Friday, July 15, 2016

The Return of Elder Earl

 Bryan finished his mission to Torreon, Mexico on June 30, 2016. When Kendall got back from her mission she got to go to Hawaii for a week. When Bryan got home from the hot dessert of northern Mexico he got to go to Phoenix for a week! It's all in the timing, bud. When Bryan left on his mission I was about as single as a person can get. He gets home two years later and I am married and six months pregnant. Missions have got to feel similar to time warping.
 So the week after he got back my whole family met up in Arizona (lucky for us!). My parents got two condos at the World Mark in Phoenix where everyone stayed except for Stephen and I and Brad and Jules, since we already live there.

On the fourth of July we spent a lot of time at the pool and hanging out at the condo. The one tricky part of the day was that there was nowhere to eat since everyone was closed because of the holiday. We drove around grumpy and hungry for a while in our giant caravan before we found a Chick Fil A that was open in Tempe, which made reason #1,365,234 why I believe Chick Fil A is truly the happiest place on earth.

Some of the group went in search of fireworks after dinner, but because Stephen and I don't have any fully cooked, air breathing kids yet we didn't have to stay up and fight crowds for fireworks we didn't really care about seeing. Gotta live it up while we can.

We went to Wet 'N' Wild in Phoenix for the day. It was a cool park with tons of fun slides that pregnant people can't ride, which meant Kacey and I were on baby duty most of the time. They had a ton of little kid slides, a wave pool, and a lazy river. Owen loved every minute of it and was happy being in the water the whole time. Declan apparently hates water and even holding him while standing in water makes him cling on to you like a spider monkey. As long as Jude has his floaties on he is fearless and loves dunking his head under water. In the lazy river he liked warning whoever he was riding with about the perils (squirting/falling water) ahead. Asher felt completely encumbered by all water park rules. He did not want to stay in a tube in the lazy river and he was convinced he was tall enough to ride all the slides no matter what the signs said. He was hilarious to watch, but it's also a miracle we didn't lose him that day. He has no fears and just takes off to do whatever he wants all day long.

While the boys went golfing, we went to Arizona Mills Mall for the day, and yes you can spend an entire day at that mall. The kids went to the Lego activity center with Kristy and Kendall and it kept them busy for hours! I didn't pay for the tickets, but as a reaper of the benefits I'm gonna go ahead and say it was worth every penny. 

While the kids were busy destroying Legoland (I presume, I dunno I wasn't there watching them-woohooo!) My mom, Kacey, and I went baby clothes/ maternity clothes shopping. Its funny to go from trying on the biggest pieces of clothing you've ever seen (and having them fit -hangs head in shame) to picking out the tiniest little outfits in the world! I'll let you go ahead and guess which one of those things is more fun.

Side story: When I got home and showed Stephen my purchases he said, "Be honest; are you more excited for the baby? Or for the baby clothes?" I said, "I'm about to give up sleep for the rest of my life, let me have this."

Amidst our shopping we also made time for a snack or two, cuz babies gotsta eat ya know?

mmmm... cupcakes. 

We went back to the condo for naps and some swimming before returning to the mall so the kids could go to the aquarium and we could do a little more shopping before dinner. We went to Rainforest Cafe because they were having a kids eat for $2.99 deal and someone (ok... it was me) may have exclaimed that they loved Rainforest Cafe. I remembered it as the cool place with dinner and a show from my childhood. Now that I'm an adult I realized that it's really a place where you pay Cheesecake Factory prices for Applebees-level food. Plus all the kids were terrified of the rainforest affects and generally hated the entire dinner, so it was a lose lose for everybody!

Also it was unnerving to eat with this mascot frog hanging around. I really really hate mascots. 
Wet 'N' Wild day two! Kacey and I got even better at our baby corraling duties. We took Declan on the lazy river and he kept his sadness to a light whimper, which was a pretty impressive change of pace from Tuesday. 

Drowning in handsome baby boys all day. 

Owen the water park champ

Bryan and Jude the love bug- seriously I dare you to not be obsessed with this kid

Declan's permanent "I hate being hot but I hate the water more" look. 

Two full days at the water park and nobody left looking like a lobster, I really think that may be an Earl family record. Oh! And the best news was that Dean and Courtney got to join us on Wednesday night. They originally weren't going to make it because Grenada is so dang far away, but Courtney being her pregnant self had to flee the island after a Zika outbreak. She will be here with my parents now until after she has the baby in December. So thanks Zika for some extra Courtney and Dean time. We sure missed Curtis though!

My family went to find tennis courts to play on in the morning, while I conveniently stayed busy until they told me they were done playing and were headed to Kneaders for some brunch. Who in their right mind plays tennis in Phoenix in July? Nobody. They all admitted upon my arrival that it had been very hot, but swore they still had fun. Uh-huh, sure, likely story. When we got back to the condos we spent the afternoon hanging out and doing whatever we felt like. We played several rounds of Bananagrams and if I remember correctly I think I won every single round.... yep that sounds about right. My dad is the most interesting to play with because he calls 'peel' regardless of how his board is looking every time he gets bored- so about every thirty seconds. He also likes to use words that are either made up, or not allowed in the rules of the game.

The big activity for the day was the puzzle room contest we had planned for that evening. If you've never heard of a puzzle/ escape room, it's basically like living a Nancy Drew computer game. They give you a scenario and "lock" you inside a room (legally they can't actually lock you in so don't worry) that is full of clues with how to complete your mission and get out. You have one hour to do so. They are amazing.

We have a thing in my family where we talk about ACT scores, like a lot, and use them to gauge the intelligence of basically everything and everyone. (And if you ever try to confront us about it or call us out on it, we're just going to make fun of your score no matter what it was so be forewarned.) So anyways, we had to do the puzzle room in two groups because you can only have 8 people in at a time. Naturally that meant it had to be a competition, but how would we ever decide who goes in which group?? ACT scores. We came up with two teams based on our testing scores; the smart group and the dumb group.

Smart group: 

  • Dad
  • Trevor
  • Kylie
  • Stephen (he took the SAT, not the ACT so we are not actually sure that his scores qualified him to be in the smart team. An exception was made because he's the newest in law and my family is hoping to keep him around.) 
  • Kendall
  • Bryan
  • Kacey 

*Dumb group:

  • Mom
  • Jon Wayne
  • Courtney
  • Kristy
  • Brad
  • Jules
*They insisted they be made the minority because they had more to prove. 

So the smart group went first. We made it out with 28 minutes left and were feeling pretty proud of ourselves. We kept our time a secret from the other team so they would have no upper hand going second. We got the kids from them and went back to the condo to wait to hear how they did. 

Smart Team 
We waited, waited, and waited. They finally got home from their nice kid-free Thai dinner they went to afterwards and informed us that they had finished with 29 minutes to spare. They showed us the picture and everything. The Smart Team's hopes and dreams of official bragging rights were dashed, until sweet, sweet Courtney opened up her beautiful mouth and said, "Actually we got out with like 22 minutes left. The lady at the place told us how long you guys took to finish so we changed our sign to look like we beat you." And just like that, VICTORY WAS OURS. Although we were the ones who had a quick dinner of hamburgers and then wrestled with kids all night so it's hard to say who the real winner was...

With our newly found puzzle room addiction in full swing, we worked our entire day around when and where we would be able to do a puzzle room again (just the girls, the guys went golfing again-speaking of addiction...). We drove back to Brad and Jules so Trevor (not a golfer) could stay with the kids during nap time and we could go solve another puzzle room. The Nielsens left to go back to Las Vegas in the morning so Trevor just had Owen, Dean, and Declan. 
We went to solve DaVinci's secret or something like that, but we had two other people who had signed up to do the room with us. This was a bummer because A) we've got way too many type A personalities in this family already so sharing the work among the six of us was going to be difficult and B) we could not decipher the gender of one of the people joining us which made pronouns VERY difficult to use. A kind, considerate, understanding human being would have introduced themselves to this person and asked them their name in return. The six of us made awkward guesses when forced to address them specifically and then whispered about it to each other when they were out of earshot. 
Courtney first addressed this person as a "she", but I'm pretty sure it was a he. Then when inside the room, this person solved a difficult puzzle that we had been stumped on for a little while. My mom proudly called out, "Oh! He solved it! I mean she solved it!" We all then turned our full attention to the clue and tried to completely block out the awkwardness of what mom had just said. 
We made it out of the room, but it is safe to say we did not make any new friends. Also, it would be fun to watch video recordings of people trying to get out of puzzle rooms (at one point in the DaVinci room I may have screamed and dropped to the fetal position- I've checked and they don't actually record you in the room so the world may never know.) 
Our two add-ons opted not to be in the picture with us, otherwise I would put it to a vote right here right now. 

We came back to the house to check on Trevor- he was alive and the babies were all still sleeping- and then the rest of the boys got back from golfing in time for us to challenge them to another puzzle room, this time girls vs. boys. We made a rule that if you had to use a hint, it meant you got a four minute deduction from your time. 
This last puzzle room we did was my favorite of all three. There were so many cool challenges and tasks you had to complete. We made it out with 9 minutes to spare, but we had to use one hint, so our score was nothing to brag about. I honestly just felt impressed that we had made it out at all!
It was only mildly embarrassing coming back to this place an hour or so later. Why didn't we think to change our outfits or something? 

We met up with the boys and the kids for a delicious dinner at Oregano's. Then we took the kids back while the boys went to try to solve the Nuclear puzzle room. They said they made it out the very last minute and had to use two clues, making Kendall and I the official champions of puzzle rooms since we were the only ones on both the Smart and girls team. 

After church we met up at Doug and Connie's in Gilbert for some delicious pancakes and one last hang out before everyone had to leave for the airport. It was an awesome week and now I can't wait for the Earl Reunion at the beginning of August!


  1. I'm so glad you already wrote this post because I just sat down to write mine and couldn't remember what we did each day. ALSO, I couldn't stop laughing when reading about our puzzle room experience with "shim." I literally may copy and paste that into my blog because it's too funny. Don't worry, I'll quote you ;)

    1. I'm glad you said that because when I reread it to myself I was like, "I am a horrible person." hahaha

  2. My favorite line "I hate the heat but I hate the water more face". One of so many good moments! So glad you guys are still blogging. You inspire me to do better!

    1. Keep in mind you run and business and keep four and a half kids alive while I am a "stay-at-home wife", so one of us has a little more time on their hands...