An accidental vacation

I recently wrote about my desires to live more intentionally. Well, sometimes life offers you a chance for spontaneity and you have to take it.

Such was the case for the Whitlock Family {Accidental} Summer Vacation 2017.

Last Wednesday I decided to take our kids to visit my mom. I had gotten off the phone with her early that morning and told Eric, “I need to go to Utah today.” He thought I was crazy agreed and rearranged a few things at work so he could come too while I packed up our car for a couple days in Utah.

On the way there, we heard the news that Eric’s sister’s water had just broken and she was having her sweet baby girl, Eden. We joked about going to Arizona after our time in Utah.

Eric and I looked at each other.

“Why don’t we?” I said.

Eric just started an internship at the hospital in Rexburg, but was still in a flexible position with his hours where he could work remotely if needed. I had just finished all of my grading for the semester. We {technically} had the time, and decided to throw caution to the wind and head to Arizona that weekend.

We had a great time with my mom, step-dad and some of my siblings in Utah. These cute people surprised me one night with a birthday cake when I came home from my run and helped me celebrate my 29th. Birthdays in my family are a marathon. I was thrilled to kick off birthday week a bit early.

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On Saturday morning we packed up our kids and car and headed south. We went through Page, AZ on our way down to pass by the Vermillion Cliffs. So beautiful. Add it to your Arizona Bucket List, because obviously you each have one.

We had decided not to tell Eric’s family about our coming to visit, wanting to just show up on their doorstep instead. Their reactions did not disappoint as we were able to surprise Eric’s parents and three of his siblings. Thanks, Jason, for helping us keep our secret!

They also threw me a surprise birthday party, (how lucky can one girl get?!) and we enjoyed playing some cutthroat games of Settlers with them late into the night.

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Also, we need to talk about baby Eden. She is adorable. And so tiny! She made Lincoln look huge and part of me wanted to cry that my baby boy won’t stay a tiny newborn forever.

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A special thank-you to my Instagram husband for taking about a million pictures of me with these awesome balloons for my birthday blog. You’re the real MVP.

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Bellamy loves arts and crafts. Her passion for painting is borderline obsessive. So I ran to the store (let’s be honest, any excuse to go to Target, am I right?) and got some fun neon paints. Let’s also talk about the joy of school supplies. It’s my favorite time of the year when school supplies line the florescent-lit aisles of my beloved Target. Take my money!

Bellamy genuinely loved painting with her cousin Ryder (Ry-Ry) at her aunt Lisa’s (Ci-Ci). My heart bursts whenever these two crazy toddlers play together. They painted, glued and colored, chased each other around the yard, played around the house (only one incident with fingers slammed in the door…) and had a magical time together.

Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of Bell and her cute cousin Brooklyn, but there is another bosom friendship budding there as well. We love cousin time!

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Link and Eden. My heart.

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Tuesday, July 25, was my birthday! Eric asked me what I wanted to do and I told him I wanted to go to the Gilbert Temple. We were too late for a session, but we were still able to serve and it so wonderful to be in such an air conditioned peaceful building. Before you start thinking I’m highly righteous, the truth is that we are making a lot of big decisions for our family, and what I really wanted for my birthday was an anxiety-free day. And let me tell you, there’s no place on earth more peaceful than the temple. Heaven.

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We then wrangled not one, not two, but FIVE kids at my favorite breakfast place, Snooze, for some birthday brunch. There are few things I love in life more than eggs benedict, and the Benny Goodman at Snooze is actually the best thing I have ever eaten. Happy birthday to me.

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Look at this. Look at it! This is Wayne, Dan, Eric and Link. Four generations of Whitlocks. What a priceless memory. We were able to visit sweet Wayne Tuesday evening and introduce him to great-grandchild number 50-something.

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As it turns out, Gilbert is pretty generous if it’s your birthday. We scooped up all the free food we could find. We had dinner at Joe’s Farm Grill where I ate an Ahi Tuna sandwich with Asian slaw that was to DIE for, had dessert at Liberty Market and got take out from Joe’s BBQ. The whole thing cost us the price of Eric’s meal at Joe’s Farm and Grill and $1 extra for Eric’s dessert at Liberty Market. Free food is the best food.

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My cute in-laws were in heaven having all five of their grandchildren with them for the week. The kids, from left to right: Link (3 months), Bell (2), Brooklyn (11 months), Eden (1 week), Ryder (3). These kiddos are a handful all together but we love them and they love each other! They are going to be the best of friends. My heart is bursting again.

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Sadly, after five days of epic, soul-crushing heat sunshine, it was time to head home. But we were not ready to end our vacation quite yet and decided to take the very scenic route home. In true Whitlock fashion, our impulsive natures helped us make a few detours along the way. We first headed toward Prescott and I took Eric to the house I used to live in in 2008. It was so fun and a little surreal. While there we met Dave and Leah who now own the home. They welcomed us with open arms and bottles of water and gave us a tour of my old home and Bellamy inducted two more people into her fan club.

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When I lived in Prescott, one of my favorite day trips was to Sedona. I fell in love with the red rock. We headed there next and our screaming kids were thrilled to get out of the car and explore a little.

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After successfully staying alive though a torrential downpour in Flagstaff, we stopped at these cool graffitied stacks outside Flag. If you’ve followed our family for a while, you may remember that when Bellamy was only a few months old, we took a road trip to Glacier National Park and Seattle. You may also recall that Bellamy was crying in every. single. picture we took. She was thrilled to reprise the role for the return trip as noted above and below. Bless her.

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Bellamy earned the nickname “The Kraken” on this trip. So there’s that.

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Not pictured was our attempt at a picture at Horseshoe Bend. This is where our lack of planning kicked in and I had a minor freakout. I would like to blame hanger for this outburst, but the truth is I just don’t handle the stress of two screaming kids very gracefully. Sorry to all involved. No husbands were harmed in the making of this blog.

If you do plan to visit Horseshoe Bend to capture the same picture that literally everyone else has, know it involves about a mile and a half hike roundtrip. We were not prepared, but are excited to head back that way in the future.

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Here’s a cute selfie of Mr. and Mrs. Whitlock in case you haven’t seen one yet this week. We’re standing in front of the Glen Canyon Dam. Don’t look at that. Only us.

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Next stop for Team Whitlock was Bryce Canyon. You guys. I was speechless at the beauty of this national park. It was incredible. Everyone go there immediately.

Our dear friends, Jake and Josie Potter, are working at the park this summer and we were so excited to drop in and see them and their two kids. Bell said “Nick” about 237 times along the way, so I’m guessing she was excited too.

We camped with them in a beautiful spot in the park, and Eric and I slept in hammocks under the stars until about 3 am when it was too cold and our Arizona climate-friendly clothes weren’t doing the trick at keeping us warm. We gratefully took refuge inside with our kids and the Potters in their RV.

The next morning we went to a few different spots in the park, hiked a short ways into the canyon (reaffirming my need to work out, but you can bet I blamed my huffing and puffing on the elevation) and bought a now priceless memory for me, my National Parks Passport. We got a stamp from Bryce Canyon and are already making plans for another visit to a national park this summer.

It may sound cheesy, but memories are always my favorite souvenir from any trip we take. I always tell Eric that what I want most out of our trips are some good Instagrams so we can look back on our adventures through the years. This fun passport is just another way to be nostalgic (my favorite thing) and I can’t wait to keep using it.

Look at this baby!

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Thank you, Potters! We love you!

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Whitlock Family 2017, and yes, Bell was crying.

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We finally made it back up to Sandy, Utah on Friday to stop in at my mom’s again, {finally} shower and attend my cousin Emma’s wedding reception.

Saturday morning, after an unexpected car repair, we were finally on our way back home, 10 days after we left.

I will never forget this time with my family. It was worth every penny in gas, each greasy McDonald’s french fry, and about a million ear-splitting, two-year-old meltdowns and hungry baby screams. I love these guys. They are my whole world.

Turns out, accidental family vacations are the best ones. The Whitlocks endorse this message.

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