Monday, July 28, 2008

Little's Hobby Horse

Recently Little has taken to making hobby horses out of everyday objects [a hobby horse is one of those horse-head-on-a-stick [sounds like a cheap French county-fair snack, right?] toys that everybody used to play with back in the medieval era when our parents were alive, if old kids books are any indication]. Sometimes she uses a picture frame, sometimes a broom, sometimes Littler. She gallops around in a convincing cadence and waves her free hand above her head like she's working a lasso. It's ubercute.

The other day she was potty training and so, at that moment, she was 100% totally gloriously buck nekkid. She decided she wanted to play with a hobby horse, so she grabbed the nearest object, straddled it, and pranced around yelling "HObby horse! HObby horse!" What object did she grab to be her hobby horse?


Daddy is almost entirely convinced that this was the cutest single moment in all of human history.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Little Goes Potty

Today is day 9 of our latest attempt to potty train Little, and I must say that even though it's not going miraculously, we're pretty happy with the way things are going this time around. So far today she has had ZERO accidents, with both pee and poop. Or as her little potty movie calls it, "wee wee" and "poo poo". She still wets a diaper major time at night, and most days wakes up from her nap wet, but as of today we are officially not putting her to nap in diapers (but ARE using thick training pants with those plastic cover pants over them [and today a cloth diaper doubler]).

Littler has been alternating between the rest of our disposable supply, the rest of our g-diapers left over from trying them on Little (they didn't work as well on her for some reason), and cloth diaper doublers inserted into the g-diaper covers. We make the official cloth diaper plunge when her new all in one cloth diapers arrive next week. So far though, I think the cloth thing is working out great, thanks to our washer and dryer. I LOOOOOOOOVE them! They are seriously changing my life for the better!

Back to Little...wish us luck on her future success. We're going to start a sticker chart very soon because she's so good at going that she's earning too many otter pops and movies...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Biking the Bay with Babies, Basically

Our friends invited us to go with them on a bike ride on saturday, nominally to a store, but by such a circuitous route that we knew we'd never get there. We planned on riding out to the bay, riding the trails there up to Redwood City, and doing the same thing back. Here's how it really went:

We [A-Ron, Boni, Olivander, Lize-Ahhh, Pester, MDester, BChester, Squeaker] packed everything we'd need [sans tire repair kit; more on that later] and rode off. Palo Alto has a lot of great bike paths, so [despite some terrible directions from; more on that later] we had a rather easy route through residential neighborhoods, up and over the freeway, and right out to the Palo Alto Golf Course and its surrounding trails.

Our route, following the aforementioned directions, had us following a network of trails around the periphery of the bay for several miles. One of the trails purported to cross train tracks. It didn't. So we had to backtrack several miles of narrow dirt trails [we all had road bikes; whoops] to bypass the tracks. According to Google Earth we had gone 15 miles by the time we reached Bayfront Park in Redwood City [4.44 miles as the tern flies]. Lize-Ahhh was ready for this thing to end, so we sat down on some blankets and ate lunch. We had French Emmenthaler on crackers, plums, and, of course, string cheese. All these pictures were taken there. We know that Olivander has other female friends, but none worship him as much as BChester. Observe.

We walked to the top of a low hill at the park and played around for a while. BChester and Olivander were having a total blast. This is a rock they were using as a slide.

Not sure what she was doing here. She probably wasn't either.

Squeaker's face is covered in lots of things. Lize-Ahhh's graham cracker. Pre-chewed stale rosemary herb bread. Her own spit. Ground squirrel dung. You know, that stuff. [seriously, she partially slipped into a squirrel hole]

Speaking of ground-squirrel holes... Lize-Ahhh is keeping her feet cool in the very same one that tried to swallow Squeaker. There were probably 73.5 quadrillion squirrels there, by a conservative estimate.

We eventually started back. About 1.5 miles into the return trip, A-Ron got a flat. Remember now that we had no tire patching kit. So he started walking [way out in East Palo Alto] and everyone else rode home, with Boni now pulling Olivander and Lize-Ahhh. We took a more direct route [and avoided all the backtracking involved in the trip out] and got home in about 9.5 miles. Boni drove off and saved A-Ron who was about 4 miles closer to home than he was when we left him. Nice of him to save gas like that.

It was a lot of fun! We definitely got a taste of what we're in for when we sell our car [more on that later; much later. Like, tomorrow maybe.]. None of our trips with the kids previously had passed 8 miles round-trip. So the fact that 25 rough, windy, dirty miles turned out ok seems to indicate that we'll be fine. But we'll need a patching kit.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Our Utah Trip [in somewhat less than 7,325,482 words]

We drove to Utah overnight starting Thursday June 26th. We had a bunch of fun. So, here's what we did in a nutshell, leaving out all the boring stuff:

After spending a day in Salt Lake with Peter's brother eating good food and swinging on this miraculous swing he put in his front yard, we drove to Boulder [near Escalante] and camped in a crummy [read: crowded] little state park in Escalante for the night. At least there were chukars there. The next day we hiked Lower Calf Creek Falls, a hot but way-worth-it 5.5 mile hike up [and back down] one of those ubiquitous gorgeous mini riparian corridors southern Utah is so famous for. The waterfall and pool at the end of the hike up were so idyllic that we almost never left. View the pictures at a leisurely pace to get the feeling for this afternoon.

Here's an interesting sequence of pictures. In the first one, Little throws mud. What you can't see is it landing on the UV filter for our nice lens [basically just to protect the sensitive front lens element]. So before the next picture, Daddy, smart man that he is, took off the filter and snapped one picture just in time to catch the superclod of mud that Little hurled right for the lens. Somehow she managed to coat two lens faces with mud in about 20 seconds from a pretty safe [Daddy's judgement] distance.

We had tons of fun in Calf Creek. Later we ate at Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder with Daddy's brother and his daughters [whom Little adores] and his friend, the owner. It was fantastic, some of the best and most creative food we've ever had. If you're ever anywhere near there, it's definitely worth a super meal or two for roughly what half a french fry costs here in the Bay Area. Mommy even enjoyed some kind of bizarre-sounding but yummy trout pate despite her normal aversion to anything fishy. We slept on public land somewhere off the Burr Trail and enjoyed perfect skies and complete privacy. Insomnia wouldn't exist in such a place.

The next day Daddy's brother drove us up Hell's backbone and we shot rifles [.22, .30-30, .270] until Daddy's shoulder started becoming detached from his torso and Mommy started to give him the Impatient Look. Daddy took it as the time to leave and we all drove off for Salt Lake to meet Daddy's other brother and his family.

Daddy's Other Brother has a bunch of kids, and Little loved just about all of them. We hung out and went swimming, then we went on a small hike in "The Canyon" [not sure where that was] and Little just insisted that she hold Mack's hand the whole time. He was very tolerant.

Little and her closest cousin Pinkleberry decided it would be cool to use their pockets. They just loved it. Nothing cuter.

Then we drove to Arches National Park near Moab for Mommy's family reunion. After camping at a gorgeous campground deep inside Arches [nearly Mommy's whole family; more than enough nuttiness for one National Park! But it was great], we went on a rafting trip down a stretch of the Colorado. No pictures [you can guess why], but it was a blast. Mommy and Daddy even got to go off on their own in a little inflatable raft/canoe/kayak hybrid called a ducky. Super fun all around. The canyon was stunning. Mommy's parents looked after Little and Littler in Moab while we were gone, giving Mommy and Daddy their first really free time since Little was born. Can't stress enough how cool that was.

We went just south of Moab for the rest of the day, to a little man-made creek and reservoir called Ken's Lake.

Little and Manda's brother Gobot, one of Little's favorite people.

It was the 4th of July, by the way.

The all-time greatest picture in the history of the universe, says Daddy. Little was waiting for Gobot [guffaw haw haw] when she slipped on wet sandstone near the creek and became just a little distressed.

Daddy went nuts over the lighting at Ken's lake. Must have taken a hundred pictures. We waded, swam, tried to catch bass, and generally screwed around happily until it was late enough that we could eat dinner.

There was lots of rock throwing. Little's cousin Mark went nuts with rocks several times his weight. We were all scared for our lives. Gobot threw rocks halfway across the lake, maybe 6, 7 million feet. It was a sight to behold.

We camped again that night in Arches [at the group campsite]. In the morning Mommy's sister's husband Ereeek hooked up some rappelling gear so that Mommy could practice. Littler was a sandstone-eating spectator.

Ereeeeek and his wife [Manda's sister Gordita] took all of us off-the-beaten track on a couple-mile loop hike to a perennially wet canyon west of Arches. There were a few waterholes but not much more.

See the irony in this? Little is cleaning her shoe because she doesn't want to be dirty...

One of Mommy's brothers found a whole population of red-spotted toads. This is one of the distinctive southwest riparian amphibians and they were superabundant at this water hole. This one was no larger than Daddy's pinky nail.

We spent a couple hours swimming in and rappelling into this waterhole. It was a blast and a great way to get out of the heat.

When we got back to the campsite that night, everything was covered in sand. A sand storm had ripped down our tarp-tent and most of the group's tents had traveled quite a distance in the wind. A ranger told us that she had found some of our tents rolling across the road. Our 2-man tent was fine, but our 1-man [where Mommy and Daddy sleep, without a fly] tent rolled into a tree. Somehow one of the tent poles bent at a 45-degree angle from the force. We still have no idea how the wind managed that much force acting on our flimsy tent; it took huge amounts of force to bend it back to seminormal.

We camped again at Arches that night. Daddy had been excited to photograph the bugs that are attracted to the lanterns at night. There are some fantastic little creatures out there. Unfortunately, the flash ran out of batteries so Daddy had to use the little dinky flash on the camera. At any rate, Ereeeek and Mommy's other sister's husband Glen helped corral and photograph the few bugs that would cooperate.

This, we discovered, is an antlion. Very cool eyes. With our tripod [which we left at home because of space issues], extension tubes [not used on these pictures] and the real flash we could have taken some fantastic pictures of this bug's eyes. But this will have to do.

This is the beetle Daddy's the most interested in. The antennae are lamellate antennae, which is a kind we've never seen before. Daddy searched for a long time and decided it was some species of polyphylla in the scarabaeidae family. So it's a june beetle of some sort. Daddy even emailed a scarab specialist and he confirmed it. It was quite common around the lanterns at Arches. The antennae are apparently a sophisticated sensing apparatus to detect female pheremones. So that makes this wacky beetle a dude. Daddy, Glen, and Ereeek spent quite a bit of time observing these beetles interacting and acting nutty.

The next day, Ereeek found a long-nosed leopard lizard in the morning near the campsite. The red coloration means it's pregnant or ready to become so. So our [possibly] preggo lizard is a gal. Ereeek and Glen and Daddy caught it and took pictures. Glen got bitten by the lizard, which was pretty exciting.

One of the persistent problems that we had on this trip was the great beauty of the sandstone in Utah. It was so big and so grand that it was almost impossible to wrap a lens around. Our 28mm lens isn't even close to having a prayer of being nearly wide enough for Utah. Daddy spent many hours trying to find the right scenic shot but ended up with very little, including this shot taken at our campsite.

The next day we hiked up Negro Bill, another wet tributary of the Colorado. It was an incredible hike! At one point, Daddy [with Little] and Ereeek hiked up a side-canyon into a forest of poison ivy. Daddy was very careful to avoid getting any poison ivy on his clothes in case the kids happened to rub against them. Once they got to the end of the canyon [a gigantic amphitheater of red sandstone much too large and grand for any lens, of course], Daddy felt something rubbing against the back of his neck over and over again. Since Little was riding in the backpack, Daddy asked her what she was doing. "Daddy have a leaf!" she said. So Daddy reached back and took the proffered gift: a clump of poison ivy. Good thing Daddy was so careful avoiding the plants, right? Thankfully neither of them got itchy, though daddy has these mysterious inflamed lymph nodes on his neck that began right after this hike and persist still...

Negro Bill is probably the perfect example of the classic Utah red sandstone riparian zone. We hiked in the water as much as we could, in the tradition that Mommy and Daddy started back when they were dating in Arizona.

Daddy chose to include the picture. Suppose he thinks he looks cool?

We stopped for an hour or so on the way up the canyon to catch crawdads for dinner that night. We never ate them, but at least we removed 40 individuals of an invasive species from the river. That, and, of course, it was lots of fun [Daddy is very proud of the 20 he caught... even the miniature one he caught just to move up from the boring number 19]. Ereeek got pinched by a crawdad, which was pretty exciting.

This is the rediculously fantastic arch at the end of Negro Bill. Again, we couldn't wrap the lens around it. But picture this: a full natural sandstone bridge suspended over a deep and cold blue water pothole inside of a towering cathedral of red rock. The creek starts in a hole in the rock just above head level and there is even an active raven's nest built on a ledge on the arch [next to Littler's ear in the picture]. Stupendous place, like something from a very purple fantasy novel. We'd go back there any day.

We went back to the campsite and left the next morning. 17.5 hours later we were in Stanford again! It was well worth it-a trip to remember for sure. But Little is still crying out the stress she accumulated from the trip so we figure we'll keep the rest of our summer a little less exciting...

Special thanks to all those who made the trip great: Vonn, Keht, Hanuhbari, MerGrec, Blakers, Izzy, Tashi, Christofferson, AD, Ambrosia, Wire-D, Yahn-Bahn, X-baby, Clavinator, Maggum, Ponkle-bye, Periwinkleberry, Mom, Dad, Bobert, Chisnap, Yosh, Barb, Glen, Seth, Cammie, Mark, Gobot, Josie, Gabe, Eric, Keenan, Ereeek, Gordita, Izzy, preggo lizard and wacky beetle.