Tuesday, January 5, 2010

From Russia With Love!! (Aug. 2009) -- Nathan's big trip overseas with his Voices In Harmony Chorus

Zdravstvujtye!!

Nathan's chorus, Voices In Harmony, was invited to perform in the Russian/St. Petersburg's huge acapella Choral Festival in August. It was a Fantastic Time!!! And my first time ever overseas! The highlight were our several performances of "Polyushko Pole", a traditional Russian song. The song is a solemn but very proud battle hymn about Russian soldier heroes riding across the fields and off into battle, leaving their sad families behind in the villages. I stand front row, to the audience's right of center, most of the time.

You might notice we made a brief stop in Paris! We also toured many sites in the St. Petersburg area, including DOZENS of fantastic Royal Palaces (Catherine the Great's Hermitage/Winter Palace, and Peter the Great's Summer Palacial estate, Petergof being my two favorites -- with fantastic fountains and gold sculptures), and gorgeous churches and Cathedrals (Church on Spilled Blood/Resurrection Church -- entirely marble and tiled with mosaic religious scenes, and St. Isaac's Cathedral were my favorites). We had performances in these Royal halls and Palaces, mainly Peter the Great/Catherine the Great's Capella Hall, St. Petersburg Russia. 8/18-24/09.

The audiences truly treated us like Rock Stars!! Read my friend Ed A.'s description for the SECOND video -- I wrote part of it. I also have included a few reduced versions of my very favorite pix from the trip. About 400 are uploaded on my Facebook site. I took 2800 pictures!!! (and 1800 in Hawaii a month earlier!) As Mom passed away just two weeks before our trip, I felt her presence strongly with me throughout the whole trip. I was glad she was able to join me. :-)


Enjoy!! Nathan

Samson Statue/Fountain at Petergof!!
St. Isaac's Cathedral -- hundreds of MASTERWORK paintings on the walls and ceilings inside.

A 5-hour stop in Paris on the way to Russia!!


Performing at renowned Capella Hall!!

My favorite church in Russia: Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. Not an ounce of paint in the church -- all elaborate mosaics of tiles, and marble floors and columns.

Catherine The Great's Hermitage: The Winter Palace -- hundreds of thousands of great works of art inside. I got to see Michaelangelo's, Da Vinci's, Titians, Rembrandts, etc..... Wow!!
Free-standing!!! Alexander Column in the Hermitage Courtyard!!


Entering Petergof Palace Grounds

Our Festival Poster!! With our own Dr. Lyne at top.

View of the world-renowned golden fountains from Petergof! Peter the Great's Summer Palace. We sang in a pavilion just off to the right. Ready to perfrom at Petergof!! The FIRST AMERICAN group to do so!!
I just LOVED this view!! And it was our view during our performance too! The Samson statue/central fountain is AWESOME!!
After performing at Paul I's Rose Pavilion.
Pavlosk, Paul I's palace.

Summer of Travel!! 2009: Disney, Hawaii, Seattle!!!

The International Barbershop Harmony Convention was in Anaheim this year -- which made our annual Disney visit very easy -- and the crowds were actually not that BAD on 4th of July Weekend! You can see that the kids were quite DONE by the last night at the parks!

Their traditional Pooh-Bear Honey pots shot!!

Lightening and Mater!

Last night at Disney!! -- luckily!!!!


Just a week or so later, thanks to Gma and Gpa Androvich, we were able to have a fun and HUGE trip to Oahu and Maui!! We enjoyed luaus, snorkeling, swimming, tubing the waves, kayaking, hiking Haleakala crater and Diamondhead crater, etc... And got to stay in very nice Hyatt Regency Hotels too -- with great pools, slides and food!!

Old Lahaina Luau!!
Kayaking (the kids did it a bit too!) on Maui!!

Iao Needle, Maui

Samoan Fire dancing at the Polynesian Cultural Center, Oahu

Haleakala Crater, Maui

We finished July and started August in Seattle for niece/cousin Alyssa's wedding to Johnny. Unfortunately, that was also when we got news of Nathan's Mom passing away -- Dad called with the news just after we landed in Seattle. Still, it was a GREAT wedding, and we were able to go up in the Space Needle too!!

Lyssie and Johnny!

Space Needle and park, Seattle, WA

Very late update on Kids' Spring/Summer Sports 2009: Baseball/Softball and Swimming

These updates are coming later and later -- I wish we could just get ALL of our friends and family on FaceBook -- everything is much easier and is updated weekly there! That means YOU! :-) Our big summer trips and fall/winter activities will come soon too -- I'm just keeping it very brief now. :-) More details on http://www.facebook.com/.



Matt did great his first time in baseball, hitting well (1 homer and several doubles!), but made the most progress on catching and throwing. At the end of the season, he used his trademark speed to actually WIN the Farm League baserunning championship!! I'll see about posting the video....... OK...... It's now at the posted video below: Matt's Baserunning Championship Video!!!

Matt's Farm League Base-Running Championship Video!!! video

Sarah joined friends on a very strong girls' softball team, the Lightning, who were undefeated this season. She did great at hitting and catching. Throwing is where she needs the most work, but she made several plays from 2nd and third base, and spent a lot of time playing a very good catcher position! She finished the season by smacking a big TRIPLE past center field her last time at bat!! :-)Finally, both kids continued to advance in gymnastics over the summer/early fall. Sarah can do walkovers and back-standups (I think you call them -- looks cool and freaky!). Matthew is getting REALLY good at handstands, cartwheels (both sides!), and even walks a bit on his hands. Sarah and Matt made HUGE progress in swimming this summer though: Both making it to level 6 on the first try, and Sarah passed level 6 on her first try! Both kids will be ready for swim team/safety training next year, or maybe even diving.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Catching up on Late Winter: Jan.-Feb. 2009: Matt and Sarah dominate the courts in Basketball (Really!), and Baseball/Softball Preseason

Matt and Sarah took their grade-level classes in Basketball at the local Community Center after a year off. Matt's been shooting and playing with me so much, that once he developed some confidence after the first couple of weeks, he dominated with great speed, ball-handling, defense, and shooting for the last six weeks of the series.

Matt FLIES down the court even when he's just going for a drink at the faucet!!......

Sarah's not as quick as Matt, but has solid ball-handling and very good shooting skills. She too played point guard most of the time, and was sure to make a fashion statement on the court as well!! :-) Her coach, a high school young lady, called Sarah her MVP, because of her scoring and leadership!! :-)

(Below: Sarah and Michelle with pre-game warmups for Sarah!! :-) )

We also had a family visit to the Santa Barbara Zoo and Solvang for the New Year -- What a flash-back to our 11 years in Santa Barbara!!!
Matt and Daddy had a great time making Matt's first Pinewood Derby car for cubscouts. Of course, Matt had a cool design (inspired by the FLASH, as usual), and named his entry "Fast Bolt".
Nathan enjoyed quartetting and delivering Singing Valentines for the first time in at least 5 years!!.. With great success in supporting the Voices In Harmony chorus -- 16 heartfelt, happy, and often tear-bringing deliveries! It also included delivering a Valentine to my own lovely wife!!
Both kids also started practicing for their first seasons in Baseball (Little League, Farm division for Matt), and SoftBall (Police Activities League, farm divison for Sarah). Both kids were Drafted!! Matt for the Nationals, and Sarah for the Lightning. More to come with game updates and lots of baseball/softball pix in the next blog.

As always, find more frequent updates and more pix by connecting with Michelle's and Nathan's personal accounts on FaceBook!! :-)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dec. 2008: Christmas at our Own Home! Gymnastics highlights, and Lakers Game!

December was very busy and fun this year! Finishing their second full-year of gymnastics, School Christmas performances, Daddy's holiday concert with Voices in Harmony, and decorating our own House and tree for the Holidays kept us very busy, and made for a very exciting time! The kids loved having Santa come to OUR OWN HOUSE for the first time this year!!

.... Oh, and Matt lost his first tooth (surprisingly!!) early in the month. We're STILL waiting for a second tooth to loosen!....

After Christmas, it was off to Los Angeles county to visit G'ma and G'pa Staples for their 61st Anniversary, and to see Aunt Nancy, Uncle Brent, cousins Alyssa and Corrynn, and of course little cousin/grandnephew (!) Tucker!
Daddy and Matthew went to Matt's first LAKER and first NBA game at the STAPLES Center (where else!!??), and Matt had a GREAT time seeing Kobe, Pau and Derek!! Andrew Bynum was still healthy too, and had some big dunks against the Warriors. It was also great to see former Laker, Ronny Turiaf, now on the Golden State Warriors (close to where we now live!).

We finished December with Daddy's "Iron Man" Birthday party and lots of family fun at Aunt Nancy's house and the nearby park. It's very humbling when a SIX-year old like ours can make you run your rear-end off just to keep a lead! I sure hope he joins the track team when he's older!