Friday, February 19, 2010


Our first week in Sonora has come and gone. We arrived to beautiful sunny weather which lasted the entire week. It was gorgeous - just like spring - and we reveled in it day after day. Unfortunately, it's started to drizzle and the remainder of our stay looks fairly unsettled. At least we go one nice week!

We are staying in Jamestown, which is a small, western-themed town just west of Sonora. We've rented a small cottage at a hotel in town. It includes a full kitchen, which is always best for us since we can cook meals and store lunch food. Every other day, we go to Jailhouse Rock, a basalt cliff about 15 miles distant. The cliff is a 30-minute uphill hike and, since Elise just keeps getting bigger and bigger, I'm getting a good workout each day! Fortunately, we can stash our climbing gear at the cliff which lightens our load considerably. The climbing is very steep and the routes tend to be long, so the sessions are physical and tiring. We have a nice view from the crag and have seen vultures, eagles and peregrine falcons. One hazard specific to this area is poison oak, and we've learned to identify it and keep Elise well clear. I got poison oak on my leg the last time we were in this area and it was not a pleasant experience. The hike to the cliff is very pretty and the trail wanders through small oak trees on a grassy hillside. Each day we pass horses, which delights Elise to no end. There is a small creek we cross and each day we stop on the way down to relax, wade and look for crayfish!

We traveled to Yosemite Valley early in the week and had a great time. The scenery there is truly incredible and the day was gorgeous - we took lots of pictures. Highlights were a picnic lunch on the banks of the Merced River, a hike to Lower Yosemite Falls and a climbing session (for Elise) on Swan Slabs. This was the perfect setting for her - I set up top-ropes on the low-angled slabs and she scampered up them with zeal! We finished with a walk through the famous Camp 4 boulders, socialized with lots of people and helped Elise do some bouldering. It was a long day, but well worth the effort.

Another interesting outing involved a hike to some natural bridges in a small gorge. The bridges were actually underground limestone caverns through which a small creek flowed. The terrain was dramatic and we enjoyed a 2-hour hike, all of which Elise did on her own. She's become quite a bit more capable and is enjoying tackling these activities independently. (If only I could convince her to hike to the cliff on her own!) After inspecting the caverns, I let Elise take some pictures with my camera, which always delights her. She took pictures of "mommy" and they actually turned out okay.

Other than the climbing and sightseeing, we are just enjoying being away from work and relaxing. There are some good playgrounds in the area and we've toured them all with Elise. She went to story time at the library the other day and made a very nice mask. Tonight we are going to the Candy Vault - an old-fashioned candy store in Sonora - if Elise will eat her dinner. We hoped to head into San Fransisco, but it's a tad far so that may not happen. We are following the Olympics from afar, and are pleased that Canada has had some success!

We return home on the 28th and don't relish leaving our relaxing routine behind.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Elise's Fourth Birthday

Elise's fourth birthday has come and gone, and what a week it was! Grandma Bourdon came for a visit and we had a busy time with lots of activities.

The week started with a ski trip to Blackcomb. Elise is progressing in leaps and bounds and this day was special. She skied down beside the Magic Chair three times on her own without any physical contact from either Grandma or myself. She was visibly pleased with herself and kept exclaiming, "I'm doing it all by myself". It was a great time, but Elise was not pleased when I told her we'd have to wait until after the Olympics to try again, due to the incredibly restrictive parking regulations that are about to go into place.

Riding the Magic Chair with Grandma.

Skiing "Hocus Pocus" with Grandma.

This movie shows Elise skiing Hocus Pocus, her first time down the run without any help.

The next event was the Olympic torch relay. We learned that the relay would go past our house so we made a point of trying to get out and see the display. There was a lot of vague communication regarding the timing so we wandered around the neighbourhood and waited on the corner for some time to no avail. Pam went off to an appointment and Elise, Grandma and I went back inside. We heard quite a commotion from the street, so we dashed back outside just in time to watch the torch parade make its way down Guilford, right beside our house! It was a moment to remember, for sure. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures as it was after dark.

Elise, Pam and Grandma waiting for the Olympic torch on the corner of Guilford and Westway in Valleycliffe, Squamish.

Elise has been attending gymnastics classes at our local recreation centre. It seems to me that her climbing skills are not translating very well to proficiency at the various gymnastic tricks, but part of that problem seems to stem from her lack of focus. She rushes from apparatus to apparatus and rarely tries to be very careful about what she is doing. Also, her listening skills need work. While the other kids watch the instructor carefully, Elise tends to spin around and look at the ceiling, rarely keeping her focus. Maybe she just has too much energy!

Here she is hanging from the bars. The instructor had them squeeze a stuffed animal between their legs and "throw" it into a hoop. This proved to be a challenging coordination test for most!

This is Elise on the balance beam, which is covered in stuffed animals. Elise tends to rush and occasionally jumps off the beam just for fun. She doesn't seem to understand the staying on the beam is the goal. As long as she's having fun...

The final, and most important, event of the week was Elise's fourth birthday. She's at an age where she totally "gets it" and we counted the number of sleeps all week long. She loves to party and was beside herself with anticipation.

She woke early on the 7th (her birthday) and we went out for a pancake breakfast at White Spot. Afterward, we came home and opened gifts. She got so many wonderful presents it's impossible to list them all here, but thanks to everyone for the thoughtful gifts. Here she is opening her Russian doll (a wooden doll that has multiple layers).

Here she is posing with two of her other gifts, a princess dress and a glass dolphin.

We spent the rest of the morning baking her cake. Pam did the grunt work (baked the cakes and made the frosting) and I did the structural design. She requested a starfish cake so I made a template and built a five-legged creature. It was tedious work, but it seemed to turn out quite well and was a hit at the party. After her nap, I took her to the pool for a pre-party swim, which was a nice father-daughter activity before the mayhem of the evening commenced.

The party started at 5:30 pm and the kids really enjoyed playing together. We had a pot luck dinner while the kids tore around the house and formed a loud marching band in the hallway. Here Elise is waiting for her cake. Kayan (the little boy in front) couldn't contain himself and had to help blow out the candles - all four of them!

The party went well and there were no major incidents. The kids tore apart Elise's room (as was to be expected) and the adults enjoyed socializing. Afterward, we cleaned up the house and read Elise some stories from her new books. She was thoroughly exhausted. At bedtime, she asked me, "how many sleeps until I turn five?" I replied, "just enjoy being four for now Honey, five is a long way off". As she lay down she said, "next year can you make me a rainbow trout cake?" Now that will be a challenge!