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A Letter to my Children

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Dear Jackson and Ella,

Today you turn 4 years old.  It’s almost like you guys are actual people now and no longer my sweet little babies.  There is so much I want to tell you two.

Jack

Jackson:  My little man.  You tell me almost everyday that you are no longer a baby or a big kid.  You tell me you are a MAN!  Yup, you tell me that you pee like a man, you eat like a man, and you go to bed like a man.  I hate to break it to you, my little man, but you will ALWAYS be my baby.

You can be the sweetest little boy when you want to be and then there are times that I just want to strangle you!!  You can be very demanding when it comes to “asking” for things, but on the other hand, you are always the first one to get your sister something when she needs it.  Even though you follow the typical toddler rules about every toy being yours, you still make sure Ella has something to play with after you rip a toy out of her hands.  You want to be good.

Right now, your favorite foods are hamburgers, green beans, and cookies.  You love drinking water, but only if it has ice in it.  The reason you started liking water with ice was because you saw Grandma Jane with ice in her water.  You like to try new foods, and for the most part you like almost everything you try, however, it is a huge struggle to get you to eat your dinner.  You haven’t always been such a good eater.  There were times when the only thing I could get you to eat was spaghetti noodles or rice.  It has been a nice change of pace.

You LOVE super heroes!!  If you see anything with one of the Marvel characters on it, you totally try and convince me that you need it because it matches all your other stuff.  You like playing “superhero” with your sister, but I think it’s really just an excuse to try and beat her up.

You just started preschool and are having so much fun.  You like playing with the other kids, but you are still a little shy.  You wake up happy most school days and you are super excited to go.  Hopefully you always love school this much!

I love you more than ice cream and cameras!!

 Ella

Ella:  My baby girl.  You are such a little sweetie (most of the time).  In the morning you wake up before Daddy goes to work, just so you can say bye to him and give him a hug.  You like helping him pick out his clothes for the day and getting his shoes out of the closet.  After he leaves, you crawl in bed with me and either go back to sleep or watch a show before brother wakes up.  On the days you don’t get to say bye to Daddy, you are sad about it all day.

You love playing with your brother, but you can kind of be a brat to him.  You tend to tease him a lot and take thing from him.  You also instigate a lot of fights and you like making him mad.  On the other hand, if he gets hurt, you are the first one to try and help and you worry about him.  You like helping him do things.

You love anything pink!  And Princesses!  And Ballerinas!  Even though you like to play in the dirt and fight with your brother, you are such a girly girl.

You say some of the funniest things with the funniest expressions.  It cracks me and Daddy up!

Getting you to eat your food is a struggle.  You hate trying new foods and really only like eating mac n cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches.  Even if we make you your favorite foods, there are just days you won’t eat.  Well, hopefully you get over that phase soon!

I love you more than rainbows and cotton candy!

 twins

A friend of mine  posted this and I thought it was rather appropriate:

Here is the poem from the book Let Me Hold You Longer by Karen Kingsbury.

Long ago you came to me,
a miracle of firsts,
First smiles and teeth and baby steps,
a sunbeam on the burst.

But one day you will move away
and leave to me your past
And I will be left thinking of
a lifetime of your lasts…

The last time that I held a bottle
to your baby lips
The last time that I lifted you
and held you on my hip.

The last night when you woke up crying,
needing to be walked,
When last you crawled up with your blanket,
wanting to be rocked.

The last time when you ran to me,
still small enough to hold.
The last time that you said you’d marry
me when you grew old.

Precious, simple moments and
bright flashes from your past-
Would I have held on longer if
I’d known they were your last?

Our last adventure to the park,
your final midday nap,
The last time when you wore your favorite
faded baseball cap.

Your last few hours of kindergarten,
those last few days of first grade,
Your last at bat in Little League,
last colored picture made.

I never said good-bye to all
your yesterdays long passed.
So what about tomorrow-
will I recognize your lasts?

The last time that you catch a frog
in that old backyard pond.
The last time that you run barefoot
across our fresh-cut lawn.

Silly, scattered images
will represent your past.
I keep on taking pictures,
never quite sure of your lasts…

The last time that I comb your hair
or stop a pillow fight.
The last time that I pray with you
and tuck you in at night.

The last time when we cuddle
with a book, just me and you
The last time you jump in our bed
and sleep between us two.

The last piano lesson,
last vacation to the lake.
Your last few weeks of middle school,
last soccer goal you make.

I look ahead and dream of days
that haven’t come to pass.
But as I do, I sometimes miss
today’s sweet, precious lasts…

The last time that I help you with
a math or spelling test.
The last time when I shout that yes,
your room is still a mess.

The last time that you need me for
a ride from here to there.
The last time that you spend the night
with your old tattered bear.

My life keeps moving faster,
stealing precious days that pass,
I want to hold on longer-
want to recognize your lasts…

The last time that you need my help
with details of a dance.
The last time that you ask me for
advice about romance.

The last time that you talk to me
about your hopes and dreams.
The last time that you wear a jersey
for your high school team.

I’ve watched you grow and barely noticed
seasons as they pass.
If I could freeze the hands of time,
I’d hold on to your lasts.

For come some bright fall morning,
you’ll be going far away.
College life will beckon
in a brilliant sort of way.

One last hug, one last good-bye,
one quick and hurried kiss.
One last time to understand
just how much you’ll be missed.

I’ll watch you leave and think how fast
our time together passed.
Let me hold on longer, God,
to every precious last.

 

On the Homefront

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

So, it has been a little over 5 years since we moved into our house.  When we first bought it, all the rooms were hideous colors and the kitchen was in desperate need of a make over.  Well, we took care of the color issue for the most part.  We still need to paint the office, but since that will be Jack’s room in a few years, he can pick the color when he moves in.  The kitchen is still God awful, but that’s just not in the budget right now.  One of the biggest projects I wanted to tackle when we moved in was the front and back yards.  In the front yard we basically have a shit load of jasmine bushes and some ugly bushes.  Part of the year we have some lilies that bloom.  I hate lilies!  Well, the other day we were out trimming the ugliest of the ugly bushes.  It is the one that happens to be totally blocking the kids window and is taller than our house.  Anyways, rather than trimming, I said what the hell and just started cutting it down.  I guess that was the jumping off point.  We have finally fixed our sprinklers so hopefully our lawn will come back nice and pretty.  We will most likely have to throw some seed out there too since our lawns have never actually looked good.  The next step will be to take out the dreaded jasmine bushes.  Don’t ask me why we decided to do this in the middle of summer when it is God awful hot, but hey, at least it’s getting done!!  I think one of the hardest parts is that we only have so much room in our yard waste cans and we don’t really have a way to haul a big load down to the dump so we are just doing a little at a time.  Now we just need to decide what do do with all the empty space we will have.  It is already nicely edged with some pretty bricks.

For the back yard, this will be an even bigger project!!!  In the fall when it starts to cool down, we are going to tear down the “sunroom”  This is a “room” that the previous owners built by using two carport frames, some tarps, some plywood, and some lattice.  Oh, and to keep it from leaking where it is butted up against the house, they used pool noodles.  I shit you not.  They actually used pool noodles!!!  Up until now it has been fine for storage, but it is starting to leak and it has always looked like we were living Arkansas with a guy and a banjo.  Soooo, come this fall, it is coming down!!!  In its place I will be building 4 raised garden beds.  I’m really excited about teaching the kids all about where our food comes from and maybe it will encourage them to actually eat something if they grew it.

The backyard is also home to a dead lawn that Lunchbox uses as his shitter.  Well, we are thinking of just tilling it all under and putting down some fresh sod.  when we moved in the lawn was sort of green, but it was mostly weeds that got mowed down every so often.  I’m hoping we can get the dog to take his business elsewhere, but that may be hard.  To finish it off back there, I was thinking of doing a playhouse for the kids for Christmas.  Shhhhh, don’t tell Pat!!!!

 

Thanksgiving Re-Cap

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

I’m not going to go into every little detail about our Thanksgiving trip up to King City/Lockwood because I don’t think you really care what the kids ate for lunch or what pajamas they wore at night.

Soooo, we left San Diego around 8pm to embark on our 6 hour drive.  The reason we left so late was so the kids would sleep the whole way and we wouldn’t have to make a ton of potty stops for them.  Not even 10 minutes into our trip and we start hearing, “Momma, I go peepee.”  Great, we just discovered the problem with having potty trained kids on a long road trip.  This was going to be a fun drive.  We were able to find a place to pull over and then quickly get back on the road.  The kids seemed to fall asleep pretty quickly after that.  Yay!  Now, Pat will tell you how the drive took about 6 1/2 hours, but I disagree.  I only remember it taking about 3.  He will either blame that on the fact that I fell asleep too, or on my bad memory.  I’m going to go with the sleep.  We get to Grandma Jane’s house in King City about 2:30am and when the kids woke up they were super excited to see where we were.

The great thing about being in King City is that we get to sleep in!!!  Seriously.  We have both been running on the bare minimum of sleep since right before the kids were born.  The fact that we get a chance to sleep in every so often is awesome!  When we finally rolled out of bed the kids were eating pumpkin pancakes and playing with Grandma.  There I go with details.  Ok, as Pat will tell you, I have a pretty crummy memory, so I honestly have no idea what we did that day.  I think that was the day I dragged Pat to go see Breaking Dawn.  I guess I better explain myself.  Yes, I like the movies.  The books were shit, but I enjoy the movies and you can never have too many shirtless wolves.  They are also great movies to make fun of while you are watching them because the acting is just sooooo bad.  So, anyways, Pat will tell you he went kicking and screaming and I had to bribe him with all the candy we snuck in, but I think deep down he wanted to see Jacob without his shirt on too.

The next day Pat and his mom went and played golf and I took the kids over to my mom’s school so she could say hi to the kids.  I didn’t realize that there would be a catered lunch waiting for us in the teachers lounge.  Yummy!!!  After that we headed back to Grandma Jane’s house.  Later that afternoon Jane had a little gathering of friends so we got to be social and have some good food.  Pat’s friend Jeremy was there and I got to see my friend Mandy.  The kids were a big hit, as usual.  Later that night Pat went over to Jeremy’s house and played cards all night.  This is a little tradition they do every time they are in town at the same time.

On Wednesday we headed out to my parents house in Lockwood.  The kids pretty much just hung out and played in the tree house with grandma and grandpa.  That evening things got a little interesting.  See, every Thanksgiving my dad and I make the pumpkin pies.  I will brag a little here and say they are like eating a little slice of heaven with a cloud on top.  Getting the pies to that point can be a little tricky.  My dad is in charge of the crust and I do the filling.  It seems like every year things go terribly wrong in the crust department and it always ends up on the floor in what’s know as a crust tantrum.  I know where Jack gets it from.  This year was no different, but in the end we always make it work and the end result is divine.  I’m sure my dad would jump in if he were here and say how the kids helped and threw off his measurements or maybe it was because Ella was the one reading the cookbook.  Pat’s dad and Dorothy showed up after they pie episode so the next morning when the kids woke up they had a house full of grandparents!!

Thanksgiving:  Well, the kids played outside, My mom cooked, the grandpas BBQ’d the bird, Grandma Jane showed up, Lunchbox ate cat shit, we ate a kickass dinner, ate heavenly pie, bathed the kids, and went to bed.  That about covers it.

Friday morning started off with me working.  I had a photoshoot for two adorable toddlers.  It was so much fun because after the shoot, the twins got to come out and play with some new friends.  It was the sweetest thing ever.  They showed their new friends how to feed the sheep and gave them the tour of the treehouse.  They were all holding hands.  Seriously, the sweetest thing EVER!  The new friends taught the twins all about driving the power wheels my parents had.

That night Pat and I got to escape the house and head to The Waystation.  Let me back up a little bit here.  Lockwood is one of those “towns” that is in the middle of nowhere with about 400 people.  There is a tiny store no bigger that a shoebox, a K-8 school, and a post office that is smaller than the shoebox store.  It also has the Waystation.  It is a bar, restaurant, pool hall, and general hangout place for all the local drunks.  So why were we there?  Aside from it being the only place to get a drink, I got to meet up with a bunch of friends I’ve known since kindergarten!  Growing up, these guys were among my best friends.  There were only about 12 of us who when all the way from Kindergarten through 8th grade together.  and half of them were able to make it that night.  We had a bunch of drinks and played some pool.  Going back to the whole Waystation thing, this is the type of place that has $1 Shock Tops on tap during the happy hour and $2.50 after happy hour.  There is a reason everyone goes there to drink.  I guess we also were there on karaoke night.  There was only one person who could actually sing.  We wanted to take up donations from people to pay the others not to sing because they were just so bad.  Oh, and one guy was singing Nirvana, while sitting on the floor drinking a beer.  Classy place.  The truth is, we had such a fun night.  It was really great catching up with everyone.  This will be a regular thing the next time we are all in town at the same time.

Saturday morning came way too soon and started off with another photo shoot.  After that we just hung out at the house and then packed up the car.  We headed into Paso for dinner with my parents and a side trip to the candy store for the kids.  My dad payed them each a nickle, or “ni-no” as Ella says it, for each nail they picked up.  They got to take their ni-nos to the candy store and each buy a small bag of jelly beans.  After that we headed home after making a million potty stops.

Here are the rest of the pics from the trip

Potty Time

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

This is a little overdue, but Shae and I realized we never wrote up a post about our adventures in potty training. My take on the experience is probably much different from Shae’s, but I’m writing this post so you’ll just have to make do with my version.

About a month before their third birthday, we made a quick trip up to Disneyland with the kiddos. Since we didn’t want to deal with running to the bathroom the whole time we were there “we” (aka Shae) decided that we’d start the potty training the day after we got back. For about a week before the trip, we kept telling the kids that after we went to see Mickey we weren’t going to have diapers anymore. I’m pretty sure all they heard was “Mickey blah blah Mickey”, but they were warned.

Anyway, the day after our trip to visit Mickey the potty training started. I have to admit that I wasn’t overly optimistic. I didn’t think the kids were quite ready (they weren’t giving us any indication when they had to go), and I wasn’t sure about the method we were using (no pull-ups, basically the kids running around naked/in underwear all day). However, Shae had decided the kids were going to house broken by their third birthday, so I voiced my concerns but then got on board.

The first couple of days were pretty rough, especially on Shae. The kids were not comfortable using their potties, and would hold it until they were in pain. Even the offer of marshmallows wasn’t enough to entice them to go. We basically spent the weekend with both kids sitting on their potties in the living room crying while Shae and I begged them to JUST GO ALREADY!!! It got to the point where they would hold it until nap or bed time so they could go in their diapers. Eventually they started to figure it out, and by Sunday night they were already figuring out ways to get as many marshmallows (or “maws”) out of us as possible.

Well, after two days of the fun I decided that I’d had enough and ran away. I gave everyone hugs and kisses, told Shae I expected both kids potty trained by the time I got home, and hopped on a plane to DC. Shae will tell you that there was a lot of work, but I’m pretty sure that the kids woke up Monday morning pretty much potty trained. When I got home, both kids were using their potties and earning their “maws”: 2 for pee pee, 4 for poo poo (and believe me, they told us exactly how many they expected). They were still wearing diapers for their naps and at night, but other than that they were doing pretty good. We had to cut back their marshmallow rewards (to 1 and 2) because they were going through our supply too fast. About three or four days later, I had to go out of town again and when I got home the kids were using the real toilet. Again, I’m sure Shae would say she had something to do with that but I’m pretty sure the kids just figured it out on their own.

I can’t tell you how nice it was to go to Costco and not have to buy diapers. I really had no choice but to buy more beer to fill up the extra space in the cart. The kids are both doing great, and outside of the occasional nighttime accident after one of them drinks too much juice with dinner there have been almost no problems. The biggest issue we have is that now nap and bedtime have become times for the “Potty Game” where the kids take turns getting out of bed and using the bathroom. It’s extremely annoying, but a small price to pay for no longer having to buy diapers.

Update time

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Yikes!  It’s been awhile.  Soooo, our little (mis)adventure continues as the kiddos keep growing.  It’s hard to believe they will be 3 next month!!!  Seriously, where does the time go?

Let’s see, since our Death Valley trip we have done a lot… sort of.  Our latest trip was our yearly trip to Sedona to spend a long weekend at Grandma Jane’s time share.  As usual, we had a great time!  The kiddos went on their first jeep tour and seemed to have a pretty good time.  They weren’t too sure about it at first, but I think they warmed up to it.  The adults thought is was an awesome ride!  We have done a jeep tour before, but we had other people in the jeep with us.  This time it was nice because it was only us and we were able to stop when we saw interesting stuff or ask the driver a ton of questions.  Other than the jeep ride, we pretty much just spent a lot of time at the pool with the kids and Pat and I were able to sneak out a couple times and go on a “date.”

The kids also had their first long train ride recently.  I took them up to my parents house to go pick blackberries.  Since my car was having issues, I figured why not take the train?  It was actually pretty fun for the first 4 or 5 hours.  We colored a lot and watched movies and played with moon dough and took a lot of trips down to the cafe.  The last couple hours are another story.  There were no naps and it was getting to be bedtime so they started getting a little cranky.  A few timeouts later and we made it to SLO!  The kids had a great time picking blackberries and helping grandma in the kitchen making her famous apple cake.  To get back to San Diego, we hitched a ride with my parents so my mom could spend her birthday with us.  Well, that tured into a major misadventure.  Ella, Grandma, Grandpa, and myself all came down with a horrible stomach flu.  It was probably the worst flu I have ever had.  Poor Pat!  He was stuck taking care of all of us sickies and keeping Jack entertained.  He gets the husband/father of the year award for that.

The kids keep getting bigger and bigger and now we are doing the whole potty training thing.  I will do a whole post on that in a few day.

Everything else is going well too.  I have a bunch of photo shoots coming up and my Etsy shop is doing really well right now.  Pat is on travel a lot more than we would both like, but it is what it is.

Coming up we have the kids birthday and another train ride in store.  Hopefully I can keep them entertained for longer this time.

The “I Will Nevers” of Pre-Parenting

Friday, May 27th, 2011

As Ella was laying in bed with me this morning, watching Disney Channel, it made me think back to before I had kids and I swore that I would never let my kids jump in bed with me. It made me think about all those things I told myself I would never do, and about all those other moms I would see and judge.

Watch TV: When I grew up we really didn’t have tv. I mean, we had a set but it only got one channel that was clear. I remember the only time I was really allowed to watch it was on Saturday mornings back when they had Saturday morning cartoons. Now we seem to have Disney Channel and Nick Jr. on all the time. If it’s not kids’ tv shows, then we have it on the kids’ radio station.

Eat junk food: I always swore that my kids would always eat healthy, wholesome meals and snacks. I always try and cook a nice healthy dinner for Pat and I, and I told myself that my kids would eat what we eat. Well, now my freezer seems to be filled with Mickey Mouse shaped chicken nuggets and hot dogs and my pantry is filled with mac n cheese, pop tarts, and chewy fruit snacks. Yes, I still try and get them to eat what I make for dinner, but sometimes it’s just not worth the struggle.

Let my kids have tantrums in public: It used to be when I was out shopping and I would see a kid acting out, I would totally scoff at them. Now I can’t seem to make it out of the store without one of mine throwing themselves on the floor in a tantrum because I won’t let them pull stuff off the shelves. Shopping trips are always an adventure for me.

Leave the house looking like shit: Before I had kids I used to take my time doing my hair and makeup almost every morning. I made sure I always matched and looked my best when I left the house. Now I’m lucky if I can even get a shower everyday. My hair always goes back because with 2 two year olds to watch, I just can’t spend 30 minutes making it look perfect. Sure, I will still put on makeup sometimes, but it is a pain in the ass. Since I need to have eyes on the kids, that means doing it at the kitchen table and having the kids try and get into everything or them getting upset because I wont let Jack wear eyeliner. Now a days, I end up just throwing on whatever has the fewest stains.

Have my living room look like a day care: before I had kids and watched Disney Channel all day, I would watch some of those home makeover shows. Most of the time they made over the living rooms and they were full of toys. It looked more like a daycare or playroom, than a nice living room. I always told myself that my kids would keep all their toys in their room and only play with them in there. Well, now my living room has turned into the playroom. At first I was pretty good at making sure all the toys fit in the HUGE toy box we have, but then as they got older, their toys got bigger and now sit next to the toy box. I even have two drawers in our entertainment center just for toys and books. Hopefully I’ll get my living room back someday.

Take my kids to McDonalds: I always knew that if I had kids I would end up taking the to McDs on the very rare occation and I was OK with that. That rare occation turned into whenever we traveled and that then turned into whenever I needed a quick meal for them. I’m not as totally against it now that they are putting apples in the happy meals, but still.

I’m sure there are more, but these are just a few of the things that I think of regularly. Now I have to go clean up the chocolate milk and pop tart mess that is left over from breakfast.

Death Valley – 2011

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

For as long as I can remember, every spring break since I was about 2 years old has been spent in Death Valley.  Sure, there have been years when I had to miss due to Mexico trips or school, but for the most part, I have gone every year for as long as I can remember.  This year was really exciting for me because it was the first year the twins got to go!

As excited as I was about the kids going camping for the first time, it was a little sad because Pat had to work and wasn’t able to come with us.  Instead of Pat, I had a replacement spouse for the trip.  My best friend from childhood, Coral, rode shotgun in my car and kept the kids company on the super long drive.  She was awesome and it was just like old times when she would go with our family to Death Valley, except this time we were in the front seats and not the back seats.  I think I’m going to break this down by day.  It will be easier for me to actually remember everything that way.

Day before:

Ok, so since Pat was on travel the week before we left I decided to head up to Lockwood a few days before the trip and leave from there so I wasn’t driving to the desert alone.  On Saturday (The day before we left), Jane, my MIL, and Coral, my BFF, headed to Lockwood so we could go to the Dutch Oven Event that was put on to raise money for the Nacitone Regional Interpretive Center.  There were a ton of cooks there all using dutch ovens to prepare amazing dishes.  The chuck wagon that my dad has been working on was also there and it looked great!  During this outdoors event, it just happened to be pouring down rain.  The kids thought it was the greatest thing ever (until they got to the desert).  I don’t think there was a single puddle there that they didn’t splash in.  By the time we headed back to my parents house, both kids were soaking wet with huge smiles on their faces.

When we go back to the house we just hung out with the kids and finished packing and loading the cars.  The plan was that we were all going to go to bed early since we had planned on leaving at 7 the next morning.  I’m not one for plans, so of course Coral and I stayed up late talking and catching up.

Day 1 – Not only am I not one for plans, but neither are my parents.  The whole 7am thing turned into 8am.  We met up with Teresa, James, and Mariah at McDonald’s and then John and Jane showed up there too.  After breakfast we officially hit the road.  The kids did pretty good since they slept the first part of the drive.  We made a stop in Tehachapi at Denny’s for lunch.  The kids liked seeing the big windmills as we went over the hill.  After that we headed into Ridgecrest were we had to stop and get last minute supplies that we forgot (my pillow).  After Ridgecrest we had a short stop in Trona, yuck, to wait for the rest of the group since I drive at a normal speed and not like a slow old lady.  As we headed to Death Valley we had to stop and let the kiddos find a cache and to get a group shot in front of the Death Valley sign.  When we finally got over the hill and into DV, the real fun began

Normally we do back country camping.  Basically we just drive down a road until we find a good place to set up camp.  This year we stayed at the actual campground instead.  We wanted to have access to water and the store and the main road because of the kids.  Soooo, we finally get the the campground and start setting up.  The kids totally loved playing in the dirt and running around screaming while we tried setting up.  I got a new 10 person tent, so Coral and I had to figure out how to set this monstrosity up.  It was actually pretty easy.  Once it was up, it was obvious this thing was more like a castle than a little tent.  When the kids realized they got to sleep on an air mattress, they broke it in by jumping all over it.  Once it was broken in to their satisfaction, it was bed time.

Day 2 – If you have ever gone anywhere with my dad, you know how he is on a hike.  He has a general idea of what he wants to see, and that is all.  So, we went on a little hike to find a rock.  No, I am not kidding.  It was a rock with some petroglyphs on it and it was literally in a Vast area full of almost identical rocks.  Somehow, we managed to find this rock and a couple others that were just like it.  I think we ended up walking for just over a mile and the kids did great!  Ella kept picking up rocks and putting them in her pocket.  When she ran out of room, she started putting them in Jackson’s pockets and my pockets.  It was really cute.  On a side note, when I got home and started doing laundry, I kept finding rocks in the washer.  After the rock hike, my dad and some of the other people went off and did another more intense hike.  Since I had the kiddos, we headed to the store and got some ice cream then washed up back at camp in a sink that was on the backside of the bathroom.

Day 3 – There are certain things that are pretty predictable about a desert trip, especially if there are new people going.  One of those things is a drive to Inyo Mine.  Now, Inyo is probably one of the coolest places ever!  You can take a short, but steep hike up a hill to the actual mine and unlike other mine shafts, this one is not covered.  As long as you have a good flashlight you can go in and explore.  There are places you have to be very careful because there are air shafts that go straight down.  We have even seen people there with climbing equipment that were exploring the other levels.  How cool would that be?

Did I hike up to the mine shaft?  Nope.  I have seen it about a million times and I didn’t want the kids up there.  Instead I stayed below with the grandmas and Coral.  I took a ton of photos and showed the kids all the cool old buildings.  Ella really liked the one that I call the sunburst building.  We had lunch and played with trucks and shovels while we waited for the others to come down.  Once they got down, my dad informed us they were going to go up the road and look for more Indian crap.  Soooo, we headed back to camp.  Once we got back to camp we had to find a way to stay cool.  It was about 100 degrees and we didn’t have any shade.  We found a little area under a tree but the kids wanted no part of it.  Instead, Ella went and made dirt angles and Jack played with his trucks out in the sun.  They got a little red.  I think we had a camp fire that night, but I don’t really remember.

Day 4 – So, this was our “cool off” day.  It started off super early with everyone except Coral, the kids, and myself doing the Golden Canyon Hike.  Since we didn’t want to sit in the camp site and wait for them, we took off and went to the Salt Creek boardwalk to see the pupfish.  The kids had a blast running up and down the boardwalk.  I was glad they didn’t try bringing a fish back.  It started to get super hot so what do you do?  You go to the store and get ice cream and beer, of course.  After we finished up it was time for me to pick up the hikers.  Since it was ridiculously hot, we headed to Scotty’s Castle which is at 3000 feet elevation.  It was nice and cool up there.  Everyone did the tours except myself, the kids, and Grandma Jane.  We hung out on the lawn and let the kids throw leaves in the little stream and watch them float away.  They had soooooooo much fun!  They loved dropping the leaves in and running downstream to wait for them.  We were there for awhile because the weather was nice.

We got back to camp and decided it was shower day!  The store has a pool and shower that are open to the public if you buy a ticket, but if you go during the down time, no one is there checking tickets.  Ella screamed through the shower so that everyone in the pool could hear her!  She was not a happy camper.  After we were nice and clean we went to the saloon and had pizza and beer.  Yum!

Day 5 – Again, predictability played apart in the days activities.  I actually got to choose what we did, so I picked Rhyolite and Titus canyon.  Yes, we do this every year, but there is always something new to discover here for me.  Usually I find something new to take a picture of, but this year it was fun watching the kids run around the ghost town and play in the old buildings.  While we were here we ended up doing a little mini session photo shoot.  Part of Rhyolite is the Bottle House.  It is a house made out of a gazillion bottles, but in 2005 they did  some restoration work on it and now it has pretty much lost it’s appeal.  I hate when they take and old building that has character and paint it with new paint.  At least the kids liked it.  After we left, we headed into Beatty, NV to get some gas and lunch, then headed to Titus Canyon.

Titus is a one way canyon that actually involves some 4-wheel drive.  It takes a couple of hours, but it’s totally worth it.  About halfway through the canyon there is an old mining town called Leadfield.  We went exploring and the kids discovered how to bang rocks on the metal pipes to make super loud “music.”  After our explorations, we headed down the road.  The narrows were just amazing and the kids kept looking up saying, “Wow.”  Once we got out of the canyon we got tired of waiting for the other people so we took off and did our own thing.  At first we headed to the store and got more ice cream of course then we headed back to camp but it was way too hot!  We went over to the little picnic area by the store and it was nice and “cool.”  We stayed there for awhile and the kids worked on their Jr. Ranger books so they could earn their badges.  After we got tired of sitting there we went and did the Artist’s Palette drive and went out to Devil’s Golf Course so I could take some photos with the nice evening light.  After that we raced down to Badwater to catch the sunset.  Now the kids can say they have been at the lowest point in North America.  I got some cool photos then headed back to camp for dinner since I had two very hungry and very tired kiddos. 

Day 6 – This was our pack up and head home day.  Our castle was pretty easy to take down once we got it all cleaned out.  Somehow, my car ended up much fuller this time around or maybe I just didn’t pack it right.  Once we got everything loaded up, we went over to the visitor center and the kids got their Jr. Ranger badges.  After that we headed home!  It was a pretty uneventful trip until we hit Tehachapi.  There was an accident on the other side of the freeway and there was a helicopter sitting on the freeway.  Jack thought it was just the coolest thing ever.  After that we made it home and the unpacking began.

That was pretty much our whole trip.  I really hope next year Pat can go with us.  This summer we want to take a camping trip on our own.

Rather than include all the photos on the post, here are links to the galleries:

Dutch Oven Cook Photos

Death Valley Photos

2 years

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Challenging, exhausting, exciting, stressful, fun are just some of the words that sum up these last two years with the kiddos.  Even though they are 2 years old today, it feels like they have been two for the past four months or so.  Jack is a total handful and Ella is just all over the place.  As tough as they are, they sure are fun! After we have our 2 year check up, I’ll have more to write, so until then, here are some photos from their second year portraits.

Park Pics

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Family Rules

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010