Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Cookie Baking

Making cookies with Conan was a lot of fun. Worth the mess!

Conan really enjoyed cutting out the cookies. He made stars, diamonds, flowers, bells and snowmen, as well as some abstract designs produced by using more than one cookie cutter on the same cookie. (See below, far left on the cookie sheet for one such creative design.)

After we finished cutting out and baking the cookies, Conan helped frost them as well. Masterpeices, every one.

And here's some video:

video

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesdays for Sanity

I love Tuesdays. On Tuesday nights I play poker with my lady friends. The group has evolved some over the three years our game's been going. Some of us have gotten married, we've been pregnant, we've nursed our babies at the table and passed them around to be held by someone else while mama deals. When our babies are old enough to stay home with their papas we revel in getting out kid-free for a night. We bitch about our jobs, our husbands, politics, the weather, traffic, everything. We swap recipes and child-care tips and ideas for family outings and where the best clearance racks in town are. Our standard is a $5 buy-in, but when money's tight (or the tomatoes are ripe) we'll happily accept a barter item in place of the cash. I love my poker ladies.

As wonderful as Ladies Poker Night is, the BEST part of my Tuesdays now is the part before the game.

You see, once upon a time, poker was on Wednesdays, and it was early. I just had time to leave work, grab some kind of heat-n-eat or take-out dinner, and head over to the game. So that was OK - I got a night out, baby-free, and a game, and the socializing - that's what everyone says a new mom needs. It was hard though. I was too tired to really get into socializing. As a mom and a wife and an employee I had people talking to me and needing things from me all the time, and poker started to feel more like another commitment to be discharged than a respite from the rest of my life.

But then people's schedules changed, as they are wont to do, and with one thing and another we ended up switching the game to Tuesday nights at 7:30. Well, that left me with around 3 hours between work and game time. I could go home, but when I tried that I ended up getting caught up in dinner, bath, etc. etc. and blowing off the game entirely. No good! I needed my night off, away from home!

I started saving up errands. I'd go to the bank, grocery shop, go get some new socks and underwear, maybe get the oil changed in the car. That was better, my time was filled and I was getting my game in, but somehow it still didn't quite feel right. I mean, it's supposed to be my night off! I tried meeting up with friends before the game, but it was hard to fit schedules together consistently. And then one day, I went to the library to return some kiddie books, and decided to grab a book for myself. (I know - crazy, right?) I took it to the park and ate my take-out dinner and read. It was wonderful. It was exactly what I needed.

Now, the part of my Tuesday that I look forward to the most is the hours between work and the game. I go to the library, grab something at random from the "new releases" shelf just inside the door. I try not to spend too much time choosing - I'm not looking for the BEST book ever, just something to occupy my mind while I eat. I like to try different cafes, and I get a kick out of mixing and matching the book to the most unlikely type of restaurant. Little-old-lady mystery? Cajun pub. Modern cyber spy thriller? Co-op bakery. Cheesy pre-historic romance? Korean stone pot restaurant. Elizabethan fantasy swashbucking adventure? Shrimp shack. Definitely.

Tonight I've already got a book in mind, a post-apocalyptic vampire novel. I'm thinking tamales.

I order my food, sip my tea, read my book, and no-one asks me to do anything. (Well, except pay. Duh.) Nothing gets done. No errands. No socializing. Just pure "me" time. And then I pack up and head off to Poker recharged, ready to swap gossip and jokes and probably lose $5 - or maybe a basket of tomatoes - to my best friends.

Tuesdays for Sanity! Everyone needs a bit of time to themselves. I had heard the advice but I hadn't really understood it. I thought Poker - the socializing, the comraderie, the not-being-home-for-bedtime was what I needed. And it WAS part of what I needed, but just as you can't live on toast alone, I needed something more. Time for yourself sounds pretty simple, but it took me almost two years to figure it out. Blame it on sleep deprivation, I guess.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Santa


Santa didn't upset Conan at all. Any trepidation he may have felt vanished the moment he saw the candy cane...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Conan

Conan turned 2 on Sunday Dec 12th, and we had a BIG party on Saturday with 43 (!) guests ranging in age from 3 months to 90. Everyone had a great time; all the kids played well together, there were no big tantrums, no-one got sick or hurt, and nothing was broken - pretty amazing considering how many young children we had in the house for 4 hours! It really was a blast - THE party of the year.

There were Cupcakes:




And lots of balloons


And friends of all ages, from near and far



And Grandmas and Grandpas and Great Grandmas too, of course


And lots of new books to read


And a big red wagon filled with toys

And a bright red tricycle for our big boy!

(Cousin Chloe liked Red Trike a lot too)

And we even have some video:
video
Happy Birthday Conan! We love you very much.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Story Time: The Rotten Egg Incident

Bear with me, I feel the need to reminisce...

I was always a good kid. I never really got into defiance for the sake of defiance; I always wanted to follow the rules and loved the praise and approval I received for being such a good kid. Occasionally I was naughty, but mostly I was not the trouble maker. Which is why the Rotten Egg Incident is still such a sore spot for me: I was innocent, but I looked guilty as hell. And it was spectacular.

I was about eleven, maybe twelve years old. My cousins, Heather, Sadie and Jessica, had come to visit, and the next door neighbor kids, Jamie & Ben, were also over at our house playing. Heather was three years older than I, Sadie was my age, and Jess, Jamie and my brother Jon were two years younger than we were, with Ben a couple years behind them. We were having a grand time, playing around and in the pond, on a beautiful summer day, while our parents chatted in the shade.

Now, the pond at my parent's house is not huge, and it's not deep, but it is murky and the bottom is mucky, not nice at all for wading or swimming. In the center of the pond is a small island where wild ducks nest nearly every year. Exploring the island was the obvious thing for us to do when my dad produced a small boat for us to play with. Jon and Sadie ferried Heather and I over to the island, and then headed back to the shore to pick up Jamie, Jesse and Ben. There was a lot of silliness going on in the boat, and somehow both of the paddles were dropped overboard.

Meanwhile, Heather and I began to explore the island, which was very brushy. We pushed our way through the branches and came upon an old duck's nest in the lee of the biggest alder tree. It still had an egg in it! What a find! I picked it up, examined it, and held it up for everyone to see, yelling to the other kids "We found a duck egg!". And they yelled back "Throw it! Throw it!"

So I did. I hauled back and unquestioningly threw the duck egg.

Which hit the network of low-hanging alder branches and aerosolized into a fine mist of pure rotten-egg putrescence which enveloped all the kids, both in the boat and on the shore.

Now, as is often the case in these situations, I knew as soon as the egg left my hand that it was a mistake. I suddenly saw the kids on the shore holding a tow-rope tied to a weight, ready to throw to the kids in the boat who had lost their paddles overboard. In an instant it was crystal clear, but it was too late. Everyone was shrieking, crying, retching, adults were running from the yard to see what was happening, and there was a mind-boggling terrible stink in the air.

To everyone but Heather and I it seemed like a completely unprovoked biochemical sneak attack. We were stuck on the island for what seemed like hours, while the adults rescued, bathed, and comforted our siblings. I think they even got ice cream. We were told we could wade to shore through the now stinky muck water on our own. No-one wanted to hear my side of the story, because really, what possible excuse could there be for doing such a horrible, stupid, mean thing?

Eventually after all the other kids were cleaned up and settled down someone came and rescued us off the island, but despite my teary-eyed protestations I don't think anyone really believed me that it had been an accident. I mean really, when your story is that you accidentally threw a rotten duck egg right at all the other kids because they asked you to, well, that's a pretty hard explanation to sell. But it's true. I was innocent... and also guilty. And although it was terribly traumatic for everyone involved (especially me) it makes a pretty funny story now!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving, with Snow

We got 5 inches of snow on Thanksgiving day; it turned our yard into a beautiful winter wonderland. Although I worried for a bit that the snow would keep our guests away and we would end up facing a whole turkey ourselves, Eric & Miriam braved the drive from Olympia and Dave and Anita brought Great Grandma Marjorie and Anita's friend Ann out from Bellingham so we had plenty of help with the eating.

Conan worked up an appetite riding around the yard on the "snow boat" pulled by his only-slightly-less-excited-about-snow Papa.

We don't have any real sledding hills available, but it was a lot of fun anyway. With his warm winter coat, snow pants, fuzzy hat and big boots Conan was ready to make the most of the unexpected snow bonanza.
Sadly, the temperatures rose in the night, the snow turned to rain and there wasn't a flake left by the next morning, so we didn't get a chance to make any snow sculptures. Next time!

The food, of course, was delicious. We had smashed potatoes, roasted squash, ginger glazed carrots, vegetarian stuffing, bread, turkey & gravy, and pies for desert.

For the turkey I got a little creative and went with a recipe from Cook's Illustrated that promised over-the-top glaze, crispy skin, and tender juicy meat. I'm pleased to say it delivered.

The hard part was butterflying a 21 lb turkey. The turkey came from my buddy Ben Wiley, who moved back to Plain and raised a few birds for friends and family this year. We didn't necessarily need such a large bird for our group, but it was the one I got so there it was. It was a delicious, flavorful bird with great meaty texture and good muscle tone, so much better than the flabby pale meat from a supermarket bird. It took a good bit of wrassling to get the backbone out and break the breastbone in preparation for roasting, but in the long run it was worth it. The turkey cooked evenly and the glaze (apple cider, cranberries & molasses, reduced on the stove-top - now THAT smelled good!) adhered beautifully. Mmmm!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Frosthammer Falls


Last night our biggest fir tree, the one we had named "Frosthammer" (yes, we really called him that, dorks that we are), came down during a tremendous wind storm. Thankfully it fell away from the house, landing just short of the neighbor's white picket fence. A number of other, smaller trees were crushed or snapped off, but no structures, animals or people were injured. We didn't even hear him fall.


The enormous rootball is easily 15 feet high, and positioned in such a way as to make an amazing sculpture on the edge of our yard to be enjoyed for years to come. We have often talked about digging a pond right below where Frosthammer stood, but I had been concerned that we might damage his roots; that's no longer an issue, and now we even have a hole to start from! And we'll be set for firewood for life, too. It will take a while to get used to not seeing him when we look out the southern windows, and our neighborhood eagles will have to find a new place to roost. It's sad and exciting at the same time.

Update - here's a picture with Miriam standing in front of the roots on Thanksgiving, for a better sense of the scale of it:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Birthday Story

Tomorrow is my birthday; I'll be 35 years old. Last night we had a bunch of friends over for a dinner party that was lots of fun. We're in the midst of a early-season nor'easter, with c-c-cold snowy winds blasting straight down from the Fraser valley, so I was impressed at the number of friends willing to make the drive over icy roads and celebrate with us. I really am blessed with a great group of friends.

It got me thinking back through the years, to other birthday celebrations. Some years I've had big parties, some years small gatherings, some years my birthday's an afterthought to Thanksgiving, and some years it is the the main event. There was the time - when I was 13 or 14 - when what I REALLY, really wanted (and got) for my birthday celebration was to take my two closest friends to a chanting workshop with some visiting Tibetan monks. (It was neat, if not particularly eventful.) Of course I'll never forget the year that I got an engagement ring from Cary for my birthday - that was a shock. I had no idea what he was planning, and he'd gone to the trouble to wrap it up inside a bunch of nesting boxes, with the outside one being a couple feet square. ("Oh, haha, the old box-inside-a-box trick" I said.) Opening that final box and seeing the ring is the only thing that has ever rendered me literally speechless.

Of all the years I've celebrated though, my favorite one was in my mid-twenties, when I was living at the Apple Farm. I can't say for certain what year it was, probably around 2000. It was one of those years where my birthday landed perilously close to Thanksgiving. My family was gathering to celebrate Thanksgiving at my Grandma Joy's house, so Cary and I drove out there around noon or so. We had a great meal, lots of visiting and catching up, and then a few presents for me, all very nice. Cary, however, kept checking the time and making it known that he really wanted to head back to the farm. He had some weak reason, I don't even remember what, about why he wanted to head home, but I knew he just didn't want to stay and visit longer with my family because he was a selfish jerk.

Eventually, I gave in, we said our goodbyes, got in the car and headed back home, and I let him have it. "I hardly ever get to see my family! We see your family all the time! It's not fair! You must not really understand/love/respect me if you can't spend time with my family without wanting to leave early!" etc. Cary took my increasingly hysterical rantings about his problems dealing with my family with characteristic stony silence, which only made me even more convinced that I was hitting right at the heart of the matter.

It's about a half-hour drive between Grandma Joy's house and the Apple Farm, and I kept at him the whole way home. I was merciless. I was going to make him SEE! I was right, and he needed to know it!

And then I walked into the house to find we were late for my surprise birthday party.

I don't remember much about the actual party (I'm pretty sure it thoroughly rocked), but I do remember apologizing to Cary and realizing - not for the first time, but perhaps more deeply than before - that he was a real keeper. Happy Birthday, me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Visiting Plain



Chloe turned two on November 14th, and I was able to take Friday and Monday off work so that Conan and I could make a trip over to Plain to help celebrate. We had lots of fun with Poppy and Debbie. Conan got to drive a tractor, pet a real horsie, play chase with Ginger (the most tolerant cat EVER), pound nails in uncle Jon's house, play in snow, "ride" Gracie the dog, and of course play with his cousin. I also picked (and ate) wild chantrelles, went for walks in the beautiful autumn woods, and spent a nice amount of time sipping tea and visiting with my folks. It's nice to be home now, but it sure was good to spend a few days back in Plain.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

We scored a nice kid's easel at the consignment store for $10, and Conan's really enjoying playing artist. He's quite enthusiastic, and occasionally has trouble confining himself to his canvas. This particular work took barely as much time as it takes Mama to put the groceries in the fridge and feed the cats.


I will add that Melissa & Doug's Non-Toxic Dry Erase Markers come off of skin, clothes and hair really, really easily. Which is a bit of a relief.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tickee Teet! Happy Ween!


Halloween weekend was a lot of fun. On Saturday we went with the Lease's to downtown Bellingham to trick or treat. All the downtown merchants give out candy and it's a lot of fun for the little ones, a good daytime practice for more advanced neighborhood trick-or-treating later. It took a little while for Conan to get the hang of it but he was soon charging right up to the candy bowl and saying "tickee-teet" and "happy ween" with the best of 'em. We ended at Boundary Bay for beers and food and finally some well-deserved candy. Conan's mouth was bright blue by the time we left, and he and Olive were bouncing off the walls, the chairs, and the legs of the very patient waitstaff.

On Sunday we went and visited Great Grandma Marjorie at Highland nursing home before going to the Columbia neighborhood for some really amazing trick-or-treating. We were accompanied by Brian, Abby, Chloe and Grandpa Dave, as well as some other friends. Brian had a really amazing Chewbacca costume, and Chloe was the cutest little Ewok. After trick-or-treating we went back to the Mapes place for apple pie and ice cream, and of course ate some more candy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chicken House

We've finally got chickens! I've wanted to get our own birds ever since we moved in, but I was also determined to wait until we had the time to really build them a good solid house. Every other time I've ever kept chickens, I've gotten the birds first and then cobbled together some kind of "temporary" shelter for them. The problem with that approach is that the temporary shelter is always needing maintenance to keep it from falling apart so there's never time to build anything permanent. On the other hand, building a good, solid, permanent chicken house was a project that had to wait until a few other things were taken care of, so it's taken us nearly four years to get to the point where we could bring home some hens. The new chicken house is not yet completely finished (the roofing, siding, and full yard enclosure are still incomplete) but I think it is WELL worth the wait. This isn't just an ordinary chicken house, it's a chicken palace!



This chicken house has all kinds of special features. It's got a cleanout door along the whole bottom of the north wall, and a piece of remnant vinyl flooring (in a tasteful beige tile pattern) tacked down over the entire floor and up the side of the nest boxes. Those two features should really help make cleaning out the house a much more pleasant task.

On the East side of the house, the lower roofed area is the future duck house. It's not finished yet, but it won't take much to get it closed in and ready for ducklings in the spring. The ducks will have a separate outdoor pen adjacent to the chicken yard when everything is complete.

There are three nest boxes with access from the outside, and there's a built-in storage cupboard underneath for keeping chicken food, egg cartons, and other useful items dry and secure. The roof has an extra-wide overhang on the south side to keep the rain off our heads while we do the chores. There's a window in the people door, as well as a window that opens for ventilation and light. The chicken door is actually a window as well, which adds a little more light and also closes easily and securely to keep the chickens safe at night. There's a porch on the west end so the ladies can go outside even in wet mucky weather, and where their water dish can be without getting muddy or full of straw.

Most importantly of all, it's a solidly built little house, which will keep them safe and warm and dry in all kinds of weather and for years to come.

We couldn't have done this at all without Dave's help. He had the lumber, the tools, the know-how, the willingness and the time to take my sketch and turn it into reality. We had to purchase some new plywood, the tarpaper, and the cement for setting the footings, but nearly everything else was used, salvaged materials from the ReStore and Dave's collection, and a few things left over from our house. Even the chickens are used! They came from our good friend Janet, who is moving soon and needed to relocate her flock.


Conan really enjoyed the building process. He helped a lot - hammering, measuring, and toting materials around. He is really, really, REALLY excited to have "bokkies" of his very own.

Our seven ladies moved in on Sunday, and we got our first egg yesterday. Once they get all settled in and adjusted to their new home, I expect we'll get 3-5 eggs a day. Mmmm!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cake Song

video

1. I don't think he's ever seen anyone play the drum and sing, but he seems to know how it's done.

2. We hardly ever have cake (the last time I can remember was at my Cousin's wedding in July). Apparently it made quite the impression.

3. Yes, he has better rhythm than either of his parents.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

True Story

I've been in Orlando, FL for a trade show during the last 5 days. I left after work on Wednesday the 13th and didn't get home until 2 am this morning, so it had been a looooonnnng time since Conan had seen me. So this morning when we heard him stirring, we went into his room together to wake him up, anticipating an enthusiastic greeting for his long-lost Mama. He sat up in his bed and Cary said "Conan, guess who's here?" in an excited voice. Conan paused a moment, looked at me, and then responded "Dayd?" with a happy little chirp of anticipation. Mama, schmama - what would REALLY be exciting would be to have Grandpa Dave dropping by first thing in the morning. We had a good laugh, and then Conan and I had a nice reunion cuddle. He does love me, after all.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Executive Baby

Workin' from home with Mama today. Typing, writing, calculating, and of course, talking on the phone. Looks like management material to me!


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Pumpkins!

Today we went to the Cloud Mountain Farm Harvest festival. This was Conan's second year attending, and he really had a lot of fun. We met up with Marci, Silas, Cohen, Charlotte and Bellatrix as well as lots of other moms and kids we recognized from around town - it's really an extremely toddler-friendly event. There were several free activities for the kidlets. The first thing Conan did was to decorate a small flower pot and plant a little lavender seedling in it.
He is quite the artist, so it took a long time before he declared his pot finished and ready to plant.

He enjoyed spooning the dirt into his pot, but he was a little suspicious of the lavender seedling I stuck in there. He pulled it out a couple of times before he decided it was OK to have a plant in his dirt. Only time will tell if it will survive, but we can replace it if needed.

We tasted some berries and grapes, sampled some cider, and ate delicious Mallard's Ice Cream. But the biggest hit by far was the giant pumpkin. Besides the big one, there was a large pile of more moderately sized pumpkins, and a wagon-load of squash and gourds to boot. The kids had a lot of fun looking at all the different colors and shapes, and of course many pictures were taken.

I should point out that Conan did not wear his orange fleece as part of any pre-meditated parental photo setup - I'm far too much of a scatterbrain to have planned that far in advance. But it DOES look really nice with the pumpkins.

I really like this one. It's just perfect.

Even baby Trix got into the posing with pumpkins, although she wasn't too sure about that tricky balancing.
Next year I'm sure she'll be more excited about it. :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Favorite Toys

click to enlarge the image if you want to read the names of the toys

Conan is really starting to get attached to certain toys. Pictured above are his current favorites. It's interesting to see which toys he connects with - for example, his favorite animal may be the Elephant (aka Baboo) but he has shown very little interest in any of the stuffed Baboo toys we have offered him. He prefers the elephant puzzle piece from his animal board puzzle. Incidentally, if you were wondering, they are called Baboos because that is the sound they make, according to Conan. BaaaboooOOOOoooo!

He really likes animals, especially horses (Hort-sie), chickens (Bockies), and of course Baboos. Monkeys (Oo-oo), Sheep (Baa), Tigers (Tigah) and Cows (Moo) are also very popular. Balls of all shapes and sizes have always been a favorite. The wooden train was a gift from his great Aunt & Uncle, and ever since he got it he has loved taking his small toys for a ride in it. "Choo Choo" has become his word for any large, motorized vehicle - from trains to trucks and tractors to helicopters and airplanes. Cars, for reasons known only to Conan, are "Chaka Choo Choo".

And then there are Baby and Baa. These two, along with Baboo Blankie, nearly always accompany Conan to bed and require their own goodnight kisses from Mama. They often go with him to Grandma & Grandpa's house on Wednesdays, but they never go with Conan when he goes to Ya-ya's house, because Conan knows he doesn't want anyone else to play with them. They are his OWN. And that's just fine - every kid needs a special toy that he doesn't have to share.

It's really neat to watch as Conan's imagination grows and he invents little games to play with his toys. They are often subject to naps, along with frequent train rides. He is delighted to share his milk and snacks with them, as well as pretend food. Horsey runs and jumps all over the house and furniture. Sometimes Conan himself is a horsey trotting around the room; other times he is a doggie on his hands and knees carrying another toy in his mouth. It's simply wonderful.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Conan is calling

Conan loves to use the "hone" to call his favorite people: Dayd, Dee, Poppy, Dabbie, Kistee and Ya-Ya.* He's getting pretty good at talking when he's pretending, but still tends to get shy when there's really someone on the other end of the line, so it'll be a while yet before he's having real phone conversations. He's got the protocols down though - saying "Hi" and "Bye", pushing the buttons, even pacing while he talks. It's deadly cute. :)

video

*That's Grandpa Dave, Grandma Anita, Grandpa Dennis, Grandma Debbie, Christy and Olive, for those of you who don't speak Conan.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Deception Pass Camping Trip

We just got home from camping at Deception Pass. Whew! Much needed laundry and naps are in progress, and I'm enjoying a hot cup of tea and looking over the pictures. (Life is good.)


We had planned this trip for a while. We met up with the Ericsons, Taylors, all the Davis-es (Grandpa Will even made a surprise appearance), and Mark & Elna. We managed to fit everyone into two adjoining campsites, which was a lot of fun. Each family had chosen a meal to prepare for the group, and we ate WELL! Fiday night the kids ran around in circles playing until bedtime, and then the adults sat around the fire talking, making s'mores, drinking and telling stories late into the night.

During the morning Saturday we explored the Bowman Bay area of the park, playing on the playground equipment and on the beach. Little plastic shovels and buckets were a big hit with the kids. A washed-up piece of giant kelp on the beach also proved fascinating. We cut it open to show the kids the air pocket inside that would make it float - Moira was especially interested.

After lunch while the kids were napping some of us went out to Rosario Beach, where Gabe & Cynthia went for a short SCUBA dive, testing out their equipment and learning in the process that Gabe's drysuit has a leak. He came out of the water with his suit absolutely filled with water - I expect (nay, demand!) some video of it to appear on his site shortly.

The weather was pretty good, although it finished up a bit on the soggy side. We had beautiful weather all day Saturday, but at dusk it began to sprinkle and by the time we broke camp Sunday morning it was raining steadily. But hey, that's camping in Washington in September. The kids took refuge in the minivan, playing "drive" until the grown-ups could get all the soggy tents and stuff into the cars and then we came home to hot showers and our warm dry house.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What Scares Me

In a nutshell, my biggest fear is losing Conan. I'm not a big worrier in general, but sometimes, especially late at night, it just hits me that it's possible something terrible could happen to him, and a huge wave of fear comes crashing down on me. I work my way through all kinds of things that could happen - from the fairly common (car accident, playground accident, gardening accident) to the hypochondriac (leukemia, SIDS, cancer, genetic disease, e. coli) to the sensational (crazed meth-head home invasion, weird cult kidnapping, dingo attack, terrorist plot) to natural disasters (volcanic eruption, earthquake, sudden rise in sea level) to the downright apocalyptic (zombies, nuclear strike, alien invasion, Large Hadron Collider created black hole).

If I'm really in the grip of a fear fit, I may even start to worry about possible pitfalls in the future. What if Conan makes bad choices in high school, drops out, runs away, and overdoses in a flophouse somewhere? What if he texts & drives? What if he drops dead of heat stroke one day after football practice? What if he's struck by lightning, or a meteorite, or a chunk of the international space station? The list of things I could worry about just goes on and on.

This focus on the horrible and tragic may seem morbid, but I think it's actually an effective coping mechanism. Thinking about these things, accepting them as possibilities and then dismissing them as remote and unlikely, makes them seem somehow less scary. I have good friends who lost their son at 4 months, and know several couples who were devastated to lose a pregnancy. My cousin died in a freak snowboarding accident when we were in our early 20s. My husband works at the city cemetery. Reminders that death is a part of life are ever-present. No one knows what the future holds.

So whenever this most primal fear bubbles to the surface, I spend some time exploring it in my imagination. Then, I take a deep breath and remind myself that the fearsome possibility of losing something wonderful is no match for the joy of really, truly loving every minute that I have with my son.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Juice for Conan

Conan loves juice and milk, but doesn't much care for plain water. When we went in for his 18 month checkup in June, our pediatrician told us that we needed to

a) make sure he stayed hydrated during the summer heat
b) give him less milk (24 oz or so a day - including the bedtime bottle)
c) give him less juice

Even watered-down, no-sugar-added, 100% pure fruit juice which we had been giving him was more sugar than he needed, apparently. So what to do, when he just ignored sippy cups filled with plain water? I certainly didn't want him to get dehydrated.

Enter sun tea. I made the first batch for myself, then discovered that Conan loved it. Now I brew it frequently. "Juice! Juice! Jooooooooooooouice!" he says, and points enthusiastically when he sees me set out the big gallon jar on the fence to brew.

I usally use a fruity tea, like raspberry zinger or berry blast. These are caffeine free, brew up to a bright, deep red or purple color, and taste delicious. I don't add any sugar, of course, so it helps to choose teas that are naturally sweet and taste great all on their own. It also costs virtually nothing to make, and Conan happily drinks tons of it. Win!

You probably don't need instructions, but just in case you've never made sun tea before, it's the easiest thing in the world. You don't need any special equipment, although there are some lovely tea pitchers available if you want to splurge. The basics are as follows:

1. Get a big clear jar with a lid. Wash it thoroughly.
2. Fill it with cold water.
3. Put in some tea bags. I usually use 8 bags for a gallon batch. They don't all have to be the same kind, you can mix and match to create new blends. For kids, stick to caffeine-free types.
4. Put the lid on and set the jar out somewhere sunny for a few hours. You'll know it's done when the color is richly developed, or it's night time and you forgot to bring it in earlier in the afternoon. Taste it if you aren't sure.
5. Remove the tea bags, chill & serve.
6. Store it in the fridge in the same jar you brewed it in until it's gone.

You can add lemon juice, mint leaves, ice cubes, frozen or fresh berries, fruit slices, and even sugar or honey (for adults) to enhance the flavor. Drink up!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Visiting Plain


This past weekend Conan, Great Grandma Joy and I made the trek to Plain for a visit with my parents. It was a fairly short visit, but we packed in a lot of fun regardless. Conan was especially excited about the chickens and had fun going fly fishing in the pond with his Poppy. Dad even had a little toddler-sized pole and reel (no hook) all ready for him. Mom's garden is really incredible, and I came home with a carload of delicious fresh vegetables and garlic to supplement my own meager yields.

We also toured my brother Jon's house, which he is building next door. It's really neat to see it taking shape! It's simply an amazing project, the style of building, called timber framing, uses notches and pegs and mortise and tennons to fit together large, beautiful beams like puzzle peices. There's only 7 metal bolts in the whole thing! Not the easiest or fastest way to put up a house, but the craftmanship is incredible. When it's finished, the outside will be stucco'd over but on the inside the beams will be visible on the walls and ceilings. The beams and boards (including some beautiful fir tounge-and-groove panneling on the dining room ceiling) were all milled from trees harvested on the property, only the plywood subfloor came from the lumberyard.

Saturday afternoon many of my aunts and uncles and cousins on the Pobst side came out for a reunion/picnic, and it was great to visit and catch up with all of them. Conan charmed everyone with his cuteness and cheerful nature, and we enjoyed a delcious potluck meal followed by homemade raspberry icecream. Summer afternoons with family can hardly be beat!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Olympia


This past weekend we visited Gabe & Cynthia and baby Morgan for three days in Olympia. Bo & Charlotte & baby Bellatrix also made the trek to Oly and stayed over Friday night. On Saturday we all went up to the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Fair in Buckley, and met the Ericsons there. It was so much fun to see everyone, and we had a great time at the fair even with the cold drizzly weather. It was kind of an impromptu thing to go to the fair, but we all agreed that we should do it again next year, with advance planning so we can dress up! I took some pictures that don't really do the fair justice, if you want to see some of the fun your best bet is to click through the link above and watch the video.

Update: The best performance by far was the Ma'Ceo gypsy riders:

Monday, August 02, 2010

Hiking to Welcome Pass

Conan hiked to Welcome Pass on Sunday with his Papa, Grandpa Dave, and family friend Nathan.

He was supposed to ride in the backpack, but he insisted on being carried in arms or walking for much of the way up 68 switchbacks.

He had a great time in the meadow at the top, running around enough that he was willing to nap in the backpack on the way down.

He also had fun playing with Dave & Nathan's walking sticks. Or at least, that's the official story. The camera, on the other hand, shows a lot of alpine baby kung fu training...
video

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Family Picnic Fun

On Saturday we went to the Anderson-Syre-Etc Annual Family picnic. The big attraction was that my cousin Andrew and his family (wife Lollie and kids Andie, Nichole & Alex) had come up from California. We had them over for dinner on Thursday as well, and it was really neat to get to meet them in person. We've been internet buddies for a while, but it had been something like 15 years since I'd seen Andrew in person. I'd never met Lollie & the kids, although I felt like I knew them from seeing their pictures and reading their family newsletter from time to time. Really great people... glad we're related!

Now on to the pictures - this may be the single best picture I've ever taken. No photoshop, honest!
Playing on the swing was a big hit. Grandma Debbie had fun too.
Time with Great Grandma is always special.
Nichole, Alex & Andie picked lots of raspberries from the rows around the picnic area, and Conan ate a ton of them.
Sitting on the "choo choo" with Mama was extremely exciting. The bigger kids got to drive the tractor around the field all by themselves, which was a ton of fun.

Self-portrait!
This picture is actually from last weekend, at Odessa's birthday party. Look out ladies!