• Family

    A Sweet Reunion

    Last weekend, when I told Soph I'd be visiting Bean and Bre, she begged to go along so she could play with Tilly. She missed Bre's kitten like crazy, and even cried when Bre had to take Tilly with her to her new apartment.

    I was afraid that Tilly had possibly outgrown her cuddly-kitten ways, but that wasn't the case.

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    Tilly's sister, Lux, belongs to Bre's roommate. She has a bit more of a bobcat look to her…

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    Such a gorgeous kitten! Sophie decided to give her some love as well…

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    I can tell them apart by the ear tufts. 🙂

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    Meanwhile, Tilly stared at her reflection in the camera lens…

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    And inevitably, this is what happened:

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    Back up in Sophie's arms Tilly went…

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    What a sweet baby girl!

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    We sure enjoyed our visit with Tilly and Lux Bean and Bre. 🙂

  • Junk in the Trunk

    Junk in the Trunk II

    I've never been very good at dropping by the thrift stores to see if there's anything worth overhauling, but when Bre mentioned to me that she wanted a desk for her new apartment, we decided that Good Will was the first place we'd look.

    In case you're wondering why I titled this post "Junk in the Trunk TWO," I actually did one post on re-doing something a long time ago: the hanging basket that I painted black and stuffed with autumn foliage. Remember that? If not, there's a "Junk in the Trunk" category in the sidebar that only has these two posts in it now. 🙂

    Bre spotted this old, beat up desk right away.. the legs aren't really bowed, but at my angle, my camera made it look a bit distorted…

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    Here's a chair we found. It had a dirty chair cushion that went with it, but we left that at the store.

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    Bre and her dad quickly got to work sanding (thank you for your hard work, Big Papa!)…

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    …And then she and I started the painting…

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    We decided to do something a little bit different and paint some wonky diamonds on the top of the desk…but first, it was break time. It was about 90 degrees in our little workspace…

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    The way it turned out was exactly how I had envisioned it in my mind, but I wasn't happy with it. Bre thought it was odd too, and neither of us could figure out if we should start over or not. She went ahead and added the glass knobs she'd chosen for it, and that instantly added some charm…

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    Finally, we decided to leave it as is until we could see what the "fixins" looked like on it… her one "splurge" item for her desk was the gorgeous lamp…

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    She also found these glass bottles at Good Will, and we chose these silks flowers from Hobby Lobby to go inside them (btw, Bre, it was fun looking at all the different combinations of flowers with you!)…

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    We ended up loving the desk after all was placed on top, and it looks so cute in her apartment room! The chair was painted red, but I forgot to take a picture of the "after" on that one.

    Over all, not bad for $30 and a little elbow grease. And a Big Papa, of course!

    P.S. When I visited Bre this past weekend, I took some pictures of her apartment. I'll post them soon, if you'd like to see them! And if not, then fair warning! 😉

  • Crazy Kids,  Family,  Travel


    I know I'm backtracking, but I thought I'd go ahead and post the last couple of days we spent on our family vacation to California. 🙂

    When I last posted about it, we had been visiting Mike's relatives in Salinas, which is a 7-hour drive from where we had been staying in San Diego…which means we had to drive 7 hours back. I do believe that for most of that drive, it was the worst traffic I've ever seen in my life. Those 7 hours turned into 10 hours, and made Dallas traffic look more like what you'd see in Mayberry. I'm told it's always like that.

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    This was one of the more boring stretches of the trip, with hardly any traffic…

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    I kept myself busy with Dainty Housewren by Carriage House Samplings…

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    …And the girls tried their best to entertain themselves…

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    I armed myself with this, in case there was any bickering amongst the rival siblings… one must stay awake and energized in these cases, ready to threaten them with the handy green eye-poker that comes with these drinks…

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    We found a lovely neighborhood to stop and stretch our legs…

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    With all of the tragedies at Yellowstone this year, I wasn't very happy with Mike being a rule-breaker…

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    These birds were so graceful, but the way their feet dangled behind them struck me as funny…

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    I love this vest she's wearing. It looked so pretty to me, the way it moved in the breeze…

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    Here's Mike at the bottom of that hill he was standing on…

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    I was so hoping he'd go for a swim…

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    But instead, he (and Sophie) climbed back up the hill, and away we went, all the way back to San Diego…

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    The next morning we decided to go to the historical Gaslamp Quarter. Here's Bean, waiting for everyone to be finished so we could get moving…

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    We ate here, after a local gave us rave reviews on it…

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    It's a mafia-themed restaurant, with lots of framed pictures of Al Capone, John Gotti, and others. There was even a Thompson submachine gun hanging on the wall called The Chicago Typewriter, which I thought was really interesting. Apparently, Mr. Capone used it a time or two.

    Best of all, however, were the burgers. The best, hands down! If I ever end up in the trunk of a car, on the way to suddenly "disappearing," I wouldn't mind one of these being my last meal:

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    This is the Yuma Building, one of the first brick buildings in San Diego… Wyatt Earp used to hang out here, and eventually it became a brothel – the first one to be shut down in San Diego in 1912.

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    Just next to the Yuma Building is a hat shop…

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    I could have stayed much longer in there, as it sort of felt like stepping back in time…

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    Next stop:

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    This is where the San Diego Padres play…

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    Our plane was going to leave in a few short hours, so we decided it was time to go. It was such an enjoyable trip, and we packed as much into it as we could. Which is why the last photo taken was one of 2 of us looking awfully exhausted..

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    Thank you for a fun trip, Big Papa. 😉

  • Crazy Kids

    Class of 2015

    We got my girl all moved into her dorm today at the university, ready to start her freshman year. Classes don't begin until the 22nd, but some of the kids moved in early so they could attend a Kick-Off Camp this week, which is something Sabrina has been looking forward to all summer.

    Sabrina and I drove in her car, and Mike hauled the rest of the stuff in his. Here's what the back of our car looked like… it wasn't nearly as packed as it was when we took Bre's stuff down, but back then we had it all crammed into one vehicle.

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    I made Sabrina do the driving so she was comfortable with how to get there… here she is, telling me I was being critical of her driving skills bc she is certain she was not tailgating…

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    She was also certain she was not multi-tasking…

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    And yes, she's rockin' a Spider-Man watch…

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    It was cute to hear her say the same thing Bre said when the campus came into view: "Wow, I'm going to be living here!"

    (Btw, about half-way there, we realized she left her camp duffel bag on the kitchen floor, so her dad had to turn around and go back to get it.)

    Here she is after meeting her new roommate, who is a very sweet girl…

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    Right away, they had two things in common: they both love to wear their hair in crazy buns, and they both lose their keys and cell phones constantly.

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    The drive back didn't seem to ruin Mike's day too much…

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    When Sabrina felt as if she was losing control of the situation with her dad, she pulled out a sure-fire trick to get him to fall into a spell and settle down:

    The ol' Hook 'Em Horns move.


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    Works every time.

    Look at the pillowcase my mom made for Bean.. I love the fabric!

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    Mike did too…

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    Are we going to have to bring out the Horns again?

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    When in Rome…

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    (I suddenly want to rent Young Frankenstein.)

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    We love you so much, Sabrina. You are smart and intelligent, and I'm so happy that you're happy. Come home soon, even if it's with your laundry basket. And have fun at Kick-Off Camp!

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    P.S. No roommates were harmed in the making of this blog post. She had left the room while we carried on like crazies.

  • Crazy Kids,  Friends,  Good Things

    Who Says

    Back in the '90's, Bre and Sabrina got to go to their first concert: 'NSync. (That happened to be my first concert too, but that will be our little secret.) And this week, after asking, "Who the heck is 'NSync?" Sophie attended hers too:

    Selena Gomez!

    We went with one of Soph's BFF's (and business partner for The Glitz Girlz) and her mom, and on the way there, the girls took quite a few self-portraits of themselves. Here is one:

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    And here is another, after reaching the concert venue:

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    They were so excited. That is, until we walked about a mile to the end of the line. It turns out 9,000 other people had the same idea we did about what to do on a Friday night.

    Nevertheless, after standing in line for over an hour, we finally made it into the concert area and headed down to the field…

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    Selena brought a band called The Scene along with her, and all the tweens went wild…

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    It wasn't until an hour-and-a-half later, when Miss Gomez herself appeared, that the REAL screaming began. Behold: the teenager every young girl in America wants to be…

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    …including my own.

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    A quick change into her boyfriend's (Justin Bieber) favorite color…

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    …and then again, into Sophie's favorite outfit of the night…

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    Sophie and her BFF kept disappearing into the crowd to wriggle their way toward the front, dancing and jumping and singing like seasoned pros…

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    …and when Selena closed the show with the tween anthem Who Says, they came back to their moms, who were exhausted from watching all the dancing.

    I do believe these two got our money's worth. 😉

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  • Crazy Kids

    Middle School

    My Joonie began 6th grade today, and she is very happy to finally be there. She's always been treated like the baby in the house (for some reason), so this has given her a much-needed boost in making others see that she's truly an independent, free-spirited tween.

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    Besides, would a baby start their own flip-flop business? That's what she and a friend of hers did this summer, calling themselves "The Glitz Girlz."

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    They sold a few pairs and then retired.

    Maybe her 6th grade sewing class will inspire her to start a new business next summer. Either way, I'm very proud of my baby girl.


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    Okay, I'm very proud of my very mature Sophie.

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  • Family,  Travel

    Days 5 and 6 – and a vote, if you please?

    I know it seems like I ask for your help a lot, but we are a houseful of girls (and a boy) that always has something going on.. whether it be fundraisers for the American Cancer Society or Facebook contests for Smashbox, it seems like every time you stop by, I'm asking for yet another favor! If this type of thing annoys you, then please know that I certainly don't want to irritate anyone; I just like to have a little fun with my girls when they enter these crazy contests, so I try my best to get a few extra votes in for them – even if the odds are sorely against them! 🙂

    In this case, Sabrina has entered an American Eagle "Your Best Shot" contest, in which one must submit a photo that shows their true "AE spirit." I thought the photo Bean chose was appropriate, considering it's full of denim! And I think it's kind of all-American-looking, but that's just my opinion. 🙂

    If you have the time to stop here and vote, it would make my girl very happy! I imagine any college student would be more than happy to win the grand prize ($3000) to put toward their tuition… or maybe toward a 4-year-supply of Ramen noodles.

    Thank you so much!

    Moving on to the next couple of days in California…

    Thanks to a bad roller-coaster experience, this was the most harrowing day of our adventure:

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    There are lots of really good rides, but there is also one that I do NOT recommend (I won't name names, but it starts with The Green Lantern). Here's a quick shot of the family (sans me) getting ready to leave on one of the milder coasters that day; I had already ridden it once and didn't want to push my luck with getting a headache…

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    I didn't take many photos at all that day bc most of the time I was busy getting whipped around on mile-high tracks while screaming for all I was worth.

    The next day we drove north, to Salinas. Mike's Aunt Helga (he mother's baby sister) lives there with her family, and since Mike hadn't seen them since his mom's funeral (and some of them he hadn't seen in many years), we decided to visit for a couple of days.

    What a wonderful, warm bunch of family they are. We adore every one of them, and are so glad we were able to spend some time with them.

    One of the things we got to do while visiting was to go whale-watching in Monterey…

    This is part of Fisherman's Wharf:

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    There was a seafood place handing out samples of clam chowder, and we all agreed it was the very best we'd ever tried. Sabrina is NOT a seafood-lover, and even she thought it was good…

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    From left to right: Mike's cousin Randy (Hi, Randy!), Sabrina, Mike, Aunt Helga, Bre, Sophie, and Mike's cousins "Little" Helga and Cathy… there were lots of other family members too, but this was the group that went to Monterey with us.

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    Randy is such a sweetheart. When we stepped into the sign-up office, the owner let him choose any hat he wanted, which absolutely made his day!

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    Soon we boarded the ship (we called it a boat, but one of the workers told us that anything 100' or more is deemed a ship), and sweet Randy was petrified. It was the first time he'd ever been on a boat (fine, ship!), but as soon as he spotted some sea life, he forgot his fears and rather enjoyed himself…

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    As soon as the boat started picking up speed, it got very chilly and windy!

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    After about an hour or so, we saw our first whale! The director kept reminding us to look for one of the four "B words"… birds (hundreds of them in one area), bubbles, blows, or backs. Everyone got very excited when we spotted the first blow… I didn't have my zoom lens with me, so I didn't get any really good pictures, but here's one of a tail…

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    Btw, after you see the blow of air/seaspray and then the whale's back, the tail is the last thing you see. Once it's completely submerged, you probably won't see the whale come back to the surface again for another 30 minutes or so – and you never know where it will resurface. Every time a tail would break the water, the director would say over the loudspeaker, "…aaaaand, goodbye!" and then the tail would disappear.

    Here's a distant view of a blow and a back, from a family of 3 whales…

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    "…Aaaaaand, goodbye!"

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    The wet cold got to be a bit much for everyone but Mike (you will never hear him complain that weather is too hot or too cold or too windy), so one by one we started heading inside…

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    …But some of us scurried back out on the deck when the director announced that she'd spotted a basking shark…

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    This particular shark had been injured on its fin, perhaps by another creature or a boat. Sabrina Googled "basking shark" on her phone, and when she showed the director, it was soon announced over the loudspeaker that "A CUTE GIRL HAS A PICTURE OF A BASKING SHARK ON HER PHONE, IF YOU'D LIKE TO SEE WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE!" Sabrina wasn't sure if she should be flattered or embarrassed, but lots of people approached her to look at her phone.

    Here is a photo of a basking shark that is similar to what Sabrina had pulled up:

    Basking shark

    (Can you believe the size of that thing? They don't eat people, btw.)

    After almost 4 hours, we headed back to shore, and the skies finally cleared…

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    Bre and Bean grabbed a quick picture with Little Helga before getting off the boat…

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    We were all very hungry after our 4-hour-tour, so off to Bubba Gump's we went…

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    While waiting for our name to be called, hoola hoops were our entertainment… Randy's sister, Alicia, joined us for dinner too; she's in the blue top, next to Mike…

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    And a trip to Bubba Gump's is only complete once you've stepped into Forrest's shoes…

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    Not to be outdone…

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    What a memorable day that was! And with the sweetest bunch of people I've ever met!

    But before I go, let me share just one last photo with you. It was taken just after we got off the boat in Fisherman's Wharf, and I do believe I'll use it if I ever need to blackmail either of these girls…

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    Only in California.

  • Family,  Travel

    California, Days 3 and 4

    Early on the third morning, we set off for Mission Beach, which was about 5 minutes from our hotel. It was very chilly and overcast out, so Bean and I absolutely refused to go into the water.

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    Nothing would stop Soph and Big Papaaaaa though…

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    Here's a view of the shops just off the sand… Bre had gone for a run, and we didn't see her for quite some time, so I figured she'd gotten distracted by seashell necklackes or something…

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    Bean and I walked to the shops and perused all the tie-dyed tee-shirts, longboards, skateboards, and cute California boys (not I, mind you. I've got my hands full enough with you-know-who).

    Pelicans would fly by every few minutes, which I loved seeing.. what huge creatures they are!

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    Later in the day, the sun came out and warmed up my Joonie a bit…

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    …and Breanna finally got back to our beach towel! I was so relieved. I didn't like her being gone for so long, and I kept watching the beach for her, while Sabrina kept saying, "She's fine, Mom. You should stop worrying so much."

    Turns out, she'd run for 9.2 miles, and never stopped to look at seashell necklaces. 🙂

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    Later that evening, we headed to the Fashion Valley mall to do some back-to-school shopping for the girls and eat at my new second-favorite place:

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    Oh my heavens, if you've never had a real fish taco on a corn tortilla, you're in for a treat. Oh my my my my my. I had one here in Omaha a few weeks ago, and I thought that was good. But that was nothing compared to this. (Btw, my new first favorite eatery is a little Mexican place called Roberto's on Mission Beach. We had fish tacos there as well, and they were about a half-star better than these, in my humble opinion.)

    The next day we drove about an hour north to Disney Land/California Adventure…

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    I've never seen so many people in my life in one place. One year Bre and I headed to Disney World in Orlando during spring break (for a cheer competition) and it wasn't even as bad as this. The wait lines were sometimes 140 minutes for rides! We decided we had no choice, so we added ourselves to the Space Mountain line to wait.

    And wait.

    And wait.

    And wait.

    It was at the 55-minute mark that we heard the Space Mountain loudspeaker announce, "We're sorry, but we've closed this ride for an indefinite amount of time due to ride issues. You may continue to wait, but we have no guarantee of when the ride will resume operating."

    After a mass groan, many people left, but most of us stayed to brave it out. Thankfully, 10 minutes later the ride resumed, and everyone cheered.  In a brief 35 minutes or so, we were on one of our favorite rides. 🙂

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    Next up was the Buzz Lightyear ride, which is another one of our favorites. You have to shoot targets and steer your "ship," and we all like to see who scores the highest (Mike always does). Btw, in case you're wondering, my hair clearly did not survive Space Mountain…

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    The main reason the girls wanted to come to Disney Land was to collect Disney pins. Mike got them started on these pins when they (Bre and Bean) first visited Disney World back in 2001, and it proved to be quite an addiction. (Every Christmas, Mike gets them new ones from Ebay to add to their collections.)

    If you've never collected pins at Disney, you start with a purchased "trader set." These are basic pins that you buy in sets, and you can go up to any park employee (called Cast Members) and ask them if they would like to trade. They're usually wearing lanyards full of them, and no matter which pin you ask to trade, they'll say yes. 🙂 It's a ton of fun for those who are on the hunt for limited edition pins, or the fun "Hidden Mickey" pins that so many people love.

    Here are the girls, purchasing their trader sets (they didn't think about bringing their collections from home) and getting ready to choose a free "mystery pin" from a bucket… (btw, the sheer excitement of it all on Bre's face just cracks me up!)

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    This is Big Papa's role in pin-collecting:

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    This was Sophie's mystery pin, which her sisters kept trying to offer trades for:

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    While standing in line for The Haunted Mansion, Bre tries to work her magic…

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    I love the expression on Soph's face here; she is such a newbie at trading, and approaches even her sisters with a bit of apprehension…

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    But she quickly learns that if she's going to get the best pins, she's going to have to beat her sisters to the Cast Members. It turned out to be quite an entertaining experience, watching the three girls flit from lanyard to lanyard…

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    Sabrina's got a good one!

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    Big Papa's been swindled charmed again…

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    We were able to get the girls to snap out of it long enough to hop over to the California Adventure side of Disney…

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    But it didn't last long…

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    When the girls spotted their very favorite ride, however, they put their pin-trading on hold…

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    Hollywood's Tower of Terror is based on the old Twilight Zone series. After a brief, spooky introduction, you're led into a large elevator with seats enough to hold about 20 people. After they close the doors, the elevator slowly rises up the tower, stopping in front of a large window that looks out over all the park. Suddenly, the elevator drops quickly, at which point everyone inside screams at the tops of their lungs, only to have to do it all over again about 3 more times. It's a wild ride, and everyone who has ever ridden it is hooked.

    Except for me, who is the only one of the Stewart Clan not raising their arms in abandon:

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    I seem to remember someone prying my hands from the lap bar when the ride was over, but I could be mistaken.

    Seriously though, my family loves that ride so much, we returned later that night to ride again…

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    Eventually it was time to leave the park, so out we went with the rest of California…

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    …and the girls cried "Pins, pins, pins!" all the way home.

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  • Family,  Travel

    California, Day 2

    Today is moving day for Bre, so I thought I'd get to my computer a bit early and post about our 2nd day in San Diego… Sea World! The last time we were at Sea World, it was in Texas, before Sophie was born. Sabrina was still in her stroller, and Bre got to pet dolphins.. but this time, 16 years later and in California, the park was much larger, with more rides and shows – and no Annheuser-Busch Clydesdale horses. :(  (If they were there, we didn't see them.)

    Of course, the star of the park was there (no, not you, Mike)…

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    (This is the picture Sophie got…)

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    After Shamu's show, we went to a Cirque du Soleil performance on the other side of the park. If you're not familiar with Cirque shows, they're a twist on a usual circus, taking acrobatics and strange creatures to a new level. They have several different themes to their shows now (my favorite show is Ka, performed in Las Vegas), and will usually prep the crowd by doing a mini pre-show with odd characters. This day was no exception, and when two "clowns" came out, everyone was fascinated. They started moving through the crowd, teasing people and speaking in a strange language in gravelly voices. One of them started making their way toward our side of the arena, and when he laid eyes on Mike, he froze. Suddenly he pointed at Mike, and in a booming voice, yelled, "PAPAaaaa!!!!"

    Oh no.

    Say it isn't so.

    He's going to make Mike the star of the park.

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    He pulled Mike from his seat and dragged him to the front of our section. He then started rolling up Mike's shirt sleeves, all the while speaking in his strange growly gibberish…

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    After he got his sleeves rolled up, he then coaxed Mike into mimicking him in various muscle-man moves. Mike obliged, but at the risk of actually embarrassing Mike (is that even possible?), I'll refrain from showing the photos. Trust me, though… it was as if we were watching Hulk Hogan in a WWF warm-up.

    After the man-roars ceased, the clown shook Mike's hand, and Mike was ready to breathe a sigh of relief that it was all over…

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    However, if you'll notice the clown's left hand, you'll see that he wasn't quite ready to let Mike sit down…

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    Off he dragged poor Mike, to the middle of the arena. Once there, he started showing Mike some crazy karate-like moves, and had him repeat them…

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    Meanwhile, on the other side of the arena, the second clown was harrassing another audience member, and eventually he was dragged to the front as well. He's the guy in the orange shirt, behind Mike…

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    They were each coached in these odd fighting moves, and had to perform them for the audience. (Btw, the girls were mortified, and I believe I overheard Breanna say, "My life is ruined.") After learning their moves, they were told to face each other and duke it out in slow-motion with the techniques they'd just learned…

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    It was quite hilarious when they were told to face each other, bc Mike was so burly compared to the kid standing in front of him. I felt like a Philistine watching the battle of David and Goliath.

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    In the end, the audience was satisfied that they were both declared winners…

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    …and Mike was finally allowed to return to his seat, where he was greeted him with cheers and high-fives from the audience members on our side… (Btw, they kept the orange-shirted kid up there and made him squeeze into a large plastic floating ball.)

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    You were a good sport, sweety. 😉

    After our Sea World adventures, we headed back out to the parking lot to hunt for our car, and we spotted this crazy van covered in stickers. The driver was a mom, talking on the phone to someone – most likely whoever she was supposed to be picking up at the park. The girls decided they wanted to have their picture taken in front of it, so they all ran over to it before the lady could drive away. I was horrified, bc obviously this woman's van was not part of the day's attractions, but I quickly snapped their photo before the lady could get out of her car and tell them to get the blankety-blank away from her vehicle. It's a blurry shot bc I didn't have time to change my camera settings, but you get the idea…

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    I gave them the thumbs-up sign (which is what I always do to let them know I took the photo; this saves them from continuing to stand there smiling), and they scurried off, giggling as if they'd pulled some sneaky prank.

    After we located our car, it was off to dinner at this popular joint:

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    …and then back to the hotel. Mike and Soph decided to go for a late-night swim, and I followed along with my camera…

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    On the way back to the room, I took a photo of the marina, but it doesn't do it justice. It's such a quiet place at night, compared to the hustle of it all in the sunlight…

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    Day 2 was lots of fun. And Mike, your performance at Cirque du Soleil was your 15 minutes of fame, then I'm sorry. I know you were hoping for more of a Bruce-Lee-type experience.