Wednesday, February 27, 2008 ;
11:59 AM
Feb 23

It was a warmer Sat this weekend, so the kids went out to play. Ds1 rode his bike with Dh and ds2 played on our swings.

In the evening, we set off for SLC's Energy Solutions Arena for our live NBA match. Utah Jazz vs Atlanta Hawks. Initially wanted to buy LA Lakers vs Jazz but tickets were all sold out.

We were really excited about it. Some background here: I think I started liking basketball in Pri Sch. Used to buy those NBA cards too. I even played basketball till I fractured my forefinger on my right hand in Pr Sch before. The school teacher called my mom, who had to take me to the school clinic in Outram for an X-ray. Even though the finger hurt a lot, it felt nice to miss the rest of the day in school, I still recall vividly, haha.

In Sec School, I tried to joined Basketball, but due to the CCA selection system in place, I wasn't allowed to join the sport I liked, but instead was arrowed to Volleyball and Netball instead. I didn't dribble the ball as good as others, I think. My piano teacher cautioned that Volleyball will be injurious to the wrists, and so I joined Netball in the end. Fortunately, I enjoyed it a lot.(I later quit Netball because my 3rd lang classes at MOELC (then at Newton) clashed with Netball practices, and I wanted to do 3rd lang more. 3rd lang classes had guys too. haha.)

After that, I didn't play bb much. Mostly just during PE or interclass matches. Occasionally, I'll watch a match. I do remember that Shaquille O'Neal made an appearance at the new Ngee Ann City when I was in Sec 3? And me and friends went there to take a look. :-) We rode the escalator up and down just to see him play at the basement square just outside Takashimaya. Crowd too large to see him at ground level.

A few close church friends became very good at bb. Lawrence and Daisy for example. I watched both of them play and went to a match supporting Daisy's team. Brought some Taiwanese friends crazy about bb along as well. Daisy also was good enough to get into the national team.

Then when I became a teacher at hc, my good friend happened to be the coach of the bb (girls) team, and she asked me to try and get the teacher-in-charge post. I thought usually it belonged to the PE dept, but I did write it as my choice and got it. Those 2 years(?) were really exciting, because I got to see the girls training and competing so frequently. Daisy happened to be in the RJ team then, and they were our arch rivals. :-)

Anyway, so now we're here, I told Dh we have to go for a live match! It was kind of expensive if you buy a single ticket. If you go for the season tickets, they're more than half price per ticket, but of course you spend more in total. One would be good enough, since we don;t have much time left.

The match started at 7pm and we arrived at around 6.30pm. Parking lots were already 3/4 gone. We entered and realised they have pre-game entertainment, but nevermind. We were still early enough to get the souvenir giveaways. They were giving out Utah Jazz umbrellas this weekend. We could only get one per family though, but I saw families who came earlier having one each (i.e. even their little kids get one). After that, I noticed that the match between Jazz and Supersonics had a full-sized Jazz NBA basketball as giveaways and later on I checked online and all tickets were already sold out. Hmmm, do they snap up tickets because the giveaway is good, or do the organisers give away something of higher value if the match is sold out?

Just a couple after us, the umbrellas were gone already. So, we got there just in time.

We got to our seats and Dh went to buy dinner. The standard staple at games -- hotdogs, burritos, popcorn, soda.

Both teams were already warming up. There was loud and upbeat music, so both ds got very excited too. Arena was well-designed, so despite us sitting way up there, and in the corner, we still had a good view. Below's a pic of the arena, and the screen where we get to see close up shots.

Above shows them stretching and warming up.

Above left: Dh tucking into his Chicago hotdog. Not bad, it was very yummy.

Above right: the start of the game. 1st quarter.

I had explained some parts of the game to ds1 before that, and he was really engrossed. I was glad ds2 enjoyed himself a lot too. Mainly cos he liked the music, the action, the cheering, and he had this mini pom pom (above) which he kept swaying. He also followed everyone. If they shouted "De-fence! D-fence!" then he'll shout too. If they cheered and clapped wildly, he did too. He also liked the Jazz mascot a lot, the bear. Whenever the bear came out, he'll exclaim excitedly.

The bear came out very often, every time-out, half-time, break... etc. Most times he'll give out freebies. They'll use a catapult to shoot all kinds of memorabilia up to the spectators. Sometimes tees, jerseys, or small balls. Ds1 wanted them so much, he shouted, stood up, raised his arms and cheered whenever the bear turned our way, just like some around us. haha. He didn't get any of course, he was much shorter. :-)

The game itself was very exciting, especially the 2nd and 3rd quarters. That's why I didn't take any videos or pics after the 1st quarter. 1st quarter Jazz was leading, but by 2nd qtr, both teams were even or within 2 points of each other. That continued till the 3rd qtr. Only in the 4th qtr did Jazz pull ahead, and then we knew they would win. Final score was something ard 104-96? Can't remember.

Boozer (guy's last name, ok?) was Jazz' highest scorer.

Dh and I cheered loudly too, we just got into the game naturally. Jazz supporters outnumbered Hawks' fans inevitably, this being a home game, but the family sitting just next to us are Hawks' supporters. We noticed that very early on, of course, because when we cheered, they were silent, and when we were quiet, they clapped. They didn't cheer loudly though. Possibly because they were subdued by the sheer numbers of Jazz people. Those behind us, especially, had a lot of swear words and other things to shout about, whenever the referee called a foul or penalty. They were too ardent supporters of Jazz. They booed really loudly too.

Shutting our ears to that, we had a really great time. So enjoyable that we started looking for other matches we could attend, but later decide we shouldn't commit, because we still don't know when exactly we will need to fly to China.

The clip below shows the Jazz team about to start the game and cheering among themselves. Also shows the cheerleaders doing their stuff.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

11:46 AM
Feb 22

Wasatch Young Professionals Dinner and Game night

It was held at the church building. When we got there, punctually, only Ben and Cassie were there. So we set up what we brought for the potluck dinner -- salad and fried rice (2 kinds). After a while, Chris and Elaine turned up, then others came, like Tabitha with her cute baby who is almost 1 yr old. And a special group from Logan Church of Christ. They had about 6-7 in their group who joined us. I think they had to drive at least 1hr to get to us. Glad they did join us, cos they brought so many fun games along. haha.

Dinner first. I think the only filling stuff was from Chris and us. Chris brought pizza. Elaine brought yummy pumpkin bread and choc cake. The rest brought drinks or chips. Initially, I thought maybe the fried rice won't be enough then, but surprisingly, so many adults ate and were full. Good!

Then the fun part. We decided on Cranium first, cos it would involve all of us. After that we could then split up. We also decided to form groups that were mixed, ie must have some from Logan and some from Wasatch, so we can get to know each other better. This is the group pic below:

My team comprised of only 3 members- myself, Elaine and Matt (Logan). The empty space you see right where the camera angle is facing, that's my seat. They decided on teams by the sides of the table, and we happened to be sitting on the short side. The long sides had 4 or 5 on the team. Tabitha said her team had 5.5 members, one inside her. I wonder if she's joking or if she's really expecting again! :-)

Dh was on the other short side of the table, so his team had 3 members too.

Initially I thought "oh dear, our group would be severely disadvantaged". What with only 3 members' talents to tap on and with me not knowing most of the American stuff (songs, singers, history and other trivia).

Guess what, we won! Thanks to Elaine's talents and Matt's super ability at throwing the die. haha.

For those who love pictionary and Taboo (as I do), you will love Cranium too. I would buy the international edition or a Singapore edition should they come up with one in the future. The USA one is a little too "out" for us, some of the trivia would be stuff we never ever heard before.

How do we play this game? In brief, there are 4 types of cards. The Word Worm ones (yellow color) include MCQs to guess definition of words, asking you to unscramble words in a phrase, filling in the blanks etc to get the answer and even to spell words backwards.

The Star Performer ones (Green color) require the selected member to mimick a famous star, hum the tune or act out the clue (like charades).

The Data Head "trivia" (red color) ones have a character or something where the chosen member has to say clues (like Taboo) without mentioning names or places. These were the mainly US-centric ones, so anyone outside of US will have some problem. I only knew a few characters out of all those we tried -- Queen Elizabeth and Louis Armstrong.

The Creative Cat (blue color) had people drawing out the clues (like pictionary), sculpting them out using playdoh/ clay (very fun!) or sensosketch (draw with eyes closed!).

Above left: that's Dh's team mate sculpting away (can't see the playdoh very well)

Above right: When a Club Cranium card is drawn, all groups get to play. This was a Club Cranium acting card.

It was super fun. I enjoyed every part of it. Hilarious moments too. Especially when there was a Club Cranium and you see others acting, humming or drawing, and then you compare, say, the drawings. Like the doodles for "clothesline". Haha, someone's doodle of a tee shirt looked like a dog to his teammates, for eg. And Chris had to sculpt "grass" on the clay, and he did a great job, pinching grass out of the clay, but no one could guess it. Over here, someone would have guessed "Durian". :-)

What were the kids up to while we were having our adult games?

Below: ds2 in one of the Sunday school classrooms, playing with the toys there.

Then, ds1 wanted to play Blokus (another strategy game the Logan group brought) and they kindly lent him. Both ds ended up playing with that for a long time. Good thing! (below)

Tabitha's baby was crawling all over the place, and for sometime, she sat on my lap too, while we were playing the game. Ahhhh, so nice to carry a baby. When she got cranky, Tabitha fed her some chips.

That was how we parents get to play our games even with the kids around. I acknowledge that I had an easier time, since my kids are older. But I tried to help out with other babies whenever I can. I carried her while Tabitha got her food, for eg. Although, her baby is really good, so it wouldn't matter if I didn't help too. She'd get by just crawling around. I recall both ds weren't like that at all. Always clingy and I had to carry them most of the time when we are out. So thankful those days are over.

In fact, I was talking to dh after the games, and we think this is the first time I've been able to spend a couple of hours just enjoying myself over a full game. Since the kids were born, that is.

I have played a couple of Taboos and pictionaries with friends, either at my place after a BBQ or at theirs, or at church. But normally the games would be interrupted by a nursing session or when the kids would cry and I just have to carry them and walk around. Now, finally, they have grown up. Ahhhh...

After the Cranium game, they split up into several groups. Some played Scrabble, some played Blokus. Ds1 played with Dh, and 2 others from Logan. Dh said he could hold his own, although he was losing the 2nd round when the adults got the hang of thinking up more complicated strategies to win. I don't care who wins, I just like the idea of ds1 playing group games, learning to take turns, and to be a good sport, even if he loses. So I am happy. (below)

I decided to clean up, cos it was getting late, so I washed up the dishes and the area. I think I was the oldest female there, so I felt responsible for the cleanliness of the church building. hehe. Didn't think I would finally have this role huh?

This finally, is a video clip of a humdinger: humming a song to the rest of the group. This was the very first part of the game, so not everyone has warmed up yet. The rest of the game was much wilder and funnier. But I didn't take any clips after the start. Got too engrossed in my game. :-)

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

10:07 AM
Feb 21

Fire House Field Trip

They learnt about fire rescue people, mail carriers and other professions in the past weeks. Now is the time to see them in action!

ds1 had been to a JBC excursion long ago, when I was 9 months pregnant with ds2. That was to the fire station in Spore and he got to ascend up the long ladder with my mom. Of course, when I asked him if he remembered that, he replied in the negative. That's why taking pictures of them when they are young is so important. I can bring it out and show him, there you go, that's you! :-)

ds2 tagged along, and we arrived at school to pick him up and proceed to the fire house which was nearby. When all the parents, teacher and kids in tow met up again, we entered the Fire House and were met by a friendly officer Brian. That's the first introduction talk he (and a paramedic) gave below, with the attentive kids.

A shot (below) of the moms and one dad who went too. I like to see some dads once in a while. In Spore I'd never have met any dad on a field trip. In fact, probably very few moms too. Ok, maybe I won't even be allowed on the trip with ds2 in tow. humph.

Below left: the paramedic putting on full fire protection gear, with mask, air tank and fire retardant suit. he also demonstrated the beeping alarm or detection signal that would go off should something go awry, either with the equipment or himself. (recall prev post on fire safety at the Discovery Center, the fire chief said the same thing)

Below right: Demonstrating the flashing lights and siren, then letting the kids sit up there in the driver's seat, experiencing how it is like to be a firefighter. I thought that was super fun, but ds1 was not interested in sitting up there. He was very interested and attentive whenever Brian was talking and demonstrating something, but he refused to join in any of the "experience it" segments that day. Don't know why. But of course, I just let him be.

Above left: maybe this is why younger siblings are not allowed sometimes. ds2 was happier running up and down the grill-covered drain in the garage. He then tripped over a slightly raised grill cover (uneven ground) and then proceeded to cry (just for a few secs). But that was distracting enough. Fortunately I was able to quickly stop his crying. And the kids happen to be trying out the fire engine then.

Above right: Another longer and larger engine, well stocked with all kinds of equipment and supplies. Brain showed them to the kids. And then they wanted to sit on this engine too, so they all took turns again. Except ds1 of course.

Above right: we were then given a tour of the fire station itself. Shown their meeting room, lounge, kitchen and then this, their sleeping quarters. Actually I wanted to take a pic of their beds, but thought maybe that was too much of an invasion of privacy, so I didn't. Anyway they were all very neat. Each bed and closet and area around them was enclosed and separated by the dividers, as you may see some in this pic. In each area, they sometimes personalise their space. I saw different kinds of chairs/ couches and swivel chairs. Various personal belongings. And I saw a whole stack of magazines on the bedside table in one cubicle. The top magazine was Men's Health with a super hunky half-naked guy with rippling muscles on the cover. :-)

After that, the station's fire truck returned, and Brian took us to the garage to see the truck. On the way down, he showed us how firefighters slide down the pole to save time (in an emergency). He also carried some kids as they wanted to try it out. That was real fun. I would have tried if I was not at this age and having the status of a mom. :-) See video clip below.

He explained the difference between a fire truck and a fire engine. A fire truck carries water, and can put out fires using the water, without the need for external sources of water.

A fire engine does not carry water, but has all the other equipment, like the long ladder. It needs to be hooked up to the fire hydrant to put out fires though. A fire truck does not carry the ladder and is much shorter in length.

After that, he brought us to the reception area and let us listen to the emergency warning and alarm that would be broadcast when a call came in and they had to be dispatched/ despatched (forgot which form is British and which am I supposed to used?). Refer to video clip below.

Then he was so nice to give out firemen hats to each kid, badges (stickers) and coloring books (haven't received ours yet, perhaps not enough to go around). ds1 loved the hat. ds2 had one too.

Above left: ds1 pretending to put out fires the same day, at home in the afternoon.

Above right: the badge that reads " Junior firefighter, SLC Fire Dept".

Sorry, haven't figured out how to turn my videos upright. Anyway, this video clip shows the sample emergency call to ready all the firefighters. First the lights came on, then there was this alarm and then the announcer later said "Welcoming the kids from Realms of Inquiry", quite funny, everyone laughed.

This next one shows Brian demonstrating the lights and sirens of the fire engine. Notice how the kids had their hands over their ears? The siren was on first, then the lights. Once the lights came on, ds1 at once rushed to view them from the front. haha.

Finally, this one shows Brian and Aiden (ds1's classmate) sliding down the pole.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

10:00 AM
Feb 18

President's Day

We had tons of dirty laundry but can't wash it in our washing machine, so I called my neighbor and asked if I could go over and use hers. Dh was at home pulling out the toilet bowl and going underground to look at the sewage pipes.

She graciously agreed and I brought both kids over to her house with a full load and the kids played with hers while I washed my clothes. Being President's Day, everyone was at home, including Evan (their dad). The older 3 Hoover kids were playing a video game on Shrek, so ds1 joined them. ds2 watched Thomas the Tank Engine with the youngest Hoover.

While waiting for the clothes to be washed, we chatted and Karen invited us over, because they were planning to have a BBQ. Evan already had the grill outside and was starting the fire up. Karen was making mashed potatoes. So kind of them, of course I agreed, after checking with Dh if he would stay for lunch. He had planned to still go to school to catch up on more work.

I passed them some CNY stuff too, for the kids to play and have fun with. Then we enjoyed the really great tasting steak. Wood-fired, always tastes better. The sides Karen whipped up were mash potatoes, mac and cheese, and a dessert with marshmallow as topping. We brought some drinks over.

We had the meal indoors, of course, since it was still winter. Only the grilling of the meat was done outdoors by Evan.

Right after lunch, Dh left for home first cos he arranged to meet Ron to check out the plumbing together.

I stayed behind to eat some more, haha, and continue chatting. Found out that Karen might be alone with the kids very soon, because Evan received an overseas posting for 3-4 months, not confirmed yet, but pretty much would happen, she says. I commiserated with her, sigh, it would be tough, with her taking care of 4 kids alone. I wish I would still be around, at least can provide some company for her, if not, some help with the kids.

She's a very strong lady though, I am sure she would do very well. :-)

Just when I was bundling the kids up to go home, Dh told me Ron deemed the problem big enough to call in the professionals, so he was leaving for school.

A guy was called and he was due to come on Wed. So I just piled up my laundry till Wed. Who would know? On Wed, he didn't turn up and when contacted, he said he couldn't make it, because he was still at his day job. Oh! So he's a part-timer! He said he could come by on Fro night or Sat.

We made a new appt, and told Ron, but Ron was getting a little fed up with him too.

In the end, the guy couldn't make it on Fri or Sat too, he called us on Fri morn, and asked to change it to Sun. We couldn't make it on Sun so we told Ron and Ron got another guy. This time, from the Mike Bachman Plumbing Co. They're very good, came almost at once. They arrived Fri afternoon about 4pm and left at 5pm, job done. See my other post.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Monday, February 25, 2008 ;
3:33 PM
Feb 16
Sat evening

Reached St George in the late afternoon. Checked in and had a short rest then had dinner at the Palms restaurant in Holiday Inn itself. Too tired to venture out. Ordered fish and chips for the kids to share (below left).

While waiting for the food, they took the Magna Doodle out from my bag and started drawing things for each other to guess. They'd guess nonsensical things and then kept laughing and laughing hysterically. Come to think of it, this simple Magna Doodle has been a really worthwhile purchase.

Instead of bringing reams of paper along on a trip, and tons of crayons or markers, just this tiny sized erasable magnetic writing board does the job. They draw and write and erase, over and over again. And we bought this so long ago, so it can really withstand the test of time and the heavy abuse the kids dole out to it.

After dinner, we had to walk through the main lobby to get to our room. We saw several families soaking in the heated pool and hot tub/ jacuzzi. I did bring swim wear, but we were tired and didn't feel like squeezing in with the crowd.

Then we saw table tennis (they call it ping pong here) table, foosball and pool table. The kids got excited at the foosball. In Spore, usually it is at some arcade and we have to pay, so the kids usually get to play it like, once?

So we stopped to play it, for so long! Both ds love it. But it is kind of dangerous for ds2 because the poles are at his eye level and if Dh and ds1 (opposing team) get too excited and push in their pole a bit too much, they'll poke the pole into ds2's face or eye! After some time, I played my own game with ds2 and let Dh and ds1 play by themselves.

After that we couldn't resist buying an ice cream before going back to the room. St George is much warmer than North Utah and we felt the heat and humidity getting to us. Although, it is still winter and St George has some snow once in a while. Maybe it was the heat from the pool. Anyway..

When we got back to the room, and turned the TV on, we at once saw that Wakko's Wish was being telecast! Ahhhh! It's my one chance to see the whole movie. Fortunately both ds were very entertained by it too, and sat through the whole cartoon. It's Spielberg's early work, when he made Jurassic Park I think, around that time.

I love that animated movie so much, because they had clever use of classical music and put rhyming verses to it. The animations matched perfectly and was so hilarious. The story is also very touching. The songs were so catchy that ds1 is still singing them at home now.

Unfortunately, it hasn't been out on DVD yet. Hopefully one day they decide to release it on DVD.

Feb 17

Morning, went for Bible class at the St George Church of Christ.
Below left shows ds1's classroom. It is a small congregation (Sun morning attendance numbers 34), so all the kids had their Sunday School in the same room. Ds1 could fit in with the older kids (all the others were older than him) but ds2 refused to stay inside, so I brought him out with me and he sat with me in the Adults' class.

They asked Dh to be their song leader for worship, sure know how to make full use of him! haha. Anyway, he likes leading songs.

After worship, Sandy Ditoro (the minister's wife) asked if we wanted to join them for lunch at the Red Lobster, and we did. They were all ladies, so Dh took a pic for us (below right). He was the only male there. haha.

Had a really enjoyable time chatting with the ladies. Since St George is kind of in the middle of nowhere, many of the members in the congregation travel from Nevada and Arizona for worship. So the ladies there comprised of one from the nearest city of Nevada and the other from Mesquite, Arizona.

No wonder their Bible class starts at 10am, because so many people drive long distances to come out here.

The Ditoros are wonderful people. A pity we didn't get to meet Paul (Sandy's hubby, who is the minister). He was down with pneumonia, but they played his taped sermon during worship, and his lesson is very good.

Red Lobster was situated at the Zion Factory Outlet Stores actually. I was so tempted to do some shopping, since I saw many "President's Day Sale" signs hanging in all the shop windows. But we had a 6 hour journey ahead, so we loaded up with Starbucks and went on way home.

Along the way, ds1 took to singing his fav hymn these few days. "We're Marching to Zion". haha. Due to Zion NP's influence I guess. So I did explain to him that the Zion in the hymn refers to the paradise God prepared for us Christians. Or in Bible times, referred to Jerusalem.

Above: St George looks something like that actually. :-) Many people's houses are built on top of that. St George can get flooding, sometimes very bad, so houses being higher up is a good idea.

On the I-15, headed north towards SLC, we'd pass by Zion NP again. This time, we made a short detour to the Kolob Canyon entrance of Zion NP. Stoppped for about 30min only, just to take a quick last look. Above shows ds1 viewing the different layers of rock in the sandstone cliffs, an exhibit in the Kolob Canyon Visitors Center.

After that, the kids and Dh took their afternoon nap while I took over the wheel. Afternoons always make people sleepy, especially after the insulin surge of a heavy meal. I just sipped my Starbucks Java Chip Frapp and took pics of the scenery. That kept me awake, plus listening to the CDs we have in the car.

Some pics I snapped while driving. Not that clear and sometimes slanted, but just for record. :-)
Below: a long freight/ cargo train chug chugging along the base of the mtns.

Above left: snow capped mtns lining the I-15
Above right: all the way downslope! Whee! In the past when I drove manual transmission cars, I just let the car go in free gear and roll down slopes. Now with this auto Corolla with cruise control, I stopped doing that.

Sunset at about 5pm.

Passed the wheel back to Dh around then. We reached home at about 10pm, after a stop in SLC for dinner, where else? Little World. :-)

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Friday, February 22, 2008 ;
4:53 AM
Feb 15
Fri evening

At 4.45pm, we left Bryce to continue on to Zion National Park. We didn't want it to turn too dark because the roads were steep, winding, narrow and could be icy. But we did leave reluctantly because the sun was setting and it cast an orange glow onto the hoodoos at Bryce, and it was even more magically beautiful than ever.

The drive to Zion was also spectacular. Very scenic, with creeks, rocky mountains, snowy peaks... When we reached the east entrance, the roads started zigzagging, with sharp bends and after each bend, there would be a steep decline. Right at the bend, I would be able to see the roads winding all the way down to the valley, and right above, I would see the zig zag lines of cars and trucks above. (Yes, this weekend was a long weekend for some, Mon being President's Day, so there were quite a number travelling to Zion).

I tried to take a pic but it was difficult to capture the steepness and how it felt like a roller coaster ride, zooming down while turning left and ride (below: if you look closely, you can just only make out 2 cars down below on the small road).

After that came another surprise. There was one tunnel first, that was quite enjoyable. I have always enjoyed tunnels.

Then there came a 1.1 mile (almost 2km) long tunnel! It was so dark in it, because there was totally no light, no reflectors. So fun! And the tunnel blasted right into the rocky mountain.

Later on, I read on the NP website that this tunnel started construction in 1920s and was completed in 1930. At that time, this kind of tunnel was considered an engineering miracle. It was also the longest tunnel in USA then.

Because the tunnel remains basically the same since then, but vehicle sizes have grown much larger, there are restrictions and if you have a large vehicle, you need to pay more for an NP escort and for them to stop the other lane traffic for you to pass through. Cos a larger vehicle would need and occupy both lanes in the tunnel.

Our Corolla had no problem, of course, haha.

We reached Zion lodge (where we booked a room for the night) and it was quite dark already (6.30pm). We saw a lot of wildlife then! It was very exciting.

First we saw a whole herd of mule deer grazing and lazing around. Tried to take pics but they didn't come out too well in the dim lighting and we didn't use flash because they're animals, not rocks or plants. Not nice to startle and blind them. Below right shows the mule deer. Stopped the car to observe them for a while.

We also saw peregrine falcons, but there was simply no time to take pics. They were once endangered due to DDT use, but have now recovered their population size.

Then there were many wild turkeys around. In the morning when we woke up we saw a whole bunch too. (Below left)

There are supposed to be many bighorn sheep too, but it was too dark for us to spot them up on the rocks by then. Another Sporean friend, Ruoyi, spotted several when she went there over Xmas.

The biggest surprise was the gray fox. We were driving along when the headlights of the car caught an animal crossing the road. We thought it was a dog but then how could a dog be running free here? Then it turned to flee when it saw the car (by then we had slowed to almost a stop) and we saw a long tail and thought maybe it's a cat. However, when we got closer, the tail was so bushy, and we saw the face! Unmistakably, that's a fox! It ran away too quickly for us to take pics.

Later on we read in the handbook that gray foxes are quite commonly spotted in Zion. They can climb trees very well (the only species of fox to do so).

When Dh checked in, I looked around me, and Zion is so peaceful and serene at night. Above left: the moon above the rocky mountains.

Above right: the tiny lights come from the lodge. The sun is setting behind the mountains. It is so romantic. Zion at dusk.

Zion was a name chosen by the Mormons. In Hebrew, it means "a place of refuge". Good choice of name, I feel, as I quietly surveyed the beauty around me.

After dumping our bags in the room, we went for dinner at the lodge cafe. While waiting for our food to come, they served bread. The kids must be ravenous, because this is the first time we managed to finish up the bread. Usually, no matter where we go, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Applebees, Outback, we have never finished the bread before. And even the fussiest, pickiest ds2 ate 3 slices with butter.
Above left: he is not only fussy about food, he is fussy about the way he eats them. Not wanting to get his hands dirty (because we spread butter on it), he kept using his mouth to eat it from the plate. I felt it was even messier.
Above right: finally, after a lot of coercing from us, he used his hands, but with a total look of disgust on his face. Sigh.... this boy!

After dinner, it was already 8.30pm but our room had no TV or internet connection. Basically, it just held 2 beds. So we walked around the lodge's lobby. They had a family room with a fireplace and a piano (which was out of tune, but still made the place look very homely), and some board games and chess.

Once ds1 saw the chess, that's it. He and ds2 arranged the pieces and bugged us to play with them. Dh settled to play with ds1 while I walked around with ds2.

After that, we walked back to our room and guess what?!? We saw the gray fox again! Above right is a futile attempt to take a pic of it before it ran away. It is between the recycling trash bin and the lamp.

Not having any other distractions was pretty good. I am sure if it were to be 1 week, we would miss our internet a lot. And the kids their DVDs, but just for tonight, we enjoyed each other's company and got to just spend time playing and talking with each other.

Back in the room, dh played "Magic the Gathering" cards with ds1. The chess set was too big to bring along. I don't really understand the game still. The creatures and whatever strategies do not attract me, but for Dh, it is a chance to relive his childhood, or maybe to enjoy a lost childhood? haha. He says he didn't play this when he was young, yet he is as crazy about it as ds1. He was the one who brought back 1 pack one day and started teaching ds1. Now both of them cannot stop talking about the Blanchwood Armor and whatever goblin.

After ds1 and him enjoyed that pack so much, Dh brought back 4 more packs! I didn't know there were so many sets of cards to this game??!? If not for the fact that Dh is spending a lot more time playing with ds1, and that ds1 is actively reading the words on the cards and doing addition with the "power" numbers on the cards, I would have not liked it much. Maybe because I felt left out. Haha. I tried to understand it, but after dh explained it and ds1 explained again, I still don't get it. Nevermind...

Feb 16

Morning, after a hearty breakfast, we set off for the 1st hike. The trail to Emerald Pool is supposedly easy, with a paved path. The guys crossed the bridge (below left) and we saw some signs warning us of icy paths (below right). Falling from cliffs account for the most injuries and deaths at Zion and Bryce, apparently.

Being a mom, I gripped onto ds2 more tightly after that. :-) Our shoes weren't exactly suitable for hiking in ice, but we decided to see how far we could go.

It was a wonderful day and we enjoyed the initial part. The Virgin River ran beside us, and the trail took us higher and higher up (above left). Saw many different species of desert plants too, like yucca and various cacti (above right). Above us, the towering sandstone cliffs leave us in awe (below).

We met our 1st icy patch soon after, but it was still manageable. We slipped sometimes but it was not that steep so we could still half slide, half progress.

Then as we ascended further, there were more and more patches like the ones seen above. As these were steeper, I found that I can't hold ds' hands because I needed both of my hands to prevent my own slipping and falling too. Dh was holding ds2 then but then he too needed to stabilise himself. I couldn't trust even ds1 to climb by himself, just in case they both fall off the cliff.

At best they'll knock their heads on the boulders below, at worst, they could fall right into the icy creek. Imagining the worst (but of course, as the mom), I told Dh to go on with ds1 while ds2 and I hung around. It was a one-way trail, so they would come down the same way.

So ds2 played with the snow and ice for awhile. We got twigs, wrote and drew in the ice, and then ds2 found an acorn stuck in the ice (above right). But it was too firmly encased in ice, we just could not pry it out. haha.

Above left: part of the trail was closed as not only was it slippery, ice and rocks were falling from above too.

We decided to make our way down slowly too. Along the way, we met many groups of hikers. Most of them were families. There was a BYU couple who passed us. They were the fit and athletic kind, walking briskly while holding hands. Later on, they came down and passed us again, and the girl told me I was smart not to go up with ds2. She said it was even worse up there and she fell 3 times.

Wow, if she fell 3 times, it was really fortunate we didn't attempt it. She was about 19 years old and ds2 was only 2+. Plus she and her boyfriend were so fit and "garang".

We also saw many others who fell and slipped. There were groups of seniors (the more elderly couples) who came up, saw the ice and went down again. There were others who held on to the scraggly bare trees at the side to pull themselves up as they went along. And there were those who grabbed dirt and soil from the sides and kept throwing them over the ice to give some traction as they climbed.

Then there was this family. The 3 of them brought their ski poles! They are really well prepared! Later on I told Dh we should wear shoes with spikes. :-)

Finally, after a really long time, when I was getting worried, Dh and ds1 reappeared. Both had fell too. Ds1 showed me his muddy dirty hands, but his eyes were shining and he kept exclaiming, "We did it! We made it to the waterfall!". Haha. Glad he made it too.

In fact, Dh said there was one fall that was particularly tough for ds1 and he couldn't get up at all. He kept trying to get his footing but slipped again and again. So as Dh stabilised himself and gave ds1 a hand, they both stumbled and the water bottle (our only family water bottle) fell out of Dh's jacket deep pocket and tumbled off the cliffside.

We've had that water bottle ever since we got here 1+ yr ago! But really fortunate it was not Dh or ds1 who fell off, of course.

They showed me the pics. The lower Emerald Pool was greenish, no pic here. The water sprays do make up a tiny waterfall. Most of the water flow is frozen though, as you can see from the 2 pics above. Above right shows a part that is frozen and the other part that is flowing.

After that we collected a sack lunch which we ordered in the morning and set off for another part of the Park, called the Temple of Sinawa. There is a Riverside Walk there which promised to lead us into the narrow canyons where we can walk in between the towering cliffs. Quoting from the Park newsletter, it says the towering sandcastles here crown the desert canyons.

Again, we saw many warning signs. In the canyons, flash floods can occur. I was curious and read more about it. According to the Park Guide, a storm can occur without warning and when lightning strikes the rocks, it will release the groundwater/ water stored within. The great force of the water gushing out with uproot plants and boulders, lifting them up and hurling everything in the water's way into the narrow canyons. Any hiker in the water's path would have nil chance of escape.

Just as we were deciding about this trail for ds2, he fell asleep and happily took his nap, so once again, I stayed with him in the car, and let the other 2 go.

An hour later, they came back. Soaking wet below their knees. Dh said the last part of the trail was closed because the snow melt had caused the last part to be a waterway, and you had to walk in the cold water to get to the end of the trail. These were some pics they took (below).

Ds2 woke up by then, and we had our "picnic" lunch. Then we drove to the Zion Visitor Center. Now it was my turn. I went on the Virgin River trail on my own (ds1 said he was tired, dh felt sleepy, and ds2 did not have enough sleep). Also explored the Visitor Center. I didn't walk the whole trail cos I knew Dh would probably doze off, and the 2 kids might be up to no good in the car. Here are some pics of the sandstone cliffs and red rock towers.

The sandstone can take on many different colors, so mesmerising.

It was almost 4pm then, and all of us were pretty tired. So we left Zion to head on to St George, where we would be staying the night. We were supposed to put up with friends of the Crills, who is the Minister of the St George COC and his family. But at the last moment, he came down with a bad cold (which later turned into pneumonia), so we booked a room at Holiday Inn. Because we reserved a room too late, we found that all the usual motels we stay in are fully booked. Again, due to the long weekend, I guess.

Holiday Inn is more expensive than those we usually stay in, but we felt the room wasn't much better. It was probably more of the facilities in the main area that cost us more.

Above: what we saw on the way to St George.

Above right: Just outside Zion, there is a small town that's rather vibrant. I think they cater especially to Zion's visitors. It can get very crowded in summer, which is why in summer, there are no cars allowed, and shuttle buses ferry visitors around the park. They said in the newsletters: "Imagine 5000 cars, RVs and buses entering the park each day in summer. How much damage and pollution to the wildlife and natural surroundings would be caused?"

Last pic above: part of the Colorado Plateau?

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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