Monday, July 31, 2017

Mammoth Lakes 2017

We got home late yesterday afternoon from a weekend camping trip to Mammoth Lakes with friends and after the girls were in bed I ignored all of the stuff that needed to be put away and just developed pictures of something other than food.  When Paul saw what I was doing he immediately and gleefully squealed "are you finally doing a blog post on our family blog?!?!"  Okay, it wasn't really a squeal, but I know he checks that blog hoping for me to post and I haven't in oh, um, 2 MONTHS.  I'm the worst.  So much for that New Year's Resolution about posting 1x/week.  

But seriously, this summer is kind of killing me and I cannot believe we only have two weeks left until school starts.  We have a bucketlist of summer activities that we need to check off and not enough time to do it!

In fairness, we have a short summer break compared to what I remember growing up, and most of it was spent at the pool every day with swim team stuff, or visiting family.  This Mammoth trip was our 3rd camping trip of the summer.  So we've been doing lots of fun things.  I just haven't had time to blog about any of it!

Anyway, I will be trying to catch up (maybe) but thought I would quickly post about this most recent trip.

We planned a camping trip with our friends, the Ball family, months ago so we could reserve sites in Mammoth.  We stayed at the Sherwin Lakes campground in sites 11 & 12, which just happened to be the only two sites in the campground that had zero trees since they had all been felled by bark beetles a couple of years ago.  Only we didn't realize that until we got there.  So it was pretty hot and dusty with very little shade, but we didn't spend a lot of time there during the day so it wasn't too bad.  

We loved that it was right next to a good-sized creek though and the kids literally spent hours there playing.  Clara made dozens of teepees, boats to float down the creek, and braided the long grasses into bracelets, necklaces, crowns and rings which she gifted to me and Paul and then checked on us regularly to make sure we were still wearing them.  Even when the other kids got bored playing by the creek, Clara stayed, totally happy and focused with her work.  

We took turns making meals using the Ball's dutch ovens and I definitely want to get some now!  I made a bbq chicken and sausage thing, which wasn't so great, and these cheesy garlic rolls, which were delicious.

On Friday after dinner, we drove to Convict Lake to go for a little hike/walk and just take in the scenery.  It's such a beautiful spot but it was very windy.

The kids did what they do best and threw rocks into the lake for a good half an hour before it started getting too late and we decided we needed to get back to camp in order to do a 9:30 p.m. bedtime.  I took portraits for my portrait project (which I've been awful about) while everybody was skipping rocks because the lighting was so pretty.

Rose, who is our early riser, made sure we were up and at 'em with the sun each morning before 6.  But at least she was happy about it and other than a couple little things the second night of camping, the girls did awesome sleeping in the tent.  After a summer with quite a bit of camping, they are getting to be pretty good at it.  Both girls were super bummed when our time camping was over and Clara demanded that we camp for 10 days next time instead of 2.  We were all pretty filthy after 2 days of camping, so I'm pretty certain we won't be doing 10 days any time soon, but I'm glad that both girls love it so much.

On Saturday morning, we headed to Devil's Postpile to hike.  It's such a National Monument (so basically a national park except created by the President instead of by Congress) and a very interesting spot.  And it's a good hike for the kids distance and difficulty wise.  We didn't realize that there were campsites down in by Devil's Postpile that are first come first serve, but next time we go here I think we want to try and camp in the park, if possible, since there is a lot of hiking down around Devil's Postpile that we have never done.

On the bus ride down into the Devil's Postpile Trailhead, Paul pulled up my blog post from our first (and only other) trip to Mammoth two years ago when Clara was 4 and Rose was 1.  I can't believe how much they've grown!

The kids were told to pretend to be stone columns.  Really we were trying to get them to stand up straight in a row, but they all put their hands over their heads like this.

There is a loop around Devil's Postpile so you get to see it from all angles - bottom, sides, and top.  I thought this perspective of columns jutting out at an angle was so fascinating.

This may be my new favorite pic of us as a family.  We are TERRIBLE about getting pictures of all four of us together and really need to be better about that.  It was nice having our friends with us because we could trade off cameras.

I can't believe I don't have any photos from our afternoon, but we stopped in Mammoth Lakes for lunch at Schat's Bakery, then did a really fun hike around Horseshoe Lake.  The kids weren't super jazzed about that hike at the beginning.  Our girls were really tired and hot, but once we got them going there were probably 10 bridges to cross over streams and Paul and the girls all dunked their heads in the snow run off (Paul held the girls upside down and dunked the tips of the heads in and they thought it was hilarious).

Really though, I think the kids just wanted to be back at camp with freedom to roam around and explore.  So after our Horseshoe Lake Trail hike we went back and they played their little hearts out while we prepped dinner, then cleaned up, and we still ended up with another 9:00 p.m. bedtime even though we had said we would try for earlier.

Rose and Owen had quite the conversation over by one of the coolers during dinner prep.  I love that all the kids got along so well.

Clara decorated a piece of bark with wildflowers that she tied on with a long piece of grass, then sailed it down the stream.  Over and over again.

Then on Sunday morning we made a big breakfast and packed up to head for home.  Except our car wouldn't start.  We were able to get it jumped, but when we stopped for gas it wouldn't start again and then it was really hard to jump it a second time.  Once it was finally running again, we didn't turn the car off until we got home, even filling the van with it running.  At home, we unloaded quickly, without turning the van off, then drove it down to the dealership to drop it off so it can be looked at today and we could all go home in the little car.  Sure enough, as soon as we turned it off at the repair place, it wouldn't turn back on.  So that's kind of a bummer.

But all in all, it was a wonderful camping trip and probably the last of this summer, unless we can squeeze in one more sometime in September.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Clara's Moana 6th Birthday Party

I feel like I started out the year strong, updating this blog each week, and now here we are almost at the end of May and I am over a month behind.  My other New Year's Resolutions are similarly in shambles.  Time to refocus and recommit!

Anyway, I have some catching up to do and I'm going to start with Clara's recent birthday party, since I have pictures developed from that day that I can share.  

Since both our girls are Moana-obsessed (like most little girls in America I would say), we went with a loose Moana/Luau theme.  Which turned out to be super easy since the party supply store had loads of cheap luau decorations.  I picked up inexpensive grass skirts and flower leis for each guest, along with a plastic coconut shaped cup with a lid and straw that were on sale.  They got to dress up and use their cups and then take everything home as their party favors instead of a bag of candy and other little toys that just get thrown in the trash.  

Scheduling was tricky because there were so many conflicts with a school open house, a school carnival, a classmate with a birthday party, and a day trip to Yosemite all in the same week (aka, all reasons why this blog has been put on the backburner).  So we ended up doing her party the day before her actual birthday, on a Thursday afternoon from 4-6.  Which worked out because we fed everybody dinner and then parents were prompt picking their girls up since we were all going to the open house that evening.  

The favorite activity?  Maybe just free dancing to the Moana soundtrack.  We knew a couple of guests were going to be late thanks to afternoon art classes and soccer practices so we just got started with dressing up and dancing.  Clara got a Moana dress-up dress that she is pretty pleased about.  It's not as cute as the one from the Disney store, but we went with this because it's a one-piece instead of a two piece, having the considerable advantages of being both more modest AND easier for the girls to dress-up in (and clean-up afterwards - one less thing to hang in the closet).  She never even saw the Disney store version, so she is perfectly content with this version.

If you haven't seen Moana, Clara is standing on the arm of the couch pretending its this giant rock in the ocean that Moana stands on when facing down Teh-ka, the lava monster.  She isn't normally allowed to stand on the furniture like this.  

The girl Clara was spinning with is her friend Annalisa.  She is in Clara's Kindergarten class, but she is also the only other Kindergartener in Spanish class and she is doing swim team with Clara this summer.  She is really a sweetheart.

Rose got right in on all the fun.  She refused to wear her grass hula skirt that she had been wearing for days prior to the party because once she saw Clara's Moana dress, Rose's grass skirt wasn't going to cut it.  She was in tears until Daddy put together this special ensemble for her and told her it was "another Moana skirt".  The flower necklace turned into a flower crown was Rose's idea though.  

Once the other friends started arriving, we did a craft, painting rocks with green and blue glittery paint so that they could each have a "heart of Tafiti".  Then we played "Who Stole the Heart of Tafiti" (basically "button button, who's got the button?" with a rock that I had painted earlier.  The girls loved guessing which one in the circle was "Maui" and had stolen the heart.  

Musical chairs was a huge hit because we just played more Moana soundtrack for the girls.  They were all singing their hearts out along with the music as they skipped around the chairs.  Rose was SUPER into it and you could see the gears spinning in her head as she strategically eyed each chair she passed, making sure she didn't miss an opportunity to grab one of the remaining seats before they were taken.  She cried every time she got out and cheered every time she got to play again.    

After games we ate dinner - just slow cooker hawaiian pulled pork sandwiches (made with crushed pineapple - they were only so-so; it was an experiment), pineapple chicken fried rice (fail - it wasn't very good - I need to figure out how to make fried rice better), and carrots, cucumber slices, pineapple spears, grapes, and "ocean punch" (a party punch made with blue hawaiian punch, 7-up, and pineapple juice).  I thought the table turned out really cute.  I just used a plastic tablecloth for easy cleanup and taped a tiki hut type grass skirt around the table, which made it look fancy.  Then I made a centerpiece with a couple of pineapples, some mangoes and kiwi.  And the girls loved their coconut cups.

Presents are always a big hit at kid birthday parties, both for the birthday girl and the kids giving the gifts.  They always crowd around, so excited about the whole process.  It was really cute and Paul and I were especially pleased and impressed that Clara took the time to read each card out loud.  She's become such a good little reader!

Then it was time for cupcakes and candles before parents started showing up.  I was experimenting with cupcake flavors and found a vanilla/white cupcake that I love - the search for a perfect chocolate and yellow cupcake continue though.  I made a bunch, figuring that way I wouldn't have to bake again that night to have some to take to school the next day.  The only fancy thing I did was to color half of the frosting blue and leave the other half white, then put both in a piping bag so that the frosting was piped on in blue and white swirls.  I told Clara they were ocean cupcakes (blue water and white foamy waves) and she was thrilled about that.  I totally skipped the seashell shaped chocolates and graham cracker "sand" crumbs that were in my inspiration cupcakes from Pinterest, but I don't feel bad about it one bit.  I'm cutting myself major mom-slack these days and honestly, I think my family appreciates it since I'm not as stressed about silly little things.

And that was pretty much it!  The day of her birthday was nuts with balloons in the morning, taking cupcakes and juice boxes to school, and the school carnival (in sweltering heat) in the afternoon.  We ended the day with opening her family presents.  

Clara was beyond thrilled with her Moana books and necklace from Grandpa and Grandma Nash, her ukulele and music books from Grandma Cece and Grandpa Russ, a new outfit with tiny wedge sandals from Renita & Judy and my grandparents, and a drawing book and flower press from Mom & Dad and Rose.  Then we had dinner at one of our favorite sushi places where Clara opened all her cards and was beyond thrilled with the servers came and sang to her.  Our servers were totally enamored with her and kept asking, as if surprised, "She like sushi?"  Which she confirmed by expertly using her chopsticks to snag her favorites (she likes it all pretty much, but I the fried softshell crab and the eel are probably her particular favorites).  

It was a great birthday!  We can't believe she is SIX!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Spring Break 2017

For Spring Break this year, we stayed put and Jennie brought her family out to stay with us.  It was so fun and we loved having the Horne's here to visit and explore with us!  They got here on Saturday and the girls were in heaven playing together and sleeping in the same room.  All five of the big girls slept in Clara and Rose's bedroom and that first night it took a long, long time to get them to sleep.  But really after that first difficult night they went down pretty easily the rest of the time.  

Sunday was General Conference and we made cinnamon rolls for breakfast and enjoyed watching conference together as much as we could.  We also took a bit of a break to go over to a local outdoor space with lots of trees and take pictures of the cousins together in the cute shirts and jean shorts that Grandma Cece had picked out for them.  It's no easy feat getting a decent picture of the seven of them all at once, especially with the twins who are just barely 2, but I'm happy with what we ended up with.  Mom - You will have to let me know which ones you like best and what size and I will print these for you.  

We spent Monday at Alameda State Memorial Beach, which I love despite the fact that it doesn't have waves and isn't really a normal beach.  It actually hardly had water this day because the tide was so far out!  But that was a great thing for the girls because they could just splash in the puddles as much as they wanted and at least the weather was perfect for flying kites.  Each of them took turns flying the two kites that we had brought with us.  Clara, especially, loved that activity and spent a long time doing it.  Eventually, we waded way far out until the adults were up to our mid-calves and the girls were about to lay down in the water and "swim" around and they loved that too.

On Tuesday we drove over to Sausalito to go visit Muir Woods.  I love that place.  It's so peaceful and gorgeous there.  We've actually only ever done the main, mostly flat, trail and didn't vary our approach this time since we had all seven girls and knew someone would have to push the stroller back down the flat main trail with the twins in it.  But the upper portion of the trail was fun with the five older girls and Clara spotted something like 8 or 9 banana slugs.  

We picnicked again, like we had at the beach, and it was a good thing because the girls were all complaining about being starving when we finally stopped for food.  Honestly, one of the things I really enjoyed about having Jennie out here was just the act of pulling everything together in the morning and packing lunch with her, talking over what the girls might like, while the girls played so well together in our house.  Anyway, everybody enjoyed sandwiches and chips and berries and juice boxes.

When we weren't off exploring, the girls had a wonderful time just hanging out around the house.  They did Cosmic Yoga together, played dress up, colored, jumped on the trampoline, played with the chickens, sang and danced their little hearts out, and just generally played well together.  One night we even hired two girls from our ward to come babysit all 7 girls while us grown-ups went out to eat in Walnut Creek.  The girls enjoyed watching Moana with the babysitters and the adults enjoyed a nice meal and conversation without having to coax any reluctant eaters!

Since Monday and Tuesday were bigger days with the beach and Muir Woods, we stayed closer to home on Wednesday and just went to Heather Farms Park in Walnut Creek which has these fun turf-covered Jack & Jill hills for the girls to play on.  Then we hit up Chik-Fil-A for lunch and did ice cream at Lourdes for a treat in the evening.

We knew that Thursday and Friday were likely to be wet days so we saved the museums for those days of the vacation.  First we went to the Bay Area Children's Museum in Sausalito.  Jennie & Ryan have a pass to Thanksgiving Point in Utah that gets them into hundreds of other museums around the country, so we all got in without paying, which was awesome.  I loved that the museum was set up in refurbished army buildings just below Golden Gate Bridge.  The toddler outdoor area was a big hit with Rose, Adelaide, Kaitlyn and Brigette.  I think they would have stayed there all day if we had let them.

But the girls also liked the jungle/rain forest room and the painting room.  And there was another outdoor play space that they enjoyed playing on after eating lunch.  

On Friday we decided to check out the Chabot Space & Science Center.  It's not the greatest for the younger set like our group, but the girls still had fun looking at pictures (even if none of them could stand still long enough for me to read the fascinating information to them about black holes and stars and rockets).  There was a dark room with purple dots of light that made you feel like you were floating through space (I mean, if you used your imagination) and the girls loved that.  There was also a cheesy movie in the planetarium that the girls seemed to enjoy that was about two kids who build a rocket ship out of a cardboard box and fly past each of the planets in our solar system.  

After the museum we hit up Fenton's for lunch and ice cream sundaes.  Unfortunately, there was a meltdown that happened here that spoiled the fun a bit, but mostly the girls did really well the whole week.

Jennie & her family ended up staying Saturday too because of bad weather and we went to the farmer's market and head cake for the twins' birthday, but I don't have any pictures from that day.  

It was a wonderful spring break and we are so glad that Jennie & Ryan decided to come out and visit us!  Our girls are still talking about how much they miss their cousins!