17 December 2009

catching up: washington vacation

Since we're leaving on Friday to spend Christmas and New Year's in Washington with Greg's family, I thought it was about time I got around to posting about our summer vacation there.

It had been three years since the last time we'd been to Washington in the summer, and we'd almost forgotten how much there was to do there in warm weather. Such as horseback riding:

And trips to the beach:

(I believe that was Evan's first time at the Pacific Ocean.)

We went to the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, one of the few temperate rainforests in the world. It's full of giant old trees all covered in hanging moss, which, on a sunny day, is quite lovely. I've actually never been there on a rainy day, so I can't speak to that experience, but I'm sure it's neat then too.

Icidentally, the drive to the rainforest takes you through the small town of Forks, which is now well-known as the setting of the Twilight books and movies. It's amusing to see the Twilight mania in this little logging town -- every business with a sign out front welcomes Twilight fans to town, there is a store on the main street selling only Twilight merchandise, and we even saw some teenage girls posing in front of the "Welcome to Forks" sign as we drove into town.

Anyway. This photo is of one of the more memorable parts of the trail through the rainforest, and gives you a bit of an idea of the size of some of the trees.

Greg and I were able to take a couple of days to ourselves to go hiking and camping in the Olympics (thanks again to Greg's parents for watching the boys for us!). We hiked to Royal Basin, a lake that is only reached after climbing a seven-mile trail that rises over 2500 feet in elevation along the way. Needless to say, we were sort of useless in the movement department for a day or two after we got back. But that view is worth it, don't you think?

We also saw our first wild bear on that trip, although we didn't get any photos. We saw him only because he heard us coming and started crashing through the underbrush trying to run away from us, so even if we had gotten a photo it would have been of his rear end. So.

We went to Salt Creek, which is a very pretty beach and a great place to look at tide pools. We've been there many times as well, but it never fails to amaze us with its beautiful scenery and the interesting creatures you can find there. In addition to all of the tide pool animals we've seen there (such as sea stars, mussels, crabs, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, snails and fish) we've seen bald eagles, sea lions (or were they seals? I can never remember), sea otters and whales.

It's also just fun to play in the sand and water there:

We hiked out to the Devil's Punchbowl at Lake Crescent, along the Spruce Railroad Trail, a trail that actually used to be a railroad. We've done this hike many times in the past but it's a good one for kids (relatively short and flat), plus it's beautiful, so we keep going back again and again. Here's James on the bridge over the punchbowl:

And here's Evan along the shore of the lake during the hike:

In addition to all of these day trips we took, we also had a lot of fun just hanging out with Greg's family, playing games, watching movies, berry-picking, walking the dogs, building with Legos, eating fresh seafood, and just generally being on vacation.

Last night I finally got around to posting some of my photos on Flickr, so click here and take a look if you're interested. Those are maybe half of my photos from the trip, but it took about eleventy-zillion hours to upload and label them all, so I think that's all there will be. There are more photos of horses, hiking, the beach, the rainforest, and tide pools, among other things, so check it out.

We're headed back to Washington tomorrow morning, and can't wait to spend the holidays with Greg's family! And hopefully it won't take me quite as long to post photos from this trip once we're back home again.


12 December 2009

trivial pursuit for kids

My kids love to play games, any kind of games. Video games, computer games, pretend games, guessing games, board games. James, especially, love games so much that he's constantly making up his own or playing games by himself. If he doesn't know the rules to a game he'll invent them. His games are always terrifically complicated.

He's certainly passing on his love of games to his brother. This morning I came downstairs to find them deeply involved in a game of Trivial Pursuit. Evan can't read yet, and most of the questions are outside the limits of their young knowledge, so they make up their own questions. Usually their questions are about Star Wars or Pokemon, but this morning they actually created their own categories to work with: Animals, Water, Sand, Air, Candy and Plants. Evan was The Questioner.

Evan: Why doesn't sand evaporate?
James: Because it's not made of water!
Evan: Good!

Evan: Why don't all birds eat fish?
James: Because they don't all live near water!
Evan: Good!

Evan: Why can't you eat sand?
James: Because it's not food!
Evan: Good!

Evan: Why doesn't water go upstream?
James: Because hills make it go downstream!
Evan: Good!

It's so much fun listening to them.


04 December 2009

friday photos: thanksgiving edition

We spent Thanksgiving at my mom's house, as we do every year. Only one of my sisters was able to come, and we had a slightly shorter vacation than usual, due to both of my sons having school on Wednesday, but despite those things we still had a fun long weekend.

My sister and I made Thanksgiving dinner for 13 people, which was less work than I expected, and utterly delicious. (I didn't take any photos of the food, but my sister's turkey was one of the most perfect-looking -- and delicious-tasting -- main courses I've ever seen.) We took the kids to see Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was a big hit for both kids and adults (Wes Anderson + Roald Dahl is like a dream come true for me). We played a lot of Rock Band:

On Saturday we went down to the Cooperstown, NY area (famous for being home to the Baseball Hall of Fame) to go to a local cider mill and to a historical museum and village, the Farmers' Museum. Believe it or not, the kids were not enthralled with this part of the afternoon, but there were some parts they enjoyed. The highlight for them was the carousel ride:

I am in love with this carousel. The animals are all animals native to New York State, and they are both adorable and hilarious in carousel form. Some of the animals included a bear, a loon, a goose, a skunk, a frog, a cow and a fish, as well as the pig, raccoon and beaver shown below:

The historical village was really pretty. It would have been nicer to walk around there on a sunny day, but even with a chilly drizzle it had its charms:

In other news, a few days ago we woke up to the first snow of the season, which we were actually pretty excited about. We have a holly bush outside our front door, and I loved the look of the white snow, red berries and green leaves together:

The trees edging our apartment complex looked beautiful topped with a little snow:

And Evan was thrilled to make some snowballs:

The snow has since melted, but its brief appearance has helped get us in the mood for the holidays. We have a Christmas tree (which we'll hopefully have time to decorate soon), we've taken our Christmas photos, and we've started diving into Christmas books and movies and music. And in two weeks we'll be on our way to the west coast to spend a couple of weeks with Greg's family -- we can't wait!

Oh, and by the way, I've started uploading many of my photos to Flickr -- so far I've mostly put older photos up, but I'm hoping to keep up with posting newer photos there too. Check it out if you're interested!


19 November 2009


Today is my 28th birthday, and I realized this morning that while I always do birthday posts for the boys, and even once in a while for Greg, I've never done a real retrospective birthday post for myself. So I dragged up some old photo albums from the basement and scanned in every photo I could find from my past birthdays.

Surprisingly, out of 28 years, I only have photographic evidence of 5 birthdays, and one of those was an especially unphotogenic year, so I'm only posting 4, plus a bonus photo. We'll start with the most recent and work our way backwards (because the cuteness factor increases the further back in time we go).

Here is my ninth birthday, and let me tell you how cool I thought that buttoned bow was. You can't really tell from the photo, but my blouse also had some random colored buttons on it, and I was convinced that the combination of the two was the height of fashion. I believe this was the first year I was allowed to use the big knife to cut my own cake, which might explain why my mom is hovering so closely over me.

This is my sixth birthday. That's my grandmother in the photo with me, my mom's mom -- I was born on her birthday and she was a constant fixture in that corner chair at all of our birthday parties. Other photos from this particular party, by the way, include photos of my presents, a little bunny family and a bunny-sized playground, which I posed and made my mom take pictures of for me.

My third birthday. I have two memories of this day: 1) I adored my cake. When my sisters were little, my mom made creative cakes for them, much like the cakes I make for my boys, but when I was a kid, she must not have loved me enough or something, I'm not quite sure, but this is the last cake I remember her making. 2) I loved my outfit. You can't see it in the photo, I think it's under my arm, but the vest had a little plaid cat on it to match the shirt. I loved that little cat. Clearly my fashion sense was still developing at that age.

My first birthday. Yes, I looked like a boy.

And for a bonus, because I don't have any good photos of myself on my actual birth day or as a wee newborn, here's Baby Heidi:

And that's it for the birthday retrospective. I'm not sure where the other 24 years went, although I think I already mentioned my mom not loving me enough, so that might have had something to do with it. (Kidding, Mom! I love you!) I don't even have any fun birthday stories to share -- in the first place I have a terrible memory, and in the second place, birthdays for most of my life have been pretty low-key. If I remember correctly. Which I may not.

This morning over breakfast James said, "Wow, Mom, in two years you'll be thirty!" I said, "Yep, and in twenty-two years I'll be fifty."

"Yeah," said Evan, "and then you'll be dead."

I replied that I'm planning to live until at least a hundred and forty, but you know, half of that wouldn't be too bad as long as I get to spend all of my birthdays until then with the people I love.


18 November 2009

catching up: moss island

There are not many exciting places to go or things to do in central New York, where I grew up, but one of the most reliably fun and interesting activities in the area is to spend some time on Moss Island. Moss Island is an island in the middle of the Erie Canal in Little Falls, NY, and it's got some really unusual geological formations, which make it a popular spot for hiking and rock climbing.

We've been to Moss Island a few times before, but this summer was the first time I have remembered to bring the camera there. I didn't get to explore the rocks as much as I might have liked, since we had four kids with us (my boys, my niece and my nephew), so the photos are a little limited in terms of the scope and variation of the features of the island, but it was still a nice afternoon, and cute kids make up for the lack of really stunning photos, right?

The island is formed by a lock in the Erie Canal. To get there, you pass by (or through) a historic lock:

Here's a glimpse of the modern lock. Moss Island is under all of those trees to the right. To access the island you have to walk across the lock, which is pretty cool. No photos, though, sorry.

Once you're on the island, there are trails through the woods, and lots of places to hike and climb around on the rocks:

James, with Greg's help, did a little more advanced climbing:

Here's an example of some of the cool geological features you can find on the island. If memory serves, everything was carved by glaciers.

Poor toddling baby Will couldn't keep up with the big kids, who were all eager to explore, and even take a break for a photo op once in a while:

Because there's so much variation on the island, it's the kind of place you can visit again and again and still have fun and see new things. We're looking forward to returning as our kids get older, when we'll be able to do some more adventurous climbing. Until then, it's a nice place to walk and play.


17 November 2009

evan's preschool photo

There are still a lot of photos and stories from summer that I swear I'm going to get around to posting someday, but for now I have to share Evan's preschool photo:

The photographer who came to the school for photos was really good with the kids and at getting natural smiles out of them. We weren't even planning on ordering photos, but I went in that morning to assist the photographer with setting up and supervising kids, and because of my (very minimal) help, she offered to give us some free photos. Looking at that face above, I'm glad we got them after all, because isn't that cute?

The day we got the photos back, Evan's class had earned a trip to the treat jar. I told Evan he could have his treat after lunch. We were putting on our coats when Evan saw one of his friends eating her treat.

"How come she gets to eat her candy?" he asked his friend's mother.

"Oh, well, sometimes I spoil her a little," replied the mother.

"Why do you spoil her?" Evan asked.

"Because I love her," she replied.

Evan looked at me, matter-of-factly: "Too bad you don't love me, Mom."

It's a cute photo, but don't let that sweet smile fool you: he's still Evan.


27 October 2009

summer fun: darien lake

One of the perks of all the car shopping we did this summer was that a local chain of dealerships gave away tickets to a local amusement park for taking a test drive. Two test drives got us four free admission tickets to Darien Lake, which is about a 45-minute drive from our house. We'd never taken the kids to an amusement park, at least not at ages where they could fully enjoy everything the park had to offer, so we prepared ourselves for a day full of fun.

One of the first things we did at the park was to go on the ferris wheel. It's a pretty big ferris wheel, and poor Evan was terrified:

The top of the ferris wheel gave us a great view of the park, which even Evan eventually admitted was pretty cool, once we convinced him to open his eyes a little bit:

After the ferris wheel, Evan had no qualms about any of the rides. In fact, he was often disappointed because he didn't meet the height requirement for a lot of the rides. He was so eager to go on rides that while James and Greg did something for tall people, he opted to do a few rides by himself. I was told in no uncertain terms that I did not need to ride with him:

The favorite ride of both kids turned out to be the bumper cars, which they rode several times:

That is, the bumper cars were their favorite until we got to the water park. Thanks to an unusually cool summer, the day was not as warm as you'd ordinarily find in upstate New York in July, but that didn't stop our water monkeys. James spent a long time trying to master this climbing course over the water, and nearly made it:

Most of the time they just played in the water, climbing and splashing:

After about 8 hours of sun and water and play, we took the scenic route home and discovered a great pizza place in a small town along the way:

This pizza place had amazing deep-dish pizza loaded with delicious goodness:

Three-quarters of the family fell asleep on the ride home, full and exhausted and happy. We'll definitely be going back again, and hopefully Evan will be tall enough next time that none of us will have any disappointment in an otherwise perfect day.


19 October 2009

my life as a chauffeur

It turns out that having both kids in school really hasn't changed much around here. A month into Evan's school year, we've settled into a routine that's working out pretty well for us. The only snag in our scheduling so far is a small one, but rather annoying: my free time during Evan's school time is not nearly as much as I expected it would be.

See, he's in school for two and a half hours. Great, I thought at first, that's seven and a half hours a week! But as it turns out, once I factor in the time I spend driving Evan to school and then Greg to work and then picking Evan up again, I'm left with a little under two hours, which is hardly enough time to do anything.

Examples of ways I've spent my less-than-two-hours on preschool days: grocery shopping and checking email; running and showering. And... that's it. On mornings I grocery shop I have very little time once I've gotten home and put everything away, and on mornings I run I have a little time afterward to stretch and cool down and shower.

I don't mean to complain, though, I really don't. It's so nice having time to run, and being able to go to the grocery store without kids in tow. I guess my problem is just that I saw those free hours as an endless expanse of time which I could fill with any number of productive activities, and I'm quickly finding, to my dismay, that my time is not infinite at all, but still pretty limited. Before Evan started school I told everyone that my fall project during my new-found free time was going to be to make a quilt, but I've hardly had time to think about it, let alone start one!

I'm spending a lot more time in the car these days as well, between driving both Greg and Evan three times a week, plus the driving I need to do for errands. That's partly due to the lousy weather we've been having though -- rain and unusually cold temperatures have been preventing Greg from riding his bike much this fall. Hopefully spring will be a little better for that.

So, to answer everyone who's been asking what I'm doing with all my free time: the same stuff I always do, but also driving other people around a little more. Not a bad way to spend my mornings, though.


01 October 2009

stories of preschoolers

Even though Evan is in preschool now, he's only there three mornings a week, so we're still going to one of the community play classes for preschoolers on one of his off days. The main reason I decided to continue with this class in addition to preschool is because of how much Evan loves his teacher.

She's not a real teacher; she's a Parks Department employee who leads the kids in some activities and supervises them while they play, makes sure they're using the equipment and toys properly, that sort of thing. It's a really unstructured environment, held in a school cafeteria covered with big mats and active toys. The teacher really enjoys the kids, though, and she spends a lot of time just playing with them, for which they all love her too.

I'm about to tell more snobby parenting stories here, by the way. Because these classes are free or really cheap, you get a lot of different types of people attending. Let's just say that my bleeding-heart granola sensibilities are even more unusual here than they are at Suburban Preschool. I frequently find myself boggling over some of the things I overhear from other parents there.

There was the grandmother who told her grandson to be nice to Evan or Evan's mommy would get mad at him and yell at him. Then she looked at me and whispered, "Really, yell at him." Whuh? Sorry, Grandma, but it's not my job to discipline your grandson for you!

Then there was the father complaining that his daughter wouldn't go to sleep before 10 or 11 pm. They'd tried everything, he said, but it was no use, because his two-and-a-half year old daughter knew how to turn on the television in her bedroom and put on a DVD by herself, so despite their best efforts she still stayed up late watching DVDs. (The other parents listening to his complaint, by the way, responded with variations of, "Kids these days! They're so smart and technologically advanced!")

This morning there was another grandmother, playing with her grandson on the mats. Five-year-old grandson picks up a block and Grandma says, "You can pretend it's a gun." Five-year-old points his "gun" at the teacher and starts yelling, "FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!" Teacher keels over, groaning. Little boy laughs: "Ha ha! I killed you!" Grandma suddenly gets very sharp with grandson: "That's not nice! We don't say that!" Little boy asks, "What?" all innocent-like. Grandma says, "We don't use the word 'kill'. That's not nice." Oh, okay, gotcha -- pretending to shoot a teacher with a gun is fine and dandy, but don't call it killing! We wouldn't want to be inappropriate!

There are a lot of cute kids and normal people who attend these things, but some of these people are just so very different from me in their basic fundamental values and principles that I can't even comprehend what's happening inside their heads. Evan and I get along really well with the teacher, but some of these people make me wonder how she stands it sometimes. She was telling stories this morning too, of some of the more colorful kids saying things to her that just make her jaw drop at the rudeness of them.

I worry, sometimes, about whether my kids are going to grow up to be good people (and these worries are based more in my own paranoia and lack of parenting confidence than they are in any signs from my kids that they're becoming sociopaths or something) but then sometimes, when I spend time with my kids' peers, I figure, even if my kids aren't Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr., at least they'll be better than the obnoxious jerks these kids' parents are setting them up to be.

And then I feel guilty for thinking kids are jerks, and this is when I start to feel like a judgy snob. But I guess... I'm not really sure what my point is here. I'm not even sure I have one, really, so I suppose this is a good place to end the rambling.


28 September 2009


Evan had his first day of preschool this morning. It was a strange feeling, dropping him off and getting back into the car with Greg beside me and an empty back seat behind us. James started nursery school for the first time when he was younger than Evan is now, yet Evan still seems so small.

Camera/computer issues are still not resolved, but luckily Greg just got a fancy-pants new cell phone and he was able to get a first-day photo of Evan:

Our little baby, all grown up, with his new big-kid backpack and everything. Sniff.

This will probably surprise no one, but Evan loved school, loved it to pieces. When I picked him up he ran to hug me and the first words out of his mouth were to ask me if we could dance ourselves home from school. Sweatshirt and backpack went on, and he was off, skipping down the hall toward the door.

The ride home from school was all narration, because guess what they had for snack??? Raspberry yogurt! And Mrs. S. is the nicest teacher in the world, she's much nicer than James' teacher! And they had story time, but Mrs. S. didn't read a book, she did a puppet show! And there's another Evan in the class, and Evan M was a very good listener for Mrs. S. but Evan S. was, oh, a pretty good listener. School is good.

We went to a welcome picnic at the school on Saturday, and it was a little weird. Greg and I are not so much the type of people to walk up to strangers and initiate small talk, so we kind of hung back and people-watched. The vibe from this school is different from that of James' preschool. Less granola, more Wal-mart. Comparisons: the snacks served at the new preschool were Capri Sun and store-bought cookies; snacks I have seen people feed their children at the old preschool were things like legumes and homemade whole-wheat crackers, and nothing less than 100% juice. Cars in the parking lot at the old school were mostly older minivans with liberal bumper stickers on the backs. Cars in the parking lot at the new school are much newer, shinier, and bigger, even including some SUVs. (I can't imagine anyone at the old school setting foot in an SUV.)

We spent some time discussing the suburban feel of the place before it struck me that maybe now that we live in the suburbs and are sending our son to the suburban preschool, maybe we look like a typical suburban family too. I mean, is there any way to tell from looking at us that I literally make my own granola? I started remembering something about books and covers and resolved to keep my mouth shut until I actually met some of these people. Even rereading the last paragraph makes me feel like a big snob, so -- hey! A project to work on in my new-found free time: less snobbishness.

So this school is not our ideal. It doesn't match, in my mind, the standard set by James' crunchy urban school. But the smile on my son's face, and the excited chatter all the way out the door and during the ride home have convinced me that it's a pretty good place for him to be.


15 September 2009

farm visits

We've had three opportunities to visit our CSA farm this year, and it's always a fun experience. We were there over the weekend, and once in June. I forgot to bring my camera this time, but I never posted the photos from June, so I'm still able to share all of our farm love.

One of the great things about the farm is that they really encourage kids to get involved, so our kids have been able to help pick beans (both green and purple, which I'd never seen before, and sadly have no photos of), tomatoes (a literal rainbow of colors), potatoes (both red and blue), and peas:

We picked from pea plants taller than my first-born:

...who is a very adorable helper, by the way:

The farm is located in the same neighborhood as a buffalo farm, which we took a walk to visit. The buffalo were very shy of the large, noisy group of children who came to gawk at them, so I didn't get any really good photos, but a decent one:

The farm has two dogs in residence, both of whom my children adore. This is Juno, who earns her keep by killing woodchucks, and is skeptical of children:

The farm is a lovely place to walk around and explore:

You might find any number of bugs if you look hard enough at the ground:

Or you may find a gigantic dandelion fluff:

Be careful, though -- your shoes will most likely get very wet and muddy during a day at the farm, especially if it's rained nearly every day of the summer:

All in all it's a pretty beautiful place to be:

Each time we've been to the farm we've been able to have lunch with the farmers and their apprentices, as well as with other CSA members. The farmers always put together a delicious salad consisting of greens and vegetables taken out of the ground that morning.

It has really been a wonderful experience for us, getting so close to our food and the people who grow it. The kids complain a little about being put to work, but then I watch them both dig into farm-fresh salads with enthusiasm, sometimes asking for seconds, and I hope years from now they will remember these visits fondly.


11 September 2009

end of summer

It's come to my attention that there are people out there who actually miss it when I don't update my blog, which I really hadn't guessed. I stopped updating during my busy summer and people noticed and said things to me, so here I am, back to the blog.

It's not quite fall yet, but it's starting to feel that way. The days are suddenly noticeably cooler, trees in the neighborhood are starting to glow red and orange, and James started second grade on Wednesday. Second grade! I do not have the requisite first-day-of-school photo to share with you, for two reasons: 1, the laptop is having issues and I can't use it to do the whole photo thing, and 2, I forgot to take the requisite first-day-of-school photo. I actually brought the camera to the bus stop on Wednesday, but neglected to put the battery in it first. Yesterday I had every intention of taking a second-day photo and passing it off as a first-day photo, but the bus came ten minutes early and what with all the sprinting to catch it I didn't get a chance. Today I just gave up.

Second grade, by the way, is great, and Mrs. F. is his best teacher ever. And I don't know if it's maturity or something they're putting in the water at school, but James came home and voluntarily told me all about his day. No prying! Questions answered with multiple syllables! I hardly knew what to do with the sudden influx of information!

When James first got on the bus and went to school, Evan and I went inside and I asked him what he'd like to do all day. He answered, "I don't know what to do without James." Heart-meltingly sweet, I know, but not entirely true. No James means no competition for the Legos, which is mostly how Evan has been spending his time this week.

Evan is due to start school soon too. He was supposed to start next week, but we got a letter from the school informing us that the church in which the school is housed is having roofing work done, which includes asbestos removal, so school doesn't start until the end of the month. We did, however, get to go in to the school to meet Evan's teacher (apparently asbestos exposure of under half an hour is okay?) and she read to him and gave him presents, so he's totally sold on this whole preschool thing.

Evan, by the way, suddenly seems so much older. He's had a growth spurt over the last several months, and we cut his hair short, and finally he really looks like a preschooler. The baby fat is melting and the traces of babyhood in his appearance are fading away as well. It's been weird to witness such dramatic changes in a kid who's always grown so gradually.

We had a lot of fun this summer, and hopefully I'll remember to get back into the habit of blogging to share some of our many photos and stories.


03 July 2009

friday photos: belated birthday edition

I realized that I did my annual birthday letter to Evan, but I forgot to post any photos from our birthday festivities. So, as long as I'm still not uploading photos from the new camera, I can at least catch you up on some older photos.

Evan requested a strawberry Pikachu cake this year. Not one of my prettiest efforts, I'm afraid, but it was one of the most delicious birthday cakes I've made. He was pretty happy with it, which is what counts.

He got not one, not two, but THREE giant Star Wars Lego sets for his birthday. This was by far the most exciting birthday event. Here he is showing off all three:

And here he is with one of the finished (or nearly finished) products. Which one, I have no idea. I'm not up to date on my Star Wars ships.

Now that he's four, he's decided he's big enough to really ride his balance bike, and he's been practicing coasting with no feet:

The funnest part of any birthday is the balloons, obviously. But what's more fun than playing with balloons? Drawing scary faces on them! (Ignore the smiles; I think it's the teeth that's supposed to make them scary.)

All in all I think it was a pretty enjoyable day for the birthday boy.