Tuesday, November 7, 2017

San Francisco

This year, it was as if I got to celebrate my thirtieth birthday twice. One of my birthday presents from my brother was to pay for the fun expenses if Brigham and I could get flights and lodging to meet Kyle and his wife somewhere for a weekend trip together. Of course Brigham and I were down, and we quickly chose San Francisco as a fun city to explore together that wouldn't take too long for both of us to travel to. The extra bonus was my mom agreeing to watch our kids so that we could have a kid-free weekend!

The same day that we were due to fly out, I received a birthday present from my other brother that took a really long time to ship.

Since I'm born on the fourth of July, this was a perfect, beautiful wooden art piece that I'm excited to display. My siblings sure surprised me this year for my birthday with all the wonderful, unexpected gifts I received. Thanks Scott!

Brigham and I headed to the airport a bit early so that my mom could try to avoid at least some of the rush hour traffic. We had some time to kill so we chilled at an airport lounge at Seatac.

We enjoyed some dinner, comfy chairs, and hot chocolate while we waited to board.

Our flight was short and quick and we were soon waiting for a VERY expensive Uber. It took almost as long getting to our hotel from the airport, as it took for our flight from Washington. That's how bad traffic is in San Francisco.

The first day in San Francisco we rented bikes and rode them around the area, also crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.

The traffic coming across was louder than I expected, but the architecture of the bridge and the views more than made up for it.

The company was pretty great too. We used to hang out with Kyle and Katrina all the time when we lived closer together, and it felt great to be back at it again.

The weather was perfect: sunny and warm, but not too hot.

Once we crossed the bridge, we decided to ride our bikes through some of the famous parks in the area and the map made it seem as though they weren't very far or hard to get to. Unfortunately, it wasn't until we had gone a significant distance and up some significant hills that we realized the map was not drawn to scale and did not display elevation gain. Whew, there was no way we were going to make it!

By this point, we were pretty far out and had to ride quite a ways back to the bike rental shop to return the bikes. So we began the trek back and got to explore quite a few little fun streets of San Francisco along the way. We learned that San Francisco is full of lots of hills, there are some cute, quiet little neighborhoods, and that some of us aren't as in shape as we thought.

We ate a delicious lunch at a diner next to the bike shop and then made our way to Chinatown.

Playing tourists, we went through some of the shops, looked at the weird produce, and saw how fortune cookies are made.

Pretty interesting to see how the process is actually done.

Once we finished wandering around, we bought some Dim Sum for dinner and made our way on the bus back to our hotel.

Hanging out in the hotel, playing Slapjack, Poker, and talking with Kyle and Katrina was pretty much the best.

Day two in San Francisco included a ferry ride out to Alcatraz. This was my one request and we lucked out with tickets at the last minute. If you're ever planning a trip to San Fran and want to visit Alcatraz, just know you need to purchase tickets pretty far in advance.

View of San Francisco from Alcatraz Island

After a short ferry ride and brief instructions, guests are free to tour the whole island of Alcatraz at their leisure. You can tour the jail and leave, or spend as much time wandering the grounds as you like. I really enjoyed the freedom of the experience.

Inside, the tour is a self-guided sound tour with headphones. The voices on the recording are the actual voices of the wardens and prisoners that used to inhabit the prison. Pretty awesome to hear the voices of those that actually went through the stories that we listened to, and stayed in the places we were looking at. I loved it! I could go as fast or slow as I wanted and no lame tour guide dictated my experience.

When we planned our trip, we didn't realize we also planned it the same weekend as Fleet Week, which means the Navy airshows and activities were taking place at the same time. Although it was extra crowded, we also got to see a lot of extras we normally wouldn't have been able to. In fact, we ended up at Alcatraz right during the largest air shows, including the Blue Angels. They flew between San Francisco and the island and came so close to us they shook the ground and blasted our eardrums. It. Was. Awesome. To stand on Alcatraz island and watch spectacular flying feats, tricks, and visions, I felt so blessed and we couldn't help but clap and cheer.

After Alcatraz, we walked through the financial district of San Francisco (we did A LOT of walking) admiring the buildings and architecture and headed back to our hotel to get dinner at PF Changs, and spent another evening together relaxing.

Our final day, Monday, we said goodbye to the wonderful view from our hotel room, pictured below,

and headed back to the Piers to check out the shops and Fisherman's Wharf.

We walked through the shops, checked out the loud sea lions,

and went through an optical illusion maze of mirrors.

Though the maze gave Kyle a headache from the flashing lights that changed colors constantly, it was a blast. Trying to head down a hall, only to hit your head on glass because it actually was a mirror REFLECTING a passage had us all cracking up. The maze was pretty small and pretty fun.

For lunch, we stopped at Boudin Bakery and Cafe. Brigham chose the classic clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and I had a sandwich and salad so delicious I still crave it. Brigham loved his lunch and couldn't even finish it - a rarity for him. If you're ever in San Fran, go get lunch there. So good!

After lunch, we walked through more shops in town and then to Ghiradelli Square for dessert. If there's one thing that Kyle and I and our spouses do, it's ice cream.

And boy did we eat our ice cream. I forgot to take a picture before we ate it, but you can see our cleared out dishes, and that Salted Carmel Brownie Sundae pictured on the menu is the deliciousness that Brigham and I enjoyed. 

We had to split ways after ice cream and catch our different flights, so we said goodbye to Kyle, Katrina, and Amelia.

We really had such a good time together that weekend and I was sad to say goodbye. I prefer to turn thirty every year if I get to have such fun! Thanks for spoiling us Kyle and Katrina! Really your company was our favorite part.

Brigham and I caught a streetcar to the BART which is the train that runs across San Francisco. We used A LOT of buses, trains, and streetcars to get around. We didn't realize how far away our hotel was from downtown San Francisco in time. In miles it wasn't too far, but it took us about an hour each day on a bus to get into the city and then add lots of walking and other buses to get to our different destinations. I liked crossing the Bay Bridge each day and didn't find the travel so bad, but it was pricey and time-consuming. 

Once off the train, we flew home to get my babies and it was good to see them again. A weekend away was rejuvenating and the freedom without kids was a super bonus, but it's always nice when we're together again. San Francisco was fun to explore and spending time with Kyle, Katrina, and Amelia was the best! Hopefully, this will be a tradition we can continue in the future.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tappana Times: School's in Session

We planned our Utah trip the very last week of summer, and two days after we returned to Washington, the older kids started back up at school.

Ammon started first grade this year.

Many people have commented lately on how grown up he's starting to appear, and boy are they right. This guy has matured and grown and flourished right before my eyes. I have to admit I miss my little baby boy Ammon, but I sort of adore the little man he's becoming.

He's curious and sensitive and silly. All the things that a six year old boy should be.

I was truly, truly worried about his transition to first grade. I just didn't think he was ready to be at school all day. I mean, this is my kid that took four hour naps and fell asleep in sunbeams so his teachers would have to hold him up on his chair. I worried about his focus and attention span, and I worried about his shyness and if his teacher would be patient enough to listen to him stumble over his words to actually hear what he's so eager to share. And would my boy be able to make friends?

Well this kid busted through all my worries and transitioned seamlessly to first grade. It helps that he has an amazing teacher, but he adjusted like he's been going to school all day for his whole life. He's enjoyed it much more than I thought he would, and he only came home tired enough for a nap one day, and at that point he just took off his backpack, walked to his room, and climbed in bed.

Ammon has been enjoying hot lunch, art, P.E., and math. He really hates writing time and comes home excited whenever they missed it that day. He's made friends with lots of girls, and plays sports with some other boys at recess. I'm so proud of how far he's come.

Lydia started third grade this year.

Lydia is the one I never have to worry about when it comes to school. She loves it and thrives in learning. However, this year we've had more struggles than before. Unfortunately, Lydia was placed with a teacher that isn't our favorite and the adjustment has been hard for Lydia. The first couple of weeks Lydia would come home crying and say that she didn't want to go to school the next day. Brigham and I went over and over what we should do.

Finally, we realized this could be a growing year for Lydia as she learns to adjust to working with someone she doesn't care for as much, and if she can learn to do that she will be able to use it for the rest of her life.

After a couple of weeks, Lydia was able to adjust and she no longer dreads going to school. She has to come home and tell us three things she liked about the day, and she has even been able to find some positive attributes to report about her teacher. I don't know that this year will be her favorite to remember, but she is learning resiliency, patience, and making the best of a situation. (I'm sort of sad she has to learn these in third grade when she should just be loving life, but what can you do?)

Lydia has enjoyed learning about the salmon life cycle, seeing her friends, reading, and having her teacher read Charlotte's Web and Wonder to them. She's killing it at school, as usual and growing up more than ever. She amazes me with how much she can do and her wonderful personality.

It was just as hard this year to send these two off to school, as it is every year. I love having them home with me during the summer. But it was the first year I sort of looked forward to it as well.

Watching them walk together onto the bus, I felt proud, nervous to be by myself with Kendrick all day, and sad to miss them. And as we've settled into school, we're all grooving in our new routines.

Besides starting school in September, we were able to enjoy a fall family hike out to a nearby state park called Kanskat Palmer.

The river trail is more of a walk with a shorter distance and hardly any elevation gain, but it was perfect for us to explore and the kids loved it. Kendrick wanted to walk as much as possible with his sticks behind the older kids, and he was livid when we finally put him in the hiking backpack because he was slowing us down too much.

The weather was perfect and the scenery was as gorgeous as always.

It's hard to tell in the picture, but the river was FULL of huge fish swimming all around and jumping like crazy. We were floored. We had never seen so many fish. Brigham walked out in the water and they pretty much swam around him. He was ready to start scooping them up with his hands. And when they jumped it made such an awesome splash. We sat and watched them for quite some time, never tiring of the spectacle.

The kids loved throwing rocks in the water and Kendrick stirred and slapped the water with his sticks between his rocks splashing.

Ammon found a large fuzzy caterpillar and carried it along until we made him find it a home before we left.

Lydia found her second four-leaf clover in two weeks and I was pretty impressed. I've never even found one, but I've never really had the patience to look very long for one either.

It was a lovely weekend evening and we'll soak up the rays of sunshine and the fresh leaves before they disappear to rain and winter.