Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dinkney and Poppy's Visit to California! (Part 1)

Dinkney and Poppy came to visit us May 17th-25th. It was their first visit to our new hometown and first visit to California! We couldn't wait to show them our town, our house, and take them sightseeing in San Francisco and Alameda as well as a little trip down to Monterey.

We did so many activities I'm not sure if I can remember everything now. Here's my best attempt to summarize the week.

They arrived Saturday May 17th to Oakland's airport which is an easy drive from our house. That night we ate at our house and took them to our local park. We walked a little in the neighborhood to let them see some of the gorgeous Victorian homes in the area and where Emily will go to school next year.

Sunday was church day. We love being able to show our parents our normal activities and being able to share that part of our life with them. It's always fun to take people into San Francisco for the first time when they've never seen the city. Even a simple drive across the Bay Bridge feels special again as they catch that first glimpse of the Bay, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. That afternoon we took them for a tour of the USS Hornet (WWII aircraft carrier) which is docked in Alameda. I stayed home with Caleb since it was his nap time and it wouldn't be easy to carry him all over it. Jeremy was excited to get to take his Dad to see this as Don is a bit of a history buff. I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed the tour although it was incredibly windy that day! I look forward to touring it some time in the future.

Touring USS Hornet. SF skyline in the background.

USS Hornet WWII Aircraft Carrier 

Monday was San Francisco Day! We started out at Coit Tower then we headed to Chrissy Field and Fort Point for views of the Golden Gate Bridge. On our way home, we stopped by Alamo Square to see the famous "painted lady" houses and enjoy the park and skyline views of the city. We had hoped to possibly do a cable car ride, but as always, the lines looked terribly long and we decided to skip it. Don and Nancy enjoyed being able to see the crooked Lombard Street from the top of Telegraph Hill. 

View from Telegraph Hill

Dinkney spots Lombard Street and focuses in on SF's famous crooked street

Coit Tower. One day we will go to the top when we don't have to wait an hour to ride the elevator. :) 

We ate a picnic lunch outside by the Golden Gate near Chrissy Field

View of bridge from Fort Point--a short walk from the Warming Hut by the Bridge

Enjoying Alamo Square

Iconic painted ladies and SF skyline at Alamo Square

Tuesday was Twitter Day! We all headed into San Francisco to tour Twitter and have lunch outdoors at the rooftop garden. I got to meet Jeremy's boss for the first time that day which was nice after hearing so many good things about him. Originally, we had thought we might try to do Muir Woods on this day, but it would have been an all day trip and wouldn't have left much time for anything else that day. Since we had our Monterey trip planned for the next couple of days, we decided it would be better to show them around Twitter and take a trip across the Golden Gate to the Marin Headlands. The views from the Marin Headlands of the city, bay, Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Bridge are some of my favorite. Unfortunately, the fog rolled in right around the time we were heading up Conzelman Road by the coast. So, we headed back down to get under the fog so we could see better which put us right beside the Golden Gate Bridge at the Battery Spencer lookout. I loved getting to see a different view of the city, but the wind was super intense! The temperature dropped a good 10 degrees or more as we walked to the bridge lookout and the wind was crazy, but very invigorating!

Caleb and Emmy entertained themselves playing cornhole while the rest of us finished up lunch.

Family pic at Twitter

Emmy looks like the little professional tour guide as she guides Dinkney through the Civic Center 

A view from Marin Headlands. Here comes "Karl" the Fog! 

Caleb is very independent! He "hiked" all the way from our car to Battery Spencer.

Welcome to SF! 

Such a sweet, tired little boy! 

Dinkney and Poppy's California Visit (Part 2)

We wanted to take a short trip with Dinkney and Poppy to let them see a little of the surrounding cities. Jeremy and I visited Monterey briefly about three years ago during a vacation. We were eager to go back and show them a little of the Pacific Coast Highway just south of Carmel to Big Sur. We also had free tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and hoped to treat the kids to that experience.

We left Wednesday afternoon for the two hour drive to Monterey. We left after lunch so that Caleb could nap in the car during his normal nap time. When we arrived that afternoon, it was quite cool and overcast. Monterey is known for being kind of a foggy, moody weather kind of city. The fog tends to be worse in the summer months, but apparently it hangs around in May, too. I felt a little worried that we had traded our warmer weather in Alameda for cold dreariness, but I tried to put it out of my mind and not worry too much. You can't control the weather. We weren't here for swimming, but rather for the hiking, scenic drives, and the aquarium. Surely, the fog wouldn't be so bad as to completely block the Pacific views and cliffs during our drive, right? (I went to bed praying that the next day would be better so the trip wouldn't be a complete waste of time!) 

Wednesday afternoon Jeremy and I took the kids to the Dennis the Menace Playground. We had to bundle up a bit with jeans and coats, but in no time at all, the kids were having a blast playing on all of the equipment and exploring the park. That evening we found a nice family-friendly eatery in Monterey called Hula's Island Grill.  The restaurant had an outdoor patio with heating lamps. We were pretty cozy despite the cool evening and Caleb was able to walk around a little at the end of the meal. Our food was really good, too! We didn't take photos at the playground, but check out the link below to see a few of the highlights of the park. (The video didn't work when I tried a video link, but it linked up fine this way.)

Thursday was our day to explore the Pacific Coast Highway and do any hiking we wanted to do. We decided to do the aquarium on Friday after we checked out at the Hyatt. Don woke up with a cold and felt pretty rough. He was a trooper and agreed to do whatever we wanted to do, but no strenuous hiking. I think we mostly kept our word. :) We decided to try out an area called Point Lobos that is known for its breathtaking natural environment--ocean vistas, rocky shores, crashing waves, majestic trees, and scenic trails. It was very close to our hotel and we were there in minutes! We only hiked one easy trail and drove around all of the areas we could with our car. The day started off cool and overcast, but still beautiful. By the time we were halfway into our trail, blue skies were poking through the clouds and we all felt excited that the rest of the day would be better. 

Emily at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Jeremy and Caleb took most of the photos!

Caleb did great in the hiking backpack. He's still too little to keep up with us without it!

Dinkney and her boys! :) 
 After our time at Point Lobos, we made a quick pitstop at a local grocery store to get snacks and lunch for our scenic road trip through Big Sur. Caleb fell asleep in the car after lunch, but that actually worked out pretty well. We were getting out of the car to take photos every few minutes. Somehow he managed to get a decent nap even with all five of us climbing in/out of the van to check out the views.

Pacific Coast Highway, you do not disappoint! 
It was fun to share the views with Emily this time. Jeremy and I were driving this road in a convertible a few years ago. Never thought we'd be back so soon and with the whole family!

Don and Jeremy at Bixby Bridge.

Our last stop was the McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It was a bit of a stretch for us to drive this far with the kids, but we did it anyway. I enjoyed it and I hope everyone else thought it was worth it. Luckily, the McWay Falls trail is a very easy hike right off the main road. 

Year ago, this tiny, tall waterfall dropped off directly into the Pacific Ocean. After a massive landslide in 1980s, the topography changed and now it empties onto a beach area. We found the before and after historical photos very interesting. 

Understandably, we were all EXHAUSTED after a full day of hiking and driving. We decided to order pizza that night and stay in our hotel to eat. Ahh, sweet relaxation! The big highlight of the night was "bathing" our kiddos in a hotel room with no bathtub. Caleb was just small enough to bathe in the oversized sink. He LOVED it! Between the mirror and turning on/off the tap water, he was sad for the bath to be over! Emily got to experience her first "grown-up" shower. She had fun with this novel experience and luckily didn't cry about getting sprayed in the face or anything.

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel and headed to the Fisherman's Wharf area to eat at a local crepe place. Oh my, it was SO good! Just writing about it makes me want to get on Pinterest for some yummy crepe recipes. We enjoyed eating outdoors and walking around afterwards to see the Monterey Bay. The highlight was watching a group of harbor seals that were just feet away from us resting on a little wooden dock. The kids were totally intrigued (and so were us adults!) Honestly, after watching the seals in their normal environment, I could have skipped the aquarium!

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is HUGE! I think we were there for about three hours and we only saw maybe 70% of it. There was a whole wing and new exhibit we didn't see at all. We will definitely have to come back.

Checking out the sting rays

Kelp Forest--one of several large tanks

It's like Caleb is saying "Woohoo for Penguins!"

Pretty as a little Mermaid!

Learning with Daddy and Dinkney

We had to stop for the caboose photo-op. 

Love my cute kiddos!

Reiss Family at Monterey Bay
How lucky are we to get to spend two full weeks vacationing with our families in our new home away from KY? We had a great time and I hope Don and Nancy will want to spend many more vacations with us in California. We still have lots we want to see and do and we will definitely need their help once the third little Reissy cup gets here!

One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was the San Francisco Giants game that just us adults attended on their last night here. We hired a babysitter for Emily and Caleb since we only had four tickets from Jeremy's work friend. We took the SF Giants Game Day ferry from our hometown of Alameda directly to the ballpark. How cool is that? The ferry is just three miles from our house. It was a wonderful time to get to hang out with Jeremy's parents without the normal little interruptions from the kids. It was my first ballgame at the Giants Stadium since we moved. (Jeremy and I went three years ago.) We had a laid back dinner at the ballpark and enjoyed soaking up all the atmosphere of the game. I had a great time at the game and I think everyone else did, too. We even got to spend a few minutes with Bobby Evans, a friend from church and the Giants' assistant GM. He was kind enough to take us back to a Giants box to talk and watch part of the game. Fun night!

Saying good-bye the next day was hard as usual. It breaks my heart. The kids change so much in a few months time. We hate that the grandparents miss so much of their cute stages. We don't regret our decision to move to California, but we certainly miss not being able to see our families as often. Luckily, Mom and Nancy are making plans to visit us for when the baby comes and there's still a slight chance we will make it home to KY this summer. Thankful for the good times we had on this trip! Thankful for all the nice treats and clothes Dinkney brought with her for the kiddos. We love you so much, Dinkney and Poppy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What season is this again?

Perhaps I should wait to write this post when we have lived in the Bay Area for exactly a year since we have yet to experience a full summer, but I think ten months is long enough to know that the weather patterns here are not defined by the traditional four seasons. It is almost unsettling for someone who grew up with the weather patterns more or less defining the passing of time to all of a sudden have these outward markers taken away.

For example, this spring we did not experience the usual "spring fever" of excitement that comes with the days FINALLY warming up after a long, cold winter. This is because we were bike riding and spending time outside at our parks in JANUARY. Jeremy noticed that he did not care as much about baseball season starting. Spring slipped up on us very gradually. Apparently, even for the Bay Area, we had an unusually mild, warm winter. I had roses blooming in February. In early March, the dogwoods and azaleas were in full bloom. It's June now, but it still feels like spring. We have days that are in the 60s-70s with nighttime temps in the 50s. There are still tons of flowers and trees in bloom that make it feel like spring. My hydrangea bushes are looking lovely now.

A "normal" winter around here is much milder than in Kentucky, but it's also supposed to be very rainy. I asked for rain boots this year for Christmas after hearing that sometimes it could rain two weeks in a row. I think I wore my rain boots three times all season. (Unfortunately, most of California is in a severe drought because of lack of winter rains and too little accumulation of snow in the Sierra icepack which melts during the warm weather providing fresh water to much of California.)

To make things even crazier, the temperatures vary greatly depending on if you're in San Francisco, on the peninsula, or further inland. The San Francisco fog cools things down a lot during the summer, but we hardly ever have fog in Alameda. Today I sat on the beach and it was blue skies and sunny in Alameda and there was miles of fog extending over SF. A few weeks ago Alameda had warmer than normal temps in the 80s. It was 90's further inland! Everyone has told me that if I start really craving a HOT summer, we just need to drive about 20 minutes further inland. We are planning to take the kids to a water park in Dublin soon.

In summary, our first "winter" was incredibly mild. It has felt spring-like here since February. Now it's June and I keep waiting to feel like it's summer, but it still feels like spring. I don't feel like signing my kids up for a pool membership when the temps aren't even in the 80s. (Seems like all the outdoor pools are heated here.) Fall kind of felt like fall as far as temperatures go, but the foliage was nowhere near as beautiful as back home. And it didn't get cooler until later. September and October are warm here. (September is often the warmest month.) If you come to visit us this summer, bring a light coat.

So, the big question is, do we like this mild, temperate weather or yearn for our normal four seasons? There are things I like about both climates, but if I had to pick one, I think I like the temperate weather better. There's no doubt that I missed the falls of back east, but I did not miss the winter. This past winter for most of the country was especially cold and brutal. It is wonderful to be able to take your kids outside to play all year round. I love being able to be active and outdoorsy all the time. So much of the summers in Kentucky are spent indoors because it is too hot and humid to be outdoors comfortably unless you're at a pool. July and August in KY gets so hot that you can just step outside and start to sweat! That very rarely happens here. But, I have thirty something years I have spent in KY experiencing all four seasons and it is very much a part of my DNA. It will be interesting to see if I start to miss it after we've lived here a few more years.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

"There's Truth To That"

FYI: The words of this post have the potential to upset someone who is unable to have a child whether it be through infertility, life circumstances, or a difficult adoption. I truly hope that by being honest about my initial pregnancy feelings, I do not unintentionally hurt someone who desperately wants another baby. Also, I realize that determining family size is a very personal choice based on many factors. As I have discussed what I feel is true for my family and circumstances, I hope that no one wrongly interprets that I believe that having no children or only one child is less than ideal.

The first few weeks of my pregnancy were difficult for me. I felt guilt about this 3rd pregnancy being a surprise when we had carefully planned and "wanted" the other two pregnancies. I did not want to be pregnant again. I really didn't want to give birth again. I didn't want to breastfeed again for another year. We were just getting settled into our new life in Alameda and feeling, dare I say it, comfortable! Admittedly, all of my reasons for not wanting to be pregnant again were selfish. So, I felt guilty about being selfish. I feared that I would regret these negative feelings terribly if something were to happen. I knew in my heart that in time, we would love this baby as much as our other two. Still, it has been a lot to grasp and I get worried about how this third child is going to affect how well I can handle our household. I barely keep it together now! I've grown in my acceptance. I'm slowly wrapping my head around the idea of us as a family of five instead of four. I've tried to think of all of the "cool" families I know with three or more kids. I've thought about how much I love my younger brother and his family and how they wouldn't even exist if my parents had stopped at two kids because it was easier or cheaper or more convenient. We slowly have told everyone our news and having family and friends be supportive and excited for us has helped.

One evening our family was hanging out for dessert with our neighbors. We shared our baby news with them and they were happy for us. Aaron is from a very large family. (He has ten siblings.) A family with three children isn't "big" to him at all. Jeremy and I joked a little about this being a bit of a surprise, but that "the good Lord must have known we needed one more child." Aaron quickly and excitedly said, "There's truth to that, you know." I don't remember the exact words he said after that, but it was something to the effect of it being a very good thing for stable, healthy families to have more than the average number of children.

His words rested in my heart over the next few days and have given me a deeper peace that yes, having another child IS a very good thing. We know that we will raise this child in a loving home with a mother AND a father. We know that we will do everything we can to raise him/her to love the LORD with all his/her soul, heart, and mind. God willing, we will have the means to support another child and meet and exceed his/her needs to give the very best start in life that we can. We will discipline him/her to respect authority, but think for him/herself. We will teach and guide and never, ever quit. I wish every child could experience the love of two parents. To know without a doubt that mom and dad love one another and daddy won't leave mama or ever hurt us. To have full confidence that at the next meal time, mom will have something for us to eat and we won't ever be hungry for long. To have a safe, clean, quiet place to rest their sweet heads at night and feel the love of bedtime cuddles and a good book. Dear God, I wish every child could just have these simple things. What would our world be like if every child, even the surprises, were deeply loved and cherished?

So, I have settled in my heart that there's truth in that God wanted Jeremy and I to have another child. He knew we could handle it and he chose us to help guide three precious children of the next generation to adulthood. Awesome Privilege. Thank you, God.