Skagit River Ranch Farm Day

31 08 2009

Sunday morning was gloomy. Oppressive, thick gray clouds hung low in the sky. It didn’t rain, but I wouldn’t blame you if you chose to spend Sunday morning indoors, expecting a downpour.

That’s not what we did.

Instead, we crammed the kids into the car and drove 90 minutes north, to the Skagit valley and the foothills of the Cascade mountains. We went to the Skagit River Ranch Farm Day. Essentially, this was a big foodie party at the farm. It had taken me a while to make up my mind that we should go to this. I knew that Alex would like seeing the animals. Every time we go to the zoo, for example, he heads straight to their farm animal exhibit and skips the zebras and giraffes. But I wasn’t sure there would be enough going on to occupy the kids and justify three hours in a car. Really, would Patrick care if there were three local chefs doing a “best burger” cookoff?

My fears were all misplaced, starting with the weather. While the low clouds smothered us for most of the drive up, in true Northwest fashion they burned off quickly mid-morning. By the time we pulled into the makeshift parking lot at the farm, there was nothing but dazzling blue sky. Before we even got to the welcome tent where we picked up our tickets and our name tags, we saw some of the activities they’d lined up for the kids. For example, they’d buried little toy animals in a pile of hay for the kids to hunt through. Alex got off to a slow start but soon fell in love with finding treasures. He came home with a set of three small cow figurines. (We tried to confine his loot to just two toys, one for him and one for Patrick. Just as we’d almost convinced him, Eiko – one of the owners of the farm – walked by and mentioned to me in passing, “Oh, he can take two or three toys.” Alex once again demonstrated his astounding selective hearing. He’d heard that offhanded remark and looked at me in triumph. “That girl said I could have three!” And thus he claimed all three of the baby cows. If only his hearing worked that well when we told him it’s time to clean the living room.)

I Found a Cow!

In addition to the toy hunt, they had live music (a hit for Alex) and regular games of Chicken Poop Bingo. I think the picture explains it all.

Chicken Poop Bingo

But the highlight of the day for any three-year-old was the animals. There were animals everywhere. Chickens wandering in the yard and sleeping under tractors. Horses being lead for a walk. Baby goats nursing. Chicks feeding. Turkeys – well, just sitting around. We even saw two pigs, even though Farmer George warned us we probably wouldn’t. Like the chickens, the pigs aren’t confined, so they tend to wander to the river during the day and they return to their pen at night.

Number 980

I suppose somebody who wasn’t encumbered by two little kids would have had the time to listen to the talks about sustainable agriculture, or maybe talk to the local chefs about the use of local ingredients in their restaurants. We didn’t get to do that. However, our trip to Skagit River Ranch says as much about sustainable agriculture as could be covered in any panel discussion. Can you imagine your local Tyson factory farm throwing a party for its local community? If a factory farm did throw a party, do you think you’d want to let your kids run around and play there? I’m glad places like Skagit River Ranch show there’s a viable business model built around sustainable agriculture (and really really tasty meat).

Molly and Patrick

I hope there’s another Farm Day next year. I’d love to go again. Next time, I’ll hopefully remember: Even if it’s cloudy in the morning, pack sunscreen!

The Caped Crusader Eats a Quesadilla

31 08 2009

Two weeks ago, I took Alex to our work picnic at Vasa Park. They had lots of great activities for kids. Alex loved jumping in one of those big inflatable bounce-houses. The one they had at the picnic looked like a castle and came complete with an inflatable slide. Alex probably jumped in there for an hour.

And they had face painting. Alex has had his face painted before, but it’s always been some little design on his cheek like a fish or an octopus. At the picnic, however, they did a full-on Batman face painting session for Alex:

I'm **Batman!!**

How Do I Look?

Alex had his face painted in the early afternoon, and he went around the whole rest of the day in disguise. Let me tell you, if you want to get a lot of double-takes from complete strangers on the street, walk around next to a three-year old who has a big Batman design on his face. Here’s my favorite photo from the day:

The Caped Crusader eats a quesadilla

This is Alex eating his afternoon snack at World Wrapps. I love how you can just see him lurking in the shadows, waiting to deliver his brand of justice to evildoers and enjoying a tasty quesadilla while he’s at it.

Of course, the problem with face painting on this scale is cleaning up. We had a particularly tough time cleaning Alex’s eyes. When we asked him to close his eyes so we could wipe them with a washcloth, he squinched his eyes shut really hard, the way only three-year-olds can do. We had the hardest time getting the black paint out from the crevices of his eyelids. It made him look like he was wearing mascara.


Next year, I think I’ll ask for just a little octopus on his face!


28 08 2009

I’ve finally started processing some of the pictures from our trip to Rochester several weeks ago. One of the highlights of the trip for the kids was going to the pool. While Seattle has a good network of wading pools for kids, Molly & I don’t have any memberships to a “real” pool, so this was a real treat for the kids.

In the Wading Pool

Well, it was a real treat for Alex, anyway. Surprisingly, given how much he likes to splash in the bathtub, Patrick didn’t want to stay in the baby pool for long. Maybe it’s because it was too deep for him to sit down in. He was out of the pool shortly after I took the picture above.

Alex, in contrast, spent hours in the pool with Molly kicking around. He loved it. And since it tired him out, we loved it too.

Alex’s favorite discovery was a snorkel and mask. He didn’t quite get the hang of breathing through the snorkel while in the water, but he sure loved breathing through the snorkel on land!

Where's the Water?

Our soon-to-be-toddler

26 08 2009

Somehow, in all of the excitement over telling you how good Patrick is on playgrounds now, I forgot to mention that our little boy is growing up. This week he transitions into the toddler room at daycare. He’ll be in the toddler room full time next week. This means he’ll go out to the playground every day, take a nap on a cot with the other kids, and we no longer bring a bottle to daycare.

Two Years, Two Brothers

Patrick and Playgrounds

24 08 2009

I’ve been spending more time with Patrick at playgrounds recently. Here he is, sprawled on the astroturf at the University Village playground:

Playground Smile

He’s just now starting to get the hang of playgrounds. Walking helps, but only a little bit. He’ll totter around for a little bit, fall to his knees, and then crawl to where he wants to go.

Two things really help with him on a playground. First, he’s gotten much better at crawling up play structures, and he’ll also slide down slides on his own. Second – and this is in stark contrast with his brother – he appears to have no desire to eat woodchips!

(You know, Alex was much steadier on his feet by this age. And once he started walking, Alex walked everywhere. Patrick would still rather crawl. Yet Patrick shows better instincts about things like woodchips. Again, further cementing the Alex is the jock, Patrick is the smart one stereotype.)

Here’s Patrick having fun on the slide at the View Ridge playground:

Patrick may be smart, but he’s also stubborn and often contrary. It seems whatever we want him to do, he tries to do the opposite and gets frustrated when we stop him. For example:

  • When he’s taking a bath, he always tries to stand up, even though we want him safely sitting.
  • We were unexpectedly at a wading pool earlier in the week. Neither kid had a bathing suit. Alex waded in his shorts and didn’t get his clothes too wet. I tried to let Patrick walk around while holding my hands. All he wanted to do was sit. Why won’t you sit in the tub! I thought.
  • I brought Patrick back to the wading pool a few days later, this time in his bathing suit. Not only would he not sit in the pool, when I let go of his hand, he crawled over to the side of the pool and then crawled out. No pool for him!

How does the human race survive?

24 08 2009

I ask this because our young have no instincts or common sense. What did our young do out on the Serengeti?

Case in point: Alex.

Our Baseball Player

Yes, here he is all dressed up to play baseball, arms covered with tattoos, wearing shorts and fireman rain boots in the middle of one of the driest summers we’ve had in Seattle. I don’t remember for sure, but I doubt he’s wearing socks. I guess he prefers the sweaty, clammy feeling of bare feet inside impermeable rubber. It’s not just Alex. It seems that all kids like to wear rain boots at inappropriate times. I guess if homo habilis had known how to harvest rubber, their offspring would’ve roamed the parched African plains in saber-toothed-tiger rain boots, too.

Then there’s The Great Blue-Bear-Up-The-Nose Incident of 2009. (Do I really need to elaborate? The title says it all.) Molly & I were happily at work last Tuesday when we got the dreaded phone call from daycare. “Alex has put something up his nose,” the daycare director told us, “and it’s so far in there we can’t see it any more. We think you need to take him to the doctor.”

Both Molly & I cleared our morning schedule and rushed over to daycare as soon as we could. When we got there, we got some more details from the teachers. Alex came over to them crying. He said his nose hurt, and that he’d put a little blue bear in his nose. The first teacher looked and thought he saw something. The daycare director looked but couldn’t see anything. The teachers were a little confused, because while they do have a blue bear in the classroom, it seemed too big to fit up into a child’s nose.

While Alex was upset when they called us, by the time we got there, he was calm and happy. He wasn’t in any discomfort at all. And as worried as we were, the doctor’s office had a different perspective. “Is he breathing?” they asked when Molly called.


“Then it’s not an emergency. The soonest we can see him is 3:15.”

The doctor’s office was smart. When they finally saw him, they confirmed what we suspected – there was nothing in his nose. Our suspicion is he put something large in his nose, it hurt, and he pulled it out. As it’s hard to get a coherent or reality-based story out of him at this age, I’m not surprised he told the teacher the bear was still in there. I guess pulling the bear out of his nose on his own counts as a tiny bit of rational instincts, but I’d be more impressed if he wasn’t tempted to put things in his nose in the first place. The doctor gave him a stern lecture. We’ll see if that works. (“Nothing in your ears, nothing in your nose, nothing in your mouth except food.” Words to live by.)

Ecola State Park

18 08 2009

One of the fun side trips we took on our trip to Cannon Beach was to Ecola State Park. This was a much more successful trip than our ill-fated visit to the Seaside Aquarium. First, the park is closer to Cannon Beach, and it was nice not spending time in the car. Second, we were rewarded with both sweeping vistas:

Crescent Beach

As well as great forests:

Primeval Forest

It’s a very kid-friendly park. There’s a lot to see right from the parking lot, everything’s well marked, there are lots of picnic tables, and the trails are wide and well-maintained. If I make it back to Cannon Beach, this will be high on my list of things to do again. With just one quick visit with the kids, I feel like I just got a tiny glimpse of what the park has to offer.

Bunny Pee

18 08 2009

Mr. Bunny, originally uploaded by B.K. Dewey.

For those who didn’t click through, there was a story associated with this photo.

One of the wild bunnies at Cannon Beach let me get up close for a picture. When I took this picture, I was by myself. The next day, I was also able to get close to a bunny. It may have been this one. However, Alex was right next to me. Alex moved suddenly, scared the bunny, who then turned around, sprayed us both with pee, and ran away.

Alex was VERY SAD that a bunny peed on him.

First Looks and First Steps

13 08 2009

[written by Molly – Brian finally gave me access to the blog :)]

Finally, the day we’ve all been waiting for – Elsa (my younger sister) had her baby, Catherine Zeibig Vella (they are going to call her Katie), today. She was due last week and we were really hoping we’d get to meet her in person while we were visiting Rochester last week, but she wasn’t quite ready yet. After putting mother through much discomfort for the last three days, she decided to make her appearance at 3:39am this morning. She is 8 lbs 1 oz and 19 3/4 inches long. She has spent most of her time sleeping so far, but that probably won’t last long…

Not to be outdone by his new little cousin, Patrick decided to finally walk today as well! Becky, Brian’s mom, had suggested we give him a wooden spoon to hold while we get him to walk. With a bit of skepticism, Brian gave this a try yesterday morning and it sort of worked as Patrick took 6 steps but he wouldn’t repeat it. This evening, we were encouraging him to walk again and he took 8 steps, then a little later another 6 steps. Now, he seems enamored with this new mode of transportation and if you stand him up he tries to step (not always successfully) rather than immediately dropping down to his knees to crawl. I think we may have finally reached this milestone.

Brian took a short video of Patrick’s latest achievement:

Typical Cannon Beach Weather

13 08 2009

I’ve mentioned how the Seattle heat wave made Cannon Beach clear, sunny, and warm. We did have a couple of more “typical” beach days, too. Even those days were nice, because the mist and fog looked cool. They were more fun days to photograph, too, because whatever colors I managed to get in the frame really stand out.

Grey by you.