Measuring up

One of the things Heather asked for this past Christmas was a large wooden ruler for marking the children’ height as they grow. We hung the ruler between the family room and the kitchen back in December, but didn’t actually mark it until the night before the kids went back to school in August (2016).

We’re looking forward to keeping track of how the children grow over the years…

 

Dave & Charlotte, Boulder Creek

One of the challenges of having a large family is making sure that each of the children feel appreciated as individuals. We try to have ‘special days’ in which one of the children have a full day with either Heather or myself and do an activity of their choosing (within reason!). Our goal is to dedicate one Saturday each month to this, meaning that each child should have at least one special day with me and one with Heather each year.

Charlotte chose to go camping with me. We found a campsite and I got away from work a little early on the Friday. We headed up to Boulder Creek, an old-fashioned mountain town in the Santa Cruz hills.

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We stayed in a simple campsite in a redwood grove, with an (freezing cold) outdoor swimming pool.

We popped our tent up, inflated the airbed in the bathroom and settled in for cuddles and made-up stories.

The next morning, we went into Boulder Creek for breakfast. There was a lovely little diner in the town, the ‘Old Mountain Inn’. We had bacon, eggs and pancakes and Charlotte took away a slice of chocolate torte for later.

After breakfast, we went for a dip in the pool. We had it all to ourselves as the campsite owner kindly let us in a little early. After a swim and play around the pool, it was time to pack up the tent and head back home.

 

It was so great to have some time with Charlotte – she’s such an energetic, fun, happy little girl and great to be around and I’m proud to be her Dad!

 

 

Hawaii 2016

Heather’s brother, sister and mother have been lucky enough to spend the last couple of years on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii (Tom and Kate are studying there and Lyn is a missionary, volunteering at the Polynesian Cultural Center).

It’s been a few years since we have seen Lyn and a few more years since the whole family has been in the same place, so we wanted to take the opportunity to have a family holiday over there.

We chose to go at a time when Tom was graduating and Lyn was concluding her mission. Joshua also just turned eight and we were able to have his baptism take place in Hawaii with family present. So this trip was not only a chance to see Hawaii, go to the beaches and experience the culture, but also a time for meaningful family events.

We stayed in two houses, one through Airbnb and the other through VRBO. The first place was up in the hills of Hau’ula and the highlight, at least from the kids’ point of view, was the Koi pond in the garden, which was home to a number of toads. The kids spent hours out there in the hammock and by the pond. Just before we left, Lucy reached down into the pond to pick up one of the toads and fell right in, getting completely soaked!

 

Here are a few highlights of our visit…

 

Temple Beach & Laie Temple

A lovely beach with warm turquoise water within eyeshot of the Laie Hawaii Temple.

We played in the sand and went bodyboarding at the beach. We spent some time in the beautiful temple grounds – later during our visit, Heather, myself, Lyn, Tom jr.and Kate would get to go into the temple together and do some temple work for our family.

 

 

Ancient Ceremonial Site

We took a walk around a former Hawaiian temple/ceremonial site with a view to the beach below.

 

Kate’s Performance

Kate has been learning traditional Island dancing and had a performance as part of her studies. For one of the dances, she got Eve and Lucy on stage to try the dance.

 

Turtles & Turtle Bay

We visited The Ocean Fest at Turtle Bay, where the kids shaped surfboards, tried Hawaiian shave ice and learned about caring for the ocean. We also visited the beach here, which was great for snorkeling. A little further along the coast there is a beach known for spotting giant turtles, so we went there to take a look.

 

Dole Pineapple Farm

A pineapple farm with a pineapple maze, pineapple ice cream, pineapple varieties on display and many other pineapple themed novelties. The kids wore appropriate pineapple themed clothing for the occasion.

 

Seven Brothers Burgers

We met with our friend Mason Baird, who is also studying at BYU Hawaii and tried a local burger restaurant. It was great to see Mason again and meet his friends.

 

Polynesian Cultural Center

The PCC is amazing – it’s a kind of a theme park that celebrates Island culture. You can travel by canoe to authentic ‘villages’ representing different islands; Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Aoterra etc. In each village, there are shows, demonstrations, games and things to try like starting a fire with two sticks (I got smoke!), making animals out of coconut leaves, hula dancing and twirling Poi balls. Each village is staffed largely by students from the respective islands.

In the Samoan village, Josh was chosen to go on stage and try some fresh coconut water. He was given a basket woven out of coconut leaves as a gift.

 

In the Tongan village, I (Dave), along with two other unsuspecting tourists, was invited on stage to put on a skirt, shout, slap my chest and face and play some Tongan drums. Obviously, I nailed it.

On the Friday evening, we went to the Night Show at the PCC; more drums, dancing (including fire dancers), singing – a really good show. The King and Queen of Tonga(!) were visiting the PCC, so they were seated in the centre of the auditorium and sat clapping and being fanned by their servants.

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Waimea

Another highlight was Waimea; a beautiful nature reserve, botanical garden and waterfall that you can swim in. This place was like the Garden of Eden – so lush and fertile with all sorts of trees, plants, flowers etc. When we reached the waterfall, we put on life jackets and jumped in. It was so cool to be in there with all of the kids.

 

 

Waikiki

We drove down to Waikiki and spent an evening there; at the beach, on the pier, watching street entertainers. There was a guy playing acoustic guitar and singing – he was pretty good, so we stopped for a while and Olive and Charlotte had a dance, much to the entertainment of passers-by.

 

Tom’s Graduation

Tom’s graduation at BYU Hawaii was a cool experience, much more energetic that the comparatively solemn British ceremonies. After receiving their degrees and hearing a few speeches, the graduates filter out onto the packed lawns and streets around campus where among hundreds of balloons and banners their family and friends are gathered to greet and congratulate them. The Samoans had staked out a section of lawn and put up banners. When their friends emerged, they turned up the music and started whooping and dancing. The Maoris did the ‘Haka’ in their gowns and caps. The graduates are presented with leis; the traditional floral kind, as well as more creative home-made varieties made with dollar bills or packets of M&M’s and Reeses peanut butter cups.

Tom graduated with a degree in Social Work and has loved his time here. As the minutes passed, he was given more and more leis by family and friends and ended up with quite the display around his neck. We had to de-lei him after a while because he was overheating in the Hawaiian sun!

 

Joshua’s Baptism

The highlight of the trip was Joshua’s baptism. Josh was baptized on Friday 10 June in Laie. The event went really well with family members giving talks, readings, scriptures. I was able to baptism and confirm him, with Uncle Tom and the local Bishop, William Mahoni, assisting. We’re grateful to the local church leaders  We’re so proud of Josh!

 

 

Valley of the Temples

We stopped off at the Valley of the Temples, which was a beautiful spot with 6 or 7 temples from various faith traditions. We parked and took a walk around the Japanese temple where we fed the Koi, sounded the gong (by swinging a huge log at it – see Josh in action above) and enjoyed the view.

 

Chinaman’s Hat

Mokolii, or as the locals call it, ‘Chinaman’s Hat’, is a nice little island off Kaneohe Bay… yep, we’re hilarious.

 

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular snorkeling spots in Oahu and for good reason. We rented snorkels and I went in with Eve, Josh and Lucy. It was amazing – so many tropical fish swimming around the coral.

We first snorkeled in Turtle Bay, but then did it again an Hanauma Bay. Both times it was amazing, but Hanauma had the edge. I’ve never done this before and was amazed at just how easy it was to see scores of tropical fish, including the national fish of Hawaii; the kids’ favorite, the Hummahummanukkanukkappuu’a. We also saw Convict fish, a huge parrot fish and Moorish Idols.

Snorkeling with the kids made me think about how fast they are growing; it’s not just paddling in the waves and building sandcastles any more; Eve and Josh were both swimming and snorkeling unassisted – it was cool.

 

Sunset Beach

Heather and I stole away one evening while Opa was watching the kids. We drove to Sunset Beach, a well-known surf spot to watch the sunset while sipping on fresh mango otai. The light was amazing and was surpassed only by the company…

 

More beaches

Although the kids loved the other activities we did, every day, they asked one question “when are we going to the beach?”! Other beach visits included Kailua and Hukilau.

 

North Beach Taco

We went here for lunch after Tom’s graduation and took a few shots while waiting for the tacos to arrive…

After 11 days in paradise, we packed our bags and got on the plane home. The kids managed both flights really well and saying goodbye wasn’t too hard, as Oma and Kate would be joining us in California in just a few days time.

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Easter 2016

It’s funny over here. America loves a Holiday. Halloween, as we have previously posted, is mental. At Christmas, our little corner of suburbia is creaking under the weight of lights and decorations. On Valentines Day, the kids take cards and gifts for every member of their class at school. St Patricks Day sees everyone wearing green hats and clothing, building leprechaun traps and generally celebrating in a way that probably outdoes the Irish.

Easter however, isn’t as big of a deal here in the US of A as it is back home in England. Of course there’s a lot of chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks kicking around in the shops, but the Holiday isn’t recognized by employers – we work Good Friday and Easter Monday, whereas in blighty, of course, those days are beloved Bank Holidays.

The other downer is the Easter Eggs. They don’t really do them here. OK, they do have the smaller ones, including “Cadbury” creme eggs (manufactured by Hersheys in Pennsylvania), but the big, hollow eggs with a bag of Dairy Milk Buttons inside are sadly nowhere to be found.

We made the best of the situation by carrying on a few good British traditions, starting with decorating hard boiled and blown eggs.

We took the boiled eggs to a local park and did a bit of egg rolling. Heather was the victor, with her flower-decorated egg going a good 30 metres without cracking.

On Sunday morning, the kids donned their bunny ears and had an egg hunt in the back garden…

We like to take a photo of the kids with their bunny ears and baskets – mainly to cause some embarrassment for them in years to come – here’s a few from the past few years…

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Easter 2013, Durham, England

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Easter 2015, San Jose, California

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Easter 2016, San Jose, California

We had bunny pancakes for breakfast, made by Charlotte (Shout out to Pinterest). We went to Church, where the kids sang ‘Gethsemane’, which was lovely. Heather rounded off the day with an amazing dinner.

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Happy Easter to our friends and family wherever you may be!

 

 

 

 

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Disneyland & LA

We decided to make the most of Martin Luther King weekend and headed down to Los Angeles for a few days. We eventually set off on Friday evening after I finished work and arrived at our hotel around 2am!

The next morning, we got up early, had breakfast and headed into Disneyland, which was just over the road from where we were staying.

We had thought that having just one day in Disneyland wouldn’t be enough, but we found that we got to do quite a lot of the things we wanted to.

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Here we are on the first ride of the day ‘It’s a Small World’.

We had beignets and listened to live music in the New Orleans quarter…

…blasted some aliens…

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Dave & Charlotte clearly taking things very seriously

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Josh and Eve

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Team Burdon taking on Emperor Zurg

…met some Disney characters…

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…took a few selfies…

…and rode on Splash Mountain.

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Greatest facial expressions ever

There were a lot of Star Wars themed events following the release of The Force Awakens. This pleased Joshua in particular who had concerns about too many princesses etc!

Eve, Joshua and Lucy enrolled in the ‘Trials of the Temple’ Jedi Academy. They were trained in the ways of The Force and the use of a lightsaber, then they put on a live show in which they raised the Jedi Temple using The Force and battled with Darth Vader, Darth Maul and the Seventh Sister.

I’d like to introduce you to the latest graduates of the Jedi Academy:

Eve Windu

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Qui Gon Josh

Battle

Lucy Skywalker

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We saw this parked by the Jedi Temple…

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We finished the day off by watching the evening parade and firework/light show.

Heather is a bit of a genius and a fantastic mother, so she had this idea to write her phone number on each of the kids’ arms, so that if they got lost in madding crowds, we would get a phone call. Well, we put the kids straight to bed on the evening and it seems that Josh must have slept resting on his arm, because the next morning, he looked like this…

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The road trip also involved lots of swimming…

 

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…a visit to the LA Temple…

…a picnic in Lake Hollywood Park…

…and a stop in foggy Santa Barbara…

We finally hit the road from Santa Barbara back up to San Jose, having had a brilliant long weekend.

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Now in Portland, we took a trip to Mount Hood, an inactive volcano that looks over Portland. Heather and the kids hadn’t seen snow since moving to the States, so the excitement began to mount as we approached Mount Hood and saw miles of pine trees dusted with snow. The snow became deeper the closer we got to the mountain and we stopped off a side road in a small clearing. We got wrapped up and played in the snow – snowball fights, snowmen, snow angels etc.

We all loved it and stayed until it got dark.

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Thanksgiving dinner with the Thatchers was fantastic – they were great hosts and it was cool for us to see such a nice family with children a little older than ours. We had lots of questions about how they managed to raise their kids into such well turned out teenagers! We learned about the first Thanksgiving and enjoyed a delicious meal.

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Jared brings in the turkey

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Thanksgiving dinner

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An Armenian speciality

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Dave schools the boys in Star Wars Risk

While in Portland, we visited the OMSI (Oregon Museum for Science and Innovation), where the kids learned about earthquakes, played with a van de graaf generator and Dave enjoyed the guitar exhibition which included the world’s largest electric guitar!

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Our friend Jared works in central Portland and was kind enough to take us along to his work Thanksgiving party where we were able to watch the city’s Christmas tree light being turned on from the 25th floor.

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We also visited the Portland Apple Store, where the Holiday campaign that I’d been a part of was in Store.

IMG_9579We then visited the ‘Zoo Lights’ exhibition at Portland Zoo. It’s a great idea – they install festive light displays all around the zoo so that visitors can wander around, have a hot drink and a pretzel and enjoy the atmosphere.

After a fantastic few days in Portland with the Thatchers, we set off for home. We didn’t make as many stops on the way home, but one stop we did make was Crater Lake; another extinct volcano – this one now has a lake within its crater (if you hadn’t already guessed from the name!) – the deepest lake in the USA, in fact!

We drove up to the rim of the crater and had a look around. And another snowball fight.

And that brings us to the conclusion of our road trip! Hope to do this one again!

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The next stop on our road trip was Florence, Oregon. The journey offered some particularly impressive coastal views, so we’d stop every now and then to take a photo.

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We made our way to the Sea Lion Cave, a coastal tourist attraction where you take a lift down into a cave where scores of sea lions can often be seen. During our visit, we only saw one solitary sea lion riding the waves as they crashed into the cave, but the visit was still worthwhile for the dramatic views of the coast.

 

The visit also yielded what is probably my favorite photograph from the road trip; a cute moment between Heather and a bobble-hatted Olive:

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Next was a dune buggy ride. The Oregon Dunes is a 40 mile-long stretch of sand dunes along the coast – the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America (thanks Wikipedia). We all went for an hour-long ride on a large dune buggy that took us on a bumpy journey over and through the dunes, down onto the beach (which can only really be accessed in this way), then back again.

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Heather’s excitement mounts

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Despite the very bumpy ride, Olive fell asleep halfway through.

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As the ride was coming to an end, it started to rain, then hail. There was nowhere to shelter, so we just put our hoods up and dealt with it. The kids were all good sports and for the most part, kept smiling. When we arrived back at the car, we were drenched and freezing and grateful to take off our coats and put the heating on.

IMG_4619IMG_4627IMG_4613IMG_4631After the buggy ride, we completed the last stretch of the journey to Portland, arriving at our friends’ house in the evening. It was great to see the Thatchers again, catch up with them and see how their kids had grown. The next day, the Thatchers took us out to visit Multnomah Falls, a huge waterfall just outside of Portland. We got some great views of Mount Hood and other scenery on the way…

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Multnomah Falls is a 189 meter year-round waterfall. We took some photos at the bottom, then made our way up the path to the bridge. The older kids (Eve Lucy and Josh) went with me, Jared and his boys to the very top, while Charlotte and Olive waited half-way up with Heather and Anna. There were some spectacular views on the way up the narrow, steep path. I was really proud of the kids for getting as far as they did, as it was hard work.

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Josh at the top of the waterfall

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Josh at the top of the waterfall

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Family photo on the bridge

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We stayed the first night in Fort Bragg, where we attended Church in a  small local congregation the following morning. We then headed to ‘Glass Beach’, where the sand is mixed with sea glass – a result of glass being dumped into the ocean many years ago. Today, the beach is covered with small smooth pieces of glass in whites, greens, red and blue.

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The kids loved collecting pieces of sea glass, putting it into a bag to take homes a reminder of the trip.

We climbed over some rocks and discovered a neighbouring beach that didn’t have any sea glass, but looked amazing with cool rock formations and fog, so we explored and took a few shots there.

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The next morning, we set off on the road and saw a sign for a ‘prehistoric garden in Oregon’s rain forest’ with full size dinosaur models. We decided to make a stop and have a look around.

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It was cool to see so much greenery, moss and moisture, having been in California where the drought continues and areas that once were green are brown. We enjoyed finding the dinosaurs and learning about them as we walked around the trail.

Here’s Lucy giving a little video tour of the gardens:

Next up was the West Coast Game Park in Bandon, where we were able to stroke goats, llamas and even a Lynx. The kids absolutely loved it here – especially playing with their ‘friends’, the young goats.

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The kids each had an ice cream cornet filled with animal feed and as we arrived, the older children went on ahead while we got through the gate with Olive. As we entered the farmyard, we saw Charlotte running, holding her ice cream cone out in front of her, squealing, as she was chased by around 10 goats, 4 deer and 2 llamas!

 

Here, ‘Charlotte News’ gives a report on the incident:

Here’s Olive with her cornet:

Having worked up an appetite, we headed for Bandon old town/seafront for fish and chips. While not authentically British in style, we weren’t complaining and all enjoyed the meal.

Afterwards, we went over the road to a fudge shop. The kids were full and happy and a little bit hyper (as can be seen in the group picture above) and crossed the road in the style of the congo:

A good night’s rest at the Motel and we were ready for another day.

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Some good friends from our Edinburgh days kindly invites us to spend Thanksgiving with them in their home near Portland, Oregon. We decided to make a road trip out of the occasion, taking a couple of days to travel, seeing some sights and staying in Motels along the way.

Having 5 young children sit in a small confined space, such as a car for any length of time can be pretty challenging – in anticipation of such challenges and for the sake of our own sanity, we invested in some DVD players for the back of the car seats so that the time on the road (around 35 hours over 9 days) would be entertaining for the children and tolerable for us!

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Setting off on the road to Oregon

Our first stop was Napa, which for those who haven’t visited the area, is part of California’s ‘wine country’; miles and miles of vineyards, wineries and Italian-inspired landscapes and architecture.

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We stopped at a winery where we had lunch followed by some gelato.

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Our next stop was another winery, this one was designed to look like an old castle (the closest we’re likely to get to a real castle over here in the U S of A!). We had a walk around, stretched our legs and enjoyed the surroundings.

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Next, we visited Old Faithful, a famous geyser in the area. The geyser was going off every 20 minutes, so we didn’t have long to wait.

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Waiting for Old Faithful…

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On the site of the geyser, there were a few animals to feed and the children enjoyed looking at the goats, especially the newborn kids.

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As we were leaving, Old Faithful blew again so we had a few final photos and headed up the road.

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