Tuesday, March 31, 2009

First Sign of Spring? Or First Sign That We Live Too Close to the Paper Mill?

It's a terrible photo, but you get the idea.  It's a three-headed daffodil, and it's growing in our yard.


No, not my trip to Boise.  That was a ridiculous amount of fun, and I will tell you all about it once the photos are all squared away.

No, the sad news for me can be found in this article summarizing a study by The International Agency for Research on Cancer, published in the British Medical Journal.  And it fully warrants my all-caps title.

Basically, a group of cancer researchers wanted to figure out why a small area in northern Iran had one of the world's highest incidences of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.   Folks in the Golestan province don't use a lot of alcohol or tobacco, which causes most of these cancers in the U.S. and Europe. They drink tea.  LOTS OF VERY HOT TEA.  

Yes, tea is still supposedly good for us.  It's the temperature that's the problem. The recommendation is to let one's tea sit for 4 minutes before drinking it.  I always do that.  Then I add milk and (don't read this, tea purists) heat it back up in the microwave until it's as hot as I can stand it.

According to the study, drinking tea above 158 degrees (which seems very, very hot) yielded an eightfold risk of esophageal cancer.  I haven't gone so far as to take my tea's temperature yet, but I guess I'd better.  Right after I go warm it up.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It Can't Come Soon Enough

How much am I looking forward to getting away to Boise for three nights without the kids?

Well, this afternoon Willem tasted his own earwax and let me know I had "a little bit hair" on my chin.

That right there should pretty much tell you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

2 Years, 200 Posts

It's hard to believe; two years ago, Willem had only two tic-tac sized teeth. Nels was wearing the clothes that now make up Willem's wardrobe. We were settling into our house in Boise. And I started this blog.

Yep, the boys have grown since then... (Feb 07)

But Nels is still a total goofball: (Apr 07)

And Willem still prefers not to wear pants: (Mar 07)

As for the blog, it has its dry spells, but I'm still enjoying it. I'm hoping some day I'll stumble into some passion and inspiration for writing something else. If that day never comes, well...this'll do.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thanks for Going With the Adverb

Nels is usually very reluctant to help pick up toys, but the other day he decided it would be fun to clean up downstairs all by himself.

"Just wait until you see it when I'm all done!  You're going to expl...  you're going to be EXPLODINGLY surprised!"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Astoria: the Finale

We spent the second half of our Sunday in the Warrenton area, driving around Fort Stevens State Park. It was probably the strangest day for weather I've ever experienced. In the morning snow, rain, hail, and sun cycled through every half hour or so. By the late afternoon it had settled into alternating sun and clouds, the one constant being wind. Brrrr. Fortunately the weather was good for picture-taking.

Well, here is our glamorous vehicle parked on the sand as we briefly check out the wreck of the Peter Iredale. Overly empathetic people such as myself can enjoy it with no twinge of sadness--the wreck resulted in no casualties.

And here I am...ahem...enjoying my day on the beach. Little sleep + raging headache + glaring sun + virtuous McDonald's salad for lunch + cold wind + "I wonder how many hours it will be until we come across an open public restroom?"= this face. Now I can laugh about it. Not then.

The sunlight sparkling along the water was remarkably lovely, though...

At this point I said something like "Ooooh, it's so pretty, the sun on the water! Take a picture!" And Shaun complied, probably to keep me from making that face again.

After the novel "drive right onto the beach" beach, we explored a little more and came upon this practically deserted beach.  It couldn't have been more beautiful, and having it to ourselves was a definite bonus.  The scale of it was most impressive. If you click on the picture below, you may see our boys as two tiny specks next to the water.

Our poor deprived kids have only been to the beach a handful of times in their short lives.  They were soon playing chicken with the waves.  I haven't heard them laugh so much in a long, long time.

After that, there was nothing left to do but change the boys out of their wet, sandy clothes into cozy sweatpants and dry socks, grab a treat at Dairy Queen, and head for home.  

I definitely am looking forward to some more trips to the coast. Maybe once it's warmer, and we're no longer required to bring a potty chair in the van for use en route.  Maybe this summer.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Astoria Part 2

On Sunday morning we had breakfast at Pig 'N Pancake. You might try elsewhere if you want something really special, but if you're looking for a kid-friendly restaurant with standard breakfast fare served up by a grandmotherly waitress named Orchid, it will do nicely.

We spent the first part of the day at the Columbia River Maritime Museum. With admission to the museum, you get to tour the Lightship Columbia. I think Shaun and I actually found that more interesting than the boys did.

Weapons! Now we're talkin'.

MY favorite thing at the museum was a film on the history of navigation on the Columbia River. I had no idea that super-elite pilots have to come aboard to guide ships through the treacherous bar where the river meets the ocean. According to Wikipedia, "Approximately 16 bar pilots, earning about $180,000/year, guide ships across the bar, often approaching the ships by helicopter."  

This exhibit plays a video about Coast Guard rescue operations.  

Shaun and I both could have used some more time at the museum to read all the interesting history about the artifacts, but the boys got pretty antsy once they were dragged away from a life-sized boat cabin with numerous buttons and sound effects. Besides, there was still the shore to visit!  Astoria Part 3!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Astoria Part 1

As is our way, we got a late start on Saturday.  So before we even went to the hotel, we headed right to this boat in a parking lot (before it closed for the day) for some outstanding fish & chips. The fish was moist, tender albacore, which made me say "huh" and "delicious."

As you might gather from the boys expressions, it was stinkin cold out. So we ate in the car.

The next stop was our snazzy hotel.  The boys tried out the balcony.  As you can see, it was still cold.

Here's the view to the right when the snow started falling the next morning.

Here's the view to the left.

And here's the view when a ship went by. We are the sort of people who are pleased to look at boats in general, so the novelty of watching a parade of enormous vessels pass by our bedroom (you could see them from bed!) was a big plus.

Due to our late arrival, we had no ambitious plans for the day. Once the boys had climbed up and down the beds about a hundred times and finished singing their "we're staying in a hotel" song, we joined the rest of the guests in the lobby for the wine and lox reception. In hindsight, I probably should have taken Shaun up on his offer to let me stay for that while he and the boys went to the Astoria column. (Check out the link for interesting info and photos.) 

I didn't want to miss it, though, so the boys chugged some enormous cups of apple juice and filled up on giant cheese cubes while Shaun and I had a glass of wine with one eye on the sky. We were trying to make it to the column before it closed at dusk.

We made it before dusk. Alas, the column was closed for repairs and we were denied the warming task of climbing its 164 stairs. The weather had gone from stinkin cold to friggin cold and those of us not on a photographic quest quickly ran for the shelter of the car. The view really was worth it, though. I haven't been anywhere exactly like Astoria, and that makes it all the more fun.

Willem kept asking if we could go home for hot chocolate. Like ALL THE WAY home.  Instead, we hunkered down in our hotel room and Shaun fetched us some burgers for dinner. We put the boys in their pj's and went down to the lobby for cookies at 8. At that point the long, long night began, but we won't speak of that again.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sorry For the Delay...

Astoria was amazing, and I did make it back alive.

HOWEVER.  If one is feeling a little (or very) cooped up and cranky due to weeks of illness and poor sleep and excess quality time with one's wee family members, the cure for what ails ya' is NOT to invest in 24 hours of INTENSE TOGETHERNESS.  

Actually, the only time I almost lost it was at bedtime, when the boys played and squabbled in their bed for over an hour.  And we'd already put them to bed an hour late.  I was dying for some quiet. Every awful noise they emitted made me angrier and angrier.  I fumed.  And now I know why that expression exists, because in my mind my face was bright red and smoke was coming out of  my ears.  The typical boy behavior and my exasperated response seemed to amuse Shaun, which of course made it all ten times worse.  Then he fell asleep. Turkey.

It was actually a fantastic trip.  I'm looking forward to going again when I'm in a better state of mind to properly appreciate it.  And I will share all our adventures in my next post.  I'm trying to work out the particulars of how to deal with photos now that Shaun pretty much takes all of them and has his own blog.  Of course he gives me carte blanche to use anything, but I always feel too guilty to use something great before he does.  Still figuring it out.

Even through my tiredness, I could plainly see that Astoria is an excellent weekend destination. I highly recommend it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Figuratively Bright, Bright, Sunshiny Day

The only thing keeping me from complete despair during the long weeks of kid difficulties and being home sick was the knowledge that at the end of it all we'd be going to visit our friends the Shackelfords in Olympia.


It's nice to have friends with whom one can just pick right up where one left off.  We had so much fun being the out-of-town company and seeing them in the wonderful place they've landed.

We drove up last Friday night, and failed miserably at getting the kids to bed at a decent hour so we adults could eat our delicious takeout dinner unmolested. No matter.  Nothing could put a damper on my enjoyment of my fried zucchini taco.

On Saturday we all did a masterful job of packing in the good times.  First, there was a nice wild area right by the house that our boys needed to see.

Willem found a log.

And here are the free-range young-'uns in their natural habitat.

Then it was off to the Tacoma Art Museum to see the David Macaulay exhibit.  The kids quickly found his books and settled in.

We had lunch at a nearby brewpub with middling food but good beer.  We very sensibly followed this meal with fancy cupcakes just down the street at hello, cupcake.

Full of cupcake goodness, we headed back to Olympia and one of the Shackelford family's favorite parks, right on the water.  Rain forest-y trails lead to the shore of the very tip of Puget Sound.  There are trees, there is industry, there are marinas, there is a great view of the capital building.  If our boys' grandparents lived there rather than here, I'd be packing my bags right now.

All 5 year-old boys run like ballet dancers, right?  Don't they?  They don't?

That was the last of our big doings.  We took a little driving tour of downtown Olympia and then headed back to the house, choosing to deny for as long as possible that we actually needed to head home.  Dave rustled up enough quesadillas for our dinner to feed an army.  We took our sweet time, but we finally had to make our reluctant good-byes.

It was a dismal homecoming.  Whatever weird bug we had was a two-parter. Willem was afflicted with both the cold symptoms AND the gastro-intestinal symptoms all along, but Nels and I developed phase two once we got home.  So we've spent the past week holed up again.  I finally sent Nels back to school today, which gave us all at least a little relief.

Some serious R&R is in order.  Whether or not tomorrow's overnight outing to Astoria on the Oregon coast will be restorative or the opposite remains to be seen.  But last weekend's getaway was so fun, we're willing to risk it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


It's been a tough few weeks around here.  Having lived his Terrible Twos to their fullest, Willem has been the embodiment of the Truculent Threes. He has a million tricks up his sleeve, each one optimally designed to get our goat.

He even gave up his newly potty-trained ways for a few days.  That just about did me in.

It has just been classic power-struggle, learning to be independent stuff.  (And I know he's really well-behaved in the big scheme of things.)  But the fact that such behavior is normal doesn't make it any less wearing.

"I'M NOT THE BOSS!" he would yell. "MOMMY AND DADDY ARE THE BOSS!"  And then he would attempt to bully us all into submission to his every whim.

Thus it was for the first time in my life that I was thankful when Willem got the pukes.  All of us but Shaun got really sick (and in this case Shaun drew the short straw, because he had to clean up after the kids.)  I felt terrible physically, but it was the first time in two weeks I'd had a break from THE ATTITUDE.  Because Willem was too sick to spend any energy on being naughty.  He was too sick to be anything but sweet.  What a relief.

After a week of being home sick with two sick kids, my relief yielded to boredom, which quickly progressed to exasperation.  And then it was not Willem but I who was just so crabby.

I really think that the past few weeks have been the last gasp of concentrated rebellion before Willem moves on to his next developmental stage.  (Not that I think we've seen the last of it, but maybe we're going to take a breather for a while.)  That's what I'm telling myself, anyway. Because I'm not sure I could handle that level of intensity for too much longer.  

I'm being crabby.

Nice try, Empathetic Mom.

Ignoring me won't work either.

If looks could kill, you would be SO DEAD right now.

What are YOU smiling about, curly?

Get this clown away from me.

I don't have time for your jibber-jabber...

I'm being crabby.