The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. Psalm 16:6

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Road Trip - Part 3

After a fast but enjoyable evening in Memphis, TN we jumped back on the I-40 east and came to Nashville where Gustav had a business lunch at The Hard Rock Cafe. The gracious man he was meeting didn't mind having the family tag along, so we all tucked into a cozy table for 8. Kurt loved the touch screen piano (below) and the rest of the kids enjoyed hearing about the people whose clothes, pictures, and instruments littered the walls...such greats as Johnny Cash, Elvis, and the Judds.

After our lunch and a quick glimpse of the city of Nashville we headed to visit our dear, dear friends, the Runkles. To say that Gustav and I were excited was an understatement as we had not seen them in a long time. We had trouble believing that Gabriel didn't remember them (which is understandable, since he was only 2 when we all lived in CT together!) Tom was Gustav's roomate through most of his time at the University of Hartford. They have known each other longer than I have known Gustav! We had a blast with them in Chattanooga. 

We did some swimming...

...ate some ice cream (you're welcome, Casie)...

...we went on a lovely river walk in downtown Chattanooga. We really loved this great city...

...we took some pictures...

...carried some adorable little people...

...and had Five Guys for the first time after church (which was super-yummy!)
We were sad to say goodbye to the Runkles, but we were hopeful that we would see them again on this trip. Our next stop was Pigeon Forge, TN where we would spend the next week with the Hoyer family for our annual family reunion. Some of us were so tuckered out when we got there that beds were optional.

And others of us were so tired that we momentarily lost our minds.

More to come...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Road Trip - Part 2

At the rate I am documenting our 3-week summer road trip, I should have us back home in sunny L.A. just about the time we leave for summer vacation 2012! Slow and steady, right? Anyway, I want to send a big shout out to my Mom and Dad who can now read this on their new iPad! Welcome to the 21st century, dear parents! I hope you enjoy all the pictures of your grandchildren!

After we left the Grand Canyon we traveled down to Flagstaff, AZ to spend the night. Don't ask Gustav how the hotel was. He will break into hives and start uttering under his breath about excessive points and lackluster facilities. He is right. It was a dud. 

However, after we cleaned out the dud hotel at free-breakfast-time (seven people can do that pretty easily) we were off on another fantastic adventure. We hopped back on I-40 heading east and exited onto Route 66 in Holbrook, AZ to head toward the Petrified Forest National Park. Along the main street we passed this gem...The Wigwam Hotel. Can you say 'inspiration for Cars??' We HAD to stop and takes some pics. It was so super-cool!

No, I haven't slept in a wigwam lately...or ever, for that matter. I highly doubt they sleep seven without the cozy factor becoming unbearable. The period cars were neat-o, though.

Ever Mater was there!!

After our little unplanned detour (one of the things we so love about road trips) we headed to Petrified Forest National Park which is located within the beautiful Painted Desert of Northern Arizona. This place was amazing - maybe because I had no expectations at all...but I REALLY loved it. Of course, there is no actual forest, as it is located in the middle of the desert (actually it is categorized as grassland, but it seemed super desert-y to me). But there are many, many trees and partial trunks that have, over time, become rock. Some of the colors are simply beautiful. Here is my budding geologist, Lillian, enjoying the sights:

The day was perfect with a deep blue sky and beautiful puffy clouds. Just gorgeous.

The Painted Desert is simply breathtaking to drive through. Pictures do not do it justice. 

After a bit more driving on scenic roads such as this one we made it to Albuquerque, NM. This time our hotel room was grand... a lovely little garden suite with a short walk to the pool and hot tub. The boys had endless fun with the luggage carts. I'm not sure which of my four boys enjoyed it most :-)

 After much swimming, eating, and watching "hotel TV" (aka cable) we headed out the next morning for our longest driving day of the eastward trip - approximately 550 miles. As we sailed through the Texas panhandle we encountered some weather.  The clouds were scary, but thankfully, they never started spinning around.

We spent a peaceful night in Oklahoma City and then moved on to Memphis the following day. Here's the gang getting ready to fill their faces with good 'ol Memphis BBQ at Marlowes Ribs & BBQ on Elvis Presley Blvd. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives came through with that recommendation. The food was amazing!

Fat and Happy, Baby. Fat and Happy.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Road Trip!

Most people break out in hives at the very thought of being trapped in the car with their spouse and five children for a 6,000 mile, three week road trip. I, nut that I am, adore such circumstances. What a blessing and privilege it was to spend such a wonderful time with my dear ones, to see so much of this country and partake of the interesting cultures, and to glory in the Creator as we marveled at His beautiful creation.

To begin the story properly, I must begin with the farewell of Bessie, our trusty 2003 Dodge Grand Caravan. She was a great car, we had virtually no issues with her, but with 115,000 miles we decided a new van would give us a greater sense of security on our long trip. Enter Carmen, our 2011 Kia Sedona. How fun to start off on such a long journey in a brand new car. Definitely a blessing!

We started off on Sunday, July 31st, after collecting Nicholas from a 3-day stay at Camp Pendleton with the Young Marines. Heading east, we picked up the 40 (that's I-40 for you non-Californians!) in Barstow, CA and stayed on it until central TN! Crazy!

 One of the things that quickly caught my attention as we drove into open country was the beautiful clouds. You kind of forget what clouds look like in SoCal. I had forgotten how much I missed beautiful cloud formations in the sky.

We stayed in Kingston, AZ on our first night. I should say that we stayed in Marriott hotels all along the way, and because of Gustav's ridiculous number of points, all of our stays were free. YeeHaw! That means free lodging AND free breakfasts for seven. Jackpot, baby.

 We were all very anxious to see the Grand Canyon the next morning. The kids and I had never been there. I have wanted to see it since we moved out here to Cali, but alas, had not been able to make it. So I was psyched to go. Here is the gang walking the path to the rim. Gustav had been telling the children endlessly that the Grand Canyon was "just a big hole in the ground" for months prior to our visit. It had become a bit of a joke, really. I must have heard that statement twenty times as we approached the rim.

We chatted and giggled and skipped our way up the winding path. Then everyone fell silent. I had heard people telling stories of how quiet it is at the Grand Canyon. Everyone - young, old, foreign and domestic - stands in rapt awe as they come around the corner and see it for the first time. It is truly one of the most magnificent natural phenomena I have ever seen. Ever. Pictures cannot possibly do it justice. 


We walked the rim for a while, taking pictures, watching the squirrels and birds, and periodically standing, mouth agape, at the wonder of it all. As much as I loved the sights, I did feel a particular anxiousness as my family moved in and out near the edge. It is, after all, a "big hole in the ground" and I had periodic irrational fears of offspring plunging to their untimely ends. Case in point:

 The happy ending of that part of the story is that nobody went over the edge. Whew!

As we approached one of the on-site museums we could hear some ominous, not-so-far-off thunder, and realized that the sky was getting rather dark. We, along with what seemed like hundreds of others, took refuge in said museum while the skies opened up. The sudden and violent storm was just another awesome event for us. Remember, it never rains in California. (Well, ALMOST never.) The lightening was amazing, and the deluge was captivating for all.

We walked more of the rim after the storm passed over, enjoying the fresh, cool, post-storm air. We hopped a bus for the trip back to the car. The bus driver was rude and brusque and not particularly helpful. I was aghast at the way he was treating the foreigners who clearly could not understand him. Then he gave himself away by saying, "Main pah-king lot next stop." Ah, he was from Massachusetts. My people. I should have recognized the charm :-)

After some more beautiful driving along the rim and into more canyons we made it to Flagstaff, checked into our hotel and had dinner. In the very wee hours of the morning Kurt began talking very loudly in his sleep. Both Gustav and I giggled in the dark as he shouted out, "it's a big hole in the ground!"

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Greatest Place on Earth (a.k.a. How To Usher Seven People Through Disneyland Without Losing Your Marbles)

On Monday we visited "The Greatest Place on Earth" to celebrate the birthday of our king youngest. As we were tramping countless miles through masses of humanity, overpriced culinary temptations, and more flashing lights than a normal human being can possibly handle without seizing I though, "This would make an amusing blog post." And here it is:

Tip #1: Plan Your Visit for the Most Random Weekday Possible

We have learned from experience that one has to be an insane psychopath to visit Disneyland in the summer or, heaven-forbid, at Christmastime. During that week between Christmas and New Years they will have somewhere in the vicinity of 70,000 people in the park per day. Yes, you read that correctly. Don't do it. Consider yourself warned. January 24th was a perfect day as all the kids (college included) were back in classes. Yay for homeschooling!

Tip #2: Never Pass Up an Opportunity to Have All of the Children Contained in an Enclosed Environment

Call it a photo op. Call it a chance to pretend you're in a movie. Call it whatever you want. But revel in the few moments of having them in an inescapable position.

Tip #3: Let One Person Dictate What Happens Next

Seven people = seven completely different opinions. You will be quickly driven to insanity if you allow everyone to share their opinion about what to do next. "Pirates! Snow White! Haunted Mansion! Splash Mountain!" Since we usually are celebrating a birthday when we are at Disney, the birthday boy/girl chooses the itinerary. Even if they're 4 and don't know the difference between the Matterhorn and Space Mountain. I am happy to call the Matterhorn Space Mountain, if necessary. 

Tip #4: Definitely Get the Birthday Button

Because when you are the youngest of five you need all the help you can get in the attention department!

Not that your inflated ego needs too much help.

Tip #5: Do Not, Under Any Circumstances, Pass Up an Opportunity to Have Everyone Use the Bathroom

Seriously, my kids think that I have a problem, but if we pass a public restroom we use matter what. Don't tell me you don't need to go, it will fall on deaf ears. Because Mommy will respond in a less-than-gracious way if you spring on her that you have to go potty when we are 3 people away from getting on the Dumbo ride. Trust me, it is NOT pretty!

Tip #6: Bring Advil

Because you WILL need it and you WILL NOT want to walk all the way over to Magoo's Tattoo to buy 2 pills for $1.57. Trust me.

Tip #7: Pack Seven Water Bottles, the Camera, Sunscreen, Snacks, Ponchos, Sweatshirts, and Sunglasses into One Gigantic Backpack and Give it Your Teenage Male Offspring to Carry

It levels the playing field a bit and slows him down enough that you can keep up. Plus, you don't have to buy seven water bottles at $3 a piece.

Tip #8: Definitely See The "World of Color" Show at California Adventure

Despite the cost of getting "reserved viewing" status, waiting for one hour while sitting on the cold concrete, trying to come up with games to keep the slightly-less-than-enthused under 14 crowd occupied during said waiting period, answering all the questions of the "chatty Cathy" sitting next to you, it was well worth it. Ah-May-Zing!!!!

Tip #9: Let Your Strong, Manly Husband Carry the Conked-Out Birthday Boy the 247 Miles Back to the Car

I offered to empty the stroller so that we could push him back and Gustav said, "No Way. I want to carry him." Yep. That's my man.

Tip #10: Be Thankful That the Lord Has Blessed You So Very Richly.

Because He most definitely has. And I most definitely do.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Get Real

               Not too long ago I had the opportunity to gather with eight women from our home Bible study. We were gathering on a Saturday evening to spend some time in the Word, to encourage one another, and to discuss how God uses trials in our lives to draw us to Himself, to refine us, and to make us more Christ-like. We all arrived together, shared some delicious dinner, oooh’d and aaah’d over the little babies who were present with us, and then sat down to have some informal conversation.
                What happened next was fascinating. I shared with the ladies the trial that anemia has been in my life for the past eighteen months. I shared my propensity to become down (I even used the other ‘D’ word – depressed – as despised as any four-letter word in the church) because of my constant lack of energy, my weight gain, and my sadness at having little joy in the beautiful, blessed life God has given me. It was the first time I had shared this trial with these women – my sisters in Christ. I cried. I actually wept at one point and was unable to continue talking.
                As we moved around the circle of women, the ladies shared the trials and difficulties they were experiencing at the time. One woman lamented her teenage son’s disobedience and turning from the faith of his parents. One woman shared her recent struggle with painful physical maladies which led to her being short-tempered with her husband and children. One longing to hold a baby and unable to conceive. One struggling with returning to work after the birth of her firstborn. One watching a strong, godly father slip into the darkness of Alzheimer's. All felt the painful sting of sin in their lives. All desired lives marked by obedience and contentment. All longed for a closer walk with their Savior. With our Savior.
                I had no idea that these women were suffering, just as they were in the dark about my suffering. A new member of our group – new not only to the group, but also to our marvelous faith – spoke with me afterwards. She wanted me to know that she was so encouraged by our honest sharing, because she felt as though she was the only one struggling with sin in her life. We all looked like we had it “all together,” she said, and she was starting to wonder what was wrong with her.

                Shame on us.

                Shame on us, broken sinners saved by glorious grace, dead souls resuscitated by the life-giving blood of Christ,  for having the audacity to act like we’ve got it all under control. How dare we put on airs among our brothers and sisters? Those who share the same Father? The same inheritance? The same miraculous rebirth from the ashes?

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Galatians 2:20

               Sisters, let us not discourage those around us by putting on a holy show. Let us not demean the miraculous work Christ has done in us by refusing to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is STILL at work in us, purifying us and making us more and more like Christ, with each trial, each stumble, and each tear. It is the filthy sin of pride waging war within us that drives us to act as though we are above struggling, above difficulties.

               Above sin.

                Let us love one another by being honest. Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. And, dear sisters, allow others to weep with YOU and rejoice with YOU. It makes our walk along this sanctification path all the more rich, when we allow others to stroll with us occasionally.

Be honest.
Be humble.
Be real.