Family trip in Washington, DC!

Here’s Part 2 of our first big trip–actually being in Washington, DC. (Part 1 was our flying experience) I booked us at the Hampton Inn near the Convention Center. It was pretty near to two Metro stations, and since that was our only mode of transport, it was very important.

Back when I was traveling regularly for work, I discovered Hampton Inn and it became my hotel of choice. It’s always a decent price, and they have a great breakfast buffet. (This one also had a pool, and I brought all of our swim stuff but we didn’t end up going.). Free breakfast may seem like a silly perk or amenity, but whenever I traveled on my own, having a free meal first thing makes the rest of the day seem easier.

Having two small children to feed made a big free breakfast on site even more important. It saved us a lot of money and a ton of effort to just go downstairs and have their choice of cheerios, oatmeal, milk, a muffin, a waffle, yogurt, a banana, a bagel, toast. (Otherwise we would have had to buy a bunch of food and utensils/plates and eat in the hotel room, or go out for breakfast, which would take a lot of time and money.)

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The first thing they did when we got to the hotel was start looking for things to play with, and they zeroed in the phones. We had to unplug them so they didn’t accidentally call people. Then the phones became real toys–the boys made them necklaces and guitars, among other things. (Here’s Emmett strumming the phone.) (They also do this with books, by the way–hold and strum them like guitars.)

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I was kind of excited about taking the boys on the DC Metro. They love trains, they usually like seeing new places, and it was their first foray into big city public transportation. They seemed excited to go on the escalators, and watching the trains come in and out of the stations. We also discovered that all (?) of the stations have an elevator somewhere. This was a lifesaver, because while we could take them out of the umbrella stroller to take the escalators, it took a lot of time and energy. Plus it was such a surprise, since many subway stations in NYC don’t have elevators. The only bad thing was that weekend service is pretty spread out, so we often had to wait ten minutes for every trip to get on a train.

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One of the best reasons to travel to DC as a family is all the free site-seeing. There are so many world-class Smithsonian museums, all with free admission. As anyone with small kids knows, they don’t have long attention spans, so I would have been pissed to spend a lot of money for four tickets only to spend 30 minutes there. As it was, we could sort of run in and out at our leisure.

Our first stop was on Saturday morning to the Natural History museum. We looked at the dinosaurs very briefly, and walked through the ocean room, and then the jungle/savannah area. They sort of liked seeing the dinos, I think, but didn’t seem super excited to see the other animals. We all had fun in the gift shop, though. 🙂

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Saturday afternoon was the wedding! The boys stayed with a babysitter at the hotel, and we had a beautiful evening celebrating E & B!

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Sunday morning, the grandparents met us at the Air & Space museum. The planes were interesting, but their two favorite places were the re-created aircraft carrier area (especially the video that showed planes taking off from the deck), and this display of suitcases that opened and closed.

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On late Sunday afternoon, we went to the National Zoo, and the rest of Andy’s family met us there too. Hurray for more family time! The pandas were off exhibit with their new little babies, and so mainly we just saw the elephants.

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We all took the metro back into town together, and the boys were really sad when the others had to leave–they wanted more time with everyone!

Our last day was Monday. We began back at the National Mall again, at the Carousel. It opens at 11am, in case you’re wondering. DSC_0396_WEB

From there we spent almost two hours in the American History museum. A helpful lady at the front desk pointed out the areas that our toddlers would enjoy–the Kermit puppet, and the transportation exhibits: trains, cars, and buses. They did indeed love running around looking at all the cool things!

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The entire Mall is under construction…which is a bummer if you’re anyone but a toddler. They would seriously have sat and watched the construction vehicles for an hour, or more, I bet.

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Finally, it was time to head to the airport. We decided to just do the train after all, since Uber Family was unlikely to be around. I also found one of those suitcase straps that allows you to ‘carry’ one on top of another, which allowed me to drag all three suitcases at once, plus wear a backpack. Andy wore the other backpack and pushed the double stroller. And because of the elevators, it worked out quite nicely and easily! (Again, that would not be the case in New York!)

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So overall, as you can see, it was a great trip, and we all had a good time. Combining seeing family and seeing exciting new places was extra special, and this age seems like such a fun time to explore together. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to travel with our twins again!

Flying with Twin Toddlers

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We have just completed our first plane trip with our 2.5 year old boys, which obviously makes me a top expert in the field of traveling with toddlers! Haha, obviously that’s a joke. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the long weekend went overall, and wanted to share some tidbits in case they’re helpful.

I’m going to break it into a few posts: the flying part, the Washington DC visit, and the apps they like to play.

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This first tip is HUGE DEAL. Since my husband was out of town and our nanny has an injury, my mom was here helping out late last week, and she was planning to drive us to the airport and help us check in. But then while she was here she asked about getting a gate pass. I was like, huh? Turns out that you can get a special ‘ticket’ or pass for someone to help you in the airport, past security. (I called the airline and told them, and then the ticketing agent is the one who can issue it, or not.) Seriously, this was a gamechanger. Being able to have two adults for the entire process made a huge difference.

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We happened upon a kids’ area at the end of the Alaska (C) terminal at PDX, and my mom stayed with them while I went to buy snacks and lunch for the boys, and to the bathroom. Then we switched and she went to get a coffee. All this was done leisurely while the boys played happily!

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The next tip was something that I’d thought made sense but recently saw a blog post confirming it–don’t board early. Why on earth would you want your small children confined to a tiny airplane seat for longer than necessary? I let them keep playing after boarding began, and then we were almost the last ones on the plane. The taxi/takeoff happened really quickly after we got settled. It made the whole experience feel a lot more streamlined and efficient. (Of course, we were on a morning flight from a smaller-city airport, and a nonstop to boot. All those effected efficiency, I’m sure.)

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The boys were very curious boarding the plane and someone pointed them toward the cockpit, where the pilot brought them in and sat them on the pilot seats! We also got some coloring books and crayons from the flight attendant–can’t hurt to ask on your next flight if they have some too!

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The three of us had a row all to ourselves, which was excellent. No worrying about bothering other people with our stuff and constant moving around. Plus, since the boys’ feet barely reached to the end of the seats, that meant I had three underseat storage areas: one each for my backpack, ‘their’ backpack, and my feet. 🙂

A random amazing thing is Alaska’s outlets at every seat. (I hear that some Delta flights have them too?) Being able to use devices as much as you want and not worrying about running out of juice? I’ve been on enough cross-country/international flights to know how precious that is! Overall, I was very impressed with Alaska. I hadn’t flown them in over a decade (since they don’t really fly to the east coast and I am/was a diehard Jetblue fan), but I will look forward to flying with them again in the future! Our flight attendant was really sweet and cooed at them, and also sat with one while I went to change the other.

On the flight itself, I was overly prepared with snacks and toys. I brought some silly putty and pullback racer cars, the Melissa & Doug Vehicles Reusable Sticker Pad, a Water Wow vehicles coloring book, plus our two iPads and 2 pairs of tiger headphones with a splitter.


The sticker pad was the first thing I pulled out, and they played with it for almost two hours! I wouldn’t expect them to play with it that long again, but since this was their first time seeing something like that, they really liked it. Mainly they just pointed to the sticker they wanted and then stuck it somewhere on their scene page. (I tore them out so they could each hold one, and I held on to the sticker sheets.)

(I didn’t end up taking out the coloring books or the new board books I had in my bag.)

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We had lunch and snacks, and then for awhile they listened to “songs.” (Which is what they call the kids music we play for them that they love: 52 Sing-A-Long Silly Songs, Children’s Favorites, Volume 1, and Volume 2) I was sitting in between them and I had them lay down with their heads in my lap, and they just zoned out. (And I watched a bit of a movie on the in-flight entertainment.) It was really sweet.

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At the end of the flight, they played a couple games on the iPad, and watched part of a Daniel Tiger episode. They did *not* sleep. The flight ended two hours after they would have gone down for their nap. And for the most part they were okay, but at the very end, after the seat-belt sign went on, E was really tired and wanted to lay down on his seat. Of course I tried to wrestle him into his seat sitting up..but gave up after ten minutes of shrieking (him) and a backache (me), and just put him on my lap. He calmed down immediately and looked out the window as we descended and landed. Sigh.

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On the return flight, my husband was there too, so we were evenly matched. Once again we had a row of three, and then the seat across the aisle. I made my husband sit with the boys and I helped out from across the aisle as much as I could.

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They fell asleep right after takeoff; it was several hours past their normal naptime. They dozed for an hour and then woke up again.

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The sticker pad wasn’t as interesting this time around, and the magic coloring pages only lasted a few minutes. Silly putty was a total dud. The racer cars provided some fun and interest! So did snacks. We also walked up and down the aisle a couple times, and the boys charmed the flight attendants. We put on 3 episodes of Daniel Tiger to finish up the flight.

So as you can see, overall our flying experience went quite well. What a huge relief. I think their age had a lot to do with it–a year ago they wouldn’t have been able to understand as much or communicate very well, or do as much, activity-wise.

If you have any great tips or favorite toys/activities for flying with little ones, please share in the comments!!

Summer Bucket List #7: The Coast!!

Woohoo, we finally made it to the coast! This was the outing I’ve been most looking forward to all year!

This was our first ‘real’ vacation with the babies. We’ve only stayed overnight at someone’s house before, but after the success earlier this summer, we were hopeful that the babies would do okay with a hotel.

It was about an hour and a half drive–west on 26 and then meet up with the famed Highway 101. (In 2001, I drove 101 all the way to LA; that was the last time I was on the Pacific.)

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Our first stop was Ecola State Park in the town of Cannon Beach. This stunning vista greets you to one side:

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And the open ocean is straight ahead. We got out to stretch and to feed the babies their lunch. Happily, we’ve done a lot of al fresco ‘dining’ with them, so they were totally cool eating outside in this new environment.

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Make sure to change your focus settings before handing your camera to a stranger/non-photographer:

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We continued into downtown Cannon Beach and found lunch for ourselves, and the babies had their bottles. Then finally it was time for the beach!! There’s the iconic Haystack Rock behind us. Again, this was a stranger…she almost hid the rock behind us and also shot vertically (I cropped it).

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We rolled up our jeans and dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean! The babies had been cranky but they quieted down with their little feet in the water. No doubt they were trying to figure out what kind of giant bathtub they were in and why it was so cold! Emmett even managed to kick and splash while Andy was holding him up.

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On the way back to dry land, one of Andy’s shoes fell out of the plastic bag I had everything in. I suppose that’s a worthy sacrifice for an adventure. He needed new shoes anyway. He grabbed some flipflops from a gift shop and we made a detour to a mini mall so he could buy some new sneakers.

Then we continued on to our hotel in Tillamook. Babies’ first hotel stay!

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We had a ‘king suite’, so there was a little sitting area across a half wall. We set up the pack n plays there and crossed our fingers that the babies would be able to sleep. It took them awhile to quiet down (which happens plenty at home too), but they slept quite well. Andy and I watched stuff on our laptops with headphones.

Our first stop the next morning was the Tillamook Cheese Factory. For the record, 8am is a great time to visit; hardly any tourists are out yet. 🙂 It was a quick stroll and then we got back in the car.

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You can buy an empty ice cream bucket for fifty cents! I was stoked.

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There’s a little cape to the west Tillamook, and we drove out there to see the Cape Meares lighthouse.

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On the way back we stopped at the beach in Oceanside, a town so small it didn’t show up on the map on my iphone. We had more time this time and so the babies got to hang out and enjoy some quality beach time. IE, playing in the sand. Yes, they definitely ate some.

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And then we went back to Tillamook for ice cream before driving home! Andy got black cherry and I got s’mores. Dee-lish.IMG_1211

Overall, things went really well! It was a great family adventure. I hope we can find a closer beach-type place to bring the babies this fall, since they had so much fun. I loved seeing such pretty scenery and exploring new areas. Can’t wait for our next family vacation!

Summer Bucket List #2: Mt Hood!

Please make sure to visit my photography page for non-family, beautiful-scenery-only photos!

Last week we finally went to Mt Hood! I’ve been so excited to go there for months. This is one of the two outings I’ve been most looking forward to this summer, and I’m so happy we finally went! We decided to go for the Fourth of July, because we don’t care about fireworks stuff and the weather had been so gorgeous the past week or two. It was actually cloudy when we left our house, and I was really bummed about not having great weather at the mountain. But as we got closer and closer, the sky got clearer and bluer!

The drive was super easy. One hour east of us, on one road, and bam, national forest and big snowy mountain. Amazing. I was giddy. 🙂

First we came to Government Camp, which is a small strip of hotels, shops, and ski places. Timberline Lodge is only a few minutes from there.

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Something’s different about Smokey the Bear…

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(Slightly blurry) stats about Timberline:

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We got there right around the babies’ lunchtime, so we set up in the lobby to feed them on one of the couches. Of course they were very interested in looking around at all the new stuff and hearing all those new noises.

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While they were eating, a small tour group came through right behind us, led by what was easily the dumbest guide ranger I’ve ever encountered. I hope for everyone’s sake that either it was her first day on the job or she was filling in for someone else at the last minute. She was reading from some papers, peppered her sentences with “ummm…” and “sooo…” and “….yeah.” She had a couple ‘facts’ to share, but they were incomplete. She tried talking about the stone structure in the middle of the lodge and one of her audience members had to tell her the term ‘mason.’ She also was trying to explain the phenomenon of the timberline–‘if you look up the mountain, you don’t see any trees, and if you look down, you see lots of trees. So trees don’t grow past here’–without actually using the term timberline. Which, I might suppose, is probably where the name of the lodge actually came from. Just a guess. Anyway. Andy and I kept giving each other looks like, “Really?!!!”

Anyway, we didn’t have time to walk around or anything, but of course I set up a family photo:

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Huge cougar carving–out here was a balcony with a southern view of the foothills and Mt Jefferson.

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We were starving and had a quick lunch in Government Camp, at one of the hotel ‘restaurants’ (really more of an overpriced diner). The babies sat in those wooden high chairs for the first time. So cute! They were VERY interested in our water and our food too (but we only gave them sips of the water).

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Our final stop was a short hike along Little Zigzag River to a small waterfall.

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Walking through the woods and listening to the running water was so beautiful and peaceful!

The falls were small but lovely nonetheless.

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We finally headed home after that, and the babies dozed in the car. I also fed them there, in the backseat. It worked really well and I am so glad to have that option in our pocket for future outings!

Headed back to civilization:

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It was a really great day. I can’t wait to bring the babies back next summer when they’re toddling around!

Lessons from the Market

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Even though spring officially started over a week ago, Mother Nature really kicked it into gear this weekend. Clear blue sky, temps into the 70s. In March! In Portland!

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We decided that it would be a crime not to enjoy the weather, so we decided to have a Family Outing. I’d heard about the Portland Saturday Market and thought that might be a nice thing to see. I figured we could stroll the market a bit and hang out at the waterfront park area afterward.

So after the 1pm feeding, we loaded up the babies and all their gear and headed downtown. (To give you an idea about how long it takes to feed two babies and pack up their stuff, we didn’t leave the house until 2:40.) This was actually the first time taking them downtown and our first non-restaurant outing. And we’ve only done two of those in four months, so this ‘excursion’ was actually kind of a big deal.

We parked in the garage closest to the market, but not before driving through small streams of pedestrians on their way to and from the waterfront. We got the babies set up in the stroller and set off in the sunshine.

Oh, and I have to tell you about my newest baby ‘invention.’ I was a little worried about the sun and heat while they were stuck in their car seats in the stroller, so I fashioned my own sun covers: muslin blanket draped over the top, held in place with a chip clip! I think it was pretty ingenious, if I do say so myself. 🙂 And it seemed to work pretty well too!

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Anyway, we arrived at the tent area under the bridge and ran into what felt like a wall of people. It wasn’t, but A) it’s been awhile since I’ve been in a big crowd of people, and B)it was the line for the bathroom, so it was nothing to sneeze at.

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My heart sank just a little bit as I realized that this was going to be more difficult than I’d thought. I mean, obviously I’d expected crowds. But maneuvering the stroller through the throngs was harder and took even more time and patience than I’d anticipated. Especially when I would say “excuse me” several times to someone and they either ignored me or didn’t hear me. (And I always said/say Excuse Me–I would never expect to or try to barrel through people.) I had to go really slowly and weave in and out of people all over the place. It was really annoying. Though I’m sure all the people thought I was really annoying and stupid for having this big stroller in such a place.

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As we made it through the first ‘aisle’ of the market, we saw the food area and turned that way. Oh dear. Those were definite walls of people, in a space not meant for it. So I wove around the ends of all the many lines, and because of where other people were standing, there was a single-person sized space to walk in. And since a steady stream of people was coming the other way, I just had to stand there and wait for like thirty people to pass. Meanwhile, Andy was already far away, further into the crowd.

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When we finally made it through that gauntlet, I agreed to wait with the babies while Andy went to get something to eat. While I was standing in the hot sun, I spotted someone with an Ergo. I barely restrained myself from literally slapping my own self. OH MY GAH why did we not bring carriers??? We are serious dumdums.

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Fast forward a good half hour or so. We had made it across the street (slowly) and Andy got a bit of food (slowly) and then we went back to the waterfront grass area (slowly) and found a shady spot. We used their sunshade muslins as ‘picnic blankets’. He left to get more to eat and I hung out with the babies.

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Except that about five minutes later they started crying. Screaming. Both of them.

Now, to be fair, it was close to their eating time. And of course we had packed their bottles in the stroller, so in theory I was prepared. But I wasn’t expecting to jump right into feeding them both by myself with no ‘equipment’. They can’t really eat lying flat down, so I did what I’ve done at baby group–prop them both on the diaper bag (precariously, because together they’re almost the same width as the bag itself) so they’re angled a bit, and hold the bottles. While hunching and leaning over and trying to help Malcolm, who continued screaming. Thankfully Emmett calmed down after a minute or so, so there weren’t double the screams to worry about. The bottles were still pretty chilled too, which probably didn’t help matters. Thankfully they’ve never seemed to be too picky about milk temperature.

It was at least ten very long minutes of shrieking crying before Andy came back and he jumped in to work on calming Malcolm. It took a long time and was frustrating–every time he would quiet for a moment and Andy would try the bottle, Malcolm would start crying again.

We guessed that poor Malcolm must have finally gotten overwhelmed. They’d never spent this much time outside, they certainly had never eaten outside before, and in general they’ve rarely eaten anywhere except our living room and bedroom. (And all those other times they’ve been a little fussier or distracted.) Plus all the noise and people–which they’d been totally quiet about for the previous 30-40 minutes, but I guess compounded with some hunger must have all added up to too much for that little baby.

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Finally Malcolm was able to eat again, though it was slow going. And of course he spit up all over Andy like three times. Emmett was happy enough but really distracted and kept chewing on the bottle rather than drinking from it, so I finally lay down to help my back.

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When they were both finally done eating, it was about 5pm and we made our way back to the garage. The streets and the parking lots were much quieter and emptier by then, so we made a mental note to keep our timing as late as possible. (I don’t even want to think about how much more crowded it could have been had we been there in the late morning instead of early afternoon!) And as we drove home, I felt completely drained and exhausted, and was literally slurring some words.

Oh, and ps, we only had a total of three encounters of people cooing over them/asking about twinness. I guess that’s not bad?

Overall, it wasn’t the fun and carefree weekend outing we had envisioned…but it had gone okay, sort of, all things considered. At the very least we learned some important lessons for future excursions:

1. For the love of all things holy, bring carriers. DUH. Crowds and double strollers don’t mix.

2. Bring our own food and water. Lines and exhaustion can be avoided.

3. Bring more blankets/pillows/something to put them on/prop them up with. (Not sure how to fit that in the stroller basket along with the diaper bag…)

4. “Heat” bottles to room temperature before putting them in the insulated bag, so they’re a better temperature when it’s time to eat.

5. Later is better. Though it’s a delicate balance, because later also means fussier.

6. Try feeding them in the car maybe, so it’s quieter. And their car seats are familiar, if not a place they love to be.

Do you have any other hard-earned nuggets of wisdom for going out and about with your wee ones?

Cross Country Road Trip Legs 8 and 9: Idaho and Oregon

I can’t lie, I was disappointed to be anywhere after the day at Yellowstone–anything was going to be a letdown. The fact that there is a whole lot of nothing in Idaho does not help.
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We took I-20 to Craters of the Moon National Monument. The road went straight for awhile and then skirted a series of brown mountains. Eventually we got to Craters of the Moon National Monument. Spoiler alert: it was still empty!
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This is where a series of volcanoes erupted/exploded all over the plains of the Snake River basin. The mountain-y bits are still technically there, but they’re really small and unassuming. One would not guess that they barfed endless fields of lava for miles and miles.
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Surprisingly (or not, really, since volcanic soil is quite rich), many trees and plants have sprung up. (Some died, like this, but plenty seem to be thriving.)
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Seriously, endless miles of lava and nothing.
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After a couple hours looking at various views of lava, we continued our journey westward. We passed into Oregon and had dinner, and then drove another hour to a motel in La Grande for our penultimate night.

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On the way we apparently drove onto Mars.

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This was our final leg. It was also our shortest driving time–less than five hours. So we purposely had a leisurely morning and figured we’d stop along the way. There was actually some kind of Oregon Trail Pioneer Park soon after we started, but unfortunately it was closed. By this time we had come far enough west that we were out of Martian country and back into trees, at least for a little while. We were still on I-84, which we’d picked up before Boise the day before. That freeway actually follows the Oregon trail at a northwestern angle and meets up with the mighty Columbia River.

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This made me think about a wonderful book I read as a teenager, Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo. It’s a historical novel of her entire life, and it is so completely fascinating. Obviously the Lewis and Clark expedition is a huge section of the book, and one of the parts I remember most is the end of their journey when they reach the mouth of the Columbia, and it’s teeming with people and fish and big water.

Obviously we weren’t anywhere near the mouth, and by now the Columbia has been tamed many times over by dams. But every time I see it, I think of what the river must have seen and wish I could see it like that.

Anyway! It was also exciting to reach the Columbia because it meant we were that much closer to our end point. And then Mt Hood appeared! I love mountains, and Mt Hood is an especially pretty one (though of course Mt Rainier is always number one in my heart). And the combo of mountain and river made me quite happy.

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Add to that the lines of wind turbines along both sides of the river, and I was enthralled. We saw wind turbines in Iowa, Illinois, Wyoming, and now again in Oregon, and every time I was struck by how beautifully elegant they are, and how exciting it is that people are harnessing nature’s power without pollution. Even better that it’s happening both on land already in use (farms/fields–turbine footprints are quite small!) and on land that seems to useless. It really adds something to the landscape. I hope all the states continue to grow their wind farms!

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We arrived in Portland before 5pm. It was a Tuesday. We checked into a hotel for two nights, since our things wouldn’t be arriving until Thursday. Though it was exciting to reach our destination, I was mostly sad to see the end of our adventure. This whole thing was a transition into this new life, a middle ground of being of nowhere, and arriving in our new city meant that it was time to face the reality of all that’s coming, and a new kind of permanence.

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