Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lake Tahoe Trip

Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe
For summer vacation this year we decided to head back home and go to Northern California for a couple weeks. This was our first time back since moving to New Mexico two years ago and we set out to cram a whole summer's worth of activities into a two week trip. We had a long list of things we wanted to do but after a couple of days the itinerary kind of went out the door. We decided we didn't have to do everything that we could think of but just the things we (the kids) enjoyed the most. This resulted in us spending the majority of the trip on a lake or river. We haven't been able to find anything quite like the lakes and rivers were were used to in N. California so we wanted to make sure we spent as much time on the water as possible (8 days of our trip was spent at a river or lake).
Aidan enjoying the view at Sand Harbor

One of our favorite lake spots is Sand Harbor on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. It is truly one of the most beautiful places that I've ever been to and it was great being able to experience it with the kids for the first time. We were a little concerned about the water being too cold for them to swim but I should have known better; the kids were going to get into that water no matter how cold it was. As it turned out, it wasn't as cold as I remembered it and it was quite refreshing (cold yes, but definitely tolerable). The other concern was the crowds. I knew Sand Harbor was a popular spot but I was still surprised to see the parking lot just about full when we arrived around 11:00 in the morning (on a week day). At 11:20 when the grandparents arrived, the parking lot was full and they were turned away. Unfortunately, they couldn't find any other place to park and couldn't join us for the day. 

Brennan with his swimmies
Even with the crowds, we were able to find a nice spot next to the water with a little beach and some rocks. The kids had a great day playing in the sand, climbing on the rocks, swimming and floating on a rafts (you know, all the normal stuff you do at a lake). One other activity that Lake Tahoe has, that you don't find everywhere, is catching crawdads. There were several groups with little "fishing" poles and some kind of bait (bacon?) and they were catching buckets full of crawdads. I remember seeing crawdads from my other visits to the lake, but I didn't realize how popular it was for people to catch them.

Rylie on the raft
Aidan, Brennan and Peyton rafting
After spending the day on the lake we decided we had to come back... so we did a week later. Although, this time we decided to go rafting on the Truckee river, which comes out of Lake Tahoe. This was the kids first time rafting and they weren't sure what they were getting themselves into. Fortunately, they had a blast. The Truckee river is not quite white water rafting... it is a 5 mile gentle ride with places to get out and swim/picnic on your journey down the river. The only real excitement comes at the end where there are a bit of rapids. That was the favorite part for the kids. They thought it was so funny because we were going pretty fast, got spun around and then got stuck on a rock. There was 9 of us on the trip (3 adults and 6 kids) and there wasn't a raft large enough to hold all of us (and our coolers) so we actually had two rafts that were tied together. This didn't work out too well because we got stuck a few times (we were too wide to avoid all the rocks sticking up) and the kids kept jumping back and forth between the two rafts. When we got stuck at the end, we actually had to detach the two rafts to free ourselves. But we still had fun, so much fun that it was over before we knew it (it took about 2 hours). As we were looking for a place to stop and have a picnic, the rapids suddenly appeared and then we were done. Oh well. Afterwards, we drove up to the lake and had a nice picnic on a beach that I hadn't been to before.

Aidan at Lake Tahoe

Peyton shows us his sandy hands

Sand Harbor

Brennan, Peyton, Aidan and Rylie

Brennan and Peyton playing with a bucket

Rylie enjoys the ride

Rylie, Dad and Aidan cruising down the river

Aidan and Rylie enjoyng the ride

Truckee River

Brennan having a good time on the raft

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pumpkin Patch!

When we moved to Albuquerque two years ago we heard that the pumpkin patch in Moriarty, NM was supposed to be great. So one Saturday morning in October we loaded up the family and drove an hour out into the country to McCall's Pumpkin Patch. Unfortunately, we had a miserable time. It was a mob scene, the kids had to wait in long lines for the activities, we were unprepared for how cold it was going to be and the wind was blowing a constant 30 mph. Last year when fall rolled around, we decided to stick to a local pumpkin patch and had a great time.
The kids at McCall's Pumpkin Patch (2011)
Brennan emerges from the tunnel
Well, two years had gone by since our trip to McCall's and we decided to give it another shot. We went this past Saturday (opening day) and our experience was completely different than before. We had a wonderful time, the weather was perfect, not many people were there, there were lots of great activities for the kids (with no lines!) and everything was fresh and green (corn was still growing in the corn fields and we cut the pumpkins right off the vine!).

Brennan slows to a stop
The first things the kids wanted to do was the slide that goes through a "mountain" (hill). There are two tunnels that go through the mountain and shoot you out at the bottom (one slow, one fast). The kids could do this all day. When they got to the bottom, they would run back up to the top and do it again. They had the biggest smiles on their faces as they came flying out of "Rocky Mountain Mine".  The tunnels are big enough for adults so even mom and dad were able to try it out.

Peyton had so much fun!
Aidan looks to hold off Rylie
One activity I don't remember from two years ago that was a big hit (maybe it was there but the lines were so long that we never bothered trying it), was the race track. They had the coolest pedal powered 4-wheelers (they call them pedal karts) that I had ever scene. Aidan and Rylie would race around the track and they could race as long as they wanted since nobody was waiting in line. These 4-wheelers were a little big for Peyton and Brennan but they did have a smaller track with smaller pedal karts that they were able to do. One thing that I should mention is that all the activities are free with your paid admission. Tickets cost $10 for children and adults (although, children under 3 are free).
Mommy goes for a spin around the track

Corn maze entrance
What pumpkin patch is complete without a corn maze? The corn maze at McCall's was epic. It's 16 acres of fresh corn that took us 30 minutes to work our way through (and we took the easier of the 2 paths). Before you enter you are given a map and as you go through the maze you try to figure out clues which will lead you down the correct path (otherwise you might not be able to find your way out again). We did make several wrong turns and had to back track a couple times but eventually we made it out. Somewhere in the center there is a platform that you can climb up and view the maze from above, but our trek never led us to it.

When we came 2 years ago, all the corn in the maze was dead and brown and much of it had been trampled over. This time it was green and all the stalks had corn growing on them (I felt like picking some to take home but didn't think that would go over too well).
Reading the clues

Brennan on the hay ride to the pumpkin patch
To get to the actual pumpkin patch where you can pick a pumpkin you get to go on a hey ride. You climb up on a wagon full of hay pulled by a tractor and drive for about 10 minutes out to the patch. I've never scene such a large pumpkin patch. Acres and acres of pumpkins everywhere (all of which were still growing on the vine). The pumpkins came in all shapes and sizes and they even had white ones to choose from (which we did). We had so much fun walking way out into the field finding the perfect pumpkins but then we realized we had to carry the pumpkins we chose all the way back to where the tractor dropped us off. Some people who had obviously done this before, brought along a wheelbarrow to carry their pumpkins (tip for next year, grab a wheelbarrow before getting on the hayride).

The pumpkin patch!
The last time we came, the pumpkin patch was dead and all the pumpkins were just lying out there in the dirt. This year it was all green and we got to cut the pumpkins off the vine. I didn't see the price chart before heading out to the patch so I was a little concerned that the pumpkins we chose would cost more than I was expecting. Fortunately, the price for the four pumpkins we chose wasn't bad ($15 for 3 average sized pumpkins and 1 large pumpkin). Apparently if you come during the week, you get a free pumpkin with your ticket purchase.

Besides the few activities described above, McCall's also had many other activities. We were there for 5 1/2 hours and we still didn't do everything. Here are some of the other activities they have to enjoy:

  • Animal Alley
  • Bunny Farm
  • Goat Bridge
  • Pumpkin Cannon
  • Pumpkin Sling Shot
  • Cow Train
  • Duck Races
  • Spiderweb
  • Hay Pyramid
  • Hay Tunnel
  • Jumping Pillow
  • Corn Box
For a family of 6 the cost for a for a full day of fun came to $120. It was $60 for the tickets, $15 for the pumpkins and we spent $45 on food and drinks. One tip with the drinks: get the souvenir cup for $3.50 and then get $1 refills the rest of the day.

We had a great time this year and look forward to coming back next year (on opening day again). For additional photos of our great day, see below.

The kids look for a way out of the maze
They finally made it to the end
Brennan and Peyton looking for pumpkins
Brennan, Aidan, Peyton and Rylie 
The kids search for the Great pumpkin
Brennan finds a pumpkin
Brennan deep in thought
Aidan finds his pumpkin
Brennan measures himself 
Pumpkin canon!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Painting Peyton and Brennan's Room

Before: Peyton and Brennan's Room
A year and a half ago we moved from California to New Mexico. The home we moved into is nice but it has one annoying issue: all the rooms are painted white. Since we've moved in, I've painted the kitchen, dining room, den, a hallway, Aidan's room and Rylie's room. It is finally Peyton and Brennan's turn.

Sky, Hills and Animal Stencils
Since this was the last of the kids rooms to be painted and P&B have had to live with boring walls for so long, I wanted to do something special. So I scoured the Internet looking for ideas, trying to find something that suited their personalities. I finally stumbled upon this website: This website sells stencil kits for painting wall murals. We ended going with the Jungle Safari Theme Kids Wall Mural. I thought it looked like something that would be fun and not too challenging and I knew that Peyton and Brennan would love it. The website had a video that showed how to apply and paint the stencils, so I had a pretty good idea what I was getting myself into.
Brennan Likes his New Room

The basic idea with these mural kits is, you paint the walls and when the paint is dry you apply the stencils and paint them in. When you remove the stencil you have a perfectly painted object (animals, plants and trees in our case). For P&B's room I painted the sky and hills and have slowly been going in and adding animals, butterflies, birds, clouds, plants, trees, etc. Before you start going crazy with the painting, it is a good idea to get a basic idea how you want things to look. You might want to pencil in the hills or other large objects to make sure things will turn out the way you'd like them to. In my first go around, I had painted a giant hill on one of the walls. But before I painted in the animals I realized it was better to have more sky than hills, so I  had to redo it.

Zebra on Hill
What I thought would take a week or so has turned into a month long project, but I finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. With 4 kids and other distractions I've mostly only been able to work on P&B's room from time to time after everybody has fallen asleep. Also, the stencils are harder to apply to the wall than it appears. It's almost impossible to get them completely flat against the wall... especially the big trees. I sometimes felt it would have been faster if I just painted the animals without the stencils. But in the end, I like how the room has turned out and I'm glad I decided to go with the stencil mural kit.

After: A Bed in the Trees?
One of things that I was attempting to do was make it look like Peyton and Brennan's bed was up in the trees, kind of like a tree fort. On the wall that the bunk bed is against, I have mostly sky (very little grass down at the botton) with tall trees on either end of where the bed will be. Since P&B are a couple of monkeys I through in some monkeys playing in the trees. I still have a little work to do but I think I'll get close to what I was shooting for. When I finally get it all finished I'll post some photos so you can see what the final product looks like.

Elephant Stencils

Elephants After Stencil Removed
During this painting process, Peyton and Brennan have had to move out of their room. Poor Aidan had to give up his room for P&B and has been sleeping on the floor in Rylie's room. But I think he likes it and it may be hard to get him back in his room when P&B move back into their room. After the lights go out, I often hear Aidan and Rylie chatting away until they fall asleep.

Lion on Top of Hill
Now that I'm finishing up painting the room, it's time to look into bedding ideas. I had originally planned to have safari themed beds, but I think the walls have so much going on, the bedding should be simple. If I can find a couple nice quilts that have similar green/brown/blue colors like the walls, I'll be happy.

OK, I better get back to work and finish this project up. Peyton and Brennan can't wait to finally sleep in their jungle safari room!

I'm Painting!    
Lion on Top of Dresser
Rylie Helped Paint the Animals

Bird in Tree
Closeup of Trees
Monkeys Playing in the Trees

Thursday, March 31, 2011

50 Million Views!

Our Twin Baby Boys Laughing at Each Other video reached 50 million views today. Thank you everybody for watching our video and helping us reach this amazing number. Who would have thought that 3 years ago our little video would become so popular on the Internet. What started as a way of sharing videos with family members around the country turned into something much more. The video has been seen on TV shows (i.e. Rachael Ray) and in movies (i.e. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never) and who knows where else it will pop up in the future.

It took 3 years and 9 months to reach this many views... lets see how fast we can get the next 50 million. Thanks again everybody!