Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Summer Camp

I was ready to skip summer camp this year.  I told my kids we probably weren't going because I hadn't booked our flights soon enough and the prices were too high and I wasn't going to drive to Ohio by myself with no other adult to help me drive.  Plus, it was so close after our California trip I was exhausted thinking about going away again.  They took it pretty well, but I still felt bad.  Even though they were acting like it was no big deal, I knew that they would have a great time if they went and I really wanted them to have the camp experience.  It would be the first year for my boy to go and it would be the last year for my girl to be a junior camper (next year she'll be considered a senior camper and they get to stay up later).  

As I am finally learning though, my plans aren't really my own, and God had other plans.  My mom decided to go to Ohio and offered to help me drive.  The camp director contacted me and let me know how much they wanted us there.  My mother in law had planned a day for us at Kings Island the day after camp ended and I didn't want to disappoint her by cancelling our trip.  So, to make a long story short, we went.  And I'm so glad we did.

Camp week is such a blessing.  I went as a counselor and I got to be with my bestie in the cabin with the oldest girls.  They were mostly Juniors and Seniors in high school or they had just graduated.  I had so much fun getting to know those girls.  I haven't really worked with older kids much seeing as my oldest is just 12, but they are awesome.  I loved it!  I hope I get the opportunity to do it again sometime. I feel like I was able to have some great conversations about real, meaningful things and they were so receptive to what I had to say.  

It was fun being able to see my kids having a great time too, but since I wasn't assigned to their age group I could kinda watch from afar unless they wanted to come find me.  My boy did come for hugs every day and to tell me all about whatever injustices he felt he was experiencing.  He didn't love every minute of camp, but there were a couple of older boys there who really made all the difference in his week.  One thing I love about our old church is the way the older kids look out for the younger ones and include them in things.  The ages really mix well and it doesn't feel like a high school vs middle school vs elementary mentality.  It is a wonderful thing to witness.  One highschooler saw my boy hanging out alone at free time and took him over to the game room and played with him and then took him to Candyland and bought him a ring pop.  To hear my boy tell it, it was like he won the lottery.  Another cool thing they do at camp is pair up the junior campers with a senior buddy.  They go to the little carnival that they put on together and that's usually the extent of it.  My boy's buddy totally went out of his way to hang out with him other times as well though.  It was so sweet and my son just thought this kid was the coolest, funniest person ever.  Those two boys seriously made his week and for that I am so thankful.  I'm glad he now has some nice, godly young men to look up to.  Now we just need to cultivate some relationships like that at our church in Florida.  My boy is going to student group this fall so I'm hoping that will help.  

My girl had fun too, she didn't really come see me too much though.  She was busy with her friends.  I missed getting to be with her age group in that sense because I feel like I really don't know what she did all week and didn't really get to know her new friends, but that's okay.  I know she likes not having her mom hovering around all the time.  I totally get that and I respect it.  

I was the camp photographer for the week so I had like thousands of photos to cull through.  I tried to just pull out some favorites of my kids and some of their friends.  Here is a super condensed photo version of our week!

Neither of my kids do the blob, but it's fun to watch.  That's the outside and inside of the lodge where the girls stay.  It's broken up into 'cabins' on the inside. 
Everyone passed the swim test and got to go in the deep end of the lake.  Whew!  They were so worried about this before camp!
One of the boys' cabins in the top pic.  The bottom is the lodge where some of the lucky few men get to stay and where the devotions for the counselors were held each morning before breakfast. 
You have to make quite a hike up the hill (I forgot how hilly Ohio is!) to get to the ropes course and the climbing wall.  I miss walking in the forest, it's so calming.
My boy did the wall but not the zip line.  My girl did both.  I think next year she will try to conquer the hard side of the wall.  That's one of her friends on it.
At the craft area.  The sight of my former near death experience.  They rebuilt it and it's much sturdier and more permanent now.
I love watching the kids do the giant slip and slide.  Dave always tortures the kids by spraying them.  My boy decided he didn't want to do it because he didn't want to hike up and down the hill to change into his swim trunks.  Oh well, that was the afternoon he hung out with the high school boy. 
All the juniors were just hanging out and watching while the seniors did the Steeplechase relay race.
My girl and her friends dressed up as Moses on Mt. Sinai for costume night.  That's my boy and his senior buddy playing foosball. 
The carnival prize table.  My boy won the most expensive prize, a remote control truck. That's my girl with her senior buddy.
The juniors do 'Anything Goes', a bunch of relay races.  They are so competitive and it's so fun to watch.
Love the reflection in the lake in this shot!
They ended with tug of war.  I love their faces in these pics!
Capture the flag.
All the junior campers together at the fire pit for a class.  I didn't get a pic of just the seniors. 
Proof I was there too!  And I am short, but I'm not that short...I think I was standing a step down from everyone else or something!  That's my cabin of girls on the top left.

I'm so, so glad we went to camp this year!  I hope we can go again next year.  In a way I'm kinda glad that our new church doesn't do a traditional camp or we'd be forced to choose between the two.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

California Love

We had so much fun in California, but it went way too fast.  After two awesome days in San Francisco we got up early and decided to go see the Golden Gate Bridge up close before we picked up our rental car.  It was such an unbelievably gorgeous day, which was awesome, but it was also Saturday and it felt like all of San Francisco was out and about and the traffic was insane.  What we thought would be a quick trip to the bridge and back turned into a multiple hour affair.  I had wanted to meet up with some cousins of mine who were out there as well and it just didn't happen and I was so bummed!  In hindsight we should've skipped the bridge, but as we all know, that's not how life works.  We got an Uber car to take us to the bridge and I really wanted to see the view that's more famous, you might know what I mean, it's from the other side of the city and there's a park there.  Anyway, our driver dropped us on the other side of the bridge but after we got out and walked to where we could see we realized it wasn't the famous view.  It was still amazing though, don't get me wrong.  We took some pics and then we were ready to go, but the driver had already left us and now we needed to get back to the city and we didn't want to pay for another Uber ride back because the ride there was much more expensive than we thought.  So, we decided we'd walk across the bridge and catch a bus on the other side.  Walking across the bridge all the way wasn't really part of the plan.  I did want to walk out on it to get a feel for how big it was, but yeah, we got the whole experience for sure!  It took a lot longer than we thought but thankfully it was such a beautiful day.  Then we got to the other side and found the bus stop only to find out that the bus route we needed would make like 2 transfers and it didn't come anytime soon and it was all super, super confusing and would've taken over an hour to get back to the hotel.  So we ended up getting an Uber after all only the first 2 drivers could not find us!  We were standing at a bus stop at a super busy spot that should've been no problem but I guess not.  It was so frustrating because the whole time we were thinking if all this nonsense hadn't happened we could be having lunch with my cousins right now.  Ugh, I'm frustrated thinking about it again.  Anyway, the 3rd driver found us and after the horrendous traffic we had to sit through to get back it was time to get our car and head out of the city.  

After all the business of that, I was ready for a nice drive and we were headed to Pacific Grove to meet up with a friend of mine.  When we were planning our trip I saw on Facebook that she was moving from Minnesota to California and I mistakenly thought she was moving to a suburb of San Francisco so I messaged her to see if she wanted to meet up for lunch or something while we were there.  Turns out Pacific Grove is right near Monterey, which is where we wanted to stay because we wanted to take the Pacific Coast Highway down the coast to LA.  When she found out our plans, she graciously offered to host us for a night at their new home!  I was so excited because 1. I hadn't seen her in about 13 years and we were really good friends (I was in her wedding!) so I wanted to catch up and meet her two little girls and 2. the hotels in that part of California weren't exactly in our budget. God always surprises me with how he works things out for us and I love that.  We had plans to meet them and go see a bagpiper on the beach and then head to dinner, but with all the craziness of our morning we missed the bagpiper.  They had gotten a sitter (no small feat considering they'd only lived there for like 2 weeks) so we could go out and we had the best time catching up over a delicious dinner followed by a walk to the beach for sunset.  After that we headed to Pebble Beach where we had drinks at Roy's outside by the fire pits.  They seriously could not have planned a more perfect night for us.  

The next day we went to Monterey to the aquarium.  They had just gotten season passes so they were able to get us in for free (God's hand again, because we would never have sprung for tickets to do that).  It was such a cool place and it was literally right on the water.  Later when I saw Finding Dory I couldn't stop thinking about it!  It is just so beautiful in that part of California.  I think that might be the only place in America I'd consider moving besides Florida, but don't worry, it's probably never happening.  I'm glad we have friends there to visit though!  We had lunch with them by the beach in Pacific Grove and it was just gorgeous there.  After that we headed out for LA to see more friends.  

We headed down the Pacific Coast Highway which is supposed to be the most beautiful drive in America. It did not disappoint.  It really is some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen.  Only thing is though, I sort of have this irrational fear of driving off a cliff. I'm fine if I'm walking near a cliff, I'm not scared of heights at all, but if I'm in a car, I just freak out.  I didn't really think about that when we decided to take that route.  And when you are going south like we were the passenger is literally on the edge of the cliff.  It was so terrifying!  I was white knuckling it the whole time.  I loved the view, but the drive was so windy and high up that we were both ready to find a new route about an hour into the 5ish hour drive.  But, there is no other route.  Once you are on it you're stuck.  And there's hardly any place to stop either.  We did find a random campsite type place where we stopped and I took 2 pictures.  That's it.  All that gorgeous scenery and I have a total of 4 photos, 2 taken from a moving car.  Oh well, I'll just have to remember it in my mind...or google it to see other people's photos whose are probably better than mine anyway!  

After the long drive we headed to our hotel in Seal Beach.  Our friends live in Downey, but we we wanted to be by the beach because, why not?  We got in late, but the next morning we were able to walk to a coffee shop and then to all the cute shops and on to the pier at the beach.  We headed over to see our friends and spent the rest of the day with them.  This is our friend who we saw last year in Orlando who has ALS, so any time spent with them is truly precious.  He had just celebrated his and his wife's 40th birthdays a couple days before we got there so some of their family was still in town so it was nice to see them as well. We also got to see other friends who were in town from Dallas to visit as well. These guys and their wives are all such amazing people and we just don't get to see each other enough.  It seems like there is never enough time in our busy lives, and now with our friend having such a limited amount of time, period, it's magnified.  I really wish we had taken more photos together. All I have is one really grainy iPhone pic, but I'm so glad we have that.  I will definitely treasure the memories.  Leaving them is always so hard because the reality of their situation hits you and it's heartbreaking.  And that's all I'm going to say because otherwise I'll become a teary mess as I type this.  I hope to see them all again soon.

I can't wait to visit California again. Maybe with the kids next time.  I really love it there! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

San Francisco Day 2

After my first day alone in the city, I was totally ready for day two.  I had originally wanted to take a bicycle tour, but once I saw the bike lanes, the hills and the traffic, I decided against it.  So I did a little research...and by research I mean I looked at like 2 brochures/maps that I had gotten from the hotel lobby and decided to take a ferry ride to Sausalito.  Like I said, planning ahead is not my thing and you know what, it always totally works out in the end.  I put on my walking shoes and headed down to the concierge to see if he thought I could walk to the Ferry Building from our hotel.  He mapped it out for me and said it would be a nice 20-30 minute walk.  It was a nice walk, but it was through the more businessy part of the city.  It was like I was in a totally different city from the day before.  Once I got close to the Ferry Building there were lots of street vendors and I ended up getting some really cute handmade earrings for only $5 (totally in my budget!).  The Ferry Building is right on the water and is one of the locations the ferry boats go in and out from.  It was a fun place with lots of shopping vendors and little restaurants inside.  It reminded me a little bit of Findlay Market for my Cincinnati friends.  I hadn't bought my ferry ticket ahead so I found the kiosk you buy them from outside and of course I had just missed a ferry by like 5 minutes so I had time to kill waiting for the next one.  I ate at one of the little restaurants inside that had a view of the water. 

The ferry ride was fun, but I definitely preferred the fishing boat ride from the day before.  It was SO windy!   The weather that day was not sunny and nice like the first day either.  It was completely foggy.  The Golden Gate Bridge was completely covered and if I hadn't seen it the day before I would've been so disappointed.  At least I got to experience all the different crazy weather they have out there in the short time I was there!  Once I got to Sausalito I could see why everything thinks it's so charming.  I had heard that it was like a European town.  It was very cute and had lots of upscale shops.  I was bummed though because I was really excited to see the community of houseboats they have there, but it was really far from the ferry stop and I didn't have time to walk that far and there was no public transportation there.  It rained for a while so I found a coffee shop to hang out in.  I did score a Christmas ornament at another little shop there too.  We have a tradition of getting Christmas ornaments as our souvenir when we go on trips.  It makes it fun to remember places we've been when decorating our tree!  After shopping I just went for another walk to get a feel for the town and to take some more photos.  I got to the ferry stop early because I didn't want it to fill up and me to not be able to get on.  After another windy ride back to the Ferry Building I was exhausted.  I was originally planning on walking back to the hotel but decided I didn't have the energy for that.  Luckily I was able to catch a bus right across the street and it took me just 2 blocks from my hotel.  

The fog had burned off by the time I took the ferry back.

After a brief rest at the hotel, my hubby was done with his conference and ready to go out!  It was so nice to be able to hang out with him in the city for a change.  As much as I enjoyed my time alone, I really prefer having someone I love to share the fun with.  I was so excited because we were finally going to ride the cable car.  I also decided to ditch my big camera at this point because it's so heavy and I was done with lugging it around.  The cable car was SO fun!  I loved it.  I wanted to be one of the people hanging off the side but there weren't any of those spots open so we were standing and holding on on the inside.  If we go back to San Fran someday I want to go to the Cable Car Museum because I think it would be fascinating to find out more about how they work.  We took the cable car from our hotel all the way down to Fisherman's Wharf where we got off and headed to dinner.  I can't remember the name of the place we ate but it had a nice view of the water and good seafood.  Which I realize could be almost any place down there.  We walked all around after dinner too and then decided to get an Uber back to the hotel since my hubby doesn't love the bus like I do.  Our Uber driver was so nice and he even took us down Lombard Street (the crooked street).  He also recommended we go get drinks at this cool bar that was near our hotel, so after he dropped us off we took his advice and headed there.  It was called the Redwood Room and it was awesome.  The whole place was made of Redwood and was built in the 1920's.  They also had these cool paintings that had eyes that would move.  It was supposed to be like an Italian soap opera.  I am not doing it any justice, but trust me, if you are in the city, go have a drink there.   

Gosh, I've only written about one day and this is like a novel!  I'll be back to finish up our vacation photos soon!  

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Day Alone in San Francisco

My husband very rarely travels for business, so when I found out he might get to go to San Francisco for a conference I was determined to go with him because I've been wanting to travel there for a long time.  We had wanted to get out to California anyway to visit friends who live in LA, so when we found out that yes, he was definitely going, we decided to make it into a true mini vacation by adding on a few days and driving down the coast from San Francisco to LA.  After all the many travel details worked out (I had forgotten how much I hate planning trips!) and with the kids at Grandmama's house for the week, we were ready.  

Since my husband was going to be busy at his conference for 2 days I wasn't really sure what I was going to do by myself.  I had never traveled by myself before and although I have been to many big cities I wasn't really sure how I'd feel about doing things alone.  Well, my fears fled pretty quickly with a whole beautiful, sunny day ahead of me.  I looked at a few brochures and websites, but since anyone who knows me knows I hate planning ahead, I decided to wing it.  I set out on foot with my camera and my comfy shoes.  I had the most amazing day!  Turns out, I kinda dig hanging out in the city alone.  Who knew?  And I loved San Francisco.  People had told me I would, but I didn't quite believe them.  They were right though, it's a fantastic city.  

Our hotel was centrally located right next to Union Square.  I got a map from the concierge and headed toward Chinatown which he said was only about a 10 minute walk from there.  It was a gorgeous day for a walk and I have always loved cities so it was fun to just look around and take it all in.  Chinatown did not disappoint.  It was so colorful and vibrant!  I loved all the shops with their waving lucky cats and imported goods.  I got a souvenir for my girl there.  I loved all the lanterns everywhere.  I would love to see it at night with them all lit up.  The architecture of the buildings was really fun too.  It really was like you were in a whole other city.  One perk of being alone that day was that I could stop as many times as I wanted to take photos without it bothering anyone.  And I stopped a lot.  I also could go into any store I wanted and take as long as I wanted.  For someone who usually has reluctant shoppers with her this was heaven! 

After I got through Chinatown I don't remember exactly where I was, but it was still pretty.  I think part of it was Little Italy.  The best part was that I finally got to see the pointy building I'd been watching out for all day.  I still don't know what it's called, but you know the one that's famous from the skyline.  

After walking for what felt like forever, I knew I wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge next.  We flew in late at night and you couldn't see it from our hotel so I just felt like I wouldn't feel like I was really experiencing San Francisco until I saw it.  So I decided to hop on a bus to take me to Fisherman's Wharf.  The bus system there is fantastic.  I can see why if you lived there you wouldn't need to own a car.  And thank goodness for Google maps making it so unbelievable easy to figure out which bus to take to get where.  I love taking the bus...call me weird, but I used to ride the bus when I worked in downtown Cincinnati and I loved it then too.  I like having someone else take me where I need to go and I like the huge windows and the people watching too.  Anyway, after a brief ride, I hopped off a couple blocks from the Wharf.  

It was definitely more of a tourist destination, but I finally got to see the bridge!  Yay!  The shops were fun too and the people watching was excellent.  I walked all up and down and wasn't really sure what to do next.  I didn't want to eat at a restaurant by myself, but I still had tons of time.  There was a fishing boat there that was giving tours of the bridge and around Alcatraz and I told myself if there was still room on it by the time I walked back by it I would take it.  Well, they still had room and after getting an iced tea at In-N-Out Burger, they lured me in with their promise of a clean bathroom on board.  I had so much fun on that boat trip!  It was my favorite thing I did in San Francisco!
It was so windy and cold, but luckily they had blankets we could wrap up in.  There were fun people on the boat too.  One couple I sat next to were locals just out enjoying the beautiful day.  The bridge was amazing up close too.  I loved seeing if from a boat, it was a really unique perspective.  And I totally thought all this time that the bridge was bright red.  It's not.  It's like a rust color.  

After going around the bridge, they took us all the way around Alcatraz.  To be honest, I wasn't really all the interested in that part beforehand, but it was incredibly interesting, and if we go back someday I'm definitely taking a tour of it. 

It was fun seeing the sea lions sunning themselves.

After the boat trip I walked down to Ghirardelli Square.  There is a park in front of it with a great view of the bridge and the bay.  There was also an old ship docked there.  They give free tours of it, but they close early and I just missed it.  Another thing on the list for next time.  The shops at the square were really cute and of course, I had to get some chocolate.  I decided to go for ice cream and I thought it was kinda funny how they serve it on a plate like that.  It was delicious.

I had such a fun day alone in the city!  I headed back to the hotel to meet my husband for dinner because he had scored a ticket for me to the party thrown by the conference he was attending.  It was at the courthouse and had open bar, a live band, and tons of food.  It was a great end to a great day!  I can't believe that was only the first day of our trip.  I've got tons more to share, so I'll be back soon with the rest.  


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