Sunday, August 31, 2014

End of Summer - Houston and Doha

After Ken and I came back from Banff, we enjoyed a fairly lazy 12 days in Houston before flying home to Doha.  The boys attended VBS at our old church one week and I was able to catch up with many of our friends from church.  Otherwise, we just spent a lot of time hanging out with Ken's parents and the boys played with their cousins Tiffany and Alex.  It was a relaxing way to end our time in the states.
Playing with Alex
 Mai wanted to take all the kids roller skating one afternoon ... we learned that our boys are NOT naturals at roller skating!!!  The rink was packed when we got there and they didn't have any of those "walkers" available, so the boys had to try skating on their own ... NIGHTMARE!!!  Finally some of the little "walkers" were freed up and the boys had much more fun.  Tiffany was the only one who can actually manage her way around the rink without any help.

Alex was hesitant at first, but he did a great job!

I think Jaden struggled the most.  It was almost painful to watch!

Nicholas managed a little better than Jaden, but honestly, not by much.  Poor kids!

That's Tiffany next to the wall ... the only one to skate without any help!  Way to go Tiffany!!
Watching my children on roller skates made me realize that maybe my mom was right when she bought us our first pair of roller skates and would only let us have one at a time.  I remember learning to roller skate like a skate board ... one foot in a sneaker, pushing the one skate around and around in the basement.  I was so upset that she wouldn't let me skate with 2 skates!!!  I think she broke her arm roller skating as a child and was afraid the same would happen to us.  After watching my children on 2 skates, maybe 1 skate really IS the way to go...

Snack time after roller skating

Jaden and Nicholas with John Colunga ... their favorite babysitter.

Jaden also wanted to get a picture with our Pastor Don and John's dad Mr. Eddie.  Super cute!

Last day at Vacation Bible School.  The boys had a blast!!!
 After returning to Doha, we had nearly 3 weeks before school started.  We spent a lot of that time playing at home ... the boys had missed all their toys and they have a new obsession with board games and MineCraft.  We did manage to get them out of the house a couple of times ... once to go bowling and once to paint pottery with friends.  By the time school was about to start, we were all ready.  :-)

bowling with Garret and Elizabeth
Sweet little Maps also changed a lot this summer.  She was a kitten when we left but we came home to a grown cat.  She is less playful and has more attitude than before, but I guess I can't blame her.  I'd be pretty hurt if my caretakers just took off and abandoned me for 8 weeks!!!  We had someone come feed her everyday, but I'm sure she got pretty lonely with me and the kids gone so long. 


Unfortunately we also had to say goodbye to our dear friends the Verrips.  The constant rotation of people is life as usual here, but some good byes are harder than others.  Angela has served with me in Children's Ministry at church since February and her husband was transferred to Dubai.  We already miss her and her family terribly!!!


Friday, August 29, 2014

Summer in Banff National Park - horseback riding and other random pictures

Our last day in Banff included a 3 hour horse back right through the Bow River Valley.  It was a ton of fun, but my rear end was a bit sore afterward!  :-)
Getting the horses ready for the day

The barn and stables ... it was a much large operation than we expected with nearly 300 horses

Waiting for our ride to start


Finally on my horse and ready to ride

The start of our ride along the bow river

Our guide (Gary) was over 70 years old.  He was quite a character!  It was just me and Ken and our guide for the ride.  Apparently the 1 hour ride is the popular option and we chose the longer 3 hr ride.  Worth it for a private guide and more time with the horse!

After riding along the river, we turned into the forest and enjoyed a shady ride through the trees.  The horses were so very well trained it was awesome!!!  My horse liked to graze though and I really had to keep tugging on him to keep him moving forward.  Sometimes I let him stop and graze just so we could gallop to catch up ... that might be why my bum was so sore! 
We actually thought we would be riding in the rain, but the weather forecast was way off!  It was the best weather we had the entire time in Banff.  So beautiful!

After we came out of the forest, we rode through a meadow and then back to the stables...

Back at the stable

With our guide

Ken had the better camera on the ride so this is the only decent one I got of him on his horse.  It's tough to get a picture on top of a moving horse!
 After our horseback ride, we enjoyed exploring downtown Banff.  It's a super cute mountain town with a great farmer's market and lots of souvenir shops, bars, and restaurants.
Downtown Banff ...
 Here are a few random pictures taken from the road ...

And the engineer in me thought these little tunnels were so cool!!!  They were built so the animals could safely cross the road!!!  The entire park is fenced along the roadway to keep animals off the road, but they built these tunnel bridges so the animals had the option to cross the road every few miles. 
We fell in love with the Canadian Rockies in the short time we got to visit and we look forward to returning again someday with the kids and again in the winter to ski Sunshine Meadow.  :-)

Summer in Banff National Park - Sunshine Meadow and drive up to Peyto Lake

The following day we headed out to Sunshine Meadows.  It's a ski resort in the winter (and I'd love to come back to ski it some day), but it's a great hiking trail in the summer.  We took a bus up part of the way (saving us about 1 1/2 hrs of steep uneventful hiking) and then hiked for about 5 hours.  They claim it's the largest alpine meadow in the Canadian Rockies.  Three weeks before our arrival, they were still snow shoeing in the meadow!!  In 3 short weeks, all the snow melted and the delicate little wild flowers were bursting up everywhere!  It was a spectacular hike!!!
The start of the hike was a slow and steady incline and then it leveled off with snow capped mountain peaks in the distance

Crossing the continental divide.  It was all uphill until we got to this point and then downhill for a good long while.  It was nice to see the sign on the return since it meant all downhill from this point out!

We were loving all the green!

The first of 3 lakes on our hike ... Rock Island Lake reminded us of a mini Lake Bled (Slovenia) with a little island in the middle of the lake with snow capped mountains all around.

Rock Island Lake

A little brook along the hike...

The 2nd lake ... I was in love with all the bright greens!

Silly tree looks like a face with a great big nose...

Look out point ... stunning and I loved the little pine tree covered in pine cones!!!

Third and final lake of our hike

After the stroll around the three lakes we make a long climb up to a lookout point ... this is right at the top ... we were beat!

But it was so worth it!  You can see all three lakes we hiked around...

Absolutely stunning!

Ken enjoyed playing with our new camera on this hike.  I think it was his excuse to stop and catch his breath when he started to get tired.  We came home with tons of pictures of the wild flowers ... these are a few of my favorites.  Don't ask me what they are ...


On our way out, we passed these scraggly mountain goats along the road.  We didn't see bears, but we saw loads of chipmunks and this sweet mountain goat family that was clearly molting its winter coat.
After our ~5hr hike in Sunshine Meadows we decided to give our feet a rest and we took a drive up to Peyto Lake.  We weren't expecting all the beautiful scenery right off the road!!
View from the road

Glacier along the road ... looks like a bird's foot with 3 claws.  unfortunately the lowest portion is almost completely melted away. 

Little mountain stream along the road

Beautiful lake along the road ... we couldn't resist a stop

I mean really ... SO pretty!

We really ought to live near some mountains ... I can't get enough of them!

The color of the water and the color of the sky ... spectacular!

We finally arrived at Peyto lake and took a short hike up in order to look down on the lake which is shaped like a wolf's head.  Can you see it in the picture? 
Peyto Lake