23 June 2017

Origami Spinners & Hats

The boys have been getting creative this summer. We found some origami books at the library, and Camden made these paper spinners this morning.


Then Camden & Courtland and each taped together 9 pieces of paper to make a giant origami paper, so they could make themselves origami hats.

And then Elijah made a paper sword.


A nice little jaunt down to the beach

Today we enjoyed a little hike down Ho Chi Minh trail in La Jolla to the beach.  This time we tried out parking at the glider port parking lot instead of in the neighborhood above the canyon where you are limited to 2 hr parking, and it was nice to have plenty of time to build sand castles, swim a bit, take a little jog down the beach, and for the boys to burry each other in the sand before hiking back up through the canyon.

21 June 2017

"Service is the best medicine for self-pity, selfishness, despair, and loneliness."

I was impressed this morning as I read from the book, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley. A section from chapter 14, "Losing Ourselves in the Service of Others," really stood out to me when I first read it a few months ago, and again when I came across it today. So I thought I would share it here:

"Service is the best medicine for self-pity, selfishness, despair, and loneliness.

I recall visiting a college campus where I heard the usual, commonplace complaining of youth: complaints about the pressures of school -- as if it were a burden rather than an opportunity to partake of the knowledge of the earth -- complaints about housing and about food. . . . 

I counseled those youth that if the pressures of school were too heavy, if they felt to complain about their housing and their food, then I could suggest a cure for their problems. I suggested that they lay their books aside for a few hours, leave their rooms, and go visit someone who is old and lonely, or someone sick and discouraged. By and large, I have come to see that if we complain about life, it is because we are thinking only of ourselves.
For many years there was a sign on the wall of a shoe repair shop I patronized. It read, “I complained because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.” The most effective medicine for the sickness of self-pity is to lose ourselves in the service of others.

I believe that for most of us the best medicine for loneliness is work and service in behalf of others. I do not minimize your problems, but I do not hesitate to say that there are many others whose problems are more serious than yours. Reach out to serve them, to help them, to encourage them. There are so many boys and girls who fail in school for want of a little personal attention and encouragement. There are so many elderly people who live in misery and loneliness and fear for whom a simple conversation would bring a measure of hope and brightness. . . . 

There are so many who have been injured and who need a good Samaritan to bind up their wounds and help them on their way. A small kindness can bring a great blessing to someone in distress and a sweet feeling to the one who befriends him.

There are so many out there whose burdens you can lift. There are the homeless, there are the hungry, there are the destitute all around us. There are the aged who are alone in rest homes. There are handicapped children, and youth on drugs, and the sick and the homebound who cry out for a kind word. If you do not do it, who will?

The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best medicine for despair is service. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired.

Why are missionaries happy? Because they lose themselves in the service of others.

Why are those who labor in the temples happy? Because their labor of love is in very deed harmonious with the great vicarious work of the Savior of mankind. They neither ask for nor expect thanks for what they do. For the most part, they know nothing more than the name of him or her in whose behalf they labor.

Give expression to the noble desires that lie within your hearts to reach out to comfort, sustain, and build others. As you do so, the cankering poison of selfishness will leave you, and it will be replaced by a sweet and wonderful feeling that seems to come in no other way."

Climbing & Jumping on Rocks

I like rock climbing -- not traditional rock climbing with ropes (I'd probably like that too, I just haven't done much of it), but just climbing on big rocks, a bit of bouldering, a lot of scrambling, and some jumping from rock to rock too.  In my opinion, hiking around on a nice flat trail isn't too exciting, but a hike with a destination makes it an adventure (cool rocks to climb, a swimming hole or waterfall to get wet in, or some trail-finding and exploring).  Yesterday we invited a bunch of friends from church & from our neighborhood to do our favorite kid-friendly hike that's very close to home and works for all ages (the trail is even stroller friendly): hiking to the Penasquitos Canyon Waterfall from the Park Village Road trailhead.  It's a total of 2.2 miles, strollers can make it all the way to the rocks and then can be left to walk down to the water with the kids, there's often pretty good water flow there -- especially with all the rain we had last winter there is still plenty of water for the kids to wade and swim even in late June this year, and even if you're not getting wet the boulders there around the water are just so fun to climb on!  We had several families come with us yesterday, from young teens to babies in carriers, and from adventurous families to those who were new to this type of thing.  It was a lot of fun.  The kids enjoyed the water, and at the end the boys had a ball carrying large rocks to build a mini dam which actually did work to raise the water level in the little wading area about another foot or so deeper than it had been.  (I remember building dams in attempts to make swimming holes when I was a kid!)  I felt like I had a good mix of enjoying watching the kids play, getting a chance to chat with the other moms who joined us on the hike, and I also got in a little bit of climbing and jumping around on the rocks.  So it was a fun day.  And even though it was pretty hot out, there was plenty of water to keep the kids cool.  I wasn't taking any pictures there yesterday, but apparently my friend was taking pictures of the kids in the water at the same time that I happened to be jumping from one rock to another, and she snapped a few photos of me in the air.  (Kind of fun, since I don't usually get many pictures of myself on my hikes with the boys, except for the occasional selfie with me and the kids).

18 June 2017


Napa Countryside (view from about mile 27 on my bike ride).

One really nice thing about Michael's new job is that he gets a credit each year towards Continuing Medical Education, which can cover the costs of dermatology conferences and travel expenses. It's a fun new thing for us, since his previous job didn't offer this. 

Plus, this year we signed up for a Southwest Airlines credit card. We had never gotten an airline credit card before because we had never wanted a card with an annual payment, but with how many flights we've used in the last year I'd say the $99 payment is well worth it. So far, we've used the card to fly Michael, Kolby, Elijah, & myself to Utah and Bach for conference and a tour at BYU, booked my flight for the genealogy conference next month, and gotten me a flight to go along with Michael on this dermatology conference to Napa this weekend. 

This weekend has been fun. We flew into San Francisco on Thursday evening and went to Tadich Grill for their famous cioppino (it was great, but we'll have to remember next time that one dish would have been plenty for the two of us).
Cioppino at Tadich Grill.

Then we walked along the bay and saw all the piers, watched a juggling act, saw the sea lions, & had a little dessert at Ghirardelli Square.
Alcatraz Island in the background.

Then the best part of the night was the trolley -- we watched while they pulled the trolley into the turnstile and manually pushed it to get it onto the other track, then we each got a spot to stand and hang off the side of the trolley for the ride up and down the steep streets. I'm so used to modern laws and regulations prohibiting any actions that are even remotely risky, that I loved the fact that people can still hang off the side of a moving trolley and ride up the San Francisco streets. It was so fun!

(I loved the cobblestone road at the trolley station).

Once we walked back to the car we drove down the windy Lombard Street in the dark, then drove across the Golden Gate Bridge on our way north to Napa.

The Golden Gate Bridge at night.

On Friday while Michael went to his conference, I rented a bike and rode through the Napa countryside. I had decided on a 22 mile loop, which sounded great except for the fact that it was supposed to be a high of 98 degrees out that day and I was a little concerned about the heat. I had rented a hybrid bike that had airless tires (because I was going to be alone all day in areas without great cell coverage, I liked the idea that a flat tire would be impossible), plus these were a lot less expensive to rent than road bikes.  Even though the bike wasn't quite as easy of a ride as my mountain bike at home, it seemed to work well. I got about 13 miles out and was still feeling good, so I decided to add an extra optional loop, which went well until on my way back I hit about the 25 mile point and I was beat!  The heat got to me, and even though I'd taken my camelback I was pretty concerned that my water might run out before I got back to the bike shop. Up until that part of the ride I was feeling pretty proud of myself that I hadn't stopped to take a rest or walk my bike (I had only stopped to check directions, reapply sunscreen a few times, and eat lunch), but after the 25 mile point I stopped a few times, and walked up a couple hills. The last few miles my butt was so sore from the bike seat (I'm glad I wore bike shorts it probably would have been a lot worse without them) and the last couple hours my arms were so sore I could hardly hold the handlebars. I reached the point where I would have given up if I could have, but I had to get back to the bike shop, so I did. I rode 33 miles. I was dead beat, but it had been a really cool ride overall. I wonder if I had sprung for a road bike how much easier it may have been, but oh well.

I came back and met Michael after his classes, and we jumped in the pool before eating dinner at a great little Thai place downtown, and then coming back to the hotel and crashing about 7:30pm. 

Yesterday Michael went to his classes while I went to the Napa farmer's market, and had a yummy brunch of blueberries, figs, and a mini orzo salad. Then I walked around through the Oxbow Public Market -- a pretty cool combination of shops and restaurants all in a large warehouse-type building.  I tried to find a scenic drive that I had read about, but the part of it that I ended up at wasn't especially scenic, and I went back to meet Michael for lunch, and then just relaxed. We walked around downtown Napa in the evening and ended up finding a little hole in the wall Mediterranean place for dinner.
Napa Farmer's Market

This morning we packed up and Michael caught the last few classes of his conference. I felt like I had a migraine coming on, with the strange blurred vision that accompanies that (I'm glad I only get that rarely), and I rested. My vision is back to normal, and fortunately I didn't get the bad migraine pain, but my head doesn't quite feel back to normal yet. Hopefully soon. We checked out of our room and I'm just waiting for Michael so we can do a quick lunch and head to church before driving back down through San Francisco for our flight home this evening. 

It's been a really nice weekend away. And we're so grateful my parents were willing to watch the boys for us!   

14 June 2017

Barker Valley Spur Trail

I had found a few descriptions online of Barker Valley Spur Trail in the eastern Palomar Mountains, but there weren't many details about this hike online, and barely any videos of it on YouTube (specifically a lack of videos of the swimming holes or waterfalls that a few people had mentioned online), and those who did write about this hike said the trail to the water was difficult to find and many had ended up trying the hike without ever getting to the waterfall. Sounded like a great adventure to me!  I read all I could about it online and took notes of peoples' directions until I felt pretty well prepared. 

We had a great day on this trail -- once we finally got to the trailhead. First our GPS took us up a different dirt road where we eventually came to a locked gate. But then we got on the right road (take the 79 to Palomar Divide Road and that will get you to the trailhead). The road is partially paved and partially dirt, and our minivan has made it on much rougher roads than this without any problem, but when we were 2 miles short of the trailhead we happened to hit a rock in just the right way to cause a flat tire. We're grateful to Kyle the mountain biker who stopped and helped put on our spare tire!  Since the trailhead was only 2 miles away, we drove very carefully up the rest of the road with our spare tire and still did the hike. 

The correct road

Kyle the mountain biker saved the day!

Finally at the Trailhead!

Because of our difficulties on the road, we got there late and started in about 11:30am. It wasn't too hot out (high of about 75 degrees that day). The long descent downhill at midday without too much shade was a little hot for the dogs, especially Harley was panting a lot -- and I'm even more cautious about the dogs being ok on big hikes since they didn't do too well the last time I took them to Three Sisters.  But I kept giving them plenty of water to drink, and we just pushed it and got down to the stream as soon as we could, and they were fine as soon as they could take a swim. The trail down to the stream bed  was easy to follow. 

From the top of this trail you can see Lake Henshaw in the distance (I pointed it out to the boys and showed them that one of our other hiking spots, Black Canyon, is in the mountains not too far on the other side of Lake Henshaw).  

Courtland "dabbing"

A shady spot for lunch along the stream

The dogs sure liked swimming and running through the water!

Once we got to the bottom of the hill at the dry stream bed we made sure to follow the little foot path to the left, rather than following the main trail crossing the stream bed to the right. There were so many comments from other hikers about this trail being really difficult to find and follow, but we didn't really have a problem. I admit that there were a couple times that I doubted we were going the right way, but I was just second guessing myself, and we continued on.  This part of the trail is a narrow, winding foot path with grassy weeds growing along it -- but just keep an eye on the path and if you're in doubt take a moment to look around and you'll see where the path continues.  There were a couple times that a small dry stream bed crossed the foot path and we were unsure which way the path went, but I just told the boys to watch closely for shoe prints in the sandy path and then we'd know we were going the right way (because there weren't any signs of people off the trail in this area at all).  We took much longer on this portion of our hike than we had to, because after we stopped for lunch the kids insisted on putting on their water shoes and making their way downstream through the water. It was slow going, but the kids enjoyed it. Some of the rocks in the water were slippery, even with water shoes. We also found a few portions of the stream that were deeper -- deep enough for the kids to get in all the way if they wanted, and for the dogs to have to swim to get across certain sections of the stream. On our return hike we stuck to the foot path the whole way back, and found it easy to follow. 

Deer tracks in the sand near the stream

Saw this ladybug floating downstream on an oak leaf raft

We saw hundreds of tadpoles

We really liked this cool tree with it's roots growing out over the bank of the streambed

"Mom, can we take a funny picture?"

Once you come to a meadow and then come to some rocks at the end of the meadow, climb up and over the top of the rocks (not around to the right side of the rocks closer to the stream). When you see a cactus at the top of the rocks (the only cactus we saw on the whole trail) you know you're going to right way. Just keep going straight and you will see a little path beyond the rocks, which will then lead down the little hill to the water at the small dam and the weir. The kids had fun climbing inside the weir, until they saw that there was a small beehive inside and they left it alone. There were a few spots here where it would be deep enough to swim, maybe even deep enough to jump from the rocks into the water. 

Up and over the rocks at the end of the meadow

"Look what we caught!"

alligator lizard -- watch out, they'll bite when you try to catch them

If you look closely, just left of center, you can see the roof of the weir. 
Drying off in the sun

Checking out the weir

Hello up there!

We continued downstream and found gradually larger cascades over rocks and mini waterfalls and pools, until we ended up at the top of a tall cascading waterfall with the rectangular pool in the rock just beside where the waterfall dropped down steeply. If we had gotten out there a lot earlier in the day we may have tried to find a way to carefully climb down to the pools below this falls -- I climbed the rocks to the top of the ridge to get a good view of the surrounding area, and could see some more pools further down stream around the bend. It looked very tempting to continue exploring more, but I didn't want to risk staying too late and having to drive down the mountain on the rocky road with our little spare tire in the dark, so we decided to leave that for another trip. (Maybe backpacking in and camping in the meadow before the weir, then having a whole day to explore around the water?)  

Courtland loves to have me take photos of him that look like he's falling off the edge of a cliff.  :)

Just relaxing in their pool on the edge of the falls

Looking down at the boys resting on the rocks after I climbed to the top of the ridge.


We hiked back out, and stuck to the trails the whole way out. It took us 3 hours to get from the falls to our car. It's a long ascent at the end of the day when you're already worn out from a day of hiking & exploring, but it ended up being perfect timing as we hiked uphill in the late afternoon/early evening, arriving back at the trailhead at 7:30pm -- it would have been a lot less comfortable doing that in the heat of the day. (Even though the boys are experienced hikers for their ages, it was still pretty slow going for them as they were tired, and the trail just kept gradually going up and up and up). I personally thought it wasn't too bad hiking out up the hill, especially that time of day. But we did take occasional short rest breaks for the kids, so I defiantly wasn't straining myself at that pace. 

Fortunately for us, the bugs were not a problem like some previous hikers had commented about. We carried bug spray, but never had to take it out of our packs and use it. We only saw a couple of bikers and a motorcyclist on the dirt road as we drove the whole way to the trailhead, and passed no one on the road the whole way out. We spent 8 hours out there that day, hiked a total of 8.8 miles, and we didn't see another soul on the entire trail (we hiked it on a Monday), and we only saw one piece of trash the entire time, and no graffiti. In fact, other than the trails themselves, a couple small wooden signs along the main trail, and the dam & weir, we didn't see any signs of humans the whole time. It was amazing!  There was little to no cell reception throughout the hike. We took a water filter, but didn't end up needing to refill our water bottles in the stream because it wasn't too hot out. Overall a wonderful day.  And this hike has so much potential for further exploring in the future.  

I asked the boys what they would rate this hike, and they all said between a 7 and a 9 out of 10. (Of course I was smart and asked them about this just after we left the waterfall and started hiking back to the car -- they may very well have given it lower ratings when they were worn out after hiking back up the mountain at the very end).   :)

It was a very nice day for us, and a great start to our summer adventures!  And all day today I just keep thinking about how I can see the Lord's hand helping us throughout the day all that day -- from the mountain biker who "happened" to ride by as soon as we had a flat tire on a road where we hadn't passed another person for miles and miles until that point, and helping us find Berkley when she wandered away from us on the trail for a while and we didn't know which way to go to find her and the boys prayed that we could find her and she came running back to us down the trail, and how we got back down the mountain safely even with driving that little spare tire down the rocky road, and how there were so many ways things could have possibly gone wrong and someone could have been injured but we were all protected and safe. Feeling pretty grateful today.