"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien.
"If you wish to be happy, think not of what is to come nor of that which you have no control over but rather of the now and of that which you can change."
Oromis, Brisingr, Christopher Paolini.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Homeward Bound

Our week in Jamaica was wonderful, albeit way too short. We flew to Dallas yesterday. The flight was delayed four hours. I would have very much preferred to have spent that time relaxing at the beach rather than waiting at the airport with three children! I hope this morning's flight home to Reno is on time...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas, Mon!

The kids composed a song last year: "We're going to Jamaica today!"

Friday, December 19, 2008

On our way to Jamaica

We spent Christmas week 2007 at Beaches Sandy Bay with my ILs, and signed up for this Christmas before we came home. Tonight we're spending the night in Dallas, having at least learned that the red-eye is NOT the way to travel with children. The DFW Grand Hyatt is very comfortable, and I think we'll all sleep well after a superb dinner. Hopefully we'll have time for a dip in the rooftop pool before our flight tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a warm week on the beach. No gale-force winds, icy roads, or snow to shovel!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rest in Peace, Kitty Girl

Yesterday we said goodbye to a good friend. Marilyn (and her brother Kennedy) moved in with me in July 1995. We had 13 1/2 great years with her. Her health took a rapid turn for the worse lately, we think due to a brain tumor and/or strokes. There was nothing to be done, so we enjoyed our last few weeks together, and tried to prepare the children as best we could. It was still hard for them, but it was time for her to go; she had stopped purring.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

15th Reunion

This weekend was DH's and my 15th Stanford reunion. The festivities ran Thursday through Sunday, but we just went for Saturday. We left Reno after dinner on Friday, arriving at the hotel around midnight. The snow that was falling all day on Friday cleared just in time for us to leave.

After a quick continental breakfast (we were too late for the one at the reunion) we headed to campus. The kids enjoyed the face-painting and temporary tattoos at the "kids tailgater," but were a bit suspicious of the clowns! We showed them around, and spent most of the day at our "class tailgater" -- a big tent with a bar and food where we could hang out and connect with classmates. The food was good, and we saw most of the people we wanted to see. The kids went to "camp" in the afternoon while we went to the football game. Stanford even won, by one point at the very end of the 4th quarter! A fun day, all in all.

For dinner we hit Su Hong, our favorite chinese restaurant from our Stanford days. At the time my parents lived quite close to campus, and Su Hong was also their favorite. DH and I were married on campus, and the next morning had a family-only present opening brunch with food from Su Hong. Good memories. Unfortunately the stars were not aligned this time. DD2 had an upset tummy, and by the time I got out of the bathroom with her the others had finished eating and the (very tired) kids were misbehaving. There's nothing like eating cold food by yourself in a crowded restaurant! It was still yummy, though...

On our way out of the bay area on Sunday morning we ate at the Country Way in Fremont. This is a few blocks from where one of my sisters lived for many years. We found it one time when we were visiting them, and have made it a tradition when we go to the bay area. I think I'm going to have to insist that we go to the Su Hong Sunday brunch sometimes though; we always used to enjoy that!

The drive home was noisy but uneventful. My ILs were unexpectedly staying with us on Sunday night, so our poor kids didn't get to bed early.

Monday, August 25, 2008

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school for all three kids, and all three were starting at a new school. I think everyone had a good time, but despite my efforts to have them in bed early over the past week, they're all showing signs of extreme tiredness. (The yelling and hitting one another signs, unfortunately!) I don't think it helped that they were all up super early this morning.

DD2 had a great first day of preschool. She's had at least one older sibling at school there since she was born, so is completely comfortable with the environment and knows everyone. I think we were interrupting her play when we said goodbye! It was very exciting to have a lunchbox packed for school.

DD1 was very excited to finally be in first grade! Last night she admitted to being a bit nervous, but seemed relieved when I pointed out that it was everyone's first day there, including the teacher. Today was a half day, ending before lunch. By the time we picked her up she had friends that required hugging before she could leave. Always a good sign. (Oh, and they did math and talked about the rules, too...)

DS was the one we were concerned about. He has been home schooled since Thanksgiving of 2006 after a disastrous beginning to first grade. Not only has he not been in a classroom environment for almost two years, he has some extremely bad memories of his last new school. (To say that it was the wrong place for him is quite the understatement!) This morning seems to have gone well. He's quiet about things, but did mention that it was one of his best first days of school ever. He has a friend. They did some fun "getting to know one another" activities.

Coral finished at 11:25 am today, so we took the older two out for lunch before picking up DD2 at 1 pm. What did I do with the first morning I've ever had all my kids in school? I went out for coffee with DH. First things first.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Back to England (July 8 - July 9)

After flying in from Oslo, we caught the Gatwick Express into London. Blurry picture from a moving train of the Battersea power station, featured on the cover of Pink Floyd's "Animals."

The last few days of our trip were rather more structured than we're used to, as I had arranged tours with London Taxi Tours. (Check out our picture on their testimonials page!) This was a bit of a gamble with three young children, but worked out extremely well. With just the five of us in a taxi, the tours were tailored to our interests and easily adjusted for the children. I highly recommend the company!

On Wednesday we did a full-day tour to Bath and Stonehenge. I visited Stonehenge and the Romans Baths when my school choir toured in England 20 years ago. DH had never seen either. We were able to see parts of Bath that were inaccessible by motor-coach, too. It rained most of the day, but we didn't let that stop us.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Norway (July 3 - July 8)

On Thursday, July 3rd, we drove from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Edinburgh to catch a plane to Oslo. We had no time to stop for any length of time on the way up, but the road was good and we enjoyed the scenery. Although we were booked on a Norwegian flight our crew and aircraft were from Hola! Airlines. There was a lone representative from Norwegian who translated all the announcements (made in Spanish and English) into Norwegian.

We spent two nights at the farm, where my MIL visited her mother's parents as a child, and which now belongs to her brother. This was the first time I had met his partner; she is really sweet and a great cook.

We spent the 4th of July in Oslo proper, visiting the Natural History museum and spending time with DH's grandfather (Bestefar, "best father"). Unfortunately we missed his grandmother (Bestemor, "best mother") by just a couple of weeks, as she passed away while we were on our anniversary camping trip. We called my MIL on speaker phone for her birthday. It was quite funny hearing what the kids chose to tell Grandma about our trip.

On Saturday, July 5th, we drove from the farm to the mountain cabin ("hytte" in Norwegian). This is a required part of a visit to Norway for us. It was built in ~1912 by my MIL's paternal grandfather, with some additions built on later. (During our time at Stanford, DH came home from a trip to Norway somewhat startled because the cabin now had electricity.)

Last time we were in Norway, we took the kids to the "badeland" ("swimming land" or water park) at the airport Clarion hotel, just a few minutes drive from the farm. They were looking forward to going there again. Unfortunately, the Clarion badeland closed permanently just a few days before we arrived this year! We made it up to the kids by stopping at the Tropicana Badeland at Per's resort in Gol on our way to the cabin. Great fun, although I was surprised to see so many overweight Norwegians.

(DH and I have taken to referring to the Tropicana Badeland as "Per's well." There exists family legend that Per once interrupted my FIL bathing in the well at the cabin. The well was shared by several cabins, and was everyone's source of drinking water. Needless to say, Per was less than pleased to find some american there with his bar of soap! These days we have running water and a shower in the cabin, so no-one need resort to such extreme measures.)

The children especially enjoy the upstairs bedroom at the cabin. As you can see from the picture, the doorway is only slightly taller than three year-old DD2. The stairway is kid-sized, too; it's more like a ladder for adults. There are lots of interesting toys stored up there!

We had a relaxing time at the cabin despite some cold, rainy weather. Kite flying, hiking, fishing (no fish, as the river was too high), and plenty of games of Yahtzee. DH's uncle cooked us a wonderful meal of trout he caught while up at the cabin the weekend before. It was lucky that he had frozen some, or we wouldn't have had any fish! On Sunday we had roast ham; Bestemor had planned this meal for us before she died, and was very insistent that we have it.

On our return to Oslo we wandered through Frognerparken and Vigelandparken, visited Bestefar, and had a nice dinner at Holmenkollen. (Bestefar was once a ski-jumper, testing out the jump before competitions.)

On Tuesday evening we flew to London Gatwick. Norway is wonderfully child-friendly. The kids had a great time at the concourse playground while we were waiting for our flight.

Friday, July 4, 2008

To England and Around Newcastle (June 27 - July 3)

On Friday, June 27th we drove from Reno to San Francisco. We saw a small patch of blue sky as we crossed Donner Pass, but otherwise it was smoky the entire way. Pretty amazing.

Our flight to London was as good as can reasonably be expected. DD2 slept most of the way, but DS and DD1 slept for only 3 hours. They are quite enamored with on demand in-flight entertainment...

We spent one night in London, and then caught a train north to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. From there we visited Alnwick Castle (used for the outside of Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter movies) and Hadrian's Wall.

Newcastle has a nice Discovery Museum, which is very kid-friendly, and a great mix of hands-on science and local history. DD2 especially enjoyed "washing" her hands at the giant tap in the water and sanitation display.

I had tried to keep our plans simple, since traveling with three young children can be somewhat unpredictable, but we also managed to squeeze in a visit to Durham Cathedral. This building is amazing in it's own right, but was also used in HP. Our tour guide at Alnwick was quite amused by the computer editing done in the movies; "they put Durham Cathedral's towers there, the Quidditch pitch there, and over there was Scotland." Apparently one of the narrow cobblestone streets in Durham was used for Diagon Alley, but we didn't have enough information to get the exact location.

DH enjoyed the local brew.

On Thursday we drove to Edinburgh to catch a plane to Oslo.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

June? What June?

I get the impression that many people have a quiet, relaxing summer break. In our family, on the other hand, it seems that we take a deep breath at the beginning of June and run flat out until school starts again in the fall.

DD1 finished Kindergarten at the beginning of the month. On May 30th the school held a "Kindergarten Celebration," where the classes sang songs, played their recorders and generally celebrated the end of Kindergarten. Poor DD1 missed it; she came down with a tummy bug earlier that day. I didn't bother mentioning to her that we wouldn't be going, but at 6:15pm, when the children were supposed to be dropped off at their classrooms, she stumbled downstairs very sad. "I worked SO hard on my songs, and now I don't even get to go..." We took her out to breakfast (at the Truckee Squeeze In) on Sunday for a family celebration.

Both girls had their spring ballet recitals on the Saturday of Father's Day weekend. The school is big enough that there are two performances, one at 2pm and the other at 7pm, and of course we had a daughter in each show. This was DD2's first time on stage, and she truly rose to the challenge. I imagine the Pioneer Center could be quite intimidating for a 3 year old. DD1 was a star, leading most of her class' dance.

DH and I celebrated our 11th anniversary on the 21st. As has become tradition, we went camping. We met up with my brother and his family at Oh Ridge campground at June Lake, CA. They live in San Diego and were camping in Yosemite prior to meeting us. It was a zoo with the 7 kids and 2 dogs running around, but we all had a good time.

Last week was pretty gross in Reno. Smoke from the Northern CA fires funneled through Donner Pass, and we spent most of the week under a level 2 smog alert. That means we were supposed to stay inside with air conditioning as much as possible and avoid physical exertion outside. DD1 didn't get to play outside at summer camp, and poor DS' swim camp turned into an indoor day camp. I was bummed not getting to go on my nice walks outside.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Quiet weekends

We spent the long weekend down in Mammoth Lakes, CA with my ILs. It seemed more like Christmas than Memorial Day due to freezing temperatures and falling snow. Tioga Pass had opened for the summer last Wednesday, but was closed again by the time we reached Lee Vining on Friday afternoon.

We hit the Reno Squeeze In on our way out of town. Good breakfast!

On Saturday we took the kids to see the Mule Days parade in Bishop, and then for a swim at Keough's Hot Springs.

The weather was rather unpleasant in Mammoth on Sunday, so we went hiking at Panum Crater and went to the Mono Lake visitor center. DS and DD1 enjoyed the Junior Ranger workbooks. We stopped for lunch at the Mobil station Whoa Nellie Deli. (Our favorites are the mango margaritas and lobster taquitos!) It was eerily quiet with the pass closed; usually the place is packed to the gills with people waiting to order, but this time we walked straight to the front of the line. No visitors from Yosemite makes quite a difference.

Last weekend we went camping at Eagle Lake, just north of Susanville, CA. This was our first trip there, although we've driven past the eastern shore on our way home from Oregon. It's not a long drive, and the setting is gorgeous. We especially appreciated how cool it was; Reno and Susanville were experiencing scorching temperatures.

We stayed in the Merrill campground. This was the first time we've visited a NF CG with hookups. The loops closest to the road have full electric/water/sewer, the next loops electric/water, and the lakefront loops no hookups. It was well maintained, clean, and beautiful. We opted for a site somewhat back from the shore in an attempt to avoid mosquitos, but every site has a lake view. The mosquitos found us anyway!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hike Your Own Hike

Have you noticed how some people are either threatened or critical when others choose to do something differently from how they do it? It apparently matters not what the topic is; just look at any online forum for examples.

My mind keeps going back to a conversation I had in our local Starbucks last Friday. I was paying for our drinks, and the gal at the register asked if we had any plans for the weekend. I replied that we were going camping. Innocent, meaningless, but friendly chatter. The dude making the coffee asked what my "definition" of camping is. This probably should have been a sign. I explained that we are pretty varied campers, we like backpacking, but that we were taking our tent trailer out that weekend.

snort "If it has wheels, it's not camping. It has to be at least a tent." Perhaps a tad aggressive if he's wanting me to come back and spend more money at the Evil Empire, but whatever. I'm feeling good, and we're on our way out of town. The gal at the register asks if we're making s'mores "because you have to have s'mores!" I pass this test (for this trip, at least). Phew. But no, according to the dude, the essential item is dutch oven peach cobbler. I fail again.

This is a prime example of the pitfalls of thinking that our own way is the only way to do something. DH and I enjoy DO cooking. He has plenty of experience eating it from his packer days, and while I didn't grow up with it, I'm always willing to try something new. So some of the time we cook in dutch ovens while camping. We have only ever done this when camping with our PUP. That kind of trip, according to the coffee dude, isn't "camping," because although we're cooking in our DO, our shelter has wheels. The trips that might meet his definition based on shelter certainly wouldn't based on cooking method. I am dumbfounded that a backpacking trip using our Whisperlite couldn't be considered camping using his standard. Some, of course, might not consider our stove choice that of a "real" backpacker (and I freely admit I'm a wannabe!).

Luckily, my life doesn't grind to a halt due to lack of approval from the coffee dude. Mind your own business, do your own thing; hike your own hike.

Hawken FireWe returned from our trip to Australia last July to find that 2700 acres of open space behind our house had burnt in a wildfire while we were away. The Hawken Fire was determined to be the result of a grinder being used on a construction site without water available on site. Our mountain view has been somewhat less scenic since then. I often walk in the hills behind our house in the evening, and have been thrilled recently to see the wildflowers blooming in the ashes.

According to an announcement this afternoon on the emergency alert system, we are expecting temperatures 20 degrees higher than normal this weekend. The kids are getting in the spirit of the warm weather!

We are heading out camping tomorrow. If I'm allowed to call it that...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vicarious hiking

PCT access near Donner PassEach year for more than a decade I have been following the online journals of Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers. These days, of course, there are a lot more journals online. Some of them are even updated electronically from the trail, rather than written with pen and paper and mailed home to a transcriber from town stops (as all were when I first started reading them). Most thru-hikers start in the spring, hiking north from the Mexican border towards the Canadian border, but a few intrepid souls hike the opposite direction starting in the summer. After a few weeks I've usually narrowed my journal list down to a few favorites; hikers whose writing style really appeals to me. Some make it all the way, some don't, but it's always an honor to share their journeys.

I would love to thru-hike the PCT someday. At this point in my life it's not possible, as I have three young children and a husband with an irregular work schedule. Disappearing for several months to hike 2650 miles (and needing support along the way) just doesn't fit with my responsibilities. I do draw some comfort from the seemingly increasing numbers of "older" thru-hikers; perhaps it's not unrealistic to think that I might embark on this journey once my children are somewhat self-sufficient.

DH is not especially drawn to the idea of a PCT thru-hike. He did mention recently that he might consider a southbound hike, but otherwise is not interested. He has his own dreams, as he should.

I am not an especially hard-core nor experienced backpacker. I camped and bushwalked growing up, but did not have any opportunity to backpack. My first backpacking trip was in the summer of 1992, when my mother and I accompanied my brother's Boy Scout troop on a four day trip in Sequoia & King's Canyon National Park. I loved it.

My boyfriend (now DH) had worked for many years packing mule trains into the Sierras, and his impression of backpacking was not favorable; he thought they all looked miserable and very hungry! After I promised that he wouldn't go hungry, he agreed to go backpacking in Glacier National Park with me that September. We had a great time, although we carried far too much food. ;)

We unfortunately stopped backpacking when DS was born, but have covered many miles on day hikes, whether from a base camp or from home. DS spent almost every weekend of his first spring and summer in a child carrier hiking in the Cascades. We have hiked considerably less since we had three children, but are hoping for a good hiking summer this year now that DD2 is 3 and a good walker.

Since I am many years away from a PCT thru-hike, I have decided to start keeping track of my miles on the PCT. Starting today: 0 miles hiked, 2650 remaining!

We had a fun Mother's Day weekend Kamping. The kids made a nice friend in the first 5 minutes we were there. I think DH and I are about done with RV-ing style camping, as the kids seem to focus on the wrong things. We're looking forward to some trips to the National forests!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Better late than never

I've been thinking of making a blog entry on this topic for weeks now. April is Cancer Control month.

Cancer has been very present in my mind over the last few months. My FIL was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the end of last year, and has had ongoing skin cancer issues for years. Luckily there was no metastasis, so he didn't need any treatment after the prostatectomy.

Last month my MIL was diagnosed with breast cancer. A lumpectomy removed the primary tumor, but there was metastasis to a lymph node. She is looking at a long sequence of treatment; chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal.

My father was diagnosed with Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia a few years ago. Unlike prostate or breast cancer, there is no surgical tumor removal possible for this rare cancer, but by making some significant lifestyle changes, he has managed to improve his blood tests extraordinarily.

Obviously, cancer is not completely understood, and there are risk factors outside our control. What can we do to prevent cancer? Here are a few major factors:

Maintain a healthy body weight. Cancer is yet another one of the health problems associated with being overweight. WeightWatchers is a great place to start.

Eliminate or reduce alcohol use. Women should drink no more than one drink per day, men no more than two. One study I came across linked consumption of 3 drinks per day to a breast cancer risk equal to that of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day or having a first-degree relative with breast cancer. 3 drinks a day sounds like a lot until you consider that for their purposes 4 oz of wine is considered one drink. There has been a lot of media attention lately on the health benefits of red wine, but it's much healthier overall to get those antioxidants from dark grapes or other food sources. AA has helped many people overcome drinking problems.

Don't smoke.

Avoid excessive sun exposure. Wear sunscreen and a hat, and avoid the midday sun.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Life happens

It's been a busy couple of weeks, and I seem to have gotten out of the habit of blogging!

DD1 got a place at Coral Academy of Science for next year. We are thrilled! Assuming everything works out (I'm a little gun-shy after our 1st grade fiasco with DS), it will be wonderful having the older two attending the same school. DD2 starts preschool three mornings a week next year, so I'll be sans children for 12 hours every week. Right now that seems like an eternity, but I'm sure the time will fly. I will probably do some coursework online so that I can go back to work at some point.

On April 17, DD2 turned 3. In our family the birthday person always gets to choose the menu for dinner. I always think it's interesting to see what the kids want. DD2 chose sugar snap peas, raw carrots, and homemade macaroni and cheese, accompanied by chocolate milk. Desert was baked pears with custard sauce.

Her "big" birthday present was a bicycle. Neither of the other two kids have had a bicycle this young, but DD2 is very coordinated and was having a difficult time keeping up with her siblings on the trike. She rides the new "big girl bike" very well.

DD1 had her school Spring Sing that Friday evening. Unfortunately I don't have any decent pictures, as the grandmas in front kept standing up. DD1 gave three performances -- singing with her Kindergarten class and Spanish class, and playing recorder with both Kindergarten classes combined. It's always a fun event.

My ILs were in town, so we had a birthday brunch for DD2 that Saturday. She chose the menu again; banana-blueberry mini-muffins (recipe from Cynthia Lair's "Feeding the Whole Family") and fresh berries. The rest of us also had omelette, but DD2 doesn't much care for eggs. For the second year in a row, we had a panda birthday cake (from the Cake and Flower Shoppe).

On April 22nd, DD1 had her first (pre-Primary level) RAD examination/presentation. She was very excited and had a fun time. We made a real occasion of it; DH bought her roses, and I took her out to lunch (at Josef's) afterwards.

We went camping this weekend. Most places around here are still closed, so we went down to Washoe Lake State Park again. No snow this time, and just a little wind. Lots of exploring, bike riding and general relaxation. Good times.

I came back to Reno on Saturday morning for the YMCA summer camp signups. DS went there for a few weeks last summer and had a great time, so we wanted to be sure he got into the camps he was interested in. I stopped by the house to grab a couple of things, and found that a picture had fallen during the M4.7 earthquake on Friday night. Not a big deal, except that the picture in question was hanging at the top of the stairs and fell all the way downstairs. There was glass all over the landing upstairs, all the way down the stairs, and all over downstairs. It certainly scatters well on a hardwood floor! The frame broke, but the picture is intact, so we'll be able to get it reframed.

We've had quite a lot of earthquakes in Reno in the last few weeks. I was in Safeway on Thursday afternoon when two (M4.1 and 4.2) hit a few minutes apart. I was in my freshman year at Stanford during the Loma Prieta earthquake(M7.1) of October '89, and this was nothing compared to that, but the jars and cans coming off the shelves was a bit nerve-wracking. I couldn't believe the number of people who just stood in the aisles with things falling around them! This morning we were woken by a M4.2. Current Reno earthquake info is available from the UNR Seismology lab.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Time flies

Last Saturday DS made his First Holy Communion. We had something of a gathering of the clan. My ILs, my parents, nephew (almost 10) and niece (7), my youngest sister, BIL and their two kids (almost 3 and 2+ months) all came into town for the occasion. After Mass we had a party at Brick's, one of our favorite restaurants here in Reno. It's only a couple of blocks from church, too. A good time was had by all. They let DH and me in the door on Tuesday night, so the kids can't have been too bad!

My parents, nephew and niece have only spent a couple of days with us in Reno since we moved here in 2003. We chose DS' First Communion date so that they could spend some time -- it fell at the end of their kids' spring break. We didn't do much in the way of sight-seeing, but we had a great time. The weather was beautiful, the kids played nicely, and we caught up with my parents.

Yesterday my MIL had a lumpectomy for breast cancer. Everything went well, but it's been a stressful couple of weeks since the diagnosis. My FIL had surgery for prostate cancer in December, so this is something of a one-two punch!

So far I've lost 20 pounds on Weight Watchers. Last week I earned my second "I lost 10 pounds" ribbon, and the week before that my 10% key chain. Rather than aiming for a long-term goal right away, when you join WW you're automatically aiming to lose 10% of your body weight. When you reach this goal, you're awarded a key chain in the shape of the number 10 (and you get to decide upon your long-term goal). Other milestones earn you a charm for the keychain. It might sound cheesy, but I get a good feeling every time I pick up my keys!

I had a weight-loss related victory today. Before Easter I bought a couple of new outfits at Chico's. I've lost enough weight recently that the skirt I bought was too big. Today I had a little time to myself, so I took it back to the store to exchange for a smaller one. In the meantime I received a $25 off coupon that I was able to apply towards the new skirt. Cha-ching!

We heard the results of the Coral Academy of Science lottery. DS made it in for 3rd grade, but DD1 didn't make it for 1st grade. Apparently they draw the youngest grades first, so by the time DS was in, it was too late for her to get sibling priority. Right now she's second on the waiting list, so hopefully she'll be in by the time school starts in the second week of August. If not, I guess I'll be homeschooling her!

Next school year has the potential for big changes for me. DD2 will be starting preschool three mornings a week, so if DD1 gets into Coral, I may have an "empty nest" for 12 hours per week. I'm having visions of aerobics classes, and some online coursework. (I'm so long out of the workforce that I'm basically unemployable at this point...) Time will tell.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Happy Spring!

We had a lovely Easter weekend. On Friday we travelled down to Mammoth Lakes, CA, where my ILs live. Friday was DH's birthday, and Monday my FIL's birthday, just to add to the festivities.

On Saturday we spent the afternoon at Keough's Hot Springs. This swimming pool is fed directly from a natural hot spring, and is a wonderful place to relax. We especially love to visit in the wintertime. It is definitely becoming more relaxing for DH and me now that the kids are becoming strong swimmers. My MIL was remarking how much they had progressed since we were all in Jamaica in December.

Good friends of ours own the Joseph House Inn in Bishop, CA, and have a Easter party/egg hunt there every year. It is a beautiful spot, with a large lawn and gorgeous gardens. This year was especially good fun, as it was decided to forgo candy and desserts. The egg hunt was still great fun with toys and stickers. The kids didn't get nearly as wild, and the parents all had a much better time!

Yesterday was exciting in a different way. DD2's swimming teacher noticed that she was holding her head strangely. By the end of the lesson DD2 had sprouted a huge lump on her neck! Our pediatrician was out for lunch for another 1 1/2 hours, so I took her to the surgery center where DH was working yesterday so that he could take a look at it between cases. A dear friend of ours who is a pediatric ENT was nearby and available, so we got her seen right away. A CT scan revealed that the lump was an abscess. (I was imagining all kinds of horrible scenarios, so this diagnosis was quite a relief!) The lump was getting bigger and DD2 sicker as time passed, poor baby. I can't say that she enjoyed having the abscess aspirated, but she's feeling much better now that's done and she's had a few doses of antibiotics. I hope that takes care of it.

This was the view from my window early this morning.

Monday, March 17, 2008


We actually made it camping this weekend. DH was supposed to work late on Friday, so we planned a one-nighter close to home. Davis Creek looked cold and snowy, so we went a little further east to Washoe Lake State Park.

We last camped at Washoe Lake in August 2004, before we had the PUP. DD1 was almost two, and I was pregnant with DD2. I remember it as being very windy, with unrelenting sun. Picture here.

Since then, they've added a shelter over the picnic table at each site, and planted some trees. It was still windy, but we chose a site that put the PUP between the fire / picnic table and the weather, and it was just fine. The last of a series of storms was coming over the Sierras on Saturday evening, which made the scenery rather dramatic. We enjoyed the sound of snow falling on the roof overnight, but stayed warm and toasty thanks to our Popup Gizmos and Portable Buddy. I do think that some Reflectix under the mattresses could cut down our heater use.

Hardly anyone was camping on Saturday night (I wonder why?!?), so the campground was nice and quiet. We enjoyed strolling through the sand dunes to the beach and sitting around the campfire. Campfire-popped popcorn is the best! The kids got in plenty of bike-riding. Overnight we heard coyotes and an owl close to the camper.

This trip marked DD2's first night in her own sleeping bag. Prior to this, she's always slept between DH and me. We put her down on the couch, thinking that she would be less likely to fall climbing out of bed to come to us at 3am than if she were up in the bunk end with her siblings. It worked very well. She went to sleep quickly, didn't fall out of bed, and found us no problem.

All-in-all, a great start to the camping season!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Still no camping!

We had planned to camp this weekend. The weather forecast was good, DH was off work on Friday, and we had new tires put on the PUP on Thursday. DD2 came down with influenza on Thursday morning. The rapid flu test is supposed to be read after 15 minutes, but hers was reading positive for Flu A after only 5 minutes. The whole family is on antivirals so that the rest of us don't come down with it too. Needless to say, DD2 wasn't feeling up to going anywhere.

On the plus side, DH found out that he can take a third week of vacation this summer, so we will get to have a long camping trip after all. The school year at Coral Academy starts in the second week of August, so we're taking the last week of July in hopes that DS and DD1 get in there. July will be quite the travel month. We'll be in Norway and the UK during the first two weeks, and then camping the last week. We're tentatively planning to going to Bryce Canyon, perhaps with a day or so at Zion on the way there. I'm a little concerned about the daytime heat; it's cooler than Reno, but our house is airconditioned, and we usually camp up in the Sierras at that time of the year. At least the nights are cool; about the same as Reno.

On Saturday afternoon we took the training wheels off DD1's bicycle. She wiped out a couple of times, but got the hang of riding without them very quickly. One spectacular crash involved a pillar that seems to exist under a different gravitational constant than the rest of the universe; it sucked DS in when he was a new two-wheel rider, too! Our yard is rather small, and our street rather steep, so we usually ride bikes at the local elementary school.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dude!

DS is eight years old today. The big present was his very own iPod nano. It was basically an afternoon of my time to get it going, as the iMac in the playroom needed more memory and an OS upgrade before I could load DS' music (five Bionicle songs) onto the thing. (Come to think of it, the computer is only about three months younger than DS!) He is thrilled. We've already had occasion for a lesson in iPod etiquette, as he's inclined to leave his earbuds in and yell at everyone.

We had a fun weekend celebrating. On Saturday, my ILs took him to Clay Canvas to paint a mug. He painted a Bionicle-themed mug there with them before, but I fumbled and broke it a couple of weeks ago. I believe the new one is also a Bionicle mug. It'll be ready next Saturday, so I'll know for sure then!

On Sunday afternoon we had some friends over for a Mad Science birthday party. What a blast! The kids had a great time working with the "mad scientist." I suppose at some point we'll work out in which neighbour's yard the rocket crash-landed...

This morning DS had his first piano lesson. He was counting down the time for at least an hour beforehand, afraid we were going to be late. He was wearing a watch on each wrist -- I suppose so that we'd still make it there on time even if one watch stopped?

The lesson was a great success. He loved it, and played very well. I'm somewhat irregular with my own playing (given that it's purely for my own enjoyment, and I'm rather busy with other things), but now I have motivation to play more; I can't let DS catch up to me too soon!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Gotta love my new look!

DD2 drew this a couple of days ago and proclaimed it to be a picture of me. I'm not sure how I feel about the size of my nose, but I love the smile she's given me.

The storms all came in as forecast at the end of last week and over the weekend, so I felt a bit better about not camping. We ended up with about 6 inches of new snow from the last storm. It has been sunny and warm this week, so it's mostly melted. I'm looking forward to some spring weather (and some camping).

First thing on Saturday morning I took a huge step and joined Weight Watchers. While I'm not obese, I am definitely overweight, and on Friday I came to the conclusion that I needed to get some help. DD2 is almost 3, and here I was at the same weight as when she was 6 weeks old. I seem to be able to lose the first 5 pounds without problem, but after that I get discouraged and end up gaining it back again.

The meeting was actually quite fun, and it's been a good week. I feel great, am enjoying my food, and don't feel deprived or "on a diet." I bought a WW cookbook, and have been enjoying trying some new recipes. Yesterday I went to my second meeting, and had already lost 5.6lbs. Not bad, although I've lost those 5 before!

Later on Saturday morning we went to an open house for Coral Academy of Science, the charter school we're hoping to send DS and DD1 to next school year. DH and I met with the principal for a couple of hours last October, but this was a chance for the kids to see things and for us to spend a bit of time speaking with teachers. DS and DD1 are very excited about the idea of going there in the fall. Here's hoping they get in!

DH is friends with a piano teacher he met at Walden's Coffee House. On Monday morning we took DS to his studio for an "interview." Everything went great, so he'll be starting lessons next Monday. DS is absolutely thrilled. (Check out Monday's English assignment!) I'm a little nervous about getting him into the habit of practicing. I can only hope he gets as much pleasure from the piano as I have.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I wanna go camping!

I run into this problem every February, it seems. Grey January snails by, and in mid-February I burst out of my winter funk with grand plans.

DH worked late last Friday and was on call on Monday, so we couldn't really go anywhere for the President's Day long weekend. We had some fun together over the weekend: family swim at the swim school the kids attend, a large-format film ("The Alps") at the planetarium, and lots of board games (including a new chinese checkers set).

On Monday the kids and I spent most of the day at our neighbourhood park. DH somehow managed to get some free time around noon, and met us there with a pizza lunch. (He doesn't usually get a lunch-hour; perhaps a couple of minutes to gulp down some food, if he's lucky.) It was a beautiful sunny day. I read a book, the kids played imaginatively and with great gusto, the snow melted and turned the park to mud. The filthy clothes were totally worth it.

I came home ready to plan some spring camping. It looks like DH will be restricted to two weeks of vacation this summer, and we've already planned a trip to Norway and England for that time, so we'll probably be camping mostly on weekends this year. I logged in to PUX and caught up on the conversation. I perused Forest Camping and Reserve America. Of course (who was I kidding?) nothing appealing for a weekend trip is open until mid-May.

Last April we spent a fun, but cold weekend at Davis Creek, a county park campground less than half an hour from home. It's nestled against the base of the mountains, has much the same weather as here, and is open year-round. This picture was taken there. Washoe Lake State Park, nearby, also has a campground open all year. We've only camped there during the summer, and it seems a mite exposed for camping this early in the season.

I was getting excited about the possibility of de-winterizing the PUP and camping close to home this weekend, until DH pointed out a severe weather alert. The worst of a series of storms is supposed to hit on Saturday night. Yesterday morning we got a couple of inches of new snow, and it looks like something's moving in this afternoon. I think the forecast is right, and it's probably a good weekend to stay at home and knit. I just really want to go camping!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Finished Objects and Works in Progress

Here are my first two FOs for 2008, Gryffindor hats based on the house hats in Charmed Knits by Alison Hansel. DS has a Sorcerer's Stone hat. DD1's started out as a Prisoner of Azkaban hat, but she wanted "zigzags and polka dots" as well. I think it's actually pretty cute. These are knit from Cascade 220 superwash, purchased from my lys, Jimmy Bean's Wool, on #5 needles.

I started the hat for DS in December, but was stopped cold by hand pain. Once that was under control, I finished his hat in a couple of days. DD1's took a single day. It was very straighforward knitting, and they love to wear them!

On to a house hat for myself, also knit in Cascade 220 superwash on #5 needles. This is a knit interpretation of Xenophilius Lovegood's Diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw, based on Toque pattern 5 from 45 Fine and Fanciful Hats to Knit. (Several years ago I knit hats from this pattern for the girls with 2 strands of Dale Baby Ull held together. DD2 is wearing the larger one here.)

Try on the Sorting Hat to find out in which Hogwarts house you belong.

I love to knit socks, really enjoy handpainted yarns, and am a confirmed Harry Potter geek. Here are three future projects; Cornish Pixies, Hedwig and Phoenix from Sunshine Yarns. I am signed up for the Harry Potter sock yarn club, but also succumb regularly to Dani's other Harry Potter yarns. Yum!

This is the poor lonely Jaywalker I knit last fall. As you can see, it still needs it's toe grafted. I'm sure I'll give it some much-needed attention once the Ravenclaw hat is finished. The yarn is Lorna's Laces Funky Stripe 902, purchased on vacation at Mendocino Yarn Shop in Mendocino, CA. We spent a week camping at Manchester Beach in August 2006.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Let me count the ways...

Here are a few things, in no particular order, that come to mind today:

1. I love your thoughtfulness. It's the way you came home between cases late last night to drop off Valentine's Day flowers for me and cookies for the kids. It's the way you bought me the (AWD) car I wanted before my old car really needed to be replaced, just because it kept getting stuck in the snow. It's the way you let me linger in bed on Saturday mornings while you prepare a breakfast feast.
2. I love your integrity. You are never afraid to speak up for what you know is right, or to stand behind what you believe in.
3. I love your commitment. You are invested in everything you do. It's all or nothing.
4. I love your spontaneity. Your spur-of-the-moment ideas free me. Why shouldn't we go to Iceland/drive 4 hours roundtrip to a zoo/buy a Warhol? I just wouldn't think of it.
5. I love your sense of humor. You light up my days. It may be childish, crass, or just plain silly, but you always come up with something to make me laugh.

1. You challenge me. Mothering you is one of the most difficult, but most rewarding things I have ever done. The lack of sleep, personal space, personal time and autonomy are completely worth it as I watch you grow. I'll have plenty of time for those things when the too-short years of your childhoods are over.
2. You challenge me. As I strive to be the best mother I can be, you bring out the best in me. I find more love, more patience, more strength, and more courage than I ever thought I was capable of.
3. You challenge me. The depth of my commitment to you means that sometimes you bring out the worst in me. I experience more sadness, frustration, fatigue and anger than I ever expected.
4. You challenge me. Each with your own agenda and unique perspective, you often force me to operate outside my own comfort zone.
5. You challenge me. Board games, hide-and-seek, races, games galore; what fun we have!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Where did 2007 go?!?

This must be the lamest blog on the web, with over a year between posts. Perhaps I've been too busy living life to write about it. In order to document my continued existence over the last 12 months, here is an update based in part on our 2007 Christmas letter:

2007 was another eventful year. We spent a lot of time in our popup camper, traveling all over northern California and up to Chimacum, WA to visit my parents. We celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary in June with a family camping trip to Mt. Lassen National Park. Camping is such a wonderful way for us to spend time together away from external demands and pressures!

In July we spent two weeks in Australia. It was DD2’s first visit to Australia, DH and the kids’ first wintertime visit, and everyone’s first time seeing a koala joey still in its mother’s pouch. We spent some time in the Sydney area sightseeing and visiting relatives, and then traveled north to Port Macquarie to spend time with my parents and grandparents. The kids especially enjoyed the animals and a children’s production at the Sydney Opera House.

DS is 7, and is home schooled again this year. His favorite subjects are art and science. He is a voracious reader, and has recently enjoyed Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona” books, the “Book of Three” series, and “George’s Secret Key to the Universe.” DS devotes much time to playing with his Bionicles, and is a budding dragonologist. He loves to swim. DS celebrated his first Reconciliation on January 26th, and will be making his first Holy Communion sometime this spring.

DD1 is 5 and is in kindergarten. She loves school, especially math and playing with her friends, and is enjoying learning to read. In September she began the Royal Academy of Dance Pre-Primary ballet curriculum. She will take her first ballet exam in May. DD1 wants to be the Sugar Plum Fairy and a vet when she grows up.

DD2 is 2 1/2. She has become an avid fan of giant pandas after watching a documentary about them on TV. In March we visited the pandas at the San Diego Zoo. She absolutely loved them, and cried when we had to leave. DD2 started ballet in October. She is the youngest in her class by at least 6 months, but keeps up with the other girls without a problem. We are looking forward to her first recital in June!

In October we moved out of the house for several weeks while we had hardwood floors installed throughout. We are very pleased with the result, but are still not quite organized. It always seems to take us several months to get properly unpacked after a move, and this time is no exception. We did move back into the same house, but it was still a move. The picture above shows "school" for DS in the tiny condo we stayed in during the floor install.

My days are rather full homeschooling DS and driving the kids to their various activities. I am an accredited LLL leader, helping breastfeeding mothers. In order to provide telephone help and lead monthly support group meetings, leaders need to stay up to date on lactation topics. To that end, in October I attended a wonderful conference in Sacramento, CA. These events are a great way to recharge with both information and enthusiasm!

The knitting has been rather sparse in the last 12 months. In 2007 I finished "Sigvaldi" for DH, and five socks. Five socks, as in two pairs plus the first of another pair: two pairs of Wendy's Generic Toe-Up Socks (one pair in Opal Dreamcatcher, another in Lana Grossa Safari 2070), and the first sock of a pair of Jaywalker socks in Lorna's Laces Funky Stripe 902.

In December my winter knitting came to a screeching halt due to joint pain in my hands. I had cast on a Gryffindor house hat for DS, but couldn't finish it. The problem with my hands turned out to be a dairy sensitivity, and after cutting way back on dairy and taking my supplements religiously, I'm back at it. I'll update on 2008 knitting projects in another post.

We spent Christmas week in Jamaica, at Beaches Sandy Bay. It was wonderfully relaxing. We've already booked next Christmas there too. Ho ho ho, mon!