08 October 2015

Birthday Kids!

Ok, that last post was kind of a downer. 

The kids' birthdays were so fun. Chris, Eloise and I sloshed through the rain and rising tides to take cookies to Isaac's preschool class! He hides when we sing him happy birthday---"I don't want everyone looking at me!" But he recovered as soon as Eloise laid into her cookie at the table. He lost his embarrassment, pulled up a chair beside her and insisted she join the circle for their goodbye song. An adoring brother and devoted host. 
Isaac's main present was a BIKE with training wheels. Thanks, Amber, for Ben's old one. Isaac loves it! I made a Thomas cake, and instead of having to say goodbye to Dad, we got to say hello to Grandma and Pa at the airport! 
Eloise's first birthday started early as we zipped out the door for breakfast on the ship before the big departure. She got lots of sympathy for the un-present of waving Dad off, but in exchange she got to be on the front page of the newspaper. So that's worth something. 
She came home to balloons and presents, and we celebrated our sweet one-year-old Belloise with a visit to the aquarium. A very memorable day. 

Happy birthday, kiddos! You make life brighter and broader. I love watching you grow and learn and play together. I am so thankful for you both! 

Before Goodbye

This post is difficult. Before Chris left we had our ups and downs. He was stressed with deployment preparations. I was overwhelmed at the length of his impending absence. We were both on edge. 
His departure was delayed a weekend thanks to the hurricane. All his preparations were complete, so he was able to really focus on the kids and their birthdays. I don't realize how stressful his job is until he's back to normal and not grumpy. 
He gave them their daddy dolls, read them stories, we went on walks around the neighborhood, we ate dinner on ship when he had watch and at the restaurant around the corner we'd first gone to the weekend we moved in. 
On one hand, everything was normal---see the kids devouring apples straight out of the autumn farm table box. But on be other hand, we knew everything was about to change....

Blooming Fall

In the middle of all the rain last week the compound crew met up for some fall flowers at the glorious botanical gardens. 

The fall wildflower meadow---amazing! My mom and I brought the kids here last October soon after Eloise was born: oozing, limping, medicated...I don't know what I was thinking. All I remember is being hot and sick and in so much pain. I didn't return to the gardens for months. 
This visit couldn't have been more different. I see something I've never seen before each time I visit the gardens, and this was no exception. Hidden fountains trickled into tucked away ponds, bees buzzed, and the wildflower meadow was glorious with blooming cosmos and gerber daisies.   
And along the paths and in the trees, hidden harbingers of fall made their appearance. The first crimson leaves, scarlet berries, Japanese maples just starting to change---stand by for momojigari (leaf viewing)! 

07 October 2015

Navy Blue

Chris and Eloise are on the front page of the Virginian-Pilot this morning! 

It feels immodest to rave about a story about my family but the reporter, Mike Hixenbough, really nailed it. As Chris said, it starts our deployment on a high note. 

06 October 2015

Anchors Aweigh

Happy first birthday, Eloise! You are exactly what we needed. Your slap-slap-slap crawling, your huge baby smile, your PIGTAILS, your hugs, your personality, your noise; I just love you. 

This past year was a real challenge, and today your daddy deployed (after a birthday breakfast on ship and lots of birthday kisses). 

But we had a nice day at the aquarium with Isaac, Grandma and Pa. We got this, baby girl. Happy birthday, my perfect pumpkin! 

04 October 2015

The Tide is High

Our street is flooded from both ends, but our home is high and dry. I was delighted to see that the car the kids and I stopped to photograph on the way home from preschool was the very shot headlining local news coverage. Maybe it's a sign it's time to start writing again. Or maybe it's just a sign that my neighborhood is underwater. 
Either way, we returned to that spot at low tide Saturday and high tide Sunday for comparison. See how the car is reoriented? Yikes! And the water remains high enough that preschool is canceled tomorrow. High Water Party! 

And by "high water party" of course I mean Isaac gets to join me at Costco or something. 

Stay dry! 

29 September 2015

Fall in Line!

I love fall. I'm glad Chris is leaving this season because fall has so much momentum to carry us through the first stretch of deployment. My first Farm Table box after the Autumnal Equinox included sweet potatoes, beets, and apples. Roasted root vegetables = FALL! 
Beet Chèvre Crudités: 
Peel four beets, thickly slice them and smear with olive oil, salt, pepper; bake them on parchment paper at 425 for a half hour, then top them with goat cheese and bacon. 
We also welcomed fall by celebrating Friendsgiving. Most Thanksgivings we have a problem: it's not enough time to sortie to Texas, but most of our friends have family in town. Or Chris is absent. 
So this year I got wise and solved all these problems by hosting Friendsgiving in September! Isaac helped me decorate the house for autumn and set the table. 

The neighbors brought pies, popovers, green beans and wine, and we filled up our whole dining room table with both extensions and the coffee table. THAT is a certain form of satisfaction. Turkey, stuffing, salad, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes---we had it all. Many of the dishes (gravy, stuffing, salad, spiced apple cider iced tea) had an apple theme as a nod to the early nature of the season! 
Friendsgiving Salad
Wash and dry a lettuce mix with wild arugula from Farm Table. Add chopped Asian pears, crumbled blue cheese and toasted pine nuts. Dress with apple cider vinegar, olive oil and a drizzle of Portsmouth honey. 
And OF COURSE the first day the weather cooled off we had a front porch tea party with Spiced Apple Cider Tea (iced) and Pumpkin Spice Brûlée Oolong Tea (hot). With Fresh Market seasonal yogurt pretzels of course. 

Anything to cheer up poor Isaac after having his cavities filled. Apparently he chipped his front tooth at some point---I'm pretty sure I know when, just didn't know it was that bad---and a cavity formed. He was so brave during the whole thing even though he hated it. At first the laughing gas made him super chatty and he told the dentist all about Alaska, seeing glaciers from the train, how Chris protects us from bad guys, how Pounce meows at raccoons, and where the trains are at the Children's Museum. 
But afterwards he wouldn't get out of the chair: "I want them to take off my mustache! Please! I don't like this mustache!!" His lip was numb from the novocain and he HATED it. Can't blame him. 

Outside he ran to some bushes and sobbed. I employed the same guilt tactic I used after his cardiology appointments in Florida: we scooped jellybeans out of the bins at Fresh Market. After watching a train come out of the depot. He later reported: "My mustache is fall off. I didn't like that mustache." 
We can point to this as the beginning of his lifelong fear of dentistry. Hopefully it hasn't forever ruined fall for him. 

19 September 2015

First Day of School!

Isaac was still a little jet lagged---I had to wake him and Eloise up for his first day of school. But he was happy to be there! Afterwards, we went to Taste for gelato. Isaac helped me feed Eloise.
The first day of school coincided with my birthday, with Chris' right around the corner and our neighbor Matt's the day before. So the Compound headed out to Wasserhund, a brewery I read about in the paper. A couple of 20-somethings went all in on their dream of having an Octoberfest-themed brewery and it was amazing. We had the Wasserhund pizza and a flight of brews, and loved it. One of the owners even came out to our table so we could heap her with compliments. Great birthday evening, and I recommend it!!

Little Pumpkins

It's been one of those time periods where every day seems to have the worst types of tasks: insurance hassles, business issues, will execution (hours waiting at the legal office), endless unproductive phone calls to staff that won't help, trying to make doctor apppointments but they have NOTHING AVAILABLE in the schedulable future, trips to the dentist. All under the penumbra of Chris' impending departure. Le sigh. 
One day I gave the kids a break from it all and took them to the Children's Museum so Isaac could spend nearly two hours in the train exibit while my brain broke into pieces and melted out my ears. We've come a bunch of times and he cannot get enough of the trains. I, on the other hand, have had enough of the trains. But he begs and begs all the time, "Mom! Want to go to...the TRAIN MUSEUM???" And I love him, so we go. We ate our lunch on the Portsmouth waterfront and watched the ferry arrive. 
A couple weeks ago we spent Saturday on the Kearsarge with Chris for family day! I am happy to report no one fell down any stairs. Isaac was sad when I took the kids home because he thought Chris was going to sea. Poor kid is so confused. 
Isaac continues to excell at puzzles. He is also much chattier about preschool this year. He tells me about what letter they're learning about, what starts with that letter, and about which kids disobey and kick the teachers. 
Eloise is earning six figures for her intense yet heartfelt baby poetry. 

Snotty and grouchy 
No I will not stop fussing 
Oh! There: diaper's full. 

Alaska Leftovers

Alaskan Fireweed: I thought this was so cool. Amber explained it blooms all over throughout the summer. When it flames out and goes to seed in an arc of burgandy, yellow or orange, then it's six weeks until winter. I saw one or two blooms, but patches of the flamed out ones painted the roadside everywhere we went. 

I thought about Alaskan Fireweed when I saw Titus' picture of their first snowfall this week. Winter came a bit early, according to the flower. 

I like how bits of trip lefterovers continue to swirl around, even though we're home: the Alyeska Spice tea in the morning, silver salmon every week for dinner, hearing about the Alaskan train from Isaac all the time. 

We also had literal leftovers after a particularly large salmon fillet one night, so I de-boned the rest of it, put it in the bottom of a dish, layered on zucchini lightly sauteed with garlic in olive oil, then topped it with leftover Friendsgiving mashed potatoes mixed with an egg. I patted it all down, baked it for 30 minutes, and we gobbled down Alaskan Shepherd's Pie sprinkled with parmesan cheese. It was so good. 
Luke and Amber also took us to this rainforest---the northernmost rainforest in existence, I think. It was in Girdwood, the same town where we caught the train. The kids picked wild blueberries along the spongy trail to the waterfalls. 

Then we stopped to visit some of their friends AND LEFT JOY. I guess it was bound to happen at some point with two cars and so many people. Joy was not amused, but was delivered safely home. 
Now let's talk about the interesting and amazing things you can buy at the trading posts. Mamoth tusks---fossilized or 'fresh', walrus and whale penises (...why??), carved ivory animals, bone-handled knives, stones and minerals and crystals, caribou antlers, whale baleens, any type of fur made into anything you can imagine, and a hats made out of wolf and lynx heads. Alaska is so wild! Chris bought a pelt for each kid, an aviator hat for himself and fur boots for me. "They're so Mari. You have to have them." Maybe he knows me better than I think! I'm not posting a picture of the boots until it's cold because they will set the world on fire they're so awesome. 

13 September 2015


This might be my favorite thing we did. We hauled their raft upstream, floated down to their dock to pick everyone up, then floated down over some whitewater rapids. Amber volunteered to stay at the cabin with the four-and-under crew, who expressed a preference for napping and watching cartoons. I had woken up in the middle of the night gripped with the realization that whitewater rafting with an infant is idiotic, and I would probably need to not go, so I really appreciated Amber's sacrifice! 
With my kids along, the rapids would have been a lot scarier and a lot less fun, even though the likelihood of anyone falling overboard is practically zero. If anyone hopped overboard, it would be my two. And an 11-month-old in a life vest is really hard to hold. 

The river is glacier runoff, which accounts for the rock flour that gives the water its brilliant azure blue, as well as its near-freezing temperature. Luke said being in the water more than 30 seconds puts you at risk of hypothermia. BRR. I tried a 15-Second Challenge (where you put your hand in cold water for 15 seconds or a minute or two...for no reason) and after the initial, "Wow! That's cold!" and "...really cold!" it was just, "OUCH" cold. We don't need any risk of babies in that. 
Anyway, it was SO PRETTY. It had rained earlier, but the clouds lifted to where wisps curled around the mountainsides and hid the upper slopes. Golden birches, aspen, and black spruce came right down to the water. Underneath a life vest, down vest, fleece, cashmere sweater and t-shirt (complete with wool socks, leggings, waterproof waders and a fur hat), I was not cold. We pulled the raft out at the end, Luke tossed his line in the water, and he immediately snagged a salmon. A crowd of Italian tourists sprinted over to film and photograph LUKE: Alaskan Wilderness Man. 

That night, we had dinner around the campfire: Alaskan beer, hot dogs, smores, and SURPRISE! cupcakes for our birthdays. Titus did a terrific job of keeping the balloons and cupcakes secret! Isaac and Eloise got 4 and 1 candles, Chris and Luke smoked cigars, and we were all SO SURPRISED! What a treat to get to celebrate my kids' birthdays with family! 

10 September 2015

King of the River

Tonight we are back from Alaska, feasting on silver salmon WE CAUGHT OURSELVES in the Kenai River. Sort of. This fish was swimming upstream last Saturday. 
Our group required three boats. Our boat had the youngest kids and highest likelihood of having to come back early. 

"I hope we come back last with the most fish," I told my mom. 

It wasn't a contest of course. No really, it was no contest---we creamed the others by catching twice as much as they did combined! 
Naturally it was all due to our masterly skill, lucky baby charm, and general competence. It had nothing to do with our excellent fishing guide, Dean, who teased my mom for reeling one in wrong. 

In the end, we caught SIX silver salmon (one each for Eloise, Isaac, my mom and me. Chris caught two). So even though we did in fact have to return first, it took sooooo long to fillet aaaaaaaall our fishes that it came out almost even. 

On our way back to the cabin we stopped at the St. Elias Brewing Company in Soldotna, one of Luke and Amber's favorite post-fishing dinner spots, for pizza, Autumn Amber Ale, and Snowbird Belgian. The brewery is named for the mountain, one of the tallest in North America. 

Thanks for a fun afternoon and our tastiest souvenirs!!!

09 September 2015

Alaska Kids

"This is a cool place you live, Titus."
"Yeah, it seems kind of normal---seeing a moose on the playground, picking blueberries, seeing people walking around with guns. You know why they have guns? Bears."
"Wow this is so pretty!"
"Yeah! I almost never get to see stuff like this! OH WAIT. Maybe I do." ---Joy 
"I like the cereal I had for breakfast." 
"What kind of cereal?" 
"...the kind I had for breakfast. Vanilla puffs. They helped my tooth get out." ---Apollos 
"I like sunny days and misty days because misty days look cool and sunny days are fun. See that mist?" ---Constantine 
"I want to catch a fish for my dad. But any fish is not coming on my string." --- Isaac 
Constantine: "We're going to have crabs for dinner, Isaac!" 
Isaac: "I don't like crabs."
Constantine: "They're DEAD crabs!" 
Isaac: "...I don't like anything." 
"How'd you like fishing, Isaac?"
"I was scared at the end a cuz there was a lot of banging."
"If there's something you want you should whack it and then it will love you forever." ---Constantine
Clearly the kids were happy and goofy, and Alaska was, to steal Luke's description, intoxicating. Chris and I agreed this was a very, VERY fun vacation. 

Thank you, Amber and Luke, for your gracious and generous hospitality, and thank you, Mama and Daddy, for your air miles!! We had a GREAT time!! We miss y'all! 

Maaaaaaaybe let's do it again sometime!