Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Little Girls' Weekend: Fun in the Sun

We have a tradition of a "Little Girls' Weekend" at the end of the summer or beginning of fall with my college roomie, Jen VanderMeulen, and her cuties, Ella and Delia. This year they graciously made the drive to the Gilmore Bed & Breakfast for a few days of fun in the sun while they're hubby/daddy Dave was on a trip to Chicago. We took them to one of our fave Fresno spots: Storyland. Of course, we chose a steamy hot Fresno day for such festivities.

The girls loved hearing all the fairy tale stories and nursery rhymes as we walked through Storyland. They used their magic key to turn on the narrator boxes and listen. Here they took a brief rest on Mother Goose's lap.

We took a train ride to the adjacent Playland and hung out at the park's new feature, a kid's sprinkler splash park. What a relief in the 100-degree temperature. The three girls donned their bathing suits and had great fun run through the sprinkler and splashing with the other kiddos.

Saturday evening we had a Chinese feast in honor of the final Olympics showing. Jen is a big fan of the Olympics too. We had fun sharing this time together. We rolled homemade wontons for wonton soup. All of us cheered on the track and field relay runners. We were so grateful for the men's and women's 4x400-meter-relays. At least the U.S. picked up gold in something track & field!

Sunday we all dressed up and headed to our church, The Bridge. This was a fun adventure for the VanderMeulen girls since they're daddy is a pastor and they don't often visit other churches. Ella and Meilani checked out the Busy Bugs class and Delia was a great sport in our church nursery while the parents enjoyed worship.

Sunday afternoon we declared a pool party. Ella and Meilani were pool partners. They had so much fun singing and swimming together. Meilani showed off her summer swimming moves and inspired Ella to do some new tricks. Ella bravely jumped into the water and ventured beyond the edge of the pool. We were all so proud of her!

The girls joined Delia in the kid "hot tub" complete with a water slide.

Meilani did a few Olympic dives for good measure. She entered the water with a big splash but the judges gave her great marks. Nana and Papa Lazo joined us for a Grilled Fajita Fiesta for dinner.

Sunday moved into Monday and we still found ourselves in the pool. (We just couldn't get our little fishies out of the water!) Auntie Jen taught us the "Motor Boat Motor Boat" song and a few other memorable pool songs that Meilani's been singing ever since. The best part of the weekend was just hanging out with our friends. Jen and I reflected on how fun it is to "do life together" with kids. If we only knew in college what our California life would be like now!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

All-Sports Back-to-School Luau: Gilmores run the track booth

On Friday, we headed to Fresno Christian School to help Ericlee with the Track booth at the All-Sports Back-to-School Luau. We had a blast. First stop for Meilani girl: the bounce house!

We had two track events at our booth. Kids (and even parents) bought tickets and played sports-related contests. We hosted the standing long jump (pictured here). The overall winner was Mr. Ford, who even beat his track star kids in long jump.

Ericlee manned the 50-yard dash. He borrowed the nifty timing device from Velocity gym where he worked and we recorded the best times of kids ages 4 through adult. They had fun dashing for the finish.

Grandma Chris came to check out the festivities with her Hawaiian grandgirl, Meilani. After the contests, there was a big burger barbeque and all the teams were introduced. The new football coach, Bonner Cunnings, was introduced.

Maybe the best part of the event was catching up with the other coaches' families. The mamas got to chat it up and the kids ran free through the carnival. Here the Schultz girls watch the 50-yard-dash with Meilani.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Olympic Marathon: Gilmores host Track team party

Have you all been addicted to the Olympics? We sure have. We've been staying up late and walking around bleary-eyed during the day because we couldn't miss this sports event of the year. Meilani was even allowed to stay up a few nights with Mama & Daddy - especially to watch her fave "Michael Phelpss" and some of the track events.

On Thursday, we hosted a little Olympic-watching party with our Fresno Christian Track team and a few alumni runners. It's always more fun to watch the Olympics with friends and since Thursday was a big track & field night we decided to invite Meilani's track "friends" over. We provided the dessert and munchies but the group provided the entertainment. We all giggled over commentary from Doug. Aliza Ford won our Olympic trivia contest. And, as to be expected, Meilani won the award for best track cheerleader. (You think she's had some training?)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Catching up with Cousins in the City

It all started with a chance to go to the Society of Children's Book Writers "Agent's Day" conference. I've been looking for a book agent for a few years so I thought I'd jump on this one. We ended up using this as an excuse to hang out with our cousins in San Francisco and San Jose.
My niece, Sophia (pictured above), and nephew, Giovanni, flew down from Seattle and met up with us. Our first stop: Ethiopian food to fill the craving of my prego belly. We found a fabulous place called Gojo, which was off the beaten track in San Jose.
Meilani loved the low tables and little chairs with silky cushions. She also had great fun eating with the injera bread instead of utensils. "I use my fingers?"

My nephew Gio is 12 years old now - practically a teenager. Yikes! Outside of teasing his sister, he loves playing ultimate frisbee, creating computer programs and building with Legos. (The kids just got back from Legoland in San Diego with their Grandma Joan.)
After our savory dinner, we headed back to my cousin
Kimberly's place in San Jose for a big cousin sleepover. We rounded up some snacks from the grocery store. Kim blew up a big air mattress and we all sat in front of their Olympic-sized television to watch the Games.

We had to get in a girly picture: Kim with her baby Kalina, Meilani and me, and Sophia. (We missed you, Caron!)

Kalina is so huggable. All the "older" girl cousins were fighting over who would hold her. Meilani entertained her by trying out all her toys and doing little singing and dancing shows. Kalina was so amused she stayed up late with the rest of us.

Sunday morning we slept in and then went for brunch at a cool local place where we met Uncle Frank (my dad's bro) and Auntie Doris. Meilani felt special sitting between her cousins, sipping her smoothie and eating her giant bagel with cream cheese.

Sunday afternoon we met up with Nana Maria at a park. She was staying with her friend, Mae, and daughter, Andrea, and her daughter, Bella (front left), for the weekend. We went to a park to hang out, ride this train and a carousel and play at the playground.

We ended our time with Sophia and Gio at IKEA. Sophia and I had our hearts set on shopping. Gio had his heart set on Swedish meatballs at the IKEA cafe.

Before we left town, we had a visit with my Grandpa Frank. He just had a birthday in August. He's something like 97 years old now. (That's always debateable with Grandpa.) He's still got enough juice to smile for the camera.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Splish-Splash: It's a Party!

It's no surprise that Meilani has one daily mission: swimming. Only she calls it "fimming." Every morning we wake up and have breakfast and she asks me, "My friends come over? Go fimming?" Well, last Wednesday we did lure some other water-lovin' friends to come over for lunch and a little impromptu pool party.
Pepe was the king of the pool. In fact, he didn't get out of the pool for the whole afternoon. He just swam back and forth in this little floaty ring and had some big fun.

Meanwhile, his lil bro, Preston, also got a little dip in the pool with his Mama Jessica. The water was surprisingly calming for the little guy. Guess he's following in his older brother's footsteps.

Isaiah and Amy hung out too - sporting their cool pool look.
Isaiah's younger bro, Luke, was content to hang out in our bowl chair with a shiny balloon to keep him happy all afternoon. We dined on homemade pizza and fruit and all had a splashing good time.

Anyone else up for a swim?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Painting Party

Meilani has been very excited to get back to some of her birthday presents (from May!) that she didn't get much use out of before our trip to Virginia. One of her favorite gifts is her easel from Nana and Papa and paints from Auntie Michelle and Uncle Paul. She's been painting little masterpieces each day. We love watching her be creative and independent like this!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympic Cooking Club: Let the Games Begin

Saturday we hosted our monthly Cooking Club. Since the Olympics were in Beijing, we decided to go for a Chinese-inspired menu. We had a costume contest where people could wear their favorite ethnic costumes in honor of the Opening Ceremony. Marcy Pusey stole the show with her outfit from Israel.

The menu included:
Wonton Soup
Sesame Crackers
Fruit Salad
Vegetable Stir Fry
Cashew Chicken over Brown Rice
Fortune Cookies with Pineapple Sherbert

We rolled wontons for the homemade wonton soup. Mia Vasquez looks on to make sure our wonton-rolling is up to par.

Corban Pusey and Niana Holman decided to get in on the cooking action. They stirred up their own concoctions at the kid kitchen. The best part: no mess at their corner of the kitchen to clean up.

This cooking club was a lot about the kids. Our house was crawling with 1-year-olds. Meilani enjoyed playing on the exercise balls with her "older" friend Angel. They tried out their acrobatic skills for the Opening Ceremonies party.
Our youngest cooking club member is Olivia Andrade, who is growing quickly. Meilani (in her Chinese pajamas) snuggled up next to the baby. Olivia's parents, Mary and Antonio, got the prize for the most Olympic trivia questions answered correctly. (Ericlee is the king of Olympic trivia.)
Cori Schmidt was the queen of the Vegetable Stir Fry, one of the faves of the evening. Cori and Darrel were good sports and stayed the latest to watch the athletes representing the different countries march in. We cheered especially for Rwanda, Haiti, and, of course, the United States.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Let's go on a Zoo-venture!

Meilani's been dying to see her friends. She really wanted them to come over to her "new house." She thinks our Fresno home is a "new house" since we haven't lived her for the summer! We settled for meeting up with the McGowens and Toslands at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Meilani loved hanging out with Meliz and baby Preston (pictured here) along with Milani, Peyton, Isaiah and Baby Luke. How she missed them!
Preston was born in the spring so it was fun to see how much he's grown over the summer. Look at those sweet eyes! Meilani's gearing up for a new baby sister or brother.

Friday, August 01, 2008

A Mountain Cabin Gift: Gilmores Indulge in Weekend Getaway with the Van Heyst Family

Sometimes in life we are given a gift and it's not wrapped in pretty paper or ribbon but it's something we cherish through the years. This past weekend our family indulged in a true vacation. We rested, relaxed and simply shared fellowship with our friends. Cindy and I have been best friends since college and we try to calendar a rendezvous at least once a year. This is what keeps us connected across the miles since we have both decided with conviction to live on opposite side of the country with our families. We're in California; They're in Florida. We live for the few days we can squeeze in for quality talks and catching up. This year Cindy proposed we meet with both our families in Georgia. She and Greg own a cabin near the Georgia-Tennessee line and we were a day's drive from Georgia because of my graduate work. Knowing we would meet with our kids and hubbies in tow was my little carrot throughout the summer as I plowed through my final coursework at Hollins University. In short, I needed this vacation.

Since the last time our whole families were together in Summer 2006, our clans have grown. Ezekial was born last spring and now we have Baby Gilmore on the way (due in February or March). Maya is now 3 1/2 and Meilani just turned 2 so the girls enjoyed some sister-bonding time together for the first time too. The Van Heysts also brought their two additional family members, dogs Belle and Chloe, to drink in some mountain air with us all. We had no real agenda. One day we decided to take the kids for a hike. We hiked to a small waterfall and let them dip their toes in the cool mountain waters.

The best part of our weekend getaway was the beautiful cabin we rented in the mountains. We drove on windy roads up hills and over mountains and through the trees to get to this cabin nestled in the woods. A huge wraparound porch with rocking chairs and a grill and hot tub in back welcomed our weary bones. Sometimes vacation can be so busy you need a vacation from your vacation when you return home. This was not the way we rested in Georgia. We truly had a vacation. We were out of cell phone an internet reach. We slept in late, sat in the rocking chairs to eat our breakfast, let the kids run free, napped, played Ticket to Ride late into the night. We made some incredible "mountain meals." (Why does everything always taste better in the mountains?) Cindy shared her spicy meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Ericlee grilled flank steak for our fajitas one night. Greg showed off his barbeque chicken grilling skills. I made a meal of Thai Peanut Chicken to go with the Coconut soup Cindy brought. We dipped frozen bananas in chocolate and ate vanilla ice cream with the works.

One day we stopped at Mercier Orchards and bought baskets full of home-grown peaches with sweet juice that ran down the side of your mouth when you bit into them. Cindy and I had fun picking out apple butter, vidalia onion dressing, cinnamon honey, mango jalapeno marinade and other treats for family and friends. The kids found a toy section right away and hauled out every stuffed farm animal and John Deere tractor they could find. We had peach milkshakes and turnovers. Again, I was reminded of what a gift these few days were. We were able to indulge in the local goods and share conversation and adventures with our friends.

Probably one of our fondest memories was Sunday morning (ok, early afternoon) when we headed to a little park near the river. We spread out picnic blankets and pillows and had our own little devotion and prayer time together. The kids played on the nearby swings while the dogs kept watch. The four adults had a meaningful time of sharing about our marriages, parenting choices and where we anticipated going as a family in this new school year. We laughed, talked and prayed. We watched folks in tubes floating down the icy river on that hot August day.

On our very last night in the cabin, I took advantage of the beautiful garden tub in the master suite. We added (a little too much) bubbles and the girls piled in. When we turned on the jets, the bathroom exploded in bubbles. This made for hours of fun as we dressed ourselves in bubble Santa beards, bubble lamb's wool, bubble pregnant tummies, bubble hats and more. We laughed and laughed. What a wonderful memory to conclude our time together as mamas, as sisters, as friends.

I believe in a life of celebration. A life where each day means dancing and giggling and appreciating the simple things. A life where challenges are seen as opportunities. A life that sometimes allows us all to stop swirling in the busyness and actually unwrap the true gift of family and friends and fellowship. I was reminded of this life in the mountains in Georgia. What a gift.