Wednesday, May 25, 2011

the end of Yosemite

Our last morning, I took the kids on a walk so Chris could clean up camp and load the car without distraction. We found a fun rocky beach on the river and had fun skipping rocks across.

We drove to see some of the things we didn't get to hike near, like El Capitan. We saw some cool views of the valley and said goodbye.

We stopped at Tunnel View on our way south to Wawona to see the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia trees.

Our first close look at a giant sequoia. Pretty big, and quite amazing.

The Grizzly Giant has a sign that said the big branches near the top of the tree are bigger than the trunks of any other tree you could see nearby.

Alec reeeeeeally wanted to see the tree that we could walk through. All the way up the shuttle bus and while we were hiking, it was the only thing that he talked about. I wasn't positive they would still let us walk through it, since I wasn't expecting all the fences surrounding the trees preventing anyone from getting close. We were all very relieved when we found out we could still walk through the California Tunnel tree.

This concludes our trip to Yosemite. It was very memorable and makes me want to go back again. (maybe sometime when we don't have to camp in snow and rain).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Yosemite Day 2

Our second night in the park, we woke up to snow. But it melted fast and with rain boots and jackets and lots of other layers we stayed warm and dry.

We fortuitously ran into our friends who were staying elsewhere in the valley on the shuttle so we decided to hike to Mirror Lake with them. It was fun watching the kids romp together. Alec did awesome hiking the mile in and we enjoyed a little rest at the meadows around the "lake" before hiking back to the shuttle. Right before heading back the clouds cleared a little bit and we could see Half Dome. Charlie wanted to take a turn hiking so we let him and he did AMAZING! He kept saying, "oh! anuder ticky part!" whenever we'd get to the "tricky" parts where we made him hold our hands to walk up rocks or puddles or roots or something else slippery. It was really fun.

We ate a picnic lunch around the Visitor's Center and then took the shuttle to hike to Vernal Falls. This was way steeper than we realized and the .8 mile there was hard, but with promises of treats at the bridge (where we stopped to turn back) we were able to keep Alec (and ourselves!) going. Chris was pretty nervous about the steep drop off the cliffs right off the side of the trail, but it was such a beautiful hike. My favorite one we did.

Here is a poor attempt at stitching together a panorama of the view along the hike.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


We'd planned to go camping in Yosemite the week after Chris' defense for a family vacation. As the weather predictions got worse and worse, we had second thoughts about going. In the end, we decided to just do it ... knowing that if we didn't go now (when we had reservations) we'd probably never get to it. Yosemite was at the top of my "Must do before we leave California" list.

Come rain, snow or sun we were going.

And it did; they all did. It rained every night and all day Tuesday, and Wednesday morning we woke up to 2 inches of snow covering everything around camp. Luckily, we had reserved a spot in Housekeeping Camp, where they have these hutch-like concrete walls/canvas covered "tents" with electrical outlets. We borrowed some space heaters from our friends and brought every blanket we own (which is A LOT). Chris did some awesome insulating with hanging and stuffing blankets over all the open-air spots and we stayed warm while we were sleeping. Gwen was dressed like a Russian doll with tights, onesie, thermal pjs, socks, footsie pjs, fleece suit, topped off in one of my old fleece jackets.

We even brought a portable DVD player so we could keep the kids entertained inside where it was warm while we made dinners and breakfasts. Not your typical camping activity but it worked and I loved it.
We borrowed a second hiking backpack so Chris and I could each carry a child, leaving only Alec to walk. It made the hikes SO enjoyable only having to worry about one kid running around leaning over scary cliffs, tromping through huge puddles and slipping around slush.

Day 1 - Yosemite Falls and keeping dry around camp

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thesis Defense

Chris had his Oral Examination and Thesis Presentation yesterday! He passed! Thanks to the babysitting help of my friends, I was able to go and listen to him. He was sooo great. He looked so prepared and you could tell the flow of the presentation was well thought out. It was story-like which made it easy to follow...although many of the slides were full of numbers, signs or graphs that was completely above my head. He handled the questions during his presentation without hesitation, and used non-research related examples to clarify points that was really helpful. He had the timing down perfectly and never seemed either rushed or long winded. It really was quite superb. It is tradition in his department to provide refreshments for the people attending your defense so I had made some lemon-poppyseed bread and had fruit, juice and bagels. To the amazed (disappointment?) of some, we didn't provide coffee, and I was actually a bit nervous that the lack of it would reflect badly on Chris, but it doesn't matter now. Its over, and he passed! (the blobs are supposed to be balloons but Chris came home in the middle of decorating and we just stopped)

I had a baby shower the night before and I came home to find him sitting on the couch testing out the suit he thought he might wear, typing out cues to reference during each slide. so cute. (although he didn't really appreciate me taking this picture... I just couldn't resist.)

Quite selfishly, my favorite part was the last slide where he had this picture of our family and he said how much he appreciated and loved us. Although he didn't tear up, his voice was full of emotion. I love to hear him talk about us! I also loved the surprised comments in the room from the people who didn't know he had 3 kids! "you did that (thesis) AND all this (kids) at the same time?" And comments to me after, "You need a congratulations too! 3 kids in 3 years?" Actually its 3 kids in 4.5 years, but pretty close.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mothers Week

With Chris gone in Taiwan the week before Mother's Day, I had lots of opportunities to mother. In fact, the opportunities never stopped. I started off with zest and productivity on Monday and as the days followed I got progressively snappier and ineffective. As I wrote out cards to my mother, mother-in-law, and grandmothers I realized how hard it was to follow in their footsteps and how far I was to becoming like them. The climax resulted in tears and making a deal with Alec that we would both try to behave nicely for the rest of the time and reward ourselves with ice cream. Then Chris came home and life is better. He kindly offered me a break Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning! I have increased respect and compassion to all the mothers who have (or had) to parent alone for both long and short periods of time. Even with Chris home its not easy being a mom. The boys still are testing limits on how far they can escalate their back and forth teasing before someone hits/pushes/throws/kicks/cries and consequences come into play. The worst part is, I can see in their angry "I'm mad so I want to throw something" behavior shadows of my own reactions in the past week and a half. I hope I haven't ruined them for life.

Happily, I still happen to think my kids are the cutest things on the face of the Earth. Charlie can still melt my heart with his rugged adorable-ness, lone-wolf tendencies, and sweet high voice while Alec still leads our little family by his typically kind and tender example. Gwendolyn, in particular, is giving me so much joy recently. She is growing so old, aware, and playful. She really does deserve the phrase many are attributing to her "smiliest/happiest baby." In fact, someone told me the other day, they've never heard her cry or whine. Despite her best efforts to CONSTANTLY smile, she does lose it sometimes and just last night I got a good picture of it.

Most of the time, however, we see this as a typical "did-you-say-my-name?" expression:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gwendolyn walks!

Its been a while since she's taken a few steps every now and then between couches and chairs, etc... but now she's walking across the room all the time! Its been developing over the last day or two. The longest string of steps I've counted is 15 or something like that. Its not ridiculously long, but she's trying to do it constantly. Its too bad that Chris is in Taiwan for a conference, its an exciting time he is missing and he has our camera. But, we have a webcam that takes videos and so I made one of Gwen walking for him. She'll be 10 months next week. I can't believe how fast its gone.