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2018 Road Trip

July 28th, 2018 No comments

A year ago my sister asked me if I would want to drive to a family reunion together from Texas to Utah and then continue on to California to see more family. My first thought was that it would be a very long drive, but the more I thought about it the more I was wanting to do it. Just my younger sister and I in charge with seven kids. We rented a 12 passenger van which gave us three extra seat belts. On this road trip I just really wanted to go to “The Four Corners”, the Grand Canyon & Alcatraz. I didn’t really care what else we had on our agenda. My sister and I worked really well with each other. We planned most things out in advance and then my sister is good at finding other things to do to fill in time. We also were sure to schedule “down time” as well and to just enjoy our family. Overall, it was a great trip and I would do another road trip with my kids, my sister and her kids. And a bonus to the trip is that we were travelling with a 4th grader and were able to get into all of the National Parks for free by visiting Every Kid in a Park website.

Our road trip plans

Day 1

Everyone is excited to start this road trip. 2 moms and 7 kids in a 12 passenger van

An hour or so after we started driving, we got pulled over for speeding. But, the cop had compassion on us and didn’t give us a ticket.

Day 2

We were able to make it to Four Corners

Day 3

We made it to the Grand Canyon

Horseshoe Bend was free to see and worth the short “hike” to get there

Day 4 & 5

Family Reunion at the Alton Lodge in Southern Utah; where 8 out of the 9 Poulson siblings attended. In total we had about 65 people at this reunion.

Grandkids and great-grandkids that attended the family reunion

Day 6

Bryce Canyon…pictures can’t capture the complete beauty

Day 7

Woke up early to see the Balloon Festival in Provo

Grateful to see this flag wave on the 4th of July

We were able to attend Stadium of Fire where One Republic played and then watched a great firework show

Day 8

I drove up to Logan, Utah to pick up my sister and we stopped at Gossner Diary where we got some delicious long term shelf life milk that all the kids love

About 15 minutes away from Gossner Dairy is the Pepperidge Farm Factory & Thrift Store where we got the “oops” goldfish which are $2 for 2 pounds

Day 9 & 10

I drove up to Heber to see a good friend from Texas and have our kids play together for a day and a half

Day 11

My sisters and I said good-bye to our brother and headed off towards California

Stretching our legs and exploring the Salt Flats on our drive west

Day 12

My sister-in-law and husband invited us to stay the night at their condo in Lake Tahoe and go tubing with their boat. We all had a blast!

Day 13

Movie morning at 8am! The Incredibles and Ant-Man & Wasp were the reason for the early morning since all other times were sold out

Day 14

I went with my mom to take in the recyclables that had been accumulating for a year. We decided to split the profit between ALL the grandkids that were in California. They all got $10 to spend however they wanted (everyone got something at the Dollar Store).

Field Trip to Sutter’s Fort

We drove by the Sacramento capital building

Family night watching the musical play “Newsies” at the Music Circus

Day 15

Another field trip. This time to Alcatraz island

Stopped near the Golden Gate Bridge to get a photo

Day 16

We had a girls morning of pedicures

For the 5 days that we were at my parent’s place, lunch/dinner time looked like this. Cousins all sitting together.

Day 17

As we were leaving California to head back toward Texas, we decided to drive through Yosemite

We did a small hike in Yosemite to see the Giant Sequoia trees

We made it to our aunt & uncle’s home where our other aunt & uncle also came by to see us and hang out. The kids were happy to see their cousins again.

Day 18 & 19

We made it safely home and logged in 5627 miles in 19 days!

More road trip photos here.

Cebu Wedding & Taipei Layover

July 27th, 2018 No comments

At the start of the New Year we were in the Philippines. The day before we left to return home we had dinner with a good friend and she told us that it was her goal to get married in 2018. We counseled her not to agree to get married to the first guy that she meets and to really make sure that she chooses the right one for her and not worry about a deadline. So, you can imagine how surprised we were to find out that she got engaged about two weeks after we had dinner with her, to a guy we never met from Indonesia. In March, Matt & I flew out to attend the wedding; where I kind of played the role of the “Mother of the Bride” since her own mother passed away a year ago. With two days of activities prebooked and the use of Uber, we made the most of our time in Cebu, Philippines. And as an added bonus, we booked a tour guide for our layover in Taiwan, so it was like two vacations in one. This felt like a “second honeymoon” for us and we still really like being with each other after 15 years of marriage!

Day 1

Swimming with whale sharks

Five minute hike to Tumalog Falls

Canyoneering – where you hike through nature and jump off waterfalls

Day 2

Scuba diving in Moalboal where we swam with sardine bait balls

We stopped by Pro Foods factory and bought a bunch of dried fruit

Day 3

The married couple are happy and in love.

Day 4-6

Shooting Range at Plantation Bay

Somebody may have gotten the Emperor’s massage

8 hour layover in Taipei, Taiwan

Instead of staying at the airport for 8 hours, we booked a tour guide through Viator.com and got Nancy who we were very happy with.

Our first stop was to the National Taiwan Museum

Our friend told us about Mango Ice and it was so yummy

Lanterns in front of Songshan Ciyou Temple

2017 Year Review

January 28th, 2018 No comments

As a new year begins and I reflect on the past year that just ended I find that I forget the good and bad things that we experienced. The purpose of this blog is to act as a family journal for posterity, and also share family updates with close friends and relatives. So here is a quick look at our 2017!

We bought a new home and moved into it on March 31

In April, I got to go to Utah for one of my mission companion’s wedding.

The beginning of May, Matt’s sister got married in California.

Towards the end of May, Matt & Tia flew to Utah for the sealing of close friends we met in the Philippines.

There was a really good airfare deal, so a lot of our family came to visit us. We made a trip to Waco to visit the Magnolia Silos.

In June we had a family reunion for the Limary side of the family in Las Vegas. Nearly all of the siblings and grandkids attended.

While in Vegas, we were able to attend the wedding of my brother Robbie.

Right after we got back from Vegas, Kalani and I went to a church girls camp for a week.

Beginning of August, my 17 year old brother passed away. All of the siblings and spouses were able to attend the funeral in California.

The end of August, Matt & I took a trip to Florida to scuba dive and visit with close friends that we had met in the Philippines.

We got hit with Hurricane Harvey in August. So most weekends in September were spent “mucking” homes as we raced to tear out sheet rock, carpet, cabinets, etc, before mold could set in.

Halloween was a wet evening, but the cousins got together to trick-or-treat (despite the downpour) and got a lot of candy.

Mom & Dad Farley visited us in November.

We had a full house for Thanksgiving that we hosted.

Kalani was in a lot of plays this year. Fiddler on the Roof, Little Women, Cinderella & Macbeth to name a few.

When it snows in Texas it is worth staying up until midnight for a snowball fight.

And finally, we spent 3 1/2 weeks in the Philippines to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year.

 

Madikwe Safari

January 27th, 2018 No comments

We have done and seen a lot of cool things on our various family vacations; and going on safari in Madikwe, South Africa was definitely one of our favorites. A five hour drive from Johannesburg (where we were staying with friends), Madikwe is a small game reserve on the border of South Africa and Botswana. There, we booked a three night safari at the Tuningi Safari Lodge, which couldn’t have been better in terms of the quality of the staff, accommodations, food, etc. Tuningi was one of the only lodges that allowed children under the age of six. So Blake was able to join us, but had to stay at the lodge with a nanny while we went on our safari drives each morning and evening.

To be out in the bush and see animals in their natural habitat was amazing. Mid-way through each of our twice-a-day sunrise/sunset safari drives, we would stop to have a snack and drink. The kids really liked having hot chocolate in the mornings and soda in the afternoon. The Rangers with us were like like real-life Crocodile Dundees in regards to their knowledge and ability to track down the wild animals.

On our last day we still woke up for our morning safari and then finished packing before we checked out and drove back to Johannesburg. We not only saw the “Big Five” (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros and leopard), but were able to see cheetah and wild dogs (which, together with the Big Five, are called the “Magnificent Seven”).

We stayed at Tuningi Lodge since they allow babies/toddlers. Other lodges would only take children six years old or older.

Reception center. The chandlers are made with porcupine needles.

Open-air kids center where there were movies, toys, and Wi-Fi.

Our large villa was amazing and very relaxing.

From the bathtub in our master bathroom suite Mason spotted an elephant outside grazing.

One night all of the guests had dinner outside near the watering hole.

The staff at Tuningi sang and danced for us during the BBQ.

Blake and Tia watching an elephant pass by our lodge.

Baboons were seen from our lodge. We were told a couple days before we arrived a bunch of baboons entered a guest’s room and stole some things.

From the lodge swimming pool we found some impalas.

One of the highlights on each safari for the kids was to stop in the bush and have a snack.

Zebras grazing

Giraffes finding some food.

Hyenas sleeping on the airstrip

We were lucky enough to find the most elusive of the big five on our first day: Leopard.

It was sweet to see this baby elephant with its mother.

African Water Buffalo

White Rhinos are pretty massive. We were told that a rhino horn is worth $300,000-$500,000 each.

This male lion didn’t want anyone taking his meal.

Our Rangers tracked paw prints and then came upon this lioness with her cubs.

Cheetah brothers blend in perfectly to their habitat. Only one cheetah wears a tracking collar since these two are always together.

This pack of African Wild Dogs have learned to use the electric fence that separates South Africa and Botswana to their advantage when hunting.

An elephant saying goodbye to another day.

 

More photos of our South African safari here.

 

Johannesburg, South Africa

January 27th, 2018 No comments

After our three-day vacation/layover in Turkey, we continued on to South Africa. At the airport, we actually had a little bit of a scare that we may not be allowed to board the plane. Children under the age of 18 must have their birth certificate with them when boarding a plane to South Africa and clearing immigration on arrival. Matt and I scrambled to figure out what to do since we were the last ones to board the plane in Turkey and didn’t have any birth certificates with us.

Luckily I married a really smart and tech savvy guy. We have scanned all of our important papers and saved them in an online Dropbox account. So Matt was able to use his phone to get into our account, find the certificates and download them and show them to the gate agents in Istanbul, and then the Immigration Officer in Johannesburg. South Africa has taken this extra measure to try to curb human trafficking. So, with that crisis adverted we were able to meet up with our friends in Johannesburg!

David and Jeana were fabulous hosts to us while we stayed with them for 10 days. We were close friends when we all lived in Manila, and now they had only been in South Africa for about six weeks before we arrived. So Matt found things on TripAdvisor to do and Jeana joined us on most outings since this was now her home.

We also did a three night excursion to the northern border near Botswana with just our family to do a safari. I believe everyone should go on a safari at least once in their life time if possible. It was incredible. (The safari is covered in a separate blog post here)

Day 1

Driving around South Africa (on the left side of the road), we noticed these vans that are crammed with people as their local public transportation. The drivers of these vehicles, don’t follow traffic laws very well.

Our friend Jeana took us to a fun place to look for souvenirs where we could haggle down the price. It reminded us of shopping in Asia.

For lunch we ate at a park and the boys had fun feeding geese.

Both David and Jeana work with the youth in our church and they had their weekly activity on the day that we arrived. Since the activity was about “Snake Antivenom” we told them that we all wanted to attend. This shows about 2/3 of the youth crowd that was present…and notice feet off the floor since there were live (venomous) snakes down there!

That would be a puff adder on the ground of our church floor. Puff Adders are highly venomous! He also brought out a cobra and a python later.

Day 2

We headed out to the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve where we had our first encounter with African wildlife. Zebras, ostriches, antelopes, etc. were roaming around the 1200 hectare of land while we drove to the parking area.

We got to play with some lion cubs that were a couple of months old.

This cub decided to nibble on Matt’s ear!

We also got to play with Bengal white tigers that were a couple of months old too. Blake was more interested in playing in the dirt.

A two year old female cheetah was very docile, but only adults were allowed to enter with her.

We found a pygmy hippo that looked a little strange.

Only one way in and one way out of the “Wonder Cave” that is on the property of the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve.

A part of the inside of the Wonder Cave. This is the 3rd largest cave chamber in South Africa.

Matt has his own way of feeding giraffes.

Day 3

We drove out to Pretoria and visited The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Center where we learned more about cheetahs and other animals in South Africa.

After walking around the grounds and seeing many different cheetahs, we got inside this vehicle and explored more of the center.

Meet Darth Kittius – an African Serval.

African Caracal

This Egyptian vulture and other vultures that help to keep our world healthy and clean.

Wild dogs that hunt in packs and eat ferociously. I was glad that we learned how cool wild dogs were before we went on our safari and saw some in the wild.

And we saw some cheetahs eating.

To end the tour we got a photo with this older cheetah that doesn’t mind children. All of the other cheetahs we saw were eye-balling and stalking 2 year old Blake behind their cages.

The Cheetah Center told us about a Monkey Sanctuary that was just a few miles down the road and we were all glad that we stopped and were able to have some monkey encounters.

Many spider monkeys were there. These are the monkeys from the movie “Night at the Museum”.

Right away this little guy came up to us and Blake thought it was pretty cool.

The monkey probably wanted to take Blake’s medical bracelet, but Blake said that he just wanted to hold his hand.

Monkey looking for any valuables that might be in pockets. If you react because something is really important to you, the monkeys will run away with that item. If you just keep your cool and act like you don’t care, the monkeys know it isn’t important or valuable and then they don’t want it.

Mason got to scratch this big guy that came by to say hello to us

We crossed a couple of these bridges at the Monkey Sanctuary.

And before we left we saw this momma monkey carrying its young on her back. The daddy monkey didn’t like that we were near and was making all sorts of noise

Day 4

We did a day tour of Johannesburg. The first stop was the National Football Stadium. Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Soccer World Cup 2010 were held here.

Government homes in Soweto – where Nelson Mandela used to live.

We visited the Hector Pieterson Museum and a lot of school kids where there visiting it as well. Hector Pieterson was a 12 year old school boy who was one of the first killed on June 16, 1976 by the apartheid police.

We got to visit Kliptown which is a slum village, but there are good people there trying to bring the kids out of poverty through education programs such as the Kliptown Youth Program.

Graduates from KYP. Through education they are making their future better.

In Kliptown (and probable other areas) a couple of families share port-a-potty. They lock them up so you can only use the one that your family has the key to.

The locals don’t need fancy name brand items to carry their babies. Just a long piece of cloth, like a towel or blanket.

View of Johannesburg

We had lunch at a restaurant between these two silos and the food was really tasty. For the adventurous people, they could also bungee jump between the two silos.

Day 5-7

We went out on six safari rides in this car with this guide at Madikwe which is near the border of South Africa and Botswana. Separate blog post here.

Day 8

Mason learning about the different tribes in South Africa at Lesedi Cultural Village

At Lesedi Cultural Village they have people dressed in traditional attire and share music and/or food from that tribe.

After touring the various villages, we all gathered inside for a music and dance performance that represents all the tribes of South Africa.

The end of our Cultural Night was in this room where we had dinner. The art was very colorful and the food was tasty.

Day 9

We were able to have our wonderful hosts, David & Jeana, accompany us for the day while we went to “Colins Horseback Africa Walking with Lions

We got 2 year old Blake on a horse and he didn’t want to get off.

Our group had its own private guided tour on their property where we saw different animals like zebras, giraffes, waterbucks, and impalas. It was also the best horse riding lesson that I ever had. Our guide was very thorough and patient with all of us.

Because the zebras smell the horses, they don’t think that we are a threat, so we were able to get pretty close to them.

After a nice lunch and a lesson on how to act around lions, we were able to walk with a couple of nine month old lions out in the open.

After walking the nine month old cubs, we got to interact with two month old cubs in an enclosed area.

At the very end of our lion encounter, we were able to meet a one week old lion cub.

Day 10

Jeana volunteers at this school and we were fortunate enough to join her once before we left for the airport. We sang songs and had a great time with the children.

These kids love to sing loudly.

We ran into the missionaries who were across the street from the school. The missionary in the sweater is from Switzerland, so Matt was speaking to him in French.

As we were driving to the airport, we made a quick stop to capture this picture of the LDS Johannesburg temple.

 

We had a great time exploring South Africa and reuniting with our friends. More photos of South Africa here.