Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Craziest Summer Ever

This summer was supposed to be simple: one big European vacation with the kiddos to check that off the list, and then weeks and weeks of relaxation.  However, the summer went (as summers will) different than planned, and I have to say that I'm glad to be moving on—even though much of it was quite fun.

After school got out in mid-June, we had a week to make all final preparations for taking our four children on a European vacation involving planes, trains, and cruise ships.  The plan, actually, was to go with my brother-in-law, his wife, and their 16 year old son, but a fall from a bicycle landed Drew in the ICU, so they were unable to come after all. (Months later, after multiple major surgeries and tons and tons of prayer, he is back to [mostly] normal life.  It's such a treat to see him walk in my door again!)  It was hard to go without them, but couldn't get a refund so we went anyhow.

The day before we were scheduled to fly out of LA, our water heater collapsed and dumped its entire contents into our garage.  We are renting a house while we rebuild our home, so my garage wasn't as nearly well organized as it typically would be...which meant that the box of old photos I hadn't been able to find was—of course—right next to the water heater underneath everything else.  We were able to salvage most of them, thank goodness, but it was the really old ones that were damaged most.  We had thousands of dollars of damage (area rugs, photo albums, games/puzzles, office supplies etc) and a mildew laden garage to clean up upon returning from our trip.  What a way to start off the summer.

We flew into Paris, and spent three days eating crepes and visiting all the sites. My youngest, Audrey (9), most loved the Louvre, with the displays of all the things she had learned about in school this year: ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome.  Melinda (12) adored the Eiffel Tower, Andrew (14) liked the Arc de Triomphe, and Timothy (17) liked the crazy driving and interesting cars.

Audrey makes a serious face to match the immensity of
the display she's standing by.

Yep, it's for real!
Striking a pose outside of Versailles.

After Paris, we took a train to Barcelona (from where our cruise would be departing) and spent a few days shopping, basking in the sun, touring Gaudi's architecture, and eating the marvelous, delicious food.  I really wanted to bring an Iberican ham back with me.  Oh yum.  And the music!  I want to go back.

Gaudi created some beautiful, amazing structures!

Then we got on the gigantic cruise ship (Norwegian Epic) with stops in Sorrento/Pompeii, Rome, Florence, Marseille, and Palma, and tons of things to do on board besides.

Timothy and me in the ice bar on the ship - chilly!

Back home again: complete and utter exhaustion waiting for cab at LAX
to take us back home - the trip home took about 22 hours.
So then, back home again and we should be looking at weeks and weeks of relaxation, right?  Except that a few days after we returned, the kids joined grandma (Chris' mom) at a beach house, which then involved a lot of driving through SoCal freeways - definitely not relaxing.  While the kids were at the beach house, Chris and I took a trip up to Oregon for a  business meeting, taking the opportunity to reconnect with some friends we hadn't seen in years.  (Chris is a private pilot, so we flew up there - decidedly more enjoyable than driving.)

Europe, beach house, Oregon, and then right back into the plane (with everyone) to take Chris' mom (et al) to New Mexico, and from there the rest of us proceeded to Lake Tahoe (still aiming for miles of relaxation).  Even though travel can be exhausting in general, we got to see so many things we'd never seen that it made up for it.  Scottsdale AZ (nice, but HOT), Roswell NM (didn't see any aliens), Flagstaff AZ (beautiful alpine area), the Grand Canyon (so grand! and beautiful!), and then my real home: Tahoe.

A tiny portion of the Grand Canyon.

Of course, once we got to Tahoe, there were other things happening too.  My parents came up and camped at nearby Fallen Leaf Lake.  Audrey joined them for the entire time, the rest of us joined them during the day.  I had goals at our house there in Tahoe, so I kept busy (cleaning out the garage, under the house, and under the deck, as well as painting the girls' bedroom).  We had meant to stay in Tahoe for 2 weeks, but I desperately needed to see my chiropractor, so we stayed a week, came back to Long Beach for a week, and then went back up for another week...with a brief trip up to Portland, Oregon added into the mix. More travel = more exhaustion, but not enough to make me stay away from Tahoe!

Camping necessarily involves hot dogs and chips, which
means that it is quite difficult to take photos of people
when they aren't eating.  Oh well.

Fallen Leaf Lake - so calming and beautiful.

So, Europe, beach house, Oregon, New Mexico, Arizona, Grand Canyon, Tahoe, Long Beach, Tahoe, Oregon, Tahoe, Long Beach.  By this time I've completed multiple knitting projects, but summer isn't over yet.  We cram in a bunch of architect/contractor/house design meetings, and then set off for one final trip (well, more like "final" because it never seems to end) to spend some time with my brother and sister-in-law while they are still in California (they are moving to Qatar - from Korea - for a new teaching job, and visiting here in the meantime).  So we flew up to Northern California to pick them up, and then over to Park City, Utah for a quick stay. The next day we did an aerial tour of Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon before landing back in Long Beach.  Then, of course, back up north to drop them off.  Bryce Canyon was so impressive - all of Utah, actually, was incredibly beautiful in so many different ways.

Melinda reluctantly agrees to model my completed sweater.

Architect and contractor discuss the best way to hide
some steel plates that intrude on the corners of the gable windows.

Heber Valley/Park City Utah

A branch of the Grand Canyon

Bryce Canyon

I've begged off a couple of subsequent trips that my husband has taken to Vegas etc. - I have too much work preparing for school (I'm homeschooling two of my four again this year) and cramming in house design meetings before school starts.  Our house project is finally picking up speed a little bit, so it's time for me to make some final decisions and start purchasing materials.  I'm typically the slowest decision maker ever, but I'm thinking that this building project is helping me get better at it!  The house has nine bathrooms.  9.  NINE.  (I get faint every time I think about the cleaning involved.) and that's a whole lot of design decisions before we ever start talking about anything else.

Anyhow, though summer may be over, the craziness isn't.  School, house design, a birthday trip to Napa, and another big trip in a month all leave little time for blogging.  (obviously.)  I am still updating my GoodReads, though, so if you are there, please look me up (Melody Spano).  I'm looking forward to life returning to normal, but am thinking that won't happen until our house project is done.  Even then, "normal" is pretty busy, isn't it?


  1. Nine! Eek! I thought 4.5 bathrooms were hard to keep clean. I have a hard time keeping all my bathrooms stocked with toilet paper and other supplies.

    I love the picture in front of Versailles! I also love the knit hats your dd wears. I have a dd who loves to wear knit hats as well. We bought her a cool one for Christmas last year.

    Your summer sounds seriously crazy. I'll head over to Goodreads to find you.

  2. Wow, I'm a little breathless just reading your post. It sounds like your family had some wonderful travels this summer, but I'm sorry did you didn't get a bit more relaxation in there, too. I hope to see more of what you were reading in between dashing hither, thither, and yon!

  3. Just reading your post has left me exhausted... can't imagine actually living it! But oh, what fun!!

  4. I don't know if I've ever been so excited for school to begin again - ah! routine! Of course, I've got another big trip heading my way at the end of the month, but I don't need to think about that quite yet. ;)


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