#51: Fix the Kids’ Closets

This is part of our 100 Things in 2014 challenge. Here’s the full list.

So we (well, let’s be honest: Becky) had the kids’ closets all nice, neat, and organized. Then our remodel happened, and a giant new HVAC system was installed upstairs. The good news is that the upstairs now has hot and cold air, which will help keep the whole house habitable during the coldest and hottest days of the year. The bad news?

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Note the giant new duct, and the “system” of random baskets acting as Lucy’s dresser. This was the state of things for several months until the remodel was complete and things stopped changing. Clearly something needed to be done.

So Will and I headed to Ikea.

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And after a few scattered days of building flat-pack furniture (I distinctly remember frantically trying to finish one piece while a cab was waiting to take me to the airport) and many of Becky’s organizing hours, it was done. Oh, and Becky decided it was time to rearrange Lucy’s entire room (Will’s had been done for a while now).

Lucy’s room, before:

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And after:

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Here’s will’s closet before the change. Notice how the pole brackets are actually pulling out of the wall, because the HVAC workers had to take out the shelf.

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And after. He also moved up to grown-up sized hangers!

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It was tough losing so much of the kids’ closet space to ductwork, but in the end it’ll be much nicer. The kids are thrilled, and Becky doesn’t get stressed out every time she goes up there!

Mary S Young State Park

This is part of our Oregon State Park challenge! Check out our progress here.

Last weekend we drove the 20 grueling minutes to West Linn, where a beautiful little park is located. We resolved to hike all of the trails in the park, for a total of about 3 miles of hiking. We’ve been teaching Will and Lucy how to use maps, so they were in charge of navigation.

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We hiked around the whole park, while Will and Lucy traded the camera back and forth. They’re enjoying the challenge of photography, and like getting tips on how to do it better.

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This one is from Will:

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Lucy discovered (all on her own) how to take a photo of herself.

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Unfortunately, our camera-trading scheme this time means we can’t really tell which kid took which photo. We’ll do better in the future. In the meantime, here are some more shots from one or the other of the budding young artists:

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Kids find joy in the simplest things.

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A little later on, were joined by Liz, Jeff, and little Ty for a short hike down to the riverfront.

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That last shot is so good. It’s really evocative of each kid’s personality (and their parents’ too; notice Ty flashing the “O”).

Maud Williamson State Park

This is part of our Oregon State Park challenge! Check out our progress here.

On our way home from Willamette Mission State Park, we crossed the Mighty Willamette on the Wheatland Ferry (do yourself a favor and click this link right here yes this one).

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Then, on our way home, we spied the sign for this little dab of State Park, and had to stop. Our state-park-challenge rules say that a simple stop, or even using the restroom, won’t do; for day-use parks we have to use the park. So we ran around for 15 minutes.

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We raced over all of the picnic tables.

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And down and back on the horseshoe courts. I gave the kids a head-start, since they had to scale the walls.

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One more state park down!

Willamette Mission State Park

This is part of our Oregon State Park challenge! Check out our progress here.

One sunny spring break morning, we stuffed the kids into the car and drove about an hour to Willamette Mission State Park, near Salem. Our intent was to drive to the filbert grove, hike around that area (a 2.7-mile loop), and get home in time for lunch.

But then it rained. A lot. So much that the access road to most of the park was closed to vehicles. So we parked at the entrance, and gazed out from this wildlife viewing hide. Unfortunately, most of the wildlife was hiding (har har).

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Then we started walking.

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The kids are ready for some light photography now, so we gave them each a chance to try out our little point-and-shoot camera.

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These next few are all Will’s work:

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At one point, a tree had fallen over the path, so we sent our little monkeys a-climbing.

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The far point of our journey was the viewpoint to the ghost structure (wooOOOOOoooo…), which marks the original location of the mission along what used to be the main route of the Willamette river.

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These next few shots are from Will:

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Then it was Lucy’s turn to be behind the camera.

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Here’s a sampling of her work:

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Aaaaaand done. Our hike ended up being around 5 miles, and both the kids did great, which gives us hope for the 20-mile backpacking trip we have planned for this summer.

Just kidding. It’s only 15 miles.

#19: Complete a Puzzle Together

This is part of our 100 Things in 2014 challenge. Here’s the full list.

So, um, puzzles. Yeah. We’ve never done them ourselves, really, but we both have fond memories of our parents doing them, and maybe contributing a piece or two along the way. This time it was completely up to us. For our initial foray, we chose a 500-piece box from the shelves at our beach house.

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Becky, it turns out, is really good at this. I’m not bad at the edges, but she has an eye for patterns. Which I guess isn’t surprising, given her profession.

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Here I am dropping the last piece into position.

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Those of you with better than 20/5 vision will notice the missing piece. I guess that’s what happens when you get puzzles from Goodwill for 99¢.

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This was a good way to spend a quiet afternoon. Next time, we’ll do more pieces.

#95: Attend an event at Oregon Convention Center

This is part of our 100 Things in 2014 challenge. Here’s the full list.

We live about a mile from the Oregon Convention Center, and there’s a constant stream of happenings there. But we realized that, during our almost three years in this house, we haven’t been to a single one of them!

Well, it just so happened that the one weekend we had where we could stop by for a few hours, the Bricks Cascade expo was happening! This isn’t a LEGO-sponsored event, it’s organized by enthusiasts, and the exhibitors ran the gamut from grade-school clubs to serious grownups with 30 years of experience. We bought our tickets, and Will and Lucy each got a minifigure for being among the first 1,000 kids to enter.

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We stopped breifly for some publicity shots.

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Then we strolled around, mouths agape at the amazing intricate and impressive things people had built.

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Becky and I were especially impressed with the highly accurate reproduction of Rivendell. On the left, you can just make out the Nazgûl being washed away at Bruinen.

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Both Will and Lucy love building things, but we think this gave them a whole new idea of what’s possible. Here’s to many more years of LEGO!

February Misc Roundup

Lucy designs cities.

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Our kitchen is getting so close!

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While Ben and I are off gallivanting, Will and Lucy have a fun trip to their grandparents’ house in Salem.

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Becky returns to CrossFit!

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Will and his class celebrate Chinese New Year (and Oregon Winter).

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Becky took some photos of Will and Lucy in uniform for the school, and she spotted them in a magazine ad!

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And Jackson is cute, in a bug-eyed way. This is his four-year adoptiversary!

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Ben in Montreal

Last year, I gave a talk at a conference called ConFoo. This year, I was accepted to speak twice. So at the end of February, I flew to Montreal, this time without Becky. I had a short layover in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and recognized an old friend.

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FCC regulations have recently changed such that you can use Kindles for the entire flight, but I was in the middle of a really good book.

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(Meanwhile, back at home…)

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Montreal in February is cold. Really cold. The average temperature during my stay was 6 below zero. Fahrenheit. Nevertheless, I skipped lunch, bundled up in all of my layers, and trekked into old town.

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To this place. We’re pretty big maple syrup fans at our house (the real kind, thankyouverymuch), and while we have a steady source of Grade B, they sell something here that we haven’t yet found a way to get in the states: “Amber”, or what I like to call “Grade C.”

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(Meanwhile, back at home…)

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My conference companion (Caitlin Cooke) and I made sure to visit this little gem. When our waiter saw our matching octocat hoodies, he took one of our stickers (we keep a supply on us at all times) and stuck it up behind the bar, where it lives to this very day.

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(Meanwhile, back at home…)

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The conference wrap-up party was at an awesome Moroccan restaurant with live belly dancing!

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The next day, I managed to screw up setting an alarm, and missed my flight home. Here’s me with an angry smile, leaving the hotel.

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Becky and the kids reorganized their time. Here they’re getting ahead on their weekly homework.

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I ended up spending the entire day at the Montreal airport, and the night at O’Hare. The next morning I set three alarms, and made it to my 6am flight with time to spare.

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I did eventually make it home, though my luggage didn’t arrive until two days later. The same thing happened last year; apparently I just don’t understand how customs works.