Saturday, September 17, 2016

News and Reviews

Hola! What are your plans for the weekend? 

We're hiding from the rain and doing house projects. 

I found this picture of my mom on my computer. Shoveling gravel with a baby (me) on her back. Hardcore, Mama. I also came the to realization that we've only ever owned black mutts in our family. Four of 'em: wonderful, lovable scruffy pups. That's Zeke (Mutt #1) in the picture. I've been missing Bailey lately. 

The PTA mom: Framed

The wrong man. Or, the problem with eye witness accounts. 

Will Amazon kill FedEx?

The falling man (worth the long read)

Dalilah Muhammad covers herself in gold

What it feels like to die

Oh hey, maybe I'll start visiting Victoria again: After 25 years, Victoria's treatment plan gets approved (34 million gallons per day of raw sewage into our shared Strait of Juan de Fuca does not make for happy Washingtonians)

Why luck plays a big role in making you rich

I don't like that this is a taboo subject. As a parent, I think about this constantly: Why we should have fewer children to save the planet

Catios! They're a thing! Love that this is taking hold in Portland. The native birds are thanking you, P-Town.

rude vs. mean vs. bullying

Another group that loses if Trump wins

Why do tourists visit ancient ruins everywhere but in the United States?

Five different hair colors in 7 weeks (I loved being blond-ish for summer...but I really suck at the upkeep)



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Another School Year is Upon Us

Somewhere along the way my kid grew into a kindergartener. We had to book it across the playground on the first day of school because we were thisclose to being late. Way to start the year off on the right foot. 

So far Ben loves his teacher, recess, and the fact that they have chocolate milk in the cafeteria. Whoa. Mind blown. 

My little guy also got himself sorted on to the correct bus on the first day and rode it home like a champ, sitting in the front row like his mama told him to. 

Yep, out of focus due to wild activity of the model. Pretty much the story of his life. We wouldn't have it any other way with our sweet whirling dervish. 

I am such a sucker for a photo montage, despite the fact that they went out of style back in, um, probably the 90s. 
Yes, he wore the same shirt twice in a row. Too big last year, too small this year. It's all I can do to keep him in pants that aren't too short. They don't make slacks for string beans.

And then we come to our wee little Em.

She started a few mornings a week at a preschool run by a sweet, nurturing woman named Anita. She was so ready for school. This summer when dropping Ben off at summer camp, she'd beg and beg to be allowed to stay with the big kids. And when that failed, she'd flop on the ground and have a wild tantrum. 

Points for determination, kiddo.

When Ben grabs his backpack and lunch bag, she insists on doing the same, despite needing neither for daycare. She's his little parrot, gleefully repeating back everything he says. 

Whoa nelly. My last babe is growing up. 

This is pretty much a perfect snapshot of the sibling interactions: Ben is moving, directing, and scheming. Emma is thrilled to be along for the ride as a willing and eager accomplice. Together they are boisterous, wild, and (mostly) having a jolly good time. 

Watch out, World. Team J is on the loose. 



Friday, September 09, 2016

Toddler Milestones

A few months ago, just as we'd left the house for a three day camping trip with friends, wee little Emma (age 2) announced that she was done with diapers. As in, right this second done with diapers.

Chris and I glanced skeptically at each other. Frankly, our eldest child, a kid who is fantastic in many ways, had been a bit of a potty-training nightmare and we were loathe to once again so suddenly jump into a process that had been plagued by lots and lots of excess laundry. Also, we were only a few weeks away from our giant Alaska road trip and figured that a babe in diapers would be easier to handle than a toddler that was in the very beginning stages of potty-training. Less mess, right? Especially when you don't have ready access to a washer and dryer.

Four hours later we arrived at the campsite with dry undies and only one semi-frantic attempt at finding a bathroom.

So far, so good.


She then promptly wet three pairs of pants in two hours. Eyeing our quickly disappearing stash of dry garments, we made the executive decision to revert our girlie back to her diaper-wearing existence for the duration of the camping weekend.

Under extreme duress, she grudgingly accepted the mandate.

But once back home decided that she was, indeed, ready to discard the diapers in favor of undies and the thrill of using her personal potty. It helped that we gathered at the bathroom door to give her a standing ovation (Ben being the most enthusiastic of the cheering committee members) and she basked in the thrill of her newfound accomplishments.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but it was the most painless potty training experience I could have ever imagined. Emma pretty much did everything all by herself and we followed along in her wake, not quite believing it was real. Not only did she shed daytime diapers, but the night time ones as well. We didn't do cloth diapers with either kid and I've always felt guilty about the amount of human poo we sent off to the landfill every week. So being a diaper-free household has been lovely.

At the very least, the whole process has reminded me how different two siblings, both raised essentially the same way, by the same parents, and with the same surroundings, can take so drastically different approaches to mastering skills and developmental milestones.

For us personally, we've especially noticed different projectories in socialization, gross motor skills, and language development. But it's also given me confidence not to push too hard, trusting that in most cases they'll eventually grasp the necessary concepts on their own timelines.

As I type this, Emma is boycotting bedtime, instead choosing to climb her wall-mounted bookshelf like a ladder, demonstrating that she too, is developing just fine in the gross motor skills department.

Each of our children is a force of nature, in their own wild and unique way. Let's appreciate their distinctive approaches to learning and growing. Especially if it means fewer dirty diapers.



Saturday, August 27, 2016

Summer Roadtrip: Seattle to Deadhorse, Alaska


We just got back from a two week road trip up to Alaska. We splashed around in the Arctic Ocean and then spent a few days with Chris' family.

Here is our route:

Seattle to Deadhorse (c) and then back down to Anchorage (d). Our grand total: 3,700 miles.

Basically, it's like driving from Seattle to Miami, with a detour to Chicago, and then adding on a few hundred additional miles. 

The kids were fantastic road trippers. We swam in hot springs, saw a bunch of cool wildlife, and drove to the top of the world. nbd.

One of the highlights for me was seeing a wild wolf in Canada:

Alaska Fish & Game has allowed the big packs of Denali to be shot by trophy hunters so I'd pretty much given up hope on seeing our largest native wild canine.

Until this guy loped across the road in Kluane National Park in the Yukon.  My background is in environmental science and wildlife biology; seeing this guy made me giddy.

Other favorites:

Liard Hot Springs in BC.

And the Arctic Circle in the very, very far north:

The is only one reason that there is a road north from Fairbanks across the arctic tundra: the pipeline. Love it or hate it, this big 'ole pipe gave us access to scenery rarely seen by the casual tourist.

Don't let anyone convince you that the arctic is a flat, boring place. It is spectacular.

But when they say that Deadhorse is a dump...well, they weren't lying. :) The sweet ladies at the general store were thrilled to see kids, however. 

The road stops here: Beaufort Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean. Temperature: a freezing 38 degrees fahrenheit.

And then we headed south to spend a desperately needed week of relaxation with my in-laws. After two weeks of roughing it in the truck camper, we were ready for showers, clean laundry, and a bed that wasn't on wheels.

Observe: the laziest fisherman that ever lived. 

And now, time to start school. We have a KINDERGARTENER this year!! Eek.



Two more favorites:

Mama Moose.

Kluane Lake in the Yukon (Canada).

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

News and Reviews

Happy Wednesday! Just a few days away from the weekend. :)

What if everything you knew about disciplining kids was wrong?

The limits of grit. (thanks, mom!)

What may happen with Brexit and Trump.

This story has some serious real world limitations, but also makes a few good points: A Story of a Fuck Off Fund

Six maps that will make you rethink the world

A letter to the hospice doctor that helped us say goodbye.

Donald Trump's ghostwriter tells all.

The first winner of the women's tour de france. 

Here is a fun little sequence of yours truly taking a big (for me!) leap into the Ohanapecosh River near Mt. Rainier a few weeks ago.

I got a kick out of how long it took me to work up the courage to actually jump. :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Last week was an emotional rollercoaster for our family.  Chris and I celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary. More importantly, and heartbreakingly, we also said goodbye to our beloved pup Bailey.

Back in 2005 we were on the hunt for a new family member. We had moved into a house with a fenced backyard and were itching to have a canine companion to take hiking in the hills east of Santa Ana. We visited several local animal shelters and were approved for an adoption by the Southern California Lab Rescue organization.

October 16  found us down in San Diego at a regional adoption event. It was chaotic; the facility was located on a busy street and dogs and people were running everywhere. I sat down next to a young female black lab that was missing an eye; her name was Patches. She was eager for belly rubs and had a sweet disposition. I looked up to tell Chris that this might be our winner only to see him being dragged across the parking lot by a massive monster of a dog. It was easily the biggest lab I'd ever seen and he was doing his best to flee the scene with Chris as an unwilling accomplice.

After a bit of flailing, Chris and the beast came to a halt in my vicinity.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

The Famous Bears of Olympic National Park

I was scrolling through MSN News today and came across an article with the following tidbit:

A photographer who was heading home from a weekend of camping was stunned when he waved goodbye to a bear - and it waved back. 
The bear was on the grass and lifted his paw waving goodbye as Dylan Furst passed him in a car. Dylan, 25, had spent the weekend camping at a national park which is also home to bears. 
As he was leaving, the Jeep Patriot SUV he was travelling in passed by the large kodiak bear so Dylan said “goodbye bear” and waved at it. But Dylan was stunned when the bear, who was sitting just 10ft away, raised his paw and waved back at him. 
Mr Furst captured this moment at Olympic National Park in Washington state, USA.

Nice story. Except there aren't any kodiak brown bears in Olympic National Park.

There are, however, several of the bruins at the Olympic Game Farm, conveniently located next to the national park. And they're pretty good at waving too, in exchange for a few slices of bread.

Here is the photo used in the article:

Provided by Mirror

And our version from a few months ago:

Whoa. Get a load of them claws. 

The article was picked up by the Daily Mail that had this additional bit:

"'I was no more than 10ft away from the bear, separated by a small wire fence. He didn't seem threatening at all, and it was almost tempting to go up and hug him."

Yes, a small wire highly electrified fence. Those bears know down to the inch how close they can go to that fence without getting zapped. 

Haha, oh well.  Washington is a fantastic state, but waving bears in national parks is not one of our features. :)



Tuesday, July 05, 2016

News and Reviews


Summer is in full swing. Last weekend we went out to Salt Spring Recreation Area with my parents for a bit of camping and it is now my new favorite family camp ground in Washington (although Deception Pass is also fantastic). It has a playground, gorgeous tide pools, a nice sandy beach, and little trails through the woods to WWII bunkers. Plus Emma is finally getting the hang of gliding on her push bike and our little girlie wants to go, go go! She desperately wants to keep up with Ben.

Of course it was packed with people. Such is the state of most campgrounds during the summer these days.

But we also saw a few critters, including this guy:

Here are a few links from around the web:

Where 10% of the world lives. 

Buenos Aires to permanently close its zoo. 

A tale of two temperaments. (This plays out in our house daily!)

At this point, Orlando is our fault.

Meet the hardcore minimalists 

More testing, less play. Expectations for today's kindergartener.

Quit damaging our precious wild spaces. 

Long but worth it: The unbelievable tale of Jesus' wife.

Another reason to visit Jordon: Massive monument found buried in Petra.

Landscape artist uses water from her destinations. Love these! Although I am somewhat curious about how she got the water from Horseshoe Bend, given that it's a 1,000 vertical drop to the river below.

I stopped showering and life continued.

Child safety hack for crowded places (airports, amusement parks, the train station)

Republican dads vs. Democrat dads

And, last but very much not least: read this (if you haven't already).



Wednesday, June 01, 2016

News and Reviews

Occasionally we go into the University of Washington to participate in studies on language and development. They do a good job of playing it up and making the kids feel special and helpful (today YOU are contributing to SCIENCE!!). 

Ben was so excited to be a scientist  that he arrived in my bedroom at 7:01 am, fully dressed, including his coat.  

(It also helps that they paid him $30 . He'd spent hours perusing the internet for the perfect LEGO machine long before the money actually made it into his sweaty little fist.)

I am ready for the science! 

Here he is in action. 

Next week he gets to go in and be connected to the 'big magical brain machine'. They do a little test run beforehand:

 This study is an extension of one that was started back when Ben was just a wee bambino. We used to joke in our house that I was always my mom's first subject, as she, too, is a researcher at the University. We've come full circle.

Here are a few links from around the web:

The World's Greatest Birdwatcher (of course he's from Oregon. Birdies, unite!). Yesterday Emma and I discovered an abandoned bushtit nest laying in the road. They are remarkable for their feats of engineering. Today we dissected the nest to discover lots of extra feathers and a few unhatched eggs. The scientists are in da house!

An ad for a menstruation product is too lewd for the subway. 

How first generation faculty can help first generation students succeed 

Becoming a foster parent was a dream I never knew I had

Events that happen in Alaska

Breast cancer ad uses man boobs to check for lumps

Gender bias in Academe

Cat tracking

Did you read Frog and Toad when you were little? A story of friendship and beyond. 

How I deal with the unbearable hypocrisy of being an environmentalist  (Thanks, R)

Hope you're having a great week.



Monday, May 16, 2016

Trips: Camping on Vancouver Island


It's been a while.

I go through phases with the blog....sometimes I'm johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to posting, other times it's like I've fallen off the face of the earth.

In other words, it's been a bit of a blogging dry spell.

We've been outside taking advantage of this beautiful Spring weather and trying to keep our lives only moderately crazy.

We went camping up in Tofino, British Columbia this weekend. Tofino is located about halfway up Vancouver Island on the western (Pacific) coast. We drove up to Canada and then hopped aboard a ferry over to the island. Upon landing in Nanaimo, it was a three hour drive across the island to the small towns of Tofino and Ucluelet. Vancouver Island is huge; it's the largest island in the Pacific Ocean east of New Zealand.

We stayed at the Green Point Campground at the Pacific Rim National Park and it quickly became one of my favorite campgrounds due to the secluded spots and proximity to both hiking trails and beaches. Also, Canadians seem to be a bit more respectful of personal space and noise. There wasn't a single night in which fellow campers were playing their music too loudly or causing disturbances.

 Chris and I are still figuring out our perfect camping situation. We'd love to have a location where the kids can run absolutely wild. Ben and Emma, at 5 and 2, are loud rambunctious kids and there are very few places that they are allowed to be completely free. Even at the campground we are constantly setting rules in regards to noise, destruction of vegetation, and Ben's yearning to visit all the other campsites and have a fireside chat with the occupants.

That said, we're still deciding if we're entirely comfortable striking off into the wilderness by ourselves and wild camping. It seems lovely....but also a bit risky, considering that we have two very young children. Perhaps Chris and I have seen too many horror movies about crazies lurking in the woods. You know, ax murders and shady folk intent on defending their illicit pot grow operations. 

What do you think? Would you go camping off the grid with your little ones? Would you do it if you had friends (ie additional adults) with you? If so, any recommendations for spots in Washington State? I'm of two minds on this one. 

Ben is avidly interested in wildlife and we need to start keeping notes so he can record all his critters. He's careful to list the lowly slug right next to the bears and whales. That's my boy. 

The highlight of the weekend for me was the whale watching trip that we took amongst the islands. It ended up just being the captain, our family, and another family that had two boys, ages 4 and 6. All three boys had an absolute hoot running around the boat, nagging the pilot, and playing wildly. I still can't believe that nobody went overboard.

In total, we were lucky to see 4 humpbacks feeding in a shallow cove. Ben was enthralled.

Ack. Sorry for the blurry pictures. Still haven't pulled the trigger on a new camera and my old lens is suffering.

Here was a larger crustacean, farther out in the bay.

Bottoms up!

Emma did her best to hang with the big kids but she was having a rough day, as her nap schedule was thrown into disarray. We definitely struggled this trip to get a good routine set up for Emma. A month ago we took a similar camping trip down to Central Oregon and she seemed to do just fine. But she hasn't been napping well in the car during the long hours on the road and that, combined with the late nights around the campfire, were hard for our littlest babe. So we'll have to work on that for future trips.

After the whales it was time for a visit to the local Stellar sea lion colony.

Playing? Fighting? Who knows.

If you're planning a visit, we especially enjoyed the inland Rainforest Trail and the Lighthouse Loop near Ucluelet. Long Beach (as accessed via Green Point Campground) also had nice tide pools where we spotted fish, anemones, and jellyfish. 

We went to Chesterman Beach to watch the surfers, but decided that a game of soccer was more entertaining (and warmer). Those surfers were hard core; I was freezing just watching them paddling about in the frigid waters.

The tide pools at Long Beach. I nearly dipped my phone in the water trying to get this picture. 

Ben and his dead sea lion. "Whoa Mama, check out all the flies!!!"

And to top it all off, we ran into this guy. Love them bears. 

And that, my dears, was our trip to Tofino. Definitely worth a visit.