Monday, December 9, 2013

Lions, and Tigers, and Trains, OH MY!

About the first week of November we decided to have some fun with one of our Saturday mornings. We climbed on the train and headed up to Albuquerque to spend the morning at the zoo. Erik was so excited to get to ride a city bus from the train station to the zoo, in fact that may have been his favorite part of the entire day. 
It was really fun to take Erik to the zoo. This is the zoo that I grew up going to, and I have to say I've never been to another zoo that I like quite as much as this one (not that I've been to a ton, but still...). We had to start by dropping a few pennies down the wishing well. It's still just as cool to watch the coins rolling round and round on their way down as it was when I was a kid. 
 Erik was most excited to see the elephants and the lions, so we headed for the "Africa" side of the park. Turns out that actually the elephants are on the very far edge of the Africa area, and the lions aren't even there at all. Erik was mildly interested in the monkeys and tigers and zebras and things of that nature that we were walking past, but he was mostly just a man on a mission. He wanted those elephants!
Leaving the monkey house, Erik realized that Dad had fallen behind a bit and ran back to get him. 
Watching some really pretty parrots and other exotic birds.
 If you've been reading our blog for a while, you may know that we can't pass a statue without having a bit of fun with it. Like this time, and this time, and this time (this last one is the best).
Finally, we got to the elephants. Erik was SO excited! The zoo had a brand new baby elephant (she turned one month old the day we were there), who was on display for the first time the weekend we were there. We were at the zoo early enough in the day that the place was pretty empty, but I think just about everyone who was there were all gathered around the female elephant enclosure. We got a glimpse of the baby, but it wasn't worth fighting the crowds, so we decided to go give the other elephants some attention since I'm sure they were feeling left out.
This guy was putting on a great show playing in the water. Erik was fascinated!
We did eventually make our way around to the big cat area, and saw the lions, but the darn things were just laying around sleeping and Erik was incredibly UNimpressed by them. I'm not even sure he believed us when we told him that what he was looking at was a lion.
We ended the trip by feeding the ducks and the koi in the pond for a while, and then headed back to the bus stop so we could catch our train home. 

This was such a fun trip. It all worked out perfectly, with the train getting us there right as the zoo opened, and giving us just enough time to have some fun before eating a picnic lunch on the train and getting home just in time for Erik's nap. It was fun to go back to a place with so many fun memories. Ethan and I were both surprised at how much smaller it all seemed to us now that we're "grown up". It's still the best zoo I've been to, and we're excited to take Erik back to see the rest of the animals that we missed this time around. We'll probably have to wait until Spring though, since so many of the animals hide away inside during the winter.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tomé Hill

It's been really fun to get more familiar with the Belen area now that we're here. Neither Ethan or I had ever spent any time here, despite having lived in NM most of our lives. Belen is right off the freeway, and I've driven past it more times than I could even try to count, but I'd actually never driven through the town until we moved here.
A few weeks ago we decided to take a Saturday morning and go see a local landmark, Tomé Hill. It's a volcanic hill that rises up from the valley floor, and is visible for quite a ways in all directions. It is right along the old Spanish El Camino Real (King's Highway) and would've been a good landmark for travelers going back and forth between Mexico and Santa Fe. There's a neat little park at the bottom of the hill with statues and signs telling the history of the area, and from there it is a 1/4 mile hike to the top of the hill. 1/4 mile doesn't sound too bad, but the hill is pretty steep and rocky, so it's harder than you might think, although still very doable.
Looking through La Puerta Del Sol towards the trail head. 
 Erik tripped and fell into a huge patch of goat heads while we were reading the signs and looking at the statues. His poor little legs were pretty torn up and one of the thorns stabbed through the bottom of his shoe and broke off in there, so he got to ride most of the way up the hill. He probably would've ended up riding anyways, the trail was pretty darn steep with lots of loose rock.

Took a break half way up for mom to rest and pick the thorn out of Erik's shoe. And for him to throw rocks. 
 Erik's a pretty tough little kid, he did end up walking some of the way, and when we got to the top he climbed all over the rocks up there.

 This is the only petroglyph we saw on our hike, but there are supposedly 1800 of them cataloged on the hill. It would've been really fun to see some more of them, but oh well.
 We finally made it to the top. The view out over the river valley was gorgeous, especially with the vibrant blue sky and puffy white clouds. You don't get to see sights like this in Mississippi!
 Tomé Hill is actually the site of an annual pilgrimage for local Catholics. Every year on Good Friday hundreds of people come from all over to make the climb to the shrine at the top of the hill. Supposedly the climb is a great way to make penance for your sins.
Two of the three crosses at the summit, there's an altar (I guess that's what you'd call it?) under the central cross. 
 After spending quite a while wandering around the top of the hill looking for more petroglyphs and just enjoying the gorgeous day, we headed back down the hill. This was a fun way to get outside and get to know the area around us.
I love this view of the valley. It's so typical of NM. Once you get too far away from the river, life seems to just dry up and the desert takes over. 

Friday, November 1, 2013


Anyone who's ever spent time in the Albuquerque area in October knows that this is balloon season. There is something about the air currents in the valley this time of year that makes for especially great hot air ballooning, so people come from all over the world to enjoy it. Our first taste of the fun was actually towards the end of September. I was on my way home from the General Relief Society meeting broadcast, and as I drove over an overpass I saw a hot air balloon lighting up in the night sky just a few blocks down the road. I flew home as fast as I could and grabbed my boys, and we went to go check it out. It turns out there were three or four of them there as part of a festival that was going on that day. I don't know if they'd been flying earlier in the day, but by this time they were just inflated to look pretty in the dark. We got to walk right up to them and talk to the pilots/crews. It was really fun, I'd never been that close to one before. 

 Our next bit of balloon fun was when Kett and Cam came up for a visit during the Balloon Fiesta.
The day Kett and Cam were there, we were too lazy to get up in time to be there for the morning ascension (we'd have to wake up about 4am), but we did make it to town in time to watch them fly for a few minutes before they started coming down all around town.
Erik got a hold of the camera, sorry about the smudges in the pic. This was the view as we came up the freeway into town.
When they run out of fuel, they have five minutes before they deflate, so as they run low they start coming down all over the place...
...including right in the middle of the road. The balloon crew and helpful bystanders had this guy out of the road in about one minute.

We had stopped just to sit and watch the balloons, but when we realized they'd be landing just down the road we had to get a closer look. Especially since this is the same balloon we got to see just down the street from our house a few weeks before. 
 The Balloon Fiesta is the largest ballooning event in the world, the most photographed event in the world, and the largest annual international event held in the USA. As kids we always begged mom and dad to take us to the fiesta, but it never happened, they weren't willing to fight the traffic and the crowds. We'd see balloons any time we were in ABQ (and sometimes they'd even come over to our side of the mountain and we'd see them closer to home), but we never actually went to the balloon park. Ethan and I decided we wanted to give it a try this year, so we looked at the event schedule and decided that if we were only going to go once, we wanted to make the most of it, so we chose to go to the Special Shapes Glowdeo. The special shape balloons are every kid's favorite, and the balloons are so beautiful all lit up at night. Plus, there was going to be a fireworks show afterword so there was really no contest. It had to be this night!
It took us 45 minutes of fighting traffic to get into the parking lot at the balloon park. Maybe mom and dad were right about the traffic being bad, but this was still going to be awesome, right?!
Headed from the parking lot to the main entrance.
Looking out at the swarms of people on the balloon field. Maybe mom and dad knew what they were talking about when they said it would be too crowded...

We got there about an hour before sunset, so we spent some time wandering looking at the different vendor's offerings. Our favorite area was where they'd been having chainsaw carving competitions. There were some really neat pieces of art there. 
Ethan and I were both as excited as little kids. We'd both dreamed of this for as long as we could remember!
 Unfortunately, baby decided she was hungry (and I mean HUNGRY) right as the sun was going down and the first balloons started inflating. So I left the boys sitting on a bale of straw watching the balloons inflate while I ran real quick to get a bite of dinner for us all. Unfortunately, so did everyone else in the park. This was the food line.
 I ended up spending nearly 45 minutes standing around waiting for food, about 30 minutes of that time was prime balloon viewing time. Because we only have one phone, Ethan and Erik were not allowed to leave the spot I'd left them at, so they weren't getting to see any more of the balloons than I was. It was killing me to see all the balloons just right over there, but I'd already paid for my food and I wasn't about to just walk away and leave it (although, if I'd known how long they'd take getting it, I'd have just walked away and been hungry).
 Finally, our food was ready, so I rushed to find the boys and see balloons. It was SO neat to be walking around looking at the balloons up close. Some of them were ones I remember seeing as a kid, many of them were new. They were so much bigger than I'd ever realized, and looked so neat glowing in the dark!
Sorry, the balloon pictures aren't that great, but night pictures are hard enough, then throw in a bunch of glowing moving objects and it's nearly impossible! This is a guy with a jet pack and a spider man piggy bank.
Erik's favorite, the "moo"
It turns out that the balloons only stay inflated for about an hour, so the fun was over WAY before we were ready for it to end, especially since I'd spent half that time waiting around for mediocre food.
The fireworks show was SPECTACULAR! Erik wasn't so sure about it, but Ethan and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It may have been the best firework show I've ever seen. It was really nice to snuggle up on the grass of the balloon field as a family and watch the show.
It took us 45 minutes just to get out of the parking lot, and then we still had to fight our way onto the freeway and get ourselves home.
So mom and dad may have been right. It was VERY crowded there, and we spent 1.5 hours in traffic for 1 hour of balloon viewing (with half of that fighting the crowds for food instead of enjoying the balloons). BUT, it was also really neat to see it all up close and to be right in the middle of the action. While it probably wasn't worth the price and the hassle, we still really enjoyed our evening there and made some fun memories.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The NM State Fair

Ethan and I both have fond memories of attending the State Fair as kids. He was a little (ok, a LOT) more involved as a kid than I ever was, but we both really loved going. When time for the State Fair rolled around in September, we knew we wanted to take Erik and go see what there was to see. In some ways it was like going back in time. So many things were just as I remembered them. 
Our first stop was at the Game and Fish building, where they have a stream with live trout as well as several other exhibits. Erik is his daddy's son, he really enjoyed all the fish!
 Erik found the crowds to be a bit intimidating, but he still seemed to really enjoy all the excitement.
 You never know what you'll see at an event like this. Yes, those are people riding on long horned cattle as if they were horses. They were also really grumpy (the guys, not the cows) so this was as close as we got. I kinda wish I'd just gotten up close and let the guy grump at me so I could get a better picture. Oh well.
 Probably the place we spent the most time was in the 4-H building. Erik loved all the displays and dioramas the different clubs had put together. I think he'd have happily stayed in there all day.
 Ethan and I spent most of our time in here looking for my sister-in-laws entries. As always, she'd won the blue ribbon for everything she submitted. Here's Ethan checking out her display on plants that are poisonous to sheep.
 We made sure to take the time to go through Ethan's old stomping grounds, the animal barns. Erik was fascinated and terrified of the sheep all at the same time. He wanted to get up close to them, but then he'd panic and shy away as soon as he got close.
 He really enjoyed the horse barn though. This horse was particularly friendly, and took a moment to greet Erik with a lick to the shoe. You can see how that was received.
 Of course was had to fight the crowds to get into what had always been my favorite as a kid, the petting zoo. There were so many fun animals!
 So by this point my wimpy preggers self had just about done all the walking and standing around in the hot sun that I could take. I left the boys looking at what I'm sure was one of Erik's favorite buildings and found a nice spot to sit down. It's a good thing we didn't end up meeting Ethan's family there as we'd planned, because I'm pretty sure that my secret would've been given away. I got a nice long sit down though, because my train obsessed boy had no intentions of leaving the model railroad display.
 We wandered into the next room of the building to discover a gold mine. Well, actually a big box of corn, but I'm pretty sure it was all one and the same to Erik and the other little kids. He played in here for a REALLY long time, and was pretty sad when we dragged him away to go meet Grandpa and Grandma for lunch.
It was really fun to spend a few hours as a family at the fair, although we both had to admit that it was not as cool as we remembered it (and probably not worth the exorbitant amount you had to pay to get in). So many good memories for both of us took place here, and now we've just added a few more.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What's New?

Well, in case you haven't heard, we've got a bit of news in our little family. We are going to be adding a cute little baby girl to our collection on or about February 7th, 2014. We're pretty darn excited. This will be the first granddaughter for both my parents and Ethan's, as well as the first great-granddaughter for Ethan's Mower grandparents. We'd be excited even if she wasn't the first, that just makes it a little more fun.
So far baby and I seem to be doing great. I had some minor morning sickness through most of the first trimester, but it wasn't as bad as what I had with Erik so I can't really complain. Though the nausea seems to be gone, it left behind an aversion to nearly every food I like to eat. Nothing smells good, or tastes good, so eating (and cooking, which I normally love) has not been on the top of my priority list, though I do make sure I get enough to keep me going.
Other than that, I'm feeling great and as far as the Dr. can tell so is baby. The last ultrasound showed a strong healthy heart, properly formed and proportioned limbs, and she is right on the small end of average as far as size (small is FINE with me!!!).
Now, before you get your panties in a bundle that I'm 22 weeks pregnant and this is the first you've heard about it, just know that you're not the only one who was kept in the dark. Almost nobody (and this includes the grandmothers to be) knew until this weekend. We decided a while ago that as long as everything was going well we were going to wait to tell anyone until after we knew the gender to tell people. The ultrasound was last Friday, so the grandma's found out over the next two days and then we made it known to the public.
We're so excited and can't wait to meet our little sweetie in a few more months!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Labor Day

We’ve been busy getting settled into our new lives here in Belen, but we did take a day to rest from our labors and enjoy Ethan’s day off on Monday.
We’ve been doing some sleuthing and found out that we can ride the local commuter train (called the Rail Runner) up to Albuquerque and even to Santa Fe, and it’s actually pretty darn cheap(as in $6 for our entire family, round trip!!!), so we decided to give it a shot. We got up Labor Day morning and had a lazy morning and a big breakfast, and then we headed down to the station to catch our northbound train. 
 Erik loves the trains, but actually was a little scared by them when we went and sat in the station the other day for a few minutes just to watch them go by. We had no idea how he was going to react to the actually climbing on board one, and I was half afraid we’d spend the entire ride trying to calm a completely freaked out two-year-old. Luckily, he LOVED it, although you’d never know from his expression in all the pictures we got. Darn kid just wouldn’t smile for the camera. He started out sitting on our laps, and then decided to get brave and sit on his own seat. It wasn’t too long before he decided he was too grown up to be seen with the likes of us though, and he claimed the empty seats across the aisle from us as his own property. He climbed up onto the seat and sat there looking out the window (desperately hoping to see some cows) for the whole last part of the ride. It was fun to see him so excited and enthralled by something, it takes a lot to bring this kid to a voluntary standstill.

 We had a few hours to kill in Albuquerque before the next southbound train headed out, so we wandered downtown for a while checking out the fun stores and art galleries along the way. We made it all the way into Old Town, but by that time we didn’t have a whole lot of time left so we didn’t get to see everything there was to see. We did manage to squeeze in a fair amount of fun though. In addition to an art gallery and a few other little shops that we stopped by, there were a few other places around the plaza we enjoyed. There was the Rattlesnake Museum, which we didn’t actually go inside of, but they had a tank full of turtles that Erik was fascinated by. We probably spent more of our time in Old Town looking at the turtles than at any other one thing.

 We really enjoyed the main plaza, which was full of fun art galleries and stores. And, just like the Santa Fe plaza, there were Native American vendors lining the porches of the buildings selling their handmade jewelry and art. It was fun to walk by and see all the beautiful things they had to offer.
We stepped inside the church of San Felipe De Neri for a few moments. This building has been continuously serving the people of Albuquerque for over three hundred years, and it’s really quite beautiful. 

 Way before we’d seen all there was to see in Old Town it was time to turn around and start making our way back towards the train station. This was probably a good thing, since it was hot and we were all getting tired, especially Erik. He just couldn’t quite hold on until we got back to the station.
 In fact, he continued to sleep at the station despite the two trains that pulled through while we were there.
 Not even the wonder of the train ride was enough to wake this little guy. His slept like this clear up until the train started to slow down as it came into our station. We love the way he sleeps with his hands folded very properly in his lap.
We had a marvelous day and hope to do this again.