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!

Swimmin' at Auntie Danielle's Pool

We spent yesterday at Auntie Danielle's house swimming in her pool. She and Jason put in a pool last year. It has a waterslide, grotto, and lots of rocks to jump from. Danielle and I spent the day relaxing and hanging out by the pool; later, we ate dinner and swam with the kids. That's one of the things I love about Murrieta...we have the most warm, summery nights, where you can swim all day and after dinner too. We don't turn on the television until the evening because we're too busy all day enjoying it outside. :) We also had fun doing crazy things to Ian's hair. (Poor Ian...he's a good sport being the only boy among the girl cousins.) Later, Grandma Otti and my mom came over and got into the jacuzzi. I know that I only have four weeks of true summer until school starts, but I'm enjoying every minute!

My next entry will feature all of our camping pictures. Jeff and I bought a trailer, so this Wednesday will be our first camping trip in it. We have plans to go to Julian, the beach in Ventura, and Bishop for my friend's wedding in August. More on this later. I'm so excited!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Our Neighborhood on the Fourth

Our neighborhood, although in Southern California, seemed to be transported to a more simple time and place yesterday for the 4th of July. Neighbors got permission from the city to close off the street. People set up booths for face painting, hat making, and fingerpainting. There were water balloon tosses, and a giant, bouncy water slide. There was all kinds of food, and people brought their bbq's and coolers right out to the street. The finale was bike decorating and a bike parade up and down the streets, with all of the kids riding their decorated scooters, bikes, and little cars and jeeps as patriotic music played.

I found the whole event to be just darling! In 2006, sometimes it seems as though we pull into our garages and never step outside to form a true community with our neighbors. The girls got a taste of what is was like for me, growing up in my little Rocking K neighborhood, going home when it got dark, running wild with all of the neighborhood kids.

In Ray Bradbury's novel, Fahrenheit 451, the character Clarisse reflects, "No front porches. My uncle says there used to be front porches. And people sat there sometimes at night, talking when they wanted to talk, rocking, and not talking when they didn't want to talk. Sometimes they just sat there and thought about things, turned things over. My uncle says the architects got rid of the front porches because they didn't look well. But my uncle says that was merely rationalizing it; the real reason, hidden underneath, might be they didn't want people sitting like that, doing nothing, rocking, talking;, that was the wrong kind of social life. People talked too much. And they had time to think. So they ran off with the porches. And the gardens, too. Not many gardens any more to sit around in. And look at the furniture. No rocking chairs any more. They're too comfortable. Get people up and running around."

I hope that our generation is able to slow down. To enjoy each other. To read! To sit and talk on the front porch (or the back patio). To enjoy nature. To sit around the table for family dinners at night. I hope Bradbury's prophetic words (written in 1953, before big screen tv's, cell phones, and all kinds of other distractions) will reverse with our generation. I hope that we value human connections more than anything else.

Ironic that as I write this, I sit and type at a glowing computer screen!

More Fourth of July Pictures

Twins With a Camera

The Culprits: Emma and Grace Smith
The Weapon: My Camera

The girls confinscated my camera and took all of these pictures, which I found later as I was loading photos onto my computer.

It's funny, the things five year olds like to photograph: Emma's breakfast waffles...Sophie... Our new dog, Marty...Themselves in the bathroom mirror...Gracie being silly. I didn't include the two pictures of our ceiling fan or the many pictures of elbows, dog tails, and Jeff's nose. :)