Tag Archives: outside time

Emma in the pool

Swimmy times

Getting the pool laid out.

We love finding ways to get the kids outside and having fun in the summer (well, all of the time). Summer is easier in Oregon, though, because it’s not raining.

And summer = swimming. Hot temperatures, sunny days, minimal air conditioning in our lovely old house make it the perfect recipe for cooling off in the pool.

The only problem is we don’t have a swimming pool in our relatively small back yard and dragging kids to the local, really really crowded pool happens just every so often. About three years ago, at the end of summer, Adam found a 9-ft circular pool on sale at Rite Aid for 50% off. He decided it was a good deal (around $25), brought it home and set it up. It was great. The kids loved it. It was small, but they were smaller then too.

They made up games: whirlpool — where everyone swims around the outside of the pool as quickly as possible, leaving someone stranded in the middle of the water vortex; swinging into the pool — where someone sits on the swing and pumps until they’re high enough over the pool and everyone else moves out of the way as the sploosh in.

Last year we dragged it out again the beginning of summer. It had holes in the inflatable ring at the top which is the key component to keeping the pool filled and stable. Adam painstakingly fixed them and we enjoyed the pool for the summer.

Erected! Woo hoo!

This year, I got out the pool and set it up. And again, the bloody holes in the damn inflatable ring. I fixed them. And fixed them. And then gave up and bought a frame pool online. I measured our garden and got the biggest one that would physically fit.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t ready to pick up from the store until after Duncan and Berry had left for their Dad’s. And by that point, Emma had fractured her little finger and had her right hand in a cast. *sigh* So much for summer outdoor fun.

But, the cast eventually came off and I’m leaving tomorrow to return with the kids in a week, so, last weekend, I decided it was time to set up the new pool. Enthusiasm from children was low, but with some perseverance (and the wise decision to wait until the sun was going down) I got the thing up!

And then I dropped the little wrench they included to install the filter inside the pool — before I had assembled the stairs. It was dark by the time I was finished, reading instructions in the gathering gloom.

Then we filled it — for the entire next day. It’s only 14-ft across and holds 3,300 gallons, but it still took a while. Adding pool chemicals so the water doesn’t turn green and kill us all was another adventure, but I pretended it was fun science. (I do love the little color-changing test strips.) Our pool is now nicely balanced and chlorinated, with appropriate levels of ph, alkalinity and free chlorine atoms.

Finally, it was time for the fun part: Getting in the thing. Emma was extremely keen, even though the water was freezing cold. Suddenly all the really hot days seemed to have vanished, leaving us with temperate summer weather that was great for enjoying on dry land but not awesome for heating up the pool. But it didn’t stop her.

Among her many qualities, Emma is cute and convincing and soon Adam was in the pool with her. Here’s the video proof.

(Please note: I realize getting into a 68F pool isn’t the same as dumping a bucket of ice water over your head and Adam didn’t nominate anyone else for the ALS challenge because he had no idea why I was telling him to say he was doing this for ALS. While ALS is a serious and devastating disease — I recently learned that two of my childhood friends lost their fathers at young ages due to ALS — we were just having a bit of fun. And harmless fun is good.)

I also entered the icy waters, which really weren’t that bad after the initial screaming plunge, and enjoyed several games of Piggy in the Middle (the less PC English version of the American game, Monkey in the Middle) with Adam and Emma.

The nice lady at the pool supply store told us most folks around here keep their pools up until mid-October, so here’s hoping we get a few more weeks of fun out of it. I’ve considered getting some kind of heating system for it (solar cover or solar heat coil thingies) but for now we’ll just tell the kids that cold water builds character and it’ll feel warmer as soon as they move around.


Quiet camp

So Camp Mummy hasn’t exactly been full of providing children exciting and educational summer activities lately.

Book reading enthusiasm has waned. Emma still hasn’t finished The Ruins of Gorlan (how can she live not knowing how it ends?) and I just can’t seem to get into the Warriors book about bands of fighting cats.

Plus, I don’t have Emma and Sam all that much during the week, and not for any full days, reducing our chances of getting up to much fun. But we’re not completely and totally lame as long as you count the weekends.

So here’s what we have done:

Japanese Obon Festival

Japanese Obon Festival
The Pokemon Dance.

We stopped at the supermarket for sushi to go and then onto Alton Baker Park, where we fortuitously found Yayoe, Adam’s ex-step-mom who we still call Grandma Yayoe.

We enjoyed watching traditional Japanese dances — including the awesome Pokemon Dance — while being relentlessly pursued by a wasp. I think it liked my gluten-free soy sauce.

I failed in my half-hearted attempts to get anyone go join the circle and dance with me (nor did I go on my own), although Yayoe and I shuffled in place. My arm flapping did double duty, serving to also shoo away the wasp (as well as provide entertainment for anyone watching — group dances are not my forte).

Sam thankfully trapped the wasp at ground level and stomped it into oblivion. Much indebted, I enjoyed a couple more dances and then we headed home.

Hiking to the Raptor Center

Walking in the woods
Did you hear that noise? What was that?

In preparation for Adam and kids’ upcoming camping trip, we went for a hike up Ridgeline Trail. Starting out near Duncan and Berry’s school, we wandered the woods, taking the trails I remembered from Berry’s class field trip to the Raptor Center.

Taking photos of people hiking is a bit tricky, as you have to get ahead of the group and then they each walk behind the person in front. Adam and the kids stopped, however, to listen to the sound of two trees rubbing together in the wind. I told them it was a cougar (we’d seen signs about cougar and bear sightings), loving mother than I am.

I was the only person to think to bring water and was resultingly quite popular. We eventually reached Fox Hollow road, which gave Emma a burst of energy — or at least enough to climb the hill to the Raptor Center, where we donated a whole lot for our entry free. Fortunately they had plentiful fresh, cold water, which everyone enjoyed.

Owl at the Raptor Center in EugeneAfter sharing my granola bar (also the only snack that made the journey with us), I offered to bravely face the trail back to the minivan alone while the rest of the gang enjoyed the educational owl-eating-meaty-bits show and wandered around to look at all the birds, including Raavi, a bird of some kind that Emma adopted a couple of years ago. They’re cool and all, those birds, and the Raptor Center does good work, but apparently birds aren’t really my thing. So I strode off downhill, taking my chances with cougars, bears and my knees.

I returned with the minivan 30 minutes later.

Camping and Exchange Students

Joanna, JD and Regina – Rochester NY meets the West Coast.

The following weekend, Adam took Sam and Emma backpack camping on the coast while I attended a psychic fair in Yachats with my friend, JD, a spirit artist from Ohio. If you want to read about that, read Adam’s post Camping. I don’t know where the tales of my adventure go, but probably not here. Suffice to say it was an interesting and slightly profitable experience and it was great to see JD and Regina, both old friends from Rochester, NY (Regina now lives in Ashland and drove up for a couple of days while JD was still here).

The Miller family guest cottage.

During the week, I helped our local academic coordinator for an exchange student program find families to host French students over the rest of the summer. And decided it would be super awesome if we hosted an exchange student from Japan for the school year. Fortunately, Adam and then Emma and Sam also thought it would be a great idea, so we moved forward with the process. Honoka will arrive in late August and stay in our little guest cottage in the back garden.

Adam is very excited to have someone use the incredibly fancy shed he built and finished (with insulation, electricity, drywall and hardwood floors).

And that’s the news from Camp Mummy for the last couple of weeks. Hopefully we’ll manage something interesting, educational and/or active this weekend.


Keeping cool in the summer

5 ways to stay cool in summer’s heat

Summer heated up sooner than I expected, with 90-plus degree days. We live in a charming old house, built in the 1920s. It doesn’t have air conditioning (or central heat, but we manage with a fireplace, baseboard heaters and micathermic panels). We have invested in a couple of window units, which takes the edge off, especially in the afternoons as the sun beats down on the front of the house.

But who wants to stay inside, sitting at the dining room table in front of the AC unit?

Instead, we’ve come up with these solutions:

1. Go to the coast

Roasting smores at the Oregon coast.We headed out over the July 4th weekend to visit Adam’s Dad near Lincoln City. The coast is 10-20 degrees cooler than Eugene, so it worked out well. It doesn’t, always. We often end up with rainy, windy weather, unable to enjoy the beach without getting chilled. This time, though, it was perfect.

Unfortunately, Duncan was sick the day before (a virus shared by Adam who was ill on Tuesday) and still felt a little puny. Not too puny to roast marshmallows over the fire pit and make smores, though. 🙂

And then he passed it to me.

I began feeling bad Friday morning, before we even left. But I shouldered through the packing and rested on the drive. My illness worsened on Saturday so, while Adam took the kids to the beach, I stayed home and slept. We packed up after breakfast on Sunday and came home to allow all the kids to happily plug back into their computers.

 2. Set up the backyard pool

Backyard poolOur pool is the bane of my existence. It drove me to tears yesterday as I tried–and failed–to locate the leak in the inflatable ring (which, for some terrible design reason is key to the whole thing retaining water).

But it does get the kids outside and moving around.

I set it up originally last week and think I finally have the thing fixed enough to refill it again today. If the white inflatable ring isn’t fully inflated, the sides somehow collapse and the water drains out. Which is sad to find in the morning.

I ordered a bigger, metal frame pool, that will arrive in a week or two and hopefully be more reliable from summer to summer. Now I just have to level out part of the yard…

3. Eat frozen foods

Frozen yogurt timeAfter dragging the kids to the grocery story last week (fortunately we didn’t need to buy anything frozen), we all enjoyed a frozen yogurt treat. They’d earned gift certificates to Yogurt Extreme after participating in their schools Jog-a-thon fundraiser that we hadn’t yet used.

What better time than a hot Monday afternoon?

Frozen yogurt (and chocolate chips, marshmallow, mini-cupcake, fortune cookie, chocolate sauce and whipped cream) consumption was followed by a few rounds of Mario Kart Wii. And then home. Because I had to put the food away sometime.

4. Enjoy the morning hours

Bike riding in the sunTaking advantage of the cool hours of the day to get outside works well. Ever determined to get the kids riding bikes, I loaded up my bikes and theirs and headed back to the bike path.

It was a disaster.

Duncan’s chain kept coming off every few paces. I was coasting more than riding my bike. Why did I think this was going to be a good idea?

Fortunately, a kind man seeing our crisis circled back and figured out what happened. When I put the training wheels on Duncan’s bike, the rear wheel shifted forward, making the chain slack. Also fortunate, I’d had the foresight to bring the wrench with me in the car, so we cycled back for it and I fixed it up.

After that, it went a little better. We rode, we rested, we rode to the playground, we played. The kids decided they wanted lunch at home, rather than free lunch in the park (totally fine, we’ve managed it once this summer), although they did finagle a carton of chocolate milk.

Something I’ve noticed this summer is the kids are becoming more willing to ask other adults for the things they want. Berry wanted a chocolate milk. I didn’t know if she could get just a milk or needed to get a whole lunch. So I sent her off to ask. And she did — she ran across the playground to the table and asked, joined shortly by Duncan (he wanted chocolate milk as well) — and they returned pleased, milk in hand.

It’s like they’re growing up.

The ride back to the car went really well — a relief and pleasure.

5. Hide in the basement

The beauty of basements is that they are built underground. Which means they stay cooler in the summer than the rest of the house. The beauty of our basement is that it’s finished, so you can hang out down there, hidden away from the summer sun.

We haven’t had a lot of basement time, but it’s good to know it’s there if we need it, fully stocked with board games, the Wii and more Netflix movies than we can possibly watch.

Ocean bound

Camp Mummy has apparently been too adventurous and engrossing to leave any time to write about it. I don’t even know what week of summer it is except it’s the week the little kids are at summer camp, which means I can actually sit down at my desk and answer email, pay bills and clean up a few of the piles that have accumulated during our days of fun.

A couple of weeks ago, we made it to the beach twice. Once on a Tuesday when it was slated to be 96F in town and later in the week to visit Adam’s dad for the July 4th weekend.

Florence Day Trip

Florence Oregon coastWe headed out for a day trip to the beach, setting off before lunch time. We’d just started reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at bedtime, so I downloaded the audio book from the library onto my phone and continued the saga. It kept us quiet and entertained on the hour and a half drive.

(Note: people in Eugene always say it’s only an hour to the coast. But it’s not. It’s an hour twenty to Florence, and then another good 10 minutes to an actual beach.)

We arrived, found a sheltered spot not quite on the ocean and set up camp. I had the foresight to bring a pop up play tent and the kids helped me gather driftwood and rocks to stake it down. I slathered them with sunblock and sent them off to play while I withdrew into the camo-tent and ate lunch. Their bellies directed them to join me shortly.

We enjoyed our picnic lunch: bagels and cream cheese for me and Duncan, noodles and peas for Berry, followed by a dessert of fresh cherries. And then they were off again.

I did a bit of knitting while they played at the water’s edge, watching them dig and run and laugh together. After a while, I joined them, with a bucket of shells my Mum had collected along the Florida coast years ago. We’ve been slowly returning them to the ocean over the last 3 years, but the final container has been sitting on our front porch, seemingly forgotten for quite a long time.

So I began to empty it, one shell at a time, flung into the water as far as I could. Each one a remembrance, a goodbye, a prayer, a wish, a kiss on the air.

We used to walk along the beach together, Mum and I. First in Barbados. Then South Florida. I was the one who brought her back to the ocean she so loved. It wasn’t the same as the Caribbean Sea, of course. South Florida’s East Coast Atlantic was not the pristine, tranquil, aquamarine waters for the Bajan West Coast. It was loud and rough and wild. But it was still the ocean, the beach, the horizon bringing freedom and expansion to your eyes and heart. There’s something about looking off into an unknowable distance — you open up in a way you simply can’t in enclosed walls. And the Atlantic mirrored our wild hearts at the time, struggling with loss and sorrow for the life we’d left behind.

Shells, Florence OregonAfter I left Florida, she kept up her beach combing ways, bringing home countless shells. They were too pretty to leave behind, she said. After she died, I began returning them to the ocean — perhaps not the one from which they came. Would we confuse a shell gatherer combing the Oregon beaches for treasure? Perhaps. But we’ve long been transplants, my mother and I (and people who don’t always follow the rules), so it’s fitting.

Within a few throws, the kids wanted to join in. At first, they were sad to say goodbye to the shells. They wanted to keep them. “We have more at home, I explained.” I saved the very nicest ones to make something out of — wind chimes or a mobile, perhaps.

And so the container slowly emptied, although not quite by the time they were tired.

Cold Oregon watersThe tide was coming in, encroaching upon the tent, so we packed up and headed over to the ocean side of the beach. The ocean was cold. Which made it fun, apparently, as the kids spent the next hour running to and fro, screaming with glee.

I kept visual contact, knitting by feel, not glancing away for more than a second at the time. The Pacific ocean isn’t known for its tranquility and claims lives every year.

No drift wood logs about. Check. Warnings not to go too deep. Check.

But kids like to test their boundaries and while they started out only knee deep, soon Berry was up to her hips. Then a wave splashed her in the chest, reaching her shoulders.

And they ran back, higher up the beach. And I breathed again.

It’s hard to know, as a parent, how much freedom to allow your children. Enough to explore, to learn, to grow, to test themselves. Perhaps even enough to get hurt a little. But not too much. Nothing fatal or life-altering. They need to test their limits and go beyond what is comfortable or safe. If they don’t, how will they ever live a real life?

Time ticked by and eventually the 5-minute-warning came due. We packed up and trudged back to the car (perhaps they skipped, but I was carrying most of our things). No time for the ice cream I’d planned in Old Town Florence. Instead we finished off our car snacks and drinks and let Harry Potter accompany us home where we arrived sandy, sun baked and disheveled, with only a couple of shells of our own.

The R’s of summer

Two weeks of summer are under our belt (well, they were when I started this post on Tuesday). How are we stacking up against my original plans? Eh, generally OK. But I’m not sure how we could possibly fit more into our days.

Learning to ride bikes

We’re working hard on on this one, with two bike riding sessions so far. I was hoping for another yesterday (but we ran out of time) or today (but Duncan isn’t feeling well).

This happened on the way back to the minivan. For a long time.

We went down the paved trail by Amazon Park the first time (this also counted as visiting a playground) with one kid on the bike with the training wheels and one on the smaller bike I turned into a balance bike by taking off the pedals. I hear this is all the rage for helping kids to learn balance. Apparently not for my kids.

There was a lot of whining about who had to ride the balance bike, ending with a brilliant episode of stubbornness. Getting back to the minivan felt like it took hours.

Our second biking excursion generally went better, with one bike with training wheels and one without. I tried convincing the kids that the person on the bike without the training wheels got more attention the the kid on the bike with training wheels, but they didn’t really buy it. We switched up the bikes every 5 minutes or so, which meant adjusting both seats, but it was OK.

After a while, my poor back had enough of running behind a bike while keeping it upright and my ability to consistently spew encouraging words also wore out, so we headed to the playground across the street (see below).

Visiting every playground in Eugene

The kids insisted I give them commands to do things. This one was: Berry, lie down on the bench and sleep until Duncan wakes you up. Duncan, go down the slide 2 times, then go over to Berry and give her a kiss to wake her up.

We haven’t been anywhere new, but have been to our favorites. I mean, we have to visit them first, anyway, right? And, I think until I start hearing complaints that the old favorites have become boring, we’ll stick with them. It was more an idea to keep us interested in going outside and staying active.

Because that’s what a lot of these goals are really about — keeping minds and bodies active and not lounging around in our underwear watching Pokemon all day (confession: that is exactly what’s happening now, at 1:15 p.m.).

Reading our way through the OBOB book list

Duncan and Berry both finished Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman and I think I’ve resparked Emma’s interest in her book. She was on Chapter 17 on Monday. I have to catch up with her again.

Duncan and Berry are now onto The Trouble With Chickens which I they should probably be reading right now instead of watching TV. Did I mention Duncan is feeling under the weather today?

I’ve certainly been reading a lot, finishing the latest Outlander book, then My Mistake by Daniel Menaker. Now I’m onto The Goldfinch, which is due at the library in three days. My kindle and I are inseparable.

So, even if we haven’t been doing a fantastic job of some of the other stated Camp Mummy goals: trying a new recipe every week, doing science experiments, crafting cool things, etc., we have been having a bang up time with those three Rs of summer: reading, riding bikes and roaming about.