Tilden Park

After we finally made it to the Villa (Pops and Nana's house) we were able to feel like we were really on a vacation rather than a homelessness journey. Nana was visiting her London lovies so Auntie Anna took over as head squaw. We arrived and she had dinner on the table before 6:30! It was a record for the Villa. We love visiting, I just wish what happened at the Villa stayed at the Villa. No matter how I try, I gain the Villa Five every time we visit. The Villa Five continues to plague me for weeks after we depart. How it can go on so fast and take so long to work off is beside me. Ultimately it is worth every calorie and delicious bite. It was a fun few days of feasting and playing. Thank you Anna for cooking and keeping the train on time! :)

The first day we took off to Tilden Park. Max grew up going to this park as a little boy. I never knew such parks existed. Hank thought he had died and gone to train heaven.
They have this wonderful steam train that gives a 12 minute ride through the redwoods. Hank will never be the same. How can the lame mall train even hope to compare?
Even the big kids were impressed by this ride. Hank called it the Nana Train. :)
If a train ride wasn't cool enough, it also has a 100 year old merry go round. When Hailey saw the carousel horses she gasped. Such a grand time!
Few things can duplicate the joy I get watching the kids on a merry go round. It is like the world stops spinning for a brief moment and everything is happy and good.
Pops was entertaining as usual.

Happy!

Cotton Candy with Auntie Anna. They looked almost as sweet in the coordinating outfits Nana left for them.
Lollipops with Daddy.
And Thomas the train!!
Hank decided to roll down the hill and his sisters quickly followed suit.
They decided to race down...
Kaitlin got nailed in the head by Hailey's foot. It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. This was a really happy day. All things childhood wrapped up in one magical place. We are all looking forward to our next visit to the Villa when we can have just another day at the park!

Lake Tahoe

Max's Uncle Stu and Aunt Ginnie let us stay at their remarkable cabin in Incline Village. This is the view of Lake Tahoe off their back deck.
We put the kids to sleep and snuck out for our nightly his and hers traveling companion toast. Notice that Max's was almost gone. We had lots of toasting to do!
Weary we were.
The next morning we headed to the beach on Lake Tahoe that Max and his family vacationed at every summer when he was growing up.
We were blessed to see some of America's most beautiful countryside and this ended up being the crown jewel. It had everything.
Hey kids, the water is cold!
Oh, yeah! Really cold!!!
Sand Castles.
I don't know how many other places you can be playing on the beach with snow capped mountains in the background.
I even got to take in some sun. Max and I felt like this was the first time in weeks that we were able to fully relax. The water was so shallow we didn't have to worry about them jumping in and drowning. There are not under currents like the beach of an ocean and the kids could run as far as they wanted along the beach. It was a wonderful afternoon for all of us.
Max took the troops out to a sandbar. What an amazing place. The kids begged us to stay another night. We enjoyed ourselves so much we plan on trying to make Tahoe a regular vacation spot. Keep the Tahoe tradition alive for another generation. :)

Nevada

The drive through Nevada was rather uneventful and not near as beautiful as the prior four states we had traveled through. The temperature went up over 30 degrees from the morning to the mid day high.
This was our second full day in the car so everyone was eager to get there so we only made two stops and Max drove like Dale Earnhardt.
Bubbles at the rest stop. Both Hank and Karlie wiped out. Hank cracked his head when he fell and Karlie skinned up her shin. What would a road trip be without a few injuries along the way?
This was the prettiest scene until we reached Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe was so beautiful, it will get it's own post tomorrow!

Idaho

After leaving Courtney's house we began our trek west to California through Idaho. Neither Max or I had visited Montana or Idaho, so it was a great to see their landscapes.
Giant jawbreakers and suckers helped the kids enjoy the ride and helped us maintain what little sanity we were holding on too.
We stopped at a gorgeous rest stop near Snake river for lunch. It was along the same Snake River in Wyoming that we had dinner. Amazing to see how fast and how much water was flowing.
It was a nice little hike down the hill to the river. Afterwards the kids rode their scooters and bikes.

Max and I took in the views.
Idaho was much prettier than I imagined. I guess the potato state doesn't lend itself to visions of mountains, waterfalls and flowing rivers.
As we neared Nevada it became farm land as far as the eye could see and the mountains became distant views. Along this trip Max and I have been impressed with how vast and open much of northwestern America is. We would go miles and miles and not see a human structure. No over population in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
The holy grail at the end of each day is the hotel swimming pool! The kids are always so excited to see it and the chlorine smell in the lobby gets them amped up. We love it because it tires them out for bed! I think it is time we get Hank a life vest of his own. Pretty soon he is going to hate wearing his older sister's hot pink one!


Happy 10th Birthday Hailey!

Happy 10th Birthday Hailey!

I can hardly believe my sweet little peanut has grown into a young lady of 10 years. Our life has changed dramatically since you blessed our life. Max had just finished his first year of medical school and I had one more year of nursing school to go. We lived in a 900 sq ft house in a pretty shady part of town and had two dog babies. Now Max has moved up to the Mayo clinic, I no longer even work as a nurse, we are about to move into a 5300 sq ft house and we have four wonderful kids with Daisy baby still hanging on.
You are one of the most conscientious people I know. You have a huge, loving heart. Animals are your passion. You are debating giving up meat because your heart breaks every time you think of the poor animal that died for you to eat it. You have a gift with animals. They flock to you. I think they sense your tender heart and gentle spirit. Horses remain your number one love and you are getting a little too good for mom's comfort. You are eager to jump and I can barely breath as I watch you gallop on top of your massive horse.
You are Daddy's pride and joy. This year you brought home straight A's and scored advanced in reading and math. I can hardly keep enough books around for you to devour. You really enjoy choir and piano. You have blossomed into a social butterfly with many friends. Daddy is going to have to start cleaning his shot gun to keep those boys away. :)
You are a loving big sister. You have a special bond with your little H buddy and the K buddies want to be like you in every way.
Thank you for being such a delightful child. We are blessed to have you as our first. Your innate goodness has given us confidence that we can raise this rowdy brood, even if we really had nothing to do with how good of kid you are. Your beauty shines from within and you radiate love and kindness. We love you and can only hope and pray the next decade will be as wonderful as the first has been with you Jo-Jo!

Montana


As much as we tried to focus the kids' attention on all the wondrous beauty of the Yellowstone and impress upon them how incredible it was, they had one thing on their mind... Cate and Bodi's house! Hank kept asking, "how much longer until Baby Bodi?" Karlie and Kaitlin kept asking when they would see Cate. I have to admit, I too was eager to see my best friend from nursing school, Courtney. She and Brennan kindly agreed to host our vagabond family.
Court and me! I miss her so much.

Max and Brennan. It's a good thing they don't get to hang out too often. They both enjoy sipping Scotch and Tequila. It could become an expensive relationship. :)
The motley crew. The kids had such a wonderful time. Cate is the sweetest girl. She shared her toys so nicely with the girls. Karlie and Cate were like two peas in a pod while Kaitlin's motherly instincts took over and she mothered poor Bodi to death. I had to compete with Kaitlin for Bodi. Oh, how he made my uterus ache. He is the most easy going, happy baby. It was impossible to restrain the urge to hold and kiss him. He is butter! I thought Hank was pure sunshine until I met Mr. Bodi. I could have easily packed him in the car with us. Hank has transformed from sunshine and butter to a regular Tasmanian Devil. After days in the car he was rowdy and destroyed Courtney's house on a regular basis. Sorry Court! It was so beautiful and perfect when we arrived. I hope you were able to get it back in order once the MKHKKH tornado left.
Speaking of her house. It has to be one of the most beautiful lots in America. I was stunned as I looked out any window in the house. I was green with envy as I looked at the abundance of lush, green views from every direction. Montana is so gorgeous. However, Courtney reminded me that for at least 6 months of the year, those views are solid white with snow pack. I guess every place has it's poison.
Four little monkeys in the tub.
As usual Courtney was the hostest with the mostest and served us a delicious array of tasty meals. I wasn't kidding about needing those recipes! Bison burgers were the best! Almost makes me think I could be a Montana mountain girl.
This was the view out their backyard one evening. Breath taking. We are trying to set up a VRBO deal where we house swap for a week every year. They can come get some sun and warmth and we can come play in this amazing outdoor wonderland. Thank you so much for your hospitality. We enjoyed it so much, we didn't want to leave. Love you!