Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Camping Queens

We had a quick November camping trip at Woods Valley Kampground in Valley Center, outside of Escondido. We camped with the Saylor family, and it was so relaxing! We napped regularly, played poker, walked to the campground fishin' pond and petting zoo, and let the ladies ride their bikes and scooters around.
The campground petting zoo was touted on the internet as something worth seeing, featuring a pig, a goose named "Silly Goose", some goats, chickens, and ponies. Unfortunately, only the ponies lived up to the website's description! The pig was a GIANT FILTHY BEAST, lying in a mud pit between some wire fencing. It got up once, and was the size of a small horse with squinty eyes and a mud-caked hide. When Sophie (our pug) saw the pig, she threw up! (Probably not in disgust, but rather from eating stuff the kids dropped...but still pretty dang funny!) Silly Goose, we found out, met her maker last year when she was eaten by some coyotes. (We told the girls that the goose flew south for the winter.) The goats had to live lodged between the stinky pig pen and the chicken house. Overall, yuck!
When we got home yesterday, Grace was still talking about washing the stinky pig, and Emma was cracking up that the pig was so stinky it made our dog barf!

A Fancy Evening

The girls, Jeff and I, along with some friends, went to see a performance of Riverdance at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. We got MIGHTY dressed up (using our Christmas outfits more than once this year!) and went out to dinner beforehand.

I thought Riverdance would be cheesy... some crazy dude in an oversized white shirt showing too much chest kicking his legs up in the air a million times.

It was not what I expected! Yes, there were Irish dancers, but there were also a lot of musical arrangements (probably one musical arrangement for each dance). Jeff and I love Irish music, so we were very suprised! There was also an entire number where two modern tap dancers were contrasted with the Irish dancers...sort of a "competition". It was awesome.

Emma watched very contently, and got a little bit bored midway, but Grace was literally on the edge of her seat (my lap) the entire show. Every time there was applause, Grace clapped loudly. She shimmied and boogied in her chair, and then came home wanting to call Grandma's house to give details. My little performer...I know a stage awaits her!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

It's Fall

In Murrieta, Fall is evident in small ways. Here and there, a tree has changed colors, almost half-heartedly, knowing that the winter ahead will be mild. Every few miles or so, a feed store or gardening company puts out its fall pumpkin patch, complete with a petting zoo and corn maze. Although we don't have splendid "take you breath away" fall spectacles, the feeling of fall is still in the air. It's in the pencils in their yellow boxes, stacked perfectly in the bins at Target. It's the neighbors, who change the decor in their yards to reflect the harvest season. It's the coolness at dusk, prodding us to grab a sweater, because we know we won't be lingering in the hot summer air. It's in the feeling of rain coming, the pumpkin latte's at Starbucks and pumpkin crumble cake at Costco. It's in my daughters' laughter as we get down the "fall bin" from the garage, with its squirrel napkin holders and yellow and orange placemats. It's the glorious idea that Halloween is near, and they'll be able to change their identities for just one evening, knocking on strangers' doors and eating bunches of candy. It's the glorious feeling of knowing that Thanksgiving and Christmas are on their way, and that family and celebrations will become the focus. As a kid, I listed fall as my least favorite season, but now I think it competes with winter as my favorite. I love the coziness of fall, evident in my house, full of yummy smells like apple cinnamon candles and food in the crock pot.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Senior Prom: 2018

I'm trying to imagine senior prom night at our high school in twelve years.

Emma will be poised in a floor-length, modest gown. Her date will arrive in his mother's Honda with a lily corsage which he'll politely tie on her wrist. His name will be Walter. He will wear a simple, black tuxedo and his cumberbund will match Emma's dress perfectly. He will pose politely for pictures and his straight, white teeth will later stand out in the prints. Emma's date will take her to the Black Angus and they will order the prime rib. They'll share a lava cake and drive straight to the prom, where they'll dance and chat and hold hands.

Grace will consider not attending the prom, but change her mind at the last minute when a boy named Leaf asks her to go. He'll pull up to the house on his Vespa scooter or in one of those little cars that looks like it's from England and belongs to Mr. Bean. He will wear checkered vans, Dickies, and a powder-pink bow tie, and Grace will opt for a non-traditional outfit...sort of like Molly Ringwald's homemade prom dress from Pretty in Pink. They will drive to a vegetarian restaurant near the beach and order soy chai lattes and organic spinach salads. She will arrive late to the prom, ditch Leaf, and dance with a few of her girlfriends. She'll hitch a ride home with Emma and Walter, and convince them to stop for blueberry crepes at IHOP on the way home.

Both girls will make it home before curfew. Our family will be awakened at 1:00 AM by Leaf, standing outside of Grace's window with music playing, just like John Cusack in Say Anything (only Leaf will hold up his IPOD and speakers instead of a boom box.) Grace and Emma (still sleeping in the same room even though they've had separate rooms for 13 years!) will giggle in bed as the music fades.

Ballerina Girl

When Emma "moved out", (see blog below) Grace decided to go for the "totally girlie" room of her heart's desire. The result...Ballerinas. Dancers. Ribbons. Boquets. Pink, pink, pink. Tutus and ballet slippers.

Gracie spins and leaps and pirouettes through her little life, happy to have her own room, with her own desk for Kindergarten homework, and a sister who will spend the night with you six 1/2 days a week!

A pretty good deal!

Horses, Green Paint, and Snorin' Sisters

Emma's new room is a horse room. We love it! It looks like a giant quilt. She has my old trundle bed, denim curtains, a patchwork, horse quilt, bright green paint, and a new wood floor.

I decided that the girls needed to be in separate rooms because they spent way too much time giggling and messing around when it was time for bed. Since this was the room's millionth transformation, we wanted it to be perfect! We spent lots of time tearing out the carpet (me), painting the walls, putting up the wainscotting, laying the wood floors (that was Jeff), and putting my old bed back together after moving it from the playroom.

The result? A beautiful room that Emma likes to play in but has only slept in once.


Why, you ask? Emma says that if she sleeps in her new room she'll get scared and miss Gracie.

"What will Gracie do to help you if you're scared?" I asked the other night.

"I don't know...she's just there. I can listen to her breathing," Emma replied. "And she snores, but that's OK."

My girls...former "womb" mates who are comforted by each other's steady breathing in the night...even if there is snoring involved.

Everyone should have someone like that.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Gracie's Prayer

Dear Jesus,

Hi. It's Gracie. Jesus, thank you for all the stuff you make. Like chairs. I can't figure out how you do it, Jesus. And...oh, Jesus? I would like to hop on one foot with you. I know you're busy, but it would be fun. And Jesus, thank you for Kindergarten. Also, Emma and I really, really want to fly, Jesus. Can you make that happen? And maybe you can make Marty and Sophie fly too. That would be fun.

And Jesus? I lub you. I can't figure out how you made all the stuff. Thank you again for flowers, Jesus. I lub them, but I don't like weeds. They make my nose itch. And Jesus? to me in your heart. I lub you...

In Jesus' name, AAAAAA-men.

(Note from me: I tried to remember all of the quirky things in Gracie's prayer last night. I know I'm forgetting a lot of it. Her little prayer just touched me! )

Monday, August 21, 2006

Pet Sagas at the Smith House :)

Our pets must be the strangest and most patient animals in the universe! First, there's Miss Sophie, who often enjoys rides in the "play" shopping cart or stroller. Sophie has worn many dress up clothes, often portraying "the baby" or "the grandma" or "the princess" in Emma and Grace's imaginary world. Sophie doesn't do much complaining...she kinda hangs with it! (I think she secretly loves all the attention.) Lately Sophie has been gaining a little too much weight. We think she's been dippin' into the other dogs' food, and we recently discovered that one of Emma's hobbies is sneaking Sophie bits of food under the table. Now, Miss Sophie is on a diet. :( We're worried she'll start to resemble a bowling ball. (Remember, this is the pug who ate up a tin of Christmas chocolate and ended up in the vet hospital overnight!) Already, everyone in the family has started calling her "Fat Piggy." Sophie doesn't care, as long as there's a warm lap to sit on.

Then, there's Marty, the new guy. Marty was at the pound in Riverside (a death sentence for many dogs) and was found by a rescue group who had him in a cage in front of Petco. Danielle and I were on one of our "we need another pet" rampages...the often tragic result of growing up in a house full of pets. We had been looking at the pound online, and we decided to check out Petco. Once we saw Marty's 1/2 pug tail, it was love at first sight! We brought him home and he fit in immediately, ripping around the house and snuggling on the bed. Grace named Marty after the Zebra in Madagascar. Whenever Grace says his name, she says it with a silly accent, kind of like "Mawwwty". A bit British, a bit southern, with a twist of New Jersey. That girl cracks me up!

Marty is half pug, half....something. We think it's chihuahua because of his overbite (see picture), but then again he can jump as high as any Jack Russel Terrier AND he looks like a fox. He also has the habit of sleeping on his back, wherever he is.

One problem is that Marty likes to chase Miss Priss. Miss Priss is SO over Marty. She hangs out in my sink most of the time, and when she cruises around the house, she uses all high surfaces to move from room to room. Any floor time means Miss Priss is scurrying, which only adds enthusiasm to the chase. The only dog who likes Miss Priss is Sophie, (Fat Piggy) who gazes adoringly at her and sits next to her, as long as the other dogs aren't looking. Sophie's got a reputation to protect with the other dogs.

Recently, Emma decided to hook Marty up to the shopping cart like a reindeer. (He actually reminded me of that dog in The Grinch cartoon...) She put Sophie in the cart and they toured the house. What an entourage!

Acer Dog, old and raspy, is spending a lot of time snoring and sleeping. The rest of time, he barks at people (or noises) at the door. He recently had to go on "Puggy Prozac". (That's what we call it, anyway.) He was getting so worked up and his breathing is so bad that he sounded like a dying beast. We're waiting to see if Puggy Prozac works.

Aren't we Smiths and our pets a fascinating bunch?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Kindergarten Rocks!

My gals were ready to go to Kindergarten. They were pumped. They were giddy. They were anxious. They were (sort of) nervous. But they were ready.

They were so ready that although they have afternoon kindergarten, both of them were up and dressed the first day at 7:30 (when I go to school.) Jeff took them on a walk with the dogs and they wore their backpacks even though kindergarten didn't start for another couple of hours.

Although it was my first day of school too (teaching), I was able to leave school to go to the first day. Jeff and I sat with all of the other parents as Mrs. Sehorn read "The Kissing Hand", a book about a little racoon going off to school for the first time. His mother kisses his hand, and he's able to put his hand on his cheek all day to remember his mother's kiss. All of the parents kissed their kindergarteners' hands, and the kindergarteners kissed our hands, and we left. Emma and Grace were ready. "See you!" they said, and turned back toward their class. Jeff and I walked out, both of us in shock and amazement that we've come this far. Our little ladies will never NOT be in school again, until they're grown up with jobs and kids of their own. I think it tripped us both out a bit!

It was an especially important day for Jeff. I think he savors every moment just a bit more since he missed so many milestones with Matt. Being a part time dad was always tough on Jeff, and now that Matt has moved out of state--and doesn't try to keep in touch...:( :( :( ---Jeff knows how fleeting the time is. I'm so happy to watch him being a daddy EVERY step of the way. He's in his element, and happiest when he's with "his three girls." And hopefully Matt will mature and leave the late teenage "I don't care about you" years behind enough to realize how much his dad adores him. (We all do...) That's my prayer for the future.

Embrace your family today. It goes by quickly!


Bishop: Home for Jenni's Wedding

There's something about growing up in a small town. It sticks with you, no matter where you go. Part of you is "small town" no matter how many freeways or Starbucks surround you. You never let it go.

We paid a visit to my little town at the beginning of August, taking the trailer on its most exciting (and long) adventure yet. It was my friend Jenni Smith's wedding. Jenni and I became friends in 7th grade, and have remained close ever since. She was married in the mountains near Bishop at Cardinal Lodge. Her wedding was in a little meadow with a stream running behind her, and the mountains towering over her. It was just beautiful, and I'm so happy for her!

Jeff and I and the girls camped in our most "mountainy" place yet...Creekside RV Park in Bishop. There was a little fishing pond at our campground, and Grandpa Tom and Grandma Patty came on our last night there so that Grandpa Tom could take the girls fishing. I think Grandpa Tom has been the first person to take every kid in the family fishing! The girls didn't catch anything, but they had a lot of fun and took it very seriously!

We ate a Schats twice! I never went there when I actually LIVED in Bishop...too touristy. But now, Jeff and I stood in line with all of the other crazy people, waiting for a taste of their delicious bread. We even brought some back for friends down here (although Emma and Grace gave some bread to the ducks at the park.)

Going "home' was so nostalgic! Around every bend lurks a memory. Jeff heard running commentary....there is where we found Buff dog, abandoned and sleeping in a tire. There is the little yellow house I always loved. There is where I ate lunch at the park in high school. There is my favorite bookstore (the little used one behind Vons...) There is where I learned to drive. There is my old bus stop...I remember a bush of wild roses that bloomed nearby. I remember the idiotic boys on the bus who loved to torture us. There is where I took dance lessons. There is the drug store my sister and I would walk to in order to buy stickers, gummy worms, and anything else our quarters would supply.

Jeff and I met in Bishop, long ago, and we laugh at all the silly things our teenage selves were once up to, working at Firehouse Grill, staying out past curfew (when I should have been studying for the SAT's!), walking back to school after lunch. We showed the girls the church where we got married, and they kept asking, "Do ALL people get married at that church? Why did Jenni get married outside?"

I remember my mom and dad driving me around all of their old hangouts in San Diego, and I felt the memories hanging in the air like perfume, imagining my dad pulling up in his loud hot rod to pick my mom up for a date. I was fascinated to see their old houses, their high school. The girls felt just the same about Jeff and me. Very cool!

Enjoy the pictures.


More Ventura Pictures

Monday, July 31, 2006

Camping Trip #2: Ventura

Our second camping trip, to Emmawood Beach in Ventura, was wonderful. The campsites at this primitive campground are right next to the beach. Jeff's sister Jennifer came for beach time and dinner with our niece and nephew, Harley and Kelly. Kelly ended up staying the night with us and we dropped her off in nearby Santa Clarita the next day.

The girls had so much fun making a huge sand fort with their cousins. Later that night, we had barbecued chicken, salad, angel food cake, and smores. (Why does food taste even better when you're camping?) The girls got in their snuggly pj's and played princess checkers with Kelly. We all fell asleep with the sound of the waves in the background. It was so peaceful and wonderful!

On our second day, we went into little downtown Ventura and ate at an awesome vegetarian restaurant, had dessert at Ben and Jerry's, and hit every antique and bookstore we could find. Jeff was in awe of my ability to find shopping even while camping! :)

The two best parts of our trip:
1) We saw a seal, who swam right up in front of our site (he was so close we could see his whiskers!)
2) Dolphins migrated by (they seemed to travel in threes and would come up out of the water together in their little groups!). I even caught a dolphin fin on film!

Next trip: Bishop, for my friend Jenni Smith's wedding! It'll be our first really long drive and we'll be staying four nights instead of one. We can't wait!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

More Camping Pictures


We are now, officially, a camping family!

Not that we weren't before. When Jeff and I were first married, we drove all the way up the central coast and slept in the back of his truck until we got to San Francisco, where we stayed in a cheap hotel that seemed very luxurious at the time. (Heck, it had MTV!)

Later, we became tent campers. That was fine, until we had the girls. Tent camping with kids...a whole new experience.

As you know, kids need stuff. Care Bear bandaids. Cozy Wozies (the girls' special blankets.) Instant Oatmeal and TWO different kinds of cereal. Games. Extra clothes for the mud and the spills. The list goes on.

Lately, Jeff has been going camping and off-roading with his dad's jeep club. Everyone wants me to join them, and they make me feel very welcome. (Just sleep in our trailer...there's plenty of room!) And I'm imagining my kids and me and all of our stuff.

I'm a nester. I like my home. I like my things. I love to travel, but I really need a home base.

So Jeff and I decided to dive head first into the world of trailer ownership.

We're in love with it already!

Last week, we took our first camping trip to Julian. We had a blast, cooking chicken on the grill, making smores and brown bears, playing Barbie Uno and Go Fish. We went on a hike (if you can call it that with two five-year-olds and the pugs!), drove to the lake, and went into Julian for the malt shop and pie!

There is a picture of me at about four years old. I'm camping with my family, and I have messy hair, a dirty face (from playing) and I'm wearing a blue sweatshirt with the word "Foxy" in patchwork letters across the front. (It was the '70's!) I look so content! Some of my favorite memories are of going camping at our property in Bridgeport, playing card games at the little table in our trailer, telling stories around the campfire, and floating in a tube down the river that ran through our camp. I'm so excited that the girls will have similar memories!

Next stop: Camping at the beach near Ventura. Jeff is already polishing his body board! We'll keep ya' posted.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Reading is to the Mind...

Over the summer, I devour books like food. Every night before I go to sleep, I read, read, read. While the girls are in the pool, I read. If I'm waiting at the dentist or the doctor's office, I read.

During the school year, the pace slows in favor of more quality time with my family. But during the summer, all of us read. (Pictured are the books I've read this summer!)

So far, my favorite this summer is Pride and Prejudice. I refused to watch the new movie until I'd read it, and while I've many books in the same genre...Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Emma, I had never read Pride and Prejudice. I thought it was wonderful, and I bought two movie versions from Best Buy to compare them.

On my list to read next: Wicked, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters, Girl Meets God, The Red Tent, Bee Season, Jewel, The Mermaid Chair...and the list goes on!

Reading has always been important in my life. It saved me from the boredom of being in my parent's restaurant growing up. I read about The Little Princess, losing her fortune with the death of her father, being made to live as a servant in the boarding school she used to attend. I read all of the Anne books, and felt like I lived on a little island in Canada where neighbors gossiped and meadows flourished with flowers. I rode with Laura Ingalls Wilder in a covered wagon as Pa searched for work during the long winter in South Dakota. I admired Jo from Little Women for cutting her hair to help her family. I cried reading many times: In Bridge to Terabithia when the little boy died, in Rilla of Ingleside when Walter died in the war. (And in any book when anything cruel happened to an animal!)

Reading opened up my mind to new perspectives during college, when I read all kinds of multicultural literature like Tracks, The Color Purple, Woman Warrior, and The Joy Luck Club. It made me appreciate the world from a greater perspective than my small town could offer...

Now, if I attempt to put Emma and Grace to bed without reading them each a book, they feel that a great injustice has occurred. We read picture books (the same ones over and over and over) and chapter books (I love that their little imaginations will form pictures without pictures!). Right now their favorite book is Fancy Nancy, pictured above. I love reliving the joy of books with my girls. It's like visiting old friends. Another favorite experience is to listen to Jeff read aloud to the girls. He does all of the silly voices, the lines filled with animation and fun. Reading expands your mind, inspires you, and bonds you to those around you. It has an amazing power to do all of these things.

Now if this isn't an English teacher's advertisement for reading, I don't know what is!

If you have a favorite book or a recommendation, hit reply and let me know what it is!