What a difference in our puppy's size from last fall! We took a picture and put it side-by-side with the picture the breeder sent us just to see how much Sariah has grown. We have already made many memories with our new family member - a Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Easter and all the other holidays in between, plus family visits in our home, multiple trail and hiking experiences and a campout in Yosemite. She has been such a fun addition. With her nearly grown up size, it's funny to see how and where she sleeps. One evening I wasn't finding her in her usual place and called for her. When she didn't respond I went looking and found her on our bed all curled up and asleep. We don't have her on our bed anymore like we did when she was smaller, but she saw the opportunity and took it. You can also find her in various sleeping positions in, or out, of her bed. She fits in the bed, but generally likes to stretch out with just a part of her body touching the pillow or bed area. It looks uncomfortable to us, but she's perfectly happy. When it's been super hot, she finds a way to stretch her head to the cooler kitchen tile. Smart pup!
...departed on Monday morning with the 4th year girls for their backpacking overnighter. Kelly was one of the leaders, and the girls bedazzled the truck with their 4th year slogans. The hike took the girls to an area with a clear pool of water and some great rock jumping.
departed on Tuesday morning as a first year camper! She joined a carpool with Sarah and other girls her age to make the trek to camp. She was nervous, but glad her dad was going to be there when she arrived. Jenna is not a risk taker, so it was a blessing having Kelly already at the destination. That took some nerves out of the experience. Jenna was brave enough to journey out with some other campers and leaders the next morning to do a "polar bear plunge" in a nearby waterfall. Unfortunately, the rest of her camp experience was spent under-the-weather. I think new food, new location, altitude and being away from home got the best of her. She was able to stay until the last day, but didn't participate fully in the fun activities on that last day.
arrived on the morning before the last campfire to teach a class. It was a card assembling service project for our servicemen. The girls assembled cards to package and send to Operation Write Home. From there the cards are sent out into the field for servicemen and women to select and use to write home to their families and friends. We covered the regulations for card making which included things like not using glitter because it makes the soldiers uniforms visible in night vision goggles. The project was more meaningful after we discussed the life and death nature of the people we were sending the cards to. I was able to stay for the testimony meeting and campfire that night which was a real treat for me. I haven't been to girls camp in 25 years! It was great to be there, to be reunited with my family, to spend the night in a cabin, and to help get the camp cleaned up before we all departed.
Heather's birthday fell on a Sunday this year. The day started out with birthday waffles, and then we were off to church. After church Kelly prepared Heather's birthday dinner request, Tandoori chicken with vegetable pakora. Since Sunday evening was also the evening designated for the 4th years to drop off their packs for the 4th year hike the next day, there wasn't much time for celebrating. After present opening, we had mint brownie cupcakes for dessert. Grandpa Ron was already visiting for the weekend and celebrated with us. It was great of the Holbrooks to run over and have cupcakes with us. It felt like a little bit of a celebration with them coming over. Heather was cute greeting all the girls as they came to drop of their packs with, "Oh how nice of you to come over to wish me a happy birthday!" The girls were cute and squealed along with the joke wishing her a happy birthday. Happy 15th birthday to our beautiful first born!
Jenna and Sarah got together for some summer fun out in the warm sun. They have spent hours over the years in one yard or another running through the sprinklers or playing with the hose. I looked out from the front porch and saw the girls sitting and chatting, and the moment struck me as a perfect "summer snapshot" of what the time away from school is all about.
Aunt Michelle and Gavin came to stay for a week in July. The cousins spent a part of the week together, and Gavin spent a few days at a wrestling camp at Chapman University. We had some silly, crazy fun a usual. Here's the recap...
7/11 Shopping at the mall complete with "esca-posing"
7/12 Beach day at Newport followed by game night
7/15 Dinner at Market Broiler with friend, Sarah, for a "fresh fish" experience -- the shark was excellent!
7/16 Lunch at Bruxie where we ran into our friend, Jonathan
7/17 Visiting Gavin at Chapman on the last day of camp. It was a great experience to see him in action. He is a great wrestler!
Jenna tried guitar lessons this summer with our neighbor, Jordan Reynolds. She was really excited to try the guitar, and she used Kelly's steel string for her first lesson. The size of the guitar and the steel strings proved too challenging as she didn't have the finger strength, so Jordan lent us a smaller guitar. Jenna give the experience a good two weeks trying to practice every day. She couldn't get the strings to work for her, and we ended up canceling the rest of the lessons. We may get her a smaller guitar with beginner strings in the future if she wants to give it another try.
Jenna took a two-week job watering a neighbor's front and back yard during July. It was a perfect job for her. I showed her what to do and worked the first day or two with her. Then I supervised while she did it, and by the second week, she was flying solo while I waited in the car for her. I love that my girls are able to take jobs for neighbors now, not just because of the pay and financial independence they gain experience with, but because of the great lessons on responsibility and feeling of accomplishment they gain. She did a great job, and we're quite proud.
Camping reservations were hard to come by this year. Beach camping was out primarily due to our forgetting to get on-line on February 1st to book our August camp date. Yosemite was looking like a bust as well when all the campsites were snatched within literally a minute and a half of the 8:00 a.m. opening. Kelly was persistent, however, and was able to find a camp spot in our favorite, Lower Pines campground after staying on-line and refreshing the page over and over. There are rare moments when someone releases a camp spot either due to waiting too long to complete the transaction or changing their mind, and we were fortunate enough to be there at the right moment.
We love Yosemite Valley, so we were thrilled to make this our family vacation this year. We didn't plan any grand hikes or map out what we wanted to do. We had a short list of things we were looking forward to--biking, day hikes, shopping and playing in the river. And that's what we did. Here are some photos of our favorite things during our time in Yosemite Valley...
Driving through Tunnelview will never get old. The tunnel is about a mile long, and when you emerge at the other end, you are in the beautiful, breathtaking valley. There isn't much of a clue before this tunnel as to how the scenery will change from regular mountain views to the carved out, granite valley, so there is a whopper of an effect every single time.
Riding in the car together for six hours is another favorite. We laugh and tell stories and talk and talk. Sometimes we sleep. This time we had a dog with us. We're all in a good mood in anticipation of our weekend together and all the fun we'll have making memories.
Lower Pines Campground was the first camp ground we ever had reservations in. As with all campgrounds in the valley, it is a treat just to sit in your camping space. The river is literally a stone's throw away, and you are surrounded by granite peaks and tall pines. Watching the sunset, listening to the campground noise and watching the stars come out are a few of the perks of being in such a beautiful location. We love eating outdoors, reading, taking a nap, talking and siting by the campfire.
Short bike trips to the store take us through beautiful meadows where the majesty of the valley is best viewed. We never mind biking over to the store to grab a needed item, to grab a bite to eat or to shop. It's the best way to get around in a really busy area, and really the best way to see the valley. We also love day hikes to the waterfalls. We did a simple hike to the base of Little Yosemite Falls this year which doesn't take more than 30 minutes. Kelly and the girls did some rock climbing to get closer to the falls which was possible due to the drought. We were really fortunate that there was still water while we were there.
Hanging out by or in the river is so amazing. The water is clear and, again, the scenery is to die for. This was the first year that the water level was low and the current slow. The water was also not as cold due to there not being much of it, so the warm weather and cool water made playing in the river a major part of our trip. After Kelly's and Heather's hike to Half Dome in early June, and the girls and I being on the run traveling during the rest of June, a slow, lazy vacation enjoying the river was just what we needed. Sariah liked the water too.
Going into Curry Village or Yosemite Village hasn't gotten old yet. We love to walk through the museum or visitor's center, and we stopped to see one of the short films on the valley which is full of history. Listening to all the different languages of the people we pass is amazing. So many cultures from around the globe come here on vacation.
Deer sightings, pretty flowers and plants, and other wildlife sightings (what are these florescent blue bugs?) are always delightful. We were happy not to see any bears this time around. I have to add that those cute deer are not so cute if one is a momma with fawn close by, and one's dog looks like a threat. Bambi's mother actually charged our dog and tried to bat her down with its front hooves. The other people at the river helped us throw stones and sticks until it backed off. This was not a favorite part of our trip, but one we won't forget. Who knew?
Finally, I'd have to say our most favorite thing is that there isn't any cell phone or internet reception. Parents and kids are electronics-free, and in a lot of ways that is HUGE on the relaxation and get-a-way meter. How often do we go on vacation, but end up on our cell phones, computers or televisions where we're staying (not work or emergency related, of course)? I end up reading more, thinking more and enjoying the relaxed pace. Jenna brought paper and pencils this year and did a couple of sketches. Heather read two or three books in as many days. We played games, got to bed early and got up early to enjoy the day. That's what "getting away" is all about, and I'm so grateful we got to take this trip during our busy summer this year.
I'm a wife and mother of two of the sweetest girls ever. In my former life, I was an elementary school teacher. I love learning and sharing experiences, and the chance to journal for posterity. I wish I knew as much about my ancestors as my posterity is going to know about me!