Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween in the Hills

Halloween and its associated challenges crept up all too soon this year. By challenges, I mean creating costumes, attempting to help room-mother parties, and negotiating the fine line between not enough and too many treats. Fortunately (for me), at least this is not an environment where the kids get a lot of high-density door-to-door trick-or-treating, so we don't have massive amounts of candy to deal with. I do have fewer problems than most, and for that, I am grateful!

Costumes are always my biggest challenge, and a lot of it is self-imposed. My kids come up with the concept, and then I have to figure out how to bring it to life. This year was actually a lot of fun. The girls told me they wanted to be a pickle and a cucumber. Now, isn't that a clever idea? In so many ways! They start the same, and end up as two very different things, don't they? Where did they come up with THAT?! As part of their concept, they planned that they would tell people "I'm not a pickle, I'm a cucumber!" and "I'm not a cucumber, I'm a pickle!" My sole contribution to the concept was to put these phrases on a sign of some sort, partly because I wasn't sure my final product would be identifiable as a pickle OR a cucumber! But I have to say...people DID seem to identify them, even before reading the sign, which warmed my heart. Here's what I came up with:


They had a parade at the school. Here they are, marching two by two behind their brave and groovy teacher, Mrs. Burton.


We had a little classroom party. We had four stations: The bag-making station, the spider-lollipop making station, the snack eating station, and the cookie decorating station. Here's Mae, putting big, furry legs on a lollipop:


I must say...my station was quite popular. It was the cookie decorating station. I even made the cookies MYSELF. FROM SCRATCH. Which means from more than two components. Not only were the cookies FROM SCRATCH, but they had sticks in them, like lollipops. They were not spectacular, but I grew to appreciate them more and more throughout the hour, because they were very, very practical.



I will not show you pictures of the children who, despite my warnings, piled the frosting so high that they slopped over in a drippy mess on the floor. That was not a happy time at my station. Fortunately, most of the kids were more interested in making a design, and happily enjoyed both creating and disposing of their designs in one sitting.

Saturday night, we attended a local carnival, replete with inflatables, kettle corn, haunted houses, and all kinds of costumes. In fact, I saw Jesus there. I think he even won a raffle prize. You'd think he'd let someone else win! Here are the kids in a contest where they strap on vests attached to the wall with a bungee cord. The goal is to put a velcro beanbag the furthest on the center divider. I won't say who won!



Tonight, a little pumpkin carving and car trick-or-treating should cap off this holiday, and we move our sights on to Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Monterey Bay

We had a holiday Monday for Columbus Day, so after the soccer game Saturday morning, we packed up our gear and headed for the coast. We brought along two cousins, Megan and Scotty, for extra fun. Because we know that cousins add extra fun to everything! The plan was to headquarter out of Morgan Hill, and venture to the ocean and Monterey Bay Aquarium. Ever since we went there last spring on a field trip, the girls have been intent on re-visiting with Mark, who had never been.

We headed out to the aquarium, and were met at the door by a man with a jar...of sumthin. Which he wanted to share with us.


Turns out it was itty-bitty jellyfish!


We went inside to see bigger ones.


Notice the big, fat flash in this picture? It is so very, very disturbing when, in the darkness of the aquarium a flash goes off. How rude!

Yes, it was me. Accidentally.

It is so difficult to get good pictures in darkness of the aquarium. I'll have to take what I can get.

Here's Abigail with a sunfish growing out of her head.


Part of my school looking at another school. They had a juvenile great white shark! But I didn't get a picture of that.


Abigail and the anchovies. Her mouth is slightly open--sympathetic response as they open theirs to catch some plankton? Or just amazement.


And a true highlight...LIVE SAND DOLLARS!


They look very similar to dead sand dollars, but they are covered with a furry looking coating. And if you look very closely, they are moving vvveeeerrryyyy sssslllloooowwwwwllllyyyy. I found this to be very cool, indeed. Yes, I did. No great white pictures, but half a dozen of the sand dollars.

And that was our trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Growing up in so many ways

Yes, this is going to be another one of those sappy, sentimental ramblings about how quickly the children grow. With a little data thrown in...because we all like data. Don't we? So data first, and then..."the reveal".

The girls seem to have stretched this summer, their limbs becoming long and slender, although still muscular. I admit, I find myself staring at these amazing creatures, just struck by the beauty I see developing in them. And trying desperately to treasure every moment of their childhood as they so rapidly evolve into more independent, self-sufficient little people. This "treasuring" may be translated into babying and spoiling...so be it. I'm OK with that.

This weekend, we quantified the speed of these changes the old-fashioned way...with the yardstick. What you see below is a piece of wood we have moved from house to house, and now have permanently mounted in our utility room. Check out Mae's growth from August to October:


Is this normal?

Here's Abigail:


Pretty much the same, although she is just over 1/2" shorter. What the heck??!!!

This week we also got school pictures back. So finally I am unveiling the haircuts from weeks ago. Drumroll please....







Do you see what I mean? It's NOT just me, is it?! They are growing up, despite my best efforts! And isn't it funny how somewhat out of character they seem on this particular day, with Mae so girly and Abigail so sporty?

Holy moley...I sure got my money's worth for school pictures this year, I feel!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yosemite: Day 2

Day 2 started with a wonderful pancake breakfast to fill our bellies, courtesy of our buddy Mike. Then we packed up our gear and ventured off toward El Capitan. We hiked in to the base, where Mark and Mike looked longingly up at the climbs.



We entertained ourselves at length helping the kids start the climb, only to insist that they immediately climb down. Yes, we are deeply conflicted.






Next, we headed toward Sentinel Dome. Here is a cool pic from loomisadvetures.com:





Sentinel Dome is a large, stone cap atop a mountain at the edge of Yosemite Valley. Don't you just look at it and think "I just gotta climb that...and bring the kids too!" Yeah. Me too.


The hike is mild, about a mile long, but the destination is exposed and windy, and on this day, pretty chilly. After a few minutes, the kids all sought refuge in a sheltered spot among the bushes. You can kind of see three little blobs in the left side of this photo.



On the crest of the dome is what remains of a famous tree from an Ansel Adams photo. This photo, from berkeley.edu, shows the original tree, and a later, dead version.


This is how it looks today, with five people sitting on it:


Our last adventure was a trip to Glacier Point, for another perspective on the valley from above. Although not as exposed, the kids still find the hidey-holes mighty attractive:


And Mark and I took the time to get a pic with just us...as a couple. Kind of strange!





Hope you enjoyed our trip, and remember..."Speeding kills bears"!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yosemite: Day 1

Our first stop in Yosemite was the vista point just after the tunnel, where you get that first breathtaking vision of the entire valley. You already saw our family pic from there. Our next stop was Bridal Veil Falls. The volume of falls was meager, as you would expect this time of year, but still worth visiting. We scrambled up past this sign to check things out. Just in case you can't read it, it says something about rocks and danger and death, which we ignored, of course..."Get on up there, kids!"


Next, we stopped at the Merced River, which was also at low flow, allowing the kids to romp all over.



And there was fun for the bigger kid as well. Here is Mark balancing a large stick on his chin. Isn't he studly?


We set up camp in North Pines campground. The kids were excellent helpers, and worked well together.


Abigail directing Scotty where to put the firewood.


In a true display of Schlaefer OCD, Abigail sorts the wood into piles of large, medium, and small sticks. All you Schlaefers out there will recognize this as a compelling task that just needs doing! (C'mon...you know it's true)


Our last adventure for the evening was a hike to Mirror Lake. I'll confess...the first thing out of my mouth was "This is it?" I was expecting a large body of water, but instead found several shallow pools and marshes. Then I saw it...the mirror effect was just dazzling:



A little extra treasure at this spot was a cluster of cairns. I confess...stacks or piles of rocks hold a mystical fascination for me. Kind of an itty-bitty Stonehenge thing.


We made it back to the campsite just as night was falling. We started a nice campfire (composed of just the right mixture of small, medium, and large sticks), and cooked up a feast of Top Ramen. After toasting a few marshmallows, we rubbed our eyes and collapsed into our tents.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Can you guess?

Hey, guess where we went this weekend:


Did you guess?


If you guess Yosemite National Park, you win! We went up and camped just for one night. Amazing that this is all just 2:20 from our house. We had a jam-packed trip hiking, exploring, and adventuring. More next time!