Tuesday, January 31, 2012

(Another) Tuesday at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Nieve enjoyed the kelp forest tank from her own unique point of view

One of Ronan's favorite places to visit is the Monterey Bay Aquarium (especially on Tuesdays!), so naturally he wanted to show it to Nana during her visit. Not that Nana needed any prodding; she frequently visits her local Birch Aquarium in La Jolla and has wanted to experience MBA for years.

Nana photobombing the orca picture

Ronan admiring the graceful swimming skate and leopard shark - the same species that frequent La Jolla Shores in late summer

When walking through the aquarium it was clear that Nana was impressed, but it was also fun to see what captivated the little ones, as it seems to change every time we visit the aquarium. During this trip Nieve was most animated in the Wave Crash Tunnel; at first she was terrified of the periodic douses of water but eventually waited with eager anticipation for the wave after overcoming her initial fear.

Neive was not too thrilled during her first few minutes in the wave crash exhibit

But after she got used to the water being released she embraced it with great enthusiasm

She also loved the kids area, the 'Splash Zone,' where there are fun things to bounce/climb on, and child friendly tanks containing 'celebrity' species such as clown fish (Nemo) and blue tangs (Dory). In the play zone Nieve found a plush puppet stingray, put it on her hand, and proceeded to chase me around and around, delighting in my fr (and other parents that humored her and played along) fright.

Pixar & Disney have the pulse of children - Ronan and Nieve *loved* finding Dory & Nemo

Nieve loved all the hands-on exhibits - her favorite was the 'purkle' urchins and 'arnge' starfish

Ronan also enjoyed the Splash Zone, spending his time manipulating water at an exhibit where he could test the stability and hydrodynamics of various boat hull designs. Had we not been pressed for time he would have spent hours playing there, trying out the various controls the exhibit had to offer.

Water jets, boats, and movable dam - a recipe for success with Ronan

He was also mesmerized by the jellyfish exhibit (who isn't?) - it was fun to watch him stand, mouth open, ensorcelled by the vibrant colors of the pulsating jellies. He had a similar stupified look on his face when he almost went cross-eyed staring at the anchovy cylinder - apparently the anchovy schooling confusion defense is effective on Ronan.

Ronan and Nana (the two on the left) follow the beautifully lit jellies

Ronan going cross-eyed trying to focus on the flashing silver anchovies. He did ask, "why are all of the fish yawning?"

It seems that large aquariums have an interesting effect on children - the exhibits excite and relax kids concurrently. Ronan was interested and engaged, wanting to learn/see more, yet at times could be found standing still in front of the large acrylic windows, quietly observing the scene in front of him.

Silhouettes in front of the serene open ocean exhibit

Leafy seadragons - a visitor favorite

It could have been the large tanks of water that gave a submersed sensation, or the graceful fish that glided effortlessly by, or the gentle light that danced through the water, or perhaps something else entirely - whatever it was when Ronan or Nieve were in front of sea life exhibits they were engaged but calm.

The MBA is serene on the outside as well

Nana and Nieve captivated by the beauty

After almost four hours we finally convinced Ronan (and Nana) that it was time to head home. As always our time spent at the aquarium was fun an memorable - we are already looking forward to our next Tuesday visit.

After 3.5 hours Nieve was finally done in by the quiet and darkness of the Jelly exhibit

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Hike with Nana at Edgewood Park

Nieve smiling with glee after being caught by Nanna and Mom when she tried to, "Run away! Run away!"

Nana is visiting over the long weekend and one activity the kids wanted to do with her is enjoying the natural beauty of northern California (and take advantage of the unusually dry weather). We had intended to take her to Heritage Grove, a stand of ancient redwood trees, but an injured cyclist in need of a ride changed our plans en route.

Ronan and Nana power walking together - and Nana trying to keep him on the trail...

... and a little later Ronan slowed the pace to help Nieve up the trail

Instead we decided to explore the closer Edgewood Park in Redwood City, a fine place for a stroll. There are plenty of trails that run up and down oak and bay covered hills and we came across several deer, a couple of bucks, and a red-tailed hawk.

A note to the uninitiated - stump hopping is best done while holding a car in your hand

Climbing fallen trees is a favorite pastime of little explorers

I was impressed with Ronan's ability to keep the pace - he hiked most of the way under his own power even though we covered a couple of very hilly miles. Both kids seemed to go out of the way to wander off the trail, meaning that we may have nasty little poison oak rashes appearing on Ronan and Nieve in the coming days.

Cold weather called for mittens

A pretty place for a picnic

Nana too seemed to enjoy the fresh air, though the clear skies and the breeze made it a bit brisk. After a picnic lunch and some fun downhill trail running we made it back to the car just in time for Nieve's nap. It was a fun time had by all and certainly unexpected for a mid-January outing!

Nieve's grin is a victorious one - she cajoled me into carrying her in my arms (as opposed to riding in a backpack). Thankfully she's still pretty light.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Even Crazier Hair for 2012

A profile shot of Nieve's massive mane

Nieve has been known to sport crazy hair (with other examples here, here, here and here), but this morning's 'do topped all other performances do date. Mom undid last night's pony tail and out popped Nieve's hair as if she'd been shocked from a 220V outlet.

This is not your typical 20-month-old's hair

Nieve has an unusually large volume of hair for someone her age - while we love the way it looks it can be a challenge to keep it under control. This mass of hair is not unprecedented on Mom's side of the family - there are countless stories (and a few photos) of the adventures of Auntie Sheila's hair.

Yes it's crazy and at the moment out of control

Mom is clearly more proficient at keeping Nieve's mop in check - every time I try to pull it back, hair shoots out of the most unexpected places. As for hardware, to successfully tame Nieve's mop, no less than two elastic hair bands and two barrets are required.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas Tree Harvesting

Mom and I have been going to RSV for four years running... our family has doubled in size since our first trip!

One an annual ritual we keep is heading to the Rancho Siempra Verde to harvest the 'perfect' Christmas tree. By 'perfect' we mean one that will fit into our house and be capable of sufficiently displaying our ornaments and lights.

Make note: judging from these photos, swings = smiles

Uncle Mike, Makena & Maia trying out the big swing

Unlike most years we did our 2011 trip the Sunday after Thanksgiving thanks to a light schedule and excellent weather. Like most years Auntie Sheila joined us as well as Uncle Mike and cousins Makena and Maia.

Auntie She measuring height of the swing

Nieve banging out Mozart's Third Sonata in C Major

The warm weather meant a lack of mud (too bad for Ronan!) but the usual attractions were as fun as always. The dozen or more different swings (including different types such as ultra-long, multi-person, spring loaded, and tire swings) were fun - we spent most of our time testing out the various types.

Unconventional but clearly fun

Maia showing how it's done

Makena gets into the swing of things

Yep, it's this fun

The haystack maze made for fun hide & seek and the large xylophone was a favorite of Nieve. Although we did not get a chance to drive the tractor Mom & the kids were able to hitch a short ride behind one.

Ronan jumps off of the haystack

Ronan found a small hole in the haystack maze

The bonfire, roasted marshmallows, and smores were of course still a hit with the kids, as were the various Cozy Coupes that were festively decorated for little ones.

The obligatory Cozy Coupe shot... next year Ronan may not fit!

Three happy girls

Horsing around on an old stump from a previous Christmas tree

As always our trip to RSV was both a blast and a success - Ronan and Mom found a fantastic little tree whilst we laughed and played. Many thanks to Auntie Sheila, Uncle Mike, and cousins Makena and Maia for joining us!

Our family & 2011 Christmas tree