Thursday, July 30, 2009

10 years ago

July 31, 1999. Danny and I woke up before dawn to start the trek to his aunt and uncle’s mountain condo. His parents were vacationing there for the week, and since I had never been to Mammoth, CA, we were invited to join them for a couple of days. At some horribly early hour he arrived at my home, we packed up my “dark cranberry” (or purple as Danny called it) Ford Explorer, and set out to take turns driving and napping over the next 4 hours. I can’t recall who pushed for the early start but I do recall wondering "why?" not more than a few miles into it.
We finally arrived in the Sierra Nevadas and exited the highway onto a very bumpy road. After negotiating what seemed like an eternity on an almost impassible route, I wondered just who would want to have a vacation home here, and how strange that they would/could even build condos out this far into the hills. We eventually pulled up to a very rustic 70’s era building that really didn’t look too much like a multi-family dwelling. I dismissed the thought though and followed Danny’s call to take a look around. Strangely enough, a breakfast was arranged on a checkerboard cloth in the middle of an adjacent field, and when I recognized Danny’s mom’s Longaberger picnic basket I realized that this was a set-up designed for me.
Not wanting to read too much into it, I sat down and enjoyed a delicious assortment of fruits, breads and juice with the man I had recently come to love. Danny had brought his Bible along so he read me a passage of Scripture, we talked about our love for the Lord, each other, and the incredible view set before us. Smooth as Danny is, he at one point invited me to stand up to give him a hug. By this time I was pretty sure I knew where he was going, and I was not disappointed. Down on one knee, (gorgeous) ring in hand, Danny asked me to be his wife. I don’t remember my exact response, but it involved a lot of happy tears and a clear affirmation that my answer was “YES!”
We stood there enjoying the moment, enjoying one another, and I could have stayed forever soaking it in. One of many things “strange” things about the day thus far was why Danny kept insisting that we leave. He finally convinced me to head back to the truck, and to what I soon learned was not in fact a vacation condo but a fire lookout station. (Things are starting to make sense…) There were hugs all around from my soon-to-be-sister-in-law and her husband who had been hiding in such station recording the entire event on film. I think we could make a flip book for all the photographs that were taken!
Since we naturally wanted to share this news with the rest of Danny’s family and make some phone calls to mine, I consented to leave this special spot and drive back down the rocky road to the other side of the highway to the real condo. Along the way we were greeted with a series of congratulatory posters and balloons staked next to the (paved… oddly enough!) road. Each one had words of love and excitement, and the last few were signed by the family members I expected to be there to welcome us. As we turned the last corner though, holding a huge banner signed by my family, were my parents and my sister who had flown in from Seattle just to be there with us! I then understood why Danny was so anxious to get back in the truck, and was blown away by the joy of the day. I was so blessed to have so many people to share it with, and even more blessed to be anticipating marriage to the most wonderful of men.
10 weeks later (yes, 10 weeks, several of which I had mononucleosis – a story for another day), we were wed on another incredibly joyful, fun day. I smile every time I look back on that time, and thank God for the 10 years He has blessed us with since then. I’m so glad Danny asked, and even gladder that I said yes!

(We've aged just a little since then!)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Charges

Papa and Tilly took the oldest grandchildren on the 2nd annual cousins camping trip this week (pictures and I'm sure some good stories to come!). Alyssa and Parker were overcome with excitement, but couldn't bear to leave their precious wildlife without a caretaker. So here I am left to cuddle with Parker's Monkey, Alyssa's Lambie, Petty Jane, Pandy, and enough other creatures to fill my side of the bed and Danny's. And of course, the world's cutest little baby girl.

Notice the box bed and sock blankie - all Parker's doing for his favorite friend. The boy is as tender as he is tough.

Alyssa's collection. If she asks, they were tenderly cradled all night long.

This girl cracks me up! It's been such a joy to hang out with just her, listening to her talk without constant interjections by her siblings. We are blessed!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sandy pants

I've acquired a new appreciation for the ocean thanks to the outstanding documentary series by the BBC, Wild Pacific. Once you get beyond their evolutionary bias (which actually wasn't nearly as pervasive as I had anticipated), you are left with overwhelming awe in the vast beauty of the world's largest body of water and the immeasurable creativity of its Creator. (See the video clip below because I'm just not smart enough to get it to embed here.)
But that still doesn't mean I like the sand. I think I've mentioned before that I prefer to take in the sights and sounds from comfort of a restaurant, ship, or otherwise enclosed, protected structure. I love to look more than touch the wonder that is the ocean. But even my kids prefer to touch, so on Thursday, off to the beach we went.

Grandma packed the lunch that makes it all worth it, a breeze kept us cool, and building sand castles (which looked more like sand pits to me) sufficiently wore everyone out to ensure great naps at home that afternoon. Actually, the littlest miss didn't even make it that long. Here she is, just moments from passing out in her beach chair, oblivious to the very not-quiet siblings running and splashing nearby.

Wild Pacific

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Roar 'n Snore

While not quite the same as a real African safari, spending the night at San Diego's Wild Animal Park ranks right up there among cool things to do -- especially if you're 5 and not in the mood for 40 hours on a plane. Danny and my dad took all three kids there yesterday for what Alyssa called "the biggest day of my life." Reagan was impressed by the baby elephants which were apparently just about her size. I guess she's right if we're talking height (2 1/2 feet), but is just a little off on the weight (24 pounds vs. 250). Aly was actually brave enough to feed the Lorakeets this time and didn't cower at the lions quite the way her little sister did. And Parker was just simply in his element. He loves animals of all shapes and sizes, and walked around with his "nock-le-ers" glued to his eyeballs. As you can see, Parker and his papa are two peas in a pod. They're now sleeping quite soundly thanks to the roar part of the Roar 'n Snore experience. Lions wake up with the sun, and so do little ones sleeping next door.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

First harvest

So our house came with a dog run. The previous owners had two huge old hounds that were given their own little plot on the side of the house. Basically a maybe 10 x 12 foot (I'm awful at estimating these things, so don't quote me on the dimensions) piece of dirt sandwiched between the pool equipment and the front fence. Since we are not dog people and (knock on wood) never will be dog people, we decided to turn their former abode into a little veggie garden. This spring, with a great amount of "help" from the short ones in our family, we raked, tilled, dug out rocks, and finally planted a few envelopes of seed procured from the Big Orange Box people. I did not have high hopes for the seedlings given the incredible volume of rock contained in the soil, our hot SoCal sun, and the fact they would be completely dependent upon us remembering to hand-water them at least once Every Single Day (okay, so we got a few days off thanks to the June Gloom, but what I'm saying is that these things are needy and this corner of our yard has no automatic irrigation). Nevertheless, despite the odds, some of the seeds actually decided to grow! Our corn has really taken off, and was better than "knee high by the 4th of July" so we may get a few ears out of it. One tomato is nearly ripe and a few more seem to be on their way (though in the interest of full disclosure, we did purchase these as plants, not seeds. I had forgotten how good homegrown tomatos smell, let alone taste, and forgot to add those to the initial collection). We have several teeny tiny pumpkins that just may be full-grown in time to become Jack O' Lanterns. Parker's wish of a homegrown watermelon might come true - though the plant is blooming far from where we planted it, just at the mouth of the drain - the seed that almost washed away. And today, we harvested our first zucchini. I'm not a big fan of zucchini, or any kind of squash for that matter, but I had heard that they are very prolific and thought it would be fun for the kids. We're going to make some bread this afternoon,. Any ideas once we're tired of that? Lest you think there are any green thumbs around here though, I'll include a photo of our peas. Sad little snap peas that grew, tried to give us their fruit, but perished in the scorching summer sun. Next year we'll have to give them a little more shade and something to grow up on. Alyssa's convinced that by then our garden will be "perfect." Optimistic little one I have!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My happy place

My affection for the greatest of all stores began when I was only 6 years old. Costco itself was just a baby, and my parents became members of Costco Wholesale, primarily to purchase supplies for my dad’s podiatry business. Or maybe that was just a ruse to gain access into the businesses-only club. Either way, I loved it simply because children weren’t allowed inside. Yeah, apparently they thought we would detract from the serious shopping atmosphere they were trying to create inside their big concrete box. That meant that my mom had to bring a friend along. So she and Kim Spring alternated shopping with keeping an eye on me, my sister and Kim’s two boys. Sounds boring enough, but to a little girl brought up in home with no television, it provided a welcome excuse to watch movies on the little TV/VCR combo built into my mom’s Suburban consol (pretty high tech stuff for 1984!).
Fast forward to 1999 when Dan and I were newlyweds, eating and shopping for only two. We couldn’t understand how the store earned its nickname – the “$100 store” – because we usually managed to make it out the door for far less. However, our first condo was just moments away and we enjoyed many a date night there eating our $1.50 hot dog/soda combos while watching people check out. It was (and is) thoroughly entertaining to see exactly what people think they need a lot of. Like the family I observed walk out with a 20-pack of Spam. Yep, of all the thousands of items stocked there, they choose gelatinous “meat” packed in salt and tin. Yum. Or the guys that come in just for roses. (Did you know you can even order wedding flowers from Costco?) Just by sitting there observing shopping carts you can determine what size clothing someone wears, whether they drink or smoke, if their kids are potty-trained, and the relative health of their food choices. It’s also fun to guess what peoples impulse buys might have been. Did they really plan on buying 40 packs of gum when they walked in the door? Did they think they’d be coming home with a new pair of jeans?
Now 10 years later I have become the worst offender in the impulse-buy department. Especially on the rare occasion that I end up there without the kids - that is with time to wander and sort through the stacks of clothing to find the sizes I “need.” (Maybe they were on to something with their 80s-era rules!) I am now the one people watch, wondering “does she really need 36 rolls of toilet paper all at once? Or two dozen dinner rolls? Or 3 pounds of tortilla chips?” And the answer probably is “no,” but I’ve discovered that it’s usually cheaper to buy 6 heads of lettuce at Costco and throw half of them away than it is to buy 3 at Ralphs. 3 pairs of swim goggles cost less than one at my next-favorite store, Target. Their always-cheaper cheese, meat, and even bread freeze well. And the high-quality down pillows cost less than poly-fill ones at a department store.
So I can no longer pass Costco’s cash register for less than $100. But I always feel like I’ve gotten a good value, in addition to a cheap lunch and an afternoon’s entertainment!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

What could be more American than a good doughnut and a hometown parade? Well, maybe corn on the cob, watermelon, burgers and homemade ice cream. Top that all off with 4 hours in the pool, time with family, and a plethora of fireworks and we'll call it a fun day!