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On Craving Solitude

Overlook on the Pacific Coast Highway Towards Manzanita

I’ve read somewhere that there are two kinds of people. The first kind gains energy by being social and spending time around other people. The second kind makes their own energy, but needs to recharge by being alone, often in pursuit of things they enjoy. I am definitely the latter. While I enjoy an occasional get-together, I know that I NEED time to myself.

It is hard to believe, but this Sunday was the first time in four and a half years that I had a full day completely to myself.

Why had it taken me so long? Maybe guilt. Maybe always feeling like I needed to be there for the kids. Or make family time happen on the weekend days that David is home and not out fishing. I told myself that doing what was good for my family was the same as doing what was good for me. But over time I’ve realized that is not right. What is good for me is what is good for me.

haystack rock, cannon beach, OregonHaystack Rock, Cannon Beach

So, on Sunday, David took the kids to the zoo in the morning, and I packed myself for a day trip doing whatever I wanted (after I ran a couple errands, of course). I packed an extra jacket, a pair of sandals, my camera, a book, and the dog and headed to the beach.

Oh. My. Goodness. I felt positively giddy knowing I could do whatever I wanted! I could take my time, listen to whatever music I wanted, sing at the top of my lungs. I could stop anywhere to look around and take photos (which I did). I could eat wherever I chose for lunch, not worrying if it was kid friendly. I never felt rushed, or impatient, or worn down. I felt carefree and unburdened. Like being fully alive again after being only half-alive for a while.

Giant Driftwood, Manzanita

Needless to say, it was very good for me (and for Barkley. He doesn’t get many opportunities to wander off-leash like this). We were so happy, the two of us.

Eventually the day ended and we returned. And we were fine with that. Glad to be back, feeling refreshed. That was a couple days ago, but the effect of that time still lingers. I can tell in the way I have gone back to doing the same old things – making meals, changing diapers, interacting with the kids. I have more patience, more energy, and a better attitude.

bruce's candy kitchen, cannon beach, oregon coastA shot from inside Bruce’s Candy Kitchen, Cannon Beach. I treated myself to a piece of dark chocolate-covered seafoam and some haribo gummi cola bottles.

It is true that I don’t have the proverbial “village.” My generation is increasingly spread far and wide from what used to be traditional extended-family units. Its unfortunate. But it doesn’t mean I can’t have days like this when I need them. I don’t like the idea of leaving my children and husband behind, but in the end we all benefit.

What I need to do is make this a priority for myself. Hopefully, with practice, it will get easier.

The photos above are ones I instagrammed during my day. Do you use instagram? I finally decided to join the tide couple weeks ago. You can find paperseed on instagram here.


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Out with the Kids: Into the Woods

I can’t believe it’s almost the weekend again! I got so much accomplished last weekend, including spray painting some kid furniture, organizing my craft drawers and purging a ton of stuff. For whatever reason I was highly motivated, and hope that some of that motivation will carry over into this weekend as well. We also had a day of fun family adventure, too! David decided we’d take the kids fishing, and despite the cold Pacific Northwest weather, that is what we did!

It isn’t always easy taking kids this young somewhere this remote. In fact, sometimes it is really hard. You can’t let them out of your sight for a minute. But it’s always worth it. The kids see and find all kinds of things, and I want them to have these experiences in nature, with no house for miles and miles. Of course, I would never take them out this far by myself, but with two parents (or people) its fine. It does take a bit of planning though.

For us, planning usually falls into three categories:

1. Food & Snacks.
2. Entertainment
3. Clothing & Gear

Food & Snacks are a given, especially on long trips. It is so much cheaper to bring food, and often the next town is too far away to bother. Also, snacks can work wonders on long car rides, so they really double as entertainment.

While we try to have the kids just look out the windows and talk about what we see (including songs, i spy, etc), sometimes its easier after a while to just hand Chloe her ipad and headphones. At twenty-months, Leo is a pretty good traveler. Sometimes he’ll nap or be content to snack on something. When that doesn’t work we’ll hand him back various toys (cars, little animals, small board books) and as a last resort sometimes we’ll hand him an iphone. Unfortunately, he isn’t into shows like Chloe is, but he has a few apps that interest him right now like Peekaboo Wild, Where’s Gumbo, Wheels on the Bus and Itsy Bitsy Spider (the two latter by Duck Duck Moose). When we get where we’re going there always seems to be plenty to do – in this case, collecting rocks, seeing waterfalls, and discussing how a beaver gnaws down trees with his teeth to make his home.

Lastly there is Clothing & Gear. If there is mud, the kids will fall in it. If there is water, the kids will splash in it. That is life. I know this and always bring a full change of clothes and shoes. One thing I always make sure the kids have is quality long-underwear, usually purchased on deep discount from REI outlet. Chloe’s old ones get handed down to Leo (which is why his current bottoms are pink, but now I am buying them in neutral colors). Diapers and wipes are also necessities. Gear depends on where we go, but I always bring our becco baby carrier and sometimes we’ll bring our Kelty backpack carrier as well. For this trip, David also brought our pop-up shelter, which works as a “base” and makes a nice covered place to share a meal or hang out.

Like I mentioned earlier, it isn’t always easy. But easy isn’t always as meaningful, either, is it? So the kids get dirty and wet and I let them, knowing we’re prepared to clean them up once we get back to the car. We also try and listen and let the kids tell us when they’ve had enough. If they are too cold or uncomfortable, then no fun will be had and that isn’t the point.

And then we arrive back home to our cozy house and warm beds and all is right with the world…

 


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Camping with the kids

This past weekend we took the kids camping at Nehalem Bay State Park. It was… challenging. Not that it wasn’t worth it… it just… took a lot of effort. There were times we had to remind ourselves that home was less than two hours away and we could leave at any time. But hey, we did it! The kids had a great time playing on the beach both days – soaking up the sun, splashing in the water, flying the kite, and generally getting sand everywhere. The hardest part was in the evening, I think. Of course the kids couldn’t get to sleep on time, were occasionally loud which I worried bothered our fellow campers, and then there were “incidences” – like when Leo jabbed himself in the eye with a fork and I feared that we’d have to rush to the hospital, or when Chloe fell face first into the fire pit, scraping her face, bloodying her nose and getting soot all over herself. And sleeping, well… we only have 3 sleeping bags, so I shared mine with Leo, which was kind of awkward, and I kept waking up all night wondering if he or Chloe was cold.

Anyways, it was a good learning experience (and exercise in patience!). Next time we are going to do what our neighbors are doing this week, and getting a yurt. 🙂
More photos can be seen here.


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Sun + Sand

We went to the beach on Sunday. I just love it there. It was sunny, but with a cold breeze, and we were glad we brought our sun shelter along. Although this wasn’t Leo’s first trip to the coast, it was the first time I took some photos of him there. Like his sister, he seems to be a big fan of the sand. Unlike his sister, he is a pacifier baby, which helped to keep him from eating it.

This was also our first trip in our new-to-us minivan. What a difference! Room for everyone, and even Barkley got a seat to himself. I hesitate to say this, but if anything good came out of the car crash, its that we got a vehicle better suited to our family (the Element we bought pre-kids). The inside still smelled a little of ozone from the extra interior detail we had done, but even that has since dissippated. The car feels as good as new. I just hope it lasts us longer than our last one.


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Pumpkins & Mushrooms

Why does it seem like these fall weeks are flying by? This weekend David and I took the kids out mushroom hunting. David carried Chloe in the Kelty and I carried Leo in the Moby, since the areas we explore are densely wooded, steep and overgrown. Afterward, I was exhausted and sore in a way I couldn’t believe. Our haul was lighter than usual, mostly because it is slow going with two kids, but honestly, I think there are more people out mushroom hunting this year than I have ever seen before. David went back the next day by himself, and found plenty more, so we’ll still be set for the year no matter what.

I didn’t bring my camera mushroom hunting, but I did bring it to The Pumpkin Patch last weekend. I love this ritual of fall. We told Chloe she could pick any pumpkin that she wanted (and I was willing to stand by this, no matter what she happened to choose), but in the end she didn’t want one from the patch, but instead asked for a “baby” miniature pumpkin she had seen back at the farm store. I should have known.

And, just as he did the last time we were there, David spotted a little green frog, even tinier than the one before. He managed to catch him twice, so I could get this photo.


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Molalla River

We haven’t gone fishing with David since way before Leo was born. It just got too difficult – being pregnant, dealing with Chloe on the long car rides (usually 2.5+ hours each way), keeping her from getting hurt, or falling in, dealing with the consequences of an absent nap, packing everything we might need and then un-packing/washing/putting it away… it just got to be too much. These aren’t friendly, easy to manage areas with picnic tables or park-like settings either. They are out-there, and miles and miles from “civilization,” not that I ever minded before. And now there are two little ones with very different needs to consider.

Anyway, we tried it on Sunday. Both kids were asleep in their car seats at the first spot, so I stayed in the car with them. It was a lovely, picturesque spot, too. I think I was the one who accidentally woke them up, trying to get my camera and things I’d want to have if we stayed there. David came back up the path right as we were all about to emerge and we decided to try another spot. The next one was bad. We should never have stopped there. It was down an extremely steep embankment and into a large but shallow section of running water with lots of rocks, but no place to actually stand, or sit without getting wet. Chloe fell several times and got her shoes and pants wet almost instantly. Did I mention the weather was cold and rainy? It turned particularly miserable while we were there. I was also worried. If something happened, I would only be able to take one kid up the steep embankment back to the car at a time, which means one would have to wait by himself/herself while I locked the other in the car, neither a good choice to be alone next to a rushing river.

We finally moved to a third spot. By this time I knew what we needed to look for, and I got out first to give the place a looking over before agreeing. Still not ideal, but less water flow with a dirt/rock section to pitch our pop-up shelter. While here, I wrote down the two things I felt I needed for safety and sanity:

1. To be close enough to the car that I could take both kids back to it at the same time, by myself, if we needed something. That means leaving the keys with me, too. (I didn’t have them at the previous spot, and David was beyond yelling distance and couldn’t hear me, so we couldn’t have gone back to the car anyway).

2. A spot near the river that gently slopes into it so Chloe can splash (there would be no keeping her out of it), and possibly fall in (which she did, of course), but far enough from the fast water that I could fish her out with plenty of time to spare. Plus a place for me to sit and safetley put Leo down.

The other thing would be to have more time to pack. By the time I realized David was serious about going and taking us with him I was rushing around trying to get everything I thought we’d need. The two things I had forgotten were a good pair of trail shoes for me and Leo’s bouncy seat (it was too muddy to just put him down on a blanket). That meant leaving him in his car seat when I wasn’t holding him, and what baby wants to spend that much time in his car seat?

So anyway, the trip wasn’t the perfect family outting we had all hoped for, but it was a very good learning experience. I really miss photographing nature like I used to, but I realized it was not easy while being responsible for my children. All in its time, I guess. One day they’ll be big enough to know the dangers, and by then be joining their father fishing, like I’d be doing. Then maybe I can spend more time with my camera. I did get this photo though… priceless.


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Splish splash

Another beautiful Saturday at Cannon Beach. David and Chloe purchased her first “real” kite at the Kite Factory, and it joined the many other flying colors in the air that day. I felt so happy watching them play. I want Chloe’s (and Leo’s) childhood to be filled with days like this – full of sunshine and fresh air, and lots of joy. I want them to love the beach as much as I do. My only regret is not taking a photo of Leo. It’s his third time at the coast, but it’s always been too windy to lay him down on the sand. Instead, he spends his time sleeping on my chest in his carrier, which makes him hard to photograph. But it won’t be long before he is out enjoying the water just like his sister.


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Farmer’s market

Yay for the farmer’s market! We went on our first visit of the year today. As usual, it was great fun wandering the many stalls, meeting up with friends, watching our kids stain their faces with fresh berries, and basking in what felt like the first real sun of the season. Also, Chloe is now old enough to enjoy the fountain, and Lorenzo was good enough to show her how it’s done. They had a grand time.

Maybe it was all that sun, because I feel wiped out! Thankfully, we got the last of our veggie starts in the ground today. Now we just wait for the delicious bounty that is sure to come (that is, if the slugs don’t get to them first!).


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A Strange Halloween


David fishing with Chloe, loved the reflection and the misty clouds

David in action on the water and me experimenting with exposure

David took this last photo, but I really liked it

We had a very out-of-the-ordinary day yesterday, beyond the fact that it was Halloween. It included:

• a long drive to go fishing
• wading in to retrieve a kicked off baby shoe, followed by a sock
• feeding my daughter lunch with a Wheat Thin because I forgot a spoon
• hiking in the woods
• finding a surprise batch of gorgeous mushrooms
• eating dinner at a restaurant
• having the power go out halfway through our meal
• gathering our things, including the baby, in the dark
• remembering I had a headlamp in the diaper bag
• having to wait over an hour because of a car accident that downed powerlines and closed the road (see aforementioned power outtage)

We finally arrived home at 11pm, very tired and too late for tricker-treaters, but  VERY glad to be home!


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Chanterelle Season

With the clouds and rain that mark the closing of summer, comes the beginning of golden chanterelles dotting the forest floor. It was a good day for a hike in the woods, and David was a trooper for carrying Chloe on his back the entire time.

Things I like about mushroom hunting:
•    The thrill of the hunt
•    Enjoying the outdoors
•    Letting the dog run off-leash
•    Getting something for free
•    Knowing that they’ll make something tasty and delicious
Things I don’t like about mushroom hunting:
•    Walking through spiderwebs
•    Possibly getting lost
•    Possibly picking the wrong type (however unlikely)
•    Hearing the gunshots of hunters in the distance


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Oregon Mini-Vacation, Day 3-6

Roseburg

By day three we had reached our friends for the Fourth-of-July weekend. Our first day there we drove down just south to visit to the drive-through Wildlife Safari. We went in the afternoon and it was a pretty warm day, so I don’t think the animals were as active as they’d be in the morning or late evening. The ranger said that I could even hold Chloe on my lap, which was a nice change. Really fun to have the animals so close! I was kind of afraid the camel was going to do some damage to our car as he walked by, but he was just rearing his head and smacking his hump. Strange, but fascinating!

McKenzie River Area

I don’t know why, but after this I put my camera away for a few days. Then on day 5 we left and headed to the McKenzie River so David could do some fishing. We camped at Riverside Campground, so he could throw his line into the Santiam as well. Barkley, Chloe and I just sort of hung out. Barkley’s leg is almost perfectly healed, thank goodness. You can hardly see the demarcation line where his fur is growing back (although he still has a bald spot on his back by his tail, where they shaved him WAY too close). And here’s a trial self-portrait with my slr, much harder than with a point-and-shoot!


Self-portrait with the SLR, much harder than with a point-and-shoot!

Barkley relaxing by the river, finally back off-leash


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Oregon Mini-Vacation, Day 2

So, I had every intention of writing about the rest of our trip, but I think now I’m just going to summarize the highlights in one long post. We had a good time, no question, and I do want to share, just not as individually detailed as I had planned. I haven’t been in a very bloggy mood lately, probably because Chloe is evolving faster than I can keep up. She’s amazing. But more on that later. Here’s some pics from the remainder of our trip.

Shore Acres State Park


Restored formal garden

Grandiflora Crimson Boquet Rose

The hidden gem of Simpson Beach

This park is awesome. Imagine owning a private estate on the coast, with your own sandy beach, and building a gorgeous summer home on a bluff high above the waves. Then add a formal garden, including a Japanese-style garden surrounding a 100-foot lily pond, all in the early 1900s. Unfortunately (or fortunately for us), the great depression occured. Now the mansion is gone, but the gardens have been restored and there now sits an enclosed observation deck on the original home site. I would have loved to have spent more time here (just down the road from Sunset Bay State Park), but Chloe was getting tired and we wanted to let her sleep on the drive down to Bandon. Thus, we also missed Cape Arago State Park, just south.

Bandon


Part of the Bandon coastline, plus a view of riders probably from Bandon Beach Riding Stables

Coquille River (Bandon) Lighthouse

By noon of day 2 we were in Bandon, Oregon. We treated ourselves to a fresh and delicious! halibut fish-and-chips lunch at Bandon Fish Market, before perusing the little shops. Dessert was yummy chocolate and handmade candy samples at Cranberry Sweets. (Steer clear of Bandon’s Coffee Cafe, though, our latte was very disappointing.)

Port Orford


Misty boats at the Port of Port Orford, Circa 1856

Port Orford coastline


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Oregon Mini-Vacation, Day 1

Florence to Coos Bay

We drove from Portland to just north of Florence for our first visit to the Sea Lion Caves. They don’t tell you this on the web site, but be prepared for the biggest stink of your life. I was actually fine, but David had a stronger reaction. Kind of expensive, but worth seeing, as it is the world’s largest sea cave.

Heading south on hwy 101 to Florence we stopped briefly at the Darlingtonia Botanical Gardens, a preserve that protects a small area of naturally occurring cobra lilies Darlingtonia californica. I find these insectivorous pitcher plants fascinating!

We took a brief tour of Florence’s Old Town before continuing south through the Oregon Dunes National Rec Area and Coos Bay to Sunset Bay State Park. We chose to camp here for our first night, and I’m surprised now to find I hadn’t taken any photos. I can definitely see coming back here someday when Chloe is older. The little bay offers a charming sandy beach with calm water, a large expanse of grassy, wooded play and picnic area, and warm showers after you’re all done.


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Oregon Mini-Vacation


Port Orford, Oregon Coast

We just got back earlier this week from our second family camping trip – this time to see a bit of the southern Oregon Coast for the first time, enjoy the Fourth-of-July weekend with friends and then get some fishing in for the husband. We actually only camped a couple days, and stayed with friends in between. It was good to get away. I’ll be sharing a few of the highlights in the following posts.

Day 1 – Florence to Coos Bay


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Camping with Baby

Chloe went on her first camping trip this weekend near the Mckenzie River (so Dad could go fishing, naturally). It was just one night – a test to see how it would go. Dad helped make it nice and plush by somehow fitting an air mattress in our two person tent. This left Barkley to sleep in the vestibule, but he didn’t mind. He was just glad to be outside!


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Scandinavian Midsummer Festival


Traditional Handmade Wooden Clogs

On Saturday we headed to Astoria to check out the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival (found via Greenclogs). I like any excuse to visit Astoria, located in the far northwestern corner of Oregon, where the wide Columbia River meets the Pacific. I love its history and Victorian homes, seeing the huge ships and smelling the salty sea air. At the festival we sampled krumbkake, prune tarts and krab kakor (nordic crab cake in a sour cream dill sauce, wrapped in puff pastry), browsed the boutique stalls where I picked up a jar of chocolate hazelnut butter and enjoyed a performance from an honest to goodness yodeler. We didn’t stay very long, because I wanted to spend some time in town, but it was plenty of time to get a glimpse into that proud and wonderful heritage.

Chloe in wooden clog boat

1. Flags flowing over the fairground walkway  2. A platter of krumbkake
3. Chloe playing dress up  4. Chloe checking out the giant wooden clog
5. Hand carved traditional wooden wedding clogs


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Lost Lake

This is where David, Chloe and I went on Saturday. It was about halfway between Portland and the coast, high up in the mountains. After turning off the highway, the first dirt road we tried was snow covered, slippery and very steep. It made me nervous, especially with the baby. Finally I asked that we turn around. If something happened, it is possible that no one would know for a long time.

Before the baby, I probably would have viewed it as an exciting adventure. But now, her safety was foremost in my mind. I had visions of us sliding down the snowy mountainside and her helpless and freezing, if we didn’t survive. That was just too much.

So we turned around, and David found another way, an entry closer to the west that started at a lower elevation. Luckily, it was a beautiful drive that followed a river. The final climb was no less steep, but had much less snow until we reached closer to the top. It was breathtaking to see the miles of the tree covered mountain range. David stopped to re-check the map, thinking we should be there, and then looked up to find we were there. Through the trees the lake glistened, patiently waiting.

We thought we’d be completely alone (after all, who would make this kind of trek in the winter?), but it was Saturday and there was one small family already fishing, though they didn’t stay long. And finally we had this incredible place all to ourselves.

The thing I remember most was how quiet it was. At one point all I could hear was my heartbeat and Chloe’s breathing, despite being heavily bundled up against my chest. I sat with my back against a tree near the lake’s edge to nurse her, when other sounds came to my attention – a woodpecker that I spotted nearby, the faintest rustling of leaves, and the soft thudding of Barkley’s paws as he ran between us and where David was fishing father out. It felt magical, and I was again thankful to live in an area where such beauty could be experienced so peacefully.

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