Wednesday, September 28, 2011

If you build it, they will come

You may recall that late last spring, we worked on a project at the kid's at-the-time-soon-to-be-new school. We helped put in sprinklers for the kindergarten play area. Well, that area was still seriously underwhelming for the almost 90 kinder kids, so we reconvened to add a sandbox.

Mark is the lead of the construction arm of the VIPS (volunteers in public service), a local service group formed to help support our schools. He does a lot of smaller jobs on his own, but this was a biggie. FORTUNATELY, we had a nice turn-out, with 15 parents, grandparents, teachers and kids turning out over two days to help. Unfortunately, those two days just happened to be some of the hottest September days I can recall (104 the first day), but we can legitimately claim a bunch of sweat equity!

I'm proud to say, the kids were part of the effort. They kept asking to help, and finally there was a job that was just right!

As a final touch, the volunteers emptied their pockets, throwing all their loose change into the box and burying it in the sand.

I don't have a picture of the first day...yet.

I know. What a tease! But I'll get one and share it. I promise.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Big Girl Hair Cuts

I finally decided the time had come. As much as I enjoyed cutting the girls' hair, the jagged edges and stray hairs were getting to me. They deserved better.

A little girl in their class always has a sharp little bob, and I asked her mom where she went. To my happy surprise, it was Danny, at Hannah's Hair, a little shop right up here in Prather. More than ever, I value keeping the business and money local if at all possible. So I made an appointment, the day before school pictures.

I expected I might be sad, seeing someone else cut their hair and realizing it was the end of an era. But strangely, all I felt was happiness and...relief. Now the girls would look as good as they SHOULD look. So it was definitely time to take this step, eh?

Abigail was the first to take the plunge:

Danny was very tolerant of the freakazoid mom snapping pictures at his every move.

Mae found it a little disconcerting.

But she settled in as well. You may notice her hair is shorter. Abigail wants to grow hers a bit longer for styling versatility. Mae wants shorter for ease of combing. So you see, their hair really is a window into their souls.

Thank goodness it's in better hands!

What did the final product look like? Well, you'll have to tune in next time! But I CAN say, I went back and got my own hair cut a few days later. And then I went back again and splurged with some highlights. Yes, I think we found a keeper.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Meet the Hornets

It's that time of the year...

Mark is coaching again.

AND he's on the league board. AND he's a sponsor.

Yeah. We're into it.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

Abigail took that last picture when I wasn't looking. I found it when I was reviewing the day's pictures. What a neat surprise!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Whine and Wii

Over the last several years (i.e. ever since I left the Air Force), my level of fitness has been in decline. Predictable, I know. I just haven't figured out how to get things done, especially in a rural area on a limited budget. Yes, we do have the great outdoors, but it's either too dark, or too hot during my windows to work out. Plus, I can no longer knee tells me that. I was riding the bike for a while, but these roads don't have much of a shoulder, so I feel like the risk is pretty high. There is a little workout studio 25 minutes away, but I can't see myself reliably going there, and it is not cheap. And then I started having some issues with my back...some pain, stiffness, and some disconcerting grinding when I moved certain ways, which really freaked me out.

Does this sound like a bunch of whining and excuses? YES, I think so too. So for Mothers Day, I asked for a Wii Fit. I suspected (hoped) the source of my back issues was a weak core, and I thought if I started to strengthen it, I'd feel better.

Did you notice I said Mother's Day? The one that occurs in May? Well, the Wii did not solve my back problems, and I ended up going to the doctor and physical therapy to help resolve it. I got two tangible goods from that process:
#1: I got an x-ray and gained some confidence that nothing is grossly wrong with my back (the grinding is a loose SI joint, probably from carrying the twins--creepy but not painful at all)
#2: After months of being really tentative with my back, the movements and environment in PT sparked the memory of how much I loved to work out!

I'm finally getting the "clearance" to go back to normal activities. Recently, I dusted off the Wii, and tried a program I hadn't before: "The Biggest Loser". Patterned after the TV show of the same name, you can choose circuit workouts, yoga, "challenges", and there are recipes, health tips, and videos to boot. I tried a workout and BAM, I was hooked! You can choose your intensity and duration for the workouts, and boy, did I really work up a sweat! Yeah! And I earned some sore muscles! Double yeah!

I'll let you know if this tidal wave of enthusiasm carries on into next week. :-)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Whole Junk of 'Em

When the girls were 3 or so, they used to mix up "bunch" and "junk". Or maybe they just didn't know "bunch"...only "junk". Anyway, we still use this phrase today to describe, as you might guess, a large quantity.

We had a whole junk of Schlaefers here recently, with Mark's brother Kent coming to visit. He and his wife, Katherine, came to visit from the outer banks of NC, coincidentally at exactly the same time Hurricane Irene was passing over their home. Fortunately, they had no major damage. They were in CA to visit adult sons Peter and Steven (both now CA residents), and the whole group, plus Mark's younger brother John and his son Zachary (our home-building helper), all came out our way for a visit. We greeted them with our signature ensemble:

Then for the next 36 hours we talked, ate, and drank...all at high volume. We hit the highlights of Tollhouse: burgers and shakes at the Tollhouse Market, my folks' pool, and our crawlspace.

As a host, I was torn between trying to take care of everything and have my guests relax, or allowing Katherine to do things in my kitchen, where I could watch and possibly learn from her. She is a most amazing cook. In the end, my selfish instincts won out, I invited her in, and she did do something magical with some fresh figs (which I just happened to have on hand), cream cheese, and walnuts on toasted sourdough. Which she just made up on the spot. See what I mean? I should also note that per his request, Peter was the master chef for breakfast both days. It was the first time he had cooked for his mom, so that was an event in itself.

All too soon, it was time to say goodbye. Here are the Schlaefer men:

And the next generation:

And that's what it's all about, isn't it?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

Now that we're back in the groove of school, we had a bit of a summer flashback with a 3-day weekend. In fact, it was a LOT of a summer flashback because the temperature was 100+ degrees. And of course, the one thing the kids wanted to do was go to the zoo.

So down we went on Saturday, and you know, it wasn't so bad. The zoo has lots of shade, and when things get really hot, an ice cream or a visit to the reptile house really can hit the spot. In addition to the normal fun of animal watching, the girls practiced map-reading, directing us from exhibit to exhibit. It's Mae's turn:

Yes, you may notice the tutus are STILL in action. In fact, yesterday Abigail wore the green one WITH HER COWGIRL BOOTS! Several of the teachers got a kick out of that.

At the zoo, we also attended the bird show for at least the 6th time. And we still enjoyed it. We got some one-on-one time after the show, feeding the bird a dollar...he takes it from your hand and puts it in the bin. Very quickly. So this is what it looks like one second later.

Although I generally don't initiate conversations with strangers, the zoo is one exception. I will approach ANY PERSON who has a zoo badge, and start asking them questions about the animals. I love to hear their stories. Where did they come from? How old are they? What are they like, really?
- I learned that the sole, crabby-looking camel is at least 40 years old, and is the last of the "camel ride" camels from years ago. And he's actually quite friendly.
- The tortoise population is saturated, even at pet stores, so they have to get rid of 20-30 fertilized eggs every year. Hey, tortoises...haven't you ever heard of abstinence?
- I learned the ages and names of all the giraffes. The two mommies are sisters.
- We watched the two baby orangutans clinging to the backs of their parents as they climbed around the enclosure. Interestingly, the male was carrying one of the babies. We learned that this never happens in the wild...the females keep the babies from the males because they don't generally tolerate the babies well. It's nice to know that the primates are becoming so gentrified, isn't it?

The next day, we took a last run down to the lake, even daring to spend the night on the houseboat in the slip on a holiday weekend. Yes...I know. But it turned out the only noises after 9 p.m. were the wind and the water. Which was still plenty loud enough to keep me awake all night, but I'm a tough case.

On the way home from the lake, we stopped at a favorite spot along the stream to see if any wild blackberries had lingered into September. Score!

And so it was, that with berry-stained fingers, scratched-up skin, and full bellies, we bid farewell to the formal end of a fantastic summer.