Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Decade Minus ONE

In addition to celebrating a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family from far away. .we celebrated another little "something special" that happens around this time every year too!!
This guy got to turn NINE! Which, last I checked. .is only one year from being a whole decade. .and that TOTALLY doesn't seem right to me!! We got to anticipate an induction with him (since we lived an hour away from any delivering hospitals. .and had gone from 7cm to delivering a baby 45 minutes after my water broke with Grant). We brought him home the day before Thanksgiving. .and we have been thankful for him every Thanksgiving since!
He gets the best of both worlds, really. He usually gets to celebrate his birthday with both sides of our family, where the other kids only celebrate with the family living near us.
He recieved some Beyblades from my mom and sister. .and they were enjoyed by all the Y chromosome type people roaming the house. .young. .and OLD! We had a GREAT visit with all my family! Everyone was there. .4 kids. .4 spouses. .and ALL 13 very noisy grandkids!! And on the note of being thankful. .we were thankful that the weather was fairly nice. .and they could get some outdoor time in!! We were also thankful that Tristan drove 5 out of the six hours round trip. .and he did well, despite the dark and the holiday traffic! Devin only complained twice that Tristan's driving was "freakin' him out."
You may remember that Devin bought a little remote control boat on vacation last summer. .it never did work very well and was pretty disappointing for him. A few weeks after we got home from vacation, I was on Amazon for something and saw that select toys were 60% off. .GUESS what I found??
He was in total heaven!! The cats weren't sure what to think about it. .
They were intrigued to say the least!
It was one of our first really yucky cold days here. .and that made driving it from the front window even better! Have I ever mentioned how MUCH we LOVE our little fish pond??
Dev enjoyed having a couple of his friends spend the night to celebrate too, feasting on homemade pizza and candy cane trifles (a cool recipe we found in the Better Homes and Gardens magazine while driving home Thanksgiving night!)
Then, we got to enjoy a get-together with Jeremy's family. It was thanksgiving and TWO birthday parties. .all rolled up into one!
And ONE little girl wasn't arguing a BIT about getting to open some presents early!! Her real birthday is yet to come, and of course. .more photos to follow. Grandma crafted TWO birthday cakes. .One chocolate baseball themed cake (the figurine on Dev's is a baseball coin bank). .And one strawberry princess cake. .with purple polka dots! Cami's leftover cake went to the freezer, so her lazy mom can pull it out on her REAL birthday for some no-stress birthday eats!
The girls were sporting their new girly scarves that grandma had given them while they played beyblades with the boys! The cousins enjoyed playing together, as usual. And we knocked off a little early so we could all go to town and watch. ."PUSS IN BOOTS!" Tristan went on a mission trip to Denver to work with Operation Christmas Child. .so he missed the whole party!
Grandma gave the boys some wooden peg games like they played in times past. .
. .And we all enjoyed watching Jeremy and Granddad battle it out! My guys continued to mess with the games for the rest of the weekend!
Our house and yard are decorated and lit. .Tristan's group made it home early this morning. .my bedroom floor is full of gifts bought yesterday while taking all my women in-laws to Wichita shopping. .we start Christmas programs this week and more pep band games.
I gifted myself a new digital candy thermometer yesterday (much to the dismay of Grandma. .who decided, after hearing me talk about them on the way up, that it would be a PERFECT gift) It is long and tall. .and not glass. .and it will beep when it hits the right temperature. It means that I will no longer have to make a trail of twist ties to hook my glass thermometer to the side of my 20 gallon pot to get the end of it in the candy. .It means that I won't have to constantly move the glass around to try to read numbers under the steam fog that acrues. .it means that I won't be standing on my head reading the numbers while stirring at the same time. .and most importantly. .it means that I won't have to replace it frequently because someone has dropped it in the sink while washing it. .or killed a fly with the UNOPENED thermometer package. .before HE took the chance to notice that there was a glass tool inside the cardboard!! Candy making will soon be full steam ahead!

Let the season of our Savior's birth. .
and all things festive and yummy begin!!
Eat, shop, and be merry. .
And don't forget to open your bible to Luke chapter 2 to recall why we REALLY celebrate this wonderful season!
Enjoy your week!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Psalm 100:4
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
I've been thinking for the last few days about what I am REALLY thankful for. Of course, there are the obvious things. .my faith, my family, our friends, a warm home, my work. .and a multitude of God's provisions for me. I wanted to go beyond the obvious, and reflect on something deeper. There are so many things to be truly thankful!! I finally chose to be prayerfully thankful for mercy. 

Life is hard. .REALLY hard. We're not perfect. .we're human. .ALL of us! We get some things right. .and we screw up plenty of other opportunities. .if you are like me. .it occurs on a daily. .if not hourly basis!! I find it so hard to overcome my "human-ness."
But. .
Great is His faithfulness, His mercies are new each day. Lamentations 3:23
That's my favorite scripture verse in the whole Bible!
The dictionary definition of mercy goes a little bit like this. .
1.Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm: "the boy was begging for mercy".
2.An event to be grateful for, esp. because its occurrence prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering.
Despite all the things I do wrong. .all the situations I could have handled differently, but chose not to. .all of the times that I have been a person I wouldn't even want as my child. .Despite ALL that..God continues to provide for my needs and those of my family. He has the POWER to punish me regularly for my shortcomings and downright disobedience. .but He DOESN'T!! That is mercy!!  Not only does He not sentence me as I might sentence my kids. .but He also provides for many of my desires. .which are usually different from my NEEDS! WOW! I would love to be a parent like that. .and I am so thankful that I have an eternal Father like that!

Maybe you have read 103:8-14 before with your own eyes. .and maybe you haven't. .Those promising verses follow. .I know how easy it is to skim through the words only half reading. .but I challenge you all to read them. .twice if you can. .and really consider what David was telling us when he wrote those attributes of our heavenly Father.

Psalm 103:8-14
New Living Translation (NLT)
8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9 He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust

I am SO thankful that each day, God wipes my slate clean and lets me try again. And that, mercifully, He still loves me as much at the end of the day as He did at the beginning of the day.
1 Chronicles 16:34 reminds us to Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. .His mercy endures FOREVER!

I would be honored if you would take a moment and comment about something you are truly thankful for today!
Blessings and lots of love on this wonderful celebration of Thankfulness!
Heavenly Father, on Thanksgiving Day
We bow our hearts to You and pray.
We give You thanks for all You've done
Especially for the gift of Jesus, Your Son.
For beauty in nature, Your glory we see
For joy and health, friends and family,
For daily provision, Your mercy and care
These are the blessings You graciously share.
So today we offer this response of praise
With a promise to follow You all of our days.
--Mary Fairchild

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Final Hoo-Rah!

I'll have to admit, that by Sunday, we were getting tired! And we would have never survived another full day in the city by Monday!! But we RAN full speed ahead on Sunday. .and still got to see lots of cool things! Are you ready for the final tour?
First stop was the Intrepid museum.  It was an old aircraft carrier turned museum.
At 912 feet long and 192 feet wide on the flight deck. .it was the biggest vessel I had ever been on.
They had a lot of interesting air crafts inside and on the landing deck at the top of the ship. This old army rescue helicopter was intriguing to me. .especially when we saw that the gurney for the injured was the little attached platform OUTSIDE of the craft!! See where the red cross emblem is. .that was a very small head covering that was open on the end over the body. I didn't see any straps to keep the injured body from falling off the platform. .but surely they used them!!
We all decided that the bunks didn't look that comfortable. .especially for long, lean mechanic type people. .he had to twist his upper body around to even get his feet remotely on the end of the bed!
It was a brisk and breezy day. .which made the sightseeing on the flight deck a little chilly. I am pleased to report that NYC is every bit as "breezy" as western Kansas!!
Right next to the Intrepid is the USS Growler. .a retired submarine. I've never been on a sub. .and have always wondered about the logistics within them. I'm a bit claustrophobic, and I really love the sunshine. .and am quite sure that I wouldn't do well on a submarine for 3 months at a time!!
First of all, the average sailor, we found out, was about 5 feet 8 inches tall. .we asked!! I am 5' 10" tall and Jeremy is 6' 3". We spent a lot of time watching out for our heads!
I found these bunks to be even worse than the ones shown on the Intrepid! There are three high, with a narrow hallway in between and 3 high on the other side. The particular bunks are shown in the missile room. The little fan blades on the right were attached to the torpedo thing that shot out of the submarine during an attack! I am hoping to construct a vacation scrapbook online to include the other million photos I have of the inside of a submarine!! The bottom line there was. .it was small. .it was dark. .the bathrooms weren't inviting enough to even desire a very  long shower. .and a superb reminder of how much our servicemen and women REALLY sacrifice to fight for our freedom and preservation of our own comfort! WOW!
The Museum of National History was our next, but not our last adventure of the day! I knew it sounded like something Jeremy would enjoy when we saw it! This is the "Night at the Museum" museum. .I am not afraid to say I didn't put two and two together until we got there. .probably not a surprise to all of those who now know that I didn't know the Toys R Us mascot :-) I'm still laughing over that one!! I appreciate you cluing me in!! Seriously!!
The trees were a spectacular sight around here!! I was intrigued to see nails coming out of Teddy Roosevelt's head. .as well as the head of his horse. The purpose was to keep the crazy multitudes of pigeons off their heads. We saw other statues where the birds are allowed to sit. .and defecate on them. .not pretty!
The African mammals exhibit was SOOO cool. .If you could get past the glass cage, you would totally swear you were standing right in the desert with the animals. The back of the exhibits are rounded and it really makes the background look realistic. Of course, all the grasses, tree branches, and dried flowers are real. .and lend to the realistic portrayal!
And the dinosaurs were totally fascinating!! Some of them were unbelievable HUGE!!
Like this tortoise! I think I would have run if I had met him on the street. .even with skin!!
We think this is the dinosaur that was always running amuck in the movie "Night at the Museum."
They had lots of exhibits of cute little people scenes. I didn't see one that included the railroad building cowboys that get in trouble in the movie. .but in 3 1/2 hours. .we still missed many exhibits!! A person about needs a whole day to do this museum!!
Dum dum from the movie!
They had lots of life size replicas. .and they looked so real!! This guy had an interesting contraption sticking out of his nostrils. .it extended about 18 inches out to either side! OUCH! And we think today's piercings are odd!
The sea exhibit was also intriguing. .and I enjoyed taking photos of some of the replicas of the fossils that we find on our geology trips.
Another example of their incredible life-like 3-D replicas!
Next stop was Central Park. .which was right across the street. I'll have to mention that I was enjoying a lamb gyro off the street stand on my way through. We tried lamb a couple different times while we were there. It was very tasty!!
This view is SO amazing to me. .a serene peaceful park in the middle of looming skyscrapers! What a contrast!! No wonder people flock here. There were several people boating on this little lake. It is my understanding that there is a much larger lake in this park somewhere. There were people laid out on the grass with lunches and reading. .people walking dogs. .people throwing frisbees with their kids. .and. .
. .the famous runners (the ones who always end up missing in CSI!) We only had about 15 minutes before we needed to catch a cab for our next appointment. It was enough time to enjoy what we could see. .after all. .minus the breathtaking colors. .OUR world is quiet and peaceful. .much like this park! By the way. .the report I saw before we went was that the big snowstorm had taken out like 1000 trees. .you could not even tell that!! Aside from that sign above that warned that they were cleaning as fast as they could!
Our next appointment was a 4:00 boarding time for the Harbor Cruiseline boat. We had a 2 hour harbor cruise. It encompassed a little more land than we had seen the night before on the water taxi. And this was more like a cruise ship. .and less like a speed boat. Lane didn't tolerate this trip very well, and spent much of his time on the cold, windy back deck. .trying not to hurl for the fish. Bless his little heart!! The rest of us enjoyed it immensely! We chose to sit INSIDE the cabin this night. .cause it was COLD!!
I went out long enough to snap a few photos of the extraordinary sunset!! I was glad that we enjoyed the sunset 2 nights in a row. .cause I have a feeling that very few people in that city get to enjoy the sunset every night like we do in Kansas!! I would totally miss that glorious gift from God!! Way back behind the Brooklyn Bridge, directly to the left of the middle pillar, you can see the thin stick of Lady Liberty!
Look at the sunset dance on the water! So, even in a city of 3 million people. .one can still sense an aire of pure simplicistic beauty! Deep breath in. .Ahhhhh!
After enjoying fish and chips in an Irish pub off Times Square. .we hit the Rockefellar Center again. .and made the trek to. .
The TOP of the ROCK!
For a divine view of the Empire State Building at night! Now. .I nearly penned that it was a still view of the building (in contrast to the speed boat views from a few nights earlier). .but I would be lying. .when we got to the top of the Rock, you could FEEL the entire building swaying. .and if you fixed your eye on something steady. .you could SEE the entire building swaying. .
Now, you'll see. .it's a LOOOONG way to the ground. .and THAT, to me. .was a LOT disturbing!! I didn't notice the Empire building swaying like that when we got up to the 102th floor. .but surely it was too! Very unnerving when you are up that high in the sky!
Overall, New York City is incredible!! A city that has so much to offer!! A city that is on the top of people's vacation destination lists in more countries than I could name! A city that has totally captured my heart! Could I live there??
I don't think so. .but I could visit there. .even regularly. .and enjoy every minute. Jeremy doesn't think he will want to go back again. .he had the opportunity to appreciate a lot of things in our 3 1/2 day excursion. .and is satisfied that he has "seen" it all! But, THIS girl will be saving her quarters up for the sake of a girls trip. .or maybe. . girls TRIPS. . some day!!
Thanks for joining in on my ramblings and I hope you enjoyed the NYC tour through my viewfinder and narration!!
Enjoy your Thanksgiving week!! I'm planning for a "Thankful Thursday" post on Thanksgiving. .be sure to come back when you have a minute while digesting and chime in on what YOU are thankful for!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

From the Air. .to the Sea. .

. .and everything in between!! That's what we did on Saturday.  We started with the Empire State Building.
We rode the New York City Skyride on the 2nd floor first. I generally don't get motion sick. .but after several alcoholic beverages the day before and less than my normal quota of water. .it wasn't a good experience for me. I happened to be sitting in the middle on the bench of about 6 people. Then they put a bar across your lap so you couldn't get out if you wanted too! Then some crazy voice starts talking about seeing the city from some airborne vector. And the seats start moving in a chaotic and spastic fashion. It was the first time in my entire life of loving IMAX productions and roller coasters that I seriously was sure that I was going to barf on my own shoes. Needless to say. .my eyes were shut the entire time. .cause the one time I opened them, I began to sweat and my mouth started watering. Thank the good Lord I was able to choke it back. .I'm sure they have wiped puke off the floor before! But I was really glad it wasn't mine!!
The view from the 102nd floor is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!! You can see forever. .
. .and it encompasses buildings, water, and more buildings as far as the eye can see!!
While the view was great. .the LOOOOONG lines were not! And Jeremy lost about all of his good humor in them. He doesn't like people. .or crowds. .This was the first time in the City where we had to remove coats and belts. .and open our bags as they went through the scanner. We also walked through metal detectors. Lane has a new knee. .and he beeped everywhere we went!!
For my gardening friends. .a different perspective on "city" gardening. .I can totally NOT imagine having my garden confined to the top of the building. I have some photos of trees being grown on the building tops. .I don't think I included them in any of these posts. .but may have to do so later. .cause I was really intrigued by them!
Here is the overhead view of Central Park. You can tell that they had gorgeous fall colors there!! What an odd little piece of country in the city. We were able to get a quick run around the edge of the park Sunday. .and I'll have some photos of the ground level next time!
After we finally got released from the Empire State Building, we hit the hop-on busses again.
We stopped off and ran around in Chinatown. .
. .where they sell lots of seafood on the corner sidewalks and medicinal remedies for any ailment. .
And Little Italy. .
. .where we ate Cannoli (Check. .for my bucket list of things I needed to do) and browsed their shops. I think the sausages hanging around were awesome! Definitely not something you could find in the Midwest.
We got off at Battery Park later in the afternoon to catch the New York Water Taxi.
We had enough time left to catch the cruise around the Statue of Liberty and around the harbors a bit.
It was THE best time to be at the Statue for photographing!! We had the opportunity to see everything by day, at sunset, and by night. .all in a matter of a couple of hours!
The Statue was closed for renovations. .so we elected not to go to the island and stand in more security lines. .I went to the island the last time I was in NYC. .and our photo ops turned out to be much better this way!!
Here is some skyline at dusk.
The boys were enjoying the cruise. It was pretty chilly on the water, since the wind was blowing too!! There was some indoor seating there, but the view just wasn't the same!
The Brooklyn bridge. There were about 3 other bridges right around the river there too. .they are fantastic to look at in their own rights. Fantastic structures!
We were leaving from the Pier 81 stopoff. This taxi actually lets you hop off and onto it too. We were late enough in the day though, that we had to stay on or get left behind. Pier 81 will be on my next NYC trip agenda. There looked to be some really cool and original shopping and dining opportunities in that area.
Did I not have some great photo ops here with the lighting? I must have come home with 100 pictures of Lady Liberty! She is ABSOLUTELY as majestic as she seems!
There were lots of boats. .and even a cruise ship running through the Hudson River. There is the New York City Skyline. Breathtaking!! The photos just don't do it justice at ALL!
The taxi drove back by the statue in the dark. .and this turned out to be one of my favorite photos. I already had a million sunset sillouttes. .so when our side of the boat got our turn to snap photos, I messed with some close ups. I'll bet it is too grainy to blow up. .but I may have to try it anyway!
I also came home with another 100 photos of the Empire State Building at night. I couldn't ever quite get it in the frame like I wanted it. .and it was dark enough by then that I really had to wait for a momentary lull in the rough water to snap one still enough to be un-blurry. The city lights were absolutely phenomenal. .and this seemed to be a little quieter way to enjoy them!
After the boat ride, we ended up back at Times Square. I wanted to take a few pictures inside the HUGE Toys R Us store to show Devin and Cami. There is a ferris wheel INSIDE the store!
And this photo was taken only to demonstrate how many stinking people were in the store!! You could barely move. .really!
I have no idea who the giraffe is. .but I was sure Cami would be tickled with it. She wasn't. "Mama, WHY are you standing by a GIRAFFE??"
We enjoyed supper at Bubba Gumps Seafood place on Times Square. Jeremy ordered some big bucket of shellfish. .oysters, mussels, clams, crab legs, and even a lobster tail in there. After supper, we went down to a comedy club called Ha right off the square. They had some super funny comedians, with clean jokes, and nice language! It was also our lucky night, in that, the club also had a dueling piano show that night (CHECK. .right off my bucket list. .I have always wanted to go to one). Those guys were incredible!! They could play and sing anything. For those that haven't ever been, people sign slips of paper with songs they want to hear, and attach some money to entice them to play their choices. .and the guys perform the show based on the requests! Crazy fun!!
On the way back to the Square to catch a cab to go home. .we saw a spray paint artist. I have only seen them on youtube after my father in law talked about seeing them in Vegas. I got online and ordered him a print for Christmas a few years back. .and was intrigued to watch the artists work via youtube.
They use spray paint cans. .and in this print above. .he used a hubcap, a lid, and a bottle cap to block off the three spheres. Then he used a putty knife to etch out the rest of the picture through his layer of colors. He also used a stencil he put down to spray Lady Liberty on. My mouth moved the fastest in the crowd as he asked if anyone wanted to purchase his print. YEAH ME!! This was MY souvenier!! Now I just need someone to frame it for me! By the time I got my print paid for, Lane had hailed a horse and buggy to take us back to our hotel (CHECK). What a perfect ending to a great day!

We are gradually getting rested up this week. .and the two little ones have been a little clingy. .I have one more day's worth of photos to share!! As much fun as we had though. .
There is NOOO place like home!!
Enjoy your Sunday!!