Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sunday Afternoon

An escape to the craggy California coast is always an adventure.  The salty cool air fills our lungs, and the crashing of the waves fill our ears.

It inspires "rock" ballet.

We revel in the freedom and beauty of nature.

It helps us find balance.

Rockin' it!


On tippy toes as the cold tide surges onto the sandy shore.

Partners in crime.




Never forget the laughter.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A day without school

Kade, Chayse, and I ventured to the Science Academy together on a vacation day (though I suspect more learning occurred than on an average school day)!

The aquarium captured our attention for hours as we searched for marine life in each exhibit.  Kade practiced with the different camera settings until he was able to clearly photograph (through the glass and with crazy lighting) a few of his favorite things.

The mandarin fish's unique, colorful patterns were fun to watch.

The ocean floor is always full of unsuspecting sea urchins and sea stars!

The tropical rainforest held lots of hidden surprises!

Like this vine snake waiting for dinner!  He far too vine-like for my comfort!

The moray eel lurked in the rocks!

The albino Alligator was easy to spot!

Tree frogs come in lots of colors, but these translucent blue frogs were unique!

The stingrays and sharks circled the tank as the kids watched.

Kade and Chayse loved exploring all the habitats, and I enjoyed watching their enthusiasm about their discoveries. 

Kade did ask afterwards if we could visit the ocean again when the tide was out--he still prefers to explore the natural setting!  Myself? I prefer some of the animals to be safely behind glass with no surprises!

Monday, March 10, 2014

When you were little...

Cruising through the Santa Cruz mountains on a rainy Saturday afternoon, Daddy, Kiahra, and Chayse were seeking adventure and chatting.

Chayse:  "Daddy, when you were little, what dog did you want?"

Daddy: "There weren't dogs when I was a kid."

Chayse: "Oh."

She starts thinking.  Then she looks at Kiahra, smiling, "Wait!  Daaaaaddd!"


The following evening, all the kids were hanging out in the family room with their dad.

Chayse: "Nikela, did you have to take state tests on the computer when you were in the 3rd grade?"

Nikela: "Nope."

Chayse:  "Daddy did you have to take tests on the computer when you were in the 3rd grade?"

Daddy: "There weren't computers when I was a kid."

Chayse: "Oh no!  I'm NOT falling for that again!!"

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Journey

"What is the point of living if we don't die?"

Our 14 year old son is generally not a philosopher.  Nor does he pretend to be.  He is a rough and tumble kid who loves the outdoors and sports, but since he was a little boy he has asked questions that I ponder for weeks.  This one is no exception.

Nor did he express this flippantly.

At the end of last summer, our beloved Portia was gravely ill.  Our beautiful little Sheltie had a big personality, and we affectionately referred to her as the queen. She ruled the house for nearly 11 years.

Our "little" boy was two years old when Portia joined our household, so in his memory she had always been part of the family.  

Portia was never short on lovin' as a puppy!

We still recall her herding the kids around the yard when they were young--and once Kade was the recipient of a nip in the butt!  (Perhaps he wasn't "listening"?)  Portia was not fond of water--if we were hiking she would need to carried over the small streams that would run across the path because she didn't like to get her paws wet!

Though in recent years she loved to run on the beach with the kids and Duke.

Daddy thought she was the most beautiful dog in the world!

Despite Portia's car sickness tendency, she loved road trips with the family.

And she loved visits to the farm--though she still had to keep an eye on her kids.

She was also keeping a close eye on Grandpa!

Camping was also a favorite.

Portia generally slept with Kiahra, and the princesses were quite a pair!

But there are hard moments in life.  Portia suddenly was very sick, and discussions and decisions followed.  Kade (and the rest of the kids) were worried that Portia would be left behind in California, but he asked if we could please cremate her, so we could bring her ashes with us and maybe scatter them on the farm where Portia loved to run in the wide open spaces.

Watching Kade bravely enjoy his final moments with his beloved girl was the hardest thing I have ever done.

Each of us, heartbroken, said farewell in our own way.

Each of us took our own role.

Together Kade and I drove off to the vet.  Kade did not want her to be alone in her final moments.  He wanted to be there to hold her her...and he was.

And through my tears, I watched my little boy grow up that day.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 21

A brother and sister patiently wait for their birthday presents.  Presents that were not wrapped in matching paper and decorated with bows.  No.  The flu tackled me, so I improvised.

The expression of joy is priceless!

Outfits for her beloved Bunny Boo!

His lone box was a bit heavy, and he was a bit suspicious as he carefully unwrapped...

a rock!  

A message read, "Kade, Happy Birthday!  Here is your present, I forgot to put something in this box, so now find the other box. Love, Mom & Dad."

The other box was a bit larger.

The hawk sky plane was hiding there!

Chayse and Bunny Boo rocking the pink!

Assembly teamwork.

A beautiful bunny bride!

I love birthdays.

I love the smiles.

I love theses moments that we pause and celebrate our family!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wintry Break

Somehow the final weeks of 2013 escaped in a whirlwind.

On a mid December evening, we watched the twinkling skyline lights and dined as the yacht cruised San Francisco Bay.  It was an enchanting evening I will never forget.

A week later we were rolling out of the city with a loaded U-Haul.  A few days later we arrived in Indiana.  We survived the ice storm in Texas sitting on the interstate for 9.5 hours before we were allowed to cross the treacherous stretch of icy road.  The reward was my favorite guacamole a few more miles down the road. The ice covered countryside in Oklahoma and Missouri was unlike anything I had ever seen. It sparkled in the daylight and shimmered in the evening lights.

But the best moment was tumbling out of the suburban at my sister's home.  The candles were burning, the tree was twinkling, and sweet smiles greeted us.  A special Christmas awaited us.

Though just down the road our new home sits patiently, waiting for us.  A little teamwork and the truck was unloaded there in a just a couple hours.

Then a washer and dryer were on my Christmas list, and the search began the morning of December 24.  A week later we added a hot water heater--Happy New Year, Ron!

We painted ceilings, scrubbed walls, and rolled paint on bedroom walls.  The results were exciting and exhausting.

We did venture out to enjoy a local hockey game at the Icemen arena.

The pond in the backyard was a perfect place for Kade's new remote control boat to zip around--once the ice melted!

And New Year's Eve we celebrated with my sister's family and the kids at our new home.  All the kids' voices filled the basement...and it was a perfect evening to celebrate the end of a year filled with adventure and warm memories.

Too soon it was time to go home.  It was hard to drive away...the 2,278 miles seemed to stretch longer and longer.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

London. Take 3.

Late for breakfast, but once our bellies were full, we were ready to go!

The Underground Tube was our transportation decision for the day, so we purchased our all day pass and descended into the maze.  The trains were running frequently, but people lined the platform, so our ride was cozy!

When we emerged, Parliament and Westminster Abbey in their architectural splendor stood before us.

In 960 Westminster Abbey became the home to Benedictine Monks.  One hundred years later it became the coronation church where 17 monarchs would eventually be crowned.  Though in 1245 the building of the present church was started by Henry III.  The Gothic building has become one of the most important places in the country.  And here I stood with the opportunity to walk where kings and queens have trod.

The extensive history within the Abbey fascinates me.  I knew that it was final resting place for many royal people throughout history--particularly kings and queens; however, I was unprepared for the number of people buried here--over 3,000.  As we walked down the first hallway from the visitor's entrance, I scanned the inscriptions, and the first name I recognized was Charles Darwin.  Then the tomb of the unknown British soldier on the floor surrounded by poppies made me pause, and at that moment a morning prayer was offered and we bowed our heads as we listened.  An unforgettable moment.

Sir Isaac Newton's monument was in front of the choir screen near his grave. Then I stood in the center of the choir room wishing I could hear the voices of the famous choir fill the massive church.

We meandered through the royal tombs and monuments before reaching Geoffery Chaucer's tomb.  Strange to read the inscription of a man whose works I have studied extensively and with admiration.  He was the first in what would become the poet's corner.  (The photo is of an Abbey courtyard inserted here to break up the monotony for those of you not quite as passionate about English literature and poetry.)

Many poets and writers are buried at Westminster Abbey.  Tennyson, John Dryden, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, and Dr. Samuel Johnson, whom I also admire, rest in the Abbey.  And after walking the streets of London, the words of Charles Dickens, one of my favorite authors, were on my mind when I paused at his grave here which was merely inscribed with his name and time on earth.  It was as he wished, and for it I respect him even more.  (Though in fairness to Chaucer who was also a voice for the downtrodden, I should mention that a plain slab marked his tomb before the marble monument was made in his honor 150 years later.)

Memorialized (but buried elsewhere) in the Poet's Corner are many other great English writers and poets~ Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Shelley, Austen, and Bronte are a just a few.  As I stood in the Poet's corner, my English teacher's heart was overwhelmed...and grateful to stand in this the place I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to see.

Afterwards we strolled over to the Cabinet War Rooms.  In the weeks before Britain joined WWII, concrete was pumped beneath the Whitehall building to create the war rooms.  The concrete was nearly three metres thick and reinforced with steel, and how they maintained secrecy during this job is still unknown, but the rooms remained secret until after the war.  Interestingly, there were rooms within the war rooms that were secret to those who worked and lived there too.

Churchill's rhetoric was powerful, and as an admirer, it was fun to walk down the halls and view the rooms where he did his most famous negotiating and work.

The famous red telephone booths still dot the streets~much to my delight!

Seriously, the phone never stops ringing for Ron--but even in London?

After attempting to absorb more history than one could possibly digest that morning, we were famished.  Luckily we found a little English pub nearby (these folks anticipate the need for food and drink on every corner), and ducked in--and down to the basement where lunch was served.  I had the best stew served with mashed potatoes--it was my favorite pub fare of the trip!

Rejuvenated, we found our way back to the subway with Covent Gardens as our destination.  Covent Gardens was the first modern public square in London dating back to the 17th century.  Covent originally was interpreted as monastery or convent.  Perhaps the name stems from the time when the area belonged to Westminster Abbey and it was walled off so they could use the land and orchards (resulting in gardens?).  The history that followed makes me smile, as today it is known as a theater district, and the old fruit and vegetable market area now houses retail stores, including the largest apple store in the world.  Did I forget to mention the prostitutes and pubs that also resided there a hundred years ago or so?

Anyway, we reached our Covent Gardens subway stop and started walking...and walking...and stopping and reading the map...and walking...and then walking back the way we came.  We circled Covent Gardens, but we finally found it!

In the transportation museum we discovered the tunneling history of London noted in my Take 1 entry. When we stepped outside again it was evening.  The street musicians were playing--loved the string quartet playing Christmas music.  An entertainer was gathering a crowd in front of St. Paul's Church--referred to as the actors' church.  Here we entered the church courtyard and the simple church erected centuries before.

Did I mention the cobblestone streets?  They are unlike anything in America.  The rough surface is picturesque, but not functionally as friendly for walking.

Finally as the day disappeared, we sought out the subway station as the evening crowd milled around all the entertainers in the streets beneath the glow of the theatre lights.

Back at the hotel, the weary travelers opted to dine in the hotel restaurant and began the task of repacking.

In the morning, we were up early and finished packing in plenty of time.  We were ready to go home. We caught a cab ride back to the airport.  Enjoying our final views of London, we buzzed through the maze of streets in the infamous little black cab, grateful we weren't driving.

At the airport, I discovered the British version of Harry Potter that I thought the kids might enjoy.  Having never read the books myself and with renewed appreciation for London, I thought it would be a fun family read!

It was a 30 minute walk to our gate, but no worries, we could sit for 10.5 hours after we boarded!  Tapping turkeys kept us entertained at the gate~the British mocking our crazy American customs.

But all mocking aside, a fantastic meal awaited us at home in California with friends and family gathered round.

A perfect ending.