Normal is a four letter word. Extraordinary is the new black.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


It is a strange thing to find yourself stuck in writing. Not blocked, but rather stuck.

While life has had us on the go, it seems to me that being stuck really starts and ends with wanting to say something about words, and not really knowing how to encompass all that is swirling around inside my mind.

To hone in on this topic I find myself inspired by the quote,
"Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it." -Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

In life there are so many opportunities to be responsible with our words. Words can be a gentle comfort or inspiration, they are used to teach and to share. Language holds the power to remedy errors and misleading information, and it also holds the power to spin a web of lies with such intricacy.

Balancing the positive and negative effect of language has always felt tenuous. Once upon a time, a topic was allowed a cooling off period with the disconnect of a physical presence. Now, a conversation, a story embellished upon, is given nutrients to grow and flourish with our ability to tap into the constant collective of discussions circulating on any one topic at any time, anywhere. Whether it be an urban myth about copyright protection of Facebook property, a rumour about a kid at school, a public figure using derogatory language, or a radio prank gone horribly wrong, we are all talking about it, and we are reacting instead of reflecting. We are using words, passionate immediate words, over reflective thoughtful words. We are not educating, we are attacking with our proverbial torches and pitchforks and we are being watched. It is striking how online interactions and the social rules that govern them, seem to be relaxing the understanding, and respect of the language used. That feels like the easy answer though. Perhaps it's not that this problem is increasing, but rather it's just becoming more visible as each hasty keystroke carves it's permanent mark on the online collective.

Words can destroy a life. I thought there was more to add to that, but there isn't. Words can destroy a life. There is a responsibility to communicate with this in mind, and to teach our children this.  There is a responsibility to teach those we communicate with, that using words to spread gossip, to spread lies not only damages those spoken against, it has the potential to damage the messenger as well. There is a responsibility to be aware that when someone speaks poorly, or uses language that is hurtful or offensive to us, returning the same ire, builds walls, ends communication and produces noise. Each careless comment, statement and accusation, divides, stealing the value of the language. Each label incorrectly applied, robs from the label's true definition. While communication is on the rise; listening, and recognizing the weight of the noise, is falling aside.

Is mindfulness in communication being lost? Is it truly easier to spread a story than to take the time to clarify the information? Is it easier to react in outrage, than to respond with kindness and compassion?

While it might seem the simple solution is to cut ties with technology, the reality that this new medium is here to stay. Not only do the adults need to learn to use these communication tools effectively and appropriately, we need to teach our children as well. Going back to basics and remembering that "If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, you shouldn't say it to them online." needs to be applied to verbal communications as well. If you wouldn't say something to someone's face, why are you telling someone else about it.

Perhaps it all comes down to respect and compassion. The erosion of these two ideas started long before technology invaded our communications. For me I am learning every single day. It is a battle to make good choices, to choose my words carefully, and to ensure that I say what I mean and I mean what I say. No one is ever going to get it right all the time, lord know that this momma falls flat on her face on a routine basis, but starting with compassion and respect, putting one foot in front of the other, we can at least head in the right direction.

Many of us communicate online daily. What rules and ideas do you use to govern your online and spoken communication? What lessons have you learned? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Waspgate 2012

It all started with a, "Hmmm that's odd." whisper. The kind of 'odd' that usually launches a Stephen King novel, where somehow, a beat up old car, eventually becomes a monster attacking everyone in sight.

We came home from our Thanksgiving weekend away to a couple of wasps, hanging out in the front window of the house. "Hmm, that's odd." I said.
See! See, what I mean?

Then the next day a few more, and a comment from me to the hubby, that it seemed strange and perhaps there was a nest somewhere in the house. He reassured me, that the warmer than normal October, likely had confused these beasts, and while they should have been dying off, they were instead finding their way in, looking for warmth.

The next day, there were even more, and they seemed to be in the playroom area of the house. We vacuumed them up as we saw them, and looked around again for a nest.

Finally, on the fourth night, spurred on by a thought that they were getting in somewhere on the side of the house, I went outside with a flashlight and the 13 year old, in search of a nest near the playroom window.
In the dark we saw nothing out of the ordinary, and so I decided to check in the morning.

The next day I checked downstairs and there were no wasps in the house. I dropped the kids at school, came home, and found fifteen of them on the windows in the playroom.
Now, let's just pause right there....If you have the means and find yourself in this same predicament, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Get your ass to a phone and call a freakin' exterminator. However, if like me, you are a crazy person that thinks that you can take on the world, then please carry on.

I vacuumed up the wasps and then went outside.
This is what I saw. Those little waspy bastards were flying INTO my house. I do not remember inviting them. I do not recall any rules regarding wasp squatters rights, but dammit, they were flying into my house. Again, most would call a professional at this point, and they would be right. Then there are those wired like yours truly.

There were A LOT, like seven or eight thousand of them, coming and going from a hole under the soffits of an overhang at the side of our house. Okay, so maybe not thousands, maybe 100, but really, WASPS. Angry, buzzing WASPS, going into the house. Into the playroom where our kids were playing. Going into the playroom, and I had a playdate scheduled at my house afterschool. Oh this would not do.

I did what any rational human would do, I went to the store and stocked up on ammo. I left the hardware store with a can of expanding foam and a can of 'wasp killa' foam. Aren't I adorable, thinking I could take them down with this.

I got home, and summoned my best, "I am woman, hear me roar." mindset and got to work. First read the directions. On the spray foam, there was a reminder that the foam would seal itself off after a few moments so plan your spraying before, lay down tarps, wear gloves, etc. Whatever! Gloves! I don't need no stinkin' gloves. I have used this stuff a million times to build props. I got this.

Figuring out that they were getting into the playroom by some gaps in the heat vents, I made a plan, sortof-ish. I realized that if I was going to attack them from the outside, I would have to seal up their entrance into the house.

The heating vent had to come off. The heating vent in the ceiling, that was held on by screws. The heating vent, in the ceiling, that was held on by screws, THAT HAD ANGRY WASPS FLYING OUT OF IT. Awesome.

Getting a ladder, and a square head screw driver, I grabbed the can of spray foam gap sealer, and some courage. As an aside, my hubby works with tools and has taught me the names of the screw drivers. I am totally capable with tools, both hand and power, but remembering the names of the tools i not a priority. I am keeping humans alive people. Keeping humans alive, takes priority over knowing which one is a Phillips and which one is a Robertson head screwdriver. Especially since, when I say, "Can I please have the "plus" or the "square" shaped screwdriver?" people know what I mean.

Digression, it happens to the best of us. Umm, so, me, on the ladder, making little squeaky scared noises, I gingerly start to unscrew the first screw on the vent, listening for buzzing. Every muscle in my body tense, anticipating that first rogue wasp flying out. At one point the cat jumps onto the table next to me and I scream like Janet Leigh taking a shower in the Bates motel. After what seems like forever I manage to get the thing undone. No wasps. Sigh!

Prepping the can of spray foam, I position it in the cracks between where the drywall ends and the metal heating duct begins. Knowing I have to work fast, I take a deep breath and start spraying. I start spraying expanding, sticky, gap sealing insulating foam in the gap ON THE CEILING. Good news, gravity still works, and gap sealer is still sticky. While the foam is sealing the gap, it is also falling to the floor. No, sorry, on the laminate floor of the playroom. Remember that little tidbit; plan, lay tarps, wear gloves....yeah.

Is there time to be concerned with the state of the floor? Hell no, there are killer bees trying to invade my house. For all I know, they could be living in the walls, in our pipes, they could be hunting us while we sleep. There is just no time to worry about floors at a time like this. It's anarchy. Or so it seemed at the moment.
The spray foam fell in clumps on the floor, it fell against the wall. This is me, not caring.

Step two, I grabbed a plastic bag, and put it over the inside of the plastic heating vent. I filled the cavity of it full of wasp killing insecticide foam and I shoved that vent grate back up into the ceiling, laughing with sheer evil madness. Just trying flying into my house now, you stinking wasps. I closed up the vent, satisfied that their point of entry was blocked and made my way outside.

Confident they couldn't get in, I aimed that can of insecticide foam at the hole and fired. Again and again, all the way along the seam I fired, and then they came. They came from everywhere, hundreds of them, swarming the hole, trying to get in. As the foam dissipated, I went in for another spray, screaming like a little girl, jumping in and back, squealing and shrieking.

 Dear neighbours, yes, I know, it was quite a sight. You're welcome.

Taking a break I went in for some lunch deciding that they needed a little while to die in peace.
When I returned later, the ones swarming the holes were gone. All that was left was wasp corpses, encased in foam, sliding down the vinyl siding. With the hole clear, I took that can and stuck it in the holes and fired deep into the ceiling of the house- emptying the chamber, giggling maniacally, screaming, "WASP KILLA! BOOYAH!" Again, neighbours, re: The show...You're welcome.

Confident in wasp colony domination, I continued the day. Sure, there were giant blobs of spray foam hanging from the ceiling and the house smelled of insecticide spray, but "MOMMA WAS VICTORIOUS." Also, remember, momma had a playdate to host. Priorities!

With enough time to clean up, pick up the kids and be ready for the playdate, I congratulated myself on being able to, 'do it all'. Modern woman, can do, all that jazz. Rah, rah, sisterhood. No exterminator needed.

That evening, we noticed a few wasps in the florescent light fixture in the TV room. Since the fixture is sealed and the only way they could get in was from the ceiling I said, "Hmmm, that's odd."

The next morning my hubby woke up to discover a few stragglers on the windows in the playroom, but no more wasps coming and going from the hole in the soffit. He congratulated me on a battle well fought and won.

I left him at home, heading into town, for a family birthday party. Before leaving, I asked him to follow my tracks and make sure that I got them all. The last thing we wanted was some angry trapped wasps to rebuild their colony deeper in the walls of our home.
He reassured me that he had plans to respray and get some gap filler and take the siding off to fill the hole that they had gotten in through.

One would think that this is where the story ends, but as it turns out, I took out the summer homes...

This right here is the summer house and guest cottage.

While I was in town, hubby updates me that he has gone outside, lifted the vinyl siding and discovered how they are getting in. He plugs the holes, but can still hear buzzing in through the hole. I tell him that he needs to spray again, but make sure he can see them, because if he doesn't hit them, and the hive, then they will be driven further into the house. So uncool. He carried on with the battle, and did a little investigating.

At the birthday party I got this text...

Yes, that's right, my thoughts were, rip out drywall.
So, rip out drywall was exactly what hubby and the teenager did.

What did they find? They found a volleyball sized hive, tucked in against one of the floor joists in the ceiling. At a birthday party with the two little ones, I missed all the fun, but got a play by play from them as they went.

This is where the hive sat. By the time I got home, it was no more. Also, a good part of the ceiling, was no more.

So many lessons learned....
One, exterminators are your friend. 
Two, wasps are wiley and will eat through insulation to get at the sweet, sweet warm exterior of your home. 
Three, when you say, "Rip out drywall to hubby and teenager, they will go to town. 
Four, when arriving home to a wasp free house, that also now comes with a four by eight hole in the ceiling, the best course of action is to go full ostrich and snuggle on the couch with the family and watch Madagascar. The hole, will definitely still be there tomorrow. 
Five, a hole in the ceiling is a fantastic motivator to plan that whole re-drywalling the TV room thing that you and hubby have been talking about for a while.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fear and Adventure...

A couple of years ago, Graysen had banned us from using the word adventure around him. Whenever we used the word adventure, it usually meant that he would be required to put on clothing that was not PJ's, and leave the house, to experience something unexpected and unknown. This series of events was a surefire recipe for him falling in that hole in the living room, or spiralling into a pit of horror. 

Fortunately, in our life, we have friends that are family, and they are more than willing to overuse a word right along with us until all the stigma has left it. Conversations at our house during that time went a little something like, 
"I love drinking coffee. It is such an ADVENTURE to try it with different ingredients. Perhaps, we should ADVENTURE outside into the yard and get the kids to play a game of ADVENTUROUS ADVENTURE. I love ADVENTURE. Do you like ADVENTURE? Oh you do? We are just two awesome ADVENTURING girls enjoying life's ADVENTURE."

It took a little while, but now, once again, adventure is an authorized word. Even better, on a walk home from school last week, Graysen said out of the blue, "Adventure can be uncomfortable and scary, but it's okay." Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner! We stopped right then and there and I hugged the heck out of him, because, that my friends, is a breakthrough.

He's right. Adventure can be uncomfortable and scary, but if you let the fear rule, life can pass you by. 

Last Friday started with a road trip to 100 Mile House. Caylen, had rehearsal that weekend, so he stayed home with daddy. When he wasn't at rehearsal and daddy wasn't at work, they bonded over old horror movies. Win win. 

Gorgeous old church on the highway to 100 Mile House. I begged me to pull over and take a picture of it's awesomeness.
The two little kids, and momma, went for a drive. Graysen got to ride up in Uncle Greg's big semi, so it was just the girls driving through the canyon. Road trips are all adventure. Something about driving down a curvy scenic highway, tunes blaring, makes this momma feel free and gleeful. Underneath that joy, is just a touch of fear. That knowledge of the accidents that can happen on the highway, rock slides, blowouts. All those things that are very real risks on a road trip, but if you let the risk and fear rule, you miss the trip entirely.

Love the rocky barren geography as we get further inland.

One of the jobs of raising kids, is teaching them the risks involved in anything that they try. It is teaching them, what to be alert and aware about, and then, often, it is teaching them to do it anyways. While most adventure includes risk, life is the leading cause of death for which there is no cure, and arriving at the end of life having missed out on living is tragic. 

Being a parent, I now realize raising these humans, is the biggest adventure I will experience. Fear and risk are around every corner. Underneath all the joy of watching them grow up, is the realization that to help them grow, they must be allowed to risk, to try, to step away from our protection, and adventure themselves. To smile and encourage them through that, is a very hard thing indeed, and it is a reality of parenting that we aren't warned about.

Quiet early morning coloring sessions are a beautiful balance to the rest of the adventurous day.

Being at our friends was all adventure. There are animals all around, and wheelbarrows to use as cars. There are quads to ride through forest trails to abandoned cabins in the woods.

Our dear friends' amazing, fearless daughter, who can take on a quad trail with the best of them. I love this girl with all my heart and soul.

Someone lived here at one point. Now, it's just home to tiny frogs and the occasionally passing herd of cows.

There is walking through the forest looking for a bear that is getting a little too familiar with people. If you had told ten years ago me, that I would be walking through the forest with my friend and her neighbour hunting a bear, you'd better believe I would have told you that you were insane. However, the reality is that, becoming a momma, my mantra in parenting was, "never say never", and it turns out that my, 'momma bear, keep my babies safe from wandering hungry bear', is stronger that my crunchy, tree hugging, 'give peace a chance' side.

It was unsettling letting the kids play outside, knowing there were adventurous animals around. However, I am stunting them when I allow my fears, to taint them.

Everyday, we have to make Graysen try things that scare him. Sometimes it's teaching him that a loose molar that hurts, does not mean he's dying. Sometimes, it's telling him to allow a friend that is a nursing student to take his blood pressure. Some days, it's taking him for a ride in the forest and making him get out and explore an open field at the top of a mountain.

It's also getting him to try to drive a mini quad even though the part of me that wants to keep him in a safe bubble says, "Oh hell no!" 

**Disclaimer** Yes we are aware that quads are dangerous. So is driving in a vehicle, biking in traffic, climbing trees and jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. This is a supervised activity, like any other, that runs the risk of accident or injury no matter how cautious. Also, yes he is wearing shorts in this photo, as it is after the crash and he is driving at "Driving Miss Daisy" speed. The goal was to get him back on. Next time he's up to speed it will be in full body armour, compliments of mom.

Graysen, who had previously, (under very watchful adult eyes) learned to drive a side by side buggy, tried his hand at driving a mini quad. After responsible adult lessons, and under very watchful eyes, he was soon zipping around our friends property, with their son in hot pursuit. Funny enough, learning to swim, or ride a bike was terrifying, however, apparently riding a mini-quad, was no big. Soon enough he developed a blister which we dubbed his "quadding finger". We proclaimed this an important quadding milestone, pushing him through his underlying, "I'm going to die of a flesh wound" fear. A bandaid, a pair of gloves and a "no big deal" attitude, got him back on the quad, unaware that soon, he was going to experience something that would put that blister in perspective.

This weekend Graysen learned about inertia, and speed. I was watching him come around for what was probably his 50th lap and realized that he was going a little too fast. As I was about to yell for him to slow down, he hit the brakes, turned the wheel and learned that a quad will not change it's direction of travel at that speed. All I saw was him going off and the quad going over. When the dust cleared he was on his feet and the quad was on all four wheels. Other than some scrapes and bruises, he was fine. Thankfully that same nursing student friend was there to reassure momma that all was well. 

It scared the hell out of him. I thought to myself, "What have I done? This kid, that fights leaving the house for fear of something bad happening, has just had his worst fears confirmed." I played through how I could have prevented it. I was frustrated that it had to be him that it happened to. I worried quietly that this would set him back in his willingness to go outside. Truth be told, before the dust cleared I was scared to look, I just ran blindly in the direction of the cloud, thinking my worst fears had been realized. However, this was not the time to listen to the fear. This was the time to teach. To learn.

We sat on the deck, and snuggled and we talked. I asked him if he understood what happened? I taught him about inertia, about how to avoid the same thing. He told me he saw his life flash before his eyes. I told him, I knew what that was like because when I was a kid I fell off a cliff. I told him, that he had to get back on that quad and try again. I told him that, even though fear told me to shut my mouth.

He was reluctant to get back on the quad and, fear wanted me to leave it alone. It was the motivating fear of him being an adult, afraid to leave his home that was stronger and in the end, and with momma's reluctant insistance, he got back on the quad and tried again.

Parenthood, is a great adventure, and there are a million moments of fear that come with it. It is that first time you let a kid go to something unchaperoned with friends. It is letting them cross the road alone, ride their bike to the store. Fear of them being hurt by peers, having their heart broken, breaking a bone, getting's all there.

It is the constant companion to this great adventure of parenthood, where we teach them to live, to embrace life and all it's messy adventure and the fears and excitement that come with it. Life is an adventure, and each day we take those steps forward into the adventure. Raising little humans is in part teaching them that while those steps forward can be scary, they can also be amazing, and without taking them, we really aren't living. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Making hay....

The saying, "Make hay while the sun shines." may have roots stemming from farming before five day weather forcasts, however, it's not difficult to imagine that whoever said it first spent at least part of their life on the Westcoast of BC. Our rainforest weather belt means that this spoiled Westcoast girl rarely wears a winter coat, but the trade off is all those months of rain which gives this place it's super fantastic green hue.

In a place where June's cold, wet weather, inspires locals to refer to it as Juneuary, you'd better believe that when the sun shines hot in September, it's all about soaking up every last bit of Vitamin D.  Grey skies are ahead, there's no denying.

September means back to chaos and obligations. We balance it with a healthy dose of ignoring the laundry, and dishes, in favor of adventuring outside.

For about ten seconds I thought about hitting the gym on Sunday morning, but then realized it was a gorgeous day for a hike. We decided to explore Chipmunk Caves. These awesome caves are a short, kid friendly walk into the forest. When you get there, it is like a scene out of some magical storybook.

Caylen happily went through the caves with another family that was there. The caves themselves, were a little much for our middle adventurer, but that's okay. He would climb to the mouth of the cave and sit there as though he was trying it on for size. Going inside was where he drew the line.

There was a time, that being in the forest, would have been too much for him, and so we embrace progress and make note that cave exploration is another thing to add to his "try at least once" list.

Getting into one of the caves it's a fairly steep climb up a hillside. Lorelei, kept going to the mouth, trying to screw up the courage to go inside. While she didn't actually go inside this time, I can confirm that my goal of a workout was accomplished. Climbing that hillside several times and sliding down, was equivalent to about ten thousand squats. How do I know? Let's just say if you saw me try to sit the next day, you would have wondered what that high pitched whine was.

In an attempt to continue a goal to make Monday's something to look forward to, I surprised Lorelei and Graysen at afterschool pickup, declaring that we were walking a different way home. Change and surprises are rarely welcome in Graysen's world, and so as he began spiralling into a pit of horror at the thought of deviating from the plan, I began our regular mantra, working him through this unscheduled detour in his day. I won't pretend I didn't grease the wheels with a promise of to stop at the corner store for slurpees, if he could come happily and embrace the adventure. Sometimes, parenting by way of frozen, colored sugar water is all we got.

Physically, this route took us in the exact opposite direction of our house. However, if the goal was bliss on a crazy Monday, we went in exactly the right direction.

Earlier that day, I had taken my screaming quad muscles on a great hike along the rock covered islands in the middle of the river to make sure that there were kid friendly crossings through the water.

We walked over a large log jam, through shallow spots in the river. We kept our shoes on in the water which Lorelei thought was just the best thing ever.

The reward was our destination, a sweet swimming hole, complete with soft sandy beach. I had brought their bathing suits in my backpack, and when I pulled them out, you would think by the awestruck look on their faces, I had pulled off a magic trick, rivalling David Blaine. Soon enough they were splashing each other and giggling. Eventually, Daddy and Caylen arrived from their obligations to meet us. They came down to hang for a moment of bliss in the middle of the regular chaos of any given Monday.

If I squinted real hard, I could pretend that it was still summer, and we had been playing in this swimming hole all day. I could pretend that we didn't have looming evening obligations of paperwork, household duties, after school activities and the carpooling those activities bring. For a moment, I could let it all fall away, and pretend that this was all there was in the world.

It's in these quiet stolen heartbeats, that I make hay. I store it up for all those times that life creeps in with it's very real realness. Those grey clouds are rarely far off in life's forecast, and they seem to demand a surrender of happiness along with attention.

I'm not having it. The happiness is mine to keep. Those clouds can have only the attention I feel they deserve, because the rest of me is always searching for those moments when the sunshine pokes through the clouds.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Embracing inner conflict

Last week I left the ranks of parents, who ferry children around with them during the day.

So many times in the past year, I have looked forward to this time with excitement, anxiety, impatience, fear, joy, and confusion.

We are well into our second week of school, and already into a routine. However, there is a keen awareness that parts of that routine are shiny and new and will fall aside fairly soon.

I made them sit on the grass for this photo, because to me, dead grass means we had a great summer.

For now, I am enjoying being the family that makes lunches, and lays out the next days outfits the night before. It's lovely to be the parents who read and complete school paperwork on time. Soon enough, it's gonna be rushed morning lunches, mad searching through the laundry pile for socks, and momma confessing to the office that I need another copy of the field trip form because I have once again lost it.

I've had more years of scattered school mornings, than organized. While I can claim to love the relaxed calm that comes with these organized mornings, it is a reality, that I am more inclined to drag everyone out after dinner for running races, or some time at the park. Before we know it, it's an hour past bedtime and, 'Oh well.'

Organization is nice, but it's not often the stuff that memories are made of.

Last night, Lorelei laid in bed with her dad and I after dinner. We had planned on an evening game of tennis (for hubby and I) and chasing each other in the field (for the kids). However, it was clear our girl needed a little reconnection.

She laid next to me and chattered in the way she often does, and we listened. Then she turned, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "I'm scared to be an adult."

It caught me off guard. I looked right back at her, smiling gently, and said, "There is a long time between Kindergarten and adult. By the time you get there you will be ready, but right now, your job is to be four and enjoy that."

Later, thinking about it, I realized that this answer wasn't entirely correct. Right now, she is learning that it's okay to have conflicting emotions. She was so confused to be excited about school, but also scared. She struggled with the idea that it was okay to miss me, but also be happy to start an adventure independent of our little corner of the world.

The better answer to her question would have been, being an adult is a lot like starting Kindergarten. It is an exciting freedom, and a terrifying responsibility. It is awesome independence, and longing for the safety of your childhood home. Like any big change though, you find your way through the conflict, or you get stuck. Don't get stuck.

Don't get stuck. I need to let those words wash over me. See, this momma is also working through her conflicting emotions on this next milestone. Having already rode life's roller coaster through some big ones; growing up, starting a life with someone, starting a family, dealing with challenges in our kids and family, it surprised me that this little dip was scary. I should be riding with both arms in the air, laughing and embracing the ride. After 13 years of having a little human home with me, it's time to embrace the conflict that is moving on to the next step.

There is freedom in realizing that I'm just as scared as my girl, but I'm also just as excited. Raising these little humans, I haven't been holding my breath, waiting for my turn. Rather, I found another joy to embrace, because I knew that while 13 years is long, it is also fleeting and in a blink you wake, and we are moving forward.

This is a new world and it's taken a little while to figure out the answer to the question, "What are you going to do with yourself now?"

While it is simply people making conversation, I will confess that this question started a panic in me. I didn't have an answer, and that felt indulgent and frivolous.

So now, I sit, for all intents and purposes, a tenured momma. Job security should be a given, but questions over the last two weeks imply that my job is being phased out, and it's time to seek employment elsewhere.

I toyed with flippant answers, "I'm going to look into this whole soap opera/bon bon thing everyone's always going on about."
However, then I realized that my answer is, "I don't know, and I like it that way."

I am a tenured momma, on a research sabbatical from expectations and perceptions on how I spend my time. With a child barely two weeks into her educational career, a little boy, who just happens to have autism, in a transition year, and a middle schooler, who needs present parents more than ever; it feels to me as though my duties and expectations have merely shifted, and this corporation still requires it's head zookeeper.

Soon enough, I'm sure I will be dropping them off in a rush, having places to be, appointments to keep. However, right now, it feels reluctant, and foreign, and it's really okay that it feels that way.

I started a sabbatical bucket list, realizing that I'm 36 and I've never learned to juggle. After 13 years of child wrangling, I've definately earned a leave of absence to breathe out. To some, that may seem indulgent and frivolous, but to me, it's what is right, and really, that's okay.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Whales, and Cougars, and Sand dunes, Oh my!!

This is post four in a series of posts on our trip to Oregon. For the first three posts, click here, here and also here

Sitting at home, surrounded by animals that are intent on communicating their displeasure at our absence. I am feeling content and ready for the coming changes, for school, for fall, for whatever other adventure are heading our way.

The final days of our beach trip, were a whirlwind of adventure and spur of the moment detours to discover something new.

The first time we spotted a whale blowing, it was surreal.

We spotted our first whale late in the evening, at a rest stop in Boiler Bay. By the following evening, whale spotting had become so common that a stop to watch the sun sink into the ocean was met with offhanded comments like,
"Wow Mom! Wow! Look at the ocean swallowing the sun!!! Oh and look, another whale." 

There are about 200 resident Grey whales that summer on the central Oregon coast, which meant that the kids got really good at sighting the spray from their blow spouts, and momma tried frantically to capture an image or two.

I'm getting ahead of myself though. Thursday, was for sand dunes. We drove the two and a half hours to Florence. Along the way, I found myself thinking about how music is really the only teleporter we have available to us. Listening to certain songs, can take you back to an awesome moment, a treasured memory.
With that in mind, I played each of the kids songs as we drove along that beautiful highway, taking in the ocean views, sandy beaches and bright sunshine.
When each child was born, I picked a song to sing to them, to this day, those notes belong to them. I found myself hoping that the connection of their song would plant a seed that would take them back to these memories each time they heard their song, whenever and wherever they go in this world.

Entering city limits, we nearly made a hood ornament out of a cougar, of the kitty variety, not barfly. Funny, that we had to travel from British Columbia to Oregon to see our first ever cougar. He looked a little like Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes, which started a fifteen minute conversation between hubby and I, wherein we took turns speculating on just what kind of cat Hobbes actually was. I'm sure this question could be answered by Google, however, where is the fun in that?

Arriving in Florence, we made our way out to Sand Dunes State Park, where we passed the loading areas, and went straight for the beach. Rookie mistake, we tried to set up by the water, and the wind laughed at us. We relocated to behind a large sand dune and settled in. Kite flying, digging in the sand and football were on the menu.

Nothing is more terrifying than Graysen running at momma, full tilt, in a football tackle. That boy will tackle me whether I have the ball or not.

He scaled to the top of this dune, plunked the ball into the sand and declared victory. True heartburst moment, right there.
I found myself grateful for the warm dunes that I was thrown in. I found myself grateful for their laughter, and the fact that they still wanted me to play with them. I found myself grateful for a little boy that was so kamikaze committed to football domination. I found myself grateful for this time in our own little world, to breathe out together.

After we had our fill, we made our way to a loading area in the dunes. Across from the parking lot sat a large dune which Caylen pretty much ran straight up. Insanity.

Miss Stinkerbell, milking the drama with all she's got. 

Climbing a sand dune is some wicked resistance training, but getting to the top of that mountain is a beautiful reward. Our last goal that day was to find somewhere for the kids to swim, to wash all that sand off. We stopped for gas, and like a crazy tourist I said to the man at the station,
"Is there a lake around here, where a sand dune goes right into it? I went there as a kid and I want to take my kids there."
He looked at me like I was seven different kinds of crazy and replied,
"Ma'am, there's so much sand here, when I have a day off I go to the mountains."

We laughed and told him we came from the mountains to find the sand.

People sand surf down this hill. I found myself wishing for a saucer slide to re-enact a Griswold moment.

He took a wild guess and, sent us to Honeyman State Park, hoping that was what I remembered. As we pulled in and I saw it I squealed. It was the same lake we went to when I was a kid. One of my favorite memories of our trip to Oregon was our day at this lake. We ran down the dunes into the cold lake and it was bliss. To sit and watch my kids run in the footsteps of my sisters and I from all those years ago, was a total heartburst moment.

The next day, we decided to get a little closer to a whale. There is a marine biologist, living in Depoe Bay. Her name is Carrie Newell and she takes people out in Zodiacs to see the Grey whales. We specifically went with her because we wanted to take the kids out with someone that was studying these whales, someone who was passionate about their existence.

So that is how we ended up out in the bay, on a fancy schmancy inflatable boat, watching a grey whale swim 100 feet away. Better yet, that is how Graysen ended up, floating in a fancy schmancy inflatable boat, watching a grey whale swim 100 feet away.
As it turns out, photographing a giant mammal in a rolling ocean, is no simple feat.

We learned before getting on the boat that we were only allowed to get within 100 feet of the whale. However, if the whale chose to approach us, then they could come closer. We also learned that grey whales love high pitched sounds and usually come closer to check them out. This is how we ended up listening to Lorelei singing, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", on a boat, in the middle of the bay, to a 30 ton wild animal. He didn't end up coming much closer, but the music was nice all the same.

He did great and I am fairly sure he will never forgive us, but he did it.

This is about the time that he told us he felt sick. Awesomesauce.
Saturday, was our final day, which we set aside for Agate Beach and a whole lot of laying in the sand.

A view of Yaquina Head lighthouse, from the dunes.

It took the kids a little while to settle out their unrest. It always seems to happen when we go somewhere new. The kids have a little time where they are restless, like baby birds in a nest. I have found, the more we just show them how to rest, the faster they find their way to calm.

Daddy flew kites to find the zen.

Soon enough they were playing football and digging in the sand, and I settled myself up against a sand dune. The sand was hot, and so comforting.

The sand was warm and it sparkled. It was fine and so soft to touch.

I read, for what seemed like hours. Hubby read, and the kids played. We sat in the valley between two dunes, and so it was as though we were the only people there on the beach. The roar of the ocean, beating on the shore, the hot sun, the kids laughing, actually getting to read past the first chapter of a book that I have been trying to read for eight months. There is nothing more from summer required.

We went back to the hotel that night, watched the sun set on the beach, had one final s'mores roast around the fire pit and woke up the next morning ready to go home.

We had a pit stop in southern Washington to meet an Instagram family, which was a lovely break in our drive. It was not at all surprising that our kids hit it off immediately.

This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. I like my photos like I like my memories...not posed, rather messy, and disheveled, but happy. On any vacation with kids, there are those moments when you are ready to pull the car over and heft them all out on the side of the road. We watched The Incredibles one night at the hotel and the kids laughed almost too hard at the scene where the Mom is yelling freeway exits at the Dad.

We were reminded more than once by each of them that, "That's how you help daddy drive too, mom!!"

Sure in those moments, they are not so warm or glowing, but they add depth and reality to a vacation. They add laughter in hindsight. I'm sure it will be a long time before the kids stop talking about "That time when we drove into Oregon, in a rainstorm, with no windshield wipers."

These real, often funny moments mix with the happy glowing warm moments.
When I put a frame around all those memories, I don't see the messiness, but rather it all melds together into this beautiful happy chaos of blissful life.