Monday, December 15, 2014

Labor Day Weekend

Way back in the Spring (some time-ish around there...) Grandma Sun told Ellie about how that summer her and Papa would take Ellie fishing.  We heard about how Ellie was going to fish with Grandma and Papa periodically for months.  And then summer came.  And summer was slipping away, without a fishing trip.  So I made a call to Grandma and Papa and we decided that Labor Day Weekend we would go to a campsite they frequent called Little Diamond up by Newport, WA where they stock their lake so Ellie could go fishing with them.

So, August 29th we packed up the Durango and drove out to Little Diamond.  We got there for dinner in Grandma and Papa's trailer and thankfully they had already set up a giant tent for us.  Here is where we get to be extra grateful for my generous parents.  Kerry had found a giant three room tent at a yardsale with lots of extras for $25.  They lent it out a few times, and then brought it for us to use on this trip.  We had been using the tent my three sisters and I grew up camping in which had a divider and worked great, still fitting four sleeping bags and a pack-n-play, but not much else.  It was so nice to have space for clothes, to split up the baby napping from the big girls, and to have room to get dressed and move.  And then the last day of the trip my folks just gave us the tent, saying they knew our family would only grow, and would we please bring back the small one when we could.  Seriously, Steve and I were both blessed with such amazingly generous families and we continue to be blessed by our loved ones.  We are so grateful.

Anyway, back to our trip.  Saturday morning we woke up and had decent weather so we went for a walk with the girls.  I thought we'd only go a little ways down to the pond at first, but Daddy had different ideas.  The girls did so well considering we hiked the whole way around the little lake they have there.  A week or two before, there had been terrible wind storms that had knocked over a lot of trees, so we had to kind of find our own way at times instead of using an established path like they usually have there.  Here was Papa helping Ellie in a tough spot.  Mckayla was carried much of the time.
 Just one of the many beautiful views walking around the lake there.
 These little bullfrogs can be spotted all around the lake if you look hard enough.

After our walk we headed back to camp where the girls loved watching Grandma leave treats out for the numerous chipmunks that live at the campground.  Word spread, and by the end of the trip Grandma's pile of sunflower seeds would have 4-6 chipmunks in our campsite at a time.

After lunch and naps it was time to head out for the main event - fishing!  Where it was the end of the season and a holiday weekend the fishing was free, which was nice.  Here was our whole group - minus the photographer.  Papa got started and then...
 It was Ellie's turn!  She learned quickly that fishing is hard work.  She frustrated Papa more than a few times with her constant waving of the pole and reeling - not much good for catching anything.
 Mckayla enjoyed exploring the nearby grass, dirt, and rocks.  Eventually Ellie joined her and they enjoyed playing in the rocks and getting yelled at for throwing rocks where we were trying to catch fish.
 But, Papa did eventually catch a prize-winning fish!  This was about the size of all our catches that weekend, so needless to say they were all released back into the lake.  Ellie enjoyed doing that part.
 The girls started getting tired after fishing and walking around and playing on the playground with Daddy, so the adults took over the fishing completely till we headed back for dinner.  The adults ended up basically doing all the fishing while the girls waited to enjoy seeing and ultimately releasing the fish for the rest of the weekend.  I think between the four of us we caught 10-12 little fish.

 The next day was a little cloudy and threatened some rain, but we took advantage of the time we had.  The girls enjoyed playing on the swings some.  Ellie will sit on a swing now if she is in control and nobody pushes her.  Mckayla will swing forever.
 On any type of swing.  She also loves wearing her glasses whenever possible.
 Later that day we figured it was our last chance so we went and rented this little flat-bottomed metal fishing boat to take the girls out on the lake.  Here were all us Bennett girls.
 The big girls had a blast "helping row" with Daddy.
 And boy did Daddy get to row.  It was windy and the lake had whole patches that were covered in lilypads where we could see our path through the muck.  Daddy loves his girls though, so he rowed around that whole lake for the entire hour and then we headed back to dock just as it started to sprinkle on us.

Later that night we all got a bit more fishing in.  Here Ellie holding another of Papa's giant fish before tossing him back in the lake.
 This gentleman was bottom-fishing (we were using bobbers) off the dock and was catching a bunch of little fish while we were there.  He eventually stopped when he caught too many catfish and didn't want to deal with them, but until then he let Ellie come release all his fish.
 He said he was so impressed that she wasn't afraid or grossed out by them at all.  Nope, she was our designated fish-releaser, and she loved every moment of it.
So thanks Grandma Sun and Papa Rose.  Thanks for a wonderful tent we look forward to using as our family grows.  Thanks for a fun weekend at the lake camping.  And thanks for keeping your promise to our girl so she could enjoy holding tiny slippery fish as she threw the poor buggers back in the water over and over.  It was a lot of fun.

Monday, December 8, 2014

August Oregon Coast Vacation 12th-16th

I hope everyone is prepared for a massive photo dump.  Sorry for that....

Steve and I had planned all summer to take a week in August and head to the Oregon Coast with the girls.  The last time we had been there Mckayla was only 4 or 5 months old, so we were excited to see our wild child go nuts on the beach.  We had planned to visit some aquariums and different museums, hit the beach, etc.  Then Steve's school district totally changed up his paycheck that month.  We were worried if we could make the trip work at all, but had already promised the girls we were going, so we changed our plans a bit, from aquariums and restaurants to being beach bums and packing sandwiches and headed out anyway.

August 12th we packed up in the morning and drove to Beverly Beach State Park in Oregon.  We'd camped there before and it's a great facility (one of the only ones in the area) and has direct beach access.  We were all pretty excited to be at the ocean.
 Although, MG was tired enough that instead of going nuts like we thought she would, she mostly just wanted to snuggle with Daddy.  He was really upset by that, of course.

The next day we had breakfast in camp and Steve made laps with Kassidy to help her nap.  He did a lot of this through the week, and we have a LOT of pictures of her napping in the Bjorn where she was so little.
 Later in the morning we headed to Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and lighthouse, which is one of our favorite stops because of all the things you can see in one small area.  We walked down to Pebble Beach first, to look at all the tide pools.  It was fun seeing all these little seal noses sticking up and bobbing in the water just a little ways out.  Here is Daddy, ever the teacher, with the big girls.  Is it any wonder they're so smart?

 It was so strange compared to just a couple of years ago.  There is a virus, they believe, called Seastar Wasting Disease, which has been decimating starfish populations up and down the coast.  When we came here with family a year and a half earlier, we saw starfish everywhere.  This time, we didn't see a single one, and you could tell it was already affecting the tide-pools.
 A few views of the beauty at Yaquina Head.
 Next we walked up by the lighthouse, which s where we spotted a whale last time we were there.  And behold - WHALE!
 This one whale kept spouting in a small area, so I was transfixed to the spot trying to see him.  I got a few pictures of him spouting and a few more of just a bit of his back before he disappeared behind some rocks and I had to go back to reality and like - help watch my children.
 They had been patiently waiting with Daddy while I took pictures.  Such funny, goofy girls.
 After seeing the whale, we walked down to Quarry Cove.  We had one random seal pop right up behind us on some rocks just 20 feet or so out into the water.
 Mckayla cracked me up doing goofy things in the backpack where she was getting tired.
 And Ellie, of course, made friends with a random little boy who was there with his mom and baby visiting with Grandma.  I love how friendly and happy our Ellie Bell is.
 On our walk back up to the car we saw these three turkey vultures flying together.  That was definitely cool.
 And see, I was there.

 After a long morning at the beach, we headed back to camp to find these gorgeous little camp robbers called Stellar Jays.  We enjoyed throwing bits of cracker and watching them where they were so stinking beautiful!
 After lunch Mckayla took a nap, thankfully.  This picture is actually really funny to me because at this point we were weaning MG off the binky.  She only got them to sleep, and we were trying to not give them to her at all.  However, knowing we'd be in close sleeping proximity to total strangers, we brought a couple of pacifiers in case of emergency.  Earlier that day Mckayla had seen me put one away and she had gone down for a nap without one, but when I checked on her, she had at some point snuck over to our side of the tent, retrieved this, and then gone to sleep.  Such a funny little girl.

That night we headed back out to the beach.  Mckayla had much more fun this time, running and playing in the sand with Ellie.
 Man this girl is getting big on us...
 We had so much fun as just our little family watching the girls play and spending time together.  These are the memories I know will last our girls a lifetime.
 Here MG had come to help Ellie with her "sandcastle".  Wherever Ellie goes, Mckayla wants to come and be just like her.  This castle is significant because just a day or two later we met up with family and Ellie learned how to make much larger sand castles.
 That night we went back to camp and were running behind and had planned to cook some stew meat over the fire for dinner.  We were having trouble getting everything done we needed to, so we sat Ellie down and asked if she could be a big sister and hold Kassidy.  Boy could she ever.  She did so well, Kassidy loved being with Ellie, and even MG came to sit with them.  Probably one of my favorite memories of the trip - watching our three girls sit together while we made dinner and seeing Ellie as such a great big sister.

Thursday the 14th we packed up our tent and headed to the Hatfield Marine Science Center.  We had waited to come here till Thursday late in the morning just for the octopus feeding, but the girls didn't last very long and we left before it happened.  However, we had a lot of fun there all the same.
 Mckayla kept coming back to play with this phone which made whale sounds - I think.  She just liked holding the phone and pushing the button over and over.
 Both the girls had a blast playing in this sand and water tank.
 And Ellie and I built lego structures to see if they could stand up to different wave types, even a tsunami wave. The wave simulator really was cool.
 Their octopus wasn't real active while we were there, but he was still so amazing to see.
 The girls colored, played in the water, played with some giant touch screens about light, and were hashed as it was coming up on lunch and nap time.  So, we packed up in the car again, and drove to meet up with Grandma Sun and Papa Rose.

 We had discovered that we would be camping close to each other around the same dates, so we had made plans to meet up and spend a couple of nights with them towards the end of our trip.  Thursday we set up our tent next to their trailer (after buying two new types of stakes to get something to go through the rock and gravel bed we were on top of) and made camp at the Pacific City Thousand Trails campsite.

We were just down the road from a fabulous beach called Cape Kiwanda State Park Beach.  It had loads of sand to explore, dunes if you were crazy enough to climb them (with three kids - hah!) and loads of rocks and little coves during low tide.  Steve and I only wish we could have explored more, but that's an activity for people who don't have 3 small children in tow.

The girls had so much fun in the sand here, especially with the buckets and shovels Grandma and Papa had brought with them.
Grandma and Pap were kind enough to build them some castles since the girls were having trouble with the concept of packing sand in the bucket.
 So that MG could tear them all down.  This is what a Mckayla Monster looks like mid-destruction.
 But she sure is cute...

We actually came back here each day we were in Pacific City.  Friday we actually caught some of low tide, and even a bit of sunshine.  There were so many more rocks to investigate for critters and for the girls to play around.
 Here is one of the little coves you could climb through - kid free - which I was!
 On the other side of the rocks was this sandy beach, and I was excited to see - starfish!  We had only seen one that Grandma found the previous day, so it was a relief to see a healthy pocket of seastars hiding out here.
 I also got caught by the waves coming in and got all wet running back to the rocks on my way back, but it was so exhilarating to be a silly, wet explorer like I would have been at this beach back in the day.  And I didn't get any wetter or sandier than these two.
 We even tried to get a family picture.  The joy of kids.  Here Steve, my Dad, Kerry, and I were all dying because Ellie had just shouted "Say acid!"  Thank you, Daddy, for showing the girls vinegar and baking soda experiments while explaining acid-base neutralization.

Later Friday we went and explored Munson Creek Falls, not far from camp.  It was just a really short hike even the girls could make from the parking lot to viewing the falls.
 Another family picture attempt.
 And Kassidy even stayed awake for part of this trip!
 We got back to camp and Kassidy had quality time with Papa while Steve and I prepared tinfoil dinners for everyone.  They're a camping standard for us, and one I look forward to every trip.

Sadly, that brought us to Saturday.  We all had to pack up and head our separate ways.  Dad and Kerry to their next campsite, and us home.  We did go hit our nearby beach one last time before we got on the road home though.

The beach was littered with these little sail-like jellyfish type creatures.
 And of course it was the best weather of the whole trip.
 It was even warm enough for the girls to enjoy playing in a little pool we found where the water gets trapped at low tide and warms up some.

Yeah, it was a fairly broke trip.  Dad and Kerry treated us to Mo's one day, which was delicious as always.  We mostly hung out on the beach or did free things.  It wasn't a very long trip.  And, it was probably one of my favorite family trips we have ever taken.  Steve and I both agreed after that perhaps we try to plan too much into our vacations and spend too much.  The girls loved just being able to roam the beach and play in the sand.  We loved watching them and just spending time together and with Grandma and Papa.  In the end, we were glad we hadn't been able to take the trip we originally planned, because this one was way better.  Isn't it fun when life works out that way?