Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Out of the Darkness

I've been thinking a lot about all this ice bucket hullabaloo and trying to decide how I feel about it. And I think one of the problems I'm having is that I feel like if you're going to donate to a cause, it should be one you feel strongly about. I have nothing against ALS research, and I know the disease is horrible, and it would be wonderful to find a cure. But I've decided that if I were to donate some of my limited funds, it would be to something I personally and truly want to raise awareness and funds for.

On top of all of this, I've been struggling with some thoughts about the questions raised with Robin Williams' suicide. The most important of which, I think, is trying to open a discussion on mental health.

Mental disorders are greatly stigmatized and misunderstood, that much is obvious. Nearly everyone knows someone who does or has suffered with depression. So the cause I would like to support is this:

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention holds an annual fundraising event that, to me, looks awesome. It's an overnight walk called "Out of the Darkness", which is intended to bring survivors of suicide or loss together, to let them know they are not alone, to raise awareness for mental health issues, and to raise money for prevention, education, and research.

I wish I could participate in one of these walks. Unfortunately, only two cities host them, and the donations are more than I can handle. But luckily for me (and you!), there are local Community Out of the Darkness walks that are much easier to participate in. There is no required donation or registration fee, and instead of 16-18 miles, you only walk 3-5. And it's during the day.

The one being held in Salt Lake City is being held on Saturday, September 13th at 10:45am.  That's two weeks from this weekend.

I have started a team for this walk, because this is very important and personal to me. If you could, I would love to have you and your family and friends participate in some fashion.  Our team's fundraising website can be found here.  The registration homepage (complete with event details) can be found here.

If you would like to join our team, when you register, simply select the team "C Lights" from the drop-down (the reason for picking that name I may save for another time). You can choose to just walk with us, donate, or both. Or, you can walk by yourself or create your own team.

I am very excited about this. I hope one day we can live in a world where suicide isn't stigmatized or romanticized; where people can feel safe in asking for help, where people can know that they are not alone in dealing with loss, or dealing with chronic mental illness.

There are lots of noble causes. But hopefully through this kind of awareness, no one will have to suffer silently from this anymore.

Hope to see you in Sugarhouse in a couple of weeks!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Antelope Island, or, "No, No! Too Many Flies!"

I recently made for myself what I'm calling my "Utah Bucket List". This isn't because I'm planning on dying in Utah; on the contrary, it's a list of stuff I want to do before I kick Utah's bucket. Or something. Basically I'm not living here forever, but there's some stuff I need to do before I go.

One of those things is to go to Antelope Island State Park in the Great Salt Lake (ps why do I have to call it "great"?). So yesterday, we asked my mom to watch Ros for the day, headed up to Adrien and Eric's house in Sandy, and carpooled with them up to the island!

That morning was the tail end of an arctic thunderstorm, so it was pretty cold (even snow in the mountains) and stormy. Pretty much by the time we got there though, things had cleared up, and by lunchtime it was almost hot, so that was lucky (although Sam and I dressed in layers so we could've survived an arctic storm, I say).

Anyway, after driving in on the causeway, we went to the Visitor's Center to get oriented. We talked to a friendly volunteer who told us even the shortest hike was very steep and required "technical skill," and told us a little about the bison on the island. We then looked at some of the Fremont artifacts they'd found on the island, and talked about how bizarre they were. We had questions (archaeology for the win), but there was nobody knowledgeable to ask. Oh well!

After that, we drove out to Buffalo Point on the northwest part of the island and looked out over the shore and some scattered "bachelor" bison.

We then started our first hike, a half-mile (one way) hike up to the top of the point. This is the one the lady said was treacherous and required technical skill, but it was actually super easy if you have good shoes and know how to walk. We spent some time sitting on a boulder at the top and looking out over the lake, which was an amazing view.

After that hike, we ate our picnic lunch and talked about what we wanted to do next. We decided to drive down to the historic Fielding Garr Ranch on the southeast part of the island and check that out, plus look for the actual herd of bison, which were supposedly hanging out down there.

We got down to the ranch (no bison herd, boo) and looked around. It was a "please touch everything as much as you want" kind of place, so we tried hitting hammers on anvils, using historic drill presses, lassoing fake cows, etc. The Fielding Garr ranch house is the oldest continually-occupied Anglo-built building on its original foundation in Utah, so that was pretty neat.

The rest of the time at the ranch we spent in the spring-fed forested area with our eyes to the treetops, looking for porcupines (sadly, none to be found). We did see some muscly guys with huge telephoto lenses on their cameras, and when I asked what they were looking for, they said, "a warbler." They were pretty funny.

After the ranch, we drove back up toward the north part of the island again, and this time we ran RIGHT into the bison herd! There were hundreds of them crossing the road, and whenever it cleared and we tried to pull forward, a couple more would freak out and run across to join their fellows. It was preeetty cool.

When the bison were done crossing, we drove up to Bridger Bay and decided to walk down to the shore. It turned out to be a pretty far walk, and almost like a hike because a lot of it was trudging through sand. I think we probably walked about 1/2 or 3/4 mile down to the shore.

Walking down there was sort of a bizarre experience, or as Adrien kept saying, "It feels like we're on another planet!" It really was kind of eerie.

First of all, there was this huge brown thing we could see on the sand even from a few miles away, something we though was too big to be a bison, but it turned out to be a giant metal buoy ball thing that was probably a fourth the size it looked from far away. So I guess all that space plays with perspective.

Then, suddenly, on our walk out, we started noticing there were dead birds in the sand/shale. Like, hundreds of them. It was incredibly creepy, and we have no idea how they got there. So of course I had to take pictures.

Right before we reached the water, we noticed that the ground was rippling the closer we got to the water. Eventually, we realized the ground was covered in FLIES! Zillions of them! And they would billow and ripple away from you as you walked through. It was seriously disgusting and creepy and bizarre. Sam and Eric has a good time walking through the flies and taking videos of them rippling away.

(Blogger won't let me post a video. Dumb. Maybe I'll put it on Instagram?)

We took some pictures down at the shore, and Adrien felt the need to taste the water (yes, after all those flies and dead birds), and determined that the Great Salt Lake is, indeed, salty.

After that we hiked back to the car and drove home. It was a pretty fun day of exploration, and I definitely want to go back to do the Frary Peak hike, which takes you up the mountain to where the bighorn sheep live. Who wants to go?

Also I just really like this picture. Sam was leading me through the flies to take the above posed picture:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It Is Of Some Use to My Volcanoes

A few days ago, before we left to go visit Sam's parents for the day, Sam's mom called us up and said something to the effect of "Bring your wellies up, we're going to be cleaning a hot pot!" 

Side note: a hot pot in Utah (and I think Idaho) is not a gathering of people eating Asian soup, it's actually a hot spring. Things I have learned, yay.

Anyway, the rumor was that a relative of a friend who has an old seasonal cabin down the street from where Sam's parents live in Midway wanted the place cleaned up, including a bite-sized geothermal caldera. These things are actually really common in Midway. The biggest one is the one at the Homestead where I learned how to SCUBA dive all those years ago. 

So in my mind, we were going to be cleaning mysterious doodads out of the sludge of one that was basically the same as the Homestead crater, though possibly waist-deep, and in someone's basement.

I don't know where I got the basement idea.

I had visions of the Little Prince cleaning his volcanoes.

When we got there, it was a little disappointing. It was mostly hidden by long grass, and we were responsible for chopping the grass off and raking it out.

Sam using a machete to cut grass

The cleared-out hot spring

View from below showing the travertine

We were doing all this in a thunderstorm, by the way, which made it more fun, although Rosalind got soaked (she never once complained, though. What a champ).

I had to stand in it to make my day feel fulfilled. The water was warm, but not hot, and the bottom was definitely sludgy.

While it took probabably 25 minutes to clean and was really not what I expected, it was still pretty fun.

Afterwards, we took a look at some of the other (bigger) mini craters nearby.

PSA: this post is brought to you in order to prove that my life can actually be interesting, and that I do still, in fact, have the capability to write about things other than babies.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Four Books I Should've Read Earlier

Yes, even I am getting a little tired of the fact that this blog seems to only be about babies these days.  I'm working on other stuff, I promise.  BUT.  I do have a few "listy" type posts that I need to get out there, if only for my own reasons.  This stuff is all opinion anyway, and I'm always open to debate and suggestion!

So.  When I was pregnant, I read a crankload of books, articles, posts, etc on pregnancy and labor.  I could give advice on reading material for those things until the cows come home.  But when I actually had a baby, I was totally lost.  Enter panic mode.  There were a couple of things that I expected, but Rosalind threw all my preconceived notions out the window (Flexibility? Ha! No pacifier? Ha!).  I got lots of advice, but not much of it seemed to fit my baby's oft-difficult personality.  So I decided to do more research for myself.  And I have to say, these four books are my opinion of the founding of a good library on child-rearing.  Obviously at this point, mostly for the baby years.  I'm sure other parenting books will come in handy the older kids get.

1. On Soothing: "The Happiest Baby on the Block" by Harvey Karp

I actually read this one before the baby was born, and good thing.  There are invaluable tips in here that will help (if even a little) with the fussiest baby.  Actually, I can't say that, because every baby is different.  I have a friend who had a fussy baby who hated being swaddled and wouldn't take a pacifier.  I know someone else who found that the only thing that would calm her baby was lying on his stomach-- nothing else.  Fortunately, I'd say most of these tactics worked for me, at some point or another.  At the very least, it's good to know them so you can try them, and if you don't know how to swaddle and want to know a little bit more about "The Fourth Trimester," then this book is worth reading.  I'd take most of the rest of the book with a grain of salt though, or just skip it and watch the DVD.

2. On Growth Spurts: "The Wonder Weeks" by Hetty van de Rijt & Frans Plooij

Covering the first 20 months of life, this book maps out the times when your baby has "mental leaps" or mental growth spurts.  I have found the information to be incredibly useful and reassuring, especially when there's extra screeching, crying, or impatience (on everybody's part).  It also has some ideas for activities and such to help develop the skills your baby is working on during a particular leap.  I definitely feel more understanding of Rosalind's unusual fussing if I can look at the book and be like, "Oh.  She's still developing a sense of object permanence, that's why she doesn't like it when I leave the room."  Or whatever.  There's also an app, but I like the book better, because it's way more informative and it has unintentionally hilarious things like a detailed description of how to play "This Little Piggy."

3. On Sleep: "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Marc Weissbluth

I've heard this one recommended by almost everyone lately.  And yet, somehow, I never got a hold of a copy until it was four months too late.  Reading it earlier could have saved me a LOT of heartache and frustration.  Rosalind was an extremely fussy newborn.  People were always reassuring me that she was fine, but she really wasn't.  She cried a lot more than I could handle, especially for the first three or four months.  Everyone blamed it on this or that, but once I read the Sleep Habits book, almost everything I'd been thinking was justified!  Not to mention her sleep and behavior have really evened out since we've been more stringent about naptime and bedtime.  It contains so much important information on how a child's sleep develops, how it affects the brain (and vice versa), and what you can do to help your baby get the best sleep.  My favorite part is that it's not one of those sleep-training books.  He mentions a few different common methods (and I think he has a preference), but he never says any way is "better" than another.  The point of the book is to help your baby get the sleep it needs so everyone is well rested.  And it's the best.  You really can't skip this one.  Bonus: it talks about sleep up through the teenage years, so it's good for really everyone.

4. On Introducing Food: "Baby-Led Weaning" by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett

Hold on, don't leave.  Even if you aren't interested in introducing solid food the way the book recommends, it still has the most up-to-date information on the baby's developing gut, being wary of food allergies, most important nutrients, etc.  There's even stuff on avoiding choking.  While some of the "testimonials" were a little self-righteous and made me roll my eyes, I found this book very interesting and informative.  We did decide to introduce solids this way, but I know people who have read the book and taken the information and still done it the traditional way.

I also want to recommend, if you have a smart phone, an app called "Knoala."

When some people hear me talking about this they say things like "Why in the world would you need that?"  But if you're like me, interacting with infants and children is so far from a no-brainer that in certain circles, it is embarrassing.  But if you ever need ideas on activities or interactives for kids, check out Knoala.  It's fun.

Do you have any other recommendations?  What kind of stuff should I read once Ros gets a little older?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Regarding Your Recent Foray

My mom has an online bookstore. She decided to rent a booth at the Salt City Steam Fest to sell in-person because she loves Steampunk stuff and because I don't know why. But I'm glad she did. 

Although business was slow, she more than paid for the booth rental, and talked to a lot of people about books. She was the only bookseller at the event, and the Steam Fest publicity people interviewed her for some news show thing or something that I couldn't find (sadly, their marketing and internet presence isn't very good). Bonus: someone who runs another convention in Utah hypothetically asked her to speak on a panel about Steampunk literature (or something) at their next conference! I hope that works out, because that would be really great for her.

Anyway, I had a good time. I love people-watching, and conventions like this are the perfect place for it. Seemingly "normal" people let their secret sides out and it's awesome. It's easy to get excited about random stuff when you're in that atmosphere. I dressed up *le gasp* (in a costume I threw together from stuff around the house), and even got a few compliments on my costume! Strange, since I wasn't really trying. 

I spent all day Friday helping out with the bookstore, then Sam and the baby and I went up for a few hours on Saturday to look around (Sam has never been to a Con before) and see Adrien, who was helping out that day, and who we rarely get to see these days. It was pretty fun.

We got Olive Garden for lunch the first day and Cafe Rio the second. For some reason the Steam Fest didn't sell any of their own food (big mistake, I say), so everyone was really jealous of our lunches. Drew the customers in maybe...

Our neighbors to our left were very friendly jewelers who had come all the way from Los Angeles. They had hip-hoppish Arabian music playing and twinkling lights, and were really nice. Here's a washed-out picture of the guy. He was there with his girlfriend or someone.

There were other really cool costumes. We saw a steampunk Iron Man:

And a guy with homemade hydraulic wings (very cool):

There was also a steampunk C-3PO:

And this crazy costume, which I overheard was a steampunk version of something from Resident Evil, but what do I know (by the way, I did not take these crummy pictures, this one was taken by Fox News, and I cannot believe they didn't get a full-body shot). He was wearing lifts so he was almost 7 feet tall, and had this skinny leather skirt thing on, and then this weird pyramidal...thing that he put on his head. I clearly know exactly who he was supposed to be.

Anyway, so some people fell into the "put a gear on it" category of being into the spirit of the thing, and others obviously did a really good job. I was surprised at how many middle-aged ladies apparently have secret lives as Neo-Victorians. 

I'll leave you with this guy who brought a velocipede:

If you feel so inclined, you can see the bookstore (in part, not everything is listed so she can better control inventory) here: