When we visited southern Utah last year with my parents, Janet and I had the opportunity to take the girls on an incredible creek-walk hike through the Kanarraville Falls slot canyon. The only reason I knew the place existed was because we were hunting a geocache, of course. Unfortunately, at that time the cache was missing (probably washed away in a flash flood), but it still ranked as one of my favorite day hikes ever. This year I was fortunate enough to vacation again in St. George, and I was thrilled to have another opportunity to hike through the Kanarraville Falls slot canyon, this time with my Dad, brother in law, and nephew. The cache had been replaced since my last visit, and I’m very pleased to say that this time there was no trouble finding it at all. Woo-hoo!
In the thinnest parts of the slot canyon, the walls rarely get narrower than 15-20 feet, but there are nice stretches where the walls are nearly vertical and parallel, towering 40 or 50 feet above your head, winding back and forth with the river, always making you wonder what’s around that next bend. There are a couple parts in the narrow slot where you need to ascend a makeshift ladder in order to advance further. The first ladder is pretty solid, if a bit awkward. The second one, however, is a bit sketchy (although it’s quite a bit better now than it was last year). It all adds up to high adventure! Frankly, it’s incredible, and pictures just can’t adequately convey the awesomeness because of the scale and tricky lighting. Nevertheless, here are some pictures to give you just a taste.
The entrance to the slot canyon
Not even a panoramic shot can adequately capture the awesomeness
Climbing the first ladder
Looking back towards the first waterfall
Entering the second stretch of slot canyon
The “ladder” at the second waterfall
Scaling the second waterfall
Not as narrow, but the cliff walls were very high here
The shadows were getting longer, and we had to turn back
Heading for home
What a fantastic hike!
Every year about this time, we’ve taken the girls to Joan’s Farm and Pumpkin Patch here in Livermore. They were only about 6 months old for their first visit, and Janet had to help them stay propped up against a few pumpkins. For the next couple years, the challenge in getting a good picture of them was mostly about getting them both to look up at the camera at the same time, preferably smiling. That’s still a challenge, but for the last few years the additional challenge has been just getting them to sit relatively still for more than a couple seconds. The pumpkin patch hasn’t changed much, although this year, thanks to the drought, we were struck by the lack of any green grass. Carolyn and Elizabeth, on the other hand, have changed wonderfully from year to year. See for yourself!
Last Monday we began a new chapter in our lives — our little girls have started kindergarten! I took them shopping before school started and we picked out lunch boxes and thermoses. They wanted Angry Birds. I wanted the cute owl and cheetah lunch boxes. Barbie was something we could compromise on. I’m not sure they even really know who Barbie is, though. I think Elizabeth simply chose it because it was pink. And Carolyn chose it because her sister chose it.
Ready for a new adventure!
I took a vacation day on that first Monday so that I could be there to send them off and pick them up again in the afternoon. Naturally, we have talked with them quite a bit over the last few months about what to expect, and they attended a five week long pre-kindergarten summer class. As a result, they were ready and confident, and could barely spare me a “goodbye” before entering the exciting new world that awaited them in their classrooms. We took a long time deciding whether we wanted them to be in the same class or separate classrooms… There are pros and cons on both sides. But if nothing else, that pre-kindergarten program was helpful for us in deciding that it would be best for our daughters in the long run if they started in separate classes, mostly so they could each practice making their own friends rather than rely exclusively on each other for their social interaction.
They were definitely hoping to be in the same class though, so there was some genuine disappointment — and even a few tears — when they learned that was not going to be the case. (Since Elizabeth came home from the hospital a week before Carolyn, this is truly the first time they’ve spent more than about half an hour apart from each other.) But, wonderfully and somewhat amazingly, they just accepted the disappointment and moved on very quickly. We are very proud of them for that, and we’ve told them so. And as it turns out, their classes are right next door to each other. Furthermore, the teachers work closely together and run on the same schedule, so they do recess and lunch at the same time, and the girls get to see other other at least a little bit during the course of the day.
Ready for Kindergarten!
Kindergarten is fun!
Dan and I spent the morning together. Alone! We watched a movie during the day and didn’t have to worry about a babysitter. Dan commented that he was missing them particularly around lunchtime, when he would normally have been in the kitchen making their sandwiches. Even so, we enjoyed the small amount of time to ourselves. When it was time to pick the girls up at the end of the school day, we joined the crowd of other parents in the tiny courtyard and waited to collect our children. Carolyn was released from her class first, and then a few minutes later we had Elizabeth back as well. It was very crowded, and the courtyard was basically sheer pandemonium, so Dan and I tried to herd them out to a more open area where we could talk — but they weren’t ready yet! First, they had to celebrate their reunion with a BIG hug. And then another. And another. It was so incredibly cute to watch their happy reunion after being separated all day. Alas, I don’t have a picture or video of those reunion hugs, but here’s a before-school hug from that first day.
Hugs before school begins
When asked what their favorite part of that first day was, they both enthusiastically answered “Everything!” That seems like a pretty good start, although Dan suspects that answer is at least partially a deflection. They seem a bit reluctant to tell us much about their experience at school; I swear, you’d think they were tweens already! But perhaps it’s just that they are truly excited to finally have some room to learn and grow apart from Mommy and Daddy. They are rising to meet these new challenges and growing in confidence, and they’re just not sure yet how much they want to invite us parents into that. Maybe we’re reading too much it, but if there’s any truth there it’s actually sort of exciting. That’s a big part of what school is all about, right?
And as if to drive that point home, they each completed these special “First Day of Kindergarten” crafts. Very cute! (sniff, sniff)
Carolyn’s first day of kindergarten craft
Elizabeth’s first day of kindergarten craft
We read to the girls quite a bit, I guess. We recently graduated up to some simple chapter books, like The Boxcar Children, and they’re enjoying those. A couple months ago we were at the library, and on a whim I decided to grab a couple of those Choose Your Own Adventure books that I remember liking when I was a kid (although I was probably 10-12 at the time). Some of the vocabulary is still over their heads, so I’m sure they don’t really get all of what’s happening, but they absolutely love making the decisions at the end of every page! I think it really fires up their imaginations to see their own choices influencing the storyline.
So naturally, I thought it would be fun to begin writing a serial Choose Your Own Adventure story just for them, with new installments appearing every night based on whatever choices they had made the night before. We haven’t been able to do it every night, but it’s been fun for all of us, and quite gratifying to see how excited they are to hear the next chapter every night. If you’re interested, you can read along the story so far, but obviously I’m not writing up every possible branch — just the ones they actually choose. Enjoy, and stay tuned for more!
When fall rolled around I started thinking about Halloween costumes for the girls.
At the Pumpkin Patch
Hmmm… what to do? More and more we’re seeing them engage in imaginative/pretend play. One of the things they pretend is that they are Zak & Wheezie. Who are Zak & Wheezie? Well, they are conjoined twin dragons from the TV show Dragon Tales. Since Elizabeth is a lefty and Carolyn is a righty, they would walk around holding hands saying, “I’m Zak” and “I’m Wheezie.” Sometimes they would hold hands and pretend to be Zak & Wheezie while eating lunch. (I thought we had a picture of that, but I can’t find it. You’ll just have to take my word for it. It’s really cute.)
Zak & Wheezie
Can you see where this is going? That’s right, I thought it would be cute to get them dragon costumes so they could be Zak & Wheezie. So I looked. And looked. But I just couldn’t find anything that seemed right. “No problem,” I thought, “I can make dragon costumes for them.” I learned to sew as a kid and have made some items of at least medium difficulty. I found a pattern I liked and determined that I had sufficient skills to complete it without to much difficulty. And that part was indeed true… Somehow what I had failed to fully take into account is that it’s just harder to make a dragon costume for your kids because, well – you have kids! I don’t have a sewing room at home so it would mean putting up and putting away the sewing machine each time I used it. Plus, every time I take out the sewing machine, the girls want to sit on my lap and help. And I want them to learn and like sewing, so I let them. For small mending projects that works okay. But I thought it would be too overwhelming to let them help with this project.
So in the end, I set up my sewing machine at work in our big classroom. I was able to leave the sewing machine set up for several weeks and I had tons of table space so that part worked great. But I was working in small time segments during lunch breaks. I’m pretty sure that in the end that significantly increased the time involved. Every time I sat down to work, I had to reacquaint myself with where I was and what I was doing. (I didn’t think to take any pictures of the creating process. Oh well.) The project was further complicated because my sewing machine was challenged by the thick fleece I was using – particularly along the back spikes where it was sewing through six layers of fabric. It was skipping stitches and snapping the thread ALL THE TIME. I had to resew the same seam over and over and over to get it actually sewn. Turns out part of the problem is that I need to use a ball needle to sew fleece. I had never heard of a ball needle before and only discovered that when I finally got desperate enough to pull out the owners manual for my sewing machine. That made a significant improvement, but it was still more challenging than I expected.
Wheezie & Zak
But finally, just in time for Halloween (like finished that afternoon!), they were ready. And they were a big hit with the girls! They even won the “Best Girl Costume” prize at the church’s Fall Festival. They were pretty pleased about that and talked about it all the way home and mentioned it many times in the following days. Their cousin won the “Best Boy Costume” which further added to the excitement.
They spent most of the night unconjoined.
The costumes are very cute, and they continue to wear them so I have no regrets. But I do wonder sometimes, “What was I thinking!”
Wheezie likes the built in pillow the tale provides.
Watching Dragon Tales.
We also decorated pumpkins for the first time this year. The girls each choose a pumpkin and a face to decorate with and they were able to do it all by themselves. Not sure who appreciated that part more – me or them.
Yes, she’s picked a pirate.