An Ode to Abe (of the bloggish-prose variety, on the occasion of our seven year anniversary)

Can I just type a series of superlatives? Because that’s what Abe is to me.

He is the kindest. Did I ever record the time he came home after a long day, took over the kids, put them to bed, and then folded five loads of laundry before turning to me in sincerity  and thanking me for sacrificing my health and body to carry another baby of ours into the world? Because if I didn’t, I should have.

Or how one of our Chicago friends, who was ostracized at church because he relates to others slightly differently, considers Abe his best friend in the world because Abe never ostracized him, always included him, made time for him–and still does?? Abe sees past outer mannerisms into his heart and reciprocates this man’s love and loyalty with his own sincere love and genuine friendship. He is always there to lend a hand, a listening ear, and even money–even though we are definitely not rich, and his instincts are always to save. But he is generous with those in need because Abe’s soul is kind.

Abe is constantly seeing the best in others. Even when others criticize him–which is hard, since Abe puts his heart and soul into everything he does and prioritizes the happiness of others above his own–he takes the criticism, becomes introspective, tries to grow, and extends acts of service towards the criticizer. This scenario actually happened this year with someone he works with. I was so proud to see how he responded maturely and kindly to the situation.

The funniest. Abe makes me laugh out loud every day. He is witty, clever, and oh-so-funny.

The most fun. As our children will tell you, Abe is the most fun. They are so, so lucky to have a dad who is their personal playground and play mate. And Abe, because he is so optimistic, can make any situation seem like a fun adventure. (RE: Our recent road trip episode where Ammon puked all over and Abe rejoiced because we happened to be able to clean it all up in a stream. On my own, I would have cried and concluded God had abandoned me.)

The best listener EVER. I can talk to Abe about everything, and I basically do. He listens and understands me right away. I can count on one finger the time I felt like after explaining myself more than once, he didn’t actually understand what I was feeling. ONE time in seven years. And we proceeded to talk for hours until he did.

The wisest man. I have way too open a mind to random articles and blogs I come across in my Facebook feed. If I find something well-written and persuasive, I tend to be able to see things from the perspective of whoever is writing. Sometimes this disturbs my paradigm or my peace, and I always run these articles by Abe. He immediately can discern and sort what is good, helpful, and true from what is not–and he has the ability to articulate why in a powerful way. Honestly, it’s like he has a superpower of discernment.

The most authentically spiritual. He reads scriptures and journals about God for fun. He kneels in prayer because he adores God. I do these things out of duty or because I need divine help or therapy. He does these things for personal pleasure.

The HARDEST working. The man never stops. He works himself to the bone at work and then comes home and takes over my job, changing all of the poopy diapers, putting the kids down, chasing Ammon, helping me with whatever household chores I neglected to do, tallies our budget–honestly, what do I even do with my life? (Actually, that’s why I blog–to tell myself that I do something with my life because otherwise I would be left to conclude that Abe and my mom do it all.) He is literally superman. When I worked (in my very, very short career), I would come home in a state of collapse. I am sure that is what Abe would like to do, but he always, always chooses to serve his family instead.

The BEST HUSBAND IN THE WORLD. I tell Abe regularly that I could search the universe and all of the eternities, backwards and forwards in time, and never find his equal. He is the perfect husband for me. He is strong in every area I am weak. And on top of that–he doesn’t despise me for being weak! He loves me. He tells me so multiple times a day, gives me long massages regularly, helps me with whatever I want help with, patiently listens to me complain about my decaying health and body (the worst, most annoying type of complaining), takes over the kids when he is home, encourages me to do things for myself, supports me in anything I undertake, tells me constantly that I am beautiful (even when I am pregnant and weigh over 200 lbs), and speaks consistently kind, loving words in a kind, loving tone to me. I am convinced if he had any free time, he would spend it walking on water.

I adore my husband. Happy Anniversary, Abe! Thank you for making these seven years so spectacularly rich in love and friendship. You are the best and the greatest.

I love you. 

7th Wedding Anniversary

Monday was our wedding anniversary! We spent most of it…cleaning. Well, Abe and my mom cleaned, the kids played in our kiddie pool and ran around the neighborhood, and I sat on a chair and tried to recover from the trip.

It was actually a very pleasant, enjoyable day. Unfortunately, all of my pictures are lost except for one. We had a babysitter come over at 4pm so that Abe and I could escape to Salt Lake for the evening.

En route we decided to deep clean our dirty car. It took us over an hour in the blazing hot sun. We had the car wash attendant take our picture to document the memory.

By the time we reached Salt Lake, neither of us had eaten much all day. I don’t know if Abe had eaten more than some fruit since the morning. We decided to rectify the situation by eating ourselves into a coma at Rodizio’s. Abe did not regret a thing, but I am pretty sure I gained about ten pounds (that’s a low estimate) on the trip, so I did have immediate regrets. But it was good while we were eating it!

Honestly, I don’t know if I should record our next stop or not, but oh well, this is my life documentary and I am probably not going to put this in my scripture journal! I am also pretty sure I am my main audience here, and this was a great memory, so into the blog it goes: We next went to the Blue Boutique, which we occasionally patronize. In fact, I used to live practically next door to the place in my single years, but of course I never visited then. One of my roommates had to point it out to me and explain what it was because I had never noticed it before (which is crazy since there are mannequins in lingerie in the window–you’d think I would have noticed, right???).

At any rate, we had a great time shopping around. I kind of love the staff there because they are all so friendly and can talk about anything–literally anything— in such a friendly, personable, matter-of-fact way. I always ask TONS of questions and leave feeling not only educated, but enlightened.

Then we checked into the Grand America. I have always wanted to stay there. One of my friends spent her wedding night there, and ever since she told me that, I always wondered, “Why didn’t I think of that?” At the end of the day, I love my life experiences just the way they happened, but it was kind of a dream come true to experience the Grand America. It was especially nice after our loooooong (but wonderful) road trip. We had time to ourselves! Peace and quiet! And as much as we love our children, we had just spent every waking moment with them for ten days straight…so also: No children!!! It was amazing.

In the morning, we ordered breakfast to our room and Abe helped upload thousands of pictures to Google Drive and my computer.

I seriously have the best husband in. the. world.

Home again

On Sunday we got up early to make the long drive back home. We really did not make any memorable stops, other than getting lost in Las Vegas looking for gas. It took us forty-five minutes to find and pump gas–and we were in the heart of the city! Also, I was dying to go the bathroom, and the first station had no working restroom. I about died. We were very down on Las Vegas afterward.

“What a horrible city,” Abe muttered as we pulled away. “It’s corrupt, full of sin, and there aren’t even any gas stations. Let’s get outta here.”

Which we did. The only stop we made after that was at a Chipotle in St. George.  Our kids were craaazy after the long time in the car, and so Abe had Ammon standing on the bench banging on his shoulder with a fork, Lydia crawling on top of him, and Mary weaving circles behind him and through his legs. A nice couple started to chat with Abe, and their daughter offered to watch Ammon while I ordered. They were so nice.

And then we got home late, late at night. My mom had made the house beautiful, sparkling clean and put out flowers on the front porch as a welcome. It was such a nice feeling to come home and see her.

In fact, one of the highlights of the whole trip was having the girls race to their Nana and trip over themselves telling her about the trip. They were in such a good mood that they didn’t even fight when interrupting each other–they just kept talking and talking and talking. It was incredibly gratifying to hear what a good time they had on the trip and to see them share it with their sweet Nana (who was already in bed and didn’t understand half of what they were saying, but listened attentively anyway).

We ended by pulling the girls away from Nana so we could dunk everyone in the bath. We were filthy after the trip!! But after everyone was clean, it was sooooooo nice to sleep in our own beds and appreciate being home. We went to bed feeling very, very blessed.

Disneyland

Ah, Disneyland. One of my favorite places on earth. It was so nice to visit again, even if I did end up basically crippling myself by walking for twelve hours on a pulled groin muscle. (The doctor told me this week that the path to recovery was not walking for several weeks. Oh, and I have three kids–and it’s summer. I am still confused about how I will ever actually recover.)

But! Pulled groin aside, Disneyland was as amazing as ever. Even though we got to bed late, the kids were so excited that they got up early enough for us to get a head start on our Disneyland dreams.

We started off by taking the kids to the teacups, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, It’s a Small World, and Snow White–which always scares the girls. In fact, Mary spent the entire ride with her head in Abe’s lap and did not look up once. Lydia spent the ride leaning into me with her head down and her eyes squeezed shut. Ammon had no idea what was going on, so he looked at everything. Hopefully he didn’t get nightmares!

I kept thinking we should get a family photo, but I never got around to it. This is the closest thing I’ve got.

Then we went to the French Market for lunch. I adore their corn chowder, and so we ordered that, some salad, and some kid meals for the kids. Ammon was asleep by that point, so we parked him under the table. After the kids finished eating, Abe took the girls to Splash Mountain for their very first real roller coaster ride while I put my feet up and stayed with sleeping Ammon.

When Ammon woke up, I wandered over to Splash Mountain to watch the ride. I had forgotten about the steep drop at the end, and I immediately called Abe and begged him to mentally prepare the girls for it. I honestly pictured them both having actual, real live heart attacks going down the drop. They are both relatively cautious little people.

Abe assured me he would prepare the girls, but after the ride he told me he felt a little bad about taking Mary on the ride. She enjoyed everything until the final drop, at which point she experienced sheer terror with no pleasurable side effects. After the drop, Abe had his hands around her and could feel her little heart racing. She spent the rest of the ride repeating over and over, “That wasn’t a very good idea. Can I get off now?”

But we were proud of the girls for surviving their first roller coaster! Here is a picture where Mary’s feelings about the situation are caught on camera:

After the harrowing encounter with Splash Mountain, we let the girls stand in line to visit Winnie the Pooh and friends. It was a little more their speed.

After-Pooh treats!

Then we wandered over to the parade. I looooooove the Disneyland Parade. I can hum the song right now: M-I-C-K-E-Y Mmm-O-U-S-EEEEEEE!!!!!! I actually get slightly teary eyed at the parade just because of the overwhelming positive emotion. I love the great lengths Disneyland goes to to make little kids and grown-ups smile and be happy.

Watching the parade.

After the parade, we went to Tomorrowland and rode the Astro Orbiter, the Buzz Lightyear ride, the Finding Nemo submarine, and the auto cars.

Waiting in line for the astro-orbiter, Abe helped Ammon out by becoming his human swing.

Daddies make the best rides.

Entertaining Ammon in line for Finding Nemo. (Keeping Ammon happy in line was a major theme of this trip. Note that we employed every trick in the book: Mickey Mouse bubble wands, candy, ice cream, cotton candy–you name it, we tried it.)

The kids LOVED this Buzz Lightyear ride. Mary got 5,000 points but couldn’t remember that so kept proudly saying she got “FIVE POINTS!!!”

After Tomorrowland, we headed back to the French Market where I had corn chowder again. Can I just say that I love that corn chowder?

Then we squeezed in the carousel before heading to the electric lights parade.

At the electric light parade, we were scared we wouldn’t be able to see anything because we were late. Thankfully, we happened to pass a section marked “reserved,” and the Disneyland attendant noticed my baby bump and my slo0000w limp–and gave us front row seats!! We found out later it was a section for people with special needs.

I live for the mouth-open wonder that Disneyland elicits from my kids. It is, hands down, one of my favorite expressions. When my kids wear this expression (which is how they experience so much of Disneyland), I feel all sorts of warm and fuzzies inside. I am so grateful to be a–their, specifically–mom!!

After the parade, high winds made the fireworks impossible. That was fine with me because we were saturated with Disneyland joy. We finished by letting the kids each pick a toy from the store, which is our Disneyland tradition. We know it’s all overpriced, but a Disneyland day is, in my opinion, a day to go all out. We LOVE you, Disneyland!!

Monterey Bay Aquarium

We had grand plans for Friday to get up early so we could make good time on our itinerary, but we were derailed by our own fatigue. In some ways, that was a good thing because our kids could get a little playtime in with the adorable Harbuck kids.

After we got all packed up, we said goodbye to the Harbucks and headed over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I was also excited to visit the aquarium because it is located on Cannery Row, and I had read the novel, Cannery Row, in anticipation of a visit.

Everyone enjoyed the aquarium! It was not as big as I had expected, but I think in some ways that worked in its favor because we felt that we got to really experience it in a couple of hours. The kids were disappointed we did not have time to whale watch on the aquarium’s balconies, and so we will just have to do that some other trip.

A personable aquarium worker started our visit by showing us a jar of baby moon jellyfish.

Moon jellies!

Abe adored the kelp forest. He loved the swaying rhythm of the plants and watched them for a loooooong time.

There was a cute little play area for toddlers. Ammon ran around excitedly trying all of the activities.

Ammon made a friend.

A gorgeous lionfish.

After the aquarium, we drove to L.A.. Because of our late start, we did not pull into our hotel until almost 10 at night. We had promised the kids we would go swimming in L.A., and after the long drive, we felt we could not renege, so we ended up swimming at 10:30pm. So much for an early bedtime before Disneyland!

Mendocino to San Fran to San Jose

On Thursday morning we ordered a delicious breakfast from the inn that included bruleéd chia pudding and an egg scramble with local veggies. The bruleéd chia puddinge was my favorite. Ammon ate an enormous quantity of eggs, and that shocked all of us. Normally it is very difficult to feed him.

Then we drove to San Francisco. On the way, Ammon started moaning a lot, and then all of the sudden, he threw up his enormous breakfast. We pulled off to the side of the road. I was in despair at the mess, but the first thing Abe did was holler that we had pulled off next to a stream!!! I did not know at first why this was a good thing. Abe quickly enlightened me. The stream enabled us to clean off Ammon and his clothes. If we hadn’t had a stream, we would probably have thrown everything away (except Ammon, of course).

After that eventful stop, we headed the rest of the way to San Fransisco.

Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco.

Lydia is obsessed with everything China, so we made our first and longest stop in San Francisco Chinatown.

We visited a fortune cookie factory.

The inside of the fortune cookie factory.

I ordered way too much food for dinner. Fish heads, tofu, Singapore noodles, soup…I felt really bad at all of the waste afterward and vowed to make smarter ordering choices in the future.

The girls each picked out a treat from a Chinese grocery store.

After Chinatown, we went down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Even though we were there two years ago, Mary had forgotten everything. Lydia remembered stuff, though! She remembered the sea lions, and I think the carousel was familiar to her too.

A

Looking at sea lions.

Mary’s current personality really shines through in some of these pictures!

Mary is left handed, so we took pictures of her in the store.

There is a magic store on the wharf. The girls were mesmerized.

After we finished up at the wharf, we drove to San Jose to spend the night at our friends, the Harbuck’s, beautiful house. Jere joined up with us there. After a late night visit, they invited us to try some of their homemade ice cream. It was honestly the best ice cream I have ever had. It was so delicious. We were so happy to have a chance to visit with these sweet friends.

The Redwoods

After a lovely early morning in our Umpqua yurt, we headed back to the road for a long driving day. En route we stopped for a real breakfast. This breakfast also contributed to my weight gain. It was over-the-top delicious.

There were lots of logging mills, and the “Pancake Mill” was right across from one. We just randomly stopped in and found out upon entering it was an award winning local favorite.

After our very long breakfast, we tried to make time and get to the Redwoods in time to see something. Unfortunately, I neglected to take the scenic drive turn-off, and so we actually missed the famous drive. By the time I realized our mistake, it was too late. We did head back six miles to do a hike in the Lady Bird Johnson grove.

In a spirit of full disclosure, I was in a very bad mood when we began the hike. I was mad that we had missed the Redwoods drive. But Abe is so optimistic and cheerful, and I ended up loving this particular hike a lot.

I loved this hike because I got one-on-one time with each of the children, and the one-on-one time felt very precious and meaningful in that peaceful setting. Abe spent the hike playing with the kids, and I know they loved that too.

Ammon learned to pose from the girls. This is what he started doing whenever we popped out the iPhone.

We didn’t entirely miss all of the Redwood drives. We did drive through Humboldt State Forest, and that gave us a feeling that we had experienced some extended Redwood majesty. The drive ended with a drive through a Redwood tree. As hokey as it was, this was the kids’ (or at least the girls’) favorite part of the day.

Driving through the tree.

After we drove through the tree, we hightailed it on Highway 1 all the way to Mendocino. By this point, it was dark and misty. Also the highway is insanely twisty–as in, for hours all we did was turn repeatedly. In the dark. With the ocean drop-off on one side of the road. And deer all around.

This is where we had a miracle. As we were starting in on the craziest stretch, we noticed two cars conferring in a pull-off next the road. I don’t like driving in front of cars, so I let them pass. For the next several hours, these two cars lighted the way in the dark at the absolute perfect pace–and the lead car spotted all the deer, stopped, shined a light on the animals, and continued carefully after each encounter. It felt like God’s hand, especially since in that time we did not see one other single car on the road. I felt so, so blessed. Eventually, I let Abe have a turn, and we arrived at The Inn at Schoolhouse Creek in Mendocino sometime around midnight.

Originally, we had planned to “glamp” that night at a kid-friendly glampground, but as I studied our itinerary, I realized we would be arriving in the middle of the night, and I didn’t dare risk camping when we’d have to transition Ammon from the car to the crib. As it turned out, he transitioned fine–but I was so happy we booked the inn. There was some sort of deal on Booking.com, and I loved the look of the inn online.

In person, after a harrowing drive and a long day of driving before that, the inn was absolutely dreamy. We had a sweet little cabin all to ourselves, and it was cozy, beautiful, and even had a darling little stove fireplace warming everything up. After we put the kids down, we relaxed in the large jacuzzi and unwound from the crazy drive. My ankles were basically balloons, so the bath was a lifesaver. We’ll try glamping some other time.

 

Astoria through Florence

After we toured the Columbia Maritime Museum, we all headed down the Oregon Coast to Cannon Beach, Oregon. On the way we sampled some fish ‘n chips from a cute little red food stand that sold tuna-only fish ‘n chips. The jolly toothless information guide had told us that tuna-only fish ‘n chips was incredible, and so we tried it. I liked it, but I was getting a little tired of fried food in general by that point, so maybe my ability to appreciate its finer qualities was inhibited.

We spent over an hour at Cannon Beach, and my main physiological memory of that event is of trying to not pee all over myself. There was not a bathroom in sight, and this pregnant person needs to relieve herself regularly (frequently, even). I had to bump, bump, bump my bladder up and down a flight of stairs to reach the beach, and by that point I was feeling desperate. Nevertheless, we were right in front of the famous Haystack Rock, everyone was having a blast, and I couldn’t bear to interrupt the fun by insisting we cut it short and head for the nearest facilities. So I spent our beach time squeezing and smiling. 🙂

Abe was delighted to discover sand crabs in the tide pools. There wasn’t a whole lot in the tide pools because the tide was in, but the sand crabs were fun.

After we finished at the beach, we drove down the coast to Tillamook, Oregon–home of the Tillamook Cheese Factory! Of course we stopped in for a tour, sample cheese, and ice cream cones.

After Tillamook, the sunny day turned rainy. We spent the rest of the day driving down in the rain. We wanted to stop and play in the tide pools along the way, but we were rained out.

In the evening we arrived at Florence, Oregon. Candace is a whiz at finding amazing restaurants, and following her advice we went to the Homegrown Public House had the best meal of our trip. Plus, they were so kid friendly! They gave us half of the restaurant to ourselves (because it was nearly 8 pm and the restaurant was half-deserted and about to close anyway–but still!), and they even had a bucket of miniature unicorn toys for the kids to play with.

This is my stunningly delicious, vegetarian hippie pie.

Abe’s salad.

By the time we were done with dinner, it was late and we had to say goodbye to the Martineaus, who were heading back via Portland the next day. We had sooooo much fun caravaning with them and made plans to repeat the experience in two years (when my baby production years will be, by the grace and great mercy of God, finally over). We have hopes of ending our next trip with an Alaskan cruise. We can dream, can’t we?

Abe and I still had to drive about an hour or so to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. I felt God’s hand that night because we drove into the completely dark campground after all the camp hosts were off duty, and there were no signs telling us where to go. We just drove around making random (well, seemingly random–God was definitely with us) turns until we discovered a parking lot in front of the yurt neighborhood. Unlike Fort Stevens, the deluxe yurts at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park were in a walking-only zone. In the daytime we discovered that the setting was unreal. At night time, it was darling with little waist-high lamps lighting the way to our yurt.

The only issue was that we did not have the access code to our yurt and there was no internet for me to pull up the email with the code. After some miracle, I suddenly pulled it up, and we were able to unload everyone into the yurt. We felt exuberant at being able to spend the night where we had planned. And again, the yurt had a gorgeous skylight so we could look at the brilliant sky while we fell asleep.

Here are some pictures of our yurt from the next morning.

(Mary is pouting because I brushed her hair. I actually asked Abe in all sincerity the other day if hair-brushing counts as child abuse. I have been wondering what has been making her act so crazy and defiant lately, and my first thought was that the daily torture of having her hair brushed had pushed Mary over the emotional edge.)

This next picture is the view from our yurt porch. We woke up in the morning and discovered we had been sleeping in front of this!!!

Our double deck on the yurt and the view of the river from the deck.

 

The Columbia Maritime Museum

After we toured Fort Clatsop, we headed over to join the Martineaus at the Columbia Maritime Museum. This was a highlight of the trip for us. We loved learning about the dangers of the Columbia River bar, which I only appreciated because Abe and I had recently watched The Finest Hours.

Had I not watched the movie, I hope I would have left the museum with some appreciation anyway. There have been thousands of ships wrecked trying to navigate into and out of the Columbia River from the Pacific. This juncture is called “the graveyard of the Pacific” and is thought to be the most dangerous river mouth in the world. The coast guard at Astoria is one of the best trained coast guards in the country, and they are remarkable men and women. I am grateful we have such heroes among us.

The kids mostly appreciated how interactive everything in the museum was. After we were done with the museum, we boarded a retired boat outside of the museum and toured around. It made me slightly seasick just being on the anchored boat. I have no idea how the coast guard does it.

Battery Russell and Fort Clatsop

On Monday morning Abe and I packed up everyone early because Ammon woke up early. He probably woke up the entire yurt neighborhood, so we hustled to get everyone in the car quickly. With some hours before attractions opened, we went to the camp info center and talked to the most delightful information man.

He had no teeth, a jolly personality, and heaps of enthusiasm for his hometown. He convinced us that we had planned our itinerary all wrong and should spend the morning in Astoria. We altered our plans accordingly.

First we went to Battery Russell, which happened to be in the campground. Up until 9/11, it was the only place in the U.S. to have ever been attacked by a foreign power since…I forget the statistic. But apparently the Japanese fired on Battery Russell during WWII, and the captain in charge had everyone hold their fire. Because the U.S. did not return fire and give away the position of the fort, no lives were lost.

Today the fort creeped Abe and me out, although the kids seemed to find it interesting. It is completely abandoned, dark and dank, and a perfect place for people to do drugs and other things. I found a condom on the floor. Also, there are sheer drop-offs and warning signs to make sure your kids don’t fall down one of the drop-offs. We left pretty quickly.

Then we toured the also-now-closed army base there. It was inhabited by elk.

After saying hello and goodbye to our woodland friends, we headed to McDonald’s for a drive-thru breakfast. Our reliance on these quick meals is probably why I gained so much weight on the trip. Yikes.

Anyway, after driving through for our speedy breakfast, we headed to Fort Clatsop National Monument, where Lewis and Clark spent a terrible winter. It was so cold that they could not hunt except for a handful of days in a 175 day stretch (although my stats might be off because I am remembering this weeks later). They survived by eating maggoty meat. They only saw the sun six days in that whole winter (again, the stat is old and questionable in my brain).

The point is, they were a type of hardy that I can barely comprehend. The fort was very interesting, and I would have loved to have spent more time there. The ranger said we were the quickest tourists she had ever seen. (I thought we were speedy, but everyone else must spend an hour or more because I thought we did the place at least a little justice in our forty-minute stop!)

On the trail between the visitor center and the fort.

Lydia found an enviable stick which she was loathe to give up.

Mary is doing one of her power poses.