Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Summer Began with an Experiment

Ten years. Ever since we first saw those huge, beautiful, brown, please-don't-ever-leave-me eyes on Kate as she entered the world. That is how long it has been since we took a vacation together, just the two of us. (I note here that her brothers both inherited the same ridiculously enthralling eyes.)  But apparently there is a time for everything, and so the summer began with an experiment:  Could our children survive three nights without us?  More importantly, could we survive without them?  Could we actually enjoy being footloose and free, thinking about fun without the kids? Or would the guilt overwhelm any glimmer of glee that an escape from the bowels of parenting might provide?

Opportunity to answer those eternal and all-important questions came in the form of a very kind invitation from my employer.  Flying J owns a private yacht (left over from the glory days), complete with Michele, a man who is a real live French Chef, and who can turn any Costco outing into a gourmet meal without even breaking a sweat.  When my colleague, Fred Greener, and I finished selling the Bakersfield refinery in May (a critical part of the company's emergence from bankruptcy protection), our incredibly generous CEO asked us if we would like to pick a weekend and take our spouses on a cruise out of San Diego.

Well, that sounded nice, but it was very clear that Adrenaline Junky Danger Boy (aka Keegan) would NOT do well on an ocean going yacht (see the post before last), so we had to make a decision -- leave them all or not?

Oh, what the heck, right? Never up, never in. So we pulled the trigger--and almost didn't survive. Us that is. The kids were just fine. At least two of them didn't even want to see us when we got back.  More fun to be with the cousins, don't ya know.  So much for all that parental  can't-let-my-children-suffer-one-whit-of-loneliness angst.  Note to self: get over it already.  Besides, the one who did miss us kept kissing us and saying "I missed you! I love you!" over and over again when we got back, so it was all worth it.

Anyway, after all that, thought you might want to see a few pics from our early summer experiment.

Here is the "FunRunner II".  It was a good ride!

We woke up in the middle of Avalon Harbor in Catalina, which is visible, on a good day, from Long Beach.  Below is my colleague Fred. Basically, if Fred is awake and within sight of water, it means there will be fishing.  In fact, there may be fishing even if water is not in sight, but being this close proved irresistible.  Notwithtstanding the many stories I have heard, it quickly became apparent that he only knew how to catch little ones. :-)  

Actually, what they lacked in size, these Calico Bass made up for in quality (with help from Michele, of course).  Fred has become one of my very close friends, so it is perfectly acceptable for me to tease him about fishing.

On that front, I have no idea how an Idaho farm boy/bedrock Conservative (As in Tea Party? We don't need no stinkin' Tea Party! Somebody give us a real revolution and overthrow the Government, dang it!), became fond of me, a lived-in-the-big-city-for-most-of-his-life guy, most recently of San Francisco, for Pete's sake (apart from considering my native charm and winning personality, of course).  But I think perhaps it is because bankruptcy is like war -- once you have been in a foxhole with someone while everyone else is shooting your way, you become like family.  Anyway, he is a dear friend and it was a lot of fun spending time with him and his family.

After a day of shopping and a very fine couples massage for Kathleen and I (no pics of that -- so sorry -- know how you really wanted those), we left Avalon harbor to head north and east along the Catalina Coast.  It provided some natural scenery that is amazing when you consider how close to LA (and all those liberal California people) it is.

Brown pelicans are pretty darn ugly when sitting, but they are so graceful in flight that they have always been one of my favorite things to see on the California coast.

Here is where we moored, further up the coast, near a scout camp, of all things.  It had a fine view of a very large cormorant rookery.

Kathleen conquered one of her greatest fears while there -- an open water swim.  She Rocks.
On the way back the next day, we encountered a whole pod of dolphins. I was only able to snap a few pics, but I have to say that no matter how many times you see this, it is always magical.

As we entered San Diego Harbor, the Sea Lions, true to form, did their best not to greet us.

The harbor itself is full of man made wonders. In addition to nuclear submarines (so much bigger than I thought they would be) it contains several aircraft carriers, like the Midway, below (a 1960s era ship).

The Midway is completely dwarfed, however, by even bigger carriers, such as the Nimitz (68) and Carl Vinson (70) below. (The Ronald Reagan, also based here, was away on duty).  It is hard to tell here, but those things are absolutely huge!

The harbor was also full of guided missle destroyers, cruisers, and others that stretched literally as far as the eye could see. It is pretty tough to float by all of this and not feel absolutely patriotic. God Bless our troops, sailors and airmen. We hold them to such high standards and give them such hard things to do, and they somehow manage to do it. Just amazing.

We finished off our trip with a quick visit to Cabrillo Point, I think the only national monument in California that we had not visited.

All in all, a very good trip. It was good enough, and non-traumatic enough, that we immediately began plotting our England adventure when we returned. More on that later!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Where Have We Been Part CXXXVIII (Or Something Like That)

So, where have we been all these months?  BUSY!  Since we last blogged (not counting last week's post about Keegan), we could be found doing any of the following:

1.  Planting flowers in our perennial weed patch so the ward doesn't contemplate us as a potential service project.

2. Planting an Herb Garden to more fully benefit from my wife's ongoing refinement of serious culinary talent (favorite new thing:  Thai basil -- it is killer).

3.  Planting a Garden Garden (see no. 2 above). Doing so actually required installation of a deer proof fence, since the blasted critters seem to think I grow things just for them to eat (and yes, you can put me down for the next Bambi Killers Unite rally;  I almost went shopping for semi automatic weapons until my wife noted the high likelihood and poor manners of collateral damage).

4.  Weeding and harvesting said garden. We could stop here, and it would be a completely sufficient explanation of our absence from blogging and all other activities--the fact that you can pay 79 cents for a cucumber in any grocery store is a flipping miracle.  But it does make for one cute gardener showing off her first produce (radishes, of all things!)

5.  Potty Training our youngest. At times Keegan seemed determined to see us extend diaper purchases forever, but he has finally decided (knock on the now idle diaper genie) that poopy butts are not such a great thing.  Nice to know I won't be changing diapers at age 50!  (Bonus: I think I have at least a few years before mom and dad start :-)  Note: I will spare you the pictures here.

6.  Closing the sale of a refinery in Bakersfield California (only someone who has done this really has any understanding of what that sentence entails).  No pictures here either -- trust me, you are not missing much.

7.  Taking a San Diego Cruise on a private yacht, paid for by my work as a reward for number 6. My CEO is really great to work for, a very generous person.  

8.  Searching for wildflowers in the Uintas (my favorite wildflower spot -- Soapstone Basin) with the kids.

9.  Testing out the new Camelbacks while Hiking Dog Lake Trail in Millcreek Canyon --  I love having the Wasatch Front in our back yard.

10. Marking a new Independence Day -- July 23rd -- as the company I work for, Flying J, finally emerged from Bankruptcy after 18 excruciatingly long months.  Happily I still have a job, which was totally up in the air for at least 16 of those 18 months. Whew! 

11.  Camping and Hiking near Tony Grove Lake.

12.  Taking our first trip without kids in 10 years (wahoo!). Went to England with my sweetheart and my parents to visit where my Dad grew up (and much more, such as Bamburgh Castle on the Northumberland Coast).

13.  Enjoying Bear Lake with the Cousins on the last full week of summer.

14.  Losing baby teeth, and sending Mr. Adult Teeth :-( off to Kindergarten, in a special Chinese immersion program, no less, that he will do through the rest of grade school.

Much more to come on a number of these, but, as I hope you can see, it has been enough to leave one poor old man too tired to blog on most Sunday evenings, which is when I usually find the time. Hopefully, things will calm down and I can be a little more faithful in reporting on our lives.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Keegan Bailey: Adrenalin Junkie

Ok, so we have been away a long time. I am sure that no one really missed us much, but if anyone did, I promise to update on our very full summer very soon.  In the meantime, a couple of Keeganisms to tide you over.  In the photo above the boys had just won victory in a monumental tug of war with MuShu, a Pug we are taking care of for a week. Adrenaline junkie that he is, Keegan loves to be chased, even by dogs that outweigh him 2 to 1. Just look at that face, and in the one below.  Sheer joy.

If any further proof of junkiedom is needed, consider the following.  Alden has a bunk bed in his room, and the upper bunk stands about 6 feet at the mattress, a bit higher on the side bars around it.  I was putting the boys to bed in Alden’s room (they both sleep on the bottom, double mattress because Keegan can’t stand to be alone in his room), and was busy putting Alden’s pajamas on with my back to the bed. Suddenly, I heard this loud THUMP! on the floor behind me, followed by Keegan shouting “I DID IT! AND I DIDN’T EVEN DIE!”

He had jumped from the top bunk, by standing on the chair rail around the bed.  When he does that, his head almost reaches the ceiling.  It just busts me up that a three year old stands there, thinks that he might actually die, and does it any way.  Heaven help me, and keep him from high places.

He continues to be the great character in our family, and says something almost every day that leaves you grinning from ear to ear.  Wish I had written them all down, but here are some samples:

Kathleen brought home some Pirate Booty the other day. Keegan opened it and began to chow down, stopping only to exclaim, with two fistfuls of booty in hand:  "Pirate Booty really rocks!  Mom, you are the best. I love you!"

When he is really happy, which is usually after eating, or particularly when we have a family ice cream fest, he will run around and kiss each one of us, and say, with as much conviction as a little body can muster, “I love you Mom! I love you Dad!” and so on to each member of the family (visiting dogs included).

He also has a tender heart.  About a week ago he caught a spider in his room, and let it go outside. As he did so, he said, “Now it is in the sweet, sweet day!”  That is so typical of him, in that he loves the outdoors with all of his very big heart, and joys in finding creatures great and small.

He is not always so kind though.  As Kathleen and Keegan went to the doctor's office a while ago, they came upon a long hall. Breaking free of his mom’s grip, he ran pell mell, turning for just a moment to shout “See you later, Loser!”

And don't even think about getting in his way when he is tired.  When he needs to sleep, you just have to let him, when and wherever that may be.

Last night, after a full day in which he must have yelled "MuShu!" a thousand times while they ran about, he went to bed only to find Mushu laying on the blanket next to his pillow, which kept him from getting in.  His only words: "Somebody move the Pug!"