This weekend marked our 5th annual Las Madres family camping trip. (I think there've actually been six, but we didn't go the first year.) It's become a much-anticipated event every summer - the guys get to run around all day and late into the night with their friends, and all the parents get to hang out, socialize, and relax (mostly!). We leave on Friday afternoon and stay through Sunday morning. The boys were so excited this year they were literally leaping and dancing around the kitchen on Friday morning asking me how soon we could leave.
This year we had a total of 44 kids and adults spread out over several camp sites at Portola Redwoods State Park - a real gem deep in the redwood forest of the Santa Cruz mountains. Here's a gallery of our adventures, which included gorgeous weather, giant trees—including one dubbed the "man cave" by the Nack boys—hiking, a crystal-clear stream with swimming hole, Ranger-led Junior Ranger programs, s'mores (of course!), delicious homemade cookies courtesy of our friends Lorraine and Dina, making sunprints with found items, counting the scores of banana slugs dotting the ground, and religiously reapplying bug spray (LOTS of skeeters this year).
Man cave tour:
And just for fun, here are the galleries from prior years' camping trips.
The Willow Glen White Sox closed out their year with a bang: Henry knocked out a double, both boys hustled after some hits to center field, and Finn—to his great delight—received the game ball! Here's a little gallery.
Just like their parents (or at least their dad), our guys have their share of hilariously forehead-slapping moments. First, the brilliant cyclist Henry gets a little more familiar than he’d planned with a fountain at Google. (Make sure your speakers are on.)
Second, though separated by exactly six years, these two photos both show Finn’s goofy penchant for having crap stuck to/in his face. :-p
Back when the kids were really little, we were always too swamped & tired to figure out what to do on Memorial Day weekend, and thus generally stayed home and bemoaned the fact that we hadn't planned any adventures.
Five years ago we decided to throw a little backyard BBQ on Memorial Day weekend (see gallery), in hopes that maybe some of our friends would show up, having failed to make travel plans as well. Little did we know that pretty much everyone we invited would show up to hang out at our BBQ!
Over the past few years, our little BBQ has turned into an epic event! At this past weekend's fifth annual Nackyard Memorial Day BBQ, we had scores of grownups and kids populating the yard, coolers full of beer and soda, and good times had by all. Here’s a gallery of shots from the day.
A couple of weeks ago, Hen accompanied me to Google for this year's Take Your Kid To Work Day. Finn had planned to join us, but as he'd been sick the preceding two days, he felt strongly that he should attend school. "My team is counting on me, and if I'm not there, another kid is going to screw up our poster!" he said.
Thus Hen & I rolled on our own—literally, thanks to his bright idea of bringing his dirt bike to ride around campus. Who knew we had our own pair of little dirt tracks to race around? We connected with the boys' pal Zack & his mom, fellow Googler DeAnna, for a round of cookie-making & biking, followed by Henry performing some "dogfooding" down at the Imaginarium (Google's lab for building kids' apps). Getting drenched by a sudden downpour en route only added to the fun.
Who's got two thumbs & was excited to be commended for his on-field hustle? This guuuuuuy. 🙂
We've been awfully sad that our beloved Uncle John Murray has been in poor health lately. It's hard living so far away from our great—and great big—extended family, and I wish the boys could spend more time getting to know everyone. I felt grateful that Finn & I were able to make an impromptu trip to Chi-town last weekend to see Uncle John & spend time with much of the Murray clan, especially as Saturday happened to be my cousin Liz's son Patrick's First Communion.
Here's a gallery (slideshow) of some photos I captured during the reception, and later in the park by the Murrays' house (where Patrick, Mary, and Jimmy patiently gave Finn an intro to lacrosse). "We have a really nice family," he told me later. I'm inclined to agree. <:-)
This? Oh, no biggie: it’s just what happens when Henry playfully forces his (fully cooperative & laughing) brother’s face into the sand. :-p
We enjoyed quite the day out last Sunday. First we hit Marina State Beach near Monterey for some baseball tossing (40 catches in a row with Finn!), sand castling, and taunting of waves (which sometimes won!). On the drive north we pulled a spontaneous pit stop to kayak with sea otters, after which we "cooled off" (as the boys love to say) at Marianne's Ice Cream in Santa Cruz. Here's a gallery plus a salty vid from our day out:
Long ago the dudes decided that all of Finn's lions were boys & all of Henry's owls were girls. That way they could get married & have kids (i.e. the many little lions & owls in our pride/parliament). We were thus delighted & unsurprised when Finn noted at the breakfast table the other day, "Look, Leo & Ollie are having an epic romance!" 🙂
After too many weeks of getting rained out, the lads were able to take to the field with their team yesterday. Both scored a few solid hits & showed good hustle in the field. Henry was able to walk off having taken a shot to the midsection. :-p Check out little gallery of the game.
On Saturday we journeyed to San Francisco to show the boys the local St. Patrick's Day parade. The cloudy skies & bluster made things feel like a bit of the Old Sod. A few highlights:
- It being the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, we got to teach the boys a bit of Irish history.
- The guys were of course obsessed with catching candy & little toys thrown from the floats, at one point enlisting a fellow bystander's umbrella to claw at some distant Tootsie Rolls. Henry was proud to walk off with a small plastic velociraptor he promptly named "Sean" (as, I guess, an Irish dinosaur might well be named).
- Noticing a car carrying state rep. Phil Ting, we couldn't resist having fun putting on an Irish accent: "Ah boys, I tell ya, if it's not one Ting it's anudder." :-p
Man, we've been having a heck of a time getting baseball season underway. The guys are really pumped to get onto the field, but thanks to some much-needed gifts from El Niño, we've been washed out of both practice & games for the past couple of weeks. While we wait for the skies to clear, here's a micro gallery of the lads & their teammates getting into uniform for team photos. Hopefully pics from the field will soon follow!
Our big guy had a blast all day long. In this little gallery you can see him enjoying a cake topped with his Lego doppelgänger; getting The Dangerous Book for Boys from Grandpa Liggett; blasting Mom-O with a "High Eight"; and getting Captain Underpants from Grandma & Grandpa Nack.
This past weekend, I escorted our young scouts to their first official Cub Scout overnight campout in the Santa Cruz mountains. It was held at the gorgeous Camp Campbell, which is deep in the redwoods and offers tons of activities, amazing and modern cabins (hot showers! electricity! heat! bunk beds!), and a really fantastic staff. This ranks as my favorite kid-related camping trip ever! All we had to do was bring ourselves, our sleeping bags, and some clothes. Everything else was taken care of!
We arrived Saturday after lunch, and immediately the boys started their activity rotation: Rock climbing, arts and crafts, archery, the Mole Hole, and the Nature Lab. The Mole Hole is an extremely large corrugated tube that runs down a hillside. You grab a plastic toboggan, strap on a helmet and elbow pads, then shoot yourself down at high speed. It's completely dark in there until just before you hit the end, so it's a pretty thrilling ride. Henry went down five times, Finn twice, and I went once. The Nature Lab was full of both live and taxidermied native animals, fossils, rock, and plant specimens to examine. We saw live snakes, birds, and salamanders, and taxidermied Horned Owls, bobcats, and other creatures.
After activities, the lads had some time to horse around with their friends (instinctual prime directive: find the biggest stick you can and start swinging it around) before we ate dinner. After dinner, more horseandalo, then a campfire with skits, songs, and s'mores. Henry was pooped out after all that action, so he and I went back to our cabin to sleep. Finn stayed up super-late with his den buddies in a separate cabin, telling ghost stories, playing games, and goofing off. Here is a gallery of their exploits. (That's a banana slug-crossing sign to the left, by the way!)
Sunday, after we ate breakfast and packed up, we went on a 1.5 hour hike around the campground, high up into the forest. The kids got to take a nice long break to play amongst giant redwood stumps and Redwood fairy rings. It was a blast. Then we hiked out and headed for home after pit-stopping for a quick lunch in mountain town Ben Lomond. They boys were completely exhausted and barely made it until bedtime last night! They were thrilled to come home, sit still and veg out in front of a movie for awhile before dinner. Our young lads are excited for many many more campouts, sleepovers, and adventures in scouting!
On Saturday evening the lads participated in their first Blue & Gold banquet. The theme was flight, and we had the pleasure of hosting a friendly (and incredibly patient!) real-live fighter pilot. They enjoyed trying on his gear, then participating in an “Angry Birds” sketch (see the flight theme?) for which Margot created fun pig noses, and of course scarfing down some amazing plane- and bird-shaped cakes. Here’s a gallery from the evening.