Sunday, October 21, 2012

Slow News Day

When I was a teenager, I wanted nothing more than to get out of Idaho. Not because I didn’t like it, or because it was boring. I have great memories of my childhood and would not change anything. I just knew there was so much more out there to explore. I knew college would be the perfect time to broaden my horizons and had high hopes of escaping. However, Ricks College (only 30 minutes from home) offered me a full academic scholarship, and money talks.  So, I stayed in Idaho and made Rexburg my home for one year as I raced through my Associates Degree.  The day I took my last final, I was headed to Seattle. I had $200, a mountain bike, and some clothes. It was there that I got my first real job, met James, bought our first (and second) house, thoroughly explored all the area had to offer, and had all four of our girls. We loved it there and lived life to the fullest in the Pacific Northwest.

Twelve years later, we were presented with the opportunity to move back to Idaho. I was hesitant, but James was excited. He was offered a job as a professor at BYU-Idaho and really liked the idea of being a teacher and leaving the high-stress corporate world behind. He liked the idea of living somewhere where everybody knows your name. I was a bit skeptical for a few reasons. First, the winters. They are long, cold, and snowy; exciting to visit, but arduous to live in. Second, growing up in a small town, I discovered there are also bad things about “everybody knowing your name”. Last (but most certainly not least), I really like good food and wasn’t sure I could survive without Trader Joe’s.

Now, living in Idaho, I love it. I endure the winters and have taken up cross country skiing to pass the time and keep me from hibernating, which would be my tendency. Last fall, I even bought some cold weather running gear and ran outside though most of the winter-go me! The  people are extremely friendly, and I have found ways to keep up the quality of our food by way of a little ingenuity. However, I would like to share the thing I love most about it. The following is a list of complaints I collected from the "Law Enforcement Summary" section in the local paper:
  • Grand theft of elk antlers from property
  • Neighbor kids throwing potatoes at horses (no, these were NOT my kids.)
  • Mama moose and calf reported in neighborhood. Caller worried about kids going to school with moose in area.
  • Moose eating neighbor’s raspberries (This is one naughty moose!)
  • Woman spreading vicious rumors
  • Family down the road disturbing the peace
  • Report of farmer’s trucks speeding through school zone
  • Report of people blowing leaves all over by the Baptist Church
My kids are free to spend a great deal of time outside running, exploring, riding bikes, and collecting rocks and pet stink beetles without concern on my part. They love the outdoors and, for now, are sheltered from the concerns of the rest of the world. I'm sure it won't be long until they are aching to expand their horizons somewhere more exciting...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

200 Sea Stars-August 13th 

This morning, we dined on cold cereal in our hotel room, then put on swim suits and sweatshirts for our day at Ecola State Park. Our tide table told us the lowest tide of the day would be at 4:00. So, we packed fire wood, hot dogs, sausages, marshmallows, and carrots (for good measure) for a lunch on the beach. It is an amazing drive uphill, which affords awesome drop-off viewpoints, as well as a one and one-half mile hike from the main viewpoint to Indian Beach. Wendy, Amber, and I decided to hike to the beach while the others drove the car. It was a very interesting trail with dense undergrowth, exposed tree roots, and moss everywhere. In addition, there are several points where you get a peek over the cliffs to the ocean. It was thoroughly enjoyable! We arrived at the beach around 10:00, which was high tide. So that meant we had six hours until low tide and our best chance at viewing the low tide sea creatures. Six hours to watch surfers, build sand castles, climb on the rocks, touch anemone, look for shells, eat our lunch, and roll in the sand (OK, that was just Wendy).

Around 4:00, we headed out to the tide pools. We were not disappointed. Amber counted more than 200 sea stars. We also discovered crabs of all sizes, one large one who was trying to hide, but got discovered and provoked with a long stick. I don't think he was as amused as I was. Each girl found a hermit crab and called it their own for about an hour. We saw mussels, clams, and even a sunflower sea star, which was bright purple and pink, with at least thirteen legs. Everyone had a great adventure. At last, we let the hermit crabs go and headed in for a shower and dinner. Another five star day to be sure.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Beach-August 12th

Today, we packed up camp and headed west once again. After a long stop in Portland for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and a little shopping, we were on our way to Cannon Beach.  Cannon Beach is a family favorite but none of us have been here for seven years. The Oregon coast has a way of keeping you in suspense. As we got nearer and nearer, we were all longing for that first glimpse of the ocean. Since the coastal range and all of the trees are so near the coast, that first glimpse eludes you curve after curve after curve. Finally, we saw Haystack Rock and the enormous ocean ahead. No matter how many times I see the ocean, it never ceases to overwhelm me. We rushed through check-in (our first and only hotel of this trip), put our cooler food into the tiny refrigerator, packed a small dinner and our sand castle tools and headed straight for the beach. The kids were full of excitement and pure joy. They ran as fast as they could through the sand toward the waves. Once we reached the water, I think everyone was shocked at how cold it was. The kind of cold that makes your bones ache. However, that did not stop any of us from enjoying our time. Shells were gathered, waves were chased and jumped, and holes were dug. We enjoyed our first ocean sunset as we frolicked in the sand and icy water. We can’t wait to go back for more tomorrow.

Two Hikes-August 11th

Nearly two thousand vertical feet and over four and a half miles (20% average grade) is a lot for four young girls.  Our first hike was on Girl Scouts land, up Wind River Mountain.  There was a warning sign at the trail head informing us of fallen trees and parts of the trail washed away due to winter storms.  This turned out to be a benefit rather than a problem. All of the many hurdles on the trail proved to be fun for the kids and the adults.  The top of the mountain greeted us with expansive views of the Columbia River Gorge, a refreshing breeze & shade, as well as a collection of archaeological structures.  Apparently, the native inhabitants of this region used the mountain to train young braves. They needed to climb the mountain, build a rock structure on which to sleep the night, and await a vision informing them of their destiny. We had M&M’s on top for those who didn’t complain, and everyone received theirs. Just as we began our descent, Wendy started jumping up and down and screaming. After closer investigation, I discovered that she had a wasp stuck up her shorts and he exited only after biting her once or twice. I used my Camelbak water to make some mud, smeared it on and covered the area with a bandage. She cried for a while, until I pointed to a large tree ahead and told her that it was the “stop crying” tree. I told her to cry as hard as she could until we got to the tree, and then she had to stop. I realized it was a long shot, but it worked. A little while later it started hurting again and she pointed to another tree and said, “How about we make that the “stop crying” tree.” I said that would be fine, but after a second she said, “Now I can’t make myself start crying again.” 

The second hike of the day was up Beacon Rock. This vertical core of an extinct volcano is 840 vertical feet in just three-fourths of a mile, with over 52 switchbacks.  Most of the trail was a collection of bridges and scaffolding. Wendy was intent to be the first one on top, so she ran most of the way. We reached the top just before sunset and spent a pleasant half hour in the cool evening breeze. When I asked Wendy how she got enough energy to run most of the way, she told me with wide eyes that she was so hyper from all of the M&M’s I gave her from the last hike.  Despite the physically taxing climbs, all four girls literally ran down the grade.  A visit to a local ice cream parlor capped a perfect day.

Old Friends and Forest Fires-August 9th

We left the house at 7:30. Our route was to take us into Ketchum, where I arranged to meet an old friend for lunch. Chris was one of my favorite friends from the gym where I worked in Seattle. She is almost old enough to be my mom, but has always seemed like a peer. I was drawn to her initially because of her cheerful smile and positive disposition. We became fast friends when it came out that we were both Idaho girls. She also became somewhat of a role model of a mom who didn’t let her body go after having kids. By chance, she ended up selling James and I our first house, and after Christine was born, she babysat for me so I could go to they gym. I was so excited to meet up with her again after six years. The reunion was great. Since I saw her last, she has changed her career from real estate to personal trainer. We had plenty of time to exchange our ideas about fitness and recommend books and other tips.

After our visit in Ketchum, we headed toward Stanley and over to highway 55 which would take us to McCall, where we would pick up Amber from Girl Scout camp. The road between Ketchum and McCall was one that I was really looking forward to. We have driven it once before, and I remember remarking that it was one of the most beautiful roads I have ever been on. However, when we got a little bit out of town, I was disappointed to find that the smoke in the air was so thick, the view was severely limited. When we were about an hour from McCall, we got turned away by a fire crew who informed us that there were several fires burning in the area and a new fire had developed just ahead that was burning high on both sides of the road. The road we were on is so remote that the only way around was to go back the way we came, putting us five hours from McCall. The kids weathered it well. We stopped for sushi in Boise and pulled in to our campground in McCall at about 11:30 that night.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What Now?

Does anyone else have a tendency to fill all available time?  The moment Wendy was old enough to be a little independent and I felt like I had some breathing room, I decided it was time for me to hit the books again.  So, I enrolled as a college student, taking one class each semester.  The first year, it went fine.  The semester when I was in school and the kids were on summer break, I just took an online class.  That way, I could work on my class wherever I happened to be: at the park, at swimming lessons, camping for the weekend, and any moment that everyone else was playing outside (and I wasn't working in the garden).  Even if I didn't have Internet access I could be working on assignments or reading textbooks. 

The second year, Wendy started Kindergarten.  Even better, I would have some time alone every day to focus on my classes.  However, I was also PTO President, a youth leader at church (which requires some Sunday lesson preparation as well as midweek meetings), and we gained two members of our family by taking an exchange student from Germany and one from Spain.  All of this in addition to the requirements of a mother and wife who now had to cook and clean for a family of eight.  Everything seemed to be going OK.  There were things I had to give up, like leisure reading, extended baths, this blog, and a regimented house cleaning routine, but I was keeping on top of things for the most part.  So last semester I decided to take on a more hefty class.  Just let me mention that one area I am particularly (possibly clinically) anal in is my grades.  I do what it takes to get an A (An A- is not good enough.  That would just mean I didn't put in enough time).  What was I thinking?  I have always been a simple person, able to say "no" to requests if they disturbed my peace.  But now I had to say "no" to everything that didn't involve my family, my church calling, or my class and PTO requirements.  I mean, come on, I still had to work out every day, shuttle six kids to practices, lessons, rehearsals, and social events, as well as provide a delicious, healthy, well-balanced, sit-down dinner together as a family every night...  How far I had come!  What happened to my peace?

It started wearing on me about the middle of the semester, when I had mid-term tests, a big project and a time consuming fund-raiser at the school all going on at the same time.  I would sit down to do some computer work and find myself unable to figure out what to do first, as they were all urgent.  I would be working on my project then realize that there were things I really need to review for my test, then the principal at the school would call requesting information about the fund-raiser, which I still had phone calls to make before I could answer his questions.  While making phone calls and sending emails about the fund-raiser, I would realize that I never finished that section of my project, which I needed to review the information for the test before I could finish it...You get the point.  It was like, If You Give a Pig a Pancake.  That was my life for a while.  I realize some people thrive on that type of life, but NOT me.  I need time to stretch out and do nothing, time to find a spot on the carpet where the sun is shining in the window and just lie there and soak in the life-giving rays while listening to yoga music.

So, after getting my A, and the highest grade in the class on the final project (I think I have a serious problem!), I decided to take a semester off.  Here is my reading list:
  • The Other Wes Moore
  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
  • The Promise
  • The Storyteller's Daughter
  • Davita's Harp