Friday, April 27, 2007

San Francisco, day three

As we awoke in the hotel room Vickey took a photo op with the two kids still lounging in bed. Of course Dominic had moved from his crib to tickle Eliana and wake her in her rollaway bed. They look like two little happy angels, but they were being quite devilish this morning. Nothing like long days and a nice long night’s sleep to help kids rejuvenate.

After The Pampered Chef buffet breakfast Vickey took Eliana on a San Francisco cable car ride. Ellie loved it!

Dominic and I ventured out in the Sequoia navigating the city’s confusing one-way streets to get to Fisherman’s Wharf. The four of us met up there and enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Boudin’s.

After lunch we did the sightseeing thing, from Fisherman’s Wharf to Pier 39 to Ghirardelli Square.

The kids and I rode on the second story of this carousel at Pier 39 (this was about 30 minutes before it started raining).

Vickey and Eliana got lost in a candy shop. Ellie and Dominic played in the arcade. Ellie left with a handful of prizes in exchange for the tickets she won ($5 for what was worth about $0.25 . . . but I suppose the time together makes up for the rest; it was fun to see how excited she was in the arcade).

This photo has Alcatraz in the background (you can click on the photo to enlarge it).

We even drove down Lombard Street which was pretty close to Ghirardelli Square. I'd hate to be a resident on that street.

Eliana and Vickey spent a lot of time at the seashell store at the pier. Here’s Ellie showing off her new collection. (Ellie says: “Thanks, Grandma Snow, for the spending money.”)

We made it back to the hotel in time to freshen up, get dressed up and attend The Pampered Chef farewell banquet.

We were treated to a good meal, Chinese dancers as entertainment, and a monogrammed Chinese fan for both kids.

After the meal Eliana and Dominic were the first ones on the dance floor.

Dominic was a handful during the meal. He and I spent some quality time together out in the hallway and riding the escalator. I even made a special trip back up to the hotel room on the 15th floor to get his binky. And yes, as you’ve seen, we kept the pacifier in play in anticipation of our trip (the doctor recommended we go cold turkey several weeks ago.) Dominic’s still not weaned. Then again, neither is thumb-sucking Eliana at five-and-a-half.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

San Francisco, day two

I should mention that we were in San Francisco because during the 2006 calendar year Vickey earned an all-expenses-paid trip for the family through The Pampered Chef. Way to go Vick!

On Friday we joined a Pampered Chef excursion to Muir Woods National Monument. Along the way we toured parts of downtown San Francisco while our tour guide lectured us. One of her lectures was, “I’m not going to compete!” (meaning we needed to be quiet and listen to her well-rehearsed remarks, or get off the bus). It was cute in a mind your senior citizens sort of way (she was an elderly woman who just said it like it was).

Of course we stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge for a photo op. Our family was the last back on the bus after the 20 minute stop, so I made a point of ensuring our timeliness at the next stop (I couldn’t help it, it was the old tour manager in me).

We had about an hour at Muir Woods. The environment was remarkable. The crisscross bus ride at the back of the bus was about enough to make me motion sick, but once we were there it was like being transported to another world. The woods were thick and lush. The smell was fresh and earthy. The temperature was moderately cool in the shade and warm and sunny in the light. It was really amazing.

At the end of this stop our family was one of the first back at the bus, arriving even before the bus driver did. I think Vickey was disappointed she missed out on 10 minutes in the woods while we waited to board the bus.

As soon as the door was open Eliana grabbed me by the hand and said, “Come on, dad. You said you wanted to be the first one on the bus.” I was a bit embarrassed thinking our fellow passengers may have looked down on my competitive spirit. I replied, “No, Eliana. I just said I didn’t want to be the last one on the bus. There’s a difference.”

Ah, the perspective of a five year-old.

We drove to Sausalito where we were given instructions to grab a bite to eat and be at the pier in 60 minutes in order to catch the ferry back to San Francisco. It was a tall order but we did our best. In fact, we were quite pleased with our lunch choice. Instead of opting for the burger joint praised by our tour guide (because everyone was going there, duh), we found a cozy joint on the pier. The proprietor/cashier/chief cook and bottle washer took our order (Vickey didn’t like the fact that he handled our money and our sandwiches) while we sat on the pier and Dominic repeated “B” over and over (that’s his word for ‘bird’).

We even managed a stop at our favorite tourist t-shirt shop, Crazy Shirts, and at the local ice creamery.

En route on the ferry we passed close enough to Alcatraz to read the disintegrating old fashioned signs warning boaters of impending imprisonment if they tried to help a convict escape.

Upon re-boarding our bus and returning to the hotel Dominic and I took a well-deserved nap. Vickey and Eliana racked up the tourist points by going back to Yerba Buena Gardens for a game of bowling and playing on the playground slides for a couple hours. (Ellie had a few turns on the slide the night before but it just wasn’t adequate, don’t you know.)

Following their return we loaded up the car and headed out to Twin Peaks. What a stunning view, which on this particular evening was accompanied by an incredible wind and coldness.

After that—because we weren’t ready to throw in the towel on our first full day in the city—we headed in to North Beach. The restaurant we hoped to eat at was full with an hour wait. Eliana and Dominic were both on the verge of hunger collapse so we found a public parking spot and grabbed a table for four at the first available decent looking Italian restaurant. I think we were seated around 8:30 p.m.

I can’t remember where we ate, but it was good. I think Vickey and I were most impressed with the kids’ spaghetti with meat marinara sauce. Still, the whole meal was quite good. We sat right by the kitchen and most of the staff played with Dominic who, in his usual way, ate with gusto leaving nary a corner of his face and hair free from the food on his plate. Ellie sat cuddled with her blanket after a meltdown. She and I watched Andrea Bocelli: Under the Desert Sky—a concert performance from last year’s Stars on the Lake concert series filmed just a few miles from home at Lake Las Vegas—on the restaurant’s TV.

It was a truly Italian experience—dining, entertainment, environment, etc. In fact, Vickey took Eliana to the restroom (and so did I, but that’s another story) and while they were waiting in line, one of the servers goosed one of the patrons as he walked by. She was surprised, then laughed. It was a very forward, unapologetic, non-politically correct thing of him to do. Sometimes that’s just refreshing to witness.

After our late dinner we headed back to the hotel room with two very tired kids who were real troupers. We were all out like a light as soon as we hit the sheets.

San Francisco, day one

We left Wednesday evening last week and stopped in Bakersfield, which, by the way, is just about exactly half-way between Las Vegas and San Francisco. The next morning we leisurely made our way into the city, arriving at the San Francisco Marriott around 2 p.m.

Our adventures on Thursday included hotel check-in and unpacking, rides on the carousel at Yerba Buena Gardens, a visit to the temporary California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium, and dinner at Mel’s Drive-In.

After that we were ready for bed.

Here are some photos from that afternoon and evening.

Little Miss Muffet

On Wednesday last week Eliana and her kindergarten class presented a nursery rhymes play. Here are some photos of Ellie as Little Miss Muffet.

She was perfectly composed and quite the little ham.

We even managed to record the play on the video camera after recently purchasing a new battery to keep the camera in operation a little while longer. We had a little memory card scare with the digital camera but Vickey managed to locate the chip in time for the performance (it was on the floor of the car).

Immediately following the play, and a stop at home and at the gas station and grocery store, we headed out for our family San Francisco vacation. More to follow on that adventuresome excursion…

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Eliana’s stage debut

Tonight Eliana stars as Little Miss Muffet in her kindergarten class nursery rhyme stage production.

To say she’s excited is an understatement. We’re looking forward to the stage debut.

If this anticipatory photo shoot is any indication of her ability to perform in front of others, I’m sure she’ll do just fine.

Here she is in her ‘costume’ posing for mom. She even practiced her curtsey.

Break a leg, Ellie!

In other news, today after my lunch I noticed something sharp between my two bottom front teeth. I tried dental floss to clean out the space between the teeth only to have the top part of my tooth break off as I lifted the floss up.

So, off I went to the dentist for an emergency filling. $150 later my mouth is feeling back to normal and my tongue no longer rubs against a rough, sharp surface. Hopefully the plastic filling won’t distract too much from my seductive smile.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Dominic enjoying the bra models

You can’t see what he’s looking at, except it’s a Kohl’s ad. But Vickey called me on Wednesday to tell me Dominic was goo-goo over the Kohl’s circular because of the pictures of women in their bras on the back.

Here he is in his child’s swing enjoying the view. Once he’s potty trained I’m sure this scene will be repeated on the toilet.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Easter duds

Eliana and Dominic posed for a few minutes before church on Easter Sunday.

Here are the results.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Feeling content

Vickey and I have had a debate lately on what it means to live your life with a feeling of contentment.

My perspective is if I say I’m content, what’s left? No more goal-setting or striving to make things better or different.

I believe her perspective could be expressed like this: “Just be grateful for what you have.”

I’d argue for both perspectives.

Since today’s my birthday, I’ve taken occasion to look back on my life experiences. I am content in that I have all I could have wished for at this moment in my life. I’m very grateful for loving and supportive parents and in-laws, and for relationships with extended family and friends that prove equally endearing.

Still, I look forward to the future—to more birthdays, experiencing parenting through all of life’s stages, family vacations and growing old with my sweetheart.

I look forward to all that we’ll build in relationships, memories and experiences as a family.

I look forward knowing there’s no such thing as Easy Street and that our family’s well-being will always be well worth any price. (Sorry for the Wellworth pun, our current street of residence, I couldn’t resist.)

I’m grateful for lessons learned: some more difficult than others and all of them worthwhile and beneficial in making me who I am today.

I’m reminded of the lyrics to a Carrie Underwood song I like called Lessons Learned. I’ll close with them:
There's some things that I regret
Some words I wish had gone unsaid
Some starts that had some bitter endings
Been some bad times I've been through
Damage I could not undo, some things
I wish I could do all, all over again
But it don't really matter
Life gets that much harder
It makes you that much stronger
Oh, some pages turned, some bridges burned
But there were, lessons learned

And every tear that had to fall from my eyes
Everyday I wondered how I’d get through the night
Every change life has thrown me
I'm thankful for every break in my heart
I'm grateful for every scar
Some pages turned, some bridges burned
But there were lessons learned

There's mistakes that I have made
Some chances I just threw away
Some roads I never should've taken
Been some signs I didn't see
Hearts that I hurt needlessly
Some wounds that I wish I could have one more chance to mend
But it don't make no difference
The past can't be rewritten
You get the life you're given
Oh, some pages turned, some bridges burned
But there were, lessons learned

And every tear that had to fall from my eyes
Everyday I wondered how I’d get through the night
For every change life has thrown me
I'm thankful for every break in my heart
I'm grateful for every scar
Some pages turned, some bridges burned
But there were lessons learned

And all the things that break you
All the things that make you strong
You can't change the past cause it's gone
And you just gotta move on because it's all lessons learned

Every tear that had to fall from my eyes
Everyday I wondered how I’d get through the night
For every change life has thrown me
I'm thankful for every break in my heart
I'm grateful for every scar
Some pages turned, some bridges burned
But there were lessons learned

Monday, April 09, 2007

Uncle Lynn the bionic man

Tuesday, March 27 we had my Uncle Lynn (my mom’s brother) and Aunt Sarah, my cousin Lisa and her husband Don, their daughter Amanda and her daughter Sarahlynn, over for dessert and a visit. Lynn commented that he wasn’t feeling quite right and wanted to go see a specialist in Salt Lake City after they returned home to Richfield that weekend.

Then, Thursday evening we got a call from my cousin, Steve, that earlier that morning Sarah had discovered Lynn unconscious on the floor in the bedroom. Amanda ran next door to their neighbor, a highway patrolman, who helped Amanda’s husband, Ariel, attend to Lynn while the paramedics were in route. Luckily Lynn began breathing on his own once they moved his body, positioning him for emergency breathing.

The ambulance took him to the hospital where he spent several days enduring all kinds of tests. They identified clogged heart arteries and determined open heart surgery was in order. That’s when I placed a call to our church friend, Rick Martin, a skilled heart surgeon. He reviewed my Uncle Lynn’s tests and together they determined a quadruple bypass was necessary. Amazingly, Dr. Martin was able to scheduled the surgery for the next day.

The doctors were concerned that the best outcome may be they fix his heart and he suffer kidney failure, ending up on dialysis the rest of his life.

Lynn was transferred to a newer hospital for the surgery, the same hospital Dominic was born in. Lynn received a priesthood blessing from his son, Steve, and me before being prepped for surgery on Tuesday.

The blessings promised have come true and Lynn’s life has been preserved. His kidney function, down to just 25% of normal, has remained steady since the surgery. That’s a huge blessing.

There are so many working parts to this story. There are so many ways things could have gone awry, leaving the family to plan a funeral instead of open heart surgery.

Lynn could have suffered the heart attack in Richfield. It could have taken hours to discover him unconscious, then more hours transferring him to a metropolitan area like Provo or Salt Lake City. He was fortunate to be among family with plenty of people to assist when the emergency struck, and in a large city with competent physicians to tend to his needs. His surgery was fast-tracked by Dr. Martin and occurred less than 24 hours after Dr. Martin first met with him.

Can you see providence in all of this? I’m convinced my uncle’s life has been prolonged because of these seemingly quirky circumstances. I’m also convinced it’s not circumstance at all, rather the hand of the Lord at work in Lynn’s life and the lives of family members.

Lynn has had many body parts replaced since breaking his leg in a riding lawn mower accident a couple years ago. That’s why we affectionately now call Lynn, my mom’s oldest living brother, the bionic man.

Over the past week we have visited him in the intensive care unit at the hospital as often as possible. Vickey was there yesterday checking in on him. He’s still working through the effects of surgery as his recovery progresses.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with him and his family.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Easter egg hunt

Tonight the Easter Bunny paid a visit here with goodies for Eliana, Dominic and the Coglianese five (Lauren, Madison, Sarah, Jared and Mijken).

It was the end of a busy day-and-a-half for us all. In fact, very soon I’m headed to bed to catch some shuteye since I’ll bet I got an accumulative two hours of sleep last night.

Photos from the Easter egg hunt tonight . . .

Ah, the joy of chocolate (and you can tell this isn’t his first).

Mt. Charleston campout

Our friend, Mark Coglianese, arranged for our families to get back in touch with nature this weekend by camping out at McWilliams Campground at Mt. Charleston.

Mark was off for Good Friday and I took the afternoon off. Vickey and the kids spent yesterday morning getting ready for the outing while I wrapped up a week of work.

Mark and his family left a couple hours before us and secured our camp site at McWilliams. It’s a fine campground for those of you in the neighborhood. My only recommendation is to wear thermal underwear if you go there before May 1 (we were all very cold last night).

I’ll bet we experienced a 40 degree temperature spread today.
Mark’s family, his parents, his work colleague Scott and his three kids, and our clan (the four of us plus Tank) had a very enjoyable overnight campout followed by a hike up Robber’s Roost trail.

Here are all the youngins. And yes, the snow is real.

To put it in perspective, we could see our breath this morning as the sun rose over the mountains and once we were home and unpacked, we enjoyed swimming at the Coglianese’s pool. I think the temperature went from about 35 or 40 to the high 80s. It’s amazing what a little altitude will do.

After swimming the Easter Bunny paid an early visit here for both families. There was a raucous Easter egg hunt followed by pizza and a few games (toys from Easter baskets).

Right now Eliana’s in her favorite chair in the family room watching her new DVD, Charlotte’s Web, also an Easter basket gift.

Here are some photos from today's hike.

And here are Eliana and Dominic on our drive down the canyon. (That's how I felt too, but I was driving so I couldn't sleep.)