The End of the S110

Yep, I got a new camera! bigsmile

The flash on the trusty Powershot S110 died back in mid-July of 2015…I have been using it without a flash for 14 months, so naturally I have been getting twitchy for a replacement for a while now.  I was keeping an eye on the new(ish) Canon G9X, the moral successor to the S110 line, and then two things happened last week: First, the built-in lens covers on the S110 stopped opening and closing by themselves…I had to flick them with my finger to un-stick them.  And then, when I mentioned this to Amanda, she said something like, “I’ve been telling you to get a new one for forever now…”

Well, if you are going to twist my arm like that… cool

It awful lot like the S110
It looks…an awful lot like the S110

And really, it is very much like the trusty old S100 and S110 cameras, because I loved those devices.  This one is a hair thicker and has a much bigger lens and sensor (20MP).  It has fewer buttons but a more responsive touch screen, and some pretty slick advanced features (customized menus, automatic ND filter, face detection, image stabilization, etc).  I’m having fun learning about it.

I updated my trusty camera model chart:

Lifespan and picture counts for my past cameras
Lifespan and picture counts for my past cameras

A lot of cameras actually reach near the top of the chart.  The 5DM2 DSLR is going strong, and has taken more pictures than any other camera by far.  I expect that one to last another decade.  My phone (Nexus 5X) and Amanda’s phone (Nexus 6) continue to make pictures, as do both the S100 and S110 (backup camera, rugged environments, loaned to the kids, etc).  And of course the new G9X is current, with a whopping 29 images so far. smile

The S110 had a good run.  The S100’s bar is taller, but only because it sees occasional use…in practice, I took 3000 more pictures on the later model.

So now we expect some great kid pictures out of you and your 1″ sensor, Powershot G9X.  Like, for example, a shot of Adria and Austin reading together in near darkness.

Love these guys.
Love these guys.

Blog Book 2015

Yeah, so, it’s late September. And I finally got around to printing the ‘blog book’ from last year. That’s ok…it’s mostly a reference piece to drag out later, and the delay this year had more to do with budget than anything else. I finished making the 2015 book in mid-March, proofread it, uploaded it to Lulu and made covers…and then balked at the $130 price tag at a time when a lot of bills were coming due. So, I waited. Recently, I encountered a 25% off coupon for Lulu, so I decided to take the plunge…and the new coffee-table book showed up a few days ago! cool

Green cover for 2015
Green cover for 2015

I think that I have now surpassed Harry Potter…at least, in number of volumes.  Here’s the entire set, all fanned out:

There are (Adria's age + 1) books
There are (Adria’s age + 1) books

And the full stack, with Amanda’s hands for scale (thanks to Amanda for being my hand model…this photo is tricky enough with two hands):

A full deck
A full deck

Just like I noted in my 2015 postmortem post, 2014 appears to be the peak.  The 2015 book is not as thick as last year’s book.  Here are the page counts:

  • 2008: 124 pages
  • 2009: 350 pages
  • 2010: 460 pages
  • 2011: 625 pages
  • 2012: 552 pages
  • 2013: 594 pages
  • 2014: 726 pages
  • 2015: 659 pages

In 2015 I started using a lot more large images, so that probably puffed up the page count a bit.  The grand total is: 4,090 pages!

Here is a quick flip-through, just to give a feel for what it looks like on the inside.  Thanks again to my hand model (cheesy background music because it’s otherwise silent). smile


So here’s the long story, made short: Adria stepped on my left hand about a week ago, and broke my ring finger.  It will be in a splint for at least another 6 weeks. sad

It has been over a week since this happened.  X-rays have been taken and the finger is all splinted up and on the way to healing, so I think I’m finally ready to talk about it. cool

Last Wednesday night, September 14th, I turned on the kids’ bathroom light for teeth-brushing, and there was a spider hanging from the ceiling on an invisible web (a lot like this one).  Cute little thing, and we don’t freak out about spiders around here.  We caught it in a plastic cup, watched him for a while, and then Adria took him outside.  So far, so good. mindblown-alt

Since we just had a spider experience, I was getting silly while helping Austin get his pajamas on.  I skittered my hands across the floor like spiders, pretending that I was going to tickle him.  Austin squirmed and laughed and it was all fun and games.  Adria heard the commotion and came running in, so I skittered my spiders over towards her.  Can anyone guess what her reaction was?  That’s right, she stomped on that itsy bitsy spider. Pop!

Now, we don’t swear in front of our kids, pretty much ever.  My immediate reaction when this incident happened was to yell, and I quote: “F***!  G** d*** it!”  I stood up without looking back, went to my bedroom and slammed the door with my heel, and laid down on the carpet in the walk-in closet where I could cry, curse, and/or console myself in peace.  It hurt, a lot.

I refrained from going to the ER.  Despite the pain, it didn’t look all that bad.  I iced it for a few hours and took lots of ibuprofen..there was some bruising but very little swelling, and I could close my hand…although it really didn’t feel good.  See the white line in my skin on the knuckle (left-to-right line, not the scar)?  You could feel that ridge through the skin.  Ew.

Picture from the night of...
Picture from the night of…

So the next day, I took the first available appointment at Kaiser.  The nurse more or less sent me straight down for x-rays.  This is a digital, instantaneous process these days…so I went back upstairs and they were basically already reviewing the pictures.  Definitely broken:

That little chip of bone is supposed to be attached
That little chip of bone is supposed to be attached

Apparently what happened is that the ‘extensor’ tendon on the top of my ring finger was stronger than the bone, so when my finger was forced closed past its limit, it actually pulled that little chip of bone off.  And that’s what you can see through the skin in the photo above.  No wonder it hurt…

They splinted me up and scheduled an appointment with an ortho specialist, and I went to that appointment on Tuesday.  Fortunately, the treatment is pretty easy.  You bend the joint backwards a little (to give the tendon some slack) and splint it that way.  They did this, and then took an x-ray while I was splinted to verify that the bone chip seated properly (it did).  So now I wait, approximately 6 weeks while it stitches itself back together.

Lots more bruising present a week later
Lots more bruising present a week later

In many ways, the nature of the injury was actually fortunate.  Bones heal better than tendons.  I didn’t even ask what the treatment (if any) would be if the tendon had ruptured or detached from the bone.  I’m pretty happy with my anti-climatic splint:

Not much to it...
Not much to it…

The ‘splint’ is a piece of aluminum that looks hand-cut and manually wrapped in some kind of bandage.  Then they taped it to the back of my finger.  The most important detail, really, is that the finger is fully extended so the extensor tendon isn’t tempted to pull on that chip of bone and reset the healing process.

I think I’ll stop here.  To be honest, it is still rather uncomfortable, and I’m not super excited about doing a lot of typing.  The real gotchas, though, are not the really obvious things that you do with your hands, like washing dishes.  It’s the things where you don’t really realize that you are using your whole hand.  For example, opening a bottle of children’s cough syrup.  It’s a tiny lid, seems like that would be fine for 1.5 hands…but it’s a little sticky, and when you try to really clamp down on the lid with your first two fingers, the rest of the hand follows…you can’t help it.  And that hurts.

So, Adria.  I love you, I’ll live, all is forgiven.  But please be more thoughtful…I really could have done without this unexpected drama. tongue

Addison’s Food Sensitivies

We’ve been fighting the eczema on Addison’s chin for what feels like her entire life.  We consulted the doctors, and mostly got responses like, “yeah, that happens around here, usually only lasts a few years.”  Great.  We have tried petroleum-based products like Bag Balm and Aquaphor, homeopathic remedies like coconut oil, and even prescription-strength Hydrocortisone.

It was hard to tell what, if anything, was working.  She would have good days and bad, with loose correlation to the products we used.  We also monitored diet, thumb-sucking, humidity, and the general dampness of her face (particularly after baths and meals).  We had hypothesis here and there, but over the course of the last year or so, nothing really panned out.  There are just so many potential factors…

But we think we finally got it: bananas.

We had suspected bananas before, but never at a level that made it a better candidate than anything else.  Her face sometimes flared up after she smeared herself with bananas, but then it seemed like it would get irritated when smeared with anything.

Recently we had an incident where she happened to be looking pretty good, and then there was a Big Banana Fiasco, and afterwards her chin was incredibly raw and patchy.  We decided to declare an embargo on bananas, both at home and at school…and since we did that, she has been 90% better, consistently.  It’s not 100%, but then we never thought it was a single factor.  She does still suck her thumb sometimes, and she just has sensitive skin.  But we’re very relieved to get such an improvement.

The banana allergy/intolerence is a funny thing.  We really don’t know how it operates with Addy, and we probably just won’t mess with it until she’s a lot older.  You can have an intolerence to bananas — that is, issues caused by consuming it, not taking a facial with it — that causes a rash.  Or, an actual allergy, which can result from contact and tends to act faster (and can also cause a rash).  The protein in bananas that usually causes an allergic reaction is called “chitinase.”  It is found in an exceedingly random set of places: bananas, avocado, kiwi, chestnuts, tomatoes, and latex are among the more interesting sources.

So…now we know what to keep an eye on.  Later when she is better able to understand the experiment (and avoid smearing her face with it), we might try a banana again and see how it goes. smile

A photo from this rash!
A photo from this evening (unedited)…no rash!

Addison’s Quips and Phrases

At this point, Addison can say and understand pretty much everything.  It is still amazing to watch the gears turn and hear the things that come out of her mouth.  I’ve been jotting down some of the more amusing phrases and questions that I’ve heard lately, so I thought it might be time to paste them into the blog:

  • Like that?  Amanda loves this one.  When Addy is imitating something, or we are asking her to do something, she’ll give it a shot and then ask, “Like that?” About half the time, she has done something silly and is teasing us.
  • What’s that?  Yeah, we get this one a lot.
  • What you doing, dada?
  • Peace out, mama.  She bid farewell to Amanda like this the other day, out of the blue. cool
  • I want a purple one.  Or name any adjective.  It’s amazing how descriptive she can be.
  • I’m finishing, dada.  “Are you done with breakfast yet, Addison?”
  • I do it myself!  We get this one a lot, too.  Which is great, I love that she is already spunky and independent.  She often wants to do the slide “myself” or “by self.”
  • Look at that, dada!
  • What happened….you?  What happened to you.  She noticed the splint on my finger.  More on that one later. wink
  • Excuse me, guys.  Trying to get down the stairs, and the bigs were in the way.
  • Daddy waked up!  I tried to sneak downstairs and make a cup of coffee on Sunday morning after sleeping in a bit…but the baby radar detected motion.
  • No…is…cooling down.  Yes, I asked her if her food was hot, and she told me that it was cooling down.  Seriously.
  • Yum! I want to eat that!
  • I want to eat Austin’s bar!
  • My bed, Adria.  Adria was teasing Addy by trying to climb into her bed.  Addy got very defensive.
  • Tell mom/dad.  Somehow in the evenings, for a while there, we got in the habit of both giving Addy a goodnight song and kiss.  So Addison would say something like, “I want mommy…hug.”  And I would say, “Ok, I’ll tell mom.”  So now it has become ritual, when we are about to leave her room for the night, for Addy to ask, “Tell mom?”  We generally don’t play that game anymore. tongue

P.S. Addison still says A-Gee-Uh (long ‘a’) for Adria’s name, most of the time…although she doesn’t have to.  If you ask Addy to repeat it for you, she’ll say it properly instead.  But it’s so cute, I’ve found myself calling her A-G-Uh every now and then, too. bigsmile


Austin’s Geometric Designs

After only a week of school, we have had both of Austin’s main teachers (kindergarten and kindergarten “enrichment”) comment on how creative Austin is, and how intricate his “designs” are.  We have seen this at home, too.

It seems to be cathartic for him to use various sorts of construction materials (blocks, Legos, bristle blocks, Magformers, Brain Flakes, etc) to create geometric patterns of various sorts.  Often these patterns are repeating, often they have a rainbow sequence or theme…but that certainly doesn’t seem to be a requirement.

Building a Brain Flake gondola
Building a Brain Flake gondola

He will sit by himself for 30-60 minutes at a time, patiently manipulating his desired medium, usually singing or humming to himself as he works.

This is a tree, with some kind of water around it
This is a tree, with some kind of water around it

Now, the really interesting part of this story actually has more to do with Adria than Austin.  She saw the tree that Austin made in the picture above, and was impressed by it (she even said so).  She sat down to make her own project, and came up with this ‘sun’:

Adria and the sun
Adria and the sun

You can probably tell from her expression that she’s not all that happy…I noticed it too, and asked her what the matter was.  With a remarkable amount of introspection, she said, “Dad, I’m jealous!  Austin makes such great creations, and mine aren’t so good!  He’s…better than me at the Brain Flakes!” mindblown-alt

Adria is a very creative girl, and she’s no slouch with the Brain Flakes or any other kind of construction toy.  In this case, though, she might be right…Austin basically meditates over them and spends an hour slowly building up his pattern…it’s not going to be something that she can emulate in 5 minutes, even with a 2.5 year age advantage on him.  His structures are pretty great.

But I’m seriously impressed with her ability to acknowledge and even verbalize this feeling.  She didn’t lash out, didn’t smash Austin’s accomplishment, didn’t try to put him down…and she didn’t stomp off in a huff, or even give up.  She wore a concerned expression, and when I asked her about it, was able to elucidate her feelings.

As the number of years between these two becomes a smaller and smaller fraction of their age, this will not be the last thing that Austin becomes better than his big sister at.  But she’ll always have her own niches…this is life, kiddo. tongue

Colorado Railroad Museum

Two weekends ago we decided to spend our Sunday morning in Golden.  The plan was to see the Colorado Railroad museum, then have lunch and wander around downtown Golden a little bit, and then get a factory tour of the Coors Brewing plant.  Well…you know what they say about best laid plans. cool

Actually, we didn’t do bad.  We got our fill at the Railroad museum, and then we made it to Golden and had a very nice outdoor lunch at a local deli.  That was all we had in us, though.  The kids were tired and mopey and it was starting to get hot, so we didn’t do much exploring around Golden.  We drove to the parking lot where they bus people up to the Coors factory, but were informed that there would be a 2 hour wait.  They opened their gates at noon and we showed up at 12:30pm, and the wait was 2 hours.  Yeah…some other time.

But…trains!  The Colorado Railroad Museum was pretty cool, if a little pricey.  We paid our admission and went straight down to the basement, where the the Denver HO Model Railroad Club has a huge model train set laid out.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t running…but it was still very cool.

The bigs inspecting the model railroad
The bigs inspecting the model railroad

The big trains were outside, obviously.  There were sections of the park that were manicured and looked like a good place for an elementary school picnic, and then other sections looked very much like a gravel rail yard.

One of the more highly produced areas...
One of the more highly produced areas…
...and a more utilitarian section.
…and a more utilitarian section.

They have a narrow-gauge train that actually works, but it wasn’t running this Sunday, which is a shame.  They do let you get up into many (but still a small fraction) of the trains, which was fun for the kids.

Everyone loves trains!
Everyone loves trains!
Adria and Addy exploring a dining car
Adria and Addy exploring a dining car
I think this was the back of a sleeper car?
I think this was the back of a sleeper car?
No idea, but fun for the littles
No idea, but fun for the littles

We had fun at the train museum.  To be honest, I’d say that Traveltown in Griffith Park (near our old home in Glendale) was a better experience.  They might not have as many trains, but it’s cleaner, more accessible, and free.  It’s hard to beat that for value.  But trains are always awesome, and it was good to get these kids out for some Rocky Mountain heritage.  We had a good time.

Austin is a Kindergartner!

Yeesh, they grow up so fast!  On Tuesday August 23rd, Austin had his first full day of Kindergarten.  Due to the school’s “staggered start” for kindergarten, only half of Austin’s class attended school that day.  The other half had gone on Monday, and were taking Tuesday off.  It’s a process. wink

Naturally, we took our usual front porch photo, this time with Austin in the middle:

Obligatory 1st day photo
Obligatory 1st day photo

I also got a photo of Austin on the front porch rail, with the intention of creating a series of photos with a feel similar to last year’s:

Not quite as smiley as last year
Not quite as smiley as last year

The next photo happened totally by accident…I was not intending to copy this moment from Adria’s first day, but apparently Adria is still feeling very motherly, and this happened again:

Walking to school on Austin's first day
Walking to school on Austin’s first day

And here he is, queued up and ready to go inside.  I think that maybe he was a little bit intimidated this first day, because (as far as I was concerned) he did everything exactly as he was told, when he was told.  Made me wonder if something was wrong. tongue

Lined up with (half of) his class
Lined up with (half of) his class

So despite just being in kindergarten, Austin has 3 teachers right now.  He goes to “kindergarten enrichment” from about 8am until lunch, then he has actual kindergarten until about 2:30pm, and then he goes to the YMCA after-school care in the cafeteria with Adria.  It’s a pretty big shift from everything that has gone before, and he’s still adjusting.

Just like I said with Adria’s “first day” post, I intend to write a post in a few weeks talking about how he’s doing in school.  This post is likely to be significantly longer and more interesting than Adria’s post. cool

We have already talked to all of his teachers at least once, and we have been to “back to school night” as well.  His teachers are all wonderful, supportive people who fully understand 5-year-old boys, so that is good.  The bad news, I suppose, is that he needs to be “worked with” at all…but the fact of the matter is: he does.  He’s adjusting to the new routines and the new authority figures, and it is not news that he has some explosive moments that can be hard to deal with.  Especially when you’ve got 10-20 other kids and simply can’t afford to coddle each one.

So…that is a work in progress, and I’ll report on it more when there is more to say.  Right now, we’re all adjusting to the new situation, looking for routines and tricks and incentives, and seeing where it takes us.  He’s doing perfectly fine.

Adria is a Second-Grader!

Man, that is so hard to believe.  Back on August 18th, Adria started back up at the elementary school, now in second grade.  Yikes!

Obligatory 1st day photo
Obligatory 1st day photo

Adria had been excited for a week to get back to school.  She had her (new) clothes laid out and was itching to get to class, meet her teacher and friends, and do some new activities (aka “learning”).  The honeymoon still hasn’t really worn off, either.  She truly seems to love school, and every day when we ask her how her day was, she responds with an enthusiastic, “Great!” smile

Austin actually didn’t start on this day, despite being a kindergartner in the same school.  Kindergarten has a ‘staggered start’ to ease the little ones into the routine, so I’ll get to his first day in a little while.  But even though he didn’t have to go to school this day, he did have to walk there and back with me, because his first activity of the day didn’t start until 10am.

She was excited to show him the ropes, even though he wasn't actually starting yet
She was excited to show him the ropes, even though he wasn’t actually starting yet

The playground was kind of a zoo.  I couldn’t help a bit of that “get off my lawn” feeling, as I was getting pushed around by a swarm of parents who would only be escorting their kids to the school for a day or two.  Not rational, I know…but I walk the kids to school every day, and it’s starting to feel a little bit like “my” territory.  I didn’t like getting crowded out by these other parents…who I knew just wanted to see their own children off and give them a little extra love. uneasy

Could hardly get close...
Could hardly get close…

Adria was totally comfortable.  I don’t think she liked the crowds much either, but it was busy and exciting, and she followed her teacher in like a good little duckling.

Like I said, she has been doing great in school so far.  Her teacher is big on personal responsibility and respect, which I like to see.  She also has the kids sanitize their hands like 10 times a day, which I’m not so keen on…but you can’t win them all. wink

I’ll probably write a 2nd Grade addendum post in a few weeks, once we get into a groove with homework and Friday Folders and reading and all of that.  Stay tuned for further report, but I’m not worried…Adria loves school, and she’s great at it. smile

Camping at Brainard Lake

I wrote about our recent hike to Lost Lake, which was a bit of a teaser-trailer for a Brainard Lake camping trip that we’ve had on the calendar for months. (Note that, around here, you have to ‘have it on the calendar for months’, to get a reservation in some of these areas…).

So, last weekend, we went for the gold and took the kids car camping in the Brainard Lake Rec Area, sharing a camp site with the same friends/neighbors that we joined on the hiking trip a few weeks before.

“Car camping” is a funny thing.  Yes, we pitched a tent and cooked our food and didn’t shower, and all of those other campy things.  But we were not roughing it.  We moved the kids’ car seats to the middle row of the van, folded down the back seats, and then filled those 87.1 cubic feet of storage space to the brim with…necessities. smile

Camping with a toddler takes...stuff
Camping with a toddler takes…stuff

Just to name some of the stuff we took along: 6 sleeping bags, two twin foam mattresses (for me and Amanda) two therma-rest pads (for the bigs), a Pack’N’Play (for Addison), 4 pillows, an 8-man tent and ground cloth, a cooler with cold food, bags of dry food, cooking utensils, TP, blankets, jackets, 2 days of clothes and toiletries for 5 people, water, a day pack, and more.

There is a danger in under-packing, and it leads us to the “if we think we might need it, throw it in” attitude.  If, for example, one or more of the kids gets cold in the night, that is disruptive for the whole camp site.  If they get intolerably cold, that’s an awkward end to the trip.  So you add double pajamas, two sleeping bags per kid, blankets, etc.  Why not? There’s room…

Getting out of town turned out to be something of a disaster.  Addison is often tired at the end of the day, but as she gets bigger she has gotten a lot better at moderating her sleep and blood sugar levels, and things have gotten easier.  On this day, however, everything that could go wrong, did.  When I picked her up, I learned that she had one of the most sensitive, clingy days that she’s had in a while.  I also noticed that her eyes were red and puffy…and it looked like more than just crying. cry

By the time we were heading up the hill, Addison’s eyes were swollen mostly shut.  Our theory was that they got sunscreen in her eyes at school (they said that they had just put it on 20 minutes before I showed up), but we grabbed our trusty bottle of pinkeye drops, just in case.  Addison was a basket-case all the way up the mountain…she cried and rubbed her eyes most of the way, and there wasn’t much we could do for her. sad

Once at the campsite, we pitched and filled the tent.  This was difficult with one extremely sensitive, tired toddler, and two very excited bigs who wanted to play in the fire and explore the woods.  Everyone was hungry and thirsty and tired…it was just like getting everyone home from school in the evening, only without the comforts of home. wink

Amanda pitching the tent; I'm undoubtedly holding Addison
Amanda pitching the tent; I’m undoubtedly holding Addison

Eventually we got a little settled.  We raided the cooler for beer juice boxes, and cooked hot dogs, brats, and corn over the open flame:

We've taught her that smoke kills...
We’ve taught her that smoke kills…

Afterwards we made s’mores and sat around the fire telling stories for a while.  Before we knew it, the sun had set, and Amanda bundled Addison up (cotton PJs under fleece PJs under a sleep sack), and put her to bed between blankets in the Pack’N’Play.  Addy sang for a little while, but really had no trouble falling asleep despite all of the noise.

The big kids eventually followed suit, and they fell asleep quickly.  The adults stayed up another hour or two chatting, and then we all retired as well.  Despite very cozy sleeping conditions (zero-degree bags on top of full twin foam mattresses), neither of us slept very well at all.  I attribute it to stress — being on edge about how warm the kids were — and the altitude, which was about 10,300 feet.  It got down to about 40 degrees at night, and the tent probably wasn’t much warmer than that…but the kids slept just fine. smile

The morning was chilly:

Bundled up against the chilly morning
Bundled up against the chilly morning

As is typical of camping, the whole site was up and moving by about 7am.  The kids woke up around 5:45am, but Amanda encouraged them back to sleep, and I finally got up with them around 6:15am.  We lit the fire and started up the camp stove…coffee and hot cocoa all around!

Adria enjoying her hot cocoa out in nature
Adria enjoying her hot cocoa out in nature
Addy loves to chatter on about "daddy's coffee"
Addy loves to chatter on about “daddy’s coffee”

As you can see in the photo above, Addison’s eyes were perfectly healed on Saturday morning…she was alert, independent, and happy…no indications of the suffering from the night before.  We never used the medication.

We got ourselves fed and organized, and then headed to the trailhead of Long Lake (not to be confused with the Lost Lake of my previous post) around 9am.  Parking was a bit of a scramble, but we figured it out.

The Long Lake loop hike is about 2.8 miles — at least, according to the map.  It felt a lot longer, even though the kids did great.  Maybe that’s just because we had to go at a child’s pace.  I could easily jog 2.8 miles in half an hour, even at altitude…walking I should still be able to finish in an hour without much trouble.  It took more like 2 hours and 30 minutes for our little group to get around.

Between our last hike and this one, we picked up a used Kelty “Base Camp” baby pack from the local Facebook used item exchange for $20.  Addison loved her new ride. smile

Sitting up high with mommy
Sitting up high with mommy
Windblown selfie with dad
Windblown selfie with dad

In the 2.5 hours that we were on the trail, Addison never complained or asked to get out.  She was way up high with a great view over my shoulders, and she had a comfortable seat with a place to rest her feet.  She was happy the whole time, and it was a really pleasant experience (although, by the end, she was starting to get kind of heavy).

The hike was gorgeous all the way around.  The whole trail is at about 10,500 ft, but there is very little elevation change on the route itself…although there were some big wet areas and some rather rocky areas to navigate.  Here are some of my favorite photos from the loop:

A rare photo of Amanda and no kids, and also part of the amazing view
A rare photo of Amanda and no kids, and also part of the amazing view
The three big kids in our group, enjoying each other's company
The three big kids in our group, enjoying each other’s company
One of many portrait opportunities
One of many portrait opportunities
Austin, exploring nature
Austin, exploring nature
Adria found what she called a "lounge rock"
Adria found what she called a “lounge rock”
Lunch break!
Lunch break!
Austin was very independent, and frequently struck out ahead
Austin was very independent, and frequently struck out ahead
Adria, likewise, was not afraid to explore
Adria, likewise, was not afraid to explore
The group bigs at the trailhead sign
The group bigs at the trailhead sign

Our group often spread out over a couple hundred yards of the trail, because someone needed to stop and pee or get rocks out of their shoe or smell the roses, etc.  But for the most part, we had the kids bracketed by an adult leader out front and an adult bringing up the rear, so when Austin ran out ahead and disappeared around the corner, we were not worried.  It felt so….healthy…to let them explore like this.  My biggest fear was poison oak and/or poison ivy, and I never actually saw any.

Back at the camp site after the hike, it was time to rest a bit.  We never called it “quiet time,” but the kids knew.  They wanted to rest…it had been an exhausting morning.  Austin took his stuffed dragon into a little hidey-hole he found under a bush near the camp site, and played quietly with it for half an hour.  I had to merge 3 pictures into an HDR image to make a photo where you could actually see him in the dark shade under the tree:

Quiet time, out in nature
Quiet time, out in nature

Adria hung out with the adults and chatted.  She’s 7.5 years old, so I decided that it’s time to start trusting her with some stuff.  She was allowed to mess with the fire, within certain negotiated boundaries.  I also gave her my Leatherman at one point to help ventilate the water jug.  I made it a teaching moment, showing her how it opens, how it closes, how to hand an open knife to someone, etc.  I keep my knives wicked sharp, so I don’t do this lightly…but it’s an important skill to learn, and I think she’s old enough.

She was careful and deliberate and did a good job
She was careful and deliberate and did a good job

Adria also did some exploration of the woods during “quiet time.”  The weather was fantastic…I think it barely touched 70 this Saturday, but it felt wonderful in the sun

Brave woodland explorer. This is just before she fell off that tree and scraped up her back.
Brave woodland explorer. This is just before she fell off that tree and scraped up her back.

Our site at the Pawnee campground was within walking distance of Brainard Lake itself, so we walked over there in the afternoon and let the kids get their feet wet.  Or, in the case of Austin, get everything wet. cool

All 5 of our charges, in one photo
All 5 of our charges, in one photo
Contemplative Austin, still dry
Contemplative Austin, still dry
Not really a barefoot beach...those little rocks were sharp
Not really a barefoot beach…those little rocks were sharp

We were going to spend Saturday night at the campground as well, but late in the afternoon we decided to head back.  This was a joint decision between us and our friends, whose kids didn’t sleep nearly as well as ours did on Friday night.  We had a birthday party to attend on Sunday in the afternoon, so we had always planned to head home on Sunday in the morning.  At some point we realized that the only thing we gained by staying at the campground was an extra night in the tent…and since none of the adults slept the previous night, that was a dubious perk.  We decided that if we packed up after dinner and headed home, we could sleep in our own beds and have all day on Sunday, instead of just half.

The kids really wanted to climb this big boulder that was in the parking lot, and I had told them that we’d do it Sunday.  When I told them that we were going home after dinner, their one condition was that we go back to the rock.  So we did.

Note that Austin is in new clothes...
Note that Austin is in new clothes…

So we cooked dinner, packed up, and headed back.  We did breakfast for dinner, including scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage, and pancakes.  We did the pancakes on the range in our neighbor’s borrowed camper, but the rest were actually cooked over the fire.  Best. Breakfast. Ever. cool

We got home at about 9pm, and miraculously everyone was still awake.  So we threw them all in the shower/bath, scrubbed them thoroughly, and shipped them off to bed.  We all slept very well that night.  The next day, I did approximately 73 loads of laundry, trying to get the smell of smoke out of all of the clothes and linens.  I also washed the van quite thoroughly, inside and out…although it still has a slight campfire musk to it.  Worth it. bigsmile