Lake’s Dream and the Stowaway Cheetah

Lake was excited to share his dream from the night before this day with me. “Madeline already knows,” he said. “I was coming back from Africa on a cruise and a cheetah was so fast it snuck on board in Africa and came back with me all the way to Seattle.”

Dumbfounded, I said after a pause, “Was it a boy or a girl cheetah?“

Lake hastened to inform me, “That’s not the important part. The amazing part is that there was a cheetah with me on the cruise at all.”

Brainbridge

We set out for “Brainbridge” on foot, and once we were underway, I vacillated between going and not going. We had been planning on driving downtown to the ferry terminal to get a jump start on our adventure. Just as we were all ready to get all buckled in, we discovered our car had vaporized —stolen in the night. In a mild state of shock and comical farce, we ended up taking the bus and the light rail. Perhaps exploring the trendy Capital Hill neighborhood would suffice, after all I was thinking, so we got off the link after one stop; it was predicted to rain beginning at 1pm. Once we were walking around Capital Hill, though, it felt too anticlimactic. Our goal was to have an adventure and show Madeline some of the beauty of our region, beyond the comfortable but familiar shelter of our home.

Our party of adventurers

Lake was the decision maker. He said, “there will be no more discussion, or Lady Kitty will have a time out when we get home. Let’s go to Brainbridge.” The Olympic Mountains shone like snowy beacons just beneath the overhead blanket of grey. That ferry ride was in order after all.

The trip over on the ferry was breathtaking. Not just the cold wind, but the ethereal beauty of Seattle surrounded by grey water below and grey sky above, with a rim of snow capped mountains encircling the city on the thin strand of horizon, like a diamond necklace. It was cold, but not too cold as to preclude Lake’s enthusiasm for getting ice cream (strawberry sorbet) at Mora. A light freezing rain began to rain on us while we were on the island and kept up the whole way home.

Coat, not spirits, dampened, we head home.
Once home, Lady Kitty enjoyed a bubble bath (not a time out).

We will all sleep well tonight! A perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you.

Cat Nap

Cat Nappers

Lady Kitty is the queen of cat naps, of power naps, of catching a wink. She sleeps briefly and wakes refreshed. We are left feeling just a little wistful that she didn’t take a longer nap. She, however, has got to get to livin’!

Refreshed for livin’! Lady Kitty loves swinging… such joy!

Rainier Reprise

Our weekend adventure to show Madeline our version of Paradise (on Mt. Rainier) did not go to plan. Not only did we not reach Paradise, we also got saddled in the cloud ringing Mt. Rainier which prevented us from enjoying any stunning glimpses of the berg up close. I had envisioned marmots, fall colors, and zoomed-in views of the summit. What we got was locked gates and snow.

On Sunday, access of Mount Rainier National Park was blocked at Longmire. A search and rescue mission was underway. We all hoped and prayed for the recovery of the lost snowshoer which kept our frustrations in perspective. Meanwhile, the mountain closure diverted us and all other visitors to the lesser reknowned lower reaches near Longmire, the Nisqually River and Kautz Creek.

“It’s the journey, not the destination” acted as our motto for the day, as we hiked up all trails available to us. Who knew that Longmire holds mineral springs? Our very own Yellowstone-style bubbling earth.

Lady Kitty cared not a whit that our original sightseeing plans were foiled, and we carried on as well. As it turned out it was plenty exhilarating exploring locales we had previously whipped right past in our fervor to get to Paradise. Simply being on the mountain was enough. In a forest freshly dusted with snow, the air so cold it smelled of the cold: it was paradise after all.

We celebrated our successes. Namely, that we had made it inside a national park boundaries. In true German fashion, Madeline briskly checked “Mt. Rainier” off her bucket list.

Lake Break

Lake is a card. He’s a character. He’s larger than life. I was a Tired Mama trying to nurse Lady Kitty to sleep the other night when I said to Lake, “Honey, I need some alone time.”

Lake gave me a look and without skipping a beat, said, “You’re going to find out that I’m right there in your alone time. If you moved to Africa for your alone time, the whole house would be empty because I would move everything to Africa too.”

“Okay, some quiet time, then,” I conceded.

Lake told me he wants a tablet for Christmas.

“Goodness sakes!” I said.

Lake said, “I know it’s kind of a goodness sakes, but I want it. I want it badly… Then when I need some quiet time I could go to my room and watch a movie.”

There’s a pause; I kept feeding Lady Kitty.

“Maybe when I’m eight,” he said.

This son of mine: I love him so much! At the same time there’s a lot of other factors to juggle—including his Baby Sister! He deserves more. He deserves more, not just undivided attention; he deserves multiplied attention. He’s so special and so much fun to be with. He’s the most fun to be with when you have the requisite energy and attention available.

The other day Lake said, “if you want to cuddle with a shark, you have to wear a metal suit.”

This is the kind of fun that is Lake. So it’s a win-win then, when Baba wanted Lake to come visit for his 75th birthday present this week.

Win-win-win-win, if you include the Joe Biden Kamala Harris win for the White House! Upon congratulating Baba on having just turned younger than the president this week for his birthday, he said, “If Biden can start being president [at 77], I guess I can carry on with my life [at 75].”

Lake is spreading his joy it to NanaBaba’s life. Meanwhile, our household is on a Lake Break. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, if that’s possible. Our hearts are already overflowing with love for Lake.

We welcome you back with open hearts and arms tomorrow, Lake. And tonight we enjoy one more quiet, dull, much appreciated, evening of our Lake Break.

National Love Your Red Hair Day

No, I didn’t just invent this as a way to distract you from the national voting suspense. This year is the sixth annual! As you probably know we’re a family richly blessed with with red hair. We remain thrilled that both Lake and Lady Kitty sport red hair. As I was to my parents when I was born, Lake was a total surprise to us when he was born. Although Michael and I both have paternal grandfathers with red hair, we had no way of knowing that Michael carried the recessive gene mutation that produces red hair until we created some offspring. Lake’s having red hair confirmed Michael was a heterozygous “silent carrier”. Since I have red hair, that means I’m homozygous for the recessive gene. From there we could deduce that our subsequent offspring would each have a 50/50 chance of being homozygous recessives— yielding red hair. When Lady Kitty was in utero we knew she would have a 50/50 chance of being red head… or not. We held our breath hoping for red hair. It’s so unique; it’s the most rare hair color in the world.

With German red haired Vivien part of our family for her au pair year in Seattle, we reached critical mass when Lady Kitty also arrived bearing the gift of red hair. We really lucked out!

So, celebrate The luck and give your red head some love!

Now, hopefully we’ll get as lucky with the national election results!

Horse Camp

I learned to trot and cantor on dusty trails under hot skies. A camp tradition exposed that I was the youngest camper at the sleep-away horse camp. In the evening the camp kiosk would open, vending sweets to hungry campers. There was a rule to queue by age, youngest first. Someone asked me my age.

“I’m six years old,” I said.

No one believed me, since you had to be seven to attend camp. Nonetheless, I was grudgingly pushed to the enviable position at the front of the line. The older campers hated me for my first crack at the candy and snacks. The offerings were bright and colorful. Michael Jackson was on the Pepsi cans. The choices were too many, or maybe I just didn’t want candy before bed… I was a budding naturopathic doctor after all. In the end I froze and let everyone down by buying nothing. I peeled off, heading back to the dormitory. We slept on bunk beds over bare concrete. I fell out of my top bunk onto the floor. The counselor heard a thud and, noting I was still sleeping, put me back in bed. I knew nothing of in the morning.

I was there with my older brother. Older, but not by much. He was eight. His horse’s name was Flip. Flip didn’t take a shine to my brother.

“He didn’t like me putting his bridal on,” said my brother.

Anyway, it was an adventure. Our grandmother was at the root of it. She had a duty toward our horse education. She said,

“We had a horse one summer when we were small out here [at Point Petite]. We built a barn up in the back by the parking lot. All that I can remember is that one time the horse lay down when I was on it and rolled over, so I was never very gung ho for it. Then when our children were young, we had a horse that we kept over in Mr. Hancox’s meadow. But neither of them was very enthusiastic about the horse so those two times were our attempts at having horses.”

So by the time 1984 rolled around, I guess she figured horse camp would fill the bill without so much hassle and commitment as boarding a horse at Newman Lake or building a barn on the hillside. We got our horse experience, singular and memorable. I remember loving the trails. Until the cantering. I think we were a bit too young at the time. I still don’t know how she smuggled me in, underage. to horse camp. What a hoot! And here I am now, giving Lady Kitty her horse experience, right up under this horse’s nose. She’s perhaps a bit young, but who knows. These are the perfect days. I’m glad I spent them with you…

Bybee Farms 2020

Language Nutrition

Just as it’s fun to eat your fruits and veggies when they’re really fresh and there’s not a lot of junk food distracting your palate, words are so fun to learn and play with. We delight in developing of Lake’s palate with a diet of diverse words, and relish the words he retains, and phrases he creates. His sentence structure and idioms reveal something of how he processes, organizes and stores new information. “Language nutrition” is the regular diet of different words children are exposed. It plays into the depth and breadth of their language acquisition and correlates with future successes. It’s shocking how much disparity emerges among children of different socioeconomic households. The word gap by age 3 approaches greater than a million words (Hart and Risley. 1995. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children). This is sadly due to factors out of the children’s (and also largely per societies’ construct, the parents’) control, such as: how much they’re read to; what types of conversations they hear; and how much discussion they’re exposed to. It has made a strong case for early childhood education.

Lake breathes words. He trades in words like commodities. Lake’s learning of language is charming. He’s had a flair for the stuff from an early age. He started out bilingual, and then slowly took a preference to only speaking “Englisch” while retaining his German comprehension. Some degree of bilingual education creates an additional plethora of vocabulary words, as well as gaining awareness of another perspective on life. Being multilingual cultivates perception and an innate knowing that there’s more than one way of doing things.

We were contemplating childcare options after Lake was born when we spoke with my friends who had been hosting au pairs. In describing his family’s positive experience, he cited a study. Kids that learn more than one language knew there was a triangle behind a shield, even when they couldn’t see it directly from where they were sitting, if they had seen it first from a different chair; whereas, kids who knew only one language could only assert the presence of the triangle if they could see it from where they were sitting at the time.

Lake has loads of perspicacity, especially for his age. Here’s some of the fun vocabulary and quirky things Lake says that I’m delighted to be able to share with you :

Vocabulary:

Similar

Gorgeous!

Hilarious!

Fravorite (I’m careful not to correct his enunciation to “favorite” as it remains dear to me.)

Hysterical!

Sweet conversations:

Mama: We’re beautiful all the way from the inside out.

Lake: You’re beautiful from the outside in to your lungs.

Mama smiles.

Lake: I’m amazing! I’m clever. I’m smart.

Mama: Who told you that?

Lake: I’m clever.

Mama: You know what mama cares about? You’re a hard worker. You’re kind. You’ve got a good attitude.

Lake: Yes, I’m all those things.

Lake: I’m a Duck!

Mama chuckles.

Lake: I love you all the way to your lungs.

Mama smiles.

Lake, the clever jokester

Mama: Honey, you can’t put the mohair blanket on the floor.

Lake skips a beat.

Lake: What’s a mo?

Hahahahaha.

Lake: If you ever see me doing something don’t put my clothes over my head.

Mama: Ok, I’ll be more respectful. Can you put your clothes on Lake?

Lake: No!

Mama dives the second shirt over Lake’s head.

Mama: That’s why I just dive it over your head and you put it on by reflex!

Lake: Reflex!

Lake: That’s the funniest thing you ever said. Reflex! What about some reflex?! Tsss

Lake Idioms

“I was surprised Baba wasn’t up yet. There was just loads and loads of sun riding in through my window.”

Holding up a pipe cleaner creation: “It’s a decoration. Is there any board where there’s some air between? To hang it? Like the swing.”

“I’ll be coming out of an unseeable notch for the entrance to my Nutcracker Sweet show.”

“I’m a home cat,” Lake says with a meow. (He likes play acting different animals)

“I have a joke* for you…

Q: What kind of cat likes to sail?

A: A catamaran!

See how skillful I am at jokes?!”

*joke credit goes to Nana (Lynn Thompson Murphy

Upon arriving home to Seattle Lake has a new bunk bed, and a new challenge to sleep in the top bunk. Michael thus prepared him for a successful bedtime before heading off to the airport to pick up Madeline, our new au pair… Lake reportedly said, “I can handle it all.”

You’re doing a swell job, Lake. Keep up the levity, and the good work eating your fruits and vegetables and digesting the languages you hear. These are perfect days to be alive. I’m glad I’m spending them with you!

My Walden

6 o’clock in the morning — late Summer
7 o’clock in the evening — late Summer

Day after day the skyline paints itself anew. The contours of the forested ridges are the unchanging backdrop for fresh coats of color, moods, and weather. It is my own Walden. Mt. Spokane watches over us to the north, flanked by Granite Peak, and buttressed by Ragged Ridge. Idaho cradles us to the east, and our peninsula weaves the backbone of the shore where I breathe.

Within this pond of stillness I’m able to really listen to the birds. When an eagle flies by, I hear the beat of the wings like the sound of Lady Kitty’s hyperventilating laughter. I look up to take in the magnificence. Out in the kayak a gaggle of Canada geese fly overhead, low, looping back for a second pass. Their combined noisy flight mechanics suggest they could use a can of WD40. Landing nearby they skid to stop on the water like a fleet of float planes… Kssssshhhhhhh!

Surrounded by mixed conifer forest, juncos hide in plain view providing musical accompaniment with nuthatches on backup. A Northern harrier skims the marsh, flashing it’s white banded tail feathers, fishing.

Lady Kitty, Lake and I regularly surprise deer while walking through the woods. I’m becoming familiar with the locals and I cherish opportunities to hold their gaze. When the cougar was being sighted on our peninsula, the sight of a freshly knawed bone stilled me. Thinking it a deer tibia, I worried for the fawn and her mother until we next crossed paths.

Tonight the moon rises steadily over the eastern hilltop: full and round, cool and bright. It casts a brightness to the night, beckoning skinny dippers, and inspiring coyotes’ peals of yips and howls, like church bells ringing to creschendo.

The night sky blankets me in comfort. Stars double the rewards of their exertion by reflecting their light on the dark waters. The experience transports me to Yayoi Kusama’s infinity mirror.

Summer hands the baton to Autumn, and Autumn is running hard. Winter prepares to anchor. My Walden tirelessly shows up for every race, irrelevant the outcome. In nature, it all belongs.

7 o’clock in the morning—Autumn
Half past 9 o’clock in the morning—Autumn
2 o’clock in the afternoon — Autumn
7 o’clock in the evening—Autumn

A perfect 77 days, I’m glad I spent them here with you.

Sittin’ Pretty

Our family legacy property is just a speck on any map. Even on the map of its own location, it’s just a speck.

Just 30′ at its deepest, and nine miles of lakeshore, its 1200 acres are but a speck on the surface of the planet. Like the flakes of endogenous mica glinting in the sand, however, it winks brightly to the seer.

Golden Days

Trade sidewalks for lakeshore and game trails; it is summer camp for adults. Today my footsteps were falling on deer prints wherever I walked. There’s a well worn path along the bay, in front of cabins and through the woods that serve as side yards. Neighbors sashay in front of each others’ cabins, en route to some casual destination. Visiting along the way is part of the charm.

Cottages wear names like boats. Sittin’ Pretty, On the Rocks, This’ll Do, Tarry A While, Steele Away, Packed Inn, Fairhaven, Rustic Retreat, Rosebank, Wildwood and more… Our neck of the woods is Diana Bay, so named by early property owner of the Tanglewood area, a teacher Miss Bertha Elizabeth Archer (later Windust), after the Italian goddess of the forest and the moon. It’s served as a safe haven for six generations of mothers during the summer holidays. Earlier families (including mine) would routinely come to their summer cottage the day after school let out and not return to town until the day after Labor Day. Nowadays many cabins in our bay are shared amongst the family who have dispersed with time, and folks will come back just once or maybe twice for their week share. This summer was special: cabins were continuously in use, seeing higher traffic than usual, since this semi-secluded bay is a perfect place to quarantine.

While on maternity leave, I wished to invoke the bygone era of free range kids steeped in family, nature, and community friendships. My kids and I came to stay at Point Petite with my parents (primarily my mother) for two and a half months, leaving only a few times—for visiting family or picking blueberries. As summer and our stay nears its end, we reluctantly say goodbye to this special place and this unique experience. We are truly blessed for all the nurturing we have received, and the jokes and excitement we have shared.

Ponder Inn

Lady Kitty has contentedly spent a third of her life here and has grown strong, vigorous and happy in the fresh air. Today she sat up solidly on her own for the first time. Digging in the sand, eating ponderosa pine needles, sucking on a rock, she was delightedly sittin’ pretty!

Sittin’ Pretty

A humongous bucket of gratitude is owed to my parents for making this possible: graciously hosting us through thick and thin, storms and smoke, coparenting and toddlers. My kids are thriving here and are richer for having spent this time with their grandparents. A perfect season, I’m glad I spent it here with you.