Thursday, August 30, 2012

BACK TO SCHOOL Blues or Bliss??? Haircuts and Sneakers and School Supplies, Oh My!


Back to School Blues or Bliss?




It’s been an epic-ly long summer.

We’ve family bonded, camp overnighted, traveled far and wide to see other traveling uncles and nieces and grandparents, oh yes. We’ve done tennis, swim, mountain bike, science, art, horseback riding, pottery, overnight and general fun camps. We’ve stayed home and relaxed and been “bored, Mom!”

What lucky, lucky kids we are.

However, now we are done.

We are ready for pencil sharpeners, first day outfits and yipper-yapping with friends we haven’t seen for 3 months. We are ready to see who our new, bright and shiny teacher is. Who we will sit next to the first day.... and who we will dread sitting next to the second day.

We are ready for the change of the seasons, for pulling out the Halloween Box on Day 4 of back to school – Can we put the giant spiders and gravestones UP YET, Mom??? And thinking about our Christmas lists annoyingly early.

We are ready to remember hating homework but liking recess. We are ready for our wacky science teacher (is there any other kind???) and our daily, rhythmic, routine walk to school.

Unlock the doors. 

We are ready!

Namaste & Three Cheers! –A’s Three Kids

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Nose-To-Butt Horseback Trail Rides Still Pack a Wallop of Excitement! Wawona Stables, Yosemite National Park – The OM Yosemite Chronicles


Horse Whisperers in Yosemite National Park




I wasn’t exactly Annie Oakley out there yesterday.

No hootin’ and hollerin’ and wrangling of sheep and steer and gun slinging cowgirl stuff on my trusty steed. In fact, if you could find an exact opposite – sort of a Prozac version of all that in our minds – then that’s perhaps what was going on instead.

Ginger was her name.

Half mule and half horse, 26 years old and big curves in all the wrong places – we’re not talking Gilligan’s Island or Jessica Rabbit type Gingers – my horse Ginger had one BIG curve.

In her fabulous, giant, barrel-like belly. And as she shuffled along nose stuffed into in the bottom of the horse in front of her, I imagine she was having a race with a sleepy snail in her own hoofed mind.

But here’s where the exciting part comes in.

For the first time ever, my girls were over 44 inches. Breaking open a new former-barrier of amusement park rides and….. and…. trail riding.

All three kids now, for the first time solo, could get on a horse and, butt-to-nose, take the two hours “ride” around the valley. For them, managing a 1,000 pound hoofed animal for 2 hours was a merit-badge of achievement. Although most of these horses were on remote-control “slow”, the erratic and exciting break from the pack to munch on a tantalizing snatch of long grass on the side of the trail was thrilling – child versus beast.

Pulling with all their might to right the giant head out of his meadow-feast and steer him back into his assembly line clomp-clomp – the kids learned gentle dominance, preventative actions and leadership.

Horse Whisperers all by the time we got back from our ride, I’m not sure how my Ginger quite made it. Hope she gets a green pasture this winter and we’ll see her in the “retired” section next summer.

Namaste & Three Cheers & Happy End of Summer -A

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reconnect With Your Fun Side – Leaping Off in Yo Yo Yosemite– The OM Yosemite Chronicles

Reconnect With Your Fun Side, Parents!






Sometimes it’s important to remind ourselves to find our playful side again.

After assuming the role of parent for such a long time, the authoritarian, chop-chop, needing to control the bedlam as best as possible and avoid weekly/daily visits to the ER gets us into a zone of safety. Caution. Low-risk movements and action.

Yesterday my bro and I went out for a long arse hike with a 2,300 vertical rise.

As we cruised up, we noted more bear doo-doo along the Manzanita bush groves, towering granite peaks ahead, and giant vertical drops to our side.

Hitting the top, we broke from the trail and followed the river and waterfall line – going off-piste and, gulp, carefully stepped along a steep, slick incline in an as minimally reckless manner as a mom of three and dad of two might consider.

It felt freeing.

A little fear, in a good way.

Adrenaline pumping not because one of our kids had just grabbed the hot, steaming, scalding mug of absent-minded coffee from the dining room table, but rather because I was doing something risky, daring by my own free choice. Freeing my cells to energize and wake-up and feel the freedom of a little adventure terror.

The hidden pools of high-mountain water were waiting like a happy, cool prize for my brother and me. Slow August water had made them accessible and “safe” – we could see the glistening trout swimming deep down.

Stripping off our layers and taking the hairy, big, vertical plunge into the cool relief of the swimming hole carved by eons of churning rocks in the Yosemite waters, it was a release and a relief.

Fun with a sliver of danger. Just what the doctor ordered.

Namaste & Three Cheers. -A

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Half Dome On Your Bucket List? Glacier Point Will Make You Salivate Even More -- The OM Yosemite Chronicles

Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park
Yes, like most other outdoor-oriented person in the Bay Area, Half Dome is on the old Bucket List.

But until I get my fanny in gear and get the permit organized and the actual trip planned with other massive-day-hike-mileage Bucket Listers, the couch-potato drive over to Glacier Point is a glorious second.

Upon reaching Glacier Point, we were stunned by the dorsal fin of Half Dome rising in the granite valley parallel to us. The little trees on top actually were moving -- because they were not trees, they were actually hikers. We could SEE the outlines of their bodies with their backpacks walking along the top. Almost as if we could reach out and touch them.

Breathtaking.

The hiker in me did a flip-flop, heart-skip. It's for real.

There's a run-around, climb-around, short hike-to-the-point around area for the kids to stretch their legs and a multitude foreigners speaking in tongues. So it's also sort of a cultural event.

Go. See. Take your breath away.

Namaste & Three Cheers. -a

For more info: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/glacierpoint.htm

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Largest Living Thing on Earth: The Massive Giant Sequoias. Find Them at Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park – The OM Yosemite Chronicles

Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park

No, the largest living thing on Earth isn’t your Great Auntie Esther "pre-diet" like you’d thought as a kid.

It’s the Giant Sequoia.

Taller than the Statue of Liberty.  (This is an actual fact.) More massive than, well, it’s just unbelievably WIDE all the way up. Think of driving an SUV through the trunk with room to spare.

Get thineselves to the Mariposa Grove at Yosemite National Park.

See these giant creatures for yourselves. Touch them (those that they let you.) Worship and admire them.

They are 2000+ years old. And to be amongst them puts perspective onto any over taxed, over worked, over revved, over ego-d person’s place in this world. We are but blips in something much larger. Literally.

If you go, absolutely positively pay the extra for the tram that takes you through the grove – it’s only an hour. It’s full of information that is current and fascinating (not a cheese-ball soundtrack from the 50s.) And the kids really, really relax and enjoy it, which is key in this chaos-ridden lifestyle of ours.

Trees to look for:
-       Clothespin Tree – completely hollow, fires have burned out the middle of this tree and you can see a hundred+ feet up through the center of the tree. Cool.
-       California Tunnel Tree – one of the few trees you can touch and walk through.
-       The Faithful Couple – two giant sequoias whose trunks fused at the base and work together to grow and thrive. So romantic. Something to ponder for us couples.
-       The Grizzly Giant – the 25th largest tree in the world, 30 feet wide – the Grizzly takes the breath away with it’s massive presence and “branches” the size of regular trees.

There is a mystery in these trees' presence. And there is a spirituality. You just can’t help but feel….. peaceful. 

Like a good friend AH said of the tree: it’s like a Monk’s robe – a tinge of orange, flows at the base, and gently powerful. How lovely.

Namaste & Three Cheers -a

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The BEST Way to Survive a Wild Animal Attack: Wild Animal Attacking Your Kids? – Run From an Alligator, Beat-Up a Bear! The Yosemite Chronicles


Backpacker Magazine's Predator Chart - Yipes!
Have you ever discussed with your 7 year olds what to do if a bear attacks?

Mom: “Punch him in the nose!”

7 year old: “What if he eats my hand.”

Mom: “Well….better your hand than your face…”  (!!!)

Ugh. What a conversation.

Here we are in Yosemite. As a “regular” of the area, coming here for more than 13 years, I heave heard the wild tales of bears breaking into cars for your smores-makings and possibly even dancing on circus balls for scraps as they’ve become so accustomed to zoo-habituated humans.

Well, not quite.

But for the over 13 years we’ve been coming here, I, myself, have never, ever seen a bear. Smelled a bear. Found signs of a bear. Smelled my own fear of a bear. A few deer, a coyote in the winter. But I see more of those in my suburban neighborhood than I do up here.

Today, however, on our rock-hopping along the south fork of the Merced River through the southern part of Yosemite National Park near the gentle Wawona, my two 7 year olds and Nana and I stumbled upon a momentous, fresh-ish, magnificently enormous pile of Bear. Bear doo-doo, to be exact. And just a half-city block from our cabin.

Filled with berries and assorted farmer’s market-like goodies, it was spectacular. And a sign. He was here!!!

Luckily, after reading the: “Animal Attacks” article in the September 2012 issue of Backpacker magazine last night, I felt reassured, ahem, sort of, of what to do if, say, a deadly predator came upon us, or we upon them.

Their advice? Run from an alligator – run away!!!! And…. Beat-Up a grizzly bear, black bear, mountain lion, and/or wolf.

Hopefully not all four at the same time.

There was no mention in the article of Velociraptors or Dementors. So at least we can leave our wild, scary-movie dream creatures of the Jurassic Park and Harry Potter variety out of the “predator” list. (Or, the all time horror-predator-movie-dream-nightmare creature: the toothy shark from Jaws. I have never waterskied in the ocean again.)

So…. anyway, back to the bears.

After the stumble upon Smoky the Bear’s scat and subsequent horrifying face-eating-off conversation, we walked a little faster home. Only after taking a sweet (as in cool and gross) photo of the findings, of course.

And now, time to bone up on our karate-chop.

Hayyy-ya!

Namaste & Three Jabs to the Chest –a

For more on wild articles by Backpacker magazine: http://www.backpacker.com

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hiking to a Pancake Breakfast – West Point Inn Has a World Class View & A High Altitude Flapjack

Pancake Breakfast at West Point Inn - Worth the Hike!

UPDATE: 2013 Dates Announced! 9am-1pm

- May 12
- June 16
- July 14
- August 11
- September 8
- October 13

Our plates of steaming hot pancakes & sausages arrived at our picnic table on the deck courtesy of a cheery volunteer in a green apron.

We were hungry.

But we’d been distracted by the phenomenal view of the Bay covered with a blanket of fog way, way, wayyyy down below us.

The place was packed. In a good way. With happy, healthy folks slugging from their water bottles and lining up for the flapjacks and feeling, well, uplifted, because the only way we’d all gotten there for this big-old breakfast was by some sort of self propulsion.

Our own two feet, by hiking boot, sneaker or bike.

You see, the West Point Inn is hidden hikers’ gem that sits on the upper south slope of the massive Mt. Tam in Marin County, CA, overlooking the entire Bay Area and offering a place to stay the night – pack it in – or a place for a little respite from the trail before you continue along your way.

Built in 1904 when the Mt. Tamalpais Scenic Railway used to climb the mountain, the Inn was saved from destruction in the 1940s by hiking enthusiasts and now has over 200 volunteers helping to preserve it.

But enough about that, back to the pancakes….During the summer months, the Inn throws a pancake breakfast fundraiser once a month.

Festive. Fun. Kids everywhere. And, of course, delicious, ‘cause everything tastes better after you’ve worked for it. Right? There are easy, gentle trails in– 45 minutes – and more challenging trails, of course, to burn those calories en route.

My biggest tip? Remember to throw some fresh blueberries, strawberries into your backpack to sprinkle on top of your stack o flaps. And…. Go early.

Two more dates this summer: Sept 9th and Oct 14th. See you there!

Namaste & Three Cheers. –A

Friday, August 10, 2012

If you do camp in your backyard, REMEMBER TO TURN OFF YOUR SPRINKLERS!!!

Surprise 2am wake-up call last night.... 

Massive, tsunami-like thunderstorm blown in? 

Nope.

Cycle 3 of sprinkler system drenching the tent, followed by husbandly race to sprinkler box in the dark switching buttons all over the place until it stopped.

Note to selves, campers!

Namaste & Three Sprints in your Skivvies! -a


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Baby Ostriches at California Academy of Sciences Rock Cuteness Quotient and Earthquake Exhibit

Baby Ostriches at Cal Academy Rock Cuteness 

Speaking of fuzzy heads……..

OMG. Baby ostriches.

Running. All. Over. The. Place. Absolutely. Adorable.

California Academy of Sciences nails it… again.

If you thought you couldn’t get any cuter than a gaggle of flipper-flopping, chin-strapping, bow-tie and wet-suit wearing penguins that the Academy has on permanent display, well then just hang a RIGHT instead of a left as you enter next time and head on over to the new Earthquake exhibit. And look for the 6 or 7 or 8 or so little under-2-feet-high, puffy, gorgeous, tiptoeing, snoozing, pooping little baby ostriches.

Today they were 42 days old.

So what do baby ostriches have to do with Earthquakes?? We didn’t care. We just gooooed and aweeeeed and oooohed and coochie-coochied up to the glass enclosure along with the 100s of other google-eyed human pushovers. What a bunch of saps. Happy, heart filled, snuggly, Hallmarky saps.

So what does the Academy of Sciences baby ostrich exhibit ACTUALLY have to do with Earthquakes? Well, after we got home and came down from our Baby Animal Planet, big-eyed adorableness high, I read some of the literature I’d been carrying around with us all day:

The ostriches help tell the story and support the theory of plate tectonics – that we continents were all once one giant mass of togetherness on a super-continent called Pangaea. And Ostriches from Africa, and Kiwis from New Zealand, and Emus from Australia etc. all evolved from a common ancestor – one flightless dodo of a bird sitting on a Pangaean nest… whose nest/world got ROCKED when their little community cracked into pieces due to massive earthquakes and started floating away and formed the 7 continents we are taught to know and love today ….. (Visions of sad little bird colonies weeping as Auntie Loo the Flightless Wonder drifts West on her cracked piece of continent.)

Anyway, if anyone’s still reading this, it actually is super interesting! Worth the visit as always. And this time you can have your ostrich shaken, not served….

Namaste & Three Cheers! –A

For more info: http://www.calacademy.org
Doors open at 9:30am all week. Sleep in ‘till 11 on Sunday. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

The BEST Place to Camp with the Littler Kids? Back up the U-Haul… It’s In Your Backyard

Backyard Camping Tops for Kiddos!




Yesterday I realized we’d yet to make a decent camping stint in this summer of ours.  Shame on me and our frenetic summer lifestyle. 

It’ll happen.... Patience little-people of mine.

So, to compensate, amid shrieks of delight, we dragged out the Big-Old Family Presto One Minute Marriage-Saver Tent (see previous blog) and, WAH-BANG!, one minute later, that baby was up and towering over the petunias right, smack, in the middle of our backyard.

Almost immediately, my girls began the supply runs. Back and forth to the house. Piles and piles and loads of THINGS that were clearly VITAL for a sleepover that night were stuffed, crammed, tossed into the tent.

Upon entering, once they’d “organized Mommy!” and I got the call for the grand tour, ‘twas as if I’d – blink, blink! – entered a Genie’s Bottle. There, along with the camping lantern and head lamp, was every single pink and purple pillow from their bunks, a full picture-book library complete with shelving for their evening reading pleasure, 200,000 stuffed animals (including some of the ones I’d weeded out last week and hid under the ping pong table… grrrr…) shoes for every occasion, the kitchen sink, a full sized replica of our fireplace and a pet elephant. Well, maybe not the last three – but the quantity of items tucked inside the mega tent was, well, mega!

Amazing.

As the sun finally went down around 8-ish, and we were finally able to tuck our little pack-rats and outdoor adventurers into their cozy, jammed nest, zipping up their sleeping bags, and turning virtually every outdoor light on full blast (sorry cat-lady neighbor!), we told them NOT scary stories and zipped their tent flaps up to bed. Little screen open on one side to let the stars through “and see the outside, Mommy!” They felt comfy, happy, complete with every single item from the house squished inside their space. A security blanket of sorts, I suppose.

And then, Zzzzzzzzzzzzz……

Nope.

By 9pm, both girls had moved inside. “The ground is all lumpy and uncomfortable and ….and……”

No worries. We quickly tucked their fuzzy, tired little heads into their INSIDE nests (which were a little denuded but we do own an amazing amount of cr#* so there seemed barely a dent missing) and realized, later, that, amidst the massive relocation of both camping and other vital items like pencil sharpeners and hairdryers, we’d forgotten the sleeping mats.

So, tomorrow, yes tomorrow, we will see if we can make it the whole night or at least to 10pm this time with a little help from their squishy, little sleeping mats… Or, heck, who are we fooling, we might as well break out the Queen Sized Auto-Inflatable Ultra Air Mattress. When in Rome… or, ahem, the Backyard…

Namaste & Three Cheers & Happy Camping! -A

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Everyone Has A Little Olympic, Gold Medal Gymnast in Them -- So Get on That Cute Little Red Outfit, Parents!





Last time I did a front handspring, I was in high school on a deserted soccer field goofing off with a friend who also shouldn’t have been doing front handsprings anymore. But at 14 years old, we were still able to whip our bodies into noodle-like U turns and, wait for it, wait for it…. stick-it!!! (And the crowd goes wild!!!)

So watching these little US Gymnast Gold Medal Olympians flip and noodle and fling themselves into Mary Lou, 10.0 heights of whirls and acrobatic, nail-biting horror, I like to think that we all still have a little Olympian Gymnast in us.

It just comes in a different package and manifests in a completely different way.

For example, the slow-mo CATCHING THE NEWLY WALKING BABY 2 PERSON FLOOR TUMBLING EXERCIZE that you and your spouse do somewhere between your child’s 11th and 16th month… each of you twisting and turning and hurling your own body and torso and limbs into unfathomable contortions while trying to catch your brand new walker before he or she does a major header into the metal side table/fireplace poker/random jaggedy thing that has been forgotten to be baby-proofed.

Or, how about the crowd favorite, the VAULTING OVER THE UNBELIEVABLE AMOUNT OF BABY/KID CRAP ON THE FLOOR WITHOUT LANDING ON YOUR FACE to get over to the other side of the room to answer (and find) the cell phone somewhere in one of the pockets in your purse in time, because, you know it’s the pediatrician calling with the results of the strep-throat/ear infection/IQ test and it’s your only chance to talk to her live….ever.

And then of course, there’s my favorite of them all, THE BALANCE BEAM: FINDING THE PERFECT BALANCE IN PARENTHOOD BETWEEN WORK AND FAMILY. Her toes are perfectly pointed.…she’s looking straight ahead. Oooh, possible slight deduction for wanting more… no, no, she self-corrects and…. disssssmount she’s heading home….. oh, yes!!!! she sticks it!!!!! 10.0s all around, am I right, people? Uh, not…. And good news for you first time parents, you get your own free blindfold in this event to score some extra points for difficulty. SO much fun!

So, you see, we ALL have a little Gold Medal Olympian Gymnast in us. So get out that cute little red outfit and start stretching…. the top step of the award podium awaits.

Namaste & Three Cheers! -a