Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer's Slow Arrival

As Sarah noted in the last entry, the weather over the weekend of the July 4th wasn't that hot. Literally and figuratively. But, mere days later, things finally started to turn around, and Summer appeared with a vengeance, with temperatures jumping from the 50s up into the 80s and 90s virtually overnight. So, with Summer finally here, how have we been spending out time?

Well, first off, the day after we returned from our camping trip, we visited Kobota Garden for the first time. This amazing Japanese garden is just a short drive from our house, but for completely inexplicable reasons, we'd never bothered to check it out. But, after having been there once, I'm pretty sure it will become a reoccurring place to spend our afternoons year-round.

Stella takes a break from walking around the park to take in the scenery... (or, perhaps her parents just sat her there).

A neat twisted old tree that is one of the parks centerpieces. Note the stylishly place crow (you may have to zoom in to see it).

Stella loved all the tiny paths, little bridges and waterfalls. This definitely seemed like the type of place you could explore again and again.

The view from the "Sun Bridge."

A day later, the heatwave hit, and the temperatures skyrocketed. But, after weeks of grousing and complaining about the rain and cold, you can't just turn around and start complaining about the heat. So, time to turn to the water sports! So, in addition to making a trip one afternoon to the Volunteer Park wading pool; another afternoon, I filled up a metal tub we have and turned it into a make-shift pool for Stella to play with. She didn't seem to have any interest in climbing into it... but did enjoy scooping the water out.

In addition to pouring water on the grass and herself. Stella seemed to enjoying filling her pots with water, walking across the lawn and watering the plants. Helpful!

Also, a couple of days ago, Stella's friend, Lucy, came over for a visit. Lusy's new brother, Jackson, was just born, but since he arrived a little early, he's still in the NICU. So, Lucy and Stella got to hang out while her parents visited him there.

As Stella and Lucy get older, it's fun to watch them interact. Where at one time they just ignored each other completely, they do seem to genuinely like each other these days. Stella even lets out a little chuckle whenever we mention Lucy's name around her.

How the two girls spent a good portion of the time. I'm not sure you could call this "parallel play" yet, but they do hang out with each other while playing individually... maybe "tandem random" play.

During Lucy's visit, Stella seemed pretty obsessed with making sure that Lucy was properly fed and hydrated. At first, like in this picture, Lucy was, like "oh, thanks!" But, by the end you could tell that Lucy didn't need any more water or goldfish crackers.

But, probably the biggest change for us over these last couple weeks was Tirza's departure. Stella's nanny, Tirza, is due to have her own second child in October. But, while we were secretly crossing our fingers that she could stick around through the summer, juggling Stella, Natalie and a difficult pregnancy ended up being too much for her and she had to start her maternity leave early. So, sadly, no more regular visits from Tirza, though she said she'd still be available for random babysitting.

With Tirza gone, Sarah and I have started looking at other child care options. When Stella was younger, we thought that a Nanny was the best route to go, so that Stella got personal care. But, at this point, we feel like Stella could benefit from being around other children, so we are considering going the Day Care route now. At first we were worried about getting her into one, but have visited a couple that we really like, and will have openings later this summer. So, now we are more optimistic.

Until we get that figured out though, I'm stepping back from freelance work, and focusing on being a stay-at-home dad. I have to admit that I'd probably go stir-crazy if it was a full-time gig, but it has been nice spending extra time with Stella... especially to counter-balance the fact that she is going through a clingy, mommy-centric phase.

Yesterday, while vacuuming out the car in the driveway, I let Stella sit in the driver seat and pretend she was driving. You could tell by her smile and "bahoom bahoom" sound-effects that she thought it was the Best Thing Ever™. Little things like that are helping keep the stresses of work, money, child-care and life in general at bay.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Oh My Gosh--Ohanapecosh!

Tyler and I traditionally have gone backpacking over the long fourth of July weekend, so this year we decided at least to make it our first camping trip of the season. Given that this is usually when summer traditionally begins in the Northwest, we'll often go to the east side of the mountains where sunshine is more likely. But this year we decided to go to Mount Rainier to the campground in the southeast corner of the national park, Ohanapecosh. We crossed our fingers for decent weather and got packing.

Stella taking in the campground. We camped twice last year, but we knew this year would be a whole new experience camping with a toddler!

Getting set up. We're slowly moving a bit more to being car campers and this year splurged on some camp chairs (in the background) and...

This nifty new camp kitchen!

As you can see from the photo, the campground was pretty nice, with lots of big trees--there was also a river and a visitors center with lots of taxidermied animals, which Stella liked. Unfortunately, we didn't get a great spot, right on the main road and without much privacy from the nearby campgrounds. And we were near a couple families camping together but who were on either side of us, so there was lots of foot traffic. Not terrible, but not ideal.

On the drive out, the weather was a little overcast, but it actually got warm and sunny in the afternoon as we checked out the visitor center and decided to get in an afternoon hike to Silver Falls, with a trailhead right in the campground.

Setting off. Hiking with Stella is a little tricky these days--she can't really hike with focus, but she also gets bored (and heavy) just riding on our backs.

Having some fun mid-hike!

After a few meadanderings along the way, we reached a viewpoint for the falls.

Tyler's perfected the self-shot couple photo--we apparently need some new skills to get all three of us!

Heading back to camp through the forest. Tyler and I trade off on backpack duty.

Unfortunately, once we got back to camp, things went a little downhill. It got cold, and Stella doesn't like to sit in front of the fire. Or wear a hat. Or gloves. Cold baby equals cranky baby. I think it was a bit of a perfect storm with her also teething and being in a clingy phase--bed time didn't happen until we all went to bed, and sleep was sporadic.

Trying to warm up in front of the fire. Stella did like the toasted marshmallows, though she was very impatient of the toasting process...

The morning started off cold and unfortunate--I had forgotten to pack any coffee.

The aftermath of the long night and the start of a cold morning.

But the visitor's center weather board said it was going to warm up in the afternoon, so we were trying to hold out for the weather to improve to carry us through. After spending some time around the site, we decided to check out another nearby hike, the Grove of the Patriarchs, a short hike running through an old growth forest.

Remember the short sleeves from the day before? Now we're in alpaca hats and layers of fleece. Ah, summer in the Northwest.

Heading into the woods--massive trees along a clear, glacial river.

One of the massive trees in the grove.

One tree that had fallen over had a cool base you could climb into.

At one point, we let Stella out of the backpack to stretch her legs a bit. As we noticed on other hikes, her idea of a good time is often to sit and sift through sand or gravel, while we're usually anxious to get to our destination.

There was a suspension bridge you had to cross to get to the grove that only one person was supposed to cross at a time. On our way back to the car, Stella really wanted to walk across it instead of in the backpack. I was sure she'd get scared midway across with the shaky footing, but she loved it!

After that we headed back to camp, and I napped with Stella. When we woke, the weather had only gotten colder and more rainy. Rather than spending another cold night with Stella in the tent, we decided to cut our losses and head home. We were a little bummed, but I think it was the best choice--we got a good (warm) night's sleep, and had more time to relax before heading back to work.

I think it's the nature of things to mostly take pictures of the good times, because the photographic evidence suggests a pretty good trip. But it was a bit hard. Some of it is probably Stella's age--we were on the edge of a road and a steep hill, and she was constantly testing us on our desires to keep her safe with her desire to exert her independence. (Add this to teething and cold weather crankiness.) And part of it is probably the need for Tyler and I to readjust our idea of camping. A perfect camping trip for us is lots of hiking and lots of time spent sitting around a campfire--reading, writing, drawing, drinking coffee or wine, none of which constitutes a good time for Stella.

We definitely learned a few things--next time we'll look for a campground that will be warmer and preferably have some water to play in, or a playground. So while this wasn't the smoothest of experiences, we're definitely going to head back out this summer.