Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ainsley's faces.

I emptied off my camera today and found these. They're from over a week ago, according to the date on the picture. I never knew they were being taken. According to Ainsley, Hannah was shouting out emotions and Ains was acting them out.

I give you ...


Mad. (Really. That's mad.)




And Beautiful.

Supah star!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Really? We're not done yet? - Oregon post

I've lost my blogging mojo. I just can't do it late at night after the kids are in bed anymore because I'm sound asleep too. I can't do it in the morning before I get up because I'm milking the goats first thing in the morning. I can't do it during the day because one little 'let me finish this thing online' turns into too much time online. So this week, with my cousin's kids visiting, I've had even less time and motivation to get on here and finish this trip journal - two weeks after we got back.

This post, and the one that follows (the last of the trip) will be picture heavy and word light so that I can get them up.

Early morning on our last morning in the yurt.

Going tidepooling that morning near Cobble Beach. We were determined to find tidepools at least once on our trip. At this beach, there was lots of sand and little isolated tidepools. Perfect place for Gray to run free.

Hannah found anemones. I walked right past them. Because this beach was out of the water, the anemones had closed up tight, waiting for the tide to come back in.

Everyone took turns taking care of Bella.

After the tidepools (we only found closed up anemones and some dead crabs), we went to the lighthouse we'd seen the night before and Hannah and I went up the stairs. Ainsley wasn't tall enough to come up with us, so she went with Gray and her daddy to look for whales.

Hannah had learned the word 'vertigo' right before our trip and between the stairs at the dinosaur show and these stairs, she internalized the meaning quickly. On the way up she was fine, on the way down, she was hugging the wall. I had a Jimmy-Stewart-in-Vertigo moment myself on the way up.

When we were at the top, the lighthouse keeper showed her the rainbow coming from the glass in the light above. She asked how it was made. "You'll have to wait to learn about that until you get to high school. Then you'll learn about prisms and light." Reason #45 that I love homeschooling - they don't have to wait to learn about what they want to learn about.

When we got back down, we found this. A three-year-old who was so sad because "I want to be tall. Why can't I be tall now?"

Sadness that you can't fix as a parent.

Walking back from the lighthouse, we passed Cobble Beach. I told Matt I wanted to go back down 'just for 20 minutes or so'. He didn't want to go back down the stairs, so the kids and I headed down on our own. When we looked over the railing we saw this.

Tidepools! Honest to goodness, no foolin', real tidepools! So Matt came down with us.

Apparently it wasn't the stupid guidebooks, it was the stupid land lubbers who didn't know how to read tide charts.

We passed this sign (and about 15 more - the mussels were well protected) on our way down.

I told Matt "I hope I see them. I'd hate to step on them without realizing it. Do you think there are many of them?"

Oh, there are many of them all right.

And it was tidepool jackpot gold. TONS of colorful starfish - and even a few sunfish.

In the picture below there are over twenty starfish. They're on each other, on the underside of the rocks, in between rocks.
The purple sea urchins covered the walls of little pools.

It was a visual smorgasbord.

On our way back up the stairs, Hannah was saying that she wished that she could take some driftwood from the beach. A ranger was walking up right behind us and told her that she could take as much driftwood as she wanted because otherwise they (the rangers) had to clean it up. He'd already told a few people there and they were hauling off huge pieces. Hannah went to work collecting.

And then she hauled an entire skirtful of driftwood all the way up the stairs you see behind her. Determined little girl.

On our drive down the coast, we stopped at this beach - can't remember the name of it - in a beautiful little cove. Hannah ran right to the water as she did at ever single beach we stopped at.

It was windy, but they played for at least an hour. Matt and I had to take it in turns helping them chase the waves.

I think this girl is going to move to the coast as soon as she's able.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cobble Beach - Oregon trip

After the aquarium we headed over to Cobble Beach to see if the tidepools there were as amazing as we'd heard. They weren't. They weren't even there. Stupid online guides that don't know what they're talking about. We decided to walk around anyway. It was cold, but not rainy, and the kids wanted to explore. With dreams of finding shells and starfish among the rocks, we set off.

And we did find some cool stuff. Pretty driftwood.

Sponges (right?) and shells.

Piles of sea plants.
All admired and then left on the beach when we left per the posted rules of the beach, but not without some sadness.

Cobble Beach is named for all the cobble stones that make up the beach.

(picture by Ainsley)

The stones are amazingly smooth with no sharp edges on any that I saw - or sat on. They were, in fact, surprisingly comfortable to sit on. So I sat down and watched the waves coming in and trying to hear the sound of water running back down off of the cobble stones as the waves went back out.

It was the most relaxing thing I've ever heard. I even recorded a little bit of it. Silly, but I'm glad I did.

While I sat there, just staring at the ocean, the kids played on the beach.

It's a testament to the calming power of this beach that at different times, I caught all three kids sitting and relaxing on their own before getting back up to play again.

Even the dog relaxed when Hannah came over to sit by me.

As soon as Hannah left, so did she.

Ainsley took the camera to get 'very important pictures' and snapped this picture of Matt and me.

Hannah asked me to come 'chase the surf' with her, so we did.

Then, while Gray and I searched for more pretty driftwood and Hannah looked for sea urchins, Ains and Matt challenged the waves.

We had seals watching us the entire time that we were on the beach. There was a mother and calf pair that sometimes rested on rocks about fifty feet out and sometimes slid into the water to play. There were at least three that stayed in the water and popped their heads up every so often to look at us before the waves crashed over their heads and they disappeared. We decided to leave the beach to them and headed back to the truck.

The lighthouse in the background is Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

Can you see the seals watching us leave? I can't and I know right where they are - I think. There were two there when I took this picture.

After the beach, we headed into town to have my second seafood dinner. I love seafood. Ever since Ireland I've loved it. But we don't get a lot of fresh seafood in Idaho and my husband wont' eat any seafood that's not as fresh as it comes. In Newport, at the restaurants along the Bayfront, the fish can't come any fresher and he'd promised me two seafood dinners on this trip.

Our first one, the night before, was at Mo's - don't follow that link unless you want to start jamming to their theme song. Simple, tasty seafood at a good price. Matt wanted to go back there the next night. It might have been because, as a huge Simpson's fan, he liked the fact that it was called 'Mo's' - that link's safe to follow, sound-wise.

Our second meal was at Local Ocean, a place recommended by one of the volunteers at the aquarium. Both restaurants got their seafood as fresh as possible. It was walked off of the boats and into their kitchen. (So it was fresh enough for even Matt.) Local Ocean is also a seafood store. Their case was full of different varieties of seafood, all listing what they were and - get this - which boat in the harbor they were caught on and how they were harvested.

This was our view as we ate.

Wait. That was our view when we looked out of the window as we ate. This was our view as we ate.

Oh, it was good. Matt got bacon wrapped halibut. Talk about the best of both worlds.

Then we went back to the yurt and fell asleep to the sound of heavy rain on the roof, and I was glad not to be in a tent. We planned on visiting a tidepool and lighthouse the next day and I was hoping it would clear off enough for us to do that since we were heading away from Newport the next day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fake tidepools, moon jelly, and giant Japanese crabs - Oregon trip

The Oregon weather was rainy and cold sometimes and just plain cold other times during our trip. Every so often, there would be flashes of sunshine with no wind and in those times, we went to the beach. We were lucky to be inside or eating lunch every time it was raining and we learned quickly to enjoy the non-raining time, cold or not, outside.

On this day, we were planning to go to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport and it was a perfect day to be inside with sporadic heavy showers.

This wall art showed the wing spans of different birds.

The large blue bird above Gray is a White Pelican. It was fun to see that wingspan since we see those birds near where we live. The largest bird on there was the gray silhouette just above the pelican. It's a Wandering Albatross and it has the longest recorded wingspan of any bird - this silhouette was 12 feet across. Impressive - and a bit intimidating - but not nearly as intimidating as another 'world's largest' animal we saw later that day.

The first exhibit we saw was unusual and so interesting. It was meant to illustrate how sea life can adapt to human involvement. The pillars you see represent the pillars of docks on the coast - they were covered with life. There were things on the floor of the tank like discarded cement pieces and an old tire - no outright trash, like candy wrappers - and they were covered inside and out with different life forms. It's not good or pretty, but the animals work with what they have.

Another really fascinating thing for Hannah about the above exhibit was the shape of it and how that affected what she could see. It was an oval and that hid some animals at certain angles and revealed others at surprising angles. She must have circled that thing 17 times, finding different animals.

The hands-on tidepool was by far the biggest draw for all of the kids there. The entire aquarium is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, most of whom are retirees. And they love kids, so they all want to be working at the tidepool.

The tidepool had two sections - the starfish/anemones and the urchins/crabs/clams/mollusks/sea cucumbers. They were separated by a rock wall so that the starfish wouldn't hunt the animals on the other side.

They showed us how the starfish eat and it was fascinating. They open up the animal they want to eat (if it's a clam or mollusk - the sea cucumbers and crabs they just climb on top of) and then, instead of ingesting it through a mouth and sending it on down to their stomach, they put their stomach into what they want to eat. Am I explaining it well enough? Strange creatures. We saw some extra large starfish in another tank along with some huge 'sun stars'.

This tank full of moon jellyfish was beautiful - the picture simply can't do it justice. The lighting in the room was dark and the lighting in the tank was blue and the jellies were white and it was hypnotizing.

This next tank could freak you out pretty easily. It's the world's largest crab, the Japanese Spider Crab.

And that crab that's looking like it wants to eat Gray is just a baby. These suckers can live to be 100 years old and grow to 12 feet (leg span). There were a few larger ones in the tank (about 6 foot leg spans), but they stayed farther back from the glass.

We learned that these used to be more common in the shallow waters around some Japanese islands but they're so rare there now that they're having to go farther and farther out and down to find them. At what point do humans not say "If we've depleted them so much, maybe we should hold off for a bit."?

Outside there were sea lions and seals...

(very bored sea lions and seals) and sea birds. This one's a tufted puffin.

In a few weeks, they're going to have babies there. Little tufted babies. I do squee sometimes. I'd squee for that.

Then we went back inside to the shark tunnel. In this exhibit, you walked through a tunnel with sharks swimming above, around, and beneath you - parts of the floor were glass so that you could see them swimming below you.

They had several types of sharks and rays.

This exhibit was Flat Kathryn's favorite - no danger of getting wet (she was understandably nervous about that after our first beach trip) or eaten (she was understandably nervous about that after having met my goats when she first arrived) - and she got to see a leopard shark!

This huge shark jaw belonged to the Megalodon Shark, a prehistoric ancestor of today's shark that makes Jaws look like a temper-tantrum throwing toddler of a shark.

They said that the Megalodon Shark was bigger than a bus and weighed up to 100, 000 pounds.

This antique diving helmet was set up for people to put their head inside and get a feel for how that would feel.

It was small.

This is the moment that Ains decided that she definitely wasn't a mermaid. She didn't want to have to wear one of these things because "I've lived on land too long, Mommy, so I can't bweathe by myself unduhwatah. I would have to weah this and I don't like it. It makes me cwazy."

Her daddy did fine in it. (I find it hilarious that his hat and sunglasses are on top of it.)

But I would go crazy in it too. I was claustrophobic before my head was all the way in it.

After visiting everything they had to offer inside and out, we took a walk around the perimeter and stumbled on this lovely kid's playground with animal statues.

We stayed at this park for over an hour. Something happened to Ains here. Her life turned into a musical. It was like something out of South Pacific.

"Some enchanted evening ...."

I'm just kidding. It was mostly mermaid singing with some improvised toddler show tunes about aquatic life thrown in.

Hannah tried to involve her in her underwater dolphin race ...

which she would have lost since she had a passenger, but Ains wasn't biting.

She was singing a beautiful mermaid song.

Gray thought they were all nuts.

Hannah challenged him to a 'Tortoise and the Dolphin' race. He cleaned her clock. It was the extra weight.

There was another little girl at the playground with her mother and grandmother. They sat on the benches watching our kids play and she seemed shy, so Hannah came and asked her to play. The adults encouraged her, and she had fun sitting side-saddle on the dolphins, but when the game got more energetic and she tried to stand on the dolphin's back, they pulled her away saying "We don't climb on the animals, sweetie. Some people behave that way in public, but we don't." And they left. I had to explain that to Hannah, and to be honest, it confused me. This was a clearly labeled park with animals clearly designed for children to play on. I would have liked to understand their point of view better. (ETA: About an hour after I posted this, out of the blue this paragraph came back to me and I thought "That's funny. It's a bit like the South Pacific song "They've got to be taught." Just a bit, but it was still an interesting similarity with my joke above about Ainsley singing South Pacific songs.)

After the playground we went .... back to the fake tidepool. For an hour. I visited the bookstore. That tidepool was a lot of fun, but the bookstore was too. Then we went to feeding time for the seals and sea lions and they didn't look so bored after all. They were having a lot of fun. We walked back to the truck in the sun, opened up the tailgate, made sandwiches, it started to sprinkle, so we climbed in the truck, ate our sandwiches and drove to Cobble Beach. By the time we got there, the rain had stopped and we were ready to explore. It was great timing.

I'll tell you about that tomorrow. It's late and I am so tired and Cobble Beach deserves its own post.