Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rancho Siempre Verde, 2013

Ronan's annual cozy coupe photo... here's the photo from 2009

Two weekends ago was our sixth annual pilgrimage to Rancho Siempre Verde, a wonderfully fun Christmas Tree farm south of Pescadero off of Hwy 1 (here's the post from our second trip in 2009). Friends Janet, Sandy, and Emily, as well as Poppy and Auntie She all joined us for the tree hunting, swinging, picnic savoring, tractor-riding, and general farm wandering.

Nieve's annual cozy coupe photo

Tractor tire swing!

Nieve had a blast finding different swings and riding them. We knew she had a blast, as she wore an ear-to-ear smile every time she took flight. Our endurance for pushing her ran out far before her enthusiasm did.



Nieve was not the only one who enjoyed the swings. All of us took turns, playing, giggling, and the occasional fall. On the larger swing, Poppa, Auntie She and Mom were one small slip away from sending all three of them to the emergency room.

Mom, Poppa and Auntie She all enjoying a ride... after an almost disastrous start to their swinging

Ronan showing a little sass whilst swinging with Auntie She

Also like last year, the kids loved playing on top of (an in) the haystack; they climbed, crawled, jumped, and ran around with a dozen other like-minded children. Rather than simply crawling through the tunnels Ronan was more interested in jumping off the higher sections, leading to (superficial) injuries of other children who watched his antics and made the poor decision to copy him.

Nieve in the haystack, slightly annoyed by the prickly hay

Learning to span a gap - Ronan called her, "Nieve the Bridge"

The Art of Flight, by Ronan, Part I

Nieve would not be left out of the 'jumping' from the haystack

A trip to RSV must also include the exploring machines, which Ronan promptly led as soon as lunch was finished. Both kids love sitting in the drivers seat, pretending they are flattening mounds with the bulldozer or digging deep ditches with the backhoe. The two of them were having so much fun that Emily had to climb up and experience it for herself.

Ronan asked for this picture to be taken - he wanted a portrait through the grate with the John Deere badge visible

Goofballs at the helm!

Emily and Nieve enjoying the bulldozer together

One fun new experience this year was enjoying apples picked right off of a tree. Normally the fruit is off limits to visitors but we lucked out when a ranch hand let the kids harvest their own apples and enjoy them amongst the orchard. We also learned about tayberries, a rust-resistant raspberry/blackberry hybrid that apparently has an delicious flavor.

Yum. Apples right off the tree!

Auntie She (unsuccessfully) trying to steal some of Nieve's apple

Fresh fruit makes Ronan a happy boy

Janet chuckles while Mom finishes off Nieve's apple

Then there was, of course, the harvesting of our Christmas tree. The pickings were slim this year (RSV was highlighted by Sunset Magazine and saw a large spike in customers last year) yet we found a tree of the perfect size and shape for our living room. Nieve helped to cut it down and Ronan helped to carry it back to the car.

Nieve: "Daddy, I want the saw." Me: "Here you go, sweetheart."

Family portrait in front of the tree

Of course we had to get in the tractor ride and one final swing before calling it a day. Ronan and Auntie She chose a swing to showboat at - at one point Ronan was a good twenty feet off of the ground, grinning a fools grin the entire time.

The crew was getting tired by the time we did the tractor ride

Ronan's antics provided more entertainment for other RSV visitors

The Art of Flight, by Ronan, Part II

By mid afternoon even Ronan was ready to call it a day. We said our goodbyes, ensured the tree was properly fastened to the roof racks, and headed home. A big thanks to everyone for joining us on our annual trip - we look forward to doing again next year!

The remnants of the crew - tired but happy and ready to head home

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Locks of Love

Nieve's hair on Saturday morning, an hour before getting it cut

The inevitable happened yesterday - Nieve got her first haircut. Mom and I were admittedly surprised that Nieve pushed for short, manageable hair, especially as she's shown staunch resistance against anything that might make our lives as parents easier.

A fairly impressive braid, given Nieve is only three and a half years old

Mom (and to a lesser degree, me) had resigned to continuing the hours of tugging, brushing, braiding, fixing, re-doing, and more brushing that is required to keep Nieve's long hair from becoming an insolvable tangled mass. Yet when Nieve made the decision to go short it was us parents who fretted with anxiety about the change.

A stone-faced little girl, ready to get on with the haircut

And so it begins...

We asked Nieve more than a dozen times over the past couple of weeks whether she really wanted to get it cut, and every time she responded with a "yes!" of such conviction that we had no choice but to do it. I'm pretty sure Mom was silently preparing herself for a disastrous, inconsolable Nieve meltdown once the haircut was done. Just how do you explain to a three year old that the only 'revert' option is to wait for the two years it will takes to grow?

Major hair removal

Progress is being made

A midpoint review - Nieve holding up the bulk of her removed hair

But we like to let our children guide their lives as much as is reasonable, so off to Jenny (the family hair stylist for the past decade or more) we went to let Nieve realize her wishes. Jenny, of course, was fantastic. She has been waiting for the day she could work on Nieve's thick, long hair, and she knew exactly the cut to put on little girl that carries a much larger sense of self and style than belies her petite body.

Some of the finer details are now being attended to

A little blow-drying to finish off the style

When it was all over, Nieve was visibly delighted with the results. She was all smiles, throwing herself adoring looks in the mirror. She couldn't resist from continually touching it, or moving loose strands of hair over her ears.

Happy? Oh yes, clearly happy.

Ta da!

The process and end results were, by all account a big success. My only reservation is the short hair makes Nieve look far more mature, almost like a tiny woman with clumsy movements. Like most parents, I'm not yet ready to let go of Nieve's pre-school years. The kids are growing far too quickly for my tastes.

Fine. Perhaps not entirely like a tiny woman.

It's a great haircut to climb in

We spent the rest of the day playing in San Francisco and two separate, clearly knowledgeable women both asked, "Did she just get her hair cut?" When I confirmed their observation they replied, "Oh, how darling! It's magnificent!" Those were two of the few times I've seen Nieve blush.
A cut to conquer play structures

So we are happy that Nieve is happy. The bedtime routine is now much shorter (no drying the hair after bath or fighting knots or braiding), Nieve still steals glances of her reflection in mirrors, and it's fun to watch her hair bob about when she runs. And the icing on top of an already sweet cake - Nieve is donating her cut hair to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for disadvantaged children.

A happy little girl with a sporty new 'do, perfect for being active

Friday, October 4, 2013

Relaxing at Twain Harte

Playtime at the lake

We thought it best to celebrate the arrival of summer (and father's day) with the quintessential cabin-on-a-lake American vacation. And what better way to do it in a small town named after two of California's most notable authors?

Family portrait on the dock

We stayed in a tiny-but-perfect, nestled-amongst-pine-trees cabin that had it's own ping pong table, hammock, bench swing and dock. A short swim (or kayak) across the little lake was a sandy beach, a couple of water slides, and snack shack known for shave ice and soft-serve ice cream cones.

Ronan loved the contrast of the hot sun and cold Slurpee

Ronan, of course, loved it. He made ample use of the four floating platforms that provided a place to rest & warm, and when he was feeling adventurous he's throw himself down one of the water slides.

In the evening Nieve spotted a bat and showed us where to look

Ronan used a paddle to create ripples on the calm lake

Nieve was a happy little swimmer, floating in her inflatable ring, her little legs moving under the water, propelling her forward like a clumsy duck. When she got too cool she would lay down on the warm rocks and 'lizard' until she was hot enough to go back into the water.

An amused boy on a steam train

This very lake was a spot where Mom used to come as a kid; in addition to just being a great family spot, she was filled with nostalgia for Twain Harte. She was comforted by the ever present lifeguards patrolling the lake, making a perfect spot for small kids who love to play in water.

Ronan, on a steam train, enjoying a breeze

Nieve waves to the steam engine

On one of the days we decided to take a break from lake life, drive few miles west of Twain Harte to Jamestown, and visit the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. There we took a short but enjoyable through the golden California foothills on a carriage pulled by an old Steam locomotive.

Ronan posing in front of an old coach

An appropriately serious Nieve in front of the livery, Columbia, California

Also nearby is the historic state park of Columbia, California, a well preserved gold rush town that captures the essence of late 19th century California. It's an interesting spot to lunch, watching the passing stagecoachs and hearing the busy hammering from the nearby blacksmith.

Enjoying the sunset and calm lake

It was a fun, easy, relaxing trip. Perhaps the best part was simply being able to slow down as a family and enjoy each other's company. Ronan and Nieve have both requested another 'lake trip' next summer - it's likely the beginnings of an annual tradition. I, for one, am very much looking forward to it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Colorful Morning at CuriOdyssey

An excited girl 'building it up' at the CuriOdyssey science & wildlife center

Nieve and I decided to spend a morning together at CuriOdyssey Coyote Point. It had been more than a year since our last visit and Nieve was excited to enjoy some of her favorite exhibits.

A nice little example of diffraction

Feeling the fog

Though the center is small it's a fun place for a three-year-old to explore. There are a mix of things for children to do, with most of the activities being either physical sciences or animal exhibits.

Learning about gears and levers to move a polycarbonate ball around a track

More actuating levers to move the ball along

Gravity is great - Nieve seemed to enjoy Rube Goldberg-like machines

Nieve enjoyed both sides of the center. She liked working through various mechanical and optical exhibits, observing what happens when she activates levers or gears. When she couldn't figure out what was happening she would ask for an explanation.

Nieve cracked up at the speed and playfulness of the otters

A happy girl trying to communicate with the little mammals that could not keep still

She also enjoyed watching the animals, with her favorite being the rambunctious river otters. We spent more than 15 mins in front of the glass, laughing from surprise by the swift moving mammals.

A busy girl building

"Eye see you!"

But what really captivated Nieve's interest were stations where she could build something. She loved transforming construction materials into her own grand creations. The more building blocks she could get her hands on the better. She also seemed patient and effective at managing problems that arose (deviations from her desired design); I was impressed at how well she worked through various set-backs.

Using hollow plastic pipe to create her on aquaduct

Nieve used the half-pipe to form a water-catching gutter that protected her piles of sand from erosion

For instance, while working at a water & sand table, the water kept dispersing the sand Nieve piled under the falls. Instead of giving up she used some pieces of plastic to better direct the water and shield her sand piles. It took time but her solution proved both practical and effective. The engineer in me was pleased to see her so engaged in the process; I hope she continues to develop a love of problem solving!