Friday, July 31, 2009

Photo Friday: Hanging out in Salmon Arm


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After a day of driving through the unbelievably green and rainy mountains of Western Canada, the kids and I stopped for the night in a little resort town called Salmon Arm. It is a cute little town set against a lake framed by mountains. The area near our hotel had a boardwalk, wetlands, and park. Two  local girls immediately befriended us and acted as our Salmon Arm tour guides. They  told me about the local sights including the fantastic pet store where you can hold real live tarantulas. They completed our tour with a circus performance of sorts including pole climbing, bicycle stunts, and swinging from willow trees. My kids couldn't have been more impressed.

You can read more about our time in Salmon Arm when I continue my Road Trip series on Monday!

Click here to find more great photos on Delicious Baby's Photo Friday.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Road Trip Day 7: Vancouver


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Sometimes plans change. I didn't intend to drive alone into downtown Vancouver but illness hit my traveling buddy and she had to fly home early. I admit, panic did creep into my thoughts as I imagined roaming around an unfamiliar metropolitan city on a rainy day with two toddlers. I even thought about just hanging out in our hotel room. But we were in Vancouver, beautiful, clean, friendly Vancouver, and we could do this. I convinced the kids to put on their rain jackets (which is a challenge in itself) and had a very serious discussion with them about ten times. We were in a big city, there were lots of cars, and they were holding my hand. No exceptions.  And so we walked hand in hand a couple blocks up to the Scotiabank so I could get some Canadian cash and then back down so we could catch the bus. The concierge at DeltaCollages28 Vancouver Suites (which were fabulous by the way. I would most certainly stay there again. Talk about amazing view) told me which bus to take to get to Stanley Park. It seemed easy enough. Just hop on number 19. Soon the bus pulled up to the curb and we climbed on in. I went to go pay our fare. The sign said exact change only. But I only had twenty dollar bills. Eek! Panicking... Panicking...  Luckily the driver took pity on me and told me to just look for someone with change on the bus and and pay him when I got off. And so I looked to the crowd. And they looked in their wallets. They were actually trying to help me.  I can't say the same would happen on US public transit. In the states people do their best to play deaf and avoid eye contact. People here were genuinely nice. Finally after alot of scraping and searching a college age girl put together enough change to break my twenty. Bless that girl. She helped me avoid my first breakdown of the day.

Just as the concierge promised, the bus dropped us off in Stanley Park. My next step was to figure out where exactly in the park we were and where it was we wanted to go. Stanley Park is huge. Like Golden Gate and Central Park huge. Its a forest in the middle of a city and its breathtakingly gorgeous. Walking under the canopy of fir trees, suddenly we weren't getting rained on nearly as hard. It felt nice. It felt clean.


I knew I wanted to go see the totem poles for sure. That was our main destination. The aquarium was out because I was certainly not about to take them in there alone without a stroller. That would almost ensure I would walk back out of Stanley Park with one child less. The playground was also out because, well, it was soaked. Perhaps we could take a horse drawn carriage ride around the park? Mari would love that and I would love the cover of the carriage. What better way to see the park? I paid for our tickets and we boarded the carriage. Ben was not a happy camper. He wanted to ride the actual horses or else he wasn't game. I had two options. Either get off the carriage and listen to Mari have a meltdown or sit on the carriage for an hour trying to wrestle a screaming Ben as the other riders plotted together on ways to "accidentally" push us off the carriage. I chose option one. It went as expected. Finally, a promise that Daddy would take her on a horse when we saw him convinced Mari to calm down (Mari would remind me of this every day of the trip until Daddy joined us. Then she would remind Daddy every hour until he made good on my promise). Crisis number two averted.

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We walked over to the seawall and Ben threw his obligatory 75 rocks into the ocean. Then we watched seaplanes take off and land in the bay. We wandered through the forest on paths that I was kinda certain would take us to the totem poles. And eventually, damp but happy, we made it.  It was everything I had hoped for. Works of art carved out by members of the First Nations tribes. My children gazing at something that may not seem significant to them now, but will help shape their minds and lives forever.  I couldn't help but feel proud.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Road Trip Day 6- An Afternoon at Conrad Links

The grass had been mowed. The course had been plotted. and my son had been saying "Golf ball" all morning long. The day had come for the Annual Conrad Links Golf Tournament and barbeque. This is not golf in typical tournament fashion with country club sophistication but rather a gathering of friends out in the woods of Western Washington to chat, laugh, eat and chase around a wiffle ball for a couple hours. 


This was Ben's first tournament. It was as if he had been waiting for this moment his whole life. A day entirely devoted to sticks and balls. And he was pretty dang good if I do say myself. He may not hit the ball with any particular destination in mind but he can certainly whack the heck out of it. Better than alot of grown men I might add. He also found another use for the golf club. It made an excellent weapon in a game of imaginary medieval war. Ben managed to find an unsuspecting victim to beat the ever loving crap out of while onlookers winced in pain and laughed their butts off. Good show! Good show!


Mari, on the other hand, couldn't be bothered with plastic balls. She had bigger fish to fry. She had her choice of dogs to boss around the property and take on endless walks to wherever she deemed fit. She had guests to charm with her attitude and independence. She had obscene amounts of fruit to consume.

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I chose to sit back and watch it all from the edge of the pond. How strange it was to have total strangers come up to me and tell me they were at my parent's wedding in Hawaii over 30 years ago.  Other's told me about meeting me back when I was too young to remember. They knew me before I knew me. Often I have people remember me because of my tall stature but this was different. They remembered me as their friend's little girl. I wanted to ask them for tales of my father in his younger years but couldn't muster up the courage to listen because their was a huge part of me lost in my wishes that he was there. 

I saw an old friend who I hadn't seen since I was a kid.  It was so weird to see someone who had been child in my minds eye for so many years suddenly in the flesh as a full fledged adult. It was great fun to listen to stories of his family and reminisce about the times us and our siblings shared around this very pond. It felt like it could have been yesterday.

In the end far too many golf balls ended up floating on the surface of the pond. Victims of a water hazard that had gotten the best of most of the golfers it encountered. The sight of the balls floating out of reach was just too much for Ben so he had devised a plan on how to get them. He would just walk out there and pick them up. Mommy wouldn't let him jump directly into the pond but he could stand in the stream, so he would just walk on out from there and get them. Too bad the stream was full of mud from some irresponsible upstream loggers. He didn't get far. Two feet in and there he stood. Sunken to his calves in muck. The plan failed. Mommy came to the rescue and freed him from his muddy shackles. And eventually, the balls floated to shore and back into his little hands.  Yes, it was a great day for golf ball.


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Monday, July 27, 2009


How many have you been to?

If I can do it and she can do it, you can do it too!

Today's post comes from a good friend of mine, Debbie, who lives in CT and has twin boys the same age as Mari and Ben along with a 4 year old son. Taking three toddler boys who are absolutely adorable and love to be outdoors may sound daunting but she did it anyhow and had a great time . She made me so proud when she told me about her hike with her boys that I asked her to share her story with all of you. I hope she provides you with some inspiration to get outside and have some fun...

I was inspired by Sharlene...

When my sister called me on the phone and asked if I wanted to take my boys (a four year old and twins that are 2 ½) for a hike, my first thought was no, they are too little and trying to watch them with the rocks and roots and the river…it just did not sound like a good time to me. Then in my head popped pictures of Sharlene alone hiking with Mari and Ben and I thought what the heck ,I'll throw caution to the wind and go for it.  Boy am I glad I did.  We had a great time and the kids had a fabulous time,.They loved walking along the trail and looking for the next tree that held a yellow marking showing which way we had go to stay on track.  They stopped and looked at the river to search for anything that might be moving under the water.  They examined the different types of trees, the leaves, the rocks, and the mud (which is hard for little boys to resist).  They looked up for birds and down for bugs.  Just watching them take in all the wonders of nature was inspiring and wonderful for me.  Not that they have never been in nature, we spend many a days in our backyard playing and they go to the beach, parks etc. regularly.  But, there is just something about being in the middle of the woods that even the littlest of people find such enjoyment in.  It really does give you a newly refreshed appreciation for nature when you see it through little eyes for the first time.  I highly recommend you all strap on your hiking boots and get your little ones out there, you will find it is very much worth the hike.
Thank you Sharlene for the inspiration.

Debbie 1

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Road Trip Day 5- 4th of July, Tenino Style

Independence Day is different out in the country. Less hustle and bustle and more enjoyment of what's just outside the front door. The day was spent watching Ben perfect his golf swing (and I have to say, the boy is really impressive), helping Mari catch skidders, and watching the men prepare the field for the upcoming golf tournament. I piddled around the pond and daydreamed about my childhood. I spent some of my favorite days catching frogs and snakes in that yard. Growing up, I also spent more time in the water than I ever intended. I had a tendency to fall into the pond almost every day. Whether I wasn't paying enough attention to where I was walking or I was reaching just a tad too far for something gliding across the water, I ended up wet far too often. I prayed my klutziness didn't carry over into my children's genes because fishing a two year old out of a freezing cold body of water was not on my "must do" list this go round.  My paranoia led to my decision to have them wear life jackets when were playing near the water. The kids were not very happy about having to wear a constricting vest in the hot sun but they eventually realized it was the only way they were going to get anywhere near that water. Luckily, they managed to stay out of the pond and satisfied their need to get their feet wet in the stream.

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Fireworks tend be less of the sparkler variety and more the M80 style. Families spend hundreds of dollars to put on a display for the whole neighborhood. Sitting in a field watching fireworks explode in the sky through a clearing between fir trees was so different than the 4ths that I have become accustomed to. There were no crowds to fight. Just family laughing over a couple beers at stories of alien abduction and years past. Sure it was loud. Fireworks do tend to let off quite the resonating boom. But it was also incredibly peaceful. It was just us, the trees, and the sparkling sky.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Road Trip Day 4- Northwest Trek

One of my dreams in life is to go on an African Safari. I want to pull up in a jeep next to a pride of lions at twilight and watch them share a kill with their cubs. I want to see giraffes graze on acacia trees and see wildebeests cross the Seregenti in a never ending herd. Africa may not be in the cards for me right now but North America is and there are plenty of amazing animals for me to check off my " spotted in the wild" list. As a patient and aware adult, I may be able to spot an elk peaking out behind a pine tree off in the distance but my two year olds probably won't. I want them to be able to get the same excitement and satisfaction that I do from spotting an animal but realistically a more controlled environment will probably be best for them to develop their wildlife viewing skills. This is just one of many reasons why I loved taking my kids to Northwest Trek.

Northwest Trek takes you on a safari through America's Serengeti. Here you board a tram, ride through the woods, and get up close an personal with elk, caribou, moose, bighorn sheep, and bison . You can watch animals living life in a habitat very similar to their wild counterparts and get a thrill out of spotting a moose in a marsh or behind a fir tree. I mean where else will my kids get to be 10 feet away from a bison having a dust bath?

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In addition to the tram ride, there are exhibits with predators such as mountain lions, lynx, and bears. If you are wondering why the mountain lions aren't out in the forest with the other animals its because mixing predator and prey is a deadly combination. Throw a mountain lion into the mix and suddenly the bighorn sheep population is bound to take a dive.



Smaller mammals such as beavers, skunks, wolverines, and fishers are also on display in nicely designed habitats with viewing windows that showcase not only the outdoor enclosures but the dens as well.

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Northwest Trek is a must do for anyone visiting western Washington. It is located near the base of Mt Rainier (another must see) in a gorgeous setting that makes you seriously consider packing up everything you own and moving to the Pacific Northwest. Now if only it didn't rain so much...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Road Trip Day 3- Washington or Bust!

Funny thing about right turns- you take them too soon and they lead you in an entirely different direction. Sometimes you end up discovering wonderful things you might not have never seen had you taken the expected path. Other times you just want to get the heck back on I5 so you can get out of the car already!

Silver Falls State Park was our big stop to break up a long day on the way to our ultimate destination, Aunt Dianne's house in Tenino, WA. It is an absolutely gorgeous place highlighted by ten waterfalls on a seven mile trail. We didn't have the time nor the ability to hike to all ten but we able to walk under the spectacular 177 foot South Falls. It was truly an oasis from the scorching heat and made me feel like we were on a tropical island instead of central Oregon. I loved being able to walk behind the waterfall and gaze at the solid rock that had been carved by thousands of years of pounding by water. Its a place I can't wait to return to as soon as the kids are old enough to make the full seven mile hike.

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After we stopped to take a couple pictures of North Falls weRoad Trip 094 started to make our way back to the interstate. Everything seemed to look the same. Wheat fields and Christmas tree farms. Was that our turn off? It looked like our turn off. But I don't remember passing that school. I certainly don't remember passing those fields of fluorescent orange flowers. No. That was definitely not our turn off. We had already driven so many miles. Was it worth turning around? We just needed to keep heading west. And so we did, in a round about sort of way. Finally after a few u-turns to follow the tiny signs the pointed us in the direction back to Salem, we reached the interstate. We were all drained. And we still had three hours of driving left. Or so we thought. Then- we hit Portland. The traffic in Portland is horrendous. It rivals anything I have ever had to deal with in LA. At 3PM on a Thursday we were barely crawling. It took every ounce of mental strength I had not to just drive down the shoulder like a bat out of hell. We drudged. And drudged. And then after what felt like 5 hours later, we left the Portland metro area. From then on it was smooth sailing. I had never been so relieved to pull onto a dirt driveway in my life. We were free! The kids were in heaven. Acres of land for them to run free and a dog to trot along side them. Cows in the forest across the street to clanging their bells and popping out their heads every once in a while to say hello . Hummingbirds to watch zip around and feed off of the vibrant flowers in the front yard. And Aunt Dianne happy to spoil them rotten.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Roadtrip Days 2: Up, Up, Up the Interstate We Go!

Interstate 5 is looonnnnngggggg..... California alone has 796 miles of nonstop I5 goodness for you to enjoy. It also attracts bugs made of super glue to my car. My kids think its funny to watch me scrub away at my windshield and curse at the remains of an insect that had a bad day.  I think its funny that they think its funny. Its one of those memories I know will stick in my mind forever. I have quite a few of those sticky memories from traveling up I5 as a child. I remember my fascination with the red dirt that is prevalent in the Lake Shasta region. I always thought it was the most beautiful dirt I had ever seen. As a matter of fact, it was probably the first time I really ever paid much attention to dirt at all. On this trip past Lake Shasta I saw much more red dirt than usual. The shoreline is considerably lower than usual due to drought. Luckily, the lack of water didn't seem to bother the kids. They were happy to get out of the car, strip down, and splash in the water for a bit.

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We continued on through the mountains, gasped at Mount Shasta, mooed at happy California cows, and finally crossed the border into Oregon. Success. In the end we had conquered about 700 of those 796 California I5 miles. Success.

We drove through Ashland and I remembered the Memorial Day weekend in college I came home from class and announced to my roommates we were getting in the car and going north. We checked out the Shakespeare Festival, hung out at a dive bar in Grant's Pass, and slept under the stars near the Rogue River. What a great trip. It was also the same trip that inspired us to go on a 7 week road trip around the US when we graduated the next year. Now I am on a different sort of road trip. No dive bars with two year olds. The car is a bit more organized this go around. But it doesn't mean it won't be any less fun. I get to watch my kids see things that shaped me and hope that they shape them as well. And right now, those are the memories that I can't wait to have stick.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Road Trip Day 1: Congress Created Dust Bowls


I did it. I packed the car, managed to get both children inside, shut the doors, and started driving. I made my way through a haze filled LA while the kids remained transfixed on The Jungle Book. I cruised over the Grapevine as Lady and the Tramp managed to find true love once again. And then I grumbled as I watched the thermometer climb up into the high nineties. I grumbled a bit more as I started to be surrounded by melon, tomatoes, grape vines, and orchards, knowing it would be all I saw for hours upon hours. I know the drive up I5 all to well. I made it countless times when I trekked back in forth between Sacramento and Southern California during my 12 years as a Northern California resident. I know which fast food joints are at which exit. I know when to close the vents because a large cattle feed lot is just ahead and you don't want to be smelling that. But I don't know smelt. And until today I didn't know about the "Congress Created Dust Bowl".

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(Photo courtesy of )

I knew something seemed weird. There seemed to be alot more barren land than usual. I didn't remember there being so many acres along I5 without crops planted on them. And then it clicked. For some reason, the farmers were out of business and they were obviously blaming congress. The vastness of the area effected was staggering. It was eery to see so many acres with nothing but the skeletons of what used to be vibrant orchards. I figured it had to do with water. California has always seemed to have it battles with water. But tonight I began to research the issue and came to find out it had to do with more than just water. It had to do with smelt. Smelt are tiny little fish that live in the delta and have recently been put on the endangered species list. Their designation as an endangered species has made it much harder for farmers to get water due to regulations surrounding the newly protected smelt. Now I am no expert on smelt and do not know enough about this issue to take a stand on either side but I do know this. There is alot less land being farmed which means there are less people employed and less food going to market which in turn means produce will cost more for the consumer. I certainly hope the smelt are worth it.