Thursday, July 17, 2008

Little things

Yesterday, the girls went to Minnetonka Cave where their Uncle Devin works. I wasn't there. Their grandmas have been taking turns with the girls for the last couple of weeks. I miss them, so I called them this morning. Here are their observations from the trip:

Eva: "I found a big butterfly, and it was alive. And Isobel found a little butterfly, and it wasn't alive. And we picked them up."
"You picked up a live butterfly?"
"Yeah, and Isobel did, too."

Isobel: "We went into three rooms in the cave and then we came out. And then we got some Snickers bars. And I got to drink banana milk. And Eva got orange creme."

Neither of them mentioned this:

It was the same at the Redwoods. On the trails lined with 350-foot, 500-year-old trees, Isobel's favorite things there were the shamrocks. Eva preferred the slugs and the centipedes.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Distance makes the heart grow fonder

I was about 8 years old when I first saw a tide pool. I was 33 when I found out what it was called.

My mom and dad might challenge this a bit, but as I remember it, my first tide pool was a blind and random stop along the coast of northern Oregon during one of our visits to Kennewick, Wash., where we lived for the first four years of my life.

We stopped randomly to stretch our legs and look at the ocean, climbed down a steep slope to the seashore, walked over to some rocks towering out of the ocean. And there were starfish! And these plants that grab on and collapse around if you poke them with a stick! And all this other stuff that I thought you only saw if you were scuba diving, if I'd ever thought about them at all.

A couple of weeks ago, Shonda and her friends took Eva, Isobel and I from Concord, Calif., Shonda's (old) home to the Redwoods. Her friend knew where some tide pools were and when low tide would expose them.

Low tide! I'd driven along the Oregon and Washington coasts a thousand times since that first day, wishing I could see starfish and those collapsing things -- I had no idea that they were called sea anemones, these didn't look much like Nemo's home -- again, but I'd never once thought that maybe they would only be visible at low tide.

So we camped in one of the Redwood state parks that border Redwoods National Park and headed north to the tide pools the next morning. After breakfast and an hour drive, we didn't get to the tide pools until about 10 a.m., 1.5 hours after low tide. So the water was coming in, but we found the spot.

Eva and Isobel needed a hand to leap from the sand, over the water, to the rocks. But there they were: Tons of starfish (I hear it's more correct to call them sea stars, since they aren't fish) and sea anemones that tried to swallow the sticks we pressed against them. Isobel was very excited. Eva looked mostly at the waves crashing on the rocks around our feet.

We poked around out there for a few minutes while the waves crashed around us, then decided we better get back on shore before the gap got too wide and stranded us there.

On the way back, Eva clenched her fist tightly around my finger, and kept saying, "Dad, let's go up there."

So we went up away from the ocean. "Let's go up there." Then up onto the next sandy shelf. "Let's go higher." Then the shelf of gravel.

At one point, I saw a big crab shell that I wanted to look at, so I broke free and dropped down a bit toward it. Eva said, "Dad. Dad, come back."

When I did and she had fastened herself back onto my hand, she said, "I didn't want the ocean to take you away." I was never closer than 20 yards to the nearest wave.

Soon she said, "Let's go back to the trail." At that point, I was kind of disappointed. That little tide pool experience 25 years before was one of my fondest vacation memories from childhood, and Eva just couldn't wait to leave.

But as soon as we got on solid ground, with brush and trees on either side of us and no sand or waves in sight, Eva woke up.

"We saw the SEA! Me and Isobel saw the sea! We never seen the sea before. That was super cool! And we saw starfish, too!"

Then she talked about it, just like that, for most of the 20 minute hike back to the car.

(Note: To see a tide pool, go at low tide, and look for exposed rocks near the waterline -- unlike sand, the rocks hold water so these sedentary sea creatures can stay there through all tide levels.)

(Note II: I left my camera at camp that day.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Planes, trains and automobiles


The girls and I flew to San Francisco to visit my sister Shonda last week. The plane from Albuquerque to Salt Lake City was a small one, three seats across with an aisle in the middle. So Isobel and Eva both got a window seat, and Eva even got the aisle as a buffer between her and me. Both of them wanted that buffer, but Isobel is in a very unselfish phase.

Before we took off, Eva noticed something.

"Dad. We're in a jet! This is a jet!"
"How can you tell?"
"Because the wings stick up. See?"

It was a jet, an ExpressJet.

Eva kept looking out the window, then looking over at me with wide eyes, a little shiver of excitement and a small smile.

While we were on the plane, Isobel drew an airplane and wrote me this note:

"Dad. Thanks for taking us on this trip. The airplane is so fun!"


We were eating in Chinatown the night we arrived and Isobel asked Shonda, "What did I say that was cute when I was little?"

Shonda remembered sitting downstairs in her mom's house in Hyrum, during a summer between BYU accounting classes, trying to work on the Scenic Canyons books, and hearing Isobel chant from the top of the stairs, "shon...DA, shon...DA, shon...DA."

"And then you would come down and say, 'Shonda, you don't really need to work today, do you?' And I would say, 'No, I guess not; I can take a break.' "

At 7:45 a.m. the next day, we were all on the BART, Shonda's commuter train. She was headed to work. The two small girls and I were off for a fun-filled day on the buses, trains and light rail of San Francisco.

As we neared Shonda's stop, Isobel said, "I wish I was little so I could say, 'Shonda, you don't really need to work today, do you?' "

4 p.m.

We had seen Golden Gate Park, with plants from all over the world, and turtles in a pond, and millions of roses;

(these are called Betty Boop roses)

and the Golden Gate Bridge, walking halfway across while a guy surfed the bay below and a sea lion popped up every now and again;

and the Exploratorium, with endless exhibits featuring big magnets and little tornados and floating beach balls and meditation chambers;

and were now headed to the sea lions at Pier 39. I got a bit turned around and we did a little extra walking before finding the bus stop we needed. In the meantime, we'd gone through all of our snacks and lunch was long gone.

We were tired. Luckily, we passed a grocery store with fresh strawberries out front. I paid a buck-fifty, found the bus stop and the girls chowed down. I gave them a bit of distance, until I noticed a funky looking little woman eyeing them, then walked back toward them.

"Are those your little girls?"
Oh boy.
"It is really dangerous to let them eat those strawberries without washing them. And you should know that. I know it's hard to say 'no' - and maybe it's not my place -but that is really dangerous."

Then she said, "Uh oh. It looks like I made your daddy mad."

And Eva, who has seen me do a lot more than glare silently, said, "No. He's fine."

So I snatched the strawberries away (to protests) and we walked back to the grocery store to have them fill our empty water bottle. Then I walked back to the bus stop, sprinkled a little water over the strawberries and handed them back to the girls.

The woman said, "Oh good, now you can have a feast," and Eva promptly dropped the basket and spilled the strawberries all over the dirty, oily sidewalk. So I sprinkled the strawberries one more time and handed them back to the girls. The woman walked away and never looked at us again.

(This is Eva, just before I got scolded again, this time for letting her climb the fence.)

Public transportation was free that day, the one day of the year, on the one day in our lives we had to visit downtown San Francisco. I'm pretty cheap, so I was excited about it at first. But so was everybody else. The line was this long for the light rail, I swear - one train had already filled up and left us there, and another had zoomed right by without even stopping, and we had been waiting for almost an hour - by the time this guy started prancing up and down in front of everyone shouting, "LIMO. BART stations, downtown hotels, MARKET STREET. $5 per person. LIMO RIDE. BART stations ... "

Unfortunately, I'd burned through the last of our cash at dinner, and on horsie rides and other gizmos at the Musee Mechanique, and I'm sure this guy didn't take credit cards. So I watched 15 other people pile in -- including three on the front seat with the driver -- and drive away. It was 9:45 p.m. (that's 10:45 p.m. in Santa Fe), Isobel was sagging on a bench, and even Eva was starting to slow down.

Those two were incredible that day, though, I'll tell you what. They were pretty pleasant all day, even at the end. And a train eventually did come. I sharpened my elbows and got us all on. We started the 45 minute BART ride to Concord between 10:30 and 11 p.m. If you're counting, that's 16 hours of public transport; the girls snuggled in and spent the last 44 minutes just like this: