Archive for the ‘Traveling’ Category


wish I knew who to give credit to – hilarious!

This whole “the mosquito is Alaska’s state bird” is getting me a little freaked out.  I mean, I don’t like mosquito’s (who does?!).  I’m not really scared of getting some freaky disease – the itchy welt is enough to scare me.  And we have a wee babe!  How much would it stink to see sad little white bumps on his tiny little chubby body?  No thanks!  But what are the alternatives?  Chemical-laden sprays?  Did you know your skin is the largest organ of your body and since it’s porous, absorbs most of what you put on it?  I don’t want that stuff on me, or in me – or contaminating my littles!

So here’s what I did: I made some bug repellent.  I really hope it’ll work, and isn’t just a “feel good” alternative.  But the things I know about the essential oils I used (and if you know me, I’m not into the essential oil rage – more below) are pretty solid.  So I headed to my oil cupboard, where I keep all of my soap and body product makin’ goods.  Here’s what I mixed together and put into a 4 ounce dark glass spray bottle, to be shaken before each use and stored in a cool dark place:

  • witch hazel, filled to half of the bottle
  • quality water, filled to half of the bottle
  • 20 drops of clove
  • 20 drops orange or lemon
  • 10 cinnamon
  • 10 eucalyptus or peppermint
  • 5 rosemary
  • 5 tea tree
  • 1 teaspoon of glycerin, if you choose (I didn’t bother)

I won’t lie, I didn’t count out drops.  In fact, I suspect I was a little exuberant and over-did it, using closer to double what I called for in this recipe.  I love that this is something perfectly safe to use on my wee one (keeping out of the face, of course).  If nothing else, we’re going to smell amazing – leaving that travelers funk to the birds!

Here in the Pacific Northwest we’ve had a pretty wet, lengthy Spring.  That means a lot of damp places, and I suspect a lot of summertime mosquitoes here as well.  The rumor mill (weather man) says that this coming week will bring sunshine and warm temperatures.  I’m not sure I believe him, but I suspect we’ll be hearing that incessant, annoying, awful buzz sooner than later.  We’ve little time to put this spray to the test, but we may have a good opportunity to try!

Now folks, here’s where I want to share my concerns about the essential oil fad (pyramids) that y’all probably have at least one friend pressuring you to join… (more…)

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Friends of ours warned us to apply for passports early.  Since we made the decision late in the game to get passports, despite several (valid) sources saying we don’t need them, the clock was ticking, and I was feeling the pressure.  Looking online only confused me.  So I decided to write it down, in the event that I need to start this process over.  Or in the event that it’s helpful to you.

Randon tidbit: A passport book gives us access to international travel by air.  Had I stuck with my Enhanced Driver’s License, I would have been limited to crossing borders by land only.  So this gives us a little more flexibility for emergencies, and prepares us better for future travels.

To submit for my own Passport, I would need a filled out, printed Application, an original Birth Certificate, Driver’s License, and a photo*.  The photo had to meet certain specifications.  Despite there being lots of excellent options (phone app’s, Walgreens, Costco, etc) that knows all of the rules, we chose to have the US Postal Service do it.  I’ll share more about this in a paragraph or two…

Now, to submit the kids’ applications, it took a bit more paperwork.  Because they are all minors, and because Scott’s schedule really didn’t allow both of us (parents) to be there in person to apply, I had to have a signed and notarized copy for each application of Scott’s Statement of Consent (link below) agreeing to this, as well as a copy of the front and back of his driver’s license.  We had our local bank do the notarizing, as they offered it free to members (Cha-ching!  Saved ten bucks a pop!).  Thankfully, they offered services well into the evening, when we spent the good portion of an hour stamping, signing, and right-hand oathing.

We chose to apply only for the standard (no extra pages) Passport book.  We opted out of a card.  Here’s the order we did all of this in:

  1. Filled out a DS-11 Application online here for all 5 kids and myself.  Saved and printed them.  Actually, my sweet neighbors did since my printer is on the fritz right now
  2. Gathered birth certificates, my drivers’s license, and copies of Scott’s (both sides multiplied by all 5 kids), along with his signed and notarized DS-3053 Statement of Consent for each of the kids app’s – they do not need your social security card
  3. Went to our local passport Acceptance Facility – for us, that was the Post Office in La Center

We got there promptly at 11am, as the gal had recommended on the phone.  We were about 3 from the front when the gal asked how many passports we were applying for.  When she heard six, she laughed and said she’d be skipping us, because she is taking lunch in 15 minutes and can’t finish us in that amount of time.  We took a spot along the wall.  By now, the Post Office had quite the line, and apparently, all were there for passports.  I hadn’t thought it through well, but it was Spring Break, and everyone was preparing for summertime.  In fact, by the time we left, there were at least 30 people in line behind us to apply.  Now if you don’t know our area, I’ll tell you, La Center is a pretty wee bitty town.  A crowd like that isn’t seen often in one place. (Unless you’re visiting the new casino – it’s a madhouse.)

At least a half dozen people went ahead of us before the new employee clocked in and took us to the front.  I may have given my kids a lesson on how unfortunate it is that they were discriminating against a “big” family, when in fact, they served that many people anyway, just one at a time.  Then I let it go.  Or did I? … since I’m sharing this rant here… 😮

When we got to the front, we had to process each passport application one at a time.  I had prepared at home by bundling them by person (application, birth certificate, copies, etc).  But before we could start, she took us across the hall to take photos.  She didn’t give us any warning.  Snap! “Next!” Snap! “Next!” “No teeth!” Snap! My sweet kids were so uncomfortable.  But they were champs about it.  And we giggled plenty.

Back at the front counter, the employee swiftly worked through our paperwork.  Each Application had to be notarized: more oath-giving, more right hands on our hearts.  When all was said and done, I had to write 7 checks: One for each application, and then one to the Post Office for their part in it all.  The kids’ Passports were $80 each to the state, plus a $25 service fee and $15 for the photo to the USPS.  Mine was $110 to the state, plus the $25 service fee and $15 for the photo to the USPS.  Mine will be valid for 10 years, the kids’ for 5 years (16 years and up qualify for the 10 year expiry).  I suspect Aury may look a touch different before his expires.  I also suspect he has the cutest passport there ever was.

he got to smile.

Even with Passports – or had we only used Birth Certificates – when crossing the border, we will have (more…)

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There are a number of options to document our travels, and where I can’t for the life of me figure out how to best do it, I also don’t want to miss important parts during the wait.  So I’ll start here and migrate if we change platforms along the way.

Nearly three years ago my husband almost died.  In the midst of the crisis, my biological Dad, Mark, flew out to us and planted himself deeply into my children’s lives.  Already known as Papa and friend, he took on the role of caretaker and home-life anchor.  He and Grandma Chris really sacrificed a lot, without blinking, and covered our family in love.

That summer, we took it real easy.  Once Scott was able to walk, we would walk down to the river and fish almost every day.  We canoed on the lake.   They stayed with us, traveling back and forth from their home a couple of times for other obligations, until early Fall.  It was pretty dreamy, really, the whole experience.  I think we all changed a bit that summer.  After that, we all started seeing each other even more.

The next year, Papa & Grandma brought their houseboat.  We spent all summer on the water; some short trips, some several days.  We started talking about what we’d do “next summer,” and tho’ I thought he may be joking, Papa really held to going to Alaska on a ferry.  When they were here last November to meet our new baby Aury, we talked details.  The ferry proved to be the starting point, ultimately leading us to choose to drive the majority of the trip.  But what would we drive?  The Suburban? With a camp trailer?  The skoolie seemed a fun option, but we knew we wouldn’t have the resources to prepare it in time…

Summertime traveling had slowed down (stopped, really) when we talked, so we thought it may behoove us to purchase an RV rather than rent one.  Buying one for $8k then reselling upon our return – even for half – would be cheaper than renting one for the duration of our time away.  So we started looking around.  We found that for “just” a little more, we could upgrade significantly.  And “just” a little more than that, even better!  Before we knew it, we landed the perfect one for our journey, albeit a little out of our original budget, Papa decided to make the purchase long term for them instead of a short term, turn-around investment.  He called me Christmas Eve at noon and said he’d looked at four RV’s already that morning, and had to choose between two.  An hour later, the deal was sealed.  Merry Christmas all around! (more…)

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One of our young friends was embarking on an extended road trip, which aroused a lot of family discussion. Among the several questions, the one that held the most conversation time was: why might this be a good use of one’s time?  It led us into the several-week long discussion about gaining perspective.  Life permitting, everyone could benefit from a retreat.  A rest.  A time to focus on few things; things that matter.  To reflect on life, and what matters.

You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything. – John Maxwell

We discussed how almost every year that I went to Idaho in the summertime for our family reunion (a tradition that carries on still) as a younger girl, I learned something new that impacted my life significantly.  Things that I’ve carried with me into adulthood.

Our last road trip was to Arizona for a couple of weeks with our whole little family.  Getting out of our comfort and familiar zones, we were able to experience new things and – most importantly – learn together.  How to be flexible, adaptable, to see from others’ perspectives – to serve.  To be reminded that our wee little life bubble is simply that: a bubble.  That life is much larger than our wee bitty (seemingly huge sometimes) issues.  This can clear a lot of fog.

Here are some things that we all spoke about on our return from holidays in Arizona, true to many’a times we’ve taken a reprieve:

Road tripping and vacationing make me realize how little we want.


We live in a culture of consumerism.  It’s not something I want to be a part of.  And so, with renewed energy, we see our things differently on our return.  We realize that the bulk of our things are non-essentials.  That they are easily replaced or shared or borrowed.  And that sometimes they take more space visually, mentally and resourcefully than they’re worth.  We also realize that our time may not always be managed well, and extra activities also may need to be reconsidered & some purged.  Knowing when to gracefully say “no” is a good thing.

Road trips & vacationing made me realize we always end up sleeping in the same space.


Sure, we visited lots of places that sported beds for all, but still we’d end up squashed together – usually spending the late night dark hours talking about the day.  When camping, we always end up sardines in our rig or tent.  Even in the bus, all four kiddo’s end up crammed on the wee futon to sleep instead of the double bunks when they pull an all-nighter out there.  Every morning at home, for at least a half hour, everyone’s piled in our bed.  It’s time we cherish.  And recognize there is little need for so many mattresses.  It’s a luxury we’ve noted unnecessary but handy from time to time.

Road tripping and vacationing make me realize how very not-real Facebook is.  It also reminded me not to take it too seriously. And that friendship/communication (or lack of it) on it doesn’t count for diddly. 


I have learned to be very comfortably using the “do not follow” button, restrict button, and [less often] the “block” button.  Because folks can pursue me in real life, not glean in a false world without investment.

We’re pretty old school with our phones.  Our family currently shares one non-smart flip phone (one that has better coverage than any of our smart-phone-friends, I might add).  That means that when the kids and I are in town (and Scott’s got the phone at work with him) – or when the family’s on vacation – we don’t really give a rip what’s happening on social networks.  The drama of people’s opinions – and my incessant need to respond just as excitedly – now come out in face-to-face communication.  Our conversations, in turn, tend to be more civil as we practice manners and listening skills.  Our differences (or similarities) are more productive and beneficial to relationship and life.

The adverse affect is that it makes us want to have a little too much “fun” when we get back to posting on social networks.  Because it just isn’t real.  It’s entertainment, at best.

Road tripping and vacationing make me realize I should not be afraid of people.


We are faced with this conundrum daily as we face ‘superiors’ and ‘inferiors’ in our workplace, business, schools, church… heck, even the grocery store – despite knowing what God’s Word says about who we “follow” or to think less of, even subconsciously.  Always comparing.  Our culture defines value based on position, instead of recognizing the wholeness of each individual together in community.  As we walk away from familiar politics and social circles, we are free to be just us together.  In all of our mistakes, our smarts, our stupid, and our yearning-to-grow-ness.  There are fewer expectations and pedestals, and there is a lot more humility, raw reality, and growing on all our parts.  A lot of lovin’.  It fosters an environment of regeneration.  And it’s our natural inclination to bring that home with us, reminding us to pursue that perpetual ideal within our community.

What we need is not “sustainable,” but regenerative. – A Simpler Way

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We all loaded up in the boats with [the best of] friends, and slowly made our way out the Lewis River to Austin Point, where we’d meet the great Lower Columbia River.  We were fairly loaded with people, and so packed very light.  Nothing more than absolutely necessary.

It was late morning, so the tide was on the rise, making the shallow voyage out easier than other times.  When we made it to the main channel of the Columbia, the depth went from a sketchy 3-4 feet to 40 almost instantly.  The water was calm, the skies sunny and warm.  Too warm, had we not been on the water enjoying the breeze.

The day was spent moseying the river, stopping on a sandy bank to picnic mid-afternoon.  Later we found a ship wreck to climb into and explore… Okay, there’s a lot more to this story, like the part where I was the only one wienered out and stayed on the boats instead of boarding the amazingly massive abandoned Coast Guard ship.  But we were using an emergency ladder (how’d that get there?) that swayed in the breeze.  I was certain I’d be fine if I could use the side instead, but didn’t verbalize it, and I got all up in my head and decided to bail.  Not a decision I’m proud of.  The four of us who stayed back had a jolly time convincing nearby shipwreck dwellers that we were alright.  We also tried our hand at fishing, only to catch our line on the boat anchor after 3 casts.  Okay, again, it was me that did it.  Fail.

When the crew returned from the ship, they had fantastic stories of complete commercial kitchens (stock pots to drool over – some 3′ in diameter), a rusty ladder that gave out on Dave.  Waders laying on the floor appearing to be the ghost of Captain Goldfish, and claustrophobic doorways.  It sounded amazing.  I’m being sarcastic, but in reality, it truly sounded awesome.  And I can only enjoy it vicariously through the ones brave enough to climb aboard.  Bugger.  I decided then and there to stop being a weenie for future adventures that were sure to happen.

Toward evening, we started the hunt for the perfect camp spot.  And then there it was.  A nook to move the boats into, and a huge shallow peninsula that the kids ran about on.  We unloaded boats of sleeping gear and dinner, and made home.  It was really perfect.  We were on an island all to ourselves.  There was a large space up and over a berm that was windless and flat, sandy ground and padded for sleeping bags.  Previous campers had built a few teepee’s out of branches, and had a nice fire pit (we put a flash light in for late night chat to pretend since we’re under a burn ban right now).  The sunset was incredible.

photo courtesy Ruth Zumstein

photo courtesy Ruth Zumstein

The next morning, our sleeping bags were soaked.  Dew had come in and pooled itself nicely into our sleeping quarters.  Everyone but the wise-folk that covered themselves in tarps had stayed dry inside their bag, but the tarp-coverers had actually created a water-catchment system… themselves being the storage container.

With high tide having come and gone a couple hours prior to wake time, and our boats needing the extra clearance, we were quick to gather and load up, and off we went, making our way toward the ocean.

In Cathlamet, we pulled into the dock for fuel and a cup of joe.  We walked the town up and around until we found a lovely little shop that hooked us up with flavorful deliciousness.  Flynn enjoyed their kid-sized chalk board table while we waited for our latte’s and smoothies, and we scored an old red metal camping mug speckled with white.  A treasure, for sure.

We continued on up to Astoria, exploring inside the Tongue Point toward the John Day Channel, just shy of town.  When we made our way around the point itself, the waves went from decent to dramatic lickity split like.  Almost instantly, we were in hurkin’ swells.  With Astoria in sight – and almost within reach – we decided to turn back for the day and find our evening destination.  Another boat trip proved glassy calm waters, and a day adventuring in Astoria in the markets & streets.

The Skamokawa Resort was all that we had hope for and more.  We rented their Lolo House and one of the neighboring condo’s.  We pulled right up to the resort’s dock and tied off, walking the dock to our back deck.  By evening, Leah arrived with food for this leg of the trip, and Scott came with more friends and a trailer of canoes and kayaks.  There were many smaller rivers we wanted to wiggle through to see the local terrain.  Our best man 15 years ago (and good friend, clearly) John happened to be in town and came for a delicious enchilada dinner, a bit of “Psychology”, and introduced us to his lovely girlfriend.  As always, it was a real treat to see him.  With her family owning a place on Skagit Island, we may be lucky enough to see him again sooner than later.

After a late night of games and silly, we all woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed.  We fished, we paddled, we read, we spied on a wedding at the local park, where we scored another coffee stand with delicious latte’s.  We ran around on the docks and in the darling gazebo. We visited the Skamokawa Museum across the street and learned more about the history of the town.  I picked up a great book called Ethnobotany of Western Washington: The Knowledge and Use of Indigenous Plants by Native Americans and a coloring book.  Yep.  A coloring book.  I know I could have bought it just about anywhere, but I bought it here.

Now in order to picture this all accurately, you need to hold out your hand.  Extend just your thumb and pointer and face them pad-to-pad.  Leave about a 1/2″ gap in between them.  That’s about how big the town is.  Everything was within walking distance.  Everything was historical and fascinating.  We totally played up the tourist side of the trip.

Later in the afternoon, many of us walked the 2 blocks to the Wakaiakum County Fair.  It was small, but it was great!  There was clearly a lot of focus on details, the premise being very clean and well-kept, the displays impressive.  Some of the littles got to ride the barrel train while we chatted with an older fellow who had an old Model T (?) on display with others.  He said he’d give us a ride for $1 or let us drive it ourselves for $5 (!) the next day, explaining he wanted people to love them as much as he did – and why not share?  ❤

Back to the house, we fired up the BBQ and enjoyed burgers with all the fixin’s.  Another late night of play made for a harder-than-the-previous morning to wake up.  By noon, Scott & I waved off the boats and drove with the trailer to meet them in Cathlamet, where they’d fuel up and we could leave the rig while we boated a bit more.

We took the boats over to Skagit Island and docked literally right at the Two Islands Farmers Market, a fantastic market that I’ve talked about before.  They have done so much with the place since then, when I was already impressed!

After some adventure, Scott & I drove home (I slept), and we met the boaters in Woodland at the dock with empty trailers for us to help load up the boats.  It was late evening by now, and we had dinner in the making so the crowd wouldn’t have to worry about it – and because we just weren’t ready to say goodbye apparently.

This was one (the biggest) of many boat trips we’ve been on in the last month.  The last we took for a day in Portland, dining in floating restaurants, watching street performers, and perusing local shops.  Another was an afternoon trip to St. Helens and enjoyed a town festival.  Another an overnight couples retreat with some that I admire greatly.  When I was a young girl, I used to spend a couple of weeks each summer in Arizona with my biological Dad, Mark (“Papa”).  We’d work hard a week, and play the second.  Often times it’d be at Lake Powell on his boat.  I swore back then that I’d get a boat before I got a car (later I learned that was not a rational decision).  I was certain I’d live in a beach house and read L.M. Montgomery’s “oceany” books over and over.  I’m thankful that he and Chris have given my kids the same memories that we’ll cherish forever, and that our dear loves are always up for an adventure!

I’m so glad we all got to enjoy marine living and exploring this summer!  We are blessed!

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Every year (minus a couple that we missed) my maternal family has a reunion in Idaho, deep within the mountains, far from civilization.  There are no modern amenities.  Well, there weren’t until a hand full of years ago, when Fish & Wildlife put in an outhouse.  We used to dig our own, my Grandpa putting his steel-framed ‘toilet’ over a plastic lined hole with a tarp behind for privacy.

This camping trip can last anywhere from 3-4 weeks, my grandparents staying from beginning to end.  The rest of us come for a week or two in between, working whatever dates we can.  Until this year, my grandparents would usually drive back up to Washington State, visiting for an additional few weeks.  With plans for incoming house guests, they are heading straight home this time instead.  Hopefully caravaning with someone in case they need company.

For several years until recently, I’ve been going solo to Idaho with the kids.  Work hadn’t allowed the vacation time (however did last year!).  This year the timing didn’t work quite right again, so we will have to make the trek without him once more.  Next year… Next year…

We did get to spend a whole week camping with him last week, tho’!  Our church takes a week out of every summer to camp together (this year our first), generally up river closer to Mt. St. Helens.  We stayed in a campground, and found the comforts of the 20th century all around us: restrooms with flushing toilets and showers, a few electrical outlets, picnic tables and fire rings, gravel roads…  The one hiccup that we weren’t used to is that we needed to prepare all of our own meals, and needed to bring wood for our own individual fire – both usually central to camp and shared in Idaho, us chopping down trees for our wood there.

Taking a bath.

Taking a bath.

It worked out great.  We brought way too much food.  We put to use our double burner stove that we’ve had for some time now.  We made Pudgy Pies (a fave), and slept in a tent.  We usually sleep in the van in Idaho, our stuff in our new (Craigslist) awesome tent.  Bears, y’know…

We (Scott) played in the volleyball tournament.  We played in water and in boats, the kids riding The Wild Thing.  The kids went on a 4+ mile hike with others, wading across the river with a rope.  We went spelunking in a <1 mile lava cave, Flynn on Daddy’s back (except where we had to pass him through the 2′ hole we had to crawl through at one point). There was an old-fashioned river baptism, pinata for the kids, and bagpipes during evening study.

Pictures of our camping trip last week with WCC here.

We had set up the farm to maintain itself for two days, making chores an every-other-day task for Scott to come home to and check on.  It was a bit of a challenge, and next time we may hire a house sitter to run the place.  It just really isn’t enough work to have someone full-time.  We’ll figure out something.  We have often hired one of my siblings when we need chores done, but it didn’t work out this time.

It’s funny.  Getting ready to camp is always such a trip in itself.  The packing and planning, the worrying and the loading. But it’s always worth it.  We really needed the break, and came home exhausted yet refreshed.  Somehow, I’m already jonesing for another bout of time to ponder and reflect.

Now that we’ve been home a couple of days, we’ve unloaded, washed everything, and are re-packing for a rugged trip to Idaho!  We’ve had a nice practice round.  We’re taking a new route this year, just to change it up.  I’m not a fan of change, and have waffled back and forth about it, but for adventures sake (which this trip should be full of), I’ve committed, and we’ll at least try it the way there.  It looks like about the same amount of time, so why not?!

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When I was a little girl, all of my cousins and family would meet together at my Grandpa Stonoff’s lot, Bighorn Industrials.  We’d bring our bikes and our helmets and our snacks, and head out on a day-long, many mile bike ride.  When we all got tuckered out, we’d call Grandma Stonoff and she’d come pick us up at the other end.  I have many fond memories of these days, from sitting behind someone staring at their backside, to trying out my own bike – scared to go down the inclines.  We’d stop and play at each playground along the way, feed the ducks at the man-made ponds, and then sometimes eat at McDonald’s at the end of the route.

Well, as with Castles & Coasters, I’ve been promising the kids this experience for a bit, waiting for the perfect timing (a summertime visit, for starters).  I mentioned this to my bioDad, Papa, who took up the hard work of gathering bikes and making it happen.

Riding down memory lane. When I was little, we took this bike ride frequently. It went on for hundreds of mile (or so it seemed). A lot has changed in Phoenix since then, but the joy of the ride sure hasn't! Here, Dad (Mark) helping his 80-year-old mama (Violet) on the first leg of the ride.

Riding down memory lane. When I was little, we took this bike ride frequently. It went on for hundreds of mile (or so it seemed). A lot has changed in Phoenix since then, but the joy of the ride sure hasn’t!
Here, Dad (Mark) helping his 80-year-old mama (Violet) on the first leg of the ride.

We met Saturday morning at the lot.  Papa had bikes for everyone, including an adult “tricycle” for my 83 year old paternal grandma (Papa’s Mama).  I hadn’t seen her since our wedding, 13 years ago!  She doesn’t remember so much, but with a reminder, she was happy to see me/us.


Four generations, sans one (the photographer!)

I strapped Flynn onto my belly in his wrap.  Adyn towed a kid trailer with Eli and all of our snacks and water.  Colby climbed up behind Papa.  I think Kendra and Grandma were the only two who rode solo.  We formed a train, with Flynn and I taking up the rear.

Riding down memory lane. Adyn was pretty jazzed to be carrying the babes.

Adyn was pretty jazzed to be carrying the babes.

The ride started out a bit sketchy.   (more…)

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