Friday, June 30, 2006

Active Parenting

Summer has cast it's lazy haze over the Ecohousehold. More and more days I found myself doing a task and then basking in the glow of the computer monitor. The kids would play for a few minutes, then ask for a snack, then ask to watch TV. I'd turn on the TV for them and head out to leisurely hang our laundry up to dry in the sun. Yesterday the kids watched sooo much TV. Between me still feeling sick and recovering themselves, 5 loads of laundry and other household tasks, they were captive to the magic box all day long. Finally I pulled the plug. Literally. I realized I'd been outside more than them. So I pulled up my boot straps, took apart the whole mess of wires and cords, and hauled it all back down to the basement.

In retrospect, perhaps my decision was a bit hasty. I ran errands with the kids all day to help us along, but we did manage to get through the whole day with no TV. Still, when my netflix DVD came in the mail today, I decided to watch in my laptop. When that didn't work, well.... BRING BACK THE TV! PLEASE! JUST A FEW MORE DAYS, THEN I'LL STOP WATCHING. PLEEEAAASSSSE! And this is why it had to go NOW. I actually watched TV only once or twice a week, but the kids watch it every day. That had to stop.

While we waited for Beo to come home--in that akward time between naps and dinner that TV always fills--I sat down with the kids and we played a simple memory game. OK, I saw it on Supernanny, but here I was putting it to good use. We just set up a few small toys on a stool, the kids closed their eyes, and I took an object away. They opened their eyes and tried to figure out what was missing. They absolutely loved it! I'm going to get a kiddy pool this week (gauranteed to make me watch them like a psychotically paranoid hawk), we'll paint sheets (hang an old white sheet on the clothesline, let the kids paint like crazy, then spray the sheet and kids down with a hose), read books, and just play. I'll be interested to see what kind of effect this has on the behavior of Sprout and Bird. I'm hoping it will be a positive one. If I can just keep my wits about me for a week... A week???

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Note to Self

Sometimes we get so caught up in our day to day routines that it's easy to forget to stop and appreciate what we have. This is especially true when "someday" is always on the horizon. It's easy to get wrapped up in the future, but I find it essential to my well being to stop and remember to bloom where I'm planted. Today I'm remembering to be grateful for my sweet, beautiful, brilliant children, and most of all for my amazing husband. On the surface, today was just another BUSY day, but let me stop and list what DH actually did today:

*Drove 15 miles to the grocery store with Sprout b/c Sprout wanted pancakes but we were out of essential ingredients.
*Made healthy pancakes and fed the kids while I ran into work to tie up loose ends so I could take the day off sick.
*Harvested lettuce greens and strawberries
*Made Bread from scratch
*Weeded the Lawn
*Hand applied herbicide to the quack grass so that the dogs and kids were put at minimal health risk
*Cleaned out a clogged drain--chemically free
*Got my lawn chair out of the garage and set it up so I could soak in some sun
*Walked the kids down to the pond to just hang out
*Made me gargle salt water
*Helped Sprout play some educational games on the computer
*Made me hot tea from scratch with lemon verbena (without being asked, no less)
*Made chocolate chip cookies from scratch

All that, and I'm sure I'm missing a few things here and there. Yesterday he managed to drain the overfilled rain garden and also clean out the garage-quite a feat in and of itself. He is really an amazing guy. I feel so blessed to have this man as my partner and as the father of my children!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Alaska Part 2

Day 3 brought us into Anchorage. Beautiful views in every direction, but the city itself is kind of a shocking metropolitan meets rural sprawl. Beo and I talked about how in some places where the land is so plentiful and so beautiful, there's almost too much room for civilization. People don't know what to do with it, so parking lots sprawl wider, buildings are built, abandoned, and forgotten, then new ones built again. Beo's aunt and uncle live in Anchorage, so after lunch and another search for gear, we headed to their place. We had dinner at a local restraunt, then saw some of Anchorage's sights. The salmon run was just trickling, but we did see people lining the rivers where they run, and pulling one out occasionally. I really had trouble with the salmon issue. It just doesn't seem right to pull them out of their life and death struggle to reproduce, when they're so plentiful for the taking and weak from their run. It doesn't seem sportsmanlike.

Day 4 was kayking day. Finally! This is the big event that we had planned out. We had a beautiful drive along the coast and into the Portage glacier valley. This area was my favorite along with being in the Alaska Range with Denali. Mountains all around, ice blue glaciers majestic in the valleys, just feeling enveloped in the astounding beauty of nature. We took the tunnel to Whittier and geared up for our trip. The 'fjord' we were in was called passage canal. It was a misty day but the ocean was perfectly calm and it wasn't too warm out on the water. I loved learning the rythym of kayaking. There were bald eagles everywhere. We briefly saw a small harbor seal on the shore. Waterfalls emboldened with Spring melt ran down the sides of the cliffs. We stopped for lunch at a quiet beach and skipped stones with our guide. Then we crossed the fjord, about a mile crossing, and started back along the other side. The waterfalls on this side were breathtaking. In the kayaks, we could get right up into the spray. In the first picture my sister and her friend are approaching a waterfall. The second shot is taken right from the bottom of that fall. In On this side of the fjord there is a Black legged kittiwake rookery. Thousands of birds nest on the cliff face, regurgitating a substance that allows them to stick their nests right to the rock. It keeps them safe from most all predators except the ever present eagles. By the end of the trip I was definitely tired, but I still would have liked to have had more time on the water. If you ever want to go sea kayaking in Prince William Sound, I highly reccomend Alaska Sea Kayakers.

Beo and I took a hike up to one of the glaciers on the other side of the pass after our kayaking trip. On the way back to Anchorage we saw dall sheep. We stayed again Inwith Beo's aunt and uncle (amazingly gracious hosts), and the next morning made a straight shot back to Fairbanks, and flew home. It was hard to leave that beautiful place. In Alaska, you can feel that the land just goes forever--that that pristine beauty goes off in each direction for further than you can possibly imagine. I look at how much beauty we saw, and how much distance we covered in our short trip, and it's just a fraction of Alaska. It is positively tragic that this is the "wasteland" that ANWR drilling backers describe. Fairbanks is the northernmost 'real' city in Alaska, and my sister's girlfriend lives even further north on the highway. They say that there are already trucks heading up with heavy equipment. The Alaska I saw was the most heavily populated and traveled part of Alaska, and still one of the most wild and beautiful places I've ever seen. I pray that we can protect the magnificence of the wilds of the state as well.

As our plane took off, I felt a real sorrow at leaving my sister, and the beauty of Alaska behind. Beo got my attention and pointed out the window, there above the clouds, was the Alaska range, perfectly clear in it's beauty, revealed now that we were above the clouds which had kept so much of the magnificence hidden. It was a regal parting. Before we went to Alaska, I presumed we would never go back. Now, I know we will go back, hopefully many times.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pictures for Part 1

The aftermath of the forest fire. You can see on the right edge of the picture where a wetland kept the fire at bay. Just a hint of green.

This is the creek bed where we began our hike in the National Park.
The gnoll we climbed to the top of is in the background on the right.

This is our view of Denali from the far side of Byer like in the State Park. See that glimpse of whiter white in the clouds, where you think it couldn't possibly a mountain that much taller than the others? Almost parallel to the peak of the mountain in the foreground. That's the South Peak. Wow.

This is the bridge that we had to cross to get back across the lake. My sister had hiked this trail (with my Mom!) the year before and they had had to backtrack because they were told that this bridge was broken. About halfway across the bridge we discovered that the planks were broken completely through, all the way across. When we got to the other side, there were no steps to get down from the bridge (about a 5-6 foot drop). I don't think the bridge ever got fixed.

More musings to follow in the coming days...

Alaska Part 1

I'm having issues getting more pictures loaded, so I'll try to add more later...

The simple truth is that I can not give a true impression of Alaska unless you've been there. If you have been, then you will definitely appreciate my experience and images in a different way than someone who has not. We got a lot less time "in the field" than we'd have liked, due to a number of snafus, but just being there was worth it. We started our trip in Fairbanks, where my sister lives, and started driving down the Parks Highway. We actually drove through a forest fire. A trooper stopped us to warn us of a fire ahead, but simply asked us to keep our lights and hazards on until we reached the squad on the other side of the fire. At first, we saw only singed trees and grass, with a few small flames here and there. There were fire jumpers here and there setting cross fires. Suddenly, the smoke became extremely thick and we could feel heat through the doors and windows of the car. We saw flames on one side, about 6-8 feet high, then suddenly on the other side there was a WALL of flame, about 20 feet tall. I didn't get any pictures because I was clutching my fellow backseat passenger. My sister kept her wits about her and got us through just fine. Our first stop was at Denali National Park. Years ago I was obsessed with the idea of climbing Denali (Mt. McKinley). I read book after book and dreamed big. That aspiration has since passed, but being in the place I had read so much about (even though the mountain itself was always far out of reach) was a surreal experience. We missed the last camper bus into the park (you can't drive far into the park at all on your own), so blew our chances for a couple of days of backpacking there, but camped at a more civilized site for the night. Before it got too late, we drove as far into the park as we could (about 12 miles) and hiked up a creek bed and into the foot hills, bushwhacking our way to the top of a gnoll. It was an amazing view, and quite a hike. The next morning we moved on to Denali State Park. We spent the day hiking around Byer Lake, where we saw a loon and trumpeter swans, and were able to watch Denali peek (peak?) in and out of the clouds. At one point we did see the south peak for a brief moment. It got really mosquitoey and rainy, so we decided to move on instead of camping there. We to Talkeetna and Beo and I had dinner at the Talkeetna Road House. Our sister's guest wasn't impressed with their fare of a choice of 2 soups, served with homemade bread, but it was simply amazing. The owners are climbers themselves, and there were amazing pictures from Denali and surrounding peaks, and autographs of famous climbers and rescue parties. It was one of the most authentic moments of the trip, and a memory I will cherish without a doubt.

More to come...

Friday, June 09, 2006

Off to the Wilds

Beo and I are off to the wilds of Alaska to test our wiles. Will we be able to survive camping in Alaska's great outdoors? Will we make it through the rigors of our first sea kayaking adventure? Will we stay sane our first trip away from Sprout and Bird? Find out when you tune in 10 days from now...

Friday, June 02, 2006


We got our "foster", Ruben, back last night. This is the foster dog that we fell in love with. He had an appointment with a potential adopter, and Beo and I resolved that if the adopter didn't select him, we would go ahead and adopt him ourselves. Well the adopter chose him, but couldn't take him for a month. Ru went to a different foster home. We didn't want to keep him that long and continue to get attached to him. We figured it would be hard on him, and on the kids too. Lo and behold, the adopter changed his mind. Bird told me one morning that she had a dream that Ruben and Kamey were together again. That afternoon I got an e-mail that Ruben was available for adoption again, and would we mind houndsitting him this weekend? We readily agreed, and if all goes well we will more than likely adopt him. So far, so good! Kamey is so happy with another hound around. Kamey is the darker brindle. Ru is the opposite, lighter brindle with solid blue color. Aren't they lovely together? :) The one of Kamey in the car she is with our 13.5 year old Australian Cattle Dog, Cody. Our adoption group is Greyhound Pets of America if you want more information about Greyhounds.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Another aspect of my "Stop Whining, Start Doing" mentality has been taking up the tasks that were previously unthinkable to me. This includes getting out my oil paints. In particular, one of my paintings just clashed horribly with our new, soft sage look in the living room. I knew it was bad when Beo didn't even hang it back up on the wall. I don't think this was anyone's favorite piece that I've ever done. I painted it in the basement in our old house, when I got my paints out to do a few fun pieces for the kids rooms. That was a brief period of artistic inspiration until I realized I was using a fume-intensive medium about 6 feet away from our gas water heater. I finished up the kids pieces in the garage, and my paints have been stashed away since then. When I was cleaning up recently, I was ready to put the former living room piece in the basement. I thought: "I'll get around to repainting it someday." Then the voice kicked in and I hauled it out to the garage instead. The next nap time that the kids both actually napped, I started on it. It took two nap times and a weekend, but I got it done. It's different than the kinds of things I normally do, but I like the general feel of it. We'll see how it does once it dries and takes it's place up on the wall. Regardless, it was good to have brush to canvas again.