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.