Sweet Strawberries

It’s finally strawberry season in SoCal (which still seems weird to me since strawberry season in Ohio isn’t until June)! The girls have been strawberry picking many times (in both Orange County and North Carolina), but William never had and we knew he’d love it. So, last Sunday, we went on a strawberry picking tour at Tanaka Farms. In addition to picking strawberries, we tasted other just-picked veggies, petted/fed chickens and goats, and played on the farm’s equipment and toys. It was a very fun – and very dirty – morning.

Welcome to Tanaka Farms

Country Girls at Heart

Wagon Ride

Eating Fresh-Picked Celery

Eating Fresh-Picked Carrots

Eating Fresh-Picked Snap Peas

Sweet Strawberries!

Double-Fisting Those Strawberries

Lil Loves Strawberries

Viv Loves Strawberries

Tanaka Farms Strawberries

Feeding Chickens

Sand Play

Getting Tall

Getting Tall

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Frozen: Chambers Family Edition

In mid-March, we loaded up the truck and took off on our first long family road trip (nearly six hours on the road!) and first family “snow vacation” (that’s what we kept referring to it as with the girls). Mammoth Lakes has received record amounts of snow this season – in fact, the Mammoth Mountain ski resort has received more snow than any other ski resort in the U.S. this year! Luckily, we somehow scheduled our trip in between snow storms, so we got to enjoy all of that snow without having to deal with blizzard weather and driving conditions – whew!

Day 1: Drive North, Welcome Center, & Mammoth Brewing
After careful and extensive planning and preparations, we were able to leave our house at 6:38am for the roughly six hour drive north. The drive was pleasant and relatively uneventful. Since our kids don’t have or use phones or tablets, they were happy to pass the time playing games (Guess Who? and I Spy), pretending, listening to music, and eating tons and tons and tons of snacks. We stopped once in Pearsonville (population: 17) for a gas/restroom/stretch/nursing break, and arrived in Mammoth Lakes before 2pm. We unloaded the truck and attempted to settle into our rented condo at Sierra Park Villas; however, our activities were abruptly halted when we realized that the condo had not been cleaned since the previous renters vacated it. Ug. I called the owner and he very quickly got a cleaning crew over to the condo, but it meant that we had to immediately leave the condo for two hours while they cleaned. None of this was a really big deal, though, and we were just mostly very glad that we arrived in the early afternoon and not late at night!

SO MUCH SNOW!

Since we were forced out of our condo nearly as soon as we got there, we started exploring our new surroundings right away. We first went to the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center. The kids played in the snow banks and walked around where they could, but, as would become a recurring theme throughout our vacation – there was really too much snow to do much else! We did get some valuable information about where to go sledding in a nearby park, peeked in the old saloon on site, and broke off some icicles that could have doubled as swords.

Welcome to Mammoth Lakes!

After our short adventure at the Welcome Center, it became very clear that Lillian would need better snow boots for the remainder of our trip. I had bought as little snow gear as I could for the kids before the trip, mostly relying on hand-me-downs and borrowed items from neighbors, so I wasn’t exactly excited to spend $50 on size 6 snow boots that would not be worn very much, but there wasn’t any way around it. While we were throwing down money at Footloose Sports for new boots, we also bought an over-priced (nonrefundable!) sled.

We drove around town and over to Main and Eagle Lodges, refamiliarizing ourselves with the area after not being here in six years. Then we stopped into Mammoth Brewing Company for an early dinner. This was a great choice because they have a casual eatery upstairs where the kids could run around and we could try some of their new (and unusual) brews.

Root Beer Cheers

Day 2: Shady Rest Park Sledding & Tubing at Woolly’s
In the morning, we bundled the kids and ourselves up and took our expensive new sled out for sledding and snow play at Shady Rest Park. Surprise – it was exhausting, tearful, cold, sweaty, and painful. We hiked up the sledding hill and then pushed the girls down their first run. Their sled picked up speed, hit some bumps, and launched them both into the air. They landed on the icy, hard snow and, Lillian especially, scraped up her face pretty bad. Major parenting fail.

Sledding Time – Before the Crash

William did not go sledding. I mostly propped him up next to snow piles and trees for photo opps.

Snow Elf

After The Crash, the girls rather quickly regained their confidence and went sledding again – this time, though, with Dan. They also made snow angels. Vivian used a much safer vehicle – her own rear end – to do a little solo sledding.

Sledding Without a Sled

After a quick lunch at the condo, Dan took Vivian to Woolly’s Tube Park for an even faster and more thrilling sledding experience. I had prepaid for this activity, so she was forced to get over any new sledding fears really quickly. Luckily, they both had a blast at their first tubing experience.

Tubing with Daddy

Day 3: Skiing & Snowboarding
This is the main reason we came to Mammoth Lakes – to ski and ride! In an exhausting morning rush (exhaustion is always the theme when “vacationing” with small kids/babies), we dropped Lillian and William off at child care and Vivian off at ski school. Then, Dan and I tackled the mountain together for the first time in six years. We made tracks all over – from the back side to Eagle and from Main/Mill/Canyon/McCoy to the top. After stopping into child care to nurse William at lunchtime, we ate lunch at McCoy Station and then took the gondola to the top to take on Cornice (one of the only black diamond bowls we feel comfortable going down at the top). We were lucky that the conditions were so great because Cornice is tough, even on a good day. We both felt relieved that skiing and snowboarding is actually like riding a bike – even after not doing it for many years, we both very easily picked it back up.

Ready to Tackle the Top

At the Top on a Bluebird Day

After collecting all of the kids from child care at the end of the day, we went back to the condo. Dan and Lillian headed off to the hot tub while I made dinner (we had our weekly Gobble box shipped up there).

Off to the Hot Tub – in the Snow!

Day 4: Mono Lake & Woolly’s Saturday Parade
After three days of serious snow play, we took a break to drive north on Highway 395 to check out Mono Lake, which none of us had ever seen before. Unfortunately, the visitor’s center in Lee Vining is closed in the winter (side note: quite a few places where we planned to go were closed at this time of the year like the Hot Creek Trout Hatchery and the Mammoth Ice Rink), but we were still able to take in views of the lake and build a snowman (Olaf, of course) outside the visitor’s center.

Mono Lake

Snowman Success

We drove back to our condo after a slight detour to June Lake, which is another lake we’d never visited before, and June Mountain. This afternoon, Dan stayed home with the littles while they napped and Vivian and I participated in Woolly’s Saturday Parade in The Village Plaza.

Hot Cocoa Before the Parade

Photo Opp with Baldy and Woolly

Resting in the Village

After take-out dinner, the girls and I frosted and decorated shamrock sugar cutout cookies (I had made and froze the dough in advance and then Vivian and I rolled, cut, and baked the cookies before the parade) in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day.

Shamrock Cutouts

Day 5: St. Patrick’s Day, Skiing, & Snowboarding
The girls were very excited to wake up and see a long trail of gold and green coins leading from their bedrooms to a pot of (chocolate) gold hidden in the kitchen. A leprechaun had also left beaded necklaces for them to wear to celebrate the day.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

We hit the slopes again after dropping Vivian off at ski school and the littles off at child care. Once again, we tried to cover as much as the mountain as we could before we had to pick everyone up at noon. After we did pick them up, we took the gondola to the top of the mountain to eat lunch and check out the interpretive center. Lillian had already ridden the gondola twice while in child care, but it was Vivian and William’s first ride – one loved it (Vivian), one didn’t (William).

Chambers Family at the Top of Mammoth

Lil Checking Out the View

After we disembarked from the gondola, Dan took the littles home to nap and Vivian and I went up the Discovery chairlift three times and skied down the bunny slope. Mostly, I skied with her between my legs, but she did a little skiing and practice stopping on her own at the top. She loved skiing – going fast, riding the chairlift, everything! We were so relieved that she had a positive first experience on the slopes and we’re looking forward to her becoming a good skier as she ages.

Riding the Discovery Chairlift

First Time Skiing – 4 Years Old

The “Real” Woolly

Day 6: Drive Home to Orange County
Our drive home was as uneventful as our drive to Mammoth Lakes. We stopped by Convict Lake to see it, ate lunch at Alabama Hills Cafe in Lone Pine, and stopped for gas in Adelanto.

Lunch in Lone Pine

We had a really fun (and, also, as stated above, really exhausting) time playing in the snow in Mammoth Lakes. We were glad to be home in our own beds, though, and breathing more moist air. It is our hope that we continue to take ski trips as a family over the years so that all the kids learn to – and love to – ski/ride with us!

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LOVE MORE

The girls (and us) really got into Valentine’s Day this year, which was a lot of fun. We love love!

Of course, there were outfits, as shown below, and modeled the weekend before Valentine’s Day.

LOVE MORE

Lil Dancing in Her Valentine’s Day Dress

William Standing in His Red Garb

Then, there were crafts. The girls painted holiday frames at Michaels. They did a great job and I just ordered pictures to put in the frames so that they can put them in their room.

Painting

Painting Progress

Finished Frames!

There were also cookies – obviously! We made homemade cutout sugar cookies and frosted and decorated them and, if I do say so myself, they turned out wonderful! (And, hey, I only lost my schmidt twice while making them with the girls!).

Frosting and Decorating Cookies

Valentine Cookies

On Valentine’s Day morning, the girls awoke to gifts and a singing card from Nana, new socks and hair bows from us, and, of course, chocolates!

Valentine’s Day Loot

Valentine’s Day Outfits

The Cuter Than Cupid Kid and His Biggest Sister

Cuter Than Cupid

Vivian at Preschool on Valentine’s Day/Pajama Day

When we all got home at the end of the day we had flowers waiting for us from Daddy (designed at The Pretty Petal, our neighbor’s awesome flower business). Dan also revealed that he planned a belated Valentine’s Day tapas and sangria cooking class date night for us at The Wine Artist in early March.

Flowers From Daddy

Love was definitely in the air this year!

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Science, San Diego, Sunshine, & the Sea

Last year, I had the best maternity leave ever. I honestly think fondly of that special time with the kids at those ages every.single.day. Returning to work last September was hard, but I’d done it before, and, also, knowing that we had a fun Fall coming up with three big holidays back-to-back-to-back helped the transition. I worried, though, how I’d feel after the first of the year with no six-month break from work and no big holidays to look forward to. There were so many fun holiday events during the past four months; now what? Well, I’m quickly realizing that now that the holidays are over, we have the opportunity to do a lot of fun things that we want to do, when we want to do them, and we aren’t pressured or under any time constraints due to upcoming holidays. For example, in December, I felt like we could only do Christmas-related activities because if we didn’t do them in December, we would completely miss out on them. But now, our weekends can be a little bit more leisurely and we can go or not go somewhere fun without worrying that now is the only time to do this! Our week days are packed with work, teaching, school, daycare, swim lessons, dance class, and Spanish class. Our weekends are typically organized with some down time, some time to complete house projects, and some fun activities. And so, here are the fun things that we’ve been up to in the new year:

Science
Our local science center was having a gingerbread exhibit and a Lion Guard exhibit that were ending soon, so we spent a few hours seeing these exhibits and the rest of the science center one Sunday morning. A few of our neighbors also joined us.

Lion Guard Exhibit at the Discovery Cube OC

Gingerbread Exhibit at the Discovery Cube OC

Lil and Science

Daddy and Son at the Science Center

San Diego
It had been years since we were last at the San Diego Zoo and Lillian and William had never been there, so we drove down to San Diego for the day and met up with our friends, the Turners, who have zoo passes and are great tour guides to us “out-of-towners.”

Zoo Day!

Our Three Animals Looking at Animals

Watching the Panda Eat

Just the TEN of Us!

Sunshine
We had a few days of really hard rain (which we desperately needed!) and when the sun broke through the clouds, we got outside and enjoyed the warmth. Dan was on Saturday birthday party duty and took Vivian to Pump-It-Up (always a favorite and the location of the kids’ upcoming birthday party in April) and I took the littles to Irvine Regional Park to ride a pony, ride the train, walk around, eat ice cream, and visit the Interpretive/Nature Center.

Pump-It-Up Party

Train Ride

Pony Ride on Daryl

Sea
The kids and I had MLK Day off and we spent it at Dana Point Harbor. The majority of our time there was spent exploring and playing at the Ocean Institute. Afterwards, we ate lunch at Proud Mary’s, which is the same location where we had our post-wedding brunch over seven years ago. All three kids were amazingly well behaved during lunch and they all ate well, too. I hope someone in that crowded restaurant noticed because it will probably never happen again. I felt like someone should have been waiting for me at the door as we exited to place a medal over my head – ha! Since the kids were exceedingly well behaved, I took the girls out for ice cream before we headed home. The miracles continued when all three fell asleep in the car. I pulled into the garage and left the girls in the car with the doors open. Viv slept for a total of 45 minutes and Lil slept for 2 hours! And then William went to bed at 4pm and slept until 7am the next day (with one wakeup for a change and feeding at 4am)!

Cutest Crab Around

Ocean Institute Play Area

Another Cute Crab

Touring the Pilgrim

Windy Day by the Ocean

So far, 2019 is off to a great start!

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Christmas Traditions – Old and New

On the heels of Thanksgiving came Christmas and we celebrated all month long, as we did with the previous two holidays. We incorporated some beloved traditions into our celebrations this year and tried a few new activities, too. As the kids get older, they, obviously, get more and more excited about holidays and so Christmas was much anticipated and enjoyed. In fact, the day after Christmas, Vivian made a comment about “when Christmas comes” and I told her that Christmas already came and that it would be another 364 days until Christmas comes again; she immediately burst into tears and exclaimed, “But Christmas can’t just be ONE day!” I promise you, though, that Christmas was not just one day in our house – we celebrated for nearly 30 days prior and we did have some post-December 25th celebrations, also.

New Activities
Breakfast with Santa: We kicked off the month-plus of all things Christmas with a new-for-us activity: breakfast with Santa at the Lake Forest City Hall. The girls got to do some crafts, listen to a story, and sing carols. This was William’s first Santa visit and actually our only Santa visit of the season. William did great with Santa; the girls were both still too scared to get too close to him.

Breakfast with Santa at the Lake Forest City Hall

The Nutcracker: I took Vivian to a special children’s production of The Nutcracker at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. It was only an hour long and I’d say that she was as interested and engaged as you could expect a four-year-old to be. I once auditioned for The Nutcracker when I was a child, although I didn’t get chosen. The last time I saw a production of The Nutcracker was when we were in NYC when I was pregnant with Vivian. It was fun to go on a mama-daughter date with her to see this performance.

The Nutcracker at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall

Christmas Light Walk: We all went to a Christmas Light Walk at the Sherman Library & Gardens a few days before Christmas. This was our first time attending this event. The kids had fun, but it was very crowded.

All Lit Up at the Christmas Light Walk at the Sherman Library & Gardens

William Made the Nice List (Sherman Library & Gardens)

A Charlie Brown Christmas: I took Vivian to see a local community theater production of A Charlie Brown Christmas, which was so cute and well done.

A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Chance Theater

LA Zoo Lights: A few days after Christmas we went – with my mom – to see the lights at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Once again, the kids had fun, but it was super crowded. Also, nearly all of the animals were off display and much of the zoo was closed off. This year was only the zoo’s fifth year displaying lights, so I think that they are still building and refining their event.

LA Zoo Lights

Monarch Beach Resort: Right before the end of the year, Dan and I (and William, since he was not yet sleeping through the night) spent a night at the Monarch Beach Resort. This was my 7th anniversary gift to Dan. We enjoyed dinner and breakfast at the resort (again, with William in tow), but our favorite activity was walking down the beach and admiring the amazing ocean views.

William at the Monarch Beach Resort

Beach Walk Views from the Monarch Beach Resort

Old Traditions
Christmas Stocking: Dan’s mom knitted William a stocking, which is a long-standing family tradition. He was very excited for Santa to fill it!

William’s Santa Stocking Handmade by Grandma

Christmas Tree: We decorated an artificial tree in our house. Our pre-lit tree in storage was only partially lit when we plugged it in this year, so we bought a new one that is even better for the small space in our house that we have allocated for a tree. Vivian was super excited to place the star on the top of it (also new this year).

New Tree and Star

William “Helped” Decorate the Tree

Heritage Hill Historical Park: In past years, we went to the Candlelight Walk at Heritage Hill Historical Park. This event, although festive, was typically very crowded. This year, instead of going to the actual Candlelight Walk event, we stopped by the park on a different night when the park was open (and free!) to visitors, but without vendors and activities. This was SO much better! There were only a few other people at the park (along with a few park rangers) and the girls got to run all over the park and explore the lights.

Holiday Lights at Heritage Hill Historical Park

Christmas Jammies: William wore Christmas jammies that the girls wore two and four years ago (heritage jammies are the first three pictures, left to right, below).

William’s Christmas Jammie Montage

Letters to Santa: Vivian and Lillian both wrote and mailed letters to Santa. Santa wrote back and included lots and lots of glitter snow in each letter, which I was extremely glad that I was warned about and had the foresight to open the envelopes over the kitchen sink.

Mailing Letters to Santa

Preschool Holiday Singing Program: Vivian performed in her preschool’s holiday singing program, again. This was her second (and final) year singing and dancing in this program for. Next year (and the year after), Lillian will be taking the stage (and then William…).

Preschool Singing Program, Day 1

Preschool Singing Program, Day 2

Baker Ranch Polar Express Holiday Event: Dan took the girls to our neighborhood’s holiday event (William was sick, so I stayed home with him). Although slightly different every year, we always look forward to the holiday events that our association hosts for us.

Swinging at the Baker Ranch Polar Express Holiday Event

Christmas Eve Mass: We all made to to mass on Christmas Eve with plenty of time to spare (quite the feat when you have three small children in tow!).

Family Picture Before Christmas Eve Mass at Santiago de Compostela Catholic Church

Santa!: On Christmas Eve, Santa came and when we heard him, we woke the girls up so that they could see him. They sleepily peeked over the stair railing to see Santa arranging presents under the tree, eat a cookie, and hear his jingle bells; however, the next morning, when asked them about seeing Santa, they had no recollection. On Christmas morning, the girls were very excited to open presents from him, though. William enjoyed all the commotion, as usual. 

Santa Came!

New “Cry Baby” Dolls

Santa Baby

Nana Visit: On Christmas night, just like last year, my mom arrived via plane and stayed with us for one wonderful week. We all loved having her nearby and appreciated all of her extensive help!

Nana Came!

Gingerbread House Building with Nana

While my mom was visiting, the girls picked the lemon off our many-years-old tree. She then made delicious lemon tassies with the zest and juice.

Picking Our First Lemon

Since my Mom was in town and there was an extra set of hands and eyes to help with the kids, Vivian and I were able to steel away for a mama/daughter manicure/pedicure one afternoon. It had been awhile since the two of us had treated ourselves to some pampering and Vivian, especially, thoroughly enjoyed it. After our “spa” afternoon, we were ready to start the new year – bring on 2019!

Post Mani/Pedi with Mama

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A Tardy, But Thankful Thanksgiving

Well…Christmas was yesterday and I’m just now getting around to writing about our Thanksgiving events and activities. Keeping up with three kids, three houses, three jobs, and life is all encompassing. As overwhelmed as I often feel, I am equally as torn over wanting all of this and wanting a break. These crazy days are a direct byproduct of having three very small children. When I no longer have these babes needing me for every little thing, I will no longer have babies. One thing I know every day, though, is that I am incredibly thankful. How lucky am I…how insanely, absurdly, ridiculously lucky am I to be able to live this very privileged life and be the mama to three amazing babies and the wife to a very loving and hard-working husband?

There is a quote from a blog post that I keep printed and taped to my monitor at work. It’s fitting to share it here now:

If you have a family who loves you, if you’re healthy, if you have food in the fridge, a job, health insurance, clean water to drink – be genuinely grateful for that stuff. Be grateful because you are no more entitled to those things than any other human on Earth planet. And there are millions of good, hard-working people in this world who are desperate for all those things. And it’s profoundly disrespectful TO THEM to take what you have for granted and throw it around like it doesn’t mean anything.

And so, throughout the month of November, we tried to slow down just a little bit, and be conscious and thankful for everything that we have.

Thankful for our Amazing Neighbors

Thankful for Preschool Pilgrim Vivian

Thankful for Preschool Native American Vivian

Thankful for Extended Family Gathering Together in Livermore

Thankful for Snoopy (Yes, Even Snoopy)

Thankful for Our Biggest Blessing in 2018 – William

Thankful for Turkey Trots

Thankful for Wine

Thankful for Dinosaurs – Big and Small

Thankful for All Five of Us

Thankful for Days to Explore (in San Francisco)

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William’s First Business Trip

Our kids have to earn their keep, so off William went last week on his first business trip! In reality, I attended team meetings and training at our corporate headquarters in Rancho Cordova (near Sacramento) and William got some special bonding time with Grandma and Grandpa, who drove over from their house 2 hours away in Livermore. You can read details of his time spent with them in this blog post.

Unfortunately, the air quality was very unhealthy while we were in the area, due to the nearby horrific Camp Fire. In addition, William had the worst nights of sleep of his entire life while we were staying at the hotel. It was nice to spend time with Dan’s parents and show William off to all of my Northern California coworkers, but I don’t think we’ll be traveling for business again anytime soon. Perhaps William is a little too young to be expected to earn his keep!

Travel Time! 7 Months Old and 3rd Set of Flights

Smiles for Grandma and Grandpa

Happy to be Home!

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