! On the 18th, actually. So, I'm a little late. But, that's nothing of a surprise.
Grace never ceases to amaze me. She is constantly growing and changing, and very slowly, she is turning into a little toddler. I no longer feel like I can call her my baby. Babies are not as active, energetic, affectionate, silly or stubborn. She has always had a strong personality. No one can dispute that. She has definitely had all the same characteristics since she was born, but she can express them much more now.

She is into EVERYTHING, and I don't even try to keep up with her anymore. She makes messes faster than I even find them. Such as this morning, she found my food coloring. Let me just say that the cupboard the food coloring was in, was supposed to be baby proofed. She found a way around that. Found a way to get the lid off the food coloring and proceeded to turn her face green. Only once I saw her did I also see that she'd emptied out all my pancake mix onto the floor, the nesquik mix, the plastic cups, (now placed strategically AND individually all over the kitchen floor), the cereal, and the crackers. Along with everything being on the floor, she also had a handful of said foods in each hand, and lumps in each cheek.
What joy.
Honestly though, I wish I could have put on a straight face and scolded her, just so she'd know I meant business. But all I could do was laugh. So I turned and walked away so she wouldn't see me laughing hysterically at her mischief.
When I came back she had a look of such elation. Grinning from ear to ear, but at the same time, pausing every couple seconds to look at me for confirmation that she wasn't in trouble.
See, that is why I can't call her my baby anymore. Babies don't make that much of a mess!! Only toddlers on their way to being terrible twos.
Some other new things Grace is learning, is how to spin in a circle when she dances. She has always loved dancing, shaking her hips and such, but the spinning in a circle is definitely a new acheivement. Of course, I should mention she gets thrown off balance before a whole rotation and usually runs into an adjacent wall or falls down. But it is adorable to watch none the less.

She also has started trying very hard to take care of her baby dolls. She rocks them, puts blankets on them, tells us "shhh", becuse they're sleeping, and carries them all over the house. She also is trying not to bite their fingers and toes as much anymore, (I think this is because she bit her cousin Ellie's toes the other day, and Ellie didn't like it so much).
She wants to watch movies, ALL THE TIME. It used to be that when we got her up in the mornings, she wouldn't leave us alone until she was fed. She would grab our faces, pull them towards her and tell us hungry in sign language REPEATEDLY until we got out of bed and to the kitchen.
Now, she gets in bed with us and yells "Wa! Wa! Wa!" (To mean Watch of course) We tell her to pick out a movie, and she brings us one, exclaiming again "Wa! Wa!" We of course like to repeat this sequence a few times, to give ourselves a few more minutes to snooze while she is putting one movie back and picking a new one. But she is constantly wanting to watch movies. Yes, sadly, she may be becoming a couch potato. Although, she only watches any given movie a maximum of 15 minutes, then she wants a different one, or some food.
She hugs, kisses, tickles and blows raspberries on EVERY BABY SHE SEES. And this includes PICTURES of babies. It's a bit awkward when I don't even KNOW the victim of a baby, or their parental units, and I then have to apologize for my daughter's over excessive display of affection.
One thing that has completely changed is her favorite food. That's not to say she doesn't still like oreos, cheese and berries. However, none of these match up to Bananas. She can down an entire 'nana' in about 5 minutes. With oreos, she has discovered how to twist them to separate top from bottom, and she now just licks out the cream filling. Smart girl that Gracey. I didn't even teach her how to do that!!

Anyway. That is my girl. She is adorable. And a large majority of the time, she is a big pain in the pants. But I love her to pieces. Sometimes I feel like all I'm doing is feeding her, giving her a place to sleep and changing her diapers. But then she does little things, without being prompted, to show me that I might just be teaching her some things. Like wanting to say prayers at night, listening to her primary lullabys, saying please, thank you, and sorry, giving hugs and kisses to people that come or go, and sometimes just knowing when I need her to calm down and just let me hold her. Those are the moments I can console myself with thinking that maybe, just maybe I'm doing a few things right.

Anyway. Thanks for reading! Grace is growing fast into a healthy, strong, beautiful, and happy little daughter of God and we are so thankful for her and the time we've been blessed to have with her. Thanks for checking in on us and for all the love and support!
By the way, my apologies for all the pictures being so out dated. Once I get my camera back, and the right cable, I'll be sure to post plenty of pictures of our beautiful girl. She has definitely changed a lot!


California Dreamin'

California was definitely a theme for us this Summer. We visited the great Golden State a total of FOUR times this Summer. Which, maybe for some of you isn't much, but in my opinion, that's a LOT! Sea World was the first, and I have already posted about that, the Reunion was the second, and I have also posted about that. The 3rd was our Celebrate Little Brother Austin trip. Where we went to California for the sole purpose of lounging on the beach. In all honesty however, Austin got burned our first whole day there, and didn't want to go back after that. Haha! Instead, we relaxed in the Hotel, re-applying aloe vera every couple of hours. Ha! Good times. We did in all actuality spend most of the time at the beach, it just wasn't quite what I imagine Austin had expected.

We drove down to Las Vegas on a Thursday after Austin got off work. We were worried about the long drive, but Austin managed to keep Grace entertained with his....um....im not sure what to call it. Yes, that's saran wrap. But don't ask me where he got it. I didn't give it to him...
But it entertained Grace. She managed to entertain him quite a bit too. Then they wore each other out and ended up like this.
We arrived quite late at my sister's lovely abode and crashed there for the night. The next morning we left relatively early to finish the drive towards Seal Beach/Long Beach. We just had to make one short pit stop along the way.

Yup. A Surf Board. Neither of them had ever surfed. But, it was only 50$! So they decided it was worth it to try and teach themselves.
Austin and Topher had arranged to take some kiteboarding lessons while down there, so once at the beach, Austin got right into his lesson. When he wasn't worried about how his muscles were showing up on camera, he did a really good job. hehe
Topher had already taken the first lesson (see Hood River post) and so he busied himself with skim-boarding, and perfecting the art of face planting in the waves. I'd say he got it pretty down pat. The video gets funnier each time you watch it by the way...
So, that was our first evening in Seal Beach. The next morning we went to a local Beach where Topher and Austin tried out their new Surf Board, and where Austin learned just how much you get fried from falling asleep on the Beach and refusing Alysia's offers of sunscreen. Lobster. That is the word I'm using to describe Austin's back, arms, neck, legs after his little nap.
Grace also took a nap on the Beach and that gave me lots of uninterrupted reading time. yay!
I would LOVE to finish this post...however i can't find my camera cable anywhere to get the pictures onto the computer...so...that is the first 2 days of our trip, and as soon as I find a way to get the pictures on the computer, you will get the last 2 days. As well as our last few trips of the Summer.
On another note, Grace had her biopsy last Friday. She had her Heart Birthday on August 21. And she is doing better than anyone ever could have hoped for. The Biopsy went well, really well. The results came back great, no rejection and we are thrilled.
I have tons of things to post about, but no pictures to include, so hopefully soon that will change.
Thanks for checking in!


Summer Re-Cap Anyone?

I looked at a calendar this morning and saw that school starts in 4 weeks.  That's when it dawned on me: Summer is almost over.  Let me just say that again for emphasis.  SUMMER IS ALMOST OVER! Can you believe that?  It's quite depressing for me.  Not because I LOVE summer time and will miss barbecues and holidays and the incessant heat...no.  But because Summer is when I get to spend the most time with my husband, my family, and on vacations.  I will definitely miss the vacations and constant companionship of Topher. 

Along with the realization that Summer is almost over, came the realization that I haven't posted about a single trip we've had this Summer!  And there have definitely been a few.  In fact, I feel like one or the other of us hasn't been home for longer than two weeks at a time! 

So...I will post about our first major trip of the Summer (excluding of course the California/Sea World/Disney Land Trip... that came first) Anywho...The First Trip of the Summer was for my extended family's Reunion.  We have one every other year and they are always huge, loud, hectic, far away ....and lots of fun.  This one didn't feel quite as crazy, but it was definitely still all of the other things!  The reunion was held in Grant's Pass, Oregon, and for us was going to be about a 13 hour drive.  Not really the most appealing factor when you have a 15 month old who'd rather have her blood drawn than sit in her car seat for even five minutes.  So, we decided to break the drive up into sections.  A LOT of sections.  We left a full 4 days before the reunion even started so we'd have plenty of time to get there.  We also purchased Harry Potter Book 6 on CD so we'd have something fun to listen to/do on the way there and back.

The first day our plan was to make it to Caldwell Idaho, right on the border of Idaho and Oregon.  However, thanks to Harry Potter and Jim Dale's captivating reading performance, we got so distracted we ended up an hour and a half into Oregon before we noticed we'd completely missed our exit.  Good thing we had decided NOT to make reservations at that campsite! So, we hunted for a campground, ANY campground, and finally found a state recreation area around 11 o'clock and set up camp there. 

We woke up to an obnoxious 5:45 a.m. sunrise and cows mooing in what seemed way too close of proximity to our tent. Silver lining, we got an early start.  So we continued on to our next destination of Hood River way ahead of schedule. :) Topher has always wanted to learn Kite Boarding, and Hood River is known for ALWAYS being windy and has about 6 different companies offering kite boarding lessons. 

Our campsite was across the Columbia River from Hood River and was a really fun stay for us.  It was literally right on the shore of the River, but between us and the river was a railroad track.  A very, very, very regularly used railroad track, where Trains were going every hour on the hour, in both directions, and having to blow their whistles each time they approached the bridge....also right next to our campground. As you can imagine...we didn't get much sleep.  Not just because it was noisy, but because Grace would absolutely lose it each time the train would come past.  It really was not even a rock's throw away from us, and it scared her so so badly.  Poor thing.  She would just crumple into tears and huddle between our legs sobbing each time it went.

Other than the trains, the campsite was really clean and well kept, and we were 1 of only 2 people camping there.  So it was very private and nice.  It also had the really nice, clean bathrooms and showers.  They only cost 25 cents for every two and a half minutes!!

We wandered around down town Hood River almost the whole afternoon, just going into all the kite and bike shops, and boutiquey toy stores.  It's an awesome location and a lot of fun, sort of like a downtown Jackson.  

We decided just because we were camping didn't mean we had to eat canned Tomato Soup, so we went out and bought steaks, mashed potatoes, veggies, kabobs, and all the supplies/utilities needed to make a good dinner.  I grilled steaks on the little campsite grill and made mashed potatoes and vegetables with our newly purchased camping stove and we had an awesome dinner together.

The next morning was Topher's kiteboarding lesson.  It was plenty windy and Topher had a blast learning the tricks of the trade.  He was a natural at everything and picked up 3 lessons worth of material in less than 2 hours.  He just didn't have the energy to try getting up on the board after 4 hours of kiting and body dragging in the choppy Columbia River.  

After Topher's lesson we headed for the Columbia River Gorge to meet up with my siblings who had finally caught up to us on our way to Grant's Pass.  We did a couple of hikes along the way and had a lot of fun watching Grace interact with all her cousins who she absolutely adores.   I couldn't resist these pictures of Gavin and Anya that I took.  Even if their mothers don't love em', I just love these pictures.  They are both so perfect and innocent looking in these pictures!

We even all went out to dinner at Red Robin to celebrate my brother's Birthday!  It was 9:30 at night, but hey, that's standard for Johnson family dinners anyway. :)

e stayed at my wonderful Aunt Sheila's house for the night, went to a Ward in her neighborhood the following Sunday morning and then continued on towards Grant's Pass.  Topher's family has done numerous vacations along the Oregon Coast, and as a result of these he loves the Pacific Coast Highway.  It goes right along the Ocean front and so we couldn't miss taking this route to our next destination of Umpqua Lighthouse State Park.  It was definitely the "scenic" route, and not just for the views, but also because it took much longer.  But it was worth it just to see the smile of contentment on Topher's face the second the Ocean came into view. 


Even though the reunion didn't start until Monday Evening, nearly the entire family had gotten tent sites that Sunday night at Umpqua and so we pretty much started the reunion a day early. We got to the campsite relatively late in the evening but still had a lot of fun camped right in the middle of my siblings and among all my cousins and Aunts/Uncles.

The next morning we went to the Beach where Topher flew his kite, we played in the sand, ate sand, ate food with sand in it, and tried to keep from eating our hair as well.  It was a really beautiful beach, and we did have fun...but I've decided if a beach is "perfect" for flying Topher's kite, than it's not perfect for Grace and I to play.

The days of the reunion have kind of blurred together for me because we didn't do any of the big family events. (Topher was a lame-o head and didn't want to...don't get me started on why not...I don't know!)  Everyone else went Rafting, Zip-lining...and we always stayed back at the Lodge...with practically no company.  :( 

 We did have fun, don't get me wrong, but most of our fun was at night when people were actually there, or related to my brother-in-law Joe's having brought his awesome dirt bikes.  I loved riding his little 50 around.  So what if my 6 yr. old nephew can ride it too?  It's still fun! Even Emily got in on the action, and that's saying something. ;) In other happenings,  my sisters and I made a big dinner for everyone and that was a lot of fun.  The girls all did a card exchange.  We played a huge game of Family Jeopardy where everyone got in on the debates that ensued after every. single. question.  We did our routine Johnson Family Photo session...and I was amazed by how little arguing there was in comparison to years past, as well as how much FASTER we were than in years past! Only two hours vs. the usual 4 where everyone is yelling in exasperation that they're going to leave if one more person says, "oh wait, my camera too!"  *sigh*  Thank goodness for Alan and his declaration that his would be the only camera, and he the only photographer. 

Topher and I did branch off one afternoon to go do a little hike that was down across town.  It was supposed to be a "Botanical" walk that showed all the different terrains and climates across Washington.  I was a bit skeptical at the start...everything was dead..and we were going over bridges where there was nothing but a dry rock bed.  But I was soon in love with the little Botanical Nature Walk.  There were sections that looked like rain forests, high meadows, pine forests...

I of course loved all the sections where there were waterfalls, esp. because they were all relatively small and we could climb on them and get Grace really up close and personal to them.

The Lodge that my Dad and his siblings found for the Reunion was great, and so fun for us all to spend time at and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with everyone.

For our drive home we decided to try and stick with my siblings.  They were going to head to Crater Lake and the Redwoods and we thought both these options sounded like a lot fun.    

We did a hike down to the lake and that was quite the adventure.  Nearly straight down, the hike was said to take approximately an hour to an hour and a half.  We discovered by the end of the hike, that this was 15 minutes for the way down, and an hour for the way back up! 

The next day we did another waterfall highway type of drive and that was just awesome.  We stopped by 3 or 4 different waterfalls, (we would have gone to a lot more...but we had a very avid nature photographer who needed at least 50 shots from every angle ;) ) we took the little walks or hikes to each one and just really enjoyed the scenery and being together.   

I am always floored when I hang out with my siblings.  I know they are my best friends, and I know I love to be with them.  But then, when the time comes, and we are all together, I am overcome with how much I absolutely LOVE to spend time with them.  I feel very blessed to have my family be my closest friends and even more blessed to have gotten to spend so much time with them this Summer.

Anyway...I am getting side tracked.  After our waterfall scenic highway evening...we stayed in a hotel all together that was actually an hour NORTH of Grant's Pass. (This is opposite the direction we were wanting to go to get home...) Yes...we planned this.  I just didn't realize how big of a detour we were really taking.  A whole 2 days of traveling just to end up an hour North of where we started.  I'd say its worth a chuckle.  Even if it was "planned". 

The plan for the next day was to head toward the Redwoods.  And again, Harry Potter messed up our plans and we ended up way past our destination.  So much so, that we would have to drive an extra 2 hours back the way we came to meet up with my siblings again...or we could continue on towards home.  As much as neither of us wanted to miss the Redwoods, Grace was starting to act sick, and neither of us was feeling all that great either.  So, we decided to head home.  A little depressing, but we were getting a little home sick anyway.  We drove all the rest of the day without stopping until we got to Reno, where we stayed at a Ramada my Mum and Sam had recommended.

The next day, we all felt pretty congested and sick so we drove all the way home.  No stops at lake Tahoe or anywhere else scenic for that matter...just all the way home.  Where we of course drove right past the exit for our house and went straight to the Andersen's for Gracey to see her Grandma and Grandpa whom she hadn't seen in nearly three weeks. :)  We went home late that night, and it was so very wonderful to be home in our own beds.  Granted, Grace only gave us a total of 4 days before we were in the Hospital with her nasty virus and dehydration.  Maybe that counts as a vacation too...?

Are you still with me?!! If you are...I'm impressed.  You just made it through the entire long, and drawn out recapitulation of our Washington/Oregon Summer Vacation.  Stay Tuned for our next post California Dreamin'.  All about the next trip of our summer...to guess where? Yup. California.