Category Archives: places to go

Niรฑos con niรฑos

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A couple weeks ago, the kids, Josh, and I embarked on a little trip south of the border with a group from our church. Our mission was to serve at Niรฑos de Baja, an organization that Camarillo Christian Church has partnered with for years. The main purpose of NdB is to provide care and housing for children who have been removed from their homes by the Mexican government, due to abuse, or exposure to other unsafe living conditions. Additionally, NdB has done wonderful things for the small community of El Porvenir, in Baja, including donating classroom and playground equipment to local schools, providing emergency vehicles and EMT training to its citizens, and offering safe daycare for other children in the community.

We were going to support the organization in the best way we could in the short time we had there: manual labor. How much labor can be done whilst caring for children of my own? Well, Cara (who brought her precious boys also), and I had our work cut out for us, keeping our little ones entertained. BUT, while it was an incredibly busy time for us (and at times frustrating that we couldn’t role up our sleeves to help), we were blessed abundantly with incredible lessons in humility, the value of community, and the sincere love of strangers.

Here’s our gang right before heading out.

Cara and I loaded our van down with toys, movies, snacks, tranquilizers (j/k), to keep our tiny travelers (and their mommas) happy on our day-long journey. Seriously, these kids were amazing.

We got to our "home", which was a house that NdB has set aside for short-term volunteers, rolled out our sleeping bags, and popped open the pack-in-plays. The first night was a little challenging, but from then on, the kids got the hang of "roughing it". Abby actually LOVED her sleeping bag, and at the end of a busy day, Zack would all but leap out of our arms to get into bed. My heart was full, seeing my little ones sleeping inches from one another, something they’ve never done before.

The next day, while the rest of the gang went to work, we visited to the kids at the orphanage. Our kiddos were a little shy at first, but once they got on the playground, they were as happy as they could be, playing with all the other kids.

Zack was all over the place, and he LOVED this mini Caterpiller. The little girls couldn’t get enough of the "bebe", and wanted to help him maneuver up the slide and around the playhouse. They were so sweet to him.

Once Abby got her sandbox-legs, she loosened up, and began introducing herself to, well, anyone who would listen. "Hola, mi llama Abby" and then when they or she would turn away to leave, "Abios!"

(I was pushing Abby and Sarai on the swings, when I stopped to take this pic. Then I realized I had totally left them to manage for themselves, and I had a little self-LOL ๐Ÿ™‚ )

While we were meeting the kiddos, the rest of the team was erecting a playground for a local elementary school. This was a real boost in moral for the students and teachers, since they had had their electricity STOLEN from them a while back. Some members of our team also left these deserving educators with a much needed storage container.

The day after the playground was set up, the students presented the team with this beautiful poster. What an amazing gesture from a school with such limited resources.

The following day, the team laid a walkway for the NdB intern housing. It was back-breaking work . . . from what I hear ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

To be honest, there were a few times on this trip when I would have welcomed the task of shoveling gravel. Turns out, Abby and her very best bud, Carter, act like quite the old married couple, while in close quarters. Feelings were being hurt all over the place and Cara and I were pretty exhausted with these two munchkins. Don’t let these adorable faces fool you . . .

But really, under the circumstances, all the kiddos did so well. It helped, too, that while we were at our "home", there were a whole lot of wonderful "sitters" around to lighten our load, and bless our little ones with hugs and giggles.

At the house, we ate really well (thank you Justin!), played hard (hard core games of Banana Grams, that is), and had some wonderful time of worship. Here’s Donald leading with Josh . . .

The most meaningful times on our whirlwind trip were our evenings with the kids at the orphanage. One evening, we brought dinner, and shared a meal. Abby, Zack, Carter, and Abbott made themselves at home with the rest of the kiddos.

Abby loved eating and socializing with the kids, and (I’m still in shock) ate an entire cheeseburger! This is NOT like her at all. Guess we all do some crazy things . . . when in Rome ๐Ÿ™‚ .

We got to play and snuggle with some amazing children. Obviously, Jacky is one of the less camera-shy. Pretty certain we would have made her a Williams if we could have.

Had to steal a kiss from this guy . . .

We were SO BLESSED by our time in Baja. To all of you who were praying for our safety and sleep, THANK YOU! It could not have gone more smoothly. My kiddos have shown themselves to be incredible travelers. Even more incredible, is the joy I felt, watching my kiddos interact with the children of Niรฑos de Baja. All of them trying to communicate the best way they knew how, free from judgment, and unaware of labels. It was a simple, beautiful picture of how I want to be. How God desires for ALL of His children to interact. I pray for many, many more opportunities for my kids to see the great needs of the world, and the chance to interact with an even bigger God who made it.

(And back home we went. Tell me, is there research done on why it takes SO MUCH LONGER to return home, than it does to leave home? The long border wait was NOTHING compared to LA traffic . . .

. . . and had the kids looked like this most of the way, then we would have been just fine . . . but they slept just long enough to snap their adorable pictures. Well, such is life ๐Ÿ™‚ )

happy halloween

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Our Halloween was one to remember this year. While it was a Sunday morning, Josh was off for the weekend and the kiddos still had runny noses, so we had in mind to just take it easy. It started off pretty well . . .

Josh picked up an aebleskiver skillet and recipe from our little trip to Solvang, so Abby got to "make" her own.

Things got a little rocky when Zack took a little tumble and banged his head on a magazine rack. The blood started pouring and we were off to the ER. He was no worse for wear by the time we got there, and a little champ while the nurse was cleaning his boo boo. He even serenaded her with a couple rounds of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" while he was getting fixed up. Abby was also an angel in the waiting room, with a little help from some of Daddy’s iPhone games.

We were in and out of the ER in a flash, and Zack was able to get away with glue rather than stitches for his head. When we got home, we resumed our family time with a little pumpkin carving . . .

Abby wasn’t too sure about getting messy, but eventually got the hang of it.

Zack offered to help out a little as well . . .

Since the day we picked out our pumpkin, Abby has said that she wanted it to have a "little face". So she and Daddy got to work . . .ย 

She told Josh where to place the shapes, and she designed her her little face ๐Ÿ™‚ .

It was a busy morning, and all of us were in need of some serious naps. After naptime, the kiddos were magically transformed into Tinkerbell (with the help of some Aqua Net) and little Pooh (which, judging by how much he loved his costume, he may feel compelled to run up to Winnie on our next trip to D-land, and punch him square in his fluff), and we were off to visit our families. We started at Grandma Dell’s house. Abby LOVED trick-or-treating . . .

. . . and how fabulous she looked.

We’re pretty certain Zack was pretty miserable, with a cold, a headache, cutting more teeth, and having to put up with his ridiculous headpiece (his Mommy insisted that he wear the same adorable costume his sister wore 2 years earlier), but he was such a sport.

Josh offered to take Zack’s burden from him, but he just couldn’t pull off the look . . .

We knocked on Gigi’s, Aunt Marianne’s, and Uncle Phil’s door also, and this is who answered ๐Ÿ™‚ Groucho also sent us home with some delicious homemade caramel apples . . . SCORE!

Before we headed to our next stop, we tried for one more little photo shoot. What could possibly be running through their minds?

Off to visit more family!

Next, we stopped off at Grandma Soni’s, Grandpa Don’s, and Aunt Tami’s house. (We didn’t snap too many pics, but I love how the one’s we did take turned out. Almost looked like Abby went in, stole some candy, and left before anyone noticed ๐Ÿ™‚ .)

After this visit, we popped by to see Uncle Cam and Aunt Lacy, and were later visited by the Gin and Cook fams, and their precious Buzz (Carter), Mickey (Abbott-who liked his costume about as much as Zack liked being Pooh), and the cutest little newborn monkey (Evan). Then, much later, we opened the door to some Gorilla (my mom) and Devil (big Sis), and got to visit with them for a bit.

Whew! What a crazy, fun, busy, memory-filled day! There is something so special about having family around to share in the excitement (and silliness) of Halloween, and this year’s was a blast. Till next year . . .

-The Wills’

buy me some peanuts

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I’m starting to feel a little bit more motivated about the blog, but I have a lot of catching up to do. I promise not to be super anal about the lack of chronological organization if you will.

We’ll start with a game. In May, my family treated us to a Mariners/Angels game. The fam was all decked out on our M’s garb (except for Zack, who was forced into a "First Angels Tee" because he had outgrown his teal onesie). The weather was gorgeous, the kids were amazing, and, believe it or not, the M’s almost took the game. We were so close!!!

Two very big floating hats.

Aunt Tami schooling Abby on the game.

One sleepy fan.

Aunt Sharon lent Abby her rally monkey. Mr. Monkey got lots of snuggles.

Zack NEVER falls asleep like this. Sweet boy.

She gave up the rally monkey for the finger.

Reading his favorite book after his uncharacteristic catnap.

This was the first game that ALL four Williams have been to (Abby and Zack have graced Safeco Field before ๐Ÿ™‚ ), and we got to be with our family, so it was pretty special. Still, I am hoping that the Mariners can make our next trip to Anaheim even more worthwhile (the stadium’s lack of good espresso and garlic fries brought a tear to my eyes). Go M’s!

revisiting

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For a good part of my childhood, I lived on a military base. Pt. Mugu, in particular. I have fond memories of "base" life, and it always felt like such a safe place to be (must have been the armored guards). About a week ago, I got to bring the kids to my old stomping grounds, as we joined Grandpa Don at the Pt. Mugu Airshow. We actually went the day before the show for the military family day preview. Sadly, it was just too overcast for the Thunderbirds to do their thing, but we got to see a couple smaller planes practice (one of which touched down on top of a moving truck . . . awesome).

Standing amidst the hangars brought back a ton of memories for me. The smell of jet fuel, hearing Kenny Loggins "Danger Zone" blaring through the sound system, the super excited announcers trying to get the crowd to appreciate the feats of the pilots, the smell of yummy international cuisine being cooked in their perspective canopies. Our family day, even though we were there for only a short time, transported me back to some of my best family memories of me and my sisters (dressed in neon from head to toe, smelling like sunscreen, sporting our fanny packs and sunglasses), following our dad around as he excitedly showed us around his work. (Sadly, at that time, the coolness factor was lost on me, but now I’ve come to realize that I got to see some seriously Top Gun stuff in my earlier years.)

One of the least desirable things about a big airshow are the sounds of the F-16 engines overhead. I was a bit concerned about how the kids would respond had the Thunderbirds performed. Personally, I think the sound is nostalgic (which could have something to do with where my old house was located in relation to the runway) . . .

Still, I was a bit concerned for the kiddos and was fully prepared to be covering their tiny ears the whole time. So, turns out it was probably best the loud planes couldn’t fly, because, just as I had anticipated, Abby did not care for the noise of ANY of the planes. But Zack? He couldn’t get enough of what he was seeing and hearing . . .

The airshow redeemed itself when Abby found out she could tour a plane AND use a freshly cleaned porta-potty (that’s a Honey Bucket to you Pacific Northwesterners ๐Ÿ™‚ ) which she had never done previously.

While our time was brief (naps were in order), it was so fun to walk down memory lane with Josh and the kids. This time around, no fanny pack would suffice for all the toddler paraphernalia we get to cart around. But, its such a joy to make new memories from old ones with our little ones. Thanks, Grandpa Don, for the show!

(And, sorry Dad, I have to point out the adorable irony of your T-shirt ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

family day atย Disneyland

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My big birthday gift this year (thank you Josh and Grandpa Dave ๐Ÿ™‚ ) was a trip to Disneyland. It was truly a magical day, that involved lots of eating, tons of walking, exponentially more diaper changes than rides (thanks Zachary), and two little kids that were absolute champs the whole day . . .

The little guy had just woken from his nap in the car and was raring to go . . . sort of.

Josh, Abby, Mater, and "Lightnin NaQueen".

Shortly after this picture was taken, the little Prince tried to eat Excalibur.

Our first (of 3) rides, was the carousel, and Abby was stoked to pick out her own horse. This was the first time she got to ride a carousel all alone with no help. She was elated.

Zack clapped and kicked his legs the whole time. He was almost as happy as his Daddy.

Next was Its a Small World. Ok, so Josh and I are notoriously emotional people. We may have cried a little bit watching how excited our kids were to cruise through this ride.

My fav picture of the day . . . complete with Minnie Mouse adorned plumber butt.

Posing in Toontown (one of these days I WILL pick up those barbells . . . you’ll see!).

Those Mickey ice cream sandwiches are a bear to eat . . .

A tired, giddy smile just before the Playhouse Disney show was about to begin.

Grabbed dinner at the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney. The kids were slightly amused by the ginormous gorillas dining next to us, but in awe of the sweet light-up cup that came with my drink (for only $1 more . . . I can never pass up those deals ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

Our little ones assumed this position just before the fireworks began and stayed this way till we got home.

We could not have asked for a more perfect trip.

the beach

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A week or so back, we took another morning trip to Santa Barbara. It was a gorgeous day. We spent most of our time hanging out on the pier, but a little time on the beach. I remember when we would bring Abby to the beach. She wouldn’t let her little feet or hands touch the sand, and felt very uncomfortable. But Zack, he loves picking it up, and even getting sand (accidentally) kicked in his face by his Sister makes him belly laugh.

hooray for…

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Our friend, Jolene, was visiting from Washington a couple weeks back, giving us some motivation to do a little local sight-seeing. Hollywood hasn’t always been a huge deal to me. It’s where you drive through to go to Disneyland, as far as I was concerned. The only time in the recent past I had been to Hollywood Blvd. was to see shows.

Getting out of the car and on the street is an experience all its own. The last time I had done this was in high school, and it frightened me then. But for a season of his life, Josh had worked right in this area, so he was pretty stoked to show our guest around. I just wanted to make sure I knew where my wallet and my kids were at all times.

It was actually the perfect day to look around, and see all the sights (boy are there sights), and now as an adult, I found myself absolutely intrigued with this unique part of the culture. And thanks to Disney’s brilliant idea to open a little movie-themed ice cream shop right next to the El Capitan Theatre, the area is a LITTLE more kiddo friendly. So, aside from snacking, we spent a lot of time at the Hollywood & Highland Center (mostly nursing and diaper changing), a LOT of time walking up and down the Walk of Fame, and took some fab pics at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and in front of the Hollywood Sign.

Aside from getting the finger from a gentleman I apparently cut-off (ok, I really did cut him off) and from being solicited by a number of not-so-convincing costumed "actors", the day was a pleasure: the kids were fantastic, the weather was gorgeous, and we captured some wonderful memories with our dear friend.

If his parents would let him have a Facebook account, I’m pretty certain Zack would choose this picture for his profile.

Our Disney oasis.

Abby was in awe of the movie reel decorations…

…and, of course, Mickey.

We learned Josh had a star of his own this whole time ๐Ÿ™‚ .

Our jaunt along the streets of Hollywood soon turned into a treasure hunt of sorts, as we were guided by Josh’s Walk of Fame iPhone app. Strangely, the kids were not near as amused as were were. Hmmm…

We found creepy Barney standing just outside Grauman’s, and had to snap a picture. He was not too happy that I didn’t have cash on me, and let me know all about it. Funny, he wasn’t near as nice as he is on T.V.

I was pretty determined to find Shirley Temple’s precious prints, just so I could take these pictures. Abby LOVED playing with the prints, and before we knew it, there was a crowd gathered around our own little "curly top".

Some other favs…

Finally, on our way home, we passed the church where Josh spent many a Les Miserables rehearsal during his acting years.

It was a wonderful day, and we are so looking forward to more "touristy" visits in our home state.

lil’ animals

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The kiddos and I are keeping busy while Josh is in Mexico with a group from our church. Yesterday, we headed to the Santa Barbara Zoo with some buddies, who’s daddies/husbands are also helping to build houses with Amor. The weather was GORGEOUS, and the kids were absolutely delightful, and had a blast. This was the first time since Abby was 9-months-old that we have been to the zoo, so she was pretty stoked.

We got to hang out with new friends, Melissa, Maddie, and Hudson, and familiar (not OLD) friends, Cara, Carter, and Abbott. We were quite a sight with our double-wides . . .

Girl-Eating-Giraffe (I crack myself up ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

I guess this zoo has the market on tiny animals (again, I am the funniest person I know right now ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

They were PROBABLY most interested in being out of the strollers at the point, but were pretending to be interested in the penguins.ย 

Sleepy girl . . .

. . . and boy.

Abby, Maddie, and Carter, waiting patiently while I nursed Zachary before heading out.

We left with sun-kissed faces, naughty images of elephants going potty, 6 sleepy preschoolers, 3 sleepy mommies, and a family membership. It was a good day ๐Ÿ™‚

family day

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We are committed to carrying on our Williams Family Day tradition. While, we are still working on honoring this time more consistently, we were able to do some family day exploring a few weeks back with the Gins. We were still a little shell shocked right after the move, so we let them plan the excursion. We ended up in a part of L.A. where I had never been, and we had an awesome time.

We headed, first, to the California Science Center, located in Exposition Park, right next to the L.A. Coliseum. We were all pretty excited to check out a new, FREE (yes, free) family experience. The kiddos were a little too young to take in most of the exhibits, but had a blast in the little play area designated for preschoolers. Carter and Abby also loved the freedom of running aroundย in the halls and raising havoc…

Zack had a great time also, and at times, could hardly contain himself…

For lunch, we headed to the Grand Central Food Market, also in downtown L.A. The weather was beautiful that day, and minus the traffic, we really enjoyed driving around the city.

We wore all four of the kiddos, which they LOVED…

As soon as we were all strapped in, we headed to a taco stand clear across the market to put away a bunch of asada and carnitas tacos . . . our first since being back home. (Sorry Washington, you just didn’t do Mexican cuisine like I remembered).

On our way home, we took in all sorts of sights, including the L.A. cityscape and a mini tour of China Town.

Did I mention the traffic? We picked a TERRIBLE time to head home that day, and the kiddos held out fairly well, but were both pretty exhausted by the time we pulled up to our home.

It was a great family excursion. We came away with a list of things we didn’t do/pack for the kids to be a little more successful, but got to spend time with great friends, fill our tummies, and explore.

Looking forward to being a tourist again soon!

where to begin…

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Really, I have no idea where to start. Life is dizzying right now. But, things are slowly falling into place though. There are some days where I feel like I don’t know which way is up. Other days when I am in heaven, watching my kiddos play with their loved ones. Here’s a glimpse of our life…

I just finished the English class I started the day we left Washington (yeah, I’m insane). I’m 3 classes away from graduating, but it still feels like it will take forever. (Senior-itis maybe?) Almost all the boxes are unpacked, but we still have to put up our pictures. The kids and I are taking advantage of the sunshine and walking a lot. We especially love walking to church. Really, it would be a sin to NOT walk with how close we live. Unfortunately, there is a doughnut shop between our house and the church. That could be trouble.

Abby is doing really well adjusting to her new home. It took a few weeks of her following me around the house wanting to be held, but now she knows her way around a little more. She suddenly seems so big to us. She no longer waits in her bed for us to get her. After a few nights of her getting up again and again and standing at her gate, she’s starting to exercise her power for good, and is learning to put herself back to sleep. She is also in love with her brother. She loves to make him laugh, "hold" him, tickle him, and tell strangers about him when they are sitting side-by-side in the stroller. She loves her Sunday school class, and especially loves walking hand-in-hand with her buddy, Carter, to class.

Zack is also doing really well. He cut 4 teeth in the last 4 weeks, and unfortunately, that has made nursing quite frustrating for us both. But we had a breakthrough today, and it looks like we’ll be able to make it a little longer. He seems to be getting happier and happier by the day, and loves to melt people with his smile. He is eating a lot of solid foods, and there doesn’t seem to have an aversion to anything yet. Oh, and he LOVES his alone time on his blanket. He can sit and play with his toys forever, banging toys together, and grunting the whole while. Yeah, he’s all boy.

Josh is loving partnering with Jeff in student ministry, and leading music for the CCC students, as well as for the Saturday night vespers service. He is also working at the Starbucks right across the street from our house. His schedule is NUTS right now, and we’re really praying for direction on how to tread these waters. BUT, God has provided so much for us, in ways we couldn’t have imagined, and we know He will continue to be faithful. And in his spare time, he is loving playing and dancing with the kiddos (Josh and Abby are really into "Fireflies" by Owl City right now…its their happy song).

We didn’t know it at the time we signed our lease, but our house is one street over from Josh’s brother’s house. Uncle Cameron and Aunt Lacy (as well as Auntie Sharon and Uncle Wes) have been able to come over, hang out with us, and inevitably, watch the kiddos while we’ve gotten some work done. The kids are LOVING their family. And we are loving the fact that we can pop in and say hi to Grandma Dell, Aunt Marianne, Great-Grandma Yolly (GiGi), and Uncle Phil. Oh, and seeing Grandma Soni, Grandpa Don, and Aunt Tami at church, well, we are feeling pretty blessed. I think we, as well as our families, are still feeling like we’re gonna hop on a plane and head back home at any time, but its becoming more real every day.

(Here we are outside Cam and Lacy’s house, stalking them shortly after we moved into our house…)

This week, our precious friend, Andy, is visiting with us. We loved showing people around Seattle when they would come visit, so its even more special showing someone around the place we grew up. He’s already humored us as we’ve shown him where I was born, where we’ve lived, where we got in a car accident, where we met, where we broke up, where we got married, etc. Our hope is to take a little drive down PCH and head to Santa Monica before he leaves, and give him a little So. Cal experience.ย 

Clearly, judging by how long its been since I’ve blogged, and the all-over-the-place-ness of this post, life has been a little more challenging than we planned. We’ve got plans for other visitors in the near future, but for now, it seems like we can only take things day to day, make plans quickly and spontaneously (to the chagrin of our poor families and friends ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), and enjoy the sunshine. We are so happy to be here, but so ready to settle into a family rhythm. But, I know it will happen, and I’m looking forward to the day I need to refer back to my blog post to remember this time.

So, let me ask…do any of you have any stories from your out-of-state moves with little ones? (I can think of a few of you right off the bat.) Will you share?