Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pre-Birthday Festivities with Amma and Papa

Little Man turned 3 this weekend.  It's pretty bittersweet because he's growing by leaps and bounds.  However, before we share all that excitement, we first had the excitement of Amma and Papa's arrival.  Papa helped Catherine surprise Amma:

 And as the previous picture would indicate, we spent a good portion of the week just hanging out at the house.  Between travel and illnesses I haven't been to my job a whole lot this summer so Amma and Papa jumped in to help out and watch the kids.  Papa also helped me with a lot of house projects that we'd neglected for the same aforementioned reasons.  The weather was nice and cool in the mornings/evenings so we spent a lot of time on the porch and deck.  Catherine's recently become obsessed with all things that she can climb on and sit on.  Especially this trike:
 And Matthew's painted house turned into a tunnel for trike traffic:
 Another favorite game of Catherine's is to play fetch with Sky.  She'll sit on the edge of the deck and drop the ball off:
 But she's no dummy.  She really wants to learn to use the thrower and get some distance:
 Both kids hanging out with Amma in the morning:
 Mas and Pas stopped in on their way back for a second visit on their way home from a canoe trip on the Missouri.  While I tried to play catch up at work, all four grandparents took the kids to the museum and the park.  I'm sure they got pictures which I forgot to steal but mostly everyone had a good time.  Unfortunately Mas and Pas were only here for a short stop so all too soon we had to say our goodbyes again:

 We took the kids to the Children's Museum and while I have some great pictures of piano playing:
 Checking out the fish:
 Giant Kerplunk:
 And our good friend Bernoulli:

I didn't get a picture of what Matthew really did most of our visit, which was play trains.  You know, the exact same trains we'd been stepping over all week as he worked with Papa to build a "really really really long track" with every single train piece he has.  Thank goodness we drove across town and paid to play with the same toys we have at home.
 Catherine loved all the extra attention and snuggles that having grandparents around provides.  She's such a ham!
 Playing peek a boo around Amma:
 We had to do S'mores one night.  Matthew's very serious about them!
 Meanwhile Catherine was just chillin'
 To prepare for Matthew's birthday present, we ended up doing a lot of yard work, mostly revolving around these:
As we found out they are actually lightweight expanded clay aggregate and were not ever, ever, ever intended for landscaping the way they were used out back (as many, many people on craigslist pointed out to me).  They are actually used in Hydroponic or aquaponic gardening or can be tilled into the soil for root growth/support.  Regardless, we have a crap-ton of them, probably because at some time in our house's history there was some hydroponic gardening going on in the crawlspace.  3 people came to take "all of them" but left with all their containers filled, and a ton still in our way.  We cleared just enough for the installation of Matthew's present but still have a giant sand pile, a ton of the hydroton under the raspberries and a mess of landscaping fabric to deal with.  We're slowly but surely making progress though our landscaping plans but I can't say we'll miss the work terribly as we head out on our big vacation soon!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Camping Success 2.0

Last year we took the kids camping with the modest goal of surviving 24 hours which we did, even though the toddler screaming all night didn't help cement the trip as something we were eager to repeat.  This summer I was shooting for at least one, 2 night trip.  Unfortunately, this year I ended up with a gnarly stomach bug/allergic reaction on Friday that left me woozy and nauseous so our trip got off to a late start, but we still managed to have a great time and the kids mostly slept in the tent.  We actually went with about 10 other families and did some "Cadillac Camping" at the KOA in Paradise Valley.  It was perfect for our large group and the kids had a ton of fun.  From the slides:

To some trike riding:
There was lots to do, though as Matthew will tell you about the trip, he enjoyed "running and running and running around and around and around" which is bound to happen when your group has 20+ kids with you!

Once we got slightly settled we headed out for a hike.  Matthew is an excellent hiker and never, ever asks to be carried (though we ask him about it quite frequently!) and rarely complains which is a godsend in its own way.  However, he is sllllloooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwww.  As one of the ladies at his school remarked "Matthew doesn't miss anything on our walks, but really, at that pace it's hard NOT to miss anything!"  He is definitely the tortoise to my hare, a trait he gets from his daddy.  Even the peer pressure of keeping up with his friends couldn't speed him up and after a few minutes it was just us and the sunlight trail.
We offered to carry him a few times but he insisted he would do it himself, though we helped with the stream crossings:
Meanwhile, I had lots of time to hang out with Catherine on my back and practiced taking ridiculous shots of her on my back.  Odds were at least one would turn out decent:

Matthew climbed up all the large rocks in the trail "by myself":

The hike was definitely worth it and the falls were awesome.
Matthew wasn't too certain about the bridge to get over to the other side at first:
But it was nothing a quick peach snack wouldn't fix:

We got some really, really good peaches last week and Matthew asks for them about 300 times a day.  When we cut it open he gets really excited about seeing the "armpit" of the peach.  Catherine thought she would taste it:

I love these guys:
As everyone else was long gone back down the trail we tried for a self-timed photo with unsurprisingly only mildly successful results:

Our little mountain goat was enjoying her time out of the backpack and did some mountain climbing of her own:
 And just being a goober:

 On the way back, Matthew was willing to try the bridge himself:
 And we convinced him to ride down so we might make it before sunfall:
 Catherine continued to just chill.  The girl loves her backpack and didn't make hardly a peep the whole hike:
 Unfortunately due to fire restrictions there were no s'mores to be had for the evening but we definitely had a great time with some great people.  It was a little too short but I'm glad we made it and the kids did well overall.  Matthew got a new sleeping bag for his birthday which he loved and stayed in all night (which I loved).  Our tent is still a little small for the pack and play so Catherine slept on a mat near me.  She crawls, rolls and wiggles a little too much but overall had an okay night.  Matthew wasn't eager to leave his friends but he sure was eager to help pack up.  He carried the tent and all our bedding from the upper part of our campsite to the van with his trike.  He was pretty proud of himself:
When we got home Amma and Papa arrived followed the next day by Mas and Pas!  I totally get the appeal of multi-generational households as having an extra hand or two around the house to tend to the kids while I  clean or cook is a godsend!  (Or sometimes vice versa because our parents are awesome.) 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Painting, Panning and more

The pictures keep stacking up faster than the blog posts are coming out but here's all the excitement since we returned to Montana last week!  Mas and Pas came back with us and we had a nice weekend visit with them.  Poor James often misses out on our mid-week visitors (and weeks long vacations) so it was great to have some weekend time with the whole family.  Matthew had a short run of the stomach bug so we hung out around the house and I let the kids paint their "house" I've been kicking around the house for weeks.  Matthew very quickly started to paint himself:
 And after Catherine tasted the paint, she decided to copy her brother:

 Both kids in front of a finished side:

Catherine got a belated birthday present from Mas and Pas and now has her own stepstool so she never misses out on the kitchen counter action.  Matthew's been showing her the ropes:
 But she didn't take much encouraging before she got serious about exploring
 The next day we took Mas and Pas to Virginia City and Nevada City.  It had the promise of a train ride and a fire engine/stagecoach ride so a certain 2 year old didn't need any convincing!  We opted for the fire engine ride and learned all about the colorful history of Virginia City:
 Wait!  Who is that strange man holding my children:
 Oh my goodness!  Finally an adventure that included James!!
 Much like any old western town, the "docents" were most excited to tell the stories of the bars, brawls and hangings.  I hope we can make it back to this old brewery for their "follies" show:
 And a picture of "Boot Hill" that I like mostly because we've had some rocking clouds recently that remind me of how much I love living here:
 And with the clouds came a little windswept look for Catherine:
 In front of the old firetruck:
 Of course no small western town would be complete without museum-come-cabinet-of-curiosities-and-old-western-crap museum.  As I work with Matthew on patience and waiting I count out lots of lists on my fingers of what we will be doing.  Before we entered the museum I had explained we would "go to a little museum, go have lunch, then go on a train trip (and possibly 2 or 7 more things as Matthew always wants me to finish out either one hand or both hands when we discuss our day).  Anyway, we walk into the museum and Matthew starts whining and saying "no, no, want to go to a museum.  Go to the museum."  I calmly tell him that this is a museum and he responds "No! This not a museum.  This a store!"

Give it to a two year old to loudly voice what we'd all been thinking!  As is noted in signs every 2 feet all around the store, the museum receives no government funding, so its run on donations and sales from its gift shop which bleeds into the museum.   I eventually convinced Matthew it was a museum.  I'm sure these awesome specimens helped:
 And besides this 8 legged, two butt lamb, there were these awesome boxing squirrels labeled as either the "first" or "only" boxing squirrels in Montana:
Once we finished our stroll through Virginia City, we headed down to the Depot for lunch and to work out our train situation.  I turned out with train tickets and admission to Nevada City we also got a gold panning experience.  Woot!
 Matthew didn't last long panning but he was pretty jazzed about holding our vial for all the garnets and getting in trouble bugging his sister who was taking a break from the backpack by panning for gold herself.  With her face. Sadly I didn't get any pics of the sight.

 None of us struck it rich with gold but we did find quite a few garnets.  Then we headed to Nevada City where for $.10 we heard this old machine play:
 Which Matthew tried to earn back at the poker tables:
 We checked out the living history cabin and he tested out the bed, though he was slightly more jazzed by the stamp on his hand:
He loved the swing outside the old schoolhouse:
Sadly, about this time the winds/rains picked up and we were going to miss out on the train ride.  Luckily there was one thing in the area that Matthew may like even more than trains that helped soften the dissapointment:
 And Catherine didn't mind either!
 Back at home we had to say goodbye to Mas and Pas but Matthew got some last minute cuddles and sillies in:
 Now it's been back to "normal" for a few days until we get to see Amma and Papa!  Catherine's decided she'll one-up Papa's goal of getting her walking by learning to ride a bike before she thinks about walking:

Five on Friday

1.  Look at these winter white legs out enjoying the sunshine at the dino park.  Spring has FINALLY sprung! These boys went from winter di...