Monday, August 27, 2007

The Mission Inn for Brunch

(Almost) the whole family met at the Mission Inn in Riverside on Sunday for brunch to celebrate my mom's birthday. It was such a beautiful day, and we ate in the courtyard outside. The brunch was delicious--just the dessert bar alone was like a scene out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! There were pastries that looked like little wrapped presents, pies, cakes, and scrumptious bread pudding. Our eyes were taking it all in as we planned eating strategies, but our stomaches were full after just two trips. (All except Ian...he ate continuously throughout the brunch!)

I'm glad we stopped on the way out to have this picture taken...we're only missing my poor Jeff, who had to work for the evil corporate empire instead of enjoying his family (and poor Jeff missed the food...he wouldn't have let a single morsel go to waste!)

The girls and I drove Grandma Otti to the brunch since my mom met us there from Bishop and Danielle and Jason's car was full. On the way, Grandma kept falling asleep. She was sitting in the passenger seat of my truck, and when she'd nod off, her jaw would open wide and her head would drop...I kept trying to get her to wake up so that people driving next to me wouldn't think I was transporting a grandmother who was no longer living! That woman can sleep ANYWHERE, I tell you! Not even the girls and I rocking out to Hannah Montana music stirred her from her slumber. When you're 90, I guess that's one of the perks. Swiping dessert from your great grandchildren's plates...another perk. Still another: swatting your grandchildren on their bottoms with your cane when you're feeling feisty. A day out with Otti is rather entertaining. A day out with (almost) the whole family? Priceless.

(Click picture to make it bigger...and to see the dreaded cane!)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Emma Spotlight (Along with First Grade Firsts)

The first day of first grade arrived already, and I can hardly believe it.

A cute story from the first day:

The girls started out in separate classes. (They are now in the same class...but that's a long story. It was more because of a teacher thing than a kid/separation issue thing.)

Anyway, in Kindertgarten, parents walk to their child's room and pick them up every day, but in first grade, the bell rings, and kids scatter throughout the school to wait at one of the entrances. The girls and I planned on a place to meet, but I was skeptical about them being able to find it in all of the chaos.

On that first day, traffic was a nightmare. First, I had to leave my high school and get through all the yucky first day of school mess, and then I had to drive a mile to the elementary school which was also backed up down the block. I finally parked and made it to the pick up spot, and all around me, thousands of kids were running every which way. (OK...not thousands. The school doesn't have that many. But lots, especially to a mom relying on two six-year-olds to navigate their way through. I saw more High School Musical backpacks than I have ever seen in my life!) Looking through the horde of kids, I realized that Emma and Grace were nowhere to be found and I started getting nervous...then, I spotted them. They were holding hands, walking through the crowd, as if they were each other's life preservers. It was the sweetest thing I've ever seen. Emma had walked to Grace's class and "picked her up," and then they had walked with locked hands the whole way through the school to the gate.

I know I just wrote a whole synopsis of my wild child Grace, but my Emma deserves an entry of her own. She is sensitive, sweet, empathetic, smart (oh my gosh...really smart!) and curious about everything. She is a first grade superstar, and even though she was off to a bit of a rough start with her teacher, she is taking it well and has even expressed concern that she's "hurt her old teacher's feelings" by leaving her class. I am very proud of my beautiful daughter, and yet I know from experience that FEELING your emotions that deeply can be really tough! It's what poets and writers are made of...their hearts on platters for the world to see. I wouldn't change it about myself...I think it makes me the mother I am, the teacher I am, and the person I am. It's what makes me sit and think and write these blogs (more for ME than for anyone else, even though it's fun to get a comment once in a while.) Emma's heart will break over dogs at the pound, kids who are bullied, and a teacher's hurt feelings. She will get her feelings hurt a little too easily sometimes, and she will cry as though God has the hose ready to turn on right behind her little eyelids. Surely she will find a profession where she can give of herself enough to make it all worthwhile...she may not save the world, but those who are touched by Emma will be lucky. :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gracie Girl, Flower Child

These pictures are a little montage of Gracie through the years.

One of my first entries of this blog (in 2005?) was about my free spirit, Grace. Grace is a groovy girl. When she dances, it reminds me of my experience at a Grateful Dead concert watching those fluttering, hippy women with bangles on their ankles and butterflies in their hair. She lets the music move her rather than moving to the music.

I went through a MAJOR hippy phase in high school. I wanted to get a dancing bear tattoo on my ankle (thank GOD I never followed through with it!),wore birkenstocks, went veggie (which I am again as of recently), and wore sundresses. There are very few pictures of me from my senior year when I'm not flashing a peace sign. Later, I discovered The Descendents and fell in love with punk rock. Apparantly, the flower child inside my heart decided not to go away quietly, and instead made a reappearance in my darling Grace.

I adore it when Grace comes out dressed for school in the morning. The ensembles she puts together are creative, original, and do NOT take into account want any other kid might think. Grace will start trends rather than follow them. She LOVES Hannah Montanna, so she started wearing her hair long and straight like Hannah's. She also noticed that Hannah likes layering outfits, so Grace often comes out in the morning with pants on under a skirt, pink cowgirl boots, and a funky hat.

Tonight, Grace said, "Mama, I wish I wore glasses. I look REALLY good in glasses. I'd want pink ones."

She discos. She boogies. She shimmies. She does the worm. She hopscotches, jumpropes, spins and smiles and sings...not a thread of self-conciousness or worry. I hope she never questions who she is and conforms to "normal."

Man, I adore her!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Gettin' the Heck out of Dodge

....I mean Murrieta...

Our vacation this summer was to the Central Coast. It's one of my all time favorite places. In 1990, I moved from Bishop to San Luis Obsipo to go to college, and fell in love with the area. It was so different from the Eastern Sierras where I grew up. The sagebrush, mountain ranges, lakes, and bristlecone of my home town were replaced with coastal dunes, rolling green hills, beaches, and oak trees. Life on the central coast was never dull. There was always farmer's market on Thursday nights, where I'd buy dried flowers and a plate dripping with BBQ. There were all of the adorable shops downtown, crammed together just waiting to be explored. On any given break, my friends and I would explore Cambria (the haunted graveyard was the best!), Morro Bay, Avila, and Highway 1. We would journey to San Francisco at a moment's notice, or hit Santa Barbara for a show. Although it was time to leave San Luis Obsipo when I did, I still have a heart for such a lovely place, and going back there provided a memory around every corner!

Jeff and I decided to stay in our trailer at a campground outside of Solvang so that we could be central to everything. We spent the first two days in Solvang eating and shopping. Solvang is known for its Aebleskivers, so of course we partook in the round, donut-like treats...the homemade raspberry jelly was phenominal (and I'm not even a jelly person!) We rode a surrey around Solvang as well (the crazy, four-seater bike that you peddle.) Jeff Smith proved to be a wild driver and we blew through quite a number of stop signs in order to gain momentum. Jeff found it hilarious that even though my steering wheel had no control (it was "fake"), I steered the entire time we rode the surrey (just like the kids in the fake car carts at the grocery store.) We also visited a miniature horse ranch (I want 90 of them!) and an Ostrich and Emu farm.

I've decided that ostriches are the strangest creatures I've ever encountered. I'd never given them much thought (other than a funny incident with Matthew when he was little and we were driving to Bishop for our wedding...more on that another time.) Seeing an ostrich up close is SO random! They are prehistoric! Their necks are loooooong, which makes their heads look rather small, other than these huge eyes, with thick, fancy lashes. Their feathers are puffy and elaborate, and then stretching down to the ground are these gigantic, dinosaur-looking bird legs with crazy dinosaur bird feat. They are mad for food...aggressive. I was obsessed with touching one even though the sign said they bite, so I tricked it into eating out of the dish and stealthily moved my hand around its head to stroke its neck. The ostrich didn't seem to care as long as it was stuffing its beak with FOOD. Although not as fancy or interesting looking, the emus were much more gentle and easy for the girls to feed. My assessment was that the ostriches were of very low intelligence and very high self regard, like some people. :) It made for an interesting visit.
The rest of our trip consisted of clam chowder at the Pismo Pier, walking and shopping in San Luis Obsipo (along with a driving tour of all my old haunts), and a trip to Santa Barbara for Mexican food and shopping on State Street. (Note: Carlito's Cantina in Santa Barbara across from the theater on State Street has awesome food. Jeff and I considered eating both lunch AND dinner, but thought otherwise when the girls said if they ate one more bean and cheese burrito they would DIE.) We had Split Pea Soup at Andersons (not as yucky as we remembered it from years ago...very cheesy/touristy, but the girls loved it.) Nicki and Kit, the American Girl dolls, got dressed up and accompanied the girls on many dinner dates and excursions.

I asked Grace to sum up our trip in one sentence, so here it is:

"We saw the gum wall and we shopped and we saw the emus...I was scared of the ostriches....and we went to the park at the campground but there were mean kids there, and my favorite thing was that we saw goats."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Summer Madness

Summer madness at our house consists of all the neighborhood kids putting on a lemonade stand (they tried to sell cookies too but ate them all instead), cousin swim parties, and one crazy dad.
Our schools start EARLY in August (the 13th) so that we can have extended vacations throughout the middle of the year. This is nice during Christmas vacation when we're off for 3 1/2 weeks, or during spring break, when we have 2 weeks and Thanksgiving when we get a full week. But still...August 13th! I'm not in school shopping mode. My big first grade girls are going to go to school looking quite summery, at least until November-ish! It's too hot to wear "official" school clothes yet! We went and bought backpacks and cute pencils, but other than that...we're going to be coming home from school and hopping into the pool!
Jeff is going to adjust to not being the stay-at-home-in-the-day dad who works nights...his little gals are going to be in school ALL day. What a trip.

Slumber Parties, Pool Resorts, and Peace...Sort Of

We just adore Kylie. We met my good friend Diane, her daughter Kylie, and Kylie's little brother Sawyer, at a resort that Kylie's family has a membership to that is located half way between our two cities. The resort was awesome- it had a water park, a water slide, two pools, and a spa. It also had really comfy lounge chairs that I got to enjoy, but Diane didn't since she was busy chasing Sawyer (who is SO cute!) The girls ended up back at Kylie's for an official slumber party. (Anyone taking on my girls for a sleep over is very brave...inviting twins immediately qualifies as a slumber party.)

What did I do without my six-year-olds following me around? I went to Barnes and Noble and wandered aimlessly and blissfully for almost two hours. Then I hit a bunch of quick errands that would have taken me forever with the girls. Then I came home, collapsed in peace, and watched television without anyone talking to me..."Mama, why is that guy running? Mama! Look at my hair! Mama...Grace is sticking her tongue out at me! Mamaaaaaa....Emma looked at me funny!" Instead, the house was oddly quiet and lonely. I'd rather answer a billion questions and put out fires than to live in a house without the echoes of their little feet. Having a break was nice, but I am so thankful to be a mom.

Just as I am writing this, Emma is tapping my shoulder to show me her dance moves from Vacation Bible School...tap, tap, tap.....and Grace is on my other side, explaining that next Sunday there is a NEW Hannah Montanna, and Lily is going to join a karaoke challenge.

It's never boring around here.