Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rancho Siempre Verde, 2014

The big swing! Always a blast.

On Saturday we completed our annual pilgrimage to Rancho Siempre Verde, the delightfully eclectic Christmas tree farm off Highway 1, next to Año Nuevo State Park.

Ronan, trying to get inverted

Nieve swinging while Ronan watches

Happy? Yep, happy.

Ronan's smile would not go away

The farm was as it always is - campy, inviting, and filled with mirth. We arrived early (before 10:00am) and lucky Ronan was able to help stress-test a newly hung swing. Like all the other swings at the farm, the new one elicited gleeful squeals from the kids.

Even Mom tried her hand on a swing

Nieve loving her time on the swings

What made this year even more fun for the kids was the mud. Recent heavy rains left the ground saturated, making for the perfect splish-sploshing in rubber boots.

Three generations! The future is in good hands.

It doesn't get much tastier than lunch with Grammy & Poppa

We also lucked with out with Grammy & Poppa being able to join us this year; and as it was Grammy's first time at the farm, Nieve was excited to show her around.

Yum.... smores

Safe? Hmm, maybe not. Fun? You bet.

It's always fun exploring the haystack maze

She showed her all of the special quirks of the farm; the old backhoe, the large hay-bale stack and maze, dozens of swings, the small apple orchard, the giant wooden xylophone, and of course the bonfire used to roast marshmallows.

Ronan in a backhoe vs. Mom & Grammy

Ronan kept the tractor on the path, but I will note that he failed to indicate when he made turns

A tractor-driving Ronan and his full load of passengers

Nieve was pleased with Ronan's efforts

Ronan applied his boyish charm and was successful in finagling his way into driving the tractor. He loves piloting it down the muddy paths between sections of trees; he really is in his element when 'working' on the farm.

Success! Ronan and Nieve deem this tree the best.

Nieve ensured the tree wrapper was fully operational

And of course, we were successful in finding the perfect little tree. It was not tall nor particularly bushy, and it was noticeably asymmetric, but the kids loved it and it's uniqueness charmed the whole family. The same could be said about RSV.

A happy Nieve on a swing, clearly loving her time @ RSV

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Halloween in Pacific Grove

Neymar Jr. and a unicorn, holding hands

This year we decided to spend Halloween weekend with a group of close friends near the beach in Pacific Grove. In addition to the buzz that comes from staying in a new place, Ronan and Nieve were excited to be able to show off their costumes to more than just Mom and I.

"Tudo Passa" - Everything Passes

Ronan loved his diamond tattoo the most

Ronan decided to go as Neymar Jr., a popular (and very fun to watch) Brazilian footballer who plays for FC Barcelona. This made things easy for us parents, as getting a soccer kit is relatively easy (and cheaper than we expected). The only real effort went into the faux tattoos, which we applied using some of Mom's eyeliner.

Every detail on this unicorn was required to be exactly just so

Nieve's costume required a larger time investment. She was intent on being a unicorn, and was specific about the exact design details.

A very pleased (and colorful!) little unicorn

First, she wanted not just any horn, but a gold one. I'm surprised she did not demand platinum. Second, her mane and tail *must* be the colors of the rainbow. Thankfully Mom found yarn that fit the criteria.

Boots? Check. Rainbow mane & tail? Check, check. Nice purple bow tied in the tail? Check. Looks like we're good to go.

Third, boots were important, though this was a compromise as the hoof design she originally wanted was far too involved to do. Finally, she wanted a specific purple ribbon to tie into a bow onto her tail; it was of the utmost importance to look perfect.

Applying the final touches for the face paint

The costume and the costume's creator

Finally, she wanted to do face paint, and insisted on doing it herself. I'm not sure it came out exactly how she had envisioned it, but she was happy enough with it so in the end we were left with a small smiling unicorn.

Never have I seen someone so happy to find a pile of washed-up kelp

Super Nieve!

On Halloween night the steady rain and thunder, and very few people answering doors, made trick-or-treating a bust (except for a handful of homes). However the next day the clouds gave way to sunny skies and warm temperatures, so our group took to beach to explore the tide pools.

A flying Ronan. Not that atypical.

Nieve, showing off her pipes

As always, the kids had a blast climbing over the rocks, playing in the sand, and looking for anemones. Ronan convinced Auntie Alyshia to help him build a flotsam fort near a pile of old concrete. Nieve was being Nieve, telling other tourists what they should/should not be doing, and what they might expect to find in the tidepools if they, "look hard enough."

A happy Nieve, running down a path in the butterfly sanctuary

What all the fuss was about

We also had time to make a stop at the Monarch butterfly sanctuary; some docents were out with scopes and the kids were able to spot thousands of butterflies clumped together on the higher branches of some trees.

Kids in need of some downtime: I cannot overstate how unusual it is to find these two sitting quietly together (without a television being a part of the situation)

All the excitement and activities of the weekend made Ronan and Nieve want some downtime. One of my favorite moments was finding them quietly snuggled together on a small bed in the room they were sharing, reading a comic book in the afternoon sun. Neither looked up when I took a photo of them, and it was a good hour before they came down to the common area to socialize. It was a fitting end to a very fun weekend.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pumpkin Patch, 2014 Edition

We make them do it every year... a photo at the pumpkin patch

Every year in October we make a trip to a patch to find perfect Halloween pumpkins. We used to make a day of it and head over to coast where we'd get pumpkins and spend the rest of the day playing on a beach. The past couple of years, with the addition of multiple soccer games and other weekend-consuming commitments, we've kept pumpkin hunting to a local affair.

One requirement of pumpkin selection - you must be able to carry your pumpkin to the cart...

...thus Nieve's pumpkin was noticably smaller than Ronan's

The local patch, Webb Ranch, is pricey but well equipped. They have a large selection of gourds to choose from, some food vendors for the hungry, and lots of activities to keep kids entertained.

Ronan loves the pumpkin-headed horseman... he *asked* me to take a picture with it

Staged pointing always make for dynamic images. This may become a new pumpkin patch tradition.

Due to a compacted schedule, we only had a half hour to play but the kids made the most of it. Ronan did the haunted house and Nieve chose a pony ride. They also had to try the bouncy house on the way out; after a few minutes of jumping we had called it quits and whisked the kids off to soccer game #1.

A happy Nieve on a horse

A happy Nieve posing on a horse

A happy Nieve petting a horse. Yes, Nieve loves horses.

It was a successful trip - we all found satisfactory pumpkins and I was able to capture the obligatory photo of Ronan and Nieve goofing around amongst the orange squash. Hopefully next year we'll budget a bit more time and be able to venture all the way to the coast!

This is the pumpkin Ronan really wanted. Unfortunately, it did not pass the "must be able to carry" test. So instead he got this photo.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Soccer Season Begins

Ronan's soccer photo for Fall 2014 - every year he looks a little bit older

It's that time of year - the days are growing shorter, school is back in session, and weekends now have soccer for all other activities to schedule around.

Ronan tries on a tough-guy pose...

...but his face quickly reverts to the real, smiley Ronan

Ronan seems to love the sport. This is now his second year with AYSO so he's familiar with practices, game structure, and following directions. Ronan's perpetual positive attitude has endeared him to many of the coaches; he works harder than most of the other kids on the field so nobody will accuse him of not trying. He's a decent player, he enjoys competing, and soccer allows him a positive outlet for his abundance of energy. All in all the sport is a good fit for him.

Nieve's first day of soccer photo... at least she has the confidence

While Ronan has taken to soccer, Mom and I have our doubts that Nieve will develop a similar relationship with the sport. She has never been one to exert herself any more than necessary and she's an outspoken critic of chaos. As soccer at this age is basically children running crazily around a field after a ball, at a macro level it does not seem like the best fit for Nieve.

Nieve and her teammates show a little hustle

But if last weekend is any indication, there is at least a glimmer of hope (if only a glimmer). Nieve understood the major points of the game (everyone of the same jersey color is on the same team, each team is supposed to try and put the ball in a specific goal, don't use your hands) which meant she was already in the top 25% of those on the field.

Nieve making a move with the ball

Contrary to our expectations, Nieve actually hustled (if only for short periods of time) and was not afraid of contact. The biggest challenge was keeping her focused on her own play rather than that of her teammates. Nieve felt it her duty to continually (and loudly) inform her teammates of where the ball was and what they were supposed to be doing about it.

Nieve trying to set up a play

Three against one? Remember, these are four-year-olds; the odds are not as bad as they appear

To Nieve's credit, her instructions (commands?) were directionally correct, but no one (not even herself) listened. So she missed a few plays simply due to the fact that she was consumed with lecturing whomever was nearest rather than being a part of the play.

Nieve spotted a breakaway opportunity, and after none of her teammates acted on her observation, Nieve took up the effort herself

The boy in green finally realized what Nieve was squawking about, and gave chase...

...but there were gopher holes in the field, and one must have caught his shoe

Meaning all that was left was Nieve's teammate, her coach, and the goal

Only one more thing to do (at this point, it was *still* 50/50 that the ball would find the back of the net)...


At one point the entire field was distracted (likely watching a squirrel run up a tree), so Nieve yelled, "Hey! The ball is in! Go get the ball! HEY! GET THE BALL!" The inaction of her teammates must have raised her frustration level above her desire not to do any work, because Nieve finally muttered, "Fine!" ran over to the ball, dribbled it down the length of the field, and put it in the unattended net of the opposing team.

Nieve's goal celebration dance

On her trip back after her goal she kept saying, "I told them the ball was in, but they just stood there. I TOLD THEM. THEY JUST STOOD THERE."

Little Captain Sassy Pants

So that's soccer season for us. One child we are hoping does not collapse on the pitch from extreme exhaustion, the other we are encouraging to exert *non-verbal* effort, if only a little. It should be interesting, if nothing else. Oh, and yes, of course - we hope Ronan and Nieve have fun.