Friday, September 10, 2010

cousin tim's in town

My girls are very fortunate to have lots of cousins. Including all those on my mom's side of the family in New Jersey, they have more cousins than I can count. But all of their first cousins are here in the west. Some are really local and some live a little further away, but we always manage to see everyone at least once a year. Sometimes, between our ski trips in Oregon and their visits here, the girls see their Pacific Northwest cousins two or three times a year. Time spent with cousins is among the girls' favorite things, especially with any of the five older ones.

Our nephew Tim studies mechanical engineering in Oregon and was looking for some work to do in the last few weeks before school starts, so John and Jeff thought they could keep him busy down here. John had some LCD testing work in mind for him, Jeff talked about his dog walking, car washing, furniture moving, and weed-pulling needs. But fortunately for Tim I think John's idea won out.

Tim arrived last weekend and on labor day we all decided to go for a little drive/hike/picnic in the hills. The state park we chose in known for fun rocks to climb, and Uncle Jeff lead the way.

We found a big open cave which is popular for bouldering, with mats on the ground and climbing shoes and chalk. But Tim decided to show the girls how it's done without any of those silly safety measures.

The park was fun, though a little nerve-wracking as the girls scrambled quickly around large rocks with a huge steep drop-offs on nearby edges. And of course the girls were running and climbing in all different directions at once, so John, Jeff, and Tim mostly followed on one at a time while I wandered around taking pictures.

We had lunch on the rocks and then hiked down back towards the cars and then back up another trail to take us to a waterfall. The trail takes you to a platform at the top of an unexpectedly high waterfall, though it's about the height of the dry season now and the it probably isn't as nearly as impressive as it would be in spring. Still, it was a beautiful view up there.

By the time got back to the car again the girls were covered in a fine layer of dirt head to toe, sweaty, and tired.
"Those are some filthy kids," Uncle Jeff noticed.
"Yes, I might give them a bath as soon as we get home," I answered.
"How about bring them to my house and throw them in the pool instead!"

The only thing more fun than climbing and hiking with their big cousin is swimming with him.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

games again

Day two of labor day weekend. Still crushed by the Aggies' terrible loss the afternoon before, John didn't have the strength to attend the large annual Highland Games with the rest of us. Sure, he made an excuse about having to work or something like that, but I knew the real deal. But the girls and I managed to get over our disappointment enough to follow through with our weekend plans.

Outside the front entrance we were in the presence of someone dressed up like and wanting us to believe that they were royalty. Clearly this wasn't a real queen because it was a very warm day. If she were royalty she'd demand to wear something more suited to the weather.

But the girls thought the little skit and costumes were interesting.

But as soon as we got inside the gates the first thing they wanted to do was watch the Highland dancing, especially because their dance teacher told us that the younger kids would be dancing during the first two hours that day. And the girls know one of the young dancers from their school. She is wearing the light purple in the photo where they are facing backwards.

The girls were so excited to see Elizabeth up there, and they really appreciated the dancing by all the kids now that they are familiar with many of the steps. Erin was particularly engrossed. She loves her dance class and she takes it pretty seriously and she is very enthusiastic. She has progressed well over the summer and has just been moved to a more advanced class, and her teachers want her to be part of a local Scottish performance planned for November near home.

The twins, meanwhile, wax and wane about whether or not they want to continue dancing, and either way is fine with me. After watching the performances though I think they came away with a little more interest.

Altogether we watched the dancing for over an hour and I almost had to drag them away because there was so much more to see and we only had a few hours to be there.

Nearby were the clan tents, so we wandered around there for a while and the girls posed with the chief member for their clan, as they did last year.

Then we watched the clan representatives line up to enter the Highland Games arena, but we didn't follow them in.

Instead, we looked at some animals and some sheep dog trials and spent a lot of time playing games in the children's area.

Kate was Haggis Toss champ, racking up far more tickets than her sisters or any of the other kids while we were there, and she lined up again and again to play.

The hours at the games passed quickly and as usual and we never did manage to see everything we would have liked. But we'll be back next year, and Erin may very well be up on that dance stage next time.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the dirty golden bears

We had a very busy labor day weekend.

Months ago, word was spread around my various college alumni email lists that the Aggies would be playing Cal Berkeley this month in football, which was exciting because our football teams aren't in the same conference and haven't met in over 70 years. It was also exciting because the last time Davis was scheduled to play a hot-shot Pac-10 conference team who severely outmatched us (Stanford in 2005), we won. I missed that game because I had not quite 1 year-old twins at home, but I didn't want to miss this one.

I bought 3 tickets long ago, in June I think it was, seating us in the official Aggie rooting section and planning to take John and Erin. Too much time just sitting for the twins, I imagined, so they stayed with a babysitter and the 3 of us made the long drive to Berkeley.

In the shadow of the famous clock tower the Aggies had set up a pretty large pre-game gathering area, with clothing for sale, food and drink and alumni organization tents. We didn't arrive early enough to take advantage of most of that. We quickly grabbed some lunch and met up with some alumni friends for a little while, and then it was time to head to the stadium.

Gunrock the mustang and the Aggie Band-uh lead the way.

And the stadium was a pretty impressive sight.

We were seated among several sections of all Aggie fans, and our seats were just above the Band and dance team.

It was a nice warm, clear day and everyone was in good spirits. And then the game started. Cal made first down after first down and seemed to score on every possession. At the half it was 35 - 0. Strange as might seem to someone else, I don't have any pictures of the actual football game, because there wasn't anything photo-worthy. I had no intention of documenting the Cal players jumping over our players as they went to tackle them. I had no intention of documenting their many touchdowns, and I had no intention of documenting our incomplete passing.

But at half-time the Band-uh looked good.

Of course Cal has a great Band also, and after every score they played their fight song, "Golden Bear", for which we have alternate lyrics:
The dirty Golden Bear,
Is losing all his hair,
His teeth are out,
He's got the gout,
He don't know what it's all about,
His eyes are made of glass,
He's losing all his class,
So take your G-D- teddy bear and shove him up your golden ***

Thinking of the lyrics while their Band played made me smile.

Erin seemed to have a good time. She hadn't been to a football game before so she had a lot of questions about the rules, and why we weren't playing better. The final score was 52-3. "How much did you pay for these tickets?" John asked me repeatedly. "Well, THAT was money well spent."

Of course, as a student and Band member, I went to every single football and basketball game, home and away, and it was always fun to cheer for the Aggies. John can't really relate to any of this, John's University didn't even have a football team. John would probably say that he's not so sure that mine has one either.