So we started off at 3:40 in the morning, and drove to Flagstaff. We got in about 11 local time. Although check-in at the Holiday Inn Express, where we stayed, wasn't until 3, our room was ready so we got to check in early. It was a very nice room-- there was a king bed, a sofa bed which we later unfolded for Emma to use, and they had left the crib we requested outside the door. It was easy to set up, sturdy and safe, clean, and fit right between our bed and the wall, perfect! And since when we booked through the company's website we joined the Priority Club, besides expedited check in/out, they had left a special welcome sheet and two bottles of water and two bags of chips for us. Cool! Also, they've changed the bedding since last time I stayed at a Holiday Inn; they've switched from those itchy ugly bedspreads to duvet inserts in a high-count cotton cover that's white, same as the sheets. It's more attractive and ENDLESSLY more comfy, especially when you just lay on top of it, as we ended up doing (they had a very efficient heater.)
Once we got everything situated, we changed into swimwear and went down to the indoor/outdoor pool. Nice! It was Bridget's first time swimming (we used to take Emma a lot when we lived in a complex with a pool, but it has been a while and I'm unsure if she remembered ever going before, but she seemed to enjoy it) and after a little adjustment, she seemed to have fun. We swam for as long as the girls stayed warm, then Jeff took them up while I got some alone time. Swimming is one of the best things ever for my sore back and I hardly ever get to do it, so it was a real treat to be able to do it there. I spent some time in the whirlpool, too, before I went up.
We then went to lunch, to the mall, where Emma played on the equipment, which she loves, and I shopped (I found some discounted Superman shirts for Ems and some pants and some socks and tights for the girls, as well as some dress socks for Jeff. Everyone was having sales but Dillard's; unfortunately I had just missed theirs.)
Then we headed over to my almost-step-sister's and her husband's. I took my allergy medication in the car because they have a dog. They had also vacuumed and washed everything, which was very thoughtful of them and made my allergy medication much more effective. We had a wonderful time with them. Jeff took a nap on their couch, which they didn't mind, and Craig cooked. Emma loved the food. She REALLY loved the food. She's a fan of simple but elegant meals, and the barbecued chicken, baked potatoes, steamed carrots, and Cesar salad really hit the spot for her, apparently. She also liked the dog and cat (Bridey, having just had some bad experiences with barking dogs, took a while longer to get used to Pandora.) We had a great visit and a wonderful time. We love Jilly and Craig and it's always great to see them. Emma even opened up enough to sing all her songs for them at the end of our visit. And she loved feeding chicken to the dog.
We then went back to the hotel and to bed. Unfortunately I developed a killer headache. After I ironed the clothes for church the next day and the kids were bathed and down, I took a bath. Emma laid down with Jeff on the couch bed and went right out, which surprised us all, but was wonderful.
The next morning we went down to breakfast. (I'm nursing and Emma is a toddler, so we don't fast; Jeff prayerfully considered whether or not to fast on a day when we would be driving another two or so hours immediately after church, and decided against it. I agreed that this was a good choice, knowing his body chemistry and physiology.) Emma had a fit about getting up and dressed, and carried that over into breakfast. She cried because her banana broke, and when a lady at the next table gave us one her kids had taken but not eaten (we had taken the last banana), cried because it had a black spot. I cut it out and she cried because I cut her banana. So finally, I "fixed" the banana by gluing the piece back on with cream cheese (I was having a bagel and cream cheese.) She ate it and decided she liked it-- so she made me "fix" it "gain". I cut a piece from the other banana. After about three repetitions of this, I decided we would be there all day if it kept on. So I took her banana, split it in half (risking more tears), and spread cream cheese all down the middle, then put it back together, which she accepted once she tasted it. She also ate 1/2 of a huge cinnamon roll and two bowls of Fruit Loop-type cereal with milk. Ay.
We got everything in the car but then got lost and couldn't find the church building. We called Jill, who directed us to a different one, the stake center, which is under construction. Luckily they had a family ward that was also starting at 11; we made it in time to walk in and sit down with just a few minutes to spare. They had THREE baby blessings, and then the testimonies began. Now, not to criticize, but I was wondering if their bishop was new, because at least half of the testimonies were from kids. Including some two-year-olds. Did they not get the letter about that? It's periodically read in our ward, and having now witnessed the reason it was probably written, I can see the difference. Not that the kids weren't cute, or even that I'm denying that they have a testimony. But to hear the same exact things from five little boys in a row does reduce the spirit of the meeting just a bit. On the other hand, the reason this is allowed may be because everyone else seemed pretty reluctant to bear their testimonies. But other than that, it was a very nice ward, if HUGE. There were two or three women there who were grandmothers, I think. Everyone else was young couples with kids! I don't usually bear my testimony while visiting another ward, but I felt that someone might need to hear what I had to say so I did. It was actually cathartic to say things that have been going on in my life that I probably wouldn't be able to share in my own ward. I was very proud of Emma because she was having trouble in Sacrament meeting and asked Abba for a time out. (We don't use time-out as punishment, but as a cool-down period, so she feels free to ask for it when she needs it.) It was much better than having a meltdown in church.
Like I said, it was a very nice ward, but... I dunno, they didn't seem very, well, deep. Or involved in the discussions. Maybe it's all the exhausted parents with young kids. But Sunday School and RS were just not on the level I was used to. I did enjoy it, though, and it was nice to visit another ward and building and see how the organization of the Church works elsewhere. And did I say they were nice? They were very nice.
Their nursery is huge. They had three rooms and rotated groups through. I was happy to see that Emma went to a different nursery without any qualms whatsoever. She is growing up so much! Unfortunately they were a bit understaffed and the group Ems was in had some rowdy boys apparently; they were running around and knocked her into a table and she bit her lip. She was taken to Abba and when I got out that awaited me. She was okay once we got her Bert jacket (from Halloween, one of her favorite things to wear right now) on, gave her a Superman toy, and gave her a chocolate muffin, though. Jeff had mostly stopped the bleeding by the time I got out.
So then we drove down to Phoenix. Next up: Part II: Phoenix.