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Another Year Older

Young Son’s birthday was last weekend. We celebrated together as a family. First with soccer: we brought cupcakes to his game and his teammates sang “Happy Birthday” to him. (The classic version and we didn’t pay any royalties – ha!) Then we came home and he got to open his birthday presents.

Young Son still in his soccer jersey looking at his wrapped birthday presents

His big gift this year was a tablet. He was pretty excited about that. But of course it had to be plugged in and charged for hours before he could use it. Lucky for us, it was a beautiful day (in paradise) for a walk. We went down the road to Sequoia Park for a walk through the forest.

Young Son standing on a tree branch with his arm outstretched

We fed the ducks some grass. Which they liked a lot, until some other folks came by with bread and then they all flocked over there.

ducks at the Sequoia Park duck pond eating grass

We were all in good spirits. It was such a nice day.

Young Son smiling wearing his new minecraft tee shirt

Nine years old and still has a heart (and head) of gold!

Young Son and Family Man on the park bench with Brother behind them

These are my guys. I am one lucky mama.

Brother and Family Man deep in contemplation of the next move on the board

Later that evening, after dinner, we had cheesecake with blackberries. And we tried out the kids new cooperative game Eyes of the Jungle (a gift from their grandparents). It was pretty fun. In our experience, cooperatives games have very, very long rules, but then once you figure it out, its not all that complicated. Young Son played with us for the first half of the game and then went off to play an imaginary game in his room. That is something he still does often. Very much like me at his age. (Except that I would play at taking care of a baby and cooking food, and his games are more along the lines of adventure, battles, explosions.)

Young Son has his heart set on having a sleepover this year for his birthday. With all the busyness of soccer and Halloween this month, we just decided to put off the party until November, so it can really be all he wants it to be. So we are still looking forward to that.


Button Up Shirt Day

I know I said tomorrow two days ago, which would be yesterday, but what I meant was today. Here they are, a few photos from the morning before school picture day. Which could also be called Button-Up Shirt Day, seeing as it is the only day other than the family Christmas Eve party on which they will wear these shirts. They were harassed and harangued into posing for these shots in the morning. Totally worth it, am I right?

Brother and Young Son posing by a big bush in the backyard

Brother and Young Son posing again by the big bush in the backyard

Brother and Young Son posing again by the big bush in the backyard

Brother and Young Son posing again by the big bush in the backyard

Brother and Young Son posing again by the big bush in the backyard

Oh man, I love these guys! My little big one is about to turn nine years old tomorrow. The years fly by, but the days are long and wide with this joy of being together.

Well This Is New

We are now the proud parents of a preteen. I guess I always knew this would happen, but it didn’t really hit me until the night after the party and before the actual birthday. Our oldest son, known here as Brother, is officially a preteen. He turned 11 years old. How did this happen? I think to myself. Of course I know how, but I still wonder… where did the years go? Are they still out there floating around in a mysterious ether of sweet, innocent childhoods? Or have they vanished like an egg under a cup in a magicians trick only to reappear scrambled in a pan for tomorrow’s breakfast?

Brother’s best friend, his mom, and her boyfriend (remember them from our Labor Day camping trip?) joined us on Sunday to celebrate this birthday milestone. Family Man set up some fun games for the boys in the yard. Balloon darts (like at the county fair) on the fence, bobbing for apples, and ball toss. So much fun!

Brother, friend, and Young Son playing balloon darts on the fence in the backyard

Brother and friend bobbing for apples in the big metal washtub outside

all the boys playing ball toss in the front yard

We also played a fabulous, horrible, hilarious Jelly Belly game called Bean Boozled. This was a gift sent by my sister. Thanks Sis! Some of the jelly beans are the regular tasty flavors, but identical ones are also awful flavors like skunk spray, baby wipes, dirty socks, barf, and moldy cheese. You spin a wheel and pick out the color and hope you get a good one and not a bad one. It was a riot to watch everyone.

Brother, friend, and Young Son playing jelly bean game bean boozled

Brother and Young son playing bean boozled

friend's mom tasting a bad jelly bean

We rounded out the party with cupcakes and ice cream, in traditional birthday fashion. The next day was Monday, Brother’s actual birthday, and he went to school, did homework, had soccer practice, all those good wholesome fifth grader activities. We had gifts and more cupcakes and ice cream that evening, too. Next stop, Young Son’s birthday which is happening in just a couple of days. But before that, I will share with y’all a picture from the morning before school photos. We had a quick impromptu photo shoot at home before they went to school in their dressy shirts. You can check back for that tomorrow. Until then, I hope you are all enjoying yet another beautiful day in paradise…

Drive Home

I totally lucked out this Labor Day and I did not have to work for the whole long weekend. Add that to the fact that it was our last weekend free of soccer games for the next few months. Plus the undeniable reality of gorgeous weather. Which made it the perfect ‘trinity’ of reasons to go camping at the Trinity River. It was our last camping trip of the summer and our first camping trip we’ve done with another family. Joining us at the river for the weekend were: a friend of Brother’s from school, his mom, her boyfriend, and their American Bulldog, Dozer.

friends and Brother standing at the edge of the Trinity River

We went for just two days and one night, and really made the most of it. The river was cold and swift, for this time of year. It felt like pure snow melt. We found out it was because of a large release of water from the Trinity Dam. Good news for the fish and the river.

Family Man blowing up the inflatable raft while Young Son stands by waiting

The weather was warm enough for swimming, but not quite hot enough to fully appreciate how cold the water was. All the same, nothing compares to a good cleansing dip in a running river. It was worth the chill factor.

The campground where we stayed is on the Hoopa reservation. On our second day down by the river, the camp host came around and chatted with us. He got to talking about how healthy the river is with this fresh drought of water coming down from the dam and asked our kids if they knew why Chinook salmon has a big hooked nose. They didn’t, so he told them the story. A long, long time ago, Buzzard, who was covered in handsome feathers from his head to his legs, was fishing in this river and he caught a salmon. He was cooking that salmon over a fire, by the side of the river, turning it on a spit to cook it evenly. Another salmon came swimming along and saw one of his brothers being cooked on the fire by Buzzard. So Salmon swam over to the shore and shouted at Buzzard to stop cooking his brother. They got to arguing and Salmon lept out of the water and grabbed Buzzard and stuck his head into the hot coals, singeing all the feathers off of his head, and then threw him to the ground. (This is also how Buzzard got his red, bare, head.) Buzzard lay on the ground stunned with his wings out to his sides. Salmon jumped back into the river and started to swim away. But Buzzard awoke from his daze and flew up, grabbing a piece of driftwood and chased after Salmon. “Hey Salmon!” Buzzard shouted and when Salmon turned to look, Buzzard hit him right on the face with the driftwood and broke his nose. That is why Salmon has a bent nose.

That is my best effort at retelling the story he told us. I hope I did it justice.

friend and Young Son tell Brother they want a turn in the hammock too

Our friends brought a hammock, which was a nice spot to relax in camp. I assume. I didn’t even try it out, now that I think about it. The kids bogarted that hammock, the whole time, swinging each other wildly and hanging upside down in it. Pictured here, you can see Brother actually laying with his drawing board and pencil in hand, but along come his friend and Young Son to tell him what hammock time is really for.

Brother and friend having a drawing session in the tent

Any friend willing to have prolonged drawing sessions with Brother is a good friend, indeed. Brother can draw for hours and hours and he likes to have company to talk with at the same time.

friend's mom smiling with her dog Dozer

One of the great things about the kids making good friends is me getting a good mom friend. It’s hard to say whether its just good luck that I like Brother’s friend’s mom so much. More likely, it is our similarities as parents that caused us to raise children that have a lot in common with each other. Either way, it is a real gift and a blessing.

Young Son and friend crush quartz rock on a stone to make shiny powder

There is so much to do and be happy about in the great outdoors. It is amazing to share this love of nature with our children and have that joy reflected back to us through their calm, happy faces. I can’t say enough words to describe how incredibly thankful I am to have the health and freedom to enjoy these beautiful days with my family and friends. I am overflowing with gratefulness.

selfie in the car with the boys in the backseat behind me on our way home

Okay, Summer, we can say good-bye to you on this good note. Autumn, come on in…

Pajama Shorts

It doesn’t get super hot here on the NorCal West Coast, but that just means that we’re acclimated to cooler temperatures. So when the thermometer does rise, we’re easily overheated.

four pairs of shorts, camo print, green and white check, solid red, and forest green with moon and stars print

This summer, I made pajama shorts for Brother and Young Son, to help them stay comfortable through the night. I used a simple pattern and finished all four pairs within a few days. They are all 100% cotton and I used fabric from my stash, so they didn’t cost much. The only thing I had to buy was the non-roll elastic for the waistbands.

Lacto Ferment

quart jar of pickled cucumbers and onions in a cloudy liquid

This is my first lacto fermented batch of pickles this year. I started it Monday evening. I was in a hurry, so I skipped sterilizing the jars, I just washed them really well. It was fine. The pickling cucumbers are from our garden. I had a really tough time getting the cucumber vines going this Spring, and they haven’t fruited a lot. I had just enough cucumbers for one quart jar and one pint jar and those were partly full of sliced onions as well. I cut the cucumbers just enough to get them arranged in the jars. I tossed in a bunch of peppercorns and those other seeds. (I should have labeled the jar – what are they? Coriander? I just know I’ve used them for pickling before. Oh, got it! Mustard seeds.) The sliced onion rounds work great for the tops of the jars to weigh everything else down under the liquid. Last, poured over the room-temp salt water and closed the jars.

This morning, the liquid in the jars was so cloudy, and the smell when I opened them so enticing, I thought it was time for a taste. Just the scent was making my mouth water. I strained off a few sips of liquid into a glass and drank it. Yummy tonic! Then I scooped out a pickle and sliced off a piece to taste – perfection! They are great. And so crunchy. Such a nice surprise.

I was in such a hurry when I threw it all together on Monday that I didn’t expect it to turn out so well. I’d say this is the best batch I’ve ever made. Call me crazy for drinking the liquid, but it is so full of all those healthy probiotics. And to someone as coo coo as I am for pickles, it tastes fabulous.

If you’d like to make your own, here is the post from two years ago where I describe the whole process in detail:
I won’t even Dill with it



empty bird nest up close

Empty Nest in the Trinity Alps Wilderness

four full pack loaded in the back of the car

When I was pregnant with our first child, I was browsing in a local used bookstore, and came across a book about Backpacking with Children. The cover was a black and white photograph of a family backpacking. They had an older child, a younger child, and a baby. As a dating couple we had enjoyed some amazing backpacking trips together. So in my first pregnancy naivete, I looked at this book and thought, “Cool! Maybe we can keep backpacking now that we’re parents!” HA! What a joke. Over two years later, with a toddler and a baby, I could look back on my younger, optimistic self and just laugh and laugh. Car camping became a lovely and practical reality in our lives. While ideas of backpacking with our younglings could easily bring on nightmarish feelings of exhaustion and anxiety. More power to any parent who safely goes backpacking with a baby or toddler. I can’t fathom how that would be even possible much less relaxing.

Anyway, short story long, we took our 8yo and our 10yo on the first backpacking trip of their lives last weekend in celebration of my 35th birthday. It was truly exciting, fun, challenging, and rewarding.

Brother Young Son and Family Man wearing their packs stopped by a dogwood tree

The hike was 3 miles, all uphill and downhill. It was hot. And smoky too, because of the nearby River Complex Fires. Brother and Young Son carried their own packs, with a sleeping bag, their clothes, one cup, and a little food. As my mom used to say, they were troopers. We hiked out on Saturday, stayed the night and most of the next day, and hiked back on Sunday. So back-to-back days of hiking; it was rigorous. Definitely not for the feint of heart. In spite of the heat, and the climb, and the long, long hike, they kept walking and didn’t complain. Family Man and I were so proud.

Beautiful Day Mama sitting cross legged by the river

Our camping spot, in the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area, was along a beautiful, secluded turn of a crystal clear river, along which the swimming holes are numerous. The swimming was the big payoff for all the hard hiking; the swimming there was delightful.

the curve of the river the two tents in the sand the two boys seated on the river rocks

We had a nice sandy spot just big enough for the two small tents. A ring of flat rocks for a floor level kitchen. A branch on which to hang our hat. Perfection.

Brother and Young Son whittling sticks with their pocket knives a rock says Happy B Day written in charcoal

All weekend, the boys kept asking me which day was my birthday and telling me they hadn’t bought me a present. This is my present, I kept explaining, this is exactly what I wanted and I am so happy we are doing this all together. Thank you for this, I told them, and gave them a big hug.

Young Son smiling as he eats his breakfast out of blue enamel tin cup

Seriously. These kids are so awesome. I love them to the end of the Earth and back.

Brother smiling through his long hair on the hike back

It doesn’t get any better than this. This is the highest height. The most joyful joy.

happy family reaching the end of the trail on the hike out

We made it! The above photo we snapped just as we were reaching the end of the hike on our way back to the car on day 2. Tired, worn-out, satisfied, happy champions of the trail.

WOW! Backpacking isn’t just for grown-ups anymore…

Ponderosa Pines

ponderosa pine trees standing tall

Ponderosa Pines in the Trinity Alps Wilderness