First, for Christmas, our family was blessed as we have been every year. Abundantly. My favorite thing I received for Christmas is probably my new Nikon lens from my husband. Maybe C will read this post and comment here about it because I keep on forgetting what it's called. However, it's really great for portraits and landscapes. I am thankful for all of the gifts I received, though, and especially for the gifters who saw fit to give me anything at all.
I played with that new lens all day and then it's been living on the face of my Nikon D90 ever since and through two trips to California that happened within a week's time. I don't have a case to carry more than one lens, so I had to pick which one to bring. The new one, of course!
|My niece, K, using her new Christmas art set on Christmas Day. This was just one of the many pictures I took while practicing with my new lens.|
Here I go on a tangent. I totally blew it in December with regards to recognizing O's special days on this blog. His adoptaversary was on December 13 and his birthday was on December 26. We are so blessed to have him as part of our lives.
So we headed out on the 26th and of course, I had planned out O's birthday (so it wasn't overlooked) and had goodies in the car especially for his special day. First, he got a mini-mylar balloon (better for a car ride) and goody bags to give out to everyone in the party (coincidentally, everyone in the car). Every hour or so, he opened a gift -- all of them car-friendly items, except for those who sent gifts before they knew about our planned trip. Those got stored in the van for later.
|We ran into a variety of winter weather on the trip, but never required chains and thankfully, made it to our destination safely.|
|C and I finally got all the kids electronic game-devices for Christmas. We have daily requirements before they can have them and they have to be turned in each evening. Here is O taking pictures with his new Leapster.|
|The sunset on day one was amazing. C pulled over so I could try my new lens out on this scene here. I like the results!|
|Once we got to the hotel, O had the "pool party" portion of his birthday.|
|I don't know that I've ever seen the windmills in Southern California, dressed with snow. It was very pretty.|
|We stopped for lunch in the mountains in this town of Tehachapi. It snowed and rained all during the lunch break.|
|Finally, late evening, we arrived at my parents' house, where we planned to stay. This picture was taken the next morning, but I thought it was so cute of their dog, Sheridan, as she slept by the front door. She picked this spot repeatedly.|
Our first night there, my dad got Chinese food take-out. We had a big feast! But there were enough leftovers that it fed us for lunch the next day.
In the morning, C went over to visit his grandparents (and make sure their computer was up to par) and he brought a couple kids with him, while three stayed with me at my parents' house. His grandparents' house serves a couple of kids better than it serves all of them at once. So we were trying to spare them some chaos.
I sat and talked with my mom for much of the morning. It was a rare opportunity that I cherished.
S and J played Barbie's together on their air mattress and O was happy playing his Leapster and watching one of his new movies.
We joined C's family at his sister's house for dinner. There, our kids got to play with their other cousins, including their only boy (first) cousin and his baby sister. We had a great time chatting with our relatives, taking more photos (with my new lens!) and eating pizza and salad for dinner. My mom-in-law even made her son his favorite chocolate pie (hers) as a surprise. I don't think there was a crumb left on his plate.
|My only nephew, A, playing with our kids in his backyard.|
Back at my parents' house after dinnertime, I started looking through boxes of "old" photos that my mom had in her sewing room waiting to be sorted and put into albums or whatever (they've been there about a year, I think). I was looking for pictures of my grandma that I could use for the photo project I was thinking about doing for her memorial service.
Also, I saw a lot of good ones of my sisters and me when we were kids, too. It was really fun. Mom was doing some sewing, so I kept distracting her by showing her pictures and pretty soon, she was on the floor digging in boxes with me.
|I'm always telling our kids how I used to ride a motorcycle when I was age 6 or 7 and 10. Finally, I found proof! They thought this picture was so cool (never mind my hideous outfit).|
The next day, C took the other kids over to his grandparents' house in the morning. I continued going through photos and then both sides of the family met up for lunch at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants.
Everyone seemed to get along well and chat it up and have a good time. Plus, good food!
After lunch, my mom directed us twenty minutes up the road where we were able to see one of my cousins who recently moved there (she lived in Hawaii for a while, so I haven't seen her in ages). My mom watches her kids while she works.
Fun fact: My dad's brother married my mom's sister and together they bore two children we have always called our double-cousins. They are about as close to being siblings genetically, without actually being born from the same parents as us. The cousin we visited was one of the two double-cousins.
Anyway, her kids and our kids are second cousins, so it was fun to let them meet and we played at the park together near their home. The kids hit it off immediately and had a great time. The boys all played football with my cousin's husband and the girls mostly played on the swings and slides.
|Both of these boys are about 11. But the height difference is amazing!|
|J (8) and M (7) hit it off immediately and were already discussing making some BFF bracelets. But they settled on becoming penpals and have already started exchanging letters.|
Dad had taken orders from all of us before we went to see everyone about what each of our favorite dinners might be. He thought he might find a common thread. But all of the responses were so vastly different that he couldn't believe we're able to live together at all!
So as a result, when we got home from the Saturday night church service, Dad had made each person their own favorite dinner. I can't believe his energy! It was all delicious and nobody complained. I got to have salmon. Yum.
After dinner, Dad and I had time to talk for awhile. There was some concern because the family wasn't yet settled on a date for Grandma's memorial service and he was worried about the cost of me having to travel back to California soon. I assured him that we would work it out and how important it was for me to go.
We left the next morning for the two-day drive back to New Mexico.
|In Southern California, we made a stop for some fresh honey at a fruit market. We also enjoyed their free samples of fruit, fresh-squeezed orange juice and homemade fudge.|
|We ran into more snowy weather, but didn't have any issues.|
|At the end of our second day, we finally saw our favorite part of our roadtrips (at least the ones when we come back on Highway 40): the city lights of Albuquerque. Home again.|
The next day was New Year's Day. We had my sister, D, and her girls over for the afternoon and dinner. C made the most delicious prime rib I think I've ever had. Plus accouterments.
|A picture with my new lens, but this time, C took the picture of it cooking on his grill.|
|The kids all had fun seeing one another again after a week apart. E got caught up in a game of trying to balance an empty water bottle on her head. She never could get it quite right, but she had a good time trying.|
|When the project was complete, it was a large album filled with pictures from her childhood all the way to the most recent photos we had of Grandma.|
Saturday, I rode with Dad and Mom to the service in the Bay Area. I posted a couple pictures on the drive in Instagram. Oh! That reminds me! On Friday evening, while finishing up the project, I received a surprise gift of an iPhone 5! I can hardly believe it.
I actually own a smart phone now. I feel so current (for the moment) and hip. I love, love, love my new phone and all of its organizational features and good snapshot taking abilities. I am so grateful.
So, that's why I now have an Instagram account. I put a link to it on the side there if you want to click over and follow me!
Grandma's service was scheduled on the 12th day of Christmas. This was her favorite time of year, her favorite holiday. I think she would have been happy to know that the whole church was still dressed for the season while we honored her time here and celebrated the fact that she is now of perfect mind and body, in heaven, living forever.
I actually had the best time at the service and fellowship time that followed. It was more like a big family reunion than a sad time. Sure, there were tears of sadness and joy and she will be missed, but overall, I had a great time seeing distant relatives I don't hardly ever get to see. We laughed and talked and exchanged updated contact information. I think the day was a success.
After the our time at the church building, we went back to Grandma's house and just family gathered there for a little while. We watched old family videos and I wandered through the house for probably my last time ever. I took a few pictures as I toured. I think the funniest thing is the old telephone that still works (!) hanging in the kitchen. Note the original number there at the center.
I was able to gather some photo albums and letters to bring back home with me to scan for my own genealogy records (and share with others), while my other double-cousin did the same. We promised to share with each other what we scan.
The next day, I wasn't feeling great. My Dad was running a high fever and I was hoping I didn't catch his illness. Mom and I went to church service. I boosted my immune system with some Emergen-C. I meant to go visit my in-laws for a little while, but worried about getting the kids sick.
So I spent the rest of the day and some of the next going through my parents' photos. I sorted them and started loading many into albums for them. I took several home to scan.
I arrived in California with two carry-on bags (one carry-on, one personal item). I left California with two carry-on bags, plus two checked bags!!
On Monday, my last day in California (on this second trip), Mom was watching my cousin's kids, so I hung out with them for a while. We did some art projects and they wrote letters for me to bring home to our kids. Mom was sad to see me leaving, but I think she was glad I was able to come. (I was glad I did, too, if that isn't obvious.)
Dad drove me to the airport and we said goodbye. I was home and in my pajamas by 10:30pm Monday night. Last night!
So today came rather early, but it was back to the daily grind. It's good to be home.