Thursday, October 31, 2013

Under the Big Top

Halloween 2013 



and the

 Infamous Ninja Troupe 

Orchestrated by the 

Incredible Ringmaster



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tree Huggers and Beach Combers

 After leaving Nick and Abby's house, we headed on up the coast to see these big trees we'd come all the way across the country to admire. We decided to push through and drive almost all the way so we could stay in one place for a few days. Along the way, we started to notice the landscape changing and finally we caught site of a tiny grove of trees… in the middle of a town park. Hey, it still counts and we needed a good pitstop for bathrooms and a place to run off some energy!! We were pretty impressed and Adele assured us they tasted as good as they looked.  

Even though we pulled into our bungalow late, Farmer John was still up at the crack of dawn and found a cool place right across the road to visit. Unluckily for me, the skylight in our room made it seem like noon as soon as the sun came up, which meant that Adele (who was NOT a nice sleeper on this trip!) was up, which meant that everyone was up! So off we went on a little hike to see these magnificent trees. 
On the bright side of things, the morning light was awesome for pictures! Ava's about 12 ft up here and it took some maneuvering to get her there but I'm glad we did. 

Hurry! Take a picture of the rare banana slug that lives on the Redwoods! Except as we came to realize over the course of our visit, they are not rare at all. Adele wasn't that impressed with them anyway. 

Elias was excited that he could reach the branches of this little one. After spending a few days around these trees, we now know that this really is a tiny tree and Eli was lucky to be able to grab a branch at all since most of them didn't start for at least 40 ft! 

After our hike, we jumped in the car and tried to get down to the ocean. After one failed attempt to climb down a very deceiving slope that was way too wild, we found a town with a civilized set of stairs down to the water. The kids quickly took off to explore. 

Out of all the things on the shore to collect, Nathan chose dead crab body parts. He was quite upset when we refused to let him bring them all home. Yuck. 

John loved the boats anchored out in the water and kept letting me know that someday he will live near the ocean. Hum… 

While everyone else was off exploring, I watched Adele make sand tracks with her bum scooting. 

And eat sand and use driftwood as a teether. She loved the freedom and feeling of the sand on her legs. I did draw the line when she started eating handfuls of it though. 

Finally, I strapped Adele on and joined everybody climbing and exploring. This was a highlight of the entire trip for the kids and they still talk about jumping around on the big rocks. 

 Thank goodness none of the wild artifacts made it home with us, but the kids loved them while they were there. We saw starfish, lots of sand fleas, a sea cucumber, tons of hermit crabs, a few California sea lions and lots of birds. 
But, eventually all good things must come to an end. And then we had to face the hundreds of stairs going up from the shore that were so easy going down. If we lived near the California coast, I'm pretty sure we'd all have killer calf muscles. And Adele would probably have a very upset belly from eating all that sand! 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Third Time's a Charm… Or Not.

So you would think since I've done this a time or two that I'd be fine with it… but yet, here I sit, an emotional mess on the night before a kid starts kindergarten. I made it through buying all the school supplies (grabbed them myself without the indecisive kindergartner to slow me down), fancy new book-bags (bought them at the end of last year on clearance), labeling pencils (ha! only rookies do that - the teachers all throw them into the same pile anyway) and packing lunches (all the fighting and dwaddling made me so frustrated I didn't have time to be sentimental). But now when I sit here thinking back on the last 5 years and all the things I haven't done with Elias, I'm ready to bawl again. I've been an emotional wreck for the past few weeks (ok, months) about this kid going to school. I'm not sure why but it started at the end of last spring when I realized one day that that was our last day together as just he, myself and Adele without the big kids home for the summer. I sat at the table and bawled like a baby and he came and sweetly kissed me and told me that it was ok "cause I'd still have Adele-ba-Dell here with me." And this is true, I do have her but I'm almost as afraid of that as I am sad that Elias is off to kindergarten. How am I supposed to entertain a 1 year old all by myself for over 8 hours a day?? Homeschooling is sounding very tempting right about now.

But then I realize that maybe it's not the kids, or the thought of the kids here all day, that I'm missing so much but instead it's the guilty that I'm letting seep in. Guilt that maybe I haven't taught them what they need to know, or haven't instilled in them how much I love them, or the undone things that I always imagined I'd do with toddlers and preschoolers and now I'll never have a second chance to make those things happen. Like long nature walks or story times at the libraries or long snuggle fests watching movies together on the couch or building spending whole mornings digging for lego piece to make the robot guy or perfect fall days hunting for the perfect pumpkin at the patch. And then it hits me… as I type this list. We DID do all those things. Not as often as I'd imagined or as perfectly as I'd planned but we really did do all those things, each and every one that is listed. And while I'm so sad that those days are over, I need to start focusing on the fun days that lie ahead of us now that he's in kindergarten and see what fun we have because the years beyond, as he starts 2nd grade, then 4th, are sneaking up. I need to document these fun things that make up the boring, mundane days that I so often forget while I'm boohooing about these kids growing up without having checked anything off our "bucket lists". Although I'm not perfect and there were plenty of days that I slept in, or took a nap, or played on my computer there were still lots and lots of other days when I got up, took them to play in the river, went to the park, arranged playdates, packed a picnic and wandered around the zoo all day. I'm sad that my kids are growing up but I don't want to focus on the sadness but instead on the happiness that we got to have.  Thank goodness I at least have this blog to help my poor memory out. I spent a few hours reading it tonight and it's nice to remember I had these same feeling when both Ava and Nathan headed off to school.

Tonight, we started something I hope to turn into a family tradition. We had a Back to School Feast and honored our three royal members and crowned them with our family theme for the 2013 school year. For some reason, I felt strongly that they needed to understand that faith is what will move them forward, even when they are facing hard or scary things, so I choose our theme to be "Go Forward With Faith". We talked in length about various scriptural families that faced hardships and scary things (Brother of Jared, Lehi and his family, Nephi and his family, etc) and I think the older ones especially understood that faith is the building block that will help them get through tough things. After tonight, and especially after John gave them each a priesthood blessing of comfort and love, I know that they know how to feel safe and secure, even when they're not in our presence. They each know and understand that they can pray for comfort and help whenever, where ever they need it and that if they have faith, they will feel the security of knowing that Heavenly Father is there with them.  And that is what finally gives me the comfort that I need to let them walk into through those school doors without me tomorrow and lets me get in my car and drive away to my empty (well, kinda) house, with faith that they will come home safe and sound.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

California Cousins

When we were planning our trip to California, we knew one of the places we wanted to stop was to see Nick and Abby in their new digs out on the West Coast. 

They moved out here to live with their dad about 3 years ago and we really miss not getting to see them grow up. Thank goodness for FB and Instagram and all those social media sites that teenagers like so we can still keep tabs on them. On our way up the coast to the Redwoods we swung over and popped in for an hour or so with them. 

Adele must have really wanted to meet Abby and Nick since she conveniently planned her birth just a few hours before their flight took them back to CA last summer. Adele took right to Abby and bum scooted all over the house. 

Meanwhile, Elias and Ava lost no time whooping up on Nick on the trampoline. 

I grew up on the East Coast and most of my cousins (and I have something like 50+ first cousins) were out West so I never really got to know them when we were kids. I love that these guys feel so comfortable with each other that even though they haven't seen each other for 6 months they're still fine with stacking up for a picture. 

And I sure hope this is the only muscly, good looking, hunk of a teenage guy that Ava ever wrestles with on the trampoline!! 

Elias doesn't know his limitations and really tried to push Nick around. Luckily, Nick was a great sport and kept Lias inline. Glad somebody does cause he can be a real pill sometimes. 

But Nick was having none of it. "No one likes a frowny face…. 

….change it for a smile….

 ….make the world a better place by smiling all the while!" Elias was trying not to smirk but it didn't work very well. 

The whole crew together in Nick and Abby's own environment. We're so glad that we got to drop in and say howdy and keep up the friendship. And I'm especially glad that my kids have the chance to really know and love their cousins, even if they live on the other side of the country!!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Chickity China, the Chinese Chicken… (SF Part 3)

(Am I the only one who has that song by the Bare Naked Ladies running through their head every time someone says something about China Town?? If so, then just disregard this statement and read on about our adventures in China Town…. )

After hooking up with Jeff and Andrew, who had driven up from Southern CA to hangout with us in San Fran, we all headed out to see China Town.  We started off in a playground that, oddly enough, had no children playing but almost at least 100 old Chinese grandmas and grandpas playing cards and checkers. I almost asked if Nathan could join in on a game since he's into checkers currently, but I think there was money involved in all the games. I wanted to take pictures but wasn't sure if that would get us killed so decided against it. You'll either have to take my word for this or go visit China Town sometime. I think we disturbed the peace by letting our kids actually "play" on the playground.

Then John spied a barber shop that had haircuts for only $5 so we marched in all the boys for a trim. Isn't that what everyone does on their vacations to Chinatown? John and I were quite pleased with the cuts but Nathan and Elias…not so much. Although I can't say it was the barbers fault since the boys in general hate to have their hair cut. 

Two stores down from the haircuts was a produce store that sold all kinds of interesting fruits. We stuck with the familiar kinds and came out with delicious nectarines and cherries, which we proceeded to eat right there on the street. 

Andrew and Adele look a little puzzled why that would seem strange to anyone else. We promise we washed it first with our water bottles and we didn't litter at all. Although you wouldn't have been able to tell since the whole area was quite covered with garbage. 

They just know that it was yummy fruit and needed to be eaten, anyway, anywhere, anytime. Yum. (Awesome photo-bomb by John in the background there.)

Ava went for the finer things in life and bought this beautiful, stylish red umbrella (that I really hoped would only last a few hours but, alas, it's still hanging on strong in her room). Luckily, the boys ninja swords for $4 lived up to the China Town hype and broke within a day. Whew, or we would have had a tough life.  I also found myself a cool owl necklace for $18 that has more than outlived it's worth. Adele hasn't been able to break it yet and I'm very impressed with it and glad that I followed the shopkeeper across 2 streets, down a dark alley and into the back of the shop (ok, a little embellished) to buy it from his wife's store. I'm still confused why he and his wife had 2 different stores so far apart but I really like my necklace. 

This wall screamed "TAKE A PICTURE" in front of it and so we did. If you look closely you can see the short-lived swords being brandished. 

This statue was also too good to pass up so I quickly explained to the kids what they needed to do and they were good sports about it. Totally appropriate, don't you think? Now if I had only striped Adele down to her diaper and had her sit in the background for the fat Buddha. 

And what else would a trip to China Town be without eating at a Chinese restaurant? After a few tries, we finally found a good one (that hadn't been shut down by the health dept) and quizzed each other on the 12 Chinese animals that they always have displayed on those table cloths. Between us all, we ended up getting most of them correct. By the time the meal was over, we decided we had seen most of what San Francisco could offer us as a family with small children and left Jeff and Andrew to explore it more on their own. We headed out of town, crossing the Bay Bridge again (in less than 10 mins, compared to the 1 hour it took us to get into the city) and taking with us all the fun memories of our visit to S.F.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Well, Hello Dolly….er, I mean... Sister Donovan!!!

it's so nice to have you back where you belong!!  Dolly's home!!!!!!!! I can't believe it's been 18 months since she was here, at my house, helping me clean and commiserate about my ballooning belly and horrible teachers and no-fair nursing tests. Now that belly is Adele and Dolly is back with us again. We were so excited to have her home that we went and made these fancy t-shirts.  

Too bad we didn't get a great shot of them since they totally faded away after the first wash. They're supposed to say WE ♥ Sister Donovan ! but not sure how much they showed up. Oh well, not bad for an hour before we left to get her!

Luckily, my mom had things a little more put together and had made the requisite poster board sign that we all have come to know and love at any big event (graduation, homecomings, birthdays). She even brought a bunch of balloons to add to the poster but Steve was so full of hot air he popped them all before they got attached. We brought along some candy bars, one from each family, to embellish it. Speaking of…. I never got a taste of any of them…we were totally planning on stealing some of them back!! 

It was very tough to wait… and wait…. and wait for her, but Adele kept everyone entertained with her bum scooting around the airport. And Steve and I were grateful for the extra time to make our technology play nicely with others so that Leanne and Jeff could join us via FaceTime. 

It was a party all the way around with everyone being handed back and forth, back and forth. 

And then, all the sudden there she was!! Out the doors and into the arms of everyone who's waited so long to have her back!! 

Elias usually isn't one for a ton of emotion but he holds a sweet spot in his heart for Dolly, who watched him while I was in nursing school. 

Adele even took right to her and, in case her mission president gets a view of this picture, no, she's not holding a baby before she got released. Adele is just floating with joy near Dolly. 

We're so glad to have her back safe and sound and with all the Spirit and enthusiasm that a fresh-from-the-mission-field missionary brings home. She has changed an incredible amount and then again, not at all and we're so proud of her service and sacrifice!! 

Now if we could only convince her to stick around Virginia longer before she heads off to see other family and to school in the fall. In the famous words of a Broadway musical, "Dolly don't ever go away again"!!!!