August 27, 2010

Cinnamon Tomato, anyone?

We went out for fast food the other night. We picked Taco Bell because we hadn't been there in a while. As we sat in the drive through, Jason told me about work and I told him about my day, and Caleb happily chattered to himself in the back seat. As we approached the window for our food, we began to hear incessant pleas from our 3 year old.

"Tomato! Tomato!"

This was CalebSpeak, not to be taken literally. What he was really saying was,

"Tornado! Tornado!"

I blame his favorite book for this. Several times a week, he pulls out Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett and begs me to read it. In the middle of the book, the town of Chewandswallow experiences "an awful salt and pepper wind accompanied by an even worse tomato tornado." To his little toddler ears, "tomato" and "tornado" sound the same. And tomato must be easier to pronounce, because he's called any verticle twisty shape he sees a Tomato! ever since.

What we couldn't figure out the other night, sitting in the drive through, was why he was saying tomato so insistenly.

Until we picked up our order. Out of the bag tumbled these:

Upon seeing them, Caleb joyfully, triumphantly shouted

"Tomato! Tomato, peas!"

We were laughing so hard! Why yes, son, the cinnamon twists do sorta look like tornados! Crispy, sweet, edible tornados. Or tomatoes. Take your pick.

Cinnamon tomato, anyone?

August 24, 2010

The Neuhausers Camp . . . again

We camped last weekend at Deception Pass, and by the time we arrived home around 8am Sunday morning (much earlier than planned), I was pretty sure I didn't like camping anymore. 'Course, that could've been five hours of interrupted sleep on the cold ground talking. I dunno.

Note: I am not a morning person. I am especially not a morning person when I wake up from less than seven hours of sleep. I have been known to transform into a bear and growl at anyone who comes too close (or attempts to tickle, snuggle, or otherwise intrude on my personal space. Just ask Jason; he'll tell you stories). So any claims or opinions I might express when under the effects of SDD (sleep deprivation disorder) should be deemed highly suspect and filed for possible retraction at a later date.

The trip was a kind of a last hurrah for us; we have no more big events planned for the rest of the summer. As with our previous trip to South Whidbey, we learned a lot this time around, too. Like a slow-leaking air mattress makes for tough sleeping and, when packing a toddler, one can never bring too many changes of clothes (Think Caleb, diarreah-inducing diaper rash, and a camp shower rendevous at 10:30 at night).

But at least we had dry firewood. :)

Lest you get the wrong impression, the trip was not nightmarish or horrid. It was not the kind of tale you'd read about in wilderness adventure magazines, where everything goes wrong and you have to make dinner using duct tape, a coffee can, and tweezers. We had plenty of fun, plenty of sweet moments where we smiled and laughed and made memories. And for proof, I offer you these:

Snuggling with my Bud
(quite possibly my favorite photo of the whole trip)
(( do I look happy in this photo? this was Saturday morning, after a full and restful night's sleep))

Campsite #98

Jason building a fire on the first night
(keep on eye on Caleb; he's about to have his butt kicked by the camping chair)

And he's down! The chair: 1
Caleb: Zip!

Making breakfast the next morning
I'd never cooked over an open fire before! We made hashbrowns and bacon and
Jason and I agreed that the food tasted better cooked this way.
Now we're on the lookout for a Cooking On an Open Fire cookbook! :)
What camping trip is complete without s'mores?

Pretending to be Peter Pan on his
"pie-at ship"

Mist on Cranberry Lake, early Saturday morning

Unfortunately, our air mattress died Saturday night and my sleeping bag apparently only works in 60+ degree weather, because I couldn't get warm for the life of me. When we woke up at 5:45 Sunday morning, to a wet campsite and gray fog, we decided to go home. We rolled out of Deception Pass around 7:30, had a hot breakfast a la McDonalds, and went home for four-hour naps all around.
I felt bad a leaky air mattres and a cold night kicked my butt. I also felt bad that we left our campsite hours earlier than planned. But Jason, being the wonderful guy that he is, told me I had nothing to prove by "roughing it". I don't have to camp in a tent, in the rain, in the cold, to prove I am some sort of Wilderness Woman. If I don't like that particular kind of camping, that's ok. I'm not a terrible person.
Many of the state parks around here offer rustic cabins for rent in addition to regular campsites. Most of them are heated and have electricity, though you're still bringing linens and cooking food over a camp fire or in a bbq grill. Jason and I want to try one sometime to see how we like it. It may not be roughing it, but it just might be more enjoyable.
How about you? Do you like to camp? Do you prefer a tent, a cabin, or an RV?
Or would you rather just spend the weekend in a city, maybe visiting the zoo or taking in a Broadway show?

August 18, 2010

While the Sun Shines

Pa stood thinking for a minute, then he jerked his head. "Come along, little Half-Pint. We better make hay while the sun shines."
His eyes twinkled and Laura laughed, because the sun was shining with all its might.
-- exerpt from The Long Winter
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
~ ~ ~
:: Hay Bales above Penn Cove ::
We're enjoying a truly gorgeous summer on the island. The sun shines almost every single day, and last weekend temperatures soared into the 90s. We spend our days hiking trails, playing at the park, buying ice cream from the Ice Cream Truck, swimming in the lake, and sunning at the beach. We crab with Jason's family. We travel off-island to new and exciting places, some of which are only accessible in the summer. Caleb digs around his sandbox in the back yard, while I sit on the deck with the lap top, perusing blogs, Facebook, and recipes. This weekend, we're going camping. And next week we'll pick blackberries to store away for winter baking.
Winter. It's hard to believe cold, wet, windy days are coming when the sun shines late into the evening and my son goes everywhere barefoot. But I know gray days are coming.
Which is why I want to be outside every minute. Caleb, too. That line from Laura Ingalls Wilder's book has bounced around my head all summer long: make hay while the sun shines. Take full advantage of the beautiful weather. Store away bright memories for those gray months when you can barely recall what sunshine is.
Yesterday was a perfect example. I hadn't planned an outing with Caleb, but by 2pm I knew we needed to get out of the house. So I threw a couple of beach towels, some snacks, and my camera in a beach bag and off we went. I had a vague idea of where I wanted to go, and I prayed the tide would be out.

It was. Just barely. But it was enough.

We'd never been to this particular beach before.

The waves were a little crazy.

(just a little)

But we splashed in the freezing water anyway. Caleb and I ventured out on the broken pieces of sea wall and waited for big waves to come crashing around our legs. I held his hand so he wouldn't be swept away.

He thought it was just about the funniest thing ever. And I had fun feeling adventurous and daring. :)

When we tired of playing chicken with the waves, we played in the sand.

Caleb had fun exploring the driftwood, too.

We made some good memories yesterday. We made some hay.

I know fall is coming. I know the weather will change. But summer isn't over quite yet, and that thought makes me happy. I'm not ready for it. I'm not ready to say good-bye to the sun.
How about you? Are you looking forward to fall already? Or are you savoring this summer season? Maybe both?

August 13, 2010

Footprints in Poop: Climbing my own Mt. Everest

I haven't picked up many books this summer; I've been too busy enjoying the beautiful but all-too-short summer out in the fresh air and sunshine. But last week I started a book that held me captivated from page one. It was Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, an account of the Everest tragedy in 1996 when twelve people died on the mountain during a freak storm. Krakauer was on one of the teams that lost four people. His tale, while sobering and circumspect, was also intensely interesting and informative. I couldn't put it down.

I harbor no ambitions of climbing Everest. In fact, I have zero ambition when it comes to climbing because, quite frankly, I hate to climb. Period. Any activity that has me dangling above the ground is, by my definition, NOT FUN. My palms are sweaty just typing about it.

But this afternoon, engaged in another activity I would qualify as NOT FUN, the Lord brought to mind the idea that we all have our Everests. And as I worked on hands and knees in Caleb's room, praying for patience and grace, this post began to form in my mind . . .

~ ~ ~
I've been placed on this mountain four times in the last three weeks. Unlike Everest climbers, I do not choose to be here. Yet neither can I turn around and head for safer, happier slopes. The mess must be cleaned up. Previously, I've had climbing partners: Jason, Michael, even my mom, while she was visiting. But not today. Today I climb solo.

Also unlike real "Everesters", who spend months in training and physical conditioning, I have had no experience to prepare me for this. No parenting class or baby book ever includes a What-to-do-When-You-Walk-Into-Your-Child's-Room-and-it's-COVERED-in-poop section. When the poop descends, I am simply plucked from whatever I was doing, stuck at Base Camp (Caleb's bedroom door), and told to climb.

So equipped with a canister of Chlorox wipes instead of oxygen, that's just what I do.

I get down on my hands and knees and begin scouting a safe route to the south, across the bedroom floor. My goal is to reach the window, so I can open it and let the room breath. I must be very careful where I step, where I place my hands. The floor under me is a dark brown wood. On which I'm looking for dark brown matter. Some spots are obvious, like the faint trail of footprints I'm vigorously erasing, but many others are not. It's painstaking work, but every last, um, smear must be found or the smell will linger.

I clean one small section of floor at a time and slowly work my way into the room. Before long, I'm presented with my first real challenge: my own miniature version of the Khumbu Icefall.

Located between Base Camp and Camp 1 on Mt. Everest, the Icefall is one of the most challenging parts of the climb. It's a glacier that has been thrust over the side of a cliff and subsequently broken into hundreds of smaller pieces called seracs. Climbers must navigate over and through these seracs, which are still quite large and constantly shift, in order to reach Camp 1.

The seracs in Caleb's room are stuffed animals, toy cars, and plastic dinosaurs. They're strewn all over the floor, and each one has to be inspected for contaminent. Each with its own unique shape. Each presenting its own challenge. Piles begin to form: Clean Toys. Dirty Toys. Laundry for the Wash.

This is the slowest part of the climb for me and my least favorite. Children's toys are notoriously difficult to clean. Small cracks, plactic crevasses, metal wheels, tiny moving and non-moving parts. Mud isn't so bad; it washes right off. But poop? Poop sticks. Too tired to care, I have sometimes thrown cheap toys away rather than spend precious time cleaning them. Because here, as on the real Everest, time is against you. These messes only get worse the longer you wait; the offending material dries quickly and becomes difficult to remove from walls, windows, and furniture. Your best bet is to work as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Between Camp 1 and Camp 3 on Mt. Everest is the Western Cwm (pronounced coom). It's a long narrow valley that houses the (intact) glacier above the Icefall. It's a relatively easy climb, but a long one.

Deep inside Caleb's room, I begin to scrub on a particularly long smudge of brown. It runs westward two or three feet toward the wall. No major obstacles hinder my movement, but the Chlorox wipes are running low. My fingers are pruney from the solvent. The smell is getting to me. So is the heat. We haven't had a day above 68 degrees in weeks. Today we hit close to 80. And I have yet to reach the window, which has poop problems of its own.

The long brown smudge ends at the southwest corner of Caleb's room, where it goes vertical and continues to climb up both walls. I scrutinize this upward path carefully, noting that Caleb's baby quilt hanging on the south wall has not escaped contamination. It will have to be pulled down and washed.

On Mt. Everest, Camp 3 is located on the Lhotse Face, an enormous vertical ice cliff over a thousand feet high. The camp sits on a ledge half way up the cliff and climbers must use secured ropes, ice axes, and crampons to make the ascent.

I begin working my way up this much smaller ascent, but an inner storm is brewing. Born on the winds of pride, clouds of self pity begin to roll in and I find myself on the verge of tears. Then the questions come.

Why does this keep happening? What am I doing wrong? What is Caleb trying to tell me? Why oh why does he keep doing this? What can I do to ensure this NEVER happens again? How do I punish him for making such a mess? DO I punish him for making such a mess? Why can't he just potty-train like all the other kids we know? Why me? Why me? Why me?

I start to pray, to battle my way through the storm. I know if I can't keep the self pity in check, I'll soon be fighting the full tempest of my temper. And that always leads me places I don't want to go. Once the anger takes over, I lose my footing. I sway and stumble in the emotional turmoil, and those roped to me for safety and support (usually my family) immediately feel the impact. The storm may rage inside, but rain never falls on just one person. The thunder and lightning affect them, too. So I fight and pray, pray and clean.

Every spring, from Camp 4 on the South Col of Mt. Everest, climbers make their bid for the summit. They climb the South Col, cross the Balcony, walk the razor edge of the Southeast Ridge, navigate the Hillary Step, and then trudge to the top of the South Summit. All this they must do in one day, but reaching the top of Everest is only half the challenge. The hardest part is then getting yourself back down to Camp 4 before dark.

Once I finish the southwest corner, I have a similar set of final obstacles to tackle: Caleb's table, the window sill, and finally, the window itself. The end within sight, I push on using 409 and paper towels.

Finally! After an hour and a half, the now-open window sparkles and I step back to admire the view. Only from Caleb's window can we see the harbor; no other window in our house claims that privilege. The sun shimmers on the water and the green hills beyond it glow in the late afternoon rays. But like many who summit Everest, I do not stay at the top for long. I still have the long haul back down the mountain to normality and cleanliness. There's laundry to wash, toys to soak, and miscellaneous spots on the floor to hunt and sniff for.

I make my descent quickly and go into the bathroom to wash my hands. I'm rather proud of myself; I haven't lost my temper and the inward turmoil seems to be subsiding. But as difficult as the last hour and a half has been, I'm not finished. I can't sit back on the couch with a soda and call it a day. I must still be Mommy and Wifey. Dinner must be made, finances done, and food shopping attended to. My day isn't over just because this particular climb is (much as I would like it to be!).

I may have summited Poopy Mountain, even summited it solo today, but a greater peak yet looms. One of patience and selfishness, trust and control . And when I catch myself snapping at Jason not ten minutes afer he arrives home from work, I realize I'm still climbing.

August 4, 2010

Prayer Please

I wanted to ask for your prayers, friends.
For this guy.

(not the little one, the big one)

My Mom and Harry are visiting us this week. They flew in Monday afternoon.

And on Monday evening, Harry hurt his back. Badly.
He's been laying down in our guest room ever since.
We're hoping bedrest and Excedrin will be sufficient, but my mom's never seen him in
this much pain.
So if you guys could offer up a prayer for him, we'd really appreciate it. Harry is totally a get-up-and-don't-stop-moving kind of guy, and having to stay down is driving him crazy.

Thanks so much, y'all! I'll keep you posted!