Friday, December 2, 2016

Letting Go

Last night, our Christmas tree arrived and I had to set it up and decorate it right then and there and I LOVED every single second of it.  You see, when we moved from our Riverton home a year and a half ago, the tree wouldn't fit into our 2 totes and last Christmas we were on vacation the entire month of December and didn't need a tree.  However, this Christmas we will be home and needing, or should I say, wanting a Christmas tree.

I was watching a Christmas movie yesterday that resonated with me, the girl said she loved Christmas because it wasn't an event it was a process.  I couldn't agree more. To me Christmas day and opening presents is just the smallest part of Christmas. What I love most are all the traditions and activities leading up to Christmas Day. It's listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas movies, making Christmas treats with my girls and delivering them to the the neighbors, it's driving around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights, it's buying toys/clothes for those in need, and most importantly it's about spending time with family.

To me decorating the Christmas tree is as much about decorating it as it is about walking down memory lane.  As you put on each decoration it has a story to tell of how it came to be and why it's hanging on the tree.  Even though there are very few Christmas decorations that were able to fit into one of my totes, I am grateful for the ones that did. I still have clay ornaments the girls and I have made and colored together, I have ornaments they made in preschool that have cute young pictures of them, I have ornaments that were given to us by friends, and I have ornaments that belonged to James when he was just a boy. And just this year, (since we would need some more ornaments to cover the tree) I purchased a set because they reminded me of ornaments we had to leave behind.  And that got me thinking about the title of this post, "Letting Go"

I remember as a young girl reading the Bible story of when Lot leaves Jerusalem and his wife is told that if she turns back to look at the city, she will be turned into a pillar of salt.  And as Lot and his wife left the city, she did indeed turn around to look back at the city and was turned into a pillar of salt.  I remember thinking that seemed pretty harsh. I couldn't understand why it mattered to God so much that she looked back at her home.  It must be hard to leave family and friends, the place where you raised your children, and a place you loved.  Why couldn't she look back at it?  Why was God being so mean? As I grew older, I had people try and explain that looking back and longing to be back were different and that it mattered where her heart was, was her heart with her husband and moving forward or was her heart back in a corrupt city.  I have thought a lot about this story over the years, especially as changes come my way.   I have thought often about Lot's wife since moving from my home of 10 years; the place where I brought my children home from the hospital and raised them from babies, the place where I had some great friends, and a place I loved.

As a wife and a Mom I now understand the great importance of letting go of the past and putting your whole heart and soul into the now and the future. Looking back and longing to be back can be dangerous things to our happiness and to our growth as a person.  I can see why Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt--metaphorically unmoving and useless.  By always looking back and longing to go back it will keep us from moving forward and being useful and becoming our ultimate selves.

As I hang up these sweet Christmas decorations and reminders of the past I am touched by the sweet experiences I have been so fortunate to have.  I am so grateful to have been a stay-at-home mother to two beautiful sweet children who I got to decorate Christmas decorations with; but I am also excited for today for being able to put up a tree and put up some new decorations to represent this years Christmas; and I am also excited for the all the Christmas ornaments I have yet to collect and place on my Christmas tree in the years to come.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Live in Thanksgiving Daily

I LOVE the last three months of the year.  I love Fall with the turning of the leaves, the crispness in the air, and the wearing of warm clothes. I love seeing the kids get all dressed up for Halloween and going out with their friends to Trick-or-treat. Then I love the focus of being grateful for everything that we have for most of the month and concluding it by eating a delicious Thanksgiving meal with family, and finally I LOVE Christmastime with the sweet songs, magical lights, and all the many fun and special traditions celebrated together as families.

Fall in Folsom has been fun to watch. By Halloween only a few of the trees had leaves changing colors and the air was still quite warm.  As the November days kept progressing we received more and more rain and all of the grasses completely greened up.  It was almost like having two seasons in one--rainy spring days with the grass turning green and warm fall days with color-changing leaves.  It's crazy watching the hills turn green when my brain says that according to the calendar the grass should be dead and the snow should be starting to fall.

With Thanksgiving we were thankful for an ENTIRE week off from school. We've never gotten an entire week off during Thanksgiving, but it was a great opportunity for us to get to take an extended vacation and enjoy driving down California's coast.  We were able to leave early and enjoy making multiple day stops along the way.  We stopped in Monterey and enjoyed a day at the beach, we stopped in San Simeon and toured Hearst Castle before arriving in Palm Springs to spend Thanksgiving with Grandma Gilbride and Nicole, Ron, Tyler and Landon.  It was great getting to spend a couple of days with them reminiscing, visiting, and catching-up.  We played games, went swimming, and the kids had sleep-overs in front of the old tv watching Classic VHS Movies.

The day after Thanksgiving our family and Nicole's family spent the next 2 days at Disneyland. It was the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit there with family at the Happiest Place on Earth. We had some great times and loved every second with family. We were so sad to see our times together come to such an abrupt end. We are looking forward to the time when we can see them again.

We are also looking forward to the Christmas season and enjoying Christmas at home.  It's been 3 years since we've been home for Christmas and it will be nice to decorate a tree, make holiday treats, and drive around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights.

Life is going well and we are enjoying this wonderful time of year. We hope each of you and your families are safe and well and enjoy all the rest that 2016 has to offer.

Some pictures to highlight the last month:
Lauren as Elizabeth Swan from Pirates of the Caribbean

Katelyn as a vampire

Enjoyed our day at the Beach in Monterey

collecting shells

Hearst Castle

Thanksgiving Dinner at Grandma Gilbrides

Grandma with her grandkids and great grandkids


The second day it rained--a lot so we all wore matching rain ponchos

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day"

And I truly believe this.  Some days are filled with problems, loneliness, or sadness, but there is something good that can be found in  (sometimes you just have to look harder and be more creative to find it)  But honestly, we've had a lot of good days.  

The past two weeks we've been enjoying a mix of sunny beautiful weather and rainy gray weather.  Two weekends ago we stayed home so we could go to James' boss' surprise 40th birthday party.  It was fun to meet co-workers and spouses.  And since we had a weekend at home, we decided to cook our own lobsters.   James and Katelyn went to an Asian market where we could get some nice live lobsters, artichokes, potatoes, and Jack fruit.  We had fun doing our own lobster bake.  (The girls weren't so keen on lobster tail and think they will stick to crab legs)

Lauren getting the Jack Fruit ready. It was pretty yummy

Cooking our yummy friends

Our feast is complete!  Get cracking!

Katelyn's school class field trip finally arrived last Wednesday. She has been looking forward to this day since the day she started school here.  Her class was divided up into different "towns" and Katelyn was able to be in the same town with a lot of her friends so that was even more exciting.  Their town was called Rough and Ready.   Katelyn got to ride the school bus about an hour away to a city called Coloma, where the Gold Rush of 1849, is still reenacted. She got to dress in flannel so she could feel more like a gold miner. She learned about Levi Strauss and how Levi's came to be.  She got to go on nature hikes, learn about Native Americans, and pan for gold.  (Katelyn found 18 flakes of gold which she proudly tells to everyone she meets.)  They had campfires, danced the hoe-down, and slept in cabins (complete with bunkbeds and a bathroom with a shower).  They were fed 3 yummy meals a day, learned about the environment, and earned beads for passing off requirements.  She had a great time and can't wait to go back next year for a more advanced experience. 

Ready and excited to start her field-trip

Katelyn was able to go to her first birthday party in California.  She had a great time and actually won some great prizes.  They had a "Guess how many M&M's" jar and Katelyn won that contest and got to keep all 1,083 M&M's, the container, and she even got a prize for winning.   She also won at Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and a few other games.  She had a great time and got to spend more time with friends from school.

Katelyn and her prizes

We decided it was time for us to explore Old Town Sacramento so we spent a few hours walking around. It really is such a cute place.  The buildings look just like a real old western town, there are some fun River boats and some great trains.  Our favorite spot was probably the candy shop, where we were able to browse through barrels and barrels of all kinds of candies. We even got a few samples!

Looking at the paddle on the river boat

On a personal note, I absolutely love the nature trails here and being able to run, bike, or walk on them everyday. I have been able to discover so many great trails and have even been able to find where some of them connect.  It's always so exciting to me when that happens.  I don't think I will ever tire of the amazingly lush landscape.  There are so many trees and plants and I can't believe how many shades of green there are right next to each other.   I can't help sharing a few photos of these places I love:

The trail behind our apartment.  I LOVE the red tree.  Fall is here!

On our way to the birthday party I saw this "rainbow of trees"

A beautiful sunny day. Found this beautiful view on a new trail

Love running next to the stream and hearing it's music

Love this wooden winding bridge 

The trees grow over the trails

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"Life's always better at the beach"

This past weekend we took a little road trip up to Santa Cruz for a weekend at the beach!  It was perfect!  (Little did we know that it's climate is just like San Francisco, it's coldest month is June and it's warmest month is January.  Granted that can be the difference of only 10 degrees, but it was a wonderfully warm day for us to be at the beach in October.)

We arrived at sunset and took a walk out onto the pier and had a nice seafood dinner.  We ordered clams as an appetizer and the girls really had fun trying them.

We loved our clams and clam chowder
Our hotel room was really cute and just across the street from the beach. We had some great lounge chairs just outside our door where we had an amazing view of the pier, the beach, and the ocean. We could hear the waves crashing against the shore, and there were sea lions near the pier we could hear as well.  It was perfect!

The view from our room

We had a great time playing on the beach. The kids spent all day playing in the sand, running into the water, and trying to body surf.  It's always the best watching Lauren and Katelyn laughing and playing together. It was a fabulous day!!  Here are a few pictures:

Digging in the sand

The water was still really cold

We LOVE the beach!

Have to build sandcastles on the shore

Our friends the Sea Lions

On the pier, overlooking the boardwalk

On our way home the next morning we stopped for donuts.  I had a crumb topped bear claw.  I'd never had one before and it was so yummy!!!  Then we stopped at a little place called the Mystery Spot where gravity is supposed to be different.  It was fun to stand at a 17 degree angle and to struggle to walk.  The girls had a blast and even volunteered and were chosen to help with some of the demonstrations.   Here are a few more pictures.

It really looks like a bear claw---and SO yummy!

The craziest cabin EVER

Trying to stand up straight without leaning

Trying to lean as forward as possible without falling

I have a high school friend who currently lives in Nevada who was coming into California and asked to stop by to see me.  We met up for lunch at a diner on the Historic downtown street and then walked on some nature trails and crossed the Historic Truss Bridge.   It was so fun to see my friend! It had been 17 years since we've seen each other, but it felt just like old times.   I also enjoyed the trails so much that I had to go back and keep exploring further.  Here are even more pictures:
My friend Kim and I on the Historic Truss Bridge

The sign is awesome, it reads, "$5 fine for driving over this bridge faster than a walk.  $25 fine for driving more than 20 head of horses, 50 head of cattle, or 200 sheep, hogs, or goats over this bridge at one time"
Love this bridge (It's Folsom's most recognized landmark)

Beautiful tree lined trails. I love how the trees often make a canopy over the trail

This looked a little bit like what I'd imagine the Savanah to look like. I love the diversity of trees and landscape that can be found all around Folsom. 

I think all of our family can agree that we come to love living in Folsom more each day.  It has been an amazing place to be.  We love the city itself and all it has to offer, as well as how close we are to so many different places that are so diverse.  We still plan on discovering more of our surroundings so stay tuned for our next adventure. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

"Take a quiet walk with Mother Nature. It will nurture your mind, body, and soul."

In my last post, I mentioned how well James was enjoying his job, and how well Lauren and Katelyn are adjusting to their surroundings, a new school, and making new friends. It's all true and they continue to amaze me at how well they are doing. They aren't quite perfect with schoolwork to be honest, we are still adjusting to homework and getting things turned in on time, but I have faith we'll get there. 

As for me, I've enjoyed taking walks around the neighborhood.  It's been good exercise and a chance to get to know the the area better.  Here in Folsom there are nature trails everywhere some of them just a mile or two, some of them 10+ miles, and some over 30.  However, I'd only been able to find the small trails that connected the neighborhoods together.  But today, I hit the jackpot, I finally found one of the major trails that runs for 14 miles.   Is was the perfect timing as well, it's been so hot lately but just this weekend, we had a nice storm come through that cooled the weather down so that it finally feels like fall is here. It was the perfect weather to ride and it was heavenly.  The scenery was breathtaking. I loved all the bridges, the rivers, the railroad tracks, and the crunchy fallen leaves scattered all over the trail.  I spent just over an hour today exploring a few miles in each direction and I can't wait to go back tomorrow and stick to one direction and see how far I can explore. 

Here are a few pictures from today's ride.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show"

So this quote really sums up how James and I feel. We love taking adventures and seeing all the many wonders there are, some of which we have to travel longer distances to discover, and others are right in our own backyard. Each weekend we've tried to have a fun adventure exploring our new surroundings.

Last weekend we visited San Jose, home of the Winchester Mystery House, and the Headquarters of Apple, Google, and Facebook.  (of course, we had to be creepy and drive by Steve Job's house). Then we had a fantastic BBQ dinner with James's boss and another co-worker (the boss's brother) at his home in Danville on our way back home.

Girls in front of the famous house

We all got to wear hard hats for our "behind the scenes" portion of the tour
that included the haunted basement. Sadly, we saw no ghosts. 

This past weekend we had every intention of staying more local so we visited an apple orchard where we had freshly picked apples as well as caramel apples, the girls rode horses and we posed with some fun signs.  However, since we were only just over an hour away from Lake Tahoe, we just couldn't resist making the drive and seeing Lake Tahoe for ourselves.   The girls LOVED it!!!   Me too, it was so beautiful!  Not to mention the water was incredibly warm as we were on a "reef" that was about a mile long.

So happy to finally get to ride a horse

A nice little ride around the grounds

This was my favorite of our poses. The mental hospital escapees get-away

Thought this was a cute sign, hard to get a good picture from a moving car :)
Lake Tahoe

Lauren the seagull

Such a beautiful Lake

We had such a great time, we are already looking forward to our next trip.  Who knows, maybe even this upcoming weekend.