Saturday, April 19, 2014

Shorebird Festival

The annual Shorebird Festival is next weekend! If you've never been, you are definitely missing out on one of the best local events we have around here. We are lucky to live in a major migratory path for many species of birds, and to be able to see them in their natural habitat.

Starting on Friday, there are all sorts of events and guided tours starting at Hoquiam High School. I'm not so sure that my children are up for a lecture on birding, but on Saturday and Sunday there will be a "Fun Fair", starting at 9am and lasting until 4pm. They will be offering several art activities for children to get their hand dirty and learn about the local birding environment.

Of course, the whole point of the festival is to see the birds.Thousands of birds take a rest in Bowerman Basin during their migration north. At the edge of Bowerman peninsula is The Sandpiper Trail. It's completely flat trail, and while not long for adults, smaller children may get tired before reaching the end.

During the festival, you can park at Hoquiam High School and catch a shuttle to the trail. Parking during the festival can be limited and kids love the ride the bus! A dollar per person donation is suggested. After the festival, parking at the trail head is not a problem.

At the trail head is the information board and a porta-potty. The hike starts with a long walk down a driveway for several airplane storage sheds. On our previous visits, seeing the small planes brought as much excitement as spotting the different birds. At the end of the driveway is another porta-potty and the start of the boardwalk.

Along the boardwalk are several viewing points out into the basin and water. At one point, there is stationary binocular viewer. However, it's hard for kids to use and will probably have a long line during the festival. I recommend bringing your own. Before heading out, you might want to talk about how not to scare birds; at least I had to have one with my two. There are professional photographers and serious birdwatchers with large telephoto lenses set up along the trail to get those close up shots. Keep an eye your runners; hand holding may be a good thing to insist upon. The entire walkway takes about 2 hours when walking with kids. If you bring snacks or water bottles, be prepared to walk out with them. There are no garbage cans on the trail. I recommend keeping an eye on kids while they eat. It can be windy with gusts that surprise - if anything goes flies away, you won't be able to step off the boardwalk to get it.

The weather can change quite quickly. Bring a rain coat, but be prepared to carry it. Either one is possible, maybe both, during your walk.

The best time to view all the birds is during high tide. (This will also be the most crowded time). During the festival, high tide will be around mid-day, so anytime between 10am to 2pm is your best bet for viewing the most number and variety of birds.

For the more serious bird watching families, there are field trips to other watching areas around the Harbor. You can find more information on the Festival website.

If you decide to drive out to the trail, take Paulson Rd. off of HWY 109 (Emerson St.) to get to Airport Rd. As you drive on Paulson Rd. take a look the power poles along the road - one has a very large nest at the top, holding the type of bird you don't get to see very often outside TV.

Friday, April 11, 2014


We are on our final day of Spring Break. It's been nice to have a leisurely breakfasts and watch my children fight play together all day.

In honor of the sunshine we've had over the past few days, we decided to check out PolarBerry! If you haven't heard, it's a new frozen yogurt shop on the Harbor. Located across the parking lot from Staples in the Olympic Gateway Plaza, it's super hip. Purple tables and white stools, with a tiled bank of yogurt machines. My kids stared at it's fresh glory for a full minute.

When you walk in, a staff member greets you to explain the process of getting your yogurt. This isn't your usual yogurt place! Select a cup color (the colored cups are all the same size). Then walk over to the bank of frozen yogurt dispensers. There were 8 different flavors offered when we went and some tough choices had to be made. Put your cup under the spout and pull the lever. It kinda transported me back to my high school days of working at the drive-in restaurant. Luckily, pulling a cone of ice cream is like riding a bike - you never forget.

After getting our frozen yougurt, walked over to the toppings bar. Squeals of excitement ensued when mom said "yes, you can choose what you want". Soon thereafter, I limited it to 4 toppings. Otherwise, we would have been there all night. There is a large selection of fresh fruit, candies, nuts and sauces.

As you can tell by the smiles, it was good!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Razor Clamming with Kids

So. You read that there is an approve clamming dig out at the beach. You think to yourself, this sounds like fun! And outdoorsy! And educational! The trifecta of family activity. (Clam digs are approved only on certain days, at certain times, at certain beaches. Check first!) What's next? Before you even hit the beach, you need a fishing license. In fact, anyone over the age of 15 must have a license. Kids under 15 can dig "a limit" (currently 15 clams) without one. Order a license online or purchase from a local store,

You need equipment right? Well, sort of. Really, all you really need is a shovel and something with which to carry your clams. It's more difficult without specialized clamming tools, but not impossible. There are specialized shovels made for clamming and some people will say that this is the only way to clam. These are traditionalists or as I like to call them, 'wet'. We are unrepentant 'clam gun' users. This is basically a large tube with a handle. It's easier - especially if you're trying to keep an eye on small children at the same time. With a couple of old buckets, you are almost ready to hit the beach.

Digs are held during low tide, either in the evening or morning. As a parent, I really recommend digging during the daylight hours. With almost no ambient light, the beach is really dark. Managing everything, plus small children in the dark? That doesn't sound even slightly fun. Weather reports are useless. Prepare for the worst. Bring extra clothing, extra socks, rain jackets, heavy jackets, extra shoes, heck - extra underwear. Digging is wet, sandy and chilly. Pack some blankets to wrap kids up in for the ride home. If you never use them, great. If you need them, you will be thankful for the extras.

Clamming tide
Once you're on the beach, walk down to the water and start looking for 'shows'. These are basically dimples in the sand that 'show' where something dug down into the sand.

from WDFW
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has a great page describing how to dig for clams using a clam shovel or clam gun. According to regulations, kids can dig with "assistance" - this means, you can use the clam gun and have them search the tube of sand you pull out for the clam, or putting the clam in the bucket or at least, carrying the bucket off the beach. If your child is too young to do any of these, they are too young to count as a 'clammer'.

carrying the bucket of clams
Don't be afraid to ask other 'clammers' for help or advice. Most are happy to share their knowledge.

NEVER turn your back on the ocean waves when digging (or walking) ! Rogue waves are not uncommon. The current is very strong and the water is VERY cold. A child who gets caught in a wave will succumb to the coldness very fast and the current will pull them away faster than you can think. Not kidding.

Cleaning clams is not very hard, but is necessary. Step by step instructions are on the WDFW website. If you're camping in the area, you can also ask a neighbor for help. Again, most are more than happy to show you and you can make a new friend!

Once the clams are cleaned, they're ready for the fryer or soup pot! Yum!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Easter Eggs

I don't know about you, but this last Easter date has me all confused about what is what and where and when... Don't get me wrong, I am excited that it might be above 40 degrees for the holiday, but it just feels like I've got time, but I don't have time to do stuff.

Anyhow, the community egg hunts are coming!

The biggest on the Harbor, and maybe most crowded, is at Olympic Stadium on April 17th. Kids are split into age groups and parents are not allowed to help. This doesn't mean that your child is off running around the stadium without you, however. Past experiences have found moms and dads coaching as they walk behind their younger children. The older ones appear to be a free-for-all, but appearances can be deceiving. Yes, there are children (and parents) for whom the egg hunt is a competition to the death and walk off with an overflowing, pockets stuff extra-large bucket of eggs. We just avoid them and there has always been plenty of eggs for everyone.

I won't lie - I've been known to tell my children that there was no egg hunt at the stadium in years where I knew I would have to go by myself. Split age groups and large crowds make me nervous, when it's my children. I will also admit to being a bit of a nervous nellie, not fond of crowds in general and that I've never heard of anything bad having happened at the stadium egg hunt.

There is another large egg hunt at the County Fair Grounds. Co-sponsored by the VFW and County Fair Grounds on April 19th, they have prize eggs and lots of fun!

The Lions Club in Cosmopolis is also holding an egg hunt on April 19th in the afternoon.

UPDATE:  There is another Egg Hunt schedule for April 15th, 6pm @ Central School Playfield in Hoquiam! I just happened to pass a flier this morning, so here it is!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Kindergarten Registration is coming up!

It's that time of year again and if you have a four or five year old, you've known it's coming for awhile. Then again, you may be thinking to yourself, "wait! when did my child get that old?!" Or if you're like me, you're experiencing both on alternating days.

Either way, it's a law. Sort of. They do have to go to some sort of school at some point in time. If your child turns five before Aug. 31 this year, they are eligible for kindergarten. You don't have to - in fact, in our state, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, children don't have to enroll until age 8. Eight seems a tad old to be sitting in a first grade class, but it's an option.

In kindergarten, a lot of parents choose to wait until their child is six. I've done exhaustive research on this subject. By "research", I mean that I've talked to everyone who will listen and probably annoyed more than a couple of people. It boils down to this - if you are questioning as to whether you child is ready for school, they probably aren't.

Case in point, I had no reservations about registering my oldest child for school. She skipped into the room on Orientation day, found her spot and proceeded to order me around for the next hour. She was in her element.

With my youngest child, cue hand wringing and angst. Having a summer birthday, he'd be a younger student. He's also very active and listening is not his strongest skill. Neither is following directions. For example, after the second day of soccer, he told me that he didn't like it because the coach was always telling him what to do. Oy.

In my "exhaustive research", I finally found the clincher of advice that made the decision for me. A middle school PE teacher. This teacher told me that he could tell on the first day which boy had a summer birthday, just by watching all the student walk into the gym. The immaturity of the summer birthday boy was like a giant spotlight. Middle school is hard enough, socially. I can't imagine what the burden of immaturity would be like, but if memory serves, it wouldn't good. I knew that that would be my child if he enrolled at age five.

I chose to wait and the amount of growth I've seen in him is nothing short than amazing. I have to give credit to his Pre-K teacher as well, but he has shown a lot of growth over the school year. He's calmer, able to pay attention to others (still not to Mom), and interacts with peers on a much more socially appropriate level. I am confident that he is ready now.

It's pretty rare for registration information to be online in Grays Harbor - call the district directly to find out when days you can register your child. Links to phone numbers are just to the left on this page. There are usually several different registration sessions, and you can always register in the school's main office if you miss the registration sessions. You do need to bring a copy of your child's birth certificate, immunization record and possibly a utility bill to prove residence.

Monday, January 20, 2014

School Holiday!

 It's going to be cloudy today here on the Harbor, but not much rain! Are we lucky or what? That means we're heading out and about to get our adventure on!

If you're looking for something today you might try ->

~ Easy local kid hikes - hiking is not only good exercise, but it's usually technology free. That leads to great conversations.
~ Or if you want to include technology, try Geocashing! A worldwide treasure hunt, you get GPS co-ordinates to help you locate a prize. The prize isn't much more than bragging rights, but it is fun hunting.
~ Copalis Beach - this is my favorite beach with kids. The parking lot is close to the sand (but not on the sand), the bathrooms are right there and there is no car traffic. With little kids, the no car traffic is a big one for me. And the nearby Copalis River means there are lots of great places for digging "sand castles".

If you're not interested in going outside , you might try some Rainy Day activities.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


 For the first time in months, I got home before the sun came down! Isn't amazing how much of an energy boost you can get from walking in the the sun? Even if it's just for just a few minutes, it can completely rejuvenate your day. I think I might have to start going to for a lunch walk on sunny days.

Over the past few months, I've been nose to the grindstone for the day job. On the weekends, it's been nose to the grindstone to keep up on everything in the house and playing catch up on the day job. It's meant a lot of time indoors and a lot of time desperately trying to find a routine that would allow me to get everything done and failing miserably. I must prioritize and not forget that one of the priorities has been allowing me the time to work my own system. Even if that means that some people don't get what they want immediately. (Sound like a toddler you know? There are many who never grow out of that!)
Today I choose not to get it all done. Like Frost said, "and that has made all the difference."
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