Australia 2018

Wow what a trip, it was amazing, fantastic, and about a million other adjectives. The trip was a bucket list trip for sure. 

Day 1 – It was lots of flying, we flew from Albuquerque to San Francisco, then to Sydney. Due to the time change, we flew out of San Fran around 11pm on Monday and landed around 6 am in Sydney on Wednesday. So jet lag is a real thing and now I’ve really experienced it.

We drove down the coast from Sydney, first through the Royal National Park. This is a costal park that had lots of winding roads and crossed a few rivers. Some of the bridges, didn’t have guard rails so that was kind of scary since we were driving on the wrong side of the road. Derek did a fantastic job and only tapped a construction road sign, In his defense it was in the road pretty far and on the left side so he couldn’t really see it.  We stopped at one of the tracks (that’s what they call trail heads and took a couple pictures of the sweet gum trees) 

After the Royal National Park we continued the trip down the coast to Clifton, where we stopped at Sea Cliff Bridge. It was a really cool bridge that they built that goes right over the ocean. We found a beach not much father and walked around for a few minutes. The South Pacific is the most beautiful blue color. Pictures do not do it justice. It was the first time I had ever seen the Pacific and I don’t think it will ever compare to anything else. 

The road signs and just signs in general were pretty interesting but my favorite was the “give way”  instead of yield.

We drove the rest of the way into Canberra and checked into the hotel, Derek went to the Australian National University to meet with some colleagues. We caught up after a little while and went to dinner at a local place for burgers and chips (french fries). They didn’t have ketchup on the table and I found out later that they call it tomato sauce and you usually have to ask for it because they usually use HC sauce, which is like a very vinegar laden steak sauce. Then we were really tired and had to go to bed. 

Day 2 – Derek went back to ANU to work some before his lecture and I took a walk to the Australian National Botanic Garden. Even though it was winter there were still plants blooming, and some really interesting bushes and trees.

The Sweet Gum trees loose their bark and turn completely white. Kind of like birch trees back here, but with out the weird smell and black dots. Some of the trees even looked fake because they were so white and smooth like plaster. I walked almost to the top of Black Mountain which is one of the highest points in Canberra.

I walked back to listen to Derek’s lecture and hung around with him for lunch with some of the professors there. It was interesting to talk to them as I found out one of the professors had just come back from a 1 year maternity leave. That is apparently standard for Australia which I thought was really cool. Even the Dad’s get up to 4 months off, which is really incredible. 

After lunch Derek had some more meetings so I went to the ginormous mall the Canberra Center and did some shopping for the kids. Heidi wanted a Stuffed Kola and James wanted some rocks. So I found a store called Australian Geographic and found both of those things there. The mall was pretty similar to ones in the US and there was even a Target there. I went in just to see what it was like and it was pretty much like one here. Very odd considering how far away I was. Shopping with Australian money was really odd too, they have paper dollars, but they have clear plastic sections in them to help prevent counterfeiting. They also have gold coins that are 1 and 2 dollars and silver coins in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent intervals. Some of the gold dollars are smaller than the 50 cent pieces so its hard to know what you have unless you’re looking at them. 

That afternoon we had a little time before dinner so we went to the Australian War Memorial. It was kind of like all the war memorials in DC in one place. They had a beautiful reflecting pool with an eternal flame and a tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They also have walls of remembrance where all the names of men and women killed in action are listed. They are covered with Red poppies as a sign of respect.

Inside they have a museum of all the wars that Australians have fought in. It was a really neat place and we were sad that we didn’t have more time there. Since they were closing we were able to watch the last post ceremony where they honor one soldier each night. They even have a youtube channel where they post them. It was beautiful and we were really glad that we stayed. 

When we came out there were about 100 cockatoos just hanging around the grassy areas eating in the grass. They don’t really have a lot of pigeons in Canberra but they do have tropical birds that act like pigeons and are everywhere.

We still had a little time before dinner so we drove across the river to the old Parliament house, and then drove by the New Parliament House. They are like driving by the Capital when you’re in DC but you can actually get pretty close to them, which you really can’t do here.

We then went up to the top of Black Mountain, its the highest point in Canberra and has the Telestra Tower, which is a bunch of cell towers but they have an elevator that you can go up in, we didn’t have time to go up but we got to see some neat views of the valley and watched the tower change colors a few times. 

We then went to dinner at the University Club’s restaurant that was really good. It was interesting to see what qualified as mash (basically mashed potatoes) with a different kind sauce that Derek said didn’t taste like any gravy he’d ever had. I also tried what I think is called pigface, it is an edible succulent plant thats a little sweet and salty. It was really delicious. We also found out that Australians really like vinegar, its on everything. I also drank a lot of Coke, probably the most I have ever had in my life. It helped with the jet lag, and for some reason was everywhere down there, while Pepsi was hard to come by. 

Day 3 – We decided we wanted to go to the Sydney Australia temple while we were there. So we left Canberra pretty early in the morning, it was foggy but really pretty as we drove out. There were lots of cattle and sheep stations and wineries. We did not realize that just outside of the Capital was so agricultural.  We also saw lots of Kangaroos off the highway, I was able to get one picture of a small mob, but we literally saw over a hundred eating in a field at one point. They are a lot like our deer and are everywhere and like to cause traffic accidents.

We were able to catch the last morning session at 11:15 at the temple. It was a really neat experience and everyone there kept asking us questions, I think they just liked to hear us talk. If you are around people that don’t interact with tourists a lot they think our American accents are pretty cool. 

When we were done at the temple we decided to grab some quick food and went to McDonalds. It was kind of cool being in a different country and getting some food that was pretty close to normal. Derek said it taste the same but I’m pretty sure the fries tasted different.  We had a young man ask us if we were Members of the Church, I’m pretty sure Derek’s tie and the fact that we were at McDonald’s 3 blocks from the temple was a give away but it was neat to talk to him. He was a new convert to the church and was really excited to meet us. 

We drove back into Sydney and passed the Sydney Games Equestrian Center and Olympic park on the way back to the hotel. We also saw the longest town name we found in Australia, Woolloomooloo. It had us cracking up for at least 15 minuets. Driving through the city was kind of exciting, the tunnels looked a lot like the tunnels in Europe according to Derek, and they were really tight!

Once we dropped our stuff off at the Hotel and hopped a train to Central Quay (key) it was the big tourist stop in Sydney Harbor. This is where most of the ferries are, where the Opera House is located, Fort Denision and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. We walked around the harbor, and went to the Opera House. We just walked around the outside as it was too late for the guided tour. It was really cool to see it up close. In all the pictures it looks like the outside is plaster, but it is really tiles with a shell pattern on it. It’s also 3 separate buildings.

The tourists were crazy and so were the seagulls. They even had mesh baskets that would go over your food so that the gulls wouldn’t steal it. We ate on the board walk and I had the biggest prawns (shrimp) that I had ever seen or eaten. We waited until it got dark and then went and took a few more pictures of the Opera house and bridge. It was so beautiful lit up. 

While we were in Sydney we took the train pretty much everywhere except the temple, as that was kind of far from the train station. It was kind of like the metro, but more like a real train. They were all double decker and there were tons of people on them. It is just a way of life there, almost everyone takes the train places. 

Once we were back in the hotel we had a few exciting things happen, first I tried to flood the room as the shower drain wasn’t working properly and it was a flat floor bathroom. Thankfully they moved us rooms so we got one that worked. The flight home also ended up being canceled so we had to call and get booked on a different flight home. Thankfully we were able to get a different flight the next day, even though we couldn’t sit next to each other on the way back to San Francisco. I was just excited to be able to get home as we found out due to the cancelation the next flight out that had open seats wasn’t until Tuesday. While it would have been fun to stay a few extra days, we needed to get home to relieve the babysitters. Jim and Patty did a fantastic job watching everything while we were gone and I am sure they are super tired and excited to be back home! 

Overall this was a fantastic trip and I would love to go back and see a few more things, and experience more of Australia. Next up is County Fair for the kids, they are getting excited to show the sheep and rabbits!



Christmas Letter 2017

Volume 13

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Its that time of year again, we are so excited for the Christmas Season this year as there have been many changes in the Tucker household in 2017.

First we decided to move! Crazy we know, but we found a ranch with LOTS of room for us to grow (160 acres worth). Considering how much room the kids 4-H animals took up this year that is a good thing since they are wanting to increase their projects again! We are very glad to be settled here, it is just east of where we used to live by about 5 miles. We are still loving New Mexico which is a good thing since Nichole never wants to move again!

Derek has been busy with work, lots of Statistics that he can’t speak about and was able to travel back to Tallahassee to give an invited talk at his Alma Mater. He has been busy at church as well, he was released from the Bishopric he was serving in, as the Bishop took a work assignment in D.C. They then scooped him up to be on the High Council for the Stake. This means he helps with the organization and administrative business of the 8 Wards or Units of the Church in our area. He is in charge of the Primary Age Children and Cub Scouts. He just can’t get away from Scouting and is loving it!

Nichole was also released from the Relief Society Presidency as we were moving wards and was then called back into the Relief Society Presidency as the First Councilor. She is looking forward to serving the women of our new ward, Estancia Valley. She is also still subbing at the kids school and has really found working with the kids rewarding. She is still the Secretary for our Back Country Horsemen Chapter and is also doing Box Tops for the School. The UC is still being well controlled despite the stress of selling and buying houses and is really grateful for her health!

Heidi is enjoying 3rd grade and is excelling. She is reading at a 9th grade reading level so we are trying hard to challenge her in that area. She was also baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in July. We were blessed to have lots of family attend and really enjoyed seeing them. We are so proud of her for making this choice.She also enjoyed showing her Lamb and Rabbit at 4-H this year and is looking forward to getting another rabbit and more sheep as she will be a Novice. Which means she will be officially competing.

James is doing great in 1st grade, he loves his teacher and is doing really well in all areas of learning. ( One smart cookie like his Dad of whom he is a mini-me) He also showed his rabbit, which is almost as big as he is, and his Lamb who he got to behave really well for the Judge. He will still be a Cloverbud but is looking forward to trying to show pigs and maybe a steer if he can convince Mom and Dad. He’s been riding in the back country by himself for rides up 10 miles. We are really proud of him.

We are all still very involved with Back Country Horseman and have enjoyed lots of rides and camping trips this summer. We also took a trip camping to Colorado to see the old College crowd and to enjoy Pagosa Springs. It was a great trip even though there was lots of rain.

Our family has been so blessed this year we cannot thank our Heavenly Father enough. We wish many blessings on you and your family this year, and hope that this Christmas Season brings you the joy of our Savior Jesus Christ.


Derek, Nichole Heidi and James

Heidi’s Baptism

Today was a special day in the Tucker household. Heidi chose to be baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We are so proud of her for making this commitment to follow our Savior. 

She had two beautiful dresses to wear thanks to some wonderful Family friends. 

We had lots of friends and family come for the event and it was wonderful to spend some time with them. 

We may all not be very photogenic but we are all happy to be here. We are grateful for the wonderful person Heidi is turning into and can’t believe that we are so lucky to be able to be her parents. She is really a light in our lives and hope that her baptism will be a stepping stone in her life to help her become a wonderful young lady. 

Wow it’s March Already!

Well,  I can’t believe it’s March already!

We spent Christmas Eve with some friends and had a great Swedish inspired meal. Our family had a great Christmas at home, the kids enjoyed their presents. We had very little snow this winter but we did have some snow and the kids loved playing in it. 


James loved that he got to have a winter break with Heidi and get some time off from school. He is doing really well in Kindergarten and is starting to read all by himself. He is also testing at a 1st-grade level so we are super proud of the progress that he is making.

Heidi is still reading at a 4th-grade level and increasing the number of books she is reading daily. She is really enjoying 2nd grade and we are proud of the progress that she is making. 

The kids are enjoying 4-H and are getting ready to get some Lambs as well and working with the rabbits. They really like all the kids in the group and are excited for more activities in the spring. 

Now that the weather has started to warm up we are getting ready to get back to horseback riding in the mountains. We have already been on a few training rides with our Back Country Horseman group and have been enjoying the warmer weather. 

We are excited for the spring and will keep everyone updated on all the fun stuff going on around here. 

Christmas Letter Vol 12

Hello Everyone!

It’s time again to look back and see how much we have accomplished this year. As a family we’ve done pack trips, trail rides and lots of trail service work with help from our Back Country Horsemen group and our new mule Jesse. He’s been a great addition to the herd. We were also able to take a trip to Jackson, Wyoming to see Derek’s family and ride the horses on some neat trails in the Cache Creek Wilderness. In August we went to Fort Collins, CO to see the brand new LDS temple that was built and to see some old friends that are still there. 

We’ve all individually had some big changes as well!

Derek is still loving all the statistical work he does at Sandia, even though he can’t talk about it. He’s looking forward to getting his HAM license soon and he loves hanging out with all those electronic geeks. He was also called into the Bishopric in our ward at church, which means he is now one of the men responsible for the members of our congregation. This has kept him very busy, but he loves the opportunity it gives him to work with the members and especially the youth. 

Heidi is loving second grade. She is excelling in math and especially reading where she is at a 4th grade level. It’s been hard to keep her in books as she goes through them so fast! She also joined 4-H and is looking forward to showing her rabbit Whiskers and some sheep if she can talk dad into it. 

James started kindergarten and is loving it. He has 12 other boys in his class with a few girls so they keep the teacher on her toes! He also joined 4-H and will be showing his rabbit Copper. We told him he could show sheep but he’s got to wait until he’s a bit bigger to show steers, which he really wanted to do. He has started riding his horse by himself and got promoted to riding Yuma since he was doing so well. 

Nichole has been very well, her UC has been in remission for a year now with no significant flair ups. This is huge news in our family. She is also enjoying the free time she has now that the 2 kids are in school and has been taking trail rides with friends, sewing, and also volunteering in the classrooms. She also became a certified substitute teacher and loves giving the kids a high five between classes, they think its cool now but we’re not sure how long this will last. 

We are so thankful for all the blessings that we have received this year. We are especially grateful for the life of Jesus Christ and the opportunities and blessings that it affords us. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year.


Derek, Nichole, Heidi and JW


Summer…Fall… How Time Flies

Well, it has been a long time since we have updated the blog, mostly we have had a busy summer and fall. After we got back from Jackson we went up to Fort Collins, CO for the Fort Collins LDS Temple open house. It was amazing to see something the stake started 7 years ago become a reality. We were able to catch up with old friends and spend time looking around the temple grounds. The temple will be a great blessing to those in the area. 


We spent most of the summer and fall in the mountains on pack trips. We were able to pack in supplies for the NPS in Bandolier National Park, a few trips in the Manzanos for the NFS, and our usual trip into Beatty’s cabin over Labor Day. The trip into Bandolier was a great one as we don’t get to ride in the Park and the kids had the opportunity to look around the park and explore the kivas.




During our trip to Beatty’s cabin, we were able to support Dallas’ Eagle Project. Dallas is one of Derek’s YM at church and our neighbor. His project was to restore the steps on the tack shed at the cabin and the BCHNM provided pack support and food for the project. Since we had to pack in supplies we got to spend an extra day at the cabin and in the wilderness (the kids were excited for that, minus the part about getting soaked on the ride in). The project was a great success and all the scouts really enjoyed being in the backcountry.


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Both kids are in school now as JW started Kindergarten and Heidi is in 2nd grade. They both are enjoying school and Nichole has started a substitute teacher to keep her a little busy during the week. Heidi and JW have also started 4-H this year and are cloverbuds. They both wanted to do rabbits and market lambs so we now have rabbits in the barn and sheep soon as winter is over. They are way excited and the 4-H club we joined is really well run and it helps that the kids have friends in it.


This October I went on my first Elk hunt in New Mexico and was able to draw a muzzleloader Bull tag. I was invited to go with friends from BCHNM and was able to harvest an Elk. It was a great trip into the Cruces Basin Wilderness and hope to take the family back there next summer to explore. It was nice to fill the freezer this year with Elk meat and JW is enthralled with the Jerky.



Overall, we have been busy now preparing for the Christmas season as we just finished Thanksgiving up here in NM. We spent the holiday with friends from Church and had a great relaxing break filled with movies (Moana), games, and sleeping.

Derek, Nichole, Heidi, and JW

11 Years and Family Portraits

It has been a busy summer and Nichole and I just celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful weekend in Santa Fe and can’t believe how time flies. I love her more than the first day I met her.


We started off the summer with Heidi celebrating her 6th birthday and having two parties. One in New Mexico with her friends and then another party at Grammy and Papa’s in Wyoming. She shared the party with her Aunty Traci who’s birthday is only two days after Heidi’s. We spent the next 10 days up in Jackson riding the horses and enjoying the Tetons. It was a great trip and great to get away from it all and relax.


While in Jackson we had family portraits done by my brother-in-law Matt and they turned out really good.







While in Jackson the kids had the opportunity to see the Park, go see the Firehouse and Firetrucks that Papa gets to play with, and see the old shootout on the square.

We have spent the rest of summer riding in the mountains and doing the trail work. The kids did their first pack trip in the tent as well. We went to Pecos Baldy lake and stayed the night. They enjoyed the trip and were able to see a yearling elk which to Heidi was the highlight. They are already asking when they can go again. Summer is ending for us as school is starting in a couple of weeks and both kids will be starting school. Heidi will be in 2nd grade and JW will be starting Kindergarten. It is hard to believe we have been in New Mexico for over two years.

Derek, Nichole, Heidi, and JW

JW is 5!!

JW just had his 5th birthday on the 31st. I can’t believe how fast time flies. He starts school this next year and Nichole will have the house to herself during the day. I bet the horses will be in good shape! JW got a ton of Legos for his birthday and I am pretty sure he would not have it any other way.

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We also just got back from a our annual camping trip to Panchuela in the Pecos Wilderness. We spent 4 days over Memorial day weekend camping, relaxing, and enjoying the wilderness. Derek and Nichole also received cross-cut certification from the Forest Service over the weekend so they are now “legal” to use the cross-cut saw on BCHNM outings. Derek also used Jesse and hauled 200lbs of salt into the Game and Fish cabin up near Beatty’s Cabin. Jesse has been a great addition to the herd and is going to be a great pack animal. The kids had a wonderful time camping and were tired at the end of each day. They really enjoy the outdoors and being on the horses.

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Summer has started with multiple camping trips planned with friends and family and multiple rides in the Pecos and other spots around the west!

Derek, Nichole, Heidi, and JW

Spring is here in NM…some days

So we have been very busy this spring. We have enjoyed some nice and warm weather and well some not so nice weather as well. Spring Snow showers seem to bring flowers in New Mexico some days. Derek has also had lots of changes to his church calling as he is now the 2nd councilor in the Bishopric at Church. This has thrown the family into a bit of a loop trying to adjust to having him serve in this calling but we are all so excited for the opportunities we have for growth. He is still working with the Youth and especially the Boy Scouts which he loves and is looking forward to doing some camping and working on Eagle Projects.

Nichole’s health is stable as the issues from the Fall have seemed to be resolved. The doctor’s still aren’t sure what caused the flair up but we were all glad when the steroids and antibiotics calmed things down quickly.

Heidi is loving first grade and is one of the top readers in her class. She was also one of the lead roles in a short play they put on in their reading group called ” Frog and Toad.” We may have some more dramatic endeavors in our future.

James has been busy learning all his letters and constantly telling Mommy he knows it all. I just have to remind him that we all have to learn new things everyday and review all the old stuff so we don’t forget. Not sure if he buys it.

On the nice days we have been able to get out and go for some rides in the lower mountains with our Back Country Group. These pictures are of us in the Four Hills area just out side of Albuquerque.

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We also had a visit from some family. Grammy and Papa came for a few days after they went to the NASCAR race in Pheonix. Derek and Patty were able to go to the Albuquerque Temple for a Baptismal session.

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We also had an addition to our heard. Jesse the mule is now the LAST equine to be joining the heard. He is 12 years old and about 1,100 pounds which makes him pretty solid. We are planning on using him to carry all the gear we need for some back country expeditions this year.

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During the short Easter Break from school we took the kids to the Zoo with some friends from church. They enjoyed seeing the animals and playing with their friends.

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Our most recent project that we completed was our back yard fence. We enlarged the yard and took out the funky metal pipe fence posts the previous owners used. We had a fun time working together and the kids even helped out some. The final project looks great .

We are gearing up for our spring service projects with out Back Country Horseman group and plan to start hitting the trails in the next few weeks. Hopefully the snow will be done for the season, but as always above 9,000 feet in New Mexico its a gamble. We are also looking forward to Heidi’s spring break this week where we will try to do some fun things we don’t normally get to do.

Hope all is well!


Christmas and the Blizzard!

Happy 2016!

We hope everyone has a wonderful New Year!

We had a busy Christmas week. The kids had a great Christmas and were excited by what Santa left under the tree, Rescue Bots ( Transformers) and a new Saddle Pad and Unicorn. They also enjoyed a new Tee – Pee from Grammy and Papa that a good friend made. They think it’s the best place to play and read books.

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It wasn’t quite a white Christmas, but we were bombarded the next 2 days with non-stop snow which produced about 20 inches, though with the wind drifting the snow we aren’t quite sure exactly how much we got. The kids have been enjoying going out to play in the snow, sledding and getting pulled around by the Kubota. We helped shovel out a few neighbors when it finally stopped Monday, and ventured to town on Tuesday. The weather has been colder so the snow looks like it will be sticking around for a little while. The horses and dogs are also enjoying the snow in their own ways.

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Since Daddy has been home and we were inside a lot due to the snow, we decided to introduce the kids to Star Wars. Their favorite part was the Ewalks and proceeded to run around the house yelling Ewok attack while brandishing light sabers. It has been pretty funny to watch.

We are looking forwarding to 2016 and all it will bring. Have a safe New Year!