Ella Turns Two

Ella on the ZoolineToday Ella turned the big TWO. As is now tradition, Michelle and I took the day off and we took the girl to the Oregon Zoo, where we spent far longer than years past. I’m amazed at how much she’s grown, and how much she’s changed in a year. Just a year ago she was still clumsily walking for the first time. She walked for maybe a hundred yards or so last year, and she maybe didn’t walk for a hundred yards this year. In fact, she spent much of her time running or climbing.

I don’t know if I would have believed you if you would have told me that I’d love my daughter more this year, and maybe that’s the wrong way to say it, but my love has widened, and I’m just in awe of who she is and what she’s capable of. (Awe or fear) While she’s still signing a fair amount, Ella has now added a fairly decent collection of words to her spoken vocabulary and is connecting several words to communicate intention, desire, and, well, orders. She’s loving her tricycle and dolly, and we’re hoping that helps prepare her for what’s coming in February.

She’s waking up from her nap now, so I’d better run. Here are some pictures from our zoo trip. Thanks for letting me borrow the camera, dad.

So long, Yota

Yota, the awesome previaPardon me for being a little materialistic for the moment, but I’ve just watched Yota drive away for the last time. We sold the Previa to a nice Russian gentleman who plans on using it for camping and climbing. “Yota” was our nickname for the Toyota minivan, which my parents bought new in 1993. It’s been the family workhorse for 15 years and has seen some pretty incredible trips. It was really quite hard to watch it drive away, partly because it means that we’re now a 1 car family, and partly because it carries so many fond memories with it.

Since seeing it for the first time when my mom stopped by a scouting event when I was 14, it has been all over the western United States. Some of best trips included driving back to Nebraska with a pre-painted picket fence strapped to the top, driving to San Francisco for spring break in 1996, and an untold number of backpacking, hiking, canoeing, and biking trips. When it came time to sell it, I was a little nervous about sharing my memories of it, so I stuck to details like how it has the “largest wipers in its class,” a gaffe that got the attention of one potential buyer. Here are some details that I didn’t mention:

  • It can comfortably break 100 MPH, and has done the Yakima to Bellingham trip in 2:57
  • I backed in to our house-sitter’s car on the morning we were leaving for Germany
  • It has more backcountry miles than 99% of the SUVs out there
  • Several friends helped push it through Bellingham one halloween night singing the Doc Watson version of “You are my Sunshine.” The radiator had broken and we were all in costume.
  • I took Michelle on dates with it in high school, and she married me anyway.
  • Mid-engine + rear wheel drive + studded tires = awesome fun in the snow
  • It carried me and all my possessions back from Bellingham after I finished college
  • 5 stereos in 15 years
  • The Oil Can Henry’s on Capital Highway refuses to service it because of the engine location
  • Scott and I drove around SW Portland and Tigard during some snow days a few years ago and helped other people who had gotten stuck. Then we went to a movie. Then we did cookies in the deserted theater parking lot.
  • I like the way it looks

So, here’s to your new life Yota, and thanks for the 169K you’ve shared with us.

Missile-ing the point

The US and Poland have finally inked a deal for putting a missile defense site in Poland. Ms Rice, our secretary of state, claims that it will “help Nato, Poland and the US respond to “the threats of the 21st Century.”

Having not seen any missile based threats of the 21st century yet, I’m wondering if she actually meant the 20th century. It seems putting a pack of wild mustangs to roam freely in Poland would prove just as useful at preventing stateless actors from attacking modern states. I’m not sure how you fire an anti-missile missile at a letter containing anthrax, or a dirty bomb, or a shipment of rocket propelled grenades to Taliban fighters, or global warming, or bird flu, or the increasing dichotomy between wealthy and poor nations, or ethnic cleansing, or religious fundamentalism, or even blatant misuse of public funds. I suppose if the wild mustangs go rogue and start to fly, this plan would make sense. We’d want to make sure we could clean up after a disaster like flying rogue wild mustangs in Poland.

I suppose there were those 4 3 missiles test fired by Iran last month. If we really want to rekindle the cold war, perhaps we should just doctor the map.

Soldier Fly Larvae

Earlier this year my parents discovered a hatch of larvae in their compost bin. They asked me if I knew what they were, but I’d not seen that many of the little burrowers before. My mom called the county extension office and found out they were harmless but I don’t recall what the little dudes were.

As it turns out, the little grubs were Soldier Fly maggots, and they’re excellent vermicomposters. If we’d thought of it, we could have simply given some to the chickens as well.

Alan is going to give me a handful of red worms and soldier fly maggots to seed my compost bin. I’m less interested in keeping compost for gardening, but I’d like to keep food scraps out of the waste stream. The chickens aren’t very reliable for eating scraps either. It’s like pulling beaks to get them to eat lettuce, though they do seem to enjoy the star anise that I can’t get rid of from the various flower beds.

Feline surprise

As of Friday night, I’d caught all but one of the escaped mice again. I moved them from the large bin in to a 5 gallon bucket and placed a screen and weight over it while I finished up evening chores and dinner. Then, I forgot about them. I planned for this possibility by leaving a handful of the corn scratch in the bottom of the bucket, so they were at least going to eat well.

When I went out to get the bucket in the morning, the lid had been disturbed and all 5 mice were gone. The bucket was still standing, so it seems that nature took its course. I suspect the gray cat that I keep shooing away found the bucket, and just as the mice who found the scratch in a bucket, couldn’t resist the easy meal.


Maybe it’s because Tigger has been gone for nearly a year, or maybe it’s the big bag of chicken feed in the garage, but overnight I caught 10 mice. By catch, I mean they jumped in to the bin that the feed was in then couldn’t get out. And by 10, I mean 6 mice last night and 4 today.

Last night, I put all the mice in a 5 gallon bucket and walked them over to the schoolyard, figuring they’d either end up as owl prey, cat prey, or find a new home in the blackberry bushes. One got away, but I know where he’ll be next.

Today, when I put the mice into the bucket, I got distracted and tried to fix my dying bluetooth keyboard. While trying to get the hardware diagnostic DVD out of the box in the garage, I knocked over a ladder that knocked over the bucket. All 5 mice got a new lease on life. I’m fairly certain I’ll catch all 5, plus last night’s escapee overnight. They’d better get in the bucket before I decide to set kill traps.


Barley started growling this early this morning and Michelle said “I think I heard a door open.” I jumped out of bed to investigate and was scared as I rounded the corner to find Ella standing naked in the doorway, signing and saying “potty?” After the initial shock, I was pleased to see that she’d made it through the night without soiling a diaper, and tickled that she’d taken it off and attempted to use the bathroom herself. Now if only we could do it consistently.

I suppose this is a case of having knocked on wood. Just last week I made the mistake of commenting that Ella never gets out of her bed when she’s napping. About 6 months ago she stopped fighting nap time and just accepted her fate. Well, that’s no longer the case. Saturday she got out of bed and played with shoes and got herself dressed (both legs through one leg of her favorite pajamas) before I heard the door knob turning. Sunday she did the same, got up and was wandering around upstairs. I explained that she had to stay in her room during her nap, and she seemed to comply. We’ll see what happens, but we better get the monitor out again.

Year 1, absurd project list

July marked our first year in our new home in North Portland. It’s been a blur in some ways, so I was looking back at all the household projects we’ve completed and I now see why. Since taking possession of the house, we’ve:

  • Installed new carpet upstairs (well, we didn’t)
  • Replaced gutters
  • Re-finished the guest room floors
  • Patched and painted the guest room
  • Replaced window in guest room
  • Remodeled the master bathroom
  • Planted a Trident maple tree (Tigger)
  • Replumbed using Wirsbo Pex
  • Survived radon mitigation
  • Patched the brick patio
  • Built a chicken coop
  • Installed gas insert in the fire place
  • Installed a new furnance
  • Painted over graffiti on garage and added light
  • Added a garage skylight (thanks for the friend discount, John)
  • Moved the gas line in to crawl space
  • Replaced dining room windows
  • Finished basement (well, 80% finished)
  • Planted a Rocky Mtn. Glow maple tree (Seven)

I’m a little shocked to see the list all at once. I also know it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our family who provided material, moral, and physical support at various times throughout the year. Now I’m hoping for a year off. We need to rewire the house and replace the roof at some point, but both are big and rather expensive. We’ve managed to do the above either with funds left over from selling our house, or on the cheap. I love DIY.