Sunday, October 11, 2015

Northern Sights

Eli and I recently made off for Alaska, to visit old friends, put on some hiking miles and generally enjoy the one of our favorite parts of the planet. It was an utterly fabulous trip and our impeccable timing made for the most spectacular show of fall color I've ever witnessed (actually a totally unplanned but wonderful stroke of luck).

Fall color snapshot (one of many)

Even still in flight, we caught a sneak peek show of color: as we flew over Alaska, just after midnight, we were treated to a dazzling display of northern lights. Streaks of blue and green were etched across the sky. As Eli put it (quite loudly and to the charm and amusement of fellow passengers): "Wow, not something you see everyday; I think we might be the luckiest airline passengers of all time!" By the time we landed, we already felt like we could turn around to fly home right then; the trip had already been worth it.

Glad we stuck around though: good times were definitely still in store. :) Our first on-the-ground foray was to Denali National Park. We headed in that direction with our favorite crew of Alaskans, the Hanna family. They had only visited Denali once before, so it was a bit of a novelty for them too, even as locals who live day-to-day surrounded by majestic peaks. The drive was spectacular, with the scenery becoming increasingly dramatic-- the peaks higher and fall colors more pronounced -- as we neared the park entrance. In and around the park was simply stunning, easily the most beautiful scenery of my life. We spent our time there exploring the park by car and on foot. A highlight for the kids was an afternoon river stroll turned rock-leaping mission (in an attempt to cross the river). It was glorious and resulted in wet socks and happy kids all around. Despite the gorgeous scenery all around, we didn't catch an actual glimpse of Denali (formerly known as Mt. McKinley) until our last morning there, the first day clear enough for the view. And, wow, what a view it was!

Post-Denali, we swung by the Alaska state fair which was more fun than seems entirely reasonable. I'd like to say that the kids had an absolute blast (and they did!) but the truth is, us parents had a rootin'-tootin' heck of a good time, too. We enjoyed delicious food, beautiful art (no pics sadly) and discovered that cabbage grow very large in Alaska (note the specimen pictured below, easily 3 times the size of Eli's head). Eli also enjoyed his first ever Reindeer sandwich. Because Alaska.

Another highlight was the trip up to Hatchers Pass, a favorite hiking spot of the Hannas'. On the way, we pulled over for a second river rock leaping session.

The hike itself up at Hatchers Pass was breathtaking and surreal. Eli was recently reminiscing about Alaska and counted it among his favorite bits. "That time we hiked up into the clouds," he said, "yeah, *that* was fun!"

Next up was a road trip for Eli and I to the Seward area. Along the way, we stopped for a short cruise out to see Portage glacier.

Portage Glacier, glorious as it was, turned out to be only one of several glaciers we visited over the next few days. It's just a glacier-y part of the world and, well, how often do we get to spend a couple of days hiking to giants slabs of ice? Eli had seen glaciers before (in the Canadian Rockies) but this was certainly his first chance to get up close and personal with one. He was smitten.

Other road trip odds and ends: the salmon in Seward we busily making their way upstream (video evidence here) and the people of Seward are incredibly friendly and really really like to bbq. We found ourselves the last minute guests at several such occasions.

A major highlight for Eli was the hostel/inn where we stayed. It featured a full communal kitchen, stocked with favorite breakfast fixings (waffles, pancakes, sugary cereals galore!) and also encouraged the guests to dress up in costumes, provided.

All dressed up and ready to sample an assortment of delicious breakfast items
After a couple of days, we'd our fill of Seward and headed back to stay with the Hannas until time to head home. We joined them for 2 more hikes: one at Eklutna lake, and one on a beautiful trail system in Eagle River. In both cases the fall colors were just, well, wow...

Overall trip highlights for Eli included: "playing with friends, hiking with friends, minecraft xboxing with friends, going to the fair with friends and the jellyfish with the alien face." My trip highlights: hikes galore, fall foliage galore, harvesting homegrown Alaskan rhubarb with friend, Felicia, and turning it into jam (so good that I even smuggled home several pounds of rhubarb for more jam making) and generally hanging out with our dear friends, the Hanna family. We really could not have asked for a kinder, sweeter, more awesome host family. They put us up in their beautiful new home (despite having just moved!), put up with our sleeping in and were just a total blast to hang out with.  It's good to know people in high latitude places!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Portland: A Love Letter

Friends & family, 

If I were more the type to squeeeeee!, I totally would: right now, most days this past month and generally quite regularly. Our first month in Portland has been a glorious one and I'm pretty sure we couldn't have moved at a more perfect time. Summer in Portland is a truly marvelous thing; not to diss my previous cities and forests of residence but finally! a summer that doesn't suck. (To those who feel compelled to point out that's it's technically no longer summer and about to get rainy as fuck, my fingers are in my ears, and lalala, I can't hear you!)


Life has been marvelously full and busy, with the actual moving process accounting for more of that busy-ness than we'd have liked. We've now mostly settled into our house (which we're loving), despite *still* not being fully unpacked. We've sort of accepted the fate of endless unpacking and have prioritized steeping ourselves in the city (AKA: doing fun shit) over pretty much everything else. Buy, holy smokes, moving is a HUGE FUCKING JOB. You have no idea (unless you've recently moved in which case, holy fuck, solidarity).

Our neighborhood is super sweet and quiet and just a stone's throw away from all kinds of fabulousness. Our friendly neighborhood woodland wonderland (more commonly referred to as the local park) is super awesome and literally around the corner. An adorable historic commercial strip is 10 minutes away by foot and has pretty much everything we need. Most notably from Eli's perspective: burritos (or possibly the movie theatre that also serves up pizza); from my perspective: YOGA; from David's: jelly beans; and from Micah's: a rideable twirly doodad at one of the neighborhood's many rad playgrounds.

Forest park, which sits just across the spectacularly gothic St. Johns bridge, has become a home away from home for Eli and I. At over 5000 acres of fabulousness, it's a slice of woodland paradise etched into the city landscape. I was initially kinda blown away by its vastness (how can such a thing exist in smack dab in the middle of a city??) and a lil research confirmed that indeed, as one of the country's largest urban wooded areas, it is, indeed, an urban anomaly. One of its claims to fame, the wildwood trail, is hands down my favorite jogging/hiking trail of all time. It spans the length of the park and I'm determined to cover all 27 miles of it at some point (yes, yes, a 27 mile forest trail in the middle of Portland... it's glorious!).

Back at the urban homestead, the cats and chickens have happily adjusted to their new digs. While having chickens here continues to be a whole lot of fun, it doesn't exactly admit us to a small club. Portland peeps love their chickens (also: goats & in the case of one of our neighbors, a donkey). Our hens love the wide open yard and seem to have developed a love/hate relationship with the other critters who hang about (blue jay, squirrels, skunks, etc). Peeking out back is always a bit like watching an episode of animal planet. The other day we watched a squirrel bury a nut as a blue jay sneakily watched from a nearby bush -- as soon as the squirrel moved on, the bird hopped down, snagged the nut & literally flew off singing into the sunset. Suspicious trails of chicken feed also seems to lead from the coop to the squirrel's favorite sleeping spot...

I hope our critters don't get tooo used to the wide open space; come spring Operation Backyard Orchard is in effect! We're making fast progress in that direction, preparing the space for planting, and come spring, 40 fruit trees go into the ground! Our orchard plan is mapped out (thank you hyper organized engineer boyfriend!) and, currently, we spend our copious spare time mulching & amending the shit out of the yard! Hmm... the shit *into* it. ;)

Other Portland odds and ends: David and Micah have found kindred spirits at the Pokemon league, hosted at a local game store. Obviously a huge hit... especially for David :)  I'm getting a hiking group going for local unschoolers (Eli and I figure since we already hike so much, we might as well make a social adventure of it some of it at least the time). And by some crazy coincidence a new hackerspace is in the process of opening in our general neighborhood. David and Eli have contributed a layer of paint to the cause. Eli and I are looking for volunteer opportunities to get involved with. And the chiddlers, generally, are having a blast and absolutely loving big city life.

It's hard to convey the amazing energy here in Portland. It's just an awesome fucking place, filled with people who care deeply doing amazing, creative things. Always with an edge of freak to it. And kindness abounds! Nice weirdos everywhere!

We do experience bouts of missing the Rancheroo. Micah and I miss living in the woods, in particular. Eli has pointed out that he actually spends more time outdoors in the woods here than he did at the Rancheroo (it's true... he and I are literally hiking forest park for 3-4 hours, many days weekly). David is strangely silent on the subject of missing the woods. ;)

Mostly, though, I feel sad about not having done this sooner. It's been obvious for years that the Rogue Valley was not the right fit for our family. But major life changes were set back at least five years by undiagnosed illness, 3 brain surgeries, an adrenalectomy, recovery, and of course the inevitable recovery from the recovery. So I guess I'll cut us a lil' slack. It's good to be healthy and moving on. :)

Much love to all, 

Portland Lowe Clan
(Originally written and sent to family in September but just getting around to posting now)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cushing's: My story, a journey through hell and back

Apologies in advance to the squeamish among you, but for the month of April, my dysfunctional endocrine system is hijacking this blog. April is Cushing's awareness Month, and I'm accepting the Cushing's Awareness 30-day blog challenge. Well, sorta. My goal is to blog more than usual throughout the month of April, though not daily. I wish, but there's just no way. I do hope to bring awareness to Cushing's disease, a devastating condition that within the medical community is considered to be exceedingly rare, but among Cushing's patients is suspected to be not particularly rare, only rarely diagnosed. I hope to contribute to the amazing awareness my fellow Cushies have been spreading, so, please -- friends, family, random internet folk -- be super swell and share my Cushing's related blog posts this month... like this one!

So, yeah, Cushing's. As most of you know, I'm a bit of an expert on this particular topic. And those of you not yet familiar with my decade plus long health saga I think will soon agree that my self-proclaimed expert status is well deserved. 

Cushing's is an endocrine disorder caused by prolonged overexposure to the hormone cortisol. Cortisol -- a life-sustaining hormone produced in the adrenal glands -- does all kinds of super important things. It regulates blood pressure and blood sugars, supports the immune system, regulates the metabolism and helps the body in times of stress. Sounds great, eh? It is. Unless, like me 5 years ago, you have too much of it. Then it is very very horrendous and sucky and a bad, bad, bad big ol' pile of shit.

The whole "too much cortisol" thing is called Cushing's Syndrome. Cushing's *Disease* is a bit more specific: basically Cushing's syndrome occurring as a result of a small, non-cancerous (technically "benign" but fuck that!) tumor on the pituitary gland. The tumor secretes excess amounts of the hormone ACTH, which in turn tells the adrenal glands to make too much cortisol.

For me, the whole terrible mess started about 13 years ago, with a sudden onset of symptoms while I was living in San Francisco. I got very sick, very suddenly. My list of symptoms was extensive and included: crazy sleep problems, extreme dry mouth and chronic thirst, heart problems (though they were relatively minor at the time), distressing skin problems, rapid weight gain, GI problems, sore muscles, and exhaustion. This really is just to name a few, but I'll spare you the details. The hyper-curious among you need just google "cushing's symptoms." Lucky me... I got them all.

As you might imagine, I was freaked out and felt as though something had gone terribly wrong with my body. Those of you who knew me well probably remember my frequent trips to the doctor. Unfortunately, they came up with ziltch. Nada. Nothing. And at the time, nobody even mentioned Cushing's. When we moved from SF to OR, I gave up looking for years and went on with my life.

My symptoms continued, and I continued to feel unwell, but not horribly so. Overall, I was able to lead a super happy life despite my underlying health problems and, though I did continue to feel like something was wrong, I'd convinced myself that it wasn't anything serious.

Boy was I wrong. It hit me like a slap in the face about 6 years ago, when my health took a very sudden turn for the worse. All my symptoms worsened and I developed new ones. My hair started falling out in clumps. Despite the fact that I was making a huge effort to keep my body strong, through hiking and yoga, my muscles weakened to the point that I was barely able to do simple things like get up out of a chair and walk. I developed some serious problems with my heart (doc: "you're not leaving this office until you start this blood pressure medication") and all kinds of other things  started going haywire.

I knew something was seriously wrong. Fortunately, I lucked out with a very smart doctor who strongly suspected I had the little known, "very rare", Cushing's Disease. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see her again... and my next few doctors were clueless and doubtful (i.e. convinced it definitely wasn't Cushing's and hesitant to believe there was anything really wrong with me at all). I decided to start researching online and from the moment I first read about Cushing's, I knew, without a doubt, that I had it. David was more than a little sketched out about the idea of self-diagnosing on the internet, until I forwarded him an article on Cushing's, at which point he was also completely convinced. For him, it was partially that I had every symptom and that he already knew I had high cortisol (the one  consistent thing that had been turning up in my lab results). But mostly, he diagnosed me based on one symptom, which he had never even thought of as such. You see, one of the telltale signs of Cushing's is bright purple striae (which is a fancy and somewhat more flattering word for stretch marks) that appear on your abdomen, boobs, back and other parts of your body. I started getting them everywhere very suddenly when I first got sick 10 years ago, but we never thought of them as a symptom. We just thought they were weird.

After my experience of being brushed off by doctors for so many years, despite the fact that my symptoms and lab results pointed to Cushing's, we decided to skip the middleman and travel to see a Cushing's specialist.

Turned out that was about the best decision I've ever made. The testing process was INSANE and involved a month of near continuous peeing in jugs, fedexing spit samples and blood tests. Sadly, due to the often cyclical nature of the disease, Cushing's can't be ruled in or out by just one cortisol measuring test, so proper testing involves repeated and diverse testing, to improve the odds of catching the high cycles of Cortisol. My doctor also ordered a pituitary MRI to check for a tumor. The long and the short of it is that my MRI did indeed turn up a tumor, and my biochemical tests proved that I had high cortisol as a result of the tumor. All in all, once Cushing's was suspected, my diagnosis came relatively quickly, something for which I am very grateful.

The first treatment step was brain surgery to remove the hormone secreting tumor from my pituitary gland at the base of my brain. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the second and third step as well. Yep, I'm an official card carrying member of the brain surgery guild, three times over. Unfortunately, all three surgeries failed to cure the Cushing's and I was left with a mostly broken pituitary gland, and only one feasible option to cope with the Cushing's: the removal of both adrenal glands, or what's known within the Cushing's community as a BLA (bilateral adrenalectomy). Even this was no guarantee of a cure, as Cushing's persists in a small fraction of patients who undergo the procedure. Fortunately and finally, it did turn out to be my cure. Three year ago, almost exactly, after over a decade of symptoms, I was finally Cushing's free.

Recovery has been a process and often a slower one than I would have liked. Imagine trying to undo over a decade of disease damage; then throw in a new chronic disease to contend with. You see, the huge downside to having my adrenal glands removed is that I now, well... have no adrenal glands. :) And because the adrenal glands produce life sustaining hormones, not having any is in and of itself a pathological sort if thing. Fortunately, unlike Cushing's, it is a manageable disease thanks to modern medicine... and a husband who reminds me to take my meds when he notices I'm becoming unusually cranky.

The good news tho is that, I am now -- 3 years later -- doing extremely well. Every one of my symptoms has resolved. I've gone from deathly ill to pretty darn healthy. I have my life back. I'm healthy and strong.

Well, there you have it: the not particularly brief version of my health saga. A cushie's story is never quite complete without pictures to document the transformation from not sick to sick and back again. I have mixed feelings about sharing these pictures and in general making a big deal about the weight gain aspect of the disease and weight loss aspect of recovery. My reasons are twofold: 1) I'm an intensely private person especially when it comes to my body and find it incredibly awkward when folks, especially strangers, comment on my weight loss. But mostly 2) I think the cultural obsession with thinness is COMPLETELY AND THOROUGHLY FUCKED UP and don't really relish the idea of adding to societal body image neurosis by bragging about my weight loss. That said, extremely rapid weight gain for me was a medical symptom of a nasty disease, and was very hard on my body. Losing weight has been a very important part of my recovery. So here goes, pictures. When most people see these they see only weight loss. When I see pics of me with Cushing's, I see how very sick I was. 

Here I am looking healthy, happy and and strong:

Okay, high fives all around to those who've made it this far. Seriously, you rock and I really appreciate you reading my story. And I'm really done now. 

Except for these few Cushing's links. :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Critters Of Every Flavor

Friends & family,

I'm staying at a yoga center on the outskirts of the Alajuela area in Costa Rica's central valley. The yoga center's grounds consist of gorgeous yoga studios, hotel style rooms, lush gardens, and -- tucked away towards the back of the property -- a little tent village, where I am happily stationed in an adorable yurt tent. Yep, my tent is totally a yurt (!!), something of which I was completely unaware prior to being here. Kinda nutty considering I've been obsessed with yurts for years. Staying in a tent in a tropical jungle-y garden is as totally fucking phenomenal as it sounds. Solitude is particularly fabulous perk thanks to the fact that I'm the only person here who opted for a tent over a room. I have the whole dang tent village to myself… though, only really from very human-centric perspective. Fun fact: Costa Rica contains 5% of the wold's biodiversity. May seem like teeny fraction but consider that it occupies only 0.03% of the earth's landmass. Let's just say that it's densely populated with an array of greenery, flowers and critters of every flavor.

Now don't quote me on this but I'm guessing Costa Rica's animals account for at least 95% of strange animal sounds planet-wide. Living in the middle of the Oregon woods, I'm well acquainted with the noises of forest dwellers, but these Costa Rican critters sound absolutely nothing like the ones to which I'm accustomed.  I feel like I've been dropped into an alien landscape. There's a "cleek cleek cleekidy cleeeeeek cleeeeeeeek…," a "meeeeee-yorpppppp," a "furple furple fur-fur-FURPLE! aay-yowwah." And every morning I'm awoken to a call and response of "chaaweek chaaweek cheepy cheepy chaweek" … "pringy pringy POP POP POP." A little later in the morning, around sun up there's some as yet unidentified species that sounds exactly like a roller coaster as it lurches loudly down a particularly steep bit of track. Add to that the joyful howls of roller coaster lovers and terrified screeches of the less sure. This critter sounds like all of that at once.

Tropical birds are definitely some of the most charming (and noisy) critters around. They skitter about at light speed and though they're difficult to glimpse, the few I have seen seem to fall into one of 2 categories: 1) little brown finch types, exactly like something I'd see in Oregon or, 2) wildly exotic & colorful alien birds, exactly like something you'd expect from a particularly spectacular episode of Animal Planet.

I'm less excited about the vast array of arachnids that have taken up residence outside my tent. Every morning, I closely survey my tent village's 4 bathroom shower stalls while taking spider inventory. Whichever stall tallies the least number of 8-legged critters is the one that gets my business . Turns out I'm a geographically selective arachnophobe. In Oregon, we have plenty of spiders with whom I'm happy to coexist (even in my shower). The spiders here… not so much. They're huge with wildly colorful markings, which send a clear message: get the fuck near me and I *will* inject you with a deadly venom.

A major highlight of my travels so far was a day trip out to see the Poas Volcano. Micah was very concerned about the idea (it's an active volcano), but as it turned out the smoking volcano itself was the least of my worries and far less terrifying than the ride there. Imagine a dozen people packed into a van traveling at terrifyingly high speeds along ill-maintained, very windy roads. Wheeeee! The tour guide was outragously cool (she's a biology type, young mama, all around nifty gal) and, post-tour, we geeked out about about epiphytes, invasive species and exchanged notes on favorite biology books. The volcano itself was smokin' hot and generally darn impressive. 

Another highlight was a day out in the central market of San Jose with Shanti (my friend & yoga teacher). Shanti had befriended two local ladies, Nadi and Kattya, who offered to drive us into the city and give us a few pointers. Nadi is Costa Rican and Kattya an American who's been living in Costa Rica for the past 30 years. Both are super sweet. Kattya -- a very outgoing type who loves to share her knowledge -- gave us an animated, fascinating and extensive history of Costa Rica. The market itself was huge and packed and loud and exotic and awesome. Being a pedestrian here in the city of San Jose was less awesome, and, actually, one of the more terrifying experiences of my life (no crosswalks, no sidewalks, cars everywhere). As lovely and kind as everyone is in person they seem to become complete assholes when they're behind the wheel. Kattya explained that when she moved here 30 years ago there were basically no cars on the road. Cars and driving have only become a ubiquitous part of Costa Rican life in the relatively recent years, and, let's just say, they're still working out the kinks. Nadi invited us to join her at her house for tea, post market and in giving us directions a hilarious cultural gap came up. She drew us an extensive map to a Kentucky Fried Chicken and explained that upon reaching the KFC, we should turn right and walk 25 meters to her house. I asked her for her exact address. She laughed and said her exact address is 25 meters form the KFC. She then explained that they don't actually have addresses here and, in fact, most of the streets are not named. I'm still confused about how such a thing is possible in a city as large and densely populated as San Jose but we found her house without too much trouble, though we arrived drenched from head to toe from the rain. Her jaw dropped when she saw us and she insisted on providing us with dry clothes while she ran our soaking ones through the dryer. Total sweetheart.

A few other odds & ends:

Sleep has been difficult. The weather is warm and muggy as fuck during the day, but chilly and even muggier overnight. My tent is surprisingly poorly designed and never seems to be more than a degree warmer inside than out. 

Thanks to the humidity, my hair has become a wild mane of curls; by far the curliest it's been since I was a wee thang.

I regret having only brought 3 novels. I figured 3 would be more than enough (when the fuck is the last time I read more than 3 novels in two weeks?). But here I am only a third of the way through and already two and a half novels down.

My yoga retreat started in earnest today and is pretty much yoga boot camp. If I make it through the week in one piece, I'll be one kick ass yoga ninja, so that's kinda cool. For now, though, I'm exhausted and every inch of my body is hurting. On the plus side, my morning  class looks out over a jungly garden, so I get a a two and a half hour lesson of butterfly and hummingbird pollination (so amazing and gorgeous).

Well, that's all I got… for now. Much love to all.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sometimes I Remember To Blog Summer Recap

Having just wrapped up one of the busiest summers of my life, it occurs to me: that was nutsssssss. Also: super fun, a bit of a whirlwind and, most definitely, blog worthy.

Early in the summer, on a whim, I submitted one of my soap designs to a soap swirling contest and won! My winning design was my tie-dye soap onesie, a great seller and one I'm particularly fond of.

Contest winning soap design... hellz yahhhhhhh
I was super honored to win this contest, especially since brambleberry is, well, kind of a big deal in the soap making community. So, yah: cool!

In Rancheroo news, we hosted out-of-town visitors galore (one of our most favorite things to do) including lots of lovely friends and family, our usual end-of-sumer Burning Man contingent, and an awesome family of fellow unschoolers.

A gaggle of free range kids, roaming the woods
Speaking of Burning Man: we busted ass all summer long, prepping to haul the whole family out that way (something that has been in the works for almost a year). In typical crazy-burner-family-with-a-strong-touch-of-geek fashion, we built a geodesic dome from scratch. Fabulously nerdy family fun! And then, sadly, two weeks before our departure date,  I fractured the sesamoid bone in my foot.

Ouch. And crap. And oh well, next year. The upside, of course, being that we now have this super cute 15 foot geodesic. We're in the process of painting it rainbow.

As yet to be rainbowed geodecic
With no more Burning Man prep to do its all consuming vortex thing, I then spent a month straight canning fruit. Now I know that sounds very domestic, but it's actually totally bad ass. Because, in the case of the apocalypse, we're totally set (assuming the zombies don't get us, and I can find a way to synthesize cortisol).  I've discovered I especially enjoy canning goods that you will in no way ever find at a grocery (star crimsom pear cardamom jam and peach ginger honey come to mind). I also discovered that as much as I enjoy an afternoon alone in the kitchen canning, it's even more fun to do it with friends.

My girls, S & M, working their way through 70 plus pounds of peaches
To support my canning addiction I acquired a fruit picking one. To the local farmers I've become known as That Chick Who Will Come To The Farm And Pick More Fruit Than We Even Knew We Had (Yup, that's me. I just really like to pick fruit) And Whose Children Sometimes Pick Enthusiasticly Alongside Her While At Others Hang Out In The Car Playing Video Games Rolling Their Eyes About How They've Already Picked Enough Fruit This Season To Feed A Small Country Well A Small Country Of Fruit Loving Zombies, Hahaha! Hahaha! (Yup, that's my kids).

MiniM, showing off his blueberry harvest

We did have our own garden which, sadly, fizzled out due to a combination of a month straight of 95 plus degree heat and a gardener with a fractured sesame seed. We didn't harvest much but it was lovely to look at.

Other summer odds and ends: as summer progressed, our local deer population could increasingly be found lounging about outside our garden fence making longing faces. Wild turkeys were everywhere all the time causing a ruckus and raising their ridiculously cute turkey babies (at least we didn't have one try to mate with my dad's car this year... true story). We enjoyed numerous family bike rides, read the Harry Potter series from start to finish, and the chiddlers and I decided to forgo our weekly trip to the pool in favor of weekly trips to the river and creek. It was spectacular.

Favorite swimming hole: Evans Creek
To boot, D started a hackerspace, won the obfuscated c coding contest for the 5th time, and got an awesome new programming gig.

Now, it's almost fall and I'm still spending altogether too much time in the kitchen, most recently filling cute lil' jars with various pear concoctions. But, like I said. it's fall. And I think we should celebrate. Maybe we'll set up our rainbow geodesic and deck it out and and throw party and eat canned goods. Wanna come?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

In bloom at the Rancheroo

Meet the newest addition to The Rancheroo, our spring tree! The chiddlers and I constructed this baby last week, entirely from paper and (copious amounts of) scotch tape. Each flower contains a list item to be accomplished this spring. Anytime between spring equinox and summer solstice goes, with a few post-spring days tacked on for the procrastinators among us... Ahem.

The inspiration came from a favorite homeschooling blog. They made a similar tree last fall (except -- of course -- with falls leaves instead of spring flowers).

Here are our spring to-dos, courtesy of The Tree:
  • dance
  • go to scienceworks
  • hike
  • make chai soap
  • geocache
  • make egg croissants
  • bead
  • eat leftovers
  • see a glacier
  • learn 10 new words in french
  • try 3 new classes
  • get voodoo donuts
  • visit Eamon in Portland
  • plant an epic flower garden
  • whale watching cruise in Alaska
  • make wooden toys
  • finish Magic Tree House series
  • bake oatmeal cookies
  • play Minecraft
  • solve puzzles
  • Lego
  • bake bread
  • make a Minecraft mod
  • host a science party
  • swing
  • party it up for Eli's 8th bday
  • stargaze
  • make a spring tree (check!)
  • movie at the theater
  • make 2 new types of soap
  • bike ride
  • go to kidtime
  • attend Life Is Good unschooling conference
  • check out a new playground
  • grow 2 new types of veggies
  • yoga
  • read so many books
  • clear rancheroo hiking trails with a chainsaw
  • go to kidzone
  • Micah & Sarah go on a special date for a whole day
  • visit 3 farms
  • bonfire
  • go swimming with Sarah
  • stomp in puddles
  • visit 3 libraries
  • visit The Hannas
  • make donuts
  • dig
  • go to Griffin's bday party
  • have an Easter egg hunt
  • read the entire magic school bus series
It was particularly lovely and amusing to see what the kids came up with. Micah's first idea, and the one he was most excited about (aside from all Minecraft related items) was: "eat leftovers!" Practical kid! We included plenty of things we'd have done regardless, but also used the opportunity to challenge ourselves, try new things, expand our horizons.

We've already accomplished an item or ten: puzzles have been solved, Minecraft has been played, wooden toys have been made, dozens of french words have been assimilated into our brains; lego, dancing, yoga, scienceworks, soap, Griffin's birthday party, swinging... and we've stomped in enough puddles to water 100 spring trees. Next week, Eli and I will knock off all Alaska related items: glaciers, whale watching, Hannas, oh my!

This spring tree feels a whole lot like a tradition in the making, a feeling I suspect other parents can relate to. It's a good one.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Bacon's Already Home

The chiddlers, as usual and like kids everywhere, spent the year saying hilarious shit. Yep, it's that time again; my 3rd annual shit my kids said!

(Each paragraph is a stand alone quote or conversation.)

Eli, getting himself dressed and ready for bed: "I need help getting this on!!!" David, in response: "No, you don't need to wear a spider man mask to bed."

Micah, after being asked by a stranger if he'd been a good boy and expected Santa to pay a him visit yaddda yadda yadda: "Haha! Are you joking? Santa's not real!" Stranger, aghast: "Of course Santa's real!" Micah: "No, he's not! David told me he's not!" Stranger, now addressing Eli: "You told your brother that Santa wasn't real?!" Eli and Micah, in unison: "No! David is our dad!"

Micah, in an attempt to bribe David: "If you have a glow-in-the-dark dance party with me tonight, I'll give you one orange m&m."

Me, to Micah, in a crowded restaurant: "Pleeeeeease hurry up and finish your lunch; I reeeeeeeally need to go to the bathroom." Micah, in response, at the top of his lungs: "WHY? DO YOU HAVE DIARRHEA?"

Micah, explaining what he and Eli were up to: "Well, we're shark hunters and we're really rich because everyone loves our delicious shark meat and the government has decided to print an a million dollar bill for us and they're even thinking about printing an infinity dollar bill!!!"

Eli, raving about his breakfast: "This is the best egg I've ever tasted! If I were at a restaurant, I'd totally pay, like, 40 dollars for it... or if it only cost 8 dollars, I'd give a 10 dollar tip." Well, shucks :)

Micah: "I'm growing my hair long so I can have a curly ball on the back of my head just like Sarah does!"

Eli, to me, on our descent from Table Rock: "You know what I think would be an awesome adaptation to protect us from predators?" Me: "No... what?" Him: "If we could run at the speed of light." Yup. That would do it.

My brother, Joe, to Eli during a discussion about Eli's future career as time machine inventor and operator: "Do you think you might travel back to the time of the big bang?" Eli: "I wouldn''t need to; I would just build a telescope big enough to see the big bang." Joe: "Oh really?" Eli: "Yeah, because looking up into the sky is really like looking back in time." Joe: "..."

Micah, after gushing about how much he missed me while I was away: "Wait... what does it even mean to miss someone." Me: "It's when you're sad that someone is away and you wish they were with you." Micah: "Ohhh! Well, then I didn't actually miss you at all!"

Eli, singing: "Damn!" Micah: "Are you singing Last Friday Night?" Eli, in the condescending tone he reserves just for Micah: "You know, Micah, Last Friday Night isn't the only song with the word damn in it." Micah: "Well, are you?" Eli, sheepishly: "... yeah."

Micah, reading the title of a book: "Night of the Nin...ja...s. Wait! Why does it say ninja instead of ninja?!?" Me, confused: "Er... cuz ninjas is what they're called?" Micah, laughing his ass off: "I always though they were called MINjas... hahahaha!"

And, last but not least, the quote in which Micah coins my current favorite phrase (which I now use surprisingly often): the bacon's already home. Micah, grumpily: "Why does David have to go to work!!??" Me: "To bring home the bacon." Micah, confused: "What?!? But the bacon's already home! There's some in the fridge right now!"

And with that I bring you, the chiddlers. As photographed by each other during a leisurely drive to town.