Friday, November 21, 2008

The Secular Church

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Minnesota trip

The most important stop on our post-China travels was to Minnesota to catch up with all of Kyle's family. His parents, sibling, and their families all live not far from Minneapolis so whenever we're in town, a reunion is in order. Kyle's family is really good about organizing lots of activities and things to do while we're there (maybe they're afraid we'll get bored, but they don't know how home-bodied the Goodwin get-togethers are). This trip was no different. We went to the Minnesota State Fair, Children's Museum, went up to Duluth in the north over Labor Day weekend, and had a great backyard picnic with all of the family. Mom L and I squeezed in some good American shopping I'd been craving, too. =)

Here we are upon departure to the State Fair. Dad was unfortunately suffering from a blood infection so had to take it easy for a few days, but thankfully was able to join us on later trips.

Ever since the camping trip in summer '07, when their friendship began to really blossom, Ellie has been calling many of her cousins, friends, and stuffed animals "Yo-a-yai." To bad it's also the hardest of all her cousins' names for Ellie to pronounce, but nonetheless she absolutely delighted in all the time she got to spend with Lorelei on this trip.

Sure, he's all smiles now, but prying him off the horse was a completely different story.

Kyle's brother, Brett, won several awards at the fair for his fruits and vegetables, including first prize on these bee-autiful melons. Their garden is mighty impressive.

We didn't picture one of the best parts of the fair, which is of course the FOOD! I'd been hearing about some legendary fried cheese curds for years, and they were indeed tasty, although I was disappointed that the extra oil takes the squeak out of them. We also gorged on cookies, battered Australian cheesy fries, and Kyle and I naturally took advantage of the $1 chocolate milk with free refills, running across the fair to fill up instead of paying for a closer drink. Someday, our thriftiness will make us rich. Someday...

Minnesota has a great children's museum-- better than any I recall visiting as a child. Even better, we were able to secure free passes from a local library. Didi's favorite room was this nature playground area. After China, I can't tell you what a relief it was to just let my kids go wild in a play area, knowing that they wouldn't easily get hurt or contract fatal illnesses.

There was a fairy tale room...

And a science & nature room...

And a room simulating lots of real life experiences, like grocery shopping, going to the doctor, riding the bus, and starring in a rock band, of course.

In the bubble and splash area, I was trying to keep an eye on the kids and I turned around and saw a little girl whose face, arms, and head were just covered with bubbles. I couldn't really see her eyes, but I sensed she was desperate for a rinse. I looked around but didn't spy a mother rushing to the rescue, so I took her to the sink and rinsed her disguise off-- it was Gigi (my niece)! Haha, I honestly didn't recognize her under that thick layer of foam. It reminded me of revealing Harry the Dirty Dog, a favorite story from my childhood.

I also celebrated my birthday in Minnesota, and got an extra scoop of ice cream for the occasion. Grandpa's fudge sauce is what does the trick, though.

Probably the best day in Minnesota was when all three of Kyle's siblings and their families came over for a picnic lunch in Kyle's parents' beautiful back yard. The weather was perfect and there were almost enough toddler bikes to go around. Plus, Tana made the yummiest peanut butter bars anyone has ever tasted.

It may appear that Erik has been victimized here, but I believe Gigi was simply embracing an opportunity.

But he'd have you believe otherwise.

I think Logan liked being the older, stronger cousin, for a change.

Told you those bars were YUM! (I love Brandon in the back with Ellie, too. He is so good with all the kids and was kind enough to sprint all over the lawn with Ellie, engaging in some stick scavenging shenanigans of hers. It's so nice to have someone else around who can actually keep up with her.)

Check out Lorelei's hair AND Tana made that dress.

Here's Grandpa and Grandma Larsen with all nine of their grandkids, from top left going clockwise: Andrew Larsen, Logan Smentek, Erik Larsen, Brandon Larsen, Joseph Barnhart, Ellie Larsen, Lorelei Barnhart, Liam Smentek, and Gretchen/Gigi Barnhart. This one's a lot better than the last "all the grandkids" picture we attempted when four of them were infants.

With the second generation--

Over Labor Day weekend we took a trip up north to Duluth with Jeff & Kirstin and their boys, Logan and Liam. We enjoyed good cuisine, scenery, and the biggest hotel water park in the state!Kyle loves how I really tried to pretend I wanted my picture taken.

Here's his impersonation of me.

Kyle was most excited about skipping rocks on the lake. Seriously, he couldn't stop talking about it.

We didn't take any pictures at the water park, but stole this from Dad's blog. Of course it can't capture the experience. There was an enormous bucket that was gradually filled with water (maybe 100 gallons?) until it overflew and dumped the contents all over the play structure. There were some great tube slides (and I even got Mom to go down one with me) and plenty of wading/splashing areas for the kids. Liam and Logan were fearless in the water. I'm no water park connaiseur, but I was quite impressed with the facility. Good pizza, too.
This is the only shot I took of our dinner at Tana and Braden's, which is too bad because her gnocchi pasta dish was delicious and aestethically pleasing. The kids play so well together, and Mom and Tana gave me such great ideas for quilting and sewing projects. It's such a bummer we're only able to get together annually or so. We're so glad Mom and Dad brought us out this year, though. We had a wonderful time and I am so grateful to have such a great family-in-law!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It was time...

Back when the California skies were sunny, we got around to doing our annual car wash. No, it was not a fundraiser, but we should've been paid for all the bug guts we scraped off the van's splash guard. Some of those guts originated from road trips many moons ago...

The kids were excited to help us wash the car, until Ellie realized it was "work" and plucked all the blooms out of Grandma's garden instead.

Erik put forth a commendable effort. He embraced one of Grandma's favorite adages: "Anything worth doing is worth doing well" (and that's the one that still haunts and tortures me every time I'm doing housework), steadily scrubbing and re-scrubbing and re-scrubbing that spot on the car for the entirety of the experience.

Hope that spot stays sparkly clean until next year's annual wash.

Exciting ANNOUNCEMENT for our family!

We are proud to announce the elopement of our daughter with a much older, wiser, square-headed and red-eyed man named Mike. He has verbally promised to take care of her until the day she dies (except for the last 40 years of her life where she's likely to live alone and cold, because of the unexpected and drastic age disparity). She tells me that this is LOVE, and since love rules all, I have no problem with the marriage-- that would make me intolerant and hateful. I guess he makes pretty good money in the alley around the corner, but his working hours aren't so good for family life (he's gone much of the night). I think he's in pharmaceuticals.The Wedding DanceThe proud Best Man
Don't be alarmed at his ghastly appearance; it's just that he's now more bag than human after some life-saving surgeries following the Clone Wars (at least that's what he told us... I don't know, maybe he just put a bag on his head for some reason-- Heck! I don't even know the guy... but look how happy she is!).

First KissEllie and Mike are registered at IKEA, Target, and Milly's Renegade Ammunition Depot.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Have we Forgotten the Meaning of Marriage?

There is a perfectly good reason that I haven't been posting on our blog: I've been spending my nights commenting on proposition 8 videos on This has been an experience of mixed emotions, but one thing I'm not mixed on is my conviction that prop 8 is worth supporting, and will absolutely affect more people than just homosexuals. Perhaps the greatest of those effects will be upon children. So, with the election upon us, I must promote these videos found on

These videos hit the issue on the nail! If legalizing gay marriage was just about consenting adults, what respectable person would forbid it? However, children can NOT be separated from the discussion of marriage. I support gay rights, right up until the point that they compromise the rights of children, and really who can deny that children deserve a mother and a father? Well, lots of people have tried, but logic, nature, and endless research refute their claims. The gender of parents DOES matter, having both parents present DOES matter, and marriage DOES matter to kids.

A wise man I know puts it this way: why should the hurt feelings of adults trump the best interest of children? This is one of those issues with which knowledge is power. I firmly believe that if Californians truly understood both the meaning and consequences of proposition 8, we would have a landslide victory. The more I understand about the issues surrounding prop 8, the more I am in support of it.

I realize I'm again preaching to the choir addressing this on my blog, but watch these videos anyway. Even if you don't live in California, this battle will (maybe even soon) be coming your way.

Are we OK with Denying Children their Rights?

Do Mothers Matter? Do Fathers Matter?

What About Equality?

The Danger of Redefining Marriage