The City By Day and Night

Our next adventure with Pops and Nana was a day in San Francisco!
Max took this picture on his morning run.  We took a more leisurely approach and rode the ferry over for lunch.  One of the kids' favorite part was getting blown away and sprayed by the sea water.
The first mission was to find clam chowder Hank could eat.  Food allergies make eating out so stressful.  Half the time people liken it to a food preference and do not understand the seriousness of it.  Half the time they tell you is OK when they really don't know or they don't want to bother to look so they tell you not to eat it.  There are so many times Hank doesn't get to eat what he would like and ends up with a bunless hamburger or hot dog.  Not to mention he never gets dessert at any restaurant.
Tensions began to rise as every one's hunger grew and the restaurant told us the Boudin bread bowl did have eggs, while Boudin's website had no allergen information, and the Boudin bakery across the street nonchalantly said no it didn't.  Hank began to hang his head as we got more frustrated and it looked like he was once again going to have to skip the meal everyone else was having.  My mama bear claws come out.  I never want him to feel like it is his fault.  So I decided since last time we were in the city I was nearly certain he had a Boudin bread bowl, that we would risk it.  Luckily he got to chow down on his chowder and did not have any allergic reactions.
After our tummies were full we headed to the Exploratorium!
What a fun museum for all ages.
It is a great hands on museum that allows you to explore science and the way our senses perceive the world around us.
We will have to return to do all the things we didn't have time for.
Nana and Pops took the kids back across the bay while Max and I got all dressed up for a gala.  I don't get out of my mom clothes very often, so it was fun to play dress up and spend the evening with Max's peer group.  I even managed to follow the presentation somewhat.  The biggest surprise was how delicious the food was.  Typically hotel mass produced dinners are rubbery chicken and cold green beans.  However, it was one of the best steaks I have ever had and Max was equally surprised by the swordfish.  We were at a lively table that was entertaining to say the least.  I had a really fun night being a part of Max's world.
I could never live in the city, but she sure is fun to visit!

Golden State of Mind

Two days after we returned from Florida, it was California or bust!  Max had to work in the city and we all tagged along to hang out at the Villa with a golden state of mind.
 Our first day we went to Berkley!  We tried to ride the train at Tilden Park but it hadn't opened yet for the summer, but we did manage to find the botanical garden to explore.  The beauty of California never ceases to amaze me.
 We also found the carousel, which has a magic that transcends childhood.  A trip to Berkley wouldn't be complete without a stop at Gordo's.  Sometimes things are better in your memory (like my ability to surf) and are disappointing when you try to experience it again.  Gordo's however, did not fall into this category.  It was every bit as good as I remembered.  The kids each took down an entire burrito.
 Back at the Villa Pops and Nana had a surprise!  They got the motor boat up and running.  You could hear the kids squealing with delight inside the house as Pops would spin them around and around.
 After the motor boat, it was time for a little kayak time.  Hank loves the water and despite the freezing temps he wanted to go out with Pops.
Those of us a that are a little more sensible stayed inside and rested up for the next fun day ahead!

Happy Birthday Hailey!

We were in Canada for Hailey's birthday and didn't get a chance to celebrate with her friends or our tradition of the birthday menu of the day.  Instead, her birthday celebrations lasted a week!
We surprised her with the family birthday banner.  This birthday banner hangs in our kitchen from Max's birthday to my birthday and then makes a reappearance for Hailey's.  When they went to sleep, we snuck it up so she would wake up to it.
We also brought a few small gifts.  The kids were so excited to surprise her. :)
I imagine this will be one of her more memorable birthdays.  It is not every birthday you are in another country seeing one of the natural wonders of the world!
We rode the Horn Blower, which is the Canadian side Maid of the Mist boat ride into the falls!

It was incredible and a little wet!
For dinner we went to Margarittaville and were lucky enough to have the balloon lady eager to embarrass Hailey.
She spent a long time making a fabulously embarrassing balloon hat for our 14 year old!
 I couldn't exactly pack a cake, so I had planned to hit the Dairy Queen near our hotel and get and ice cream cake.  Well, it didn't carry any cakes.  :(  We found a chocolate muffin in the convenience store and put candles on it and sang to her in the Queen Victoria Park next to the roaring falls.  I may have lit the entire matchbook on fire making for an exciting lighting.
 But she still got to make her birthday wish, even if people passing by thought we were insane and might need to call the fire department.
The muffin tasted SO yummy.  Max didn't believe her that it tasted that bad, so of course he had to try it.
Affirmative, it was that bad!
 I told her I had arranged a special surprise.  When I was planning our trip, I learned they have fireworks over the falls on Friday and Sunday nights.  A lot of the trip centered around being there on her birthday for the fireworks.  Our room had a lovely view and we had a  good joke about how they were all for her!
When we returned home, Hailey's second family wanted to celebrate her birthday too.  Mrs. Rose is like a angel and Hailey has grown very close to her as a friend and mother figure.  They are two peas in a pod separated by a few decades.  Their love for horses and art courses through both of them with great passion.
They had a lovely party for Hailey and the horses!  Hailey made some horse cakes and Mrs. Rose made a chocolate cake with candles for all three of them.  Hailey is truly a blessed girl.
 As the week drew on we finally got to have her menu of creamed eggs for breakfast, sushi for lunch and crab legs with artichokes for dinner.
On Sunday she had her celebration with her girlfriends.  We took them to Inside Out and then pizza.  What a cute movie and a fun time!!  Great Grandpa even made it out for the celebration!
It is clear that you are a blessed girl with many people who love you dearly.  While I ache for the days when you were my little peanut and I could hold you in my arms, I am blown away by the amazing, talented, articulate, independent, and beautiful woman you have become.  I know you are going to kill it in high school!  Love you Jo Jo.

17

Happy Anniversary Max!
Seventeen sounds so long, yet it feels like just yesterday we were walking down the isle.  I still feel like the excited bride every day you get home.  This day has even more significance as it is also now the anniversary of the day we moved into our house and began our life as Arizonans.  It is also the day you started working at Mayo.  A momentous day for us indeed!  We have an uncommon blessing in our love for each other and we would be blessed beyond measure if we are lucky enough to celebrate another 17 years of love and marriage.  You are undoubtedly the better half of our equation and I am always in wonder how you can love all of me so truly.  My addiction runs strong and steady as it has for the last 24 years.  It is you and will always be you.  I love you.

Beach Pics

It doesn't get much better for family portraits then at the beach.

The background and lighting are spectacular, it is hard to take a bad picture.

Although somehow we managed to have over 500 bad ones!
It was a bit windy and all of the ladies' hair was flying all over the place.  
We also started early so the sun was still a little too intense, making us squint.
 I was the worst offender!  In nearly all the pics I look drunk or like I am falling asleep.  This is why I always have sunglasses on.  My old lady eyes can't take the sun.
But we managed to capture a few special pictures of our time.

We packed the tripod and the remote for the camera and Max was our primary photographer.
 Although Hailey snapped one of my favorites!
 We laughed as we watched a dozen other families, some with professional photographers, trying to manage the wind and the wild hair.
 So we decided to walk against the wind and see if action shots worked better.
 My two favorite boys in the world!
 My whole heart.
 Love this one with my babies.  If only we did have that photographer and Max was in it too, it would be the perfect shot for the end of our beach trip.
This is how most of the pictures turned out...
Everyone loves family picture time.
  As the Zac Brown Band sings, we had a glorious week of our "toes in the water, our bum in the sand.  Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in Mom and Dad's hand.  Life is good today.  Life is good today."

Surfs Up Or Not

Along with parasailing, I figured it would be fun to take surfing lessons at the beginning of our trip so we could surf all week if we liked it.  I enrolled all of us in a Billabong morning surf camp.  I had gone surfing a few times in high school and time had a way of me remembering easily surfing in the waves as long as  the board was big.
I had visions of us all tearing it up.  Hmm, more like the boards and waves tore us up!
The waves were so strong starting at the beginning of the week that the surf camp was canceled and kept getting pushed back.  Each day the instructor would tell me the waves were too strong for beginners and kids.  By our last day the waves finally went down enough that he thought we could try it.  Rather than do the entire camp, we decided to rent two boards for the morning.  Because in my memory it was so easy and these waves were so small compared to those giant waves I rode in my memory that we wouldn't need instruction.  How hard could it be?
Max and I went out first and found it to be much more difficult than the surf instructor made it look!  My timing was always off and I never managed to make it up for more than a second.  However, Max managed to catch a few!  The waves don't break until the shallow beach, instead they just roll.  I kept waiting for the break point but never could catch it.  They waves just kept rolling by.  When I did catch it, I ended up with a face full of sand.
After we had been beat down and I had been very humbled, we drug ourselves back to the beach.  Hailey decided to give it a go with a similar optimism that Max and I had started with.  She came back looking like a drown rat and told us she had fallen off and somehow the cord had wrapped around her neck and nearly choked her under the water!  With that, she decided lounging in the beach chair was a better option.
 Once Max and I recovered we decided to take the kids out.  I had Kaitlin and he had Hank.  We would hold the board while they stood up and then try to send them with the waves.  One time I sent Kaitlin along and she fell off ahead of the board so the waves crashed the board into her head.  After that she didn't want to surf with Mommy anymore.
She had a much better experience with Daddy!
 As it turned out Max was tall enough to manage the waves much better than I could, so he ended up having to do all the kids!
 He was exhausted afterward.  
We decided the surfboards were better for suntanning than surfing.