Friday, May 31, 2013

Delightful Donovan

Donovan enjoying the sounds and the sand on a Malibu beach

Part 2 of our trip down the coast was visiting Auntie Melissa, Uncle Todd, and the newest member of the family, 5-month-old Donovnan. He's ridiculously cute, exceptionally good mannered, and for lack of a better adjetive, big. Grandpa is already lobbying to have Donovan play as a lineman for University of Wisconsin.

Todd does a commendable job of digitizing Donovan's daily doings

Donovan also has that wonderfully sweet baby smell, especially on the nape of his neck. He's cuddly, inquisitive, and quite patient. He also is self-assured; if something happens that he doesn't like he's not afraid to vocalize his concerns. Nieve called it his, "pterodactyl squawk."

A gentle Ronan loving up his little cousin

Ronan playing 'where's the ball?' with D

Ronan loved holding Donovan; he agreed that little D smelled good and was, "aw, cute!" It was fun to see Ronan try to win Donovan's attention with finger wiggling or brightly color balls.

Happy Mom holding a nonplussed Donovan... he was growing bored with all the photo taking

Of course Mom, baby-ogler-in-chief, loved little D. I was impressed that she allowed the rest of us some time holding him; usually when she gets her hands on a baby there is no getting it back. Mom, thanks for sharing!

Nieve wanted to give Donovan a shoulder ride... he seemed to think that was a fun idea

Nieve being nurturing, happy when holding a cooing Donovan...

...but when Donovan started to squawk, Nieve clammed up

Nieve too enjoyed Donovan, always talking to him in her "soothing" baby voice. If Donovan was in good sprits, Nieve liked to hold him. But when he started to fuss Nieve's reaction was, "Uh oh. I think I broke him. You can have him back now."

A happy father and son. I foresee many fun, loving years together, as Donovan's personality seems to be the proverbial chip off the ol' block

It was a great trip and all of us appreciated Uncle T, Auntie M, and Little D's hospitality. Ronan and Nieve were genuinely excited to have a younger cousin and they seem as eager as we are to watch little D grow!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Beach Time with Grandma and Grandpa

Grandpa showed us around one of his favorite haunts - San Simeon State Beach

This past weekend we decided to make a trip down the California coast with our first stop being in Cambria to visit Grandma and Grandpa. Nieve and Ronan always have a blast in this charming costal hamlet, especially when it involves playing at the beach.

Grandma and Nieve enjoying the perfect beach day

We lucked out with the weather - sunny with just a slight breeze - so we decided to spend our Saturday at San Simeon State Beach. The water was magnificent, the winds mild, and the scenery was stunning. It was a perfect day for a leisurely stroll on the sand.

Nieve scrawling her name in the sand

This is how Ronan feels about spending an afternoon at the beach

Ronan and Nieve (like most children) love all things about the beach. I enjoy watching the two of them flex their creativity in using both the water and sand.

Jubilation. For Ronan, that means running at breakneck speed.

Nieve started by testing out the wetted sand as a medium to write letters in (she did an "N" for Nieve). She also tried out her running legs, clearly enjoying the feeling of beach beneath her feet.

We all made our way down the beach, each at our own pace

Grandpa, on a photo-walk

Ronan was also thrilled at the opportunity to run. He was a dizzying display of energy, running large, fast circles around the rest of us.

And so the hunt begins...

...with Nieve in fast pursuit

At one point he saw a large flock of seagulls standing in the sand and he decided the best thing to do was to simply chase after them, screeching in a loud, high-pitched voice.

Ronan and Nieve, the seagull's bane

Nieve had long since quit but Ronan kept at it

After the gulls scattered, they reformed and landed a hundred yards up the beach. The tireless Ronan simply ran on to their new resting place, screeching and scattering the gulls again.

Proper sand angel technique

Ronan's angel family... one for each of us. Very thoughtful.

Ronan took a rest from running to create some winged creatures of his own. Perhaps taking inspiration from his time in the snow, Ronan methodically made a 'family of sand angles'. His process was deliberate and effective; he made six of them (one for each of us at the beach), all easily recognizable as angels.

A little seal and his trail

Once finished with the angels Ronan flipped onto his belly and began to drag himself down the beach. When I asked him what he was doing, he replied, "Dad, I'm a seal. This is how seals move."

Kicking the waves in front of a stunning backdrop

Our little girl testing out her courage

Nieve, a little startled by a crashing wave, comes running back to shore

Nieve joined Ronan in the sand play, trying to dig holes near the edge of the lapping waves. Occasionally the waves would get the two of them wet, resulting in a couple of soaked, chilly kids.




When being cold > fun being had, it's time for a change

At this point we decided that wetsuits were essential to keeping hypothermia at bay for both Ronan and Nieve. Once shod in neoprene the kids resumed their frolicking in the ocean.

Warm once more, it's time to restart the digging

Diving over waves is also a blast

Nieve, hang on to that hat!

We stayed for a bit longer but dinnertime was fast approaching and we had to call it a (albeit wonderful) day. San Simeon beach is a fantastic place to visit, and during our next trip I think we'll try renting a kayak and exploring some natural caves on the north side of the cove. Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for a perfect stay!

Ronan's goodbye valediction to the sea

Nieve at the close of a fantastic day

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tidepools & Beach at JV Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

People enjoying the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Ronan and Nieve love spending time at the seashore. The sand, rocks, water, plants, animals and cliffs make for an explorer's paradise. So when our friends asked if we'd like to meet them at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve it was an easy sell to Ronan and Nieve.

Ronan is unafraid of touching creatures at the tidepools - in this case it's a sea star

Ronan has a history of enjoying the rocky shore so it was no surprise when he set off into boundary rocks with great enthusiasm.

Off he goes... the low time made for easy exploring

Mom tried her best to follow Ronan (and to keep him moving a more careful pace) but predictably he ended up falling into the ocean and getting a thorough soaking. But the discomfort of wet clothes did deter Ronan; he continued his wandering adventures, eventually leading our group to a wide, sandy beach.

Sun hat - check. Warm jacket - check. Rubber boots - check. Nieve is ready to explore the tidepools.

Nieve throwing some sea snails back into the water

Previously Nieve was more tentative exploring slippery places, but she seems to be rapidly growing into a little explorer herself. She was getting her hands and feet wet, looking in cracks and crevices, pretending she was an, "animal rescuer."

Nieve and an urchin skeleton

Nieve showing off her fairly well developed balancing skills

Most of her rescuing was for little sea snail and hermit crabs and she seemed to enjoy finding shells and sea urchin skeletons. She also liked to test the water depth with her rubber boots and even run on the sea-grass covered rocks.

Ronan enjoyed the gentle shore of a protected cove

Eventually we made our way to a delightful white sand beach of a protected cove. I was surprised that neither Ronan or Nieve ran into the (admittedly cold) water; rather they slowly waded up to mid-shin depths and found that to be sufficient.

Gentle, sandy beaches gives Nieve wings

After a snack (many thanks to our friends for bringing nourishment!) the kids were fueled up enough to make the long hike back to the car. We all agreed that exploring the seashore was a great way to spend a morning, and that we should take advantage of the coast more often. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Mom and Ronan returning from exploring the far end of the beach

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Superhero Birthday Party

Apparently SuperRonan rolls on a trike

Every year Mom throws a birthday party for each of the kids' classrooms; this year she asked Ronan what he wanted at his party. He responded, "capes and masks for my friends so we can all be superheros."

Nieve embraced superherodom with flair - she ditched her pants and pulled up her socks, "Just like Wonder Woman"

So Mom did exactly that. She made simple-but-perfect capes from cloth and self-adhesive velcro, available in either light or dark blue. She even cut varying lengths of capes to ensure proper fit for both short and tall children.

So super were their strength that the students flipped over the boat (and then gathered on top of it)

Mom also purchased a stack of paper masks, markers, and self-adhesive jewels for the kids to personalize their superhero identity. Ronan's classmates are a creative bunch so it did not take them long to be decked out in their ensembles.

Little SuperNieve riding with purpose

To top it off, Mom had also downloaded a bunch of superhero theme songs (Wonder Woman, Spiderman, Batman, etc) and I chuckled at both students and teachers singing along to the catchy jingles.

Ronan showing off his Spidey-like climbing skills

Understandably the party was a hit. Ronan and his friends had a blast running around the school's yards, taking turns being superheros and super villains. They even broke out the tricycles and raced after each other, urgently solving problems.

Trick riding was at an all time high, with children emboldened by their superpowers

The superhero fun, apparently, did not stop with the end of the party. When dropping off Ronan at school the next day I noticed one of his classmates was still wearing her mask and cape. According to her father she slept in it. I still see the kids wearing their capes (and the smiles that go with them) from time to time; it's a happy reminder of a very fun afternoon. Thanks Mom!

Even superheros enjoy a rest in the shade...