As of 3.20pm yesterday afternoon our kids are officially on their half term break from school and it couldn’t come soon enough! Megan isn’t a fan of school and it is a battle every day, so she is excited to have her time as her own! And I am excited to have my kids back… I thoroughly enjoy the time we get to go out together and hang out during the school holidays, and with all of the lovely weather we’ve been having so far, I have been super excited to spend some time going on little adventures together! I always enjoy these moments and feel like a proper mum (if that makes any sense?)!

Anyway, tonight they will kick off their fun with an epic sleepover/fun times (which is lasting all weekend) with their cousins at Grandma Smith’s house! It sounds unbelievable what she has planned, and completer madness, but I know each of their cousins are as excited as them and cannot wait to go. With 8×4-7 year olds, I wish her much luck…but I am sure it will be hugely exciting and a wonderful, memorable weekend!

Meanwhile, I am very much looking forward to a bank holiday weekend and having some time with Nath working side by side to spruce up our home and finally put our stamp on it (with our little helper of course).

Usually our half terms are planned around daily themes (read more about it here) which works out wonderfully for a balance. This time round however I decided to mix it up a bit and have a more spontaneous approach. Instead of us brainstorming and planning together around our daily themes, I asked them each to pick a day they wanted and then decide what we be doing on that day – anything they want they can plan it for the rest of the family! They loved this idea so much and are now looking forward to their days, as well as sharing in the fun that one another has planned!

So here is what we are looking forward to this June half term…

MONDAY – The kids will still be living it up at Grandma’s so we will be taking advantage of the Bank holiday to either be finishing any DIY jobs on our list that we didn’t get done Saturday, or simply chilling at the coast with Alice.

TUESDAY – After a busy weekend, we have reserved Tuesday to be a chill out day. I think it’s important when they are off school to have one day at least where they can relax, play out, wander to the park and watch movies. Tuesday will be our day for this!

WEDNESDAY – This is Alice’s day, and so weather permitting we will be visiting an RSPB spot and take a picnic. She loves Birds and animals, and as we have membership I thought it would be a nice day out and a lovely day chasing Nature!

THURSDAY – Megan chose this day as hers. Without hesitation it was swimming and pirate golf at the coast! This will probably be a good day to meet up with cousins on my side and have some fun over that way!

FRIDAY – Ethan really wants to go to “THE DEEP” in Hull! I thought this was a splendid idea as we rarely go to places like this in our school holidays. He thought we could go on the Friday and so there we are – fun at The Deep on Friday! We will probably have a walk around the marina too, and if it’s warm weather, wander to the fountains in the city centre!

SATURDAY – On Saturday we will be returning to Hull to go to Hull Truck Theatre family open day. It is a FREE event from 10am til 4.30pm I have been looking forward to for a while (and I think it will be fantastic). As a theatre lover, I can’t wait for my kids to get hands on and involved with the things I love. It will be great to experience the joy and mystery of the Theatre together! Ethan is especially excited to check out (and hopefully have a go) at lighting and sound, and I think Megs will enjoy the crafty side of things and dress up! I am really looking forward to our family doing something together that makes me so happy!

Later that day we are meeting up with Ethan’s bestie from Leeds for some swimming or just some hanging out!

I am so excited for a week together – having fun and exploring East Yorkshire! Can you believe that next weekend it will be a year since we moved over here? I can’t! It has been such a different pace of life, a refreshing change to life in the City, and I am excited that nearly all that we have planned together is embracing our new favourite spots here in East Yorkshire! I can’t wait to hang with my kids this coming week and have some fun this Half term!

Hello to June Half term – we are so ready for you (once they’ve cracked on and cleaned the house this morning!) – let’s hope the sun shines brightly on our adventures!

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Following what had been a lovely sunny and long bank holiday weekend (spent on the coast and submerged in the beauty of where we live), this week turned all rather dramatic really, with the focus being mostly on Mr Smith and his neck injury!

It all began on Tuesday, when on his way to work, someone went into the back of him at the bottom of a rather steep hill and consequently caused some damage to our car, and whiplash to his neck! We spent pretty much all day Wednesday at A&E in Hull, where after an initial consultation he was referred to the X-ray department. From here he was sent for an MRI, and then 7.5 hours later he was finally given the all clear to go home and rest (with painkillers). The remainder of the week saw me carrying on as normal, doing more of the driving, and ensuring his comfort.

Grateful For… 

At the top of the list this week would be that I am truly grateful for the NHS – free healthcare and being able to get such good service is a huge blessing in life. Especially when my eyes were opened on our recent trip to America as to how much it would all be privately! With that I am also so incredibly grateful for a fit and health hubby who will have no long term damage! The whole A&E situation did have me concerned for a while that he possibly could have nerve damage, but thankfully it’s only a strain and with physio (starting this week) he is going to be just fine!!

I am also grateful for lots of sunshine, a bank holiday weekend, country walks with the family and lunch dates at the park!

Succeeded At…

Handing in my second unit for college. This one was all about the theories of counselling, and whilst rather interesting, I was relieved to see the back of it! I only have 3 more units and a case study to do before finishing my diploma at the end of June – all of which are significantly smaller than these first 2! I am hopeful I will pass, and as I have not completed anything academic in years, it is all rather exciting and feels great!

I also succeeded at doing an online shop! I’ve done them loads before and I prefer it purely because I know it’s usually cheaper and easier all round. I have said for a while we should just have our shopping delivered now to save time and keep us in budget. But then I often forget to do it and end up buying far too many extras when I head to LIDL, and I spend far too long browsing and just waste time! This week however I remembered, and yesterday our weekly shop came – later than hoped but complete and in budget nonetheless – Hoorah!

Found Beauty In…

On bank holiday Monday we enjoyed a lovely local hike with my parents and one of my sisters and her kids. It was about 5.5miles in total, and the whole thing was beautiful. It is in moments like that, when I am stood in wide open spaces illuminated by the sun, that I have to pause and catch my breath – always in complete awe and appreciation of how blessed we are to live in such a gorgeous corner of the country! We have been here almost a year now, and I am still amazed at how lovely our village and surrounding areas are – I feel thankful for the beauty all around me – It brings great joy to my soul!

What has brought you joy and gratitude this week? let me know in the comments! 
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2 weeks worth of holiday pictures, and over 2,000 miles travelled across 4 different states, isn’t an easy task to now  condense into one blog post (how could I do it justice?). And so as I have spent this last week reflecting on what a great holiday we all enjoyed, and as I have been sharing the odd pictures with friends while retelling tales of our adventures, I saw how massive of a task it would be to blog about such an epic trip in a few 100 words and decided that to really give you a feel for our trip, I would do this particular holiday over 3 posts… beginning with our first week in Arizona!

London to LA 

Before our trip, so many people said to us they couldn’t think of anything worse than an 11 hour flight with kids… Especially when one of them wasn’t even 2 yet. But we obviously like a challenge, and whether brave or just delusional we took on that challenge! After a 7am start on Wednesday the 22nd of March we drove 5 hours from Yorkshire to London Heathrow, for our 11.25 hour flight to LA.

Far from being the closest airport to us, it did however enable us to fly for a lot cheaper to America than the northern ones – thus making this whole adventure a reality! We found that on the whole there are some really good deals with Air New Zealand from Heathrow to LA (go check it out right now) and as an airline we could not fault them. They were great with the kids, the food was lovely, and the seats felt modern, clean and comfortable.

The kids were fab on the way there… they were mega excited and we were mega excited too, and so as a result of us all being super excited, the first half of the flight was simply great. They watched movies, they snuggled in their seats with their blankets, and then watched more movies. They ate the pre bought treats I packed (this is an essential) and enjoyed the yummy on board meals (Butter Chicken curry and rice with salted caramel Ice cream, and a calzone pizza and Jam & Cream scone before landing!). And then… you guessed it, they watched more movies!

As the hours passed by and we went way beyond what would have been bedtime at home, Ethan and Megan sat dozey eyed looking at their screens before falling asleep for a couple of hours. Alice on the other hand became increasingly fidgety and tired, and therfore very emotional. I walked with her up and down the plane, and stood in the galley at the back rocking her whilst she screamed her head off. At one point in life that would have made me paranoid about what others thought, but at this particular point, and in this moment of desperation, I didn’t care as long as she would finally doze off!

And she did…She gave in eventually, and managed a couple of hours before landing, enabling both Nathan and I to watch a couple of things too and enjoy the remainder of the flight. They all awoke as we landed, and we smiled that we had done it – an 11.25 hours with three kids – High 5!

Then was the hardest part of it all – Border control in LA! Let’s just say it felt like complete unorganized chaos, and with sleepy parents, 3 exhausted kids, no AC and a mega long line moving at 0.5 miles per hour it was HARD! After 90 minutes of that I had zero patience left and so approached a worker, who after some chat bumped us up to almost the front so we could get out and get to the car rental place, and of course eventually get the kids (and us) to bed!

A while later we had all of our luggage, picked up our “pimped” Nissan Rogue, and had a bed for the night in a shady feeling Motel. We slept, we showered and we settled in to life in the USA! We were here and we were more excited than the day before.

The Drive!

For weeks leading up to our trip, all we could talk about was dipping our toes in the Pacific Ocean! We spoke of walking down the Hollywood boulevard and snapping shots in front of the iconic sign… and we dreamed of laying on the beach for an hour or 2, to recover from an 11 hour flight, and soak up the fact we were finally in America!

But none of this happened, at least not at this stage of our trip! Rather we were greeted with a tropical storm. Warm yes, but also very grey and lots and lots of rain! We decided that very first morning (after ordering our first stack of pancakes) that we would just go ahead and start an earlier drive over to Arizona to escape the grey and wet weather that was too much like home!

We took the I10  for 6 hours, with a stop off in Blythe for some tacos, and made it finally to Mesa early evening! It was the first of many long drives and like them all  (as you will see) was filled with so much natural beauty. This was sprung on us in abundance when crossing the Arizona border meant us seeing real life massive Cacti for the first time and it was such a novelty for us all (and especially the kids)!

Mesa Arizona 

Mesa Arizona was my home for well over a year, and I have missed it so much! Of course it has changed a lot since I was there 11 years ago, but the smell of the warm dry air and street names felt oh so familiar and I couldn’t get enough of it – it was like coming home.

We stayed in Mesa for 4 nights at one of my friends houses, which was so great. There we were able to catch up, chat late into the night, and reminisce. It was good for the kids too as they found new friends, and had other kids to play with which they thoroughly enjoyed. And then of course staying with friends or family means that is also great for the bank balance too! (Thanks Rachel). It was lovely living there as a local again for a few days, as well as going on a few adventures, and generally just seeing into friends lives a little more and living the American dream!

Whilst a lot of our trip here was about touring around the people and places that were important to me, we were also conscious that it was still a family holiday and so we wanted to do some activities that were fun and would build lasting memories too. The first day I started at the top of my my list and we had lunch at my most favorite of places – Cafe Rio (Priorities) and as hoped Nathan loved it too! Then with bellies full of deliciousness, we headed downtown to “Main Street” where they have an LDS Temple and Visitors centre. During Easter they also have an Easter pageant here, and so the remainder of our day (and evening) was spent here with friends… a place where most of my days were spent too 11 years ago!

We walked around and looked, played at the splash pad in Pioneer Park opposite, and then met more friends for a picnic tea and an evening watching the Pageant. It was such a lovely day in such a special place, that felt utterly surreal, but we lapped it up and had an absolutely fab time.

The following day we took our adventures to the next level when one of my friends (and his kids) took our family to Superstition Mountains for a hike. This was something I was greatly looking forward to as I have, for so long, wanted to explore the dessert a little more. The hike took us just a couple of miles up a track to the bottom of the mountains, where we found some Native American hieroglyphs – they were so cool! The kids absolutely loved everything about it (until Megs fell into a cactus), and had fun running round the desert and clambering up rocks with their new American pals!

Once at our destination we had our picnic and explored a little cave whilst admiring the incredible views and scenery. It was a warm day, but thankfully not too hot, and whilst I was somewhat anxious about potential scorpions and snakes, it didn’t seem to matter as it was still such a lovely time and Nathan and I loved just being in the desert, seeing the massive cacti and feeling the heat.

That evening the kids cooled off in the pool when we met up with an old friend and his family. It was such a great day, and then before we knew it we only had one last, and so spent the rest of the weekend mostly just driving round old places I lived and seeing old friends I love!

The Grand Canyon

We left Mesa on Monday morning after a delicious breakfast at the cutest of places in Gilbert! “The Gilbert House Restaurant”, whilst a little off track, was the loveliest of places to meet one of my friends for last minute chats and a hearty American breakfast. I loved everything about it; the food was incredible and I seriously felt like I was on “Anne of Green Gables” as soon as we walked up to it. It was a great start to our last day in Mesa!

Set up for the day food wise, we drove up the highway, passing Scottsdale etc until we reached Flagstaff. Here we had a toilet break and a late lunch before a shorter 1.15hr drive to the Grand Canyon National park.The scenery was beautiful, and as it blended from desert landscapes to picturesque woodlands, the temperature dropped and we soon found ourselves in a blizzard! It was the weirdest thing, and we couldn’t believe our eyes…especially to be at the Grand Canyon National park and seeing snow. As I stood there in my sandals, all I could do was laugh my head off!

The Grand Canyon and national park were quite possibly one of the major highlights for us all on this trip! It was so incredibly beautiful and each of us stood in total awe and amazement as we stood high on the edge looking over it. At this point, the sun came out and it was just spectacular! We weren’t there long, but it was long enough to appreciate it’s vastness, read of it’s people and see some local wildlife crossing the road.

It costs $30 for a car (weekly pass) which felt pricey for a couple of hours, but is completely worth it for a week. I would definitely go back here and explore it for longer, and would love to visit the Navajo stalls that line the road as you drive away from it! If you have a chance to go, you totally should (but beware of mountain lions!). It’s such an adventure and beautiful place, and we couldn’t believe our eyes, or believe we were there!

The canyon itself, and the drive down from it/ through it, and through the reservation is so fascinating and exciting. It is for sure the greatest of adventures! Of course it was a little more scary when darkness crept in, but with sleeping kids, it was an easy drive for the remaining 5 hours it took us to get to St George, Utah.

What a brilliant end to our time in Arizona!

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Welcome back to another week of #MyHeartyLife – an opportunity to celebrate the small moments of gratitude, success and beauty from the previous week. Life is so busy (and at times hard), that I find it therapeutic and empowering to look back on the previous week and notice the little ways I succeeded in my life, and the moments that made me appreciative and grateful. I love recording and noticing the beauty in life, because together these things make me see that life is good and blessed, despite the really hard days. They help me smile and feel good.

I hope you will join me, either by linking a blog below, or sharing something on Instagram with the # “MyHeartyLife”. I love to see all of the little moments that are bringing people Joy!

This week…

This week has been so surreal. We were in Utah when it began, and enjoyed a lovely reunion with great friends there, and now 7 days later we are home in Yorkshire attempting to fight Jet lag! In between we have been to Vegas and Hollywood, flown 10 hours from LA to London, eaten lots of rubbish, watched some great films on the plane, and driven home. It has been quite the adventure, and I have loved it all.

Grateful for …

I am grateful this week for my faith and religion. This last weekend was our churches semi-annual General Conference, and I loved being able to sit and watch it live on TV.! Nathan and I also had tickets for the Sunday morning session, and so had a couple of kid free hours, to go to Salt Lake City and watch Conference in the Conference centre. This is rather a rarity as we usually just get the broadcast of it in the UK, but we watched some beautiful pieces sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir followed by the conference session. It was incredible and felt so enriched being there in the midst of it on a lovely sunny Easter morning.

I am also once again so grateful for old friends and being able to pick up right where we left off. For all of the laughs we have enjoyed with them, and the lovely fake cafe Rio meal that was put on in our honour last friday evening. We are grateful for our Family for having us stay in America, and a lovely Easter dinner too, as well as unlimited root beer’s, copious amounts of tasty rubbish food, safety whilst travelling, and generally just the opportunity to travel as a little crew and make memories!

Succeed at …

We successfully made it to Vegas and then to LA driving – It was quite the journey, but a most beautiful one too! We also successfully made it home again from the states on a 10 hour flight with the 3 kids, and without any accidents or drama. The kids did well on the plane (mostly), and whilst that final drive from London to Yorkshire felt the hardest with only a snooze on the plane, we did it!!!

Found beauty in …

Children hunting eggs on a sunny Spring day, bright blue skies and the sun on the Salt Lake Temple. Friends faces and hearing of their lives, laughter with loved ones and time with family, followed by driving through Canyons – all of these things were beautiful to me this week and made my heart full!

I was rather sad to have to say goodbye to it all and I wished we could have an extra week. But, like one of my friends said as we left “No time will ever be enough”!

I love seeing old faces who we share great memories with, and I love seeing such majestic natural beauties! This week has been greatly blessed and I am thankful we have had an opportunity to live the dream. Now back to reality and some more local adventures in East Yorkshire!

#MyHeartyLife Rules

You can link up one post a week that fits into either or all of the “Prompts”, and I ask that you at least comment on mine and one or 2 others too. Kindness costs nothing and a comment on your blog feels amaze!

Please use the #MyHeartyLife on Social media whenever you want to share the goodness and cheerful moments in your life that day! It might also help when summing up the week into a blog post to link up!

 

The Hearty Life


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