29 December, 2013

Christmas in Las Vegas

We just returned from our adventure Out West. The children had such a great time getting to know their cousins and Chayton loved having playmates his age!

Kyra - 16
Kaija - 12
Nazeriah - 11
Bryce - 8
Chayton- 7
Garrett - 6

Nana, Papa, Uncle Geoffrey and Aunt Stacey were a nice addition, too.

Besides hanging out and spending time together, we managed to squeeze in a few activities.

Ice skating!

The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay

Friday Night Pizza

Cookie Making

Lots of Play Time and Movie Time

Chayton Lost Another Tooth - on Christmas Day

Red Rock Canyon

Plus ... a ride on the Polar Express!

(lots of potty breaks ... I might get in trouble for this one.)

And Christmas (with our traditional New Year's Day dinner, since we'd be back in GA for that).

Thank you for sharing a wonderful and transformational year with us on our Adventure. It was Christmas 2013 that we "broke" the news to our children.

Sadly, this part of our journey will come to a close with the start of 2014. 

But, of course, The Real Adventure goes on.

Happy New Year!

20 December, 2013

Adventures Out West

Our adventure continues Out West - first with my family in Las Vegas and now at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and Zion National Park.

In true Allen Family fashion, our three hour-and-some-change trip turned into it's own mini adventure within the adventure! Once again a potty break had us turning around to visit an amazing place: Pipe Springs National Monument. 

This little known gem is a rememberance to the original people and even more so to the Morman settlers. We had a personal tour of the farm and the fort - Windsor's Castle (a much different castle then the one we saw in England!).

We saw our first, in person long horn steers, took a tour around the fort, finished the Jr. Ranger Program and saw a 120+ year old grapevine.

Then it was on to Best Friends!

Courtney and I first discovered Best Friends by chance some 15 years ago on our way to Zion and the Grand Canyon. It was amazing to see then. It was completely awesome to experience it with our children. Once again we stayed in one of the cottages on the property (much improved and remodeled!). 

(Our backyard view at sunset.)

But added to the experience, we volunteered at Cat World.

Let me back up a bit ... Best Friends is the largest no-kill animal shelter in the US. You can find them on over 20,000 aces of land in Angle Canyon outside of Kanab, Utah. Within the sanctuary there is: Cat World, Dog Town, Horse Haven, Marshall's Piggy Palace, Bunny House, Parrot Garden, Wild Friends and Angles Rest. You can find out more here: www.bestfriends.org.

Our day started with a two-hour tour of the sanctuary, our volunteer orientation and lunch at their vegetarian cafe.

(Way out in the background you can see the start of Escalante - Grand Staircase National Monument! How cool is that?)

In between all that, Kaija even got to meet Kaya.

And so did Chayton.

Then it was on to Cat World and some fun with the residents of the Colonel's Baracks - a building with five catteries, each cattery with 20 cats. That's a lot of kitty love! (Best Friends has 11 buildings that house cats.)

We spent the whole afternoon there - petting, brushing, playing with, giving snacks to and even taking one cat out on a stroller walk.

Kaija found a Cari look-a-like. Courtney and Chayton found a Pumpkin look-a-like. And we all found someone to love on.

Much too soon it was time to go. But first we had to pack up our sleep-over buddy: Kazoo. After volunteering you have the option to take a friend back to your cottage to spend the night. The animal gets a much deserved beak from shelter life and you get a warm and cuddly friend.

Of course, nothing is ever as simple and easy as those photos will lead you to belive. Kazoo was a wonderful, lovey and snugly cat. But. It was his first sleep-over, so he was a little unsettled. And he is very talkative. That means he spent the night alternating between cuddling with us in bed, prowling the cottage and talking ... and talking ... and NOT sleeping. I would do it all over again. He's now a step closer to learning how to cuddle (and sleep) with a forever family. (Not us, just so it's clear, no matter how tempting it would be.)

After getting Kazoo back to his temporary home, we headed out to Zion National Park. All I can say is wow. It took my breath away just like the first time. 

Per our usual, the kids started working on the Jr. Ranger Program at Zion (it truly is amazing at what you can accomplish in only an afternoon).

(The Patriarchs)

(See the shadows that Chayton said looked like hikers? There's even some smaller "people" down below them.)

(Quick view from one of the gallery windows that are located in the mile long tunnel through the mountains.)


And I can't forget the Bald Eagle that we saw flying close to the highway. Close enough for all five of us to see his white tail feathers and white head. Unfortunately, by the time we turned back around, this was as close of a photo that I could manage. You see him, right?!?