Saturday, December 12, 2009

Irresistable Photos

This blog is all about the pictures. The first is AdventureFamily Christmas; it's all there, the tree, the stockings, the fire...
The second is the AdventureBaby Grin. This elusive shot has been weeks in the making, as she usually clams up the second a camera is near (how she knows I will never know!).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Great Christmas Tree Hunt of 2009

The Christmas Tree Hunt has always been a favorite part of Christmas for me, starting way back before I really knew what Christmas was about. I can still remember myself as a little tyke hopping from one footprint to the next while following my Dad through knee-deep snow on the quest for the perfect tree. This is one tradition that I can't wait to instill in my children, and we got a good start this year. This was truly a hunt to remember, and here is its story: (The end is that we got home safely with a pretty tree for those who don't want to read a novel, slide show follows.)

It is vital that you understand that it is not a real Christmas tree hunt if you go to a farm. That is a Christmas tree choose. A Christmas tree hunt involves dirt roads, hiking, and tracking down the "perfect" tree from the ranks of lop-sided, animal-chewed, hill-side growing, wild trees, then sawing it down and hauling it back to your vehicle in victory. We started out a bit late, as we had to do some research to ascertain exactly how and where to obtain our Christmas tree permits for the Olympic National Forest. We then had to stop to buy a sled (a mandatory piece of equipment) and a hatchet (you never know when you'll need a sharp hatchet!). After then stopping to buy our permit, we were on our way. We found the access to the forest without difficulty, although due to the out-datedness of the map provided by the forest service it was a bit difficult to tell exactly where in the maze of unlabeled, single-car-wide dirt roads we were. Still, we found a likely spot with several potential trees, so we unloaded the AdventureGirls, got them bundled, and started scouting trees. At this point I should mention that on the map there was an area labeled where one could find Silver Firs, and it noted that they preferred high slopes and ridges, only growing at the higher elevations. The silver firs sounded mystical and beautiful, but it was a bit far away and the daylight was fading, so we decided to be prudent and look here, in a lower elevation, much closer to home. and settle for a Douglas Fir (pretty much the only trees besides hemlocks, because the pines were off-limits). It was then that we discovered a problem that I had never encountered in Montana. On the Olympic peninsula trees grow at such a rapid rate that all of the Christmas-tree sized Doug Firs were extremely wimpy, being only a few years old. The branches were very thin and flexible, and not up to holding much in the way of ornaments. As we were discovering this, a couple drove by and asked if we knew what road number we were on. We did not, but gave them some clues. It turns out that they were much more familiar with the area than we were, and they knew the location of the mystical silver firs. It turns out that by serendipity we were on the road that led to them, so we decided to load up and go see if they were more of a more ornament-worthy stature.
On our way up the road we came across the same family coming back down... the road was apparently washed out ahead, but not to worry, they knew a different way to the ridge-top where the trees grew, and they were willing to lead the way. We faithfully turned around and followed them, and followed, and followed. More than 10 more miles of forest road went by before we wound our way up an extremely steep valley to the high country where the silver fir grows. As we were gaining elevation, we crossed the snow line, which thrilled AdventureGirl, and AdventureMom too for that matter. It just feels more Christmasy when there is snow. So, we were now following a single-track road up a very steep ridge-side in deep snow ruts. At one point we had the bare rock mountain looming about 2,000 feet straight up 5 feet from the driver's door, and another 1500-ish foot drop on the passenger's side that literally had 2 feet of road between the truck's tires and the vertical drop-off... no shoulder, no guard rails, nothing but air. Luckily the road was virtually carved out of rock, and there was dirt in the bottom of the foot-deep snow ruts, so it felt pretty secure. However, the sun was only shining on the highest ridges now, and the valleys were in deep dusk, so we were starting to feel the tree-finding pressure. Ahead of us we could see where the road came out on a sunlit ridge-top, and we decided that was where we would stop to cut our tree. We passed our guides when they stopped at a turn-out, and headed for the ridge. Ah, best made plans. We rounded a corner to discover that the snow suddenly became much deeper, and the rut-makers had decided to turn around at this point, so there was no longer a good trail to follow. We decided to turn around here too, not wanting to risk an unknown road in a dangerous area in the dark (and did I mention it was COLD, at least for WA, meaning temps around 18 degrees F). Then we discovered that we had a problem. The extreme cold had frozen the snow into cement. I walked on it without even a hint of breaking through when I got out to spot the truck in our turn-around attempt. Worse, the truck tires could not break through it either, which meant that we COULD NOT get the wheels up out of the ruts. In the end there was no option but to back down the road, and AdventureDad ended up having to back about 1/4 mile down the same slippery, curvy, NARROW road, in the dark, to a point where we could turn around. I wish I could have taken pictures, but it was much too dark to appreciate the true magnitude of this feat.
So, at the turn-around we ran into our guides again... they had seen us struggling and backed down much sooner than we did. We all piled out of our respective cars to take stock of the local silver firs in the fading light. We were on a very steep slope, so we ended up hiking a short distance up a side road to a more level place that offered a few smaller trees. However, in the end the ones we could find in the dark were either much too big or much too spindly. Ironically we ended up sliding our way back to the truck, and cutting a tree that we had originally seen from the road on the way up, and it wasn't much more robust than the Doug firs we had eyed hours (and miles) before-hand. The one benefit was that the branches were indeed ever so slightly thicker, because the trees grow more slowly at high elevations. Ever so slightly.
Luckily, since it was so close to the road, the tree was very easy to get back to the truck, and we wended our way home with a mystical silver fir safely in the truck bed, a very tired AdventureGirl who was jabbering non-stop about the snow and the Christmas Trees, a sleeping AdventureBaby, and two very contented AdventureParents. Thank God for take-out Chinese.

Note: Hold your cursor over the images to see captions in the slide show.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pretty in Purple

All of the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone, and we are back to life-as-usual, except that Christmas and my incredible lack of preparation are now looming. I will most likely be sending New-Year's-if-I'm-Lucky cards this year! So what is life as usual? Well, AdventureBaby developed an oral thrush infection, and after attempting an unsuccessful treatment with an antifungal cream, we are now trying gentian violet. I'm guessing most of my readers have had some experience with this wonder-drug, but for the uninitiated it is an intensely purple dye that happens to be very antimicrobial and relatively non-toxic, as well as possessing the ability to indelibly spread to every surface within a 5-foot radius of an open container. So, her mouth and my corresponding body parts (as well as some unintended clothes, cheeks, fingers, etc.) are now shockingly purple, but much more comfortable (see photo!) In other mundane news, we have now had 5 days of no rain to make up for the rainy November (we're 5 inches over the already rainy normal), and we're all better for it. It is amazing what a little sunshine does for my attitude! Plus the horses are fuzzy and happy again, the pasture is much less mucky, and (this is BIG NEWS for me) the good weather inspired me to start running again! Yes, I completed my first 2-mile run yesterday, and have the aching muscles to prove it. It feels so good to start running again, and I'm now shopping for a "goal race" to keep myself (and hopefully AdventureDad too) motivated. This run was also the inaugural run for our new Cheetah-2... it's the 2 child, slightly-less-fancy, bought-on-a-great-sale version of our chariot jogger that I used for 100's of miles while training for the marathon, and it passed the test with flying colors. AdventureDad pushed it, and it rolled as smoothly and easily as the single-seater, with the added bonus that we can use the ski and bike attachments that we already have with it. AdventureGirl and AdventureBaby apparently approved too, the former chatting and the latter sleeping throughout the entire run (aaah, ARG memories).
The picture of AdventureGirl shows what happens when a 2 1/2 -year-old insists on dressing herself. Note the rubber boots for proper puddle-splashing and the "purse" that contai
ns "pink baby" and a stuffed squirrel (obviously all of life's essentials).
The animal pics are just there because they're cute.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Pics

I don't have time tonight to write much about Thanksgiving, but I'm posting the pics because I know there are people waiting for them. Suffice it to say it was a wonderful day shared with my brother-in-law and his family, full of good food and good company. We truly have so much to be thankful for! AdventureGirl was in deep smit with her cousins, especially the youngest who is a girl, and is posing in a dress from a French market that we got in a barter in Germany... please ignore the missing button and cranberry stains! Sorry the group photo is out of focus... it's the only one we got.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Are You a Witch? and other random thoughts

This is one of AdventureGirl's favorite questions recently, ever since seeing several people dressed up as witches this Halloween. Do not misunderstand, to her it means nothing more than someone who gets to wear a cool hat. The problem being that without context, the question can be taken in quite the wrong way, and it is a rather lengthy explanation for the average shocked shopper at the local grocery store who no doubt is simultaneously having serious doubts about my parenting abilities. This question ranks right up there with the moments in the public restroom that she chooses to yell, at the top of her lungs (despite the fact that we are locked in the same stall together) "ARE YOU GOING PEE PEE AND POO POO IN THE POTTY MOMMY?". I do my best to answer her calmly and encouragingly, that yes, mommy goes in the potty like a big girl, while also mentioning something about inside voices. Why is this question so mortifying? We are, after all, in a restroom. What are most people doing in there? Surely not their makeup. She has also discovered the magic of the step-stool (she has one that she carries throughout the house), as well as her ability to scoot chairs to convenient places and climb up on them. The result of this is that it is increasingly difficult to find places that she cannot reach, and we are constantly re-defining what is off-limits, as well as discovering the idea of self-restraint. I consider this development a crucial phase of maturing on her part, although I am saddened by the fact that my life will never be quite so simple again. I am entering the phase of toddler-parentdom where I am continuously amazed at how fast my little girl is turning into a functional human being, while at the same time I am horrified by the implications. There is now the distinct possibility that she might remember something I do or say years down the road, not to mention the fact that AdventureDad and I are daily shaping the kind of person she will become. No pressure though!!!
On the flip side, I am also at that phase of infant motherhood in which I count the minutes until the fresh shirt I just put on has a new spit-up river running down the shoulder , I count the hours that I sleep each night on one hand (the current record is 3.5 un-interrupted hours), and I count the months until AdventureBaby is just as much of a handful as her sister. I cannot believe that O is more than a month old now (and just weighed in at 9lbs 1.5 oz). My teeny tiny baby is already growing up so fast!

On a completely different (and lighter) subject, I also have to rave about my new sheets. I have to admit I bought them because they were relatively inexpensive (at $26 for a queen set), but I am just about ready to buy a backup set. I actually bought AdventureGirl a set first, then had to get some for myself out of envy. What are these heavenly creations? Jersey sheets. Yes, Jersey knit like T-shirts are made of. They are heavenly soft, stretchy enough to fit well over our pillow-top matress, and wrinkle-free even if they've been stored folded for weeks. If you are a flannel sheet fan, you really owe it to yourself to try these out. They're just as soft, but have less friction (I have a thing for sheets that wrap up with my pajamas...aaaahhhk claustrophobia). Heaven on a cold winter night.

The last random thought? I just made a soup that involves chestnuts (my first chestnut roasting experience... not necessarily one I would jump to repeat) and parsnips for dinner tonight, and it was HEAVENLY. If any of you end up with some chestnuts (or parsnips) and are wondering what to do with them, shoot me a line and I'll send you the recipe.

I know several other blog-worthy (at least to me!) thoughts have been circulating in my mind, but luckily for you my poor sleep-deprived brain has fizzled for the night. As usual I promise to post some pictures soon, but that involves finding the camera.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Halloween, WA Style

The Adventure Family has officially celebrated our first holiday as a 4-person unit, and what's more, we enjoyed it! AdventureGirl was of course the most excited, this being her first memorable Halloween. She was very excited to go "Trick-or-Treater", and picked up the required phrases in about 2 houses (although I'm happy to say one of them was a "Thank You" at the end!). This was following a pizza dinner at a friend's house and several hours of "playing with the kids", one of her favorite activities. She also displayed a remarkable fearlessness... when one of the older guests came downstairs in a "Nightmare Jack" costume from the Nightmare before Christmas, the youngest child there burst into tears and ran for her mommy, and M just laughed and teased him. Ditto for the scary houses with moving severed hands, etc. She was very curious, but not scared in the least. Mommy and Daddy are in trouble.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Don't Forget Me!!!

I had to do this post as a commemoration to Adventuregirl, who has been a trooper through the whole new-baby-coming-home experience. She was wonderful for the grandmas while AdvenureDad and I were at Madigan, and handled her first night without Mommy better than I did (boy did I miss her cheerful little self!). Of course she has tried to reclaim her position as the family baby a few times, including some half-hearted fake crying and increased requests for me to pick her up, but you can't blame a girl for trying! I'm taking her renewed interest in the potty and her big-girl panties as realization that being the "big stister" has its perks, including several bribery presents including her new fairy dancing skirt sent by her "Auntie" Sara (see pic).

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Week Already

I'm completely blown away by the fact that Olivia is over a week old now. I feel as though she has been around for a couple of days at most! She and I are fairly recovered from our hospital visit, and she's growing like a weed... already back up to her birth weight and then some. She's starting to spend a few more minutes every day with her eyes open, and we can't wait to see what her personality is like.
On a personal note I also have to brag that I'm within 5 lbs of my pre-pregnancy weight and I can wear my non-maternity "fat pants" already. Granted I weighed a lot more than I ever wanted to before the pregancy, so I still have A LOT of work to do, but it does give me hope. I guess the strict diabetes diet had some unintended benefits!
In other big news, we also closed on our property in Dixie (near Walla Walla, WA) yesterday. Once it is recorded with the county we will be the proud owners of 52.5 acres of pasture and canyon in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. We've already seen deer, elk, turkey, and black bears, and it has a gorgeous home site that overlooks the WW valley as well as the foothills. We can't wait to start working it into our "someday" house!
Here are a couple of pictures... of course more to come when I get another minute.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

5 Short Years

AdventureDad and I celebrated our 5th anniversary on the 25th. Talk about 5 short years together! Yet we have been through so much... two deployments, our first child, purchasing (and selling) a house, moving overseas and back again, and now a second child on the way. Those are the kind of thing that either bring a couple together, or tear them apart, and I can honestly say that we are a much stronger couple for having been through them. I fall in love with AdventureDad even more with every challenge that we face, and he has done a wonderful job of showing me that the feeling is mutual. Here's to another 5 years, and 5 after that, and 5 after that, and 5...
So what did we do to celebrate this momentous day? Piled the whole family into the car, drove out to the coast, splurged on a bunch of fresh seafood that we then took to a picnic area and cooked over a charcoal grill, then went on a hike through the dunes to the ocean. Probably not the most romantic day we could have planned, but right up our alley, and one of the best days we've had in quite awhile. I'll post pics soon... honestly they're still in the camera.
Not much else has changed for the AdventureFamily. We have mostly settled into a pattern of adaptability with AdventureDad's ever-changing work schedule, he finished his massive recertification exam (now we wait 6-8 weeks), as well as getting his WA license, and I'm of course starting to really anticipate AdventureBaby's arrival... speaking of which there is now an induction date set for October 14th, so in 17 days or less we will have a new family member.
I have to admit I'm a bit nervous about having an infant in our lives again... it just seems so complicated when there is already a toddler. I'm not sure how I'm going to keep my sanity, and I hope my parenting skills are up to it... thank goodness for the help that I'm getting from family. I also have two wonderful role models to follow in Gutsy Mom and Vicki, not to mention Joss who makes the whole parenting thing look easy. They have proven that it IS possible! I just wish we were all close enough to share a latte and some venting with. Bless the internet, but e-venting just isn't the same. Sigh.
Now off to bed for me and my belly...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Belly

OK, here they are, the promised belly pics. The first is from a hike near Rainier in early July, and the second was taken tonight. Enjoy, and don't laugh too hard.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Promises, Promises

OK, so I really can't believe that more than a month has gone by since my last post. This time I really really promise that I will post a belly picture in the extremely near future. So, what has been going on that is keeping me so busy?
Well, aside from the usual demands of trying to keep the house picked up and our 200 acres of lawn and garden mowed/watered/weeded (OK, 200 acres might be an exaggeration, but it feels that way when I'm doing over the basket ball attached to my front), the Adventure family has been hitting the pavement pretty hard. We spent every weekend in August on the road, first on our second horse-retrieval trip (no additional adventures on this one... whew!), then to MT for a wedding (AdventureDad's sister is now hitched), then two trips to Dixie, WA (near Walla Walla) to look at some property. The deal on the previous piece that we loved got too weird and we backed out, moving on to this second piece which may suit us better in some ways. The deal isn't done yet, but we are about 1/2 way to closing at this point. Once it is signed and I don't feel like I'm jinxing anything, I'll post some pics and give a full description. Needless to say we're pretty excited... the someday land is hopefully soon to become the Today land, which means that the Adventure Family is one step closer to the "someday" house. Ah, things to dream about!
In other news, this time around I have developed gestational diabetes, which although in my case is not super severe, is of course cause for additional worries. One more reason I will be breathing a big sigh of relief when we have a happy healthy baby in our arms!
My mother-in-law has also recently moved in. She's my new-baby support system since it is impossible to predict anything about when/where AdventureDad will be except that he probably won't be here, and he'll be lucky to get much time off (although the official Army line is now in support of 9 days of paternity leave, he has to work a set number of hours in the ER to complete his training, so any time he takes will have to be made up in the future, which is a superhuman feat given the demands that are already being made on his time). My due date happened to align with some changes in her life as well, so things worked out nicely in that she can be here basically as long as we need her. Of course there are a lot of adjustments to be made having another adult in the household, but I have to say that so far it has been less painful than I thought it would be.
That brings us to AdventureDad, who is definitely in the thick of things now. In addition to working 8-14 hours a day 5-6 days a week (usually 3 on followed by 1 off), he also has at least an hour of homework a day, and a 300-extremely-difficult-question recertification exam to get done in a month, and a research project to get started. Oh, yeah, and sleeping every once in awhile is helpful. It makes me doubly happy that I'm not working at the moment, because I can flex with his craziness... otherwise I doubt we would be in the house at the same time for more than an hour or two a week. Luckily there is a finish line at the end of all of this, which gives it all a bit of perspective.
AdventureGirl (M) is doing very well, although she echoes my longing for our old neighborhood frequently. She still talks about all of her buddies as if she has seen them recently (they all feature regularly in her requests for versions of "The Bear Went Over the Mountain"), and I feel bad that she doesn't really have any good kid friends in our isolated living arrangement. She does make it to daycare once a week or so, and "plays with the kids", and she seems to relish her role as the entertainer of the family. I hope that the arrival of some competition won't be too horrible of an experience for her, although I'm bracing for a reaction. In the meantime her vocabulary has expanded to 7 and 8 word sentences, and she has grown several inches and gained a couple of pounds, although she still resembles a bean pole. We are limping toward potty training, but the slow approach seems to be working better for us than the "train in a day" miracle.
So, that is the novel that is our life at the moment. I won't even hope that things will settle down anytime in the near future, but hopefully we will all find a comfortable groove once the new arrival has come.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Home on the Range

After a long weekend on the road house-hunting and horse-hauling, we are back home in Yelm with 2 of our 3 horses in the pasture. It is so wonderful to have them home again, even though I'm not going to be able to ride them for awhile. Still, there's lots of brushing and loving to do between now and then! Pictures coming soon.
We also had a successful trip in terms of our land hunt, and we found the spot that we want to call home. Now it's a matter of crossing fingers while we go through the whole negotiation, financing, inspections, etc. Whew!
We also had an incident that turned out better than we ever could have hoped... as we were starting up Snoqualmie pass, a car frantically pulled us over to inform us that "your tire just flew off and almost hit us!". Envisioning a blown-out tire on the horse trailer (which we didn't hear or feel thanks to the tandem axle), we turned on the flashers and drove slowly up to the next exit to put on the spare (the road shoulder wasn't wide enough for changing tires on the traffic side of a horse trailer). To our horror, when we got off the road we discovered NOTHING where the tire should have been. No wheel, no lug bolts, nothing but a flat hub. That meant nothing to attach a spare tire to either. Now what to do on a Sunday evening with two horses??? We took a back-road back into Cle-Elum (the nearest town of any size, luckily only about 4 miles back), and as we were limping through town looking for a place where we could park while trying to find a boarding place to lodge the horses until the trailer was fixed, AdventureDad just happened to notice that the local gas station had a service center. We pulled in, and to our sheer delight, not only were they still open, but they said they could repair it right then, on the spot, with the horses still in the trailer!!!! So, what had happened??? Apparently at some point the lug nuts had been seriously over-tightened, to the point where they weakend the bolts, which then sheered off level with the hub. Luckily the shop was able to drill out the stubs, put new bolts on (they just happened to have the right size), and they also had a wheel and tire in the right size... talk about lucky! The rest of the lug nuts on the other 3 tires were also over-tightened, so we'll have to replace all of the bolts, and I'm having rotten luck finding anyone local who can do it, illustrating just how lucky we were. It's almost worth a trip back to Cle Elum! We were also super lucky that our giant tire bouncing down I-90 didn't hit another car and injure someone or cause a big wreck. We went back and looked for it, but it was nowhere to be seen... probably bounced off into the woods somewhere. The lesson; NEVER over-tighten your lug nuts!!!
So, after a more-Adventuresome-than-usual weekend, we're happy to be home even though it's in the 90's.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

On a Roll!

Wow, 2 posts in one week. I'm on a roll now. This is a shortie though... just reporting that we have now gone 5 days Binky-Free in the Adventure household. M doesn't even mention them anymore, so that is one more hurdle that we have overcome. We are staggering to a start in the potty-training department, but M has discovered that she can manipulate me very easily by telling me she has to go potty (thus creating a great diversion when it is nap time or any other time we are doing something she doesn't approve of), so I'm currently trying to figure out how to deal with that and still respond appropriately when she REALLY has to go potty. I guess no-one said this was going to be easy!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

July Already???

I was horrified to see that my last post was literally two months ago. Boy has time sped by! As a quick summary we returned to our home here in Washington safely after a long road trip home from Texas via Montana. It gave us a chance to see relatives that we haven't seen for a long time though, as well as to spend some time with M's grandparents, so in the end the trip was tiring but satisfying. Upon our arrival here we were met with piles of boxes that had yet to be unpacked, not to mention literally waist-high weeds in all of the expansive gardens. I managed to get the vegetable garden weeded and planted before M and I left for Augie's graduation in mechanical engineering from Cal Poly. The picture above is M and her cousin Jayden enjoying the ocean in Morro Bay. M was truly in heaven with unlimited sand AND water all in one place, not to mention the added bonus of SHEASHELLS MOMMY! to find in the sand. I have to laugh when I think of the beautiful photos Gutsy Mom has of her daughter at the beach, then I think of these ones (and I managed to get this one BEFORE M decided to "wash" her hair with sand, not to mention ingesting enough to make her diaper gritty the next day. Not that Jills is prissy, but M has a certain talent when it comes to dirt. Nana made a sand castle with her (ie pile of sand) on which they placed a tiny crab shell that M found, and ever since our return here to WA she insists on piling dirt up and making a "crab house".
Unfortunately AdventureDad couldn't join us on this trip, as his EMPA program was just starting when we had to leave. The program is going well so far (actually this eve is his first "real" stint in the ER, although it is mostly gauged towards learning the ropes at this point), and the intensity is slowly heating up. It sounds as though our expectations of long days AND long nights are sadly going to be met, but he is certainly excited to be practicing medicine again, so hopefully that will provide enough inspiration and motivation for the next 18 months.
The pregnancy is progressing well. I'm slowly building up the courage to post a pic or two of the "belly" for those who have been asking. We found out a couple of weeks ago that she's a girl, so the name game has officially started, atlhough we already have some pretty good ideas. I'm feeling good if a bit ungainly, and definitely am enjoying feeling the kicks and hiccups that come along with this stage. Some days October seems an awful long ways away, but others it seems like time is just going way too fast.
Jimmy has spent the majority of his free time during the last several weeks putting up a shed for the horses to shelter in... they should be coming home in a week or two from their "foster home" where they have been since we left for Germany. I am soooooo excited to have the horses back in our lives, not to mention to see M's reaction when she realizes they're her very own (she is constantly commenting on the horses across the road and wanting to wander over to see them).
As for myself, I am currently in a bit of a holding pattern, trying to find the daily patterns that will allow me to keep up with the house and yard and a 2-year-old. I think things are slowly coming around (for instance I finally caught up on the last of the weeding this week), but there is not much time left in the day for the extras I want to do (blogging, organizing our stuff, crafting, scrapping, reading, you know!), so I still have a bit of figuring out to do. I love where we are living, although after the close supportive community we had in Germany this area feels very isolated (we have one set of close neighbors with kids, but they have ignored all of my attempts at introduction. sad.). I'm looking forward to some visits from my Auerbachian friends over the course of the summer, not to mention catching up with all of my friends from "way back".
I'm sure there is much more that I haven't commented on, but this is a pretty good start. Now that I'm back on the wagon, I should be posting a bit more.
PS: The strawberries on top were one harvest from a fairly small strawberry patch... I'm not even close to keeping up with the harvest, and now the raspberries are ripening too. Yay and AAAaaah!!!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hot Hot Hot

Summer has certainly arrived in San Antonio! The weather has been in the upper 90's for the last few days, with enough humidity to make it hazy in the mornings... pretty miserable, although I'm not complaining TOO much because they're still getting snow in MT!
The picture under the title is a cardinal nest that we found while at a nature park yesterday. Amazing those little guys will one day be beautiful red birds! We have tried to go out at least once a week to hike or explore, with a new favorite area called Government Canyon that is right outside of San Antonio. There are miles of trails through the "hill country"... steep hills covered in oak, locust, walnut, cedar, and other trees, and many wildflowers, cactus, etc. The heat has slowed us down a little bit, but we're still getting out.
One of my good friends, Sara, is graduating from her RN program today. I'm so proud of her! After one more certification test to come this summer (and finding a job), she'll hopefully be practicing as a Nurse Practitioner in the near future.
We also got the news a little while ago that my sister-in-law will be getting married Aug 8th. We're very happy for her, and can't wait to celebrate. Hopefully AdventureDad can get the time off from his program!
There isn't a lot of other news at the moment, although we are excited that we have less than 3 weeks here before we head home. AdventureDad's program starts a bit earlier than we thought, so the trip home will be a little more rushed than we originally planned, although we'll still be able to get a quick visit in with our families.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Easter

I'm finally getting around to the Easter post, including some photos. 3 are of Easter, the towel one is just cute, and the last one is M enjoying our hotel room. Apparently she doesn't have any gripes about the current set-up!
The AdventureFamily had a very nice Easter, one that we never would have experienced if we weren't uprooted from our regular routines. We spent the day with extended family that we had never met before, namely my cousin's wife Christina(he's on an RLBTof his own at the moment), and their eighteen-month-old son Gavin, in Austin, TX at Christina's parent's house. We also met Christina's sister and brother-in-law and their children, and together the kids had a wonderful time. The weather was beautiful, and their was a huge green lawn and a sand box for playing in, so needless to say our little tomboy M was happy as could be.

I've been wanting to meet Christina for a long time, and Gavin too, for that matter, so this was a wonderful opportunity. I have to say that what could very easily have been an awkward moment (Easter at your cousin-in-law's parent's home, none of whom you've ever met?) was made very comfortable and friendly by the warm acceptance we felt. That in itself seemed a very fitting celebration of what Easter really means.

Other than Easter we haven't been up to too much. Jimmy is of course busy the bulk of every day with his classes, and so M and I spend the bulk of every day strolling around to the various play areas that are nearby. We also got a bike seat for her, and although I'm not comfortable riding in traffic with my precious cargo behind me in such a vulnerable position, it does increase our range quite a bit. We went for a 12-mile family bike-ride last weekend on a trail that follows a greenway up a creek that is very nearby, which was a wonderful experience. We hope to make that a repeat performance as often as possible. Luckily M loves her bike seat, and I'm getting used to lugging the extra weight around!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Feeling Lucky

M and I are safely arrived in San Antonio, TX. What a change to get off of the plane into summer weather (70's and 80's) after our week in MT where it snowed several times during out stay!!! Both the drive and the flying went well, and M was a trooper as usual. That kid has more miles on her than a lot of cars do when they die. Judging from the aplomb with which she accepts most travel situations, I think she qualifies as a seasoned traveller. Anyhow, back to the story, for those of you who don't know, San Antonio is where AdventureDad and I met, where, you might say, the whole adventure began. It therefore will always be a special city in our hearts, and I'm happy to be here, not only for that reason, but because of course that means that I get to spend the next 2 months with my husband rather than alone in a new town in WA.
San Antonio is a 180 degree change from the life we have been living in Germany and WA (and MT)... from rainy winter green to sunny desert and palm trees... the land of the grizzly bear to the land of the enchilada. Luckily there are lots of places to escape from the big city, and we're already tallying up a list of places we want to go on the weekends.
During the week days, M and I are trying to find a new balance in life. The three of us are sandwiched into a single hotel room, which means a lot of adjusting of routines for AdventureMom and Dad to work around a 2-year-old's schedule. Luckily there is a microwave and small fridge, but no other cooking arrangements (can you see lots of salad in our future? I can!) Luckily there is a playground right at the hotel, and M has gotten brave enough to use the slide all by herself (mommy's in trouble!). We just need to find a swimming pool and a good park and we'll be set.
Our lodging also happens to be right near Brooks Army Medical Center, as well as the Center for the Intrepid (one of the two major amputee recovery/physical therapy centers in the US), in fact it is where a lot of the families come after the Fisher house, when their soldiers are released from the hospital but still have months to years of recovery left (our 2-month stay here is relatively short... imagine that!). I have seen wounded soldiers before, mostly randomly around on post, but of course never the concentration that are here. It is both heart-warming and heart-wrenching to see them on the playground with their kids, learning how to be dads in new ways, some still in so much pain or so debilitated that they can barely get up out of a chair. Yesterday while M and I were at the playground a guy came out wrapped in burn bandages from his toes to his waist. His son kept trying to play with him and he kept having to remind him not to grab his legs. You could see the pain and the patience he was trying to find. It makes me feel so incredibly lucky that I got my husband back in one piece, and that I am able to spend this time with him. The hurdles that some of these families are overcoming are truly gigantic, and it is inspiring to see the strength and cheerfullness with which the ones that I have seen seem to be approaching them with. I guess they feel lucky in their own ways.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

And My Heart Went Pitter Pat

Yesterday I had my first OB appointment at Madigan (the local Army hospital). This is usually just what they call an "intake" where I talk with a nurse, get assessed for any potential problems with my medical history, get some basic information on how to be pregnant, and then make my first appointment to see the a doctor. However, when it was revealed that I will be traveling for over a week before I'm back in range of a military hospital, the referral doctor that was on decided that he wanted to see me and make sure that there weren't any problems. That's how I got a bonus ultrasound (they usually only do one, and that's at 20 weeks or so, which is quite a let-down after Germany where I got to see the baby grow every month), and got to see the baby and it's heart beat. I suddenly feel so excited and happy about this pregnancy, it is funny what a huge difference that little bit of connection made. I wish Jimmy could have seen it too, but I did at least get a picture printed for him. Luckily he's used to looking at ultrasounds because right now of course the baby looks like a jelly bean with little stumps for arms and legs, all of which are hard to make out, but all the same it's his/her first picture. Suddenly my morning/afternoon/evening sickness (which is 5 times worse than it was with M) seems much more bearable. It's going to be a long wait for October to get here!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Easy Button

Sorry, no pictures yet!

As would be expected, I have been contemplating the differences between life in Germany and life in the US a lot since our return. Every time I plug an appliance into the wall without the need for a transformer or adapter, I notice it because it is so easy. So many things that just come naturally here were harder in Germany, such as setting up phone service, paying bills, and registering our car. I feel like I have one of those red Easy Buttons at my disposal every time I have to do something like that. I still flinch whenever someone pulls up to an intersection on my right (if you're on a secondary road these drivers have the right-of-way in Germany even if you're the one on a thru street), and I have to restrain myself from bagging my own groceries at the store. I love being able to read all of my mail and to talk to people without thinking about it, not to mention the wonders of Wal-Mart and Safeway, but ironically (considering I just mentioned the big WM) I do feel nostalgic about the relatively commercialism-free community we lived in (especially as I hung up on the 4th marketing caller in an hour last night).
We are looking forward to exploring our area this summer, especially Rainier NP now that we are so close, but of course we had many uncompleted travel desires in Europe. There is so much to see you could spend your whole life trying to see everything. However, there is also so much of the US that we have not yet visited, I think we have a new appreciation of the wonders right here in our own country.
I have a new understanding of why this is called "the New World", when the oldest "modern" structures can't be older than, say, the 1600's. Everything does feel relatively young and new compared to many of the old towns and structures that we were constantly in contact with in Germany.
Those are just a few of my rambling thoughts. I'm sure that I'm missing numerous observations that have popped into my head, but that's it for now. Time to take Adventuregirl outside for her pre-nap play session.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Alright, the first blog for today was my effort at being brave, but now that AdventureGirl (M) is in bed for her nap, I feel truly alone. I miss my ARG friends so much, which is something that has been hanging in the back of my head since our move, but with all of the craziness I've been able to keep it under wraps. Now, with AdventureDad off on another adventure, I miss my dear friends deeply. Now is when I would be trudging up the street with M in tow for a latte and some good conversation, or heading out on a dog walk with Joss and the boys, or crashing at V's for an impromptu take-out night because I can't bear the thought of cooking for myself. Of course I miss the comforting routines, but even more I miss the simple understanding that comes from those that have been though the same things that I have, that understand how traumatizing it is for my husband to be gone even though I know that it's really only for 3 weeks this time. I know I can pick up the phone and call any of my friends here in the States, or Germany for that matter, but it's not quite the same as knowing that they're literally right next door.
OK, enough of the pity party. This is certainly not the hardest thing I've done in my life, and it will soon be over. Spring will come, AdventureDad, M, and I will have fun in San Antonio, and then we'll come back here and settle down for real, at least for the 2 years we have in this house!

Oh, there was one other thing I meant to mention in my previous blog... we are loving the bird-watching in our new home! It overlooks a pond and marsh, and we have already spotted several species of waterfowl and wading birds that are new to us, not to mention all of the cute little favorites that are coming to our bird feeder. We also found some owl pellets under one of our trees, so we know there's an owl around somewhere. Dorky, but fun!

Another Departure

Well, here I am on a rainy Sunday back in the NW. It is very odd how in some ways it feels like we never left, I think because we returned right back to Fort Lewis. On the other hand, our family is so very different than it was the last time we were here, it is truly a brand-new beginning.

Jimmy just left (as in approximately 10 minutes ago) for his Career Course in San Antonio TX. It is amazing how wimpy I have become about him leaving. I guess when the last couple of times he has left were from the 2 weeks of leave he got in the middle of the deployment, and for the deployment itself, I learned that him leaving was bad and painful. So, although Marion and I are going to join him in less than 3 weeks, right now I feel like I'm sucking it up for another long absence. It will sure be nice when all of this is a distant memory!

In the meantime, our family has been doing some settling in at our new home in McKenna, WA. This is a tiny little community tucked between the East side of Fort Lewis and the West side of Mt. Rainier. It is of course beautiful and green, being WA, but we lucked out and found a great home that has a lot of character and suits our family perfectly. Not only is there room for us (as in twice as much space as we had in Germany), but there is also enough land that we can have the horses right here, which makes a huge difference to the relative complexity of our lives.

I haven't taken any pictures yet, but Marion is in love with our huge yard, which is fairly bomb-proof (all of the gardens are mature enough to take a little beating, and we will of course teach her to stay out of them), and has enough dirt and rocks and mud puddles to keep any 2-year-old happy. She cries when I make her come inside even when it is wet and cold and her fingers are little popsicles.

The final piece of big news in the Duncan family is that we are expecting a baby around October 21st. We are thrilled of course, and now just hoping that everything goes well.

I'll try to collect some photos before my next post!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oh, the Irony

Or should I say, Snow the irony. Of course our last winter here is by far the snowiest that we've experienced in Bavaria, and of course the snow really fell as soon as our skis and snowshoes had been packed away by the movers. That didn't stop us from making a few rentals though, and of course we couldn't resist the temptation of watching M "slide" (as she calls it).
Our first family skiing adventure was a success, punctuated by M's excited screeches of "go baby, go" as she slid down the hill. No, we do not tell her this, she came up with it all on her own!
Other than that we are quickly tying up the last few strings before hopping on a plane a week from tomorrow. It is amazing how many things can crop up at the last minute, but I think we are keeping our heads just above the water. It will sure be nice when this move is over, AdventureDad's little jaunt to TX is over and we can all settle into our nice little place in WA. Of course that is when AdventureDad will really have to put his nose to the grindstone, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. No matter how busy he gets, at least he will be coming home after every shift, which is a vast improvement over this time last year!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Pictures





The Big Catchup

The problem with procrastination is that by the time you get around to doing whatever it was that you were putting off, the task most likely has become even more overwhelming than it would have been had it been done in a timely fashion. That is where I'm standing with this update. My last real post was before Christmas, and boy have we done a lot since then! So, in a valiant effort to preserve my sanity, I am providing a quick update...maybe more details will follow, maybe they won't!
After our return from Italy, we launched ourselves into forming our own Duncan family Christmas. This was the first Christmas as a family, so it was very special for us. We got a tree, hung our stockings, and shared Christmas dinner with our wonderful Auerbach friends. Actually, we had breakfast for dinner, and Josselyn cooked up a feast, with a contribution by Marg of "sweet bacon". This dish is a new Duncan favorite, however like so many other holiday dishes it is so bad for us that we are limiting its consumption to once a year. I'll protect you by not telling you how it is made. You'll have to e-mail me if you have to know.
Two days after Christmas, AdventureDad and I stashed our child at the neighbor's and took off on a "honeymoon" to London. Okay, actually, the only way that I was able to leave M (AdventureGirl) for my first night away from her was knowing that she was in the loving arms of Joss and her family. Although we only had one full day and two fractions of days, AdventureDad and I took in a lot in London. On our arrival day, our first stop was at the National Gallery. Most of the museums in London are free, and this one was wonderful. Imagine standing 2 feet away from a Monet for free! We had dinner in a funny little pub on Baker Street called, of course, Sherlock Holmes, where the infamous "pub food" was actually very good.
Our hotel was near Trafalgar square and right on the Thames, so we started the morning by watching the changing of the Palace Horse Guards (a less crowded and thoroughly entertaining ceremony similar to the changing of the guard, plus horses.... what could be better?), then we spent the entire rest of the day walking the Thames. We saw Big Ben and the House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey (closed because it was Sunday), then walked down the South Bank until we reached St. Paul's Cathedral. We couldn't climb it because it was Sunday, but we did go inside and listen to Christmas Carols. St. Paul's is now my favorite cathedral that we've seen in Europe. After St Paul's we crossed the millenium foot bridge (a very modern steel foot bridge that kinda clashes with the historical surroundings) to take a tour of the recreated Globe Theatre (think Shakespeare if it's ringing a bell). We then completed our walk by crossing Tower Bridge (the "modern" ie 300 yr old incarnation of London Bridge), viewing the Tower of London from the outside, and wending our way back up the river. We finished the evening with a ride on the London Eye, a gigantic ferris wheel, which gave us a beautiful view of the city lights.
The next morning we walked to St. Martins-in-the-Field church, where we went to the crypt and made some brass rubbings, then caught the tube to the airport.
London was by far the most tourist-friendly city we have been to. Everything is so well marked (most street corners have directional signs to the big attractions), many of the attractions are free, and the public transportation via the tube is fast, easy, and inexpensive. We can't wait to visit again!
After returning from London we were met by the good news that AdventureDad finally got his orders, and we were heading back to the US for sure. The stressful news was that the movers would be coming in less than 3 weeks to pack up our house, and we were shipping our car in a little over a week. Whew!
So, now at the end of January our Subaru is on a boat somewhere between Europe and the US, so are our household goods, and we are rattling around in an empty house and tying up loose ends before we jump on an airplane at the end of February.

There is a lot about Germany and Europe that I will miss. I love our rural setting where everyone gets out to walk or ride bikes on Sundays, the lack of traffic and crowds, our neighborhood where we don't even have to lock the door, but most of all the amazing friends that we've made while here. AdventureDad and I owe our sanity and peace of mind to these people, not to mention a lot of fun and a few hard times as well. Thankfully in this age we won't have much trouble keeping in touch, and we're already planning future reunions. One perk of the military community is that they will all scatter to the winds as well, and we'll have friends in so many places we'll never hurt for somewhere visit!
On the other hand we're all ready to head back to the US with all of the conveniences and comforts that we've grown up with , no language barrier, and sane drivers (believe me, I do remember the I-5 traffic in Tacoma, but it doesn't compare), not to mention close friends and family that I haven't seen in way too long, and even longer for AdventureDad. It's time to come home.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


.... Someday I will update the blog. Bear with me. The packers come tomorrow and the next day, after which theoretically I will have an empty house and some blogging time on my hands!