Thursday, September 27, 2012

Traversing Bellingham {Adventure Race}

Joseph, Tim, Judah and Eric close in on the finish line of the Bellingham Traverse.

Due to a scheduling snafu with Tim's Ski 2 Sea teammates last spring, they opted to give the Bellingham Traverse a go instead.  This multi-sport event's course supposedly follows the path of wild salmon including a few "urban challenges."  Two of the team's athletes had to drop out at the last minute, leaving Tim and Eric with the frightful prospect of trying to 2-man the 5-leg race.  Since neither of them were up for quite that much adventure racing, they recruited a few high school lads, Joseph and his buddy Judah, to join the team just in the nick of time.

Judah ran the first leg, and put up a very fine result as he handed off to Joseph after a 5.5 mile (mostly uphill run) in 41 minutes.  He raced from downtown Bellingham to Lake Padden, and kept his pace throughout.  With only a few days to train, one cannot help but wonder what kind of time Judah could put up with solid race preparation!

Joseph tackled the 6 mile single track mountain biking course, having spent a fair few hours preparing for the race on our neighborhood Galbraith Mountain trails.  The challenges along the route proved worthy of a few superb crashes, but Joseph escaped without any injuries to body or bike.  A 49 minute finish sat well with him and sent Eric off on the road bike with a few fenders to draft.

Eric's 18 miles on the road bike course were completed in a mere 54 minutes, without any sudden tube deflation or other worries of any kind.  Eric's would-be-competitor wife, Kristy, and their unborn baby (due in a few months!) spent the sunny afternoon as spectators and ice cream connoisseurs while Eric slaved away at the wheel.

A 3.4 mile trail run could have been the end of Tim -whose limited pre-race-day training barely toned the surface of his not-ready-to-race legs- but he volunteered to captain the kayak immediately following his 37 minute run.  In a superbly insufficient kayak, meant for kids to paddle on a lake, Tim fought through a 3.6 mile, choppy tour of Bellingham Bay.  Tim's 1:10 split might have been third-to-last overall, but that's not factoring in the handicap of competing in a kids' boat after nearly dying on the trail run.  He's a trooper!

The 4:19 finish time gives the team a number from which to deduct next year, if they decide to compete again as chums on the loose in the wilds of the Bellingham Traverse.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On High {Summer Backpacking Trip}

View of Mt. Baker from the steep trail to Yellow Aster Butte
Just when we thought we weren't missing Zachary too terribly, a trip with the Boy Scout troop to one of his favorite local haunts brought home 'wish you were here' feelings, and great memories of our Scouting adventures together.

A break along the hike to Yellow Aster Meadows
Hiking without Zachary in the crew intensified the reality that he's missing, although he's not really missing, since we know right where to find him.  Wonder if he's missing the mountains yet...

Mr. B at dusk
Yellow Aster Butte has been the site of many grand adventures over the years with our BSA troop.  Tales are told of the time when Mr. J hiked the strenuous grade loaded down with a 70 lb. pack, which included fresh potato pancake batter and a gallon of orange juice for breakfast on day 2 {not your average backpacking fare!}.  I remember the night I nearly froze in my tent and pulled out my emergency blanket to cover my sleeping bag in the wee hours.  I awoke to find myself covered in condensation in a soggy sleeping bag, having warmed up so well under the non-permeable layer which simply collected the warmth and let me have it right back, drip by drip.

Three years ago on this trek, Joseph and Tim experienced serious mountain weather, but this year's trip fell in the middle of the longest dry spell on record.  Sunshine and clear skies on day one made for a sweaty hike and allowed for a few brave fellows to take a dip in the glacier fed tarn.  Day two opened with cloud cover, or rather, the campers exited their tents in the morning into the clouds which socked them in.

Their descent provided an opportunity to get to know one of the park rangers a little better, as an anonymous source had complained about the noise level in the Scouts' vicinity.  Threats of a citation, a need for contact information to 'follow up' and a good finger wagging were all on the agenda for the mid-trail mandatory (surprise) meeting with the ranger.  We all know the inherent risks involved with taking a group of teenage boys into the mountains! 
Caleb, Isaac, Nate, Mr. M, Enoch, Peter, Nicholas, Nathan and Connor on the summer snow

Friday, September 14, 2012

Life Goes On {New School Year at Home}

Joseph hits the books


New room assignments took effect at home after a newly vacated bedroom provided an opportunity for Joseph and Peter to spread out.  Their bunk bed dissembled, mattresses on the floor temporarily (while plans for loft beds are in the works), the extra space and brotherly separation reinvigorated spirits at this time of family transition.  A fresh paint scheme and new carpet in Joseph's room help mark the beginning of high school and signify a dream come true in having his own room (again) after so many years of sharing with his younger brother.

Peter sits at Zac's old desk, working on pre-algebra homework.


Home school is back in session after our two week journey to and from Notre Dame.  Our home school now sports a dress code; Joseph and Peter are looking sharp during school hours.  A renewed emphasis on discipline this year also extends to keeping order in the classroom/bedroom environments.   These upgrades are due in large part to a few comments made by our first graduate about "sleeping through most of his freshman year."  His younger brothers can thank Zac for their new and improved code of conduct and environmental regulations. 

Brotherly love at Great Grandma's house


Benefiting Joseph (grade 9) in a special way, our new home school dress code gives him super incentive to complete his day's assignments without delay, thereby freeing him to change into shorts and T-shirt.  Known to linger at his desk, easily captivated by long readings (not assigned) in a history book, Joseph now feels a more urgent desire to stay on track and finish assigned work.  Peter (grade 7), greatly enjoys the moment of completion when the books are closed and the collared shirt and slacks are dispensed with for the day.


  Breaking News from our freshman at Notre Dame:
  • classes are challenging, interesting and demanding
  • weather is beautiful; insects are loud
  • football games are extremely exciting; for standing fans only, except during half-time
  • dorm's dryers hot; shrinking clothes left tumbling for full cycle


Maybe a few readers will remember our story of an eventful emergency landing on our journey home from New Hampshire when Zachary was discerning his choice of university.   It's a powerful story, and one that I have posted about in greater detail over at Discerning Daily.  Go check it out if you are interested.


The expected life span of a lawnmower parked at our house is under one year.  This could be due in large part to the fact that these machines come home from our pawn shop, where customers sometimes pawn their broken things and walk away with the money and no intent of returning to claim their goods.  This is the cost of doing business as pawnbrokers, for sure.  So, we keep replacing broken lawnmowers, one after another.  

Art and science with Nerf guns


We may issue course credit for the science of Nerf gun modification, recognizing the educational value in the ongoing series of scientific and artistic projects involved.  Youtube instructions taught the method:  dissemble, remove air restricter, upgrade springs, make minor aesthetic changes to gun's appearance, reassemble.  Shoot.  One thing we didn't see coming, Joseph getting the third degree from the clerk at the hardware store as he purchased a few cans of spray paint for his Nerf modding project. 

Go visit Jen via Camp Patton for more Quick Takes!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Exteneded Family Blessings {Day 12-13: Oregon to Home}

Cousins Brendan, Peter, Lilly, Kati, MacKenzie, Jake; Joseph, Mike and Niko (all but Zac).
The route home, the final miles of our two week trek to and from Notre Dame, was dictated by the veterinary needs of our dog, Charlie, who had not one, but two tail surgeries due to injury and infection. Thanks to Charlie, our itinerary landed us in Tacoma on the evening of a family birthday celebration which enabled us to spend time with every single member of my whole immediate family (except Zac, of course).   Hot tubbing, bubble blowing, feasting and fellowship with a herd of cousins culminated with the anticipated candle-top cake and special song for Uncle Clark on his 45th birthday.  An impish teen 'five starred' his older brother in the midst of their father's birthday song, adding a 'touch' of violence to the festivities.  I guess there is something to be said for wearing a shirt at the table after all!  An indoor wrestling match after dessert helped work off a few calories and provided another opportunity for the cousins to bond.
As a special bonus, we were housed in University Place by our Godson, Sam, and his family, great (life-long) friends and exceptional hosts who spoiled us with fresh blackberry cobbler, eggs, bacon and sausage for breakfast, plus REAL coffee made to order throughout our stay.  Sam stole the show, with his great joy and exuberance for life, while the older boys shared a wee bit of screen time between rounds of hide and seek and tag outdoors in the summer sun.  A short visit to Aileen's childhood home, now vacated but still furnished after the passing of her beloved parents, was a sentimental walk down memory lane, and great reminder of what an impact her family's faith life had (and still has) on me.  Visiting with Aileen's siblings, spouses, and their growing families also brought great joy (and a late night!) during our slightly spontaneous lay-over.
Rob and Aileen's boys: Ryan, Peter and Sam
Final stop: Silverdale, where our surgically altered black lab had been cared for in our absence by Tim's brother's veterinarilly skilled family.   Visitors for Sunday worship at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Bremerton, we delighted to hear the beauty of Gregorian Chant from the choir loft and the sound, thoughtful preaching by Father Lappe.  Uplifting, challenging, faithful teaching combined with a solemn, reverent Mass puts this fervent parish on our home-away-from home list and is a must-experience for anyone traveling on the Kitsap Peninsula; a true gem.  I eagerly await the upcoming Frassati Conference happening there in November.
Drugged and wearing the cone of shame, Charlie recovers from a second tail surgery.
Kettle Corn for Sunday breakfast's dessert and a pizza party for lunch, we thoroughly enjoyed our sleep-over with Craig and Bethany and family and the added company of Grandma Billie and Grandpa Cliff who journeyed across the Puget Sound after their booth closed at the Saturday Edmonds Market.  Hearing the details of Charlie's tail surgeries and the drama and trauma he provided in his drugged recuperation brought home the realities of 
  • just how blessed we were to have been out of town during this stage of Charlie's care, and 
  • just how blessed we were to have had Craig and Bethany's veterinary expertise in the family and their willingness to dog-sit such a tough customer for those intense weeks.
Feeding the donkeys and grilling marshmallows for s'mores highlighted the boys' visit with their younger cousins, but being allowed to drive the van (slowly) up and down the long rural driveway also got high marks.  Bountiful ripe blackberries on their property kept us busy picking and snacking as well.
Violet shows Joseph how to feed Buster and Boomer.
A several ferry wait in Kingston on Sunday afternoon inspired us to take the Narrows Bridge instead, adding miles but subtracting time on the final stretch home.  One stop along the way for a super-duper inflatable neck collar to help prevent Charlie's ceaseless licking of the surgical site, and we finally arrived at home safe and sound and mostly sane.

Sort of strange to pull up at the house and see Zac's car parked out front, as if he was home awaiting our return...

Friday, September 7, 2012

1,000+ miles in 48 hours {Day 10-11: Wyoming to Oregon}

Snake River; Twin Falls, Idaho
Nine hours and over 500 miles behind us on day 10, our arrival into Twin Falls, Idaho, coincided with both the dinner hour and a great need for physical activity.  In order to accomplish both goals simultaneously, the boys headed directly for the swimming pool while Tim and I found the nearest Mexican restaurant and ordered take-out for a dine-in experience back at the hotel. 

Intrigued by the ads plastering the swing states for a new release "Obama's America 2016," and knowing that it would not be widely available on the big screens in our home town, we set out to find a showing in Twin Falls after our swim and dine break.  No easy feat to find the theater, but after a maze of unmarked construction detours through dimly lit residential streets we happened upon it at the moment we were about to turn back and declare the mission impossible.   This revealing documentary convinced me that I have not prayed nearly enough (either in frequency or fervency) for our president.

barefoot or bust!
Another nine hours on the highway, another 500+ mile day of driving brought us safely to Troutdale, Oregon, on day 11. The torrential winds along the shores of the Columbia River made driving a bit more challenging (for the nerves) but the recreational feats being carried out on the abundant whitecaps made for an entertaining stretch of road, rather a novelty on this two-week journey.  Our family dinner at the closest restaurant, the one adjoining the hotel property, wasn't nearly as delicious as holding hands and skipping back to the hotel with my husband and boys.  One final night in a hotel...

What if we....

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Duct Tape Van and Freaky Hotels {Day 9: Iowa to Wyoming}

Creative use of the hotel bedspread; hopefully it's not one that goes back on the bed!

After a full day with friends in Chicago, our evening's four hour drive (with a fast food stop for dinner) brought us safely home for the night near Davenport, Iowa.  A dinky hotel room with a violent toilet sufficed for a fair night's sleep before another sub-par hotel breakfast and hot drinks that looked and smelled like coffee, taste not withstanding. 

Too many drought-distressed corn fields to count; alongside I 80 in Nebraska
Entering, crossing, and exiting Nebraska ranked #1 on the to-do list for day 9; our sights set on finding lodging in Cheyenne come nightfall.  Endless miles of suffering corn fields made for a monotonous drive, until a strange flapping sound (picked up by Peter) alerted us to the fact that part of our bumper had detached from the vehicle and threatened to fly into traffic on I 80.  An unplanned, but entirely necessary vehicle maintenance stop ensued, and after duct tape repairs were completed, we carried on and put Nebraska behind us, entering Wyoming at dusk having enjoyed a pizza pizza in the car for dinner.
Duct tape to the rescue
An item for my wish list
Surprised to discover that nearly every hotel room in Cheyenne was already booked, we were directed to the one place where vacancies could be found.  A quick Internet search conducted en route, revealed a disturbing pattern of customer comments for that place, predominantly falling into the category labeled "terrible."  I read the following customer review aloud to Tim as he pulled into the parking lot:
No security anywhere, a drunk tried to pick a fight with my husband at the ice machine. No ice anyway... drunks in the parking lot and totally out of control. Oh well, went to sleep despite the noise and the stained sheets. No A/C to speak of, enjoyed the ice cold shower in the morning and the breakfast with cold foods that were warm and warm foods that were cold. Especially liked that when we used the sink in the am, that it clogged again with the previous guests puke.
Needless to say, we did not spend the night in Cheyenne.  844 miles and over 13 hours of driving later, we put an end to day 9 in Laramie.  After narrowly avoiding a close call with the house of horrors in Cheyenne, the AmericInn in Laramie proved to be quite a palace. 

Another night, another hotel room; on our journey home from Notre Dame