Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Good Morning: Part One

When the alarm went off at 2am at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Boise, Idaho early Friday morning, I naturally became a bit disoriented. I thought it was the alarm clock going off, even though we didn't set the alarm clock. I jumped out of bed to find the offending timepiece, but could not locate it. The illuminated read-out on the wall thermostat said it was 72 degrees. I assumed I'd found the clock and that it was 7:20am. I began a futile search for the "off" button on the thermostat.

"I think it's the emergency alarm," Robert said. And he was right. A very soothing lady's voice began issuing instructions. "This is an emergency. Please evacuate the hotel. Use the stairs. Do not use the elevator."

Stairs? I didn't remember seeing any stairs. Besides, we were on the 8th floor.

Ethan, Jonah and Isaac were sawing logs. I ran to Jonah and said, "Wake up! We have to go now." (I didn't want to worry him you see, so I left out the details about us possibly being trapped on the 8th floor of a burning building.)

Jonah was blissfully unresponsive.

"We need to take our valuables." Robert said, running into the bathroom. (I can only assume to check for valuables.)

I grabbed my purse and threw a coat on over my pajamas. I considered grabbing my laptop but figured it was probably more important to wake the kids first.

That's when a second voice issued forth from the PA system. It was a man's voice. "We apologize for the inconvenience. This is a false alarm. The fire department has been notified and we are trying to get the alarm to turn off. Do not evacuate."

What luck! I didn't have to walk down 8 flights of stairs and out into the cold Boise night in my PJ's, and would be spared the difficult choice between saving my kids or my laptop. And the kids slept through the whole thing.

Despite the continual screeching of the alarm, I got back in bed.

Robert climbed on a chair and tried to dismantle the alarm.

"I'm sure there is some rule against that." I said.

"Get me a knife and I can remove the speaker." He said.

Instead he opted for a strategically placed pillow which muffled the sound quite nicely--as long as Robert stayed perched on the chair, holding the pillow against the wall.

The the alarm finally stopped, Robert got down from the chair, the lights went out, and sleep was the only thing on my mind.

Just as I was dozing off, the alarm sounded again. The soothing voiced woman instructed us to use the stairs and leave the building.

Ethan woke up.

The man's voice returned, assuring us there was no need to evacuate and that they would turn the alarm off just as soon as they could. The alarm continued and Ethan began loudly protesting the disruption.

Isaac woke up.

The alarm stopped.

Moments later, the alarm went back on and we started the whole "evacuate-don't-evacuate" routine all over again.

We heard fire engine sirens approaching.

Ethan shouted at the alarm to go off.

Isaac started crying.

The alarm stopped again.

This scene repeated at least 3 more times before finally quieting down for the rest of the night.

A few hours later, at 6am Ethan got up and started badgering Robert and I to get out of bed so we could get down to the complimentary breakfast. He continued badgering for the next 2 hours, with out mercy for our missing hour of sleep, until we got showered, dressed and finally, out the door. Ethan and Isaac filled Jonah in on all the excitement he missed over little cups of yogurt, Froot Loops and western omelets.

"Do you think they won't charge us for last night because of the alarm?" Ethan asked.

Robert was sure they would charge us. It would be quite a hit if they offered every guest in the hotel a free night, he reasoned. And after all, the alarm was meant to keep us safe. A false alarm was certainly a small inconvenience we'd all have to endure to be assured greater protection.

At check out, the desk clerk asked Robert how his stay had been.

"Good, except for the alarm last night," he said.

And thanks to Robert's simple and honest feedback, we got a free night at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Boise Idaho and only had to pay $10 for parking.

Which made elevator humiliation and hot chocolate clothing stains just a little more bearable.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Good Morning: Part Two

Good Morning: Part One will have to wait for tomorrow. Here is "Good Morning: Part Two" at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Boise, Idaho.

You know how hotels have complimentary breakfasts? You know how at the complimentary breakfast how some people and most definitely children will put on their plate things they would never normally eat? Western omelets, Canadian bacon, whole bagels, toast, Froot Loops cereal, muffins, donuts, yogurt, weird peeled grapefruit segments.

And hot chocolate. We have packets of hot chocolate at home. We have water that can be heated to boiling at home. We rarely drink hot chocolate at home and we never have it for breakfast, but hot chocolate at a hotel's complimentary breakfast is as mandatory for kids as cake at a birthday party.

The problem with hot chocolate is it's hotness. You can never drink it right away; you have to wait for it to cool. Which is why we ended up bringing hot chocolate in the elevator on the way up to our room.

Here is what went down as we made our way up to the 8th floor.

(Ethan, Isaac and I board the elevator with a very respectable looking family of 4. The dad asks what floor we need and kindly pushes the button. When the doors closed, Ethan assumed the I-am-going-to-jump-at-the-very-moment-the-elevator-reaches-our-floor position.)

Me: Ethan, not everyone likes it when people jump in the elevator, please don't.

Ethan: But it's so cool.

Respectable, Kind Dad: Ha, ha. That's kids for you.

Me: Ethan, please. I have a cup of hot chocolate.

Ethan: (Ignores his mother AS USUAL and lowers into a crouch, swings his arms forward oblivious to any hot drinks which might possibly be in the vicinity, and...) Ooops.

Me: (Covered in hot chocolate)

The Hot Chocolate: (Dripping down the elevator wall and pooling at my shoes.)

The Respectable Family: (stunned silence.)

Me: Sorry?

Isaac: (Sobbing) My hot chocolate!

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Portrait of a Quilter and Her Quilt

My mom likes to cut fabric up into really small pieces and sew it back together. Some people call this quilting. This is a quilt my mom made and is one of my favorites. I love the colors, the detail, the precision, and the way each block kind of looks like a vortex, but then when sewn together with all the other blocks, creates a different pattern altogether.

And this is my mom, holding up her quilt so I can take a picture. (That's her finger in the upper right hand corner.)

Amazing, isn't it?

Just in case you are wondering what my mom does with these quilts, I will tell you. They get folded up and put in a big stack. Like this:

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I mentioned yesterday that Jonah was stuck at the top of a rock formation and could not get down. Here is the picture. If you look closely, you can spot him at the top, near that crack in the rock, wearing a yellow sweatshirt.

I was freaking out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Hike in Snow Canyon

We hiked the Lava Flow Trail in Snow Canyon, which was mostly, jagged and black, not red and sandstone-y. After exploring a really cool lava tube, we came upon this beautiful rock formation and the boys quickly got to climbing.

While Robert was sitting in this little cave rest area, Ethan and Jonah climbed up to the summit of the rock formation, about 100 feet above, and Jonah could not get down. Robert had to climb up and help him down.

We spotted a coyote down on this plain below Isaac's perch and enjoyed watching him for a few moments. Later, when we got home, Poppy asked Isaac how big the coyote was. "Oh, about this big," he said, holding his thumb and forefinger up with about a quarter inch of daylight between them.

I'm nervous around heights and while I never felt paralyzed with fear for myself, the boys easy traversing of the cliffs and slopes gave my heart a big work out. "You're freaking me out," was mostly what I said until we all reached the base of the rock in safety.

The boys were pretty negative when I told them we'd be going on a hike this morning. In fact all three of them declared they would not go. It's been pretty exciting for them to re-discover all the TV shows they used to watch when we had Dish and Grammy and Poppy have a TV in every room. Except the kitchen and bathrooms. I'm not kidding.

I told them they had no choice, that a family vacation was about everyone, not just a select few getting to do what they wanted, etc, etc.

However, by the time we left the canyon and headed back for lunch at Grammy's, all three boys were pretty pumped up about the fun hike in Snow Canyon.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Time in St. George

Yesterday we decided it would be fun to take the kids to tour Brigham Young's winter home here in St. George. Even though this "grid" system of streets is supposed to be super easy to figure out, we got lost. We did, however, find our way to the St. George Temple. I figured we could ask directions at the visitor's center.

So, while Robert was getting directions, I jumped out to get a picture of the kids. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. (How hard is it to hold still and smile??)

We don't get to see clear, blue skies like this very often in Portland. More than that, however, we Portlanders don't often get to see pink flowering trees and blue sky at the same time.

I think it's beautiful.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Power Packing

Packing for a trip is no longer just about making sure you have the right clothes. Forgetting your toothbrush or shampoo is nothing but a minor inconvenience. In the past, my biggest fear might have been not bringing enough books to read. Not anymore.

A new day has dawned for frantic vacation packers. Now the most important thing to remember are the chargers and power cords. And there are a lot of chargers and power cords. I have cords for the car and some for wall outlets (once we reach our destination). I have battery chargers and extra rechargeable batteries. I have one power cord to connect my camera to the computer and another power cord to charge the iPods.

It's becoming complicated.

I'll soldier on though. I have to. Because if the Game Boy runs out of power 6 hours into our drive...there will be trouble.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What a Kid

Warning: I am going to gush about my kid. If you have not had your insulin shot today or if you have a low tolerance for all things sweet and mushy, you should probably stop reading now.

Six years ago today, Robert and I took a ferry from Friday Harbor, Washington to Anacortes, Washington and Island Hospital to have our third baby. There was no hospital on San Juan Island, so I had a scheduled induction, which was just fine with me.

This kid was so easy to push out, I almost regretted getting the epidural. One push was all it took. He was my biggest baby, weighing it at 7 pounds on the dot.

I don't want to give you the impression that I don't think all my boys are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Each one wows me daily with their talents and personality and intelligence. Ever since these little guys started arriving, I've been amazed at the room in my heart for love, love, love. It's great.

But my little Isaac has been pure, undiluted joy. I can hardly stand it. He is kind and thoughtful and sweet. Last night after I took the kids out to Baskin Robbins as a bribe for getting their hair cut, two boys teased that B&R made better ice cream than my home made stuff. Not my little Izey-Pie. "This ice cream tastes worse than your ice cream mom," he said.

OK, he knew he was pushing all the right buttons, but who cares? Most kids could figure out what buttons to push but they don't act on that knowledge for selfish reasons. I completely understand this. Kids are selfish. They are supposed to be that way. Learning to be selfless is hard and comes much later in the growing-up process. Somehow, little Isaac is different. He seems to be always thinking about how others feel and what he can do to make them happy.

I realize that any combination of hormones coming down the pike could change all this goodness one day in the near future. That is why I'm savoring every little sweet moment with this kid.

He requested fish sticks and french fries for dinner tonight so I made tempura battered halibut even though I had to take a 2nd mortgage on the home to afford one pound. (Just kidding Robert.). "This dinner is excellent," he said.

Isaac has his moments of frustrating, age appropriate stubbornness, but "this dinner is excellent" goes a long way with this proud mom.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Easy Peasy

Here is the beginning of our 2010 crop of shelling peas. These peas are from seeds I collected and saved from last year's peas. I hope the seeds were not hybrids or I'm going to have some strange veggies on my hands in a month or two.

I love that my garden is this far along in on March 15.

The beets, lettuce and broccoli raab are coming along just fine too.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Kitchen Revolution

I've been looking into it and have come to the decision that for our family, it's time to get away from mixing food and plastic. I realize it would be impossible to make a total break from the food/plastic relationship so I'm mainly focusing on eliminating my long time practice of heating food in plastic containers in the microwave.

After reading this article and learning how the recycle numbers on the bottom of plastic containers can clue me in to the more dangerous plastics, I've made a habit of checking my plastic.

The number 2 on the bottom of this cup and the letters HDPE indicate this cup is made out of high-density polyethylene which is a plastic that is generally safe to use with food. Looking through my kid cups I found mostly 5's, which is polypropylene and also safe for food use. However, among the kid cups I found a number 7. This is not good because 7's are polycarbonate and contain BPE's.

I'm not going to launch into a report of the potential dangers of BPE. It's been in the news and you can easily find out much more on line if you are so inclined. Suffice it to say, I've decided to transition away from plastic kid cups too and replace them with...

...glass! Here are a few glasses in our line-up. Specifically, I purchased the second glass from the left (x6) for the kids. I had to include some of our other fun glasses in this picture though. I have 3 boys (or 4, depending on how you count it) so boot glasses were kind of a requirement for our family. Robert would like me to get more of the little glasses on the far left, but I don't know that I can do that because of the product that comes inside it. (Anyone recognize where I got that little glass?)

Finally, here are the replacements for my pock-marked plastic-ware. Like I said, right now my main concern is heating food in plastic so these glass storage bowls are mainly for left overs or things that will need reheating.

I know I'm coming late to this no-plastics party, but better late than never, right? I'm taking baby steps and tossing plastic into the recycle bin with mild abandon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

An Evening With Bill

Ethan has been watching Bill Nye the Science Guy since he was 2 years old. We have almost every episode on VHS thanks to it's 1998-99 run on PBS here in Portland. Jonah and Isaac have also become Bill Nye fans and enjoy watching our old tapes.

So, when I heard that Bill Nye was coming to Portland to talk about Volcanoes, specifically Mount St. Helens, I knew this was an evening I could not miss. I immediately purchased tickets for me and the kids. (Robert had to work: surprise, surprise.)

In my dreams, we would be sitting in the front row and Bill would choose Ethan to help him with experiments. After the show, Bill would take time to talk with each of my kids and I would have the ultimate nerd photo op and my photography skills would be great and my camera settings would all be correct and I would have the most amazing photos to post and the most amazing experience to blog about.

While this ultimate dream did not come true, we had a fun and entertaining evening watching Bill do his science schtick. The best part of the whole evening had to be the look on the boy's faces when Bill walked out onto the stage. Their eyes were wide and their smiles big. I wish I would have taken a picture.

In fact, I didn't get a single picture of the kids the whole evening. I was a little star struck myself and couldn't stop taking pictures and videos of Bill. He was great.

Here's the set-up for this little video clip: Bill used the Vortex Generator of Science (the box) to blow out a candle from across the room. Impressive! Then he asked us to predict the shape of the air that was coming out of the Vortex Generator of Science. Was it a cylinder shape? A bullet shape? A teardrop shape? We never could have guessed what the actual shape was, and I think we were all very impressed.

At the end, the boys went down to get an autograph, along with every other kid in the audience, but unfortunately Bill was done and no autographs would be signed. No ultimate nerd photo op for me either, unfortunately. (Oh Bill...)

Still, it was totally worth driving into downtown in highway 26 traffic and running from our parked car to the Episcopal Church in the pouring rain (Jonah and Ethan! I told you to bring a coat with a hood!) to see Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Entertainment for Pennies

A few weeks ago, Jonah expressed interest in coin collecting when he found what he thought was a really rare coin. It wasn't, but that didn't stop him from asking me to give him some money and take him to a coin store in Beaverton.

Instead, I ordered these penny books for Jonah and Isaac so they could fund their coin collecting hobby themselves. The books arrived yesterday and when the boys got home from school, they checked between the couch cushions, under beds, in the dryer vent, or anywhere else spare change might accumulate (e.g. my wallet, Robert's dresser drawer) for pennies for their collection.

They were hooked.

Today I picked up 2 rolls of pennies at the bank for Jonah and Isaac to search through. One dollar bought them 30 minutes of entertainment and me the joy of hearing Jonah shout, "I got a 1969 S!! That's my first S!"

Jonah also found a 1940 Wheat penny in his roll of coins but unfortunately our books only go back to 1941. Jonah has stashed the penny in a secret place and even wanted to shine it up so would-be thieves would mistake it for something much newer.

I can't help but wonder if coin collecting will be a temporary diversion or life-long hobby?

In the meantime, the boys are looking for steel pennies minted in 1943, 1944 and 1945 if you happen to have any laying around, you will earn the love and devotion of two young numismatists if you send them our way.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bathroom Scale, I Hate You

Luckily, the number on the bathroom scale is not as important to me as how I actually feel.

Because I've busted my butt working out every single day for 15 days and when I got on the scale this morning, I weighed one pound MORE than before I started working out.


It makes no sense. I feel great. I can tell that my pants are looser and I have tons of energy. It is impossible that I gained a pound.

And don't tell me muscle weighs more. Maybe it does. But after 15 days of breaking a sweat, getting the heart rate up, and watching my calorie intake (sort of), I should have a smaller number on the scale than what I started with. I just should.

I'm not going to let the stupid scale rule my life. I'm going to head over to the television set and turn on my 30 Day Shred workout dvd and kill myself on workout number 2. (Every exercise has the word "plank" in it.)

And I'm going to do it right now before I have any more time to think about how unfair the bathroom scale can sometimes be.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Eggo Waffle Shortage of 2010

Are you aware we are in the midst of an Eggo Waffle shortage? Eggo waffles are being rationed! Maybe you've noticed boxes of 10 Eggo waffles which used to sell for around $1.89 are now hovering in the $3.50 range.

My first thought was to hoard Eggos. But I only have so much room in the little freezer above my fridge. And since the purchase of the ice cream maker, hoarding is not a viable option.

Eggos have been a family favorite for years: the kids love them because they're delicious and I love them because they are quick and easy. But at $3.50 a box, knew they would need to become more of a treat than a staple.

I resisted making my own waffles for a while. First of all, it's so much work: you have to make the batter and I was pretty sure that meant more than "add water." And the mess! Visions of batter oozing out the sides of the waffle machine and a lengthy clean up convinced me for months that making homemade waffles was simply too much effort.

After a few months of no Eggos, however, I began to realize that we could indeed survive our weekday mornings without those toaster miracles. At the same time, my idea of how to feed my family began to change into a more whole, real food approach.

Bob's didn't offer quick, easy or mess-free waffles, but they did have a healthy waffle mix that I decided to try...just for special occasions. The first special occasion came on a Saturday.

I followed Bob's suggestion and beat 2 egg whites till stiff, then folded them into the batter. Making home made waffles wasn't as hard as I thought it would be and no batter oozed out of the waffle maker. The kids didn't love them right away, but once I added some berries, fancy syrups and a can of whipped cream, they grew to love and anticipate our waffle Saturdays.

Now Waffle Saturday has turned into Waffle Sunday, and on the mornings when we have extra waffles, I freeze them for quick, weekday breakfasts.

Eggos? Who needs them!