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Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

This might be a first – Merry Christmas!  I’m actually even writing this on Christmas.  Like a wound-up kid, I woke up early and just couldn’t back to sleep.  I do this every year – I actually set an alarm to make sure I’m up before the kids are allowed out of their rooms.  I don’t want to miss seeing their faces as they see the Christmas tree and splendor for the first time.  The kids are allowed to leave their rooms at 8am or “the headless snowman” (when they were too little to know what an 8 looked like).  Exhausted, I usually get up just a few minutes before them, but this morning, I woke at 6:45 and just had to give into the excitement and embrace it.

I’m so weird about Christmas. I love it so, so, so much and just can’t get enough of the entire Advent, Christmas season and spirit…and yet, as the day approaches, I actually almost start to dread it a little.  I want to dig in my heels and just enjoy the hopeful excitement and building anticipation for longer.  I also know that another Christmas come and gone, means another Christmas come and gone with young children and those Christmases are numbered.  They go too quickly.  Much too quickly.

Last night, we went to Zachary’s godparents’ house (our good friends – the Sartains) for our annual Christmas Eve dinner.  They’ve been kind enough to include us for probably the last 14 years.  We had such a wonderful time and we all look forward to it so much.  We found out – big news! – that it will probably be our last Christmas Eve together.  They are moving to Colorado in June.  We’re so happy for them and their new adventure, but selfishly, will really, really miss them.

After finally tearing ourselves away because, we did have to get home and get to bed so Santa could come; we said our bedtime prayers in the car.  (This is something we do as a family if we’re out late). We prayed in Thanksgiving for our many blessings and especially for such an amazing Christmas Eve.

When we got home, the kids began to scurry about – putting out carrots for the reindeer and cookies and milk for Santa.  I couldn’t believe what else they did though.  Zach and Kayli drew pictures (Zach’s are the Santa pics and Kayli wowed us with her nativity scene).  Zach also left Santa this note:

“Dear Santa, you give and give but no one gives to you.  Here are some gifts (drawings). It’s the least I can do.” 

Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Big 'ol Fat December Update

Ahhh, man.  I get disappointed in myself when I see how long it’s been since I posted.  And annoyed too because I’ve already written about three different Blog entries in my head and yet, for some weird reason, that doesn’t count and take care of it!  So, as tends to happen now, you get a big ‘ol update all at once.  (Pace yourself.  Maybe just read a bit at a time and take breaks as needed).

We went on saw the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker with my mom.  (A first for all of us)!  It was beautiful and mom and the boys – especially Zach – really enjoyed it.  I wish I could’ve enjoyed it more but Kayli couldn’t stop coughing and she and I ended up watching from a ‘Silent Room’ in the back of the 2nd level.  Awesome that they have that so we didn’t have to miss it – but definitely not the same – watching it by ourselves in this weird little dark room, from behind huge, soundproof glass.  (There were speakers, so we actually could hear the orchestra – even the individual instruments better.  That part was cool).  Kayli, at least, did come home more excited about her ballet/tap classes (that she asked to do) and is VERY thrilled for their end-of-year Beauty and the Beast themed show.

I recently ran into a friend.  We were in a mom’s-from-school prayer group together last year.  Her daughter is pretty good friends with Zach.  She told me that her daughter recently informed her, “Mom! Zachary is totally different this year.  He asked me what looked different about him and I asked if he’d gotten a haircut and he said ‘No, I’ve got swagger now.’  And he totally does!  He dresses all cool, and gels his hair and wears this cool hat and goes by ZJ.” 

People, ZJ - The artist formerly known as Zachary James – has arrived.

Our Day with Mia
Kayliana’s birth mom Mia has moved back to Seattle (from Virginia – she moved there 1.5 years ago) and we’re SO happy about it! She came and spent the day with us a few weeks ago.  It was a Tuesday and she really got to just experience a day in the life of our fam.  For the first time ever (since Kayli came home at 2 days old to us), Mia and Kayli also had one on one/alone time while I had a dentist appointment.  They had such a fun time just hanging out and playing.  And, let’s face it, Kayli will absolutely be your biggest fan if you give her undivided attention AND let her be a cat for an entire afternoon.  She was ecstatic.  Mia and I had a wonderful time too – catching up and the boys were equally excited to see her.  Zach – excuse me – ZJ couldn’t wait to show her the most recent sketches he’d done and books he’d written.  While she was in Virginia, he’d send her some of his drawings and she’d provide some of her own. 

The kids, Mia and I went to Bellevue to meet up with Mike (who was practically working ‘round the clock for a huge work deadline).  We caught some of Snowflake Lane, took the kids to see Santa and got dinner at Red Robin.  [Matthew is hoping for an Xbox to replace our dead Wii.  Zachary wants wolf-themed apparel and paraphernalia; he’s decided the wolf is his ‘spirit animal.’  Kayliana wants a robot dog with no batteries.  Um, k. Good luck, Santa.]

After the mall adventure, Mia got to meet my mom for the first time!  (We were meeting up with her to deposit Zach in her care as he didn’t have school the next day because of teacher conferences).  The whole day really, really, really was an amazing, magical day and we’re beyond thankful that Mia is back.  Hopefully we’ll get to see her parents soon too.  We equally love James and Nora.  We’re just so ridiculously blessed.

My Accident

Two days after being with Mia (who is a massage therapist) and hearing about how she loves helping people with injuries from car accidents recover, I was in a car accident.  It wasn’t terrible, but obviously, those are never super awesome, happiest-place-on-Earth moments.  It could’ve been SO much worse and I really was (and am) immediately grateful that it wasn’t and especially that the kids weren’t in the car with me.

There are a couple of 4-way stop intersections at the bottom of our neighborhood – we’ve discussed them at our bus stop and the fact that people ALWAYS blow through their stops.  Yes, well, that’s what happened.  I had stopped.  No one was anywhere near the other stop signs.  I was almost all the way through my intersection, when all of a sudden, a woman on my right (who was making a sharp 90 degree right turn) not only didn’t stop but didn’t even slow down.  She hit the front right/passenger corner of the hood, headlight and bumper with enough force that it pushed me left towards on-coming traffic (which, thankfully, was still a ways away). 

We got out – she immediately apologized and I was all cool, calm, collected and said, “It could’ve been worse...” as we shakily exchanged information.  I got back in the car, drove to go teach (totally on auto-pilot) and called Mike (and then totally broke down).  By the time I got to school (only 5-10 minutes away), I was still shaking, totally a hot mess and really starting to feel how badly my back and neck were hurting.  I ended up leaving school, calling insurance companies and then heading to Urgent Care.  I got Xrays done and the doctor confirmed that I had a Lumbar Sprain and Strain, a Thoracic Sprain, and Cervical Sprain (um, that actually means neck – not Cervix – I was super confused at first too.  Uh, how did my Cervix get sprained?!).  He wanted to prescribe some heavy meds but I opted for strong Ibuprofen and a muscle relaxer.  I also got a referral for 15 sessions of Massage Therapy (yes, the kind, Mia had just been telling me about two days before). 

It’s been a fair amount of Ibuprofen and icing and heat ever since.  I’ve been to the Chiropractor five times for adjustment and FINALLY get to have my first massage in two days.  The doctor wants me to be adjusted twice a week for about a month and then I’ll be getting weekly massage (which, yes, I’ll admit I’m excited about).

The car – our sweet ‘lil ’98 170k mile Honda CRV, the one Mike’s determined will live and be the kids’ car (in several more years) – has an estimated $1700 in damage (and that’s just what they could see on the outside).  Mike drove it to work a few times and said, “I’m pretty sure I heard some stuff fall out…but it’s still driving at least!”  The car is getting repaired as we speak and we have a rental car.  Yes, her insurance company is covering everything.  The car’s only worth about $2500, so we’ll see what happens as they continue repairs.

Needless-to-say, the accident has made me A LOT more cautious and aware of other drives especially at 4-way stops.  Just 6 days after the accident, we (Zach, Kayli and I) were in the minivan coming home.  At one of our 4-way intersections, I had completely stopped – for a while, for many, many seconds actually – I saw a car coming from my left and, despite the fact that she was still a ways away (and I had already been completely stopped and definitely could’ve gone), I said, “She doesn’t look like she’s slowing down at all.”  Sure enough, she BLEW right through her stop sign.  I laid on the horn and gestured (in a very helpful, polite way) to the stop signs that she completely ignored…all the while, thanking God for my little accident.  Had I gone when I could’ve/would’ve gone pre-accident, she would’ve smashed right into me and Kayli. 

I’m thankful for my accident for sure.

Kayli’s Betrothed
Recently, when picking Kayli up from preschool, she put her arm on the boy sitting next to her and said, “Cruise, meet my mom, Jenny.”  She went on to tell me that a girl hadn’t been nice to her at school that day, but she liked Cruise, actually, she loved Cruise and she’s going to marry him.

“Wow!” I said, “That’s big news!  What do you like so much about him?”

“No, I love him, because he’s nice to me.”

Meanwhile, Cruise is walking to go throw away his garbage, he pauses, looks over his shoulder, shrugs and says, “What’s not to love?!”

A minute later, his mom walks in.  I said, “Oh, I should probably introduce myself.  I’m Jenny and apparently, our children are getting married.” 

She laughs and I fill her in on what had just transpired.  She said, “Oh yeah, Cruise definitely has a healthy self-confidence.” 

As they’re about to leave she calls back, “Well, I guess we’ll see you soon since we’ll be spending the holidays together!”

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fall Wrap-Up

Happy 5th Birthday to our gorgeous, firey, one-of-a-kind, brilliant, wild animal, silly, soccer-playing, ballet-dancing, artistically-talented, sweet blessing-of-a-daughter, Kayliana!! 

Kayliana announced that she wanted to 'build' a dragonfly.  She came down with instructions (written on the paper - too light to see, sorry).  And then Mike (dad-extraordinaire) helped her make her dragonfly. This girl doesn't cease to amaze us with her creativity and talent. 

A couple of weeks back, we enjoyed Halloween festivities.  Our pirate family (with Captain Hook, Mrs. Hook, Peter Pan and parrot) was a big hit at the school carnival, our best friends’ Halloween party and soggy trick-or-treating.  (Matthew was ‘too cool’ to participate in our theme.  He wore a scream mask…but was actually sick the night this photo was taken).

A week after Halloween, Kayliana and I had a ‘girls’ trip’ to Birmingham, Alabama to celebrate my dear friend Rachel’s wedding.  (We’ve been friends since we were 6 years old and she is such an incredible ‘auntie’ to our kiddos)!  Kayli and I had a great time.  Birmingham might as well be Disneyland the way everyone called Kayli ‘Princess’ and catered to her every need and desire! 

We had such a good time and Kayli rocked her role as Flower Girl.  She was referred to as the ‘wedding mascot’ and definitely stole the show.  (The fact that she carried around a stuffed ‘pet skunk’ added to her star-of-the-day tendencies.  That skunk, ‘Flora’, even danced with people at the wedding reception and, boy, did Kayli terrify the rental car guy when, returning the car, she told him from the backseat, “I have my real pet skunk in here!’).  Flora-the-skunk was NOT allowed to be present at the ceremony and had to wait in the car. 

We had a fairly short aisle to walk down and Kayli understood she needed to go slowly with her leaf and petal dropping.  She took one step, dropped one petal.  One step, dropped one leaf.  One…at…a…time.  Then when she got up to groom Carl, she took a handful and threw it at his shoe.  One more small handful was thrown at his other shoe and then she thought, ‘Hmmm, this is taking too long’ and tipped the basket over and dumped the remaining petals and leaves.  Everyone was laughing and Kayli knew she’d rocked it!

At the Vulcan Museum in Birmingham.

Now, we focus on the usual crazy-fun-busyness of our life.  Work, music-teaching (A LOT!), school, insane amounts of middle school homework and trumpet-lessons for Matthew (he's amazing!), ballet/tap and pre-Kindergarten for Kayliana, acting class and chorus for Zachary, church groups, Engaged Encounter and coming up on Thanksgiving (which will also be the 2 year anniversary of dad ditching us for Paradise).  Woah.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

News 'n updates 'n stuff

Well, you can tell that school’s started and that I’m teaching a lot more – crazy busy, people.  But this is my Public Service Announcement: I will no longer apologize for how infrequently I update my Blog.  It’s silly to start every post like that.  I wish I could update more – we always have plenty of adventures to share – but I guess we’re just too busy livin’ ‘em for me to be typin’ about ‘em.  Bummer.

Anyway, let’s go chronologically.  School and music teaching has been in full swing for over a month now.  Our schedule is ca-razy.  (Especially with 3 kids in 3 different schools – that definitely doesn’t help!)  But it’s going AWESOME.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my new teaching gig.  It’s 4 mornings a week (plus I do 2 afternoons of traveling to different Montessori schools).  I love that I get to see the same kids twice a week.  Holy Moly – the stuff I can teach them.  My 2 year old class can already tell you the difference between quarter, half and whole notes and can demonstrate playing (on a rhythm instrument) – Largo, Moderato, Vivace, Pianissimo and Forte.  That’s music theory, people – with 2-6 year olds!  It’s going great.

School’s going well for our 3 kiddos too.  Kayliana LOVES her new preschool and never wants to leave – like ever.  She pretty much greets me with a scowl ‘cuz it means it’s time to go home.  Zachary is SO much happier in 4th grade (he had a rough end to 3rd great with the Substitute from HELL.  Honestly, she was horribly mean to him.  Worst ever).  Matthew is starting (slowly) to get a handle on Middle School.  It’s been a tough transition.  Having to be at the bus stop at 6:40am, having 6 teachers/classes, and WAY more homework (definitely struggling and most nights he’s doing homework for a couple of hours) – all tricky.  He’s also had ongoing stomach issues (really, for over a year now).  We’ll be meeting with a G.I. specialist at Children’s Hospital in a couple weeks.  BUT Matthew’s playing the trumpet in beginning band; he’s going to start private lessons with this really cool, fun guy (named Mat!) in a couple of weeks, and Matthew’s really excited about that.  It’s starting to click and I finally feel like (after waiting 10 years – since realizing his natural music ability!), at long last, he’s brave enough to start exploring and using the musical gift God gave him!  Super exciting.

Mike’s sister Jamie and her hubby Daniel and their son Tucker came for a visit last weekend.  We had a really nice time!  We went to Brick-Con (Lego creation exhibition – totally up EVERYONE’s alley), watched Kayli’s soccer game (she scored a goal!), and Matthew got to watch Goonies for the first time.  A right of passage.

Just a few days after their visit, we learned that Uncle Harry passed away.  Uncle Harry and Aunt Dolores are Mike’s Godparents.  They took Mike and Jamie in after their mom died.  They raised Mike like a son.  They got him through Cancer (the first time ‘round).  Uncle Harry made sure Mike had a wish granted by the Wishing Star Foundation.  Through that, Mike received his first computer…which led to his career as a software architect/engineer.  Who knows where Mike would’ve ended up without them!

Another unexpected event changed my teaching plans for yesterday.  I’d received a call from a phone number I didn’t recognize and ignored it.  A while later, I got a call from my mom.  She was already at Kayli's preschool (after answering HER phone).  Kayliana had fallen and hit her head and had a pretty deep gash above her eyebrow.  I cancelled my afternoon class, met up with my mom, saw how deep the cut was, called our pediatrician’s office, but they were booked at all their branches.  I called our local Urgent Care - they recommended we go to Children's Hospital.  Drove to Children's only to find out that Urgent Care wouldn't open until 5pm.  Ended up at Overlake Emergency Room - pretty much the last place in the world I wanted to go as the last time I was there was the day dad died.  I had a really hard time holding it together since all the memories were flooding in, but I (mostly) managed (until I got home). 

Anyway, we had an AWESOME doctor.  She said while the cut was deep, it was perfectly straight across and she was able to use glue instead of stitches - THANK GOODNESS. Kayli did pretty well until the end when one of her eyebrow hairs got caught in the glue.  Plus, she was terrified she'd have to get a shot.  (She definitely remembers the traumatic 2-days-of-stitches from two years ago).

When I called Matthew from the ER to let him know what was going on, he said, “Are you kidding me?  Why does this keep happening to Kayli?!  She’s too little for this.  It should be me next time so she doesn’t have to.”

I said that was very sweet, but how ‘bout we just call it good and be done with urgent care, stitches, emergency room visits, etc.

I decided after all that crappiness that our first Chick-Fil-A meal/experience was in order.  (I totally don't understand the hype).   Split a chocolate milkshake with Kayli and that was good.  Came home for 2 glasses of wine, a big cry and a bubble bath.

Harry at Thanksgiving with 3 month old Matthew

Harry and little cheeky Zach always had a good time together. This was Easter 2009.

 This was Easter 2011.  We also visited them this past April.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Summer Wrap-Up

Summer’s come and gone.  My oldest baby’s now 12 years old.  And taller than me.  And a budding trumpet player in 6th grade band.  And a middle schooler.  And I’m starting a new job – teaching music 4 mornings a week at a nearby preschool (in addition to my 2 afternoons a week of traveling to different Montessori schools with my Little Ditties classes).  We’ve got all three kids in three different schools with different pick-ups and drop-offs and it’s a little madness and I’m just trying to take lots of deep breaths and take it one day – no, like one drop-off/pick-up – at a time!

Kayliana is in pre-K now at a new preschool and is LOVING it.  She just started soccer last week and starts a ballet/tap dance class this week.  Dance and soccer practice happen to be on the same day, so I’m hoping that maybe she’ll actually be tired and sleep well (at least one night a week)! 

She was SO excited as we headed to her first soccer practice last week.  She kept referring to her shin guards and cleats as her “blazes.”  (Don’t know where that came from, but she’ll obviously be very fast).  As we arrived at practice she said, "Is this a dream?  I'm going to be so awesome!  I hope they like me.  I'm going to be the awesomest.  Mom, you can totally cheer for me."  After practice she said, "When I win, everyone will throw me in the air and hold me up."  

Team names that were suggested at practice:  Dragon Fireballs.  Purple Lightning.  Fast Puppy (Kayli's suggestion).  Then apparently girls were getting inappropriate with butt-themed names and Coach decided to table the discussion for the time being.  (I wouldn't be surprised if Kayli 'forgot' to mention that the butt-themed names were also possibly her suggestions).

The summer wrapped up with super fun awesomeness.  We were a little disappointed that our ONE camping trip of the summer – with our best friends – had to get cancelled due to finally getting some much-needed rain. (Good for the WA wild fires, bummer, for us, but oh well).  We decided to staycation.  We let the kids ‘roast’ marshmallows over the grill.  We even pitched the tent in the garage for the boys to sleep in.  The kids did a good job playing ‘camping’ (and staying outside) until the wind picked up too much.  We even had a visit from some local wildlife!   And despite being in the comfort of our own home, one night, during the pouring rain, we suddenly had water dripping from the doorway between the kitchen and dining room.  Mike and Jason had to climb up on the roof to clear gutters and try to find the cause of the leak.  Nothing like a little excitement!

We’ve become masters of Staycationing with our BFF-fam.  We ignore the phone and email (as much as possible) and eat and drink and play games and go for walks and just chillax.  This time ‘round, we also spent a day at the beach (before the weather turned) and we all went and saw a movie – Shawn the Sheep.  It was silly and hilarious and it’s possible Rebecca and I enjoyed it even more than the kids. 

Despite having 4 adults and 7 children in the house together for four days, it’s never EVER enough and we’re all sad when our staycations are over.

The boys have had some fun adventures during our summer staycations this year.  They went down to the woods behind the bus stop where there’s a little stream and all the neighborhood kids have been working to build a bridge.  One day, after playing down there for hours, Matthew and Noah arrived back up at our house in all states of craziness.  Matthew was holding up his right arm like he’s ready to be prepped for surgery.  His arm was caked in mud from fingertips to elbow.  Noah was only wearing one shoe and they were both covered in mud up to their shins.  Here’s the scene:

“Um, hi guys, what’s up?” I ask.

As if this is the most obvious thing ever, Matthew tells me, “We got stuck in quicksand.”

Noah nods, and adds, “I found gold and then it went into the quicksand so I was trying to get it and I got stuck and my shoe came off and then Matthew tried to get my shoe.  We never found them.”

Oh, of course!  The gold and quicksand in the woods near our house.  Right!

“So, you were panning for gold, huh?”  I ask as we start trying to unmud them with the hose.

“Well, no,” says Noah, “I found Tupperware so I used that.”

“Ahh, so you were Tupperwaring for gold in the quicksand when you lost your shoe?”

“Yup.  And the gold.  I lost that too.”


We had more adventures on Matthew’s Birthday – September 5th.  We spent the day at Lake Cavanagh with Jason and Rebecca and kids and with Rich and Sue our dear friends (and co-coordinators) from Engaged Encounter.  They hosted us all for the day at their lake cabin.  Despite being a little chilly, it was super fun.  The kids played in the water all day, used the paddle boat and kayak and then we all went for a cruise on their party barge.  Sue even made a cake for Matthew!  Yesterday, we had mom and Chris for Matthew’s at home birthday dinner (he chose chicken noodle soup – which makes Zach cry and question my love because he hates soup so very much.  Supposedly Matthew LOVES chicken noodle soup and he’s not just choosing it to upset his brother).  Mike’s taking the boys and two neighbor boys to go do laser tag and then we’re having some other neighbors here for a bbq.  Last hurrah’s of summer, my friends.  We’re packing in as much fun as possible!

Trying to convince me that they're sound asleep!

 Camping in the Pacific NW

 If only he'd eat the weeds and not outta my pots!

Best buds

Godmothers and Godsisters!


Captain Rich let Kayli help steer the boat!

We're on a boat!

We've got a 12 year old, people. Look out!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Summer Update

Well, July’s done.  Shooooot.  It’s already August.  I’m telling ya, tomorrow’s going to be October.  SLOW DOWN!

The boys went to their first week of sleep-away camp in July with their best buddies, Noah and Joshua.  They LOVED it.  I thoroughly enjoyed reliving my own CYO days and hearing all about the hike and overnight under the stars, the late night kitchen raids, the games, Mass (with none other than our own parish priest, Father Todd!), campfire, the cheesy songs, etc.

While the boys were away, Kayli and I did play.  We had three days in a row of play dates with friends.  We spent an afternoon with my dear friend Kate, had our friends from Kayli’s gymnastics class over and we spent a day at Remlinger Farm – which is full of rides perfect for the 4ish year old crowd.  Including pony rides! 

Also, in July, I interviewed for and accepted a job!  I’ll be the music teacher at Newport Children School.  It’s a huge preschool (300 kids) and has been a place I’ve been eyeing for a long time.  The music teacher of 25 years is retiring, so, HERE I AM!  Come September, I’ll be teaching there four mornings a week and continuing my Little Ditties Music Academy classes at Montessori schools two afternoons a week.  Life’s picking up a bit, people.  Busy times.

Last week, Mike and I had a week of early anniversary celebratory festivities.  We went to a nice Italian restaurant and saw Wicked at the Paramount.  Awesome.  We went to the Space Needle for dinner (our first time in the restaurant – though I did have my Senior Prom there) to celebrate with our best friends, Jason and Rebecca – it was Jason’s daughter’s 18th birthday outing.  Super fun to be included in that! 

In the middle of all this fun, we managed to jet off to Paris to hit up a flea market where we scored an adorable coffee table and gorgeous kitchen table.

OK, I wish.  But we did get all, Pinteresty crafty and refinished our kitchen table (that I’d done blackboard paint on three years ago) and refinished our good ‘ol Ikea coffee table.  I love ‘em!

Ready for Camp!


Thursday, July 09, 2015

So-Cal Vacation!

Guess what! It’s July.  That’s stinkin’ nuts.  Tomorrow will be October and then the next day Matthew will be graduating from high school.  It just all goes way too fast!  But we’re doing our best enjoying every moment – especially of summer vacation! 

June 25th, we awoke at the butt-crack of dawn (no, really, 3:45am!!!) and – along with my brother and mother – headed to SeaTac Airport where we caught our plane to San Diego.  I started our vacation with an inhumanly horrendous sore throat and worries that I’d feel like dooty for our entire trip, however, miraculously said throat-pain-of-Satan only stuck around for a couple of days.  Thank goodness! 

On Friday, June 26th, we – all of us, along with Mike’s dad Jim who joined in (and eventually Mike’s sister Kathy) – went to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  Highlights: the bird show (seeing the ginormous California condors fly right over head!), riding the tram around the park (and feeling like you’re suddenly on the Savannah plains of Africa) and watching the cheetah sprint – reaching 60 miles per hour (0-40 in three steps alone!) and covering 100 meters in 5.24 seconds.  It was a hot but enjoyable day!  We went back to our hotel where Mom, Chris and the kids hung out and rested while Mike and I attended the first night of our Engaged Encounter Convention.

Saturday, June 27th – Mike dropped Mom, Chris and the kids off at SeaWorld for the day.  Now, my dear mother, had managed to hurt her leg just a couple of weeks pre-California departure and has been on a cane/crutch and in pain ever since.  With threats and bribes we stressed good behavior to the children.  I even said, “Pretend she’s not Grandma.  Just a nice lady who you are to help for the day.”  A Disneyland souvenir hung in the balance.  Kayli – apparently- repeatedly asked mom, “Am I on my best behavior?...Am I still being so good?”  Thankfully, threats and bribery are the key to parenthood and the kids were - supposedly, as far as we were informed -  well-behaved and they had a great time at SeaWorld.  

Meanwhile, Mike and I attended our Convention and that night partied at the Luau and Dance. Super fun!

Sunday, June 28th – we all attended Mass at the end of the Convention and then drove up to Anaheim.  The 1.5 hour long trip took 3.5 hours thanks to the infamous So-Cal traffic.  We managed to arrive at our hotel in time to drop stuff and then head to Bubba Gump for dinner with Mike’s sister, her hubby and cute grandson (who was Kayli’s age.  We were ALL happy that Kayli found a captive audience to whom she could talk through all of dinner).  We got to bed as early as we could for our big day at Disneyland.

Now, if you’ll recall, we went to Disneyland in February 2014.  It was a difficult trip.  Just 6 weeks after dad died, I was (obviously) miserable (and sick, since I was sick like 9 times in the first three months of 2014).  We also had a frustrating time at the Parks – tons of rides closed and several breaking down on us.  I wrote a letter, (“Dear Disneyland…”) and, in response, they gave us tickets to come back for two days!!

So, Monday, June 29th, we woke up early and I ran to the park (literally…started the hot day with a jog) and went to Guest Services to retrieve our tickets and then wheelchair rental to score a rolling seat for mom.  There’s no way we (she) could’ve done all that walking.  And, as I’ve heard, Disneyland is amazingly accommodating to those in wheelchairs.  We were able to cut a lot of lines.  (The boys were maybe a little TOO happy about it and even said, “Thanks for hurting your leg, Grandma, this is awesome!”  They even turned into whiney butts when we had to occasionally wait in a little bit of a line – NOTHING compared to the waiting we would’ve done without the wheelchair).

Disneyland got off to a bit of a rough start though.  The ride we’d most been looking forward to on the last trip (Thunder Mountain Railroad) had been closed, so we were determined to do that one first.  Well, it’d been a LONG time since I’d done that ride and didn’t entirely remember it.  Despite his hesitation, I encouraged my brother Chris to give it a go thinking it wouldn’t be TOO much.  BIG mistake.  He was NOT a fan (to say the least) and I felt awful.  Thankfully, he rallied fairly quickly and as Mike said, maybe if we hadn’t started with that (and gotten ‘the worst’ out of the way), Chris would’ve been more overwhelmed by everything else.  After that it was smooth sailing. 

We did Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion (which Zach sat out and Chris declared was his favorite ride), Jungle Cruise, Tiki Room, It’s a Small World, Finding Nemo, Star Tours, Buzz, etc., etc.  Basically, we got to do ALL the rides that we weren’t able to do last time and in record time!  In the evening, we found a great spot to watch the special 60th Diamond Anniversary night parade.  (Kayli screamed at Mickey like a psycho-super fan…when he was still a block away).  And we watched the spectacular fireworks display.  Seriously the best, most amazing fireworks I’ve ever seen.

We dragged our tired butts back to the hotel to bed….and did California Adventure the next day.

Tuesday, June 30th Overview: Started with the cars ride – Radiator Spring Racers - (Chris sat that one out. Mom LOVED it – we all did!).  Mike took Matthew on the rollercoaster California Screamin’.  Then he took Zach on the Tower of Terror (which terrorized Zach despite wanting to do it).  We all watched the Aladdin stage production (like a mini-Broadway show – it was awesome).  Kayli’s fatigue started to kick in and we dealt with a couple of required amusement park meltdowns.  We all loved Soarin’ Over California (Chris didn’t want to do that one…and we’d obviously learned not to push him).  Then in the afternoon, all of sudden, it clouded up and got really cool.  There were a couple of claps of thunder and then huge raindrops began to fall.  They closed rides and I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our dinner at Ariel’s Grotto and special viewing for World of Color.  Thankfully, it all worked out – the crowds cleared out a bit, the sun came back out and we thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our evening and our last night at the Park.  We were even able to watch the fireworks again as we departed the park and went to return the wheelchair.

Wednesday, July 1st, my mom’s brother Phil (aka “Uncle Phuzzy”) and his wife Helen drove a couple of hours to see us at the hotel.  We played a game that Zachary had created called “Fantasy Storybook Fun” – you create a story using different cards that you draw from a pile.  Not to brag, just speaking the truth, but that kid is a creative genius.  We had a ton of fun!  We had lunch with them at the Cheesecake Factory before we began our 2 hour drive back to San Diego.

We’d almost made it.  We were nearly in the clear.  Off the freeway and just five minutes from returning the rental car when Zach said that thing that parents dread  hearing most (while in a car…or nearly anywhere), “I’m going to throw up!!”  I wasn’t able to get him a receptacle in time and he proceeded to fill the back of the van – cup holder and console area.  Oye.  Yup. 

As mom said, “Well, it’s not a family vacation without someone throwing up.”  Mike argued that that is NOT, in fact, a requirement of the Martin family…but alas, it’s a Buckley tradition (that I frequently upheld as a child) and that sometimes rears its ugly head.  

Despite the pukey end, we had a really, really great trip! J

On the way to the airport & family vacation - people are still happy! So far, so good.
 Getting up at 4am to fly to San Diego was a tad exhausting.
 Matthew working those famous shades of his!
 At the Safari Park

 3 Little Lemurs

 Engaged Encounter Convention Luau

 We made it!!!