Friday, September 1, 2017

Mucky Dreams, Fat Man's Misery, and Dead Rat Bands!

So, I know it's been a million years (+ or - a century) since the last post. Other than the fact that we've been racing at faster than light, there's not much excuse. I am planning on someday (soon) to just post some pictures & highlights on what's been going from April to now (?!). Apologies -- to you and myself -- aside, I did want to put up some pics, a quick slide show, and a handful of bright points from our recent trip to Lake Powell on my parents' boat.

For those of you who don't know where or what Lake Powell is -- LP if you're into super cool lingo -- it spans the Utah & Arizona border north of the Grand Canyon...and is very much like what it would be like if they filled that wonder up with water. It's majestic with 200-500 foot red sandstone cliffs. Countless miles of serpentine canyons. Stars upon stars upon stars at night. A place that I've been going to for most of my life...and if you couldn't tell, a place that is very special to me.

In fact, I remember distinctly walking to the car in the hospital parking lot the day that we were taking E home from the hospital and thinking, I've got a son now. I cannot wait to take him on all the adventures someday. Jeeping in Colorado. Backpacking the Desolation Wilderness. Camping the redwoods. Skiing Taos. Costa Rica -- all of it. Scuba in Monterey. Slot canyoning at Powell...[you get the idea].

Anyhow, on this trip I got to do that slot canyoning with him. Three times we hopped on the zodiac and snaked as far back into a canyon as the water allowed and then took off on our own through the twisting, sunset colored walls. One time, in Anasazi Canyon, Lisa came too and we moved among the cattails (E kept picking the reeds, breaking them, and inspecting 'the structure' -- he might become an engineer :) and searched for tadpoles & polliwogs along the shallow stream. Another time, Papa came, but forgot his shoes and so he couldn't join us on the climb over the floor of Secret Canyon which was covered in river rocks of tans to burgundy. My personal favorite though, was Cathedral Canyon on a tiny off-shoot that's unofficially dubbed Fat Man's Misery (there are parts where, in the past, I've had to squeeze through sideways, with my chest on one wall and back on the other...and the sliver of sky 200 feet overhead). Of course, E and I didn't get that far...when it got too tight for him to fit through with a lifejacket, we turned around. Those memories are more precious than I can put into words. I'm teary-eyed just thinking about it. Now, we just have to get J a couple years older...

Actually, we did try to go with her and the dogs on one. However, sometimes in the very back of those canyons the water can get...ummmm...swamp-y? Bog-like? It's the backwash of rains and so there are a lot of tiny sticks and driftwood that just sort of sit there. Sometimes a dead fish gets caught (or a long time ago, we found a dead bat) and in combination with the dead vegetation and higher heats...well, it has a "distinct odor." Most of the time, the hike on the other side is well worth it. And most the time, it's a short jaunt and you're through it. THIS time, however, we had life-jacketed kids + swimming dogs + it got very, very narrow[single-file] + there was a little climb (ok, little for us...big if you're 3 and trapped in muck and it's your first time) = low probability of success.

Picture it: We were at the bottle neck, trying to figure out a way forward in the stinking gunk. Both kids are crying. Dogs hanging onto a sandstone ledge by their front paws. The grown ups are in a heated discussion on if there is anyway to safely move on AND if what's ahead is even worth it. J is yelling, "Turn around. Right. This. Second." E is saying, "I wish this was a dream. A bad dream." After a couple of quick, good ole' Ballous-don't-back-down-from-Adventure tries, we turned around and J was quickly consoled with a Jelly Bean. Lisa & I decided we'd go on our own, and then out-of-nowhere, E decided that he wanted to visit the dream again and joined. In fact, that ended up being the hike with the reeds & tadpoles.

Besides eating, sleeping, getting ice/gas/ice cream at the marina, and adventures, there's not a lot of structure to the days. We loved reading the kids their first chapter books, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL (again, many memories from way back). The kids were so inspired by WAYSIDE SCHOOL, there was a running joke about dead the level that they even invented a band they called "Dead Rat Band."

Also, we somehow managed to spill wine every night. Well, technically Nana spilled beet juice getting a salad ready, but it's a pretty good equivalent.

Ok, I could go on and on and on about this trip. It's such a special place because it's so cut off from time. There could be thousands of people on the lake on a given day and with it's size and all the canyons, you see a dozen other people beyond those with you. There's approximately 6 spots on the lake where there's cell coverage...and a few of those are only good for texting or getting email. What it does is that it forces you to just be with the people and landscape around you. To make these memories of 'dead rat head' and Fat Man's Misery. In my life, I've spent 100s of days on those waters and even now, still tan from our last trip, I'm dreaming up our trip next summer.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Happy B-day, Big E!

Holy moley, big're 5!

It's hard to even know where to start. You're such an amazing kid and honestly, it's hard to imagine what life was like before you. And even more honestly, we love you so much, we don't want to imagine those times anymore anyway.

We love that you can watch the 10 WORST NASCAR CRASHES OF ALL TIME without a tear, but you bawl when see the cartoon Thomas-the-train fall off the tracks. Your sensitivity runs beyond TV, of course. When you see that one of us is upset, you try to comfort us or joke with shows an emotional selflessness that's well beyond your 5 years.

We love how you truly are honest. Even with the small fibs that are starting to develop, you still always make sure you add "Just kidding!" or "April Fools" at the end. You're silly and fun and hearing your laugh makes the day, the household, and our crazy life so much better.

We love how you love your sister and your dog. How you play together and look out for each other. How you hug her and ask her if doing this or that "is a good idea?" How you clap your hands and lead Bailey into your room for story time. How you comfort J when she's sad.

We love that you're becoming more and more self-sufficient. How you can get your clothes and shoes on all by yourself. How you wash yourself and we rarely have to remind you to use the potty. And while these things make life easier, we ultimately appreciate how it's a glimpse of the kid and the responsible adult you're going to become.

We love how you've blossomed at school. How you used to cry at drop off and now you run in and are so excited to be there. How all the kids call your name in greeting. And the "sticky hug" routine where we hug, lift you off the ground, sighing "How am I going to get any work done with this kid stuck to me?" and then your giggles as you kiss one - two - three times to 'un-stick' the hug.

We love how you're drawn to projects and engineering. How your teachers tell us that your voice is the first and the last to be asking questions of how things work. And how your favorite toys and books and activities are all around building, making, or understanding -- even if those projects are labor intensive for you and us. You have a mind and memory that, even at 5, can be a force to be reckoned with.

We love how imaginative you are. There's not a moment in the day when you're not pretending to be a PJ Mask (your current favorite TV show) or playing on the GIANTS or being a robot or an airplane. It's fun to watch now, and it's going to be a powerful tool when it's harnessed to that problem solving mind.

We love how into baseball you you know the GIANTS by sight, their numbers, and that you know how to tell the score. How you will watch an entire game. How you'll get inspired and have an entire pretend game, including the part where you belt out, "Now batting, number 28, E Baaaaalllllloooou. He hits it high" [dramatic pause] "he hits it deep" [another dramatic pause] "it. is. Outttaa HEERRREEE" and then careen through the house before "sliding" home.

We love watching you play t-ball..and we're pretty sure there's nothing cuter in the world than you in that batting helmet. We love to see how much you've developed from last year when playing in the dirt was more interesting than the game to now where the dirt is only interesting between batters. It also shows your ability to commit to a thing and stick with it, even on days when you're hot / cold and hungry (heck, those days we're all cold / hot and hungry).

We love how into camping and outdoors you are. How you love the idea of hiking and how we plan our upcoming trips...even our backpacking trips years ahead of us. We love your collection of rocks and leaves you always find. We think it's so cute how you love maps and will walk around Gilroy Gardens with one, finding our way or when you asked for the (free) Kirkwood ski area map as your souvenir.

E, you're growing into such a great young that we're honored and excited to have as our son and a member of the family.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

We All Have Jobs To Do!


Things are good in these neck-'o'-the-woods. This wet winter has treated us well, even if it's been at a crazy pace. Besides the routines of Pre-K, swimming lessons, gymnastics, ballet class, having Nana & Papa with us on Thursday/Friday, T-ball games and practices, church, Friday date nights, and (oh yeah) plenty of work, we've had a number of highlights in the last couple months:

E went skiing for the first time while we were visiting family friends, Joan & Dave, up in the Sierra foothills (such a fun trip, both on the slopes and off). We took the short & snowy drive from their place up to Kirkwood. And I mean SNOWY....there were parts that felt more like a snow tunnel than anything else -- as you might've heard, some resorts in the Sierras got 700+ inches over the course of this season. There was a storm brewing and there were flurries all day, but he did great -- until the last hour of being out in the elements all day. Lisa took some classic video of him (from afar) that shows him on the magic carpet. Come to find out that he was bawling the entire recording (too far away to tell). Later, he said that he had a great time skiing, "just had to get used to the last part."

Speaking of skiing: Uncle Tim and I took a ski trip to Snowbird & Alta. It was awesome snow, empty, and (after using Southwest frequent flyer points) cheaper & easier than Tahoe. I'm not sure I've skied that hard in a decade. The strangest part: finishing at the slopes at 4pm, walking to our hotel room 100 yards, and then having my only obligations being (1) hot tub, (2) shower, (3) eat, (4) sleep (5) get ready in time to make the slopes by 9am the following morning. The second day, after binge watching some show, I turned to tell Tim, "is this what life is like for single people with no kids & disposable income?" It's wild...and a little boring. A nice state to visit, but I was so happy to get back to the chaos of life.

As I said in her birthday post, J is now officially a "three-nager" and is more sweet, determined, and cruise-directory everyday. Case in point, the other morning, E was having trouble getting motivated for school (hey, it was a Monday). Lisa walked in on J talking to him, counting on her fingers, "We all have a job to do. Mommy and Daddy have to go to work, you have to go to school, I have to go to gymnastics..." -- Yes, we know we're in trouble. Yes, I know this is the female, toddler version of me.

She does everything E does. Now, that's nothing new for people who have multiple kids, though we haven't been been able to use it to our full advantage yet. Example: "What will you have for dessert, J?" "I will have what E is has." "He's having strawberries." <refresher: she refuses to eat any whole, raw fruit> "I will have choc-Oh-lot."

E is becoming quite the little man.  He washes himself in the bath, he gets his own clothes on, shoes, the works. I love how sensitive he's becoming to those around him. He's aware of and responds to how others feel and shows how emotionally in-tune he can be. Most nights, I end up putting him to bed (J pretty much demands that "Mommy lay by me,") and I wouldn't trade our chats for Trump's entire fortune. We ask each other what a highlight of the day was and the other night he said, "Lying by you, Daddy." Heart. Melting. Again.

T-ball is in full swing and it's just as fun as last year. He's on the BULLS this year (no, it's not as good of a name as last year's Lugnuts). The roster is made up entirely of his classmates which is really fun for us and for him. A few of them are in the same Sunday school as well, so with the Saturday game schedule, they see each other every day of the week!

E has bloomed so much at school this year. The teachers recently told us about how when he first started he was so quite and polite, though he barely interacted with the other kids. I remember the tears at drop off. Now, he runs into the class as the kids shout greetings to him. They also told us how great he does at sharing, which is good to hear since we spend a lot of time deciding what to share. Evidently, he always comes with a very accurate and detailed story and everyone wants him to pick them when it's time for questions.

We're very, very lucky in that the kids truly are best friends. They spend hours and hours playing together everyday. Like any BFF, there are squabbles, but for the most part they look after each other. Though the other day we let them take a shower and they washed each other's hair and used over 24oz of shampoo.

Just because we were *bored*, Lisa and I signed up for a half-marathon in May, so we're both training for that as well. She's thinking of doing the San Francisco full marathon in July -- which I think I'm ok with loudly spectating vs. participating :)

So as you can see, we're all doing our jobs as best we can!