Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lydia is beautiful...or is she?

I love this photo of Lydia. I think she looks so cute, so endearing, so beautiful.

Sometimes however, she makes the nuttiest faces. She does this funny eye-squinting thing that cracks us up. I've been trying to catch these looks lately and here are just a couple. I'm still trying to capture a good image of the orangatang lips...cross your fingers for that one.

Jumping Tree Frogs

That's what I think of when I look at these pictures of the boys. I love them. They thought it was so much fun to look at how high they'd gotten. (These frogs have got to get some meat on them.)

Good intentions (and mild action)

Still feeling oh so crafty/sewy. The problem is I spend lots of time and energy thinking and planning and not enough actully doing. The other problem is I'm so short on supplies. I've got bits and pieces for all the projects I want to do, but nothing in total. I need snaps, lots more beautiful fabric, felts, threads, heat-n-bond...oh I've got plans, just you wait, big plans. One thing I did accomplish though is a great big bag for all of our kitchen toys which had been stored in a grocery bag for sometime now. Ha! I couldn't have done that two months ago!


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Did I mention the tooth fairy finally made her debut at our house?


Emma is 7.5 years old. She has been pining for loose teeth since kindergarten. Over the summer one of them at long last started dancing around in her mouth. She was so pumped she emailed her 1st grade teacher to tell her about it. She would daily request Scott or I to check and see if it was any more wiggly. It wiggled and wiggled for about two months. And then one wonderful night when all of the Barber-side relations were over for dinner and a family fireside, uncle David worked his magic. A veteran father of five missing-some-if-not-all-of-their-baby-teeth kids, he instructed Emma on specific methods to wiggle it more efficiently. She had made major headway by bedtime so he managed to get a good grip on her tiny little tooth and out it came! Their was much rejoicing in the house that night. Emma waited to put the tooth under her pillow until the next night so she'd have time to make the Tooth Fairy a card. It was fun. Just before bedtime that night, Emma mentioned, "I'm glad the tooth fairy isn't just your mom and dad and they just sneak in after you're asleep and put the money there. I'm glad it's not just that. That wouldn't be any fun." Ummmmmm, time for bed!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

First Day of School!

Already? Why does summer keep getting shorter? I did not approve that. Not once.

At least the kids looked good.

2nd Grade: Emma picked out her cutest-ever dress from Target and selected braids for her hair-style. And I love the little cardigan she got from Dani.

Kindergarten: I just couldn't find any especially cute boy clothes anywhere, so Ben went with his (and my) favorite already-owned (handed-down, truth be told) shirt of his. He did however get some cool new shoes.

I got them new backpacks this year and somehow ended up with some that are way too huge for their tiny bodies. I can't decide whether to put them aside for middle school and get some smaller ones for this year or just go with it. So far we've just gone with it. I think they look perfectly reasonably sized sitting on the ground. It's when they're on their backs that I go, "Hmmmm."

And in the rest of my spare time...

I Simpsonized myself and Scott. You be the judge.

Is it just me or does Scott look like a preacher?


For some reason I've been obsessed with sewing lately. Years ago I sewed a dress for Emma. It was a little sad. She liked it and wanted to wear it often. I told her it was a "just-for-wearing-at-home" dress, not a "being-seen-in-public" dress. But I've got a bug and want to learn to sew at least competently. So, to practice I've been busy making all the kids these fabric-scrap-cubes (bonus: at least half of the fabric scraps I used came from clothes my mom made me when I was growing up). I ripped off the idea from Cally (mastermind behind diaper bag below). The great thing is the kids love (LOVE) them. They sleep with them. They play with them all the time. They make up all kinds of games with them. They're always looking for their cubes. I love it. In a world of toys that are becoming exponentially louder, flashier and more high's something so basic, so downright primitive (pioneer children probably played with something like this along the wagon trails), so cheap and it has been a huge hit. Take that, Webkinz.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Most Gorgeous Diaper Bag in All the Land

You may begin your coveting at any time. Behold the beauty that is my new diaper bag. Who do I have to thank for this work of art? Cally Cruze!
My incomparably talented sister-in-law whipped up this baby quicker than I could say "Amy Butler." Leave it to the mother of five to design the dipaer bag that has it all. Perfectly sized pockets for every essential, a detachable bonus bag (that I use for wallet and cell phone but could have a hundred practical uses), a built-in paci keeper, and all of it just looks so cool. Thank you Cally! Cally will be taking orders for her boutique handmade items just as soon as all of her kids are in school (circa 2012).

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The circle of Love

We just got home from a 10 day vacation to Lehi, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Hold onto your hats...

Thursday night (the 19th) we hopped aboard an Allegiant Air plane bound for Las Vegas. Lydia fell asleep quickly with very minimal fussing. The big kids watched a movie on the little DVD player and dozed off either during or right after it. We received two compliments from stewardesses on our well-mannered kids. Score!

Friday morning dawned and we loaded up in our rental van and drove up to Happy Valley. Our first happy stop was in Provo. We walked around campus and though a few familiar buildings. The Talmage, where Scott basically lived in the computer labs:

The Wilk, including lunch at the Cougar Eat and shopping at the BYU bookstore. Campus was so familiar and so full of perfect memories. The bathrooms even smelled the same. After touring BYU, we drove by our old Wymount apartment and told Emma that’s where she was born. Then we headed to our old house on the west side of town and told Ben that’s where he was born. Josh had a hard time understanding he was born in Tennessee, not Utah.

Just when we thought we couldn’t handle any more sweet nostalgia we drove up to Lehi and it started anew. From the first step into the Lehi Barber’s home we felt comfortable and warm and fuzzy. It was fun to see the changes and improvements they’ve continued to add since we left. It was fun to see the things that had remained the same. Emma and Jonah picked right up where they’d left off last time they were together. Ben/Silas and Josh/Koen seemed to pair off more than they have in the past, which we enjoyed.

Hale is precisely just as cute as his older brothers (which is pretty darn cute).

Saturday morning we put our group’s endurance to the test. All twelve of us packed up for a day in Salt Lake City. We walked around Temple Square,

took a tour of the conference center (and were impressed with everything about it, especially all the original artwork) then hopped on the light rail to the Gateway mall for a late lunch. After eating we took the kids to the Exploratorium. They had so much fun, each room was stuffed full of great fun things for kids to do that they loved. They were busy. It was nice to sit back and watch them for awhile.

Sunday we went to Tooele to see Scott’s uncle Donald, aunt Julie and their two kids, Hunter (6) and Hannah (1.5). We had a good dinner there and plenty of good visiting.

Monday we took the kids to see “Meet the Robinsons” (two thumbs up), and they were all perfectly behaved. No one stirred from their seat, no one got bored, all six watched intently the whole time. Perfect. We made one more run down to Provo to visit Flexsim, formerly F&H Simulations. It was the first white collar job Scott ever had and to date he still claims it as his favorite. Scott’s former bosses were there and they got to chat about old times. Anthony Johnson works there now, along with AJ Bobo, it was fun to run into some old friends so far from home. Also while in Provo, we took advantage of the opportunity to eat lunch at Tucanos, the Brazilian BBQ place we’re always wishing would open up in Knoxville. It was deeee-lish. We had intended to visit with Callie who lives in Lehi, but we never got a chance as her son started throwing up the day we were going to see them, we didn’t want to risk those kind of germs on this long trip (we needn’t have worried…more on that later). We set off fireworks Monday night for FHE to commemorate Pioneer Day.

The kids filled in the gaps with plenty of playing all over the house and outside the house. Painting and scootering. Playing Luigi’s Mansion the video game and playing Luigi’s Mansion the pretend game. We saw the site of the future Lehi-Barber house we’ll be hanging out in on our next visit. It’s got a really pretty view of a river and is in a cul-de-sac. We enjoyed perhaps most the wonderful conversations we were able to have in the evenings with Joel and Jenica. That, and some killer biscuits Jenica made.

Tuesday afternoon we spent in Nevada. All the way to Reno (that’s for you, R.E.M. fans). The whole trip the kids did great for the long car drives. They watched a lot of movies. Lydia took some good naps. If she was awake she was generally a little fussy so one of us would sit by her and keep the Cheerios coming.

Wednesday we hopped, skipped and jumped the last few hours to San Francisco. I had asked Troy before about the weather there. He told me it was a little chilly and they usually brought along or wore jackets out. For some reason I just didn’t get it. “Chilly” I thought, and tossed one long-sleeve shirt each into the suitcase. That the first day we were freezing (my bad), but the second day was sunny and perfectly temperate. After regrouping in Troy and Dan’s home (awesome, by the way) with some sandwiches for lunch, we headed over to Golden Gate Park. We were pleased to meet Ethan, Noe, Siobhan there. It is a fantastic park, it’s been 100% revamped since our last visit in ’02…and we even thought it was pretty cool back then. The carousel was running, the playground equipment was off the charts (though some of it was so extreme our kids were not allowed to play on it…just the sight of the huge rope-pyramid climbing thing would have sent David into cardiac arrest), and as far as we could tell the only thing remaining from before the overhaul was a pair of tall, steep cement slides built into a hillside that require sitting on a piece of cardboard to go down. Those slides captured the fancy of one Joshua Scott Cruze almost immediately. His first trip down was taken in Scott’s lap, we worried he might be afraid or take a spill. But we might better have worried about his obsessive compulsive tendencies, he was hooked. He spent at least 30 minutes (maybe an hour) going down the slide over and over again. Never a moment’s hesitation at the bottom, never did it occur to him that there was any other option than going straight back up to the top. Emma and Ben enjoyed the slide also (in moderation). Scott had stationed himself at the top of the slide to police Josh, who attempted to cut straight to the front of the line every time he was up there (Scott feared another kid might push him since he was not adept at taking turns). Getting tired of standing up there Scott finally told Josh it was time for his last slide. Josh complied and at last noticed the rest of the park.

Our evenings at Troy and Dan’s were filled with fun games (Kill Dr. Lucky and Don’t Drop the Brain) and wonderful conversation and chocolaty desserts. Also, we invented another fun game that became difficult to stop playing, “Spot the Prius”. From the time we crossed the border into CA we noticed a significant increase in the Toyota hybrids on the road. At first we simply kept a running total together as we marveled at their abundance. Soon we realized we should stop working together and start competing. Each day through the end of the trip we could not help but counting Priuses (Pria? Prii?). Our totals were always close, but we each had a turn winning. Our biggest day we spotted 44 each. No doubt Troy and Dan have been playing this game daily in our absence, as it seemed just as exciting to them as it did to us. One more item of note, Lydia was completely taken with Troy. She warmed up to him immediately.

Thursday was our busiest sightseeing day, and also the day of some troubles. The first one hit us straightaway. As we headed to the continental breakfast, Josh was unusually droopy and lethargic. We had to drive to the breakfast because it was in a separate building and as the kids unloaded Josh mournfully told us, “I’ll wait in the van.” We took him in anyway and he threw up right on the waffle-making table. The good news (for our fellow La Quinta patrons) is the breakfast hours were over in just five minutes, so everyone was already done making waffles. The bad news was obvious. We had a frantic parent/parent conference and quick phone call to Troy and decided that Scott would stay in the hotel with Mr. Sicky (not all bad, he got to watch Sports Center) while Lori took the rest of the kids to the city and we’d touch base later in the afternoon and decide what to do next. So three Cruze kids and Lori met Troy and Dan and headed to a parking garage near China Town. We had a fun time walking all over and window shopping at the interesting stores (need some shark fins? China Town’s got you covered). We did some souvenir shopping too and Emma and Ben got to pick out t-shirts and we got one for Josh as well.

We got to see a lady making fortune cookies and taste some in the flat, pre-folded state. Oh, and I almost forgot, we saw a very short bit of a movie being filmed. Two cars speeding down a steep hill, cool. We enjoyed a quick lunch at a park (not as fancy as the Golden Gate one, but the kids still welcomed the chance to play around a bit). By this time we were close to Fisherman’s Wharf. We went down to the end of a pier and got a close-up look at the sea lions who come around to lounge on some crates and bark at the onlookers. We walked some more and passed by several street performers who the kids got a kick out of. Seeing two men dressed and painted in all shiny-silver Ben exclaimed in his most awe-struck, so-excited-he-can’t-believe-it voice, “Mom look! Real robots!!” Next was the cable car. Classic and fun. Kids liked the big hills, Lori loved the views up and down the steep hills.

A quick call to Scott reported Josh had kept his food down for the past couple of hours so we reunited. All six Cruzes now joined Troy and Dan in a drive to the Golden Gate bridge. It was a foggy day, so we couldn’t see the top of it, but it many ways that was even better. It was mysterious and romantic to have such a huge and strongly colored structure become completely invisible in the white mist. We walked over a stretch of it and looked down and took some pictures. Beautiful.

Dinner plans took us to Japan Town, which was actually more like a shopping mall. We came off the elevator and strolled over to a hallway that was actually a bridge across a street and were checking out some interesting pictures and menus on the walls for a minute or two when Lori did a quick kid census only to discover Josh was missing. Our group was split into two or three smaller sets, so she kept looking between them a few times before it sank in. “Where’s Josh?” Just as our fears were beginning to skyrocket they were calmed by the piercing screams and wails of our third born, just 50 yards or so behind us. Apparently he’d been side-tracked by something to look at just after exiting the elevators and we simply did not notice he wasn’t with us as we carried on. He had realized he was alone just as we realized it and we were thankful for his decision to be easy to find by staying put and crying. Our Japanese dinner was lovely and Ben and Scott even tried some fish-eggs. Not Lori (no way) or Emma (no how), and Josh was willing but we didn’t think it would be the best for his recovering stomach.

We still have another city to go. I’m so sorry. You can just skim if you want to.

Down to the City of Angels we went first thing Friday morning. Same old car ride, we passed a cattle range (which Brad had warned us about) and the kids couldn’t believe how bad it smelled. Neither could we. After driving through the kind of uglier and dumpier appearing sections of LA we were astounded at the beauty of South Pasadena. It looked like such a great place to live; green grass, clean buildings, many streets with breathtaking tree-canopies coming from both sides. We found Susan and Andrew at home. Their apartment was very spacious and full of wonderful artwork. And boxes. Susan had been busy as a beaver getting stuff packed in the days preceding our arrival. A big special thank you to Brad and Susan for taking time out from their hectic moving preparations to host our rag tag bunch. Andrew was cute as ever, really a big boy now. He chattered about Winnie the Pooh and showed off his jumps. Brad got home and took us on a quick tour of USC, showcasing some of the interesting buildings he’d schooled in and pointing out the stuff named after/signed by/donated by celebrities.

Back at the homestead we had yummy pizza and root beer for dinner then tucked the kiddos in to bed. Again, great conversation and visiting time was had with our hosts. Also, a fun thing was Brad sprinkling us with little bits of trivia about what movie scene was shot here, which commercials are always there, etc, throughout our visit. We’re in the know now.

Saturday was full of activity. We started with breakfast at the bakery (can’t remember the name!) Brad and Susan have raved about in past Pole entries. The scones were scone-tastic! The quiches and salads looked good too. If we lived so near such a great bakery, we may just have to eat there every week. After our fill, we headed to tinsel town. That’s right, Hollywood. Brad had told us before that Hollywood was kind of a dump, and boy he wasn’t kidding. It was still great fun. We walked up and down Hollywood Blvd and saw the stars of the stars on the sidewalk (Kermit the Frog was the first one we saw, Mary Kate and Ashely Olsen have to share one). We went all around inside the Kodak theater (which was not a dump, very nice actually) as Brad explained how all the streets around would get shut down and the red carpets rolled out for the big night. We took a few pictures with the Hollywood sign on the hill in the background. We made it to Grauman's Chinese Theatre to look at all the foot/hand prints. We took a picture by Jimmy Stewart’s.

This area had lots of street performers also, so many that it was overwhelming. Darth Vader and Yoda, Wonderwoman and Batman, people and creatures we didn’t recognize. All this sightseeing made us hungry. In-n-Out Burger, here we come. Our burgers, fries, and shakes were delicious, but unfortunately this was the scene of the one downside to the LA leg of our trip. Ever since Josh’s getting lost business in SF, we’d been very diligent at keeping him in hand-holding distance. At In-n-Out we were sitting at a table outside, it was super crowded. Scott had gone back in for more ketchup. Susan had to temporarily split for an appointment. So it was just Lori and Brad with all the kids. Josh had finished eating and told Lori he needed a napkin to wash up. Lori explained we’d go wash up in the sink in a minute (he was really messy, napkins were not going to cut it). Lori turned her attention to an attention-demanding Lydia then looked back at the table and there was one less kid than there had been a moment ago. As mentioned it was crowded and right on a busy street. Panic, panic, panic…oh there he is. He’d gotten up and gone around the corner of the building and had hit a roadblock trying to open the heavy doors into the restaurant to wash up. *relived sigh* Josheeeeeee. *brows furrowed, shaking fist* On to the beach! We packed into the minivan once again and cruised through Malibu to find the planned spot to dip our toes into the Pacific Ocean. It was a pretty beach with big rocks all over and lots of sealife to be seen. The kids could have stayed all day.

The night before we discovered that a 7-11 in Burbank was among the few nationwide that had been selected to be temporarily transformed into a Quick E Mart in conjunction with the Simpsons Movie release. I got originally got the tip from my friend Ryan's blog about visiting one with her family in DC. Of course we had to see it. Susan was back with the group and we stood in line for maybe 15-20 minutes to buy Squishees, big pink donuts, and take pictures of the various transformations. One wall was covered in drawings done by Simpsons animators. There were large plastic cutouts of characters all over the place and several other details not to be missed by Simpsons fans. The cashier was even Indian and said, “Thank you, come again!”

Another Sunday and church with Brad and Susan. The best thing about their ward: the nursery has a courtyard the kids can play outside in and ride little cars and such. Way cool. We said goodbye and good luck to the barely-still-Pasadena Barbers and started on our way back to Las Vegas to catch our redeye home. On the way we stopped for a nice big lunch and more visiting with yet another of Scott’s uncles (Kevin, who used to live on the compound and was the bishop in Grove Park) who now lives outside of LA. Finally we drove the last of our long stretches the rest of the way to Vegas. On the way we went through some spotty rain showers and we saw a beautiful full rainbow. The kids wanted to take a picture, but it was way too expansive to fit in the viewfinder.

We arrived at the airport and thought it would be smooth sailing the rest of the way home. Little were we prepared for one last downside to the trip. As we made our way through turning in the rental van, checking in our luggage and going through security, Emma turned more and more pale, reporting that her tummy hurt. That’s right, our little sweetheart threw up once in the airport and kept it up the whole four hours in the air (not to mention once in Grandpa’s van on the drive to our house…thanks for the ride, Dad!). It made for next to no sleep for Scott and Lori, but all in all could have been much worse. If you want any more details than that just email.
An epic vacation traveling the circle of love in the western US. Thank you to everyone out west for your perfect hospitality and an incredible time.