Friday, May 30, 2008

Preschool Graduation!

My little boy's growing up!

Alex had his Preschool graduation this week and they had a little program where they sang a bunch of cute songs and Alex was hilarious. Through many of the numbers he closed his eyes and rocked back and forth like a groovy Stevie Wonder! We were cracking up!

After the songs, each child came up to the microphone and introduced themselves. Alex said in quite a high-pitch, shy, little voice, "Hehwo, My name is Awex." Mrs. Michel told everyone that his favorite color is yellow and his favorite food is spaghetti and that when he grows up he wants to be...At this point she hands the microphone back to him and again in a cute, high-pitched voice, he says "A biw-da!" (builder, in case you were wondering!)

He then catapults himself off in a power jump off the pedestal over to get his certificate. It was pretty cute and very exciting!

Alex, Morgan, and Ty

Hooray for graduation!

(He actually has one more year of preschool at another school since he is a September birthday and won't start Kindergarten this year.)

I love this kid! He is scrumptious and delightful and fun and hilarious.  He has a great personality and loves to make others laugh. He is sweet and kind and I am so proud of him. 
I love you, Awex! Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Big Sur Memorial Weekend

Ahh Big Sur! The rugged, rocky, beautiful coast off highway 1...

Yes, we planned a trip right after the cruise.
Yes, we are a little crazy.

We loaded up the camper and took off for a weekend of camping with the Callaways and many families in the Danville Stake.
We did a lot of biking...

Crossing logs...
(Getting busted by the Forest Rangers for dangerous behavior!...)
Playing in the dirt...
Finding tree caves...

Becoming Junior Rangers with Awesome Sarah...

Imitating wildlife...

To beautiful Pfieffer Falls...
And then up to Vally View...

(I love this picture!--Such good friends!)
(Bad Hair Day Famiy Pic! Keep in mind we haven't showered for two days. John's hair gets really fluffy!)
Cooking over the open fire and making sparklers with a stick... (Alex and Daddy could've done this all night!)

On Sunday we attended "church" in the middle of the redwoods sitting in camping chairs with everyone from the Stake and we heard some beautiful testimonies. It was a wonderful experience. The kids want to have church in the woods every week!

On the way home we stopped at a Asilomar Beach in Pacific Grove where we found a beautiful spot...

To be with friends...
To climb rocks...

Play in the sand...

Discover sea life in the tide pools...

Chase seagulls...

And get really dirty...

We were in desperate need of a shower by the time we got home.

Dirty, but revived! Love this Earth and being in nature!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cruise of a Lifetime!

I took 468 pictures and tried to narrow it down!

It was the most incredible whirlwind adventure of my life! I can't believe I just experienced all these amazing places and people and things. I felt so fancy-free; There were many moments that I forgot I had four children and other moments where I could not wait to squeeze them and see their smile. What a wonderful 10 days!

*Let me just add how wonderful it was to be off with my amazing spouse. I can't believe I made such a perfect choice at 21 years old! My wisdom can only be attributed to the Spirit and inspiration! And his hotness, of course! I love you, John!

Day One--Friday (5/9)
Travel Day

Flight cancelled (of course!). Re-routed through Washington D.C. then on to London. Had to try to fit a full night of sleep in there somehow because when we arrived in London it was the next day!

Day Two--Saturday (5/10)
London and Barcelona

Arrived in London and our luggage was not there. (of course!) We were originally told that it would be on the first flight the next day! (We had to be in Barcelona to board the cruise ship the next day!) I was freaking out! The nice man was able to track them down on another flight coming several hours later. We missed our connecting flight to Barcelona and waited in the London airport for almost eight hours! It was a bit of a nightmare but I was just happy to get our luggage and not have any kids to entertain! I finished my book and relaxed.
We arrived in Barcelona to this...

We were a little bummed that it was raining but we had faith that it would clear up! We got to the hotel and we hadn't exchanged money yet. The cab waited while John ran down the street in the rain to find a teller (there was one right in front of the hotel but the cranky concierge didn't tell us and sent John several blocks down the road!) Luckily, Chris comes running up the street like a white night and pays the cab driver! Thanks Chris! Then he takes us around the corner where we met up with John's family for dinner. It was great to see everyone and be out of an airport!

Day Three--Sunday (5/11)

Sunny skies! Barcelona, Spain is a very cool city! Our hotel was right off of Las Ramblas, this beautiful tree-lined pedestrian boulevard in the middle of the city.
Here's the whole group without dad who was taking the picture.
Here's John and I in front of a building designed by Antoni Gaudi who is a famous architect from there. His design is crazy and non-sensical and whimsical and very interesting!
Another crazy building by Gaudi.

This is La Sagrada Familia, an unfinished cathedral by Gaudi that is absolutely incredible. It is so ornate and gothic and crazy--it's an overload for the eye--there is so much to look at! It is because of him that we have the term "gaudy" for things that are over-the-top!

The front. (Jake saw this picture and said, "Whoa! Are those caverns?" Something like that!)

The back.

One of my favorite things about the city was that there were these bike stands all over and you could rent a bike and take it back wherever you ended up--kind of like the luggage carts at the airport. What a novel idea! They really promote alternatives to driving cars in Europe, especially big cars! Not an SUV anywhere! (John especially loved the mopeds everywhere!)
Final family shot! Notice Chris elbowing me in the ribs. He was a little disgruntled by my constant teasing of his man crush on Rick Steves, the author of the tour guide books that he carried faithfully and read from for every city! "Oh Riii-ckeee!" "Chris and Ricky sitting in a tree..." Oh Ricky you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind..."
I have to admit however that those tour guide books came in very handy. I, too, had a crush on Ricky dear by the end of the trip! He has lots of great insights to the best things to see!

After touring the city, it was time to board the cruise ship...

We first found our cabin which was fabulous because it was a handicapped room and therefore actually had space to walk around! We also had a great little window to see the sea! After that we had to don life jackets and go through the mandatory safety instructions...

Then we went on top to watch the ship depart...

Cute Lisa and Chris!
I found some fabulous lounging spots...

Our fave, the purple chairs in the Spinaker Lounge

and the awesome chair/beds on deck! (A girl's gotta pose!)

Day Four--Monday (5/12)
At Sea

Today we slept in until noon! Noon! I haven't done that since college! It was blissful! I then headed over to the gym while John did some work. It was pretty exhilarating running on a treadmill while watching the sea go by right in front of you! We basically laid around and read and ate and hung out all day. The ship had tons of great restaurants, lounges, a spa, a fitness center, a library, a dance club, etc.

It was dress-up night so we all got cleaned up and ate in the Grand Pacific Dining Room. It was nice to order anything on the menu and even two different entrees if you couldn't decide! We had some great meals! And of course, soft serve frozen yogurt before bed! (John's favorite!)

I LOVE this picture! I have never seen Chris smile like that! Please notice throughout this post Chris trying to stick his head into almost every shot of John and I! It's like Where's Waldo? I challenge you!

Day Five--Tuesday (5/13)

Malta is this beautiful Mediterranean island near the southern tip of Italy. It is rustic and honey colored and full of history. John got up early to watch us come in to port. It was absolutely beautiful.

A shot of Kim taking a shot

St. John's co-Cathedral where Caravaggio's famous painting "Beheading of John the Baptist" is. (Please notice Chris in the background!)

And again! Every city we visited had these great alleys with hidden treasures down every turn.

Jason found his joint!

John found his new novia!

Kim and I with the Maltese soldiers--we tried to make them smile! No such luck!

We walked around town and then got on a double decker open-topped bus to see the northern part of Malta.

The gang

Some beautiful architecture! Below is the medieval fortress city of Mdina which we got to walk through and was very cool...

The view from Mdina

Time to get back on the ship!

Our view from the ship as we're leaving Malta.

Day Six--Wednesday (5/14)
Naples (Pompei and Sorrento)

We took a train to Pompeii which is the ruins of a very decadent Roman City that was destroyed and buried by a volcano back in 79 AD. It was discovered almost 2,000 years later in the 17oo's and has been excavated and is completely fascinating. Somehow the ash was able to preserve everything! (From 79 AD!! Crazy!) Our tour guide was named Luigi and I could barely understand him but his booming laugh was infectious!

Guess who!?

More eery ruins.

Notice the petrified corpse among the pottery!

Diane in an old Bath House for men.

Our tour guide, Luigi! Ha Ha Ha!

Hot mamas! Leesee, I love you!

After Pompeii, we headed to Sorrento, this beautiful coastal city with high cliffs and gorgeous views of the ocean. We had a great meal and some yummy gelato and then took a hydrofoil ferry boat back to port to get on the ship.

The best gelato I had the whole trip (and we had some good gelato)! Mmm! Nutella. Florence came in close second.

Sorrento was absolutely beautiful!!

Day Seven--Thursday (5/15)

We woke up early and caught a train into Rome. First stop was Vatican City where we queued up for St. Peter's Basilica. It was incredible and John took amazing photos inside so I'm including a bunch.

In front of St. Peter's

These beautiful columns circled the whole plaza

Up close

Upon entry

The girls


This is one of the beautiful "paintings" inside the church that up close you realize is actually a mosaic! Teeny Tiny pieces!

Getting in trouble at the confessional!

After that we got on a hop-on-hop-off bus and took a tour of the city. We had a limited amount of time before we had to get back on the train to board the ship! We saw the Colosseum (incredible!) and all the ruins around it (I could've spent a whole day there!)

Here we are at the Pantheon, an ancient Roman temple (125 AD)

I was awed by the symmetry and design of the dome ceiling--they were quite the mathmaticians!

Then we walked over to the famous Trevi Fountain and had some delicious pizza and gelato.

After that we went to the Spanish Steps which are said to be the "longest and widest in all of Europe."

And we drank from the Barcaccia Fountain which I'm sure brings good luck.

John got a mouthful!

Mine went right up my nose!

This picture on the train ride back to the ship sums up Rome! I couldn't believe John took this picture and now I can't believe that I'm posting it but it truly shows what a jam-packed exhausting day we had! One day is not enough time! It wet my appetite and now I want to go back and spend a week!

Here we are cleaned up and ready for nightlife on the ship!

Day Eight--Friday (5/16)

Another jam-packed day. We took a shuttle, then a bus, then a train to get to Florence. Crazy logistics, but we made it. We went straight to the Duomo, an incredible cathedral in the heart of Florence.

Here we are in front of the Baptistery Doors which were incredible--so intricately carved!


The beautiful painted dome--my neck hurt from studying it! Lots of domes on this trip!

Then we headed over to the Academie to see the David by Michaelangelo. It was breathtaking--so much more amazing than I thought! He's huge and pristine and perfect! I loved his chiseled rear!!

We weren't supposed to take pictures but John snuck this one in!

After that we went to the Uffizi Palace which is full of lots of famous art but we didn't have time to go in. It's plaza had many sculptures and fountains and we had a great meal in an outdoor cafe on the square.

Here's the men paying homage to Macchiavelli by trying to look like fierce leaders. I don't think John got the memo. He's the kind of leader that rules with love, not fear!

Here we are in front of the Ponte Vecchio, the famous old bridge.

Another great day. Again, I need to come back to Florence and spend more time.

Day Nine--Saturday (5/17)

We ported in Ville Franche which is right between Nice and Monaco and we decided to go to Monaco. It was gorgeous!

Ville Franche

The famous Monte Carlo Casino

You win some, you lose some!

Monaco was all set up for the Grand Prix which is there in one week! John was loving it! Check out that hairpin turn!

There were beautiful yachts and cars everywhere. Everyone coming for the big race. John and his brothers went to a car museum while the rest of us had crepes. Mmmm!

John and his cute sibs, minus Lisa!

The beautiful church where Prince Ranier and Princess Grace Kelly were buried

Beautiful Day!

Day Ten--Sunday (5/18)
Back to Barcelona to Disembark then on to London

I was sad to say goodbye to the Norwegian Gem! I will miss her and all of her slightly cheesy but mostly enjoyable entertainment, free delicious food at all hours of the day and night, soft serve frozen yogurt, made beds with animal shaped towels and mints on my pillow. Why, oh why must I go back to cooking and cleaning and carpool and whines!? At least I get to squeeze my four little cuties in just over 24 hours!

We got off the boat, took a taxi to the airport and flew straight to London where we stayed overnight. Chris and Lisa and Jason all went straight home but the rest of us stayed for some time in London.

Here we are in the taxi from the airport in London. You can't really tell but we were so squished in there!

And then John had to sit in this little fold down seat that couldn't have been very comfortable! Hence the grouchy face.

We got cleaned up and then headed over to Covent Garden. I love London! Partly because I have such great memories of living in Cambridge when I was fourteen, but also because it so stylish and hip and yet so steeped in history! I was struck by every European city we visited for it's rich history and personality.

Me and Kim--I LOVE this girl! We totally bonded!

Gotta get a picture with the Telephone Booth!

Big Ben in the background

John's beautiful picture of Parliament

The London Eye

Westminister Abbey

All tuckered out!

Day 11--Monday (5/19)
Fly Home!

So excited to see my kids! Oh how I love them. They were not as excited to see me as I would have hoped! After big hugs and squeezes, they said "Do we really have to leave our friend's house?" Hell-o! Mom's here! Alex said, "I almost forgot what you looked like!" They had a great time with Grandma and Grandpa and a great time with friends!

Good to be home...I guess.

Thank you John and Diane, for the most incredible trip of my lifetime. I love you so much!