Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

Going way back to November...we hope you had a happy turkey day! We don't have any pictures from either of our 2 Thanksgiving feasts, but I did take a snapshot of this adorable and delicious cupcake that the cousins got to enjoy the week before. One of the benefits to living so close to Torrance Bakery is that we get to enjoy treats like this one that Omi got one morning while on a walk with Luke.

Here are the cousins waiting patiently before devouring him.

Nicholas' preschool had their annual "Feast". Last year Nicholas was so shy and overwhelmed that he wouldn't sing and barely looked up. This year he was a lot more comfortable. Next year Samantha will probably run the show and Nicholas will be learning the ropes at his new school as he starts Kindergarten.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, we did our annual family photo shoot with my ridiculously talented sister, Monica. She always takes amazing pictures and she and her hubby Andy were nice enough to drive all the way up from San Diego just to do the shoot! We did entice them with a dim sum lunch with the rest of the family. That meal could actually count as a 3rd Thanksgiving feast! Thank you Auntie Monica, we love you!

We began our countdown to Christmas with our Advent calendar train. Oma made this for us a few years ago and the kids look forward every day to opening up the next little package of chocolates or sweets each day in December. There are so many special things that Oma made that will always be sweet reminders of her visits during Christmas time. It was not the same this year without her.

We had an extra special Christmas gift this year. Chris was able to take over 2 weeks off of work during Christmas, so we have been enjoying spending a lot of time together.

We attempted to go ice skating after church last weekend. Samantha was on the ice for about 2 minutes and Nicholas lasted about 5. At least I got this really cute picture to capture the experience, even though he said afterward that he didn't like it at all!

We took advantage of our time with Chris and went for a few days up at Lake Arrowhead. Thanks Pops and Grammy! Since it was during the week long rainstorm that Southern CA was getting, we just hung out inside, watched movies, played games, and built these cute little gingerbread houses.

Christmas morning finally came!

Santa gave Nicholas a archery set (I took the hint when he kept using a plastic hanger and a stick and pretending to shoot it). He loves it and was able to get the hang of it pretty quickly.

We started a new family tradition this year. Texas barbecue! Chris woke up at 6 am (way earlier than either Nicholas or Samantha) and starting smoking a 10 lb brisket, 2 racks of ribs, and 2 chickens in our new smoker.

10 hours later we had a feast! I made Papa's homemade barbecue sauce, mac n cheese from scratch, coleslaw, and baked beans. The 4 of us barely made a dent in the food we had, so the next day we invited 3 other families over to help us eat the left overs and we still had a lot left! Somehow I think I must have been Southern in another life, because good barbecue really does it for me!

We are heading to Cabo this week for our annual Chapman family vacation! We are looking forward to a little sun, surf, and of course, time with family. See you soon!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tricks and Birthday Treats!

I decided to be a little bit crafty this year and make Nicholas and Samantha's Halloween costumes. Nicholas was Luke Skywalker and Samantha was Dorothy. Nicholas has never seen any of the Star Wars movies in their entirety, but still loves all things Star Wars (but what kid doesn't!) Neither of them have ever seen The Wizard of Oz. After explaining the movie to Nicholas he almost had all of us dressing up as characters from Oz. He was going to be the tin man, Chris would be the scarecrow, and I was to be the lion, but I quickly talked him out of it... :) Samantha still has no idea who Dorothy is, but she was darn cute!

For those of you who don't know, Chris and his dad share the same birthday. Both Nicholas and Samantha were born in April which is my birthday month. Samantha was due on April 3rd, one day after my birthday and everyone kept saying how much fun that would be for us to share a birthday. All I kept thinking is that the last thing I wanted to be doing on my birthday was giving birth to a child! But, I guess with a father and son, it's a little different. Cindy did all the work and Larry was given the best birthday present ever! Earlier in October we had a birthday dinner for all the October birthdays; Larry, Chris, Chris Benton (Chris' step brother, who's birthday is today!) and Jameson (Chris' brother-in-law). Last Saturday (on Chris and Larry's actual birthday) Larry and Patti were in the area, so we got to have lunch with them and they came over to share some homemade cheesecake (a recipe from Patti's mom).

Here's a cute video that I have to share. For some reason, "lollipop" is by far Samantha's favorite word. It may even have been her first word and she puts her own little twist on it which makes it even cuter. Click here to watch.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chus Oma, Ich liebe dich.

Last week I made a trip to Germany to say a final farewell to my oma. In the midst of the sadness, it was a really special time being with my family - the original 6 Huis. We realized that the last time we had all spent time together without husbands or children was almost 20 years ago. We reminisced about our times with Oma, learned the stories behind old family photographs, and walked through the woods that were my mom's childhood playground.

Here's a photograph that Monica took of Oma in her little kitchen during their stay with her this past May. Monica and Andy were her traveling companions after her last visit to the U.S. During our stay last week, we ate most of our meals together in her small apartment. All of us have fond memories of our past visits to Germany and sharing meals with Oma around her small table.

This is my mom's childhood home in the town of Munchhausen. My dad also stayed here as a house guest a few times, which sparked the romance between my parents and...the rest is history!

Across from the house are the woods. We enjoyed a beautiful walk up to Christenberg and the church and cemetery where Oma's mother is buried.

The girls of course had to do some shopping. We enjoyed the unusually beautiful weather as we strolled through the town of Marburg.

I am left with so many memories of the wonderful woman she was. I will miss her so much.

Earlier in October, we experienced quite a heat wave here in Southern California. The temperature in Los Angeles hit an all time record of 113 degrees. The Slip'n'Slide that Nicholas got for his birthday back in April never made it out of the box during the summer since the sun never really made it out, so we busted it out and Luke joined his cousins to cool off. They also all managed to pile onto the Jeep and ride around the yard a few times. Samantha looked like Indiana Jane hanging off the back!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

No Training Wheels!

Just last week I was convinced that Nicholas was no where near ready to ride without training wheels. He's always been a very cautious child and doing things that are scary is very difficult for him (completely opposite of Samantha). Well, Chris has been determined to get him to do it and the other day it just happened. He's been going out almost every evening with Chris and makes huge strides every time. I finally got out there with the camera to record his proud accomplishment. He still needs a little work on starting and stopping, but once you get him going he's off!

Well, poor Milka is getting some extra attention this week. She's had a lump on her back for almost a year now. The vet had said it was most likely just a cyst. We could remove it but it may just come back. It wasn't bothering her, in fact I don't think she even knew it was there, so we decided to leave. Well, a few nights ago she definitely started noticing it, it seemed to be getting bigger, and the next day it ruptured. We took her to the vet and she is scheduled to have surgery to have the whole thing removed. So until then (and I'm sure after the surgery too) she has to wear "The Cone of Shame". She hates it and seems to bump into EVERYTHING with it, including our shins! She could seriously do some damage to Nicholas and Samantha so she's been hanging out outside a lot...sad!

One more picture for fun. We finally got a few tomatoes late in the season due to the very cool summer we had. This one was so strange I had to take a picture of it. Chris was horrified by it, and actually said he wouldn't eat it...but he didn't even notice it once it was in the food (and still doesn't know he ate it. Ha ha!)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Goodbye Summer, We'll Miss You!

This week officially ended our summer. I start teaching again, Chris went back to work after 2 weeks of vacation, Nicholas will start preschool in 2 weeks, and Samantha...will continue being a toddler hanging out at home.

We ended our summer by enjoying the beautiful outdoors. We spent a week camping in Yosemite National Park, came home for 2 nights to shower, do laundry, grocery shop, and repack before we heading off to do some more camping at Leo Carrillo State Beach. They were 2 very different camping experiences. Yosemite is all about biking around the valley surrounded by awesome granite rock formations - El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls. It's about bears and deer, and going swimming in frigid mountain river water. This is our second year and loved it as much as last summer. We went with 2 families who had never camped in Yosemite. The Barbaras stayed the week with us and the Steinbachs joined us for the last half of the week. Both families were "roughing it" compared to us, since we brought up a trailer camper and they were tenting...well the Barbaras put up a tent but only used it for storage. They slept in their van since they were a little apprehensive about the bears. And we did see bears! We had about 8 bear sightings...and that means bears walking through our campsite less than 10 yards from where we were sitting.

Our campsite.

One of our daily rides through the valley.

Enjoying the river.

Here's the whole gang eating lunch before a short hike to Yosemite Falls.

Leo Carrillo was a little closer to home. I'm not sure if it was the fact that we had just spent the whole week before camping, that we were tent camping (no trailer), that we already live so close to the beach, or that the weather wasn't cooperating, but we ended up leaving a day early and spent the day swimming in the pool at Grammy and Pops house. It was a great trip none the less. We camped for 3 nights with Nicki, Adam, and Luke. We spent the day at the beach soaking up the sun, climbing rocks, and the guys even got in some surfing (well Chris paddled out and layed on his board for a while...) Nicholas' buddy Parker came with his mom and sisters to spend the day at the beach on Tuesday. They came back to camp with us for dinner before heading home in their pj's (a little dirtier that when they arrived).

Our campsite was shaded by a beautiful huge tree.

The kids LOVED the wagon.
Here's Nicholas, Samantha, Cousin Luke, and friends Parker and Ashley.

Nicholas woke up the second to last morning, rolled over, and asked Chris, "Are we leaving today?" Chris said, "No, not today." Nicholas smiled and contently went back to sleep. In Yosemite, when asked what his favorite part of camping was, he replied, "Sleeping in my sleeping bag."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer Fun

We started off July with a great Independence Day. Our friends Barry and Joanie invited us to their annual party. They have a house in El Segundo right across the street from where they let off the city fireworks show. They close down the street and everyone puts out blankets and beach chairs to enjoy the show. We weren't sure how the kids would react to them being so close. They ended up having a great time and loved it! Nicholas kept saying, "This is absolutely fun!" Samantha was in awe and the noise didn't seem to bother her one bit.

Being home this summer with Nicholas and Samantha has been so much fun. We've been keeping busy, playing with friends, and going on fun outings. During the week after July 4th we spent a day at Adventure City. I had never even heard of it before, but it is such a great place! It's like a condensed version of an amusement park with just the rides that the little ones can go on. No lines, inexpensive, small, easy, perfect! Nick even got to try out rock climbing. He was a natural!

Another day we had a play date with our friends the Marks. Shawn and Carol just got a new puppy, a German short-haired pointer...just like Milka! We finally got all the "kids" together to play and they were perfect matches for each other.

Brayden and Nicholas

Blake and Samantha

Milka and Coco (they wouldn't even stay still long enough for me to get a proper picture!)

Our latest adventure was last week when we went to Wild Rivers. We went with a few other families and rented a cabana for the day. It was great to have a spot in the shade right by the little kids area.

Nicholas had a blast on the kiddy tube slide. I lost count of how many times he went down.

We floated around the lazy river a few times. Nicholas' friend Madi was the perfect tube companion.

Samantha and I enjoyed a cool smoothie as an afternoon snack.

A full day in the water and sun wore Nicholas and Samantha out. We were barely out of the parking lot before they were fast asleep. Gotta love those good ol' exhausting summer days!

Well, summer is officially half over! 5 weeks of fun behind us and 5 weeks ahead. Nicholas has 2 weeks of VBS and then we are heading to Yosemite and then Leo Carillo for 2 weeks of camping. Hope you are enjoying your summer!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

From the Beach to the Lake to the Pool

Teaching 4th grade for many years made me really appreciate that California has 4 natural regions that we can enjoy. The coast, of course, which we are enjoying even more as we start of our summer. The mountains - how nice is it that we can drive 2 hours and be up hiking through the evergreens and water skiing on mountain lakes. The desert - where we can soak up the warm rays of the hot California sun while lounging by a pool or playing a round of golf. There's also the Central Valley, but that isn't part of this story...even though we ate lots of delicious California fruit while we were on our vacation!

We just got back from our first family vacation of the summer and we enjoyed both the mountains and the desert within the week. We vacationed along with the Mayer family - Chad, Valerie and their kids Eden and Beau. Chad and Val are one of the couples in our church small group. Lately we've been trading off date nights with them and our kids get along great.

We started off in Lake Arrowhead and stayed at Larry and Patti's house. We relaxed at the house, hung out in The Village, played in the kids' park, and fed the ducks. We went on a hike in the Children's Forest and climbed up to the top of a fire tower. We spent a day out on the boat and relaxed on our own little island beach. It was great!

After a few nights in the mountains we headed to the desert and spent the rest of the week at the Westin Mission Hills Villas, a fabulous spot where the kids enjoyed the pool, the dads golfed, the mom's shopped, and we were all worn out at the end of each day. The pool had a water slide that was pretty awesome. Nicholas went down with Chris on the first day and it was a little overwhelming. It took a lot of convincing to get him to go down one more time. Samantha on the other had went down a total of 7 times! That was even after her first ride got so crazy she hit her head on the side of the tube. She loved it!

Other than me coming down with strep throat, it was the perfect vacation! Luckily I didn't get the worst of it until we got home and then I spend the rest of the weekend in bed while Chris took care of the kids by himself on Father's Day...he's the best dad ever! Here's Samantha trying to pack herself in the suitcase after we got home. I think she wanted to go back on vacation!