Sunday, October 5, 2014

Moving In

We moved in today. The children were both excited to the point of screeching insanity, which made it extremely easy to get things done.

But we managed.

Currently the place is pretty bare. We have our fairly complete camping kit and quite a lot of stuff borrowed from the property manager. She's lent us dishes, towels, an air mattress, bedding, a small table and two chairs suitable for tiny children. Like ours.

The day is sunny and glorious.

It feels extremely weird to be pulling stuff out of the minivan for the last time. Not literally the last time of course, but in a very significant way the last time. We have stopped. The journey is over. We might move again, who knows. The world is large and life is long. That will be, if it should be, a new journey.

This one has reached its end, and we are well pleased.



Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cute Baby!

Beatrice demonstrates various cuteness.




And she is getting pretty good at slides!

video

Friday, October 3, 2014

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

We go to sign a lease today for the house we saw first. The one with the two fruit trees and the raspberry bushes. The final house we saw--in the Columbia neighborhood where we think is where we might want to end up even though The Lettered Streets looks mighty awesome so far--was horrendous. Struck us very much as student housing. We hope to move in this weekend and then spend a couple weeks literally camping inside the house while we wait for our stuff to be delivered.

Yesterday afternoon, after a fairly abortive morning (thank you children), we all 4 went into town. Alice and I checked out Half Pint children's consignment (1 of at least 3 in the town, including one within easy walking distance of our new home) and then walked to Haggen's, the awesome, slightly spendy local grocery store chain, to buy some wine for dinner. Molitor and Beatrice went for a walk and ended up downtown, which they loved. Art supply stores, restaurants, bike shops, green spaces, used book stores. This place is like Disney World for us.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lookin' for a home

We have visited two rental houses so far and go to our third (and likely last) tonight. We are pretty excited about it so far. Largely, of course, because it represents No More Driving and Settling Somewhere and Getting Our Shit Back and Getting Our Children Into Preschool So We Can Reclaim A Portion Of Our Adult Lives. But also because these neighborhoods are just so damn cute. The top contender so far (this one: http://bellingham.craigslist.org/apa/4680214654.html) is within easy walking distance of Trader Joe's, an organic market, and downtown, not to mention a park for Beatrice (too young for Alice) and slightly further away but still walk/bikeable a lovely and large string of parks, AND a freakin' donut shop at the end of the block!

This is the other one we've looked at: http://bellingham.craigslist.org/apa/4661929194.html Looks better on paper. Some of its advantages are: 2-car garage (read: storage) and in better (perhaps just more modern) repair.

But we still much prefer the first one, as it has a central area for dining, which would be the physical and behavioral center of the house, hardwood floors throughout, a small but enclosed backyard that the kitchen looks out on and with 2 fruit trees, a very sweet neighbor cat who let Beatrice poke at it for a while, twice-yearly-bearing raspberry bushes in the side yard, and two quite large bedrooms. The third BR is technically not, as it doesn't have a closet, but we hope to task our 3rd BR, wherever it ends up being, as an office/guest room anyways. The owner was busily repairing/updating/fixing everything as we toured: new paint, floors are new, brand new landscaping, etc. Evidently the last series of tenants left it sort of trashed. Downsides: no storage (which I would take as a personal challenge to continue our downsizing bonanza that we started while packing up in Norfolk), only 1 BA, a picturesque but unusable wood-burning stove in the living room that is going to be a constant danger for our kids unless we figure out a way to tastefully surround it with a soft deterrent.

We still think we'd like to end up in the Columbia neighborhood, and this is in The Lettered Streets neighborhood (it's on B street), and the place we're going to look at tonight is in Columbia, but The Lettered Streets look preeeeetty nice so far. Columbia is the neighborhood recommended for "families with young children" and that's where the elementary school is. It'd sure be nice to be able to walk the kids to elementary school. On the other hand, the parts of Bellingham we're interested in are so compact that literally nothing is more than 2 miles away. An easy bike ride at the worst.

In any case, we hope to have made a decision by tomorrow and have the owners say yes and get our stuff on its way from Whereversville, VA!

Baby's Got A New Pair O' Shoes

The power of Zappo's.



video

(Note from Mommy: If you can zoom in on the photo,l you'll see they're magenta with tiny lavender polka dots on top of the toes, with a velcro-attached strap across the top, with tassles just like traditional loafers. I am in love! Beatrice is definitely having an adjustment period, especially as I bought them for 18-24 months so they're just a tad big (she's 14 1/2 months now, but has her momma's feet, I'm pretty sure), but I want to get a lot of wear out of these things). A few weeks ago we bought her sock-shoes at Walmart so she'd have something to protect her feet because she had refused to crawl anymore by then. But she really didn't like them and could easily pull them off. The weather is too cold and she walks too much outside to continue barefoot.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bellingham, WA it is.

We were going to take the whole week to mull over Portland v. Bellingham. But it quickly became obviously that both Molitor and I were instinctively leaning towards Bellingham. Portland has a larger population and the associated benefits -- public transit, denser retail areas, more career options -- and is possibly not quite as rainy. But we can wrap our minds around Bellingham very easily. It is a pretty focused community, as opposed to a more spread out larger urban area. From the neighborhood we want to live in, we can very easily bike and pretty easily walk to a food co-op, Trader Joe's, a regular grocery store, a huge aquatic center, a YMCA and downtown. The neighborhood has a park with playground. The homes are generally the size we want. From our airbnb cottage today, we walked to the public access park on Lake Whatcom, and discovered that there's an avid crew community here, and people also sail on the lake.

I sometimes feel it is remote, but I am reassured that it's connected in several ways to both Seattle and Vancouver. We have checked out the airporter shuttle from SeaTac to Bellingham and it seems convenient and reasonably cheap (so all you loved ones who want to come visit, please don't despair! It's not like a trek into deepest Alaska.). I also checked out bus and Amtrak access to Seattle for weekend jaunts, and it is abundant. And I know access to Vancouver is quick and easy (customs permitting).

So now the hunt is on, probably for a rental for the next year or so (make sure I can survive the winter rains before buying!) and then buy a house of our own. I am finally ready to settle. Get a house, a dog...the whole catastrophe!

Our cottage

Here's a video of the cottage we're staying in on Lake Whatcom. You get to see everything but the front room, which we have tasked as Beatrice's bedroom (aka The Shrieking Room), and she is currently taking her morning nap.

A few notes:

Alice's bedroom has a desk which she immediately dubbed her homework desk. She has done simply a TON of homework on it since we've gotten here. She then rolls it up and delivers it to me, her teacher.

Her bedroom also has a closet in which she immediately placed her "vackpack" (by the way, she also nightly asks us to "ruv" her back) and her song book, which is an edition of Arabian Nights or whatever it's called tucked inside a decorative box.

And the video shows you the inside of the bathtub because Beatrice simply loves being in the bathtub, especially when the water is running but really, regardless. And I just find it adorable. And for lack of any actual toys, measuring cups did just fine last night!


Ruminations on kitchens

We are yet again able to cook meals, for which we are very thankful. We can make do with almost any setup. Witness cooking meals with a microwave in a hotel room. But we have had a lot of opportunity to ruminate on kitchens, specifically how they're equipped, in rental units. The equipment is invariably kind of crappy --a ragtag assortment of non stick pots and pans, yet another ragtag assortment of knives that never includes a chef's knife, tiny cutting boards often made of glass -- and makes cooking a challenge. It is obvious that the owners don't want spend a lot of money equipping a rental like a restaurant kitchen, but it finally occurred to me that that thinking is just misplaced. Because in order to have a highly functioning kitchen, the list of necessary equipment is astonishingly short, so you could acquire high quality versions at low total cost.

Chef's knife
Paring knife
Large wooden cutting board
1 large pot (probably a cast iron dutch oven, which would be nice for oven work too)
1 medium pot
1 frying pan (all pots and pans made of stainless steel or cast iron)
1 large bowl and 1 small bowl (probably metal)
Some coffee making device, a cone would suffice
Some utensils: tongs, big spoon, spatula, whisk

Optional: not non-stick jelly roll pan, cookie rack, another cutting board for garlic and onion, colander, Kettle, grinder of some sort to make paste foods like hummus, bread knife

Now of course our home kitchen has more than this, and largely I'm okay with that because we prioritize cooking so highly. But it's good to think about these lists on occasion to make sure we don't end up with an unwieldy collection of cheap gadgets that we rarely use.

Lake Whatcom

We have arrived in Bellingham. We're staying at a very nice small house (2 bedrooms, 1 bath, 1200 square feet) on Lake Whatcom which is actually in Bellingham. At least, this end of it is stuck into the outer edge of Bellingham.

We were profoundly tired on arrival, but the lake looks beautiful based on our glances. The house is also quite lovely, although to a slight degree a work in progress. The owner appears to be a Restoration Hardware fan based on the decoration and the catalogs lying around.



We'll be resting up today, looking for rental properties on the internet and maybe even making some phone calls. We don't intend to budge from here today, though.

Beatrice was allowed to holler quite a lot last night. In hotels we spoil her to avoid keeping the neighbors up all night. So she is now spoiled. Now we need to un-spoil her so she and we can get back to sleeping decently. This is pretty hard on a little kid. It does not help that she is super busy in a new space, checking everything out three times, like a dog. She was not done when it was bedtime, and had been too busy to really eat well. We did feed her up before sleep, but she probably would have eaten more had she been less busy.

So, possibly a little hungry. Definitely interested in pacing the place over and over and exploring and moving things around for another eight hours. But trapped. Trapped in hated crib. Poor baby.

She's catching up on sleep this morning. Big time.




Sunday, September 28, 2014

Nor Beatrice

Me: ha ha. Daddy doesn't have any makeup!

Alice: Nor Beatrice!

<Mommy and Daddy look at each other in pleased surprise at Alice's language>

Portland, OR

We leave Portland today. We spent all day yesterday here, which really amounted to about 2 hours of neighborhood investigation because we had lunch with an old friend of ours and we barely made it there in time for the 1130 rendezvous thanks to our children.

Molitor and I have both known Brian for about 10 years, having worked with him at nCircle. He underwent a pretty awesome transformation about 5 years ago, from a pallid software-is-my-life type to a hiking, sailing, outdoorsy, interested-in-life, slightly-less-pallid vegan who moved to Portland from the Bay Area. We dined at Laughing Planet, which made me So Happy. Organic! Tofu! Kale! Definitely back in the PNW.

We investigated the Woodstock neighborhood more at dinner time. (Thai food. Oh thank you lord. Back on the west coast...) It's supposed to be a family neighborhood. It has a nice retail strip and fairly dense housing and Reed College is Right There. In my opinion, if we were to ignore the people aspect of choosing a place to live, Portland might win over Bellingham. But then we'd miss out on Suzanne and Dan and Aunt Bef and grandparents. And that is Very Important.

In other news, Beatrice's sleep habits have deteriorated to Complete Crap so we are sooooo looking forward to checking into our 2BR (read: you can just cry it out at midnight, B. And 3am. And 5am.) airbnb cottage on Lake Whatcom tonight for 6 nights. During which time we hope to figure out what to do next.

Winding Down

Portland is awfully nice. We've had two excellent meals out here, and we like the look of Woodstock and the surrounding areas. There are parks, and we spent some time at one and Alice made a friend as she always does and it was very nice.

But.

Bellingham is closer to my family, and we know people who will be living there shortly. I personally find the intensely urban aspect of a larger city less and less palatable. Portland is great but I know I'd find myself driving on a loaded highway more often than I'd like. Uncharitable though it is to be concerned with this, there are more damaged people in a big city.

I don't want to raise my daughters in an isolation chamber filled with puppies, but I do want some middle ground between a perfect affluent suburb far from sin, and the gritty realities of downtown. Portland doesn't feel quite like that.

Bellingham it is. We think. Time to head north, start looking for a home, and to ponder. Portland is still in our minds, but Bellingham feels more like home right now.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

According to legend...

As Alice and I were walking down from the viewing bridge at Multnomah Falls yesterday, she told me a spooooky tale.

Alice: #eldritch voice# According to legend... Now Mom, this might not make you happy, but every 2 years...

Me: What happened every two years, Alice?

Alice: #eldritch voice again# well, every 2 or 3 years...

Me: What happened every 2 or 3 years, Alice?

Alice: I need a few minutes to think about it.

Then later when we were in the bathroom together:

Me: whew! My bladder has been telling me for a while that I needed to pee.

Alice: mine, too!

Me: do you think they speak the same language, our 2 bladders?

Alice: well they ARE both american.

Portland, OR

Here we are in Portland! Well, Gresham, to be exact. The plan is to spend the day in and around the city to get the flavor, have lunch with a friend, and look at a neighborhood called Woodstock.

Oddly enough my sister is in town for a wedding but in all probability we will miss one another. She's busy with the wedding and we're wildly constrained by nap schedules and wanting to look at Portland.

We drove the Columbia Gorge to get here, a route I recall from my youth when my family moved from Alberta to Oregon. It's beautiful. Wild, dry, austere at one end; wild, lush, beautiful at the other. We stopped off to see Multnomah Falls, which was fantastic and just as I remembered it. To be fair I do not recall espresso, fudge, or ice cream available at the base, but if these are indeed new, they are welcome additions.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Naked baby on the loose

Instead of stopping, as usual, at a local restaurant for lunch yesterday, we opted to stop at a rest area, specifically, the Visitor's Center just after entering Oregon on Rt. 84, and make our own lunch. The idea pleased us both because we'd eaten both breakfast and the previous night's dinner out and felt accordingly unhealthy. Beatrice has developed a charming new habit of dumping water on herself while in the car seat, so we took our a completely sopping baby and then stripped her naked and let her run around the rest area. It was a surprisingly pleasant stop considering the desert wasteland we'd been driving through for a couple days and the promise of one more day. Many of our fellow drivers were clearly tickled by the sight of our tiny, naked, lumbering baby making her way endlessly around the entire rest area. Daddy cooked some grilled cheese on the campstove and made us a salad and we all felt quite refreshed afterwards.

Pendleton, OR

Here we are in Pendleton. Apparently this is the home of an ancient and well respected brand in woolen items. I think of it as kind of the armpit of Oregon but apparently it's not!

The sunsets and sunrises are lovely. The city is down in a green valley that cuts across a dry wasteland. The usual sort of thing in eastern Washington and Oregon. The hotel is up on the wasteland part, so the view out the window is a genuine vista. I'm very glad not to be trying to walk across it but it's pretty nice to look at.

Today we drive to Portland. Gresham, to be exact, a suburb with inexpensive hotels. Tomorrow, investigations of Portland.

The children are sleeping pretty badly lately, so we're looking forward to wrapping this thing up in a couple more days. We hope!



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Where's daddy?!

Beatrice was up early today, so daddy and she went off to breakfast at six.

To entertain her while we waited for food I put her blanket over my head and said 'Where's daddy? Where's daddy?' As one does.

Beatrice was holding one of those little bundles of flatware and a napkin they do up in some restaurants and brained me with it, to everyone's delight except mine.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mountain Home, ID

We're staying in a Best Western in Mountain Home, ID. A town we selected very carefully because it happened to fall after 4 hours of driving. This leaves us 2 more days of 4-hour drives until we get to Portland. Which makes 5 days of driving total from Lakewood, CO. Ugh. So far this southern part of Idaho is boring and rather ugly. Just like upper Utah. Our previous driving through northern Idaho was much more beautiful.

The best thing about this BW, as usual, is the pool. It's outdoors (and the daytime temperatures are in the 90s) and very pretty as these things go. It has a big waterfall, a sloping entrance, steps, etc. We are supposedly going to go in again tomorrow morning before leaving, to keep Alice satisfied.

Just north of Salt Lake City.

We made good time yesterday to just north of Salt Lake City, at a Comfort Inn in a fancy suite for only $110. Beatrice had a hellish time going to sleep (which was horrible for us parents) but woke only once during the night so our sleep was okay. The hotel has an indoor pool, so Alice and I spent about an hour down there last night. Small hotel pools do nothing for me, but damn if that kid doesn't just love 'em.

We blasted through Salt Lake City without stopping, though Molitor pointed out the Mormon cathedral in the distance. He'd visited here 20 years ago and found the whole place just horrid, especially the lake, and had no interest in touring anything. I am pretty laser-focused on finishing this trip, so a lack of sightseeing is fine with me.

Right now Daddy and the girls are downstairs having the free breakfast, giving me time to blog and perhaps even do 5 minutes of stretching (I daren't call it yoga :) .

Eating where the locals eat

When you're travelling, the gold standard for picking a restaurant is that the locals eat there. You don't want to go to a new town and just plop down at McDonald's, both because the experience isn't unique and because the food isn't special. And sometimes (usually) finding that locals' joint does give you exactly what you want: some local flavor, some local color, and a unique experience. We lunched at q4u BBQ in Frisco, CO for lunch a couple days ago, and it was great. But it occurred to me after we ate some pathetic "Mexican" food (the plate-full-of-glop variety) yesterday for lunch at a restaurant which  clearly many locals patronized, Los 2 Amigos in Price, Utah, that there are 2 huge flaws with this approach:

1) Locals like to eat at Panera <or insert other chain restaurant>.  I have gotten several recommendations along this trip from locals regarding where to eat, and it's frequently a chain.

2) We have different (snootier?) food tastes than most people. In Norfolk, we stopped taking people's restaurant recommendations within the first year because we disliked all of the ones we'd tried so far.

Beatrice's sleep

Before we started this trip, Beatrice was an awesome sleeper. Starting at around 2 1/2 months, she started sleeping through the night 10-11 hours and taking 2 good naps. On this trip, the naps have continued well, but the nighttime sleep went almost immediately to pot. Before she can sleep at all in a new place (which, let's review, is usually every day as we hustled across the western parts of the country), Beatrice needs about an hour to accustom herself to the new environment, get over her excitement. But it seems like when Beatrice stays in the same place for several nights (which is almost always when we're staying with a friend or family), her sleep gets progressively better each night. Familiarity breeds good sleep. At Christine's, we eventually got 2 nights in a row of 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep (turns out we need much more than that because we still felt exhausted, but we also felt quite victorious). Which is one big reason we hope to wrap up this trip very quickly and get a place to live for a protracted period of time so we can get some damn sleep!

Weird, but hey, free money!

We stayed in a Super 8 (Alice now requests Super 8 by name when we stop for motels...I'm not sure why, frankly) in Grand Junction. While Beatrice and I were at breakfast (eating Daddy-made granola and yogurt instead of the pathetic supply of simple carbs the motel provided), a nice older couple next to us (of course!) cooed at Beatrice. In the middle of our simple conversation, the man handed over a $20 bill and said something like, "Young woman, we'd like to give this to you for Beatrice." Maybe I looked poor? (I was looking pretty special with clothes I've been wearing for a couple days and not having washed my hair in at least that long.) I stumbled over a thank-you in my surprise and then said I'd put it in her college savings acct. We decided to use half of it to tip hotel staff (because, really, we don't actually NEED more money) and put $10 in her 529. My only guess is that this couple is awash in money (his pension plus Social Security, which we briefly discussed...evidently I exude Financial Planner) and feels they can afford to share the love.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Comprehension Girl

Beatrice wanted some of Alice's pasta and cheese, which Alice did not approve of.

Mom told B 'go get the blue bowl' pointing at a blue bowl in a welter of other objects halfway across the room. Damned if B did not toddle across the room, pick up the blue bowl, and bring it back.

To be fair, maybe mommy points well. Also, Alice was eating out of an identical bowl, which was probably a tip as well.


Monday, September 22, 2014

On The Road

With regrets we have left Denver. We drove through more breathtaking landscape. Yet again and as always, not really the same as any landscape we've seen, and here we are in Grand Junction, not too far from the Utah border.

We had some good BBQ for lunch in Frisco, CO and Alice had her first slurpee ever.

All is well. We're still really really far from Portland, OR, which we have in mind as a next stop before - probably - proceeding onwards to Bellingham.

See you for lunch.

Christine made a strong argument for us to stay an extra day at her home, so we did. It was one part "the traffic will be better on Monday" and one part "oh my god, it's so easy and restful here." Alice got to go to a place called Jump Street yesterday, where she had a ball, as part of Jack's 7th birthday celebration, and then we all reconvened at Christine's friend's house to watch the Broncos game. Or, at least, where Christine and her friends watched the game and Molitor and I tried desperately to prevent Beatrice from breaking anything (herself or otherwise) and otherwise kind of stared blankly at the TV and occasionally asked questions or made mocking comments.

But this morning we head out. The plan is to head west via I-70. Evidently it's quite scenic, but we will probably just see it at 70 mph as opposed to stopping anywhere notable. We really just want to get back to our new hometown (probably Bellingham, though we'll be stopping in Portland, OR and seeing how that suits) and get ourselves settled.

We're on tap for sending Alice back out to the Maley household in a few years so she can have a ball (again) with the Maley family, especially Sophia, whom she was attached to this entire visit. This was a compromise because Christine wanted us to just leave Alice here. And thankfully, Sophia seemed to like her just as much. When I told Alice last night that "I'm glad you and Sophia got to be such good friends," Alice corrected me, "such good sisters." It didn't make me cry because I'm a hard-hearted wench, but when I told Christine, she teared up. Sophia desperately wanted Alice to sleep with her last night, and Alice said Yes in the evening, but when push came to shove, Alice said No, which evidently crushed Sophia, poor thing.

Christine never says "good-bye," she says "see you for lunch."  So, see you for lunch, Penfield/Maleys!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Make that Lakewood, CO. A home away from home. If we had one.

We are planning to leave my Cousin Christine's home tomorrow. Part of me really, really doesn't want to leave because it's so relatively easy here. And then, of course, the lovely social aspect of having Christine and Michael and their awesome kids (who are so great with both Alice and Beatrice) and occasionally Uncle Gary and Cousin Melanie and her son Evan. Christine and Michael's home is very comfortable and accommodates an extra family surprisingly well. Which is in large part why I want to leave...so we can get closer to having a welcoming home of our own. Right now we're just in an (admittedly enjoyable) stasis.

Molitor and I have tried to do as little as possible while here, to recover mentally and physically, and have done a pretty good job. There's been a lot of grocery shopping and cooking and socializing with Christine's family and, surprise, child care. And of course the fact that they love Alice and Beatrice and are vocal about it...that doesn't hurt. Sophia has been clamoring to have Alice sleep with her, but Alice is Very Clear about not wanting to sleep in a room with anyone but Mommy and Daddy.

We had thought about Denver as a possible place to live, but after driving through commute traffic and seeing all the cookie-cutter neighborhoods along Route 25 and it's so damn DRY here...well, we decided this isn't the place for us. Though the draw of my awesome family here is strong...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Denver!

We are in Denver at last. Meg's cousin and her family are taking outstanding care of us in their lovely and very kid friendly hone.

Time to take a rest for a couple days, take stock, clean up.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Beatrice's language

At 14 months, Beatrice isn't saying too much. She seems to have 2, maybe 4 words: Momma and Dadda, and then variations like "memma" and "dey-doh," which possibly mean "person!" or "look at that!" She does say "Momma" quite often and then lurch towards me, which is AWESOME.

I was tickled pink the other day, though, when I was trying to use the restroom and Beatrice of course had to come visit me and I really wanted some Damn Privacy, so I suggested she "go find your blanket! Blanket, Beatrice! Where's your blanket?" Darned if she didn't toddle off and bring back her blanket!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Rock Springs, WY

We are in the oddest motel. The rooms have one wall of glass, which looks out into an atrium which contains... Nothing. To be fair there is a symmetrically arranged atrium on the other side which contains a pool. Ours contains an expanse of cement.

There are two levels of interior rooms looking out on the atrium, and one level of exterior rooms looking out on the parking lot, facing away from the atrium, and at a height halfway between the two interior levels. It's a very peculiar bit of architecture.

I think this place might be more of a conference center?

Anyways. Glass wall. What?!! There are drapes but with children drapes are a bit futile until you immobilize the children. So there's a sense of no privacy at all.

No microwaves in the room. They do have one you can use, though. In a storage closet that contains among other things:


  • Boxes of pamphlets for, no doubt, some pamphlet rack someplace
  • A Kodak slide carousel
  • A pile of credit card imprint machines
  • A dot-matrix printer
  • An active phone switch, no doubt running the phone system
It is a sort of time capsule of the entire life of the hotel, I think. Pretty terrible for cooking in.

One day out from Denver, in theory.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Yellowstone

Fabulous. Of course.

We just did one short leg of the road inside the park, west entrance to old faithful and back. One stop at old faithful for lunch and to watch the geyser go off. Bison meatloaf. Alice enjoyed the geyser. Beatrice found some gravel to play with. Peak experiences for both kids basically.

One stop at the Midway geyser basin where the grand prismatic spring is.


Then back in the car until the kids fell asleep and then one more pull-out so mom and dad could soak up some nature in peace. Just an empty parking lot surrounded by trees with mountains in the distance. 10 minutes of peace. Awesome. There's some pictures from here too but you're not allowed to see them.

Our search for a new home

Though we have not found many towns that could feel like home, this trip has continually taught us which qualities we want or don't want in a physical home and in the community. This consideration has also been influenced by a book Molitor has steadily read over the last year and a half:  A Pattern Language, basically a hippie/communist tome from Berkeley professors in the 1970s about urban and home design, aka "The big yellow book."

This trip has reset our expectations and need for size. Not that we're hopping on the "tiny home" bandwagon (despite having lived out of a minivan and a motel room for the last 2 months), but a 3-BR home will be juuuuust fine, thank you, especially as I expect the girls will be roommates soon...with a bunk bed! I'd love to have a big kitchen at the expense of other common areas, but that's a nice to have, not need to have. We want a public/private space like a front porch, screened in or made 3-season depending on the climate where we end up. Central air and insulation and windows that fit! (This based on my experience in our last home, which drove me nuts with its aged inadequacies.) We'd love to have nooks and crannies for the kids to explore and let their imaginations rule. We want a yard for the kids to play in--doesn't need to be huge like my childhood home's, but adequate--and hopefully a way for the kids to get from our house to neighbors' by themselves (eventually). Our stint at Grandma's taught us the huge value of being able to send Alice outside by herself to play with neighbor kids. What sweet relief!

Within the community, we want to be able to walk to groceries and a coffee shop, bike to a broader array of things, like schools. Easy access to sail-able water. And of course we'd love to have a community of like-minded folks: fairly progressive politically, hiking and camping and sailing and yoga-ing, organic foods.

And we have realized, based on our experience in Norfolk, that all these qualities are very neighborhood specific, not city specific. Norfolk statistics are horrible in terms of crime, income, education, walkability, etc. But our neighborhood of Ghent was great in terms of all of those.

Super 8 in (West) West Yellowstone

I suspect I could have gotten us a more conveniently located motel or campground, even though most signs I saw said "No Vacancy." But in terms of parenting convenience, this motel is pretty great. We are located just a few feet away from a cozy, hunting-lodge style lobby, so when Alice needs to be quiet because Beatrice is down for sleep, Alice and a parent can easily and enjoyably decamp to the lobby. Also, the breakfast area gives out onto a deck from which we have a beautiful view of the distant mountains...and evidently steam plumes from the geothermal features early in the morning. We are allowed to use the breakfast area to cook, so I had the easiest time so far in a motel preparing our dinner on a nice big counter with a hot water spigot and the communal microwave. And lastly, the Super 8 is attached to a KOA, which has a playground, which Alice and Daddy are currently enjoying as I wait for Beatrice to stop wriggling around and finally fall asleep for her morning nap.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Montana/Yellowstone

Driving east from Missoula we were reminded again of how large, how desolate, and how basically beautiful Montana is. It's really something special. We almost literally cannot imagine living here - everything is insanely far away from everything else, and ignoring that, there's just not much here except natural beauty - but we lust after the beauty that is here.

Butte has a 90 foot statue of the Virgin Mary way way way up on a ridgeline over the city. It was built and erected by volunteers. Volunteers who, among other things, blasted a road up the mountain. Another volunteer donated engineering, as the statue is evidently in a pretty exciting spot in terms of wind. Only in a mining town. Most places, volunteers serve soup or on a good day apply paint.

Now we are in Wyoming, about 15 miles west of the west entrance to Yellowstone. Tomorrow, we tour some Geothermal Wonders.


Sugar overload

A persistent, frustrating theme of this trip has been trying to keep Alice from ingesting a positively stupid amount of sugar. During our "normal" life in Norfolk, it wasn't that big of a deal. Sure, every holiday, minor or otherwise, has turned into a cheap-candy-palooza, but that still covers a small part of the year. On the road, when you're eating motel-provided breakfasts most days and occasionally shopping at Walmart and restocking at grocery stores, it's a Constant Struggle. Which has really been an eye opener. If you don't make a conscious effort to avoid motel breakfasts and chain restaurants and most food stores, you will be overwhelmed by sugar. To wit, at this morning's Super 8 "Super Start" breakfast, we had waffles. With "syrup." If you wanted to be a bit healthier, you could have cold cereal: raisin bran and Frosted Flakes. Try a bit harder, oatmeal! In maple and brown sugar flavor. Maybe you're concerned about protein or calcium? Yogurt! With freakin' 17g of sugar per serving. I have become an expert on sugar content measurements because I have started watching it like a hawk. And the checkout line at Walmart is just nuts: it's 20 shelf feet of brightly colored snacks and treats, some in the form of baby bottles, which is so perverse as to defy lucid commentary.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Missoula, MT. Again.

Investigated the local Holiday Inn Express because it evidently offers "kids suites" and we couldn't think of a bad way of implementing such a thing, but basic rooms started at $140, so blow that for a lark. So here we sit in our 2-queen-bed Super 8 room, Beatrice finally asleep way too late for her afternoon nap, and Daddy and Alice out grocery shopping, and Mommy trying to figure out which securities licenses are necessary to practice as a financial planner in the state of Washington. Thankfully, they're all just "here! take this long multiple-choice test!" and I'm Good at taking tests.

Tomorrow, (West) Yellowstone!

Road weary

We are ALL starting to get tired of being on the road. We hope to finish this trip, one way or another, in the next 2 or 3 weeks.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Our Days

This is just the general shape of it. Every day, really, is different.

6am. B wakes up to nurse. She may have been awake for a while or not. She's allowed out of her crib at six. Occasionally she goes back to sleep until 7 or even later. Mostly not.

6:30am. Take B out of the lodgings. Walk around, or get breakfast, visit a coffee shop. Mostly, free hotel breakfast and wander the hotel for an hour or so. Let Alice and the other parent get some more sleep. [Molitor is being kind. It's almost always he who gets up with B.]

7:30ish. Return to lodging, wake other parent. Alice gets up about now. Maybe as late as 8.

Entertain kids and get the un-fed fed. Maybe get some packing up done if it's a travel day.

8:30-9:00ish. B down for morning nap. Do something with Alice. Swimming? Walks? Spinning, plying, weaving, if we happen to be staying with Aunt Beth. Until B wakes an hour or two later.

10:00-10:30ish. B wakes. Either pack up and leave if it's a travel day, or go do stuff if it's a non-travel day.

12:30-1:00ish. Stop for lunch which will take about an hour.

B will nap again around 2:30, in the car if we're traveling, otherwise we need to be back in lodgings for the next hour or two.

4:30pm. Arrive at hotel on travel days. B awake about now either way. Entertain kids, relax, etc, until it's time to get dinner. Maybe an hour.

The attentive reader will have noticed that it's pretty much hustling all day to this point.

5:30 start dinner, feed children.

6:30 start getting kids to bed. B will finally give up and pass out about 7:00 or 7:30 after a diaper change, into jammies, some more playing, some angry screaming on the subject of definitely not sleeping, settle Alice down enough to get B settled down, etc, etc.

Alice will go down about an hour later after some wind down time and some tooth brushing, reading, peeing, and maybe a story.

Then the parents go to bed, if they're smart, around 9.

It's a busy schedule of which far too much time is spent tip-toeing around and shushing Alice so that B doesn't wake up.

We can push on, driving around four hours a day, OR we can look around a town, or be slightly harried tourists, or similar, for about the same for hours, perhaps a bit more.

Nights are variable and often not very restful on account of belly-aching children who need to be bullied back to sleep.

We're getting a little tired of it all.


On the road again

This week will feature more dedicated driving than perhaps we've had this entire trip. We're doing a fair bit of backtracking from Bellingham so that we can get to Yellowstone. This trip will take 4 days of driving, 2 of which we've already done. Last night we stayed in Cle Elum, tonight in the eastern part of Spokane in a truly desolate industrial section of the city, at a Rodeway Inn. Their idea of a "suite" is a bit laughable, but at $64+tax per night, I can't argue. We drove through eastern Washington today, and I must say, it is one ugly stretch. On the upside, we pulled over for lunch in Lake Moses, WA and managed to find an actual honest-to-goodness taqueria, Maria's, and we enjoyed the hell out of it. Had my first fish taco in years (I didn't even both on the rare occasion I had Mexican-ish in Norfolk). Also learned that if you cut up an underripe mango, some lime juice makes it taste so much better.

Getting lodging inside Yellowstone Park was, of course, an unrealistic expectation (not that I didn't try), so we will be staying at the World's Most Expensive Super 8 in West Yellowstone, MT for 2 days. Hopefully, we'll be able to get a couple highlights of the park in on our 1 full day there. Though being terrified of having Beatrice around giant pools of boiling hot water, I will be staying in the car with her at certain sites while Daddy shows Alice around. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The summer of swimming

Quite unexpectedly, Alice had had much more opportunity to swim this summer then in previous summers. Thanks to that, her water skills have improved very quickly. First was getting used to putting her face in the water. Then putting on her life jacket and paddling all around. Etc etc until today I felt compelled to start instructing her to raise her arms above her head in the freestyle fashion instead of the dog paddle she's gotten very good at by now. And she was able to wheel her arms around accordingly surprisingly well the very first time. She can swim, in a fashion, for several feet without drowning. We have alas been goggle-less for several weeks and have had no luck finding goggles at places like Walmart. But Alice's progress in the water had been awesome. Next step, swim team! But only if she wants. Of course.

Cle Elum, WA

We have arrived in Cle Elum, a small town on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, due east from Seattle. We're not quite to the desert which makes up the eastern part of Washington. Mostly Cle Elum is a tiny place which is $40 a night cheaper than Ellensburg, WA. Which is a slightly less small town just east of here.

The Cascades are beautiful in the sunlight. We saw them in rain and mist on the drive west, and they were pretty. On the drive east today, in the sun with the highest reaches wreathed from time to time in puffy white cloud, they were spectacular.

Beatrice Sounds

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Icecream-ing our way across the universe

At Boomer's Drive In in Bellingham, WA. looking for those elusive marshmallows in the scoop of Rocky Road!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Bellingham, WA. Again.

We left Aunt Beth's today. Alice was sad so I proposed we leave her there for a couple of months as the rest of us finished the trip and figured out where we want to live. She thought that no, that wasn't a good idea, but perhaps a sleepover?

Customs went fine though frustratingly inefficient with their lines instead of queues. We were waved through after 2 questions.

Now we're staying at the Coachman Inn, a cheap but well kept and nicely located motel. And I have appointments with 2 local fee-only financial planner tomorrow to see what they have to say about the planning profession in this area. I should be Highly Caffeinated by 3pm tomorrow.

Back in the Back the USSSSA

We've crossed the border again and are back in Bellingham, for a thorough looksee at the town. The border crossing was, as was the other direction, a complete non-event. A modest wait in the car, inching forward, a short interview, and a pleasant but curt 'get outta here. have a nice day.'

The time in Canada was really pretty great. Beth was a trouper. A family of four stuffed into her bedroom while she sleeps in the living room has got to be trying. The apartment is... Not large. Small is really the word. Very might be another word. So, generous in the extreme. We had a really nice time in Burnaby, not doing much. The park she lives next to is awesome and we walked a lot. The takeout is great and we ate some. Cooking was done.

Things on the island have been mentioned. Breakfast in the hotel and so on. Dad and Betty-Anne are always a pleasure. It was good to see them, good to see that life, while no piece of cake, still works pretty well for them. Dad continues to deteriorate, but not very fast. Betty-Anne seems to have found a groove which, while not easy and not always particularly jolly, works for her. We are happy to see all of the above.

Courtenay is gorgeous in the sunshine. I begin to see the appeal, having mostly seen it in the fog and rain. It is quintessentially Pacific Northwest, in the rain, and thus beautiful. But a bit exhausting in large doses. In the sun, though, it's really awfully nice!

My Girls

Mom: Alice, we need to go have a shower and get clean.
Alice: Awwwwww! But I'm an artist!

Another video of B walking:

video

Walking Baby

Beatrice had transitioned from crawling to walking. Yesterday she abruptly started walking everywhere. It's still pretty staggery, and she plops down onto her handsb every two or the or twenty steps. Bit she doesn't crawl except for obstacles any more.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

An offer you can't refuse

Alice wants to help Aunt Beth spin and weave all. the. time. Sometimes this happens to coincide with aunt Beth's plans to do so. Also, being 4, Alice isn't so suave with social niceties, but she really tries. And we try to nudge her in the right direction. Witness this afternoon's conversation:

Alice: Aunt Beth, maybe we could spin right now. Or work on a dinosaur dress. [Beth is making one for a dinosaur-themed wedding]

Mommy: Alice, honey, maybe Beth doesn't want to do that right now. Maybe you could phrase it as a question, as a request?

Beth: Oh, so is that a request, Alice?

Alice: No...it's an offer.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Holiday Inn Express Breakfast

It turns out that the awesome free breakfast here begins to pale on about day two. There's a great deal of choice, but none of it's very good.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Holiday Inn Express!

We are staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Courtenay. This is our first time in this hotel chain, although Molitor has talked it up a bit because it's known for its Hot Breakfast. It's pricier than we're accustomed to paying, $155 ($5 off thanks to our awesomely useful AAA card) vs. $100, though these are tiny Canadian dollars so the difference isn't as great.

Alice is loving the hell out of this hotel with its push-button pancake maker (literally, you do nothing but push a button and 1 minute later a pancake is gently spat out of the black box) and fruit loops and its Indoor Pool and Waterslide and Hot Tub! We've already spent an hour there this morning before 11am, although Alice went down the slide once with me (it was fast and awesome though frankly a little scary) and I believe that'll be the last time.

We have plans to rendezvous with the rest of the Molitor family for a low key lunch. We're going to pack everyone in the trusty minivan!

Courtenay!

We are on Vancouver Island. This will be our westernmost point as we visit the Molitor grandparents.

The ride over was uneventful. Drive, ferry, drive. The ferry ride is always beautiful. Alice completely ignored it and played her heart out in a tiny kid play area, making friends a mile a minute. Beatrice divided her time between playing there and bossing her parents around.





Grandfather Molitor is quite frail now, and very forgetful. Details of his life and ours are clearly quite vague and he does not retain things told to him well. He does love his grandchildren in an utterly delighted and openhanded way that he did not a few years ago. He had always been a stoic and emotionally guarded man, loving deeply but subtly, almost silently. As his intellect fades, though, his heart seems to have come out into the open all the more. He insisted on holding Beatrice; four years ago he was extremely unwilling to hold Alice. I do not believe his affection has changed one whit, but it is a magical thing to see it expressed so openly, so generously.

The children are, as I write, making up for the exhausting, almost nap-free day yesterday. It's two hours past Beatrice's normal waking, and an hour past Alice's. We may have to wake them in order to get to the free hotel breakfast!