March 24, 2014 : sony v. canon – a test.

One thing that my 365 coffee project has taught me is that it’s not always comfortable or practical or possible to lug my big camera with me on my little coffee shop visits. It can be intimidating and become quite the show.

Enter a point-and-shoot option – the Sony RX100ii.

Dude. The camera comes with a non-interchangeable Zeiss lens. ZEISS. I had to try.

Our 5yo lovebug was in a perfectly pouty mood this morning, which lent very well to him being still. Bah. Anyhoo, the first set is shot on the Sony, in .jpg format, 1/125 sec at f1.8, ISO 160. All backlit, and all edited in LR4 with VSCO film presets.

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What do you think? Here are my observations:

- the bokeh isn’t as lush as I would have thought at 1.8, but shadow and highlight range are awesome.

- his skintone is much warmer, but this could be due to being shot in .jpg v. RAW; my next test will be in RAW.

- I’m actually pretty impressed that these are from a P&S camera! Even with a crop format, I love how much of the story I get here.

Here are my Canon shots, out of my Canon 5dMiii, 35mmL lens. All data is 1/160 sec at f/2.2, ISO 400 (a couple were at 1/400 due to my position change which resulted in a lighting change). Again, all edits in LR4 with VSCO film presets (the same presets as with the Sony, but for Canon specifically – VSCO offers their presets specific to camera maker, which is AWESOME).

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Again, what do you think?! My observations here were that I prefer the bokeh with my Canon better, and the skintone is more even (more true to his skintone because he’s less ruddy and not as shadowed under his eyes), BUT I’m very interested to shoot the Sony in RAW to see if that changes. You guys. POINT. AND. SHOOT. ON THOSE PICTURES AT THE TOP. I think that if I played around with the Sony a bit more, I could dial some of the skintone differences and exposure variation in and really come up with some great shots. I do wish he had catchlights in his eyes, but it kind of lends to his grumpalicious mood of the morning by not having them there. It allowed him to have that deadpan look. (Man, I’m hammering that poutiness home, aren’t I? It was a little taxing today…please just feel sorry for us. OMG.)

I’d love any input. What do you think I should test next between the two cameras?

March 20, 2014 : zoo = asylum.

When my children are at school, I go ISO other subjects.

These will do, because of their photogenicability. Photogenicness. Photogenicticality.

Ooh new word.

But seriously. Ellie looks awesome at the end of a yawn.



Todd Helton the Cat does not care for this.


Nor does Pearl. But she’s taking a little time “in” since she was too-happily-barking at the DirectTV man next door.

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Again, Ellie’s ability to rock the camera is nothing short of amazing.

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To snuggle or not to snuggle?

Never the question.

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Keep it classy, Internet.


March 18, 2014 : the exploding birthday.

Ewan is a nerdbucket.

He had no chance. His father is a nerdbucket. I am a nerdbucket. And his older brothers are turdbuckets.

It rhymes therefore it is close.

We all geek out over science-y things. And thankfully, there is a whole little organization that geeks out over it, too, and they’ll come to your house for birthday parties. Yee and haw.

So…I made a Pinterest board. I pinned the decorations, a similar party, a take-home experiment, a t-shirt, and best of all…the cookies.

Everything was awesome.

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The night before his party, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Celebrated finally conceded to being celebrated, and we met about 18 or so friends at our local brewpub and laughed and yelled over the din until we were hoarse. And perhaps we also had a drink or two.

THEN we went home to frost the cookies: test tubes, beakers, atoms, and Erlenmeyer flasks.

Um…this is where it all fell apart. They did not look like the Pinterest cookies. When do they ever?!

So, in our kitchen we had a graphic designer, a web developer, and a photographer all looking at the cookies in mock horror as we realized that the test tubes looked like male genitalia, and then when I made the glaze frosting?


We about peed our pants laughing.

We salvaged together some royal frosting and did our best, looking back and forth at what we were creating and the Pinterest cookies, knowing that there would be zero judgment from the five- to 10-year-olds who would eat them without even looking at them. Whewie.

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Lord help me.

As predicted…they didn’t have a clue. And I am very proud to report that I didn’t go around to every parent at the party, pointing out the cookie scandal.

Instead, I report these things on the Internet, and now those spider things that web through your site is going to pick up that I used the word “penis” and I’m going to get all sorts of interesting comments. OOOOOOOKKKKKKK. Bring it.

The party was awesome.

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Our basement looked like we were homeschooling. I kinda liked it.

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Then, our Science Matters friend exploded something called “elephant toothpaste” and things got super exciting.

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And dry ice releases carbonation in the air that you can feel on your tongue…

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Then, you can swipe a string with Dawn liquid, drag it across the top of the dry-ice bucket, and create a growing bubble that you can stick your fingers into before it explodes.

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Of course, before heading outside for the grand finale, you must mix up your own take-home slime…

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And pour a package of Mentos into a two-liter of Diet Coke (also a take-home experiment).

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They didn’t even notice the penis cookies.

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Happy happy birthday, Ewan!





March 17, 2014 : tea and tree.


There really does seem to be enough, but the ways it gets fractured makes it seem fleeting, I think. During this season of life, a lot of my conversations with friends and family consist of fragmented sentences, with interruptions happening like birdshot spraying through everything. But even still, we all do a pretty fine job of reading between the lines, summarizing quickly, and getting the gist of things before our little people come in so hungry or so bored or so on.

I know that I’ll miss these days and that soon, the house will be too quiet and I’ll ache for someone to ask me for fun snacks that I’m convinced only I can provide. 

I had some of that fractured time this past week with my middle sister, before driving back to Colorado. She has the most fabulous cinnamon tea that just makes you plop your butt into a chair and have a healing heart-to-heart or two.

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We were able to squeeze in quite a bit, until Holden came in so bored. She shot me the “understanding look” and Holden and I headed for the trees. Seems as though he wasn’t quite ready to stop being a bear cub.

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Part of the healing process is sharing with other people who care.

Jerry Cantrell

March 16, 2014 : a-to-the-g-nesssss

Lazy bones. While I work and work and work doing all of my daily chores, this sack-of-worthless chides me by the latest laundry monster.

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What a life.

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Nothing to do but roll around on my comfy bed and meow at me.

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And then…evidently even that is too much.

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Oh. To be a cat.


March 15, 2014 : in search of tarzan.


Yep. We looked for him. Tarzan is a male black bear living in or around Cookson, OK, last spotted denning it up along a beautiful (seriously - breathtaking) ridge. A landowner named him after finding him in a tree; fitting, yes?

But let me back up. After a glorious morning of hanging out in the woods and cuddling bear cubs, and also after a bite to eat and a small break, we headed back out – to different woods this time – to check in on Tarzan and to find the hollow test tree (more on the latter in a minute).

It was late afternoon, and the sun was beginning to seep through to wash everything in its amazing light.

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We came to the top of the ridge, directly over the den in which Tarzan had been spotted last. Colby, one of the DOW technicians, dropped down to do a safety check – to see if Tarzan was still in the den or to determine if the cave could be explored by us.

Cameras are placed outside of dens when bears are hibernating to find out when they start moving again. They had tried to sedate Tarzan some time before to work him, but the dart had missed; you’ll see the empty syringe that Colby collected in his hand when he’s crawling out. The biologists retrieve any loose supplies during den checks, and they removed the camera on this afternoon since Tarzan had moved on. After they’ve worked a bear, they’ll return within a day or so to check on the bear and make sure everything is ok, as in the case of Bailey in my previous post.

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Since Tarzan had moved on and the den was unoccupied by any other bears, they were curious to explore the  den to see how he had used it and where he had bedded down. 

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Once inside, they worked themselves so far back that I could no longer even hear them. They said that it went back about 25-30 feet and had multiple rooms, but where Tarzan had hibernated there was a bowl of leaves that he had bedded down in.

Sara’s hairdo after coming out the den. I reminded her that there have been a lot of brides who pay big money to have nature-hair like this for their wedding day, to which she said, “I have no idea how many times I’ve checked into a hotel looking exactly like this…I wonder what those people were thinking?!”


A little snow wash after crawling around. Holden was able to nearly stand in one part of the cave, but parts were definitely hands-and-knees passageways.

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The ridge went on for quite a while. Colby told us that during hibernation, they’d have two or three bears in the caves, with typically about 100 yards in between them.

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The moss looked like clumps of broccoli, and the snow melt made tiny waterfalls everywhere. Magic. 

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The Golden Hour. How anyone can claim to not know God when they see this, breathe this…it’s a mystery. I could have stayed here forever. With pepper spray. :)

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Doesn’t this felled tree look like a dog shadow puppet? 

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And now the story of the test tree. Sara had found a tree den earlier in the season, but when they lowered the camera to check on mom and her cubs, the mom batted at the camera. They realized that even if they could sedate her from that angle (after having climbed the hollow tree and shooting down into it), that they still had to figure out how to pull the babies and work the mom. Colby remembered a hollow tree in the wildlife refuge area, which became…the hollow test tree. He cut a panel out of the tree (very similar to a breaker box panel, but a little larger), and removed the panel to fit a small person (think Holden-sized or a little bigger) inside. When it came time to check the tree den, they sedated mom, then quickly cut a panel out of the tree to do their work. When they were finished, they replaced the panel and secured it.

By the time we reached the test tree (not bear-occupied, mind you), it was too dark for photos, but Holden was able to squeeze inside and look around with a headlamp on. He got in fine, but getting out was trickier (it took two of us to pull him out – he was a little short). Hilarious.

After this last excursion, it was time for Holden and me to move on in order for the team to get ready for their last day checking bears. Their final day is a really big and important one – one for which the Wildlife Commissioner and other bigwigs fly in to see their work. And this last part that I tell you is in no way intended to embarrass Holden, but rather to try to leave you with how very powerful this experience was. As we drove away that night, he wept. He sobbed for about 20 minutes (very unlike him) into our three-hour trip to our next stop in Oklahoma, and it was as if this enormous release was fighting its way out of his little body. Through his tears, he talked about this being “the best day of his life” and how he wished we could just stay longer. We were out that day from a little after dawn until well after dark, just in the woods exploring and walking and listening and being. Every which way that we turned there was something new and beautiful: deer, elk, bears, birds, crunchy leaves, wet moss that you could peel off the rocks in sheets, rabbits, sticks, tall trees, rock outcroppings. It was so alive. It reminded us both to walk more intentionally, touch what you see, feel the ground under your feet and smell the air.

Be where you are.

Because where you are, is very powerful indeed.

Here’s to your own experiences out there.

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March 12, 2014 : bears. little tiny cuddly bears.

Oh I hope I do this post justice. And I need to preface the whole thing by saying that I try to never, ever take this life for granted, so if you see me doing a terribly awkward happy dance, it is NEVER to be a bragger…it is ALWAYS because I truly do feel incredibly, humbly lucky at times.

This was one of those times.

Oh my goodness was it EVER one of those times.

One of my husband’s very best friends from college (and subsequently I have adopted him as such, too) FINALLY married the girl of all of our dreams a few years ago. She studies bears (she received her Master’s through Oklahoma State University, where we all met; she now works there for this program). BEARS. Seriously. She’s one the coolest girls I’ve ever met. Each year around this time, her work culminates in a “grand finale” week during which she, along with area OK wildlife biologists, go to the females’ dens and check the mommas and the babies. This year, she invited Holden and me to go with them on one of their checks, which is generally scheduled to include landowners, wildlife and game management, legislators, reporters, etc., along with a few close friends as space allows. As our day drew near, the weather for our travel day looked extremely iffy, and the night before we were to leave I told Holden that we probably weren’t going to be able to make it. The forecast was heavy with snow- and ice-packed roads from Colorado, all throughout Kansas, and into Oklahoma. There was no way I’d thought we’d make the 12+ hour trip. But the morning of, Holden was very upset that we were going to cancel. Hank and I looked at each other (me through very groggy eyes – I’d just woken up), and I said, “WE’RE GOING. Even if we have to turn around and come home, we have to at least try.” We literally threw a couple of changes of clothes in our suitcases, grabbed my camera gear, and got in the car. We didn’t hit a STITCH of bad weather until the last four hours, and then it wasn’t that bad at all. Not a patch of ice on any road. Thank you, Lord!

We sneaked into our cabin, slept in our clothes, and got up a few hours later ready to go. And between Holden and me, I think we asked almost every question we could think of to ask Sara. I just hope I don’t relay information too poorly, here! ;) (Maybe Sara will comment and make corrections as necessary…)

We met at “the shop” where one of the wildlife biologists lives with his family. I wish I had snuck around back to take photos of all of their bear traps. Think of long barrels with cut-outs, with a grate at one end and solid at the other. Those are used for trapping and collaring, relocating nuisance bears to more appropriate habitat, etc.

Kelly, Sara’s husband and our coffee-roaster friend (see how it all comes together?), teases us with pictures of bear cubs from the day before.

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Each person on their three-member team is responsible for certain items when they go out. They divide up things like gloves, collar(s), scanners, paperwork, lights, cameras, etc.

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We left from here to meet some other people, including some of the graduate students working with Sara, and then headed to the landowner’s hunting cabin to gain access onto their property.

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Sara explains that most people will have to stay here until the female has been sedated and everything is safe for others to come down. Holden stayed here with Kelly and the others while Sara and her team (and me! Oh my goodness I felt like I got picked first on the most important team in grade school! Giddy!) went further down to the den. This process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to about an hour.

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The bear’s den is under this rock, which has two openings, and Sara and her team check each den before they’re scheduled for this work. To determine how many cubs are inside, they’ll come and sit quietly near the den and listen for cub sounds. Based on different sounds inside, they can estimate “at least one” or “at least two”, etc., and then confirm at the check later. Females generally give birth in January each year during hibernation and don’t leave their dens (nor do they eat or drink anything) until they emerge from hibernation later in the spring. Amazing.

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The team sets up about 50 feet or so from the den, truly unconcerned about momma bear. Sara explained that momma really just wants to be left alone and will not leave her cubs, so she isn’t aggressive to people outside of the den. She’s quiet and still in a state of hibernation; she’s hiding and staying safe with her cubs.

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While the sedation drugs are being mixed and readied for that dart pole thing (so sorry – I have no idea what the techie-term for that is), they’ll get the camera ready and check for momma’s position inside the den.

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There isn’t loud talking, but not necessarily whispering either. They call it using “inside voices”. :)  They use flashlights and laser lights to pinpoint exactly where they’ll aim the sedative, taking care to find a spot that’s accessible and less fatty so it will take easily and take well. It’s amazing to watch them work together – quietly and so respectfully.


Once the momma has been injected, they check time for 20 minutes, then leave her alone for the sedative to work.

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You can see momma bear’s fur at the bottom of the shadowed area below. Her body trembled a bit as the sedative began to work, which is very normal and expected. 

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Sara checks in on her at the 20-minute mark. She nudges her with a pole to see if she responds at all. Momma bear flinched a little, so they gave her about 10 minutes more and checked again. At this point, I was able to go around to the other opening where I could see her face clearly (with another team member). She looked very drowsy, but then looked exactly at me, very aware. And then her eyes drooped again. So powerful. I couldn’t even think to take a photo in that moment…

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They decided to give her a little more sedative to “top her off”. Sometimes they have to give a complete second dose since the first disperses through her fat v. her muscle. It metabolizes at the same rate – she’ll be starting to wake back up in approximately two hours and be fully back in four. The second dose is administered by hand, since she is so drowsy, and there’s no danger of aggression. Dude crawled right in there. I don’t think I was breathing, but I was standing on top of her den, just in case.

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They bring along thick towels to wrap the cubs in for warmth, since most of their warmth comes from mom. (Sara knew that this den would have at least two cubs.)

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This whole process reminded me of a birth. The checking, waiting, preparing, getting something warm to wrap babies up in. And before I knew exactly what was happening…

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Totally got super teary! They were so very tiny – the youngest cubs some of them had seen (about 5 1/2-6 weeks old – their eyes had just opened very recently). Each cub was about 2.5 lbs. (Mom weighed about 150 lbs, btw.)

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They let me hold me one of them as all of those waiting were heading down, and Kelly brought Holden over right away. 



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The cubs smell like little pups who have been rolling around in damp leaves. They respond so sweetly to human touch and want to get close and warm, so they seem so snuggly and cuddly. What a miracle it is to hold these little babies and know that this is it, this is the only time that they can be cradled and cooed by us, because above all else, they’re wild and instinctive and BEARS.
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They were so young that they kind of looked like little moles. Their little ears hadn’t even perked up yet. And their claws! Their claws are more like velcro than anything – they get caught on your clothes and in your hair. And yes, the cubs did tremble a little when we first brought them out, but everyone was very careful to keep them warm in their towels and in the sun. Sara was also careful to explain that they will not be rejected by mom after being held by us. When mom wakes up, she’ll be aware that something is different, but it won’t matter. 

At this point, a couple of men from the Department of Wildlife oversee the cubs as they’re being held while Sara’s team checks mom. They check her temperature, fat, general health, and re-collar her. (Her previous collar’s battery had died.) The collars are not buckled but held together with hardware, which has to be manually disassembled and sent back to the lab for refurbishing. They wanted to see a little more fat on mom (they could feel her ribs a little), so they placed in her “good” condition v. “excellent”. This was her first litter, so I’m assuming she was about four years old (I forgot to ask). Next winter, these cubs will go back to den with her, and afterward she will shoo them away and go into her second heat. Typically, males are ready to mate at about 3-4 years old. The cubs don’t have any natural predators, but can be killed by another male aggressor or another female, so they stay with mom their entire first year. In this area currently, Sara sees about a 60% survival rate, which she’d like to see around 80%. It’s one of the things she will be looking into within the coming year.

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As they check mom (her name is Bailey; Sara asks the landowners to name the bears on their property, and she was named after his daughter), her eyes don’t fully close. They put an ointment in her eyes to keep them moist and a loose bag over her face to shield her eyes from any falling debris inside the den as they work her.

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For the next hour or so, the cubs are held. 

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Sara spends time with reporters to explain the process and work with bears while the rest of the team finishes up with Bailey…

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And finally it’s the team’s turn to spend some time with the cubs. 

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Sara asked the landowner to name the twin cubs, who are now Lily and Griz. Generally when a female has twins, they are male-female. 

At this point, they work the cubs. They’re weighed, measured, chipped, and a hair sample is collected for DNA purposes. Once chipped, they’ll scan their necks to verify their numbers. When they’re older, they’ll be trapped for collaring (collars have a GPS to monitor movement, territory, and when they go to den) and tagging (both ears are tagged at that point). 

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One last cuddling session before the cubs are placed back with mom…


And back they go.

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Everything was already packed and nearly everyone was gone. 

I can’t begin to explain how powerful this experience was. To see these burly men wrap their arms around these little bears and remark about how beautiful the mom is, and then to hear hunters/landowners say things like, “Wow. This makes raising that bear totally worth it,” is so humbling. And then to see my friend, this amazing biologist, lead this team and crawl on her belly and flick bear poop out her hair while graciously giving her heart’s work to reporters and do the big PR dance to make this program so vibrant and vital…I just have to sit here with my hands over my mouth and shake my head in awe. This is great work. Really, really great work.

And now, my work is to make sure that my own little bear cub, Holden, doesn’t go poking his head in every cave or rock cropping he notices to try to find more bears. I’m afraid he might think that they’re all just waiting for a cuddle. Eek.

There’s a little more to our day, but this is our big bear story. Stay tuned, though, because I discovered just how beautiful eastern Oklahoma is, and oh my goodness was that good for the soul.

Until then.

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March 4, 2014 : the last day.

The last day of any vacation is awkward: the travel day.

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Everything you’ve brought with you is stowed in the trunk of your car and you try to cram in every last thing, all the while watching the clock to see how you’re doing on time. Sometimes you drag it out, trying to keep kids occupied; sometimes you drag your feet, trying to soak in each moment that flies by. We aren’t the type to plan our vacations out very much. We set aside some days on the calendar, book a flight or leave time for traveling, and make sure we have a great place to stay. Otherwise, we tend to do a mish-mash of touristy things as well as chat up the locals to find out where the good spots are.

This is Bryce, our barista de jour at The Beanery in Eugene, OR. 

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That being said, we were ready to come home on our last day. That’s the best feeling, isn’t it? Loving your vacation and spending time away with family, but feeling a huge sigh of happiness when you peek out of the airplane window to see the place that you call home.

Our boy discovered  a little coffee love. Don’t worry…I’ve cut him off until its age appropriate. ;)

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I felt downright giddy when I saw Denver’s sea of lights in the twilight and imagined its life and sunshine and mountain air. Home.

And ”home” very much meant one huge thing.

Time for a birthday party. :) More to come.

February 27, 2014 : the very blustery day. and more singing.

We had only a few “must see’s” on our recent trip to the Central Oregon Coast, and one that topped my list was to tour a lighthouse at Yaquina Head. Mostly, I wanted to tour it because early in its existence, it was called the Cape Foulweather Lighthouse, and at least two boats overturned and lost their cargo just trying to deliver its first supplies. You can read more about the history of the lighthouse here – and pay particular attention to the fact that the light burned pigs’ oil for the first 15 years. And it has at least one ghost. I do love a spooky sea story.

One lighthouse worker evidently was blown off the cliff in the 1800′s.

Hank was almost blown off as well. In fact, he had to come let me out of the car to take his picture since I couldn’t get it open myself against the gusts of wind.

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Being a bit leery of losing a child to the wind, we decided to try the lighthouse a little later in the day. To kill some time, we tricked our 8yo into getting out of the car at Nye Beach to scare up some seagulls (it wasn’t very windy there), and then we drove away at a slow speed going uphill and he had to chase us.

So sad I didn’t get a picture of that latter part.

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We loved all of the tiny drive-through coffee spots. Yummy. Yummy. Yummy. It made hiding out back at the condo all the more cozy.

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At last the weather cleared a little and we made the trek back to the lighthouse.


The Lighthouse Keeper was extremely pleased to walk us through what life would have been like here in the late 1800′s. And my favorite? He gathered all 14 of us tourists into the tiny room at the base of the lighthouse so that we could partake in the entertainment of the day, back then.

We sang songs together. A Capella.

Hank was in HELL; the 5yo looked up at me with horrified eyes and said very loudly, “THIS IS BOOOOOOORRRRRRIIIIIINNNNNGGGGG”; so the 8yo and I took wild advantage of the situation, singing loud for all to hear. I’m quite sure that we sounded just like this. (You must click it. Truly.)

And then we climbed to the top before I pottied my pants from laughing.

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0218 oregon-7 0218 oregon-9 0218-4And then back down we went.

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If you happen to go, take advantage of the tide pools. We didn’t, due to the weather, but we were told that they’re spectacular.

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The park was about to close, so we scurried back to our own little beach just outside of the condo. Just in time, too. The clouds started to clear, leaving us with quite the beautiful sunset.

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Holden has discovered that he jumps just like a lemur.

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And so went our last evening in Oregon.



February 26, 2014 : a long drive and no birthday song.

Hank’s birthday is the day after Ewan’s.

This year, Hank turned into He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Celebrated, because, you know, it was a big one. He is now version 4.0, and we hardly speak of it.

So on this non-eventful day, we explored Cape Perpetua. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love the name, “Perpetua”. It reminds me of Bridget Jones’ Diary, one of my all-time favorite movies. I kept saying it over and over, because, well, no one was allowed to say, “Happy Birthday”. So we went back and forth between saying “Happy Valentine’s Day” and “Perpetua”.

I’m sure that was way better.

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Celebrated was in mourning.

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This little spot that sucked up the waves looked like milk. Big, white, perfectly frothed milk. Like what goes on top of a lattè.

I need coffee.

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It was here that I just started pretending that we were in Ireland and at the Cliffs of Insanity.

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I was in green heaven. What an amazing place – vegetation just grows right up until it has nothing left to grow on to that makes sense. I don’t think I closed my mouth for about five hours. Just jaw-dropping.



That little trail there was calling us in, but Ewan was freezing and we had to backtrack. It’s about a 6.5-mile loop that’s open to bikes as well. That’s going on our family bucket list.

As a cheery finish to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Celebrated’s day, we took ourselves to see The Lego Movie. And you know what? Everything is awesome.