Friday, August 22, 2014

Road Trips and All Things Canadian

Last weekend Wes and I decided to surprise our kids with a last minute trip to Whistler, B.C. We haven't taken our kids to Canada in an embarrassing number of years. It seems a little weird that we'd take them all the way to an orphanage in Haiti, but not a couple hours away for gravy on french fries, eh?

So we packed up the car with luggage and snacks and headed north.

Let me just say that I spent my childhood driving from Georgia to New York and from New York to Georgia. It was an 18-hour drive and we drove it straight through. We had no iPads, no iPhones, and no Netflix- can you believe it? By the time we got to New York, my voice was hoarse from singing "Coming to America" and "Daydream Believer". That's right- Neil Diamond and Ann Murray for the better part of 18 hours.

Those trips to New York were often made in the summertime to drop me off for a few weeks with my grandparents. I used to fall asleep for the last few miles of the New York State Thruway just to temper my excitement. 

I remember arriving one summer to find that my grandparents had purchased a small RV. A week or two later I was curled up in the back of that RV with a stack of books, happy to lose myself in the world of Anne of Green Gables and curiously...The Grapes of Wrath. After miles of twisting, turning roads I looked up to see my grandfather's frustrated face in the rear view mirror. "Why don't you look out the window?"

Clearly, the whole point of a road trip is to take in the scenery.

So when we were not yet ten minutes into our Whistler road trip and our kids started whining for iPads and iPhones, I found myself preaching the same sermon.

"Why don't you look out the window?"

And then I promptly felt ancient.

Whistler Road trip August 2014

Halle was first to express her excitement to finally cross the border-

"Remember to say hola! when you get to Canada!"

After that, our children passed the time by pointing out Canadian joggers listening to Canadian music as they jogged by us on Canadian roads. We drove by Canadian rivers, Canadian ponds, and a staggering amount of Canadian trees.

After passing the 543rd Canadian rock, we arrived in Whistler and checked into our Canadian condo. I thought it was a little odd that within five Canadian minutes of unpacking, Halle ran upstairs to take a shower. She came down ten minutes later, impressively balancing a towel turban on her head that was nearly half the size of her seven-year-old body.

"You have GOT to take a Canadian shower!"

There would be no end to all things Canadian for the next couple of days.

Thursday, August 21, 2014



A couple weeks ago I packed up all the kids and followed a friend over the mountains to Slidewaters in Chelan.

I spent the day splashing around with Lyla, catching glimpses of my older kids as they raced down the bigger slides. 

It was around 10 pm when we pulled back in the driveway. Wes had just gotten home from work and met us outside. A pile of wet towels, empty food wrappers, sunscreen bottles, and exhausted children sort of oozed out the car as we slowly opened the doors.

Everyone slept well that night.

River Memories

The river I remember best from my childhood was the one behind where my mother would show her horses. I remember throwing rocks- kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk-  and how the river would swallow them. I remember, too, how the sunlight glimmered on the clear moving water and the way the breeze rustled the leaves of the deciduous trees along the bank, creating a dynamic texture against the cloudless sky. 

My husband, Wes, has his own childhood memories forged in Northern Idaho where his family would camp along the banks of the Selway River. There, he would spend hours swimming in the eddy, watching rafters pass by, and hoping those stories he had heard weren't true- six-foot-adolescent-eating pike??

So last week, in an effort to recapture those memories (minus the freaky carnivorous pike) and share them with our children, we packed up all five kids, the dog, and what seemed like half the garage and headed to the river.

As evening snuck in, a familiar sound harmonized with my own childhood memory- kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk. I sat along the bank watching my children throw rocks of all sizes into the river. Who can throw the farthest? Who can skip a rock as well as Dad? PLEASE DON'T THROW ROCKS AT YOUR SISTER.

I reached down and picked up two rocks- not too small, not too large- and tossed one into the river. Kerplunk. The other one I handed off to Lyla. Kerplink.

These memories belong to my children now.

Monday, August 11, 2014


You wouldn't know it by the photo, but there were many tears at Ara's farewell party. I tell you, it is HARD when that bus pulls up and then one of your children (who's only been your's for three weeks) is ripped back out of your daily life. HARD. HARD. HARD.

We miss you Ara. Keep in touch.

An Afternoon in Seattle

We rounded the bend where the half-naked teenagers jump off the old train bridge into the river below. A young couple stood up against a car eating each other's faces - which is how my children describe that kind of kissing. Wes honked the horn three or four times as we drove by and we all waved at them through our open windows. The young man looked up, trying to make sense of the beaming family waving enthusiastically and yelling, "wahoo!" Satisfied that there was no sense to be made, he returned a hearty wave and generous grin.

It was a light-hearted way to begin the drive to Seattle with Sophia and our exchange student, Ara.

Our first stop that day would be Benaroya Hall to watch Alex Boyé perform with the Ensign Symphony and Chorus.

Don't you love this Africanized version of Cold Play's Paradise by The Piano Guys with Alex Boyé?

Some of the African American spirituals dating back to our country's early history reach deeply into my soul. There is nothing so expressive of the concept of "deliverance" than songs like I Want Jesus to Walk with Me or Lord Have Mercy - both of which were sung powerfully at the concert that afternoon.

After the encore, we headed over to the Pike Street Market to show Ara the salmon tossing.

We did a lot of walking that afternoon, eventually making our way down to the Great Wheel.

We ended the day at Ivar's for some seafood chowder and, of course, fish and chips.

I'm not sure, but the gulls may have had a few too many fries.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rattlesnake Ledge

By the time I opened the back door at 6 AM, the first light of day was already arguing with the cool morning air. Hiking any later in the day would be miserable.

I walked over to the small tent with no rain-fly and peered through the netting.

"Beau, wake up," I half-whispered, not wanting to wake up Tyjah. "It's time to get ready for the hike."

Beau sat up and looked at me with one eye.

"Okay, I'm up."

I turned toward the trampoline. Sophia and our Spanish exchange student, Ara, were hidden under a mound of blankets and pillows, wet with the morning dew.

"Girls, it's time to wake up."

By 7 AM we were on the trail, headed up to Rattlesnake Ledge.

We ate a breakfast of trail mix and granola bars as we caught our breath at the top.

It was a beautiful morning to look out across the valley.

Fortunately, by the time the cool morning air admitted it's defeat, we were just about to the bottom again.

Ready to take on the rest of the day.

Monday, August 4, 2014

An Early Morning in the Garden

The sun was barely awake when I walked through the garden gate and began watering. I breathed in deeply. What is it about the early morning dew and cool air that intensifies the scent of each plant? I stepped further into the freshness and everything that was so alive around me.

There was an entire conversation happening in the branches overhead and it was far more eloquent than my own contribution- "Good morning, World," I said quietly. 

The birds kept singing.

Cool water trickled down my wrist. A packet full of new hose washers sat uselessly in the red crate on the porch. It's been there ever since I brought it home from the hardware store...two weeks ago. It would take me...what? Thirty seconds to fix the leaky nozzle? "Maybe tomorrow" I told myself again.

The new garden is finally beginning to establish itself, though by looking around you'd never guess that it's the beginning of August. The time it took to move everything up from the old garden put much of my summer planting well behind schedule. Right now in the garden it looks a lot more like the end of June.

Pumpkins that probably won't ever ripen, a first sowing of green beans that haven't even started producing yet, and nasturtium barely breaking through the soil- everything is behind. But as I stood there watering this morning and taking everything in, any disappointment over missed deadlines and a lesser harvest this year melted away beneath the rising sun.

Gardening has been a personal journey for me. Not long ago, I agonized over the first seeds I sowed- building my self-worth as a gardener on whether or not something green would actually poke through the soil and then whether or not it would live long enough to produce something edible for my family. The first lettuce I grew turned out terribly bitter. For years I failed at basil. And don't get me started on beets! But there were a lot of successes in those first few years, too.

It seems to me the more I nurture my garden, the more my garden nurtures me. I've learned to let go and take the failures along with the successes, to deal with the less than ideal, and to take risks. The anxiety over whether or not I'm doing it all the "right way" isn't really a factor anymore.

And so this morning I couldn't help but put down the hose and snap a few quick photos with my phone.

And then before I got around to the other half of my phone died.