Sunday, November 4, 2018

Pure Alden

Alden has a new saying -- "pan in the face" -- he says it whenever he does something embarrassing or something he shouldn't do.  It's hilarious.  He was setting the table the other day and he forgot to put spoons on the table.  I mentioned this to him and he said, "oh, pan in the face!"  We believe he made it up after watching a cartoon of a character getting hit by a pan in the face. Picture Bugs Bunny.  It's ingenious and now we all say it. 

He also punctuates his own actions with narrative.  I'll say, "Alden, I've told you THREE times to go get your pajamas on.  Go!" He'll respond, "POOF!" and stick out his arms and then run out of the room.  

"POOF!"  

Californians

How long does a person have to live some place before they are considered of that place?  I've now lived in California for 17 years.  I don't know that it's the number of years or the behaviors you start to adopt. But, there are indicators that we are very much of Californian ilk.  For example, our perception of cold is very skewed.  It's November here.  And, at night it's in the 50s.  During the day it's in the 80s.  At soccer practice, it's in the 80s.  And yet, we've all been wearing sweaters and jackets and complaining of the cold.  And, on November 2nd we decided we couldn't take it anymore.  It was 72 degrees in the house as we had our Friday pizza and movie night and Alden said, "it's FREEZING.  We need a fire."  And so, we had our first fire of the year.  On a night that it was 72 degrees following a day that it had been in the 80s.  Because we're wimps.... also known as Californians.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

October recap

Every month feels busier than the last month.  I have a sneaking suspicion that this may be the new norm for the next decade.  I want to capture Alden at four and a half and Kailey at ten and a half.  But, it's hard to find the time to write.  I traveled every week in October (one of those weeks for Hawaii, but I also had 3 trips to Los Angeles).  And, in addition to the normal bustle of sports, school, homework, extra school projects, maintaining community and work -- we decided to take on a bathroom remodel.

Old houses are charming and strong and full of character.  And, they need work.  So much work.  Now that Eric has made the back yard really beautiful, I feel immense pressure to keep it nice.  I've been trying to keep ahead of the leaves -- a losing battle.  Some report recently found that Sacramento has the most trees per square foot of any other metropolitan area.  This is true.  So many trees.  So many leaves.  The kids an I worked on leaf clean up yesterday.  Well, Alden mostly wandered around making up stories in his head and complaining that he wasn't having fun.  Kailey helped.  We spent about 3 hours with the leaf blower and the rakes and have a HUGE leaf pile in front of our house.  And, if I'm being honest, it really doesn't look like we even tried.  I'll tackle more today.

While the kids and I attempt to keep up the regular home projects, Eric is deep into the remodel of the downstairs bath.  It's deja vu.  Well, sort of.  This house is much bigger than our Oakland house making the wiring and plumbing much more challenging.  And two kids with two busy schedules is really different than the one two year old we had when we remodeled the Oakland bathroom.  So, in some ways, the remodel feels more challenging this time around.  But, also, it's easier.  We have an upstairs bathroom -- so, we are not without a bathroom while we are doing this.  That's huge.  And, having a larger space means we can all be home while Eric is remodeling without constantly being in his way.  It means I can get all sorts of stuff done at home while Eric is working away.  It's meant a lot of long days for Eric trying to cram in remodeling between work and some kid time.

Despite being in the middle of a remodel and not having a downstairs bathroom, we still hosted Halloween this year.  That has become a signature holiday of ours.  We had the spider in the tree on the fishing line so we could lower it on the trick or treaters as they walked by, of course.  And, we upped our game a bit this year.  We got a cackling, screeching witch that we put on a broom stick and wired up from our bedroom window to a tree so that she would fly over the yard while cackling away.  It took an entire day to get her strung up, but made the house that much more festive.  This year we had about 30 people over at our house and everyone had a blast.  I think we got 1,000 trick or treaters.  Halloween is such a scene.
And it's a scene that both kids eagerly anticipate.  Alden was talking about Halloween starting right about the day after his birthday.  For the last month, he woke up every day and asked, "is it Halloween yet?"  When we told him it was fall (on Sept. 21) he lit up and yelled, "I LOVE fall!!  It's Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and cozy fires!"  On the actual holiday, I woke him up and said, "guess what, Alden?  It's HALLOWEEN!"  His face lit up in a huge smile and then he looked outside and said, suspiciously, "why isn't it dark?"  I was confused.  "What do you mean?"  Alden said, "you SAID it's Halloween, but it's not dark.  Why isn't it dark?"  So funny.  Halloween is only the night time trick or treating as far as Alden's concerned!

This year he and his friends had full command of trick of treating. They confidently walked up to each house and declared, "trick of treat."  We didn't accompany them to the doors, waiting back on the sidewalks.  At the scary houses, Alden said, "it's not really scary.  It's all pretend."  They went to every house we let them go to.  Kai, of course, has been this way for a long time.  She now goes off with her friends and one adult so that they can get through more houses and go at their own pace.

The main attraction doesn't ever seem to be the trick or treating.  The kids like being at our house with their friends working the spider and witch, handing out candy, playing in the dark in the backyard, and counting their candy.  They had a blast.  When every one left at about 9:30 PM, Alden said, "well! That was GREAT. And, now, tomorrow morning will be CHRISTMAS!"

First, we will be hosting Thanksgiving this year at the end of this month.  And, having a quiet Christmas at home.  This will be the first year in Kailey's existence that we won't be heading to Oregon to go to Timberline.  We did Hawaii and a bathroom remodel this year instead -- and I'm looking forward to time at home with no where to be (and with a new bathroom to enjoy) .

October was a crazy month -- I've stopped pretending that the next month will be less crazy.  Go with the flow, that's my motto.

Here's to November!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Hawaii


We took a fall vacation to Hawaii for the wedding of some dear friends.  I have to say, it felt bizarre to go on vacation at the beginning of October.  It wasn't great timing.  October tends to be a fairly busy month for work, school, and kid activities.  I hadn't considered all of that when we decided to accept the invitation and go to the wedding.  It was a strange time to hit the pause button on life and go to a far off island to unwind.  And, it wasn't until we were on the plane, halfway over the ocean, that it finally sunk in that we were really going to be in Hawaii for a week.

Of course, we did a bit of planning before getting on the plane.  We made reservations for a place to stay (we decided to go glamping -- or glamorous camping -- it was sleeping in a tent, but the tent was on a large, raised deck covered by a canopy and there was a king size bed in the tent.  We also had a compostable toilet, running water, a solar shower, and a propane stove.  There was solar electricity so we had access to a fridge and could charge our devices.  But, we also had no one else staying around us and we were on a beautiful property backing up against a creek.  It was about a 10 minute drive to the ocean and amazing beaches -- really, an ideal setting.  Except the bugs.  We got a LOT of bug bites.  But, other than bugs, it was fantastic).

Anyway, so we had a place to stay and we had reserved a car.  So, the basics were in place to make sure we would be able to sleep somewhere and get around the island --but, beyond that, I hadn't really thought much of what we'd do once we were there or prepped the kids for the trip.  Our fall schedule is so insane that it leaves little time for thinking or planning.  Every day is just a rush to get to work, get things done at work, and then rush off to a kid activity (or two) long before the work day has officially ended.  Then it's home to do dinner, homework and bedtime.  The days are a blur.

So, perhaps that means it was the best time to hit the pause button and take a vacation.  It felt surreal, but it was also really nice to get a whole week together without having to be anywhere (except the wedding) or do anything in particular.  Alden was nervous about the trip because he didn't want to swim in the big ocean.  Kai was not excited about snorkeling because she didn't enjoy using the snorkeling gear in our neighborhood pool leading up to our trip.  Kai also wasn't thrilled about the idea of flying on a plane over the ocean for 6 hours.  Something about being up 30,000 feet over water as opposed to over land unnerved her (I'm not sure why exactly -- a plane crashing over water or land spells bad news... but, she seemed to think water would be worse).  Neither kid had ever been to Hawaii and had no sense of where we were going.

The travel day to Hawaii was a bit brutal.  We flew out of Oakland and we decided to just drive the morning or our trip rather than staying in a hotel near the airport the night before (the way we had done when we flew out of Oakland to NYC).  That made for a stressful morning.  Our flight wasn't until 9:20 AM but getting to the Bay Area on a weekday morning can be difficult and we knew we needed to leave the house by about 5:30 AM to be safe (especially because we needed to get to the offsite parking location and take a shuttle to the airport).  We didn't leave the house until 6 AM and our phones told us it would be more than 2 hours to get to the parking location.  And, traffic increases by the minute.  And, it was the first day it rained in Northern CA in about 8 months so everyone was driving poorly.  It was a stressful drive.

But, we made it to the airport and the flight was boarding at the time that we got to the gate.  We hadn't had much time for breakfast, but we did load up on snacks to bring on the plane at an airport vendor.  And, I brought snacks with me.  It was a six hour flight and we had a layover in Kauai.  Then it was another short flight and we were in Oahu, but still had to get the rental car.  By the time we had the car, we were all shaky with hunger.  Especially Alden.  In fact, he lost it.  Totally lost it.  He was so mad and beyond hunger that he just started crying and throwing a temper tantrum.  We got to a place with food, but he refused to eat.  It took about 45 minutes to calm him down and get a banana into him and once that hit his system, he bounced back and became the happy boy he often is -- and promptly scarfed down TWO grilled cheese sandwiches.

After fueling up -- we went to our glamping site.  The kids were SO excited to get there.  There were peacocks, lizards and cats roaming around the property.  We unpacked and headed into the main village to stock up on supplies and get some food.  It was a long and tiring first day, but we were all happy to be on the island.



We decided to start off our first non-travel day with some snorkeling and headed to Shark's Cove.  It was a good beach to start. Kai immediately fell in love with snorkeling and didn't want to get out of the water.  Alden tired of it pretty quickly and wanted to spend time playing in the sand.  After spending some time on the beach and in the water, we went to lunch and then got Hawaiian shaved ice.  The kids were beginning to see the benefits of island living!



Day two in Hawaii was another beach day -- because, really, what could be better?  We also went to several different beaches on our second day.  We went first to a beach that we thought would be a very kid-friendly beach but it was high tide and there was no beach to speak of!  So, then we explored the North Shore and headed from beach to beach.  We found beaches with larger waves -- were Kai had a blast learning how to duck dive in the waves and body surf.  She is such a fish in the water and LOVES being in the ocean.  Alden was intimidated by the waves and chose to play in the sand, but he was in his element as well.  Later in the day, we found a beach with almost no waves to speak of where Alden swam and pretended to body surf in the little swells.  He had a blast imitating what he had seen Kailey doing earlier in the day.



We decided to spend our third day in Waimea Canyon, which has a short hike up to a beautiful waterfall where you can swim.  We had such fun exploring the botanical gardens, swimming in the waterfall, and there was a Hawaiian cultural table set up near the waterfall where the kids could try out Hawaiian instruments and games and try on Hawaiian headbands made from bamboo leaves.  The people running the station let each kid keep a headband and a little Hawaiian top.  Of course, Alden lost his before we made it out of the canyon, but he found another nice person to give him one later in the day (I honestly don't know that the headbands or tops made it home -- but they did have fun playing with the toys throughout the rest of the trip and wore the headbands to the wedding!) After we left the canyon, we headed to Turtle Bay for a little snorkeling.  We found a spot that was completely calm and also very shallow -- and Alden had a BLAST snorkeling around in the little pool.  We ended the day with more Hawaiian ice!









 (Alden was SOOO happy to see rainbows throughout our trip.  He would light up every time we saw one)!


Saturday was the wedding.  It was a beautiful ceremony and the kids had a blast meeting people, playing with the photo booth and doing art projects.  Alden developed a HUGE crush on Linnea's 16 year old cousin.  He followed her around the wedding like a puppy, drew her multiple pictures, and talked about his "Hawaiian friend" endlessly the rest of the trip.  He even got her email address so that he could continue to send her pictures.  Kailey created a beautiful page for Brian and Linnea's wedding book -- it included polaroid pictures of us and then was decorated by Kailey.  She included pop-out windows and all sorts of other detailed touches.  It was a true work of art.









Sunday we met up with our "Hawaii family" (as Alden dubbed them) again at a beach and had a great time playing in the waves (Alden had built up his courage and decided jumping in waves was one of the best activities of all time).  Kailey became quite a proficient body surfer and duck diver.  She was in the water nearly the entire time we were at the beach, coming out only to build an amazing sand castle with Eric and Alden.  We didn't take any pictures on this day -- but, we had a great time with our friends and playing on the beach.  

Monday was our last day in Hawaii.  We got up SUPER early to get to a beach known as one of the best snorkeling destinations in the United States.  What that also means is that it is a bit of a Disneyland atmosphere -- there were a HUGE number of people on the beach.  You have to watch a video before going down to the beach to learn how to protect the reef and wildlife.  It filled up and I was REALLY glad we were there by 7 AM when it was not quite as crowded (although, there were still a LOT of people there that early in the morning).  We did see some amazing fish.  I saw a red fish that was half the size of Alden!  We saw some beautiful rainbow fish and eels.  Alden didn't want to snorkel much, but again had a blast playing in the waves.  Kai did a fair amount of snorkeling.  Our phones were checked into a locker -- so, I don't have any pictures of our time at this beach.  But, we all had a good time.  

We ended our trip to Hawaii with a luau.  The kids had a BLAST at the luau -- they loved seeing people scurry up the coconut trees, they like helping to prepare the food (grating the coconut, peeling the bananas).  Kailey loved the dancers -- they featured dances from all the Polynesian islands.  Alden was amazed by the fire dancers.  He turned to me and said, "is that SAFE?"  By the end of the show, Alden had decided he wants to be a hulu dancer when he grows up.  







It was a great way to end our trip.  And, also a testament that despite much advance planning, time away is so needed and we all benefit from days spent together exploring the world.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Art!

One of the best things we have done in our home is transform the sunroom that adjoins the living room into the kids' art room.  It has long been Kailey's favorite room in the house.  She spends hours creating paintings, drawings, tape sculptures and all variety of other art projects.  Kailey has always been a creator.  

For a long time, Alden's little desk in the art room went unused.  Alden has always been very physical and preferred running around, wrestling, jumping off the couch, and doing laps around the house to creating.  He also really enjoys pretending and gets DEEP into pretend.  Whereas Kailey would be worried about our mental health if we accepted her pretending too much (she would quickly remind us that she was just pretending and she was Kailey), Alden gets upset if we break character and forget who he is pretending to be in the moment.  Alden can maintain a character for a looonnnggg time.  

So, they're different (duh).  

But, lately, Alden has really taken to drawing and writing his name.  Eric taught him how to draw and exclamation point, so he always writes his name followed by an exclamation point.  "Alden!"  I think this is very apropos to his personality and love it.  He also writes his name in rainbow colors whenever he can.  At his school, they have to sign themselves in every day (to get used to writing their names and also identifying which day of the week it is).  Alden is very diligent in the morning and writes his name in rainbow with an exclamation point every day.  It's hilarious.  

But, I have loved seeing some of what he has created over the summer.   

He worked so hard on this coloring project -- and mostly was coloring in the lines, which he really wanted to be able to do: 

This is his picture of different sea creatures including a lion fish, jellyfish, angler fish, sea turtle, and eel.

And another jellyfish.

 A rainbow in a rainstorm.

And another rainbow with his signature!



End of Summer

Today is Labor Day -- the unofficial end of summer.  It was, as always, a packed summer.  Although, it helped that Kai spent three weeks at the same camp this year.  She was part of the Young Actor's Studio summer camp.  They spent three weeks preparing the show Shrek Jr. and then performed it three times over the course of a weekend after the conclusion of the camp. It was the same theater company that she did Alice in Wonderland Jr. with through her school.  And, once again, she loved being part of the production.  My parents, Kate and Ryah all came for the performances -- which Kai also loved.  She continues to be very interested in and very excited about acting -- even as she scrunches up her face and looks like you've suggested she jump off a cliff without a parachute every time you ask her to perform.  But, I love that she's gaining confidence and stretching her limits.  Her singing has really improved, too.  She and Alden belt out the songs in the car and I really like listening to them sing together.

Alden, of course, is a bit of a ham.  Kailey taught him the song "Forever" and he LOVED working with her to learn the song and dressing up in Kailey's mermaid costume (although, for the purposes of this song, it's a DRAGON costume) and performing for us.  Kailey is a natural director.



They've spent a lot of time this summer working together on things like the dragon song (or an art project, or putting a play together, etc).  They'll work together really well for about a half-hour (sometimes longer) and then Kailey often gets very frustrated by Alden's four-ness.  He loses focus or decides he doesn't want to follow the directions she's giving anymore.  He'll start spazzing out and the next thing you know, things are getting thrown and they are yelling.  We generally don't intervene -- which also drives Kailey crazy.  But, when she was four, she also lost focus, started spazzing out, and failed to follow directions.  And we would move on.  No one started yelling at her about it.  She didn't get in trouble for being four.  We try to remind her of that fact, but she's usually too frustrated to hear that advice in the moment.  I do think it's sunk in a bit, though, because they are playing together for longer stretches before she loses it (well, depending on the day and her patience level in the moment).

Except for the fighting -- which is a nearly daily occurrence -- it was a summer of real advancement for both kids.  I already wrote about how much Alden has advanced this summer -- writing his name, putting on his own seat belt, riding a bike, and swimming!  Kai has also had a summer of advancement.  Towards the end of the summer, she got invited to join the gymnastics Xcel team.  She loves gymnastics and was so excited to get the invitation to be on a team.  Of course, it means a LOT more gymnastics every week (from 1 hour a week to 4 hours a week!) And, of course, the gymnastics days are the same as soccer practice.  Luckily (I suppose) the gymnastics starts at 3:30.  So, she goes to gymnastics from 3:30 - 5:00 (she has to miss the last 1/2 hour of practice because of soccer) and then does soccer from 5:30 - 6:30.  It also means, I'm leaving work at 3 twice a week.  And, it has made for an insane schedule because it means between Alden's soccer, Kailey sports, Kailey tutoring and swimming we have kid activities every day of the week except Fridays.

That's a picture of my white board at work reminding me what time I need to hit the road every day to get the kids to their activities.  I also have it in my computer and on my phone.  But, often, I'm on calls in the  afternoon and having the schedule staring at me on my white board helps me keep track of time.  

Kailey also got all her ribbons in swimming and made the pre-competitive team.  So, that means extra swimming every week, too.

Her favorite sports are swimming and gymnastics.  This will probably be her last season of soccer.  She is really good at soccer - but she doesn't love it the way she loves being in the water or in the gym.  She is constantly turning cartwheels, doing handstands, and flipping on bars.  She never thinks to grab a soccer ball and go kick it around the yard the way I did when I was a kid.  I love soccer but I really don't mind that it's not the thing that grabs her.  I'm glad there ARE things that she really loves and that she wants to get better at.  I like seeing her work hard.  And, she has been working REALLY hard this fall.  Because her schedule is so insane, she's had to be very disciplined.  We've had a lot of talks about how all her activities are a privilege and that she has to get her homework and chores done (without attitude) if she wants to maintain the privilege of all her activities.  And, in general, she has really risen to that challenge.  She has been really helpful in the mornings.  She has been getting her homework done.  With some exceptions, she has really been managing it all very well.  

Watching Alden learn so many new skills and Kailey really develop into being a independent and responsible student and athlete has been remarkable.  And, seeing how they support each other in their different activities also gives me such joy.  Kailey was so excited to see Alden's first soccer game this last weekend and was cheering him on from the sidelines.  Alden loved watching Kailey in her plays this summer and would give her a huge hug after each performance.  They are generally so supportive of each other.  

And so, we're already deep into the fall schedule.  Alden is doing great in his new pre-K program.  Kailey got the teacher she wanted for 5th grade and all the anxiety she had with school at the start of last year is long gone.  She has close friends and feels at home on campus. 

We get to go to Hawaii in a few weeks for a friend's wedding -- and that will be a much needed respite in the middle of all the chaos of the fall.  Both kids are really excited (although, Alden is insisting that he won't swim in the ocean... he's so funny when he gets nervous about something).  I'm excited to travel with the two of them and break out of our routine.  But, I also enjoy the routine -- watching them develop and grow as individuals and as a pair.  So, here's to chaos, routine, and needed breaks and vacations!  I think the key is to try to enjoy it all and remember that none of it will last.  I've tried to have that attitude (with varying levels of success -- I get caught up in moments and frustrations with the best of them).  But, especially after losing my own sweet brother earlier this summer, I try to remember how fleeting it all is and how lucky I am to have the moments I have.  So, I keep trying to do that. 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Backcountry Backpacking

Before we had kids, Eric and I generally did an annual back-country backpacking trip.  Or two.  We've been to the Tetons, Yosemite, Mt. Reiner, Mt. Hood area, the backcountry of Virginia and West Virginia (neither of which is anywhere close to the specter of the backcountry of the Tetons or Yosemite).  We've spent a good deal of time in Desolation Wilderness area outside of Tahoe.  We've also done coastal backpacking and camping.  We bought a four-season backpacker tent the first full summer we spent together (21 years ago!!) and for the next 11 years, that tent got a good deal of use.

We've continued to camp some with the kids, but it's all been car camping. Sometimes car camping in remote places -- who could forget the trip to the Clavey River when Kailey was two and we punctured the oil pan of our car?!  But, it's all been car camping.

Now, I love me some car camping.  Especially since we got the two burner stove and can do some serious cooking while camping.  It's super fun.  But, there's something about putting on a backpack and walking into the woods that makes the whole experience so much more rewarding and exciting.

Alden is only four.  When Kailey was four, we didn't really consider backcountry trips.  But, Kailey is ten.  She's ready for the backcountry.  This is the challenge of having children six years apart.  But, we realized that Alden is a pretty good hiker -- and could carry a tiny backpack.  And, Kailey is an amazing camper and hiker.  So, we bought Kailey her first backcountry backpack and decided to go for it.  We spent several days picking a spot that was rated as good for kids.  We wanted a short hike -- no more than 3 miles.  We wanted to get somewhere with lakes and swimming and amazing beauty.  And, we planned on getting there, spending a whole day there without having to move our stuff, and then hiking out.  Twin Lakes in Desolation Wilderness met all the criteria.  It was a 3 mile hike to the lakes.  There would be some elevation gain (it ended up being a bit more challenging then we anticipated) -- but there were lots of spots to stop along the way to get wet and take a long break.

We put most of the stuff in our packs.  Kailey was carrying sleeping bags and other light stuff (we didn't want her packing more than about 12 pounds since she only weighs about 50 pounds).  Alden had his little backpack (which he calls a pack-pack) and carried a water bottle and a few snacks.  Our packs were full and heavy.

The first part of the hike was flat but difficult because Kai didn't have her hiking legs on yet -- she complained about how the pack was sitting on her hips and how it felt on her shoulders.  We stopped many times to readjust.  But, after about 3/4 of a mile -- she got the hang of it.  She remarked on how the pack felt more comfortable suddenly.  Alden played pretend most of the way up the trail for the first part of the hike.  He pretended he was one of the characters from Wild Krats -- and he'd put on various super power suits to help him scurry up the rocks or jump over a little stream.  We all played along with him.
It took us about 5 hours to hike the 3 miles. And, the last 3/4 of a mile were really tough.  The kids were tired and there had been a good deal of climbing.  Alden made up a song at that point in order to get us through -- it went: "Let's go.  Let's go.  Let's goooo to the campground."  We all sang it and made up additional lyrics.  It was a good distraction for the last bit of the hike.

We got to the campground and Kailey realized that we were really in the middle of nowhere.  She was used to camping at places where there were other people around and designated campsites.  Here, we were just figuring out a place to pitch our tent.  She panicked a little.  She doesn't like to feel too removed from others.  But, then we heard some other people across the lake and she realized that we were not totally alone and calmed down.  Kailey has a lot of anxiety -- but she is also so logical and rationale.  You can usually reason with her to get through whatever is worrying her, which is really great.

We were visited by a pack of marmots while we were eating dinner.  The kids were super excited to see wildlife up close.  Although, really, they were a bit of a nuisance and they kept trying to get into our food.  Luckily, we had brought two bear boxes -- so, we were able to keep it all secure once we were done eating.

We had a great time the next day hiking WITHOUT packs, fishing (we didn't catch anything), and playing.  Kailey kept saying, "why can't we stay out here longer?"  When I reminded her we had to get back in time for Felicity's birthday party she said, "Oh, yes!  We have to leave tomorrow."  She is definitely at the age where her friends are the most important thing in her life.  She is very tuned into her friends. I'm glad she has found such a nice group of girls to hang out with.  Unfortunately, Felicity is moving to Arizona -- but, she has others in the group that are also really thoughtful and caring kids.  I feel like as she moves into the pre-teen years, she needs that.
The biggest drama of the trip was that Alden refused to poop in the backcountry.  He kept freaking out and feeling like he HAD to poop (like, immediately) and we kept encouraging him to do just that -- but, he couldn't get over the psychology of pooping in the woods.  He never did it.  And, by the last day, he wasn't really eating much as a result.  So, it's good we were only out for 3 days.

Once we got out, we went to a burger place for food (and the restroom!) and we got what has become my favorite picture of Alden of all time -- you can see his teenage self in this picture:

 Kailey looked pretty worn out too:


 And a few other pictures from our FIRST backcountry backpacking trip as a family -- there will be many more to come: