Monday, April 27, 2009

A Lovely View

This is a lovely view that I did not see. Instead, Daddy, Grandpa and Smunch were there while Mam and I got haircuts and I got ready to host a truffle-making class in my kitchen on Sunday afternoon. I wasn't sorry to spend the time at home and I needed to get the house in shape, especially since it was a group of relative strangers coming over. And our team lost...again...although Tim "The Franchise" Lincecum pitched beautifully and made his biggest fan (Smunch) proud.

Still, I can't say I wasn't jealous. How did this weird baseball affliction bite me anyway? Just a few weeks until our second set of tickets is good for admission. I'll be there.

The Rest of Vacation

What "rest" of vacation? What exactly does vacation have to do with rest anyway? Those of you with children already know that vacation no longer means rest. That doesn't mean it isn't a whole lot of fun or that I don't look forward to it. But it doesn't mean rest. Not ever. In fact, at our house, things are likely going very poorly if the kids are on vacation and I'm resting. That means they're bored. They're fighting. They're dying for something more entertaining to do.

So, while camping filled part of our Spring Break, it lasted only until Wednesday. I'd scheduled a whole bunch of appointments for the kids on Thursday, so we had to get back. I hate rescheduling, especially since some of these appointments are rather difficult to come by. So, we had a busy Thursday at the dentist (both kids), the speech therapist (Mam) and the physical therapist (Smunch). But then came Friday...

And by Friday morning, I was resting with my coffee and my newspaper after succeeding in packing away most of the evidence of our camping trip. The kids were outside, fighting and getting on each other's nerves. As far as I'm concerned, THIS is exactly what letterboxing was invented for.

So, I looked up some of the more recent boxes planted around here, packed the kids in the car and headed for the coast. The coast is always a good bet because it means beach. Of course, letterboxes aren't generally planted on the beach since shifting sands aren't particularly friendly to unburied treasure. So, I use the beach as a bribe to get the hiking done instead.

The town we were looking for was so small that I blew right by it the first time past, but we finally found it and the park we were looking for. It was a little creepy. Not particularly well cared for, but beautiful nonetheless.Nice spring flowers and towering eucalyptus trees. Lots of vines (kudzu, maybe?) growing over everything.

Our destination was an overlook with this lovely view...and a lovely letterbox. We were first finders of this one, so that made it a bit more fun for the kids too.We headed back down. As we neared the bottom of the hill, the kids were walking hand in hand (cute!) singing "We Will Rock You" as loud as they could (not particularly cute, but kinda funny).I'd packed a lunch for the beach, so we headed down and found a place to park. By that time, the beach was windy and not all that comfortable, even though it looked great. Still, the kids had a great time getting sandy and wet, as I'd carefully instructed them not to.There's no real doubt that they're the best of friends. We didn't stay long, but they didn't complain. And on our way home, we dropped by a tiny little scrapbook store that was going out of business. I got some great deals...and logged another letterbox...and best of all, the kids were happy...and tired!

That was more than a week ago already. The past week went by in a whirlwind of meetings and baseball. The weekend was all about sifting compost and getting the garden ready to plant. I can't wait to get my veggies in. In the meantime, all the planning for the summer is starting to really take shape and plans are getting firmed up. I don't think there's going to be a lot of time for boredom and fighting!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Communing with Nature

Although not a nature nut himself, my husband (aka Daddy) has noticed that I start getting considerably grumpy when my own exposure to the out-of-doors runs low. Maybe this is why he has, somewhat hesitantly, agreed to go camping with me four times now. Three of those were with both kids, even. Turns out, the kids love camping. And once I get past the inevitable psycho-grumpiness that comes with planning a camping trip almost entirely on my own, but for three other people, I love camping too. Because of that, I'll go out on a limb here and say Daddy's getting somewhat fond of camping himself.

I wanted to try and go camping more than once this year, so I targeted Spring break as a likely time to go. I even went out and bought camping books. I did my research and found places I thought would work well for us. They have to have bathrooms, preferably with showers, even if we're not there long enough to use them.

I found the perfect place for camping over Spring break. It's a little state park near the volcanoes - Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta - way up north. It's a long drive, but everything else about the park sounded perfect. The scenery was supposed to be top notch. The campground was nice, even had bathrooms, but tent sites weren't reservable before May. My logic was that the reservation calendar suggests there aren't enough visitors earlier in the year to warrant reservations, so we shouldn't worry about it.

I checked the weather reports for the area. Since the park is up in the Cascades, I didn't expect it to be balmy, but there wasn't any sign of snow and it looked like the daily highs were in the mid-60s, dipping down to the low 30s at night. No problem. With four of us in the tent, it should stay warm enough, I figured.

Originally, I'd planned to leave on Easter, after our Easter festivities in the morning. But the weather reports started looking a whole lot less favorable. There was mention of rain and it was starting to sound cold. A cold front was going to move through right as we were in the middle of our trip.

Daddy dutifully noted that the park also had cabins for rent. I'd forgotten this little tidbit...probably because I deemed them too expensive for camping. And they're really pricey considering they're little more than a single room with a single set of bunk beds. No electricity. No running water. But...the clincher was that each tidy little cabin features a propane heater. I quickly envisioned myself cursing my own thrifty-ness while freezing my rear end off in our tent and gave Daddy the go-ahead to book a cabin. I also decided that based on the weather report and my own desire for a mellow holiday, we'd leave the morning after Easter instead. Naturally, this also appealed to my thrifty less night to pay for the spartan little cabin.

So, Monday morning, we set off for the mountains with at least five hours of driving in front of us and A Wrinkle in Time playing on the iPod. I'd forgotten what a truly strange and oddly religious book that really is, but Smunch really seemed to enjoy it.

The kids were thrilled when I pointed out Mt. Lassen and explained that it was a volcano. I mean, how cool is that? About an hour from our destination, we drove by Mt. Shasta, looking much more like a volcano, rising directly from the valley floor and covered in snow.Finally, just before 4 o'clock in the afternoon, we arrived at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park and found our cute little cabin in the woods. We were one of only three groups of campers in a campground with more than 150 campsites, so we were virtually alone. There was another family in the cabin across from ours and some tent campers next to the bathrooms.As soon as we unloaded the van, we were off to see Burney Falls, the big draw of the park. In the olden days, when people used film in their cameras, I can only imagine how many entire rolls of film were dedicated to this one waterfall. It is truly spectacular. Apparently, Teddy Roosevelt once called it the eighth wonder of the world. There's a certain sense that no photograph can ever really capture it. It's that fantastic. And it totally felt like we'd somehow cheated when I realized the overlook for the falls was 150 feet (feet!) from the parking lot. It seems to me that such a sight really ought to take more effort to see.So we took the loop trail around the falls...down to the bottom, over the river and then up to the top and back over the river again. The kids had a fantastic time. They were just thrilled to be out of the car.(Mam's a whole lot happier than she looks in this photo, but the lighting was nice.) And despite all the photos I'd seen of the falls, I was still impressed.In fact, I was so impressed that I took off right after breakfast the next morning, while Daddy washed breakfast dishes and the kids played Sorry! in the cabin, to take more photos of the falls in the morning light. After all, it was only 150 feet from the parking lot!Turns out that photos of the falls are much like the falls themselves. A constant amount of water goes over them at all times of year and it's always about 47 degrees. Photos are always pretty, but never as pretty as the real thing. Lighting doesn't change enough to make a huge difference to a photographer as amateur as I am.

The aforementioned stable temperature and flow, however, does not apply to said photographer. It had been about 25 degrees outside when we woke up and although it may have been approaching 40 as I went to the falls, I took off my gloves to take pictures and by the time I surfaced at the parking lot, my hands felt like someone was hammering spikes through my fingernails. Yikes. One nice thing, however, the parking lot was completely empty. I was all alone out there with a spectacular waterfall. Cool.

When I got back and everyone was all bundled appropriately, the backpack supplied with water, snacks and binoculars, we took one of the hikes the camp host had recommended. The first part of the very flat trail led to the "Pioneer Cemetery" where some of the early settlers of the area were buried.Few of the original gravestones are still there, but it's a fascinating little graveyard. Many children were buried there, not suprisingly, leading to a discussion of advances in medical care since the 1800s.

From the cemetery, we headed down the trail to Lake Britton. It got colder and windier as we walked, but it was still sunny and beautiful.Just as the trail opened up at the shore of the lake a big bird flew across our path, not 20 feet from us and about head height. "Whoa," I said. "A bald eagle!" Smunch cried. And he was right. I think we must've scared it from its perch by the lake. Too bad, we probably would have had a great view of it if we'd sneaked up on it. As it was, the view was incredible, but short-lived. Far too short lived to get a decent picture. We tramped around the lake for a little while, trying to see if we could find where the eagle went. We didn't and the wind off the lake was particularly brutal. Hard to tell though, huh?We headed back, seeing a lot of deer, including the one at the top of this post, along the way. A fire clearly burned through this area not too long ago. You can tell that some of the trees must've acted just like burning chimneys.Of course, there was very little warmth to be had by the time we got back...except for that blessed cabin heater. I made chicken soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. The kids ate in the cabin. Daddy and I ate in chilly peace. Well, sorta. The family in the neighboring cabin had departed and both the ground forces (pictured) and air force (Stellar's jays) were in our campsite in droves.They were annoying, but mostly hilarious in their bold efforts to get to our food...any of our food. In fact, they weren't even that picky. During our hike the first afternoon, they'd raided our campsite and chewed through a couple of plastic bags containing things like...clean plastic utensils.

In the afternoon, we took a different trail, this time along the river, to the lake for a letterboxing adventure. It was still intermittently overcast and windy, but now it was also intermittently snowing...just a little. We found our boxes, saw some wood ducks and Mam and Daddy saw another bald eagle. Then we set back out for camp and a dinner of hotdogs and BBQ chicken sandwiches with baked beans and broccoli and cinnamon apples with berries for dessert. Funny how you never really get to see this side of our camping trips...but we're far too busy to be snapping photos...and it was still snowing off and on.

The tent campers packed up around 5 o'clock, apparently done with being frozen, and left their tent by the dumpster. We put the kids to bed and stayed out by the campfire as long as we could stand it. I was exhausted after sleeping very little the first night. Too worried about Mam falling out of the top bunk she'd claimed. Every little noise woke me up and had me shining my flashlight up there. But the second night, Daddy and I slept in the bunks and I slept well.

We had ideas about doing some sort of activity in the morning, although getting home at a reasonable time started sounding good. As if it agreed wholeheartedly, the battery in the van was dead when we tried to leave. The camp host had to jump start us and then we couldn't stop for a while anyway. Instead of doing anything near the campground, we opted to stop at a historic adobe in Red Bluff, where we had a nice lunch, accompanied by a completely different kind of begging critter.Yes. That's a chicken. Or "shicken" as Mam would say. And if you don't think it looks like it's begging, that's just because you weren't there. We had a nice picnic and took a quick tour around the quaint little (very little) adobe, which the ranger opened just for us. It was far from a busy day there. The park with the adobe was named after William Ide, who was the first president of the Republic of California. Bet you didn't know that. I didn't. I'd never heard of Mr. Ide. Turns out, he probably never lived in the adobe either, it's just a name they attached to it. And then we set off for home, arriving just in time for dinner. Dinner at a nice, warm restaurant.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

I'm a cruel mommy. I make them dress up all cute before I let them go out and find all those eggs the Easter Bunny left.And I do that just so that I can take a bunch of photos of them hunting for eggs in their cute outfits. And really? It was cute.
Yep. It was super cute before the screaming, crying and fighting over the last few eggs. I think maybe they were getting hungry. Good thing there was plenty of candy, right? Because a mere hour later, we were diving into this coma-inducing breakfast of cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, bacon, bear claws and fruit salad. We didn't bother to eat again until dinner. Yum...find me a warm rock to doze on, please. Happy Easter!


We tried a new egg hunt this year in hopes we could find one where non-aggressive children have a hope of picking up a few eggs. Egg hunts, aside from the one I wrote about a few posts ago, often don't go that well for my kids. They're perfectly capable of running around and picking up eggs, but they're not pushy about it. They're relatively polite about it, really. It doesn't work in their favor. But check this out...That's a field coated in eggs. And this hunt, organized by one of the local churches, was really well organized, so that every child got something. Mam got more than her share, I'm afraid.The waiting for their age group to be called was fairly agonizing, but the looks on their faces while they were hunting were a clear indicator that it was all worth it.The eggs came with plenty of candy. A few choice eggs included a Golden Ticket, which was good for one cheesy prize at the prize table. I can't tell you what a relief it was when each of the kids found one egg with one ticket. A relief for me. The thrill of a lifetime for them.And although Mam picked out a weird plastic fish in a gelatinous fluid mistakenly called "putty"...putty, that poured out on Gram's carpet as soon as she opened it...both the kids had a grand time, got to visit the grandparents afterwards and then went home to find one of their favorite babysitters here for the evening. The only people more excited about that than the kids were Daddy and me!

More Singing of Spring

Last Wednesday was Mam's very last Spring Sing at her preschool, where she's been for the last couple of years. Although the preschool director got all choked up when introducing our 4-year-olds, after seeing 8 "sings" in the course of the last three years, I wasn't as sentimental about this one as I'd expected. It's still unbearably cute. And, Mam is just luminous up there, waving to all her fans.And it is impressive to hear 100 4-year-olds sing 14 songs, even if they're largely the same songs I heard at the last two Spring Sings. Of course, when there are so many of them, any given one can forget the words and it doesn't really hurt the performance. And they have so many cute little hand motions and songs with sign language.Unfortunately, Mam's class was the last one on the stage and that meant they sat at the front. That's unfortunate mostly because her preschool is loaded with type-A parents who will wait an hour to get in and get a front row seat. I'm not one of them, so we generally have a back row seat instead. It was hard to see her through all the bodies in front of us.I think she knew we were there. At least she waved at someone after every song.

And when it was all over, we joined the kids for snack, where they used pretzels and blue frosting to "fish" for Goldfish crackers. Very cute.And so, it was over with very little fanfare. It was fun, it was cute, there are still a couple of months left. I guess I ought to enjoy them while she's still in preschool!

Open House

My kid's only in first grade and already I'm bored by the annual Open House. The idea is great, but I'm already in the classroom so often, that there are no revelations in there for me. I tried to get Mam to visit the kindergarten room, but she was vehemently disinterested. Smunch visited the second grade rooms for just a second, but apparently it's some kind of bad karma to actually see one of the rooms where you might spend a lot of time next least that's what the kids would have you think.So, for me, it was mostly another art show. I know how much effort all the teachers have to put into this night. I appreciate it. Really. I do. But it would be O.K. with me if they didn't! Hopefully, Daddy got more out of it than I did. I do love this little bird-shaped pinch pot. No clue what we'll do with that when it comes home, but I think it deserves a place of honor somewhere.And then, there's Smunch's self portrait. Is it totally wrong of me to look at this and want to say, "Oh, honey, you're so much cuter than that"? I'm sure that'd be all wrong, but seriously, I hope he knows that while his eyes are really this big and this blue, he's an attractive attractive kid without a tan.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Meet the Artist

I know. I was just at one of these kinds of events, wasn't I? This one was markedly different. The artist had more time for chatting. I got no autographs. But I got to feel like maybe I had a teeny, tiny part in the product.Note: I think the artist is markedly better at painting a straight picture than the photographer was at taking a straight photograph of the painting!

Hippity Hoppity Easter's on Its Way

Yes! You've guessed it. It's the Easter Ribbit! Mam brought home this little art project, courtesy of some rather creative preschool teachers. It makes me laugh, even now.

Saturday was one of our favorite local Easter events, the downtown Easter Egg Hunt. It's not really a hunt so much as a scoop. It started at 10. Mam and her friend needed to be at a birthday party at 10:15. No problem. Smunch, Mam and Mam's birthday party buddy scoped out the scene before the starting siren went off.Smunch was excited about this event, but it didn't show a whole lot. He was largely subdued, especially compared to his bubbly little sister. He seemed very mature, sitting on the bench waiting for the police car (with siren) to come by and announce the start of the hunt.The kids are only allowed to scoop up five eggs each. Most parents do a decent job of enforcing the quota, but plenty of them don't. Still, we had a Pump It Up party to get to. Although Mam was off like a shot when the siren went past... and although all three kids were thrilled to check out their eggs and eat a few Jelly Bellys...there was no problem at all jetting out of there and zipping off to the party. And Smunch had to run home and change into his baseball uniform. The start of a busy, busy weekend!