Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fun from A(pples) to Z(ebras)

Brandon finally got to start preschool this year! He did not even hesitate to join his class (miracle!), and he loved going to school, even though he would always tell me no one would play with him at the playground. My heart couldn't help breaking because that's how recess was for me a lot of the time when I was little. I learned to use my imagination, and one time I was so caught up in my imaginary world (I was pretending to be an alcoholic dad at a bar?!?!) that I didn't even notice I was the only one left on the playground. Okay, that was a fun tangent...

At the end of the preschool session, all the kids performed a few songs for the parents. The triplets in front of Brandon had big hair and were very animated (as you can see from the girl swishing her head to the side), so it was hard to get a shot of him. Gee, this story sounds reminiscent my last post! Why are my kids always behind the liveliest of children?

Getting ready to be dismissed for treats.

I just can't believe it. One more session of preschool, and then it's time for kindergarten!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Who Down in Whoville

Paige was really bummed this year that she didn't get chosen for a lead part in her school play, but I was proud of her for being brave enough to audition. She's kind of a shy little thing like me. Paige was cast as a Who, and she specifically requested Princess Leia style buns for opening night.


She was reluctant to let me take pictures, but I reminded her that I was the one who picked her up from drama club every week and took her shopping for her costume, so she eventually agreed to let me take one.

The entire cast.

The second night, she wanted something different for her hair (and I remembered my big camera!!)

Before the show, she was feeling down about all the time she put into the play without having a lead role. She said it was a waste of time and that she didn't even want to go. I told her that her cast mates were counting on her to help make the show a success, so she went, but she was less than enthused about it. Here is the scene in Whoville, and Paige is on the far right in the back row. One of her good friends played the mayor.

The girls in front of her were so animated that it made it hard to get a picture of my little Who. Look by the pink tree, between the girls with the orange and yellow ribbons on their heads.

The Whos taking a bow.

Final cast picture. I'm glad she gave me a nice big smile.

Next year will be her last opportunity to be in the school play, and I am thinking of trying to find some local drama clubs for her to join so she can practice her skills. She didn't practice the audition part very much, so I think if I help her build confidence and practice more, she might get a part next year. I just don't want her to give up!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

It's a Long, Long Way Around the Needle

So there was this goal I had of hiking to Weaver's Needle this year. In my mind, it would be about 8 miles, and we would relax in its shadow. Big difference between that and what actually happened! Kyle looks so unsuspecting...



The first obstacle was the rattlesnake. It was on the trail, so some dude threw rocks at it to try to get it to move. The loud, quick rattling told us that was not a good idea. And that's when we had to pass. Luckily, the dude who threw the rocks passed first, so we could see if he survived. He did, but the rattle just got faster and more intense. It was a little unnerving, but I didn't have all day, so I just ran by as fast as I could. Phew! Never saw the thing, but we could still hear it for a good long while after we passed.

This cactus just looked funny to me.



Then there was the bee sting. A bee was flying around Kyle's head, so he swatted at it until it was mad, and it flew back and stung me right in the forehead. OW! I haven't been stung since I was a kid! The bees were busy pollinating the flowers, though, so I had to forgive it. Most of the wildflowers weren't really blooming yet, so we had to settle for some dried out century plants. Still cool.



The trail (I accidentally typed "trial" first, which is pretty accurate) took us along the east side of Weaver's Needle and then three miles beyond that for no apparent reason. The trail is so lightly used that it was sometimes difficult to follow and very narrow in parts. We squeezed past many large (and usually pokey) bushes on our way.



We only saw two other people between mile two and mile ten, so it was mostly just us and the desert. Without much to keep him occupied, Kyle used his knife to spear a piece of cholla. When he was done with it, he flicked it off, and it hit me right on my back. Even though I felt something hit me, Kyle kept quiet, so I had no idea what happened until the backpack started pushing on that spot, and I felt about 500 tiny spines in my back! He finally fessed up, but there was nothing I could do about it then.

The desert can be brutal... oh, and kids can make it worse. But it's still starkly beautiful despite its harshness... I can get poetic about it at times, so I'll just leave it at that and let this picture say it all.



At mile seven, I figured we had better get a selfie with Weaver's Needle. This is how far past it we had hiked... I felt a little disheartened that we still had to go all the way back along the other side of it and then three miles beyond. Honestly, the worst part was worrying that the sun would go down before we got out of there. At least I brought a small flashlight along just in case.



The needle is beautiful, though. Made me want to climb it... just need a friend who knows how to rock climb.



At mile eight, we were exhausted, our feet hurt, and we just wanted to be done. I didn't think it would ever happen, but the Superstition Mountains broke my spirit. We looked ahead and saw two miles of climbing back up to the "saddle." Sigh. We didn't have any time to rest, so we just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. By the time we reached the crest, though, I started to feel triumphant and confident again because I knew we would get out of there before dark. Before really dark, at least. I finally had cell phone service again, and I called to tell Russ we were still okay. He said he knew how long the hike was and hadn't started to worry yet... so I guess I worried about his worrying for no reason. Kyle says I spend too much time worrying. It's true.

Finally at the head of the Peralta Trail, I couldn't help but whoop it up. Success! And then as we were driving out, we were treated to the most incredible desert silhouettes against a crimson sky. I had to stop to take a picture, although I couldn't really seem to capture all the splendor. Sorry.



As soon as we started thinking about my parents' spa, we could think of nothing else (except maybe food). My mom warmed it up for us, and Russ brought the rest of the kids and our swimsuits to their house. That thing was like magic, and it was fabulous right up until the part where we had to get out. I could barely walk. My legs were just aching, and my mom didn't have any Tylenol. Sadness. Luckily, I had about 500 cactus spines in my back to cheer me up. My dad got out the tweezers with the magnifying glass on the end and picked them out one by one. Okay, maybe not 500... but a lot. Russ picked out a few more the next day. It was great... and by that, I mean terrible, but it makes for a good story.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Snow Day!

The beginning of February was unusually HOT, so I got a little worried when I realized we hadn't driven up to Flagstaff for our annual snow day yet. The last rain had been two weeks before, and I really thought I probably blew it for the kids. I'm never one to let that sort of thing get me down, though, so we just packed up the car and went to see if there was anything left.

The fields that are normally blanketed in white were completely brown. Not one single patch of snow could be seen on the drive up. I was trying to prepare the kids for the worst, as we headed toward a trail near the ski resort, thinking it would be our best chance of finding the white stuff.

Success!



Kyle found a log to use as a bat while Russ pitched snowballs. Home run!



Dad loves a good snowball fight.



And Kallie loves to sample the snow.



Throwin' the snow again. I love Kyle's reaction to the snowball blur heading straight for him!



By the way, I was practicing shooting all on manual mode, so I took lots of pictures, and I didn't really play in the snow at all. I felt bad about that and getting on Kyle's case for throwing snow at me while I was holding my camera, but I am happy with how the pictures turned out. Three cute kids.



The four inch "Chinese" snowman.



Snow angel.



Russ agreed to help Paige build a bigger snowman. The snow was not the best, so the snowman didn't get very tall.



She didn't give up on it, though.



Father and son. Love it.



Poor Brandon had a big blue slushy, and he ended up getting sick and barfing it out on the snow. All I can say is... don't eat blue snow. It kind of bummed him out. Later, Russ had his gloves and his fingers were cold, so I suggested he put them in his pockets. Bad idea. Not a minute later, he biffed it and did a face plant. Worst of luck for the little guy!



I begged and begged for this fake, cheesy grin. It was better than all the sad faces... in fact, it's kinda funny. I was practicing taking pictures in different lighting conditions. I call this "Sunshine Kids."



Kallie is probably my biggest collector. She finds beauty in the simplest things.



Kyle never misses an opportunity to use his new knife.



As a study in light, I exposed for the trees...



and then for the sky just a few moments later. The results blew me away. Light. Incredible.



Except for missing both of our chances to buy some Girl Scout cookies, the day was a success. Goodbye to the snow for another year!!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

So Kallie had been asking to go roller skating for a while, and I thought it might be a fun thing to do while Russ was in DC. On the very day he left, a $.49 coupon for skating landed in my inbox, and I knew we had to go!! Since it was very last minute, we were lucky to get the McBurneys to go with us.



I forgot to think about how hard it would be for one parent to help three kids who didn't know how to skate very well. I rented one skate mate for them to share, thinking that I could help Brandon while one of the girls held onto the side and the other one held onto the skate mate. When I got Brandon out on the rink, he was like this short, heavy, boneless, slippery blob. He couldn't even stand on his skates, and I wore my back out trying to get him around the rink for the first time. Kids are often surprising, though, and he soon learned to stand and take baby steps to skate. I was so glad when a lady had pity on my soul and gave me her daughter's skate mate for him to use.



Yay, I finally had a chance to skate around and get some pictures!!







Paige made a friend, and I think that helped her find the confidence to go out on the rink without the skate mate.



Meanwhile, Brandon decided he didn't need the skate mate anymore and pushed it away. The first time he did that, he started doing a jig with his feet and saying, "Look at me go!" just before rolling right onto his rump. Later, he would push it in front of him and then skate up to it. I was really surprised.



Did I forget to mention that Kyle was there? He was so fast that he only showed up as a blur on my pictures. We're glad we brought him because it was fun to watch him wipe out and roll across the rink.



By the time we left, all the kids wanted to go again soon!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Camelback

New Year's Day was cold, but that didn't last long. The beautiful winter weather in Phoenix made me long for a hiking adventure. Still feeling a little stung from our Thanksgiving Day fail, I decided to try Camelback again on MLK Day. I should have known that since it was a holiday weekend again, I was going to have trouble with parking, but I didn't let a bummer thought like that cross my mind! I mean... I didn't even have anyone to hike with me, but that didn't stop me. Optimism. Pass it on. Hehe.

After going around in a few circles, I managed to find a place to park about a half mile away. It was not a bad walk, but I was a little miffed when the parking attendant removed the "Lot Full" sign and let a bunch of cars through right as I was walking up to the entrance. Oh well, I thought of how many extra calories I burned. And then came the trail...



Lots of steps, lots of scrambles up steep rocky areas, and quick elevation gain. The terrain was easier than Squaw Peak because it was more of a steady grade (although I did have to use my hands more), and it lacked the tall, jagged rock stairs at Squaw, but it was just as challenging of a climb. Surprisingly different, though, considering the proximity of the two. Steep meant I was treated to some great views very soon after setting out.



Where was my selfie stick when I needed it? There were quite a few people sharing the summit with me, but I like to make it look like I was alone on top of the world.



My phone was about to die, but I couldn't resist getting a few more pictures of the view.



And my beloved Arizona desert.



Its shapes never cease to inspire me.



Near the bottom, I saw that there were about ten emergency vehicles in the parking lot, and then I noticed a group of firemen escorting a woman down the mountain. I was expecting a stretcher, but she was going down under her own power. When they got to the picnic area, they sat her at a table, and two women started massaging her hands. I think she just called to get rescued by a bunch of men in uniform!

On my way out, I heard a young man telling people the park was closed because his dad took a nasty spill on a scooter. Then I was just confused, but later I read the news story that one woman in her 40's was rescued after complaining of being dizzy, and another older man was treated after falling off his scooter.



Glad I wasn't her. Also glad that January, one of the two most boring months of the year, is OVER. Maybe I'll actually have something to blog about next month.