Mar 26, 2017

Spring is Here

Winter finally abated and beautiful Spring has arrived.  Avery and Lydia have been spending hours and hours outside exploring, holding bugs, and splashing in puddles. 

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 Holding a worm
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The rare moments the girls love being together are just heaven to me.
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Calder Maurice Hammond

Todd's father passed away on our anniversary.  Losing him and going through the funeral was much harder than I expected.

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Meditating to the music being played by one of his grandchildren.
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People say Todd looks like him in this photograph
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 Joyce and Calder
I was driving with Lydia this morning when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir came on the radio and sang, "Hush Little Baby, Don't You Cry." I told Lydia that it was Grandpa Hammond singing to her.

Feb 14, 2017

Laos Trip

Since having kids, we haven't traveled overseas as much as we used to, but we've been able to tag team a few times and do some trips separately with friends while the kids are little.  Britt had been encouraging me to plan an international trip for at least a year, and I decided to sit on it until a good opportunity came up.  Sure enough, my friend Brian emailed me last summer to tell me about an amazing new climbing area in Laos:  "the best in all of Asia," he said.  He had been living in Thailand for the last year or so, working as a climbing guide, and he planned to visit Laos again in November.  That was an easy decision.  My friend Bryce was also looking to take a vacation so we decided to fly out together an meet Brian. Here are some photos from the trip:

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Taking a tuk tuk out of Thakhek to our destination in the countryside


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Our bungalow at Green Climbers Home, a camp built and operated by German climbers Uli and Tanja Weidner

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Camp headquarters/restaurant

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Bryce enjoying the limestone tufas



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Fish dinner

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Good company from all over the world


  016Massive cave with a river running through it, two minute walk from our bungalow. It was a great place to take a dip and cool off on hot days.
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 Finishing a fun 5-pitch sport route called Chinese New Year

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Brian summiting

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We ended up renting a couple motorbikes to get in and out of town easier, and visit the local attractions

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Sunset on the Mekong River. Thailand is on the other side.


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 Come to find out our motorbike's headlight didn't work. Luckily we are climbers and had headlamps with us to make the long ride back to camp.

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I led this route called "Finally Home" a couple times but didn't have enough time left in the trip to finish it clean.

  034Classic roof climb called "Jungle King". One of my favorites of the trip.

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Wild rock! Three climbers are seen. I'm near the top of the photo, climbing Jungle King

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 Brian tunneling through the birth canal on "Saugeburt"


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 The gecko that lived in our roof. It tormented us with its chirps every night.

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Motor scooter adventure to visit one of the many Buddha caves
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Moments before I fell. Somehow it a feels much more difficult when you're above water.

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Back in Bangkok before flying home

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The recently deceased King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand

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Mourners outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok

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Feb 9, 2017

Snow Storm

We have had a lot of snow this year.  Like TONS of snow. 

Avery was delighted and spent many hours playing in it this season.  Lydia was skeptical and mostly complained when we ventured out.  The dog was the happiest of all! 

One day I grabbed my camera for a 10 minute shoot of the kiddos and dog.  It was like magic seeing snow through their eyes.


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Jan 16, 2017

Nicaragua and Surf With Amigas

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I spent a week in Nicaragua with Surf With Amigas...  And it was one of the greatest weeks of my life!  In spite of several mishaps (missed flights, injuries, scorpions, and a monkey bite) I totally enjoyed this trip.

Let me start from the begining...
Casey, Becca, Brenda and I signed up for this super cool surf-camp for women months ago.  When we finally left Utah, our first flight was delayed which caused us to miss our second flight.  We stayed overnight in a hotel, which had been slept in and not cleaned up. Gross and bad luck! Then Becca and Brenda caught an 8 am flight the next morning.  Casey and I had to wait 9 hours...  NINE HOURS at the airport for the next flight.  And actually, we had a great time lol.


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We napped and goofed off for 9 hours. We didn't have our kids to take care of, so it was really easy and fun! 

OK, back to the trip. We finally made it to Nicaragua and celebrated the new year in the back of a shuttle van, which pulled up to our final destination, the Coco Loco around 1:30 a.m.

I woke up the next morning at 5:30 and hit the beach with a couple amigas and an instructor for some surfing! It was a little unnerving for me since I surf so infrequently, but it helped to have an instructor in the water with us.  

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The sunrises were spectacular.
 
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I wish I could say this is me...  But it's Aura, our instructor.
 Later on, everyone else made it to the beach to surf the white water and we had a great time finding our bearings and standing up on broken waves.
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We had a photographer and videographer to capture us on the waves
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Party wave with Brenda

After surfing we ate fantastic food, did yoga, and then had "surf school" where we reviewed video footage and got professional tips from Holly Beck, pro surfer extrordinaire. It was really helpful to have her tell me exactly what to do to get better! I had to bend both knees, and stay low instead of sticking my butt out lol. We all made a surf goal, and mine was to surf down the line- along the wave instead in front of it.

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Honestly, what was I thinking here?! lol
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Surf school, where we all practiced our new moves
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We ate a fantastic dinner and went to bed early. Seriously the food was sooooo good and healthy too!

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 The next morning I was excited to try out my new butt-lowering-skills, but I threw my neck out on our way to the beach. :( :( :( I have had back problems before, and without medication they can be excruciating. So I spend the next 2 days either lying in bed or slowly shuffling around trying not to cry. It was so awful, I began making plans to come home. It hurt to lie down, and it hurt to stand. It hurt to open my mouth. It even hurt to swallow. I thought the trip was over for me! The employees, fellow amigas, and instructors were all so kind and helpful through this.  They waited on me, made me home-made hot packs, and gave me lots of love for which I will forever be grateful.

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The infirmary
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Notice my fantastic posture?  It's due to pain, rather than mad yoga skills.

After 2 days of pain, Holly got me some anti-inflammatory medication, which basically cured me!
   
We went to play kickball with the locals. I didn't dare to play (neck was still quite sore) but I took a lot of pictures and handed out the dum-dums I brought from Utah.

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The kids were adorable!
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Luna (above) and Coco (below,) the camp sweethearts

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The next day I surfed successfully!  I even surfed down the line, and accomplished my goal for the trip.

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Turning down the wave
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Wahoo!!!!


I took a lot of photos that day.

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A rustic bathroom we used if we couldn't wait to get back to the resort
 
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I've never seen so many shells on a beach!  Some stretches of beach didn't even have sand, it was all shells.
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Instructor Katie making her way to the Bay
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One morning we got to see this momma turtle laying her eggs.
 
Later that day we shuttled to Leon to do some quick shopping and eating. Here are some of the things I found interesting in Leon: 

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Busty female manequin
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Fantastic Food
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Long fake lashes on male manequin
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I bought some souvenirs from this guy.  His nails were impressive!
From Leon, we shuttled to Cerro Negro to volcano board! We danced the whole way there, hiked up, and boarded (or sledded really) down. It was so cool to dig into the dirt and feel the heat from the volcano coming up! 

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People-mover dance party.  Or maybe it was a Katie dance party. ;)
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The hike was easy and we lucked out with an overcast sky, so the temperature was perfect.
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Casey gearing up
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The speck on top of the pic is our guide.  He's at the half way point taking photos as we zoom by.
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It was steep and we went fast!  Katie won the fastest go of the day, at 50 kph!
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The sunset was spectacular.
 
When we got back to the resort, a few of us ran to the beach for a "mermaid club" dip during sunset. My spine was almost back to normal. The lack of back and neck pain felt SOOOOO GOOD!
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Mermaids
  
The next day we surfed again, and it was great! The tips I had gotten were tremendously helpful. Everyone was improving from where they started.

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Our shady setup at the beach
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Becca and Maureen dropping in
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Holly showing us some incredible skills
 
 After surfing we did yoga, and then I stepped on this scorpion barefoot!!  The thing was massive and terrifying, but it didn't sting me.
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   I walked down the road and took pictures of some of the locals. They were very friendly and were happy to pose for me, then enjoyed looking at their photos. 

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These beauties were riding bikes.
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 One family had a pet monkey, who crawled into my arms and dozed off. It stayed there happily until I tried removing it. The monkey begain screaming (I think I screamed too) then it bit me. That's right, I wasn't joking when I mentioned a monkey bite. Travelers be warned, rule number one is don't touch the monkey!

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Sad little monkey with sharp teeth

That evening we ate at a gorgeous French Restaurant. There was a platform perfect for watching the sun set over the lush green countryside.
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Brenda taking in the postcard worthy view. 
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Our favorite instructors!  Each one brought something unique to the group. I truly enjoyed spending time with each of these strong, passionate, skilled and fun loving women.
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Holly and some of her crew.  Holly had one or two kids in her arms nearly the whole time.  It was inspiring to see her accomplishing both motherhood and her career!
 
After dinner we went to Salsa night to practice our zumba moves. I'm a terrible dancer but I had a lot of fun trying. ;)

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For our last day we had an extra long surf session at sunrise. The waves were bigger and I got pretty pummeled in them, but it was hard to stop since we were at the end of our trip.


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For our final activity, we went horseback riding. This was the pinnacle of the trip for me- as if fantastic surf, scenery, and friends weren't enough, we got to ride horses too! They really liked to go fast, and we galloped for miles on the beach as the sun drew low in the sky.

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Some of the horses liked to stay slow and steady.
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Casey was quite anxious about the horses, but had a great time
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Becca, my unicorn sister ;)

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Amaui had mad horse handling skills!
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After saying adios to the horses we had a final beach party and mermaid club swim.
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At night the stars seemed extra bright.
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Light painting fun
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One of my favorite parts of this trip was giving back to the community through Waves of Hope.  Nicaragua is a very poor country, and though the people were very warm and friendly, their homes typically looked like this:

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Corrugated steel house.  It was in better shape than the cardboard walls of other houses I saw.
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We were able to bring 49.5 pounds of school supplies and dental kits to donate.  And we avoided the $200 baggage fee by half a pound!
  What a week! In some ways it felt more like three. I am so glad it happened! It was so nice to have everything taken care of- food, transport, activities etc. so we could just focus on surfing. Looking back, I recognize that for me, this trip was more about finding my own inner strength, doing things out of my comfort zone, and facing my fears. Thank you Holly and team for such an unforgettable experience. You will see me again.

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And for the final picture. We stopped at a gas station on the way to the airport.
The toilet on the right didn't have paper and didn't flush.  the one on the left didn't have paper and didn't have a door!  lol