Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Record Player

Youngest Son's most recent acquisition.
It often feels like technology is changing our lives by the minute. Sometimes we do get a throw back to an earlier time - not necessarily better but certainly simpler.

Today Youngest Son begged me for an antique reproduction record player at the estate sale down the street. He then bargained with the organizers to get it down 65% from the original asking price. I was unable to resist his insistent request especially when he was holding the Roger Williams Fabulous Fifties album and a 1963 newspaper with an article about the Kennedy assassination. Youngest Son had found these three treasures among the multitudes of stuff.

Upon our arrival home, I informed Youngest Son that he must read the instruction manual before using the record player. He proudly completed the requirement. Tonight he placed Side 2 of the record on the turntable, I tucked him in and he fell asleep listening to a popular pianist of bygone times ...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

History & Tolerance & Understanding

I am in an agitated state this morning. I consider myself open-minded and tolerant. Thus by definition, I make an attempt to understand all viewpoints, research the facts and learn about the associated history of the relative topic. Through this process, I know that the world is not black and white and that there are so many shades of gray that it hurts my brain sometimes.

I am astounded, repeatedly, at how little effort many people put forth to educate themselves about complex and troubling issues. If there is a heated discussion that has been going on for years or decades then I assure you that hours and hours of reading and talking to knowledgeable people are required to understand why the issue is so polarizing.

Most importantly, people should study history - constantly. History has a very bad habit of repeating itself. History also shows how a series of decisions and occurrences, that appear unrelated, may actually be key factors in a current situation. With the Internet and search engines, it is so easy to do quick and reliable research on topics. However, many of today's complicated controversies require reading books, watching documentaries and even taking a class to fully comprehend. Additionally, before we make judgements on groups of people, it is essential that we interact and get to know individuals in the targeted group. Ideally, we connect one to one in person however that is not always practical thus the Internet can bridge gaps here as well. For example, a TED talk can be surprisingly intimate.

It is important to resist reacting to sound bites, inflammatory one-liners and misleading images. Spend the time to educate yourself, your partner, your friends and most importantly your kids! Teach them, not just your opinion, but how to form their own opinion through a credible process of gathering information.

People will still disagree but at least we have a level playing field of logical thinking. We are all human beings who deserve mutual respect of our histories and how that history plays out in today's world.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Commuter Family - Year 2

Grand Canyon locale ... Good philosophy for a life of "ooh aah points" ...
We are starting our second school year as a Commuter Family. We have managed to survive the past sixteen months since making this lifestyle decision in April 2012. We have made changes or adjusted to make things run as smooth as we can within a model that is defined by managed chaos and tricky logistics.

Commuter Husband no longer regularly flies back and forth on Southwest and Spirit. Southwest prices increased. Spirit has very reasonable prices but using the airport routes between George Bush International and DFW is inconvenient. Arranging and managing the multitude of fights, airline delays and change fees created a stress point. Our Solution was to buy a slightly used Prius. 45-50 mpg gives us scheduling flexibility and cost savings. And Commuter Husband's little red Prius makes him so happy.

Household Management
We hired a yard guy and a handy man to free up weekend time for Commuter Husband and boys. We also got help with the pool this Summer. Household Management is definitely a challenge. We barely keep up but we manage to accomplish the required stuff. I have accepted that the usual state of our house is messy and our general affairs lack organization (trying really hard not to obsess on this one.)

I have made a conscious decision to choose experiences over tidiness. For example, we need to desperately clean our home office but we chose to hang out with the neighbors in our front yard last Saturday night instead: kids ages 5 to 13 running around everywhere eating pop-cycles, neighbors coming and going from 7:30pm through midnight, sharing cold beer and Fizzy-Izzy bottles, telling stories around candlelight and fighting off the bugs together. Commuter Husband hung out into the wee hours of the morning discussing British Comedies with our neighbor who had just ran 9 miles and who stopped in our yard at 11pm!

After two years with our wonderful and essential Afternoon Nanny, we are going solo this school year with no regular childcare help. Oldest Son (8th grade) and Youngest Son (5th grade) are both in Middle School this year. Our child rearing has always been characterized by creating independent toddlers then children and now teenager/tweener. Thank goodness for our Car Pool Buddies!! 

Planning Ahead
I suspect when I ask others about certain events far into the future, they think I am nuts.

This weekend, I sent an email to the boys' advisers explain our Commuter Family situation and trying to schedule the October 23rd conferences so Commuter Husband can attend in person (versus iPhone conference) before he catches a flight to Montana that same day. Let that level of thinking ahead sink in especially considering they do not even start school until tomorrow ... lucky for us both teachers responded over the weekend and we are set.

Happiness Quotient
Commuter Husband is fulfilled professionally and excelling. Huge for him.

Oldest Son and Youngest Son are normal kids with the usual likes, dislikes and stuff. Both are thriving in school and their extra-curricular endeavors and they still like hanging out with their parents. No major problems as of yet.

I am super busy ALL the time (thus grumpy sometimes) but I like the choices we have made and feel fortunate to live this adventure. The cancer experience this year has made a significant impact on my attitude to living the life I have been given. My pendulum swings more to making decisions for the now while remaining somewhat prudent on the future. Always, I want to say if gone today then I have lived this life, this day to the fullest. Relationships and the time spent with people I care about is important. My family, by default, is swept along on this ride the goes up and down and sideways and this way and that way ...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Oldest Son is a few steps in front ...
Motivation: The reason or reasons someone has for acting or behaving in a particular way.

My 2013 start with cancer has prompted differences in the way I make decisions, decide priorities and live my life. I made the decision to start working on my physical well being and do it at a reasonable pace. I have been walking regularly which is especially fun since I frequently walk with my favorite people. I started using super cool iPhone Apps that track my food and exercise. My health scare, my terrific friends and these Apps have provided motivation.

I new source of motivation surfaced this week. Oldest Son begins 8th Grade Cross Country this Fall. His coach sent out a two week running program for the boys to complete prior to starting school. On Sunday afternoon, Oldest Son and I went to Run On! to get fitted for proper running shoes. This was Oldest Son's first experience with an expert helping him with a shoe purchase. I was excited for him and I am always thrilled to get new running shoes for me!

On Sunday afternoon, Commuter Husband, Oldest Son and I set out on a run. And I have run with Oldest Son daily - it is only 4 days but I am ... motivated. I am not as fast as Oldest Son but we have worked out an approach that involves doubling back on his part. It is not too surprising that I am sore and  Oldest Son is not. My poor hamstrings and then the area where my leg connects to my torso so tender. It is clear I need yoga or a major stretching routine in my life!

It is nice when motivation comes from your child ... very nice indeed.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mesa Verde

Tomahawk Hotel was a room, a shower and two beds for a few hours in Cortez, CO.
We awakened early at our classic Tomahawk Motel Saturday morning. We have stayed in some interesting places on our road trip and this place was no exception. It was cheap and close to Mesa Verde so our simple criteria was met.

We were the first to buy tickets at the Visitor Center in Mesa Verde. Mesa Verde is both a National Park and a World Heritage site. It is mind boggling to think of the Native American Indians who lived in the cliff dwellings from 1200 to 1300. The dating was done by pulling wood samples and comparing them to tree rings in the area - fascinating. We explored Balcony House which can only be accessed by a Ranger led tour and we also did a self-tour of Spruce House.
Youngest Son and Oldest Son following the Ranger up the ladder to enter Balcony House.
Oldest Son and Commuter Husband looking around Balcony House which is situated quite high.
Those light colored circles are where scientists pulled wood plugs out to do the dating against tree rings.
Boys are listening as the Ranger explain how these Cliff Dwellings came to be ...
Oldest Son sitting at the roofless kiva looking out over the canyon. 
Oldest Son crawling out of Balcony House through original tunnel. 
Commuter Husband coming out of exit tunnel. He is a smidgen bigger than the Native American Indians who averaged 5 ft . tall.
Youngest Son entering a kiva at Spruce House.
Commuter Husband and Oldest Son chatting with Ranger at Spruce House.
The trail to Spruce House had lots of vegetation and informational signs - Oldest Son and Commuter Husband reading about Oregon Grapes. 

We spent Saturday night in Oklahoma City at my Grandmother's house. And we reentered Dallas Sunday afternoon. We very quickly got back to normal life with Commuter Husband off to get an oil change and me dashing out to Run On! with Oldest Son to get running shoes and then the laundry and then dinner and then ...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Daddy Is Under the Raft!

On Tuesday we wrapped up our visit by hanging out with family. Brother and I finished watching Ken Burns' documentary The National Parks: America's Best Idea. And yes we now have the National Parks bug! Did you know there are 58 in America? We will have hit seven of them on this trip!
Brother skipping rocks in Cedar Creek - nice form!
Sweet Niece and Nephew look for the perfect flat rock. Youngest Niece watches Youngest Son's rock splash across. 
Brother still has the moves on Sweet Niece and Oldest Son playing HORSE.
On Wednesday we made our way east to the Sun Valley, Idaho area. The boys' adopted grandmother's family has a home in Ketchum and they generously loaned it to us for a couple nights . Thursday was our big excursion on the Salmon River. Commuter Husband and Oldest Son chose the inflatable kayaks. Youngest Son and I took the raft with our river guide. The scenery was exceptional, the guide was entertaining (and cute too!), the lunch was tasty and healthy, the river was exciting in places and peaceful in others. VERY FUN!!

Well we did have that ONE moment where Youngest Son yelled "Daddy Is Under the Raft!" Actually he yelled it several times. It started when Oldest Son got stuck on a rock in one of the rapids and tumbled out of his yellow kayak. Commuter Husband then followed by flipping out of his blue kayak. Then the orange rafts came through and it was all chaotic and swirling like the cold water around us. Oldest Son got fished out by one of the other raft guides. Our raft tried to help Commuter Husband but we ... uhhh ... missed and that infamous shout from Youngest Son took place "Daddy Is Under the Raft!" Commuter Husband finally surfaced and was rescued by the other raft as well - the same raft that now had the screaming and crying girl yelling she did not want to fall in ...

Alas both kayakers reentered their floating devices and continued down the Salmon River. That story becomes part of family lore - for sure.
Commuter Husband plays horseshoes before we load on the bus to head to Salmon River.
Commuter Husband and Oldest Son checking out their kayaks - good thing they chose the wetsuits and that helmets are required!
Today we crossed Utah to Arches National Park. The rock formations are magnificent. However, we did experience a Commuter Family meltdown. Oldest Son started out grumpy and complaining about his shoes. Youngest Son climbed to places Commuter Husband did not like so Commuter Husband yelled at him and Youngest Son was not exactly obedient. I was frustrated with the lot of them for not be more appreciative in this amazing place. Commuter Husband then got angry and well ... those days do happen on occasion. And then there was the realization that no one filled the bottles or CamelBaks with water - note we are now in desert terrain - oy. We did manage to recover and the pictures are definitely beautiful ...
Perhaps this was the ledge Youngest Son scampered up to that started some of the trouble :) 
Youngest Son maneuvers along ...
Double Arch - really quite the sight. 
Colors. Shapes. Angles.
More. Colors. Shapes. Angles. 
I am the colorful dot in Pine Tree Arch. 
Commuter Husband on trail to Landscape Arch.
Oldest Son and Commuter Husband leaving Tunnel Arch. The Light at sunset.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mount Rainier!

Commuter Husband, Oldest Son, Youngest Son, Sweet Niece, Brother and I spent Monday at Mount Rainier National Park. The pictures say it all.

NISQUALLY VISTA TRAIL - A 1.2 mile easy hike with views of Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier and LOTS of colorful wild flowers ...
Oldest Son and Youngest Son head down Nisqually Vista Trail with Mount Rainier looming over us.
All those black dots in small pond are tadpoles. Oldest Son and Youngest Son could not resist catching them! 
Our group viewing the Nisqually Glacier.
These gorgeous wildflower photos are taken by Youngest Son with his point-n-shoot:
Broadleaf Lupine
Abundant Broadleaf Lupine
Magenta Paintbrush
COMET FALLS TRAIL - A 3.8 mile strenuous hike up, up, up to 900 foot elevation gain and a 320 foot waterfall, the highest in the park. I wish I could hike surrounded by nature at its best everyday.
Sweet Niece leading the hike through the forest.
Youngest Son perched and waiting for the slower hikers which might be Commuter Husband - ha!
Youngest Son grabbing that one perfect walking stick
Those tiny figures at bottom are Brother and kids approaching Comet Falls - stunning.
The water is literally ice cold.
Brother out in front as the others cross the log bridge. 
I forgot to bring a hair band and it was hot going up that incline. So Brother helped me pull my hair up with a twig!
One of the "smaller falls" in route to Comet Falls.
Brother checking out the rushing water.
Looks like an amusement park ride but it is real ...
Sweet Niece pointing to Comet Falls on Mount Rainier topographic map - our hike's elevation is respectable.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Weekend in Seattle

Day in Downtown Seattle

We started Saturday morning off with The Underground Tour. Did you know Seattle streets are raised 8 feet or more to keep the tide from flooding Seattle? This tour of the Underground (the level that got left behind when Seattle streets were raised) is a saucy, history lesson which is quite fascinating. Some (well maybe more than some) of the commentary was veiled to "go over the heads" of the younger tour participants.
Sweet Niece heading down into the Underground of Seattle. 
Next on the day's agenda was lunch. So we headed to Chinatown. We had fun turning the lazy Susan and sharing various dishes. Six out of seven thought the cabbage soup was great and several added the spicy horseradish mustard to it.
In Texas we have signs in Spanish and in Seattle ... 
Commuter Husband, Youngest Son, Oldest Son, Sweet Niece and Youngest Niece heading into Chinatown.
Youngest Son watching a game of chess with street music playing to the left.
After lunch we headed to the water to ride the Ferris Wheel. The wharf was bustling on this warm and sunny day.
Oldest Son looking out over the bay - that is the aquarium on the right (did not make it there yet.) 
Views from enclosed and air-conditioned Ferris Wheel box are wonderful - kids looking at shipping channel.
THEN, we headed to the ballpark to watch the Mariners play. The best part was being there for Ken Griffey Jr.'s induction into the Mariners Hall of Fame. I was even moved to tears - crazy - but I learned what an impressive athlete and caring community citizen this man is. It is nice to be reminded that many positive role models exists in professional sports and even better for kids to see it.

Look at that view of downtown Seattle!
Ken Griffey Jr. entering from Center Field where he made so many incredible catches in his career.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation honored Ken Griffey Jr. too - he has been making wishes come true for children since he was 19 years old!
Sunday in the Woods

Sunday took our crew of eight to Northwest Trek and what a wonderful excursion this park provides. We saw local wildlife up close on both the tram and walking through the grounds. The setting was serene and green and peaceful. And the finale was the 1.5 hour adventure in the trees!

Fondling the skins and skulls of regional animals.
A one hour tram tour took us right beside these Moose! We also saw caribou, black-tailed deer, bison, elk herds, mountain rams and other local animals. We saw two sets of deer twins less than one month old - ahhh ...   
The Next Generation: Ages 11, 13, 8, 16, 12 (almost.) 
Oldest Son listening to the porcupine talk. 
Zip Wild is great fun way up in the trees: zip lines, high wires, ropes, nets, climbing walls and wobbly "bridges." 
See the platforms, wires and nets? All self-guided. This place is well done.