Today marks the first day of one of our favorite times of the year, Advent! This year we are doing pretty much what I have written about before, spending the next 24 days gearing up for Christmas, decorating, doing little projects (I may have gone overboard with the projects) and slowly emercing ourselves in the Christmas spirit.
These were really easy to make and print out and were then hidden around the house with simple clues like look in the Legos, look in the fridge…
…look under the fern.
They (mainly) took turns scanning the QR codes to reveal the next clue before rushing off to find the next one.
And at the end was a Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar (what lucky kids).
The kids are growing up. I notice it most around holidays, not only because those are the times that I can best remember back to previous years, but also because their interest in the different holidays is changing as they get older. When the boys were younger we spent a few days every year planning out homemade costumes. We would ‘design’ the costumes, buy the supplies, and then make them. My favorite was the year they were a king and a viking but the Nasa Scientist and Astronaut was a good year too (there was also that epic year that Henry was a front loader but that was before the blog…). But the truth is that as the boys get older they want costumes that they see their friends wearing and we also don’t seem to have as much time. So this year we bought costumes (gasp!) but I was touched that Henry still wanted to draw his costume in our Halloween book so this year I present you with…
And a ghost!
And this morning at school the boys drew each other’s costumes, pretty awesome!
Over the weekend we carved pumpkins with friends and this year the boys were able to do almost all the carving on their own.
This past week was the boys fall break. We weren’t able to go anywhere or even take much time off, but I did manage a few fun days with the boys. On Monday we went to the California Academy of Sciences, an amazing natural history museum in San Francisco. We have been a few times in the past, but this trip I finally felt like we saw everything; the rainforest, the aquarium, the planetarium, and the rest.
Oliver was the main photographer, here are some of his best shots.
So lucky to spend such a fun day with my boys!
And Henry and I had a special day just the two of us, full of crafting and goofing around!
We might have also been getting ready for Halloween…
And while we have been keeping busy with life, school, and after school activities, we’ve been making time for some of our favorite Fall activities. First up…picking corn at the Ardenwood Harvest Festival!
Look at all that corn… now on to the pumpkins!
Bring it on Fall! We are ready for you!
As I mentioned in my last post, we cut our Westy Trip short when I heard that my mom had been hospitalized where she lives in Europe. Upon reaching home we decided to go to Gent, Belgium to be with her. It was an unplanned trip and I didn’t take our camera but I do have some fun Instagram photos of our trip to share. Here were some of the highlights!
The Gravensteen Castle:
Taking a boat trip on the canal:
Climbing to the top of the Belfry:
Beachtime in Oostende:
A fun day in Brugge:
And checking out the 10-day long street festival, the Gentse Feesten:
We also squeezed in a whirlwind trip to Paris:
With a visit to the Louvre:
And, of course, the Eiffel Tower:
We also ate lots of yummy food (especially broodjes and ice cream), walked a ton, took the train, the tram, and the bus. We met many of my mom’s wonderful friends and were moved by their generosity. We visited my mom daily and I’m happy to report that she is doing much better now.
Time to come home:
And we made it back to California just in time to celebrate a birthday with this guy!
In June we headed out on our fifth annual Westy Trip! For this trip we did something a bit different from previous trips, we still camped in our Westy with the boys and the dogs but we also tried our hand at backpacking. Sam and I did a fair bit of backpacking before kids and we took a few trips with Oliver when he was a baby/toddler but this was our first time truly backpacking as a family. We stocked up on gear and lightweight yet non-perishable food and were ready to hit the trail…
Day 1: It took us awhile to get packed up but we finally took off mid-day on our 2016 Westy Trip. The drive to the Lake Tahoe area was pretty uneventful and we made it to the Silver Creek Campground just in time to build a fire and go to bed.
Lesson Learned: Packing always takes longer than expected!
Day 2: Woke up to the pitter patter of rain on the Westy so instead of cooking breakfast at the campsite we headed to a yummy restaurant for brunch and Bloody Mary’s, yum! That fueled us up nicely for a hike to the Donner Summit Train Tunnels, a several miles-long stretch of abandoned train tunnels that you can hike through. It’s a bit spooky walking down the dark tunnels and there is a lot of graffiti to admire.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and getting ready for a big race Sam was running in the morning.
Lesson Learned: The first few days of any long trip are often filled with buying all the little things that you forgot to pack. On our list: bike lock, small bucket, and Parmesan cheese.
Day 3: Father’s Day and the Broken Arrow Sky Race. Sam woke up super early to run and the boys and I had a leisurely morning at the campsite before driving up to Squaw Valley to see the race.
While we waited for Sam to finish we visited with friends, played mini golf, and had frozen yogurt! Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.
Here comes Sam!
Lesson Learned: It’s pretty hard packing up camp all by myself, but I can do it! Oh yeah, and Sam didn’t do too bad in his race either!
Day 4: Packed up, stocked up, and headed to one of our favorite places, Bowman!
We met friends and headed over to the creek for some good old fashioned cliff jumping. After spending the afternoon swimming in the cool water and sunning ourselves on the rocks we hiked back to camp for dinner.
Lesson Learned: Actually, I now know how to cook foil wrapped potatoes and at least one kid liked them!
Day 5: Said goodbye to our friends and got dropped off at Sawmill Lake. We headed down Canyon Creek for an awesome adventure full of scrambling over the rock, bushwhacking, swimming, and even getting attacked by yellow jackets.
Lesson Learned: Getting attacked by yellow jackets lends itself to hours of looking up said insects in our field guides.
Day 6: Packed up camp and got ready for our first backpacking trip as a family! Said goodbye to Bowman and drove the long bumpy ride back to civilization.
Put our packs on and headed out on our hike to Loch Leven Lakes. For our first trip, we didn’t pick the easiest hike! Three miles mainly up hill with lots of switchbacks. There were some complaints and a few tears, but the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and the bag full of M&Ms helped motivate everyone up the hill and we finally made it to Middle Loch Leven lake just in time to set up camp and make dinner and a fire.
Lesson Learned: There is nothing that chocolate can’t fix!
Day 7: The croaking of the Pacific Chorus frogs kept us up during the night but we woke up to a beautiful sight! A calm blue mountain lake all to ourselves.
We introduced the boys to the marvel that is instant oatmeal and headed out on a day hike to Upper Loch Leven, which was the perfect spot to have lunch and jump in the lake to get refreshed. Spent the afternoon hanging out in the tent playing card games and reading.
Lesson Learned: Swimming in a clear, cold lake while backpacking can almost make you feel clean.
Day 8: Packed up camp before heading back down to the Westy! Overall I think our first backpacking trip was a success. There was a bit of complaining but the boys were troopers and hiked like champs.
It was a busy weekend near Lake Tahoe and we were lucky to get a site at William Kent Campground which was luckily right next door to our favorite cafe, where we had a delicious lunch and introduced the boys to the concept of eating a huge meal after a backpacking trip. Then it was time to relax at the campground, eat a small dinner, and go to bed.
Lesson Learned: Food after a backpacking trip is always the best!
Day 9: Errands day….always ends up taking longer than expected. We had breakfast at our favorite Fire Sign Cafe (yes, that’s right, three times in one week) and drove to south Lake Tahoe. We planned on doing something fun with the kids there, but settled on showing them where we got married (almost exactly 12 years ago), eating ice cream, and watching the gondola at Heavenly. Drove the beautiful drive to Silver Lake and spent the afternoon hanging out at the campsite and doing laundry.
Lesson Learned: When in doubt, go to the Fire Sign Cafe!
Day 10: The boys had a blast fishing and hanging out at the campground (there was lots to do!) so we spent a leisurely morning playing and packing up for our next backpacking trip. That’s right! We went for it again. After lunch we hiked the 1.5 mile to Shealor Lake, a quiet little lake perfect for swimming and learning about leeches.
Lesson Learned: LEECHES!!!!
Day 11: Our 12th Anniversary! We weren’t sure if we would spend one night or two at Shealor Lake, but after playing around in the lake we decided mid-morning to pack up and head out. I’m glad that we did since when we got into cell reception we learned that my mom had been admitted to the hospital in Europe where she lives (she’s ok now, phew!). So we drove home to recharge, do laundry, and celebrate our anniversary with a yummy meal and movie night with the kids.
Lesson Learned: We ended up cutting our trip short because my mom was hospitalized and although we had planned on doing more camping and hopefully more backpacking, in the end it ended up being a perfectly wonderful trip, full of new adventures, with just enough excitement to keep us on our toes, but not so long that we got sick of camping!
We made the most of the Memorial Day three day weekend by going up to Manzanita Lake in the Lassen Volcanic National Park. What an awesome spot! We were there with a big group of friends so the kids always had something to do and someone to play with. We paddleboarded, canoed, hiked, and just hung out!
The lake is beautiful and a quick paddle out into the middle of the lake rewards you with spectacular views of Mt. Lassen:
We also hiked to the snow:
Braved the ice cold water:
And hiked around the lake:
What a great way to start the summer!