On Sunday morning we were blessed to visit The River Christian Reformed Church in Redlands where my brother and his family worship. I love going there. It’s such a blessing to see family and to worship there. Although, I admit, it has been harder the last couple times after Jean & Joanne both passed away. My heart feels heavy sometimes in Redlands. Ironically, their associate pastor preached on mourning on Sunday morning during the service. It was particularly poignant for us and we felt blessed.
As I mentioned, one of the blessings of worshipping at The River is seeing family. Many of Ed’s relatives attend there. On the way into the service, we saw Ed’s cousin Lou & his wife Cindy. I kept looking for Uncle Gordon during the whole service and finally saw him at the very end of the service. He recently remarried (Aunt Joanne passed away about 2 1/2 years ago) a widow and they were there together that morning. It was wonderful to meet Darlene and we even had a nice chat together about the service. It’s a blessing that she & Gordon have each other. I just about broke down, though, when Uncle Gordon introduced Becca to Darlene as “Pete.” That was Aunt Joanne’s pet name for Becca because of Becca’s propensity to wearing her bangs in her face, such that you can’t see her face. So Aunt Joanne took to calling her “Pete” whenever her hair was in her face. Such a bittersweet memory. Anyway, then we did finally also see Aunt Liz, but Uncle Rich was away. It was great to see Aunt Liz, but I did miss seeing Uncle Rich – he’s so genuine and he always tells me I look wonderful.
After church we packed up and headed out for San Diego! We made a stop at In-N-Out for lunch and at Costco for gas. We ended up driving through Coronado and playing at Silver Strand State Park. We had a great time in the sand and in the waves and we even saw dolphins out in the water! After a few hours, we started to feel raindrops and the children were quickly beginning to fall apart. We packed up and headed to our hotel. After checking in, the guys took the kiddos swimming (for fun and to try to rinse some sand and salt water off), while Susanne & I went out and retrieved dinner. We watched some TV together while we ate and then headed to bed.
Monday morning brought lots of excitement as we prepared for our day at the zoo! It turned out to be a beautiful day, which unfortunately meant it was a bit crowded. Thankfully it’s a big enough zoo that you don’t generally feel overwhelmed by the crowds. We started with the “sunnier” half of the zoo and saw most of that before lunch, including an awesome encounter with a Malayan Brown Bear and viewing the Pandas with pretty much no line whatsoever. We ended the morning by watching the elephants, which was probably one of my favorite parts of the zoo. One elephant was in the pool, near the spray, with a zoo keeper feeding it some celery. Later on we listened to the head elephant keeper who explained that elephants have the intelligence of about a 4 or 5 year old human and are very trainable & food motivated. He was pretty funny as he asked you to imagine a 9000 pound 4 or 5 year old throwing a tantrum…
We had our picnic lunch and finished the rest of the zoo, though we were starting to drag by about 2:30. We quickly saw everything we wanted to see (skipping the petting zoo area and additional monkeys) and left around 4:30. We had an early dinner at McDonald’s down the street and then tired the kiddos out at the Balboa Park playground next to the zoo. What a great play area! We headed for home around 6:30, stopped for ice cream on the way, and got back to my brother’s about 8:45.
Today we say goodbye to my brother and his family. It’s really hard to say good-bye this time because we don’t know for sure when we’ll see them again. We hope summer 2012, but most likely Christmas 2012. Thankfully we have technology and Skype available to us!
Later on this morning we will head to Ed’s brother’s and we are pretty excited about that! This is the final leg of our trip – spending some time with the Ball cousins!!