Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Day of Thanks

“For each new morning with its light, for rest and shelter of the night, for health and food, for love and friends, for everything thy goodness sends. I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy Thanksgiving, Darlings!

May you have a day filled with good food, dear friends, and loving family. And if your family is more prone to squabbles than to hugging, I hope the wine is plentiful. :)

Much love, 
Sonja, Chris, Ben & Emma

Photo from the Library of Congress, under the Creative Commons License agreement. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Benisms vol 38

Ben thought all his Christmases had come at once this morning when a fire truck pulled into the parking lot at preschool.

"HELLOOOO FIREMEN!” he yelled, holding up his duplo fire jeep in solidarity.

Fire folk and garbage collectors must be used to the adoration bestowed by the under-six set.

It wasn’t until five minutes later as he was proudly leading the men down the stairs to the building that he turned around to ask them where the fire was located.

They solemnly informed him that it was just an inspection; otherwise "we’d probably be moving a wee bit faster”.


On the way to preschool, Ben noticed that they’d put up lights in the trees on Lake City Way in preparation for the holiday season.

“Mom, look!”, pointing to a group of homeless folks hanging out in the city park, "those guys are having a CHRISTMAS PARTY!!”

Given that one of the guys was twirling a shovel like he was a baton-thrower in the Macy’s Day Parade, I declined Ben’s idea of joining the festive celebrations.


In other news, Chris and I spent the weekend working on our laundry room. Here’s what we’re going for:

Dirty laundry comes out of the ceiling chute on the upper left and falls onto the counter where it’s loaded into the washer and dryer. Clean clothes can be folded on the lower counter and delicate items can be washed in the sink.

The goal is to also have a mini fridge (to the left of the sink) for when we begin our kitchen remodel. The microwave will also be temporarily relocated down here.

Here is where we’re at:

Cabinets frames have been installed.

Emma is on the quality control team; her speciality is checking products for durability.

The cabinet counters are installed, the sink hole is cut, and the machines are in place.

I solemnly swear never to make fun of Chris’ long gorilla arms ever again. Thanks to his extra long appendages, the dryer venting is now connected.

Next up: counters over the washer and dryer. But not until after Thanksgiving. We’re ready for a break.

Have a great, hopefully short, work week!



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Space Explorer DIY Costume

I’ve fielded a bunch of questions on constructing a space costume so here is a quick tutorial. 

The Helmet

Balloon anchor (see below)
Paper strips (we used strips that were approx. 1.5” x 10”)
Glue or flour paste
1 - 2L bottle (visor)
White spray paint
Foam (inside padding) (optional)

We started with a ballon that was significantly larger than Ben’s head. Roomy is good! You don’t want a claustrophobic astronaut.  Don’t worry that the balloon tapers down at the bottom; it’ll get cut off later in the process.

We do a lot of paper mache in our house and this time around decided to use a flour paste (flour + water), instead of our typical glue paste (elmers glue + water). Don’t do it! Stick with glue. The flour was lumpy and smelled gross. Plus it took an extra long time to dry. Add enough water to your glue to make it moderately runny. I know that’s not terribly helpful but we never measure anymore.

Before you begin pasting: tape your balloon down to a base (anchor). Make it as heavy as possible. Your balloon, once coated in paper and paste, is going to be quite top heavy and you’ll want a firm foundation. We used a few jars of clams and would have preferred a heavier base. 

With a sharpie, draw a basic outline of your visor area. Dip the paper strips in the paste, squeegee off the extra with your fingers, and slap onto the balloon. I start by placing the strips in slightly overlapping parallel strips and then lay the next layer perpendicular to the first layers. Make sure you have strong layers around the base (where the head hole will be) and around the visor. 

This is definitely the part where your kids can join in. Mine loves the messy process; he’ll do the dipping and I’d place the strips on the balloon. 

It’ll look ugly and be a horrible mess but don’t lose faith!

And now you have to wait for it to dry. Which can take days. We left it in a warm spot and forgot about it for a week. Not a project you can do the night before halloween.

When it’s dry, enlarge the head hole with scissors. We also elected to paint the inside of our helmet (green) and to line the head opening with white duct tape so there were no rough edges that rested on the wearer’s shoulders. 

Cut your visor: empty the 2 L bottle and cut off the top and bottom, and then vertically so that it’s one big rectangle. Lay over your helmet. 

If you have white duct tape, it’s nice to tape it down, otherwise simply do more layers of paper and paste over the edges. Do several layers; you want the visor attachments to be sturdy. 

Blow up another balloon into the helmet and presto! A good way to dry your helmet. 

Again, forget about it for a few days while it dries. 

Last step: Use painter’s tape to cover the visor. Spray paint the outside and add foam inside for a good fit.

Again, we waited a week after this step to give the helmet plenty of time to off-gas... spray painting can be pretty fume-y.

Helmet is done!

Space Suit

White duct tape (lots!)
Snow suit or body suit

I was originally looking for a snow suit to use for the base of Ben’s space explorer costume but I could only find the bib style at our local thrift shop. The ideal garment would have both puffy arms and legs. Instead we settled for a $4 race car driver suit.

Important note: Buy up a size or two. The duct tape is quite restricting and the form-fitting suit required a little shimmy to get into, thanks to the constrictive nature of the tape.

The suit before:

And after. The magic of white duct tape!

You could also cover ski gloves and boots in tape, if you’re really going all-out.

Finally, I printed off a NASA label and an American flag and used clear packing tape to attach them to the suit.

The Rocket Pack

2 - 2L bottles
Cardboard base (approximate size: 9”x9”)
Red felt
White Spray Paint
White ribbon
Hot glue gun
Optional: light sandpaper (100 grit)

I still can’t get over the fact that the root beer I bought was $0.78 for a 2L bottle. I pay $5.60 for a gallon of milk! We were sick of root beer by the time this project was over.

Empty your bottles. Thread the ribbon through your flat piece of cardboard, making a harness that you can tie in the front. We did it from all four corners so a ribbon went under and over each arm. We simply tied all four ribbons in a big bow in front. A little goofy, but you could do it under the armpits if you’re particular.

Here’s a front shot:

Glue your bottles side-by-side on the cardboard base. Use a fine sandpaper to slightly rough up the slippery plastic so the paint can adhere.

Spray paint the whole shebang.

Cut out flames and glue them onto the bottom of the rockets.




From The Blog-O-Sphere

Not my day, Darlings.

This morning I ran out of gas on the way to preschool.

Today I learned that my prius will shut down the engine and then has the ability to putter along on battery power for a while before dying completely. Half a mile short of the gas station. With two kids in the car. Or, as Ben put it: “two starving kids”. I scrounged a pack of Halloween smarties from the bottom of my purse and he happily munched away while we waited for backup. Candy at 9 am? Why yes.

My awesome mama came to the rescue with a jerry can of petrol and we happily went on our way. Goes to show that even when you’re an adult with kids of your own those mamas are still looking out for you. Or as Ben has been saying lately: “She’s a super mama!!”  Yes she is.

The day is looking up, however. Ben had an awesome day at preschool and we’re getting together with a good pal tomorrow for a long-overdue adventure.

This afternoon Ben and I are going to make some Thanksgiving place cards for our shindig next week.

Here are a few other articles that caught my attention:

Why divers in Bonaire are killing lion fish

The unpalatable truth about quinoa

The Dutch village where everyone has dementia

Thanksgiving meals across the United States (what’s your meal?)

The time the Columbia River froze. My Nana used to talk about ice skating one year on Lake Washington but I never really believed her. Maybe I should have.

Made me laugh. Introverts Unite!

I’m adding this book to my reading list: The Wild Truth, by Carine McCandless

In California, That MRI Will Cost You $255 — Or Maybe $6,221

Bullying is ageless: conflict and violence in nursing homes. I believe it. Especially as my grandfather became known for the incident in which he dumped a glass of milk on his dining companion’s head.

We’re in the midst of finishing up the laundry room. Check out my packing job from a trip to Ikea last week. What you can’t see: Little Em, hidden away in her car seat. Ikea jenga at its finest!

Have a great (almost) weekend!



Friday, November 07, 2014

From the Blog-O-Sphere

Have a great weekend, lovelies. We’re doing some house tasks tomorrow and then having the fam over for dinner. This has been a complicated season for us and our extended family dinners have fallen by the wayside. Time to remedy that.

Our little Em is a crawling & climbing master. Yesterday she was on a mission for food and decided to hike up our stairs in an effort to find me. Slow down, wee little pumpkin, I’m not really for a super-mobile baby.

Here are a few articles from around the internet:

Build A Bear....for millennial women? Why is the child’s store suddenly so popular with the 25-35 set?

Daylight Saving Time seriously sucks. 

Car Talk on NPR. What memories! For me it’s sitting in the kitchen with my dad flipping swedish pancakes, with Click and Clap chatting away on the radio. RIP Tom Magliozzi.

The hilarious [parody] twitter account every parent needs to follow.

Why my grandma never had a pap smear. An article about the work of a friend at PATH, which in conjunction with other non-profits, developed CareHPV, a take-home cervical screening test for rural women in developing countries.

Picture this: A bird lands on a page about itself. Of course it would be a chickadee.

A natural fix for ADHD?

Women with PhDs review Amazon’s ‘sexy PhD’ costume.  "Wow, I think her tenure track is showing," snarked Biochemistry Prof.

Career burnout.

The anti-vaccine movement is forgetting polio. 

Have a great weekend, peeps!



Saturday, November 01, 2014

Halloween 2014

 Halloween began on a rather rough note for Ben as we started out with a trip to Urgent Care for a scratched cornea.

We learned that it takes three adults to physically restrain a three year old when it comes to administering (painless) eyedrops. But he was able to regroup a few minutes later and turn into a model patient for the doctor-in-training that swung by to observe the examination.

After that we zipped downtown for a visit to Chris’ office and then back home for a much needed nap (for the entire family).

And then....Halloween!

He and I have been working on his costume for a while. It finally came together last night after adding the patches to the bodysuit.

May I present:


The helmet is my favorite: paper mache with plastic from a 2-L bottle as the face shield.

Ben’s favorite part is the rocket pack: two 2-L bottles painted white with red felt flames.


I was going to do white shoes.. but ran out of time. I hear blue crocs are also pretty speedy in space.

As for the bodysuit, we took an old jumpsuit from goodwill and wrapped it in white duct tape. 

Never ever underestimate the power of duct tape.

Slap on a few printed logos and presto! DIY Space Explorer.

We’ve been running around the house all morning shouting To Infinity! And Beyond!

After our rough day, I considered bailing on trick or treating. But Ben, true to form, was having none of that. He rallied on a spectacular scale. Ironically, we opted not to wear the space explorer costume, as we were running late and I was mentally maxed out. He was wearing jeans so we added a hat, vest, and plaid shirt. Our little cowboy was now ready for the festivities.

We got to stop by Grandma’s house and then Uncle E’s house to practice our ‘trick or treating’ (and only selecting one candy) before heading over to a friend’s house for the main festivities.

Ben quickly adopted a new buddy and the two of them linked arms and ran house to house, collecting their goodies.

Spending time with friends and watching our kid have a fantastic time was great end to a hectic day. And, even better, corneas heal pretty quickly. He’s good as new today. Candy does a body good, evidently. :)



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Trips: Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion

Get ready, darlings, this post is long. 

What is there to say about the Grand Canyon that hasn’t already been said?

Or more to the point, what can you possibly say about this canyon that will give the reader a proper idea of how vast, deep, and utterly astonishing this geologic marvel really is?

It’s indescribable.

This was my first time at the canyon and I’m still struggling to find a way to sum it up. Perhaps this is best: go visit for yourself. And while you’re at it, be sure to spend time in Bryce and Zion too, ‘cause they’re equally awesome.

Yes, we put Ben on a leash. Yes, we got funny looks. And yes, it was totally worth the peace of mind.

We also stopped at the nearby drive-through Bearizona for a bit o’ wildlife viewing.

And then it was time for Page, Arizona. 

What’s in Page, you ask? Well, not much. It’s what’s outside of Page that is astonishing. 

Specifically, Lower Antelope Slot Canyon.

I think this just might have to be our Christmas card. 

The light in the canyon is incredible. These pictures are completely unedited. 

A bit of dexterity is required as there are some steep ladders to ascend/descend to access the canyon.

And, it should go without saying but I’m going to say it anyway: this is flash flood country and it is a very real threat. The Navajo Nation (who owns the land) keeps pretty close tabs on the property following a flood that claimed the lives of 11 hikers in 1997. Wherever you go, be aware and be safe, especially with kids in tow.

The other cool geologic feature outside of Page is Horseshoe Bend, a spot where the Colorado Rivers winds its way through Glen Canyon.

Getting a good shot is difficult, given the massive area and 1,000 foot cliffs cloaking the river below.

The wide angle lens makes it look like we’re right on the edge. 

Not the case; we were pretty far back. No place to let the kiddies out for a romp, however.

The Grand Canyon was enormous, Horseshoe Bend was a little freaky, Antelope Canyon was magical, and Bryce was our favorite:

Welcome to Hoodoo Country!

Don’t stand under one of these babies during an earthquake.

Hike down the Queen’s Garden Trail. The highlight of our time in Bryce. Not to be missed. 

Or better yet, do it on horseback! (see below)

Hoodoo tunnel. Not an ideal size for the tall folk of the family. 

Coming back up Wall Street: One hell of a climb. Nine switchbacks are visible; there are probably twice that many total.

Hey! Probably the only picture we have of everyone looking at the camera. It’s a festivus miracle!

A good hike for the smalls: Willis Slot Canyon, outside of Bryce.

Zion was chaotic and busy but unique in a completely different way than Bryce.

We spent our last full day hiking “The Narrows”, a walk through a canyon carved by the Virgin River as it heads south to join the mighty Colorado.

The water levels are pretty low currently which was good and bad. The famed Emerald Pools were practically dry (below) yet the hike up through the Narrows was nice and shallow. Always a plus when you’re carry the wee ones. I don’t think Emma would have taken kindly to a river swim.

Little Em doesn’t appear in many of the assured, our little gal is always present, usually chewing on the backpack straps (teething stinks!) or snoozing away the miles. She’s a great travel companion. 

Preparing for our walk up the river.

tap, tap. Is this thing on?

Check out our sexy water shoes and neoprene booties. Also, a walking stick was a must for navigating the deeper pools. 

It’s also pretty cool in the canyon: note the warm clothes that the kiddies are sporting. 

Typical. We hike into an amazing spot and both kids are asleep.

Lovely picture, except for the fact that the photographer’s mits are in the shot.

Ben got his cowboy on and did a little bareback riding.


And there you have it, my dears. Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion, all wrapped up. 

Happy exploring, 



I’ve gotten a few questions on the backpack carriers we use for the kids. Links to Emma’s are here and Ben’s is here. We love them both and have used them extensively on the trails. 

The Beco is wonderful for babies. We start them out in front facing us and then move them to the back at about six months. 

Ben’s Deuter is nice because it can be adjusted for short and tall parents, which allows Chris and I to switch wearers. Although since Ben is 35+ pounds, Chris wears it all the time now. :)