Saturday, June 29, 2013

busy busy

Ack! Fallen off the blog wagon. But for good reasons! We've been enjoying lots of outdoor and indoor adventures, working in our garden, and taking care of some work.

Along with our usual hikes in Forest Park, of which there have been quite a few, we've done some more biking. We logged one 15-mile trip on the Springwater Corridor bike trail with our friends Mary and Rowan. She had Rowan up front, and I had Liesl up front and Seb pedaling behind. It was super fun to ride for a distance, and to ride with friends. Yesterday we drove out to the town of Banks, and rode the Banks-Vernonia rail trail for 12 miles up into Stub Stewart State Park. (Six miles uphill on the way out!)  I'm proud of Sebastian's stamina, and really happy about how much he loves to ride.  It's triggered his interest in riding his own bike too, so he's been tooling around our block and around the school track.

Our afternoons are generally spent outside, either at the school field or playground across the street or in front of our house. We've been doing a lot of throwing and kicking - soccer, basketball, tennis, baseball, frisbee - along with riding bikes (L now fits her balance bike) and racing each other (or the clock).

Seb had a sports camp for three days last week, which produced a lot of anxiety beforehand and a lot of pent-up bad behavior afterwards. He was nervous about the whole thing, and found it hard to sleep, and then had a terrific time, but was so exhausted from playing and interacting and behaving himself (and the lack of sleep) that he just had epic meltdowns. Epic - it was one of the worst weeks ever - he had hour-long tantrums of crying and screaming and throwing himself on the floor. The low point was last Sunday when he had a very public tantrum in Pioneer Square that ended with Steve carrying Seb, crying, down the block and packing him into the car. It was pretty bad. Fortunately, we seem to have passed through the crisis and he's returned to his usual self this week. On the bright side, he loved meeting other boys his age and playing sports, and I loved having some personal time with Liesl to play, walk, meet up with friends, and just hang out.

And finally - the garden. I picked our first produce this afternoon - some lettuce, spinach, and chard leaves. They're delicious, and I'm hoping those little plants (along with our kale) keep producing lots of greens for us.  Something (I suspect slugs) is eating our pole beans; the carrots haven't come up yet; the cute little purple eggplant is turning brown and squishy on the end - but overall I'm pleased so far with our garden experiment. Seb loves to water and weed. Liesl wanders around the garden talking to herself, us, the plants, the gnomes, and bunny Fufu, playing her games and generally enjoying herself.


When Liesl thinks something smells good, or tastes good, she has a way of saying "yum!" that I just love. Doughnuts = yum. Chocolate = yum. Cherries = yum!  We visited a spice store together (Penzey's) and she loved opening up the little jars and sniffing all the spices and herbs. Anytime anything had cinnamon in it, she said "yum". But she also says it when she smells flowers. We were at the Rose Garden today, and she smelled the blooms and said "yum." Sebastian said they all smelled like vanilla to him. :)

Nilsa (and Julia)

I've taken on a freelance writing gig for the summer, writing medical school recommendation letters for Columbia students through the auspices of my former colleagues at the CSA. I'm happy to get my feet back into the working world, to think about something other than the children and home life, and to get some time away from them every week. But it's been a slow start - I found it difficult to figure out my work setup, and difficult to get started on the writing. Just in this past week, after a couple of sleepless nights due to feelings of anxiety and guilt, have I been able to really write.

But in order to work, of course, I needed a babysitter, and we found two through various means. One is Nilsa, a nursing student at the University of Portland; the other is Julia, a local high school student. The children adore Nilsa. They love her. After her initial visit, Liesl asked why I was still home and not out on a date somewhere. She often wakes up in the morning, or from naps, and asks if Nilsa is coming today.  Sebastian has repeatedly told me that he wants Nilsa to come for the whole day, like early in the morning through dinnertime. They attack her with hugs and requests to "look at this, read this" when she arrives.

We like Nilsa too - she's cheery, and punctual, and takes the children on various adventures around town (playgrounds, the zoo, OMSI). She's a certified lifeguard who knows CPR and has taught swim lessons, so I'm plotting to ask her to take the kids to the pool on summer afternoons and teach them. And when she took the kids to the library, they came home with at least two dozen age- and interest-appropriate books, which is exactly what we always do, so I loved to see it.

Poor Julia is clearly taking second best - she isn't quite as good at re-directing and teasing as Nilsa, so the children experience her instructions as just ordering them around. And she doesn't have a car, so they can't go on trips with her. But I think Julia is perfectly nice and competent, and it's nice to have an alternative in case one babysitter is busy.

Steve and I are just happy to have regular babysitting help again - we've taken the opportunity to go on a few lunch and dinner dates, and one very nice performance at the Oregon Ballet. There's only one fly in the ointment: graduation! Once Nilsa becomes a nurse, next June, we'll have to start looking again...

Friday, June 14, 2013

first planting

Seb, Liesl, and I spent a couple of hours this morning at our garden plot. We spread five bags of organic compost, a box of fertilizer, and then dug little holes and planted our various plant seedlings.

Sebastian was super helpful and really interested in everything - he raked, he dug, he fertilized and watered - and he is so excited to go back and see how everything looks. Liesl was a little less into the whole thing, in part because she was just having a cranky day, but also because she's not quite as clear about what's going on. We borrowed a box for her to sit on today, and I made a mental note to buy a little chair for her to hang out in during future visits.
Here's the before picture - soil doesn't look great, lots of grass and weeds growing.
Since I'm a softie, I bought them cool little shovels for digging.
Carefully carrying our plants through the trails to our little plot.
And... action! Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, lettuce, chard, kale, basil, spinach, beets.

They each picked a flower and planted it - lavender for Seb, and a marigold for Liesl.
The pre-existing rhubarb, plus our new squash, pumpkin, beans, and flowers.
why am I headless? Seb took the picture. :)
We managed to forget carrots and broccoli, and Liesl requested more flowers, so we may make another trip to the garden center. Oh, and I need gardening gloves - the dirt under my fingernails seems semi-permanent. It was a really fun morning and we're all excited to see how things develop.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

perfectly Portland day

We had a very Portland-ish day today - went for a bike ride along the Willamette River Greenway, with a stop to play at a playground. Parked the bike to take a joyride on the aerial tram, up above the city and river. Biked back to the downtown South Park blocks, where there was a farmers market, in time to buy fruits and vegetables and some lunch. And then after naps, a visit to a local garden center where I asked a lot of (stupid) questions and we bought compost, fertilizer, and vegetable seedlings  for our new garden plot.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

snail collecting

We went hiking with our friends Mary and Rowan on Tuesday morning, at Tryon Creek State Park. The children had a little plastic container for collecting bugs, and they popped a couple of snails in.

Monday, June 10, 2013

our first camping trip!

We headed out to Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon coast for our first ever family camping trip this past weekend.  Our trunk and back seat were packed with our new gear - tent, sleeping bags and mats, stove and cooler, etc. - amazingly, everything fit into the Civic. I spent Friday cooking and preparing supplies - oatmeal chocolate cookies, granola, quinoa, pinto beans, apples and carrot sticks - and packing the car so that we could take off first thing Saturday morning.  We were especially excited because three of our new friends had decided to come along and also try out camping with their children - Andrea, Katie, and Jesseca, with husbands and two kids each. Seb and Liesl were so excited about seeing their friends and having multiple days - whole days! - to play with them - and on the beach!

We took off after breakfast and stopped for a very short hike along the Wilson River in the Tillamook State Forest, halfway between home and the coast. It was gorgeous - sunny, crisp, a pretty little hike along a lovely rushing river. We clambered down the bank to a rocky place in the middle and threw sticks and stones into the water for a bit, and then had a picnic lunch before driving to the coast.

The campground was just amazingly beautiful - right on the coast, with only a dune between the tentsites and the ocean. We had good spots with enough tree coverage and privacy, all four families in a square together so the kids could run around. The beach was huge, both in terms of the length that you could walk along the water, and the distance from low tide to the dunes. The only worry was that the waves were unexpectedly big every ten minutes or so - they'd lap in at a certain spot, lulling you into complacency, and then suddenly a huge one would crash in above waist level forcing you to sprint inland away from it. We kept a very close eye on the children and stayed within arms length of the little ones.  But the beach was so pretty and so sparsely populated, especially compared to east coast beaches, and there were sand dollars and crabs and jellyfish to investigate.  We spent all Saturday afternoon just playing on the beach and then again all Sunday morning.  It was so terrific for the children to have friends to play with - to dig sandcastles and to run around with both on the beach and in the campground.

We shared dinners on both Saturday and Sunday nights, two families cooking each night, which was awesome. We ate so well both nights and only had to do the work once. Jesseca and Katie made chicken, garlic bread, corn on the cob, and broccoli salad on Saturday, and Andrea/Wally and I made salmon, zucchini and red peppers, bread, and spinach avocado salad on Sunday night.  There were roasted marshmallows, of course, and even smores, which Liesl loved. Sebastian was not a fan - he was afraid of the fire, afraid of burning his marshmallow, and then thought it was too sweet. :)

baby David and the watermelon!

Evie and the smores

So, that was the good. And the good was really good. The kids slept well in their new sleeping bags and I'm excited to go camping with them again. I hope we can convince our friends to come camping with us again too, as it was super fun to have company for ourselves and the kids. We love our new Oregon friends and are so happy that they like some of the same outdoorsy things that we do.

The bad, however, was really sort of epically bad. On Saturday afternoon, squirrels and birds managed to get into the metal tin where I'd stored my homemade cookies and eat them all. We made a mental note of it and tried to be more careful about leaving food out. But then on Sunday, Steve unfortunately had to leave our party and go find an internet connection to get some work done.  He had a really tough week at work, with some stressful deadlines and last-minute emergencies and just too much on his plate, and was really worried about arriving late to work on Monday morning. But since he took the car, I had to store our snacks and food in the tent.  And so the horribly nasty attack squirrels gnawed a hole through our new tent and ate our bread and nuts, and ate through the zipper on my backpack to get at the chocolate bar inside.  So we have a hole in our tent and a ruined backpack.

Steve and I were so agitated about it that we picked up everything we could find and threw it into the car trunk. Ten minutes later he asked me for the car keys so he could get his jacket out - and that's when we realized that my keys were in the backpack, in the trunk, and his keys were also in the trunk. So there we were, locked out of our car on a Sunday evening, in a campground on the coast ten miles from the nearest town. We called a tow truck company who said they'd send someone, but that it would be awhile (and cost us a pretty penny, of course). And that's when Seb started wailing and crying that he was going to throw up. He sobbed and grabbed his stomach and screamed. It was bad.

So... we decided that in the interests of our family's health, Steve's work obligations, and our general sense that we were cursed, it was best to go home. We packed everything up and when the tow truck man unlocked our car, threw everything in and drove home. Got home about 11:15 Sunday night. I was sad to miss out on Monday morning at the campground and on the beach, and Seb was sad to miss out on playing with his friends one more morning, but it was probably the right call. (He was fine, by the way - probably just ate too many cookies and hot dogs too fast...)

But all in all, a success. We'll try camping again another weekend soon.

Friday, June 7, 2013


We're going camping this weekend at Cape Lookout on the Oregon coast with three other families - new friends from our meetup group. its our first family camping adventure. So exciting!

Seb drew this picture of us and our friends in anticipation:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Our new garden plot

As of yesterday, we are the proud owners of a small (100 sq ft) community garden plot. Neither Steve or I have ever gardened before as adults, so we are both excited and lost. But I think it'll be great for the kids to see how food grows and understand where veggies come from, and it'll be fun for me to get my hands a little dirty.

We went to visit it last night. On the way, I asked the children, "What vegetables should we plant?"
Seb said: broccoli, carrots, peas
Liesl said: sandwich and yogurt


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Out of the mouths of babes

Two days ago, Liesl says, "Is there a baby in your belly?"
Um. No. Definitely not.
Tonight, Seb says, "Your belly is big, mom. Is there a baby in your belly?
Um. No. But thanks.
Good thing we have kids, to keep us honest. Or at least humble. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Horsetail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

We enjoyed a beautiful day and a wonderful hike at Horsetail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. The falls were amazing and the forest incredibly lush, and the trail was just the right amount of difficulty for a family hike. We hiked about 3.5 miles, uphill on the way out and downhill home.

This is the first falls, visible right off the old scenic highway - you can see Steve in the bottom right. The spray was cold and reached quite far, and the noise was deafening. Both children were frightened a bit of the falls.

 On the way up - lots of switchbacks and rockfalls.

 The second of the falls - this one is called Ponytail Falls - you can see Sebastian as a tiny speck on the left side, underneath the enormous rock overhang. It was so neat to look out at the water, and both Steve and I felt that it reminded us of various children's and adventure/fantasy stories, in which the door to a secret realm or another world was hidden behind a waterfall...

A tiny waterfall, floating off the cliff and covering the rocks with ferns and moss. A pixie fall, we called it, and Liesl touched the spray and giggled.

 You can see the trail going down, and the bridge across Oneonta Gorge below.

The bridge, which bore a not-very-inspiring sign that it had been inspected by engineers, and that it had been determined that although it was damaged, it was safe for one person at a time. (!)