Tuesday, June 28, 2005

We have really been enjoying our time in California. For one thing, we can't stop exclaiming over the beautiful scenery (mountains, canyons, ocean, orange groves, palm trees, exotic flowers, etc...). E and Grayson have been having so much fun together (although sometimes they both need "alone time" to chill out). N has learned how to go down stairs backwards!! A major accomplishment that he has been working on since we arrived. Jay and Jess have 3 concrete steps outside their back door, and after 3 days of practice, N finally got it. Now he goes in and out with the big kids, very independent and proud of himself. Alice is so cute, and will play with N or the older kids, but mostly likes to walk around humming to herself and keeping herself amused.

Here is a little summary of what we have done each day, more so that I can remember than because I think anyone else will be interested in reading.

Thursday: Walk a little around downtown Ventura, visit the Patagonia flagship store, meet Jay for lunch at an authentic Mexican taco stand. Ed joins Jay for the afternoon and visits his worksites. After dinner, Jess and I go to the Camrillo Outlets and shop.

Friday: Go on a scenic drive that includes many orange groves where we were able to pick a couple of oranges, visit a rose farm, drive up a windy little mountain and down into a canyon, pass a horse farm where we see a mother horse and her leggy colt, finish off at a farmer's market where we buy an enormous amount of fruit. For dinner, our family goes and meets up with my bio-dad and his girlfriend at the Ventura Harbor. After which, we walk and shop and E gets to ride the carousel.

We all go to a birthday party at a playground for a friends' child. It is a blue's Clues themed party, and E enjoys the craft(decorating binoculars with stickers) and lunch, and a search for blue pawprints on the play ground equipment. Since then, E and Grayson love playing Blue's Clues around the house, writing down "clues" in their handy-dandy noteboooks that were party favors. Ed and Jay go surfing, Ed gets up 2 times!! Then Jess, Jay, Ed and I leave the kids with a sitter, and go see Batman and have dinner (fish and chips) at Eric Ericson's on the Ventura Pier.

Sunday: Ed and Jay go surfing again, this time on the Rincon, and take E and Grayson, who play on the rocks and in the water. We have dinner outside on the patio.

Monday: We go up to Santa Barbara, hit a few shops, and then have lunch at the whale-themed playground. We walk out on the beach before heading home. While the babies nap, Ed and I take Grayson and E to Marina Park that has a beach and a playground right next to each other. The kids enjoy playing in the water, almost too much. E is literally shivering and blue when I ask her if she wants to get out and warm up on the sand. She says to me through chattering teeth,"I like being cold!" and has to be dragged out of the water. Then Jess and I go for a walk with her friends along the ocean, while Ed and Jay watch the kids and give them dinner.

Tomorrow our family leaves for a little side trip up to King's Canyon Park to see the Sequoia trees. We will return either Wednesday or Thursday. More updates then.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

We woke up this morning at 5 a.m. We left the house at 6, and arrived at the airport by 7. Our plane actually took off around 9, and between then and when we landed at 11:10 (California time) the kids ate, watched DVDs, napped (N), cried (N), walked the aisles, ate some more, whined some more, and then ended with a little nap.

By the time we got our luggage and took the shuttle to the car rental place, it was noon. Then we waited in line for another 40 minutes, registered for our van, and then waited for it to be ready. We drove off the lot at 1:15.

Then we hit traffic. We ended up stopping for about 1/2 hour to get something to eat because we were all tired and famished. Then back on the road and more traffic.

We finally pulled in at 4:20. Almost 10 1/2 hours of travel. As Jess said, the shortest part of our trip was the plane ride.

But thankfully, we are here, and the kids are happily playing together. As we pulled up, E's whole body was wriggling with excitement. Her legs were kicking, and she was smiling from ear to ear. Grayson ran out with a matching grin, and the two of them ran off to play like they had never spent a day apart. Visiting Jay and Jess is like coming home -it is so familiar and comfortable.

The weather is beautiful-sunny, warm, breezy. Jess just finished making a delicious smelling dinner, and we are about to sit down and eat. The long hours of travel are forgotten, and our vacation is beginning.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day!

We celebrated the day with my family. The dads that were present included my father, grandfather, uncle, and of course, Ed. It was especially meaningful to be able to spend the day with Dappie because this past week he went into the hospital with chest pains, and ended up having 2 stents put in arteries that were 80 - 90 % blocked. It was a definite scare for everyone in our family, and we are just so thankful that everything went well, and that he is doing fine.

N was worn out by midafternoon, and snuggled up with his Daddy for a nap.

I am thankful to the Lord for blessing me with a husband who is so wonderful with our children. I love watching him joke around with E, and play along with her games (today's games included E's made-up "Sleeping Monster" which involves sneaking up on the other person/monster who is sleeping on the couch and trying to eat them, and "Mother May I?" and "Simon Says", all of which I don't have much patience for) And he is so sweet with N, and takes the time to get down on the floor to play with him and teach him things (like "where's your nose?" -- which he learned, although I have subsequently tried to teach him mouth, ears, bellybutton, etc, with no luck). It's wonderful to be married to a man who experiences such pleasure and joy in his kids, and who desires to spend time with them. It's neat to watch their relationships develop, and see how much E and N love their dad.

P.S. It was hard to tell at first, but I think that N is finally saying "real" words, and I must admit, I think that the first official one was "Da-Da". He said the sound months ago, but in the past couple of weeks he has said it in direct relation to Ed. Followed by "Ma-Ma"(although I am still not convinced he is talking about or to me), and just on Friday, "Bye-Bye". But "Da-Da" was first.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Summer begins

Today was my first official day of summer vacation. I am a free woman, or at least as free as I can be with two children, I suppose. But it is funny how babysitting has changed my perspective. Before, I thought that taking two children out and about to run errands was cumbersome. Then I experienced having four children. I was virtually trapped inside my house for the last 5 months, except for Bible study mornings. Then I would pack up all the kids (jackets, diaper bag, Bible Study bag etc...at least two trips) and buckle them all in, drive to church, take two trips to take everyone inside, deposit in classrooms, then finally collapse in my small group, grateful for some adult conversation. Then do everything in reverse to go home. Let me tell you, by the time I got home at 11:15 on Wednesday morning, I was ready for a nice long nap (that is, after getting lunch for everyone). So, I didn't get out much other than that.

But today, oh, sweet freedom. I got an impromptu call from Amy S. to come over for lunch and play. I was able to say yes. And then later I went shopping with the kids, and I was just so happy to be able to run errands in mid afternoon, that I didn't care that I had to bring them.

Poor E though. Yesterday after Peter and Erika left, she started to cry. She came in to me, tears streaming down her face,"I'm so sad that Peter won't be coming over for a long, long time. I waaant Peeeter!" I was able to reassure her that she would see him down at the shore throughout the summer, and then he'll be back in the fall. And I have to admit, I too will miss seeing Peter and Erika every day. But it's really nice just having two children again. Really nice.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Countdown to CA

The final countdown has begun for our trip to California. E had 8 paper rings left on her chain (we made one for each day, and she has been ripping them off each morning in anticipation). We have been planning this trip since February, and I can hardly believe it is upon us. We will be leaving on an 8:30 am flight the morning of Wednesday the 22nd. With the drive to the airport, waiting to board, the actual flight, waiting for luggage, and the final drive up the coast to Jay and Jess', we are looking at an 11-12 hour day. Not for the faint-hearted. And my heart is feeling a little faint at the prospect of holding my squirmy, whiny baby in my lap across the country. Not to mention how we will feel that evening after a 16 hour day, and it will only be 5:30 CA time.

But at least we will be there! After months of planning and preparation, for better or worse, our 2 families will be together for 2 weeks. E and Grayson will be able to renew their friendship, and Jess and I will get to spend time together catching up in ways that you can't over the phone. Likewise, with Ed and Jay. We are really excited for this chance to visit with our friends, as well as spend time together as a family.

So now the packing has begun... what to take, what will I regret leaving behind? How many shorts, shirts, pants, sweatshirts, shoes, etc to pack for each of us? What to take on the plane to amuse the children? My head spins with all these details.

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Summer, Summer, Summertime!


Summer has arrived, with all of its scents--freshly mown lawns, backyard barbecues, chlorine from the pool, coconut sunscreen, wood chip mulch in the garden, the light perfume of roses as they cascade over our back hedge, the night air fragrant with honeysuckle that grows thick on our front hill. Summer is the season I long for through the bitter days of winter. Shorts and bare feet, swimming and gardening, vacation down at the shore or up on the lake. I don't mind the heat-- I'd rather be sweating than shivering.

Today we are starting the first of our summer vacations. We will be driving down to Tom's River and staying through to Sunday. The Gerhards will join us on Saturday. We have a weekend full of activities planned-- a day at the ocean at Island Beach State Park, a day on the river in the boat, and maybe a night on the boardwalk. Today was a flurry of laundry, cleaning, and packing as well as taking care of the 4 children. It's always fun to get away, but it is a lot of work. Once you get there though, it's nice-- you don't have the stresses of your everyday life around you, the running of the house, bills to pay, lawns to mow. Life is more simplified, pared down. The biggest decision of the day is what to order at the Ground Round for dinner...mmm... I can already smell the popcorn!

Thursday, June 2, 2005

The Castle

This past weekend our minichurch had a picnic and went to a playground that featured a huge wooden castle. It is a child's fantasy playground- as we pulled up, and we caught our first glimpse, E said," I am so excited-- I can't stand it!!" The main castle has ramps, slides, ladders, passageways, bridges and stairs. Then around the area are a couple of smaller castles for toddlers, and then swings, sandboxes, play houses, etc. The first couple of times Ed and I went up to the top with E. Sometimes it was a tight fit, like when Ed followed E and crawled the entire way up on ramps (he thought it was the only way up). And then we went down the "dark slide" together a few times(seen on the right) once you get past the first curve, it's pitch black all the way down. But after E became comfortable, she and her friends were running in and out, up and down all by themselves. ( You can probably imagine how difficult it is to get a child to leave!) N enjoyed watching, and then crawling up and down a bleacher area until he slipped (partly my fault because I was trying to take his picture and let him fall rather than the camera) and cried and cried. After a cuddle, he cheered up, and was ready to play again, although later I felt badly when I discovered his fat lip, and realized why he had been crying so hard. But he happily resumed his cruising and walking around, and seemed none the worse for wear. We left as the mosquitos were coming out, but are eager to return-- hopefully the next time Grayson and Alice visit we can go up together. It seems like a great place to go with friends, so that the kids can enjoy running together, and kind of look out for each other inside. E is already talking about when we can go back.