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.



Parasailing

I have a bit of a hard time doing nothing.  I start to get antsy even during a movie.  As I was planning our trip to Florida the thought of doing nothing for 6 days was making me antsy.  I figured after 2 days of it we would be bored.  Back in the safety of my desert dwelling, I came up with the crazy idea that it would be fun to break up the boring time of doing nothing with a little adventure... Parasailing.
This sounded perfectly safe and reasonable as I sat at my computer and read rave reviews about the best outfits in Destin to parasail with.  Hailey loves to fly and at the time I thought it would be a once in a lifetime thing to do as a family.
 I convinced myself not to look up the statistics on injuries or deaths.  I was sure it was like flying (which I happen to hate) and is safer than driving your car to the store.
The night before our date with parasailing Max started acting all squirrelly and asking if we had a already paid, if we could cancel and if I was sure we really wanted to do this.  So I asked him if he was afraid and didn't want to do it.  He is mildly afraid of heights, I pondered.  Then he asked me if I had looked at the deaths related to parasailing.  My stomach dropped and that warm liquid feeling of adrenaline began to rush toward my face.
 I read each of the eight horrifying accidents that took place in 2013, which lead to a new law for parasailing operators to have certain amounts of liability insurance, weather monitoring equipment and to cease operations under various wind conditions.   That did nothing to ease my mind that often it was equipment failure like a snapped line or or harness failure that caused tragic consequences.
The kids however were blissfully ignorant of these statistics and were fearless.  Karlie has a fear of heights and while she was extremely brave and decided to try it, it is not something she cares to ever do again.  I think I was more afraid watching Max, Karlie and Hank fly 600 feet in the air than when I was in the air with Hailey and Kaitlin.  I just kept counting down the minutes until the ride was over.
 As we took off I tired to be brave for the kids' sake but inside I was thinking what an idiot I was for planning this whole thing.  It was very peaceful and gentle flying over the ocean, but I couldn't shake the horrible stories I had read about and with every noise I imagined the line snapping and us plunging to our death.  While I was so happy to be back on the boat, Hailey and Kaitlin could have flown all afternoon.  Hank also loved it!  Max is in the boat with Karlie and me and has no desire to ever parasail again. 
 I guess we can check that off our bucket list!  I am so grateful we didn't kick the bucket crossing it off.  I think I will be less adventuresome on my computer at home from now on.