Monday, June 7, 2010

My New Favorite Way to Start Summer Vacation

(Be warned: This post will make up for the last couple that had no photos.)

Just a few hours after the girls finished their last day of school to begin the Memorial Day weekend, we headed down south to Lake Powell for some relaxation and fun on a houseboat with Kent's extended family. Here are some of the highlights.

Of course, the kids spent most of their time in the water. #5 literally spent hours throwing rocks and clods of mud into the lake. Such simple pleasures.

In this photo, I love the way the water sparkles around #4 as if she were surrounded by water stars.

And speaking of stars...

The night sky was filled with them! Until the full moon would come out. We slept in the open air on the top deck of the boat, and the bright moon kept me awake most of the first night. After my mom-in-law loaned me an eye mask, I slept quite soundly being rocked by the water and cooled by the breeze each night after that. So nice! We let the kids stay up late each night, which also guaranteed me quiet mornings to myself.

Kent spent most of his time curled up with books that others had brought, which is pretty much an ideal vacation for him. I think he averaged a book a day. He got through the first two of the Hunger Games and now has to patiently wait for the third to come out this August.

#3 underwent a Lake Powell right of passage: jumping off the high diving board. I easily spent 30 minutes of recording time on my camera waiting for her to take the plunge over the course of two days. When her last chance had finally come...she did it! (The clip is 1 min 44 secs; I kept the whole thing because I like hearing the words of encouragement from her family. Skip to about 1:15 if you just want to see the big moment.) We were proud of her for working up the courage. When I asked her later if it was worth it (she got paid off with some bribes), she said flatly, "No."

Several of the attempted bribes for #3 to jump included back flips off the diving board by various Towner cousins. I am pretty happy that my little point-and-shoot camera caught this instant of Brandon's flip so well.

On Monday the water was tolerably warm and we all took our turns jumping off the boat one way or another.

#1 and Kent joined in the Lake Powell version of football with our cousins. The "quarterback" had to time her throw to meet the "receiver" as he ran off the diving board and the football had to reach him as he fell through midair. #1 proved to have a great throwing arm and hit her receivers 90% of the time. She was the only girl to leap off the boat for the football and made a good catch after a few attempts.

Kent caught the ball sometimes, but in this picture I think it's a fumble.

#5 got really excited about the idea of getting in the deep water and almost worked up the courage to jump off the back of the houseboat. When it came down to it, though, Aunt Anita just lifted him by his life jacket and set him in the water into someone's arms. You can see him very nervously waving as he clings to the ladder. It really must be a terrifying thing to float freely for the first time in a big body of water with no bottom to reassuringly rest one's feet on.

The best water toy is what we call The Slider. It's a two-person tube with no hole in the middle. It's great fun behind a speed boat because it skims the surface of the water and you can make it leap if you lean just right. It's also fun for playing around the houseboat. The first time #4 got on, she immediately grabbed the handles--all four of them!

My favorite game with the slider is to position it in such a way that it floats toward the boat's slide. When it gets to the right spot, you slide down and try to land in the middle without flipping it over. #2 tried it first. This video cracked me up!

Then I showed her the right way to do it. On my first attempt, I landed slightly off center and flipped backward head before heels into the water. On attempt number two, I landed it and earned an 8.5 from the judges. (I would have had to turn and smile at the camera as I flew off the slide to get a perfect 10.)

We managed to entertain ourselves out of the water too. Following brunch and a group testimony meeting on Sunday, we went for a boat tour. 17 of us fit on the ski boat and we witnessed some of the beautiful rocks and canyons of the lake.

Uncle Karl and Aunt Jan brought their family's paddle boat along, which the kids (my five plus one cousin) promptly took over. They packed picnic lunches and paddled over to the "island" rock in our cove. When they returned with the boat, they were very good about cleaning out the mud and sand and garbage they had accumulated.

Kent and I took the paddle boat for a spin (ha ha) one evening. I had to include this picture because I love how quickly I didn't care about wearing makeup or styling my hair once we were in that desert. It was nice, for a few days, to only worry about sunscreen. I was so diligent in protecting against the sun that I am probably the only one who has come back from Lake Powell with white legs. Oh well.

I did have fun with sunscreen on my kids. I decided to paint designs on their backs that would stay lighter than their tanned skin. It mostly worked. On #3 I painted these fairy wings. She laid out for another 20 minutes after I told her to come inside, so she burned instead of tanned. But you can really see the design!

The kids spent lots of time hiking rocks and burying themselves in the sand. Cousin Jason caught a lizard that #2 tried unsuccessfully to turn into a prince. That little lizard put up with a lot of handling and running on clothing before being released back into the wild.

My favorite spectator event is the bonfire. On the evening of our paddle boat ride, Kent and I passed an eight-feet-tall and 12-feet-wide stack of tumbleweeds. When darkness had fallen completely, the young males of our group fashioned torches out of paper plates stuck on branches and together they lit the bonfire. Then, just to punish their sunburned skin, they wrapped their shirts around their heads and danced around the 25-feet-high flames, whooping and leaping off rocks.

Tuesday morning marked our departure. The boys pulled up anchor and we headed back to the slip. Uncle Eric let #5 take a turn as captain for a few minutes, which was absolutely a highlight of the trip for my little guy.

Overall, it was a truly relaxing, wonderful way to begin the summer. It was great to be out of reach by phone or email for a short time, and I never once wished I were at home secretly cleaning or gardening. Kent and I hadn't realized how much we needed a vacation, so I'm glad his family made sure we had this one.


Alfie said...

That looks like so much fun. What a perfect way to transition to summer

Charlotte said...

Great start to vacation! I love that she jumped. I'm thinking I need to get onto a boat sometime soon.

Jenni said...

SO JEALOUS!!! Looks like you guys had a blast! I love the sunburn tatoos, aeial acrobatics and freakishly huge bonfire!

Our family said...

It makes my body ache that we haven't really been boating yet this year. Our April excursion was too long ago to remember. That trip looks so fun. Maybe Nate's next wife can bring a houseboat inheritance with her. We'll have to look into that.