Ezra’s Birthday Sleepover

Two weeks after his birthday, we finally had Ezra’s birthday sleepover this past weekend. He invited his two best friends — Henry and Emerson — and planned an entire day of activities. As you might expect, there were a few glitches, some additions and subtractions to the activity list, and one superdad who had to leave for a conference, but it was a fun day.

Ezra wanted the boys to sleep in the tent, so Bruce enlisted their help to set it up.


Our first glitch was an all-too-normal visit from Palo Alto’s finest for a “wellness check” on our neighbor.


This was the scene when Emerson arrived. Always fun to explain that situation to a parent you don’t know very well who is dropping off their kid for the night. Luckily things remained calm on the street and the police soon left.

The first main activity on Ezra’s list was a Google X tour, so Bruce and the three boys headed out for that. I stayed behind with Finn to give Ezra a little big kid time. The result is that there aren’t any pictures from X. But the boys came back with pockets of Google candy and I think they had a good time.

Next up was supposed to be lunch at Five Guys, but the boys weren’t hungry yet (see above reference to candy) so they got started on another activity on the list — making tin soldiers. The kids love this activity. What’s not to love? Fire, melting metal, toy soldiers. It’s all good. Bruce set it up in the backyard with the camping stove this time which was great.



After they’d used the soldier molds, Bruce had the idea that they could make coins. So, he brought out the drill, some old wood, and carving tools.



They turned out pretty cool. Here’s Ezra’s.


Because the molten metal was such a hit and the activity was taking longer than we planned, we scrapped the Five Guys idea and ordered some pizza. After a late lunch, Ezra asked if we could do cake. Why not?


Wishes were made, cake was eaten, and the boys got back to their regular programming. Namely, more nerf battles.


It turned out that not everyone wanted to do archery, so instead of going to the range, Bruce set up the target he’d recently made for the backyard.



After shooting at the regular target for a while, they started adding balloons to it and shooting at the balloons. That led to water balloons. Which led to this …

Super fun, totally irresponsible use of water.

As evening came, we got going with Ezra’s choice of dinner — hotdogs roasted over the fire in the backyard. By this time Bruce had left for the airport, and I was too busy managing the chaos to take any pictures. The boys had their dogs and then roasted marshmallows for dessert, and headed back inside for a little more Minecraft time before bed. I was left with a quiet moment to roast a marshmallow over these beautiful coals.


There were a few tense moments over screen time conflicts, but about 9:00 I sent the boys out to the tent. I attempted to take a nice picture of the three of them. Here’s what I got.


Ezra thought it was very funny to be flipping the wrong finger. They stayed up for about an hour and just about the time I was going to go out and tell them to quiet down, they were already quiet.


I think they slept pretty well, although they were up very early. I plied them with pancakes, sausage, and bacon for breakfast.


After everyone left, the boys and I had a relatively quiet day. When I asked Ezra if he had a good time at his party, he said, “It was awesome.” You can’t ask for much more than that.

Mojave Camping Trip

Last weekend we took a four-day camping trip to the Mojave National Preserve with Vanessa and Thomas. (Bob, unfortunately, had to stay at home due to a work emergency. He was missed.) I was worried about the 8-plus hour drive (!) and the inconsistent weather reports, but Bruce was really keen on making the trip. I’m so glad we did — it was an adventure-filled weekend.

We had the car mostly packed on Thursday night, and even though we got a later start than we wanted (those darn bikes take so much time to load!) we were still on the road before 7:00 a.m. Good thing, because it took us all day to get there. It’s just so, so far! Vanessa arrived an hour or two before we did and picked out a great spot. Upon our arrival, we started setting up our tent while the boys immediately engaged in a Nerf battle.



We were concerned about the ominous clouds rolling in and it was getting very cold. We heated up dinner and ate in our tent. Ezra had the right idea to keep warm.


We were snuggled in the tent for a couple of hours listening to the storm outside when we realized it was actually snowing. It was a very cold night but we managed to get a little rest, and in the morning we woke to clear skies and desert beauty.




I took a walk around the campground to get some additional shots.



We finally managed to get the water hot enough for coffee and hot chocolate to warm us up a bit. Finn hadn’t transitioned into wearing jeans yet, but it was about to happen.


As the morning warmed up, the boys had a great time throwing snowballs and scraping the snow off of the cars.


Then they went on a short bike ride around the campground while the adults figured out a game plan for the day.




We settled on a rockhounding outing, packed up stuff for lunch, and headed out. We weren’t sure how the roads would be, and some parts said a 4-wheel drive car was necessary which was a bit of a problem since we couldn’t all fit in our Subaru and Vanessa’s car is 2-wheel drive. But we gave it a shot. Almost immediately after turning off the main road, she was stuck.


The Subaru struggled too, but we made it far enough to realize we were in the wrong place. Luckily we kept going and got back around to where Vanessa was. Bruce had a plan to dig her car out and got to work.


While I made lunch for the boys, Bruce and Vanessa worked to get mats and rocks under the tires so her car could gain some traction. The fix worked, but I feel like a failure as a documentarian that I don’t have video of her hightailing it out of the sand in reverse!

We ended up heading back out the main road to try to find the correct offshoot to the rockhounding place. The guide books are vague and I think the map hadn’t been updated, so it was a challenge. We left Vanessa’s car at the main road, she and Thomas piled in the back seat with us, and we headed out over the bumpy but not quite as sandy terrain. We eventually found what we thought could be the right place, and we got out and started hunting.



Our trusty steed served us well again.


Once we’d had enough rockhounding, we piled into the car and headed back out the dirt road. I was just dozing off when Bruce slammed on the brakes and scared us all half to death. Turns out, he spotted a desert tortoise in the road and stopped just in time. They are endangered and in all his time in the desert he’s never seen one. Of course, none of the rest of us had ever seen one either.



He wasn’t very big and was comically slow; he barely moved the whole time we watched him. And we watched him for quite a while as we were trying to decide if we should move him out of the road. Bruce knew that you’re not supposed to pick them up, and since the road was wide enough that we could get around him, that’s what we did. We were, of course, worried about leaving him in the road, but since we hadn’t seen another soul the whole afternoon we thought it would be OK.

Eventually we left the tortoise and found Vanessa’s car. She took the boys and went back to the campsite; Bruce and I stopped at a local store to buy firewood because we hadn’t brought any and we couldn’t go another night without a campfire. We had dinner by the fire.


And a mini birthday celebration for Ezra with cupcakes and Thomas playing Happy Birthday on the ukulele.



Even with the fire it was super cold so we didn’t last too long outside. We’d learned our lesson, though, and bundled up in layers for bed.

Sunday’s excursion was Kelso Dunes with a stop at the Visitor Center first. The boys filled out their Junior Ranger booklets outside.


Then we took a quick tour of the center, they got their badges and patches for being Junior Rangers, and spent some time in the Kelso jail.



Next stop was the Kelso Dunes, that big giant pile of sand Bruce is walking to.


The day was spectacular.


Lots of wildflowers were popping up.



It wasn’t the most exciting walk ever …


… but once we stopped for a break and the boys played in the sand, they were happy.


I waited with the boys while Bruce made the difficult climb to the top. Then we all walked back to the cars and drove back to the campsite. After more Nerf battles …


… Bruce and I took the boys on a little hike while Vanessa made gumbo for dinner. The landscape was mostly burned out from a 2005 fire but it makes for interesting scenery.





Once back at the site, we got the fire going and had dinner.



The boys had lots of s’mores and had a super fun time roasting Peeps.


Thomas made a marshmallow sculpture (and got the thumbs up photo bomb from Ezra).


The next morning we had a delicious “griddle fest” breakfast and packed everything up to get on the road. Bruce and I decided to stop at the Pisgah Crater on the way home which was quite a sight.


The boys (all three of them) got some lava samples to add to our other rockhounding specimens.


Here’s our total haul, spread out on the dining room table once we got back.


The ride home was long and slow due to high winds and extra stops for gas. But we made it safely and have some great memories from the Mojave!

Baylands Field Trip with Finn

Last week Finn and I visited the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (now that’s a mouthful) across the Dumbarton Bridge in Fremont. It’s a doozy of a trip with some parents leading activities for the students and other parents chaperoning. I reluctantly agreed to be a station leader when they were short on volunteers, even though it was terrible timing for us since we were leaving on a camping trip the next morning. We were all a little worried about the weather and the projected rain, but the day turned out to be mostly dry, if a little chilly.

I paired up with another mom to teach the kids about salt pond migration and the necessity of the local habitat to the migratory bird population. There was a script to read and a game to play; some groups were more interested than others. Here are a couple of shots from our station.



I have very few pictures, but I snapped a couple when Finn’s group came through.



And here’s one I took at the end of the day when the rain clouds really started rolling in.


It took what seemed like forever to orchestrate this class picture.


The rain came just as we were hiking back up to the cars. It was a good day but totally exhausting!

Flag Football Tournament

While Finn’s flag football team didn’t win a lot of games, the season was a total success in my book. Finn loved playing and his coach stressed sportsmanship and learning the game over winning, which I wholeheartedly agree with. The final weekend of play was a tournament, and the boys played pretty well. Here are a couple of photos of Finn’s stint as quarterback.



After the game, the coach gave a little pep talk and the players received trophies.




I’m guessing he’ll want to play again next year.

Ezra Turns 11

Somehow, my first born is now 11 years old; I’m not sure how that happened. At any rate, we had several celebrations for him on his actual birthday, and he’s having a small sleepover birthday party a couple of weeks late due to scheduling conflicts. Since that hasn’t happened yet, we’ll stick to the family celebration on the actual day. It started with cake. Coffee cake seemed like a good choice since it was breakfast after all.



He enjoyed the candles.


He had a good day at school, and for dinner we had a taco fest.


Tacos are one of his favorites.


We had the good fortune that the movie Zootopia arrived in theaters that day, so we had family movie night. Of course, we also had all the candy and popcorn he could possibly desire. And the theater has giant reclining seats. He was pleased.


The movie was great! All in all, a wonderful birthday celebration.

Mission Peak Hike 2/29/16

Our group tried a new hike last week — Mission Peak in Fremont. I didn’t do any research ahead of time but the description from our leader said it would be a tough one with a quick elevation gain. At least one regular hiker who did do more research bowed out, and several of us had serious reservations about half-way up. From the bottom, it didn’t look like it would be too bad, and the rains had made everything so green!


Turns out, it’s a grueling hike — nearly seven miles round trip, muscle-killing straight up for the first half and toe-crunching straight down for the second. The views, though, mostly made it worth the discomfort.



We could also see the snow-topped Sierras when we got to the other side of the mountain, but my picture of them didn’t come out. Here’s our group at the top; apparently, taking pictures with this post is all the rage on social media. (Who knew?)


Here’s one of just me.


And here’s the view from the tip top.




I’m glad we had such a lovely day because I can’t really imagine doing this one again!