November 30, 2011

Couldn't he have waited until...

...after Christmas?  Really.  He isn't even six months! Peter!  On the move!  I can't exactly say he is "crawling"--more of a rocking, scooting, army crawl.  He gets up on all fours, rocks, hurls himself forward, then pulls himself with his arms (sometimes using his legs, sometimes not).  But, hey, he manages forward motion and he is getting fast!  I just wish he would not be so fixated on eating the fireplace tools....
Coming to get ya!
Made it, where's my snuggle?
Can I taste that camera?

I gotta go.

Are you coming?

So, now I must spend endless hours researching baby gates for either side of the fireplace.  And sweeping.  And vaccuming. 

Vaccum is the one word I always question the spelling.

But, I digress.

The good news is that Peter is quite happy to explore the downstairs.  It is always a bit of a funny feeling when you suddenly have to go "look" for your baby and find them under a table or something!

November 29, 2011

Advent Book Basket.

Jessica, over at Shower of Roses, is hosting a favorite Advent and Christmas book link-up.  Here are a few of my family's favorites (not in any particular order--just the random way they came to mind).

Baby's Christmas (Jellybean Books(R))

One of my little kids' favorite books is Baby's Christmas illustrated by Eloise Wilkin.  And who doesn't love Eloise Wilkin?  I thought of this one first because Elizabeth just asked for this one to be read this morning.  Our is a little Golden book from when my husband was a child, even more precious!  Though I have to say, ours doesn't look like this one, but I think it is the same one. 
The Lady of Guadalupe

Another favorite is Tomie dePaola's Book of Christmas Carols.  We use this book to sing carols every night after our Advent Wreath.  I like it because the littler kids have beautiful pictures to look at while we sing!  I'm thinking it must be out of print?  Bummer.  Of course we like all of dePaola's books but two other favorites are The Lady of Guadalupe and Mary, The Mother of Jesus.  (Which for some weird reason, weren't with my other books and haven't made it into the basket yet... I have to go hunt them down!).

The Nativity: Six Glorious Pop-Up Scenes
The Nativity is a really cool book.  Delicate, but cool.  My kids love looking at this one over and over.  I did also buy this one for gifts one year.

We've always sort of been library people and of the Christmas books we own--at least half have been Ken's as a child!  And, slowly, some of them are deteriorating and are out of print (like A Very Special Baby--a sweet book!).  This year I bought a couple of our favorites from the library (shhh!):
The Polar Express
The Polar Express.  Love the book, cried when I saw the movie--I hated it.  I think the movie didn't even come close to capturing the sweetness of the book.  After I got over my shock, I think the movie isn't all bad.  But still, no comparison to the book.

The Miracle of St. Nicholas (Golden Key Books)
The Miracle of Saint Nicholas.  A beautiful story of faith.  We've checked this one out often from the library--I think it is time it became part of our library!  This is another book that is MIA, The Legend of Saint Nicholas.  Hmmm, where are my books??  Don't you hate that?  When you can't find something that should have been with everything else?  Drives me crazy.
Santa's Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas
And lastly, we have Santa's Favorite Story.  It juxtaposes the fun of Santa with the real meaning of Christmas and gives proper respect to the birth of Christ.  Lovely!

I'm looking forward to checking out all the other ideas out there! 

November 15, 2011


As I teased Nathan the other day.... he's halfway to 22!  To think he was once so teeny--a little bundle (just a week old in this picture) at Thanksgiving.  Almost four weeks early.

We sure are proud of him!  Eleven years old!  Who can believe it?  He's so tall!  So handsome!

He wanted a dirt bike for his birthday.  He got a four wheeler (on his cake) instead.

And a really cool bow and arrow set!  Which, he was pretty darn excited about!

It is always good when you manage to pick a present that wasn't asked for and is happily received!

Nathan, you've always been our action-packed kid.  We love you so much!  We love your energy and zeal for life!  May God bless you this year--we are loving watching you turn into a young man!  We thank God for the gift of you!

November 13, 2011

Phase V: LA to Home.

{This is the last post--I promise!  Sorry it has taken me so long to post this, "real" life is in full swing!}

The last part of our 17 days away from home was the trip from Los Angeles to Home.  We left LA at 8pm on a Thursday night, partially because we wanted to beat the Friday dash out of town and partly because we were just ready to get going.  We almost skipped the Grand Canyon, but I'm glad we didn't.  Who knows when the next opportunity would be to see it?

We stopped in Flagstaff the night before.  Flagstaff is really not the best place to stop--it required an hour of back-tracking to get to the Grand Canyon! (oops!).  Since we had driven until 3am the night before, we took our time getting going and didn't get there until lunch, and of course, we had our customary picnic.

The South Rim.
The sun was always in our eyes! 

Poor little Nick fell asleep in the stroller.
But at least we got a picture with all of us in it! 

The Grand Canyon is another one of those places--it doesn't matter how many pictures you take, you just can't capture the expansiveness of it.

The entrance had a great place for a photo op-- tripod included!

I think the Grand Canyon would be best enjoyed if you could stay and do a day hike.  Hiking to the bottom would really make you appreciate the hugeness of the canyon.  We didn't have time for that and some of the kids thought it was "boring"--which every direction pretty much looks the same so I understand that.

After about 5 hours of walking, viewing the canyon, and visiting the visitor center, we headed back on our trek home (Pizza Hut for dinner!).  Driving at night seemed to work really well.  Our next two stops were in Albuquerque and Tulsa.  We made it home at 1:30 in the morning (our time) on Monday morning.  Just in time to rest up, unpack and head out for trick-or-treat!

It was the best trip ever!  I totally want to go do it all over again!

November 8, 2011

San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano

On Tuesday of our second week in LA, we went to the Mission San Juan Capistrano.  I really was unaware of what the Missions were until we went there.  We picked up some books from the library when we came home and they really put together the whole history of all the California Missions.  Definately very interesting reading!  Amazon has a lot of choices such as one on Father Serra, this one on San Juan Capistrano, and this one for kids on the Missions

Look at those lush gardens!  There were hummingbirds everywhere.

Gotta keep trying for a group photo...

Swallows' nests.
Every year the swallows come on March 19th, St. Joseph's feast day.
There is a whole story surrounding the swallows and San Juan Capistrano--one of the books that tells the tale can be found here.  They had a beautiful one at the Mission and I wish I'd bought it!

A chausible from 1800.
Nick and Liz take a break on a bench on the Plaza.
The Plaza.
Straight ahead is a fountain.
This is the original church.  It crumbled during an earthquake on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (I think).  An interesting story I heard a tour guide tell:  The earthquake happened during Mass.  There is a little door off to the left there (you can't see it in this picture, the altar is straight ahead).  The priest had said, "Everyone follow me" and he led them out that door.  Those who followed him, lived.  And those who tried to flee in the other direction, out the back of the church, died.
Our Lady of Guadeloupe!
The chapel was our last stop, very beautiful and open to walk through for visitors.
There is also a school on site and a Basilica.
The neatest thing happened:  My kids all lit a candle and said a prayer for my brother who had been undergoing chemo for recurrent Hodgkins Lymphoma.
I talked to my mom later this night and found out that while we were in the chapel, my brother had been at the doctor and found out that his cancer was in remission!  In addition, I also found out later that there is a prayer room in the chapel dedicated to Saint Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer sufferers!
I thought that was pretty darn cool!

The altar.  Beautiful, huh?
I didn't get any closer as Nick was running in the portico outside and being watched by an older brother!
One of my kids' favorite parts were the koi.  There were two beautiful fountains filled with koi.
This one was in the front as you walk in, and there was another in the Plaza.
This koi is a fish named Pudding--he is over a 100 years old!

We worked up a proper appetite walking around the Mission.  And after a quick pop in the giftshop (I didn't buy anything!), we ate lunch at a nearby McDonalds.  I tried to convince the kids to eat at a little taco stand on the corner but to no avail.  There was also a gorgeous italian restaurant across the street with a fountain--that would have been more fun if my husband had been able to join us!  So, after filling our bellies, we looked up Capistrano beach in the GPS and headed off! 

Capistrano Beach

This little beach was just the perfect place to spend the afternoon!

Sand, waves, beach breezes, what could be better?
As you can see, we weren't exactly fighting for our spot on the beach.
We must be from Indiana.

Such good memories!
Sometimes the moments that are really "nothing" are the best.
I really enjoyed this afternoon on the beach with the kids.
Sitting on the sheet, watching them enjoy themselves, listening to the waves.
Just the three littlest.

View from the car.

When our time expired on our parking ticket, off we went--back to the hotel for dinner, showers and a movie!  It was a great, fun-filled day!

Phase IV: Back to LA

Monday morning, we had to head back to LA.  Ken had to be at a dinner Monday night and then training classes through Thursday.  This week was a little bit different:  I hadn't planned anything (in fact, we didn't even plan our going home trip), Ken had really long days of training.  We were dropping him off at 7:45 am and picking him up at 6:30pm, 7pm and one night at 8pm!

We did lots of little things this week.  We went to the Orange County Great Park.  The highlight was supposed to be that big orange balloon in the background.  You got to go up in it for free.  But it ended up being too windy and we rode the carousel instead, along with running around and learning a lot about vermiculture in the garden area.

We went to the Lego store at Downtown Disney.  My boys are all about Legos and the Lego store was very exciting (though I have to say that the Lego store at the Disney Orlando was way better).  We also went back to Huntington Beach one night and met a friend for dinner on the pier. 

We did have one great day in San Juan Capistrano, more on that in the next post.  Mostly, we hung out and went to the pool and I thought a lot about how blessed we are!

November 6, 2011

Yosemite: Sentinel Beach

Sunday we headed down to the Valley again.  We were a little bit at a loss of what to do.  The kids had really wanted to play in some water somewhere so we found a picnic spot called Sentinel Beach.  The Merced River flows through the mountains here and it was gorgeous!

Nathan had packed his boogie board in hopes of using it in CA.
This was the only place he ended up using it at all!

Running in the tall grasses along the bank.

Going in for a swim.  The water was cold! Very, very cold!
The kids didn't seem to mind.
And, the sunshine was warm enough to dry you off when you were done.

Pinecone boats.
Weighted with rocks, decorated with leaves, helicopters, branches.

Sharing a cookie in the sun.

Silly picture!  Cute baby, blue sky.

As the sun set, we headed back to the cabin for a grill-out, a movie and some packing up.  We had to be up and out early the next morning for the next phase: back to LA.

November 3, 2011

Yosemite: A day in the Valley.

On our second day in Yosemite, we spent our time in Yosemite Valley.  A breathtaking 22 mile drive from our cabin down the mountainside.  You want to stop every five feet and take a look!  On the way, there is an overlook with perfect views of El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalviel Falls and basically, the whole valley.
Not everyone would get out of the car to look, so we had to go in shifts!

We think Patrick looks super-imposed on the background.
Someone said it looks like a JcPenney portraits backdrop!
This one was in the Valley, on the way to Yosemite Falls.
The few deciduous trees that are there make for pretty fall color!

Which, I just want to say... there is no gas in the Valley.  When we had to put gas in our tank --it cost a whopping $4.59 a gallon in Wawona! Ouch!  We didn't fill up.  We just put enough in to get us back to Oakhurst. 

Once in the valley, our first stop was Bridalveil Falls. After a picnic lunch, of course!

The falls from the parking lot.
The trail up to the falls is paved and easy to navigate. 
This is actually a great view even if you don't want to take the short walk.
Liz posing for a pic along the way!
We spent awhile here just playing in the creek.
The younger kids and I also hung out here waiting for Ken and Nathan to catch us.
The falls from the top of the trail.
Now, you know, Ken and Nathan had to be adventurous and climb right up to the falls!
Doesn't that pool of water look so inviting to swim in?
There's Nathan!

I didn't stay to watch. Ken said it was actually quite safe the way they went.
I think that other times of the year when the Falls are bigger, it wouldn't be safe.
They were really proud to make it up there.

Our next stop, after hanging around in Yosemite Village for a bit, was to go see Yosemite Falls.  Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America--definately a must-see!  And the trail up is paved as well, perfect for strollers if you have them.  There is a longer trail that continues on up to the top of the falls and to El Capitan.  If we hadn't gotten there at dusk, we would have considered doing one of those (well, some of us!).

Getting Started!  You can see the falls right over their heads.

One of those rare times when someone offered to take our picture!
Lots of opportunities for rock-climbing (safely) along the way.

Yosemite Falls.
Definately not at it's peak season.

Aren't they sweet? Lol!

The view looking away from the falls.
Elizabeth was happy to pose for us!

Ken, Nathan, Patrick, and Jacob climbed up closer to the falls again.  I took Liz and Nick on a meandering walk back towards the car.  The boys didn't get very far which was really fine as the sun was setting and it was getting dark!  So, we headed back to the cabin and enjoyed a lovely grill-out with steak and chicken! Yum!  I'm already ready to go back!