Sunday, June 29, 2008

Barcelo Maya Anyone?

It's a beautiful day in the Seattle area today with temperatures in the 90's. After church I had Bob inflate Connor's swimming pool on our back deck so I could sit in it to cool off. Yes, I know, it's not a pretty picture but the deck is not really visible to others and it felt really good. We talked earlier today (when we should have been paying better attention in church) and what we need is a vacation. I know, it hasn't been that long since the last one but we really love going to tropical places. We ran the numbers and searched the American Airlines website to see where we could get the best frequent flyer tickets, and we think we have a plan. We would leave Seattle at 11:55 pm on Saturday, October 25th. It's Opa's (Dad's) 80th birthday and we want to be there to celbrate it. We would get into Cancun the morning of the 26th. We would spend 4 nights at the lovely Barcelo Maya resort and then one night closer to the airport in Cancun, before returning home on the morning of October 31st. You may ask if we can move the dates and unfortunately, we can't. We checked all of September, October and November, and this was the best we could do. We haven't even confirmed these days yet but we will soon. Why the Barcelo? This place has some of the most amazing pools I have ever seen with swim up bars and all the Margaritas you can stand (virgin, of course). The Caribbean beach is beautiful white sand as far as you can see. It's so big, it couldn't possibly be crowded. Is that enough to convince you? If not, try this...all you can eat chocolate ice cream on the breakfast buffet and all day long. Check out the videos on You Tube. I'm in!

Catching Up

Wow, how lame can you get. I haven't posted anything since Father's Day, even though it's been a very busy couple of weeks. Heather and Brooks came to visit last week and we had a great time. We hadn't seen them since Christmas, and very little since their marriage almost a year ago now. We as adults don't change much in several months, but kids do and Heather and Brooks mainly wanted to see Connor and Corey. They had never even seen Corey.

We started the fun by going to Azteca and celebrating Terence's birthday. Engracia has waited on our family at Azteca for about 10 years so she knows us all. After lunch Terence got to wear the dreaded sombrero and have his picture taken. The fried ice cream makes it all worthwhile though.

On Friday Jacki, Heather and I took the kids to Remlinger Farms in Carnation. It's a real working farm that specializes in strawberries in the spring and pumpkins in the winter, there are stores, but the reason we went was for the country fair with rides and attractions for kids. As expected, Connor had a lot of fun. When we got there, he didn't go for the ponies or the train ride, he went right for a school bus parked in the picnic area.

There is a petting zoo there and I Connor was interested, until he got his finger too near a chicken cage, and got it nipped. This photo was
snapped the second he pulled his finger back.

There is a big covered tent with a straw maze. We had fun running through the maze, crawling through the tunnels and jumping in the straw. Connor was not nearly as entertained on the roller coaster as Jacki and Heather were watching him ride it. he lasted 2 laps before the ride operator mercifully let him off.

On Saturday we had the big family race at K1 Karting in Redmond. We rented the facility for a private party. Our daughters have married some competative guys but it really was fun. You can ask them what the final results were, who cheated and how they cheated.
Racing is definitely a family favorite. Another family favorite is video games and particularly, the Rock Band game is not only popular, but very noisy around our house. The guys are all very good and they take turns on the various instruments.

Brooks chillin on the guitar and Terence intently playing the drums.

On Saturday afternoon we headed to Aunt Pam's house in Bonney Lake where we got to hang with the family, eat amazing food, enjoy a fire and make smores. Connor had so much fun swimming when it was hot outside, that he decided to do it again when he was fully dressed in his new warm pajamas, including socks and shoes. Corey, meanwhile, just hangs out and enjoys life.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day 2008

I think Father's Day and Mother's Day are fast becoming my favorite holidays. Mother's Day is great, because I don't have to lift a finger, except to get ready for church. Once I get there, I get to listen to one speaker after another tell the congregation how wonderful us Mother's are. Then, when I get home I go sit on the couch and wait while my family serves me my favorite foods. Somehow, it doesn't seem fair that Jacki, who is a mother of 2 kids, is the one preparing my meal. The men clean the kitchen while I enjoy Corey and Connor.

Yesterday was Father's Day, a favorite for the opposite reason. I love just as much being the one serving Bob, as he is honored. Funny thing though, on Mother's Day at church all the speakers tell Moms how amazing they are, but onn Father's Day they tell the Fathers how great they should be.

Yesterday was a beautiful Spring Father's Day as Brian, Jared, Emily, Jacki and Terence came over along with the grandsons, Corey and Connor. Jacki spent several days last week scanning photos and creating an amazing "Daddy, This is Your Life" movie/slide show. We spent 12 minutes watching our lives flash before our eyes and it was amazing. I have always known that my life was filled with blessings and I have seen those pictures a hundred times, but this time it was different. I remember the days that most of those pictures were taken and I could even identify who the baby was in most of the pictures. There were pictures of laughter, kids doing things they would have gotten in trouble for at the time, and even happy tears. Somehow all of the difficult times we had have faded into a distant memory and we only remember the good. We have been so blessed!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another Favorite Thing - Family History, I Am Doing It!!

I remember now why I have been so bad about writing a journal. My day to day life is exciting to me, but may not be so exciting to others. One of the things that I love is family history research. I get it from my Dad who has selflessy devoted his life to genealogy research and temple work. I always thought that with all of the research Dad did, there was no need for me to get involved. Then, I realized that although Dad has found all there is to find within my direct line, there were stories about the people on Bob's side of the family, who also happen to be my children's ancestors, I wanted to know more about those people. It all started with a box of pictures in Grandma Lutz' closet. I started asking her about the people and realized that once she is gone, there was nobody left who even knows who they are. She had stories about family members but the stories handed down in a family are not always true and I wanted to learn about them for myself. I joined and started doing research. I found that almost every County in the United States has a free family history site and the internet is filled with cemetery inscriptions, vital records, stories, old newspaper articles, immigration records and so much more. Not only that but it's not hard at all to find people who are willing to go to the local library or historical society to do research for you, for little to no money.

Allow me to introduce you to Mensenkamp family. The handsome person in the back row, second from the left, is Charles Leopold, Bob's grandfather. Other family members are parents Adolph and Mary Christine Kaiser. They had 8 children but oldest daughter Mary died as an infant. Sons are Robert, Charles, George, Roy and Elmer. Daughters are Elmer's twin Emma and Cora. Emma (next to her father) tragically committed suicide by drinking acid when she had a husband and 2 small children. Her sister Cora, who helped Emma's husband care for the children after her sister's death, ended up marrying him. Even though there were 5 sons in the family, there are no male heirs in this family or any of the other Mensenkamp families that came to the US together in the mid 19th century. The stories that have been handed down through the family are a start, but I have found through my research, are not always accurate. The true stories are much more interesting. Family history research, is fascinating and is the ultimate jigsaw puzzle. Thanks Dad for handing down the Spirit of Elijah to me.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Want to Try Again?? This one looks like there are more challenges than just taking a picture in front of something and could be more fun. It last 4-6 hours so we would want to be in good shape. Looks like fun!!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Competition? Bring it on!!

First of all, let me say that I have by no means covered all or even scratched the surface when it comes to my favorite things. I think I'll just write about some of them every now and then. If I kept going with writing about my favorite things, it would take me months and I would never be able to write about anything else. Today was great. Only 2 days ago I got an email from my former boss, and Pam's current boss, Holly. She knows how competative our family is and she knows how much we like doing things together. As I said before, Our family doesn't just talk about how much fun it would be to do something, we actually do it. Holly had learned about an event called the Great Urban Race, which was to be held on June 7th. Similar to the Great Race, a reality TV show, teams received clues and had to travel by public transportation or on foot, to about 12 sites throughout Seattle. For the most part we had to take pictures of ourselves in locations that make Seattle unique. Although Holly didn't think we would actually do it on such short notice, we formed 3 teams of 2 (that was all that were allowed on a team), made "VanderHoeven Machine" t-shirts, and were at the starting line before most other teams, at 11:00 this morning. We have always wanted "VanderHoeven Machine" t-shirts and this was our excuse to make them. We got our clues at noon and headed for Seattle Center to fulfil our first task and to plan our strategy. Unfortunately, we had just finished our 2nd task and were about 10 minutes into the event, when Pam twisted her ankle. She was in terrible pain and there was no way I thought she could go on. What was I thinking? She limped a few steps and Jeff told her to walk it off. "Don't stop or it will stiffen up". To make a long story short, we probably walked 5 or more miles today and crossed the finish line in a respectable 3 hours. There was no rule against teams working together so even though we had 3 teams, we were actually only one. When we had our photo's checked and learned that we had all accomplished the assigned tasks, we finally had a chance to sit down. Pam took off her shoe and her ankle looked like a big blue baseball. As with everything my family does, we laughed and joked about how Pam could possibly have run up and down the hills of Seattle for so many miles with her foot looking like that. Anyone who knows Pam, or really anyone else in our family, would know that her finishing the race was never in question.

What a fun day! Let's find another one and do it again. I know we could cut at least 1/2 hour off of our time.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I'll Give it a Try .... My Favorite Things

Succumbing to peer pressure from the rest of the family, I have decided to give blogging a try. Not only is this my first attempt at blogging, but I have to admit I have not kept a journal either. I have never been able to figure out how to start. So even though it is unlikely anyone who is does not know me very well will read this, I thought I would start by telling you, the reader, what some of our favorite things are. When I refer to I, I mean Karen. Bob is no writer.

You might think that the title "Life in the Fast Lane" is an unusual title for 2 empty nest 50, somethings, but we keep very busy and love to have fun.

We love to cruise, and Princess is our cruise line of choice. We just got back from our 10th Princess cruise, this time it was the Southern Caribbean. Next time, who knows?

On a Western Caribbean cruise a few years ago, it poured rain as we sailed out of Fort Lauderdale with some of the kids and cousin Jamie Sirrine along. It was great anyway!

I love the fact that our family doesn't just talk about doing things, we actually do it. My sister, Pam Sirrine has always loved game shows. Since she was little, she said she wanted our family to go on Family Fued. In the year 2000, we stopped talking and auditioned. We were selected to compete against the Banks Family, who didn't score a single point. Unfortunately, Pam and Jeff choked on a champaign question in the bonus round. Back in those days you got one try, you didn't get to come back the next day. It was an awesome experience, even though we each walked away with only $184 and a t-shirt. Mom charmed the audience with her answer to a question about Cher.