Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

We have had a busy weekend, so we were excited for some family time this Memorial Day. We started out with a 5 mile hike on Mt. Diablo. It was an absolutely beautiful, clear day, the perfect temperature with a slight breeze to keep us cool.

A view from the drive up the mountain

We were blessed to not only have the best weather, but also to witness many of God's creatures on our hike. We saw lots of lizards, three huge hawks, a turkey vulture, a snake, a six-point buck and countless dragonflies, butterflies and bumblebees.

As I'm snapping this picture, Maddie is yelling, "Dad! No!"

We did a thirty-minute jog (I'm training for a 5K) as part of our hike, but many of the hills were quite tough with the jogger. Ben and I traded off, sometimes pushing together when the hills got really steep, but mostly Ben managed the sixty pounds of kid plus fifty pounds of stroller! After we finished our run Maddie wanted to hike for a while.

Can you even believe how big my girl is?

At the end of the trail we were awarded with beautiful views, a fun climbing rock with a peephole, and a place for the little man to get out and stretch his legs. (He had napped for most of the first half of the hike).

Cutest little hiker

We are so blessed to be just a twenty-minute drive away from such a beautiful place. Mt. Diablo has lots of great hikes and this was a family-friendly, rolling hike with awesome views, great wildlife viewing, and no other traffic. Seriously, we were the only hikers!

View from the end of the trail

Maddie and Dada at the top of peephole rock!

On our way down the mountain we stopped by Rock City for a little bouldering. As you may remember, one of Maddie's favorite parts of Yosemite was tackling those big rocks. About five minutes in, she announced, "I have to go to the bathroom," right before sprinkling on the rock. Oops! Quick trip at Rock City and then back in the car to head home.

I'm uploading this pic and she says, "Oh! I'm peeing!" Not exactly, but hilarious nonetheless.

After that long hike we came home and crashed, all four of us, for afternoon naps. Hooray for naps! When Maddie woke up, Boppa was here to help set up a lemonade stand. Nothing says Memorial Day weekend like a lemonade stand!

Our hand-painted sign to accompany the fresh-squeezed lemonade (made with Meyer lemons from Boppa's lemon tree. Dee-LISH-ous!)

The little cuties at their table

And now we are feeling the effects of our long three-day weekend. We are bone tired! All four of us! And so with that, Good Night!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

First Trip to the Dentist!

This week Maddie had her first visit to the dentist. Dr. Mark is gentle, kind, and a young dad himself. He made Maddie feel comfortable and secure in the dentist chair.

No, she didn't break into the happy gas. She was just pretty comfortable.

"Open wide for Dr. Mark!"

That's our girl!

Of course, she was a star. Maddie never fails to amaze us with her adaptability and easygoing nature. She thrives in new environments and takes on challenges with grins and giggles. Way to go, my twenty-teethed girl!

I just love these kiddos


After Sam's last haircut (his fourth!), shortly before his birthday, I decided to let it grow out for a bit and see what we would get. The boy has got a GREAT head of hair.

Well, the longer it gets, the more and more he is looking like a certain pubescent performer of great popularity among the young crowd. We call it emo rock, teen heartthrob, or the j**tin bei**r. It's awesome.

friends like family

What would we do, who would we be without our dear friends?

For Nicoley

For the Big Ts

For sweet swinging girls

and snuggled up cuties

We are so thankful for friends who are more like family.
We love you Holbrooks and Eakins!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Oregon! In May!

We visited Oregon this past weekend for five days of fun with Grammy, Papa & the extended Painter clan. Stop one on our journey: Papa's work, aka "Tractor Heaven." Sam and Maddie got to sit in some big tractors, ride on a golf cart around the premises (Maddie even got to steer!), and pose for some picture ops with Papa.

From there we visited Grammy in her classroom. Maddie got to be a first grader for a day, and as she proudly announced to her preschool teachers this morning, "I'm a first grader now!" She lived up to her outgoing nature by running right in, joining the kids on the rug for circle time, even eating her lunch in the cafeteria. You could hardly tell the difference! Although, our little performer did have some trouble following the rug rules, stopping to comment on a first grader's shoes, or try and get them to laugh at her. One by one, the responsible first graders followed classroom protocol, moving away from the problem, but it didn't stop Maddie from sidling up toward another student, making small talk as Grammy/Mrs. Painter read from "Charlotte's Web."

Even Sam got in on the first grade action, taking a seat at the teacher's desk. Uh-oh! Do I have another delegator/leader on my hands?!

One afternoon we visited Great Grandma Evie and Papa Bob at their home. It was great to catch up with the greats, as well as pose for some cute pictures spanning the generations.

Back on the farm, there was plenty to see and do. With lots of rain, Maddie and Sam were enthusiastic splashers. Every chance we got, we'd run out with our boots and jackets and splash in the puddles. Sam even loved to plop down, bootie first, in order to get the most wet possible.

On Saturday we visited Uncle Joe at his new home in Hillsboro. We took a housewarming gift, and Maddie and Sam got the grand tour of the new digs. We're so excited for Joe and his new house. It looks so great!

No trip to the farm would be complete without a tractor ride. Papa happily obliges each visit, and Maddie and Samuel couldn't have been more thrilled to ride around the yard. One day Papa even put Sam to sleep as he rode along, mowing the lawn. The smiles that came out of that boy as he rode with his Papa were just too cute!

Sunday we got to hang out with our cousins Grace, Lizzie and Elijah. Maddie woke up from her nap and was surprised to see three of her favorite playmates coming up the stairs to see her. For the next four hours, we hardly heard from her!

The girls played outside for a long time, despite the cold weather, even making a "clubhouse" on the island in Grammy and Papa's front yard. They played so well together, Grace and Lizzie such great, patient, and loving big sisters. Maddie is always included and she has the best time hanging out with the big girls!

We joined together for a homemade meal (turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, all the fixings, thanks to Grammy!) and sang Happy Birthday to Papa over a turtle cake.

Happy 59th to everyone's favorite tickly-bearded kisser!

We miss you already, Oregon family, and can't wait to see you next month!

Bye-Bye Ballerina!

Yesterday was Maddie's last day of dance! We gave her lessons for her third birthday, planning to go month-by-month, letting Maddie decide when she was ready to finish. A few months ago, we had to make a choice whether or not to participate in the end-of-the-year recital. After reviewing the cost ($79 for outfit, $29 for shoes, etc., etc.) we thought it best to pull Maddie out before recital time. About six weeks ago, Maddie started hesitating before class each week. She decided on her own to be done this month!

So yesterday afternoon we watched her perform with her class one final time. They've been working for months on their recital piece and I'm proud to say that for being one of the youngest members (along with Kate), Maddie did an awesome job holding her own among the four year-olds. She knew most of the dance steps and was a joy to watch.

Some of my favorite memories are her first day, where she ran in with reckless abandon and started making friends with the girls in class (as I shamelessly snapped pictures), seeing her practice her dance moves at home, and watching her learn over the course of weeks how to tap-behind.

Kate and Maddie enjoyed weekly play dates for over a year before taking dance class together. Now I guess we'll be back into play date mode! Kate and Maddie have developed a sweet friendship and it's so much fun to see them love on each other in class.

Kudos to Miss Ashley for keeping 5-12 three and four year-old girls tapping, twirling, jumping and laughing. That cannot be an easy job! Here are the precious ballerinas with their fearless teacher on the last day of class:

Bye-Bye Ballerina, hello Summer!

School Days: Purple Room

Today was Maddie's last day in the Purple Room. What a joy it has been to watch her grow, change, and mature over the past nine months. At two years old, she seemed so big yet when I look back over the monthly photos I realize just how much she's grown! Now Maddie is three years old, fiercely independent, kind, smart, friendly, compassionate, and a joy to be around.

I was prepared for tears on the first day of school, though I managed to hold it together throughout drop-off. I was NOT prepared for tears today, but at pickup I saw Mrs. Sims, the head teacher, down on her knees hugging her students goodbye, tears streaming down her face, and I lost it. I cried for the next twenty minutes, on and off, thanking God for an amazing year in my daughter's life.

The head teacher, Mrs. Sims, had this to say about Maddie in a note she handed me today: "Even at such a young age, Maddie draws people to herself. She includes all the children and is always the first one to reach out if someone is sad or playing by themselves. Maddie is so bright and she is interested in everything we learn in the Purple Room. She loves to sing and share her Maddie perspective on life!"

If that isn't Miss Maddie to a T. We are so proud of our Purple Room graduate! Enjoy the pictures, starting with her last day, ending with her first, and piecing together each month in between.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


This weekend we up and headed to Yosemite for a family getaway. We knew going in that the trip would be memorable, though whether it would be good-memorable (bears! waterfalls! sticks!) or bad-memorable (mosquitos! loud campers! no sleep!) was up in the air. I am ecstatic to report that it was memorable in the BEST way and we can't wait to go back.

It only took about 2 hours and 20 minutes to get to our outside-the-park accommodations. Our "Garden Cottage" was essentially a single-wide trailer on the side of Highway 120, about 45 minutes from the valley floor. It was cozy, clean, the bed was actually comfortable, the kids slept well, and we had our own kitchen and bathroom. I'll leave it at that. Nothing else memorable about the sleeping spot. But that's not why you go to Yosemite.

This is:
Dada, Sam & Maddie soaking wet after a look at Bridalveil Falls

Bridalveil Falls in all its gushing glory

Maddie bouldering in the park

One of our greatest joys and a memory that will be etched in my mind for years to come is seeing Maddie in her element. The girl is fearless. She is so adventurous, and it makes Ben and I just so incredibly proud. As soon as we stopped the car, she jumped out, ran toward the forest, and started climbing on a huge pile of fallen limbs, getting snagged, "balancing" as she walked the length of a big branch, picking out big sticks to show us. She would scramble up practically any boulder on the hiking trails, narrating her steps as she went: "Okay, I'll put my hand here, then my foot on this little spot here, and then I'll step up, and then my hands will work together right here and I'll puuulll myself up! There I go! Perfect!"

Another classic Maddie moment: we saw a mule deer grazing in a meadow beneath the falls and as Maddie stood watching, another couple approached. She pointed to the buck and said, "That's a mule deer." The woman misunderstood her and replied, "Oh, Yes? It's a REAL deer? My, my! Do you think it's BAMBI?" Maddie looked at her with the most puzzled face and squinty brow, like, "Did you not hear me? I said 'mule deer.' Who the heck is Bambi?"

Upper Yosemite Falls from the Valley Floor, Merced River in the foreground

The girls taking a walk in front of the falls. Seriously, could the scenery be any more breathtaking?

Stalking in the tall meadow grass

Yeah, that's a bear! And you can see the tail end of a black one behind the tree on the left.

We were headed out of the park on Friday night late, the kids already in pjs, Sam asleep in his seat, and we happened upon a bunch of cars slowing down or pulled over. We looked into the wet, snowy meadow to the left and saw TWO bears, a golden colored one and a darker brown one. After approaching to take pictures, a woman pointed out a third bear super high in a tree. I took some pictures but they didn't really turn out because of the low light.

The next morning we returned into the park and the same three bears were in the exact spot from the night before. We stopped and got some new pictures, as well as another great memory: the two smaller bears were close together, foraging on the meadow floor for food, the larger, golden bear closer to the road. Someone watching made a loud noise, and the bears spooked a bit. The largest bear started to charge toward the two smaller ones and they scrambled up two nearby trees. It was CRAZY. Those heavy, furry creatures charged up those vertical trees as if they were simply running along the ground. It was that fast. Awesome.

Sam being his fun little self in the car

Sam was a trooper. He was so content just to walk his way through the park, picking up sticks and stones and pinecones and rocks. He was so much fun, always game for every new adventure, whether getting soaked under waterfalls or hopping in the backpack for a hike. He loved seeing the wildlife in the park, grunting at birds, mule deer, squirrels.

Any chance Sam got, he would take off on a trail, path or road, all on his own, like he was tasting freedom for the first time. I'd look away for a second, only to see him toddling away at breakneck speed, giggling as I ran after him, and screaming when I picked him up, as if yelling out "Freedom! I've tasted freedom! And it is the open road."

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls

Spring Buds

The girls "pose it up" in front of an OLD tree
(one of the first marked rings was circa 700 AD)

Part of the fun of bouldering is sliding down

tree detail

naptime for the boys

Because we spent all day, every day, in the park, naptimes and bedtimes were somewhat fluid. Saturday we spent most of the day on our bikes, kids in the bike trailer, riding all over the valley floor and taking small side hikes to break things up. That afternoon Maddie crashed in the bike trailer but Sam was a little more stubborn, so Ben walked around with him in the ergo until at last they both found some rest beneath a large tree.

I took the opportunity to run around with my camera and snap some photos. A fallen tree with its upturned roots just happened to frame up Half Dome in the distance. I could not get enough of this place. Just gorgeous.

Half Dome through a gnarly fallen trunk

friendly little park squirrels were happy to share Maddie's trail mix

Mirror Lake
(so named for the obvious reasons)

One of the hikes we took was a short, easy climb up to Mirror Lake. The scenery was incredible, with Half Dome rising on one side. The lake was surrounded by boulders, perfect for climbing up and sliding down. Samuel trotted along on the path, collecting treasures and making other hikers laugh with his determined little walk. We enjoyed a picnic lunch atop a flat rock and Maddie even got to use the great outdoors for her first pee-pee alfresco.

family shot at Mirror Lake

On Sunday we packed up our things and headed out on a side trip to Jamestown, an old gold mining community south of the park. There is an old Railway Museum and they were offering a special "Moms ride free" for Mother's Day. We took a 40-minute train ride pulled by an old steam engine (best known for its appearances on TV such as "Runaway Caboose" on Little House on the Prarie and movie roles such as in "Back to the Future."

An old-time folk fiddler named Huckleberry made his way up and down the aisles, playing great tunes and getting the kids excited. He played his fiddle, a mandolin and even spoons! Maddie made "Friends Forever" with a sweet little Welsh girl and her charming parents. Sam's eyes grew wide as saucers every time the train blew its horn.

Enjoying my Mother's Day with my sweet girl

In front of the engine room, where the big trains go to rest

Car Host hat on the cutest little train passenger you ever did see

We can't wait to go back! Maybe we'll even make it an annual event. Anyone out there in blogland interested in joining us for Yosemite 2011?