Monday, November 30, 2015


Our new house is great for entertaining. We were able to get our beautiful wood dining table out of storage and put it to good use. We have so much space in our great room that we could have another seating area and a piano! Our great room is still kind of empty (just the computer and desk, dining table, bar stools, and kids' play kitchen, but it has been nice having the extra space for family dance parties, roller skating, and running around. The great room also was the perfect place for our Christmas tree.

My friend, Jamie, suggested we do a Friendsgiving this year. She has three children, too, and they are all about one year younger than our kiddos. I also invited our old neighbors. Kristine and Dan have had us over many times for Easter, 4th of July parties, etc. so I was happy to be able to host them for a change. Unfortunately, Kristine became ill and could not attend, but the rest of the family was able to make it. 

Anna Kate in her cute Thanksgiving outfit from Dinkney.

Emily eyeing my turkey fruit platter!

Ta da! My beautiful Thanksgiving table and china.

This was the first time I had ever hosted Thanksgiving or cooked a turkey. I was quite nervous of messing it all up, but I tried to stay positive. I could do this, right? I prepared by watching lots of Barefoot Contessa videos and googling "how to cook a turkey" about a hundred times. haha!  I overcooked it just a little so it was drier than I had hoped, but it was still pretty good with some gravy. I was so afraid of undercooking it that I left it in another 20-30 minutes even after I was pretty sure it was done. I definitely need to get a meat thermometer next time I try to do it. It wasn't as hard as I thought to prep the turkey, but coordinating the meal and having the house all ready is a challenge, especially when you have three little ones. I tried to keep things simple. Our guests each brought a few things, I prepared everything I could in advance, and set the table the night before. Our dining table looked lovely! The easiest way to keep from being homesick on a major holiday is to be busy. Make plans. Last year we did a trip to Bodega Bay during Thanksgiving week and then had dinner with friends Thanksgiving evening. This year we hosted the meal ourselves. Next year, I think I'd rather take another trip. haha! Joking. Kind of. Emily has the whole Thanksgiving week off, so it is a nice time to take a trip. I guess we'll see what next year holds! This year I was very thankful for my family and all the people gathered at our table. It was a pleasure to host them and celebrate our great country and our many blessings from God.

Big Kids' Table. We used kraft paper "tablecloths" and placed coloring crayons at each table.
Setting up the kids' tables with Jeremy's job.  

M and L sat together at the little table.

Jamie holds little Miss AK.

Bowie and Daniel

Men folk hanging out and talking after dinner.

My Instagram collage of the day

Friday after Thanksgiving 5K by the Bay with my sweet friend, Erin.
That's SF and Bay Bridge in the background. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Disney and Reimagine Conference

The Reiss family finally ventured down to SoCal this November! Honestly, between our trips back and forth to KY and all we've done in northern and central CA, we have kept quite busy over the past couple of years. A southern trip hadn't been at the top of our list until recently. When Jeremy was asked to speak at the Reimagine Conference, it was just the push we needed to plan something Nov. 12th-15th. 

This is what your family photo looks like when you skip it upon arrival because of bright sun, but then almost forget to get the "classic" Disney photo by the castle so you wake up your son from his nap before it gets too dark. Oops!
Jeremy spent many hours over several days perfecting his slides and speech for his first professional speaking engagement. He was nervous and I was nervous for him, but all of the preparation paid off. He did SO well and I was extremely proud of him. He was given lodging and Disney tickets for his efforts! Daddy worked very hard for this relatively "free" trip to Disney. I had hoped that Jeremy would speak on a Thursday to allow us to go to Disney on Friday, but the speaking schedule didn't work out that way. He spoke Friday which moved our family Disney day to a Saturday--not ideal due to typical weekend crowds, but that's just how it all fell. 

We had been forewarned about LA traffic and to make sure we left early from the Bay Area so as to avoid rush hour. Well, we didn't quite leave early enough, but we still made decent time Thursday evening. We were delayed about 90 minutes in slow moving traffic when we hit the LA area, but at least we were still moving and at least the kids didn't all completely melt down. :) Jeremy had some time to check out the venue and prep his talk a little more that evening after we got the kids to bed that first night.

Disney or BUST
While Jeremy did the conference thing on Friday, I was responsible for keeping the three kiddos entertained ALL day in a different city. We only had a small hotel room, so I really needed to get the kids outside. I decided to take the kids to Newport Beach's Balboa Pier and Peninsula Park. I wanted to see the coast and find a playground for the kids that was an easy drive from the hotel in Santa Ana, and this hit the mark. It was an easy drive down 55 with limited turns. Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach were also fairly close. 

A quick selfie before Jeremy went on for his talk
I hired a sitter with Urbansitter to come to our hotel and watch the kids in our room while I headed down to the conference. I got to hear Jeremy speak as well as a highly respected Disney Imagineer who spoke before Jeremy. It was nice to know that thanks to texting, I could easily slip away and head back upstairs to the children if they needed me. We ended up having our Urbansitter stay later to watch Anna Kate that evening while the rest of the family had a late dinner at Noah Elias's home (the conference founder and organizer.) Caleb fell asleep on the way to dinner and he and Emmy BOTH fell asleep on the way home that evening. We were probably crazy to take the kids. Originally, just Jeremy was going to go to the speakers' dinner after he helped me feed the kids and get them ready for bed. Although the children were well behaved at Noah's home, it was late for them which made me apprehensive about how early we could reasonably get to Disneyland the next day. Jeremy and I had a wonderful time getting to know some of the other speakers at the conference, all of whom were very interesting and accomplished people. Noah's backyard was perfect for a party and of course the kids loved making S'mores for dessert! Because of our late night and the amount of time it took us to travel from Santa Ana to Anaheim, park, wait through the security lines, etc., it was well after 10 am before we got inside Disneyland gates the next morning--later than I had hoped. 

Best decision we made was taking the double BOB stroller instead of our single one. Caleb  was just 3 yrs. 2 mon. old. I think we ended up walking about seven miles that day according to my i-phone and there's no way he could have kept up. He napped over an hour in the stroller, too. I could tell that he was more tired than usual at Disney from our late night. Also, it was overwhelming for him at times. I think it was often sensory overload for him. He enjoyed the trip, but not like Emily did. As we exited the park that night, Caleb and Emmy fell asleep in the BOB as we walked back to the parking lot while I carried AK in the Ergo. Parents of three year olds should remember that they may need a stroller unless they are OK with carrying their kid on their shoulders for a good part of the day. 

Chatting up Tinker Bell

A lot of times I wanted photos with Caleb or all of the kids, but it was too difficult and time consuming to work with his moods. Emily was always ready for a photo. Seemed like it always took begging and pleading to get a photo with Caleb so as you can see, we just don't have as many photos of him or Jeremy (since he had the camera.)
It kind of felt like this was Emily's trip to Disney. The rest of us just tagged along. ha! She was ALL about it. Never complained about  all the walking or being hungry or the crowds or waits. She was just very content to take it all in. 
I thought this was cute. 

Family Selfie before "It's A Small World ride."
Em's face while watching Elsa in the parade.
Emily asked to have her face painted after seeing Tinker Bell. At Disney, you say "yes" to these special things. :)

Pretty girl looking even more special. 

Afternoon play in Tarzan's treehouse. Something that thankfully did NOT have a wait when the lines became too much to deal with at the most crowded time of day. 

Dusk at Disneyland

In mid-November, all of the Christmas lights are up and it becomes even more magical. 
Baby girl's face while watching the Paint the Night Parade. While taking a one year old definitely makes for a more challenging trip, I was pleasantly surprised that she had her own moments of joy and delight even if she won't remember it.
So Cool! We all LOVED the parade. It was fantastic in every way and one of the highlights of our day.
People get ready for the parade EARLY. We managed to  claim a good viewing spot that was close to the exit. Front row for parade viewing and easy escape after the fireworks. However, it would be nice to be closer to the castle if we go again. 

Merry Christmas Disneyland! 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween--We ROCKED it!

Jeremy and I rarely dress-up with our kids for Halloween or go to the trouble to have everyone's outfits coordinate with some theme. I've always just let Emily and Caleb decide what they want to do. We've had mostly princesses or fairies the past few years with Emily. Caleb was a Tiger one year and a Giants baseball player last year.

Last year, I came across a photo of a local large family with everyone all dressed up in Incredibles costumes. It was totally epic. They had about six kids. Most were babies or toddlers or preschoolers. The Mom was selling some of the outfits and I mentally made a note of her name and thought I might want to contact her one day. Last year I was just a few days postpartum with Anna Kate and could barely walk the block for Halloween so it wasn't the year to try it. I mentally thought, "Next year, will be perfect to do it!" A few weeks prior to Halloween, I contacted the mom with all of the costumes and sure enough, she still had several! She had sold the Mr. Incredible muscle costume, but the lady who had bought it from her was now ready to pass it on. I was so excited! I spent $20 on Jeremy's costume and borrowed three from my Alameda mom contact. I ended up needing to spend about $20 on Emily's costume, too. My contact only had boy costumes (with the muscle chests) and I didn't want her to have that one. (Emily's Violet costume was delivered ON Halloween! Talk about cutting it close!)

Halloween was on Saturday this year which was even better. We had time to eat an early dinner and get dressed up for the night. I wish we had had another chance besides Halloween night to wear our costumes. It would have been fun to dress up and have our families and/or close friend see us.

Here's Em and C showing off their super-hero strength!

Check out this rare moment of capturing all three kids sitting in one spot and looking up! Oh my gosh, I just about die with happiness when I see these three. Check out Dash, Baby Jack Jack and Violet! If I had been a stickler, I would have painted Anna Kate's face. She wouldn't keep on the mask and I couldn't bear to make her cry with drawing black paint all over her and then having to wipe it off later. The masks that came with the costumes were pretty horrible so I'm glad my black face pencil worked out OK and I had an extra super-hero mask left over from C's birthday party since he wouldn't allow us to paint him. Crazy enough, Caleb left on this mask the WHOLE night without complaint. haha!

This just might be my favorite photo of 2015. haha! It is so perfect! We only had a short window of time to get this taken before it got too dark. Plus, we were using a tripod! Can you believe that? We got this with a tripod! I was really worried that after all the trouble of getting everyone a costume, then getting everyone dressed up, that we wouldn't even get one good photo of everyone. So thankful we did. :)

We took the red wagon again for our Halloween outing in the Gold Coast area near our home. Halloween is really big here. So many houses decorate and neighbors hang out on their sidewalks or front porches during the prime trick-or-treating hours. EVERYWHERE we went, we got so much attention. I felt like a celebrity. ;) People were like, "Oh my gosh! It's The Incredibles!" "Look they even have a baby!" We got smiles and high fives and funny comments like that the whole night. People would give us extra candy for our effort. Caleb's little black shoes light up when he runs so that made it pretty funny, too. Little Dash would literally dash out of the wagon to get his candy bucket filled while his shoes lit up the way. This fun night with the kids will stay in my memory forever. We may have to do an encore next year. It was that fun, but we'll never beat this year. The kids were just the perfect ages.

Elastigirl and Jack Jack

Our ride

Just an example of one of the local homes all decked out.

Jeremy stayed in character pretty much the whole night. It was hilarious. 

Y'all Mr. Incredible is SO dreamy! He even changes diapers!