Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Boundary Waters

While Elaine and Owen were home alone last week, I was feeling guilty while canoing in the Boundary Waters up on the Minnesota-Canada border. Seven years ago we went on our first Boundary Waters adventure, finally making good on Dad's promise to relive his boyscout adventures of his youth . This summer we decided to do one more Boundary Waters trip before the old guys were too old to carry a pack on a portage.

After a 14 hour drive to West Branch, IA on Friday, and a nine hour drive to Ely, MN on Saturday, we were towed up Moose Lake to Indian Portage and set our canoes in on Birch Lake early on Saturday morning. We made quick work of the five portages around a series of rapids on the Canadian border to make it to Knife Lake where we would spend most of the trip. Our first campsite was a lovely little spot with a view of Robbin Island, made all the better by the delicious steaks we packed for dinner on our first night.

On day two we paddled up Knife Lake, by Thunder Island, and into South Arm Knife Lake, where we found an amazing campsite that we would make home for the next three days. (Both the picture on this post are views from our base camp, which was on a small island in South Arm Knife Lake. The top picture looks from the big rock at the front of our camp back across a little cove in our island, and the bottom picture looks up the narrows alongside Thunder Island back up towards Knife Lake). From our base camp, we made a little excursion to Eddy Falls on our third day, and that night Thomas and I stayed up for a beautiful view of the night sky (sadly the northern lights weren't out this trip, but we did see the International Space Station, which was considerably brighter than it was seven years ago) . On the fourth day we made a big circuitous loop up to the Canadian border and back with lots of fishing along the way. Thankfully Thomas caught some fish and Cary the wonderful backwoods chef fried up some delicious appetizers. Music was provided by David and Jimmy who egged each other on singing more and more obscure (at least to the ears to someone under 40) songs from the last 70 or so years.

The beauty and serenity of our little island base camp really gave us a wonderful place to enjoy nature and reflect on all the things that bring us to the Boundary Waters. Thomas and I had a wonderful chance to bond with our fathers, while planning the next trip when we will take our sons. (As soon as they can carry a pack we think they'll be ready, although we figured that we might have to break the all guy tradition if we can convince Joe to bring along Gigi, but we figure we'll have to wait and see which parent she takes after to see if she'd be up for the canoe camping experience).

By the fifth day it was time to start the long journey home. We paddled all the way back to Birch Lake putting all of the portages behind us, with a stop to climb thunder point along the way. We made it to our camp on Birch Lake just in time to beat the rain, and after the rain stopped, Thomas put his fire making skills to the test by building a roaring one match fire out of some shockingly wet wood. On the morning of the sixth day we paddled to our pick up point and had a 'tow' back down Moose Lake. After a quick lunch in Ely we drove back down to West Branch. The next day we stayed in Iowa for the Fawcett Sweet Corn Festival, then drove back to D.C. on Sunday.

By Sunday night I was home, and Owen gave me the most amazing welcome home I could ever imagine. He was nearly beside himself with his joyous shouts of "Daddy! Daddy! I Love Daddy!" and the hugs and kisses just didn't stop. And of course I have to thank Elaine for being such a wonderful wife taking care of Owen and the home front while I was away and letting me go on such an exciting adventure.

(Click here to see the highlights from the trip)
(Click here to see all 200 pictures)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just the two of us...

Allen left last Friday for 10 days, including a 7 day stint canoeing in the boundary waters where he will only be available via satellite phone one hour a day. Due to the ridiculously high charges associated with communicating via satellite, Allen implied that I should only call him if copious amounts of blood were involved. As that hasn't been the case yet, Owen and I have been largely on our own.

It's been ok. The first night I made the mistake of thinking that admonishing Owen not to hurt himself while I used the bathroom 10 feet away was sufficient to insure that he didn't hurt himself. 3 seconds later I heard a "thud" and a scream as he fell off a stool. Saturday we managed to make swim lessons, play in his pool and pick out paint samples while contractors worked on our kitchen. Sunday we had a brief reprieve with swimming and dinner at Mom mom's after a morning of errands and the park. By Monday, Owen had resorted to wearing women's shoes in public. By Tuesday, I was taking him to bars.

It's now Wednesday. We're more than halfway through and things are looking up. Owen had two friends over to play this evening (or rather, two of the neighborhood kids invited themselves in to check out Owen's toys), we had dinner in the dining room like civilized people, and as a special treat, Daddy called to say that he was ok (apparently he isn't bound by the copious blood standard).

So what if bedtime has gravitated to nine o'clock, that we ate dinner standing over the kitchen counter last night and that bath time has degenerated into 3 minutes of Owen screaming and refusing to sit while I dump soap and water over him? Allen will be home in four more days and then all will be well.

Until he goes to Vienna in September...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pedal to the Metal

Owen had a fun day at Mom Mom and Grandpa Don's on Saturday filled with new experiences. We went swimming in Rose's pool and Owen took a liking to jumping off of the diving board. After seeing daddy jump off of the diving board Owen decided it was "Owie's turn." His first few attempts at jumping off involved sitting down on the end of the board and scooting off into daddy's arms, which while not quite a proper jump, was still pretty impressive. After a few rounds of "Owie jumping" it was time for, "Owie daddy jump," which involved me jumping off the diving board while holding Owen. The excitement of the jump was apparently worth the dunk under water at the end of the jump, as Owen reeled off peels of laughter and demanded to jump again and again. We capped off the pool fun with a few more pool tosses, then went back over to Mom Mom and Grandpa Don's. Owen went straight for his tricycle and we thought it would be a good idea to try teaching him how to pedal. To our surprise, he hopped right on his tricycle and took off pedaling without any instruction from us. I guess he's learned a thing or two at daycare that didn't show up on his report card...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Let the record show...

Owen has apparently mastered playing purposefully with toys. We know this because he received an "M" for "plays purposefully with toys" on his first progress report from daycare. We receive updates periodically on Owen's development and have even had conferences a few times with his caretakers, but this is the first time that a letter grade has been attached to his ability to try and manage his own behavior (he got a "D" for developing on that one). We're not really sure what to make of it all, and we're not sure how accurate it is -- trust me, "Owie" is beyond "beginning" to refer to himself by name -- but we thought that you might find it as amusing as we did.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Home Again

It's hard to complain too much when work sends you to Paris, but I really missed Elaine and Owen while I was away, and a nice long three day holiday weekend together when I returned was just what we all needed. Despite not having any real plans for the 4th (other than recovering from jet-lag), we had an absurdly full weekend.

On Saturday morning Owen had his first swimming lesson. After a rocky start involving daddy's jet-lag, mixed up start times, and an aqua-aerobics class, Owen's swim lesson turned into quite the success. He blew bubbles, kicked, and went under water on multiple occasions. By the end of the lesson he was feeling a bit clingy, and wasn't sure about the deep end (although he loved saying 'deep end'). Our tired little boy needed a big nap to prepare himself for the rest of his exciting day.

Tadashi, one of Owen's friends from daycare, had his second birthday party on Saturday afternoon. The thrill of seeing his daycare buddies Tadashi and Leo on a weekend was almost too much excitement. All the boys had cake for a little extra sugar rush, and Owen and Leo spent much of the party running around like they were at a track meet.

For days now Owen has been saying, "Mia water," in hopes that we'll take him swimming with his friend Mia again. On Sunday his wishes came true as the rain held off just long enough for us to go swimming with the Brown's at their neighborhood pool, and grill some delicious fajitas for dinner. All told it was a great weekend.

(click here to see the Paris pictures)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Daddy, we miss you.

Allen left on Saturday for Paris. This is the first time Allen has been on an extended trip since Owen was almost four months old, and while I can't be certain that Owen is more upset than last time (he cried a lot back then so it's hard to determine how much was for Allen), he's certainly better equipped to express his displeasure at his father's absence this time around. He screamed "Daddy sit!" when we dropped Allen off at the metro station, pointing towards the front seat and crying inconsolably. He was so convincing that Allen briefly did sit, although we decided this was just prolonging the inevitable and so he eventually, while tearing up a bit himself, said goodbye. Owen has called for Daddy to tuck him in each night and Allen's picture has joined us at the dinner table lest we break bread without him. While we've managed to talk several times and Allen has left voice messages for us, it's still shaping up to be a long and lonely week.

Fortunately, Allen gets back Thursday afternoon and should be able to put Owen to sleep that night at which point everything will be right again with the world. Until Allen leaves for his canoe trip in three weeks...