Scavenger Hunt

Ansel’s scavenger hunt. 

My favorite part, paper no. 1: “Yay! You found clue 1.”


T-shirt design

Last year, Oliver’s school had a competition to design the graphic for next year’s t-shirts. All fourth graders were included in the competition and five favorites were chosen. Oliver’s design was included and I remember him coming home letting me know. He said something like, “My design was chosen and now we’ll wait to see who wins. It’d be cool if mine won, but you never know.” Later in the week, those five favorites were voted on by the PTA board and Oliver’s design won! He was so excited! They’ve now been made into t-shirts for this year. 

My favorite: “Be Strong • Try Hard.” It’s fun to see his name on the back as the designer. 

My friend who prepares the shirts for the school said so many people are digging the design that they’ve asked to buy one for themselves! 


Comments from Ansel

This 6-yr-old is a delight to have around.

This kid says some great stuff. I love the way his mind thinks. Here’s a sampling of his observations.

- “Mom, you know what? You would die if you didn’t pick your nose, because then you couldn’t breathe”...pause... “But I guess you could open your mouth and breathe.”

- “I wish we still had three hour church. Home church is so boring!” This is when Jess and I realize that our lessons at home need to be spiced up a bit. 

- “Did you know that Alexa is smarter than Siri?”

- “Mom, I like to wake up slow.”

- “Can we get pho tonight?” This kid loves a bowl of Pho. 


And just like that, he’s 3!

Three years ago, Ian joined our family. 

He is such a joy to have around. He’s inquisitive, busy, fun, and funny. He loves a good joke (even if he doesn’t get it but other people are laughing so it must be funny!). He likes to wrestle with his Dad. He knows the snacks that he likes (string cheese, berries, granola bars, and marshmallows - which I feel are somehow better than candy because they are puffy...). He lets us know when it’s time to get dressed or when he’d like to nap on the couch rather than his bed or what kind of cake he wants “with lots of frosting.” He has mastered using the toilet. He’s three and he’s the best. 


15 years

This summer, while vacationing in CA, I watched Jess capture Ian on his camera at beach, give Ansel pointers on how to boogie board, and cheer Oliver on as he caught waves. "How'd I get so lucky to find Jess?" I thought to myself. I don't know how, but I do know I am beyond grateful for him and all his goodness. Happy 15th to us!
Dinkelsbuhl, Germany, 2019


Vielen Dank Deutschland

Back in July, we spent a little over a week in Germany with some of Jess’s family. It was a beautiful trip full of many different experiences. I’ve been waiting to get Jess’s photos from his phone, but we’ve never been able to get to it, so photos from my collection will have to suffice. Here we go!

After a 12 hour trip, we arrived in Germany and waited for our rental car. The kids were in good spirits even after the long day and a bit of a delay when we found out our luggage had been misplaced. 

Our first stop was Bad Kissingen. Jess and his family lived in this spot when he was a kid. He has such fond memories of the place. From what I can gather, it’s a town based around the healing elements of the mineral waters. Many people are prescribed a visit to the town when they are in need of restorative health. We tried the water. Here are the kids’ reactions. Mine was the same :)

Jess has so many good photos of this stop, but alas, we are left with Ashley’s collection. 

Between this stop and the next we went on the Zugsptiz and rode a gondola to the top of the Alps. Wow! We then visited King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle. Another wow! Photos on Jess’s camera. I better come back and add them. 

Then we were off to Berchestgaden. This town is beautiful. Right at the border of Germany and Austria. During the Third Reich, it housed Hitler’s administration (very comfortably). We took a ride up to the Eagle’s Nest, walked through the corridor and went up the elevator.  Jess went with his family on a special four hour tour of the place and learned a lot. The kids were eager to see it, so I took them. 

This place was Hitler’s spot high in the mountains. He only visited a handful of times. It was a feat of engineering and man power to complete. 

The views were breathtaking and thankfully it was a clear day. We could see over to Austria!

The next day we visited Salzburg and the Hellbrun Castle and Fountains. 

This place was such a riot. Lots of fun and we all got wet. 

Here’s Ian doing his best, “I’m two, but I totally get how this audio tour guide works. And NBD, there’s a unicorn behind me.”

We then went to Delbrunn and rode on what felt like the longest Alpine Slide. The views! I never tired of the views.  Photos on Jess’s phone...

Back in Berchestgaden, we visited Konigsee. The water was beautiful. 

Ian fell asleep surrounded by the quiet of the forest. If gnomes live anywhere, this is the place. The forest floor was soft and ferns were everywhere. 

We walked around town and fed the birds. 

We visited the Salt Mines here which was a favorite activity of mine. The slides were awesome. Here’s part of our group enjoying the thrill!

The adults then went to Dachau to visit the vestiges of history and a past concentration camp. Driving by the place was somber. I dropped Jess off and the kids and I played in a nearby park. 

Afterward we drove to Dinkelsbuhl to stay the night. We walked the streets and found a stork nest. See up on the orange roof? 

The next day was spent in Rothenberg, a centuries-old, walled city. 

We visited the Medieval Crime Museum, basically a Torture Museum. The huge necklace in the display on the right was used for people who weren’t reverent at church. “Hey you there, wake up and listen!! Oh yeah, and wear this necklace for the rest of the service!”

Neat views. 

Earlier in the week, Ansel was playing near some huge tires (we were at a restaurant and the little kids needed a break, so being the good mom that I am, I let them play in the huge tires across the street). Unbeknownst to us, wasps had made there home on said tires and Ansel was attacked and bit 4-5 times. His face was swollen for three days. He was a trooper and by this day was back to 100%. 

We finished off our trip by heading back to Badkissingen. Our last activity was a swim in the pool that tops all pools. 

The water slide was awesome and self directed. See how Jess is coming down after Ansel? I kind of loved how Germany assumed we all know how to take care of ourselves so endless warnings and excessive rules were unnecessary. (Can you tell I have some opinions about some of the rules at our neighborhood pool? 😆)   

And here we are, bound for home. It was such a great trip. The kids were such good travelers. I’d take them again in a heartbeat! And thank goodness for screens during the long plane ride. Made the experience so much better for all!


Before reporting on summer, this...

Thank you Lays Potato Chips. You gave us ample fun on our trip to CA. 

Who wore it best?


This guy

Today, I had to lie in bed and Ian hung out with me most of the day. I was going through some 24-hour bug.  We read books and when I didn’t have the energy to read anymore, Ian kept grabbing new books, climbing up next to me, his back leaning against my torso, looking at the pictures. I watched as his eyes studied each page. His eyes darting back and forth and then stopping to stare at one or two details. Then he’d turn the page, pressing against the paper then finishing off the flip with his pointer finger and thumb, eyes open wide at the curiosities of the next illustration. We usually don’t have moments like this because life gets busy and, when I’m well, my kids like action! But today was slow and, although a summer stomach ache is never fun, it allowed me to watch this little two- (soon to be three-) year old do his thing.

Ian wants to be involved in it all. He waves to neighbors and chats with them. One afternoon as my neighbor pulled into her driveway I heard Ian yell, “Excuse me CC, where did you go?”

The other day we went to Toy Story 4 and 45 minutes into the show Ian said, “Mom, let me see your watch. It looks like it’s time to go home.”

He usually asks where Ansel or Oliver is and always plays with the bigs kids especially when friends are over. One of our neighbor 7-year-olds recently told me, “Ian is my favorite!”

He’s one great kid!


England with sistahs

For a week in May, I was lucky enough to spend time with three of my fours sisters in the land across the Atlantic. We flew the 9.5 hours to England with ease and even got some sleep (thanks to my brother's comfort tips for a plane ride). We hit the ground running and had the opportunity to visit a great many things. Lots of photos of our adventures below.
We stopped at Kensington Garden to find the Peter Pan statue. Right afterwards we heard the parakeets and stopped to feed them peanuts, apples, and walnuts right out of our hands! Jess, Oliver, and I tried to find this spot when we visited last year but couldn't see it. Needless to say, we had only missed it by a 3 minute walk.
The next day we visited Oxford. This was on my bucket list, and I loved it. The Bridge of Sighs and the streets were as cool as I had imagined.
From there we visited the Cotswolds. While checking out a church in Bampton that was used in the television series Downton Abbey, we were interviewed by the BBC about tourists visiting small towns and how that affected the citizens there. I used the word "visceral" and thought I had nailed the interview. My sisters said some much wiser stuff so I may not make the cut for the show :).
The Arlington Row of cottages was perfectly picturesque.
The next day we ventured to St. Paul's Cathedral and went up the 500+ stairs to visit the top. This was a highlight for us, even though we almost skipped it.
We then visited the Tate Modern. I sent this photo in a text to Jess saying I liked this Matisse. He replied with, "I can make one of those for you when you get home." Haha!
That night we went to Hamilton. This was history told to you in lightning speed. Wow! There is no way anyone could fall asleep during this play. 
We hit the ground running the next day with a whirlwind visit of the British Museum. 
And then we were off to the Chelsea flower show. I tried to buy some iris bulbs but my sisters informed me that there was no way that they were going to allow them through customs. Good to know!
We relaxed at afternoon tea and I loved the English Mess (the dessert in the mini glass cup). 
Then off to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.
We found the Holbein that Oliver loves because of the neat 3-D skull at the bottom. If you view this painting at different angles, the skull looks different. My sister was a great tour guide in this museum with a wealth of knowledge.
Then we visited Westminster. This stop made me realize how confused I am about English royalty and the history of the nation. Mary, Elizabeth, Henry, Edward: names I've heard and thought I had a hold on but I need to seriously review.
The day after that, we visited the London Olympic Park and took our best 'Boy Band' photo next to West Ham United stadium. This spot was a stop off of the tube and very open. There were a lot of families here with their kids riding scooters. It was fun to see the contrast from the busy streets of Covent Garden where we stayed.
Here we rode on the longest slide in the world, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, conceived by one of my sister's favorite artists, Anish Kapoor. Its a 40 second ride and at some points you go about 15 mph. I was kind of scared, but it was all fun!
Our last day was spent enjoying St. James Park and then we were off to the Charles Dickens Museum. This stop was a detour from our original goal to go to Hampton Court (due to a disturbance at Waterloo station), but it did not disappoint.
It was such a fun trip with three of the best people around. Everyone got back home safely to finish up all of the end-of-school stuff with their kids. I told Jess I could do this very thing once a year. I mean, why not? 😉