Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lukas in the hospital, hiking, canoeing, and Marblemount community market

Are you getting tired yet of all the beautiful mountain and flower photos? You do understand that it will be winter soon-ish, and then it will all be dark and depressing, and I will post lots of pictures of grey rain – but in the meantime? There will be shots like this...

...and hiking season and backyard bonfires are happening, and we are in blissful ignorance of all the winter depression. So. Let me catch you up on some awesome stuff we did the past couple of weeks, and then let me tell you about Lukas' hospital visit.
Our wonderful friends Brandie and Bradley were visiting for three weeks, and today, they returned to their Flagstaff home base. I am a little bit weepy, because I miss them. We packed as much fun into these past weeks as possible, including a hike up Sauk Mountain.  All the locals know Sauk Mountain, because it dominates our landscape with its hogback summit and meadow-draped western slopes.  The views are superb, and the many switchbacks up the mountain are steep.

View of the Sauk and Skagit River basins
Super girl and super hiker

Lukas helps Eva access a patch of snow for playing in
They made it to the very top.  She needed to be carried a bunch, and then bribed with ice cream.
I fell in love with this little puppy who hiked to the top as well.
Family shot

See how steep the switch backs are?
Besides blissing out in the mountains, we also blissed out on Diablo Lake in canoes.  Brandie and Bradley and our gang hopped into two canoes and paddled out to Thunder Point.  The water of this lake is insanely blue and is connected to Ross Lake, but separated by a dam.  It is known for heavy winds and hard paddling, and we sure struggled against it while paddling to the little island.  We got a workout, but it was so worth it!

Brandie and Bradley with Lukas in one canoe, the rest of the family in the other.

Little Miss Eva

Kai and I are training for a bike ride across the mountain pass this fall, from Mazama on the East side of the Cascades to our house in Marblemount on the West side. It will be an epic ride, and I think Kai is ready for it. Don't ask about me. We rode up the Cascade River road, which goes up and up for six miles, and at the end of the ride, Kai breezed by Brandie and me (who was wheezing at that point, I might add.)

We made it!  Looks steep, ey?
The rest of the past weeks was filled with painting our nails at the pond, and backyard barbeques with friends, and the building of zucaphones. The latter are made from the hollow stems of zucchini plants, and when cut just right produce a haunting sound, like a flute. It was fun for the first five minutes, but when the dogs started howling, and all three kids made a terrible racket with their zucaphones, the fun got kind of old for the adults...

Our friends Cedar and Terry, with the dog adding to the noise.

And let me mention our first ever Marblemount Community Market, where a bunch of us locals sold organic vegetables and art.  I had a booth with my home made goat milk soap (there is still some left here and here, my felted hats and my own handspun yarn.  I had lots of fun, sold way more than I expected, and got to hang out with friends, including rather young ones.  Fortunately, Eva was kind enough to share her huge bag of popcorn with her girlfriends!

The last and least pleasant happening this week was our visit to Seattle Children's Hospital with Lukas.  He had to go in for a CT scan to check out what is going on with his heart aneurysm.  Stepping into this hospital is always hard for Steve and me because it reminds us of the traumatic first days of Lukas' hospitalization due to Kawasaki disease, and it brings up deep feelings.  Seeing other people's children sick, and watching parents pale with grief and worry always leaves me shaky.  But I always steel myself and put a cage around my heart so I won't turn into a puddle, and the cheerful decorations and amazing staff at the hospital make it all bearable.
Lukas had to put on a gown with embarrassing cartoon characters (his words), swallow beta blockers to lower his blood pressure, have an IV inserted, and do a lot of boring waiting around.  He had to practice holding his breath so the machine could get a clear image.  The hardest part for us was seeing our son being put into the "donut" machine, while they pumped radio-active contrast agents through his veins.  They warned him that he would feel hot inside as it was being injected, and that his mouth would have a weird taste.  Steve and I sat behind a screen so we wouldn't be exposed to radiation, and we cheered him on from there.
This is all so much harder on us than him, and he is a trooper throughout all his procedures.  I wish I could possess my son's calm and courage and go-with-the-flow attitude.  After he went to the bathroom for the first time after the procedure, he emerged with awe and wonder on his face, commenting on his lime green pee.

Steve reading to Lukas while waiting for the Beta blockers to do their mysterious work.
There is the donut machine.
We will find out the results soon.  Hopefully.  Waiting is the hardest part.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Backpacking adventure with my sons

This week I did something I have never done before. I took my eight and ten year old sons backpacking in the wilderness. No Daddy, no three year old sister to annoy them. Just Mama and the boys... and a sea of mountains. Apart from fearing for our lives during a fierce thunderstorm in the middle of the night, the trip was a huge success – a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life (and I hope they will, too).

Back in my wild motorcycle and hang gliding days, eager for adventure and solitude, I hiked and slept on mountain tops by myself often. This hike with my boys felt so different than those solitary experiences of my youth. For starters, would you believe how much food you have to lug on your back when you try to feed two growing boys? Wisely, I had packed many snacks for them, knowing they would come in handy for bribes when the boys' energy ran low. I don't know how many pounds of yogurt covered pretzels, trail mix, and granola bars they consumed on this trip, but I do know that after a mile of hiking, these extras felt mighty heavy!
We started out Tuesday morning, loaded with heavy backpacks. We all carried our fair share.   

Posing for the camera with our heavy packs before leaving home.  Here, we are still smiling.
We drove one hour East to Cutthroat Pass trail head.  I chose this hike because the first couple of miles to Cutthroat Lake are fairly easy, and from there, you can hike up to the pass.  The trail starts over a bridge and meanders through forest, which gave us beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.  The boys did great carrying their heavy packs, although they didn't fit us right at all.  My shoulders got bruised during these first miles, since I used Steve's old backpack.  Kai's pack didn't fit him properly either, since his hips aren't big enough for the hip strap.
Since the weather forecast predicted possible thunderstorms, and since our packs were such a pain, we decided to set up camp at the lake and then hike up the pass after lunch.  We found a perfect camp spot by a bubbling stream.

Starting the hike by the bridge.
We took many breaks to rest our poor backs and shoulders.
Walking over a log bridge close to our camp site.
Our scenic tent site.
After we devoured our sandwiches and pounds of treats, we headed up the mountain.  It was a typical hot East side day.  I had thought we would reach the pass after just two miles, but since I didn't bring the hiking book (additional weight!), I didn't know for sure.  It felt more than two miles, and the boys complained enough to make me realize this hike was longer than I had expected.  When we hiked out the next day, I read the trail description, and it said the hike up was  almost four miles, with considerable elevation gain in a short period of time.  So when the day was done, we had hiked ten miles!
With enough yogurt covered pretzels, my cheerleading, and the promise of going to the Twisp pool and bakery the next day, we made it up to the pass.  And - oh - what a view!  There were snow fields to roll our sweaty bodies in.

Up, up, up we go.  No pain, no gain.
Finally, the pass is in sight!
Do we look hot and sad?  I actually was blissed out the whole time!

You can see the tiny lake down there.

When we rested on the broad saddle that is teetering on the demarcation zone between the wet west and the dry east, clouds started rolling in.  Nice, fluffy clouds at first, but as the hours passed, they got darker.  Was this the precursor to the dreaded thunder storms I was so afraid of?
As we hiked down (Kai and Lukas being much more cheerful and talkative now), I felt my legs and knees being more and more ready to be done with hiking, wanting to soak themselves in the cold stream by our campsite.  And this is just what happened.  Once back by the tent, we soaked our feet, pumped fresh, cold water through the water purifier for immediate drinking, and then we headed to the lake for some "fishing".  The boys had looked forward to this event since we started the hike, and so we found ourselves dangling the fishing pole into the shallow lake, with small fish darting around it.  Of course, the boys didn't catch anything, but they had fun trying.

Tired and hungry, we headed back to camp, made some split pea soup, and played Black Jack (a sneaky way to get the boys to practice math).  The whole time, mosquitoes swarmed around us, but didn't bite because of the herbal bug repellent we slathered ourselves with every fifteen minutes.  They were plenty annoying, though, which made us retreat into the tent at 9:30.  Once horizontal, I couldn't keep my eyes open, and the boys soon followed my lead.
The whole night, intermittent rain drops fell onto our tent, but not until just before dawn did the storm break loose.  Lightning lit up the inside of the tent, and thunder shook the mountain.  Lukas sat up disoriented and asked how thunder could be so loud.  Kai slept through it all.
I have always been a terrible wuss when it comes to thunder and lightning.  Alone with my kids on this mountain, different scenarios ran through my head.  Should we squat on our sleeping mats to insulate ourselves?  Should I throw the water bottle out of the tent, in case the lightning would be attracted to it?  Were the tent stakes made out of metal?
Lukas had fallen asleep again next to me, and I held on to him (more for my sake than for his). Eventually, the nightmare passed, and I caught a few more hours of sleep.  In the morning, we packed up our soaking tent and backpacks we had hung into a tree, and headed down the mountain to get our breakfast at the famous Cinnamon Twisp Bakery.
As we hiked down, the boys trotted ahead of me, merrily chatting with one another.  My heart was so full of gratitude and love for these two beings.  I realized that these days and years are numbered.  The years when they still think that I am a cool person.  The days when they are their young and innocent selves, before hormones hit and make life so complicated.  These years when their lives are so intertwined, when they are each others' best friend.
Later in the day, we cooled off at the Twisp pool and ate ice cream in Winthrop.  I love summer.  I hope you love yours, too!

Can you see the dirt and dust on his face?  This was after backpacking and obviously before the pool.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Perfect life? Ahem.

Last week, the whole family picked U-pick raspberries at Cascadian Farm. As we gorged ourselves on the sweet berries while also managing to put a few in the bucket, surrounded by gorgeous mountain views and our laughing children, Steve mused, “I wonder if the people who read your blog think we have a picture perfect life”. I almost choked on a raspberry, laughing.Us, perfect?  I have wondered the same thing though. Do you read about our sweet farming life and do you look at all my beautiful pictures, thinking our life is perfect?

The Sahlin's are posing with our harvest

The reward for picking pounds and pounds of raspberries in the heat
The view from our ice cream eating spot at Cascadian Farm

I asked Steve, “What would you want my readers to know instead?” He answered, “Tell them about the dog poop on the carpet every morning.” (Yes, it's true. Our old dog Pluto is having problems at the moment, and every morning we wake up to dog puke or dog poop quietly stewing on the carpet.) He also said, “Tell them about mucking out the stinky goat barn.”

So you see, our lives aren't all sunshine and playing at the beach, smelling beautiful flowers, and petting little baby goats and chickies. Many mornings, I stumble out of bed into dog poop. Many days, I swear at the laundry that multiplies exponentially while I sleep. I am often too tired to do dishes in the evening, and then I wake up to an awful mess first thing in the morning. I don't even want to tell you about the times when I turn into a psycho with PMS, and how the sound of Steve chewing his dinner the wrong way makes me want to stab him with a fork. Then there are the days when Steve comes home from work, and I meet him at the door crying, because Eva's three year old behavior makes me want to take the credit card and fly to Mexico. Alone.
Where you see pictures of my beautiful roses and my vegetable garden, there was a lot of blood and sweat going on behind the scenes. Where you see pictures of thriving pigs, there were days spent schlepping feed to them in the pouring rain twice a day, and them biting a hole through my boot in return. Where you see cute little baby goats, there was a long night spent in the barn, agonizing about a difficult birth with stillborn goats.

But here's the thing: Writing my blog and taking pictures for it makes me put my life in perspective. It makes me step back a bit, looking at my life objectively, and realizing how damn good it is. Sharing my life with you in this way is like therapy for me, kind of like knitting. It calms down my hyper, production oriented self, and makes me focus on the beauty in my life, taking stock of what's real.
So let me show you the beauty of my life this week, knowing full well that it is not perfect, although it may look like it.
We received 63 little chicks in the mail to be raised as broilers.  We participated in two different birthday parties for our friends' kids.  And we ate a lot of food from our garden.  I spun yarn under the cherry tree, while being bombarded with cherries falling down.

Eva greeting a chick after drinking her blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry goat milk yogurt smoothie.

Eva's best friend Vija celebrating her birthday with us,  Look at these gorgeous (gluten free) cupcakes, decorated with freshly picked huckleberries and rose petals from the garden.
Lots of fun at a birthday party for the neighbors' grand kids.  Every kid gets a present so nobody feels left out.  Eva got a princess dress!

Garlic scapes - the garlic bulbs are almost ready to harvest
The blueberries will ripen soon
Borage growing by the squash
Larkspur and nasturtiums growing by the beets
Eva eating nasturtiums
A squash blossom waiting to do its thing
If you liked the last sun hat I knitted, and you want one for yourself, you can get it here in my Etsy shop.  This one is cream colored and turned out lovely.

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