Saturday, June 28, 2008

One Week in California

This just might be the most pictures ever downloaded onto one post in posting history! I just counted and was completely blown away that there are 89 pictures here! Give yourself plenty of time! :) Our California trip was full of wonderful people and places. It took me 4 days to finish this post and I've been looking forward to sharing it with you!

Our trip started with four nervous children who have never been on an airplane before. I couldn't wait to get up in the air so I wouldn't have to keep hearing how scared everyone was for the take-off! Poor Taylor couldn't even eat her dinner in the airport!

Taylor is faking her smile and hiding her fear pretty well here. Even I am amazed at how much we look alike!

But man oh man, did we ever have something to look forward to to try and get Taylor's mind off of the take off!

First of all, awesome Aunt Jody took Hannah and Jack for the evening... they were SO excited to see her and spend time with her. So was I!

After that, Chip and I took Taylor and Aubrey to the famous Pantages theater in LA for a night they will surely never forget.

The musical Wicked is absolutely fabulous! To see the girls faces as they watched on stage what they have memorized from the CD was truly priceless. Ear to ear smiles the whole time!

Here we are with the amazing Elpheba. There were traces of green paint on her hairline, and her fingernails were green. She was phenomenal to say the least!

We spent some fun and relaxing time (never enough though!) with the Roberts - the kids thought sleeping in a tent in the backyard was the coolest! (thank you Roberts!) Later, we went to the wedding rehearsal and dinner. The wedding was at a beautiful park in Brea.

Jack was happy to sit by his cousin, Ethan, at Luigi's. He has always loved babies! (I know what you are thinking.... and the answer is no. He will have to get his baby fixes from his cousins and friend's babies!)

After dinner, Chip got a great picture of the five "Meunier" sisters - it's been a while!

I have to admit, I turned my body slightly to try and get a good camera angle - I read it in some celebrity style magazine talking about red carpet secrets! I feel stupid now though, cause it's kinda obvious! Yep, I'm a dork.

The day of the wedding was full of preparation and anxious people. I had to post a picture of me ironing a table cloth for the reception to prove that I have ironed in my lifetime. I don't think it will be happening again until the next wedding! Even Chip thought it was rare, which is why he took the picture. Thank you mom, for asking me to do it, and for trusting me with an iron!

Kelley's wedding day was a whirlwind, and full of excitement! Taylor had lot of fun getting all gussied up with Kelley the bridesmaids - what a wonderful experience for her.

She had to link arms with a boy and only complained a little bit! Thank goodness it was with Tyler's brother Sam, who was super nice and quite the gentleman!

Jack stood proudly in position the whole time. He walked the ring up with a very cool decorated snake handler thingamajig designed by the coolest snake handler we know, Tyler!

Dancing with Gramps is always fun...

This just might be the best looking wedding party since... since 1993!

It was rare to have all 8 of us siblings together. Here we are in order -

Eric, Tracy, Brandi, Beth, Jody, Ellen, Kelley, and Austen

Check out my dad here on the right - notice how he is gently tossing UP the birdseed as the newlyweds run through the tunnel.....

I think my brother Eric had other intentions.... don't you?

After the wedding, we had a very enjoyable evening at Dad and Vicky's home swimming, and visiting. My Grandma (in the middle) was here from Nevada. It was so great talking to her and remembering fun times with her when I was young.

How great it was to go to the church I grew up attending and visit with good friends who we miss so much. We were invited to enjoy Georgia's famous tortilla soup and cheese bread and had the privilege of meeting baby Andrew - #6 for the Denkers!

Time spent at Mom and Dave's home is always very special and looked forward to.

There aren't too many women who can say they had the unique and wonderful experience of being pregnant at the same time as their mom! While Chip was overseas, I was living with my mom. I will never forget her laughing when I told her I was pregnant. I said, "What's so funny?" And she said, "Oh nothing, it's just that I am due two weeks before you!" I was so excited! So, here they are - Taylor and Austen - they are good friends - a very fun and unique relationship!

We spent a wonderful day with Chip's sister Carrie and her family who live in beautiful San Diego. The kids had a great time with their cousins Noah and Ryan. We were so glad that Grandma Schultz came along with us too!

While out and about, we came across the neatest place where the USS Midway was docked as a permanent museum. It was similar to the USS Bellouwood, where Chip spent four months and four days in the Marine Corps. It was fun to hear him tell us a little bit about these amazing ships.

There was a tribute to Bob Hope, and the neatest, biggest statue of the famous World War II photo of the sailor kissing the nurse - you may have seen this image before...

Just to give you an idea of how big the statue really was, Taylor is leaning on the nurse's shoe in this picture.

Chip perfectly positioned us for this awesome picture... everyone coached us to make it look as much like the real thing as possible. I love how it turned out!

Saying goodbye is never fun...

Noah didn't have too much of a problem hugging Jack.

But hugging girls is a completely different story!

Ryan was SO sad to see Uncle Chip leave! Chip wasn't too happy about it either. ha ha!

How could we drive to San Diego without stopping here?! Impossible.

Jack really felt what was in the bootcamp air - he struck this pose on his own!

I caught Chip twitching as we heard the echos of the drill instructors. Memories came flooding back.

And I will never forget being there on the parade deck on October 25, 1991 when Chip became a United States Marine. I was, and still am so very proud of him and his passion for the Marine Corps and for his country.
This picture only took an hour to get it a) perfectly positioned with the parade deck in the background - b) so the kids had perfect attention faces without laughing (especially Taylor) and c) a perfect salute from Jack.

This drill instructor called Jack "devil pup" - he loved that.

After hearing the yelling and seeing the drill instructors in the young recruits faces, Jack used these exact words.... "Dad, I'm not sure if I want to be a marine anymore."

That evening, we had fun hanging out with Chip's other sister, Amy, and her son Bradley who must be the nicest 11 year old boy we know!

My sisters Beth and Jody, their children, and our family went to "Mothers Beach" - we couldn't go to California without a day at the beach! Of course, it was the only overcast day of the week, and the entire 2nd grade of a local school was there on a field trip, but we managed to have a wonderful time anyway! Chip was a pretty cool dad/uncle by being the main architect of the sand .. um... jacuzzi?

That night,Gramma scored tickets to an Angel game! We had the best time! Jack really got into it - even though he's wearing his BSU blue and orange!

Home run!!

Downtown Disney was fun - but because it was hot and crowded, we were more excited to go out to lunch with Gramma Kossub! Not only were we going to be with her, but we were also going to have IN and OUT Burger! Chip especially, was really looking forward to that. We got to Gramma's work a little early, so we decided to show the kids the houses that Chip and I grew up in, and take a picture. They looked so different - it was strange.

Dad's home on Oshkosh....

Mom's home on Marjan...

I love this picture of mom and me.

That evening, we went out to dinner with our dear friends, the Perkins, who were so nice to have us in their home for a few days. Their jacuzzi was a highlight for the kids! They all got along so well, and had a delightful time together!

Thank you Perkins!

The girls wanted to go to their old elementary school to walk around and remember what it was like to be in an "outside" school, and to say hello to all of their old teachers. They were a bit nervous that their teachers wouldn't recognize them, but they all squealed and offered big hugs when they saw the girls. It was fun.

Soon it was time to pack up, return the rental van, and fly home. Certainly a lot less nerves to deal with this time! We had a wonderful chauffer - thanks Tol!

We had a great time in California. It was full of so many wonderful memories we will always have! (Thanks for helping us get there, dad!)

Some of our good friends here wondered if once in CA, we wouldn't want to come back because we missed "home" so much. Yes, people who we love so much are there. Yes, we grew up there and have countless memories there. That will never change. But I am happy to report that I cannot even express how wonderful it was to come home to beautiful, two-lane highway Boise - our "home."

Oh, I know it's not for everybody, but I've decided the "slower" lifestyle is definitely for me - and we all agree.