Saturday, April 18, 2015

Cami's Senior Prom

Cami's spent the last week deep in make-up work, desperately trying to get caught up from all the school she missed while we were in New Zealand.   She's barely slept a wink all week and all I can say is that it's a good thing she's a second semester senior already accepted into her college of choice, because at least at this point she's not quite as concerned about getting a B as she usually is.    

Tonight, though, she put all the worry on the back burner to enjoy her senior prom.   

Prom dress shopping is usually a tortuous experience for Cami, because she's so picky, but this year she found the perfect dress on her first time out shopping. The sequins were gorgeous  and I  love that it's modest enough that she will be able to wear it at BYU next year!   

Emma did her hair...

Her best friend (and future roommate), Katy,  came over to our house to give her stamp of approval before Cami headed out...

This year she was pleased not to have forgotten the boutonniere at home....

There were a lot of nostalgic moms at the gathering place taking pictures of their babies' last prom...

Cami's known a couple of these girls since elementary school and it's crazy to see them all grown up and heading off to college in a few months....

Here's the whole group...

 John asked her to prom in a cute, creative way and even though Cami wasn't thrilled to be caught on camera wearing her NHS robes, she was happy he asked her!   

 John  shaved off his beard earlier today just for the occasion and if you ask my [admittedly biased] opinion, they both looked like a million dollars! 

I'm glad they had a great time, but man, with each new milestone that passes,  I am getting a little teary thinking of  Cami living 1000+ miles away from us in a few months.     


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Emma's 8th Grade Trip!

When I homeschooled Spence in 8th grade, my parents invited him to go on a trip to British Columbia with them.   It ended up being a great trip and he loved having  the opportunity to go somewhere that he likely would not have been able to go if he had been in school that year.   We liked the idea of it, so when Cami got to 8th grade two years later, Glen took her on a trip to Denver.

Now we had two official 8th grade traditions--homeschooling and a special trip.  

We had a few years after Cami before Emma's 8th grade year rolled around, so there was plenty of time to concoct something big and exciting for her trip.   My sister, Heather, is an attorney who loves to travel, so we put her on the task of trip planning.  She got excited about Emma potentially accompanying her on one of her trips and thus began Emma's exciting 8th grade trip  plans!

Emma and Heather discussed at length different options for their trip, but in the end the super cheap plane tickets to TURKEY made that their winning destination.    And less than two full weeks after returning from New Zealand, Emma hopped on an 11-hour flight to Istanbul!

They just returned from their trip after enjoying an exciting 10-days there and although there won't be quite as much commentary as there normally is here on the blog, since I wasn't there, but here are some pictures from their amazing journey.

Since we were a little nervous about the two of them traveling in Turkey by themselves, we convinced our brother Tim to go along and be the intimidating male presence!


The first stop on their journey was Istanbul where they saw amazing sites like the stunning Blue Mosque...
Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Here's the famous Ayasofya...

And yet another shot of the Blue Mosque!
Blue Mosque, Istanbul

The spice market for a chef like Emma was a colorful and exciting place to visit….
Spice Market, Istanbul

Getting a treat wasn't as easy as she expected...


Next they took an domestic flight (which are super, super cheap) to Izmir so they could visit  Ephesus…

Ephesus is an ancient city that over the centuries has been ruled over by the Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires.   The temple to the goddess Artemis, four times larger than the Parthenon,   is considered one of the "seven wonders of the ancient world."    

The ruins were spectacular, the carvings intricate, and they were amazed at the artisanship of the ancient people who had built this great city.

AFter Ephesus, they drove to Priene, which was also a cool ancient city full of ruins…

but Priene is a little more off the beaten path and didn't get the Mediterranean cruise tour group traffic that Ephesus did...

They loved how much less crowded it was there and enjoyed exploring the beautiful ruins.

Next they drove to Pamukkale where they saw the stunning, world famous travertine hot spring terraces...

The terraces are naturally created by the calcium deposits in the hot springs and can only found a few places in the entire world.  
Travertine Terraces, Pamukkale

Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone is an American example of it, but these terraces in Turkey are absolutely one-of-a-kind in the world because of their pure white color.
Travertine Terraces by moonlight, Pamukkale

They look like snow banks, but are in reality covered in warm running water (watch the video above to see an example of it).    Read here if you want to see where there are more travertine terraces in the world.  It's actually pretty interesting.
Travertine Terraces, Pamukkale

At the top of the travertine terraces is an ancient city called Hierapolis.  In Hierapolis they swam in  Cleopatra's Pool...
Cleopatra's Pool, Pamukkale, Turkey

According to legend,  Cleopatra's Pool was crafted by Marc Anthony and then presented to Cleopatra as a gift.  However sometime in the 7th century an earthquake toppled nearby columns into it, creating a unique blend of what are considered "healing waters" of the natural hot springs and ancient ruins all melded into a really cool one-of-a-kind place to swim all year round!    
Cleopatra's Pool, Pamukkale, Turkey

Next they drove to Aphrodisias to see some more cool ruins...


Then they ended up on the shores of the Aegean Sea in Bodrum.    Bodrum is a beautiful seaside town with narrow steep roads that made driving a harrowing experience.    
Bodrum Castle

They didn't get to spend a whole lot of time in Bodrum before taking off to their next destination, but they all raved about the beauty of the area and the clear blue waters of the Aegean Sea!

Aegean Sea on the Bodrum Peninsula  

Next they flew to Cappadocia where they stayed in a hotel cave.   Because of the naturally soft rock (called tuff) that formed from ancient volcanic eruptions, people have been crafting their homes out of rock for thousands of years.  
Cappadocia Region (Goreme Open Air Museum) 

At sunrise they took a little hot air balloon ride….
Hot air balloon over Cappadocia

…you know….just for the purpose of seeing the most gorgeous views in the universe!

They were a tad cold after their little jaunt in the stratosphere (or maybe it was the troposphere)….
After hot air balloon ride, Cappadocia Region

After that they stayed a little more down to earth and went for a little camel ride...
Cappadocia Region (Goreme Open Air Museum)

and visited some other beautiful places in the area….
Valley of the Pigeons?? (Cappadocia Region)
…by horse drawn carriage!
Cappadocia Region

Ihlara Valley (Cappadocia Region) 

The last thing they did in Cappadocia was visit the underground city, Derinkuyu,  which, in a City of Ember-ish sort of way, was carved in the aforementioned soft rock to be a place of refuge for the people in Cappadocia during times of war and danger.  
Underground City (Derinkuyu, Cappadocia Region)

Emma had a fantastic time on her 8th grade trip and will never look at the world through the same eyes again!    It was years of education all rolled into a week-and-a-half.  

The only problem with the trip was that it sets a pretty high bar for Adam who is already mulling over ideas for his 8th grade trip in a couple of years.   His top choice right now?    Antarctica!  

Heather and Tim, are you up for it?    


Friday, April 10, 2015

Day 8: Last Day!

Tuesday, March 17

We woke up on the last day of our trip with mixed emotions--
on the one hand excited to have one last day to explore,
on the other hand disappointment at having to leave so many New Zealand sites unexplored,
and on the third hand I've only ever daydreamed about having,  a serious longing to be back home in our own beds!

The ship and hobbit hotels had the cool factor and all that going for it, but by this point we were all ready to head home.

Our first stop after checking out of the hotel was the world famous Waitomo Glow Worm Cave which was only a very short drive from the hotel.  They don't allow any photography there, so this picture of a boat exiting the cave is the only photographic evidence I've got of our trip there. (Glen is in the third row on the left side on that boat).  

I've borrowed the following picture from another source  to give you a glimpse of how beautiful it really is.  So what makes this cave so cool (as well as many caves in New Zealand) is that deep within the caves, a very ugly insect that so happens to also glow in the dark, makes its home on the ceiling of the caves.   Their bioluminescence is a very striking and beautiful contrast to the blackness of the cave and people come from all over the world to see this amazing sight.
photo credit:   Planet D

AFter that awe-inspiring experience we got on the road and started heading back toward the airport, but this time instead of going straight there, we went through the city of Hamilton so we could see the temple!

It was a lovely, warm day with blue skies and we were happy to visit a place that, although we'd never been there before, still somehow seemed so familiar to us.  

We explored the visitors' center...

and in a major small world moment,  met the parents of my friend Catherine,  who are senior missionaries serving there at the temple.   

It was fun making the connection with Elder and Sister Monson (no relation to the more well-known Thomas S. Monson) and we enjoyed having someone there to talk to and who knew the coolest photo shots at the temple!

Spence was engaged in conversation at this point and missed this photo op.

Elder and Sister Monson's last piece of advice before continuing our journey to the airport was to  stop in the tiny town of  Pokeno for some tasty (and cheap) ice cream.    

On the way there though we kept seeing signs for Pokeno Bacon and were not too disappointed that there was a Pokeno Bacon store right next door to the ice cream shop(s).   We went to see if they had anything pre-cooked that we could buy and scored the jackpot when they gave us a whole plate of cooked sausages that they had cooked up for giving out as customer samples and were about to throw away because they were closing for the day.    We bought some dipping sauce they sold and made those sausages and ice cream our super nourishing last meal in New Zealand!

After that bit of indulgence we got back on the road and before long we arrived back in Auckland where we could see that  Cyclone Pam had definitely affected that area a lot more than the  area where we had been when it hit.

We found this one last spot for a family picture (minus the photographer).   We thought the foggy view of Auckland in the background was pretty cool and hoped to find some passer-by who might be willing to take a picture with all of us in it, but alas there was not a soul in sight and we had a plane to catch!  

After that, we drove back to the Auckland airport, returned our rental car, and settled in for the long haul  way home (13-hours to LA, and another  5-hours or so back home).      We arrived back to Virginia in the wee hours of the morning and had a limo waiting there at the airport to bring us home.   We enjoyed the last little taste of luxury and arrived back home with only a couple of hours before diving back into the middle of a busy week of "normal life".

It was the trip of a lifetime and we are still in awe that it actually happened.  Thank you to Make-a-Wish for making Spence's wish come true!   It's almost unbelievable to us that they paid for all of our transportation, housing, food, and activities while we were there….just to give hope to one sick teen.   It meant the world to Spencer and to us….THANK YOU!!!!

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