The ramblings of a woman,
wife, & mother, who loves:
Jesus / my man / the three,
learning about parenting /
mamahood / childbirth,
cooking foods healthy /
international / yummy,
pretending to garden /
write / design,
attempting to run /
exercise / lift weights,
enjoying traveling /
camping / adventures,
finding ways to love /
serve / sacrifice for others.

It is not to say she does these things
with style or grace, or even skill.

Ocean Obsessed Weekenders

Tue Aug 26 03:04:00 CDT 2014 - Tue Aug 26 03:04:00 CDT 2014

Even though I had unknowingly confined us to the house throughout the week, our weekends were something else. 

beach day

father son

As I mentioned, our Sundays were usually biking, church, beach days. But what I failed to mention was the traffic. Copious amounts of traffic. Specifically, pumpkin-crazed traffic.

What you may not know is that Californians are crazy about their pumpkins.* We don't know what caused their pumpkin craze but what we did know is that the best road for us to access our beach/church was also the only road to access the pumpkin insanity. The highway from the interstate up and over the mountain to Half Moon Bay was only 7 miles long but the pumpkin traffic would stretch the entire distance, in both directions. 

"What pumpkins? Where?" you ask. Just east of the town of Half Moon Bay, on one side of the highway, is a skinny stretch of flat land made skinny by a steep hill on its far side. It may be only a half mile along this highway, but this stretch of land was filled with millions of pumpkins.* Not pumpkin patches, just pumpkins sitting on a grassy field. And it is also filled with blow-up houses and blow-up races and Santa Clause, and apples and apple pies, and tractors and photo ops and horses, and more pumpkins, and more blow -up items, and people, and their cars. We have no idea where all these people came from or why they loved coming to this amusement park of an area, but the entire spectacle disappeared the weekend after Halloween. Vanished. Everything was gone, most importantly the traffic, leaving the barren, trampled on earth was able to breathe again. 

What's odd is just south of Half Moon Bay there was an actual pumpkin patch, where people could cut their own pumpkins, and do you think that place garnered the same insanity? Nope.

But our Saturdays, oh, our Saturdays, were amazing field trips. The first weekend we visited the zoo in Oakland with some friends of ours from Sedona. Taking our kids to the zoo is like having your own audio tour. (That is, if you can keep up with them running excitedly from one exhibit to the next!) Even without reading the descriptions of animals, they can immediately identify the animals and tell a fun fact or two about each. While the zoo itself was nothing to blog about, it was a great place to spend the day with friends. The second weekend was going to the before mentioned tidal pool, seriously, a m a z i n g. Trying to spy as many different species as they could, trying to find a rare fish, it was amazing. Amazing. Best word to describe it.

The third weekend we would venture down the coast to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Here again, we were so envious of the opportunities available to those who live near by, middle school and high school students were able to volunteer at the aquarium for an unmatched experience. Because the aquarium is as much a research facility as an educational facility, there are countless hands on exhibits.

hands on

Hands on exhibit led by a high school student. 

Two of our favorite exhibits were the "Open Sea" and "The Jellies Experience." The Open Sea is a 1.2 million gallon tank that boasts the world's largest single paned windows and reaches 90 feet tall. Inside the tank are ocean sunfish, hammerhead sharks, blue fin tuna, a school of anchovies, and sea turtles. The ocean sunfish were the most spectacular to see in real life because this is the first captive group and because you simply could not get over their scale (even knowing the water makes them seem larger). 

mola mola

(Unfortunately, I can't access all my photos of this trip. Thanks, Fred, for uploading this!)

The Jellies Experience was partially finished upon our visit. It was mesmerizing to view these curious creatures with no bones, brains, blood, teeth, or fins and, at the same time, who are one of the most feared of sea creatures. The only decoration in the tanks are the jellies themselves. The solid color backdrops highlight their shapes, tentacles, colors, or lack of colors. 

sea nettle

(Thanks again, Fred!

From the zoo to tide pool to aquarium, our kids' science world was bursting from the seams. I did end up changing the focus of areas of study for our science lessons because the ocean was calling our names once again. We were hooked and new documentaries and books were to be experienced! I only wish we could have easily returned to these places to soak up more hands on knowledge.     

*Gross exaggerations, but close. :)!

OH! And speaking of Halloween! For the first time ever, I bought the kids costumes at Target because I was without sewing machine. They went as Cleopatra and her mummy guards. Pretty cute for cruddy pictures! :)!



Dream Makers

Mon Aug 25 14:15:00 CDT 2014 - Mon Aug 25 14:15:00 CDT 2014

Holy smokes. I tell you what. Best part of our entire trip, right here...


I love making our kids' dreams come true and this took the cake. He had been to the Gulf of Mexico, he got to touch a sea star at the aquarium, he found one along the bay, but this... seeing countless sea stars, in an active tide pool, in the ocean, was what dreams are made of! 


It may have been a typical foggy day, but during every single moment of it, our son's face was brighter than the sun. He was beside himself. Everywhere we looked was teeming with sea life: sea stars, hermit crabs, chitons, rare fish, sea kelp, anemones, urchins, etc. He ran from one place to the next, not wanting to miss anything but wanting to see everything.


These starburst anemones were our daughter's least favorite. She called them squishies. If they were exposed by the tide going out, they would squirt water if accidentally disturbed. 


We didn't go crazy touching all the sea stars, but I did let the kids each gently touch one once. (It was only later that we found out we were not supposed to touch them at all. Whoops! So sorry, we didn't know!)

sea star

As the tide went out, the sea stars that were sticking around fought to stay as submerged as their space allowed. This guy filled his crevice and had just enough water to survive until the tide came back.

It's a funny thing watching a child and their passions, you never know what is going to stick and how it will look later in life. Maybe they will be the next Yo-Yo Ma or maybe they will be like me and play cello for fourth grade only and call it good. Or maybe they are good at something but don't enjoy it. We had one child exceed at swimming but he simply did not enjoy it at all. Or maybe their passion for car engines could make them a mechanic, or a car collector, or just the person you call when you need help with an oil change. Or maybe their passion for art could make them an artist, or (as my older sister) a missionary, or simply an outlet they use to release stress. To have a child passionate about sea life, for over half of his short life, is one of those things that makes me wonder how it will play out.

Helping our children in their individual pursuits, from mountain biking to cooking to language learning to medium techniques to sewing to baking, etc, I am constantly watching and waiting at the ready. I don't want to stifle them by making them choose one thing. I want to give them the freedom to explore their entire world but I don't want to miss out on digging deeper into a subject that ignites them. Maybe it will be one of their hobbies in life or maybe they will discover a new prehistoric sea creature. Whatever path they choose, I couldn't be more proud of all of them and the inquisitive people they are while continuing to pray for where their lives are leading.


Rocking the Suburbs

Tue Aug 19 04:33:00 CDT 2014 - Tue Aug 19 04:33:00 CDT 2014

Do not get me wrong, our suburb's home was great! Just look at this perfect photo! We loved the huge spaces and rooms in the house. We loved how clean the house was. We were definitely spoiled living in this home, beyond measure or necessity. 


On the flip side, the neighbors did not care that we were a nice family and were taking good care to respect them. They did not want anyone renting the house, they were annoyed. If we were talking on our back deck, they were annoyed. If the kids were playing in the pool, they were annoyed. If my son drove his RC car on the driveway, they were annoyed. They were quick to make certain I knew it, too, even if it meant the 65 year old woman approaching me in her incredibly short, silk, leopard print robe at 2 in the afternoon to tell me what for. We had sadly found ourselves in a lose/lose situation and no matter of love or Iowa-nice could help us. They had nothing but contempt for us. 

"Normal" school was going great! Just look at this perfect photo! We were being faithful at doing everything I had reported we would do. We were going through all our required subjects. We were taking amazing Saturday trips to zoos and aquariums. Not to mention, we found a great church in a surf town where we would spend our Sundays.


On the flip side, it didn't dawn on me until we were there that the nearest park was a half hour drive away - and that's without traffic. We couldn't walk to anywhere or anything. If we left home after school we never returned until way past bedtime due to the insane traffic both ways. It sadly became that I inadvertently confined us to the house grounds throughout the week.

In addition, even though I was getting better, I was still trying to figure out how to buy foods without dairy. Most of the food I bought was from Trader Joe's and everything says "May contain milk." It was definitely a hit or miss. This made school more difficult and overall life more difficult.

But isn't this pool great! Just look at this perfect photo! Seriously, the heated pool was the greatest gift of this entire house. It was simply wonderful. The kids played in it every day after school and could even practice their swimming strokes. We are talking October and November, swimming in an outdoor HEATED pool - amazing!


On the flip side, you would think with a heated pool at my disposal, I, too, would have attempted to learn to swim or get in the water even, but I didn't. (I am simply not a fan of being in water.) As I mentioned before with all our changes, I had kept myself active with fitness classes, running, and spin classses for most of the year and, except for driving time, I had been keeping the kids and I walking everywhere on our trip. But living here was a challenge for me physically. Josh was doing great, as he was able to bike to amazing places from this location. But for me, running from our location was such that you couldn't run on the roads safely due to the one lane/two way roads, no sidewalk, continual tight curves and hidden intersections/driveways, and a guarantee that you will get lost. It also didn't help that I was actually alone a lot and then it causes me to become even more recluse and lack a desire to leave the house. After a month, I would only get "exercise" on weekend adventures and that wasn't much. Thanks to some poor eating choices and a lack of real exercise, I gained more weight than I wish to admit. 

But on that flip side, as I've said before, being "alone" while living in California, with only my best friend to talk to, and now without the bustle of a city and a lot of quiet, it was incredibly freeing. I am not saying this is a healthy way to sustain life, but because I had this feeling like I had lived for so many years under the watchful eye of others, I now had no one to report to, no one to judge me, and knew that all my decisions, good or bad, were mine to own. I love living in community with people but because I had been so entrenched in something, to finally be alone and breathe... *sigh*... that was a relaxing moment.

But on that flip side, when we finally returned to home, I cried tears of joy. I embraced my friendships and community so much more. I was able to appreciate everything and everyone with new life and love. What an important gift community is and I valued it so much more now because of my alone time! 

But isn't that simply life? Many sides to every situation. These fancy facades, those perfect photos, the Facebook posts - they all have something behind them, sometimes it is perfect and sometimes it is ugly. I could share more of those stories, you could share those stories. But when I remember that, "God works all things for good for those who love God and are called according to His good purpose," I have hope. I may not always know the exact "good" things will turn into but I trust that it is there, somewhere, because I do know who I have hope in.

OH! I almost forgot! So remember my story about ending up at a first state park and how "the aura felt like melancholy and infinite sadness and I could not shake a sense of weirdness?" Later, retelling the story to Josh, we found out that the state park beach was actually next to a private beach that allows nudity. And that said nudity is known to spill out onto the state park beach, in addition to some nude, not-meant-for-primetime PDA. Not that I'm against nude beaches, it's just not something I was prepared to expose my children to at that moment and I was so thankful we had left when we did. Phew! :)!


Moving to the Suburbs

Fri Jul 11 14:01:00 CDT 2014 - Fri Jul 11 14:01:00 CDT 2014

We wished we didn't have to leave the city, we would've LOVED to have stayed in the city our whole trip, but our time was up and out of the city we go...

Travel Log: 19 October 2011

Josh still had one final day at his conference and we would pick him up at a train station later that night. So after a "normal" school morning, I packed up the house and the kids and headed out of the city. To travel down to the suburbs the kids and I took the coastal highway along the Pacific and I planned to take the kids to a state park beach along the route. 

When we got to the initial beach I picked out, something inside me kept telling me it was not quite right at this place. Maybe it was the cloudy sky, but the aura felt like melancholy and infinite sadness and I could not shake a sense of weirdness. On the northern most end of the beach were interesting structures built of driftwood and as we walked along the beach to the south there were signs warning of possible water contamination from the farms above. I hated leaving since I had already forked over the day use fee, but after only ten minutes, I couldn't take it and I made us get. out. of. there. 

I drove us back up to the state park beach at Half Moon Bay and thankfully the kind entry guy let me in on my previously purchased ticket, phew! The sun came out upon our arrival there and the kids had a blast playing in the massive waves of Half Moon Bay. 

half moon bay

After a quick seafood dinner, the kids and I made the trek over the mountains and up the hills to our suburban destination. The house we had rented for the next month was located in Emerald Hills. This community of massive houses is built on every square inch of said hills, and has winding one lane roads throughout. The house itself was typical California style with stucco outside, typical Sante Fe decor inside, three massive living spaces, large kitchen and dining, and 3 bedrooms. But the selling point of this home was the backyard. 

Built on a hill, with the bay in the distance, the backyard had 4 terraces, wrapped completely with a privacy fence. The first terrace was the huge back deck with a hot tub and large outdoor seating. The second huge terrace was a full-fledged, legit Tiki Bar built under the first terrace, complete with bar seating plus additional seating, fridge, sound system, sink, and surfboards, not to mention an outdoor pool shower and toilet. The third terrace was a beautifully landscaped seating area with fire pit and the fourth terrace was a heated pool. 

pool view

Even though we weren't supposed to think about parties, we couldn't help but name this house "The Party House." When we made arrangements to rent this home, the owner had mentioned that their neighbors had complained to the county about previous renters due to loud weekend parties. She was hopeful if she rented it to a nice family, the neighbors would calm down. After Josh and I saw this place all we could think was, "Who could blame the guests?! This whole place is built to par-tay!" :)!

Lucky Josh missed out on my initial move-in-freak-out, but thankfully the kids and I got us all unloaded and unpacked without much ado and ready to tackle finding a grocery store. Being in this tightly wound area in the hills, it took us a solid 15 minutes simply to get down to the city. From there, it was a fight through massive traffic to the nearest grocery store. This traffic would be present our entire stay, at all times of day, never ending, never giving any break, massive traffic, always, traffic, traffic, traffic. (Can you tell I'm not a fan of traffic?)

It was at the grocery store I experienced for the first time the downside to only having only one piece of plastic. My cash/check card freaked out at the check-out, due to me traveling to multiple cities in one day, and refused to let me use it. With no other method to pay, our groceries already bagged, almost closing time at the store, I wrangled through our bank's automated system and finally got a real person to unlock my card.

After embarrassingly holding up the cash register for almost half an hour while the store was in final closing mode, I was completely frazzled. Then to drive back through crazy night traffic up to home, I was frazzled. Then to drive back down the winding roads then through traffic to the BART station to pick up Josh, I was frazzled. The day had won and I was done. After a hug and a kiss, I gave Josh the keys and admit defeat. Time of death: 11:30pm.

Drive from city to suburbs: 2 hours, 48 miles

Suburb traffic driving to groceries and BART station: 2 hours, 15 miles


A Monday and a Tuesday: 6th & 7th Days in the City

Wed Jul 9 09:28:00 CDT 2014 - Wed Jul 9 09:28:00 CDT 2014

Travel Log: 17 October 2011 - 18 October 2011

Today would mark the start of "normal" school days for the remainder of our time in California. We would reserve our excursions for the weekends when Josh could join us. By this Monday, our time change wake ups were starting to wear off and the kids were getting back to their normal 7am wake-up (vs. the 5am of the week before, oy!).

I have never been a stickler for waking up early as I have never been a morning person. However, I have also read a lot of articles about children needing more sleep, especially teenagers, and I happily let my kids sleep-in, no matter the day. If we start our school day between 8:30-9am, I'm happy. :)!

I tell you what though, it's always a rough go when we get back to "normal" after having an amazing week of "unconventional" school days. We all love the "unconventional" days, we all prefer the "unconventional" school days, but it was time. I wanted to make certain we were faithful with all we reported we would do for our school year and not have to finish some subjects into June, :)!

As I mentioned, we did have our history lined up with our big adventure and our The Story of the USA books were ready to start us at the California gold rush. Our science lessons were also more geared toward studying the earth and earthquakes. Our other subjects we had worked on during the previous week but we were now back into extended teaching lessons of new concepts. 

Yep... that first day back was rough... but the promise of going to play at the beach was a great reward!


In the cute shirt she hand drew, :)!

Tuesday was quite the similar day but had two rewards: going to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, our final event on our City Pass, and going to Chinatown to buy a set of daggers. The museum was quite a distance from us but thankfully we had one more day to use our transit pass, too!

I do love museums. For me, the most fascinating things about seeing art in person is experiencing the scale of the pieces and noticing the details that photos don't do justice, whether it be the shock of how tiny Salvador Dali's paintings are or studying the brush strokes on a Frida Kahlo. Modern art is also something that is fun to experience with children. Josh's mom had once told me while we were at a MOMA, "Modern art can be anything the creator or the viewer wants it to be." The kids could see Marcel Duchamp's Fountain and really discuss what it means to question art establishment authority via a simple gesture as placing a urinal on its side. They all agreed it was plain silly.


And like I said, with this, our final full day in the city, we HAD to go to Chinatown for one last time. Wo/Man, do my kids love Chinatown. We took the bus instead of the tourist-filled cable cars in order to make our trip there "quick." Our bus was entirely filled with Chinese dialect speaking people and the kids were loving every single minute of it. They felt as if they had traveled to China and it was a wonderful cultural experience!

These last two days in the city were wonderful and made us get a great sense of what it would be like to actually live in the heart of the city full time. We all agreed it would be awesome. 


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About Me and This Blog...

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2012 to CA, MN, CO
   Ladies Trip to Napa Valley
   My Parents Rode in a Plane!

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2012 to MN and CO
   Vacation to the North Shore and Cabin
   Boulder for the Summer
   Life in Boulder

Begin Our Adventures of Winter/Spring 2012 to UT
   The Drive to CO/UT Begins
   Vacation in Moab
   Living in Moab / Denver

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2011 to CA
   The Drive to CA Begins
   Living in the SF
   Living in the Suburbs
   Coming Home to IC

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2010 to Eastern Europe
   Life at Czech English Camp
   Travels in Germany & Austria
   Travels in Czech & Poland


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