Category Archives: Friends

Maddie Turns Three!

Our baby girl is becoming a big girl right before our eyes! Maddie turned three and we had a great time celebrating her special day with her.

Warren started the day out with a homemade present (items he recycled from his own collection) and birthday banner that he hung up on the wall. He also asked his 1st grade class to sign a card for her. His teacher is so accommodating like that.

In the evening we had a small birthday gathering since it wasn’t a “friend party” year. We asked our good friends, Gina and Shawn, and their kids to come over for pizza and cake. Their daughters, Sacha and Arya, are Maddie’s best girl friends.

The cake had to be pink, but since she didn’t have any particular design in mind I went the easy way out and just did lemon cake with raspberry frosting. It was pretty tasty, I must say.

Maddie got some fun presents this year. Hand made hair bows from Gina, books from Colin and me (including “Everyone Poops” which was very well received, as you can imagine), and from Grandma Tuki a UW Husky cheerleader outfit, complete with silver pom poms. Too much!

It was a great evening and she was a happy girl.

Maddie, you are a delight to have in our family. You are so good to your little brothers and have become a better playmate to your older brother. Your nurturing skills are shining through more and more each day. You are a great helper when you want to be. The strong-willed, independent, tenacious, and feisty aspects of your personality that sometimes aggravate us are also strengths that will serve you well some day. You are so tough and have endured so much in your young life. We can’t help but admire your fighting spirit and ability to push through the bad times. You are our precious angel girl and we could not imagine life without you. Happy Birthday, Mariquita!

Thanksgiving Weekend Get Away

We are gluttons for punishment. That’s the only reason I can think that we would take a road trip over Thanksgiving Weekend where we weren’t trying to attend a Turkey Day feast. We left for Sacramento Friday morning and returned home Sunday evening, along with everyone else and his bird.

But we love Kelley, Ben, Levi, and James so enduring the Sunday-after-the-holiday-traffic was something we willingly chose to do. And it’s a good thing too! A visit was long overdue. We all needed to meet the newest members of each family. Time was short but we made the most of our trip.

Napping boys in the morning meant that the dads could take the bigger kids to the Sacramento Zoo in 45-degree weather. Kelley and I stayed home to catch up over some hot chocolate.

Much of the afternoon (and then the evening when all children were down for the night) was spent playing one game or another on the X-Box. Maddie was partial to the Guitar Hero guitar.

And if that became too much, they could always turn to artistic activities. Maddie, Warren, and Kelley spent time experimenting with watercolors.

A quick trip to a neighborhood park allowed the kids to get some of their energy out before bedtime.

Sunday morning we said goodbye and headed up to attend church with Colin’s cousin Lorie and her family (sadly, no pictures). After a good lunch and visit with them, we embarked on what would end up being an 8.5 hour drive home.

At one point we were bumper-to-bumper, completely stopped on I-5. We had to take a dinner detour to allow some of the traffic to lighten, though it never really did. Surprisingly, the kids did pretty well. No real tantrums, screaming, or whining. And they all fell asleep without protest. It was a good feeling when we rolled into our driveway, even though it was 2 hours past the time we’d hoped.

Traveling on such a busy weekend would not be our first choice again, but we’re glad we went. We’re thankful that these loved ones are relatively close.

Pete’s Pumpkin Patch

As if we didn’t get enough pumpkin exposure at Avila Valley Barn, we decided to hit another patch, this time in Camarillo. It’s one you can see right off the freeway. I was skeptical, but it turned out to be a better place than I expected.

We met Jeff, Heather, and Ryan there in the afternoon… after an 8AM soccer game and mid-morning school carnival. Another busy Saturday.

It was amazingly warm that afternoon. The sun was beating down on us as we walked and then hiked up the hillside. A very steep hillside at that.

What an adventure. Warren led the way, followed closely by Ryan, while Jeff pulled the empty cart meant to collect pumpkins (which we didn’t even do until we reached the bottom). I pushed Jake and Joe in the stroller, Colin escorted Maddie, and even 5-months pregnant Heather trekked up the hill. She is a rockstar, especially since she ended up assisting Maddie towards the top. It was a mission we all felt we had to complete, I guess.

The view from the top was nearly worth the effort.

We enjoyed exploring the rest of the grounds together, including the toddler area and the rows and rows of pre-picked pumpkins. It was a very fun outing.

Jeff is one of my dearest friends from high school. It makes me smile remembering how our common interests in theater production and eye-rolling during Mr. Tapper’s 9th grade World History class lectures led to many years of friendship and good times. And now I get to enjoy seeing him as a husband and father, roles that he fulfills so well. (But how could he not with someone as terrific as Heather?) I love to see friends richly blessed. It’s one of the many perks of relationships that span a decade or two.

Plus, now we get to watch our children play together.

Maybe they will end up being the kind of buddies that Jeff and I are lucky enough to be. If only we lived in neighboring cities. We’ll just have to continue these sorts of outings to make up for the distance…

Disney Trip 2011

When Christy told me that they were coming down here to visit, she said that there would be one requirement. Part of their travel plans had to include a trip to Disneyland and California Adventure since they (read: Dave) are amusement park fanatics. Somewhere between aficionados and addicts, they’ve made it a point to see many theme parks around the country. Obviously, they couldn’t be 2.5 hours away from the Magic Kingdom and let that opportunity pass by. Even if they’ve both been several times before.

So, of course we had to go with them.

I would just like to say two things. One, we did have a good time at the Magic Kingdom with our brood. Honest. And, two, it was an awful lot of work taking four small children to two theme parks. But, again, it was also fun. How could it not be with Christy and Dave?

We stayed at the Residence Inn just down the street from the parks, so we took the bus to the main gate on that first day. The second day, half of us drove to the Disney parking garage and the other half took the bus again. That way we could race out of there that night when the little ones were tired and done.

Here are some scenes from our two-day adventure:

Day 1 — Disneyland

Day 2 — California Adventure

It’s going to be a looooooooooong time before we’re ready to take our kids to another theme park again. I’d say the Year 2015 sounds about right for the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood.


Christy & Dave Visit

Some of our best friends from college decided to come down for a visit with their two darling girls. We were thrilled to spend some time together and to finally have them see our ‘hood. Plus it gave us the chance to meet one another’s new babies. Their youngest, Rina, and our Jake and Joey are just 6 days apart! If that doesn’t make them destined for arranged marriage life-long friendship than I don’t know what!

Christy and I talk regularly, so we’re usually up-to-date with each other’s lives, but there’s nothing like face-to-face conversation. I was grateful that we’d get a whole week to laugh together in person.

Unfortunately for them, coming in the middle of September meant our crazy fall schedule was in full swing. Despite the quick trip to Disneyland and California Adventure we took with them (separate post to follow), life couldn’t be put on hold for long. Though we would have loved to hang out with them more, Warren still had school, Colin still had work, and all our other normal activities and appointments kept us busy as usual. Mornings were the same chaos we always experience, company present or not.

But they made the most of the situation. While I went on business as usual, with napping babies and shuttle services to and from school and the like, Christy, Dave, Ani, and Rina set out to explore some of our fine town and the neighboring Solvang on their own. But we did to take them to Longboards for fish ‘n chips and spent one night gathered together celebrating Rina’s 1st birthday, complete with chocolate cake.

A few late night conversations provided some good quality time together.

We love these friends for many reasons and one of them is their flexibility and willingness to go with the flow. When we set out on adventures with them we know it’s going to be a good time. Plus they are just good people you want to be around.

Everyone should have a friend like Christy. I feel bad for those of you who don’t know her. She laughs easily and knows just what to say to cheer you up when needed. I don’t know how she does it, but she’s always able to look on the bright side and put a positive spin on something that would otherwise seem like a disaster. She is so considerate and thoughtful and goes out of her way to make amazing things or do something special to let you know she cares. She is the one you call when you want the straight answer. She doesn’t beat around the bush but tells you the truth. I love that about her. She analyzes things in wisdom and generates so many good ideas it’s hard to keep track of them all. She is someone I know I can call when I need support right away or when I’m crying at the airport while waiting for my flight to an undesired destination because the stress of the situation is too much to bear. She tells me things are going to be just fine and I believe her. I am so thankful that we met at college and the Institute all those years ago. My life is brighter because I have Christy as my friend.

Thanks for taking the time, money, and energy to come down here for a visit, friends! We loved the chance to reunite, even if it was kind of a wild time.

Labor Day at Santa Claus Lane Beach

Another fun-filled Labor Day at the beach with our pseudo family. This time we met in Carpinteria and spent the afternoon together at Santa Claus Lane Beach.

The adults didn’t get in the water like we did last year at Zuma, but the kids enjoyed splashing around and playing in the sand. Plus, there was plenty of junk food to keep us occupied. You can always count on Julianna to provide the Oreos. Thank goodness.

It was Jake and Joey’s first real experience with sand. Thankfully, they seemed to really enjoy it.

Warren requested to be buried in the sand and Danny willingly obliged.

Maddie spent most of the afternoon dodging waves. She loves the ocean as long as Dad is close by to assist navigating the surf.

It was a great day! We love spending holidays with this fun crew.

Birthday Cake Swap

Mary Karlee and I made a brilliant arrangement this summer. It was her idea, actually. I just went along with what I recognized to be a good plan. We decided to swap the responsibility of making birthday cakes for one another. That way, we wouldn’t have to prepare our own treat or expect our completely capable, yet busy husbands to create a time-consuming dessert for our special days. (Seriously, we know you guys could do it, but why stress you out any more than necessary?)

She made me this chocolate cake on my birthday. What a treat to have a delicious cake delivered to your door by a good friend!

I completed my end of the deal this week. She asked me to prepare this recipe for a citrus cake with berries on top.

I sampled a bit using the leftover cut cake tops and scraping the frosting bowl and it seemed quite tasty to me. Hopefully, MK was pleased with the results.

I have to say, I’m thinking this is the beginning of a long tradition. Mary Karlee, now you just have to agree to hold out living here longer than most graduate student families do and we’re good.

The End of Harry Potter

Back in 2003, I was determined to avoid the Harry Potter craze at all costs. I’m not one for trendy things and reading a juvenile fiction series hardly seemed a reason to break my rule. Then our friends, Zeke and Maggie, went for broke. They decided to give to us books 1-4 in the series, in all their hard-bound glory, to help me see the error of my ways. (They had recently married and each had a set.) They assured us that if we just gave it a try we would be hooked. We graciously accepted the gift (thanks again!) and reluctantly agreed to read.

They were absolutely right in predicting our addiction.

Reading Harry Potter became one of the greatest activities we’d enjoy together. We read each one out loud to one another at the park, on the couch, in the car (on long trips), becoming completely engrossed in the saga. When books 5-7 came out, we pre-ordered our copies and stayed up late finishing chapters. We were captivated by this incredible story.

Our love for the movies was never quite as strong, but as the last few entered the theater we became increasingly more excited to see them, especially for the special effects. Yes, I love to imagine the scenes myself, but if someone is going to put it to life on the silver screen with the latest CGI magic (pun intended) then I’m all for it.

Which is why when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 came out this summer in 3D IMAX we just had to make a date to see it in the theater.

But we’re not fanatical. It’s not like we’re not first-in-line, midnight showing junkies or anything, mostly because we’re old and have too many children that wake us up early. We at least waited until the week after it opened. But we did see it on a Thursday afternoon. A 3PM showing, to be exact, so Colin had to leave work early. A showing where the next youngest moviegoer in the theater was approximately 60 years old. There were only roughly 10 people in the theater. It was not your tween’s movie viewing experience. I thought conditions were perfect.

Say what you will about the deviations from the book (always one of my biggest complaints when you’ve experienced both print and film) I thought the show was excellent. And I cried. With my hokey 3D glasses on I wiped some big tears.

When it was over, we walked next door to Panera Bread and dined on sandwiches and fresh-baked cookies as we tried to process the visual/audio/emotional overload we’d just experienced. Epic.

But this fine date could not have been possible without the truly amazing babysitting efforts of Julianna, Super Mama Extraordinaire. She not only watched our four but also had her three with her, too. Seven kids for nearly 4 hours all by herself. What a woman. (Jules, you know I owe you so cash in any time!)

And now, with this last movie, we’ve reached the end of an era in pop culture. Goodbye, Harry! We’ll catch you again sometime on DVD. Or better yet, in the books as we read them all over again, this time with our children.

Movie Under the Stars

Friends from Warren’s school invited us to a movie party at their house Friday night. But instead of gathering on their living room floor, we all brought sleeping bags and beach chairs and watched the flick outside in their backyard, under the stars. The movie: “Gnomeo and Juliet.” Absolutely silly and ridiculous and just perfect for a bunch of kiddos up way past their bedtimes.

An LCD projector pointed at a large wall, a can of bug spray, and a gigantic bowl of popcorn is all it takes to make summertime memories like these. What a fun night!

Tami and Joe Visit

When Tami called me up to say that she was heading down here to spend a few days with us, and that Joe would also be able to join her for the weekend, it was all I could do to contain my excitement. These are old, dear friends that we’ve cherished since our college days but haven’t lived by for nearly 10 years. Needless to say, we miss them profoundly. The world always seems better when they’re around.

Tami and I share a birthday month and I could think of no better way to honor our special days than by eating as much good food as time would allow and talking way too late into the night. That’s exactly what we did. For the few days that we had her to ourselves, we took every opportunity to catch up, share ideas, and just enjoy being together again. She even shared her amazing photography talents with us as she took our long overdue family pictures. (Post with examples to follow. She’s brilliant.)

When Joe arrived Friday evening, it was just like old times. Conversation you never want to end that is the perfect combination of serious discussion and hearty laughter. The four of us hung out in the kitchen, dining on fantastic cheese and making the best-ever chocolate cake in preparation for Tami’s birthday on Saturday.

We celebrated big.

Monkey bread and fruit salad for breakfast.

A relaxing day at Haskell’s Beach where we picnicked on pasta salad and watermelon.

And dinner outside which consisted of fish tacos and green rice followed by the special birthday dessert.

Love. this. cake. And you can tell because between the four of us (Warren and Maddie only had a tiny portion each, so they don’t count toward the gluttony) we polished off half the cake in one sitting!

It was a glorious weekend. We hated to see them go but feel grateful to know that whenever we see them again, it will be just as delightful.

We love you guys! Come back again soon, and next time bring your kids, too!

P.S. Thanks again, Tam, for letting me steal your camera so I could practice on a real one for a change! (All photos taken by me unless otherwise noted.)