Thursday, December 18, 2014

Catching Up - November

The day Emma and I arrived home from our Nashville trip with my mom, Dan picked us up and we headed straight downtown to the Hyatt to spend the night.  I had been given vouchers by my company, and we needed to use them before Thanksgiving weekend. We always have fun spending time downtown!

Emma is showing Elmo how pretty the lights are outside our hotel room window

Ready to order room service!

She didn't sleep well in her pack n' play, which meant that she ended up sharing (a.k.a., completely taking over) our king-sized bed. 

We still woke up ready to play, though.

The view's not too shabby in the daytime, either!

We went out for a big breakfast and it was one of the first successful restaurant experiences we've had since Emma started walking. "Success" being defined as: 1) She sat in her high chair, 2) she actually ate something, 3) she didn't whine to get up until we were finished eating our meals. Sitting still and eating are not her favorite things to do right now, so we enjoyed it!

We took a swim in the hot tub, which was set at about 85 degrees. Dan thinks that should be the universal temperature for all swimming pools.

It was Veteran's Day, so we walked to a good spot to watch the Veteran's Day Parade along the downtown harbor.

We've had great times at amusement parks recently, too. Sea World is just two miles away from our house, and we love going for an hour or two at a time. It's one of the most fun ways to get outdoors!

There is an entire section of Sea World that is perfect for toddlers, called Bay of Play. It has Sesame Street-themed rides, games, and activities. But Emma could happily spend all her time playing with the giant rubber duckies at the store they planted just outside Bay of Play. It's the simple things.

When we finally drag her away from the duckies, she has a great time on the rides! She and her friend, Jemma, are waiting to ride the Flying Elmo ride.

Riding Abby Cadabby's Tea Cups. She has no idea that you can spin the wheel to make the ride go faster because that would make Mommy and Daddy sick. She is going to feel ripped off when she figures it out.

 Sea World has a Christmas play area with snow! We think it's exciting and we take Emma there and say, "LOOK!! IT'S SNOW!!" and we show her how to walk like a penguin on it and play with it.  She touches it once to confirm that it is still wet and cold and slippery, and she is ready to leave the area within 9 seconds. Oh well, maybe next year.

In keeping with our family tradition, we planned a short getaway during Thanksgiving weekend. We spent two days at Universal Studios Hollywood, since we have passes that are good until the end of 2014. Getting away to do something fun and active for the weekend is way better than stuffing ourselves with turkey and watching football on TV, in my humble opinion. 

She loved the minions, which were everywhere you looked in the park. Too bad she is too young to ride the new "Despicable Me" ride, because it is awesome!

Universal Studios doesn't have much for little kids, but they do have a couple of fun playgrounds.

And they have props from movies that you can play on.

While she was napping, Dan and I took turns riding several big kid rides.

Another nap during the Studio Tour. Unfortunately, Emma does not have The Parents Of The Year, and we took her on the ride knowing there was a scary part. At one point, the tram stops in a studio with a 360 degree, 3-D IMAX movie with King Kong fighting dinosaurs. It is dark, overwhelmingly loud, and your tram shakes as if you're in an earthquake the entire time. It was obviously terrifying to Emma, although it only lasted about 3 minutes. She fell asleep immediately afterwards from exhaustion, poor thing!

But when she woke up, she got to hug Curious George! Clearly King Kong did not frighten her away from all abnormally large monkeys. Heh!

She loves Dora the Explorer and kissed life-sized Dora right on the nose.  

Since we spent Wednesday and Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) at Universal Studios, we still had a 3-day weekend at home afterwards. It was the best of both worlds. 

Dan's birthday falls right after Thanksgiving, so we had a lunch and movie date to celebrate. I love this man!

Emma gave him a cute card and some NY Islanders-colored balloons to play with.

And the sweetest song ever

Dan's birthday kicks off Christmastime at our house, so Emma decorated our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. Bring on the holidays!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Girl's Trip to Nashville

Over the summer, my mom and I planned a weekend trip to Nashville in November. We were looking forward to visiting friends and seeing our old hometown. It had been six years since I had been back, and I wanted to take Emma to meet my best friends! My mom was tentative about going with Emma and I, since my brother, Paul, was in such poor health at the time. After he passed away in October, this trip became a much-needed event to look forward to after dealing with so much sadness.

Emma and I flew from San Diego to Dallas, where my mom joined us for the rest of the journey to Nashville.
 Emma loved spending time with her Nana on the flight!

When we arrived, we were blessed by the hospitality of our long-time friends, Larry and Shirley. They opened their home to us, had special toys for Emma to play with, and prepared the most delicious food during our stay! 

We got to spend an evening with Larry and Shirley's daughters, Tiffanie and Melody, and their families. Emma was in heaven playing with all those fun boys!

Melody and I have been best friends since we were one year old. We have been like sisters through every stage in life - the good and the bad. It's been too long since I've gotten to catch up with her in person and see her family! Her son, Skyler, is growing up fast and is such a good athlete. (no surprise there!)

My mom and Shirley had lunch with their good friend, Judy, one afternoon.

And I got together with some high school friends, Michelle and Eric, for brunch. We went to Pfunky Griddle, where you make your own pancakes (with lots of toppings!) on a griddle in the middle of your table. It was fun!

Michelle and I became best friends at the wonderfully awkward age of 11, and we shared every school experience from the 6th grade all the way through college. Emma and I had so much fun with her and her beautiful daughter, Katelyn! Michelle also has two older boys, Brendon and Gavin, who were really sweet about playing with the girls.

My mom, Emma, and I got to spend our last night with Michelle's parents, Joel and Debbie. Michelle's sister, Marybeth, came over with her kids to play for a while, too. Emma loved following the "big girls," Addison and Katelyn, around and mimicking whatever they were doing!

My mom and I are blessed to have the most wonderful long-term friendships. After years of not seeing each other, we picked up with our Nashville friends as if we had never left. Our time there was short, but precious! I hope we can go back again soon!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Catching Up - October

The biggest news for Emma in October was that we hired a new babysitter named Linda for the days I work. Dan knows her family well since her children and grandchildren have gone to his school. Linda has been absolutely wonderful and made the transition super easy for Emma and us. Emma loves her and enjoys going to her house three days a week.

Linda, Emma, and I at a school event.

Early in October, we met several other moms and babies from our church at a local pumpkin patch. 

Riding the carousel with a couple of friends

Family picture

Running amok through the pumpkins! 

A few days later, my company raffled off two tickets to the Blue Man Group show, and I won them! They announced the winner on the day of the show, so we had to scramble to find a babysitter for our surprise date night. It was a lot of fun!

My younger brother, Steve, came to San Diego for a conference. He stayed with us, so we got to spend quality time with him in between his meetings.
The weather was gorgeous, so we spent some time downtown at Seaport Village.

All the kids were crazy about this dog kite!

Emma loved chasing the big kite tails, too. The man who owned this kite was so nice and lowered it to her level so she could play with it.

We had a play date with Emma's best friend, Ellie.

And with some sweet friends we used to go to church with. Lisa is holding her son, Jed, and Judy brought her boys, Ian and Jon, who are posing in the background. :)

Emma and the boys at the mall food court. Emma is demanding the phone. Ha!

We had dinner with our friends, Paul & Ann and Chris & Adessa and their kids. Both families have beautiful baby girls now! 

For Halloween, my department at work continued our tradition of dressing up like a cheesy TV show. 
This year, we were The Flintstones!

Emma still talks about Bam-Bam and Pebbles, although she hasn't ever seen the show. It took some work, but she had *just enough* hair to pull into a pigtail on top! I had to basically trap her in the car seat so she couldn't wiggle away from me. We mutually agreed to not try it again until her hair gets longer. Heh!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Missing Paul

It seems surreal to all of us who loved him, but my older brother, Paul, passed away on October 19th. He battled cancer for over three years, after it was discovered growing in his spine and brain.  We prayed and prayed for a miracle of healing, although we knew and accepted that God might take him to heaven sooner than we wished.  I don't think anything prepares you to say goodbye to a person you love dearly. 

Paul had battled brain cancer at the age of four, went on to live a very healthy, fulfilling life despite the medical statistics against him, and worked through daily difficulties that others could only imagine. After he was diagnosed with cancer again in 2011, he moved back in with my parents while he was treated. Through surgeries, chemo, and trial-and-error pain medications, Paul was hands-down the best patient I have ever witnessed.  My parents said he never complained about his lot in life and expressed gratefulness for the things they did for him each day.  He didn't see himself as a remarkable person, although almost everyone who met him knew he was.  

When I was small, I wanted to be just like him.  I remember a picture of us standing next to each other when we were about 6 and 3 years old. I was wearing the same outfit Paul was wearing and looked so proud of myself. For the past several years, I've felt exactly the same way - I can't think of a better person to imitate than my big brother in so many areas of life. Because he trusted Jesus for salvation from his sins, he had peace knowing that God would take care of him on this earth and heal him fully in heaven.  He had always enjoyed working, serving others, and being useful. He lost many of his physical abilities as the cancer progressed, but he continued to love others well and pray regularly for their burdens.  Sometimes I find myself wondering what he's up to in heaven.  If I had to guess, I'd bet he's doing what he always loved and serving others with a body, mind, and soul that are no longer limited.

Needless to say, we miss Paul terribly and will continue to miss him for the rest of our lives.  There is amazing comfort knowing that he trusted Jesus to forgive his sins and offer him a relationship with God.  He is experiencing unimaginable joy in heaven because he is finally with God - not because he deserved it or worked towards it during his life, but because Jesus lived perfectly and died to pay for the sins of everyone who trusts in him.  So I have joy and comfort despite the grief of missing Paul, and I will be forever grateful for the way God has used him to impact my life. 

This picture was taken in June 2011 when we celebrated my parents' 40th anniversary just before Paul was diagnosed with cancer.

Emma got to meet him for the first time in June 2013. He was so proud of his niece. She will grow up hearing lots of stories about Uncle Paul!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Visit with Grandpa and Grandma!

Dad and Mom Jester (aka Grandpa and Grandma) came to visit us during Dan's fall break from school. We loved having them here and filling the week with special activities!

We cheered for Dan during his roller hockey game

Emma waving at Dan across the rink. She was his loudest cheerleader!

We visited Sea World a couple of days. Mom and Dad already had passes, and Dan and I bought annual passes since we only live a couple of miles away from the park and can visit easily.

The highlight of Emma's day was meeting the Sesame Street characters! You can see what a shy, timid kid she is. Heh!

Everyone got lots of hugs!

Fun on the kiddie rides

Watching the fish swim before going to a couple of shows. She soaked everything in, and by the time we left, she had learned how to identify and say "dolphin" and "penguin." We'll enjoy going back to Sea World this year!

We also took Dad and Mom to the Poway Rodeo that weekend! Yee haw!

The rodeo featured bronco riding, bull riding, barrel racing, calf roping, and other events

During intermission, they reenacted a stagecoach hold-up by an outlaw gang. Fortunately, the passengers were rescued by the sheriff and his men.

Emma was ready to go horseback riding by the time we left!

She met a friendly horse as we were leaving 

And we had trouble convincing her to leave without her "Neigh Neigh" friend!

We spent an evening downtown at the library, park, and splash pad

It was too cool to get wet, but we posed by the fountains

Enjoying a beautiful sunset before having dinner downtown

During Dad and Mom's last day here, we spent the afternoon at the beach!

Emma wasn't interested in going in the ocean, but loved playing in the sand

Practicing her gymnastics

Someone is ready for a bath!

It was a great visit, and we can't wait to see them again at Christmastime!