Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sequoia & King's Canyon National Parks

We thought it would be fun to go camping over Labor Day since we haven't done any kind of a family trip all summer and we were able to find a camping spot to reserve in Sequoia National Park which we have been wanting to check out.  So we pulled all our camping stuff together and packed the car Thursday night and then Friday Paul left work a little early so we were able to get away a little after 3:00.  Rose had a little bit of a rough start to the trip and fussed quite a bit through the bad traffic getting out of the Bay Area but once we got past Livermore things cleared up a little bit and Rose dozed off and had a good little late afternoon snooze while Clara happily watched "Finding Nemo" (periodically making statements during more intense parts of the movie like "mom & dad - I was so brave!").  When Rose woke up, we had a quick dinner stop to give the girls a break and then it was back on the road where Rose fell asleep for the night, which was perfect as we had quite a bit of winding road to go through to get to our campsite. 
Unfortunately, Paul wasn't feeling so great Friday and didn't have a very good night sleeping in the tent (the campsite was in the foothills and was crazy hot and dusty).  He wasn't feeling any better on Saturday morning but we decided to just go forward with our plans and see if he improved as the day went on.  First we stopped at Lodgepole visitors center to buy dinner tickets for the Wolverton BBQ & dinner show that night, then we did the super easy hike down to see General Sherman. 
General Sherman isn't the tallest tree or the widest tree in the world but it is the largest tree by volume in the whole world.  It is 2,200 years old and the top is dead so it isn't getting any taller but it is still adding bark so every year it increases its bulk with enough wood to form another good-size tree.  There was an interesting board to read near the tree with a bunch of factoids like a 6-foot human looking up at General Sherman is the equivalent of a mouse looking up at a 6-foot human or that if the General Sherman could be filled with water it would hold enough for 9,844 baths which is 1 bath every day for 27 years.  And while it isn't the oldest Sequoia tree in existence (there are some sequoias older than 3,000 years), it is the biggest because of its location which gave it prime growing conditions.  Isn't that sort of stuff fascinating? 
On the trail down to the General Sherman tree there was this area where rocks inlaid in cement showed General Sherman's footprint to give an idea of how big it is at its base.  Clara was running circles around me while we were trying to take this photo.

There are a bunch of other huge sequoias in the park along this trail and other nearby trails but we didn't explore far because the most likely sounding trail was 2 miles long and Rose was starting to fuss and Clara was starting to whine so we opted instead to ride the bus to the Giant Trees Museum, which Clara loved (the bus ride - not the museum which was kind of lame).

After another bus ride back to the car it was a little after 11:00 and Rose fell right asleep so we decided to do a nice long drive between the parks.  Sequoia and King's Canyon are right next to each other and the views were interesting so we just snacked on chips and apples and other food we had in the car rather than stop back at Lodgepole for lunch.  Clara fell asleep partway too, which worked out perfectly.  So after an almost 2 hour drive we ended up at Cedar Grove in King's Canyon where we got out and waded in the shallow river for a while.  It was a lovely spot and it felt great putting our feet in the water.  Even Rose liked it despite how cold the water was.

I waded out with both girls told Clara to do a crazy balancing pose with me on this rock.  Rose didn't know what was going on. 

Unfortunately, or predictably, Clara sat down in the water (getting a little damp) and then "fell" in (could it have been purposeful?) so she had to strip down while her clothes dried on the branches of a nearby bush.

Rose took another nap on the drive back and then we spent some time exploring around Wuksachi Lodge and doing a teeny-tiny portion of a hike that might have been fun to do if we had the time and the girls were a little more interested and Paul was feeling a little better.  As it was, Paul still wasn't feeling great at all so after dinner at the Wolverton BBQ (which was pretty disappointing) we headed back to our campsite to pack up and head for home.  We left around 8:00 and got back around 11:30, which worked out well for us because Rose and Clara both fell asleep in the car and transferred to their beds pretty well once we got home.  Honestly, I had worried about how Rose would do on this little excursion because she isn't the best sleeper unless she is in her crib and things are silent but she did great and we were so grateful.  It gives us a lot of hope that she will do well with our longer Yosemite trip in October.

So, our first foray into camping with both girls wasn't so much of a success.  We only did 1 night instead of the 3 we had planned on.  But both girls slept great that first night and the real reasons we left were because it was too hot at our campsite to be comfortable, Paul wasn't feeling very well the whole time, and there wasn't as much to see in these parks as there is at other parks we like better. But at least now we can say we've been there, right?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Some Recent Summer Fun

Rose has turned into such a little snuggler lately and not just because of teething or tiredness or anything.  She likes to tease Paul by peeking out at him, then when he makes a funny face for her she ducks her noggin' under my chin and giggles right up against my neck.  It is seriously too sweet and I don't think I will ever get tired of it.

Blackberries were a big hit with Rose and she got them everywhere.

We have been on a pizza kick lately.  The other week we made a whole wheat veggie pizza (possibly one of my favorite things ever - it is seriously SO good) and Clara was my big helper.  (I also tried a Chicago deep dish pizza recipe from America's Test Kitchen that was sort of life-changing - recipe is on Tastebook).  She really loves rolling things out and pizzas are great because the dough is forgiving and then she has such a great time putting the toppings on the pizza.  I totally believe in getting her involved in the cooking process as much as possible early on.  Except that she ends up snacking on the mushrooms, peppers, zucchini and cheese that she is supposed to be putting on the pizza so I usually have to take over to make any progress and make sure that dinner actually gets made.  Incidentally, Clara has been crazy into wearing her leotards lately whether she has had gymnastics or not.  This was a non-gymnastics day because her hair was down and I always braid it for class.

Painting is still a favorite pastime around here.  Clara has finally started using crayons too but painting is her first love. 

Rose has actually started having success over the past two days with actually fairly consistently getting cheerios from her tray into her mouth using her thumb and forefinger.  Is it crazy how ridiculously proud I am of these little developments?

Along with dressing up in leotards, the girls have been wearing the fairy wings (which are apparently butterfly wings since Clara doesn't have a clue what fairies are) to dress up as butterflies.  Clara insisted that she was a "sleeping butterfly" when I was trying to take her picture.  You know how some kids refuse to take off certain dress up clothes when they run errands with mom?  That is how Clara tends to be with these wings and she will walk out to the car wearing them and I have to convince her that I can't buckle her into her carseat with them on.

The girls and I often sit outside in the shade in the evenings while we are waiting for Paul to get home from work.  He usually texts to let us know how far away he is since he rides BART and can give us a good ETA.  The girls love it and sometimes we take books out there and read for a bit in the front yard while we wait and sometimes we talk to neighbors who come by.  Clara likes to bring one of her babies (zebra or giraffe) out with her and push them up and down the sidewalk in the stroller or she plays with Gnomie (a Travelocity roaming gnome that sits on a rock by our entryway).


Waiting for Daddy to Get Home from Amy Nash on Vimeo.

Two weekends ago we decided to go swimming late in the day because we had been running errands and working outside in the heat cleaning up the yard.  We ended up at the Dougherty pool that is on the San Ramon/Danville border, I think, because the San Ramon Olympic Pool was closing too early for us.  It had a nice kiddie pool that was pretty basic (no climbing structure or slides or anything) and was practically empty.  The girls had a great time and Rose has finally seemed to really have come around when it comes to swimming pools.  It used to take her quite a bit to warm up to being in the cool water but she got right to it this time and started splashing and playing immediately.

This video is just a random one of Rose chatting with Paul the other day.  I like it because it shows what a wiggle worm she is and how she has little squeals and noises that are darling:

Rose chattering from Amy Nash on Vimeo.

We are still going to 24 Hour Fitness on a regular basis and it is seriously awesome.  The girls like it too and as I type this Clara is walking around chanting "I want to go to the gym, gym, gym!" because Rose is still asleep and we can't leave until she wakes up.  They have a huge playplace-type structure with slides and platforms and tunnels and that kind of stuff and Clara literally goes up and down that thing the whole time I am in class while Rose basks in the adoration of the staff who are totally enamored with her.  My favorite thing to do right now is go to a class called "Nike Team Training" which is sort of like a bootcamp class set to music but not involving any dance.  It has lots of steps and weights and squats and pushups and that sort of stuff without being all cheesy (which drives me crazy about group exercise classes). 

I posted this on instagram and am definitely tooting my own horn here but a while back I was watching Clara do gymnastics and started wondering why she gets to have all the fun and why did I feel like I was incapable of doing gymnastics myself.  So I set out to accomplish some feats of strength to prove to myself that I CAN still do gymnastic type things.  Doing a handstand is one of those things that I really wanted to be able to do.  I can hold it for a few seconds at a time and although my feet are cut off in this picture I was not touching the mirror behind me - I just like to practice next to a wall still just in case I kick over too hard when I am going into it.  It is so weird how I still have to overcome fears every time though - fears of looking dumb or of falling or getting hurt.  But I feel like it is good mental and spiritual exercise to push myself past those fears and do this.  Anyway, the next step is to try to find an adult gymnastics class and try it out.  (okay, okay, it is Wednesdays at 8:30 at night - I just need to go do it already.  My friend Bethany inspired me about this when she joined an adult ballet class last year and then posted a picture of herself in her costume at her recital this past spring.  Seriously, Bethany, you are my hero.)

This past weekend Paul and I participated in the ROC (Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge) 5K race.  Only it is not so much a race because it isn't even timed and most people don't run the whole thing (we did though - mostly).  Essentially, it is a 5k with obstacles along the way that you have to go through, much like the TV show "Wipeout".  There was a wall to climb, a giant moon bounce to jump across, a huge waterslide that you rode down in an intertube with a big bump at the end that dumped you into a pool of water, rotating padded "sweeper" arms that knocked people off a balance beam as they attempted to cross, giant swinging "wrecking balls" that knocked people into a pool of water as they made their way across a cylindrical padded beam, etc.  Paul made it past the wrecking balls which was pretty amazing since hardly anyone was getting across without falling.  I did pretty well and made it to about 4 feet from the platform before I lost my footing and ended up in the water.  It was a super fun day date, reminiscent of the Warrior Dash that we did a few years back, only we liked this one even better.  We would definitely do it again.

After we got home and the girls woke up from their naps, we went to explore downtown Pleasanton and check out a pretty wonderful soft-serve ice cream place called Meadowlark Dairy.  It is a drive through or there is a walk-up window (which is what we did) and it has been around since the early 1900's and was "the first certified dairy in California" (according to their website).  Paul and I both got vanilla/chocolate swirl cones and Clara got a strawberry/pineapple cone (I didn't like the pineapple to tell the truth but the vanilla/chocolate was excellent) and we sat on a nearby curb to eat them.  Rose even got a couple of tastes from Daddy's cone, thanks to her status of being the second child (ice cream was off-limits for Clara until she was 1 although Paul says he snuck her some when I didn't know about it).

And we have been playing lots of "Go Fish" around here with these darling Eeboo cards that I ordered after playing with a set that Emma has while we were visiting in Utah.  We also got "Old Maid" but haven't opened it yet.  The colors have more elaborate names like buttercup, turquoise, eggplant, cafĂ© au lait, and indigo, which is kind of cool and Clara loves it.  When the three of us play together she only wants to ask Paul if he has the color she is looking for, never me.  And when he says "no, go fish" Clara grins and says "oh gosh!" and then draws her card.  It has us cracking up every time.


Go Fish from Amy Nash on Vimeo.

And finally, Clara and Paul love to do the wiggle dance together:

Clara and Daddy do the Wiggle Dance from Amy Nash on Vimeo.

Clara Begins Ballet

Clara had her first ballet class at Rachel's Ballet in Dublin this past week.  She was so excited for it and talked about it for days in advance.  I really wasn't sure how she would do and was worried that she wouldn't do what Miss Ashley (the instructor) asked or would get clingy but she marched right in with the other girls and was assuming first position and intently imitating movements within minutes.  I can watch her through a window and she had a huge smile across her face the entire time.  She is definitely hooked. 
Before class started I asked her to do some ballet poses for me so I could take her picture and boy did she ever give me a performance.  Here are just a handful of the shots I took:

I asked around when I was trying to determine which ballet school to send her too and got quite a few recommendations for Rachel's studio.  She is actually a member of our ward and puts on a full performance of "The Nutcracker" every year at the Oakland Temple auditorium for free.  Tickets are gone within 5 minutes of being made available every season and we didn't get them last year but are definitely going to try to get some this year even though Clara won't be old enough to perform in it until she is 5 or 6.  I may have mentioned this before but one of the reasons we love Clara's name so much is because of Clara from the Nutcracker and we have a number of Nutcracker books that we read to Clara and she adores the story because of the name association.  Last Christmas she loved watching the ballet for the first time and we are looking forward to taking her again this year since it is one of our favorite Christmas traditions.

Rachel's studio is the only one around that follows RAD standards (Royal Academy of Dance) and examines their students every year to determine eligibility for moving up levels (including preschool levels).  It is definitely the most intensively and exclusively ballet-focused school in our area compared to other dance studios that also offer tap, contemporary, jazz, etc.  So I don't know if that is going to be a good thing or a bad thing for Clara but for now I think it is great.  Plus it is practically just around the corner from us which makes it super convenient.

I have to admit that my heart aches a little seeing her growing up so fast with her hair pulled into a perfect bun and her sweet pink leotard, skirt, tights, and slippers walking in to her dance class confident and proud.  A part of me wonders: is it too much?  Is it okay for her to be doing gymnastics on Monday and ballet on Tuesday and starting preschool this fall?  I honestly know it is fine - I'm not really concerned and although we obviously are giving her the opportunities at this stage we would pull her from the activities if Clara was not enjoying them or wasn't ready but she talks about ballet and gymnastics all the time and so obviously loves them that we know it is the right thing for her right now.  But Paul and I decided soccer is too much to add to the mix this year so we are nixing that even though we had been thinking about getting her started in that too. 

She is such a little lady and we just love our little ballerina so much.