Welcome Miss Kitty

With the addition of this beautiful and sweet Tortoiseshell Persian two weeks ago, we are now a three cat household (four of you count Faux Cat). We have a nice full compliment of cats: Small, medium, large and plush. She came to us from a good home that had to reluctantly re-home her due to worsening family allergies. She’s a real treasure and we’re so blessed for the opportunity to host her. Miss Kitty is so tiny! Weighing in at 7 1/2 pounds on a full stomach, she’s merely a third the size of Mr. Cat. Though christened Troika nine years ago, she presents as Miss Kitty to us and sometimes I call her Little Miss Kitty, or Missy. She has the best purr. She’s camped out in our bed room and most often can be found curled up purring on our bed.

She’s having to hold her own and integrate herself cautiously into this house containing two larger males. Mr. Silky is the disgruntled middle child, sidled with the plight of being medium and average. He has an insecure nature and therefore sets out to antagonize or at least engage Miss Kitty at every opportunity.

Mr. Cat is definitely Large! The gentle giant. He’s the Buddha, the wise sage, nonplussed by the household goings-ons he exists a bit beyond the trap of suffering and petty disturbances in the realm of Peaceful Bliss. He’s welcomed Miss Kitty openly but when he tries to be friendly she’s scared and quite defensive: hissing. Mr. Cat is indeed formidable in size but such a pacifist he simply does an about face and leaves her be.

These are Lake’s best friends. His favorite word is Meow and he has an adorable song he invented that he’s often singing called Mitt’ Mau Mau. It’s quite rhythmic and he sings it with great enthusiasm at any opportunity. In return they’re very patient with him, and under Michael’s guidance he’s learning to be gentle and giving towards them. He’s developing compassion, stewardship, love, trust, and friendship.

How to be an Earth Mama

Happy Earth Day! How do you get to be an Earth Mama? Celebrate the Earth everyday! Arrange your lifestyle around a walk, bike or bus route as your mainstay of transportation. Eat organic! Plant some kale! Know your recycling rules. Take your self and your family outside every day for a nature bath. And lastly on this in-exhaustive list: use cloth diapers for your little one(s)! So far Lake’s claim to fame after having been in [cloth] diapers for nearly two years is saving over 4 trees, 6 barrels of oil, and 2,000 pounds of garbage. I’m so happy I can give him and the Earth that gift so easily through the Baba Diaper Service. I am proud to be an Earth Mama. In what ways are you an Earth Mama? I’d love to hear!

xoxo Tolle

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, known locally simply as “The Locks” make a great destination for a Sunday family outing. Why Sunday? Sunday is the day the nearby streets of downtown Ballard come alive with local farmers, artisans and culinary magicians for the Ballard Sunday Market. On Sunday parking is also free on the street in case you weren’t able to walk, bicycle or take the bus this visit. If you’re enjoying a Sunday drive, park downtown Ballard, or at the locks, and either way it’s a pleasure to walk between the two locations. It’s easily walkable in 10-15 minutes and the route takes you along the scenic waterfront of old Ballard. There’s even a gem of a pocket park with waterfront access that we discovered. Decommissioned railroad tracks offer a rustic “rails to trails” experience and a sense of pioneering adventure.

At the locks it’s fun to watch the pleasure cruisers face the challenge of tying up in the small locks. May through September the underwater viewing of the fish ladder affords unique views of spawning salmon’s upstream journey. In summer the terraces hillsides are perfect for picnic or visiting in the sun.

Before or after your stroll around the Locks, make sure to enjoy some delicious brunch or lunch from the market vendors. Our absolute favorite is Tandoozy, delicious Indian food crafted from mostly local organic ingredients (ie Nash’s organic flour makes the garlic naan cooked on the tandoori oven). It’s only $10 for the Vegan Everything, and a few bucks more for the marsala chicken addition. Everyone loves it in the whole family! Lake loves the chicken and the dahl! If you have any other treasured recommendations of Seattle that you think would compare in taste, quality and value, we want to know about it!

Spicy Heiß (Scharf)

Lake and I are both a bit sick with a Spring cold, so under heavy congestion it can be challenging to keep a good attitude and perspective. When Lake is quick to bust out the wailing, my exasperation wants to flare as well. It was a refreshing moment of comic relief tonight, then that Lake tried out a new application of his old trusty favorite: heiß, the German word for “hot.” He typically uses it to correctly, if not overly conservatively, express his caution regarding hot beverages, mummy’s coffee, mugs (full or empty), soups, and general suspicious fear of cooked dishes.

His new interest while waiting for food to be prepared at restaurants is to play with the condiments on the table. Last night it was salt and pepper at the Amazing Thai Cuisine, and tonight it started with just the salt and pepper at the vegan pizza restaurant. Yes, we’ve been eating out twice in a row this week; that’s what happens when you’re sick and live in the city surrounded by delicious moderately priced food within walking distance. So, the pizzas were taking extra long, and we’d already had a walk in the rain to the community pea patch garden. We’d admired all the garden beds, stomped in the puddles, and made our way back to Pizza Pi, where our attention started to wane. All the patrons who had been greeted with friendly charm, were now on their way.

The salt and pepper only took him so far. Soon he was insistent on exploring the other shakers on the table. Nutritional yeast and cayenne pepper flakes came next. I was counting on the hot pepper flakes to not really dispense when shaken by Lake. They have a certain notoriety in my mind for being difficult to shake out of a shaker like that. So I sat back at a watchful waiting distance and did just that. Well, he managed to shake out one cayenne pepper flake. He then also managed to apply it to his tongue. Not a half second later he made a little surprised expression, stuck out his tongue and gave it a determined swipe with his free hand and said in all seriousness:


Luisa and I looked at each other, both in astonishment. Neither of us had ever heard Lake use his beloved heiß to denote spiciness, only hot temperature. So refreshing that he made the connection for spicy hot so quickly. Unfortunately for Lake, however, Unlike in English, in German it is not used both ways. Heiß denotes only either high temperature or sexiness, and for spicy scharf is the word of choice. Still rather funny and fairly apropos! A perfect evening for a moment of comedy, Lake! I’m glad I heard it from you!

The Olmsted Brothers’ Living Legacy and the Grand Opening of the Arboretum’s Loop Trail

In 1903 the Olmsted Brothers were brought in from Massachusetts by the city of Seattle as nationally renowned urban landscape architects. They were the legacy of their father’s firm who had notably designed New York City’s Central Park. After surveying the city’s bountiful natural advantages to great satisfaction, their top two objectives became to have a city park or playground within 1/2 mile of every home in Seattle, and to create a 20 mile landscaped Boulevard connecting the main parks running north-south through the city like a central green belt.

Living quiet close to Ravenna Boulevard and 17th Avenue not only do we have a park within a half mile in every cardinal direction, but we are well positioned to enjoy the connectivity of Boulevard system as a whole. I was reminded of this luxury today as Lake and I bicycled to the Arboretum of their loop trail opening. The way there consists of two and a half miles of Boulevard route as designed by the Olmsted Brothers plus the relatively newly contiguous way over Mountlake through the University of Washington campus where we caught the end of the cherry blossoms on The Quad.

Such an altogether pleasant ride. And what a destination today! The Arboretum is in-and-of-itself an urban treasure.

Now it has a much anticipated two mile loop trail: a new paved bicycle/walking path. In addition to the many preexisting romantic winding paths, trails, and Azalea Way, the new loop affords another layer of accessibility. For today’s opening occasion, Lake transferred to the backpack for the loop walk. By the end he was walking and exploring on his own two feet. The mature trees, garden plantings and winding routes beckoning.

Have you met James Bond, local Newfoundland celebrity?

In between monsoons today we went out for the annual walk at Greenlake with the local Newfoundland Club. It turned out I met and feel in love all over again with the 220 pound black male we’d met at Greenlake last summer. No, I’m not talking about my husband. This was the dog who introduced us to Newfoundlands and gave us the fever to adopt one for our own family. Today Michael was at work, so it was just Lake and myself out at the Newfoundland Club gathering. I was quickly drawn to one of the largest dogs there; he’s a sweetheart, loves to be pet and is very self contained. It wasn’t until Lake and I were home having our naps that I realized that “James” with the husband of last summer and “Bond” with the wife of today were the same dog! He’s a magnificent creature, so gentle with beautiful eyes. And huge! Fully a extra normal dog measurement larger than all the rest of the thirty Newfoundland’s present. As much as Lake loves “Puppies!” and watching Newfoundlands on YouTube with Daddy, real life was altogether something else. Lake really didn’t know what to think. He kept his distance, a bit wary of James Bond and all the others. Who can blame him really? That’s a lot of tons of dog!

How to get your toddler to sleep through the night: Sleep (re)Training

Somehow Lake had gone from doing his nights at 7 weeks to breastfeeding all night long earlier last week at 22 months. There has been a gradual sleep dis-education that has crept up on us creating a family crisis. I couldn’t take it! I was unable to concentrate at work and my brain was processing at a slower rate. I was tired! Easy to cry and quick to anger. One afternoon a few days ago when I wrote Michael how morale was down and I needed a cheer-up, he read between the lines and saw how tired I was and in need of a nap. He poignantly responded with:

I understand sweetie, oh my sleep has been tough lately. Maybe we can have a conference with Lake and do some bed time expectation setting.

I started crying. How simple and how true. So we made an action plan that evening to reframe the nights for sleeping.

The thing is, Lake knows when he’s tired and he knows that it’s nice to go to sleep. He listens when I say something will happen in two minutes or five minutes or twenty minutes. He understands. So after nearly two years of no bedtime and Lake falling asleep typically somewhere between 9-11:30pm, we instituted a 9pm lights out. The new routine involves getting ready starting at 8:30pm with quick bathing, fresh nappy, pajamas, tooth brushing and stories, songs or bedtime horseplay as the mood strikes, (yes, jumping on the bed is still allowed). First we thought 8pm Sleeping Time sounded more normal but that didn’t prove feasible or enforceable for Mummy. Oftentimes our family is still finishing up dinner at that time. The whole point is that Lake’s bedtime and sleeping through the night without interruption will bring harmony to the family life. I explained to Lake the plan. That as a full family member he has a responsibility to care for the other family’s sense of well-being just as we all care for his. He would be helping out the whole family to be doing his part of sleeping through the night. Just like everyone else is sleeping through the night: Mr. Cat, Mr. Silky, Daddy, Luisa, Mummy, (or at least how I was yearning to be asleep).

We brushed up on graduated extinction. The biggest obstacle is lack of parental consistency. Meaning: we shoot ourselves in the foot. We braced ourselves. We had a successful bedtime routine and Lake fell asleep shortly after the 9pm lights out during night milkies. Well, I fell asleep too. So I woke up at 1am and tried to sneak out. No luck. He woke up and began screaming. I left per the plan. He cried for 20 minutes. We had a plan and we determined to stick to it. I would go in at 20 minutes but no milkies, only singing and reassuring and for not more than two minutes. At 20 minutes of wakefulness, I opened the door to find him standing behind it screaming at the top of his lungs. I started singing about our plan for sleeping through the night. That I wouldn’t be coming back in. That he could cuddle up with Hop and Ba and Meow and go back to sleep. At three minutes Michael popped in and looming in the doorway called me back to bed. Lake screaming, I closed the door. It was a challenging seven minutes and then suddenly… silence. Deafening silence. It was a shock.

We were all wondering if he was still alive in there because the shift was so sudden. There, however, was no way I was going to open that door and risk breaking the silence and our sleep training promise. So we lived the rest of the moment until falling back asleep ourselves with the niggling uncertainty if he was actually sleeping peacefully in his bed.

He was. Then the next night, last night, our bedtime routine went like clockwork. Lake bedtime readiness from 8:30-9pm. Night milkies to sleep by 9:30pm. This time I was more rested too, so I was able to not fall asleep and instead slip out undetected at 9:30pm. Michael and I had an adult sit on the sofa and congratulated each other on our diligent efforts. Where else except maybe planking do you get such payoff for rather small investment? He slept all the way through until 8:30am. Tonight we had another timely bedtime ritual from 8:30-9pm. And asleep with me slipping out at 9:30pm. Now we sit reading by the fire feeling very civilized and wondering if nights will be ours again forevermore?

We appreciate last night. And we’ll take tonight. We made sure to let Lake know he can be very proud of himself for sleeping through the night and contributing to the family’s welfare in that way. He lit up with joy and said “ja!” to the first point and “ja!” to the second point. Lake, it’s been a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you. Now the nights are for me! Gott sei Dank!