Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Some gratitude, and a few lessons learned

Let me start off, maybe where I should have begun a few weeks ago, by recognising our privilege out loud. We will have been 6 weeks away from home, away from work, but with work safely waiting for each of us when the time comes. We have been secure of shelter on the road and our little Langy home is still being cared for. We have been met with welcome almost everywhere and the odd unwelcoming experience has only shone a light on how we take our welcomes for granted. I am so grateful. And I hope we pay it forward and back as we go - guests everywhere we alight. 

This journey, as we head into our final week, has been sublime. Intense, captivating, spectacular, peaceful, raucous, challenging and easeful - sometimes all in the same day! I look forward to home but I'm still really enjoying our time away.

We've learned a lot of things about our own family travel dynamic and we've learned a few things about camping in State & National parks with kids. I'm happy to share these practical tips here; if not just for you, then for our future selves too.

In midsummer, it really is helpful to reserve early, especially if there isn't another nearby public campground. Private sites can be plentiful but the quality of space and nature is super variable. The public sites are so well maintained here and most have showers and all so far have had flush toilets - luxury!

When booking ahead, try for a site on the outside of a loop. 80% of the time these offer more natural play & wandering spaces. Definitely avoid camping beside or within sight of a playground! This probably would be true if you have young kids or not. Unless your kids can be parent free in the park and are immune to other children's adventure noises when they need some down time.

Towards the end of summer, things have been a little more roomy - so it's worth it to ask for a better site if you find one!

In the Redwoods, we spent most of our day trips within the Prairie Creek State campground. If we were to go back, or make a recommendation it would be to stay there. I think we've been spoiled by our Provincial Campgrounds usually offering plentiful walkable activities (hikes, walks, beaches). Not all campgrounds are arranged like this! We spent quite a lot of time driving to hikes in the Redwoods while based in the otherwise central Mill Creek State Park.

Which brings me to the importance of paying attention to the recreation options offered at sites. Jessie B Honeyman Park in Oregon was so family friendly and wonderful in many ways AND it was an ATV friendly dune. From sunrise to dusk, we heard the high whine of these motors. Fun for some, just not for us.

These are the main things we'd take into consideration next time we're planning ahead. It's just so tricky for me to know in advance if it's better to just move on, or if the current setup is the better one. We're currently in Nehalem State Park and it is ideal! The sound of crashing waves, a playground a little distance away, a loooong non-motorized beach to walk to and a 5 minute drive into a small, charming town with a grocery store and a couple sweet looking restaurants.

I'm also adding some photos of our setup for those of you who are curious. We met another Boler family and they invited us in to check out their systems (their son is in his teens and still sleeping on the single bed. I asked him if he fits and he replied emphatically 'no'!).

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


A few nights ago I lost my sh*t. It was our second day in Mill Creek campsite in the Redwoods, third night back on our own, and fourth week on the road. Both boys were wrangy and overtired, and I've learned that what's true for them is often true for me (what an annoying and insight-giving mirror this can be!)
It's been an adjustment, being just the 4 of us. Otis is learning how to play on his own again, and remembering how to share time with Brian and I AND Russell. There are a litany of reasons for a tricky series of events, as any parent will know.

Suffice it to say that by 9pm (way past bedtime), whining, teething and sleep striking got on my last frayed nerve. I yelled angrily. Loudly. "BE QUIET!!". Not helpful. This did absolutely nothing to calm the boys (surprise) and it only made me feel terrible. Some days are just hard, but being away made this one harder. Where else can you go when you're in a Boler?! (Or tent, yurt, hotel room...)
Rock throwing is a surefire activity when we need to get out. We do this a lot.
The next night, Brian and I steeled ourselves for the dinner-to-bed time crunch. It was only in looking back, as we sat by the fire while both beautiful boys slept peacefully, that I recognized what we had done. We entered into heads down focused parenting. Like in a physical test of endurance, we entered into a flow state, each of us tending to a different and evolving evening verse. Making dinner, pulling out the mega blocks, cajoling Otis onto the potty, putting food into mouths, taking leaves and moss out of Russell's, cleaning up - the kids and the space, gentle conversation, stories. PJ's. Bed. All with absolute minimal extraneous conversation. Around the fire that night we gave one another recognition. We were disheveled and exhausted. And we were proud of making it over the hump.

And it was just a hump. Russell's tooth finally broke the gum (no more hourly wakeups*), and Otis got his sweet sweet groove back. We played in the Redwoods' greatest playground: the Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek State Park. Otis delighted in walking across all 27 plank bridges layed over the meandering stream. I loved the velvet, rich, saturated greens in every forest shade. My senses were indulged. We had a perfect family adventure day.

So it's worth it. It's hard work, this being on the road. I guess that's why so many people looked at me with that look "you're doing what with a toddler and baby? Lady, you've got no idea what's coming". And it's a good thing I didn't. I love the feeling of working through a challenge, I love spending so much time outside, I love learning what Brian and the boys love, and I love sharing this adventure with them.

We leave the Redwoods today and I'm ready - we've hiked and explored. We've seen elk and eaten s'mores  (I guess there's no fire ban here because of the omnipresent fog?).And I'm looking forward to our next stop in Oregon - Honeyman state park.

*I wrote this draft last night at the fire with both kids asleep. I clearly was feeling too optimistic. Russell woke every hour again last night. Could have been the entire cheese quesadilla that we let him eat for dinner. Lesson: don't use absolutes when referring to children's sleep habits. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Toxic Algae - the stink!

We left Agency Lake, south of Crater Lake Oregon after one unsettled night. When we planned this trip we agreed that we'd stay a minimum of three nights in each place so as to sink in and breathe. Well let me tell you what happens when a shallow lake ecosystem hits unseasonably high temperatures. Toxic Algae! And that, ladies and gents, is how a picturesque lakeside campsite is marred indelibly by the overpowering smell of swamp and manure.
The region is stunning and rich with bird (and other) life. We saw egrets & pelicans
From our picnic table
We drove south from Corbett past Mount Hood taking in evidence of scrub fires in desertscape; through gorgeous National forest, trying to navigate the delicate balance of pace vs. children's patience. And let's face it: managing my patience was really the task at hand. We blew through forest fire haze, planning to return to see Crater Lake the next day. We just really needed to set up camp and run around, so we pushed on through. We tried to book at Crater Lake about 3 weeks ago but everything was full. A lesson here is that when looking to camp in National Forest campgrounds: reserve early.

It's a tricky thing for me - the tension between enjoying the drive and sights along the way, and getting to camp. Former roadtrip partners (ahem, Gwen) will remember this about me. Maybe with relief that it's not you in the car at the moment!

Anyways, we are back on the road, missing Crater Lake altogether (our site hosts explained that with the haze it's not always possible to see the lake). I'm just so happy to be away from the stink of the algae lake, frankly.

I especially wanted to write about this because it was a visceral reminder of how precious our water is. We take it entirely for granted in BC. Yes, there are restrictions there right now, but the water is still fresh. We also learned in Minnesota last year that fertilizer and manure runoff impacts algae growth, which I had never given a second thought to.

So here's to shorter showers, sustainable farming practices, and a moment of love for our water.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

3 weeks in and going strong

I've misled you. This adventure has been about much more than our family of 4. We've been referring to it as our familymoon, and I'm not sure that descriptor fits exactly. I've been letting my mind wander over what really stands out over the past 2 weeks: from downtime in Lynn Valley, to wedding celebrations in Vancouver, to Mt Rainier in Washington, and finally to Corbett, Oregon. It has been beautiful - each stop has held magic, and it's become clear that our trip so far has been about the partnership between place and people.

Family, and friends, and friends of friends have opened their homes to us, and we are no small footprint! We are travelling with 4 clear plastic tupperware bins, a dry food tupperware, and a cooler at the very minimum. The rest hangs out in, or under, the Boler if we're staying in a home. And we can't overlook the omnipresence of the two small boys who accompany us. One asking zillions of questions and wrangling partners in his world of play; the other with bright smiles, five-alarm shrieks, the will to scoot everywhere and chew on anything. And still we have been welcomed with arms and hearts wide open. We've even been out TWICE without the kids, thanks to our beautiful hosts! To Joanna & Tiara's impeccable & totally enjoyable wedding celebration, and to Little Bird in Portland with Becca and Martin (so very tasty).
Jo & Tiara

While we were a little concerned about the longish drives (we've planned for no longer than 5 hrs), it seems we've worked out a flow that works. Driving to Mount Rainier from Vancouver with a stop in Sedro-Woolley has given us the confidence to keep taking the scenic route. If we time it right, Russell falls asleep almost immediately. When Otis starts to feel sleepy we hear a soft request from the backseat "Mommy, will you hold my foot?". This is new, this foot holding thing, but it works.

Becca & Martin met us at Mount Rainier National Park for our (so far) annual reunion. It was SPECTACULAR! The campground (Cougar Rock) is nestled at the base of the mountain and the sights and hikes in the park were as wild and beautiful as if we were backpacking in.

For our little family, it was absolutely ideal. We asked Otis what he particularly noticed about our first hike up to a set of waterfalls, across a wooden plank bridge laid over a raging river. He said "ummm, the rocks". We asked "what else do you notice about this forest?". He responded "...the sticks". Otis spends a lot of time throwing rocks these days.

We descended from the lofty mountain heights into Corbett, in the Columbia River Gorge. We were so happy to stay at The Stand Farm where Becca's good friends Susan and Janette opened up their home, yard, kitchen and hearts to us. It was a full house for this sweet family with a couple other friends and our little unit, and we couldn't have been shown a more beautiful example of hospitality.

Janette sharing some bee time with me
We wandered through Portland with food on our minds, ate at the Tin Shed which we would definitely recommend (even if we didn't know Janette whose restaurant it is!) and had a pint at the Oregon non-profit pub. Dreamy! We also spent a couple lazy afternoons at the river, the perfect complement to our holiday pace. Otis and Russell were in seventh heaven with so many willing adults ready to love them up and be bossed around "Ingrid you swim to where it's deep and I'm going to splash you"..." Uncle Martin, throw this rock". Russell's less exacting but no less demanding! It has been such a joy to have all these people with us over the past two weeks.

And now we've taken our leave, which wasn't easy. But in our regret at saying goodbye to great friends is our gift of simply having such great friendships. We've made new friends on this journey and look forward to hosting any number of wanderers to Little Langy and our Boler guestroom.

Next stop Crater Lake, OR. Just the four of us for real now.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Family with a capital F

Driving away from Doe Bay where roughly 35 of Brian's family members (aunties, uncles, cousins) congregated over the past 5 days, my heart and mind are full of Family. Not only thinking of the people that we're saying 'so long' to for now, but also and overwhelmingly about the concept of Family with a capital F.

Over the past 6 months I've been revising my understanding of family. I am part of a family bush.  This has nurtured in me a very flexible, and still profound, sense of family - regardless of bloodline. A step-family is still my Family. The current revision, due to a moment of shock this winter, is that (surprise!) not everybody sees family in that fluid way. I think I understand now that blood ties matter more to some. And following the same logic, it's probably true that there are as many definitions of family as there are people. Like love.

My in-laws have a pretty upright kind of family-tree family. A notably kind, and interesting, and entertaining, and loving family. I feel like I'm part of the tree and the community that comes with it, and have been welcomed in with wide open arms.  And now my kids are part of its bloodline.

My reflections have been evolving as I consider the history that Otis and Russell carry in their DNA. And the stories that will be part of their hearts and minds; those are the pieces of family that also belong to me. While I'm part of the family tree's DNA via Otis & Russell,  I'm also part of this family's stories and heart. And this has become my revised, more nuanced definition of family. Stories and heart course through my family bush as surely as blood.

There are a lot of avenues for exploration and reflection here. Little savory bits for me to chew on as we travel along. It was a wonderful family interlude.

The boys were so happy to be surrounded by willing partners in imagination and play. We stole away some moments of peace and joined in for laughs, adventures and even a dance party. I feel sad to say goodbye. I really like these folks!

Now we're in Sedro-Woolley with Debbie and Steve (part of that family bush!) and their gaggle of geese, flock of ducks, roost of chickens and waddle of turkeys. A couple days here and then up to Vancouver for a week.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

All's tidy and everything's ahead of us

It's a remarkable thing. We've just spent 7 days at home cleaning and packing like never before. Well sure, Brian and I have been away for 6 weeks before, and 5 weeks in Mexico with Otis. So what's the difference? One extra kid? Let me tell you; once we figured out how to pack for one kid, adding a second to the equation was actually not such a big deal. We've already learned that we need about 100% more onesies/spare shirts, a bed of some sort, something to sit in for meal times, diapers, wipes, more wipes, a small collection of indispensable toys & books (we now have two trucks, 1 set of mega blocks, 5 books, crayons and a stuffy for each child), and clothes for all kinds of weather. Oh, and snacks. Once we got that system down for one it was just a matter of adding clothes for the second. Anything else is gravy.

So the really big difference is that we rented out Little Langy for the duration. A beautiful little family will be living in our home until we get back. This means two things: we wanted to leave it in deep clean state with free closet and fridge space, AND now we know that Francisco-the-cat will be well loved, along with our amazingly high producing garden.

In these 7 days home we did a spring clean that involved mega cucumber, squash and bean harvesting and processing, moving furniture and sorting through little-visited territory. Turns out that every time my mom comes to visit she leaves a tin of sardines behind. What on earth do we do with sardines?! Pile them up in the pantry, clearly.

So, a few social visits, a clean house, canning & freezing done, a couple new systems for Boler storage implemented (have I mentioned that Brian's got the knack?), and we're all packed and ready to roll. We celebrated last night - we did this without a whole ton of stress. Amazing! I'm pretty sure this is owing to Brian and I BOTH being off work right now. A one-parent job would have been a different story altogether. 

Which leaves us here: I'm writing from the car in the customs lineup in Anacortes. We're on our way to Orcas Island for Brian's family reunion (Paulapalooza they're calling it). I actually can't wait for the family love fest that awaits us.

So for real now. No going back. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Family of Four, a Boler Trailer Named Bartholomew, and a Summer on the Road

Well, hello!
You may know that I only document my (and now our) longer adventures on this blog, but even so I hesitate to introduce this trip as our "next" big adventure. Frankly, we've been adventuring pretty constantly ever since Otis joined our family in 2012. And Russell's arrival 6 months ago simply secured this: I sure didn't know how unusual and exciting some moments in my daily life staying at home with two little boys would be. So many surprises of all kinds - welcome, inevitable and learnful!

So, formally, I introduce instead this, the last of the baby Familymoons. Brian is on parental leave for the next two months and the adventure is on!


  1. 1.
    an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
    "In a 4 cylinder 2005 (red) Toyota Matrix, the 4 of them traveled to the West Coast pulling their 1974 Boler Trailer, not entirely sure how they'd handle the steep climb of the Alberni hump. It was a real adventure."
    "Once they replaced the clutch upon their return back in Victoria, they were ready for the adventures to follow"

  1. 1.
    engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.
    "While the family had successfully made the trips to Tofino and Hornby, this was old hat. They were ready to adventure farther down the coast: Washington, Oregon and California were calling"

So here we are, at Harry & Lorraine's (Grandma & Grandpa to Otis & Russell) in Nanaimo, after a beautiful kick-off on Hornby Island where my Mom (Jamma) joined us. We stayed at Ford's Cove with a few other wonderful families (Melanie & Vagner, their kids & extended families) and we beached, lollygagged, chatted, laughed, cried, pottied, played, ate and slept a-okay. 

AND this marks about a month of Otis using the potty throughout the day. I am serious when I tell you that my markers of daily success have taken a significantly different turn than a few short years ago. Maybe this is why non-parents get tired of hearing about parents' milestones? (I don't know - do you?) From the outside, it's just not that big a deal? Or maybe other people (including parents who've been there a while back) just KNOW (correctly) that eventually Otis will grow out of using diapers. Let me tell you, all you beautiful believers. It's SO AWESOME! 

Anyways, here we are at my in-laws, my mom included. As I watched my mom and Lorraine be led around the lower garden by our increasingly verbal, and frankly bossy, elder child, I had a moment's pause. I'm learning so much about the gift of grandparents from this side of the family equation. The gift of a grandparent is an untiring ear. Well, I'm sure the ear gets a little overheated and tired out from time to time, but I really don't think Otis would ever know it. 'Cause when Mom and Dad, Auntie & Uncle and passersby have exhausted their listening, Grandparents are still in. Still ready to move at the boys' pace; seemingly uninterested in whatever other thing is calling for their time. It's a total kid immersion. 

"Look Jamma/Grandma/Grandpa, this is how you do it. No wait! First I go, THEN you go. Like this! Come, come on."

At home we try to disabuse Otis of this idea that he is Grand Chief King of the Universe, something he's learning and will continue to learn as Russell becomes more than an appendage on mom & dad's hip, but with Grandmas and Grandpas? For this short slice of his life, he is. He can walk around the garden and just KNOW that these adults want to know what he's talking about. He can spend this time in total confidence. What a gift of love and mattering! And clearly not just a gift for our kids. This means we get to share the limitless listening. It gives us a chance to refuel. Thank you, thank you to our wonderful parents and parent-types, for this very important role you play. 

So we're on our way to the Vancouver Folk Festival (where we're also celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary! ) and then ping-ponging around for the next few weeks until we begin our roadtrip in earnest - sometime shortly after Jo & Tiara's wedding celebration in Vancouver. As Otis would say, quoting a special book that Auntie Gwen wrote him "Heeeere we go, says Monster John"!