our favorite quotes

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."— William Butler Yeats
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bathtime Blast!

It's amazing how brothers know just how to torment each other.
Bugga steals Buddha's cars. Buddha gets him back in the bath.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this picture!

New Toy

After finding Bugga teetering on Buddha's bike more than once, we finally decided to get him his own tricycle. He loves it! He doesn't quite get the concept of turning the handle bars so that the bike turns, but we're confident he'll understand soon. In the meantime, he enjoys either scooting or pushing his new trike around the backyard.

Bugga loves our mint plant. He always walks over to it, plucks off a leaf and stuffs it against his nose, breathing deeply. The child is mine. The mint doesn't mind since it's in the process of taking over the entire garden and, therefore, doesn't notice the loss. :)

Our tomatoes are growing!

Random picture of our backyard. I love this wall. It's so quaint.

Bugga is in the habit of harvesting our lemons before they are ready to be harvested. He thinks they make great play things.

I love this picture because it is so my boys. Buddha is holding Bugga off without even turning around and Bugga has this look of pure innocence on his face that says, "What? I'm not planning anything mischievous!" :)


Why bathtub squeeze toys should be outlawed.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


We just had an earthquake about an hour and a half ago. It was crazy! I haven't felt an earthquake in a long time - since I lived in Chile, in fact. The boys were tearing around the kitchen and I was sitting in a rocking chair watching and laughing when all of a sudden my rocking chair started moving of its own accord. My eyes quickly darted to the chandelier that hangs over our kitchen table and sure enough, there it was, swinging away. I'm afraid my emergency skills (i.e. remaining calm) need a bit of fine tuning as I jumped up, yelled for the startled boys to follow me, then ended up herding them toward a doorway. It was more than a bit embarrassing after the fact, considering the whole thing was over before we even managed to make it to the doorway. The Chief called to see if I had felt it, then looked up the Southern California earthquake site and found out that the epicenter was in Chino Hills, up near LA. It was a 5.6.

After various phone calls, Buddha and I settled down to an intense, doorway discussion about what earthquakes are and what we do in an earthquake. He is now better trained than I am. Well, that's our excitement for the day. Oh, incidentally, I find it interesting that yesterday I was getting annoyed with our backyard neighbor's dogs who seemed to be going crazy barking up a storm all day long. I wondered to myself if perhaps we were going to have an earthquake because I remember learning in Chile that animals can sense that they are going to happen and tend to go crazy beforehand. Food for thought. Maybe living in California we should invest in a dog so that, besides the extra security, we can also benefit from its early earthquake detection abilities.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Primary Field Day

Yesterday we had a Primary field day at a park near our home. It was a blast with tons of games, races, water balloon tosses (aka fights), and even an obstacle course to challenge the kids! But, I have to say that the definite highlights of the morning were the tug-of-wars. First, the Junior Primary took on Brother H. all by themselves and then Sister P. stopped the firemen (who were exercising at the park) and asked them if they would be willing to take on our entire Primary. I got the latter on video and I love it. These kids are scrappers, I tell ya! Anyway, after games we handed out popsicles and water bottles. I thought the whole morning was a huge success and it's nice to have our third Primary activity of the year under our belts.

Army-crawling through the obstacle course.

Junior Primary taking on Brother H. in the tug-of-war.

...and then...

Firemen v. Primary

Rushing the firemen to console them after their resounding defeat in the tug-of-war.

A thrilled spectator.

Who likes popsicles?!

Popsicle #2. You should have seen the under side of these kids' arms. They were striped with red, orange, purple or green from the multiple popsicles we allowed them to indulge themselves with. :)

After half a popsicle that mostly just melted down his arm, Buddha opted for a more healthy (and less sticky) treat.

Dun Dun Duuuun....

Yep, it finally happened. Today, Bugga hopped the fence. He flew the coop. He escaped his almost-two-year sleeping prison. And now he's officially a toddler, sleeping in a toddler bed. So far, so good. He went to bed tonight without coming out once. Now, wish me luck tomorrow during his nap time. That will be the clincher. Buddha and Bugga will be starting swimming lessons tomorrow, so hopefully that will help wear Bugga out before naps and then, cross your fingers, maybe he'll just zonk without any shenanigans. Toodle-oo.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Straight From the Source

I read this same questionnaire on my friend's blogs and I couldn't help but contribute Buddha's answers to the mix (especially for journaling purposes). It's so fun to question children. Their answers are so honest and without guile. Things like this always put me in mind of the church video where they asked kids different gospel-related questions. Oh, I think it's called "Out of the Mouths of Babes." Hilarious!! Anyway, I wrote everything exactly as Buddha said it. I wish you could hear the way he says things. It makes them that much funnier. But this is great as-is. Enjoy!

  • Q: What's something that Mommy always says to you?

A: I don't know.

  • Q: What makes Mommy happy?

A: Taking pictures.

  • Q: What makes Mommy sad?

A: Disobeying.

  • Q: How does Mommy make you laugh?

A: You make funny faces, like this ... (squishing his face).

  • Q: What was Mommy like as a child?

A: She was growing up into a Mommy and she got a baby!

  • Q: How old is your Mommy?

A: I don't know ... twenty seven!!

  • Q:How tall is your Mommy?

A: This tall (stretching hand up to ceiling but not quite making it past my chest).

  • Q: What is Mom's favorite thing to do?

A: Take pictures. Going somewhere where it has a fox. (???)

  • Q: What does Mommy do when you're not around?

A: She has quiet time.

  • Q: If Mommy was going to be famous, what would it be for?

A: Daddy.

  • Q: What is your Mommy really good at?

A: Driving. Sporting (???). Taking pictures. Feeding foxes (???).

  • Q: What is Mommy not very good at?

A: Taking spiders and eating them. That's not good. (????????????)

  • Q: What does Mommy do for her job?

A: Your job is when your work is done ... and taking pictures.

  • Q: What is Mommy's favorite food?

A: Tamales. Fruit strips.

  • Q: What makes you proud of your Mom?

A: Racing on a horsey and on a race truck and in a race car. And even a slow car in a race. (???)

  • Q: If Mommy was a cartoon character who would she be?

A: A Word World Pig! (Thanks a lot, Buddha).

  • Q: What do you and your Mommy do together?

A: We wash dishes. Laundry.

  • Q: How are you and Mommy the same?

A: We go and drive and I wish I could be in the front seat.

  • Q: How are you and your Mommy different?

A: Heavenly Father made us different.

  • Q: How do you know Mommy loves you?

A: Hugging. Kissing. Saying sorry.

False Identities, Teeth Relief and Genius Moments

One nice thing about having a still-flabby, jelly bowl, muffin-top, post-baby tummy (yeah, I know, Bugga is almost two now) is that I can pass convincingly as a pregnant lady and score one of the coveted "expectant mother" parking spots at Babies 'R' Us. No hate-filled glares for me. Just knowing glances and sympathy smiles from other heavy-laden mothers. Ha! (Don't hate me, pregnant readers).

So today during our daily chat in quiet time, Buddha and I again discussed the possibility of him losing his two front teeth. I have a friend in our ward here whose daughter lost her two front teeth due to an accident when she was a toddler. I asked her at church yesterday if she noticed any speech problems or anything. She said they were never even concerned about that and their dentist told them a baby bridge would be silly. Their daughter also has no speech problems and she's turning six this year. However, they said losing her teeth did produce one bad side effect and that is that she won't smile because of all the comments she gets (and has gotten) about her missing teeth. Armed with this new knowledge, I decided to start preparing Buddha and talking with him about how people might react and how he can still smile even without teeth. He, however, has come up with an entirely different solution altogether. He told me today about this button they have inside hospitals. You go in, you go up to the top of the hospital in an elevator, you find the button that says "Two Grown-up Teeth," you push the button then go back down the elevator and run out of the hospital. I love children's imaginations. I was amused by and impressed with his story (or alternative, in his mind) that he came up with so spontaneously.

I also talked with Dr. Good again today and she said she would monitor the teeth without charging me office visits (I'd only pay for x-rays which are a mere $25), and if/when the occasion arises, she'll extract the teeth for free. I think The Chief and I, without even discussing it really, are pretty much against the installation of a baby bridge. And she even echoed today the thought that I had had after seeing Dr. Baker: "Why not just take the teeth out and then wait to see how Buddha does before you go installing expensive, and possibly unnecessary, mouth equipment?!" Hallelujah! It's nice to feel a little peace about this whole thing and I told Lori (Dr. Good) that she's an angel in the dental community for being willing to do stuff for us free of charge. We definitely feel like Heavenly Father is guiding us in the right direction (and to the right people) and has been since Buddha took his little nose-dive (or, more appropriately, mouth-dive). We appreciate all your advice and help (especially you, Cody). I guess we'll probably be singing "All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth" for many more years than most people, but we're okay with that since it's a cult favorite. :)

Well, Buddha and I talked for a little longer and then I told him that it was time for Mommy to go work on editing pictures while he finished quiet time with his toys. He said, "No! Just 10 more words, Mommy!" I laughed and asked him what on earth he expected me to be able to say in ten words and he immediately rattled off, "Go up, go down, push button and run out hospital." I laughed again and then nearly chocked on my chuckles when I discovered that what he had articulated so blasted fast was, in fact, 10 words. It's a relief to know that he takes after his Daddy's side of the family with his propensity for numbers.

Another "knock-me-off-my-chair" moment happened last night when Daddy wrote words for Buddha on a Doodle-Pro and Buddha sounded out the letters and read them himself, without any help. Our three-year-old son can read! Basic words, mind you, but he can read. He read "exit" and "can" and, oh bother, I can't remember any more.

Well, that's enough ego for one day anyway. I'd best step down from my high horse quickly before the Lord finds some embarrassing way to unseat me. Today has been a good day.

Friday, July 18, 2008

To Pull or Not to Pull?

We are currently faced with the decision of whether or not to pull Buddha's front teeth out. The wire splint was taken off this past Monday and the dentist who has overseen this whole trauma didn't seem too optimistic. She said the tooth is still really loose, but she seemed to think that it might solidify in place once the swelling around the nerves goes down.

Today, however, we took the boys to see their dentist, Dr. Baker, for the first time. He is their dentist because he accepts our dental insurance plan. Otherwise we might have stayed with the emergency dentist, Dr. Good, who initially took care of Buddha. Anyway, Dr. Baker says that both teeth have to be pulled and we have to shell out another $550+ for a baby bridge so that Buddha doesn't develop a speech problem. I was shocked, first of all because only one tooth was ever in question and now suddenly it's the two front teeth that are no good?! And second, because here we already spent $500 dollars trying to save the tooth. Dr. Baker says that the tooth was pushed back too far to have ever had any hope of saving it. And if that's the case, then I really don't know who to be more upset with - Dr. Good or Dr. Baker? Dr. Good shouldn't have tried to save the tooth in the first place if it was too far gone. And is this "baby bridge" that Dr. Baker is pushing really necessary? Or is he just feeding on parental guilt and protectiveness? Does anyone out there have any experience with this sort of thing? I need some advice here. I don't want to cause my child to develop a lisp or anything, but I'm also worried that we're being taken advantage of by these dentist who could be pushing sales over necessity. One of the assistants tried to sell me a $12 box of baby teeth wipes that I could "use on the little one until he's 4 or so and can use a toothbrush." I kindly thanked her and then informed her that my one year old already knows how to use a toothbrush and does very well on his own, thank you very much. $12 for 12 days of teeth wipes. Unreal!

Well, that last was a tangent. So, advice people. I am in need!

Flabby Arms

Buddha and I were having a great conversation about muscles today. He was emphatically declaring to me that his muscles are bigger than mine. So I asked him, "Buddha, if your muscles are bigger than mine, then how come my arms are bigger than yours?" His response? "No! You have little muscles in a big arm. I have big muscles in a little arm. You have weird body things, Mommy."

It's pathetic how correct his unassuming statements are. I do have little muscles in my big arms and countless "weird body things." I love you, Buddha. You make me laugh every day!

Buddha's muscular arms

Mommy's little muscles

Added at 4:05pm:

I just showed Buddha the picture of "his muscles" and he said, "Those aren't my muscles! They're huge!" I replied, "Well, you told me you had big muscles." And he retorted forecefully, "Big is not huge. Big is big!"

Finding a Balance

My mind is stronger than my body.
My soul is stronger still.
But my family, well, it wins the lottery.
For them I will bend all three to His will.

I've been struggling a lot lately with finding a proper balance in my life. There are a few things I hands-down love to do like writing, reading, and photography. Then there are the things I need to do like cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. Then there are the things that I should be doing like making more of an effort to magnify my calling in the church, exercising on a regular basis, enriching my children's lives with daily educational experiences, speaking calmly and kindly to my family, and enhancing my marital relationship with weekly dates and heart-felt talks.

Well, you already know where I am - a little too much blogging, plenty of TV watching, not enough cooking, no exercising, and maybe quarterly dates. For the last three days, however, I have been dragging myself physically and mentally to the treadmill. And it's made a huge difference on my "betterment" outlook. They say 21 days will make a habit and I'm going to put the theory to the test. In an effort to boost my moral while running this morning, I came up with the little poem above. It was brain-bending, but in 40 minutes, I managed to come up with those four little lines. Woo hoo, Liz!

They mean a lot to me, those four measly lines, for my family truly is my greatest motivator in all things. I will exercise for them. I will be kinder for them. I will strive to live a righteous life so that I can live forever with them. I will cook for them, clean for them, teach them, love them, cry for them, laugh with them and give up myself for them. Why? Because I know how much my Heavenly Father loves me and I want them to feel that same love from me, their mother and wife. Without my family, life means nothing to me. If I can't give them my best self, what else do I have to offer? Is it easier said than done? Absolutely. But writing is my outlet and it seems to lend more weight to a matter if I write it down.

So, even if it means making spaghetti for the 300th time or only lasting 10 minutes on the treadmill before I have to hop down to break up a fight, I am going to try my darndest to be the best me. And I'll start right now by finishing up the laundry, and doing some dishes, and picking up toys, and scrubbing out toilet rings, and ... oh bother, hang it all! I guess I'll start with a nap - because we're all better people when we get enough sleep, right?

My motivation

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Diving Back Into My Hole in the Sand

Yesterday was a bad day. Buddha and I were at odds - to say the least - and that always puts me in a foul temper. In an attempt to leave the stress at home, I wrangled the kids into their car seats and steam-rolled my way to Trader Joe's for a few much-needed groceries. I parked fairly close and counted myself lucky to find an abandoned shopping cart sitting at the head of my space. I relocated the ruffians to their metal transport, locked the car and proceeded to wrestle my cart toward the store front. Real, breath-taking, muscle-burning wrestling. You see, I wasn't as lucky as I thought because the cart was actually a demon from my past come back to haunt me - a metal beast with an unwieldy nature, forged by Hell. It had a mind of its own and wheels that couldn't come to agreement on which direction to roll. As the intended driver of the beast, I quickly remembered (from my previous encounter with this exact devil-of-a-cart) that I was obsolete. Though I felt the futility of the act, I encouraged my foul temper to produce more adrenalin in an attempt to tame the beast, which, mind you, also carried my two children and their 65+ lbs. "Liz," you say, "you could have just switched carts and left the demon to be tamed by another." But, no, I was not to be bested...again. As I swerved and shoved my way through the store, huffing and puffing with the exertion, my cart would occasionally get the better of me and crash into another customer's cart. At this, I would chuckle nervously, apologize, and quickly set off in the opposite direction with my cart swinging and swaying wildly, gliding along sideways in a manner similar to a skier putting on the brakes. Taking these indirect routes to my groceries naturally added more time to this shopping trip that was supposed to be stress-free and my arms began to ache from the effort required to control my nemesis. In the end, however, I did manage to get all my groceries and as my cashier rang me up, I did a little dance and felt a burst of satisfaction at having maneuvered my arch-enemy through a crowded store without killing anyone (aside: they should turn this into a video game). My elation was short-lived and my spirit was crushed as soon as I discovered my missing purse, and, putting the pieces together, remembered that I had left it at home on the computer desk.


Once again I found myself apologizing and slinking away, only this time, in my haste, I effected a very graceless exit. I let my concentration slip for a moment and the beast took its revenge by slamming into the automatic door as we left, knocking it off its track right in front of the "cart man" who shot me a withering glance before he banged the door back into its rightful place. I hurried back to my car, thinking evil thoughts toward my cart, and once again wrangled the confused children into their car seats. I parked the demon right back where I found him and bade good luck to any who should be unlucky enough to find him. As I backed away, the "cart man" was heading toward the fiend and a fleeting stab of guilt passed through me for not returning my cart to the front of the store. As he struggled for control of the impish cart, however, I thought to myself, "Take that, you withering glancing man!" As we drove home, Buddha expressed concern for our absent groceries, worried that they would go bad. I told him we weren't going back as I was determined to stick my head in the sand and lick my wounds for a time before I ever went back to Trader Joe's. Next time I'll bring reinforcements in the form of...The Chief.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What are Hot Topics in Your House?

This morning I heard Buddha singing softly to the tune of The Itsy, Bitsy Spider, only I didn't recognize the words. So I tuned in to hear his rendition and this is what I was privy to:

"The itsy, bitsy Eczemo went up the water spout .... Out came the sun and dried up all the eczema ...."


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Happy Birthday to Liz!

By The Chief

We are all so lucky to have you in our lives. You are truly an amazing wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, blogger, photographer, primary president . . . the list could go on (I'm just not creative enough to continue it). I hope you had a wonderful birthday. Never forget that your boys love you very much . . . all three of us.

(I know it is kind of late in the day to be posting this, but I was working all day and Liz and I just got back from our date.)

Late Night Phone Calls & Big Mouths

Last night. Midnight. The Chief has fallen asleep yet again on the couch. I'm perched at the computer playing comment catch-up on my friends' and family's blogs. The air conditioning is running strong and I'm literally freezing to death (that's for you, Erin and Todd). After reviving my frozen heart, I get up to check the thermostat and find that it's 73 degrees in the house despite the thermostat's 75 degree setting. I calmly shut off the air conditioning, notify the sleeping Chief lump that our a/c must be broken, and settle back down on my warm computer chair where I've scheduled an extended stay vacation. A minute later my cell phone rings and immediately the thought jumps into my head, "Oh no. Who died?" I charge to my phone, thinking of my slumbering babes and how I'd love to keep them in that blessed state, and answer, much to the surprise of my brother, Unkey Dino, who informs me that this late night phone call is his attempt to secure the coveted prize of being the first to wish me a happy birthday. He thought to reach my answering machine. Darn single people - always staying up 'til all hours of the night and assuming that everyone else must be doing the same! Just kidding. Actually, it was a welcome interruption. I love talking to Unkey Dino. He has great dating stories to share and is funny and witty. Never a dull moment with him around...or lurking on the phone lines late at night.

This morning, when I gave Buddha and Bugga their chewable animal vitamins, Buddha pointed to his hippo and asked me what it was. I tried to describe a hippo to him, telling him they have large bodies and huge mouths and they like to be in the water. He likened a hippo's mouth to the lion's mouth from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which I found to be an astute observation, and then he said, "Daddy has a huge mouth like those big animals." Really. I'll have to ask him to show me his hippo mouth when he gets home from work today.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Calm Down!

This morning Bugga woke up crying at 7am. I ignored him for a little while, hoping he would go back to bed. After a few minutes of crying, I heard Buddha yell, "Bugga! CALM DOWN!" He yelled this over and over for a minute or so and pretty soon I didn't hear Bugga anymore. Then Buddha came dancing into the bedroom - his code for "I need to pee" - and I asked him if Bugga was asleep again. He was. I guess Buddha holds more sway with the little guy than I do. I'm glad he's obedient to someone anyway.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Me + Swiss Chard

Still going strong and likely to last forever. I'm in love.


Last week we hopped on an Express Jet and bobbed our way to Colorado Springs for a much-anticipated family reunion which was only about 13 years overdue. After a few hours chalk full of toddler-toting, air-travel stress, we arrived at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in time to order pizza and turn in for the night. The next day we greeted long lost family at a yummy sandwich lunch held on the terrace. After hugs, catching up, bragging about children, goofing off, and exclamations of surprise for those who've most definitely "sprouted like weeds," we returned to our room and waited for my parents arrival. We didn't expect them to come until later in the evening, but my dad ended up finding someone to sub for his class and they were able to get away early. They came in the afternoon and we promptly crashed their unpacking efforts by plopping down in their room for a lengthy visit. Buddha and Bugga were especially excited to see Unkey Dino and Uncle Josey. Bugga still talks about Uncle Josey. Dinner that evening was served at Mimi's Cafe. We were quite the crowd for them, even missing a few dozen people from various families who couldn't make it to our lovely family reunion (we missed you guys!). There's nothing like a delicious meal with lively conversation to make you feel truly satisfied. I love my family.

Uncle Josey and Auntie at Mimi's Cafe.

Giving Bugga a lemon at the restaurant.

We meant to play games that night after the kids got to bed. We even bought a monitor so my parents could listen for them from next door. Unfortunately, Buddha and Bugga had other ideas. Bugga figured out how to escape the pack 'n' play, which was a most untimely and particularly discouraging discovery considering the effort required to get it there (picture The Chief hauling two suitcases, two car seats and a heavy pack 'n' play through two airports on his own). Buddha, despite being exhausted, or perhaps because of his exhaustion, was extremely wired. Both little guys were thrown off by the strange surroundings and sleeping arrangements with all of us in the same room. Needless to say, it was well past their bed time when they finally fell asleep side by side in the second queen bed allotted to our room, illuminated by the glow of the television and soothed by a combination of white noise CD and air conditioner. And, sadly, everyone who could possibly have been interested in playing late-night games with us was most likely also asleep in their rooms. There's nothing like being able to say "there's always tomorrow" to make you sleep soundly. I love my family.

Daddy reading to Buddha, Bugga and Ari.

Thursday we were awakened bright and early by a knock at the door when my dad came to remind us that Uncle Luther, our resident CPA, was giving a financial presentation for all those interested in learning some good tips on managing money. I declined to go for two reasons: first, I wasn't even dressed and the rest of my family was still in bed asleep; and second, The Chief's dad is a retired CPA who is always willing to give us financial guidance. After discussing it with The Chief, we decided that I should go anyway to show support for my family. I would be taking family pictures of Uncle Luther's clan after the presentation, so The Chief volunteered to stay with the still-sleeping boys whilst I threw on some clothes and trudged up to the conference room for the presentation. I, of course, took my camera with me to see if I could snap any quality shots and improve my abilities in low-light situations. I admit that I did take lots of pictures and learn a lot about my camera, but what was even more exciting was all the amazing tips I learned from Uncle Luther's presentation. He is a brilliant man and I'm glad that I didn't miss the opportunity to learn from him. There's nothing like being surrounded by talented and intelligent people to make you feel buoyed up. I love my family.

"Pay thy Debt, and Live."

Uncle Luther is "the man!"

Here's what Finn thought of the presentation.

With questions asked throughout, the presentation went a bit long and family pictures were pushed back and squeezed right up next to the guys' golf tee-time. I talked with Eric and Aunt Kathy and warned them that the sun would be unforgiving at this time of day, casting wicked shadows across their faces and causing squinty eyes. A huge shady area would have been ideal. As it turned out, we didn't have time to find shade and we couldn't reschedule, so we made due. We went up to the resort's upper balcony and shot out over the valley with the mountains as a back drop. It was a lovely setting and, despite the poor lighting, I think we got some great pictures. As soon as the group picture was over, most of the men took off for their golf adventure while I took some smaller family pictures in a tiny shady corner of the balcony. There's nothing like preserving quality memories of loved ones. I love my family.

Mark and Nicole's kids.

Presentation. Pictures. Then back to my babies and the blessed air conditioning. Colorado Springs is not cool by any means. The Chief and the boys had had an uneventful morning of lounging and vegging and were rearing to go play. We threw on our swim suits, showered in a steady spray of sunscreen, grabbed some scratchy hotel towels and headed for the pool by the lake. Bugga face-planted in the parking lot just outside the pool area, giving himself a lovely, bloody fat lip which he proudly displayed throughout the remainder of the family reunion. I swear my boys bite the dust more than any other kids I know! Buddha and Bugga loved the kiddie pool (despite the cloudy, dirty water) and the water toys that kept floating by them. I stayed by the kids while The Chief lounged in the shade. Swimming didn't last long as it was soon time to return to the room and get ready for the next activity planned for the family reunion. The Chief stayed with Bugga while he napped and I took Buddha back up to the conference room for craft time. Aunt Denise (who, by the way, planned this whole thing and did a right good job of it, too), had some kid crafts and adult crafts all laid out and ready to go. After taking pictures for a bit while Buddha decorated a foam visor, I tried my hand at sticking calligraphy words to a tile. I don't know how else to explain that, so I'm sorry if it makes no sense. After a time, most everyone trickled back to their rooms to prepare for the evening's dinner at the Flying W Ranch. I was still in the conference room, finishing up my craft and I got to talk to my lovely cousin, Marianne. I was a nanny to her children one summer years ago. She was pregnant and suffering with gestational diabetes. I was too young and selfish to be much help to her, but I hope I lightened her load just a little. Her kids were definitely the objects of exclamations that first day as her oldest daughter, Rachel (who was just seven years old that summer I lived with them), is now 14 years old and taller than I...by a lot!! It was calm in that conference room as we chatted about all sorts of things from food storage to the Amish community that they now live in. There's nothing like sound people, good family and quiet conversation to make you feel grounded. I love my family.

Mommy and Bugga enjoying the murky toddler pool.

Surprisingly, Buddha was quite at ease in the water this go 'round.

Kid crafts.

On our way to the Flying W Ranch that evening, Buddha fell asleep in the beast of a rental car we were driving - a Crown Victoria. It was like navigating a boat through these little side streets. We fairly glided along and I don't blame Buddha for not being able to resist the lull of our "yacht on wheels." To give him more sleep time, we took a detour through the Garden of the Gods - a hike-able, clime-able, obviously drive-able rock garden filled with cool rock formations and people crawling all over them like ants. Jarem was going to do some rock climbing there with those who were in favor of it, but those plans were thwarted by the thunder storm that rolled in that afternoon - as it did every afternoon we were there. The drive was only 20 minutes or so and we were soon headed back in the direction of the Flying W Ranch. Upon arrival, we outfitted the boys in their bandannas and cowboy hats that Erika had given them earlier in the day. They were so cute! I went crazy with the camera while The Chief just plain went crazy. Watching two little boys while they wander in opposite directions and their mother looks on through the viewfinder of her camera can't be easy. Auntie, who is just a month or so away from her due date, had a scare when she started to feel contractions. She was promptly given a blessing and ended up being able to stay through the dinner and festivities. For us, however, things just kept going downhill. Bugga was flinging himself all over the place in that state of exhausted mania familiar to all mothers of toddlers. Buddha was whiny and tired. The MC kept droning on into the microphone and the din of 1200 people sitting down to a chuck wagon dinner together was overstimulating to all of us. After I plodded through the dinner line twice, once to get my food and once to get The Chief's, we settled down to eat. About 10 minutes later, though, Buddha's biscuit fell apart and he with it. I guess he tried to recover it from the ground but fell over backwards on his head instead. Seeing as how the ground was just a bunch of tiny rocks/pebbles, he came up with a spray of bloody spots decorating the back of his head. Not to mention the fact that he was screaming bloody murder over his broken biscuit. The Chief took him out and when he returned, Buddha just started crying all over again. I finally busted through the closed kitchen doors and begged another biscuit from a saintly Flying W worker who clearly remembered what it was like to have an exhausted, overstimulated and stubborn toddler screaming over a trifle. Alas, the new biscuit didn't appease him as he then started crying about his lemonade that he couldn't find. I gave him mine, but of course that wasn't good enough. So, we left. We were starting to get "the look" from our neighbors. You know, the one that says, "Enough already, shut that kid up." Buddha cried about his food almost the entire drive back. I kept trying to calmly talk him through his drama, but he kept coming back to his worry that someone else was going to eat his food. I assured him that no one would eat his food, but I made sure to omit the part about them throwing it away. Getting back to our beds, the a/c and the white noise defender CD was like emerging from fire into cool, calm, crystal blue water. We meant to play games again that night. There was even a scheduled game night. But, we ended up falling asleep as we waited for our kids to fall asleep. I woke up at 11:45pm, put on my pj's and roused The Chief enough to do the same before we both fell back into a fine slumber that lasted through the early morning. Ah, you've got to love hotel drapes. So thick. It stayed so dark in there as long as we kept those heavy drapes drawn and even the little ones were duped by the faux darkness enough to sleep in late. I've got to find some of those for their bedroom window! There's nothing like a long day filled with adventure, activity and drama to make you appreciate family and home. I love my family.

An authentic Western frontier town.

My little cowboys and their sexy chaperon.

Darling Bugga in his rough rider get up.

Buddha has a knack for finding drive-able toys anywhere we go - even in the Wild West!

Waiting impatiently for the grub.

Cowboys at the ranch.

The 4th of July, Independence Day, dawned bright and clear after the passing of the late thunder storm the previous evening. The morning was left free on our family agenda, so we packed up our diaper bag and headed for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Now, being as we live in San Diego and we have passes to the highly acclaimed and superbly fantastic San Diego Zoo, you might ask why we chose to visit the small zoo in Colorado Springs for our 4th of July day time activity. Well, I really can't give you any good answer. The Chief and I aren't good at being spontaneous. Some people were river rafting and some had gone to a local amusement park, but we settled on the zoo when Buddha told us that's where he wanted to go. I know, we're such pushovers. But truly, we did have some pleasant surprises, like how cheap everything was - entrance, stroller rental, feeding the giraffes.... Yep, that's right, when you first walk in, there's the giraffe exhibit, packed full of 12 + giraffes all waiting for little wafer-filled, out-stretched toddler hands. You could feed the giraffes four biscuits/wafers for just $1, so The Chief just kept shelling out the George Washingtons while the boys delighted in their close encounter with the long-necked beasts. And where was I? Well, behind the camera, of course, capturing the feeding frenzy on film. The rest of the zoo wasn't quite as exciting. The location is exactly on a mountain side, so all the exhibits were up and up and up. The day was surely in the 90's, at least, so what with the heat, the altitude and the climb, we were getting more of a workout than we bargained for. The mist-blowing fans were my friends, though I could have wished for more of them. There were a few more highlights, like Bugga and Buddha petting a baby Wallaby and Bugga trying to take it right out of the man's hands. Oh, and the view at the top, by the grizzly bear and moose enclosures, was breathtaking. Colorado Springs looked lovely from that vantage point - much better than it had looked when we'd flown in, anyway. It's a greenish valley nestled in and surrounded by the Rockies. Very Western and very dry and deserty on the outskirts where civilization and mountains are absent. After a quick and steep descent through the zoo, we made our way back to our car and prepared to return to the ranch to see what mischief the others were about. There's nothing like a good workout on a hot day with the best of company to make you appreciate your body and your biggest fans. I love my family.

Bugga reverently petting the baby Wallaby.

Mr. Independent - couldn't be truer.

Taking a snack break and heat break in the shade.

Cheyenne Mountain Resort as seen from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Still hiding in the shade. :)

At the zoo...tracking a squirrel.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....I guess that's not the best expression to use since we did actually visit a ranch. In this instance, I'm referring to our hotel. So, back at the hotel, we again took advantage of the blasting air conditioner to cool down and relax a while. Then we caught up with everyone at our "family olympics ." This was an hour spent on a grassy area competing in all sorts of races with our matronly Granny sitting at the finish line to welcome all contenders home. It bears mentioning that my cousin Kelly's daughter, Rachel, soundly defeated nearly everyone in nearly every event...and she's still in grade school! I guess there's something to be said for being the last child and the only girl. She's probably grown up learning to fend for herself and keep up with the brothers. Anyway, I digress. So all ages and stages in life competed in each event. In one particularly fateful race, Uncle Doug was racing against our own Papa and others when he bowled over little Buddha on his way back to the finish line. When Buddha stopped crying long enough to tell us what he was doing running across the field after these thundering bulls, his pitiful response broke our hearts, "I was just following Daddy." Oh how that little guy loves his Daddy. I wonder if I should start a "Battle Scar" journal for the boys. I could probably fill five whole pages, single spaced, right now. I've said it before and I'll say it again, these boys have more accidents than any kids I know. Ah, but there's nothing like some friendly competition in fresh mountain air to make you feel alive and invigorated. I love my family.

Bugga and Ari chumming around the "olympic" field.

There's Relentless Rachel on the far left - laughing as she beats the pants off her competition.

Bugga kept swiping the cone that indicated to the runners where to turn around.

Alex and Zachary - definitely brothers. Check out how in sync they are!

The "fateful" race. There's Uncle Doug on the left and you can see little Buddha running after Daddy on the right.

For the three-legged race, The Chief borrowed Jarem's leg.

After that, they were inseparable.

The men competing in the one-legged race.

Cousins Mark and Josh bearing down on the turn-around point in the sack race.

Ari helping his daddy take pictures of our field day.

After his accident, Buddha was quite content to referee from the sidelines.

Bravo Granny! She was our queen for the day and we all performed our best for her.

Here's Josey striking an interesting pose. He and Unkey Dino entertained Buddha and Bugga with their "Jim Carrey" faces all through the reunion.

Grandpa Sombrero is on the prowl, looking for an opportunity to launch a sneak attack on the boys.

The winner's circle.

After dinner, we all returned once again to the conference room for an Independence Day devotional given by my own dear brother, Unkey Dino. I honestly can't say what he spoke about (sorry, Unkey Dino) since I was busy watching my boys, making sure they didn't terrorize anything important in the room. I know that whatever he said was patriotic and I was sure to pay attention when he spoke to us in Arabic at the end of his "speech." He's amazing! Before Unkey Dino, I should mention that my cousin, Erika, had the children gather 'round close and she told them the story of our country's flag. Afterward she asked questions and threw out candy for correct answers. One question was "What shouldn't we do to the flag?" Buddha got some candy for his wise answer of "Don't tear it or tore it." After Unkey Dino, Granny spoke to us all and told us how much she loves and admires us. I think we'd all readily say the same about her. She's my good friend, she is. We've had our fair share of squabbles, but those are some of my best memories with her. I'll never forget the time she swore at me in Chile when we were fighting about who would get the upstairs bedroom. Teenager squared off against aged old lady and she whips out the only thing that could have stopped me in my tracks, "I don't care about the damn room" she yells. I think we laugh about that every time we see each other. After Granny, more testimonies were borne and then 4th of July paraphernalia was passed out for the fireworks festivities. There's nothing like a sacred gathering of family, with patriotism lauded and testimonies borne, to draw you closer to the Lord and remind you to be grateful for your liberties. I love my family.

Erika teaching the little ones to respect our country's flag.

Unkey Dino speaking to us in Arabic.

Granny baring her soul for her posterity.

Post-devotional, everyone congregated on the resort golf course for the fireworks show. Buddha spent the pre-show minutes running around in the grass, wielding his glow stick like a light saber at anyone and everyone. When the last light from the sun was extinguished we were first graced with the fireworks from a competing resort and then our own show began...and ended...and began again...and ended...and began again, etc. Seriously, the pauses were five minutes long and every time we would think that the show was over only to have to sit back down when another boom, scream and pop signaled the continuation of our frequently-interrupted display. Bugga sat in The Chief's lap and stubbornly refused to let The Chief's arms loosen from around him. He was soon fast asleep, succumbing to the fatigue of an action-packed day. The boys had no trouble falling asleep back at our hotel room that night and, after setting up the monitor in Granny and Grandpa's room next door, we finally got to go play late-night games with Josey, Zachary and Alex. We were all a bit loopy and couldn't even finish all ten phases of Phase 10. We laughed a lot and it was the perfect note to end our vacation on. There's nothing like fireworks, games, laughter and zaniness to make you feel complete at the end of a long day. I love my family.

Super bright flash, Mom!

Bugga and his glow sticks.

Dazed and confused...or just blinded.

Poor little sleepy guy!

Cool night shot of Daddy and sleeping Bugga.

Saturday morning we said good-bye to family as they trickled back to their lives in different States. We ate, we packed, we checked out, we filled the car with gas and returned it and then we boarded our plane and...waited and waited and waited. After about 20 minutes, our pilot notified us over the PA system that the winds had shifted, requiring us to take off from a different runway for which we were too heavy. He proceeded to inform us that we were going to have to sit there, in the plane, while they burned off an excess of 900 lbs. of fuel! My heart sank. Bugga was already having trouble and it was nearing 100 degrees outside. Without movement, the air inside the plane was warm and stale. While others expressed chagrin about the waste of fuel, I thought only of my travel weary boys and how long their patience would last. When we did start to taxi down the runway, I was aiding Buddha on the potty in the restroom - go figure. We raced back to our seats and got buckled in just in time. Take off was rough and so was our ascension into the heavens. I was gripping Bugga so tight while I cried and prayed our plane up over the clouds. I officially hate flying. I suppose it didn't help that we were in a tiny aircraft (two seats on one side and one seat on the other, separated by a barely-there aisle). We were getting batted around the sky, swatted at like a fly in a restaurant kitchen. I can handle regular turbulence, but when the plane shifts sideways and drops dramatically at the same time, ah, I go to pieces. I don't like feeling like I'm not in control, but what's worse is when you can picture your pilot in the cockpit struggling to hold the plane in control against the wicked air currents. Anyway, at some point I was able to relax and that's when I realized that Bugga had fallen asleep. Hallelujah! Our landing in San Diego was fine except for that bit of whip lash we all felt when our pilot realized after hitting the runway and breaking for a while that he was still going way too fast and literally slammed on the brakes. Buddha got a kick out of it, though, and made me laugh when he leaned forward grinning and doing his little growl laugh that indicates something has pleased him. It was pure heaven to step off the plane into lovely 73 degree weather with a slight breeze carrying the fresh ocean scent our way. We were home. There's nothing like coming home after a trip to make you feel safe and secure and all put back together again. I love my family, but this Humpty Dumpty is quite content sitting on her own wall at home.

Unfortunately for you (if any of you have actually made it this far into my saga), the story does not end here. You see, we grabbed our stuff, hopped in our car and bypassed our home on our way out of San Diego County and into Orange County. We were headed for a birthday party, but not just any birthday party. This was The Chief's dad's 75th surprise birthday party, to which we were going to be late. Oh well, we did eventually arrive and that's all that matters. The room where our party was seated at The Daily Grill was all decorated with balloons and candles and the table was covered in Skittles and Starburst. Cousins were running around and adults were chatting. Another table was brought for our family and we ordered and were delivered our food quickly. Cake was brought for the entire party and we sang Happy Birthday to Grandpa Bagel. Buddha somehow missed this and once again our son was in tears at a restaurant. He kept saying over and over that he wanted to sing Happy Birthday to Grandpa with a candle lit in his cake. He would not be consoled and I'm sure falling asleep in the car and being rudely awakened and dragged into yet another family affair didn't help. Finally I took him by the hand and led him up to Grandpa. I told Grandpa what Buddha wanted and he happily obliged by relighting the candle and sticking it into the last bite of his cake. Buddha and I sang to Grandpa and Buddha gave him a kiss on the cheek. All was right again in Buddha's little world. We ate, I took pictures, the boys played with their cousins and then we headed back to San Diego where we literally fell into beds - our soft, comfy, never-to-be-taken-for-granted-again beds. There's nothing like curling up on a soft, cozy bed at the end of a long, happy week to make you feel perfectly content. I love my...bed. Good night.

The birthday boy.

Everyone but Rich-E = pretty darn impressive!

Such a handsome couple!

I caught Buddha making off with some balloons.

Candy renegades.

Cousin Sissy and her daddy, Uncle J.

Bugga checking out Mommy's shoes.

Li and the adorable India.

India's big sis (and Buddha's frequently professed favorite cousin), V.

Caught red-handed with their fingers in the candy jar!

Daddy and Bugga goofing around.

Grandma and Grandpa's new Smart Car is also Buddha's new love affair. This car hug was totally impromptu!