Friday, June 29, 2007

Getting out of the Cabin: Discovering a New Park

When we're in Fresno, Ericlee can always tell when I have cabin fever - I've been in the house too long and I need a break, a change of scenery, a diversion. This week I've been working on my first paper for class. I had to do a 5-page analysis of a folk tale. I chose a Haitian folk tale and what the tale teaches about Haitian values. The topic was interesting to me but it meant a lot of long hours on the computer.

Thursday we decided to go on an excursion. We found a new park about a mile from our house. Actually, it's a huge park with baseball fields, tennis courts, a hill with picnic tables and grills, and, of course, a play area for kids. They even show movies in the park once a month for the community.

Meilani loved the new play area that had a tunnel slide, a little draw bridge and another curly-Q slide. Meilani met some new friends, Nathan and Carrie, and had fun chasing Daddy through the tunnels. Meanwhile, I read from my ever-exciting book on Children's Literature from the 16th Century (Gag!) Most of my summer reading is really interesting, but this one is not my favorite. We're recommending some of our favorite books. Check out our list at the right and leave us a comment about some of your faves.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Animals Come to Play: Meilani Makes Friends

One of the fun parts about living in this part of the country is a new landscape and wildllife to explore. We are staying with friends, Jan and Pat Wright, and their home is up on a hill surrounded by woods on three sides. This means we have quite the parade of wildlife through our front yard and even closeby at Hollins University.

On Tuesday, Ericlee was sitting just inside the garage reading a book and Meilani was napping with him. A deer came right up to the house within two feet of them. He slowly walked by while Ericlee stayed very still and prayed Meilani would wake up on her own. Meanwhile, I saw a deer family of four as I was driving home from class at Hollins.

Yesterday we took Meilani in the jogging stroller for a run around the Hollins campus. Hollins is a big equestrian school so on one end they have a stable and lots of fields dedicated to horses. We were able to take her right up to the fence and she could watch the horses run and drink their water. One horse played hide and seek with her behind the fence.

Last night during dinner we spotted some kind of beaver (we debated a while on whether it was a marmit, hedgehog, groundhog, etc.). He looked exactly like a beaver minus the big, flat tail. Maybe one of you can help out us city folk...Anyway, Meilani LOVED him and watched him for the whole dinner as he dug in the grass and ran around the yard. Her famous quote was, "Ooh. ooh. OOh!" with wild pointing to make sure Mama saw the creature. She also spotted a lizard skittering across the window sill.

Of course, we have seen all kinds of "B-ird, bird, BIRDS!" - her favorite word. We hope to go hiking on part of the Appalachian trail in a few weeks and introduce Meilani to more. Every day is an adventure.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Meilani's First Storm: Let it rain, Let it rain, Let it rain

In the distance, we heard the crack and then the deep, rumbling thunder. We knew what was coming next. Drops began to dance lightly on the rooftop. We pushed back from the dinner table and grabbed Meilani for a closer look at her first rain storm. By the time we made it out the garage door, the drops were no longer a soft spray. The water was dumping from the sky as if someone were emptying car wash buckets right above the garage door opening. Meilani was fascinated.

Granted, this little girl has seen rain before back in California. But nothing like this. This kind of storm is full of so much power and entertainment. We watched for a while. She wanted to get down from Daddy's protective hold and walk with bare feet on the cement. As the rain hits, a kind of mist rises from the ground. She wasn't quite sure what to make of the thunder. She wasn't fully afraid but not exactly laughing either. Who needs TV?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Breakfast with Friends: Meilani meets our Haitians

On Thursday we woke up early to meet some of our friends from Haiti for breakfast. Peter Costantin, the director of Christian Friendship Ministries, and he three daughters, along with our dear friend, Brother Jesta, were driving through Virginia on their way to South Carolina. We enjoyed coffee with them and Meilani had her first introduction to some of our Haitian family.

This was Brother Jesta's first trip to the United States so it was fun to hear his accounts of what he had seen. He kept saying that it was so much more than he imagined. As a young person, he remembers Grandma Bell (Ericlee's Grandma) telling him about the United States but now that he is here he said he's had a glimpse of heaven. Meanwhile, Meilani and Peter's daughter, Taisha, played and read books. Peter's wife and children are living in Maryland right now while they get their education with plans of returning to Haiti in a few years.

Peter filled us in on all that's been going on with our friends in Haiti. We also talked about us traveling there for Spring Break 2008. All the Haitians are begging to see Meilani and we're anxious to catch up with our relationships there as well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Back to School: Dorina starts classes at Hollins

I've just completed my first week of classes at Hollins University in the MFA Children's Literature program. I was so excited to actually get back to school and immerse myself in this world of writing. Ericlee took this photo on my first day. I felt like a little kid again. I've always looked forward to my first day of school.

Hollins has that quaint, East Coast collegiate feel with brick buildings, white columns, perfectly cultivated flowers and trees and winding paths. A few of my favorite places on campus are the library's large porch complete with oversized rocking chairs and the third floor "napping loft" with its body pillows and ambient lamps. However, the week has been so busy there hasn't been much time for lounging since I'm juggling the jobs of student with mommy and wife this time around.

This is actually my second summer in the program. Ericlee and I were here two years ago and then we skipped last year because Meilani was only a few weeks old. I was able to continue my courses online and independent study. This summer I'm taking a Creative Writing tutorial class with author William "Chip" Miller and History of Children's Literare & Criticism with author Alexandria LaFaye.

I'm really enjoying these classes. My Creative Writing tutorial only has three students including myself. This is good news for a writing workshop because it means in three hours we get a lot of personal time to discuss our writing and get feedback from the other students and our teacher. Chip Miller is a laid-back, insightful guy. He's published 12 books - mostly multicultural picture books, which I was excited to hear. He's already been such an encouragement to me and given me some great tips on editors and publishers to send my work.

The History & Crit. course is required for all students. I was supposed to take it my first year but it didn't fit in the schedule. I'm happy to take it from Alexandria, who is responsible for me coming to Hollins in the first place. I took a class from her at the Fresno State Summer Arts program in 2004 and she recommended I look into Hollins. She's a self-proclaimed "egg head," meaning nerdy smart and wickedly funny. Her passion is historical fiction and cultural studies so once again she's a great connection to my interests.

I would say the biggest challenge is balancing my time. Ericlee and I have switched roles as he is primarily watching Meilani and I'm always leaving for work/school. I really have to discipline myself to be focused when I'm at school or working on homework and be completely dialed in when I'm spending time with the family. Meilani has been teething this week and running a consistent fever so it's hard not to feel bad when I have to leave her. I'm so grateful for Ericlee's willingness to concentrate on her and support me in pursuing my dreams.

Daddy's First Day on the job

Dorina's first class was 6-9 p.m. Tuesday. We had a scrumptious meal of homemade grilled burgers. We sent Mama off to school and I took Meilani in the jogging stroller to the playground. She experienced her first time going down the slide on her own. I was surprised by my daughter's no-fear attitude. She wanted to go down over and over again.

After the park, I walked around the grounds. We live with Jan and Pat Wright (friends through Fresno Christian H.S.), who run a summer camp facility for their church denomination. There are two playgrounds, a pool, dorms, playing fields for sports, etc. It's a great place to go walking.

There are woods above the campgrounds. Today Meilani saw her first deer and fawn as they were walking up to the woods. The baby was drinking from its mother. Meilani went crazy. She sat up in her jogging stroller, pointed eagerly and squealed with delight. She squealed so loud they ran away.

After our walk, we came inside. I gave Meilani a bath, put on her PJs and we played until Mama got home. It was a great time and I got a window into Dorina's world. I'm glad I was on my own for only three hours!!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Meilani's First Plane Ride: We made it, y'all!

We're happy to say we arrived safely in Virginia today and we all survived Meilani's first plane trip! Ericlee celebrated his second father's day on a wild adventure from Fresno to Phoenix to Raleigh by plane and then by car to Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where we stayed last night with cousin Sean.

Meilani conquered the plane ride like a pro. She was so excited for the first trip from Fresno to Phoenix that she skipped her nap and spent much of the time with her nose glued to the window. When she wasn't looking out the window, she spent time on a new bug puzzle (B-day gift from Uncle Paul & Auntie Michelle).
When we arrived in Phoenix with all the gear, we strapped Meilani in the jogging stroller and she immediately fell asleep. Go figure. She was quite content for our 4-hour layover. She spent the first two hours sleeping and the second two hours chasing Daddy up and down the terminal and playing hide and seek at various gates.
Our second leg from Phoenix to Raleigh was a little hard on Mama who was feeling nauseated (especially since there was some turbulence and we were seated in the very last row). Luckily, our neighbors were a nice family from North Carolina and Meilani was quite occupied by the playing cards from Mary's wedding, the infamous puzzle, stacking cups and Daddy's generally funny-looking face.

Probably the biggest challenge was today's 4-hour car ride from North Carolina to Virginia. Cousins Sean and Amy graciously are loaning us a car for the summer. After playing with their son, Whitaker, for a few hours this morning, we piled in the Honda and headed for Hollins University. Meilani seemed happy to see her familiar car seat in a not-so-familiar car - at first - but after an hour nap she wasn't too pleased to still be sitting in that thang. We made the best of it. We sang, checked out the puzzle again, ran around in a field and laughed at some of the infamous Southern signs. Our favorites: "BOLOGNA is BACK!" and "Two breasts, a thigh and a roll." (That was on a full-blown billboard. Yikes!)
We cruised into the familiar city of Roanoke at 6:15 p.m. just in time for the Opening Reception for Dorina's program. Tomorrow classes begin and the Daddy-Meilani Bonding Time commences.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Going to the Chapel of Love: Meilani's First Wedding

On Saturday, June 16, our friend Mary Bybee married Antonio Andrade. The whole Gilmore family participated in this truly multicultural affair. As Mary put it, "This is the biggest, fattest Mexican wedding a white girl could ever have." The day came complete with a lasso, homemade Mexican birria, mariachis, melting cupcakes, dripless candles that dripped on the church carpet and even a SEMI-bilingual priest!

The ceremony itself was in a quaint, little Catholic church in Kingsburg. Mary was a little worried when she found out a different priest would be filling in but he proved to be a great addition to the fun of the day. He started his message by saying, "I don't know you..." followed by a long, awkward pause. Later, he said our other favorite line with the most earnest voice, "I don't know how Mary and Antonio plan to communicate." (Guess he didn't know Mary speaks Spanish.) But it was all worth it to see the tears in Antonio's eyes as he said his vows in Spanish and Mary answered in English.

After a little fiasco with supposedly dripless candles that dripped on the church carpet, the wedding party was whisked off to the reception hall in Riverdale. Even the 100-degree weather was not going to stop this bunch from partying down. We were greeted by the hippest mariachi band you've ever heard and we stuffed down an incredible meal made by Antonio's mom, including her own birria (shredded beef) with "spicy sauce," tortillas, rice & beans, nopales salad, and even homemade jamaica drink. The reception had all the perfect "Mary touches," including cute centerpieces made with coffee beans and candles in the signature pale blue and chocolate brown colors. Dessert was a fabulous Martha-Stewart-style Cupcake Wedding cake with brownies and cookies. Meilani loved the favors - a mini deck of cards with a picture of Mary & Antonio inside.

Dorina delivered her Matron of Honor toast in English and Spanish (Whew, that was nerve-wracking!) and we all danced to the live band called Flashback with a Mexican Elvis lead singer and a rocking Japanese sax player among others. Shawn Young cut a rug with Dorina, showing his funkiest moves. The affair kept on going but the Gilmores retired about 5 p.m. to go home and quickly pack for the trip to Virginia.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Meilani's First Spaghetti Dinner ala Nana Maria

Mangia! Mangia! Meilani tried her first real Italian meal tonight. She tried out Nana Maria's family sauce on top of organic wheat pasta from Trader Joe's (Mama's healthy twist). As you can see from the photo, she's a true Italian girl and she likes her eats.

We've been exploring all kinds of new finger foods over the last month. We've discovered that our die-hard fruitatarian/vegetarian is actually a carnivore like her mama. We introduced chicken at her birthday and there's no turning back. That's partly why this pasta with Nana's meat sauce disappears so quickly.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Meilani's First Camping Trip

Our first destination on our summer series of trips was Caples Lake near Lake Tahoe for Meilani's first camping trip. Ericlee and his friend Doug started a tradition about 12 years ago of backpacking every summer. When we got married, the wives joined in and I experienced my first backpacking adventure. This year, Meilani (1 year) and Doug and Brenda's daughter, Liana, (11 months) joined us. We decided to take the easier route with little ones and bring our cars.

After celebrating her first birthday a week ago, we continued our celebration of firsts. Meilani had her first discovery of a tent. She loved being inside it with Mama and Daddy. The zippers and flaps provided great entertainment. She ran from one side to the other making fish lips and declaring, "Oooh. Oooh. OOh," pointing outside at the trees or up at the rain fly.

Meilani also experienced her first camp fire. Luckily, she wasn't too interested in the fire. She was more interested in taking off the socks on her hands (Mama's makeshift mittens) and feeding Liana pine cones. Our first night was Brrr-cold. The temperature was down in the 40s. Something us Californians from the Valley were not prepared for - but we survived. This was a great excuse to cuzzle together in our sleeping bags. Of course, Meilani woke up about five times during the night. (We opted to sleep in the car on the second night.)

The highlight of most adventures with Doug and Brenda is hiking. We took the girls on a hike up to Caples Lake - about 5 miles round trip. Liana and Meilani rode in their matching backpacks on their daddys' backs. Meilani enjoyed all the B-words on the trail like Bumblebee, Butterfly, Breeze, Bubbling Brook, Backpack, Bear (just kidding, we didn't see any bears) and her favorite activity, BOUNCING.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Welcome Friends & Family

Join us for a wild ride to some of the most magical places on earth. Fasten your seatbelts. Close your eyes and feel the warm wind on your face. We're weaving through the clouds, flying high above the world. Can you see the brown earth and deep, blue water below? Let's look for a place to land. There's Asia and Africa. Over there is South America. Move your eyes north and you'll see North America. Yes, that's where we're headed. We're swooping over the United States, moving to the west. Can you see it now - that long state on the western edge right before the Pacific Ocean? You guessed it. It's the State of California. Just the name is magical to us. California is where our adventure begins. It's a place where oranges grow the size of softballs and strawberries come as big as a baby's fist. We're headed for a place where it's sizzling hot in summer and winter is covered by a thick, mysterious blanket of fog. Welcome to the Gilmore family blog. We decided to jump in and share with you a first-hand glimpse into our world here in the Central Valley and beyond.