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"!!!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Walking with my baby down by the San Francisco Bay (Part 2)...

While I was off singing about ribbons, er, whoops, I mean flowers, in your hair - John, on the other hand, was jamming to the song about the San Francisco Bay Blues.  Either way, there was a bunch of talk about ole' San Fran, especially for a family that is all the way on the other side of the continent from it.

Self-timers on cameras make for funny pictures

We've actually done quite a few big cities as a family now and I think we have it down to a science. Come into the city halfway through the day, Priceline a hotel as close to the sites as possible so little feet don't have to walk forever, stay one night and hit all the major sites. We've found that this technique lets us get the flavor of a city, especially if we can come back and chill as needed and then head back out in the evenings. So in 36 hours, we saw a ton of the city. Here's a quick recap!!

Boudin Sourdough Factory

Boudin Sourdough factory: Saw lots of cool animal shaped breads, whipped through the line, bought 3 loaves of sourdough and sat on Pier 39 and ate almost every bite of it. Shared a little with the pigeons, much to Nathan's chagrin (he's an extreme rule follower and the signs said "Don't Feed the Birds"!!!). Liked it decently but decided the corner store in Sperryville (4 miles away) was about as good, if not better than San Fransisco's (3000 miles away). 

Pier 39

Pier 39: Were entertained by the weird exhibits (metal man, sword eater clown, beggars) up and down the Pier, tons of shops that we looked in the windows, and saw and smelled the sea lions of Pier 39. Actually, they were pretty cool but the crowds and the smells were pretty bad. Now we can check that off our list of things to do in life!! 

Aquatic Park

Aquatic Park: After walking forever on Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf, we ended up at the end by a cute little park/beach area. This was definitely one of the kids favorite places and only about 3 blocks from our hotel, so we ended up coming back here 3xs in 24 hours. Cool place to wade and see the Golden Gate Bridge from afar (which is all we ended up seeing it at all. Elias was pretty sad about that - when we were driving out of the city he kept saying, "But we didn't see the Bridge!! But we didn't see the Bridge!!). 

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square: We sent John back to the hotel to give Adele a nap and we all went searching for this famous chocolate factory that was so hyped up in the brochures. Short story - it's closed, for repairs or something so we tried to make the best of it by buying the ice cream. We weren't that impressed for $7.00 and decided we could do as good at home. But I did see this cool statue of a breastfeeding mermaid!! 

Wandering the Streets: Lombard Street and Russian Hill

When I was a little kid, somewhere between 4-7 years old, we visited San Francisco en route to living in Japan and all I can remember is driving on this windy road. 

So it was a must while we were here. Luckily, our hotel was only 2 or 3 steep blocks away from it so early one morning John forced me out of bed and we hiked up to the windiest road in the world. 

Even the poor trees are so confused on this street. They want to grow straight up but life just doesn't want to let them. 

The hydrangeas along it were in full bloom and it was pretty darn cool to see, even if it was a hike. But at the top of the hill we were rewarded with views like this.

That's Alcatraz in the distance and, unfortunately, we didn't have time or desire to spend upwards of $75 to take our crew there. So we just looked for now… have to leave something to come back to see someday!! 

We also didn't get a chance to ride these, although we admired them a bunch. They looked really fun but we didn't really need to go anywhere they were going and were too cheap to pay $6 per person, each way for the experience. Kinda sad we didn't ride them now but at least we got some cool pictures! 

Along the walk back to Aquatic Park from Lombard Street, we found this empty lot with lots of concrete and a great view of the Golden Gate bridge.  Which was a good thing since we never quite made it over there to see the thing in person. After waiting almost an hour to get into the city over the Bay Bridge we decided we might not have the energy to leave until we were sure we didn't want to come back!! 

Ava and Nathan contemplated whether or not people could skateboard in that concrete jungle and why it was there in the middle of the city.  Not sure what it is they finally figured out. 

And last but not least, Elias learned to bounce down the streets of the city, carrying a messenger bag and looking like he owned the place. 
We ♥ SF!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

If you going to San Francisco…(Part 1)

… sure to wear ribbons in your hair. Elias and I sang this song for months before I finally got on Youtube and found the real song a few days before we headed out. And learned that it actually says, "Be sure to wear flowers in your hair." But by that time, we couldn't stop singing it the wrong way. We did however, give in and wear flowers in our hair. I just didn't get a picture of it. 

We all look a little shellshocked… and this was before we even took off.
We had a nasty stomach bug wipe us all out 2 weeks before our trip and,
of course, it hit me the hardest the night before we left. Ugh. 

John has been back and forth to Russia a few different times now and I've been begging to go but can't figure out how to make it practical with 4 little kids and life. So, of course, I had to think of another big way to have an adventure and this trip arose from that brainchild.  Leanne, Bubs and Brielle moved to S.F. last year and bought a new house, Jeff was now in CA too and had never met Adele….and John had always wanted to eat sourdough bread. There you go, 3 reasons… and we were off!! 

"Yes, I am as cute as everyone's told you about"… said Jeff to Adele. 

We started with just the girls (me, Ava and Adele), who started our grand adventure 2 days before the guys. We wanted some girl time with Leanne and Brielle, but we decided it could become sibling time instead when Jeff jumped aboard a flight and joined the party. 

Everyone looks good in the Costco fluorescent lights. 

And a party it was!! Complete with Costco lunches, playing at the parks, trips to the library and a run to Walmart. I tell ya, us Donovan siblings know how to live it up!! 

Somewhere along the way, I talked Leanne and Jeff into crafting something for Sarah's baby, who had surprised us all and shown up 5 weeks early.  I almost took a sledgehammer to Leanne's sewing machine but I did eventually finish this cute banner for little Joseph's room.  

Brielle loved the board books that we brought her … almost as much as Leanne did.  B did great sharing all her toys, books and house with invaders for almost a week. 

The main reason we came.. to make memories like these. Cute cousins. (Ignore the fact that Adele is still in her jammies and hasn't seen a brush in days. At least she was in the same state as Brielle!)

Nathan finds a willing audience for his origami lessons. 

The biggest downfall to the whole thing (and actually to the entire trip!) was that Adele, who had been almost sleeping the entire night at home in her own crib, refused to sleep anywhere but in my bed. Which left John with the floor more often than not. But at least we got a few cute pictures like this!! 

The one warm day we visited the splash pad in Leanne's 10,000 home preplanned housing development. It was set up so that each resident could walk to their schools, playgrounds and even library. I'm pretty sure my kids came away from California thinking that suburbs aren't all that bad after all, despite John's years of teaching them they're evil. I kid, I kid but it was fun to experience a different lifestyle than here on the farm. 

Relaxing at Leanne's was a great way to start our crazy chaos of month long road trips, different beds every night and staying up way too late. And really, nothing beats hanging out with those you love and miss. Even if you did bring the stomach flu to them… whoops!!