Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How Cuil is that?

I don't know if you've heard, but there's this new search engine created by the same folks who made Google's search engine. It could be the new thing that brings Google down. Or so they say. It's called Cuil, pronounced something like "cool".

I did a little ego surfing to see what I could find about myself. It pulled up the regular stuff, including the 10-year-old announcement of my marriage that my mom had published in her local paper. Apparently, the folks at Cuil know something about my marriage that I'm unaware of. The graphic isn't from the paper. It's something Cuil added in. Just what do you think they're trying to say???

Monday, July 28, 2008

Some Great Reward

I was all prepared to write a sweet little story about the big surprise we put together for Smunch yesterday for all his good behavior during the week...and because Mommy really wanted to see "The Big Unit" sometime before he retired. But now I'm grouchy and obviously in a Depeche Mode-y kind of mood. I'll have to vent just a little before getting into any sweet stories.

You see, today, Smunch was an absolute nightmare. And, yes, that's mostly relative. It all depends on your tolerance for fake burping contests and threats to blow up his little sister. I didn't have that much patience, but I was hanging in there. When the fighting erupted in the back room, I told myself to just let them work it out on their own. I shouldn't have to interfere all the time. Duh. I don't know why I tell myself things like that. I know how it always turns out. It involves blood and screaming and requires a trip to the ER and stitches. Today, I got lucky. It only required a BandAid to the finger. But that was enough. I lost it and Smunch lost a weeks-worth of his precious daily baseball cards. I'm quite certain Mam was asking for it, but he threw one of his blocks at her...again. Last time, that resulted in stitches in the middle of her face. He got lucky this time too.

Alrighty. I'm done.

Yesterday, I finally talked Daddy, who had never been to a Major League Baseball game in his life, into taking Smunch to his first real baseball game. I'd mentioned the possibility to my parents, but they were still very gracious about skipping church to take Mam for the day while Daddy and I took Smunch to catch the train to the City. We told Smunch we were going to take a trip to the top of a mountain for a special treat. For some reason, this sounded believable to him.

In our life, the City is San Francisco and the local team is the Giants. It was a game day, so the train was packed. And, not surprisingly, it was packed with people in Giants hats, jerseys, jackets, whatever. Somehow, that didn't faze Smunch in the least. He was still convinced we were climbing a mountain.

We got off the train and walked over to the ballpark. The game was just starting and Smunch could hear the announcement for the starting pitcher for the Giants. (He already knew who was pitching of course. He'd read the Sports section of the paper.) Still no glimmer that we'd been fibbing the whole time.

Daddy walked up to see if we could get tickets...because yeah, we were silly enough just to go up there with no tickets. I'm old timey that way. I hate to pay service fees for something I could possibly fail to get after an hour-long ride to the park.

I had Smunch stand with me on the sidewalk while Daddy was at the window. It was coming. I could feel it. Smunch could still hear the game inside the park. "Can we see the game?" his sweet little voice asked?

"Oh," I said. "I don't know. I don't think that would be a very good special treat."

"I would!" he implored.

"Well, see Daddy? Where is he?"

"Getting tickets??"

"Yes, that's the ticket window. I don't know if we're going to be able to get tickets. If he walks away from the window with nothing, we won't be able to go, but if he walks away with tickets, then you're going to see the game."

He could hardly contain his excitement, especially when he overheard Daddy say "three" to the woman at the counter. I thought he might spontaneously combust when Daddy walked away from the window with tickets. Smunch's feet were barely touching the ground. And I think Daddy got the biggest hug ever!

And I? I got to see The Big Unit, aka Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks, in real life, showing just why he's headed for the Hall of Fame, even though he's now 44 years old. I've always been amazed by this guy...the tallest player in Major League Baseball at 6'10"...and it was cool to see him pitch. And I'd never been to AT&T Park, so that was fun too. It was a lovely, only-partly-foggy day and we had the pricey "View" seats. That's the nice way of saying "nosebleed" and "pricey" still means they were some of the cheapest tickets in the house.In the end, it wasn't a great game if you were rooting for the Giants. See that display between the two levels? That first 7? That's the inning. The second two numbers are the score. The Giants were the ones who hadn't scored at all. They scored a couple of runs before the end, but didn't make a show of being competitive. At least Smunch got a hot dog and some Haagen Dazs and I caught this lovely view before we left...I think our little Smunch really, truly had one of his best days ever. He had a great he explains in this short video.Too bad it clearly took all the sweet, enthusiastic little boy right out of him!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Impromptu beach

After planning so much of this summer, we've had a couple of fairly unplanned weekends. Somehow, they've ended up being some of the more memorable ones. Last weekend (yes, I maintain my record of belated posts) we made a last minute trip to the beach. This was a letterbox-inspired trip, so we had some particular beaches to visit. But Daddy and I remembered a tiny little hole-in-the-wall cafe where we could pick up yummy sandwiches on thick, fresh-baked bread. We hadn't been there in about 10 years, so we were relieved to find the tiny cafe was still there.

We found two of the letterboxes we were after and settled for lunch on this lovely little beach, which was nearly deserted when we got there.The beach was really too steep for swimming and even made it a little questionable to going wading, but it didn't keep the kids from doing their best to get wet.
As we left, the kids found several of these gem-like beetles. Mam wanted so badly to take this one home with her. I somehow convinced her it was better off with its family and would certainly die at our house. Although leaving it with its family failed to move her, she was completely stricken with the idea it might die and put it down immediately!

Dancing Queen

Well, no, she's not 17 and as it turns out, she's not much of a prima donna either, when it comes to dance recitals. I think she spent a lot of time giggling with her buddy, Riley.

Mam recently finished a week-long dance camp and she had a great time. I'm not sure she learned a whole lot and it's certainly not worth torturing anyone with video of the event. It was cute, but only if one of these little fairies was your daughter!And with one last flick of their wands, dance camp was over and we were on to our next summer thing...whatever that is!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Make new friends...

but keep the old, or so the Girl Scout song goes. Just when it felt like maybe my eldest kid wasn't growing at all, along came an old friend to prove otherwise...Smunch used to meet this "little red-haired girl" in the park regularly when both kids were just tiny. It was nice to see her and her family again, but my how things have changed over the past 5 years!

Monday, July 14, 2008


It had been almost four years since we visited Yosemite. I wanted to ensure we had an opportunity to go camping this year, so back in March, I checked out campsite availability in Yosemite. I found one spot available in the campground furthest from the Yosemite valley, but still inside the park. I figured it must be near the dumpster or prone to flooding. On top of a septic tank maybe? But no. It turned out that we were just exceptionally lucky. We had a beautiful spot, right on the Merced River.Of course, it was still hot and by the time Daddy and I managed to get our camp all set up, we were more than ready to jump in the water.We had a tasty spaghetti dinner, complete with campfire-cooked garlic bread and salad with veggies brought from the garden at home. We even made a little ice cream for dessert and ate it as we walked to the campfire program with the ranger.

In the morning, we headed for the Yosemite valley with the goal of seeing a few waterfalls and maybe bagging a letterbox or two. I'd made the tactical error of telling Smunch about the Mist Trail. I've taken this trail to the top of Vernal Falls before, but it's been a long time. It's only 1.5 miles to the top. What they don't really show on the map is that the 1.5 miles involves a gain of 1000 feet. Possibly not so appropriate for a 4 and 6-year-old. You think? We decided to go for it anyway, leaving our lunch in the cooler in the car rather than packing it up the trail with us (mistake!).

Here's the view from our starting point. There was also a lot of smoke in the air in Yosemite, so what looks like a little early morning fog is really nasty smoky air.And our intrepid explorers at the beginning of the hike...It's about 1.2 miles to "the bridge" where you can first see the waterfall. Not surprisingly, it's a lot of uphill. And Mam whined a whole lot. Daddy ended up carrying her more than any human being should have had to. But we made it to the bridge. Don't the kids look happy?Smunch will proudly tell you that he didn't whine even once. He was actually a terrific little kid the entire time. He was all excited to get up in the mist. And interestingly, even Mam was kind of excited to take the 0.3 miles of stairs on her own.I was ever so thankful that there was plenty of water in the falls and some mist on the trail. There's nothing like disappointing a six-year-old who has climbed all that way for the mist and hasn't whined at all!These days, the trip to the top of Vernal Falls, is more like some kind of pilgrimage. So many people are on the trail that it's really crazy. Old people, young people, women in bikinis. Women in saris. Men in full combat fatigues. Backpackers, day hikers, those headed for the top of Half Dome. People who make you wonder why they haven't had a stroke... It's a wonder Daddy didn't have a stroke with how much Mam-carrying he had to do. But we made it to the top!We hung out at the top for a little while, but without lunch we really needed to get back. Mam insisted on walking down the steps herself and too fast, so she ended up a little scraped and bruised. But it was Smunch who managed to face plant on the way down. Still, we made it down mostly intact.At the bottom, we all treated ourselves to popsicles and ice cream sandwiches from the snack stand before taking the shuttle back to the van and having a picnic lunch, doing a small bit of souvenir shopping and then having Smunch demonstrate a earthshaking natural phenomenon by cratering into a hysterical mass before we made it back to the van. Despite the screaming child, I hadn't abandoned my hope of taking a photo of Yosemite Falls (which I'd really wanted to walk to, but that clearly wasn't going to happen) across one of the beautiful meadows. It took us way too long to find the appropriate meadow, but I got a nice shot and a picture of some interesting meadow flowers too.Another trip to the river was clearly in order by the time we got back to the campground an hour or so later. I started our hot dog dinner while Daddy took the kids to cool off. We traded places once the fire got going. We had a great dinner followed by s'mores. The Smunchism of the day was when Smunch bit into his s'more and declared, "Now this is camping!"We spent a little time around the campfire...and everyone fell asleep quickly.

Sunday morning, we woke up early. We had new neighbors with some very noisy, crabby little kids. It reminded me that although I love camping, it wouldn't have been a great idea to take our kids when they were younger. We cooked breakfast and packed up our camp. I'd hoped to go see some of the big trees, but after learning that would be another long, uphill hike, we opted for a more laid back morning, puttering around Wawona's historic site, complete with a pretty, little covered bridge and an active blacksmith shop. Then we hopped the stagecoach and headed for home...

On the road again...

As usual, I'm playing a little bit of catch-up with the ol' blog, but we've done some fun stuff in the past few days, so I'm not likely to let it fall by the wayside.

I spent most of last week madly planning and shopping for our first solo family camping trip. We'd decided to take it slow and spend the night in Fresno. So, as soon as we'd spent a little time meeting Sophie, we set off. It was a particularly yucky day in Fresno. At a balmy 116 degrees and air quality made disgusting by the many fires burning around California, we didn't spent a whole lot of time outside. Well, Daddy and I didn't, but the kids were bored, they were outside almost the whole time, but it gave me reason to be out there to photograph the hazy, but interestingly pretty sunset and the kids out playing in it.The next day, we drove through Oakhurst, collecting several letterbox stamps on our way, including a few near this pretty little historic church.One of these boxes had a curious little addendum to the clue. "Watch for tiny frogs living in the tree and rock." And what do you know? Here's one of those little guys now...Stay tuned for our camping destination...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Puppy love

This (at least for today because her name may change again tomorrow) is Sophie. She's a 10-week-old miniature schnauzer. She wasn't so sure about the kids when she first met them, but she warmed up pretty quickly. And that's a good thing because she's likely to be seeing a lot of them in the future. She's sweet. She's reportedly house trained, she's got the dog door all figured out. And she not mine so I don't have to worry about any of these things. But it does look like I may have to take the kids to Gram's house a little more often!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The magic of glow bracelets

I admit I find glow sticks a little disturbing. I mean, stuff isn't supposed to glow. It doesn't stop me from getting the kids the occasional glow stick though...because the look of bliss on their little neon-lit faces is just so darned cute. They rarely get to stay up late enough that it's dark enough for anything to really glow. And it's always a long wait for the fireworks to begin on the 4th of July, so I didn't mind at all that my mom had gone out and bought a 50-count tube of glow bracelets for the kids to play with. Of course, it turned out that all of us were the kids and we all had a great time. It made for some fun photos too...
This particular package also came with connectors, so Grandpa made this cool little toy, which also made for cool photos.Twirling your chain of bracelets is also fun...although not really quite as fun as the main event.For anyone who just must have their own package of glow sticks (we're taking some camping), these tubes were on sale at Diddams for $3.99 (regularly $9.99). Worth every penny and more!

Monday, July 7, 2008

In case you were wondering...

If you check the blog frequently, you've already noticed that I've been doing a lousy job of updating it over the past couple of weeks. I'd like to make some long-winded excuse about how many posts I wrote when we got back from Chicago. I thought it was going to be a pretty mellow summer. And in some ways it is, but it's been pretty busy too. At least we've been having fun. I'm sure there were lovely little vignettes I could have written up about some choice moments in there, but the problem with not writing is that I've forgotten them already. I can tell you that an hour ago, Mam was listing every animal name stored in her iddy biddy brain and telling me whether it was born alive or came from an egg. Geez.

Anyway, since I've failed to blog each of our fun little events separately, here's a fun little peek at what we've been up to lately.

We went berry picking...and enjoyed an awesome berry pie later...Mam started going to a local preschool for "summer school" with her buddy, Riley. Not entirely coincidentally, I'm also an alumna of this school. She loves it. Chickens roam around the campus, there are rabbits, finches, doves, guinea pigs, tadpoles, frogs, turtles. It's really pretty awesome. I'm sorry its mostly ending this week!The kids started semi-private swimming lessons at a local swim and tennis club. Their teacher for the first three weeks has been fantastic and they've both made a ton of progress. We had to switch instructors for the next three weeks. I only hope they have as much fun. We're visiting the pool 3-4 times a week right now.Aunt Karen and the kids' cousin, Spencer, arrived from San Diego, prompting another fun trip to Happy Hollow...along with a lot of running, jumping and very loud screechig from all three of them.We caught a Celtic concert in the park.And we celebrated the 4th with a block party on our street and fireworks at the park.We also took time out on the 4th to get some photos taken of the kids all together. I still love last year's photos, but these were pretty good too.Spencer and Aunt Karen will be leaving tomorrow, but it won't be long before we're off to visit them at their home. I'm sure the kids are already stockpiling their squealing power!