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Eight plus hours each way. Our longest Ecuador road trip yet. Carnaval was the perfect time to attempt it with a 5 day break. It was also the perfect time to break out my sister's Christmas gift to the family: Two-screen, car DVD player. Anyone who knows me knows I'm pretty anti-TV for kids. Like usually the rule is 30-minutes on Sunday nights only ... and half the time we skip that because we are with friends. But this car DVD player? Why have we not done this before??? The trip was so quick an...

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We all agreed that we wanted to go to the Christmas Eve service at the Nazarene College Church. We love the simple but beautiful service they put on, with more choruses and hymns than spoken words. This year, after weeks of working long hours, of trying to squeeze in activities around the work and the sadness that our community felt, there wasn't a lot of time to sit and BE. I didn't realize this until a few minutes after entering the service, when I felt my body and heart start to unw...

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Surprised? I totally was. While I had been skeptical about the chocolate cake in my fridge Nate had an explanation for it and I was headed off to work. I threw on some clothes and went to my office in the dark to do a couples session. After they left I waited the requisite 5 minutes before following them out and was just getting ready to leave when I heard footsteps. Thinking they'd returned for help with the gate I popped my head out and was met with streamers and whistles and a giant yellow ha...

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  Apparently this year there was supposed to be a surprise birthday party for Christine & I. I think Nate had the idea of combining them, though they are a month apart, because he knows how hectic it gets between Christmas and New Years. But with some really hard, stressful weeks due to the loss of a friend a full on party didn't seem appropriate and the party was canceled. Instead, once things had settled a bit, we still wanted to celebrate Christine so we threw a much lower-key versio...

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These ladies and their families were some of our very first friends when we moved to Quito. We met through Gymboree and haven't let the friendships wane since long after our Gymboree days have ended. We've watched our first babies grow from crawlers to Kindergarteners, we've added siblings to some of our families. We've made different choices in schooling and work since those early stay-at-home mom days that have led to it being much more difficult to get together but that hasn't stopped us from...

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In the wee morning hours of Halloween day we loaded the kids into our already packed car (SO nice to be all packed up the night before), met up with the Passmores and Christy and headed for the beach! The traffic was light, the air was festive, and the books on tape were abundant. Though waking up at 5am is never my strong suit I loved being at the beach before lunch. It was so worth it and I bet we will do it that way often now. We stayed at the Shedd's condo at Playa Almendro and loved the var...

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After Boise and San Francisco we headed back to Chicago for the final leg of our tour. Our first night Nate went off to a champion's league soccer game at Soldier Field ... a belated bday present that he loved. We spent two weeks living with the Snooks in their gorgeous house again. They were gracious and kind but it's always hard for me to have kids in a kid-less house. We also felt so badly as the wife's father was deathly ill (and ultimately ended up dying the night we left.) We enjoyed celeb...

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We had such a great time on Day 4 and a good mix of activities. Nate, Eric, and I (the early risers) picked up donuts at a place in The Mission District and brought them back to the house. After our donut experiences I have to say San Francisco doesn't hold a candle to Chicago specialty donuts. We hopped in our "wreck" and headed over to The Painted Ladies, a row of houses with Landmark status. From there it was off for a quick stop at The Full House house, with coordinating iphone theme music t...

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Day 3 was dedicated to Napa. On the drive out from the city we stopped off in Oakland, the working man's town, for breakfast from Donut Savant. From there we headed to Berkeley to get a feel for the city that Parenthood was filmed in. The girls stopped off at a Thrift Store, where I inadvertently bought a useless pair of converse for Canaan with one shoe being a size 9 and the other a 10. (I'm a terrible thrifter). The guys toured Cal-Berkeley and then we got serious about getting to Napa. The l...

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We started dreaming about this trip two years ago when we did our first kid-free vacation to Cancun. Before it was over we knew this was a tradition that needed to continue. Five days without high-pitched voices carrying over the adult conversation, without bedtimes to worry about or little hands to lose in a crowd. The idea of San Francisco was thrown out because we wanted to tour a city instead of sit on a beach. As Nate and I planned our summer HMA we kept throwing San Francisco into the equa...

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