Saturday, July 14, 2018

Rush Hour

It's just crazy to me that we're halfway through the 7th month of 2018. July has been full of fun and surprises (like Lorelei breaking her arm on July 4th -- more on that later). And, you guys...I'M ACTUALLY ENJOYING SUMMER. I know, I know; it's uncharacteristic of me. I think the fact that the three oldest can swim and Ruthie is no longer a baby needing two naps a day (and it's the first summer in two years we haven't MOVED) has helped make this the first summer with kids I've found fun.

This is just a quick post because I feel guilty that my "Good Habits" app is telling me it's been 15 days since I last posted. So I'm going to randomly share with you a little about life in California's Central Valley, because this post has been in my drafts folder for months, and that's too long.

We live on the Navy base in Lemoore, CA, and when you exit the base you have to drive for miles and miles through desert-like terrain -- but with FARMS lining either side of the highway -- before you get anywhere. (But you have to drive EAST. You won't find anything if you go north, south, or west.) There are mountain ranges visible ahead of and behind you (unless the air quality is bad that day; then you can't see much of anything). I've never lived anywhere like it.

Lemoore is a town of 26,000. The next town over due east, Hanford, has the closest Target and Walmart (population 55,000). Visalia is a very nice town even further east of Hanford, population 133,000, but it takes a lot for me to drive 45 minutes for ANYTHING. Fresno, the closest big city most people have heard of, is north-ish of Lemoore, 45-50 minutes away. Population 500,000, with the closest zoo and an "international" airport (barely, it's difficult to get direct flights out of Fresno to anywhere, except maybe Los Angeles).

It's simultaneously close to nothing and everything. We're 2-3 hours from so many amazing places: Sequoia National Forest, Yosemite National Park, the Pacific coast, San Francisco. It's a little further to places like Disneyland, Los Angeles, Monterey, and San Diego, but much closer for us than for most people living in the U.S.

People complain there's not much to do here, and about the hot weather, and about the bad air quality, but we've settled nicely into life in Lemoore. After living in D.C. and Austin, it's been a nice change for us. We rely heavily on the services/amenities offered by the base. We don't eat out much, or get take-out, because there's nothing close enough to make it convenient. And we BASK in the fact that there is NO TRAFFIC. Literally. When we were driving home from the marathon a couple of months ago we experienced the closest thing to traffic Lemoore has to offer:
Seriously. We were stopped at a stop sign, surrounded by farms, waiting to turn right. Chet said, "Looks like we've hit rush hour."

Happy weekend, my friends!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

March Reading

Here's what I read in March!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas -- You guys...this book is amazing. I don't normally gravitate toward books where the subject matter is so real and relevant (I prefer fiction that provides a break from the real world; it's the same reason I don't enjoy like shows like "This Is Us" -- TOO REAL). But this is a brilliant, often FUNNY book (at one point the main character is scared her dad is going to get out of the car because then everyone will see his ashy knees and socks + sandal-clad feet) that I HIGHLY recommend.

A Man Called Ove (audiobook) by Fredrik Backman -- The audio version of this book was great (it's originally written in Swedish, and I've heard some people have a hard time getting into the print version). It's about an older man who is VERY SET IN HIS WAYS, coping with life after his wife's death, and the unexpected hope he finds in (unwillingly) befriending the people in his neighborhood.

Hardcore Twenty-Four by Janet Evanovich -- I'll continue to read this series by Janet Evanovich as long as she continues to write them. Often ridiculous, but always enjoyable, and a great palate cleanser between harder-to-read books.

The Almost Sisters (audiobook) by Joshilyn Jackson -- I've never read a Joshilyn Jackson book before, but apparently tons of people (women) love her. This book was read by the author, and I liked her voice (always a plus when listening to an audiobook!). I'm not sure this is something I would have read in print, but it was an enjoyable story to listen to while training for the marathon.

That's it for March. Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Ford's Ladies

It's only Wednesday and it feels like this week has been six years long (all thanks to vacation Bible school every night from 6 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. -- will we survive? hopefully...)

Anyway, we expended all of our energy today, first on the outdoor track behind the base gym, then at the community pool (then at gymnastics). Ford, normally a boy who thinks girls and boys should be segregated (I'm working on catching him up to the 21st century), played with LOTS of girls at the pool.

I hope YOU'RE surviving and thriving this week. And perhaps even leading the way as you jump into nice, cold pools.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Swim Lessons

Ford and Ruthie had swim lessons this week -- every day at 9:30 a.m.!

They did great. Ford doesn't need to wear arm floaties anymore, and Ruthie is much more confident in the water (and can swim holding her breath, face down).

I'm sure Ruthie will need at least another year of lessons, but I'm glad we did them this year. Now to practice what they learned the rest of the summer!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Father's Day!

This year both Mother's Day and Father's Day were super low-key (but enjoyable!).

In fact, I'm going to stop for a second and tell you about Mother's Day, because it doesn't warrant its own post, but I want to tell you something funny. For Mother's Day I asked Chet for the freedom/support/time to take care of a few projects around the house without having to stop to break up fights or feed anyone lunch. For example, taking care of a VERY RANDOM pile of papers that had accumulated between us moving here and now. I spread out this very random pile of papers all over our bedroom, and Sydney and Lorelei helped me sort them and create categories and throw things away, etc. They were very helpful, but also bored to tears. Sydney asked of her friends' mothers, "Are Ms. Catherine and Ms. Stephanie sorting papers right now too?" Hmm, unlikely...but possible. It's hard to predict what a mother's heart might desire on Mother's Day.

Anyway, Father's Day! We went out to dinner Saturday night, at a Mexican food restaurant Chet and I love (but have only been to once, sans children). (We recently realized that we hardly ever take the kids to restaurants. Mostly because we have to drive at least 20 minutes to get to one, and 30 minutes if we want a lot of choices. It's almost never worth the effort.) 

This is Ruthie's "kitty cat" face. She pretends to be a cat ("me kitty tat!") at least four times an hour, and this is the face she makes while she meows:

After dinner we ate ice cream at Baskin Robbins:

Sunday morning before church the kids gave Chet the best gift ever by playing quietly together for a little while (I don't know about your house, but Sunday mornings are usually extra loud and dramatic at ours):

Then I tried to take a quick picture in the church parking lot, but:
So there you have it.

Hopefully your Father's Day was great, and full of sorting papers (if, you know, that's what you WANTED to do).

Thursday, June 14, 2018

February Reading

Here's what I read in February!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (audiobook) by Ransom Riggs -- This was a good listen (I loved the guy who read the audiobook version). It wasn't THE BEST BOOK EVER, but I'll probably listen to/read the sequel.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson -- This Newbery Medal winner was fantastic. There's a big spoiler that I actually heard on a podcast either shortly before I read the book, or right after I started reading it. I read it anyway, and am really glad I did. It's also a movie I think the girls would like to watch (probably during the day this summer, when it's too hot to go outside).

Wonder by R. J. Palacio -- I read this aloud to Sydney and Lorelei, and then we watched the movie. There were a few parts I felt were over their head, and I censored a sentence here and there, but we enjoyed it. The movie was good too.

After You (audiobook) by Jojo Moyes -- I read the first book in this series, Me Before You, when we lived in Virginia. I liked both of them, but I'm not going to recommend them to absolutely everyone I meet (some books will make me do that though!). The reason is because I have a problem with the main character, Louisa. She's the most boring person in the world.

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny -- I heard this book was a turning point in this series, specifically the point where the author hit her stride. "They" were right!

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House (audiobook) by Alyssa Mastromonaco -- As always, I like memoirs read by the author. While she and I may differ in our politics, I liked learning about her experience.

That's it for February. Happy reading!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Sequoia National Park (Part 1)

Saturday I realized we've lived in California for nearly a year and hadn't done a single California-y thing. So the next morning we drove to Sequoia National Park

The great thing about  living California's central valley, while there's not much in the actual valley, is we're pretty much 2.5 hours from many California landmarks. Sequoia is even closer than that -- just 70 miles from our house to the Ash Mountain entrance of the park. 

The "problem" (not really a problem, just something to know and consider) is that it takes quite a while to drive up the mountain to the different landmarks within the park. The kids had been watching a DVD during the drive, but we quickly turned it off once we entered the park -- not necessarily because we thought they should enjoy the scenery (children never appreciate such things as much as adults do), but because they were all going to lose their breakfasts unless they looked out the window or closed their eyes. The twisty, winding road up the mountain is bound to make ANYONE carsick. 

In fact, we had to stop halfway into our trek upward to give everyone some fresh air. 
Sydney was feeling the worst, with Ford close behind her. Lorelei was doing okay, and Ruthie was hardly affected:

Sydney cracked half of a smile for a millisecond...
...but the rest of the time she looked like she was concentrating on not needing a barf bag:
Ahh, family fun.

The second half of the drive up the mountain was better, not sure why. Our destination was the parking lot to see the General Sherman Tree. It's the biggest tree in the world, by volume (meaning, it's not the tallest and it doesn't have the biggest circumference, but it has the most wood). It is still VERY tall and VERY big around.

From the parking lot you walk 0.4 miles to the actual tree, all downhill (and all paved, with intermittent stairs).

There's a lookout about halfway down where you can see the tree from the distance (it's the one slightly to the left):

It was impossible to capture it's size with a mere mortal camera:

We didn't the typical photo in front of the tree where the sign is; it was crowded and Chet and I were anxious to get onto the trail we had planned to hike. But a nice lady snapped this one of us:
...and we decided that was good enough.

More later -- happy Monday!