This year, Maddy was a Red Power Ranger and Gwen was a bat. Not Batgirl or Batman, nope. Gwen wanted to be Just A Bat. I couldn't find bat wings that weren't skimpy or wimpy so I made her a nice set using Isis Wings as inspiration. They were pretty easy to make and they worked perfectly.
Here are our incredibly adorable 8 year old trick-or-treaters:
Eleven months since my last post so I thought I'd share a few pics. I took these on Daddy's birthday two weeks ago. The girls are finishing up 2nd grade and very much looking forward to summer vacation. I really enjoy them at this age. Well, I've treasured all of their ages so far but I'm having an especially good time with age 7. They're so sweet and affectionate and curious and talkative.
One of Gwen's friends informed her that she wasn't Chinese so Gwen was convinced that she was Japanese. It took much longer than expected to get her to believe that I know more about the subject than her 7 year old classmate. Who knew peer pressure was so strong at such an early age! No worries though since Gwen was equally happy to be Japanese or Chinese.
Beautiful child! Her hair is usually silky and amazing but it looks pretty dry and stiff in this photo. Wish there was a way to photoshop-fix that...
Ever since our Mediterranean cruise last summer, the girls have talked nonstop about another "boat vacation".
That was our first glimpse into how easy a vacation with young kids can be so we wasted no time booking cruise number two. Ten months later, we were back on the ship enjoying two beautiful weeks on the Baltic.
Gwen seems to always have her birthday while we're on vacation. She turned 5 in Paris, 6 in Rome, 7 in Copenhagen and she's likely to turn 8 in Barcelona next summer. That might sound exciting to a grown-up but it's kinda sucky for a kid since there aren't any presents and usually not even a birthday cake. She got a cake on the ship this year though - and she was thrilled!
After our 2001 wedding, Andrew and I did the usual combining of household items and marveled at the size of our our newly merged camping equipment collection. So how is it possible that we never touched a single tent pole or propane lantern until last weekend?
Okay, it’s my fault. For years, Andrew has repeatedly suggested that we simply toss a couple of sleeping bags and a tent into the back of the van and spend a leisurly night "at one" with nature but I dragged my feet because I know that camping with kids is anything but simple or leisurely. There’s a LOT of planning that goes into a successful camping trip if one is to hope to emerge from the experience with anything but mosquito bites and nervous twitches.
Certain questions have to be answered in advance: Where will we sleep? Will we be warm enough? What will the kids do at the campsite for fun? What will we eat and how will we prepare it? What about lights and lamps? What about bugs? What about rain? What about toilets and water and campfires and chairs and tarps and tent repair kits? So much to do before we shed those annoying constraints of civilization to make our home with the vicious creatures and wild beasts that inhabit the woods just outside the limits of all cities.
But we finally did it and here’s the photographic proof:
We arrived at our camp site (at Uvas Canyon County Park) and were immediately greeted by our closest camp-neighbors: three loudly barking dogs, six adults in various stages of early intoxication and two crying toddlers. After completely unpacking and setting up camp, we headed out for our first hike where we encountered some of our more civilized neighbors who were quick to offer their condolences after hearing which site we reserved. This inspired us to explore some alternatives so we were excited to see that there was a vacancy way down on the far end of the campground (closer to the creek and waterfall) so we hightailed it back to our van and loaded everything up and moved. We didn’t break down the tents though. Instead, Gwen and Maddy and Daddy and Mommy each grabbed a corner and we walked our erect tents down the long road to their new location.
All settled for the 2nd time, we got down to the business of having fun!
Above, Maddy and Gwen prepare for a potato-gun duel to the death. What’s a potato gun, you ask? It’s a surprisingly simple little toy that works like this:
First you load the gun by jabbing the barrel into a raw potato and gouging out a little spud-pellet that remains in the gun until it is eventually forced out at very low pressure when you pull the trigger. It’s about as dangerous as booger throwing and almost as much fun.
Our camp site was beautiful and well appointed with a fire ring, picnic table, large shade trees, flat surface for the tents and a medium sized creek and waterfall nearby. One enormous plus of this particular site is the blissful “white noise” of the waterfall that masks the other camp sounds at night and makes it easier for this mom to sleep. We went on several nature walks and found all sorts of interesting critters including a couple of yellow spotted millipedes (that Gwen insisted were caterpillars), the biggest banana slug we’ve ever seen, a really cool daddy-long-leg spider and even a small snake.
You may have guessed from the photo at the top of this post that Gwen and Maddy’s Daddy is somewhat excited about sharp shiny objects. I’m sure I saw him gently caress the cool steel surface of his camping axe before unsheathing it and commencing a brutal assault on a totally innocent log. It was too much for me so made a hasty retreat after taking a few pics (in case they were needed as evidence). A little while later, he showed up at the fire pit with beads of sweat on his brow, a twinkle in his eye, and two large handfuls of kindling and in no time at all, he created this handsome fire!
…. a very lovely fire where we lovingly placed our dinner of succulent sausages (packed full of sundried tomato and mozzarella) and almost immediately turned them into individual, foil-wrapped, servings of coal. Crud.
Fortunately, I’m all about the contingency plan so there was plenty of yummy cup-o-noodles for everyone!
And what camping trip would be complete without hot chocolate and smores? The girls loved toasting the marshmallows and building these fancy desserts but when it came time to actually eat them, they were mostly just interested in the sweet slab of Hershey’s chocolate in the middle. Oh, but Mommy loved that toasty marshmallow!! After several (not so) scary campfire stories, we finally settled down for the night. Here’s a photo of the half of our tent where Gwen and Maddy slept on their much loved aerobeds. And here’s a pic of our fresh-faced, well-rested girls the next morning! Yes, that’s a bottle of pediasure with a nipple on top (gasp!). I almost photoshopped it out to avoid grief from holier-than-thou commenters who might be unable to resist the urge to scold me for letting my 6 year old daughters consume their breakfast this way but I really don’t see how it’s that much different than a straw.
All things considered, the entire camping experience was positive but man am I sore and tired! Next time I think I’ll bring warmer blankets so I can sleep more than two hours and I think we need to buy a new tent that is tall enough to stand up in (it’s hard to make beds and prepare the inside of a tent when you have to do everything hunched over!). Camping in the summer might make a world of difference too since it was 47 degrees during the night and that’s pretty darn cold! Still, it was FUN FUN FUN and we’ll definitely do it again now that we know the perfect camp site!
Any local friends want to come with us?
With three days remaining in our Spring Break, we hopped on a plane and headed to Las Vegas to spend a pathetically sinless weekend lounging around with my brother and sister in law. Here’s the view from our hotel room on the 35th floor of the Hilton Resort (at the far end of the Strip).
Our biggest vice is food and there was plenty of that during the weekend but we needed a few entertainment options that didn’t include the use of a fork or spoon. Luckily, one such option was The Rick Thomas Magic Show. The show was walking distance from our hotel and very entertaining.
We flew back home Sunday evening. Spring break was so much fun but there is school tomorrow!
Gosh, how we LOVE this place!
We just found out that GG was open this week (last few days of Spring Break) so we high tailed it down here and enjoyed a beautiful day of fun in the sun!
Can you believe how pretty this park is?
These cars are a big favorite and well worth time short wait in line. We always have to go through twice because the girls take turns as driver (when they’re not fighting over the steering wheel like they are in the pic above).
After a quick detour into the playground. Then some fun and flips and slips and slides and a great big drink of water…
We’re off to our favorite roller coaster: The Quicksilver Express!
I sat in front of the girls and held my (ridiculously expensive) camera over my head to take these photos behind me on the ride. I was double lucky to get some super cute pics and not send the camera flying during the steep drops and sharp turns! I’m not sure I’d do this again but I’m glad I got these photos this time.
Maddy has her fingers in her ears because the last part of ride involves going through a tunnel filled with dynamite. Yeah, it’s a “blast”.
(Below) Isn’t Maddy beautiful? A princesses perfect profile!
Off to the twirly swirly drum ride. Gwen is actually too tall for this ride but they didn’t seem to notice. Then we did the goldfish ride and stopped to admire some pretty yellow flowers before heading to the Dip-N-Dots vendor for a snack.
Gwen has a rainbow of frozen fruity goodness on her tongue! This dessert is insanely expensive but extraordinarily good so the girls can hardly help but break into a stereo chorus of incessant begging any time they see someone manning the Dip-N-Dot booth.
The kids have so much fun at this place so I always get my best smiles at Gilroy Gardens!
This year, we spent Easter with my brother, Kevin, at his home near Los Angeles. The girls were worried about the Easter Bunny knowing where to deliver their baskets and since I forgot to bring the baskets (doh!), I had to tell them the truth about Ol’ Mr. EB. Luckily, the disappointment was mitigated by Aunt Cindy who hid eggs all over her backyard!
With the help afforded her after donning her pink super-hero cape, Gwen did pretty well for herself too!
Three dogs and one slimy green tennis ball sure can be fun!
Kevin, Cindy and Moi
My neice, Kaelee, with her sweet pup, Sophie.
This is Kay. I’ve called her Mom since she and my dad married (when I was somewhere around Gwen and Maddy’s age). She and Dad divorced when I was in my early 30’s and our relationship took a detour sometime around that time too. This weekend was the first time I’ve seen her in more than 15 years but I really hope it’s not the last. Oh, and the pretty dog is Lady. She barked her head off but her wildly wagging tail betrayed her intentions. She’s as harmless as she is photogenic!
Tonight, we’ll take Daddy to the airport so he can go back to work tomorrow and Gwen and Maddy and I will head down closer to Disneyland for the rest of our Spring Break.