Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ryan is HOME

Ryan got home after midnight. We stayed up talking until 3:00 am. Even though we were both exhausted, especially him, we needed some debriefing time. Between the various vacations we had a lot of catching up to do.

Ryan had a great time in Hong Kong. He enjoyed the camaraderie with the other men (his dad, brother, soon-to-be-brother-in-law, and two friends.) Apparently, there was a lot of laughing and talking and bonding going on which was probably the real reason behind the trip. So mission accomplished.

He got quite a few articles of clothing made, including a gorgeous brown suit for the wedding. Now all the clothes are taken care of for the wedding, so we are done with our stress (which is very, very, very minimal compared with the fury the bride, groom, and parents are dealing with.) Now all we have to do is find the perfect gift and show up on time.

Before he left, he had asked me what he should get the girls, and I said I didn't know, just get them some little "dungsyi" (something, something.) I expected him to bring home just a couple pieces of junk that the girls would think was special because it was bought in Hong Kong. He came home with Chinese dresses for the babies which was perfect because dress up is their most favorite thing in the world. They like to pretend they are Mulan. He bought cool backpacks for the older girls which they love AND needed for school in their favorite colors. He bought watches, pearl earrings, and pearl necklaces for all of us. I am so impressed that he knows each one of his girls so well. Sometimes it seems like men don't notice those types of details or are uninterested. To find out that my husband and father of my children was that sensitive and aware of the details that would thrill all of us . . . I am amazed and grateful.

We are so happy to have him back. We are grateful for his dad's generosity in flying all the boys out for a great trip. We are happy Chris and Kym are getting married and gave them all this great excuse to take this trip.

But, we are selfishly glad all of our summer activities over so we can get back to normalcy which really is our favorite thing. Just the six of us hanging out together: swimming, laughing, watching movies, etc. So we are officially ready for school, piano, soccer, play dates, sleep overs, library time, PTO stuff, church activities and all the rest of the insane busyness that comes from having four girls. We have a great life. (You can quote me on that in a few weeks when I am complaining that we are too busy.) And we are home for good now.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ryan in Hong Kong with the Boys: LALAPLOOZA

The suits . . . for the wedding. The "reason for the trip." I guess they never heard of Macy's.

Ryan must have been in charge of cab fare. Why take two when it is so fun to cuddle?

Waiting for the Star Ferry. Just another day in paradise.

The view from the top of Victoria's Peak. I'm glad they got some sightseeing in along with all the shopping. Truly a breath-taking view--it has to be on someone's top ten list.

Outside the Hong Kong Temple.

Waiting for the pedicures.

Now we wait for the homecoming. We miss our husband/dad so much.

We really need to get a life

Star in Your Own JibJab! It's Free!

Rey-Rey snagged the hunk.

Way Too Much Time on Our Hands

Star in Your Own JibJab! It's Free!

Maya and the man of her dreams.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I am too paranoid

We have had a fun week helping my mom move back into her house and unpacking. We have visited with friends and eaten at all our favorite places. It will be sad to say goodbye to my mom, but now we can visit her and she can visit us.

We went to our old ward's pool group this morning, which was fun to catch up with people. After, we went to our friend's house to eat and play. Kristi and Jason were our neighbors and she had her twins just a week after Maya. We always knew they would be best friends and they loved each other so much it was hard to leave. Kristi had another baby and the three children are adorable.

While we were there, Rey-Rey took a tumble off the bunk bed ladder and so I rushed her to the doctor to have her arm checked. She was holding it like it was dislocated (the way Mad used to hold her arm when she did it) or broken. I hate being the paranoid mom who rushes to the doctor for every bump and scrape, so I usually wait until I KNOW I have to go. But two memories were haunting me: Madison's frequent dislocations of her arm and my sister Nancy. When Nancy was three, she got her ankle caught in the spokes of the back bicycle tire while my sister Karen and I were riding. My mom thought she should just rest it. A week later, when she still could not walk, my dad took her to the doctor and she came back home with a cast. She had broken her leg! The fear of doing this to my child forced me to go and hear that everything was okay, she just needed to rest it, she would probably get a bruise and maybe a little swelling. I hate being sent home without a prescription or bandage. I feel like it was a colossal waste of time. I guess it was better than the alternative, I just wish I had KNOWN it was going to be alright. So here is Rey-Rey with her limp arm and ID bracelet, waiting patiently.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Perfect LA day at the Getty & Beach

I was busy sewing dresses for the upcoming wedding (see upcoming events) which means everyone else was very bored. My sister, Nancy, does not like to be bored. She is hanging out with us at my mom's with her daughter Layne. We LOVE Layne. So she suggested a little break. I told her that I had to go to the Getty (a beautiful museum in the Santa Monica area.) She agreed that that sounded ideal as long as we had a sunset picnic on the beach. Done.

The Getty not only has a great art collection with Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, Cezanne, Rubens . . . I could go on and on, but you get the point; but it also has amazing views, beautiful architecture and fountains, and breath-taking gardens. Plus you park and take a little tram ride to the museum itself. How do you beat that? We obviously cannot take pictures of the art work, so these are all outside in the gardens.

We first went to the gift shop to get the materials for having a successful museum trip with toddlers. I will share. Each person buys one or two postcards (depending on their age and the amount of art you want to get through before the breakdown) depicting a piece of art from the museum collection. Then, as you go through the museum, you try to find your painting (or sculpture, etc.) holding your postcard. McK won with the Maria Frederike by Liotard. Maya was so excited to find hers (Jeanne Kefer by Khnopff) that she thought she got to take home the painting and the guard had to pry her off the painting. The rest found theirs as well and everyone had fun.

Next for a snack out in the gardens. They have beautiful areas for sitting and relaxing. The temperature was in the 70's. Heaven.

(The picture of Monterey shows her with a mouthful of rice crispy treat.)

Next, we went to Dainties (the best cupcakes in LA, yes even Sprinkles stands in their shadow . . . sorry to all the fans.) It is right down the street from our church's LA Temple so I just think of it as (one of) the blessings for going to the Temple.

On to Trader Joe's for picnic food, then to the Santa Monica pier. We got their right in time and enjoyed our gourmet feast while watching the sun go down over the ocean. (Unfortunately, I forgot the camera in the car, so I have no pics for this . . . I'll just have to go again :).)

It was a perfect outing. (Mostly because I finished the dresses first, so I did not have to stress about when I would finish them.) Thank you Nancy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Perfect LA day at Farmer's Market and American Girls Place

My sister Karen has to start teaching next week so we had to sneak in an outing. First, we picked up my mom's car (she had it shipped home from her mission, so we had to get it from Gardena.)

Now that the business end of our day was completed, we could have some fun. Off to 3rd and Fairfax for the best treats at Farmer's Market. The Grove, next door, has great restaurants (Cheesecake Factory is my favorite) but none of them can beat the rustic stalls at the Market. We had pizza, BBQ, and sandwiches (my mom got her Jewish Deli food - corned beef on rye.) We ate doughnuts (voted best in LA) at Bob's (which has been there since I was little and we used to come while visiting family in the area.) They had cute kitty cat and dinosaurs shaped doughnuts that the little ones loved.

Now for the serious business of the day: American Girl Place. This is our second time (McK & Mad's third) so we knew our way around. Here is the before picture:

First, we walk through the whole store, looking around and deciding what we cannot live without. Then, Grandma Dixie decides what she wants to buy everyone. Next, Aunt Karen cannot stand the idea that Maya and Monterey do not have any dolls so she buys them their first Bitty Twins Dolls (plus surprise outfits for Christmas -shh-don't tell.) Last, McK and Mad decide on a few accessories to spend their own money on (from the M&M Babysitting Club - see summer activities post.)
Karen observed everyone walked out with four bags. We beat that by one. Here is the after picture:

We also took a quick trip to Anthropologie (where McK and Mad claim they want to register for their weddings) and Sur La Table at the Grove (I believe it is now my favorite shopping venue.)

On the way home, we drove drove through Hollywood, past the El Capitan, Kodak Theatre, the Bowl, and Universal. The older girls kept saying: "Remember when we used to go there?" It was a trip down memory lane. We need to spend more time in LA.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Day 10: The Most Hellish Night

We were supposed to arrive home on day 9. Thanks to weather problems our flight ended up being delayed five hours which means we flew out at 1:40 am, hence day 10. I have had delays before, travelling alone or with one other person. But this delay, so late and with children, was torturous. Ryan and I had to expend all our energy on feeding everyone, taking care of the older girls, holding the babies so they could sleep all in the most uncomfortable airport seats EVER. (Vegas wants everyone in the comfy seats in front of the slots.) While we were waiting to load the plane, an older man said: "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." We all felt very stuck.

We finally got on the plane, got our luggage, got the shuttle to come home, packed the car and breathed a sigh of relief as we went to start the car, knowing home was just a little over an hour away. Maya quote for the day: on the shuttle she exclaimed, quite exasperated, " we had to wait for the plane, and for the shuttle, blah, blah, blah. I can't wait to get home." I love that her blahs were used so well. We all felt like that.

Click, click. Click, click. Click, click. Here is the Ryan quote of the day: #*%@, $#@%*! Yes, you guessed a dead battery. I called AAA and a half hour later our guy comes. Unfortunately, our battery was so dead that it took almost twenty minutes to charge the battery.

We finally pulled in as the sun was coming up and our head hit the pillow at 5:45 am.

At noon, we woke up hungry and my mom, realizing she was finally in Southern California, requested In-N-Out as her first California meal in 18 months. We were happy to fill that request. Now on to good Mexican food and a Jewish Deli.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Day 9: Spokane

We had the whole city of Spokane to discover and only a few hours to do it before heading to the airport. We did not know where to go, but I figured we should go to a park so the little ones could run around before the dreaded airport process and airplane flight. So we followed the signs and got lucky. We ended up in one of the greatest parks probably in the nation. It is called Riverfront Park
(here is the link if you are headed that way: and it had everything. This first pic is the girls joining a marathon sculpture.
The Joy of Running Together
by David Govedare. 1984. This corten steel sculpture depicts runners of all kinds. It celebrates the Spokane tradition of Bloomsday, the largest timed road running race in the world.

Next we rode the gondolas over the Spokane Falls. Ryan rode with McK and Mad and I was with my mom and Maya and Monterey. Maya, who does not like heights or swinging too high was sure that we were going to fall and die, but not in a scared or frantic way--no tears, no crying. She just kept saying: We are going to die (each time with an emphasis on a different word: we are going to die, we are going to die, we are going to die, we are going to die, we are going to die.) We heard twenty minutes of the I'm going to die routine and only when we got off she stopped. She informed me when she is dead, she wants her clothes and toys thrown away--she does not want anyone else to enjoy them. Here are the beauties as we got off the ride.

They had a big Radio Flyer wagon that was a slide, shown here. It was really cool and the girls got rid of a lot of energy while playing on it.

The fountain shown here actually rotates. The girls were upset that we did not let them run through and get wet, but I did not want to deal with wet, mildewy smells on the airplane.

The carousel was built in 1909 and has been running ever since. The horses had real horse tails as tails. There was the brass rings that the outside rides could try to grab. (I had heard of that, but never seen one before.) They built a shelter for it with benches all around so even the adults could be comfortable while waiting for the kids. Ryan went and got us shaved ice while the girls and I rode. (I do the duty because Ryan does not like things that go 'round in circles.)

Later, at the airport, the girls discovered the joys of air vents. They were having that Marilyn Monroe moment for about thirty minutes before I finally grabbed the camera to document. They kept exclaiming: "Look, I'm a cupcake!"

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Day 8: Wallace & Coeur d'Alene

This is the beautiful drive from Montana through Idaho on the way to Coeur d'Alene. It is so wooded and lush, even in August. We were on our way to Wallace where my great-grandfather, Joseph Hamilton Cone (shown in the picture above), worked in the mines and my grandfather, John "Poppy" Richard Cone (shown in the picture below), was born. Joseph worked in the mines, met and married his wife Mary Agnes Murphy (see Day 6) and it is where they had three of their six children.

We stopped and went to the Wallace Mining Museum which also showed a nice little film.

It was neat to visit and to learn about the world they lived in. Although he made good money while working in the mines, he paid the price in regards to his health. He lived a long life, but his lung capacity was diminished. My mom remembers him walking with her and getting out of breath very easily.

Next stop was Coeur d'Alene. This is another place that conjures up beauty and nice resorts. It is known for its beautiful lake and many golf courses.

After checking into our hotel, we went down to the lake where the boats launch. We walked around the Coeur d'Alene Resort and we wanted to window shop at the outdoor shopping district for the tourists. But as we were getting into the car, Ryan accidentally shut the door on McKayla's fingernail. I frantically got her a cup of ice to soak her already bruised fingernail. I say frantically because I have done that before and if you have done that before you know the amount of pain cannot be described. So then I told her we would have dinner wherever she wanted. She chose Chili's since we lost ours in the desert.

We went to the Famous floating island green at the Resort golf course. It is featured on the Tiger Woods Playstation game for those who indulge. The course was voted the most beautifully maintained course in the US. Everywhere you look, all you can see is green and red. Red geraniums are their signature flower with over 30,000 plants throughout the course. The contrast is amazing.

Ryan wanted to go golfing , but at $270 a round we opted for a visit to the pro shop, a hat, and some pictures. (That price includes a sports massage for every golfer.) Someday Ryan, someday.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Day 7: Glacier National Park

We spent the night in Kalispell, which is a half-hour from Glacier National Park . . . if you did not stop for the wild huckleberries on the way. I had been dreaming of taking the girls here because I remember how cool (literally and figuratively) it was when I went with my family.
Before you drive into the park there is a place that is like Jurassic Park, but for bears. There is a huge, very tall wall made of logs. The sign says "Your car is your cage." I wanted to go in but it was closed due to some accident the previous week. Too bad, so sad.

My uncle, who was a guide there when he was young, said that it takes two weeks to see Glacier and he is probably right since most of the park is made up of camp sites and trails. But seeing a little is better that nothing. Besides, I want my daughters to see glaciers before they are all gone and from the looks of things, we went just in time.

We drove on the "Going to the Sun Road" which is listed as one of the top five most scenic drives in the US. It is the only road that will take you from one end of the park to the other and there are a handful of visitor's centers along the way that are gateways to the trails. There are many waterfalls and rivers, thanks to melting glaciers.

This is a beautiful national park and I am so glad we had the opportunity to go, especially since we never know when we will be back in Montana.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Day 6: Water Fun & Family History

We stayed at a hotel in Missoula, MT that had an indoor water park. This was a welcome outing after not a lot of physical activity (driving & visiting.) So we hung out there for a couple of hours that night and again in the morning.

Maya learned to write her name at the hotel. I showed her once, she copied once, and then she was writing it everywhere she could. This was her first attempt without copying. On the hotel notepad, of course.

We then left to visit my mom's cousin Rod Cone (her uncle Joe's son - Joe, John, and Bud were all brothers for those of you keeping tract.) He and his wife, Cindy, are both very gracious people and we had a nice visit. Ryan adored them. They are avid golfers and talked golf with him. They love sports and tailgating at all the U of M games. They know all the coaches and the latest gossip about the sports programs. For the golf and tailgating, Ryan was ready to be adopted.
They took us out to a great bakery/sandwich shop called Wheat Montana. It is all organic, locally grown whole wheat products. We had seen a couple in other places and were curious. Delicious sandwiches on thick, fresh, grainy breads. Wish we had one in the desert.

The next stop was up to Ronan. This was one of the towns that relatives had lived in and we wanted to visit the graveyard because we had several relatives buried there. My mom's Uncle Joe, Aunt Margaret, and others. Most importantly, my great-grandmother, Mary Agnes Murphy Cone. This is a picture of her stone and her. I think she is beautiful. She died young, just three years after Bud was born. Irish through and through.

We drove through Polson, where my mother was born. This picture shows the view of Flathead Lake from Polson. It was great in the summer, but I'm sure a bit chilly in the winter. My mom was born there 70 years ago while her father worked on the Kerr Dam. It is on an Indian Reservation.

Then on to Kalispell, where Joe lived. The last time I was there it was a small town. Now it is a large thriving area. We were shocked.

Once we checked into the hotel, Ryan took the girls swimming while my mom and I explored Marion. That is where she spent the years between Polson and the move to Southern California where her father worked in the WWII defense industry at Lockheed. We went looking for the obscure roads that led to the old house and school. We finally found it but it was tough. Everything was overgrown. It was awkward to take pictures because other people live there now. Marion is near the old Carlson place my mom's mom lived in, but everything was too modern to really find anything. This is a picture of my mom and Jerry (see Day 5) in 1941 in this area of Marion.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Day 5: Visiting Relatives in Montana

We spent the night in Bozeman, MT and started on our visiting. We went to Butte to see Jerry and Donna Carlson. Jerry is my mom's uncle/cousin (it is a long story.) He has a house up on the hill overlooking old Butte. I remember going to his house when I was little and staying in the basement which they had converted into a huge girls room for their three daughters. I thought it was the coolest room I had ever seen. It is now Jerry and Donna's room. Jerry is also very interested in Family History and he is the link between most of the Carlson cousins. He was watching his daughter's dog "Chloe" who is a Maltese. My girls, very quickly and passionately, fell in love.

This is my mom with one of her few remaining aunts, Eileen. She also lives in Butte.

After this visit, we went with Jerry and Donna to Pork Chop Johns for the famous fried pork chop sandwiches that I remember eating as a little girl. The place I remember was on the main drag and just a window for take out, but they have expanded to more locations and now there is space to sit inside. The sandwich just comes with pickles, mustard, and onions. We each had one and the babies had little pork nuggets. We jokingly asked if Evil Knieval was in town (Butte is his hometown, my mom went to high school with his brother, Don) and Jerry told us that we just missed him. He was there for Knieval Days the week before.

Butte still has its old section, which is being marketed as the historic district. But there are also newer areas. It is amazing to see the growth in Montana.
Next, we drove to Missoula to visit my mom's brother, Dick and his children, my cousins: Kathy and Leann, and their spouses and children and grandchildren.

My cousin Leann has a lot of health problems, but despite them all she was her same happy, upbeat self. Her son is so grown up and seems to be a very nice, polite, young teenager.

This is Dick and Kathy. Kathy had most of her family there so it was fun to see her daughters Christina and Sandy. Their faces were the same sweet faces I remember, but now on adult bodies. Sandy's daughter was celebrating her birthday at the Frenchtown Pond so we shared in the party and had some cake and treats.

They were disappointed that we had to leave so soon (all this way and only a short visit???) but we explained we had a lot of people to see. We genuinely would have liked to stay longer and visit, but it was a marathon to see so many people and places in just a short time.