Saturday, July 18, 2009

[day 199 ... july 18]

Last night I had the best time! My friend Kim - a good friend of mine in college and, of late, an Amazon retiree - invited a group of us to see the new Harry Potter movie at a local dinner and movie house. Not just any movie house, but a place for grownups with appetizers and drinks, followed by dinner in cushy, fully-reclining chairs (blankets and pillows available on request!) in a cozy theatre for just 40 of us. It was unbelievably great.

I met a couple of Kim's friends, Susan and Peter, and we hit it off so I enjoyed getting to know them a bit while we nibbled crab cakes and sipped sparkling water and wine. Then we leaned back, snuggled up in our own posh recliners with blankets and pillows, and watched mesmerized as the latest HP saga unfolded on screen. It was a 2 and 1/2 hour movie, but it went by very quickly - at least for me. I loved it - can't wait to see it again with Tynor and Niall, when we can grab a chance to sneak off without Cory (maybe Kellen will graciously volunteer an afternoon - you never know :-).

A kid-free, worry-free night out, great company, delicious food, luxurious surroundings. Like I said, unbelievably great. Thanks, Kim!

[day 198 ... july 17]

Cory and Niall have morning sports camp over in Bothell this week. I took lots of photos one day so thought I'd share a collage for each.

Niall struggles a bit with the "unfair" rules of soccer but is doing ok overall. He definitely prefers basketball, but Skyhawks doesn't offer many basketball camps in our corner of the world, unfortunately. One nice surprise was that the lead coach for this camp was Coach Jake from basketball.

Cory enjoyed practicing the skills he learned in his first Skyhawks MiniHawks camp a few weeks ago. His coaches even asked him to explain some of the techniques to kids who were new to sports camp - very cute. He was quite pleased to share his new expertise. :-)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

[day 197 ... july 16]

Hen or rooster? I posted that question to my Facebook page with a photo of all the birds, and friends thought at least one of chickens is a rooster. I'm suspicious of all but one, as I said before, but this one in particular. Look at that comb. Dang!

[day 196 ... july 15]

Niall loves to play Scrabble. I wish Grandma Frances was still with us so they could play together. Though she'd need to take it a little easy on him or have a 100 point handicap or something. This is a photo of our game for special playtime this evening - saved in progress to continue tomorrow night.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

[day 195 ... july 14]

There are previous few pictures of me in this 365 series (because I'm the one behind the camera, of course). But Cory took this one the other day so I thought I'd post it.

Actually, he took quite a few photos on our trip and since he was in the backseat, he caught some of me driving. Since I spent a LARGE portion of our trip behind the wheel, I should post that to commemorate my experience. Maybe I will. :-)

[day 194 ... july 13]

First eggs arrived while we were gone! I just had a hunch they would. :-) Ominously, only one bird seems to be laying and the others have much bigger combs. Not. Good. Haven't heard any crowing yet, and it's always possible that they will just start laying at different times. And three roosters out of four sexed chicks? What are the odds?? We'll see.

[day 193 ... july 12]

Rolly's half-birthday party was today, at a park in Lynnwood that I've never been to before. I brought the boys' bikes and they loved riding around the park while Tynor and I visited with family. There's a cool water/fountain area there too, so we should go back when the weather is warmer. It was so hot when we got back last night; felt just like Eastern Washington! But overnight the temperature dropped way down and it was actually chilly today with a breeze.

[day 192 ... july 11]

Niall and Tynor slept in this morning, but Cory and I were up and having cereal for breakfast on our little fold-out table bright and early. The time change helped: yay for gaining an hour. We needed it back, for sure.

After breakfast, we read books for a bit and finally it got late enough that Cory could ride his bike around a bit.

We stopped at a rest stop around Moses Lake for a late lunch. It was hot, but we found some shade from the building and picnicked on the grass. Tynor caught some fun pictures of me with the little guys.

On our way over, I glimpsed the amazing Columbia River Gorge but we didn't have time to stop. I promised myself that I'd get out for at least a quick look-see on the way back. Tynor was eager to press on for home, and we had just stopped for lunch not long before. But I really didn't want to miss this amazing sight. Niall and I walked down to the lookout and marveled at the rocky walls and the river far below. I'm glad we took the few minutes to see it - well worth it.

[day 191 ... july 10]

Classic view of my grumpy 8-year-old, waiting out the tent trailer morning pack-up in the place and manner designated by his exasperated mother. Hard enough to get the whole show on the road without someone snarling and lashing out at everyone. Is there a wrong side of the bed when you're camping in a tent trailer? Apparently so.

That said, we got on the road faster than usual. Tynor was a model of efficiency doing his part, and we got packed up fast. We got gas and groceries in Livingston (about a half hour from our campground) and were still on our way well before noon. We made amazing time today: over 430 miles in one day! Definitely a record, and who knows why the miles went by so easily this day when other days we've struggled to go 200 or so. But having made it to Coeur d'Alane tonight, we'll be home tomorrow, a day early. :-)

[day 190 ... july 9]

Yellowstone at last!

After a long, beautiful drive from Cody, we drove through the Yellowstone EAst Gate and embarked on our day-long exploration of the park. Not nearly long enough! A beautiful drive through the mountainous east side of the park gave way to the huge Yellowstone Lake and then the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Incredible place - gorgeous geyser depths and cool paint pots. Plus we happened to bump into Sieglinde and family - yay! They left camp while I was in Cody getting new tires for the tent trailer (not sure if I mentioned that we got a flat in Cody coming through town yesterday), so it was great to see them one more time before they headed for the Grand Tetons and then back home to Michigan by way of Nebraska.

Here are Cory and Niall with bison in the background. Niall was happy that we finally saw some interesting animals! There were groups of buffalo up close several times by the roadside, include this herd that included a number of calves. Quite thrilling! The bisons' heads are SO big. Actually, they are just big in general.

Seeing Old Faithful do its thing was a classic and delightful experience. We were lucky and only had to wait about 20 minutes for the show. The boys were pleased to see a geyser finally erupt, after seeing lots of steaming paint pots, etc. at West Thumb Basin.

It was 5:00 by the time we saw Old Faithful and we had a long way to go yet. Our campground for the night was about an hour past the north gate, and north gate is a *long* way from Old Faithful. So we stopped at one of the big tourist stores and got ice cream and postcards, then hit the road. We ran into construction and delays, and eventually 30 miles of gravel road (led by a "pilot car" for some reason), so we won't be going back tomorrow as we had thought we might. But at least we got to see what the fuss is all about with Yellowstone (richly deserved!) and are already plotting for when we can come back and spend a lot more time. Except for Cory: the West Thumb area terrified him ("What if we fall in?!") and he has sworn that he is never traveling to see geyers ever again. Sigh.

[day 189 ... july 8]

Once in Buffalo, we realized that we couldn't actually make day trips to Yellowstone from there. Much too far, especially with those Big Horn Mountains in the way. So we decided to all move camp over to a spot near Cody, and then the next day, we'd each head off into Yellowstone for a quick touch-and-see visit before peeling off for our respective trips home. Much less Yellowstone time that I'd thought we'd get, but that's how it goes sometimes when you're planning "as you go" (and as a group, no less), and you don't know the local distances or terrains.

Before we left Deer Park, we tried to get the brake lights and turn signals working on the tent trailer, which had been not working or acting up the whole trip. Grandpa replaced the trailer plug but even after a lot of finagling, he was only able to get the right brake and turn signal to work. Better than none at all, for sure! Something to get fixed when we get back. Sieglinde and Vicki had brakes and lights issues, too, and ended up going into a local shop to get their repaird (their trailer brakes weren't working, so that was a bit more serious, with the mountains we were set to climb over).

Since we knew tonight would be our last night with our traveling companions, we figured out how to attach the much-loved new bikes to our own vehicles, so we could take them back with us instead of sending them with the grandparents. Here's Tynor on top of the van, taking a photo of his handiwork. We secured one bike to the big bikes on top and strapped Cory's onto the hitch around the propane tanks. Worked like a charm.

[day 188 ... july 7]

A relaxing day in Buffalo. Some pool play, and time to relax in the shade by the tent trailer, sorting postcards (and writing a few). Siegline & Co, along with Grandpa and Grandma, took off for a drive down Crazy Woman Canyon (I think?) but I didn't think the little guys would enjoy a whole lot of driving down bumpy winding roads just to see some gorgeous rocks and river views.
So we skipped the drive and instead headed over to "Wyoming's Largest Swimming Pool" at a park in Buffalo. It was indeed huge! Also verrrry chilly. I was the only one who ended up doing any swimming. Cory enjoyed the water canon area, though, and then we eventually migrated over to a big play area right next to the pool. It was pretty toasty, even in the shade, but bearable.
After dinner, we all drove over to the fairgrounds (every town in Wyoming has a fairgrounds!) to see the Cowgirl Rodeo. It was quite fun, very lowkey but with official announcers and times measured and recorded.
Niall, Vicki and the girls sat right down in front where they were close to the action. There were girls racing around weave polls right there, followed later by a goat-wrangling. Quite entertaining (not so much for the goat, perhaps, but it didn't seem harmed at all). In the main rodeo area, there was barrel racing, followed by calf roping and then steer roping. All quite exciting, for those of us who have rarely, if ever, been to a rodeo before.

[day 187 ... july 6]

An all-too-common view of Niall in the back seat of the van as we zipped down the road. Turns out that giving the kids cameras to take all the photos their heart's desire is a good way to get 15-20 minutes of relative peace, so we have a lot of entertaining pictures by/of Niall and Cory at various stages of the trip. Cory took this one on our way to Deer Park, our second "base," this time in Buffalo, WY.

Deer Park is a really pleasant RV park, with lots of grass and trees, nice pool (usually heated), laundry, etc. In Wyoming, just having trees (SHADE!) and grass is a big perk. Well - the pool, too, but those are all but de rigor for RV parks here.

On the way to Deer Park, Sieglinde rode with me and Tynor rode shotgun with Vicki and the girls, so my sister and I actually had time to catch up a bit, in and around interruptions from the little ones, of course. It was a rare and delightful treat, I must say. Glad she thought of it! :-)

[day 186 ... july 5]

Grandpa brought bikes for both younger boys, and this morning Niall learned to ride without training wheels! Hooray! Grandpa ran along behind him for just a few minutes and then Niall was off to the races. Didn't take him much longer to learn how to get started by himself, too, and then he was really independent. Just loved riding around and around - such joy! And on gravel, too. Quite an accomplishment. :-) Cory is loving riding his new bike with training wheels. He'll be ready for two-wheels before long too, but - not just yet.

The boys are loving having a pool to play in! Niall, especially. I just love being able to get in the water and cool off - whew.

Sieglinde, Vicki and the girls drove many miles a day and met up with us this afternoon. So glad to see them! Turns out they drove all this way across the midwest without any AIR CONDITIONING too. Unbelievable! They were happy to take a long dip in the pool too.

[day 185 ... july 4]

Happily, Dad and Marian easily caught up with us this morning - hooray! Not so happily, we didn't make nearly as much progress yesterday as hoped. But we made up for it today by splitting up the young squabblers (a great suggestion by Grandpa Stan). Cory and I joined Marian in the motorhome for most of the day, and Niall read and watched movies in the back of the van while Grandpa Stan drove and Tynor co-piloted. It was really nice to have a breather, I have to say. It's hard to be driving, planning food and stops, and dealing with bickering, yelling kids too (shall we say?).

Here Niall and Cory are burning off some steam at a rest stop in Bozeman where we stopped for a break and then ate a late lunch at McD's (yes, again) before heading on down the road.

Cory was so tickled to be riding way up high in the motorhome. I sat up front for a good part of the time, and then joined him when he got tired of drawing pictures and looking out the window. We read a few books and chatted and he did great for the long haul of driving we got in today. Made it all the way to our planned third-day RV park in Hardin, MT!

We arrived in time to set up and have a quick hotdogs dinner, then drove over to the local fairgrounds where we got to see a gorgeous fireworks display. It was really something. It was Cory's first fireworks show and it was up close and LOUD. But we covered his ears and he did fine. The rest of us really enjoyed it. We did notice something interesting and sad: the white folks were all up in the stands and many joined in a country dance afterwards, while the local Native Americans were all lined up in the cars outside on the grounds, watching from there. A long, long tradition, I expect, but so striking to see how divided the groups were.

[day 184 ... july 3]

Spent the night at a reasonably quiet RV park - with grass and trees! - behind a gas station and convenience store combo off a highway in Hayden, ID. We got in a bit late in the evening, but had grabbed a McD's dinner before getting to the campground so just had to set up, get beds squared away, and get everyone tucked in. The gnats were fierce; not used to bugs since we usually (always!) camp near the ocean and have the breeze off the water to help ward away bugs. But we got out the bug spray and survived. Truth be told, I hopped in the car with Cory while Tynor got the tent trailer up so avoided most of the issue altogether! :-)

The next day we again got a late start, still getting back into the rhythm of taking everything down, plus had pancake breakfast to celebrate our first morning on the road. Then had to stop and get ice and a map (also picked up some water wings for Cory, figuring we will have pools at some of our campgrounds), and then of course it was almost lunchtime! I was determined to get at least an hour or two down the road before we stopped, though, so fed the kids a substantial snack and then drove until I spotted a great place to stop in Wallace, ID. It looked like a big park from the freeway, but turned out to also be a tribute to miners and mining so had all kinds of cool stuff about blasting mine passages and examples of charges and mining cars.

We could have stayed and explored for a few hours but instead we ate lunch, ran around for a bit, and then got back on the road. That's the problem with being "on your way" to a destination: hard to keep passing up the chance to really enjoy all the spots along the way.

[day 183 ... july 2]

And we're off on our trip! Despite best efforts, didn't get out on the road until nearly noon (as usual!), but met up with Dad and Marian at the Indian John rest stop past Snoqualmie Pass on I-90, as planned.
From there it was smooth sailing to Moses Lake, where we stopped to refuel and the motorhome conked out just a few hundred yards past the gas station. Just quit and refused to start up again. Hmm. Pulled over and hung out with Dad and M for awhile, and they made a bunch of phone calls to see if they could get some help. After 45 minutes or so and no luck, we decided that Crew Stacia would head out for the evening's campground (still many miles away near Coeur D'Alene) and the motorhome group would find a motel for the night and catch up as soon as they could.

They did eventually get a tow (that was a major production) and the next day, got the motorhome back up and running. But what an ordeal!

[day 182 ... july 1]

Niall has finally become a "black belt" on Club Penguin and then won his battle with Sensei to become a Ninja. He's so pleased! Now he can go to the Ninja Hideout and can become invisible if he wants to. Cory is almost there - 80% of the way through his battles as a brown belt.

This is Niall catching "Mongo" the enormous fish who appears at the end of the fishing game. The boys have so much fun on this site, and it's pretty well done as these online gatherings for kids go. Cory wants to become a member like Niall (who helps pay for his membership with his allowance) but I haven't been willing to spring for another $60 for him just yet. There's a lot for him to do just as a visitor (though lots more if he's a member, of course).

[day 181 ... june 30]

These Top of the Stove Cookies have been a favorite since I was a teenager. The recipe comes from "The Alaskan Cookbook" (I think I have that right), though I've seen a lot of similar recipes elsewhere since. These are still the best! The recipe calls for a "square" of butter and we used to wonder whether that meant a cube (1/2 cup) or a tablespoon - big difference! We finally settled on the 1/2 cup version.

They're also humidity-dependent and don't set up well if the weather isn't dry enough. Sometimes they're more like gooey chocolate globs than cookies, especially if you don't boil the mix quite long enough.

But they are amazingly, intensely delicious when they turn out right. Definitely a recipe to pass down through the family.

Monday, July 13, 2009

[day 180 ... june 29]

I think this is the first picture I've managed to get of Kellen with Andy Smallman, founder and director of Puget Sound Community School. Andy is an amazing thinker, educator, role model, problem solver, and all around fabulous human being, and I'm grateful for the role he's played in Kellen's education and life and just in our family in general. Great to have Tynor at PSCS now and to continue to be involved with Andy's vision and the school. And two more kids coming up the pike to join in as well (in a few more years, that is).

[day 179 ... june 28]

Grandma Shannon came over this morning to play with the munchkins so I could have a bit of time off to "play." I decided to go to the Bellevue Bontanical Gardens because I've heard about them for years and never been there. It was a beautiful warm sunny day, and the gardens were lovely and peaceful. I brought a sandwich lunch and sat on an arbor bench, enjoying the quiet and watching a bird land nearby who eyed my lunch with anticipation. Enjoyed wandering the paths afterwards and seeing the flowers, plants, bridges, rock garden, and water features. It's just past rhody and azalea season, but I can see what splendor those blooming bushes must display when they are in full show. Makes me want to come back to see the gardens in various seasons of blooms.

These rock sculptures reminded me of the much shorter rock stacks we made on the beach on Lopez a summer or two ago with my sister and her family. I think the highest stack was just 7 or 8 rocks. (Methinks these ones are anchored together somehow.)

[day 178 ... june 27]

Here's Cory with his stylish black-and-red crocs. The boys and I love these convenient, water-friendly slip-ons. They're great for wearing to the pool (no fussing around with socks on damp feet), out into the backyard to play in the water (that's what Cory was up to today :-), or just to step out front to pick up the paper in the morning. Not great on rocks or for climbing play structures, but otherwise a great choice in footwear!

(Ok, they aren't the most attractive shoes on a grownup but we set aside fashion for convenience in this case!)