Wednesday, May 20, 2009

home again, home again. . .

My Dad is one of the best men I know. And he has many little sayings that he is famous for (at least in our little circle). One of my favorites is the little rhyme he always pronounced as we arrived home after being away. It mattered not if it was a week long getaway or a quick afternoon adventure, we always knew we were home when we heard Dad announce, "Home again, home again, riggity jig. Home again, home again, the big fat pig."

The past three weeks have been filled to the brim with fun memories. I have traveled from one coast to another. First, I took off by myself (seriously, I can't remember the last time I went by myself anywhere longer than 12 hours) to NYC to stay with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Valerie. A week later, our little family traveled to California for a fun family vacation.

Valerie and I have been friends since junior high. If any of you have ever read "Anne of Green Gables", you'll know what I mean about a 'bosom friend'. That's Valerie. She and her husband Jared (another friend from HS) and their little family have lived in Brooklyn for the past 5 years. And so, for 5 years we have been dreaming up a little adventure where I might come and visit her. Thanks to my fantastic family, our little wish finally came true. I had a wonderful time! It was so good to spend a week together. As an added bonus, she has 3 of the cutest little girls I've ever met (and I have to say. . . I know a thing or four about girls).

So to Valerie, Hannah, Ella, and Violet (sorry Jared, this is kind of girls only):
Thank You. Thank you for letting me come and be part of your world for a week. I think of you all the time. The funny things you say, the way you made me laugh. You made we me feel right at home. My goodness, you even shared your bunk bed with me! I now like to eat "cheesy niblets" and wear my "shiny lip stuff" with pride every day. What a great time we had. I hope my girls can get to know each of you. It has been so fun to have pictures to help them put a face to someone they've heard so much about!

As I walk down my gravel road past hay fields, horses, and the occasional tractor, I'll look back with a smile at our subway rides and daily adventures around the city. I'll never flood a sink again without laughing a little and remembering the evening we caused your downstairs "brothers" to have an indoor rainstorm. Someday I hope to bring my girls to see your neck of the woods.

I read a quote today that reminded me of you and the way you've tackled this challenging adventure in life. "Being happy doesn't mean everything in life is perfect. It means that you've decided to look past the imperfections." Valerie, my dear, you are simply amazing. Hannah and Ella, you are beautiful. But what is most important, you are even more lovely on the inside. And to little Violet, you are adoringly sweet. I hope you and my Claire will become great friends.

My week with you taught me so much. I was reminded of who I am, and that we are all part of a grand plan. I remembered how blessed I am. My week with you will never be far from my heart.

(This was the coolest cemetary. I wish you could read this headstone, dated 1736. It is great.)

Despite having a lovely week away, as always- it was good to come home. I missed my own little girls and that cute husband of mine. As I pulled into the driveway chanting my little jig, I was delighted to see the mural that Ryenne had so carefully drawn for my on our cement.

Ryenne's depiction of Ella. . .

. . .and Hannah.
I arrived home Wednesday morning, and had just enough time to put the house together, do the laundry, and get everyone packed again. Ryenne had nightly practice and rehearsals to get ready for her ballet recital on Friday evening. We had told the girls that we would be heading to Salt Lake following the recital for a sleepover with the Stosich cousins. They were planning on a fun filled weekend with the boys. Little did they know, we had something else in store. Courtney and I had secretly been planning a family vacation to California since January. The girls had no idea. We arrived at the Stosich house as planned late Friday night. Saturday morning, we woke them up at about 5:30 am, quietly dressed them, and told them we were leaving for a surprise adventure.

Uncle AJ drove us to the airport, where we broke the news. In just a few hours, they would be in California! If you know me, you know I LOVE surprises, and this was one of the best! It took them a little while to digest everything. While we were checking our luggage, Kate asked what time we'd be coming back that night. They were delighted to find out they had a whole week adventure in store!
We had found a great deal on a condo at the beach in a Southern California town, Dana Point. The owners of the condo have 3 little girls of their own, so it was perfect for us. The girls were thrilled with the big stuffed bears, princess crowns, and dress up shoes awaiting them. That night before they went to bed, one of them said, "It's hard to believe this morning we woke up in Utah, and now we're all the way in California." It was a day we'll never forget!
Sunday morning we woke up and went to church at a local ward. I'd like to say we were all perfectly reverent during sacrament meeting, but it seems that no matter where we attend church we bring a little chaos with us. (I'm open to suggestions on improving that.)
The girls were excited to go on a boat ride on this replica ship, and were hoping to see some whales or dolphins. Unfortunately, they only spotted a seal. (With the exception of Emmy. Depending on which narration I've heard her tell people, she saw quite a variety of creatures. Kissing dolphins, dead sharks, and a multitude of whales.) She is obviously the one to stick with on these sight seeing trips.

We also took a little day trip to Legoland, where we had a great time.

We saw cute old men. . .

amazing lego sculptures. . .
and rode some fun rides. Beetle Bounce was definitely a favorite. Kate loved the Project X roller coaster, but Ryenne wasn't so sure. She said she couldn't stop shaking for quite some time following her ride!

I wasn't aware of the water park inside Legoland, so we didn't bring swim gear. As you can see, that didn't deter the girls, who begged to "just get our feet wet". However well intentioned that was, it didn't last long.
We are now the proud owners of 3 Legoland towels.
Meanwhile, Claire had a great time on the swing.

[The rest of these pictures are totally out of order. For some reason, I can no longer move the pictures around on this post. Any ideas?]
We spent a lot of time at the beach. The girls, especially Ryenne couldn't get enough of the waves. Emmy has a bit of a love/hate relationship with the ocean. Loves the water/hates the sea weed. It took us a while of her completely freaking out about the seaweed before she told us that she thought it was crocodiles. No matter how hard we tried, she was terrified.
We also spent a fun day at the San Diego Zoo. The girls were fascinated with all of the animals, and quite frankly, so was I! There were creatures there that I never knew existed! We all learned a lot. Ryenne told me at one point, "I wish I would have brought my notebook so I could write all of this down." We loved the Giant Panda exhibit. We were able to be so close and could watch the panda happily eating her bamboo. Thank goodness for chocolate, I say. Before we left, Emmy was dying to spend her souvenir money and ended up buying a little stuffed elephant that she named Ella. Courtney tried to explain that she may want to save her money and see what else she might see during our trip, but that's a hard thing for a four year old to understand. Kate and Ryenne decided to wait, but Emmy was delighted with Ella.
After the zoo, we went into Old Town San Diego to a favorite restaurant. The girls were so excited when the band came over and serenaded them with a Mariachi version of "It's a Small World". No matter where we go, four girls sure make a stir.

Ryenne and I are not fond of snakes. Emmy says she is allergic to them. Because of our dislike of these horrible creatures, we chose to wait outside while Courtney and Kate ventured into the Reptile House at the zoo. You can imagine how thrilled I was when I was looking through our pictures on the camera and found about 40 snake pictures. Those two stinkers had taken a picture of every snake in the exhibit!

Emmy sometimes has a hard time wondering why Claire always gets to ride in the stroller and carrier. She was pretty tough, but a girl can only take so much. Finally, Courtney gave in and let her ride on his back for a while.

I love this picture of Ryenne and Emmy because they've had a hard time getting along as of late. They look so happy in this picture-it helps me forget! (I'd love any suggestions for that too.)

As you can see, Claire loved the zoo.

You can't see the panda very well here, but it was so fun!

Nothing like the ocean. . .

(Out of order again, but here we are flying home. Boy that sure beats a 12 hour drive!)
By the way, Ella the elephant was a big hit until it came time for Ryenne and Kate to pick out their souvenier. It was so hard for Emmy to understand that she only had a dollor left. She even asked me if she could give Ella away. I was suprised by this and told her that she could but I wondered why. She replied that if she gave her away, she could have her other $9.00 back to buy something else. Ryenne and Kate looked through multiple chintzy tourist shops before they decided on a trip to Wal-Mart (sorry, Uncle Shawn) to buy a Little Pet Shop to remind them of the trip. Ryenne bought a little Panda and giraffe, and Kate bought a panda and a tiger to remind them of the zoo. They were quite happy with thier decision to wait and find something they really wanted instead of giving into the heat of the moment. What a hard lesson!
When we were boarding the plane to go home, Emmy just had to spend that last dollar. She bought a headset to use on the airplane and was so excited until she got home and realized that they are now kind of useless. So she now sleeps with Ella the elephant, wearing her headphones!

Of course, Claire thought the sand at the beach was delicious.

We had a great time. It was so nice together without all of the pressure of work, homework, practicing, and such. More memories to put in our bank. . .
Some people say "there's no place like home". That's one way to put it. . . .

But in the words of a wise man. . ."
Home again, home again, riggity jig. . .Home again, home again, the big fat pig.