Wednesday, September 28, 2011

new used car

We couldn't pass up this deal!  Less than $2, straight out-of-pocket.  No monthly payments.  Fuel efficient. Sure, it has pretty high mileage, a little wear & tear, not your bright shiny new car.  But the price was right, and I think we can get some more mileage out of this little car.  The only drawback is the lack of passenger seating...  Now they just need a license to drive.  Watch out!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

activity day fun

I'm still in charge of activity days two Wednesday afternoons a month.  Here are a few of our recent activities.

Right before school started, we did a back-to-school pizza & priorities party.  We made homemade pizza, which got dubbed as "Miss Annie's pizza" when we were in Oklahoma.  I don't remember where the recipe came from originally, but we really like it.  (I have modified it slightly.)  We also talked about priorities and tried to make daily schedules.  That didn't work as well as I thought, since the girls didn't even have a set time to get up or bedtime - at least they didn't know what time that was.  Also, the girls weren't in any after-school activities, so they didn't have much to schedule.  But that led nicely into making choices about what to do with their free time.  I made a little bookmark for them with a picture of a sliced pizza.  It said, "Think of your day like a pizza.  A pizza wouldn't be right without bread and sauce and cheese, just as there are some things that are essential for your day.  You have to eat, sleep, work, and go to school.  You divide your pizza into slices just as your time gets divided.  The toppings on a pizza, like pepperoni or olives, are extras.  They make the pizza taste yummy.  Just as you choose your toppings, you have time in your day to choose extra things to do.  Choose wisely to make the best day!  And don't forget to make prayer and scriptures a part of your day.  They're so important that if left out, it's like forgetting to put the pizza in the oven!"

Homemade Pizza

Dough: 3 ¾ tsp yeast * (about 1 ½ pkgs. yeast, if using the pkgs), 1 ½ cup water, 3 TBSP oil, 1 ½ tsp.
sugar, 1 ½ tsp. salt, 3 ¾ cups flour

Sauce: 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. garlic powder, 1/8 tsp. pepper, 1/4 cup finely chopped onions, 1 cup tomato
sauce (8 oz) – this makes a thin layer of sauce, so you may want to prepare extra if you like more sauce.
Divide sauce in half.

Topping: 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, 3 cups mozzarella cheese, 2 tsp. oregano (divide topping in half),
other desired toppings (like pepperoni, olives, etc.)

Heat oven to 425. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in remaining dough ingredients. Beat vigorously
until blended. Allow dough to rest about 5 minutes.  Lightly grease 2 pizza pans (can also be sprinkled with corn meal).

Divide dough in half. On a pastry mat or clean surface, knead dough just until smooth. Add flour as
needed if it’s sticky. Make sure you have plenty of flour on the surface underneath the dough. Roll out
thin and gently transfer (pull up with fingers) flattened dough to 2 baking sheets. Continue to pat and
spread dough to the edges of the pan (10-12 inch pan) with floured fingers. Pre-bake crust about 10
minutes.  While the crust is baking, mix sauce ingredients.

Spread sauce on and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and oregano. Add desired toppings and mozzarella. Bake 15 minutes.

* I use Fleischmann's Instant Dry Yeast from Sam's Club- you can buy 2 lbs of it for about $4.50.  They seem to last well in the fridge after the package has been opened.  I haven't checked out Costco's yet since I still have a bunch from Sam's, but I imagine it might be a good deal as well.

Another activity we did was hair accessories.  There are tons of websites out there for making these.  I chose one that looked really simple from this site.  They didn't turn out as cute as I would have liked.  I forgot that 10-11 year old girls like lots of sparkly things.  They didn't want to put just one gem in the center of the flower - they wanted them all over.  The loopy flower turned out to be too hard for them (I thought they were really easy).  I couldn't find the site I used, but here's a similar tutorial here.  And again, it wasn't my idea to put a little rose in the center of those, but the girls made them how they wanted to.  In conjunction with the hair clips, we had flower birthday cupcakes for one of the girls.  If they didn't enjoy making the hair clips, I KNOW they loved the cupcakes!

Our most recent activity was making family trees.  The girls sponge painted the leaves and sky.  Then we glued on the tree and pasted the apples on the branches.  The names (up to their great grandparents) were written on the apples.  I might have to send the one I did to Mom and Dad.  The five apples on the bottom are my siblings and me.   We also briefly shared something about one of our ancestors.  The girls liked the picture of my great grandmother's wedding dress.  Lulu's dress is over 100 years old.  This was also my grammy Evelyn's wedding dress.  (My sister Ashley is holding the dress.)


lost carrots

Owen helped himself to carrots and dressing one day.  He came running in to me, exclaiming in a bit of a panic, "Mama, I can't find my carrots!"  I had no idea what he was talking about... until he directed me to the bowl full of salad dressing.  After we funneled it back in the container, we found the missing carrots!

Now, we give the LIGHT ranch dressing to our guests... ha ha!  ;)

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Cinderella story

Some friends of ours hosted a summer dessert competition, which was held one evening a month.  It was really fun (although totally NOT for anyone on a diet) - a picnic in the park followed by dessert competition.  This is a dessert lover's dream - tasting several different kinds of desserts.  The first 3 competitions had a particular theme - cookies/bars/brownies, cakes/tortes, and pies/cheesecakes.  The desserts were assigned a number and then we all voted on our favorite.  The top 3 desserts in each round were qualified for the final competition.  I entered in all of the competitions and didn't make it in the top three UNTIL the 3rd round, when I was one of the ONLY two desserts that were made.  That doesn't count, right?  I wasn't voted in, but they were insistent that I was indeed in the final round.  Oh great.  I'm not a great baker.  I don't even like to cook.  And I surely didn't have a WOW recipe sitting in my recipe box.  Nathan even commented, "Now you're going to have to think of something good, Mama."  Thanks Nathan.  (I really was thinking in my mind that I could come in as the "Cinderella" of the competition and win it.)    

I thought I'd get out of it, since I didn't think we'd make it back in time.  But since it looked like we might make it, I decided to go ahead and make something ahead of time.  I didn't have a special family recipe sitting around that I hadn't used already (mom's cherry pie), so I went on-line in search of an "award-winning" recipe.  What I ended up choosing was not because it sounded gourmet, but because it sounded really easy to make.  The recipe called for a package of refrigerated cookie dough and a cheesecake filling.  You layer half of the cookie dough on the bottom, topped by cheesecake layer, topped with the other half of the dough.  I did tweak the recipe.  I used my mom's chocolate chip cookie recipe and decided to also put crumbled Twix bars on the top.  This is really unhealthy.  If you're trying to lose weight, DO NOT make this.  One square is like eating 2-4 chocolate chip cookies, a slice of cheesecake, and a Twix bar at the same time.

Anyway, I made it at 6:30am the day of, and didn't think it turned out.  Having never made it before, I wasn't sure what the crust was supposed to look like - it seemed too soft.  I stuck it in the fridge anyway.  We got back into town at 6:15pm.  The dessert competition started at 6:00.  I almost said "forget it" but then I thought about that whole pan of dessert sitting in the fridge AND the fact that I got up early to make it.  We went home and tasted it - if it was yucky, I wasn't going to go.  But surprisingly, it was really yummy.  We still had to eat dinner, so we picked up pizza on the way.  By the time we got to the park, it was 6:50.  I had no intention of being in the competition - I only wanted to share my dessert so we wouldn't be forced to eat all of it ourselves.  But upon arrival, they immediately said, "We have a late arrival!  Don't tally up the votes yet!"  It really was kind-of embarrassing.  But with technically 10 minutes of voting left, my dessert got a number.  

And then... I won.  

(Okay, so there were only 6 desserts to choose from I think, but I guess I still had the most votes.)  
I got to stand in front of everyone with a silly (yet very fun and creative) hat while everyone applauded and I opened my prize.  And people asked about my recipe.  Well... I found it on-line.  Just a lucky pick and lucky that it turned out.  And smart enough to add Twix bars on top!  :)  Who doesn't love those?  

When I got home, I was reminded of how not-so-great I am at baking when I picked up the rock solid strawberry shortcake crust from the previous night's baking...  oh well.  

My prince charming requested the chocolate chip Twix cheesecake bars for his birthday instead of his all-time favorite M&M cookies - sweet victory.               

I'll share the recipe when I get around to FINDING it and adding my revisions.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Auntie Ali & Micah and cousin Dal

At the end of August, my sister and her family came for a quick visit.  The main reason for their trip was a friend's wedding at the LA Temple.  We went with them and watched Dallin while they were in the temple, and they also watched our boys for us so we could do some temple work.  Pretty nice exchange.  We had to take a picture of them in this amazing tree, since Micah proposed to Alison in a tree.  And look at them now... all that makes 3 AND they have one on the way!    

It also happened to be Alison's birthday again (she was here on her birthday last year too).  I attempted to make strawberry shortcake - the second crust turned out okay.  It was surprisingly similar to her cake with strawberries on it last year.  I must be making what I love - I hope she likes it as much as I do.

Anyway, it was fun to see them and hear their exciting news!  They make really cute babies.

Best Buddies

It seems a little strange to be posting knowing my #1 fan won't be reading and commenting on my blog right now... my Mom is in China with my Dad who is recovering from an appendectomy.  Anyway, I guess she'll have some fun things to catch up on when they get back.  Here's 2 of her favorite grandsons.

While Nathan and Jared are at school, Owen is the "man of the house."  He loves being the boss, having free reign over the Legos, and bossing Weston around.  Well, he doesn't really have to boss him around.  Weston just follows Owen wherever he goes.  It was so cute to peek in on them in Owen's fort.  I caught a pretty ornery grin from Owen too.  It's fun to see them play with each other - they're becoming good buddies!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Life's trials and unanswered prayers

Here we go - another spiritual post.  This was sparked by a friend's post, which got me thinking about things, like how the Lord knows us personally when we are "the dust of the earth" or why our prayers don't seem to be answered, even when our desires are righteous.  These are hard questions, for which I don't have all the answers.  We can't comprehend all the things that the Lord can comprehend.  What I can say is that I know when the Lord promises something, it will be fulfilled, but in His time and according to His will.  I believe that we knew before we were born that we'd have trials here on earth, maybe even knew some of the trials we'd have and accepted the challenge.  That's part of life's test to see if we can endure our trials, the very things tailor-made for our personal growth.  I don't know why certain things happen or why others seem to get more than their fair share of trials, but there's purpose behind them and things happen for a reason.

Thinking about these things, I went to the scriptures in search of further understanding.  I landed in the first chapters in Mosiah, in the Book of Mormon.  King Benjamin, a prophet, is teaching his people about what they need to do to gain salvation and about the Atonement of Christ.  In chapter 4, after hearing the teachings, the people had a greater understanding of who they were.  They viewed themselves "even less than the dust of the earth."  They had come into the depths of humility, recognizing their complete dependence on God for all that they are and have.  The more they understood the goodness of God and His glory, the more they were awakened to the sense of their own nothingness and worthless and fallen state.  This "state of being nothing", worthless and fallen, seems to contradict with what we're taught - that we do have value and are significant, that we do exist as children of God, that we are worth far more than nothing.  Upon first reading it, we might think it's saying that WE are nothing, that WE are worthless.  But it doesn't say that - they only viewed themselves less than the dust of the earth, recognizing their dependence on God.  As an individual, we have great worth, but we are in a worthless and fallen STATE because we can't do anything on our own to gain salvation.  There are things we can do to gain eternal life and live with our families with God again, but we can't save ourselves from sin.  The only way out is through the Atonement of Christ.  The more we understand the plan of salvation, the more we realize our state of nothingness and the role of the Savior in saving us from our fallen state.  Mosiah 3:17 ...there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ." (also Acts 4:12)

If we look back in Mosiah chapter 2, in verse 23, it tells us that we are indebted unto God for our lives.  In verse 25, we are reminded that we were created of the dust of the earth, and the dust of the earth belongeth to him that created us.  To be of the dust of the earth isn't insignificant - we were created from that dust and it belongs to God.  God doesn't create junk!  And it is an even greater testimony to me of the power of God in knowing that although we are in number as the sands of the sea and dust of the earth, He still knows each and every one of us personally.

As far as "unanswered prayers" - there aren't really unanswered prayers.  We just don't always get the answer we want.  Sometimes the answer is "yes", sometimes it's "no", and sometimes it's "not now".  Since God is our Father and we are His children, it's helpful for me to think of things in terms of the parent/child relationship.  Just as we don't immediately give our children everything they ask for, so Heavenly Father doesn't always give us what we ask for when we want it (even righteous things).

I was trying to think of a specific example and here's what came to mind:  The other day, I was doing the dishes.  Nathan asked if he could do them (yes, he did want to do the dishes...).  That's a very helpful and righteous thing to ask, right?  You'd think that I'd say "sure", but I didn't because I wanted his help with something else.  Sometimes he has other priorities, like homework and sometimes I need his help elsewhere.   This time, I wanted him to just play with and keep an eye on his little brothers.  Yes, I could have handed the task over the Nathan - many times I let him do that.  But this time, I told him "No, not right now."  It doesn't mean he can't help another time.  And sometimes Owen or Weston want to help with the dishes.  As a matter of safety (think broken glass), I may not think it's best for them to help and the answer is "no".  In this case, my "knowledge" and "judgement" overruled their "righteous desire", based on what I saw as best.  This may not be the best example, but hopefully you can relate this to our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Many times we get what we ask for, sometimes we don't, and sometimes the answer is "not now".  We may not understand the reasons behind the answers, but it could be that we are needed for something else.  I also was just thinking about persistence.  When my kids are really persistent, I'm often likely to give in.  While I don't know if that's the case with God, I imagine if we keep asking, we may get what we want.  We just better be prepared for whatever consequences that may bring!  We better try to find out if it's the Lord's will... We know all things are done in wisdom and order, so we better just be patient.

Perhaps one of the more challenging things to deal with is infertility.  I have only experienced this in a small way - obviously with 4 kids that problem has gone away.  But I know some of you are dealing with it in a much greater way, and my heart goes out to you.  I came across this article that really touched me. Even if you aren't going through this, it's a good example of "unanswered prayers."  Hopefully you can find answers to your prayers, comfort and peace, and discover God's plan for you.  He loves you and knows what's best!  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mastering Leptin

So... just a few quick questions to start off with:

Are you trying to lose weight?  Have you lost weight and then gain it all back?  Do you have cravings?  Do you have low energy, feel sluggish or have a hard time getting going in the morning?  Do you have problems with sleeping, fibromyalgia, or other health or hormonal problems?

I'm guessing most of you can answer yes to one or all of these questions (and most likely with a big SIGH of frustration because you've tried overcoming these and haven't had success.)  I was recently introduced to a book called "Mastering Leptin" by Byron Richards - thanks Ray & Warren for passing the book along.  It presents the Leptin Diet, which is "a common-sense way to eat that enables metabolism to run faster on less food.  It improves energy, mood, vitality, and the feeling of good health, and significantly reduces the risk for the primary diseases of aging."

First, I have to say that I cannot tell you from personal experience that the principles in this book work.  I haven't had a chance to test it all out yet.  But after reading it, I didn't want to wait to pass along the resource, because it seems like their Leptin theory has the science to back it up - the back of the book is filled with lots of references.  And you know how sometimes when you read something, it just sounds right?  I had that feeling when I was reading, that it just made sense.  My hope is that it will help someone out there who is struggling or who just wants to be more healthy (and shouldn't we all?).  Our bodies are truly a gift from God, so we need to do all we can to take care of them.  Besides, health and happiness go hand in hand.  And we want to be at our best to be able to be there for and help others, like our children.

Here is their website -  Go check it out.

I know a few of you may be rolling your eyes and/or won't go check it out, so here are some quotes from the book and some notes I took, if you're willing to keep reading.  

First off, I'm sure you're wondering what leptin is - it's a hormone secreted by fat cells, and the most important of hormones because of its regulating effect on other hormones.  Leptin provides communication within the body and controls energy balance and metabolism.  Leptin tells the brain how much fat is in reserve.  Problems with leptin involve loss of natural balance in regulating food intake, fat storage, and metabolic rate throughout the body.  Most overweight people have too much leptin.  When the balance is off, the brain doesn't sense leptin levels correctly, building resistance to the hormone.  When there's leptin resistance, the signal to stop eating is missing.  Overweight people are leptin resistant (brain) and insulin resistant (body).  The leptin solution is "science based on restoring health by fixing problems in natural balance... Drugs will always have a relevant place, but not as a prime force in solving the emerging obesity epidemic.... there is no quick fix for obesity."

"Obesity may soon overtake smoking as the number-one cause of preventable death in America.  In addition to mortality, quality of life is seriously affected even in people who are simply overweight and not obese: fatigue, stress, depression, sleep apnea, snoring, and arthritis are just a few of the inflammatory problems directly caused by obesity...  It is now recognized in the scientific literature that leptin problems are a primary cause of cardiovascular disease.  Leptin problems are directly involved with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and risk for stroke and heart attack.  Doctors are complacently handing out cardiovascular medication without understanding of the most current underlying scientific principles actually causing the problems.  While they are asleep on their watch, heart disease continues to be the number-one killer in America."  

"Drugs given to 'manage the symptoms' of a problem frequently adversely interact with leptin, making underlying health problems worse."

I think we all know that obesity is a problem, but how we're trying to overcome it is wrong.  Drugs, fad diets, and inconsistent exercise won't work.  There's not an easy way - if you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to have BOTH consistent exercise and eating right.  You can't have one without the other, although you can lose weight temporarily with just one or the other. But you're likely to actually gain MORE weight in the process if you don't do things the right way.  (But if you're lucky to have naturally good metabolism, you may be able to eat poorly and still maintain normal weight - like me.)  Part of this I have already discovered from personal experience.  I've lost all my pregnancy weight by exercising, but it hasn't been quick weight loss either.  I have been jogging 3-4 times a week for about 10 months.  The part that I have NOT been good at is eating right.  I may look healthy, but I don't FEEL healthy.  I'm hoping that I can gain some more energy and get rid of some of my cravings (especially for sugar).

Back to my notes... some of these may be random points that I wrote down... if you want to know more about it, you'll have to go read up on it.

- "Because of the function of leptin in muscle, the necessity of consistent exercise to maintain health has never been more important."

- The food pyramid induces serious health issues.  There's only one healthy way to eat - to maximize efficient function of leptin.

- Low fat diets (as well as high fat diets) are incredibly destructive.

- Leptin causes metabolism to slow down.

- Eating after dinner seriously disturbs leptin function.

- Eating too many carbs or sweets throws off body rhythm.

- Why diets don't work:  You will initially burn stored fat because your metabolism is set for a higher calorie amount.  As the diet continues, leptin levels drop, initiating genetic response to starvation.  This slows down stimulation of fat cells to conserve fuel.  Metabolism slows down and weight loss stops.  This is why you may hit a plateau 15-25 lbs. from your goal, even though starving on a low calorie diet.

- Ideal aerobics for weight loss:  3 times a week for 1-2 hours duration.  The timing is important too.   You should exercise between meals (on empty stomach) or first thing in morning before eating.  After exercising, don't eat until you get a hunger signal.  
- Consistency in exercise is more important than intensity (longer rather than faster).  This is good news for those who don't like to run.  You can benefit just as much by walking for 1-2 hours as you can from a quick jog.  (I personally don't have time for 1-2 hours of walking or aerobic exercise, so I have to jog).  However, even small amounts of exercise helps with insulin resistance.  Exercise beyond 20 minutes is good, but 30-40 minutes is better, and 1 hour 3 times a week is best.  Antioxidants prior to exercise may help (they suggest co-enzyme Q-10).

Craving food before bed is a sign of leptin resistance.

Properly functioning leptin enables a person to not crave sweets.

Morning fatigue or taking a long time to feel energized are signs that cortisol is poor.

AVOID aspartame, MSG, all soda pop, high fructose sweetened beverages, artificial sweeteners, high salt, high fat, high sugar foods, potato chips and french fries.

Here are the leptin rules:

1.  Don't eat after dinner.  Allow 11-12 hours between dinner and breakfast.  Finish dinner at least 3 hours before bed.  (sleep is prime metabolic time.  The fastest way to disrupt sleep is to eat after dinner, eat too large a meal, or too late - it increases leptin resistance, raises adrenaline, which causes insomnia, light or restless sleep, sleep apnea)

2.  Eat 3 meals a day.  Allow 5-6 hours in between.  Don't snack.  (pancreas doesn't have time to prepare insulin for next meal.  Even a healthy snack is a problem - the snack causes insulin to rise and the liver to excessively secrete cholesterol.  The book says you might have to work up to just eating 3 meals, starting with 4 meals.)

3.  Don't eat large meals.  Finish when slightly less than full.  Eat slowly. 

4.  Eat a breakfast containing protein.  (Protein helps metabolism turn on.  Metabolism can increase by 30% for as long as 12 hours from a high protein meal, the calorie-burning equivalent of a 3-4 mile jog.  It also says to avoid fruit juice at breakfast.  It recommends eggs or cottage cheese.)

5. Reduce carbohydrates.

-It's not just the amount of calories that influences ability to lose weight, but the type of calorie and timing of eating.

- Higher calcium intake improves thyroid function and metabolism; settle down excess production of adrenaline.  Vitamin D (from the sun) enhances calcium absorption.

Here's some leptin diet recommendations:

milk (doesn't have to be skim), eggs, lean meat, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, cottage cheese, pork, veal, lamb  (only occasionally - cheese, cream cheese, peanut butter, nuts, avocado, hamburgers, steak)

6-8 glasses of water, avoid all fruit juice, avoid all soda pops regardless of sweeteners, avoid alcohol  (I would add avoid coffee and tea - I don't know why, but it's in our religious code of health, which we believe is inspired revelation.  I'm going to trust that God knows more about that than we do.)

eat veggies and salads (unlimited with meals, except carrots, corn, peas, pumpkin)

2 fruit servings a day with meals - don't snack on fruit

Go easy on salad dressing.  Avoid partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Carbs:  whole grain wheat product, pasta, oats, yogurt, milk, tomato soup, chicken noodle soup, sweet potato, beans, carrots  (only occasionally - rice, peas, corn, potatoes, low sugar cereals)

sweeteners:  chocolate, honey, maple syrup, white sugar  (it says for serious weight loss, avoid all sweeteners.  Occasional thumb-sized portion acceptable).  Learn to use herbs, which enhance flavor, to help control cravings

Avoid ice cream  (ouch!  that's a hard one...)

Butter and olive oil - good
Omega 3 oils

Minimize fried foods

Things that will halt weight loss:  lack of sleep, infection, backed-up toxins (no bowel movement = no progress), stress, sugar, high fat

The Leptin Diet is friendly on vitamin supplements, depending on your specific need.  It minimizes use of drugs  (although they may be used temporarily).  It aims for the restoration of natural balance in your body.

The main thing I got out of this book is that balancing leptin is a lifestyle change.  Whether you like it or not, you have to exercise AND eat right, but timing is also important.  There's no easy solution - if you want to lose weight and be healthy, it's going to take time and consistency to get everything in balance.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

back to school

I'm behind on the posts by a couple of weeks... school started 2 weeks ago.  Nathan and Jared were very eager and excited to go to school.  I planned on doing a little extra for breakfast the 1st day of school - nothing really fancy, but just a few pencil and apple decorations, along with eggs and pancakes.  I set my alarm for 5:30am so I could get things ready (and have time for a quick jog), but guess who was up before me?  Nathan.  I have yet to make it up before him on a first day of school.  I told him to go back to bed.  He came out again 5 minutes later saying he couldn't sleep anymore and asked if he could get dressed.  I love his enthusiasm.

Jared started kindergarten this year.  I kept thinking he might get a little nervous and looked for any signs of anxiety - none.  He was ready to go.  Thursdays are usually Alex's day to take the boys to school, so he was going to walk them over.  But I decided I wanted to go too to see Jared off on his very first day.  Nathan and Jared asked, "Why is Mama coming too?"  I just told them, "It's a mom thing."  So we all headed out the door.

When we got to school, I asked if Jared wanted to walk to Nathan's classroom first to drop him off.  "No.  I'm going to go play."  He headed to the kindergarten playground and didn't look back.  I came back after dropping Nathan off and watched him play for a few minutes.  It was interesting to see the kindergarten playground.  There were parents everywhere standing around, snapping pictures (I was one of those), and some had kids clinging to them.  I'm not sure if Jared even knew I was there.  As the bell was ringing, the teachers said the parents could walk to the classroom door with them, but then they had to say good-bye.  Jared was already waving bye to me.  We let him go... I didn't cry, but as we walked home, it was hard to imagine another one of my boys not at home.  And then I got home and 2 kids at home felt pretty good... Owen sure loves being the "man of the house" during the day.  Time flies though - my boys are growing up.  

Nathan and Jared both had a great first day.  They like their teachers, love recess, didn't learn a thing :) and already have friends.  Jared's buddy is named Connor.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

off to Africa

I'm so glad we got to see my brother and his family again before they moved to Angola.  They've been so busy trying to get everything ready to go, but we were able to squeeze in a short visit- lunch at the park.  I'm not sure when we'll see them again - they are there for 3-4 years.  I hope it's not that long before we see them, but it may be tricky meeting up with them, unless we win a trip to Africa or something...
  The boys loved playing with Nicholas and Ryan and Cheerio (the dog).  Best couple of hours of the week!  

I think they actually got to Angola today, with tons of stuff, their 2 boys, and dog.  I don't know how they got everything there, but they arrived safely.  We'll miss them!  

600th post... Big (for) Sur-e...picture overload

Another one of our summer activities was a camping trip along the central coast, in the Big Sur area.  We had a good time, for the most part, but we only ended up camping 2 nights.  Our first mistake was that we didn't plan our trip in advance.  In our naivety, we headed out on a Monday, thinking we'd camp most of the week.  Back in Oklahoma, campgrounds were always available - in fact, you're lucky if you're not the ONLY one there.  Anyway, the first campground we had in mind was full, so we had to backtrack about an hour to find one with vacant sites.  Once again we had to put the tent up in the dark and we were next to the bathrooms, so we got a nice waft every so often from those.  Blah.  In the morning, our campsite was full of bees, so breakfast was interesting.  Besides the bees, the boys were absolutely loving it.  Weston had a nice nap while we were packing things up - pretty rough life.  :)      

We continued along the coast, enjoying the views and some clouds (the clouds seem to follow us on our scenic trips) and letting the boys play.  We also hunted for a camping spot.  Every single place was full.  And we didn't want to spend $250 to stay in the coastal motels.  We were starting to get discouraged and then Nathan suggested we say a prayer that we could find a spot.  The simple faith of a child - we pulled into the Limekiln State Park campground and they had one spot left, due to a cancellation.

We loved camping at Limekiln, nestled among the tall trees, with hiking on one side of the state park and beach on the other side.  We probably could have stayed there all week, but unfortunately we could only stay one night due to everything being reserved.  That was the next hard thing about our week.  We had to keep setting everything up and taking it down every day - very tiresome.  

We enjoyed the state park while we were there - perfect hike for the boys, with lots of things to climb over and under and on and a waterfall at the end to throw rocks.  They also loved the beach, which had shallow water pools to play in.  After a campfire we went to bed early, but the night was pretty cold, so we didn't sleep great.  It was nice to get a warm 6 minute (50 cents) shower in the morning.  

On Wednesday, we loaded up again and headed out for more coastal fun.  We explored Point Lobos State Reserve - the boys loved seeing all the crabs in the tide pools and hiding under the rocks.  We also enjoyed watching the harbor seals and listening to the barking sea lions.  One gentleman that walked by said one of the seals was named Leo and if you called out his name, he'd move.  The boys got a kick out of hollering at "Leo" and watching his flipper or head move.  The favorite spot was Sea Lion Cove, with plenty of rocks for everyone!  (Owen is holding a shell in his grubby little hands.)

On Wednesday, we continued to look for a place to camp, but everything was full.  And after 2 nights of unloading, setting up, and loading up again, we were tired.  We stayed inland at a cheap motel in Salinas, thinking we might go back to Monterey on Thursday.  Instead of doing that, it worked out to have lunch with my brother and his family, who recently moved to Angola.  After seeing them, we drove to Pinnacles National Monument, and did a short hike.  The boys were excited to use their flashlights in the Balconies Cave.  We didn't actually do the whole thing - it got pretty tricky and too challenging with Weston in the backpack and all of the boys needing help.  Being there in the late afternoon, the colors were gorgeous on the red rocks, which are the remains of an extinct volcano.

Instead of spending another night camping or at a motel, we headed home, opting to do some fun things at home with the boys on Friday (bowling, swimming, park, ice cream, and movie).  The boys had a great time - I decided I don't like camping much anymore.  It's too much work.  It took us 7 hours to get everything ready, lots of time setting up and taking down, being crammed in the van with all of our stuff at our feet, and at least 2 days to put everything away.  One side benefit - we realized our camping and 72 hour kit (mostly non-existent until now) are mostly the same stuff.  If it took us that long to get ready for camping, we'd never be ready for an emergency.  We organized some things into containers and bags, even clothes and extra shoes - it shouldn't take us 7 hours next time to get out the door.  We may have to do a test run and see how we do with what we've got...

We did have a fun week!  Tiring, but good quality time with the boys.  And Weston - I've never seen a kid happier to be outside.    

summer fun

We got in another hike before school started, as well as a dip in the pool.  Unfortunately, this was the ONLY time they went swimming this summer.  I wasn't willing to take all of them by myself, and we just didn't plan any trips to the pool.  But it wasn't 100 degrees either - more like 70, so an unheated pool didn't feel very good anyway.  At least we made it once to the pool.