Friday, August 30, 2013

Where Sasquatch Roam...

If you've been following my regular Friday posts, you're well aware that my family recently purchased our first car and have been taking Sunday family adventures to celebrate the new purchase as well as summer in Portland.  This past weekend we headed to Umpqua National Forest for a lovely 2 day camping trip.  If Sasquatch is real, THIS is where he/she resides.  Good thing that I'm quite the skeptic when it comes to the supernatural.
It was surreal to watch the clouds roll through the top of the trees.
For this camping trip, we rented a historic cabin that sits atop a narrow forested ridge between Fairview Peak and Grouse Mountain.  The cabin was once a guard station and it as well as the surrounding buildings were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934 to provide fire protection to the Bohemia Mining district.  
Cabin view from the driveway.
Nowadays it offers visitors all the joys of off the track backpacking with the ease of car camping. Its a lovely remote cabin where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life; the cabin driveway has a locked gate so only those with the combination code can access it.  In addition, the roads were fairly decent and we were able to drive our older car right up the mountain to the site without much trouble at all.  It boasts a wood stove for heating and cooking, plenty of sleeping space (this would be a good cabin for a large family or a party of friends), and an outhouse for your potty needs (yes, its gross but its stocked with toilet paper and hand sanitizer).  There are also several outbuildings that served various purposes in the guard station's hey day.
There are several outbuildings around the cabin.  One of them would be this creepy horse stable that Aria insisted on visiting several times throughout our trip.
The Bohemia Mining district is full of interesting places to visit and explore.  You can just hike around aimlessly exploring the majesty of the Umpqua National Forest.  Expect some of the trails to be fairly unkempt as I suspect that some of them haven't been used in a long time.
Be careful not to get lost.  There are tons of trails and old roads and I could see that it might be fairly easy to lose track from whence you came.
You could also check out the infamous abandoned Musick Mines.  Once a booming gold mining site in the late 1800s-early 1900s, there is only one building left standing now.  The trail down to the old gold mine is fairly easy but its a little eery to come around the corner and stumble upon the abandoned mines in the middle of a misty mountain forest.
My favorite girl wearing my favorite shirt from the Measure while she explores the abandoned mines.
Musick Mines.  If you look closely you can see the only standing building in the middle of the picture.  I haven't a clue what the reddish metal structure in the left side of the picture is but it is full of bullet holes from some obvious target shooting.  Anybody know what this thing might have been used for?
A closer view of the crumbling building.  You have to watch your step while you're exploring the area, plenty of broken glass and rusty nails to be found.
Rusty old mining equipment lays forgotten in the middle of the Oregon wilderness.
If you take the time to dig around in some of the rock piles, you can find plenty of really cool quartz. You do have to be careful to avoid the many collapsed mines in the area and I'd feel irresponsible if I didn't mention that you should never, ever explore any of the actual mines.  They are incredibly dangerous and best left unexplored.

Burnt and torn apart tracks lead to a collapsed mine.  We kept Aria out of this rubble and asked that she stick to the rock piles that offered more safe exploration.
Just a small sampling of the treasures we found.  Aria also found some some bullet shells and really old rusty nails.  Yeah...parenting WIN!  hahaha...oh dear.
We only spent two nights there so we didn't get to explore nearly enough of the wilderness.  We already plan on returning next summer for at least a week so we can try gold mining in some of the nearby creeks (if you decide to try this, be sure that you stay away from private claims, there is still plenty of modern day gold mining in the area).  We'd also love to hike up to Fairview Peak and catch the view from the lookout tower.

As we headed out in the wee hours of the morning, we were able to catch an amazing view of the sunrise in the mountains.  In the backseat, Aria was whispering, "Goodbye cabin, I love you.  I'll miss you."
Yeah...we didn't get nearly enough time in this beautiful spot.  We'll be back.  We'll be back.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nixie, the Mermaiden - our newest 16" Doll

Happy Thursday, folks!

I thought I'd share with the blogging world our newest doll that we're so proud of! She's for sale right now at:

Nixie the Little Mermaid, is a very special handcrafted 16" Tansy Doll.

She is made from the finest wool and DWE imported cotton. Nixie has blush skin, warm blushed cheeks, and a sparkle in her bright sea-green eyes.

She has over 2 feet of gorgeous curly hair made from the finest all-natural mohair and 100% wool yarn. Her beautiful mane is blond with a rainbow of colors cascading down her back.

She is wearing an adorable Mermaiden Tail with pastel rainbow yarn and sparkly blue 'scales' that was crochet with lots of time and love by Cady. She also comes with a shimmery shell necklace from treasures that she found while swimming in her ocean home.

When Nixie is ready to party, she changes out of her tail and into her sweet teal Coral Ball Gown made with satin by Robin. This OOAK dress was hand-embellished by Cady into a shimmery coral design with beautiful beadwork. Nixie also comes with silvery crochet shoes and the cutest little undies you ever did see.

Nixie is $200 US at

Have a wonderful day, everyone!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

3 Super Fun (but Super Easy) Science Experiments with Stuff You Have at Home

Oh my gosh you guys I've been so busy! I mean, there's the usual home, family, crafting stuff. Plus helping family move, plus getting Max ready for kindergarten (next week! eek!), plus end of summer adventures. I also finally have a teaching job, so I'm prepping classes and classrooms like crazy. Matt's also been really busy with work, so I was feeling kind of bad this weekend. Like maybe Max wasn't getting enough of our time and attention.

But however bad I feel, I still have to get stuff done, so I pulled out some favorite standby activities that we don't do all that often. Max enjoys these every time, and his reaction to them has changed over the years, which I think makes them even better. When we did these when he was 2 or 3 years old, he just enjoyed the colors and the mess. As he's gotten older he's gotten more interested in what's happening and why, and they've shown their colors as early science experiments as well. Best of all, you probably have everything you need for these at home! These are great little activities to pull out at a moments notice, but there are real scientific things happening here that you can explain to your budding chemist. Disclaimer: I myself am not a chemist. But I did double check my knowledge on these, so I'm not totally off base. ;D

The Classic: Vinegar and Baking Soda
What to do
This chemical reaction has been the standby of elementary school volcanoes for a long time, but there are lots of way to play with the combination. One of my favorites is to cover the bottom of a plate or pie tin in baking soda. Then I mix white vinegar with a few drops of food coloring in a couple of different cups. Then Max, armed with a disposable pipette, drops the vinegar onto the baking soda and watches as colored fizz ensues. Small squeeze bottles, eyedroppers, etc also work great. Or even just a spoon!

What's happening?
For little ones, just tell them it's a cool chemical reaction. As they get bigger here's the details: the acetic acid in the vinegar reacts with the sodium bicarbonate in the baking soda to form carbonic acid. Carbonic acid then (quickly) breaks down into carbon dioxide and water. All those carbon dioxide bubbles popping is what gives you the fizz. Cool!

The New Favorite: Milk and Detergent
What to do
This one is especially pretty with all the colors used. Max often wants to repeat this one several times before moving on. Take a pie tin (like the one just used above) and pour a layer of milk in the bottom. It doesn't need to be deep, and every type of milk I've tried has worked at least a bit, though 2% works best. Then I give Max the food coloring bottles and he drips colored drops into the milk in whatever designs he wants. If you don't want to give them the whole bottle you can give them little pools of color and have them drip it with paint brushes. Finally, give them a toothpick dipped in detergent (dish soap) and have them poke different spots in dish and watch the colors rush away. Try dragging it around! You can make some cool patterns and colors this way.

What's happening?
Well, since the food coloring is less dense than the milk it sits in place instead of immediately dissolving. When the soap touches the milk, it begins to dissolve the fat molecules which lowers the surface tension of the milk. The unaffected milk has a higher surface tension which pulls away, dragging the food coloring with it. This makes it look like the color explodes out from where you touch. You can repeat a few times until there's enough soap in the milk that surface tension if fairly even throughout the pan. Rinse and repeat!

The Messy Monster: Cornstarch and Water
What to do
I actually already talked about this one awhile ago when I posted about Kid's Party Games. For the little ones, I'd make it yourself. Start with a bowl of cornstarch and add water a little at a time until you get a slime consistency, then add your color of choice. Now that Max is older I have him make it himself so he can see how it changes with the water additions. When you hit the perfect ratio it's really very cool. When touched gently or poured it will flow like a liquid, but when hit or dropped it resists more like a solid. Plus it's squishy and messy and generally fun. (Bonus: it cleans up really easy!)

What's happening?
Ready for a fancy word? This cornstarch-water-combo (called ooblek at my house) is a non-Newtonian fluid. This is because it acts differently when subjected to different forces, as you saw. The ooblek acts this way because the cornstarch isn't dissolved in the water like when you make salt water, it's suspended in the water. So it's really just a lot of solid molecules snuggled up next to liquid molecules. When poured, it acts like a liquid because the molecules all flow along together. If you punch it, the starch molecules are forced up near each other, trapping the water molecules in between them, so it reacts like a solid.

When you're ready to get really fancy, show your kiddos how non-Newtonian fluids dance! It's quite something:

Okay, hopefully those will be as much fun at your house as they are at mine! And everyone enjoy gearing up for school!


Friday, August 23, 2013

Weekend Adventures in Oregon

We are doing our best to enjoy every last drop of this summer while it lasts.  For those of you familiar with the Pacific NW, you know that it rains here 7-9 months out of the year.  Here are a few highlights from our most recent excursion.
Aria was pretty excited to test out the tent as soon as Daddy got it up.  
Who needs plastic toys when nature is so generous?  Aria found out that pine cones stick together if you smoosh them together just so and created a pine cone ray-gun.
Phil picked up a gold pan for pretty cheap and Aria was really intrigued by the idea of possibly finding gold in the creek.  She didn't find any but she had a blast looking and at 5 years old, rocks are pretty interesting all on their own.
She may not have found gold, but she discovered that the pan is useful for dumping creek water all over your head. 
And of course what is camping without dirt, glorious dirt?  Aria put the new shovel to use digging holes and burying pine cones  secrets in various spots around the campsite.
After we packed up the tent and had breakfast, we headed up to the mountain for a bit of snow play in the summer.  Anybody recognize Timberline Lodge from a particular iconic movie?  Hint: Red Rum.  Red Rum. 
It took a bit of hiking to reach the snow since we didn't take the skilift up plus we really wanted to reach a particular patch of snow that was more secluded.  As usual, Aria was a champ although the rocky terrain and high winds made her a little nervous. 
Aria had a blast "sledding" down the little snow hill over and over and over again.
Hiking back out on a little ridge after a fun filled day in the snow.
Happy sigh.  We are so fortunate to live in the beautiful Pacific NW.  So much to see and explore.  What are your favorite family adventures?


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Meet Snow! Our newest 16" Doll

Well, considering I am officially the WORST blogger of the 3 of us here at Tansy Dolls I am kind of proud of myself for posting today (even though my official day is supposed to be Mondays - hah). Well, I'm making progress, right? ;)

I thought I'd share our newest collaboration, a 16" gal, SNOW! She's up for a 24-hour auction on Hyenacart that ends tomorrow night when she finds a loving home with (hopefully) lots of snuggle-time. Here's the link to the little lady:

And some info for ya, Meet Snow!
why, hello!
 Snow is a very special handcrafted 16" Tansy Doll made from the finest clean carded wool and imported DWE cotton.

She has warm brown skin, blushed cheeks, and long blue, purple, and white hair made from the finest all-natural mohair and wool yarn, securely sewn on her head in layers. She has a sparkle in her lavender eyes.
purdy purdy
She is wearing an adorable green dress made by Robin with orange ribbons. Her sweater and boots match, they are crochet with love by Cady and are a mustard yellow color. Snow loves Zebras and has a sweet Zebra button sewn on her fave sweater.

 She has cute little undies as well.
Snow is very cuddly and is sewn to sit (and snuggle!) She would love to be your child's best bud.

enjoying the view
 Have a wonderful day, everyone!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A New Chapter in Books

Don't get me wrong, I love reading to Max. But, like many kids, he goes through phases of favorites when he wants to read the same book over and over and over and over. And a lot of them were Thomas books. So I was very excited a few months ago when he started showing some interest in longer books, even ones without pictures. He initially claimed that there were no chapter books that would interest him, but I found one to change his mind. He was quickly hooked. He still loves picture books, but we now get to spend many evenings on chapter books instead. I thought I'd share some of his favorites so far.

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner
To convince my little guy to give chapter books a try, this was the ticket. The Boxcar Children books are about 4 siblings, who go about solving fairly sweet tame mysteries and living with their doting grandfather. The idea of kids living in a train car was too alluring for Max to pass up. We've read the first 3 so far and they're what hooked him on the whole chapter book idea.

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
Mr. Popper's Penguins was another instant hit. Max walked around like a penguin for days! Mr. Popper is a house painter who ends up as the caretaker to a whole pack of penguins so he trains them and takes the show on the road. Max would have loved this one to be 5 times longer than it was.

The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth
The Enormous Egg is about a young boy who lives in the country, whose chicken lays and hatches a dinosaur egg. Max was totally on board for the first half or the book, but we had to take a few days off in the middle, then regroup to finish it up. To be fair, while the story is timeless the language is a bit dated, which made it hard for him to really get hooked into.

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe
This was one of Max's favorites so far. If you haven't read Bunnicula yet, you should do yourself a favor and run out for a copy right now. This is a hilarious romp told by Harold, the family dog, about the concerning new pet bunny - a vampire rabbit who sucks vegetables dry in the night. Since we have bunnies ourselves, Max loved this one! We tried to start in on the sequels, but they're just not as good as the first, so we may have to circle back to them some other time.

I hope those get you started when you're ready for chapter books at your house! (Or are good additions to your collection.) I'll be sure to update with some of our other favorite in the future!

What are your favorite chapter books for kids?


Friday, August 16, 2013

You are enough

Maybe you've seen me in the coffee shop or the playground or on the bus.  I'm the mom whose kid has flipped her lid.  It might have been over seams in socks, a crowded bus, or pants legs that won't stay neatly at her ankles.  You hear me speaking softly.  I'm telling my daughter that I understand that she is upset, mad, sad; but that I cannot take it away.  You see me reach for her, only to witness her jerk her body away from mine and scrunch up her sweet little face into an angry grimace.  You watch as my body tenses; maybe a sigh even escapes from my lips.  As her cries grow louder, a few curt words slip from my mouth and reveal the frustration that is stacking up inside me.  Or maybe not, maybe in this moment and on this day, I keep my grip on patience; speaking softly or sitting by her side quietly offering her comfort and strength in silence. And perhaps you think to yourself, "What a big deal over nothing. If she was a better mother, her kid wouldn't act that way. What a spoiled brat."  Or maybe you think, "Oh my god, my kid does that too. I feel for her. I wish I could send her a look that conveys how much I understand."

Before I became a mother, I thought I was patient and laid-back.  Before I became a mother, I was happiest in the shadows, almost invisible to the world that passed me by.  Before I became a mother, I thought I understood everything there was to know about raising a well-grounded child.  And then I became one and everything I thought I knew and everything I am was turned topsy-turvy.  Don't get me wrong, my child is my joy.  She is inquisitive, intelligent, creative, sensitive, and simply amazing.  But everything that makes her such a glorious and wondrous child also makes her a challenge to parent.

For the last five years I have struggled the best that I could; for the first three I did it feeling very alone and like a failure. The most ridiculous thing in the world is to find yourself questioning whether you are too easy or too tough, or maybe its really that you're not consistent enough, but whatever it is, it must be about you because every other child appears to coast through life without the same intensity as yours.  Our society seems to breed such contemplation with all sorts of extreme us versus them mentality where you find yourself pressured to pick a team: CIO or co-sleeping, breastmilk or formula, stay at home or working, helicopter or free-range, and the list goes on...and you worry about the choices you make or the choices you had to make because they were all that were available to you in the moment because surely if something goes wrong, it'll all come down to the over-simplified accusation that you must have picked the wrong team.  And really none of this is helpful when you find yourself struggling to be the best parent you can be, when you feel as if you are somehow not measuring up to some invisible and impossible standard of parenting.

I don't want to give the impression that parenting is all struggle.  We have our happy times certainly but we also have a fair amount of intense times where nothing I do or say seems to make a whit of difference. When Aria was three I stumbled upon a book called Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.  Suddenly, it felt like I wasn't so alone.  In that book, I found other parents just like me and other children just like Aria.  I started to think to myself that perhaps I wasn't so inept at raising children and that perhaps our struggles were not necessarily ones that I had created by being too lenient or too tough or not consistent enough; that maybe Aria was just more persistent, more intense, more sensitive, more perceptive, and less adaptable than your average kid.  All children express these traits at varying levels in different contexts and situations, but spirited children express them more frequently and more consistently across the board for a number of situations, even ones that seem rather mundane.

Not all spirited children express them in quite the same way though so two children may be spirited but in totally different ways.  Aria is very outward in expression.  When she feels anguish because her sock or underwear seams are bothering her (sensitivity to touch - one of her main foes) or plans did not go as intended (slow to adapt - another main foe), she wails loudly; her pain and suffering is sent outward. If you're in the vicinity you can almost feel her intensity hit you like a ton of bricks. Any attempt to comfort her or distract her are buffeted away as she screams at you to leave her alone and runs from the room.  I am often left feeling helpless. Aria cannot be distracted or ignored.  She is persistent and when something goes awry, she cannot conceive of a way out of it; she cannot foresee in the moment how everything will be okay. Its almost like every minute of the day is written out in her mind with its obvious conclusion and a change in her script means the entire day is derailed, the plans are ruined, and nothing can possibly turn out alright. Its a tenuous balance between giving her the space she desires to work through her overwhelming emotions but not allowing her the room to sink so far into her anguish that it takes hours to work her back out of them.

Aria also finds herself getting caught up in the minute details, becoming so engrossed in whatever it is that she is doing, that she misses out on everything else around her.  She is the kid that people sometimes think is scattered, unfocused, and not paying attention.  But she is paying attention, intense attention, only to something others don't notice; she perceives things that others frequently miss. Perhaps its the way two colors bleed together on her paper when they touch or the tiny cracks and holes in a crumbling wall or the way the water makes little sparks of light when the sun hits it. She becomes so engrossed with whatever it is that she has picked up on that everything else becomes fuzzy and indistinguishable to her.  Its a skill that will surely serve her well if channeled properly but in our rush-rush society can also be a detriment.

Raising Aria has taught me to suspend my judgement of other children and other parents.  I've never been vindictive or malicious in my judgement, but it was there just the same.  It would slip in when I saw other parents struggle with their children; that niggling little thought that if they would just do this or that, life would be easier and their children would behave.

Is this to say that people never make mistakes in parenting?  Certainly not.  I know that I have made my fair share of parenting mistakes.  But this is to say that most of us are doing the best that we can, trying to make it through the day, we love our kids and want the best for them, we want their days and futures to be easy and bright, but not a single one of us has the ultimate book of parenting and sometimes just getting through to the end of the day is an accomplishment.

So if you are ever that parent, the one whose kid is flipping out, the one who is struggling to keep your cool as you feel the eyes of strangers boring into you, the one who is trying everything but feeling like you are succeeding at nothing...know this.  I don't have any tactics or tips that will magically make your child behave in predictable and desirable ways.  If you ask, I will tell you what seems to work for me, but I won't pretend to be all knowing; in fact, my advice will likely be tempered with all sorts of caveats about how it didn't work last week, but it seems to work today and maybe it won't work tomorrow but it works today and that will have to suffice.  More than anything know that I'm the one who is trying hard to send you that look that says, I understand, that I've been there, that things will be okay.  Maybe there is something more to your kid's inability to adjust to life's curve balls, maybe its a sensory processing disorder, a delay in social emotional development, or perhaps some other official diagnosis, or maybe your kid is just spirited liked mine, but whatever it is, you are doing a good job.  You love your kid just as I love mine and you are enough.  You will make mistakes and you will probably kick yourself late at night like I have done countless times but you and your child will get through this.  Remember to revel in the good times, soak them in and let them permeate your very being, because its the good moments, those simple times when everything seems to click and you are able to slow down long enough to remember how very beautiful, magical, and wondrous your child is, that will get you through the tough times.

*If you would like to read a little bit about how wonderful my very spirited daughter is, you can check out some of her antics on Aria-isms and other snippets of widsom.  I mainly started it to keep track of just how silly, smart, amazing, and creative she is because I know I can't remember every single moment and I don't want to forget.  I want to remember.  Because really its these moments that remind me how very blessed I am to be her mother.*


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Garden Trains!

Our newest family hobby is all about trains. Yes, more trains. You know - Max's favorite thing in the world. This time they're model trains that run on a track in the backyard.

A few months ago we went on the Rose City Garden Railway Society's Annual Summer Tour. The RCGRS is a club of folks in Portland, Oregon who love Garden scale model railways. Some members have their own railways, some just enjoy those of other members'. We only managed about half the tour stops, but it was really amazing. Each stop was a club member's home where they were running demonstration trains. Max was in heaven. We were also really inspired to get something going in our own yard.

The homes we visited had many different setups. The hardest part was convincing Max to leave any one place. He asked several times if he could just stay and live there. Some had bridges, water features, or buildings; many had multiple trains and miniature landscaping. The last one even let him drive the train with the remote box. He was so intent on doing everything right!

We knew we were going to have to start our own track. The wonderful folks at Tammie's Hobbies in Beaverton helped us order a starter set and gave plenty of great advice for free. We picked a Thomas set, partly because Max loves Thomas, and partly because they're made with littler engineers in mind, so the couplings are a bit easier, and the trains a bit heartier. We haven't had the time or resources to do a fancy garden track, so currently it's just a loop on the back porch, but Max is over the moon. He's been dragging every visitor we have out back to show it to them. He even tried to rope in the mailman, though he was fortunately distracted before that got too awkward.

He has big plans for all the things he wants; bridges, tunnels, a shed, a mines, etc. It's been a lot of fun planing and learning together. I think we're going to join the RCGRS too, where Max will get to be surrounded by fellow train fanatics. I'll be sure to post updates as we start our real train line!

Do you guys have any cool hobbies you want to share?