Monday, August 31, 2009

Finally!

Hayley Reese Kennedy

The stats!

What a fun day! Natalie went to the doctor this morning and her blood pressure was still high. So she sent Natalie and MRK home for their bags and then to the hospital. Bentley and Tanner came over here and we had a fun day waiting for Hayley's arrival. We went to the hospital around seven. The boys were a little stand-offish at first, but they warmed up in no time (I think it had to do with the Transformer walkie talkies that "Hayley" gave them.) Bentley even said to Savannah, "I just barely bet Hayley and I already love her."

The initial meeting

Maybe she's not so bad if she gives us toys

Bentley gives in and then doesn't want to give her up

Tanner is loving her too

I think they want to keep her

Sage and Hayley


Haven was seriously devastated when she found out that only siblings could go in the room (literally sobbing!)

It's hard to decide which one is more beautiful

Hayley with mommy

Hayley with Savannah

They are already amazing big brothers!

Hayley with daddy

Sage, Eliza and Ryan holding Hayley


Brooke and the Spuhlers holding Hayley

What can I say?

Have You Heard of These?

When I heard that these babies were coming out, I was very excited. Who doesn't want to simplify the laundry process? They are actually pretty affordable when you get them on sale, and I was impressed with the different scents. (I chose Tahitian--kind of a coconut smell.) They are great because you just toss one in the and it acts as detergent and fabric softener in the washer, and then the sheet transfers to the dryer as an anti-static sheet. So the ease is there, but I wasn't overly pleased with the outcome. I'm sure my clothes were clean, but they did not have that super clean smell. I have now used the entire box and just took my first post 3-in-1 load out of the dryer. As soon as I began to lift that load out I was instantly hit with that clean laundry smell. I really missed that. I'll have to give these a thumbs down. I'll now be on the look-out for a product that will put my folded clothes away as well as hang things in my closet.



Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Haven Conquers Kindergarten


Haven started kindergarten yesterday. I can hardly believe it. She was beyond excited to start. She woke up early and felt like it took forever before it was time to go. She wasn't at all nervous and I barely got a peck on the cheek before she took off to play with the other kids before class began. When we picked her up, she eagerly told us about her fun day and asked when she got to go back.

What a big girl!

Haven showing off her new backpack


Ryder with Haven--he insisted on taking his backpack to the school

Haven wasted no time heading for the playground

Haven with Maya and Bella

Bella, Maya and Haven

Ryder was sad that Haven was at school, but had no problem occupying himself


As a side note, Savannah and Sage also started school yesterday. They are both in high school now! Unbelievable. They, however, refused first day of school photos. What can I say? I probably would have too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Post #200!!

Can you believe it? This is my 200th post. And for your reading pleasure, I am going to list 200 things that you probably don't know about me!

1. If you don't already know this, I will now inform you that I would never subject you or me to 200 things about me. I probably wouldn't even tell you two. Mainly because that would be terribly boring (I'm getting sleepy just thinking about it).

Actually, in honor of the fact that I can think of 200 things I would rather do than go camping, I am going to post about our most recent family camping trip to Mt. Charleston.


We arrived as it was getting dark and pulled into the last available camping spot!

We quickly set up and got the fire going (and by "we" I mean Eric)

We roasted hot dogs (except our resident hot dog hater, Sage, who made a grilled cheese) followed by the traditional s'mores

Ryder enjoys his breakfast the next morning

Ryder drove us bonkers taking sweatshirts and jackets off and on

Ryder and Haven enjoying cereal and Sunny D (thanks, Jess)

I was giving Savannah a hard time because she was scowling in every picture I took, so she finally gave me a "smile"

Ryder, of course, was obsessed with the tent and kept going in and out and zipping and unzipping

The camp hosts did not agree that air powered bb guns are not considered fire-arms and put an end to the target practice

Ryder takes off after Haven and Eric, afraid he is gong to miss something fun

Truth be told, I actually left for home around 10:00 that morning. I was invited to celebrate Natalie's birthday with a massage/pedicure and dinner that night and felt obligated to go. (Hmmm...more camping or a pedicure? Pedicure!)

It was fun to have Jessica with us, and everyone admitted that the fun even increased when MRK, Bentley and Tanner arrived

Can you tell by Haven's hair that I wasn't there?

Sage

Bentley is so cute playing frisbee with Ryder

Haven gets in on the fun

This is actually a posed picture. Haven asked Eric to take a picture of her as if she had to use the bathroom. I think she pulled if off.

Haven, Ryder, Tanner and Bentley

By all accounts, everyone had a good time. I even had more fun than I expected. My kids are lucky to have at least one parent willing to sleep on the ground surrounded by dirt and bugs.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

European Tour 2009 - Day 6

Mont St. Michel

We had another early start today. We had to book it to the train station where we caught the Eurostar at around 6:00a.m. More than one of us was nervous about traveling through the chunnel, but it ended up being okay. As a plus, I ate the best yogurt I've ever had in my life on the train that morning. Thank you Eric for picking it out for me. I wish I had paid more attention to what it was. It was in a baby food type jar. And, we also had the first of many bottles of Orangina. Yum.

Eurostar trains

Can you tell how excited Tina is for the chunnel?

Our first item of business after getting off the train in Paris was to get our rental car. I was a little nervous about our first transaction, especially since we were now beginning the portion of the trip that Eric and I mostly planned. It actally went just fine, although we couldn't--at first--locate the car's GPS. And let me tell you, that was certainly worth the 30 extra Euros. We seriously would still be in France to this day wandering around without it.

It was kind of odd to get on the highway in Paris and to pass right through it on our way to Normandy. It seemed almost as if we should have stopped for a minute to soak up the fact that we were really in Paris. I mentioned the life saving GPS, but it initially mislead us. Sort of. For some reason it was automatically set to avoid all toll roads, which we didn't realize at first. It just started veering us off into little small towns. It was in one of these small towns where we got stuck in some serious traffic that we decided to give the GPS new instructions. It was more expensive to get back on the bigger roads, but a lot less time consuming. Our first stop was for lunch in the town of Bayeux. By the time we arrived, rain had begun pouring down. Really hard. We ate in a cute little crepe shop where we had to try out our communication skills. I think we were all happy with our lunch except Tina. (What was it again that you ordered?)


A street in Bayeux--the little village we stopped at for lunch before heading to the American Cemetery

A cute little shop front in Bayeux

Another Bayeux street

We continued on to the American Cemetery in Normandy. It was very sobering, to say the least. My feelings consisted of sadness and gratitude and an overwhelming appreciation for the freedoms I take for granted every day. Just to look at all those graves....it was an incredible experience.

I was unprepared for how touching it was to be here

Some French servicemen we saw

Beautiful view of the ocean

The graves seemed to go on forever--quite a humbling sight

A close-up of one of the graves

After leaving the American Cemetery, we headed for Mont St. Michel. What a sight! It is really beautiful and amazing. It looks almost unreal. The rain followed us and we continued to get soaked as we walked through the spiraling streets towards the Abbey. We were about five minutes late for the tour of the Abbey, but that was okay. There was still a lot to see. It's amazing how the Abbey is built right into the rock of the island.

The causeway to the island

How amazing is this?

The drawbridge that leads into the little town.

The main street

There are cute little shops and restaurants that line the street.

Another Mont St. Michel street view

Seriously? More stairs?

I don't know who that dude is, but we are winning

A courtyard near the Abbey

Abbey walls

View of the Abbey

Another view of the Abbey

A statue of St. Michel

View from the island

A neat stone bench

Another view of the Abbey

There were a lot of cool doors

An interesting door on the Abbey grounds

A gate leading to who knows where

A moss covered side of the Abbey

View from the top

This is a cool picture because you can see where the rock itself meets the actual stone of the abbey

A view of the rooftops

This is some sort of mechanism that was used to move items to the top

Mont St. Michel from a distance as were drove away

We were on a tight schedule on this day (my fault) and so here is where we began our little comedy of errors. By the time we drove away from Mont St. Michel, we were starving. We were going to get something to eat there, but everything was really pricey! In retrospect we should have just eaten when we had ten places to choose from right in front of us. Next we stopped at two different places in the town near Mont St. Michel. The menu for the first place was posted out front and we decided, once again, that it was quite expensive for stuff that didn't sound very good. At the second place we tried, we just decided to go in and sit down. It had been raining so hard that, despite our rain gear, we were seriously soaked. So it was slightly embarrassing to walk into such a nice place. We actually sat down and began looking at the menu. I couldn't find anything on the menu that I wanted to pay a fortune to put in my mouth. And I am not very picky. We were all a little uncomfortable because none of us wanted to eat there, yet--there we were. We were trying to come up with an excuse to leave and I told Eric to tell the waiter that we were too wet an uncomfortable (all true), but he wanted to tell the waiter that I wasn't feeling well (not true). We went with my idea. Unfortnately, my excuse didn't translate very well--even for my French speaking husband. We basically ended up slinking out of there feeling like idiots.

We set the GPS for the bed and breakfast Chateau that we would be staying in that night. It was still hours away and I began feeling a little panicky. Mainly because I told the owners that we would be there by 10:00p.m. and it was starting to look like we wouldn't. We tried to call them several times but couldn't get our calls to go through. It had to do with the fact that we were using a cell phone from England and trying to place a call to a French number. (For the record, we finally figured it out--too late.) Aside from the anxiousness related to our accomodations for the night, we were still hungry bordering on starving. We were out on the French countryside surrounded by nothing but the occasional small town or village. What we did see signs for, however, were McDonalds. The first time it came up I made it clear that there was no way I would eat my first night in France at McDonalds. And hour or so later it was clear that we had no other choice.

Coming up on another small town we saw another advertisement for McDonalds. Fine. As we maneuvered towards the "restaurant" we were trying to decide whether or not to go in or go through the drive-thru. Are you seeing the humor here? We didn't. Not yet, anyway. We decided on the drive-thru. We were, after all, in a hurry. Let's just say that Dan's "double quarter pounder with cheese" doesn't exist in French McDonalds, and they don't have value menues. I was sort of envisioning us saying "duex" or "trois" into the speaker. It didn't work that way. We ended up driving directly to the window after not being able to communicate through the speaker. The employee there even fetched the one employee who could speak English and we still could not communicate our order. I think I thought that McDonalds is a sort of universal language, but it isn't. We gave up completely and parked and went inside where we could point and grunt and I could discover that diet coke is actually coca light in France.

While we were eating, I was really hit with the hilarity of it all. Who did we think we were? We thought that we could actually go through the drive-thru in a foreign country? I can barely make myself understood through those speakers in my home-land.

Back in the car I began to worry again about our late arrival at the chateau. It is run by a family who obviously doesn't have someone sitting at the front desk all night long. In fact, they like to have you check in by 8:00p.m., but I had made special arrangements to get there by 10:00. Chateau de Jonvilliers is located near Chartres, France. It is in the tiny village of Jonvilliers and isn't easy to find--even with a GPS. They can't advertise it from the road, so we just had to look for the lane that they described in their e-mail. After circling around Jonvilliers for a while, we decided to take a chance on a little side road. That was it! We finally made it even though it was midnight. The place was completely dark as we approached save for the porch light. What a humiliating experience it was to continue banging as quitely as possible on the front door. As we were contemplating the lawn chairs as possible beds, the door opened. Our hostess was less than pleased to see us at that hour and gave us a slight tounge lashing. Luckily it was in French and only Eric knew the extent of it. She did show us to our rooms and we finally settled down for the night. It was a beautiful place and I wish we'd been able to spend more time there.

Thankfully Tina and Dan took a picture of their room in the chateau

And the bathroom

And the desk--check out the cool key

Things I learned today: going trough the chunnel isn't so bad; Europe makes some good yogurt; sometimes the opening and closing times in Rick Steve's guide book are incorrect; McDonald's menu--aside from the Big Mac and Filet-o-Fish--is unrecognizeable in France; and how NOT to make a phone call in France.

Things we ate today: the BEST yogurt ever; oringina; some really good crepes (sorry, Tina, about the pasta/ham thing); some nougat candy; Big Mac, Filet-o-Fish, and a Prince Burger or something. We sort of starved today! Sort of.

Despite all of the problems and hiccups, this was one of my favorite days!