Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Yellowstone Is Amazing!

We Salt Lake City Mays joined forces with the Vancouver Mays and the California Kings and ventured up to Yellowstone earlier this month. Lisa had never been and she and the kids literally spent months preparing -- checking out library books, looking at websites, and pretending to be Yellowstone animals. Kirse's siblings put us up in great style at their houses in Idaho Falls our first night and we'd like to offer them a special thanks.
There was some concern that the reality of Yellowstone wouldn't live up to the hype, but it more than did! On our first day in the park, (after immediately seeing several elk on the side of the road) we drove straight to Old Faithful, which happened to be due to erupt within minutes. We watched the whole splendid event from a great vantage point and the kids (particularly Stella) just adored it. Next we hiked a trail that started near Old Faithful and took us past multiple geysers and hot pots. Emerson and his cousin, Ethan, held hands the whole way and marveled at all the names for the various features while Stella unexpectedly enjoyed riding in the jogging stroller the whole way (a welcome surprise when burning death lurks disguised on either side of the trail). We topped off our first day with a hike at Fountain Paint Pots where some of the geysers and mud pots have been turned green or pink by algae and bacteria. It was like a mysterious lunar landscape that we could hardly believe was earthly.
Day two involved some brilliant planning by Kirse, making it possible for us to encounter a whole herd of bison roaming and resting on either side of the road. At one point, a bison pair crossed the road immediately behind our car and the male turned his head, looked at our car, and gruffed. Emerson and Stella were thrilled! And the close encounters didn't end there; when we arrived to hike the mud volcano trail, bison were on either side of it, at one point crossing at a nearly uncomfortable proximity. It was on this hike that Emerson made his top two comments of the trip. When he and Ethan were strolling along next to Caroline, Emerson turned to his aunt and said, "You probably don't want to hold our hands because we're going to talk about gross stuff." As soon as Caroline let go, Emerson turned to Ethan and said, "So what about T-rex poop?" While watching a bison standing next to a small geyser, Emerson remarked, "He's standing there so the geyser will hit him in the butt." Oh the humor of a four-year-old boy!
We also got to see both the Upper and Lower Falls, images of Bierstadt and Moran paintings flashing through our brains, particularly at Artists' Point. On our way out of the park that day, we saw bald eagles and more elk, in addition to the trout we'd seen in the river during our lunch picnic.
Our final day, we didn't explore Yellowstone but stopped at a couple of fun places as we drove home. First we visited Big Springs, which consisted of a gorgeous pond and stream where we saw a giant trout and a muskrat swimming in the water (launching a weeks-long obsession with all rodents for Emerson). Then we stopped by Mesa Falls, a gorgeous water fall with gray cliffs cloaked in verdent, cascading ferns. It was a perfect way to cap off the visual extravaganza that was our trip. And once again, we were completely blown away by what excellent little travelers our kids were; they slept well in strange places, were champs on long car drives (with very minimal dvd viewing), and excited about both the sights and their cousins the entire time.
In other news, Lisa had her second prenatal doctor's visit. After a little hunting, the nurse was able to find the baby's heartbeat for several glorious seconds (with the speakers turned up so loud that Stella still thinks the baby's heartbeat is a deafening boom). Perhaps it's Lisa's innate paranoia, perhaps it's the fact that she didn't have to take any confirmation pregnancy tests at the doctor's office, but until that moment, Lisa had started to wonder if this pregnancy might all be psychosomatic. Feeling better at an early stage and being forced by the needs of her already existing children to ignore most symptoms had literally made her forget, at times, that she was pregnant. But all hopes and joys were restored as Lisa heard that little heartbeat.
Preschool started back up for Emerson yesterday, reminding us that summer truly is coming to a close. How did it go so fast? And while our little guy loves going to preschool, we're somewhat sad to have him gone again three mornings each week -- we can't even think about kindergarten next year. So now we're again cherishing each afternoon of splash time in the back yard when Emerson and Stella bask in the sun. And we're finally enjoying all the fruits (or vegetables, as the case may be) of our garden -- super-juicy tomatoes (making excellent salsa) and crunchy cucumbers -- and anticipating the ears of corn that actually grew, apples that weigh our tree heavily (Lisa sees the near future in this plight), and pumpkins for which we still hope. We hope you all are well and send our love.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Eggs Frying on the Sidewalk

Remember in the dead of winter when you're yearning for the heat of summer, longing to feel the roasting sun on your skin for even a few minutes? Well, let's just say that after several sweltering, virtually rainless weeks, we're no longer as jazzed about 98-degree temps. And yet somehow the kids, apparently immune to boredom, still want to splash in our tiny pool every afternoon. Despite our best efforts on the sunscreen front, the deep brown tans have taken over as the hair has lightened to its summer blond.
It's been so fun, though, to do some summer activities and exploration. At the end of June, the kids took swimming lessons together at Fairmont Pool. I know what you're thinking, and yes, Lisa is somewhat crazy for signing up a two-year-old. In her defense, imagine the meltdown tantrums eight days in a row if Stella had to watch her brother get in the pool while she couldn't. We rest our case. While Stella's boldness in the pool did not diminish (as Lisa had hoped it might) with the cautioning efforts of swimming teachers, Emerson's boldness (as Lisa had hoped) definitely increased; at the start of swimming lessons, he wouldn't allow his ears, eyes, or head to get wet. Now he rolls around in the water, gladly going under and dipping all body parts. We're still working on jumping in. But by some miracle, somehow both Emerson and Stella passed!
The Fourth of July was fantastic! We started off by going to the East Millcreek Children's Parade with Grandma and Grandpa Baker. As the parade consisted of people chucking handfuls of candy to the spectators, both Emerson and Stella were fully captivated. By the time we were done, we had filled Emerson's bike helmet and Lisa's bag to the brim. The greatest part of the parade -- when you're tired of it, you just stand up and join in, kids on bikes or in strollers, and toss out any of your candy that you want to get rid of (thank heavens). In the evening, we ventured up Millcreek Canyon for a picnic and a short hike with Crosby. It was so cool and refreshing up there that it required some coaxing to get us back down.
Our second awesome hike of the month was up the Dog Lake trail in Millcreek. We made it about three-quarters of the way before serious hunger set in for the kids, but Emerson hiked all the way up and ran down. Stella enjoyed the jogger stroller and Crosby indulged his instinctive urge to jump in all water he sees. He seriously is a perfect dog, coming each time we called him, putting himself in between the kids and any strange dogs, and absolutely loving his trek up the mountain. He seems to have virtually no limit in terms of endurance when it comes to hiking.
Lagoon (or, as Emerson calls it "little Disneyland") was another great adventure for our family. Because it was our Stake's Lagoon Day, all of Emerson and Stella's little neighborhood buddies were there. So the unexpected fear Stella demonstrated on the first whirling and swirling ride with Emerson disappeared when she went on the next ride with her friend, Whitney. Emerson became the ringleader of his little buddies, inspiring them to conquer even the menacing "Puff the Magic Dragon" roller coaster. It was obnoxiously hot, but so worth seeing the kids' indefatigable excitement.
Our Pioneer Day celebration was fun, too. We trekked out to Liberty Park to enjoy the general chaos of the parade. Floats are mysterious and fascinating things for a boy who must understand all of the physics of the mechanical devices he sees. The marching bands with all of their trumpets were also exciting to our trumpet-tooting boy. Stella particularly enjoyed the horses and cars, but especially loved the extra attention afforded by Grandma Baker, Aunt Betsy, and Aunt Kim.
We also ventured up to Dean's grave in Honeyville with Grandma May a few weeks ago. The cemetery there is so beautiful with the mountains behind, and Emerson enjoyed reading names off the head stones, especially the old ones with ancestors' names on them. The stone house built by James May, who crossed the plains as a pioneer, still stands and a May (we think) still lives in it. This also fascinated the kids. As a special treat, we also ate at Maddox -- a culinary delight enjoyed by all.
One truly amazing development this month -- Stella and Emerson have started (and will continue, knock on wood) to play together daily for hours on end without major conflict. Usually Emerson wakes up in the morning having decided which creature he will be for the day and which similar but smaller and less frightening animal Stella with therefore be. Watch out if you mess up and don't call Emerson the appropriate creature -- and stay on your toes because it changes throughout the day. The kids' favorite game to play together is "Yellowstone", in preparation for our upcoming trip. They make a bed of blankets on our family room floor, pretend to sleep, and wake up ready to see geysers, hot pots, hot springs, bears, and wolves. They pretend to be testing out different pools of water to determine the temperature before plunging in, imagine that bears are chasing them, and pretend to be various creatures themselves, searching for nuts and berries.
Both children have become so inquisitive that we find ourselves answering at least a dozen questions each hour. Emerson must understand the motivations of each character in any shows he watches, how every device works, and what different body parts do and are called. Stella asks endless questions about the songs we sing to her, constantly asks why she can't do this or that, and forever requests assistance in removing clothes.
Now for those of you who didn't read the entire blog -- shame on you!! Because our big news is saved for last. . . The third May baby will be joining us next February! That's right, Lisa is pregnant (about 10 weeks)!!! We're amazed and excited, somewhat doubtful about our ability to handle three little wigglers, and truly grateful. Love to all.