Limestone Canyon Hike on Wilderness Access Day

We went hiking somewhere new last weekend – Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve. This Irvine Ranch Natural Landmark area where we hiked is only open during special “Wilderness Access Days” and you have to preregister to enter the area. My aunt and uncle were visiting from Michigan and so all six of us spent a few hours hiking 4 miles in Limestone Canyon. Despite being 30 weeks pregnant, I still carried both girls on my back at various times (everybody wants Mama!). We had hoped to hike a loop in the canyon, but we ran out of time and so we just hiked an out-and-back trail. One thing was definitely clear – our kids hike so much better with other kids around to distract and motivate them! Overall, though, the girls did great and we had a fun time exploring a new landscape.

Consulting the Hiking Map

Unexpected Run-in with Local Friends!

Our Hiking Group

Junior Ranger Viv

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January Trip to…Ohio?!

We have had unseasonably warm temperatures in SoCal this “winter” and very little rain. Boo! To contrast this, and, really, to attend and celebrate my new niece’s baptism, the girls and I flew to Ohio when I was 29 weeks pregnant. Dan stayed home to work. Ohio had been gripped by insanely cold temperatures and lots of snow, but the weather warmed for most of our visit.

Flying alone across the country with a 1-year-old (lap infant) and 3-year-old while 29 weeks pregnant might sound difficult, but it really wasn’t. The girls, especially Vivian, are excellent travelers and we have a traveling system down pat. Our flights out to Ohio were completely uneventful and for that, we were very thankful.

Ready to Travel!

Chicken Chores
Vivian (and Lillian) helped my Dad collect chicken eggs three out of the four full days that we were in Ohio. Vivian loved it! She got right into the coop and gathered all of the eggs. Lillian was more content to watch and pet the chickens.

Collecting Chicken Eggs

Egg Haul

Getting Up Close and Personal with Papa’s Chickens

4-Wheeler Rides
Lillian was happy to sit on Papa’s 4-wheeler, but she wasn’t ready to ride it. Vivian, however, begged for rides. My Dad indulged her and took for for rides behind our property. Vivian, apparently, sang to him during these rides and asked him to go “faster faster.” Dad assured me that he only shifted out of first gear once. 🙂

Ready to Ride!

Feeding Catch Me
The girls both love feeding Catch Me, the neighbor’s horse. In the summer, Catch Me spends much of her time in our apple orchard and so we can walk out back and easily pet and feed her. In the winter, though, she spends more time in her barn and on her own property. Dad arranged for the girls to go down to Catch Me’s house to pet her and feed her carrots and apples. Lillian, especially, had no issues hand-feeding Catch Me!

Feeding Catch Me

Baking Cookies
I cannot ever in my life remember my Mom buying cookies (or any baked good) at a grocery store, even if she just had to bring cookies to a potluck or gathering. My Mom bakes great homemade cookies and Vivian and her have been baking together for years now. This trip allowed them to bake snickerdoodles and chocolate chip cookies. Yum!

Baking Buddies

Bouncing & Sliding
One afternoon, my Mom and I took the girls to a new indoor play yard in a nearby town. The girls had fun, but it was probably the dirtiest indoor play yard that we’ve ever taken them to. I’m not sure if I’d take them again.

Visiting Grandma
My grandma – the girls’ great-grandma – is now 91.5 years old. We went to her apartment to visit her since she wasn’t going to be able to make it to Ava’s baptism. We had a nice visit, although the girls’ favorite parts may have been Grandma’s wheelchair and the aquarium of fish near the dining hall in her building.

Visiting Grandma

Visiting with Baby A!
The highlight of the trip, for everyone, was visiting and holding Baby A. The girls love their new baby cousin, even Lillian! We’ve been worried that Lillian would not adjust as well as Vivian did to having a new baby around the house and having to share her Mama, but she smiled bigger than anyone when she held A and only once did she try to shoo A away while I was holding her by saying, “all done, all done.”

Cousins!

Baby A’s Baptism Day
The reason for our trip east in January was to surround Baby A and her parents with love during her baptism. After the baptism, we all gathered at Mom’s house to eat and hang out. The girls got to spend time with some of their extended aunts and uncles and we all had a nice time catching up with each other.

Damschroders at the Baptism

Baptism Witnesses

Visiting with Uncle Lee

Snow Play
On the day that we were scheduled to fly back to California, it snowed! It was so pretty and the girls had fun playing in it for a little while – making snow angels, eating snowflakes, and chomping on icicles.

Snow Angel

Snow!

Eating an Icicle

Catching Fresh Snowflakes

Goodbyes
After 5 days and 4 nights in Ohio, it was time to go back to California. Our flights home were a little more “exciting” that our flights to Ohio. The girls, again, did awesome, but we were delayed leaving Toledo, which meant that when we finally landed in Chicago, we only had 30 minutes to get off the plane, get our stroller at gate check, rush from one end of gates to another, and board a new plane. I walked as fast as I could through O’Hare (now 30 weeks pregnant) with Lillian on my back, Vivian in the stroller, and our backpack and other travel gear on the stroller. When I approached the gate, out of breath, a gate agent was walking towards me, clearly looking for us. Everyone else had already boarded and they were about to close the doors. We made it, though. Whew! We boarded the plane and sat down and were treated to an extra “free” seat when a flight attendant came by and told the woman sitting next to me in our 3-seat row that she had to move. Lillian slept during the entire flight to LAX and Vivian watched Disney movies on our iPad (it’s the only time she’s allowed to use the iPad). We landed at crazy, dirty, loud LAX just after 10pm. Dan picked us up at 11pm. We were all home and in bed by 12:30am. And then, the next day, we were all up and at work, daycare, and preschool on time. It was only Tuesday, but we were all already looking forward to Friday! Thankfully, even though we were all exhausted, we all survived the trip without getting a single sniffle, which is saying a lot in this this awful cold and flu season that we’re having (unfortunately, Uncle Tim did not make it home quite so unscathed).

Playing at Toledo Express Airport

Saying Goodbye to Nana and Papa

Flying With My Babies

Ohio, we’ll see you again this summer, with one more baby in tow!

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MLK Weekend 2018: Rides, a Hike, & Strawberries

The girls and I had a long three-day weekend in mid January to celebrate and honor the late Martin Luther King, Jr. Although I reflected on his vast contributions to the civil rights movement and to our larger society (and felt frustrated at the recent steps we’ve seemed to take backwards with our current American “leadership”), the girls didn’t understand why they had an extra day home from daycare and preschool. Vivian is old enough, certainly, to understand some of Dr. King’s tangible roles in breaking down race barriers, but, honestly, she is still so young and innocent and I’m not quite ready to even tell her what race and color are and that people have been and still are discriminated and victimized because of these things. So…we kept things light and spent our time together riding the carousel, Ferris wheel, and train at the Irvine Spectrum Center; hiking about 4 miles (round trip) to Red Rock Canyon in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park; and picking (and eating!) strawberries at Tanaka Farms.

Irvine Spectrum Center Rides

Carousel Ride

Train Ride

Ferris Wheel

Ferris Wheel

Whiting Ranch Wilderness Hike

Babies in the Front, Back, and Side!

Our Littlest Hiker

Climbing That Last Hill

Red Rock Canyon

Whiting Ranch Wilderness Hike

Hiking Crew

Tanaka Farms Strawberry Tour

Little Farmers

Tasty Strawberries

Tasty Strawberries

Our Girls are Getting Tall – Even in the Winter

At the end of the weekend, just like last year, we spent some time at the park. Vivian has been practicing riding her new bike to the park and is getting pretty good at it!

Bike Ride to Park

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Rawr!

We rang in 2018, well, by sleeping. But when we woke up, we packed up the truck and headed south to spend the day with our friends at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. My mom was still in town visiting us and so we had a full and fun day with our group of 11 (two families and two sets of grandparents!). I was the only person in our family who had ever been to the Safari Park and that was almost nine years ago (back when it was called the San Diego Wild Animal Park). Our girls love animals (especially Lillian) and so it was a lot of fun to explore the park and see all of the animals. We rode the Africa Tram, walked along the new Tiger Trail, and ate lunch at the Watering Hole at Kijamii Overlook (highly recommended!). Visiting the park during the winter and on a Monday holiday (New Year’s Day) meant short lines and small crowds and no inland heat – win, win, win!

First Bird Sighting!

Tull Family Tiger Trail

Baby Lil & Baby Tigers!

Our Little Monkey

Learning About Snakes

Kijamii Overlook

Kijamii Overlook

Daddy & Lil

Not Quite as Big as a Gorilla

Hatched!

Chambers & Turner Families

Us with Nana

Too Cute!

Us & Krimetzes

2018 is off to a fun start!

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New Year, Newly Painted Wall

Many years ago, I swore off painting for the rest of my life. I had painted the entire interior of my condo and Dan’s townhome and was done. When we built our new house, we paid the builders to paint it, but they could only paint every wall the same color. We picked a light grey color for all the walls and called it a day. This past summer, we replaced our master bedroom furniture and bedding and I thought, “hmmm…it might be nice to paint an accent wall in here, too.” When my mom came to visit at the end of 2017, it provided the perfect (and probably only) opportunity to paint that accent wall.

Vivian helped me buy the paint and she helped us paint the wall. I was worried that allowing a 3-year-old to paint a wall would be a disaster, but she actually did very well.

Looking at Paint Samples (We picked Behr’s “charcoal blue” in eggshell.)

Home Depot Painter

Painting!

Rolling

Vivi

We are very happy with the final result. The project only took one day to complete and it also gave me an opportunity to thoroughly vacuum and clean the baseboards behind the bed, which, if you know me, will help me to sleep much better at night!

Updated Master Bedroom

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Happy Christmas

Just like we celebrated Halloween throughout all of October and Thanksgiving throughout all of November, we also celebrated Christmas throughout all of December. I love all the holiday celebrations in the last quarter of the year! Prior to having kids, I couldn’t have cared less about Halloween and Christmas. I loved Thanksgiving, but generally only spent one day a year celebrating it. Drawing out the holidays and enjoying them with kids makes them, well, so much more enjoyable! I’m actually quite sad now that they are all over and we have a long stretch of winter and spring months ahead of us with few holiday celebrations.

We started preparing for Christmas right after Thanksgiving by decorating our house and visiting the large tree in Fashion Island. We also briefly saw Santa for the first time this season, but only at a safe 6-foot distance. Both girls (especially Vivian) still hated Santa this year.

Fashion Island Christmas Tree

Then we attended our community’s “whimsical candy land” holiday  event, where we again saw Santa, and where, again, both girls gave him fearful looks and didn’t dare get too close. We also toured our neighborhood to see the lights with friends.

Baker Ranch Santa Picture

Baker Ranch Holiday Lights Crew

We saw the Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade, which has become sort of an annual tradition for us.

Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights

Viv showed off her choreographed singing and dancing talents at two holiday performances at her preschool, which were adorable.

Daddy and Mama with Vivian After Her Preschool Performance

In the middle of December, we flew up to the Bay Area to celebrate Christmas in Livermore and the Napa Valley.

On Christmas weekend, days before Santa’s big arrival, I took Vivian to see her second Disney On Ice performance (Follow Your Heart). We had a really nice time, until Vivian threw a giant fit on our way out of the Honda Center when I wouldn’t buy her a ridiculous $30 light-up spinning toy.

Mama and Vivian Date Night at Disney On Ice

Always Follow Your Heart

We spent one morning at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center. While there, we attended a kids’ “Wild Tales” reading/crafting/hiking program that was a lot of fun and something that I definitely want to take the kids back to while I’m on maternity leave next year.

Painting at Wild Tales

Making a Snowflake Ornament at Wild Tales

Hiking at Wild Tales

Unexpectedly, we watched the final SpaceX rocket launch of 2017. Our kitchen window/backyard views were awesome.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch on 12/22/17 From Vandenberg Air Force Base

Finally, we celebrated Christmas proper with church and gifts and, lastly, a visit from Nana.

In Our Christmas Best. Lillian is wearing a dress I wore as a baby 36 years ago.

Santa Came!

Santa Babies

Nana Came!

What a fun ending to our very busy 2017. I know 2018 is going to be even crazier, but even more fun, too. Happy Christmas everyone – and Happy New Year, too!

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Holiday NorCal Trip

At the end of last summer, prior to Dan knowing that I was pregnant with our third child, he arranged a romantic overnight trip for the two of us in the Napa Valley in mid-December. He booked a night at a beautiful historic cottage and then presented his plan to me as a 37th birthday/6th wedding anniversary gift. Then I told him that I am pregnant. Despite this new knowledge, we still wanted to get away, even though, unfortunately, my ability to taste wine would be limited. A night away comes only every two years for us now, so we’ll take what we can get when we can get it!

Dan’s parents had agreed to watch our girls overnight, so we flew up to Oakland and sandwiched our parents-only getaway in between a trip to visit them. This itinerary also gave us a great opportunity to celebrate Christmas with Dan’s parents and in Livermore.

Seeing the Lights at Deacon Dave’s in Livermore

Unwrapping Grandma and Grandpa’s Christmas Gifts

While the girls played with Grandpa and Grandpa and went bowling with Uncle Alex, Dan and I drove north from Livermore to the Napa Valley. We stopped and ate lunch in downtown Napa and then went wine tasting at two wineries – Clos Du Val and Silver Oak. Honestly, we were underwhelmed at Clos Du Val – the wines were good, but we didn’t feel that they merited the high price tag that some of our other favorites do and the tasting experience was unremarkable (especially for $40/tasting). We had just randomly stopped at this winery on our way out of Napa, so after this experience, we decided to focus on stops to some of our favorite wineries. So…next up was Silver Oak, which we’ve been to before and which we love. It did not disappoint. We had a fun time tasting there and seeing the winery decorated for Christmas.

Outside Silver Oak

Next, we continued north to Calistoga and checked in for our spa treatments at Baths Roman Spa – a mud bath and massage for Dan and a mineral bath and facial for me. Calistoga is known for it’s healing mineral water and mud and so…when in Rome… The baths were certainly an…um…experience. We probably won’t repeat it in the future, but we are glad to have some funny memories from it.

We checked into our cottage and then ate a lovely and quiet meal at the Calistoga Kitchen. All in all, it was a great day!

Brannan Cottage Inn

Brannan Cottage Inn

The next morning, prior to leaving Calistoga and driving south back to our girls, we checked out the Old Faithful Geyser of California, one of only three “old faithful” geysers in the world (the other two are in Yellowstone and New Zealand). We did indeed see the geyser erupt – many times. We also walked the grounds, visited their little museum, and checked out their goat heard. The entire place was a huge tourist trap, but it was fun in a kitschy sort of way.

Old Faithful Geyser of California

After leaving Old Faithful, we stopped at Twomey, Duckhorn, and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars to taste their wines – this was, of course, the best part of the day! We grabbed a to-go lunch at Dean & DeLuca’s and then continued our drive back to Livermore.

Twomey Cellars

Duckhorn Vineyards

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Our girls were happy to see us again, although they did great with Grandma and Grandpa (and Grandma and Grandpa survived 30+ hours with two young children). Dan and I had a truly wonderful time in the Napa Valley and are counting the (sniff…sniff…years) until we can return again sans kids.

Two Precious Girls & Their Grandparents

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