Becky in Wisconsin

In March, I (Becky) flew out to Verona to spend a week with my sister and her family. We did the usual: hanging out, visiting the library and the dog park, and treating my older nieces to a special “dessert dinner”.

Sarah and I escaped for a full day and drove all over the countryside collecting Roadside America sights (more on this in a later post.) So much fun and randomness.

One last attempt at a selfie with my Hannah Becky ❤

#96: Becky – Read 100 Books

This is my second year setting my sights on reading 100 books, and I’ve discovered that it’s too many.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.

Given the unforeseen circumstances this year has provided, it was extremely difficult to finish this challenge. In addition to being really ambitious, it turns out that reading this many books means I don’t consume stories in other ways – I don’t read magazines or blogs or listen to podcasts as much as I’d like, because I have to be reading books. Don’t expect this to show up on the 2017 list.

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But I did finish! In case you’re curious, here are the books I listened to or read this year (some of them are audio books):

  1. The 5th Wave, Rick Yancy
  2. Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food & Longing, Anya von Bremzen
  3. The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs
  4. The Good Mother Myth, Avital Norman Nathman
  5. Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl: A Memoir, Susan McCorkindale
  6. My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem
  7. Troubled Waters, Sharon Shinn
  8. Garlic & Sapphires, Ruth Reichl
  9. A Spool of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler
  10. Royal Airs, Sharon Shinn
  11. Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers, Nick Offerman
  12. Understood Betsy, Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  13. The Guinea Pig Diaries, A.J. Jacobs
  14. Such a Pretty Fat, Jen Lancaster
  15. Here is New York, E.B. White
  16. Wildflower, Drew Barrymore
  17. Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse, Alida Nugent
  18. Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family, Patricia Volk
  19. Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, Shel Silverstein
  20. The Housemaid’s Daughter, Barbara Mutch
  21. The Martian, Andy Weir
  22. Yes Please, Amy Poehler
  23. Because I Said So!, Ken Jennings
  24. Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China, Jen Lin-Liu
  25. Things I Want to Punch in the Face, Jennifer Worick
  26. Revenge of the Lawn, Richard Brautigan
  27. Drop Dead Healthy, A.J. Jacobs
  28. Happily Ali After, Ali Wentworth
  29. Homer Price, Robert McCloskey
  30. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein
  31. A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
  32. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
  33. Hector and the Search for Happiness, Francois Lelord
  34. Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days!, Stephen Manes
  35. The Year of Miss Agnes, Kirkpatrick Hill
  36. Wingman, Daniel Pinkwater
  37. Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Leanne Shapton
  38. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, Neil Patrick Harris
  39. Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  40. The Bedwetter, Sarah Silverman
  41. Kindred Souls, Patricia MacLachlan
  42. Navel Gazing, Michael Ian Black
  43. Miss Fortune, Lauren Weedman
  44. American Gods, Neil Gaiman
  45. Bright Lights, Big Ass, Jen Lancaster
  46. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast
  47. You’re Not Doing it Right, Michael Ian Black
  48. Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl, Debra Ollivier
  49. Good In Bed, Jennifer Weiner
  50. Stolen Innocence, Elissa Wall
  51. Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue, Kathryn R. Simpson
  52. The Opposite of Spoiled, Ron Lieber
  53. Escape, Carolyn Jessup
  54. The V-Word, Amber J. Keyser
  55. The Witness Wore Red, Rebecca Musser
  56. The Dirty Life, Kristin Kimball
  57. Locally Laid, Lucie B. Amundsen
  58. Triumph, Carolyn Jessup
  59. The Year of Reading Dangerously, Andy Miller
  60. Medium Raw, Anthony Bourdain
  61. Troublemaker, Leah Remini
  62. Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes
  63. Instant Mom, Nia Vardalos
  64. Beyond Belief, Jenna Miscavige Hill
  65. Dear Girls Above Me, Charlie McDowell
  66. Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It, Various
  67. The Star of Kazan, Eva Ibbotson
  68. The Hundred Dresses, Eleanor Estes
  69. Rabid, Bill Wasik
  70. Moranthology, Caitlin Moran
  71. My Mad Fat Diary, Rae Earl
  72. Eating on the Wild Side, Jo Robinson
  73. The City of Mirrors, Justin Cronin
  74. The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder
  75. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy Schumer
  76. Judy’s Journey, Lois Lenski
  77. Owls in the Family, Farley Mowat
  78. My Antonia, Willa Cather
  79. Well Fed Weeknights, Melissa Jouwlan
  80. Paleo Soups and Stews, Simone Miller
  81. World War Z, Max Brooks
  82. American Savage, Dan Savage
  83. Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob Lowe
  84. D.V., Diana Vreeland
  85. Good Clean Fun, Nick Offerman
  86. Against All Grain Celebrations, Danielle Walker
  87. Peppermints in the Parlor, Barbara Brooks Wallace
  88. Dirty Daddy, Bob Sagat
  89. Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick
  90. Paleo By Season, Peter Servold
  91. The Language of Food, Dan Jurafsky
  92. Devil in the Details, Jennifer Traig
  93. Talking With My Mouth Full, Gail Simmons
  94. Where am I Now?, Mara Wilson
  95. Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, & So-Called Hospitality, by Jacob Tomsky
  96. The Care & Keeping of You 1, Valorie Schaefer
  97. Wisconsin Death Trip, Michael Lesy
  98. The Geography of Bliss, Eric Weiner
  99. Food Freedom Forever, Melissa Hartwig
  100. The Paleo Cure, Chris Kresser

#97: Becky – Paint by Number

I’ve been waylaid by a lot of unforseen issues this year, so this is a rare Thing where we’ll be checking it off the list even though it’s not “finished.”

This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.

I found this paint-by-number kit on Amazon, and it seemed like just the thing for me. I haven’t filled in every blob with color, but I feel like I put forth enough effort to fulfill the goal, which in the end was to spend time doing something relaxing and zen. At the end of the year I had a choice: rush through it as fast as I could to finish it, or continue to do it well.

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I do intend to finish this before I delve into any other big projects, so expect a photo of the completed version sometime soon.

#92: Becky – Hand Stitched Stocking

It feels like this took all year, but in reality I didn’t even take it out of the package until June. The problem was that I was intimidated by the seeming enormity of the process.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.

When Lucy chose this stocking kit, I was really intimidated. There was just so much I wasn’t sure how to do, so I kept putting it off. I finally took it out of the package in the summer, cut out a couple of pieces, and got intimidated all over again, and I didn’t really get started working on it until a couple of months ago. I was right to be scared though: there’s a huge learning curve to doing this, and so many fiddly bits.

I’m pretty pleased with the outcome, though. I vaguely followed the directions, but some of them were needlessly overcomplicated, and some of the steps were just in the wrong order. If you look closely, you’ll notice that this is just the front panel of the finished stocking; I’m saving the actual container part until I have the other three front panels complete.

So this was terrifying, and I wasn’t sure I’d like it or be good at it, but in the end it was really satisfying. The next three should go much quicker. It’s the perfect 100 Thing.

#42: Find a New School for Lucy

When we moved out of Portland into the suburbs, we had a plan for commuting to Summa Academy, which was the absolute best school for Will that we could find in the area. But when he went to Sandhill, we had to decide whether it was the best school for Lucy.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.

It turns out that two miles from our new house is an absolutely amazing school. It’s called the Gardner School of Arts & Sciences, and it’s just perfect for her.

Here’s what the first day of school looked like, as well as some scenes from her classroom. The guy reading to them is the head of school. She wrote out some goals for her first semester in the first couple of weeks, and they’re so good.

The school also has an outstanding art program. Art isn’t just a class (although they have it as a class at least once a week), it’s infused into almost everything they do.

They also go on lots of field trips. They went to the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center where they got a private tour. They had such a great time that they went past schedule, and didn’t arrive back home until an hour after school normally lets out.

And the performances. In November they put on a concert with patriotism as a theme, and did a fantastic job. In December they hold what’s called a “culminating event,” where every classroom puts on a play that they write, direct, and perform themselves. Lucy’s class had been studying the Lewis and Clark expedition all year, so their play was a reenactment of many of the more dramatic scenes.

We’re now convinced that this is the best possible school for Lucy. She’s always been one to bloom wherever she’s planted, but here she’s positively thriving. She’s able to stretch herself, she can really apply her brightness in satisfying ways, and she’s making great friends. Super happy with this place.

#95: Becky – Road Trip with Dad (part 2)

Continued from part oneThis is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge; here’s the full list.

Note: there’s a full map down at the bottom, and be sure to click on the images!

Day Six: Manila, UT to Vernal, UT (146 miles)

We left the trailer behind to go on a scenic drive through the Ashley National Forest, suggested by our campground host. After we got back, we hitched up the trailer and hit the road. We stopped for some amazing views of the Flaming Gorge, and found snow!

We kept driving through the forest until we reached Vernal. We dropped the trailer there, and drove to Dinosaur National Monument. Our first stop was the Quarry Hall, which is basically a room built (with remarkable foresight in 1916) around a wall of bones. Super cool.

We picked up a map, and visited lots of fun stops along the road further into the park. We ended up at the Josie Morris Cabin, and hiked up Hog Canyon. We talked at length about zombie apocalypse fortifications and unfair water rights. That’s just the kind of people we are.

Soundtrack: Eating on the Wild Side, an audiobook about produce. Yes, really.

Day Seven: Vernal, UT to Montrose, CO (223 miles)

My dad actually went to the local temple the night before, but he wanted a photo in daylight, so we made a stop before leaving town.

Today was a day with a lot of mountains, and dad was super worried about the pass. I made the mistake of installing an altimeter app on my phone, and he must have asked for our altitude at least a hundred times during the climb.

We grabbed lunch at a really good pizzeria/pub in Fruita, and discovered a dinosaur and a penny-farthing. Having caught the bug for public art, dad bravely parked in downtown Grand Junction so we could go see the buffalo made of chrome bumpers.

Next we drove up into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison national park, and checked out the campground. There were no hookups, so I vetoed, but the canyon was fascinating. We stopped at the visitor center and watched the movie, and went to the overlooks. The story here is very cool. Photos don’t even begin to do it justice. We found a KOA in Montrose that was up to my standards, and got set up for the night.

Soundtrack: more produce.

Day Eight: Montrose, CO to Mancos, CO (212 miles)

Today we drove up through Telluride, which was incredibly gorgeous. I made my dad stop a lot of times on the side of the road. The drive to our next campground was short, but we spent the rest of the day at Mesa Verde, touring Step House. So amazing. While we were there, dad bought tickets for a guided tour two days later in a different part of the park. More on that later.

Back to the campground, where we actually spent three nights. This is where the time went that would have been spent in Yellowstone.

Soundtrack: still produce.

Day Nine: Train Trip to Silverton (153 miles)

A few days earlier, my dad was surfing the internet, and he turned to me and said, “do you want to do this really cool train ride? I’ll buy the tickets!”

I replied, “Okay, but this is on you. You plan everything.” And he did. We drove to Durango to catch the train, which was a rickety, historic monstrosity. We sat on that thing for 3½ hours, clack-clacking up the mountain, where we spent a freezing hour in Silverton (where most of the shops were closed for the season), and then another 3½ hours back down the mountain. The views were gorgeous. My dad really enjoyed making his way through the cars talking to people. I made it through almost an entire audiobook (My Mad Fat Diary). When we got off, dad said “Wow, that was really worth it.”

Day Ten: Mesa Verde (62 miles)

We got up early for our second day at Mesa Verde, and drove the 90 minutes out to Balcony House. On the way, I noticed that dad had bought tickets to the “adventure tour” without realizing it, and part of the tour included crawling through a very tight tunnel. Small tunnels are in the top 3 things I’m terrified of, so in the midst of having a panic attack, I looked up videos of people going through the tunnel to trick myself into believing that I’d be okay.

The tour itself included a ton of wooden ladders to climb the side of cliffs, which didn’t bother me at all (heights aren’t on my list). The structures were super cool, the history is really fascinating, and the whole tour was really neat. I did end up making it through the tunnel, and dad took at least eight pictures of my butt. You only get to see one.

After the tour, we visited a lot more in the area, drove to different scenic spots, and spent a ton of time in the really robust visitor center. Then we drove back to spend a final night in the trailer together.

Soundtrack: more produce, and the sounds of other people surviving the tunnel.

Day Eleven: Mancos, CO to Albuquerque, NM (239 miles)

This was to be the last day of the road trip, and I neglected to take a single photo the entire drive. We found our Airbnb, and dad parked himself so close to the computer screen I had to capture the moment (you may also notice that this is a self portrait).

Ben arrived around 1:30 in the morning, and after a short night we drove down to Los Lunas to see Will! Dad got the full Sandhill tour, and we hiked Tomé Hill together. Then dad continued on his journey, headed northeast to Wisconsin, and after spending a few days with Will I flew home with Ben. My own bed felt amazing.

Soundtrack: we finished the produce book, and listened to a few episodes of Surprisingly Awesome.


(If you can’t see the map, click here.)

#95: Becky – Road Trip with Dad (part 1)

It’s no big secret how much I love road trips with lots of rules. What you may not know is that I learned everything I know from the master road tripper himself, my dad. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and throwing us all in the van and going exploring was inexpensive and satisfying for him. I didn’t set foot on an airplane until I was 20.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.

Over the course of this sad summer, my dad and I spent lots of time together watching over my mom, and in that the idea for a long road trip was born. Dad had spent several years planning and preparing to spend his retirement years exploring the US, and now his road-trip partner wasn’t going to be there with him. I also know that my dad will be way more likely to follow through if he has someone to oblige to, so I told him I’d be his buddy for this one. He spent hours poring over atlases, trying out phone apps, and taking notes. He needed this distraction during the long slownesses of my mom’s steady decline.

Mom passed away in late August. The entire month of October was clear for me, and we both knew that dad was going to need to get away by then, so the plan was on. Dad was also worried about weather (our route actually changed a lot while we were on the road). We did a practice run in September, worked out all the kinks, nailed down our route, and chose the campgrounds we planned to stay at. We were ready.

I should mention that the primary rule of roadtrips is no freeways. We stay on backroads and regional highways as much as possible. My dad takes this rule so seriously that he apologized to me for 5 solid minutes when at one point we were forced to take an interstate for a couple of miles!

Note: if you want to see our route on a map, scroll to the bottom!

Another note: The little collage view doesn’t do the photos justice. But you can click on them and go through the slideshows!

Day One: Washougal, WA to Lewis & Clark Trail State Park, WA (242 miles)

We began on Saturday, October 1, at dad’s house in Washougal. We had found an app called Roadside America (“Your Guide to Offbeat Tourist Attractions”), and were determined to mark of as many as we could along our route. In White Salmon was our very first opportunity: the Bavarian clock tower on city hall! We had a fantastic lunch, and started our habit of buying enough so we could eat leftovers for dinner. Another Roadside America stop: Sam Hill’s Stonehenge, near Maryhill.

Soundtrack: we started our first audiobook: Rabid. It’s about rabies, and it was in turns fascinating and disgusting.

We arrived at our stopping point for the day at Lewis & Clark Trail State Park, which has no spots with hookups. It was then that we discovered that the propane heater didn’t work! That night was cold.

Day Two: Lewis & Clark Trail State Park, WA to Hamilton, MT (315 miles)

We found some metal sculptures on the side of the road near Petaha. My dad is a good sport.

We visited Costco in Lewiston for picnic supplies and waaaay too much San Pellegrino soda. We both managed to forget our smoothie blenders, so we picked up another one, and had smoothies for breakfast every day for the rest of the trip.

Turns out my dad lived in Lewiston as a kid, so he shared a bunch of stories that I’d never heard. Like the one where his family lived in an abandoned church for a while(!). While stopping for gas, I picked up some Spud Bites, which triggered a wave of nostalgia for him. He ate most of them.

After a lovely picnic lunch along the river, we visited the Lolo Pass visitor center and hiked the interpretive trails. We came down the other side into Montana, and set up camp for the night in Hamilton. This campsite had hookups.

Soundtrack: still rabies (the audiobook is 8 hours long). Evening entertainment: started on The Great British Bake Off, which became something of an obsession.

Day Three: Hamilton, MT to Ennis, MT (241 miles)

Darby is an adorable little town, and as we drove through I saw these funky statues and shouted at my dad to stop! He’s such a good sport. Stretching our legs along the old-timey main street, we came across a gigantic candy shop, and we bought way too much.

The highlight of this day was Bannack State Park. When it was donated to the state, the provision was that only structural stabilization could be done, no Disney-fication. We got a map, and were just allowed to wander through these decaying 1860s houses that had barely been touched since then. We later found out that the hotel is famous for being haunted. It felt weird, and we found ourselves whispering a lot. Utterly fascinating, so glad we stopped.

At this point, finding campsites became routine. We even started looking for KOAs. I googled ahead of time to make sure our planned destination was (a) open during this time of year and (b) had hookup sites. Several plans changed because of this.

This was the night when we had to decide not to go to Yellowstone, where we had planned to spend three nights. A giant snowstorm had just blown through, and we had the trailer to worry about. So the rest of this trip was planned on the fly.

Soundtrack: still rabies. Entertainment: still British Baking, and I’m going to stop mentioning it because that’s what we watched every night.

Day Four: Ennis, MT to Garden City, UT (313 miles)

We took a detour to go see Mesa Falls – my dad and I can’t resist geological formations that are right off the highway. Frostop is another Roadside America find, an iconic giant-root-beer sign with a burger joint attached. We had burgers and root-beer floats.

Next stop: the Teton Geotourism Center (also via Roadside America), which ended up being reasonably interesting – more interesting than the name would suggest. And it was free! And, in the same town, there’s a giant potato/drive-in theater! (By this time, my dad was getting really good at quickly pulling the truck-and-trailer over when I hollered.) Further along, we spotted the world’s largest elkhorn arch. It really is magnificent.

This night’s KOA had a giant slide. We made it a habit every morning and evening to wander whatever trails the campground had, so you’ll occasionally see random photos of us just strolling around.

Soundtrack: more rabies. Almost done.

Day Five: Garden City, UT to Manila, UT (200 miles)

We started the day with a pickup-only circumnavigation of Bear Lake, which is where we found the shoe house. It’s a regular-sized actual house, and our biggest question was “why?” There’s no story to be found on the entire Internet, we have no idea how this thing came to be.

We decided to head into Fossil Butte National Monument, and we had an intensely cold picnic. There was a 2½-mile trail just off the picnic area, and we thought it would be a perfect excuse to stretch our legs, take in the scenery. You can see what happened in the photos below (start with this one) – we saw the dark clouds gathering, and then we were caught in a surprise snowstorm!

We hustled back to the truck, and drove to Little America and found a penguin! Neither of us had been here since 1987 (when the ice cream cones were 25¢) but we managed to recreate a photo from back then.

By the way, we started and ended this day in Utah, but spent most of our time in Wyoming and Idaho. We were only barely in Utah.

(If you don’t see the map, click here.)

Continued in part two.

Second Annual BDB Weekend

My cousin Debbie lives in Renton, and I hardly see her. My friend Becky lives in Hillsboro, and I hardly see her. They both know each other from way back, and hardly see each other. Last year, to combat this problem, we started a tradition. We meet somewhere neutral, and spend a weekend exploring a new little place.

This time we found a perfectly adorable house on the shore of Summit Lake, near Olympia. Mostly we just talked. And relaxed. And ate. It wasn’t until Saturday that we went adventuring.

We hiked the Mima Mounds Trail, which had really unique scenery. Then we hiked a trail through the Capitol Forest. Both were great. We got caught singing by other hikers, but they were good sports about it.

Sunday we spent eating tacos, and walking around Capitol Lake in downtown Olympia, before all having to head back to our homes and responsibilities.

We are already dreaming of next September together ❤

#9: Read a Parenting Book

We treat parenting like a skill. True, there’s some talent involved, and some personalities are more suited to it than others (much like woodworking or acting), but it’s also something that you can get better at.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2016 challenge. Here’s the full list.

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So we read books. In the past we’ve read books on reading and happiness, so this year we focused on money. The Opposite of Spoiled focuses on how to teach kids about money, so that they won’t be clueless or have bad habits when they grow up. Some of this we had already been exposed to (from Rich Dad Poor Dad and other sources), but much of it was new territory. Some tips I picked up:

Don’t make money a taboo subject. Tell your kids how much money you make, and where it all goes. This will nudge you into being a good example with regards to saving and charity, but also opens the door for them to ask questions and get answers. Remember to teach them about politeness, though – only look into your neighbor’s bowl to make sure they have enough.

Give them an allowance. Kids need a chance to practice making decisions with a limited budget. Advise them on purchases, but let them make the final decisions. If they want to blow it all on candy and not save up for a video game, that’s their choice.

…but start them off with good habits. Becky grew up with half of her allowance automatically being diverted into a savings account, and that habit has served her well in adulthood. We’ve carried this forward with our kids, and they love seeing how much they’ll have to put towards a car or something big in the future.

Use tools. We can’t recommend FamZoo enough. It’s like “Mom and Dad Community Credit Union,” but with a website and automation. You can set up allowances for kids with amounts based on their age, with automatic splits into savings and spending. For older kids they offer debit card accounts too.

We learned a lot from this book, and we’ll probably read it again after a while, just to make sure we’re doing the right things at every age. If you’ve never thought about how your kids think about money, this book is a fine place to start.

 

Dorothy Irene Jenson

We are sad to announce the passing of our wife and mother, Dorothy Jenson. She died peacefully in her home on Sunday, August 21, 2016 at the age of 61 due to advanced stage cho­lan­gio­car­ci­noma, a rare form of bile duct and liver cancer.

Dorothy touched many lives through her work as an artist, through her lifetime of service in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and all those who knew her as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, niece, aunt, neighbor and friend.

A memorial service honoring Dorothy’s life was held on Tuesday, August 23, at 11:00 am at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint meeting house located at 14340 Donovan Road, Oregon City, Oregon 97045.

Dorothy loved flowers and the outdoors, which was celebrated at the memorial. She would ask that you paint a picture, take a walk with a loved one, or read a book to a child in her memory.

We appreciate and welcome the sharing of memories and photos.

With gratitude for her life and legacy,

The Ken Jenson Family