Mud Mountain Explorers

How could you not want to go to Mud Mountain?  With elementary aged boys this had all the elements necessary for a great outing: mud, mountain, and a dam guarded by the army.  Technically Mud Mountain is managed by the US Army Corp of Engineers, but there was no explaining that to my two.

Would I make this trip back to just past Enumclaw again?  Probably not.  The dam is interesting, but you see it from far away.  All the photos I’d seen ahead of time (here, here, and here) were taken from a vantage point that we could not get to while at the dam. It looks like in Spring 2015 the short 1/2 mile path that runs from the lookout to the lower dam viewing location is closed about 1/2 way down.

That left us with the woodland trail, that walks along the rim of the valley.  It was a beautiful walk.

Gorgeous spring flowers were out in early April.
Gorgeous spring flowers were out in early April.

We walked for about 5km along the trail.  It was flat, meandering and peaceful. If I lived in the neighborhood, it would be my go to walking spot for walking the dog, but as a day trip from Seattle, there are many other paths and trails before getting all the way to Mud Mountain.

Easy walking trail, long, flat, perfect for walking the dog.  But there are lots more, closer trails to Seattle.
Easy walking trail, long, flat, perfect for walking the dog. But there are lots more, closer trails to Seattle.

If you do visit Mud Mountain – as always the 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Seattle guide proves indispensable.  The main trailhead for walking the rim is outside the park gates.  Easy to find once you know, but not intuitive for the first time visitor.

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Sensory Processing What?

We had a busy, busy summer being introduced into the world of childhood development experts.  For my family that had never been to anything more than an annual pediatrician appointment, with a side of naturopathy to tackle a food intolerance this was a whole new world.  We started down this path, when we were looking for some reasons for why our smart, happy boy continued to struggle with reading, despite lots and lots of school & home interventions.  We started with one small appointment — an “occupational therapy evaluation”…. our knowledge, our list of appointments and our monthly delivery with new books from Amazon grew from there.

As I write the post (my notes in parenthesis) are either the example that’s relevant to my kids, or the way I asked the dr/therapist explain it to me in plain and easy language.

Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration Disorder ~ we’ve come to learn that kids (and adults) can find just about any of the 5 senses a challenge.  Could be your sense of taste is under (eating wildly spicy food) or over developed (chicken and rice).  Or it could be your sense of touch is over developed (can’t stand labels on clothes, won’t stay under a scratchy blanket, that seems just fine to others in the family).  But it also extends into senses I don’t think a lot about such as:

  •  Proprioceptive Processing – having to do with our understanding of where we are in space.  There’s nothing like watching a occupational therapist ask your child to close their eyes and touch their nose… and learning that that’s an impossible task
  • Vestibular Processing – fancy way to say balance.  Some groups think of this as it’s own disorder all on its very own.

With sensory integration issues, there are a wide range of symptoms (depending on your child), and a millions different ways to address them.  We started our quest of knowledge on the disorder with:

I needed these foundational materials to being the process of understanding what sensory processing issues were all about.  For us it explained a lot of weird symptoms — lots of bruised shins, falling out chairs, running into other kids and being surprised they were knocked down.  There’s a great mom blogger over at Growing Up Gish; she describes it this way: “We were so relieved to finally have some answers, and the more we learned about SPD the more it all made sense.”   If you read her description of her family’s journey to the world of SPD, it’s completely different from our family’s.  But that’s the nature of the disorder, and words she expressed were exactly what ran through my mind: relief, finally, it all makes sense.

So our first occupational therapy appointment introduced me to a lot of new words (common you’re trying to tell me that you know what proprioceptive is?), and was a good starting point to figure out what’s going on with my son.  As thorough as the OT evaluation was, it didn’t cover everything.

One of the other ‘odd’ things we’ve run into at our house is the complete inability to catch a ball — tennis ball, baseball, basketball, you name it.  But it turns out that issue is for another day and another post:  the developmental optometrist.

Ok… so it’s freezing here

Officially, Bytown Mom is not quite so Bytown anymore.  We moved to Seatle, Washington about a month ago.  I figured this would be a good time to get back and running with the blog.  Not becuase I don’t have enough to do with the new job, new house, move, etc, but rather becuase there have been many, many observations running through my head and I haven’t been able to share them with our friends and family (just got internet and phone running today).

So here’s the thing, it really is freezing here today.  At home in June I would either have the AC running, or I’d have the fan on in the house to get the cold air from the basement to the 2nd story.  Here the fan is running to get the warm air from upstairns down here to the main floor — where I am sitting in slippers and a sweater.  I refuse to turn on my furnace in June.

It is summy outside and looks gorgeous, but it is most decidedly chilly.  I need to adapt to this quickly as the boys are not dressed properly for school — I need to ship them in pants, shirts and sweaters.  Yesterday, Finn wore his fall coat inside all day, becuase I had put him in a t-shirt and shorts.  Oops.

Family Dinners?

Do you have them? Do you have them every day? Every week?

Here’s an episode of The Current on the topic from last week. The interviewee is Laurie David (Larry David’s wife) and she’s a huge advocate of family dinners and how to get your family back to the table, and why you should want to put forward the effort. No surprise she’s on the show to promote her new book: The Family Dinner: Great ways to connect with your kids one meal at a time. Laurie’s discourse on the radio reminded me of an episode of Oprah from a season or two ago in which she spent time with families to reform their dinner times. Oprah saw families that were ordering takeout and each taking their food to a separate part of the house to eat on their own with their digital device of choice (texting, TV, laptop, whatever). The Oprah episode horrified me, but even Laurie’s interview seemed to indicate that the family dinner is a challenge.

More nights than note, we have dinner as a family. My kids are 2 and 5… so I can’t really imagine how they would get fed if we didn’t sit down with them. That said, we have friends whose nanny feed the kids before the parents get home from work, or whose kids get a big snack at daycare and don’t eat dinner, or who simply don’t enjoy the toddler meal and have a husband/wife dinner after the kids go to bed. I’m inclined to think that the latter is a great idea for us to try, at least once or twice a week.

But for now, we’re still the old fashioned four of us sitting down for dinner. It might not be fancy – in fact it’s definitely not fancy, but we’re there. I’ve been warned that this will get harder and harder to do as the kids get older. We’ll see. For now, Monday’s are definitely a challenge, as both boys have classes as 6pm. So we usually have eggs and crudités at 5:15. When the boys are older, I expect they’ll have more activities, but I’m also hoping we can push our dinner time back to 6:30 or so. Now if we have dinner at 6:30 the boys are falling asleep by the time we finish at 7pm.

I would love to hear success stories of how you’ve managed family dinners? Who’s able to get their 7/9 or teenage kids to the table for dinner more nights that not and how did you do it?

Lent: A season of change for everyone?

Time for a change?
Time for a change?

Forgive what is undoubtedly a blasphemous topic for this post…

I’ve been thinking about Lent. My particular brand of church doesn’t have any strong traditions with respect to Lent as a season, apart from the sermons, the liturgy surrounding Lent is a pretty tamed affair. When I was at University, a good chunk of the student body was Catholic. At the time I became accustomed to hearing “can’t do it… I gave it up for Lent” or “no dessert for me, I gave it up for Lent.” In school the give ups were mostly: beer, cigarettes, dessert, chocolate and occasionally meat.

Long out of school, the phrase “gave up for lent” doesn’t come up very often. When a friend of family member mentions it, I assumed that: a) They were catholic, and b )more religious than I had originally realized. But other than that, I gave it not much thought. Turns out I was wrong on both counts.

In the save way I’ve adopted Chinese New Year as my own personal holiday and set of traditions (in spite of not having been to China), my friends are adopting some of the Lenten traditions, because they resonate with them. These friends view it as an opportunity to :

  • Make a break from any bad habits that have crept up over the past year (or 10!)
  • Introduce positive lifestyle change
  • Put a halt to the consumption of all baked goods… in case that didn’t end at New Year’s
  • Introduce a new habit (or kill an old one). 60 days (or there about) is plenty of time for the change to take hold
  • Even if you don’t make a permanent change, 60 days without “pick your poison” is better than 60 days with it.

Yet another variation on this same theme is to not only “give up” something for Lent, but also to “add” something positive. This is akin to the Oprah style of management – if you want to bring something new into your house, you have to give up something. Now the big question is what to pick:

Give Up Add
  • Meat
  • Whites (flour, sugar, salt)
  • Wine (that wouldn’t be much fun)
  • TV
  • Bad TV
  • Dessert
  • Starbucks
  • Takeout
  • On-line shopping
  • Saunas
  • Yoga
  • Early bed time
  • Packing my lunch
  • Meditation
  • Supper prep (this has lapsed of late)
  • Exercise (daily, not ad hoc)