This post is dedicated to water: pool water, ocean water, and fondant ocean waves…
First, a brief update on my swimming: I swam in a Masters swimming competition on March 23rd at the pool where I’ve been training with my coach. It was nice, since it’s my home pool, and my coach was there, along with the two other swimmers from my class that were competing, and Mike and the kids came as well. It was a great experience – I know now how swim meets generally run and what to do when. I look forward to swimming in another meet sometime soon. I swam the 50M Breaststroke, the 100M Freestyle and the 50M Backstroke. Since I have not swum in a competition before, I was entered with “No Official Time”, and swam in the first heat of all my events with the other no timers.
For each event I swam I shaved a few seconds off of my time that my coach had taken during training and that was great! After returning from our vacation I’m back in training, swimming at least three times a week; this week that means getting up and being in the pool by 6:30 a.m., since the rec center where Anna goes to school (and where I then swim while she is in class and Henry is in the nursery) is closed. I have to go to another rec center, without a nursery, and be done swimming in time for Mike to get to work on time. It’s certainly a cold wake-up, but it’s a great way to get the day going!
A few days after the swim meet we headed out to British Columbia with the kids for a 6 day vacation at my uncle’s home on Vancouver Island. It was the kids’ first plane ride and their first experience with the ocean. My parents were already there, and had driven there, which made our travels a lot easier. My parents took up car seats for the kids, a box of toys and their rain boots and were there to greet us when we arrived.
Each of the days that we were there we took the kids to at least one beach (one day included three beaches for them). The house where we stayed is situated in an area where we could walk or drive to lots of beaches and short forest hikes within minutes.
The kids had a great time and daringly went into the cold Pacific water without any trepidation!
This was taken on our last full day there, when we went out at low tide and the kids got the full use of lots of sand. Most of the beaches there are covered in rocks at higher tides, with lots of cool driftwood. At one of the beaches there was an inlet with a large piece of driftwood; Henry, being a boy, found a long stick and proceeded to wrangle it all over the beach:
Both kids played happily there for a long time:
It was so cold, and yet they were always without shoes on the beach:
I got a great picture of a classic Anna smile while we visited one of the beaches:
Most of the beaches were easily accessed by short hikes through impossibly green forests with huge trees, bigger than the kids have ever seen! They did great at hiking, playing on the beach and generally having fun. What was especially great about vacationing in a house was that we were able to wash all of the sandy clothes that piled up each day!
On one day we went into Victoria, the biggest city on the island, and toured around before plopping down for lunch at Spinnaker’s – a “Gastro brewpub” where they make their own beer and make some delicious food. In one of my proudest moments as a mom, my daughter ordered the salmon from the kid’s menu and ate almost all of it! Mike had some awesome fish and chips, accompanied by malt vinegar made at the pub, and Henry and I shared some bangers and mash – yum!
The kids did really well on all of the plane flights, stopovers, shuttle rides, etc. and seemed to really like the ocean. Henry’s favorite activity was throwing rocks into the ocean and he often asks when we can go to the ocean again. Anna loved playing in the sand and waves as well. It was a great first family vacation that we hope to repeat again next year!
On April 5th, Anna turned 5 years old. I’m not exactly sure how time went so fast; the memory of the day of her birth is still very clear in my head, but here we are with a 5 year old! Anna has been growing out her hair for the past year, with the hopes of eventually getting Rapunzel hair, but it’s been a tangly mess (see the pictures above). The day before her birthday she allowed for her hair to be cut back to the bob cut I truly love on her. Mike was able to get this beautiful picture of her on her birthday in a new dress with the cute hair:
For her actual birthday she went to school with cupcakes to celebrate with her classmates. (Brief parent rant – due to the “peanut-aware” policies at her school, I could not make cupcakes, but was only allowed to provide store-bought cupcakes that were not processed in a facility where any nut has been within a 10 mile radius. Gone are the days of making cupcakes for school!) Anyway, Anna went to school, attended her afternoon Enrichment class (they go swimming and do crafts), and then we took her to her favorite restaurant (a noisy, kid-friendly chain with her favorite mac and cheese whose name does not need to be mentioned).
On the Sunday following her birthday we celebrated with a party at local indoor play place where you can rent it out for an hour for your child and all of their friends. The room featured lots of inflatable fun, play structures, a climbing wall, and all of the kids favorite, a huge slide. Here’s Anna (no really, it’s her), looking really tiny at the top of the monstrous thing:
I’m pretty sure the kids had a great time playing (they even convinced me to go down the big slide a few times with them) and afterwards we served cake and ice cream. For this year’s birthday cake Anna requested an “Ariel” cake, with the Disney Princess Ariel featured in some way. Not really being the best cake decorator, I decided to make a cake that looked kind of like a rock in the ocean, and throw an Ariel doll on top.
So, the day before the party I baked a chocolate cake in a bowl and with Mike’s help made fondant ocean waves, plants and sea creatures using a mold I had purchased just for the occasion. Here’s the chocolate rock (with chocolate frosting) with all of the fondant mold items:
And here is the cake the next day (with the birthday girl) after I wrapped Ariel in cellophane and taped her on the cake carrier to get her ready for her debut:
With the cake Anna had requested that I make chocolate ice cream to be served at the party. I’ve been making a lot of ice cream lately, and I’m kind of looking forward to putting the ice cream maker away in the cabinet. For Anna’s actual birthday she had requested mint chocolate chip ice cream (we ate it after we got back from the restaurant); the following day we went to a friend’s birthday party with batches of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, and then I took the chocolate ice cream to Anna’s party on Sunday. This past weekend we had another birthday party to attend, for which I was requested to make 5 batches of ice cream: vanilla, chocolate, mint chocolate chip, and two batches of butter pecan. Whew! That’s a lot of ice cream making!
Thankfully, my swim coach gave me a new mile-long workout routine that’s very arduous and hopefully burns some of these ice cream calories (not that I’m eating all of these ice cream batches, but I do have to do taste tests)!
That’s all for now – take care!