I think it's a no-brainer that seeing my kids is always the highlight. It's been really hard being away from them, but fortunately I've managed to get out to Utah to see them fairly regularly. They're doing really well, and Sara has got them comfortable in their new home in a great little neighborhood in Alpine. Quinn is growing up so quickly and is now crawling everywhere, climbing up stairs, pulling himself up to anything he can, and walking along, around, or pushing it. He has a wonderful, easy-going personality and is almost always smiling as the pictures show. He likes to laugh, stick things in his mouth, play with his big sister, and from what I hear has been a relatively easy child to raise. His health has improved substantially and hasn't proven to be too much of a problem (other than some expensive medicine he has to take).
When asked how old she is, Aryn now consistently answers "eleven"...and in some ways she acts it. :) She's very intelligent and continues to amaze people (at least me) with the things she does and says at such an early age. Sara has her enrolled in gymnastics classes, and she also gets to have Sara practice music lessons on her, and is doing really well in both. In fact, she has repeatedly assured Sara in all seriousness that she is ready to perform a piano number in sacrament meeting. She loves playing with her neighbors and having friends and cousins over to play. She likes hiking, especially in the "high, high, high mountains", and is a great big sister to Quinn.
Playing at Sliding Rock with her friend, Brinn, during my last visit out September 11th.
Other than going out to Utah to see Aryn and Quinn, the highlights of my summer were definitely being able to have guests come out and visit me. I've felt very blessed to have already been fortunate enough to have several people go out of their way to make a visit to Keokuk, when there are probably a lot more exciting vacation destinations.
My guests started on the 4th of July weekend, when my best friend from my freshman year of college, Bob Neal, drove up from Lexington, Kentucky to spend the weekend with me. He works for Lexmark and had a few days off, with his wife and two daughters in Utah, so we took advantage. It was so good to catch up, and we had a great time riding around on four-wheelers, playing a lot of basketball and showing a few of the students here that a couple of old guys still have way too much game for them. haha The 4th of July is also a big event here at the school, and an annual tradition has been started to have a barbeque in which many former students come back and visit, followed by an impressive fireworks display that easily surpasses the city's fireworks show. I'm appreciate of Bob for taking the time to swing up here in a time when I could use a friend.
Kellie, KC, Issac, and Eliza
At the beginning of August, KC and Kellie and their kids drove from Albuquerque all the way out here to see me and visit Nauvoo, Carthage, and other historic church sites, along with whatever other random place of interest Kellie could "google". They got to see Historic Nauvoo, and Carthage, where Joseph Smith was jailed and killed. We saw the Nauvoo Pageant, which actually wasn't too cheesy (KC was a little disappointed I think in the lack of cheese). We all developed a better appreciation for our pioneer heritage and church history, as well as the way kids played back then (and I think Kellie thought that this "country living" wasn't too far different from how the pioneers did it 160 years ago). Isaac and Eliza were great spending all day in Nauvoo, but their favorite day was just hanging out at my house and playing with their cousins, riding bikes, riding 4-wheelers, jumping on the trampoline, and having acres and acres of open area in which to explore, run, and feel free. Thanks KC and Kellie for making the sacrifice to come out...it was a lot of fun! I should have at least let you beat me in golf, right KC? :P
Chris, Ellie, Sam, Sophie, and Maggie
In the middle of August, Chris, who had been training in Chicago for his new job, came down with his family to visit. It was so fun to see them all as opportunitites to see all of them have not been too frequent. I wasn't sure if these Southern Cal kids would be down with the midwest, but they all loved seeing the church sites, and also playing around the school. We spent a day in Nauvoo learning, playing, and seeing various shows. We also spent some time here at the school. Maggie got a "scared straight" tour of the school; Sophie was in butterfly heaven and literally could have spent weeks chasing bugs and butterflies in the fields out here; Sam discovered a new love on the four-wheeler and was a real natural talent; and Chris and Ellie were the best and helped me to celebrate my 36th birthday with family and a birthday cake with candles. It was so fun to be able to spend some time with them before the embark on their family adventure for a few years in Abu Dhabi. Thanks guys!
I'll stop there for now, but stay tuned...I'll try to get up at least one more summer events posting. Thanks to everyone who still periodically checks this blog, I appreciate your dilligence. :)