Category Archives: Travel

She Said/He Said: Jeannie’s Trip to Boston

Boston Skyline | Painted by Jared

Boston’s Salt and Pepper Shaker Bridge, hand painted by Jared

Colin’s brother, Jared, and his wife, Laura, just had their third girl by C-Section. Last year, when I had my surgery they came out to help me recover. When we learned they were expecting, we knew we wanted to return the favor. So Colin and I planned a time when I could go out there for a whole week which, of course, meant that he’d have to be home with our own children for that week while I was gone. Here is the She Said/He Said debriefing of that week…

{Jeannie’s Week}

Although, admittedly, it is a fair amount of effort to care for other people’s children, or cook in a kitchen that’s not your own, it was an enjoyable adventure. I got to read the entire way on the plane, uninterrupted. I saw some snow. And most importantly, I got to spend some quality time with my adorable nieces, playing games and listening to as well as telling stories (Evelyn, at 5, is a master storyteller and enjoys hearing a good tale as well), and hang out with Laura, picking her brain about interior design as I continue planning to reform the Pig House, and comparing favorite recipes. I missed my family terribly, but the week flew by and Colin sent me several texts and emails with funny kid antics. I was so glad to be there to help with Laura’s recovery. Jared and Laura are amazing and we’re biding our time for the day when they move back to the west coast, hopefully to Seattle.

{Colin’s Week}

Survival mode.

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.

Happy That Moment

We made another trip down to Los Angeles to attend the temple and stay the night at the Temple Patron Apartments. Our kids seem to never tire of the “amenities” the building has to offer: removable couch cushions for stacking and climbing on, deep closets for hiding in, a pull-out bed for creating a fort, plus the balcony with a sliding glass door. We’re glad they find the accommodations comfortable.

Usually, we bring a frozen pizza to cook in the oven of the apartment we’re renting but we decided to take a family outing to Pitfire Pizza for dinner instead. It was something I’d been craving.

It was 5PM and well before the dining rush hour, but the place was already busy. So busy that the entire stock of high chairs at the restaurant, which only totaled four anyway, were completely occupied. We scanned the room for a place to sit that would be easiest to hold Jake and Joe while we also tried to eat.

While Colin and I were debating the options, Warren and Maddie had parked themselves at one of those chic, extremely high tables with extremely high stools. Yes, stools with no backs and young children (read: Maddie) don’t seem like a good combination so we tried to nix the idea. But the table happened to be right next to the pizza making station (the kitchen is open for all to see) and they begged to stay put.

The situation seemed like a disaster in the making. Like the kind of experience where we’d swear off ever bringing our children to any dining establishment again until they were 18. No high chairs, so we’d have to hold the babies to feed them while simultaneously trying to use forks to shovel in our own food. No backing on the seats just begged for a 2-year-old, who doesn’t sit still in a regular chair to save her life, to fall right off on her head. Plus the culinary display was sure to distract my children from ever eating the gourmet pizza we were purchasing.

Colin was ready to regroup at another table. A booth. More sensible for a family of six, no? But their disappointment was so great, I told him whatever. I said just that, “Whatever,” in defeated irritation, sure that it was going to be awful. At least we would have Grilled Steak Salad, Pepperoni Pizza, Farfalle with Sausage and Greens, and their seasonal Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Pizza to get us through. We sat and I expected the worst.

But something incredible happened. Call it a miracle. Everything was just fine. No, more than that. Everything was easy. We held the boys and fed them bits of pasta and they didn’t even spit it out. Maddie sat so well on her stool, she didn’t even move an inch, plus she never stabbed anyone (read: Warren) with her adult-sized metal fork. Warren didn’t even whine once about anything.

And I just sat there and breathed it all in. My well-behaved kids, fascinated by the dough flipping in the air and the steady hands of the pizza makers. The autumn sunlight, dipping lower down until the ambiance lighting began to take over the room and the window shades were no longer needed. The cadent sounds of distant conversations and the muted tinkling of utensils scraping plates blending perfectly with the grooving music we couldn’t help but bop our heads a little to while hearing. Sharing the last fantastic bites of sausage with Colin as we finished our meal satisfied.

I smiled knowing that this was small. Just a blip on our family timeline. One dinner together in one pizza joint on one October evening. It was a moment that would pass quickly, but I was going to take notice and enjoy it for as long as I could. Because isn’t it those little things that we are to treasure up until one day we realize that they were the best things?

That’s what I thought, anyway, as I looked at my family at that moment. And I was happy.

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.

 

The Surprise Road Trip

We had absolutely no intention of going. In fact, the thought of attending Colin’s maternal annual family reunion in Seattle seemed quite ludicrous. Two of his cousins had asked me if we were planning to make it this year and I quickly told them no way– that would be crazy!

And then I started thinking about it.

Could we possibly drive all the way up to Washington State (flying would be too expensive on such short notice) with four small children for 19 hours each way and survive? What was holding us back, really? The thought of hours and hours of screaming and whining and a million bathroom stops along I-5? Yes, that did fill me with dread, I admit. Oh, and we would only actually be there for two days, since we had other commitments the next week. So, that would make 2 days of travel up, 2 days in Seattle, and 2 days driving home, completely breaking Christy’s travel rule. (Must spend equal to or more time at your destination than the time it takes you to get there and back. Pure wisdom.) It seemed out of the question.

But then I read the blog post my friend, Lauren, wrote about deciding that morning to head up to Minnesota to be with family, packing in an hour to catch a flight that left 1 hour later. If she could be spontaneous to see loved ones then why not us? I would just overlook the fact that she spent 2 hours on an airplane with her children as opposed to our 2-day journey. Details.

Even though it was Colin’s family I was contemplating embarking on this torture adventure to see, I figured he would laugh me right out of the room if I suggested the trip. On our car ride back from our Stake’s July 24th Pioneer Day celebrations, I mentioned the idea, quickly stating that I assumed he would shoot it down but what did he think. He looked at me and said, “why not?” From that point on, it was a plan.

Except for one tiny set-back. Because Jake and Joey are still in our care as foster children, we have no legal right to take them out of the state. We would have to get permission from the judge. Usually that kind of a request would take more than a week to process. We would have 4 business days before we’d need to leave California in time to make the Saturday reunion event.

The legal wheels were set in motion that evening and papers were submitted Monday. But there could be no guarantee that we would be given the green light to go, so we decided not to tell anyone that we were thinking of coming. It would have to be a complete surprise. If we couldn’t get legal permission to take the boys then no one there would feel disappointed, but if we were allowed to go, oh boy! What a sensation our arrival would cause among the relatives, most of which had never met Jake and Joey in person and some not even Maddie! This plan suited Colin just fine since he lives for the opportunity to surprise and/or prank people– sometimes both at the same time.

Long story short, we found out Wednesday afternoon that we could leave the state and Thursday at noon we drove away.

Most of the trip looked like this:

Maddie and Warren in the way, way back, me and Jake and Joe in the middle section, and Colin driving. We took turns but he did the longest hauls, probably because he didn’t want to run the command center of food, activities, and overall crowd control. Let me say here that feeding babies in the car is not an easy task.

Even though we were being completely spontaneous, we’re still planners at heart, so we prepared everything we would need for our trip during those few days of waiting in limbo. Menus (printed out for the car ride so we wouldn’t have to remember what to serve when) were created for each meal and snack, mostly eaten in the car to save time, and everything that could be prepared before hand was placed in ziploc baggies and snapware containers. This was critical in achieving our goal of eating well and avoiding junk food.

We also got some brand new busy books for Maddie and Warren that ended up being life savers during those long stretches. It turns out Maddie really only needs a toy cell phone and some pieces of paper and scissors to keep her happy. She cut little, tiny pieces for over an hour at a time. Sure, our car was a complete mess, but it kept her from screaming the entire way.

We broke the 19 hour drive into 2 days, staying in a hotel in Red Bluff, CA on the way up and back. The kids loved the hotel experience, a little too much for our 7AM departure, bouncing around and jumping off the luggage trolley. We benched them on the sleeper sofa until we could get out the door.

On Saturday at noon, we drove up to Colin’s Aunt Linda and Uncle John’s beautiful house on the lake. Since no one knew we were coming, we also had no idea where they would be congregated at that moment. It was lunchtime, but we had no clue if the festivities had begun or if people would be scattered. We had to make sure Grandma Tuki (Colin’s mom) was there to see us first. Somehow we had to find her without being seen.

As luck would have it, we saw Colin’s cousin, Ryan, as we peeked around the corner and motioned for him to come to us. He said that most everyone was in the kitchen preparing the rest of the food and that Colin’s mom was definitely inside, too. It was all too perfect.

We followed him inside the house and walked right into the kitchen, as if we were expected. It took about 2 seconds for the family members to notice and then scream with delight. Mouths gaped open and utensils were dropped as everyone registered that we were actually there. In those two seconds, Colin was able to rush to his mother and put his arm around her just as she was turning to see what the commotion was all about.

Her reaction made every part of the drive worth the trouble. I will never forget how touched she was to see us standing there with all four children waiting to give her a hug. I’ll admit, I got teary-eyed as I watched the effects of our crazy plan ripple over our beloved family.

The rest of the day was absolutely perfect. Warm, beautiful weather, swimming in the lake, great food, laughter and many good conversations catching up. And all the family passing Jake and Joey around. Maybe the idea to make that drive wasn’t so crazy after all.

In all honesty, the kids did amazingly well! We had two short meltdowns by Maddie, one “I want to turn around and go back home!” outbursts from Warren, and 3 diaper blow-outs from Joey. But all were manageable, though Maddie’s 1st was an intense 15 minute episode at the very end of our drive into Seattle, Warren’s occurred in the exact middle of our trip where he was forced to learn the logic that turning around at that point would be worse than pressing forward, and Joey’s biggest poop explosion leaked all over his entire outfit and his car seat. Other than those incidents, the children were fantastic! We even had moments of laughter and genuine fun together. Really, it was what I consider to be a miracle, quite literally. Just another testament that we needed to make this trip.

Overwhelming as it first seemed, I’m so grateful we went for it. I’ll never forget the reactions of our family members and the joy we experienced carrying out this great surprise. Priceless.

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Seattle friends, we’re so sorry we missed seeing you! Next visit, we will make sure to allow more time to get together!

Travelogue: Cancún 2010

Colin’s mom, or “Grandma Tuki” as we like to call her, had a big birthday this year. I won’t divulge her exact age but let’s just say it was big enough to gather the entire family together to celebrate in Cancún, Mexico for one whole week.

We couldn’t take Jake and Joey, so they stayed behind at an Angels family’s home. I cannot impart to you the magnitude of loss and guilt I experienced leaving our two new babies behind, but there was nothing we could do about it. The trip was planned so long ago, we couldn’t miss it. At least we knew they were in good hands.

But we enjoyed time with family in such a beautiful location. It was a great opportunity to reunite and catch up with those that are too far away to see regularly. The following captures some snap shots of our trip.

Enjoy this condensed version of our fun-filled week!

Day 1: Travel Day to Cancún

It went just as you might expect an 8-hour, double layover travel day with two children to go: we were tired from the start. But the kids actually did pretty well. Maddie even slept on the plane. And at the end of the day we were dining with family, sipping our first virgin Piña Coladas.

Day 2: Church at the Cancún 1st Ward

Some of the more adventurous took the city bus to attend Sacrament Meeting that Sunday morning. The rest of us rode in the rental car. We sang hymns in Spanish with the good people of the non-touristy part of the city and remembered that the Gospel is true no matter where you are in the world.

Day 3: Pool Day and Spa Day (part 1) and Christmas Pageant FHE

I’m not going to lie. I was disappointed by the colder weather we experienced while there. We made the best of it, though, and headed down to the pool for some time in the fleeting sun. The boys were brave enough to go in the semi-heated water, but the girls decided that the deck chairs were more appealing in the high winds and clouded skies.

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But to make up for the lack of rays, the ladies took advantage of the resort’s amazing spa and signed up for massages and facials, with full use of the facilities throughout the week. Thank heavens the boys were so willing to babysit the kids!

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At the end of the day, we gathered together to eat a dinner (provided by Jared and Laura) which might have been something like what Mary and Joseph would have eaten the night before the Savior was born: fish, dried fruit, nuts, cheese, and pita. We read Luke 2 and acted out the story of Christ’s birth. Colin took the prize for best costume assembled in 5 minutes with supplies from the hotel.

Day 4: Zip Line Adventure

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My mother-in-law’s one request was to take the girls on a zip line through the jungle. The excursion we actually did was much more than that. Think adventuring for the ADD. We went rappelling, canoeing, zip lining, swimming in a cenote, and hiking through the jungle to the ruins of Cobá, an ancient Mayan city. Amazing. Every last part of it.

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Again, thanks to the boys who allowed us an outing sans children. The cousins spent time building forts and otherwise being silly.

Day 5: Chichen Itza

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Since we’d already visited Tulum back in 2007, we decided to venture out the other direction with Jared and Laura and see Chichen Itza, the largest accessible Mayan city.

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The long bus rides to the ruins, out to another cenote, over to our luncheon location, and then back to our hotel provided ample time for me to finally learn the time-honored family game: pinochle. Folks, if I could have avoided this rule-laden, nearly impossible game any longer I would have, but after almost 12 years of marriage, I decided to oblige my sweetheart and learn his game-playing ways. Thanks to Jared and Laura for their patience in teaching me. The cheat sheet pictured shows you just how detailed this game can be.

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The ruins are absolutely phenomenal. I just wish we could have skipped the guided tour portion and explored on our own the entire time.

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We enjoyed our quick dip in the cenote filled with blind fish… a little creepy to think about. We all jumped off the high edge into the pool but Jared and Colin continued the adventure by climbing up again and goading each other into diving head-first. The anticipation of the dare is half the fun.

Another incredible day exploring the ancient world.

Day 6: Mercado 28

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The boys went on a field trip to the heart of the city where more of the local people shop, Mercado Veintiocho (28). They were in search of a few items, mainly those brightly-colored, native embroidered dresses that all three little girls could wear to match. After dining on authentic beans and rice dishes, hearing some roving mariachi bands, and donning some magnificent sombreros, they found success.

Later that evening I used my new-found skills to participate in a group round-robin tournament of pinochle. I believe I’m officially part of the family now.

Day 7: Tuki’s Birthday and Spa Day (part 2)

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The sun finally decided to shine for longer than 10 minutes and the air was warmer than it it been all week. Just in time for Tuki’s birthday. The morning was spent taking pictures of Grandma and the three girl cousins in their adorable dresses and enjoying some of the sunshine by the pool. Later, the ladies went to the spa for the last time and finished the week off right with a facial. And Colin and I finally got to go in the ocean to body surf. It was short-lived, however, since the waves and undertow were wicked strong. At least we can say we got some time in the Caribbean waters this trip.

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At the end of the day we celebrated Tuki’s birthday with a family dinner at the neighboring restaurant. The waiters even came out to sing Feliz Cumpleaños. I believe it was the perfect end to a great week.

Day 8: Traveling Home

If we thought 2 layovers were bad, the way home allowed us to reconsider since we had to ride on three different airplanes for a total travel time of 12 hours. Cancún to Charlotte, NC to Phoenix to Santa Barbara. We came home to the worst rain storms this city has seen in a while, and Christmas preparations to be made, and two little boys to reacquaint.

A full trip! We’re especially glad that we could enjoy so much time with family that live so far away.

Cancún

Memorial Weekend

A road trip up to Sacramento area was in order for this holiday weekend. Our wonderful friends, Kelley and Ben, were celebrating the 1st birthday of their adorable little son, Levi. We had to come up and party with them.

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We spent afternoons gobbling up creamsicles and lazing in the kiddie pools in their back yard. We ate fantastic food and snacked on Kelley’s latest cake concoctions. Warren and Maddie played with their surrogate dogs, Noggin and Ashi, to fill the void in their pet-less existence. To top it off, we went to the Sacramento County Fair and saw every animal Old McDonald had on his farm and then some. Plus we ate some over-priced fair food and watched Warren enjoy some kiddie rides. I don’t know why cotton candy is so appealing to the little ones (and some older ones) but we made sure to partake of that treat as well.

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*Side note: Warren exhibited some serious patience as he waited in line for 10 minutes for a silly carnival ride he had his heart set on. The ride operator had to take a break and ran off, leaving potential customers to wonder if he’d ever return. Most kids turned around and left when their parents suggested they come back later. But not Warren. He held out the entire time in the hot sun and didn’t complain once. Silly as the task was, I couldn’t help but be impressed that he saw it through to the end.

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We love spending time with these friends. They are fun, and laid back, and they always take such good care of us. We come away feeling relaxed and renewed after every visit.

There and Back Again

Maddie and I successfully traveled to Florida and back. It was her first time in an airplane. It went surprisingly well. Prayer and a priesthood blessing from Colin really helped her to endure the rigors of travel, with all its crazy adjustments to her normal schedule.

This was one of the more stressful trips that I’ve taken in my life. Aside from worrying about Maddie’s decibel level while on the plane and about finding my way around a town that I hadn’t seen in 10 years, the nature of the visit was not exactly pleasant. I am nothing if not sentimental and nostalgic to a fault, so I was more than weepy as I sifted through the contents of my grandparent’s home. Their lives suddenly became the collection of their personal effects. A necklace I remember Grandma wearing every day. Some coffee mug that Grandpa would sip his morning cup from. Things are just things, but the emotional attachment is stronger than I realized.

I am very glad that I went, but I learned some things that tore at my heart and discovered some long-standing opinions that make family relations difficult. No one’s family is perfect. I just have to keep that in mind.

In the end, I want to remember my grandparents well. I will look back on my life with them with fondness. And now I’ll seek to rebuild bridges where some have fallen and form others where none were even planned.

Girls’ Getaway

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I’ve said before that I have amazing friends. Two of my very best ones provided me with the opportunity to escape life for the weekend. We had a girls’ getaway where the entire agenda consisted of talking, eating, and talking some more. We did venture out for a dinner downtown and a stroll through many cute shops, but mostly we just curled up on the sofa and poured out our hearts to one another. It is exactly what I needed.

What a perfect retreat before Mother’s Day. I could step away from my regular responsibilities and come back refreshed and more grateful for the blessings I have: my sweet babies and loving husband.

Christy and Tami, thank you both a million times over for making it possible for me to spend time with you. The weekend was absolutely perfect.

Pool Lounging

After a week of walking the theme parks, we needed a little relaxation time by the pool. Except, Warren does anything but relax in the water. The kid is a fish. Just like I was when I was young (even now, really) you can’t tear him away from the water. He could swim all day.

And he did. His swimming skills are improving greatly. He can swim completely by himself, just not for extended periods or for any real distance. So that means one of us is in the pool with him all day, as well. Great for me, but not for Madeline. The poor thing gets cold too fast to make it enjoyable. She preferred the hot tub.

Grandma Tuki got to read in the sun (one of her favorite pastimes), Melissa swam like a mermaid, and Colin worked from the hotel room while Maddie napped. It was a good set-up for all.

Below, Maddie shows off her swim ensemble while Warren is depicted in the only moment of reprieve from the water (we were packing up for the day).

The best part about spending the day at the pool? How well they sleep later that night.