Sunday, June 30, 2013

"Credit where credit is due. The dog's name is Nigel."--Christina

First off, yesterday didn't end where the blog ended.  It's just that my pictures ended there.  :)  The evening continued on with the Akiukers going to see Now You See Me. They all seemed to enjoy and were surprised by the ending.

We got back around 10:30 PM.  I finished up loading pictures from Marilyn and then played on Facebook for a while before making a legitimate attempt at sleep around midnight.  I woke around 2:00 to the noise of the boys and Alaina not sleeping for another night.  I was nursing a bit of a sunburn so it took me a while to get to sleep.  But what I have on my shoulders doesn't hold a candle to the burns sustained by everyone else.  Everyone took turns throughout the night putting on aloe vera and by today everyone struggled with moving their arm around.  I am referring to the painful act, and those of you who have had sunburn can relate, of getting dressed.

I guess Marilyn eventually called the kids on their noise making around 3:00AM.  I was SHOCKED to find everyone interested in checking out some sales at 9:15AM.  Unfortunately, my parents hadn't anticipated this either so when they left for tai chi that morning they took the van keys.

With seven passengers we had to make two trips.  So rather than going to specific sales for specific items we went to Sunrise Mall.  This is about a ten minute drive.  But it's long enough for this...

So here's the deal, Day Five is going to be a photo drop with limited text.  Tomorrow we're going to Santa Cruz early in the morning and I am driving.  Sleep is needed. Sorry.  Priorities.

Shopping was had at Sunrise Mall where everyone spent more money than they wanted to spend on items that they really wanted to have.

Then we tried to go to Old Navy which was having a fantastic sale.  However, there was a line outside, and no sale is worth standing outside in 108-degree weather.  So we went to Target where we could have spent little money on things no one wanted. 

After Target, my parents were able to pick us up, rather than continue either the illegal squeeze of seven in my car or the two-trip-drive.

We then went to see The Wizard of Oz at the Music Circus. I had assumed it would be the first live theater play or musical for these kids.  As it turns out four of them had seen Hitler's Daughter in Anchorage just a few months ago.  It was still a first for Yago and Marilyn though and as other pointed it out, it was still a FIRST showing of The Wizard of Oz live.  Even though they were tired and the theater was dark and comfortable (temp wise), only two of them admitted to "almost" falling asleep.  They agreed it was "cool" and "fantastic" and "awesome".

We parked on the seventh floor of the parking garage and experience has told us there is really no reason to try to move the car for at least 30 minutes after the show.  So we walked to the Old Spaghetti Factory a mere seven blocks away.  Seven blocks in 111-degree heat with six sunburned Eskimos.  I suppose we could have been more kind.

But we did make it okay.  No one passed out or anything.  My dad struggled to get Alaina's phot to take a picture but I don't think that was the heat/sub exposure as much as a LACK of exposure to iphones. 

My friend Dee joined us for dinner.  Dee and I go back to the fifth grade.  She was my best friend then and is my best friend (shared billing with Amantha) now.  It was great to have her join us.  The girls in particular enjoyed her company as she encouraged them to continue to Facebook hack me at their leisure.  Dee's a real gem that way.  She made them feel famous all the while making my life more difficult.  If not your best-friend that who would?

We asked a busserto take our group picture.  We then observed him shakily snap this shot.  I think he knew it was blurry as he gave back the camera.  And he even paused a moment to ask if we wanted another one but I told him it was okay.  It must have been intimidating to have our group of ten people stare at you--even if you are behind a camera.

After dinner we split into our separate cars and headed back home.  The girls car (minus my mom) stopped at Old Navy (no line) and Target again and then got in at about 8:30PM.  I quickly dropped shopping bags and passengers and then headed off to the dog park.  Reha won't be joining us at Santa Cruz tomorrow so I thought I would give her a last shot at playing before being left alone for tomorrow.  Unfortunately the still then 99-degree weather didn't put her, nor the other dogs in the park, in very social moods. 

In the end we only stayed 30 minutes.  Partly because it was getting dark.  Partly because she was not her charming self with other dogs.  And mostly because there was a basketball accident back at the house.

This is the window in the second story bedroom where Marilyn, Alaina, and Henrietta are sleeping.  And at that exact moment when the window shattered Marilyn and my mom were comfortably catching up on Facebook.  There was glass on the bed.  But, thankfully, no one was hurt.  Just perhaps some egos and maybe so licking emotional wounds as the 30-ft-away-from-the-basket-shots-at-the-house are on a permanent hiatus.

"[response to learning it's 102-degrees] Oh yeah? Sweating. Still."--Marilyn

Day three started off with a phone call at 10:00AM.  It was my parents who had gone to Tai Chi at 7:00AM and were telling us they were only 30 minutes out at that point.  We quickly woke everyone, including the boys who had still been awake at 5:30AM when my parents were up getting coffee starting the day.  It didn't take long before the boys to be out again.  

Once we were ready it was clear that loading the car was going to take much longer than we had anticipated.  Perhaps the 30 minute warning was unnecessary.  In the downtime, we let the boys sleep while the girls played some air hockey in the garage.  The end score was 10-6 Alaina (master of the reach).

It was about 12:30 when we all were able to load into the car and begin the curvy-road drive up into the mountains.  Girls in one car.  Boys (and my mom) in the other.  I was warned about a particular member of the trip getting carsick.  It seems he/she used to get car sick A LOT.  As it was though... no sickness at all.  In fact, spoiler alert, on the way back I believe the two drivers were the only ones awake for the whole drive (at least I know I was awake the whole drive back).

We cruised up Hwy 49 past the North, Middle, and South Yuba River crossings before our first stop at Indian Valley Outpost.  For those of you who have made this trip with with the Powers Family will know this spot well.  In fact, I don't know that I have ever made the trip without stopping here for a dip in the water, ice cream, the bathroom or some combination of all three.  This time we stopped for a picnic lunch of chow mein and fruit before taking a swim in the water across the road.  

 I was surprised at how quickly this group of kids took to the water.  I mean, it is inevitable that everyone will love the water, but usually it takes some coaxing.  As it turns out the 102-degree weather helped them to climb right in.  In fact, they ALL felt comfortable enough to swim/wade over to the rocks in the middle of the river.  This year has had a good amount of rainfall, so water-depths have increased a bit since previous years.  I wasn't expecting everyone to make it across, but they did--see the proof:

It was hard to leave this area.  We have some real fish in our group.  But we were, after all, just heading to another swimming hole.  It's just that this next one allowed for us to unpack the cars and take a nap in our hotel room as well.  We said goodbye to Indian Valley Outpost just as the actual store was opening for the day.   

The Riverside Inn in Downieville is a favorite for my mom.  We stayed in Room One which is a two bedroom suite.  While my dad began to unload the car (only after one load he decided to nap instead), everyone else headed down to the water.

It was there that a baby water snake was found.  I had told the group that it was common to find water snakes in these waters, especially on a warm day like today.  I also explained that they are harmless and the only snake they really had to worry about in the area is rattlesnakes.

Now, I assumed this information would just cause them to freak out a little less if they were to spot a snake in the water.  However, these kids are either completely trusting of me or completely fearless of nature.  Once I joined them at the water I was told Alaina picked it up and passed it around for everyone to hold.  As you can see here Henrietta casually holds the baby snake as she also inflates an inner-tube.  (All photos on this blog entry were taken by Marilyn because my camera went dead early into our outing)  

 For the record, if I was there, I would have prevented this from happening.  Snakes do bite.  All of them.  It's just that the toxins these snakes carry isn't that harmful to humans.  I really need to be more specific next time.  Whoops.  Rest assured there are no hospital pictures to follow.  No blood was loss.  In fact... the only thing we lost on our trip to Downieville occurred here at this swimming hole by the Riverside Inn.  As I said before, the water was much higher than normal.  And here, at this spot where two streams come together, the current was especially strong.  Two of the floaties pictured here were lost to the rapid water.


Additionally, in an effort to save the floaties, Yago lost his left water shoe (Airwalks purchased the day before) and Henrietta lost her right thong-sandal (also purchased the day before).  There was a switching around of shoes for the rest of the trip that left me in my hiking boots and my mom in her tai chi shoes, but it all worked out.

My dad slept with the dogs in our rooms while the rest of us walked out to the particular swimming hole that I probably spent the most amount of time in as a kid.  Today, I'm not sure if it's my favorite but it is usually the least crowded.  And it seems to have the most mass appeal of first time visitors with us to Downieville.  Even my mom enjoys it.  And she rarely gets in the water to chest-level.

At this swimming hole there are some rock formations across the river.  They make for great jumping rocks.  These are not the rocks *I* usually choose to jump off of because the water is not that deep here.  But again, the increased rain made them a bit more enticing. 

Henry was the first to see an opportunity to jump.  Unfortunately he stood there thinking about it so long it got into his head.  He asked his mom to take a picture of his jump and the next ten minutes went like this:

Henry:  Ready Mom?

Marilyn:  Yeah.

Henry:  Okay.  *deep breath*  I'm gonna jump.

All:  Okay.

Henry:  So... are you ready Mom?

Marilyn:  Yes.

Henry:  One... Two... is it safe?

Christina:  Yup.  You'll be fine.

Henry:  Okay.  Ready for the picture, Mom?

Marilyn:  Yes, I'm ready.

Henry:  Okay... I'm gonna jump.  On three.  Are you ready?

(and so on...)

He did eventually jump.  But then I had to one up him.

So he did that too...

And then Justin got in on the jumping-off-rocks action.

And Yago rode rapids in a tube... cautiously

But he enjoyed it too.

Henrietta played with water.

I continued to showboat by going off of the higher landings while others watched.

And then it was Alaina's turn to try to talk herself into jumping.  
There was a lot of this...

 and a lot of this...


and some of this,
which we're not sure was actually helping, Henry ;-)

And eventually she jumped!  
This photo was shot at her surfacing.

Needless to say she went another dozen or so times shortly there after.

 And enjoyed it each and every time.

Approximately three hours of swimming later, we walked back to the Riverside Inn.  There, Marilyn made a salad.  My parents took the dogs for a walk.  The boys played basketball.  The girls rinsed off and snacked on some fruit.  And I proceeded to cook way too much food (10 hamburgers, 2 racks of ribs, and 12 pineapple sausages).

After dinner, I crashed.  Hard.  My mom did dishes.  And somehow the bedding situation got all sorts of strangely configured. In the end two people were sharing a single air-mattress and the other one we brought went unused.

Our plan for the start of Day Four was to cook a full breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, and hashbrowns in the morning.  However, with check-out at 11:00 and no one except my parents (who were content with the continental breakfast offered in the lobby) awake by 10:00, we just packed up all of the raw breakfast food back in the car.  And then began our new day

Which looked a lot like the day before. 

New swimming hole.  More jumping.

 And also floating and relaxing.

Did I mention jumping?

And some art.

 And white water rapid tubing.

Break!!!  We then ate pizza at the awesome pizza place in Downieville.  Now this pizza place has been called Riverside Pizza and the Gallows and it has always had good pizza.  But now it's called "Two Rivers Cafe" and I think it's trying to be fancy.  They have a menu, for example.  And you can't order at the counter anymore.  Or pour your own soda.  Or even pick your own table.  Having said that, something was broken in their kitchen and all the tables inside were taken.  So we ended up ordering pizza and sitting outside.  As we always have for years and years now.  The more things change the more they remain the same.

The swimming hole that morning was actually a bit intimidating with it's stronger current, so there was a request to return to the spot we were in yesterday.  The area had less shade but it was more shallow and we had, after all, concurred that first rock-jump there, so we paid it another visit after we ate lunch.

This time Marilyn was convinced to go much deeper into the water.  So much so that she actually crossed over to the jumping rocks.  

It was a great day for all. Is there any thing that could really make it better?

Oh yeah, and we ate ice cream at Indian Valley Outpost on the way back.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

In a hushed whisper, "Can we get peaches... too?"--Alaina

As it turns out I was not the last one awake last night at 4:15AM when I posted a blog and went to sleep.  All three boys and Alaina stayed up to watch Warm Bodies in its entirety.  This morning my parents went to a 9:30AM Weight Watchers meeting (where both lost weight since last week) while everyone else in the house slept.  And I do mean everyone.

Henrietta, Yago, and I were the first ones of the under 60-years-old set to stir.  I'm not sure who was first one technically awake but we all had our eyes open before 10:00.  Unfortunately with the rest still sleeping, and our not really wanting to disturb anyone, we stayed separately and quietly in bed until after 11:00.  By noon, we were ready to wake up the last of the sleepers and start the day.

Our first stop was the Hometown Buffet.  It's hard for me to tell what the kids will and won't eat.  This group, for example ALL made themselves tacos.  I'm not sure if it's because it was a taco bar and they all like to assemble their own food, or if it is because they like Mexican food... time will tell I suppose.  Also... all three boys got multiple (and by that I mean more than three) desserts that they were unable to finish.  Clearly buffet novices.   

Today's agenda was intentionally "light".  A little shopping, a horse barn visit, and a movie at home.  That was the plan.  And yet... wow... it was a full day.  Another day of blogging past midnight for me.  After leaving Hometown Buffet we cruised on over to Costco to have the kids select breakfast, pop, and snack-foods to have around the house. My dad pointed out a couple of times how we probably saved a bunch of money by food shopping after eating.  I tend to agree with him.  Alaina and Henrietta seemed to get it.  At one point I asked them if they wanted to grab any fruit.  No response.  So I prompted further, "there are grapes, strawberries, apples, kiwi..."  Alaina said, "yeah, maybe kiwi?"  So off they went to get some kiwi while I moved the cart forward a few feet.  I turned to the boys, "why don't you look on that back wall and get some pizza rolls or something snacking from the frozen area."  A couple of shrugs and a passive, "I'm not hungry."

It wasn't until the girls caught up to the boys and I sent them all down the cereal aisle together that we finally started getting some things in the cart.  After Costco, everyone walked down to the Walmart (in the same parking lot) to get some swimsuits, cooler clothing, and sandals.  Walmart was definitely a store everyone felt more comfortable in.  By the time I moved the car, everyone had spread out into separate sections of the store and were deep into price-checking and fitting room trips.

By the time we finished up at Walmart the sun beat down a scorching 93-degrees.  Yago and Henry were still looking for sandals and Alaina needed a swimsuit that didn't hang down to her knees in the crotch area.  A quick stop into Jamba Juice where all three boys ordered mango-a-go-go, Alaina got peach perfection and Henrietta ordered a strawberries wild and then we headed back to the house.

My dad, who was working on about four hours of sleep, my mom, Justin, and Henrietta stayed there while the remaining five of us (one full carload) headed back out to Target and Payless.  I was the driver.  And our whole shopping list was two pairs of sandals and a swimsuit.  Really nothing on MY list at all.  And yet, somehow, my cart ended up looking like this:

Hee hee, I am a horrible impulse shopper.  Luckily the kids seem to be better at window shopping.  As great as they looked on Henry, he had the restraint not to pick up the awesome sunglasses he tried on here:

We ended up back at the house just before 6:00PM.  To stick to our schedule we should have been off to see Doni and her horse, Paige, about five minute prior to that.  Bah!  We're on vacation.  Here's to not sticking to schedules:

Okay, okay, before anyone calls CPS on me here, this photo was taken with sparkling peach soda, I promise.  Coming in again from the heat, a couple of the guys went straight to the fridge.  They asked about the Greek Yogurt and then explained that they wanted something cold to drink.  I said, "help yourself to anything in the fridge."  With a wicked smile Henry picked up a bottle that looked like wine.  I said, "sure, have at it."  Eyes bulged.  Then I had them read the label.  Still cautious I had Marilyn read the label too.  "Just like the sparkling apple.  It's fine."  Bottoms up!

Then get back in the car!  We're late!

Doni Jackson, a truly awesome person I met though mutual friends, spent all day at work today only to then head over to her horse's stable to introduce all of us to her thirteen-year-old clydesdale/thoroughbred mix, Paige.  Paige is pictured here below with my mom.

Getting away from the shopping and the city streets seemed to effect the kids a little.  Even before we walked over to Paige, they jumped from the car and climbed up into the trees.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's adventure in Downieville.  These are outdoor kids and this hour out at Paige's barn showed me that.

On the car ride in, I learned Henry had some experience riding a horse in Anchorage.  It was a different set up.  The horse was between guide bars and in chains and was walking in a tightly controlled circle, but the actual act of sitting on a horse he had done before.  So when we approached the animal that looked more like a moose than any other animal they had seen before, they were a little off-standish.  Luckily Paige (and Doni) have plenty of experience with kids and adults alike and they both are pretty great and working through tension.

We started with a good brush for Paige.  Henry was the first to jump in and give her a scratchy rub.

He also was the first to saddle up and give her a ride.  Henry, Yago, Justin, Alaina, Marilyn, and I all took turns giving Paige (or rather having Paige give us) a walk through the yard.  We learned how to go forward (no need to kick like in the movies, but a gentle squeeze will get you going), turn right, turn left, and slow to a stop.

Everyone, except Henry, was pretty hesitant about getting on Paige.  It was hard for me to read.  Were they getting bored?  Or were they really feeling some stress over it.  It was clear once they were on the horse though, the smiles came through.  It's an interesting feeling being on a horse for the first time.  You're up high.  And you feel a loss of control with something so muscular beneath you.  And yet, it also just feels right.  The car ride from the barn let me know that it wasn't boredom that they were feeling.  "So cool!" "My back sort of felt sore, the horse's steps went through me." "It was like a dream.  Again.  Day two of doing stuff from dreams."

Big thanks to Doni and Paige for sharing your evening with us.  As we said while trying to convince Henrietta to give her a go, "this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

When we left Equine Unlimited, Inc. it was 8:15PM and we were just about ready for our second meal of the day.  My parents and I went back and forth before settling on the decision being the choice between Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out Burger.  We asked they girls their preference but they were non-committal.  When the boys were asked, "chicken sandwich or burgers?"  They all responded with an eager "BURGERS!"

However, with my parents dieting and having eaten at a buffet already today, we decided to get the burgers to go and eat at home.

We also picked up some Cold Stone ice cream.  With a car full of burgers and ice cream that they designed individually (example:  Justin got strawberry and cotton candy icecream and then added chocolate chips, strawberry, gummi bears, and whipped cream) we headed towards the house.  But really... that's melting ice cream being held their patiently in their laps.

And what was that we toasted to earlier about not sticking to schedules on vacation?  Dessert tastes great before dinner.  You should all go out and try it today!