Thursday, December 31, 2009

16 years ago today...

Our lives have changed a great deal this year. We probably saw the biggest changes since we got married, which just happens to be 16 years ago today. There are some things in life I probably would have done differently knowing what I now know, but deciding who to share it all with was the best choice I ever made. I couldn't have asked for a more loyal, supportive, and loving friend to travel alongside me on this journey.

San Diego Trip

We just got back from a fun trip to San Diego! :)

Earlier this year, when Jenetta still had a wedding photography business, she bartered some photographic work for the Manchester Grand Hyatt which is located just west of the Convention Center in downtown SD. We were finally able to use the two free nights and the dinner coupon this week. On Monday, Jenetta and I drove down after nap time and left the girls with her mom. We had an amazing mini-break! We used the dinner coupon to eat at Sally's and had some really great seafood and time alone to talk. The bill would have been over $100, but it was free for us!

Later that evening, we walked around the gaslamp, arm in arm, and enjoyed each other's company.

The next morning, I woke up early and went for a run along the bayfront. Then we walked to Horton Plaza to eat at St. Tropez for breakfast. We had a gift card for that place from a former client that Jenetta and I both used to do photographic work for. Later that day, we drove to La Jolla and ate at La Dolce Vita - you guessed it, another coupon! We even found street parking along Prospect right in front of the restaurant.

Later that afternoon, we picked up the girls to spend the next night with us at the hotel. We swam in the pool, explored around the area with them; then we drove to Old Town to eat at Casa De Reyes (another gift card). It was a little challenging getting them to sleep - they were so excited!

The next morning, O and I ran along the 5K course that was being run later that day. It was fun to run across the finish line and explore new places to run and play together. We went cheap on breakfast - $8 worth of yogurt and juice from the grocery store.

Then we went to the Holiday Bowl parade. I had considered going to this with the girls anyway. It was awesome that the end of the parade route was two blocks from our hotel. After the parade, we packed up and came back home to the usual routine.

Jenetta and I were remarking about how relaxing the first day was (and how tiring the second day was)... Hopefully in a few years, vacations with them will be less work as they can take care of themselves more.

As we were leaving, we found out that even the internet access and the parking had been comped at the hotel. We had been told we would have to pay for that ourselves!

So with tips, $10 worth of gas that I bought in La Jolla, and the grocery store bill, we spent a total of $49 on this trip! Yea!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone! We hope you enjoy your holiday season!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Aunt Barb

My mom's sister and her husband live about 3 miles away from us (actually they live across the street from our first home here in Escondido).

Barb comes over once or twice each week to read stories with the girls and to do crafts with them. She has a rich treasure chest of activities and things to do with preschoolers, and the girls love it so much when she spends time with them.

Those of you on the Brown side of the family with kids or your own definitely need to take advantage of "Barb time" whenever you can!!!

Today Barb prepared a Christmas candy house with them covered in icing and all kinds of candy. The girls had a blast making it (and they can't wait to start eating it!)

She also gave fun Christmas pillowcases for them to put on their beds so they could have "Christmas dreams." She had a neat story to go along with these gifts as well.

We have a very wide and diverse support network. We are so grateful for all of it!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Generous gift

It is ironic that I wrote a post yesterday about receiving. (Or God telling us something - depending on your perspective).

Today we were given a Christmas card anonymously that held an extremely generous cash gift inside. All we know is that someone at our church wanted us to have it.

I was moved to tears when opening this card.

There is some maintenance on the car that I have been putting off for months (bald tires - kind of scary now that the rainy season is here) and a long list of bills that need to be paid. We certainly can use this gift!

I think that the lesson I'm probably supposed to learn in this over two years' worth of financial difficulty is that before when I was the guy handing out the gifts and helping to meet the needs of people there was an element of pride involved. Sure it was subtle, and I kept it well-hidden, but I really enjoyed hearing of someone needing something and being in the position to write a check to help out. It made me feel good to be a part of the solution.

Pride gets stripped away when you apply for government assistance or are unsure of which bills you can pay or start thinking about losing your home.

I want to be a gracious receiver. Thank you so much!!! (for this specific gift and the many blessings we have!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009


John 1:16 - From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.

Our pastor today said that this verse should be on a Christmas card, but he's never seen it. He talked about the real meaning of Christmas really starts with accepting a gift and that we as adults have a hard time with that. We are great at the giving part, but we struggle with receiving.

I've been thinking about this all day....

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jenetta's kitchen blog

Jenetta is adding a new blog to her business empire...

She will be sharing about her journey to include the girls more in the kitchen. Check there from time to time for updates.

I found the reading interesting (and I'm not really into food stuff - she is the one who watches the Food Network all the time...) So, I'm pretty sure that those of you that read other food and wine blogs would appreciate this.

Monday, December 7, 2009

L's 4th Birthday

Yesterday was L's fourth birthday. We had planned on an inside event, and although the rain held off until later last night, we were glad to be indoors - it was gloomy and chilly all day. Lots of friends from church and the neighborhood came over and L was so happy to be a "big kid" now. She has decided that four year olds do not need to suck their thumbs - but she's having a hard time remembering that decision :)

Again, I wish I could show more photos or some of the video we took. Their expressions are just priceless. Even at 5 and 4 their personalities that will define them for the rest of their lives are so crystal clear! But here is one of O "helping" to open presents... and one of them both eyeing the goodies before the guests arrived.

Happy birthday baby!

Christmas on the Prado

We've had a busy, busy weekend! On Friday, we went down to Balboa park to experience Christmas on the Prado. This is our Christmas tradition (even though it is now named December Nights, because of course, anything civic can't have a mention of Christmas in it...)

The evening kicks off the Holidays for us, and we've gone almost every year we've lived here. This year was the first time we took our children to it, so everything was different - things that had no significance to us (like train and carnival rides) are now immensely important, and things that always were a lot of fun for us (like sitting at the organ pavillion and listening to Christmas music) - not so interesting for them :)

This year was special in lots of ways. We hung out with Ryan and David, Courtney, and Isaiah for much of the evening. We paid close attention to the nativity setups and talked about the bible scenes with the girls. The weather was really mild - it was just a great night. The girls fell asleep in the car on the way home - they were spent! When we got home, I had a hard time putting their PJs on because they were sound asleep.

I wish I could show you more photos or not blur out their faces. But we have to be careful for their protection. There were so many pictures and videos of them with giant smiles on their faces!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas decorations

We are back home now and everything has returned to normal. We ended up driving home a few days early because all the excitement was just too much for the girls (and the behavior and discipline issues were making it difficult for us to enjoy the visits very much).

So we came back and have been laying low for a few days. Sunday was challenging, but yesterday everything seemed back to the way things had been before we left. So we decided to get busy on the Christmas decorations. I hung the lights outside and got really sweaty on the roof - I should have worn shorts, it was so warm! :)

Then the girls helped us put up the tree and the decorations, and they invited one of their friends from across the street over to help make gingerbread cookies. We've been playing Christmas music, and the house is so colorful. I love this time of year!

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