Friday, August 27, 2010

Braggity, Brag, Brag

Look at my boy! After one week of fencing camp he looks like quite the fencer. Today was the end of camp tournament and to my surprise, and Ethan's too, he won all his matches and advanced to the final round. His opponent had all her own equipment and Ethan said she'd taken lessons and gone to competitions before.

Fencing has been called physical chess because you use strategy as well as physical agility to beat your opponent. Ethan is wearing an electronic coat and mask which beeps if he gets hit.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Did Not Win

But, my picture is on this video. Somewhere.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thoughts on Camping: The End

I should mention that the weather was on our side during our camping trip. I don't know many days are sunny and above 80 degrees on the Oregon coast, but it's definitely less than are cloudy and rainy. Much, much less. So we lucked out with the weather. Cause if you are already dirty and stinky, it's great to also be sweaty. The trifecta!

It was convenient to get out of town via the Astoria Column since the Astoria Regatta Land Parade was taking place on the other road out of town. The Astoria Column is a 125 high column that offers a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia River, the Cascade mountain range and the Pacific Coast range. We had to climb 164 steps to get to the top and after all that work, I would have expected the kids to take time to enjoy the view. However, they were more than ready to get their feet back on terra firma. Which was surprising because I'm usually the one to get weak in the knees when I'm higher than 3 feet off the ground.

Isaac and Ethan turned immediately around and headed back down the stairs and Jonah, Robert and I stayed up on the observation deck for a few minutes longer. I'd post pictures of me and the stunning view of the Pacific, but did I mention I'd been camping for two days?


Our next stop was Fort Clatsop, the winter quarters of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery before they headed back up the Columbia in the spring. Unfortunately, it seemed like we were just a little late for all the cool talks and demonstrations by park employees so we didn't stay long. Anyway, the kids were ready to head home.

Did I say "head home?" I meant, "head to Seaside" to get some taffy and ice cream and then head home.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thoughts on Camping: The Goonies

Day Two was our last day of camping. After spending the morning packing and cleaning up our tent sight, and making one family's day by giving them our large stack of leftover firewood, we drove to Astoria to see the Goonies House.

It just so happened that the City of Astoria was enjoying their annual Astoria Regatta, which, according to the gift shop employee at the Astoria Column, has everything. ("Everything," she reiterated when pressed for more detail.) One thing we knew for sure was that the Regatta included a land parade. We knew this because we were driving down a packed main street (or as they call it in Astoria, "Marine Drive") just minutes from it's commencement.

Luckily, we were able to find our way over to the Goonies house before we got detoured or stuck and we avoided Marine Drive back out of town.

This home has a lovely view of the mouth of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. However, the sound of barking sea lions down at the pier is clearly audible. I wonder if they ever shut up? The home is currently occupied and I thought the owners were very good sports for putting up with so much foot traffic.

By the way, if you want to be neighbors with the Goonies House, the house next door is currently for sale.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Goldfish Cruelty

Goldfish being tortured.

It was determined yesterday by a sanctimonious Petco employee that I was not fit to raise a goldfish and he refused to sell me the 29 cent animal on the grounds that it would be animal cruelty.

When Ethan and Jonah each won a goldfish at the Intel Family Picnic yesterday, I never imagined that the goldfish were being tortured. I was pretty sure that it was I who was being tortured as I was forced to accept responsibility for an additional mouth to feed and toilet to clean up. Thanks a lot Intel.

So, on the way home, we stopped at Petco to purchase things I didn't want to purchase for pets I didn't want to care for. Jonah and Ethan were excited and had already decided to name their fish Ned and Lucky. Since Isaac didn't win a fish and since they were only 29 cents each, and since Ned and Lucky just didn't seem like a family without a Dusty I told Isaac we would let him pick out his own fish from the tank containing no less than 300 little swimmers.

I'd already found the fish food, the perfect bag of colored rocks and the cutest little plastic plant when I found a Petco employee and told him we'd like to buy a goldfish. He'd just finished helping another woman purchase around 50 goldfish to feed her turtle, so I knew he'd be able to help us buy one goldfish for Isaac.

"What kind of goldfish do you want?" He asked.

"I don't know," I said. "Something like these." I pointed to the plastic bags Ethan and Jonah were holding.

"Where are you going to put them?" He said.

"I'm not sure." I was about to say I'd been eyeing the cute plastic bowls they had for sale for $7.99 when he got self-righteous on me.

"We don't support Carnival fish." He snapped. "These fish need a 20 gallon tank to live in."

(20 gallons!)

"They live for 30 years and if they are not cared for properly they may only live 2 or 3 years."

(I was hoping for more like 6 months.)

"They have to have (blah, blah, blah) water that is (blah, blah, blah) every 2 days and (blah, blah, blah) environment to thrive and it's not as simple as putting them in a bowl like grandma did all those years ago."

(What?)

"So, I'm sorry, I can't sell you a goldfish."

I said, "Well, I guess there's no sense in buying all this stuff if they're just going to die in a few years," and I put the rocks and plastic plant back on the shelf. I wasn't about to buy a 20 gallon tank for a 29 cent fish!

When I woke up yesterday morning, I had no intention of becoming a pet owner. But by that afternoon, I was. I tried to make the best of it. I tried to be responsible. I was even considering buying the fake treasure chest to put in the bowl so the fish would have something interesting to look at.

I'd deluded myself. I was not a magnanimous benefactor. I was a goldfish torturer.

(I should have just told the Petco guy I was planning on feeding the goldfish to my turtle.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thoughts on Camping: The Wreck

The Wreck of the Isaac as he runs aground on the Clatsop Spit

The afternoon of Day One of our camping trip brought us down to the beach to check out the wreck of the Peter Iredale. We listened to a park ranger talk about the Iredale's wreck in 1906, as well as other famous shipwrecks along what is called "The Pacific Graveyard." Evidently the shifting sandbars at the mouth of the Columbia River make navigating it a real headache.

I forgot to pack swimsuits for the boys, although Robert and I each independently packed beach towels for everyone so we had twice as many of those as we needed. But the boys didn't need much prompting to run into the Pacific in their clothes. They started off trying to keep everything dry as they ran in and out of the waves, but after a while and a few big waves, they gave in and got completely wet.

Running from a wave, still under the impression they could keep their pants dry.

Isaac made sure to take some of the beach back to the tent with him by stuffing every single pocket (even the little useless ones) with handfuls of sand which took 5 minutes of vigorous shaking after the shorts had dried to only partially remove.

It should be noted, for those not familiar with ocean temps of the Pacific Northwest, the water is frigid. Ice cold. It's water that is only tolerable for frolicking after your body has gone numb and can no longer feel how cold the water is.

Additionally, my kids are crazy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thoughts on Camping: The Battery

Jonah, Thomas, and Isaac climb into a Military Communications Vehicle.

Day One camping at Fort Stevens we visited the old abandoned battery. Attack on the mouth of the Columbia River is apparently not the threat it once was. Because at one time there had been a threat. At one time. One.

During WWII, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a Japanese submarine fired like 17 shells at or around the Fort Stevens battery. There were no direct hits and the command came down to not return fire. So the cannons and disappearing guns stayed quiet and the Japanese sub continued on to the Aleutians.

This photographer got more cooperation when she asked for an angry face than a smile.

It was a little creepy walking through the dark cement halls of the battery, and not just because like a million swallows darted out whenever we rounded a new corner. I couldn't help but think of the men and women who might have walked those low-ceilinged hallways or run up the long, uneven stair steps to do drills.

Looking into one of the several pits that held cannon or gun mounts.

There were deep holes where cannons and guns had once been mounted and empty rooms called, "The Magazine Room" and "The Shell Room." It was hard to picture the Fort as the bustling military base it had once been. All that was left of the barracks were cement foundations in wide open fields of grass.

Jonah found this tool hanging board in one of the shell rooms.

We ended our visit to the battery with a visit to the Fort Stevens museum. For a moment, the boys seemed to be interested in the beautiful display of military swords, uniforms and the scale model of the fort in its heyday. But then they saw the candy section in the gift shop.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thoughts on Camping: The Fire

Isaac has 6 hands!

Last week we went camping at historic Fort Stevens in Warrenton, Oregon. My first thought upon seeing the tiny camping spots all crammed right next to each other was that we weren't going to get much privacy. My second thought was that I felt sorry for whoever was going to camp next to us.

We purchased a $5 bundle of wood back in Portland and packed it along with the 5 camp chairs, 5 sleeping bags, 5 foam/air mattress pads, 5 person tent, 1 cooler and a Trader Joe's bag full of food and cooking supplies, 2 green supply bins, 1 gas camp stove, 1 large duffel bag full of clothes and 5 marshmallow/weenie roasting skewers. It was a very tight fit.

When we got camp set up, however, and started our fire so we could prepare the 8 foil dinners, 8 corn on the cobs and 8 baked potatoes (we were camping with friends and sharing dinner), we quickly realized that one bundle of wood was not going to be enough. So Robert set out to procure more firewood.

Not long after he left, however, a cute, older couple in a Cushman-type vehicle full of firewood for sale came around the loop. I flagged them down and bought another $5 bundle and added it to our little fire. About 15 minutes later, Robert returned with man-sized load of wood that he'd purchased for $10. We now were $20 in on firewood and had more than we could possibly use in 2 days.

Even with a 6-handed kid, Robert still ends up taking down the tent by himself.

The campfire became a microcosm of a hierarchy of power. Each morning Ethan would get up and build a fire whether we needed it or not. He also built a fire in the afternoon when we never, ever needed it. And he then built a fire in the evening, which we sometimes needed and sometimes did not need. Soon, the younger boys would gather around the fire too. They loved adding wood to the fire, but not the $20 worth of wood we had sitting off to the side of the fire pit. They loved adding the found wood in the form of sticks and twigs and one time, driftwood.

Ethan kept a diligent watch on the fire (as did the other kids) and as the fuel started to burn out, Ethan discharged the boys with the authority of a 5 star general commanding a military opperation.

"Quick! The fire is burning out! Get me more sticks. Now! Now! Now!"

Never once did the boys question Ethan's authority, but ran off into the bushes to scavenge for twigs and pine cones to feed the fire and appease their leader. Seldom was there enough time to actually sit and enjoy the fire as the fire's very survival seemed to constantly be in jeopardy. And so Ethan would shout and shout and the boys would run and gather.

It kept them busy for a while.

Ethan began to offer compliments and encouragement to the most prolific stick-gatherers. And they ate it up! Soon, a competition started between the boys to see who could claim the title of best stick-gatherer. Ethan continued his shouting of commands and claims the fire was almost out, and the boys continued their running and gathering.

Finally I could take it no more. "How come you are just bossing everyone around? Why don't you go find some sticks for the fire?"

"OK," Ethan said, as if the thought had never even occurred to him. So he got up from his chair and made his way into the underbrush to gather sticks.

Jonah immediately took up Ethan's spot and began to shout: "Quick! The fire is just about to go out! I need sticks! Hurry!"

Ethan didn't last long being running and gathering and being bossed around. After he had a few sticks, he returned to the fire pit, kicked Jonah out and returned to his position of power.

I knew there were profound parallels I should be drawing from this scene. Maybe if I'd ever read Lord of the Flies I could have come up with some insights. But there was so much smoke from the green branches they were bringing to the fire, my mind felt clouded and I just wanted to take a nap.

So I did.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Tax Dollars at Work

Good times were had in our back yard tonight as the Parks and Rec put our tax dollars to good use and brought us Keegan Smith and the Fam in concert. It's great to have an event like this that brings the whole neighborhood together. There were booths from the library, the sherriff's office and a few other community organizations. There was even a bounce house.

Ethan found the best seat in the house out his bedroom window on the roof. (I said he could do it if dad said it was OK.) At first he was sitting, but before long he was dancing. Eventually he got the attention of Keegan Smith himself.

"Check out my back up dancer on that roof over there." he said, and the whole crowd turned and looked at Ethan. "Without falling off, give me some of your funkiest moves." The crowd watched with interest as Ethan did his thing. A few even took pictures.

I realize that there are only a handful of people who might be interested in watching my kids dance for 2 and a half minutes, and my movie making skills are still kind of lame, (it's my second movie ever for crying out loud) but you have to admit, Ethan's got moves. (And Isaac seems to be channeling his inner Napoleon Dynamite.)

(**UPDATE**sorry if you tried to click on this video before and it insulted you. I changed the privacy setting so you should be able to see it.)


After the concert, Keegan was signing stuff at the merch table and Ethan went up to meet him and get his autograph. He had Keegan sign the back of his shirt and announced, "I'm never washing this shirt."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Risky Business

I'll be the first to admit I'm a bit of a geek. As it turns out, I'm also a geek who plays it safe and doesn't like to take risks. Which is why you might not have known until right now how much of a geek I am. So, in a way, this post is a risk.

But it's OK.

You see, I'm on a risk-taking roll! Today I mailed in my application to live at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago for 30 days. If I win, I will get to live and sleep in the museum for 30 days all while writing about it and interacting with museum visitors during the day. How fun does that sound?

As part of the application, I had to make a 60 second video, write a 500 word essay and submit a 5x7 headshot. Oh how I wish I had some photo shop skills. The headshot, as it turned out, was the biggest risk I took. I ended up going for black and white so I didn't appear to have a strange facial rash.

And here's my 60 second video, which was too long, but I couldn't cut without sacrificing my artistic integrity.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Jell-o Project: Jello in Jeopardy

This is my first original Jell-o recipe. Kind of. I used the same recipe from my Peaches and Cream Jell-o and tweaked it to create Black Cherry Almond Jell-o. I added a teaspoon of almond extract to the sweetened condensed milk layer and fresh, pitted Bing cherries to the black cherry layer.

It was delicious.

However, no one knows just how delicious it was except for me, because I was the only one to eat it. No one else even tried one bite. And look how beautiful it was! You can even see blue sky and white fluffy clouds reflected in it's mirror-like surface for crying out loud.

Later in the week, the Jell-o project received what could be the kiss of death: One member of the household was having a medical procedure which required him to go on an all liquid diet for 24 hours. One of the few things he could eat on the liquid diet was plain Jell-o. Sure, plain Jell-o didn't allow me to flex my creative Jell-o muscles, but it was still Jell-o, and for once, a family member was requesting it.

Then, after 24 hours of Jell-o, white grape juice and beef tea, this family member, the main supporter of my Jell-o project (support being defined as eating most of the Jell-o project Jell-o without complaint) declared, "I really don't like Jell-o."

What is the point of going on? I have given it an honest shot and I really don't think I can get my family to like Jell-o. There might actually be some truth to my Jell-o gene theory. But I don't know if I'll ever find out.

Saturday there was a church picnic to which I brought Cherry Chiffon Jell-o using cherries I canned myself. I didn't take a picture because I made it in a 9 x 13 casserole and frankly, I thought it looked quite ugly. But it was tasty. And it quickly disappeared.

It appears the Jell-o Project should be brought to the masses.