Monday, July 28, 2008

Our fortnight behind the Zion Curtain

The kids and I recently returned from our annual summer two-week excursion to Utah. Corey is absolutely 'thrilled' with these 14 days of bachelorhood and lives it up by watching endless hours of Tour de France, going on day long bike rides, picking up 4 extra work shifts, skipping dinner, and commiserating with our garage frog. (If you want to know the truth about his attitude, see Corey's blog). While in Utah, I have found that I have a fairly predictable pattern of behavior. There are just certain things that I have to do in order to call the trip a success.

Just as I have concluded that there is snow running through Corey's veins and that he is happiest amongst the flakes, I also am convinced that red rock is coursing through mine. My soul seems to find its purest peace when I am in Southern Utah. I haven't been able to make it down there for the past 3 years and was more than excited to make the journey to Moab this year.

The Yellow Torpedo....our latest over sized family mode of transportation. It is a giant raft with no interior seating, but has proven sea-worthy. Our previous family transport was the Gray Bullet purchased in 1983, which was also over sized with no interior seating. I personally think this van was custom built for the mafia. Containing no seat belts and no windows, it was fortunate that it was built like a tank and protected the 10 kids bouncing off the carpeted walls during cross-country family vacations. The Gray Bullet is now driveway-ridden, but still highly functional as it houses loads of Mom's humanitarian projects. I am looking forward to more family adventures in the Yellow Torpedo.
This smaller rented raft didn't fare as well and dumped my brother out during a particularly tricky rapid. His nick name in high school was "The Maytag Master" (now that I think of it, I don't know why, but I am sure that it involves something he should have been suspended for) and he earned his moniker today by surviving one of the Colorado Rivers "washing machine" eddies. You can spot Savanna's bright red shorts up front where she was slammed against sister #7's knee and suffered a severe bloody nose.
Howard is still out of the boat and his wife has no idea that he was gone. This is a good thing because she is really the only one that is still paddling at this point.
I see Savanna's bloody face and am doing a little panicking of my own. There is no more horrible feeling than seeing your daughter hurt and being completely unable to reach her. Carrie (sister #6) is our River Guide and is preparing to save the other boat. She could have done it too. We were all safe and none of us were so traumatized that we couldn't do another day trip on Monday. I was traumatized enough to make sure we all rowed clear away from the most dangerous (and funnest....funnest? Most Fun? I need to go back to school) rapids.

Moab at night. I never camped here in a tent before I had children. It seemed a little blasphemous to separate myself from this natural cathedral. Children are a great force for change. I saw the lizards, the toads, the mosquitoes, the King Kong Beetles, and the Hissing Cockroaches and couldn't stand the thought of something crawling into their sleeping bags during the night.

Considering that the kids spent a large portion of their time catching Lizards, hissing cockroaches, and enormous toads, they probably would have welcomed one in their sleeping bags.

Ansel seriously declared more than once, "I really really want to see a dinosaur". He was sure that they must still exist here.

Water and MUD....what more could a kid want?
Ansel finds some partners in GRIME
Ansel is Asher's mentor and tutors him in the ways of making dirt angels. Asher surpasses him in skill in no time. Great things we expect from you, Asher.
Savanna needs a break from all this vacationing and takes a little nap in Onion Creek
I have had a little dare volley going with my niece, Ambryn, for several years now. Visiting Utah involves expecting spontaneous dares from her and inventing deliciously embarrassing dares for her. This one was easy and only involved kissing a toad. I must arrogantly brag that she has refused far more dares than I have. I didn't get to see her much this trip and only had to smash an ice cream cone on my forehead immediately upon receiving it from the Dairy Queen employee. Bring it on Ambryn!!


The first time I heard Josh Ritter was during a ski movie at the Banff Film Festival in 2004. It was love at first chord. I stalked his name in the credits and immediately purchased a cd. Then another. Soon I took the relationship further and introduced him to my friends and family. They instantly approved. Last year, I was finally able to see him play in Portland. You know when you see someone in concert and it is a bit of a let down because of their poor stage presence and it seems like you are bugging them by watching them play or that they are just sick and tired of playing?(i.e. Ryan Adams, Bright Eyes, Phish) And you know when you see someone in concert and you like them even more because you can sense that they truly love what they are doing and are have made an emotional commitment to their lyrics? You can't really know Josh Ritter's music until you watch him perform. I am a bit hesitant about proclaiming his greatness. Maybe I am a little protective. Possibly I am selfish. And I don't fully trust that his growing fame won't tarnish his small town humility. And maybe its bugging Corey a little....( I don't think it is any different from his long-time 'Tweederpated' crush on Jeff Tweedy? In conclusion, I just think Josh Ritter's music could end all wars.

I was able to see him for the 3rd time at a free concert at the Galavan Center in SLC. I again felt protective when I talked to some people who were just there for the free music and didn't even know who J.R. was. He put on another fantastic show. For the first time in my life, I waited in the after concert fan line.....not really knowing why or what I would say. I bought this book so he could sign it for me. Why do we do this? What are our intentions? It is such a strange human behavior. Anyway, Josh is known for being very personable with his fans. He gave me a big hug and chatted with us about Moscow, ID where he is from, my bro-in-law who works in Pullman (he says hi, Joal) and asked about what I do. It would have been a fairly intelligent and normal conversation if i didn't blurt out idiotically, "I have loved you for years." Oh well. I will wear a wig at his next concert.

Sister #6 thinks my teenaged gushing is hilarious. Fuel for mockery for ages to come.
I have never returned to Utah without hiking up Rock Canyon. This was my second campus during my high school and college years. I may have learned more here than in actual class (Stay in School kids). This trip I was able to do a midnight full-moon hike with JULIA (a.k.a sister #4). Hiking in Rock Canyon during a full moon is an indescribable experience. Star Trek is the first thing that comes to mind. It is truly nether-planetary.
Hiking at Sundance is another must. Hiking with Melissa at Sundance is an added bonus. Melissa has always been and always will be the kind of friend who will put absolutely everything in her life on hold to go hiking with me. I was also able to have lunch with one of my dearest(oh how I hate that word) college friends, Amy. I hadn't seen her in 8 years and it is nice to know that time stands still for some friendships. Thanks for googling me, Amy.

We have never gone without a hot dog roast with grandma and grandpa
"My Dad's a miracle and so is my Mom....With all the cats and kids that they've loved." Dar Williams.

My mother has 23.5 grandchildren and somehow continues to manage playing Red Rover and Monsterin the Park. She has survived hosting hundreds of massive cousin sleepovers complete with long, elaborate stories that begin long after I have reached exhaustion. This time she surpassed insanity when she got all of the granddaughters involved in cross-stitching simultaneously....while she canned apricots. If anyone wonders why I have "I suck" my mother.

Bridal Veil Falls

dinosaur museum


Julia (sister #4) lives in a Stepford wives neighborhood in Highland. It is surreal in a really weird, but pleasant way. Everyone is super duper nice and friendly. All the women are nicely groomed with 3 kids and well-kept yards. They meet in the center every evening to swap newly tested granola bar recipes. I love to openly make fun of this place, but I do feel really safe and know that my kids and I love being here. Where else would you find a large pathway in the middle of the neighborhood to let your kids ride on their John Deere play tractor?  Stepford wife and husband training ground.

Now that my Grandpa and Grandma P. are both gone, the house is for sale and we had our last family visit to the house. This experience jolted me a bit. I didn't like being there when they weren't there. The house had no heart and echoed in a lonely way. We were going through some of their things and I felt somehow ashamed in believing that keeping a piece of jewelry or household trinket would in anyway make up for them not being there. Yet I desperately wanted something tangible on which to cling. You never know how many memories a place can hold until you become aware that you will never be there again. I just read an article in Newsweek about grieving and the place in our brain that grieving takes place. It is in the same location that we feel joy and elation. I think this was why this was such a strange experience for me. I felt nostalgic and happy that I was able to have so many memories here and with my Grandma and Grandpa. But I was sad and sick from missing them. A juxtaposition of emotions.

My own childhood summer memories of visiting Utah Run as deep and thick as my Grandpa and Grandma P's red shag rug. The anticipatory excitement I felt as an 8 year old passing the "Welcome to Utah" sign after the 2000 mile drive is still vivid. Lagoon, home-made root beer and ice-cream, picking raspberries with my Grandma S., floating down their irrigation canal on floppy black inner-tubes, night games, fishing at Deer Creek .
I can now sense this same excitement in my own children when we cross the state line. I wonder what memories, smells, tastes, and feelings they will carry with them. It is so much more than a vacation.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bainbridge Island

We had about enough time to unpack from our trip to Banff, wash clothes, and repack for our trip to Bainbridge island. I'm definitely not complaining. I think I could travel 361 days a year without a problem. Ansel could too. The girls and Corey, however, need a little more home time. We have some great friends from our time in St. Louis who rented a quaint cabin on Bainbridge island and invited us to spend the week with them. How could we say no?
Corey had to work the first part of the week and so I took off with the kids and made an overnight stop at my cousin Marika's house in Olympia. We took a hike down to the bay and did some clamming and discovering of many things weird and slimy. Marika is the queen of creativity and had the kids write letters for a time capsule which we buried in a secure location. Marika's daughter Alexis and the girls are attached at the funny bones when they are together and I had to perform an emotional surgery of sorts tearing them away when it was time for us to leave.
Ansel did some bonding with Isaac.

We made it to the ferry later that afternoon and enjoyed a windy 40 minute ride to the island.

Jeremy and Leigh were our first and dearest friends in St. Louis. We were there for 4 years and shared the woes and wearies of Medical school, the birth of three of our collective children, and the many adventures and misadventures of living in St. Louis. I don't know if I would have made it through without them. Now we have six collective children and after a few hours of excruciating shyness, they were soon running through the woods together like close-knit savages.

This was the cabin surrounded by 5 acres of lush forest, salmon berries, moss covered cedars, and waist-high ferns. I must admit that we didn't do much sight-seeing as it was too hard to tear ourselves away from this ideal setting.
Ansel proved himself to be quite the pyro and spent many an hour forging fire sticks. It was cool enough to have a fire going from morning until bed.

The kids spent most of the week (literally) fashioning bows and arrows out of the native sticks, feathers, and rocks. The last day they wanted to increase their arsenal and started working on knives and tomahawks. If we had stayed any longer, they may have skinned a squirrel.
Savanna became almost frighteningly proficient at archery. I shudder to imaging what damage she could do with a real bow and arrow. The day we got home I found her ogling an authentic Mongolian bow and arrow set. Unfortunately she doesn't have $250 at her disposal.
On the 4th of July, we pried ourselves loose from our cozy cottage and took the dusk ferry to Seattle to see the fireworks. The view of the Olympic Mt. Range was much more impressive than the firework display.

We also made it to the beach our last afternnon. It was too cold to swim, but there was a massive amount of mud in which the kids immersed themselves completely.
All the kids built an elaborate city with a government and council meetings. All to no avail. The city was soon swallowed up by the rising tide and the governor was the first to abandon.

The kids were much too busy in governing and running the mud city to notice Corey's kite flying. I, for one, was really impressed. But the wind was so shifty and the kite was so pointy, that I began to fear for our lives and the lives of the other beach combers. It was far more dangerous than any of the arrows shot at me recently. I think Corey soon realized that there was a vital amount of control that was lacking retired the toy/weapon.