New Anything Bag

Completed: a homemade bag which, for lack of a better term, I’ll call a diaper bag.

We no longer need to carry diapers with us when we leave the house, but that doesn’t mean that I can eschew a bag. Leaving the house without water and a towel is always risky; for any outing longer than a couple of hours, carrying snacks is a good idea; and there can also be spare clothes and sunscreen for outdoor adventures, or distractions to make boring errands easier.

I’d been using an old green bag from a long-ago biology conference. This is better.

There are many things I like about it: the lining fabric, the magnetic clasp, the arrangement of pockets (including two spots for water bottles). But my absolute favorite thing about it is that the majority of the bag is made from my old jeans. Piecing the denim in diagonal strips was just a random idea that I ended up loving beyond all expectations.

Strangely, I find that I’m actually getting low on old denim. I honestly never thought that would happen.

I still need to put it through its paces to see if the size and arrangement really suit me. So far, though, it feels like a major step up from the biology bag.

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Bunk Beds

The other day we took the plunge and got bunk beds for the kids. They’ve been sleeping on our old queen mattress for a long time. This has had some pros and cons. On the plus side, they’ve enjoyed playing on it, and I’ve occasionally come in after all noise has ceased to find them snuggled up together. On the other hand, it’s sometimes taken a very long time for noise to cease at night, as the appeal of playing or fighting together far outweighs the appeal of quietly going to sleep.

So the possibility of bunk beds has been on our minds for a while. When I saw an ad for a three-layer bunk made by a local craftsman, we went for it. The advantage of a three-layer bunk is that the lowest bed is right on the floor, which frankly is just right for Ryan at three years old. During the day I have no worry about him climbing in and out of a low bunk, but at night I think we’d more likely hear a solid thunk as he forgot about the drop, followed by wails.

The beds required a little assembly. The man who delivered them said that he could put them together in about an hour and a half. It took us about five hours. I like to think that’s a matter of practice, not intelligence.

In any case, the boys were very excited about their new bed. That first night, Nathan came to me before 8:00 and asked if I could please brush his teeth so he could go to bed. I probably don’t have to mention that it was the first (and last, thus far) time he’d ever asked me that. And overall the bunk beds have cut down drastically on the amount of post-bedtime fighting that occurs each night, which is fantastic.

The downside is that, if there’s enough light leaking into their room, Ryan has taken to getting up and dumping toys out on the floor instead. Our work is clearly not done.

Ten Years

Dave and I have not always been on the ball about celebrating our anniversary, especially since having kids, but the ten-year anniversary didn’t seem like one to be skipped out on. We debated for a while; meals out are nice, but childcare is always a sticking point, and anyway we’ve had more fun when we’ve done things a little less traditional. So this year we put thought into something that would be fun for the whole family. We decided to go for a hike and a picnic out in the Columbia River Gorge.

Initially we chose the Bridal Veil waterfall hike because it seemed like a nice short hike that we thought the kids could do. And they did — in record time. Sometimes I think we underestimate the energy that those young legs possess.

The day was still young when we finished both the hike and our picnic. (We went a little crazy on the picnic, eschewing sandwiches for oven-fried chicken, hard-boiled eggs, pickles, cheese, nectarines, and snickerdoodles for dessert. Oh, it was so worth it.)

Fortunately the Gorge is one of the most beautiful places on earth (in my completely unbiased opinion), and there are a wealth of hikes and attractions within just a few miles of each other. We headed down the road a bit, chose a likely-looking spot to pull off, and found ourselves right next to an old tunnel. This was part of the original highway along the Columbia Gorge, which was apparently very impressive for its time. The tunnel had been restored, and was the perfect structure to interest two small boys.

After that we explored the creek below for a while, and then headed out on a longer hike that eventually took us past three more waterfalls. Our favorite was the one that shot out from the edge of a rocky cliff, allowing the path to actually curve behind the waterfall. The boys thought that was pretty exciting.

This was certainly a longer hike, and there were occasional moments of complaint from our little troopers (“My legs are tired!” Ryan complained whenever he got bored), but we took it slow. Overall they made remarkably little protest about all the walking. Nathan in particular seems to light up when he gets out in the woods. When we finished the hike and found yet another waterfall with a pool, they both had enough energy to go wading.

It is true, though, that they both fell asleep within minutes after we got back into the car.

Ten years. I have to love where that time has taken us.

Peach Picking

(photos courtesy of Emily)

We went peach picking with a friend of mine the other day, at a nearby orchard. I have to admit that I’ve never picked a peach before. This is not the best climate for growing peaches, and I’m not sure I’ve even seen a peach tree in fruit before.

The familiar fruit-picking lust overtook me as I entered the orchard, though, and saw all those trees hung with fuzzy golden fruit. So sweet! I came home with almost forty pounds of them and had trouble stopping myself at that.

The canned peaches and peach butter are done, and we’ve eaten a goodly share and frozen a gallon of slices for use in crisps this winter. And after all that there was still a layer in my box. Naturally those are currently being turned into wine. We’ve never tried a peach wine before, but if it has any of that heavenly peach aroma, it’s bound to be good.

The kids did all right during the peach picking — my boys had my friend’s two kids for company, a boy and girl just a little younger than mine. But since then we’ve been out picking blackberries several times, and I think they’re getting about done with fruit picking in general. To be fair, this year we haven’t really done our usual marathon blackberry picking, so they don’t really know how lucky they are. Last year we went out every evening for two and a half weeks, plus weekend mornings. This year we decided to cut back on the blackberry wine since we have so many other fruit wines in process.