What do you think of when you hear Switzerland? Cows, cheese, chocolate? Yes, it’s the fresh mountain air and the happy cows with their tinkling bells who graze on the sweet grass creating this atmosphere.

I was about ten years old the first time I visited Switzerland, the Berner Oberland, and I fell instantly and deeply in love. Later when I had the opportunity to study abroad for a year I was choosing between France where I could certainly improve upon my French or Switzerland where it would be very unlikely to be placed within a French speaking family. It would be most likely a Swiss German speaking family.

I chose Switzerland even though I spoke not a word of German. My host family (who turned out to be the best host family ever!) teased me for having a Heidi complex. I cannot deny it. I love Switzerland! So it’s extremely special to be able to introduce my son to family and friends from that year as well as the rest of the highly organized and esthetically and ecologically enlightened county. All the farm animals that he is constantly reading about he finally can meet just down the street from where we’re staying with friends on the hillside above Lake Geneva.

Here the region speaks French and alas my French is not so evolved. Instead Lake and I speak German together here. However his new words for today were Oof Da! and Au revoir!

Packing for Two

With our recent traumatic experience, we were in a conundrum regarding our travel plans. We were rather looking forward to visiting our friends in Switzerland, a trip we had been planning for quite some time. Lake’s burns were at the moment gnarly yet we could see how quickly he was healing. Nonetheless, the burn team strongly advised against leaving the country for two weeks. They required follow up at 7-10 days, no exceptions. Even though he was expected to be completely healed by then? Our plane tickets were for Saturday morning and the burns occurred Monday evening. It was awkward timing to say the least. A Friday follow up appointment was too soon to be useful, a follow up at three weeks would be pointless if all healed according to his good prognosis, or it would be much too late if a problem or infection were to arise. If we rescheduled our trip we would not be able to avail ourselves to the reduced plane fare for Lake under the age of two it’s 10% of the ticket price. As it stands we fly home the day before his second birthday. If we postponed our departure by nearly a week we would be foreshortened in our holiday and pay and even higher per diem jet lag tax.

Michael was a strong advocate for our trip continuing as planned. Lake was indeed healing at such a rapid rate it was as if he’d been touched by the Shape of Water creature. So I packed for two. As a seasoned traveler and longtime advocate for traveling light, I set out to pack for both Lake and myself in the space I normally us for just myself. The carryon sized rolling suitcase and a simple carryon backpack. Well, come morning of, there were suddenly so many extra items (jackets, diapers, food and water) and we were already totally packed to the maximum that I was forced to toss them into a folding cloth bag and run out the door. Michael was driving us to Vancouver BC to fly Air Canada. The border agent did ask us why we weren’t flying out of Seattle. This way we could avoid an untenable 6 hour layover in the Vancouver Airport. As it turns out, flying with The Canadians is much nicer anyway. (The TSA has practically managed to squeeze all joy out of air travel with its very militant approach.)

As we were checking the rolling carryon suitcase I lamented I couldn’t check all the unwieldy odds and ends and keep the easy to manage rolling luggage with me. Michael wisely recommended I just leave the extra bag behind and that I would be much happier traveling lighter. He’s right however there were important items in there and I didn’t have the time or energy to completely repack. Maybe remove a few shirts and dresses that I realistically wouldn’t be wearing? Learning point 1: don’t be afraid to check luggage when traveling as a twosome where one is carrying the other. And learning point 2: there’s no prize for smallest checked luggage. It’s better to move up a size and check more items than to have a couple extra I’ll-packed hand luggages.

Despite having Lake in the Ergobaby on front, his backpack on my back, and a tote full of last minute foods and waters, we made it through the length of several airports and made both our flights. The flights, though totally booked with zero extra seats, were surprisingly well tolerated made so by the most baby-friendly seat-mates one could have conjured up. Though they admitted only to being a grandfather or a father, I believe they must have actually been Krishna God or Buddha in disguise. In the course of the flight from Montreal to Geneva lake managed to have not one but two blow-out diapers that involved getting the miracle seat-mate a fresh seat cover. Airplane bathrooms also seemed to have shrunk since I last flew to Switzerland four years ago. The air kept drying out his wounds thus requiring unpopular yet frequent applications of Egyptian Magic to his healing burns. Somehow in this fashion we arrived in Switzerland intact.

Lake even proclaimed himself a “Happy Baby” once more! A perfect adventure… I’m glad I’m spending it with you!

New Birthday Suit

We chose to come home after one night instead of staying another day. We discharged from Harborview at 5:30pm Tuesday. We made it home with Lake in good spirits and soon he was asleep. He still looks like a war survivor with his raw, peeling and oozing face. The big task for us at home is staying on top of wound care. He has sustained a partial thickness burn to 2-3% of his body. It looks more alarming than it reads predominantly because it’s his face that is most impacted and edematous with eyes squished shut. Being so young, however, he is anticipated to heal completely in 10-14 days. There will likely be sensitivity and possibly discoloration to the burned areas that will hopefully resolve with time.

He’s not a huge fan of the face net which he calls No Hat and my friend Cami accurately pointed out looks like an Asian pear net. This we are doing our best to replicate day after day at home.

He’s recovering by leaps and bounds every day. The first day home in the kitchen he was clearly having significant flashbacks, uncomfortably reliving the trauma.

Tea… boosh…

Tea… boosh…


He was with Daddy in the kitchen making tea when the jar of fresh boiled water broke as he excitedly ran over to be near his beloved tea. Boosh! Right into his face. His face and chest and arm, predominantly the right side, caught the brunt of the gush. Daddy got his quickly undressed and into a cool water bath in the sink, then brought him to his sick napping mama for comfort. As I slowly oriented myself I put two and two together when his face was red and he wouldn’t breastfeed. Badly burned. Hospital. Must go now.

Children’s Hospital or Harborview Medical Center? Pediatrics or Burns? Close or not too far, depending on traffic. Aid car or drive ourselves?

Harborview. Regional Pediatric Burn Unit.

What time is it?

7:20pm? Okay, traffic has died down. We’re going directly to Harborview. We’re driving.

Decisions were made judiciously and expediently. We dressed him in loose Cozy organic cotton shirt and pants and I sat in the back and sang to him while Daddy drove us to the Hospital. He was courageous and quiet. Once at the Emergency Department we were greeted, waited, greeted waited, and on and on as we made our way through all the layers of admission as Lake incrementally became an inpatient patient of Burns followed by Peds. It was after midnight when the debridement occurred. It was a very intense experience for all involved, for me, imagine witnessing your child be skinned alive. Our night nurse Rachel was professional and skilled, as were both the conglomerate teams of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and staff that continued to care for Lake during his stay.

We’re home convalescing now, breastfeeding almost continuously and very clingy to Mama but otherwise energetic and curious. He’s enjoying the exuberant company of Nana and Baba who were kind to come and visit. We’re managing wound care with the compassionate skills of Michael and Luisa. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers. As aforementioned Lake has shown true courage, grace, and resilience throughout this experience.

Classic Silhouette Portraiture

Lake and I went on a bicycle adventure this morning to the Wallingford Center. We had an artist date! Ellie, the owner of Bootyland Kids, was hosting Kerry Cook on location. Kerry Cook is a local artist with 40 years experience in hand cut paper likenesses. Her parents had a booth at art fairs and festivals that she tagged along with. One day after expressing interest in this style of art, her dad set her up with a side booth: free portraits. As the day progressed, so did her line. To modulate supply with demand, her father kept increasing the cost on the makeshift signage, from free to 10c to 25c and so forth. By the end of the day she had made $9 and she thought she had hit the jackpot. Talk about someone alive with their dharma! She was ten years old. The price has gone up somewhat but at $25 it is still an amazing value. She cuts the silhouette freehand with her scissors live while you’re present. She is so efficient that even your two year old can sit for his portrait. The results are guaranteed to deliver. She literally asks you if you’re satisfied with the likeness. I was. If you’re interested, no need for sorrow that you missed this event today. She’ll be back at Bootyland Kids this November, just in time for the holidays!

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.