Saturday, September 29, 2012

A-Hunting I Will Go

Today was a good day. Mam and the Lemon Lemurs won their early morning match-up against the Watermelon Blasters. Smunch and the Blues...well, they played pretty well, even though the scores from today's tournament didn't reflect that. I was super proud to see him catch a pop fly in the infield, while playing second base and then have the presence of mind to notice the runner who had been at second was too far off the base and dive to tag him out. Unassisted double play. Awesome.

But, in a rather unusual turn of events, the kids' sports were over early today. I talked to Mam a little about a hike I've wanted to take for a long time. I told her I wanted to go out and look for tarantulas and asked if that was something she'd like to do next weekend. It seemed up her alley. "I'll have to think about it," she replied, noncommittally.


I dated a guy once who didn't want to have children. I think he considered our planet some kind of doomed cesspool that no one else should be forced to endure. He asked me once why I wanted to have kids. I told him I wanted to teach them about all the really neat stuff on our planet. I doubt he understood. There's a reason that one didn't last.

Although many of my warm, fuzzy notions about children have been banished by the reality of them, I still want to show them all the cool stuff out there. But sometimes...they're just not interested in seeing it. And I know I'll be happier if I forgo the incessant whining that would happen if I took them and go on my own.

I get tired of waiting for other people to be interested in my little adventures. It was 4 o'clock. I decided to go today. By myself. Perfect timing for spider sightings.

I arrived at the parking lot at Mitchell Canyon right around 5:30 and the sun was just starting to go down behind the steep hills surrounding it. That was a good thing. It was hot over there today and the ground radiated heat. At 5:30, it was still 90 degrees.

The park leads "Tarantula Treks", but I had a hard time finding any information on them, except for some led by a nearby museum for $20. I didn't feel like spending the money, so I found some instructions at Weekend Sherpa instead. And started off, just as they suggested.

This is not supposed to be a long hike, but I missed a couple of signposts along the way and wound up walking much further up the canyon than I intended before turning around. At least it was a beautiful evening.
I didn't see any spiders, just some suspicious-looking holes that I later learned were probably tarantula burrows.
and some nice wildflowers.
I found the trail I'd intended to take...or at least I thought I had. Turns out I was at the opposite end of it and was now taking the intended route backwards. There were a lot of people up the hill I was climbing. I figured that was a good sign. And I figured the views were nice, so if I missed out on arachnids tonight, I'd just have to come back again.
I ran into a little girl who couldn't help but tell me all about the five tarantulas their group had just seen. Obviously, I'd just run into one of the Tarantula Treks. It was handy since they could give me some tips on where to look.
Cool. Nothing quite like getting what you came for. I have it on some authority that this is a male tarantula. I'm guessing the females are bigger, but this guy was easily the size of the palm of my hand.

I continued on up the hill. Up and up and up...until I realized this couldn't be quite right and it was getting dark. Before you panic at just how ill-prepared and lost I was, I did have a flashlight and some food with me. I would not have perished out there and I avoided re-spraining my ankle.

I turned around to retrace my steps just as a lovely full moon rose over the hills.

An owl started hooting. I started high-tailing it back towards the mommymobile...more because I was afraid they'd lock me in the parking lot than because I was worried about hiking in the dark. I noticed dozens of little bats flying around overhead. It made me smile. Some people think bats are scary...but those probably aren't the kind of people who go looking for tarantulas.

It was nice and dark by the time I got back to the car. I struck up a funny conversation with the woman cleaning the area around the visitor's center. We talked about reading signposts, bears, wild pigs and swimming mountain lions.

Clearly time to head home, but what a fun little adventure! Maybe I'll get the kids to join me out there hunting for giant spiders yet...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Giant Worship

On Saturday, the San Francisco Giants clinched their second National League West title in three years. We had tickets for the game on Sunday. So while I was thrilled to see them win a title from my family room and I let the kids stay up to watch it happen, it made for a bummer of a game at AT&T Park the next day.

The weather was lovely. The park was sold out. It was fan appreciation day...and Bochy gave all the regular players the day off. They probably would have swept the Padres, but not even putting the "big guys" in during the final two innings could save this game. I guess all of them were probably pretty hungover anyway.

So, maybe it was a good thing that right after the game, we headed to the card shop where Smunch met Ryan Vogelsong a week or so ago so he could meet center fielder, Angel Pagan, and super cool relief pitcher, Jeremy Affeldt, as well.

I'm sure Pagan is a nice guy. He's certainly a good looking dude.

But he must've got a phone call shortly before Smunch got to the front of the line. He was on his phone the whole time. Not really the impression you want to make.
Jeremy Affeldt was a lot more fun, even if Mam failed to be properly impressed.
Smunch was tongue-tied with hero worship...and very pleased with another autograph.
And just because Smunch isn't spoiled enough, his dad took him back to the card shop today to meet super clutch-hitting second baseman,Marco Scutaro, which was apparently a very cool experience.
Gotta love the guys who aren't afraid to have a kid actually stand next to them for a picture!


Around here, it's not often you get the opportunity to see a space shuttle. And now that they're retiring the whole fleet, the flyover of Moffett Field and NASA Ames in Mountain View would be my very last chance. Although I couldn't quite fathom pulling the kids out of school for it (maybe I should've), I wasn't going to miss it myself.

The shuttle was late in arriving and appeared as a tiny blob in the hazy distance.

But it got closer and closer...
until the view from the freeway overpass where I stood was absolutely awesome. I knew I didn't want to miss it and now I know why.
And just like that, it turned towards Los Angeles and was gone...

Picture Day

It was picture day at school. That means I'll probably get back some mediocre proofs in a few weeks. It also meant the kids were dressed nice and I'd taken some care to make sure neither of them had hair sticking straight up. So, in case you've forgotten what they look like, I took some pictures.

Well, they're kinda goofy. But they look that way every day...

Girls Day Out

For many women, this might mean a nice lunch with a fancy salad, facials and pedicures. I've been known to do those things...rarely...just to be social, but people who know me know that's really not me at all. This, on the other hand...
Uh, yeah. That's a lot more like me.

So, when a friend is feeling kinda down, I'm not all that likely to take her for lunch and nails. If it's just the right friend, I'm likely to take her OUT. Really out.

Wait, is that a cliff I'm about to go over? Nah. I wouldn't jump off a cliff with my oh-so-precious cheese!

I might not be into fancy lucheons, but I do like my cheese. In moderation of course. But my friend N, and I had driven to Point Reyes for the day and I happen to know that it's home to some super yummy cheese. So we had to make a little stop in Point Reyes Station before setting out.

This is my idea of a fancy lunch.

After that fun little diversion, two ladies of a certain age took really bad self-timed photos of themselves in front of Tomales Bay foods, looking especially dorky in unintentionally matching fleece sweaters...
before setting out for the day's adventures.

I'd thought we might take a hike at a state park a little inland from Point Reyes, but the weather forecast was so promising that we decided to head for the coast instead...and National Park #6 on the year for me (I'm ludicrously proud of how much I've hiked and kayaked this year).

There's something a little symbolic about that photo, I suppose. Light at the end of the tunnel and all. We took a hike along the coast from the South end of Point Reyes National Seashore to Alamere Falls, a waterfall that falls straight from the cliffs onto the beach. The hike passes a couple of really nice swimming lakes.
If I'd thought it would be warm enough, I would've suggested bringing swimsuits. There were plenty of people out there swimming and a neat-looking rope swing. I doubt the 20-somethings out there would have appreciated a couple of 40-somethings in their swimwear, however. (That's really just me, I'm talking about, N. I'm sure you look hot.) There is a tiny, poison-oak lined path that leads down to the cliffs from the main trail. N will be dismayed to know that although I was wearing shorts, I didn't get a lick of oil on me. Or at least I never broke out. She was smart. She wore pants. Before getting to the falls, there were plenty of other pretty little falls in the creek to admire.
Alamere Falls isn't much to look at in the late summer, from the top of the cliff and if you want to avoid tacking an extra eight miles onto your hike, getting to the bottom requires scrambling down the cliff. Naturally, neither of us gave that a moment's hesitation.
Perhaps I should've hestitated just a little bit more, since I turned my ankle on the way down, but in my usual fashion, I shrugged it off and kept on going. "Huh, that didn't feel good. Whatever." (This photo is actually of me scrambling back up the cliff on the way back.)

We finally reached our destination.

The nice picnic log by the falls was already occupied, so we opted to climb up a rock (see the first photo of this post) and eat our cheese, with apples and crackers. It was a bit chilly, but I can't complain. It was the perfect perch for a picnic.

After a bit, we climbed down and explored the beach a little bit. The sun finally came out for a while, although the fog was still swirling.

It turned into a beautiful day and we had a great time hiking, yakking all the way. It's been a while since I had the opportunity to do something like this and I've missed it.

We headed back and you know that ankle? Well, yeah, I actually hurt it. And about halfway back to the car it started really bugging me. Still, I made it back without incident, still talking coherently, I think. On a Sunday afternoon, it was a long drive back and the ankle was getting worse. N's mood wasn't improving either as she'd read some unwelcome news on Facebook as we crossed the Golden Gate bridge. So the drive back was painful in more ways than one.

Hopefully, there'll be plenty of comic relief in the memory of me working really hard to get my hiking boots off before we went to dinner. My ankle was killing me and I limped barefoot along the sidewalk to the restaurant...where we had a couple of nice cocktails and a terrific dinner of tapas.

Despite the ankle (which healed mercifully quickly) and the rotteness provided courtesy of social media, I think we both agreed it was a terrific day. And just what the two of us needed.

Accompanying blog post with gross exaggerations of my photographic abilities to be found at The Doudna Doings.

Vogelsong in the Flesh

Remember this?
That was my tribute to Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong last Halloween.
It's not Halloween yet, but this year provided a different kind of Ryan Vogelsong sighting.
I got to hand him a picture of my which he said "Oh, that's cool!" (What else was he going to say?) And the little boy? Well, he was pretty thrilled to have a personally autographed baseball to show for it!

Let the Games Begin...

The other day, I realized that it seems like I write the same posts over and over again every year. In part, that's because I put my kids in sports early and life really is sort of a monotonous blur of kids' sporting events...blinding even, like the uniforms of the 2012 Lemon Lemurs...
(Turns out this color is so darned bright that it messes up the exposure on the camera!)

I think about that and wonder if I would do things differently if I had it to do over again. And the answer is an unequivocal 'no'.

I believe in the value of team sports. I believe in knowing how to function as a member of a team, learning how to get along and contribute to the cause, no matter how small your contribution. And I believe in having friends.

One of my very best mom friends is someone I met when our sons played together on Smunch's first soccer team. Our kids didn't have classes together for years after that, even though we've got two in the same grades. We were friends anyway. The boys played soccer and baseball together for years. And now they don't.

Her son still plays soccer and opted to "play down" last year for baseball. My son quit soccer altogether to focus on increasingly competitive baseball.

Still, the boys are friends. And our younger kids are friends. Hers is a boy, so he and Mam will never play sports together, although they are in the same class this year.
Mam is the only girl he'll play with. She's spunky, she's fearless and despite the dresses (and the pink goalie shirt), she's decidedly un-girly.
And my friend H, and I get together regularly, to walk, hike, enjoy coffee, share dinner with the families, revel in some nice wine and fine cheese...

Smunch knows tons of other boys because he's played on so many baseball teams. There's always someone he knows at any baseball event.

The same is true for Mam. And I love that.

Still, as soccer season leads to basketball season, leads to softball/baseball season right into travel ball can get to be a pretty darned monotonous series of taking kids to practices and getting up early every Saturday and sometimes Sunday to go out and sit somewhere, sometimes for hours.

Freezing, roasting, watching closely to make sure I don't blink and miss the whole thing.