31 December 2008

New Year's Pajama Party

For New Year's our friends Amy and Andrew hosted a pajama party. They couldn't decide if they wanted to go out partying or just stay home in their PJs, so they decided to do both. Everyone was to wear their favorite pajamas, and there would be prizes for Cutest Couple, Most Risque, and Most Creative.

As you can see, we were pretty much a "lock" on cutest. Donna had made these matching pajamas for the two of us many years ago - shortly after we got married, I think. She held on to the leftover fabric and when she found out that Rocket was arriving made an outfit for him as well.

Several other couples at the party had matching outfits, but no one else had our "secret weapon" - a matching baby! Donna came with us to the party as well, but her pajamas were different. If they had been the same, some people's heads may have exploded from over-cute (mine included).

Our "prizes" were the doo-dads on our heads. Happy New Year!

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket

27 December 2008

Christmas, Delayed

This year we planned Christmas to be smaller and more low-key than any previous years. Little did we know precisely what that would mean, and that Christmas would be delayed not once, but twice.

We put the tree up on Christmas Eve but decided to wait until Christmas Day to finish decorating. Meanwhile, the winter storms kept coming. Seattle and Portland were continually blanketed with snow and ice, crippling the cities. We certainly were getting our fair share as well. Earlier in the day on Christmas Eve I had gone out to plow the driveway only to discover that I had neglected to plug in the engine block heater on the tractor. Diesels don't like cold weather, and they show their displeasure by not starting. So I plugged it in and had planned to plow the following day. Yes, snow plowing on Christmas Day. But it gets worse.

At 2am Christmas morning we awoke not to the sound of a crying baby - thankfully that is becoming more rare - but rather the sounds of beeping. We instantly recognized them as the "warning" bells on the UPS units that protect our electronic equipment. Power outage! Corinne, always a few steps ahead of me in terms of disaster planning, pauses for a few moments and says something like: "I hate to even mention it, but do you think you should try to start the tractor?" Where we are, a power outage in December could last for a few hours or a few days. As cold as it was, the tractor would never start without the electricity to heat the engine. And without the tractor, we could be snowed in for quite some time. After a few moments trying to come up with an alternative plan, I get out of bed, put on my gear and trudge out to the tractor at 2:30am to try to plow.

The tractor still won't start. So I head back to bed, and we both start to stress a bit about what that could mean. Somehow we managed to fall back asleep.

Thankfully, the power returned at about 8am on Christmas morning. A quick call to Reidar confirmed what I had been thinking, which is that the battery probably needed a stronger charge in order to start in these temps. A few more hours on both the battery charger and the engine block heater fixed the tractor's woes, and the driveway was clear again. But we decided to postpone celebrating Christmas to the following day, hoping for a more auspicious start. Christmas would officially be celebrated on December 26th this year. After all, Rocket doesn't know the difference.

The two guests we were sure we would have for Christmas were Donna and Leif. But that wasn't working out so well either. Donna had planned to drive down to visit us on Christmas day, but she had been stuck on Mercer Island for several days. It wasn't looking very good for her to get out on Christmas either. Leif, on the other hand, had been stuck in Portland when I-84 closed for three days. He was still there.

December 26th arrived and we were still by ourselves. We had a few more brief (several minutes to an hour) power outages, but nothing lasting. So we took a walk. By this point the weather was starting to look up, and I-84 had re-opened. Donna was going to take the train to Portland, traveling with Taryn who was heading to Eugene to spend time with David's family. When Donna arrived in Portland she would be met by Leif, and then the two of them would head our way and be here by dinner. In theory.

Train travel being what it is in this country, Donna's train didn't arrive in Portland until nighttime, so she and Leif opted to stay there for the night. We decided to delay Christmas once again so that they could share in Anders's first Christmas.

Finally, late on the morning of December 27th, our guests arrived! Christmas was saved!

This year we convinced both of our families to forgo the massive gift-giving that usually occurs at Christmas. Instead we went with a "kids only" approach, so virtually all of the gifts under the tree were for Anders. After all, we had already gotten our big gift for this year:

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket

26 December 2008

Winter Walk With An Ewok

Christmas this year was delayed. But that is the subject of the next post...

For now, just know that on the 26th we dressed Anders in one of his winter outfits and took him for a walk outside. If he's going to grow up in Trout Lake, we figured we should start acclimating him to winter sooner rather than later.

This outfit is a hand-me-down that we got from our friends Jen and Dave (who got it from Amy and Andrew - don't you just love hand-me-downs?) When we first put it on him neither of us could keep from giggling. It's so ridiculous, yet so cute it's almost sickening. What you can't see in any of these photos is that it also has a tail.

Daddy's little Ewok

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket

25 December 2008

This Year's Christmas Tree

We didn't cut a tree at Thanksgiving this year (since we weren't here). And with the combination of Anders and snow removal taking up so much of our time and energy, we got all the way to Christmas Eve without a Christmas tree. We needed to get one, though; without it we knew it just wouldn't feel like Christmas. With only the two of us (adults) here and one busy watching Anders, it was up to me to find a tree.

I grabbed a saw and ventured out into our woods on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. The weather wasn't exactly conducive to the task, though; snow had been falling for several days with little wind, so the branches of all the trees were heavily laden.

I took a quick walk into one of our Grand Fir stands. Since our trees are now many years past their Christmas Tree prime, it is a challenge to find one of an appropriate size to get into our Great Room. In previous years we have spent a fair amount of time looking for such a tree; since I was on my own this year and knew that I would have to drag it back to the house through about 2 feet of snow, I didn't spent too long on the hunt.

In about 15 minutes I had found a tree that I thought would work. It was, of course, way too tall - at least 30'+. After sawing it down, I cut it in half as a first approximation of what we would want inside. A second look told me that more would need to go. In the end I left three pieces of the tree in the woods and brought only the very top inside.

When I began to drag the tree back to the house, I was glad that I had selected one that was close by.

With some vigorous tree-shaking outside and a short drying period inside we managed to get most of the snow off. The worst part of any tree-decorating, at least in our house, is attaching the lights. (That's probably because we're a bit OCD.) It took us a few hours to light the tree and secure it in its base. There was plenty of room between branches for ornaments, which was a result of both the relatively quick search and the fact that it came from only the top. We waited until the following day to hang the majority of them, though.

The tree ended up at about 14' tall or so, which is a bit smaller than in previous years. It has always been a challenge to properly support a tree of the size that we (read: I) want to put up. We have a great space with a tall ceiling, so why shouldn't we put up the biggest tree we could fit? And you just know that Anders is going to want a big tree - think of the children!

Our solution has always been a combination of a standard-size Christmas tree stand and several guide wires connected to the window frame, and there has been varying degrees of concern as to the integrity and safety of this combination. This will be the last year that we have to worry, though; we finally bit the bullet and bought a commercial Christmas tree stand suitable for a 20' tree! (Thank you, Craigslist!)

And in years to come, when Rocket is a bit older (possibly next year?), selecting and cutting the tree can be a whole family event again!

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket

21 December 2008


We had a beautiful snowy day today with about 18" of powder on the ground and more coming down. This morning I looked out the great room window from the upstairs bedroom to see a coyote sitting on the berm. He had to hop around to maneuver in all of the snow.

Then I went downstairs and heard a lot of screeching. I followed the noise and found scrub jays harassing an owl who (hoo?) was perched under our portico, sitting on a wrought iron flower basket hook. The owl was just a little guy at maybe 8" in length. At first we were really quiet so that we could take photos but it turned out that he didn't mind us. He also completely ignored the scrub jays. He stayed there until Mike went outside to snow-blow the driveway.

I thought he might be a Northern Pygmy-Owl which are 6 3/4" in length. The bird book says, "Birders may locate the owl by watching for mobbing songbirds" and pictures the Pygmy-Owl with a dead scrub jay in his talons. But the Pygmy-Owl lacks ear tufts and this little guy definitely has ear tufts. Therefore, I think he is a Western Screech-Owl (8 1/2") which are common in open woodlands.

I especially like his white feathers. They look cozy.

- Corinne, Mike, and Anders Rocket

20 December 2008

Three Months Old

Anders Rocket is now three months old! It's kinda hard to believe. Everyone tells you to treasure the time because it goes by so fast; now I guess we know what they mean.

Milestones that Anders reached by the three month mark:

  • Sleeping through the night! We generally get him to bed sometime between 10 and 11pm (he won't go any earlier), and on a good night he sleeps until 6am. Compared to a month ago, that seems like a luxury!
  • Lots of smiling. He smiles all of the time nowadays, particularly at us.
  • Outgrowing clothes. We have now officially "retired" some of his clothes because they are too short. I'm sure this will be a recurring event.

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket

19 December 2008

Max's New Perch

After a recent holiday cookie-baking episode, we returned to the kitchen to find this:

I'm sure it was warm there, with all of the residual heat from the oven rising to warm him. But it sure doesn't look like a good idea. One of these days he'll try that when a burner is on!

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket (and Max)

18 December 2008

Snow Arrives in Trout Lake

Snow came a bit later to Trout Lake this year than last year, and that was just fine with us.

This would be our second year clearing our own driveway. Not wanting to repeat any of last year's horrible start to plowing, I spent the better part of a day in early December attaching the snow blower to the tractor and rearranging the equipment so that the tractor was ready to go. (Of course, if the snow had come when it did last year - late November - I would not have been ready!)

The first snow arrived in mid-December during a particularly cold spell. Temperatures were routinely in the 10s-20s during the day, and would frequently get down to single-digits at night. (Thank goodness the furnace was fixed!) The advantage of such cold weather, though, is that the snow was very light and fluffy, and thus easy to move. The first accumulation was no more than a couple inches, but it was a good opportunity to practice.

We also thought this would be a good chance to get Rocket out in the winter weather. So we bundled him up in his snowsuit, put him in the stroller, covered him with blankets, and ventured out on a walk to the mailbox. The stroller provided fairly good protection from the wind, but by about the halfway point Anders decided he was done. We finished our walk briskly and returned to the warmth inside.

The second snowfall came a few days later and provided more substantial accumulation. Temperatures remained arctic, so removal was a snap. I've even managed to come up with a plowing pattern that drastically reduces the amount of shoveling and should be much more maintainable throughout the season.

This storm created all sorts of problems in Seattle and Portland, and even caused I-84 to be closed for several days. But somehow the storm was kind to us; maybe it's because most of the precipitation had already been dropped by the time the storm got to us. Let's hope the remainder of the season goes this well!

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders Rocket

13 December 2008

Yes, Anders Does Cry

We are often asked if Anders ever cries. He does cry, but it doesn't happen very often. He is a pretty chill baby most of the time; we've really lucked out! In fact, he has a rather polite way of coo/whining to let us know that he is hungry or ready for a new activity.

But on this particular day, he exhibited some good crying. We're not really sure why but as you can see, we even think this is cute and can't help being amused. So here it is - proof that Anders does cry.

- Corinne, Mike, and Anders Rocket