Monday, July 29, 2013

Happy Campers

Not to be all braggy, but I kinda feel like we're kicking Summer's ass this year.

Our latest adventure was a gorgeous camping trip to the beach with Dash's best friend & his family:

There were four kids in all--Dash, his best friend, Will, and Will's sisters, Samantha & Lucy. They spent nearly every daylight moment swimming or digging for sand crabs or boogie boarding.

Speaking of boogie boarding, lookit who was riding some serious waves after about three minutes of trying.

The kid couldn't get enough. He and his father have the same ability to stay in the water long after they've lost feeling in their limbs.

Number one lesson learned: wear a rash guard. Poor kid was bright red and in pain the entire next day from rubbing his soft little belly on the sandy board for hours.

Best bros.

After the sun started to go down, we jammied up the kids, and they continued to play on the beach until we called them for dinner.

Eventually it was time for tacos (chicken, steak and shrimp--we may be sleeping out of doors but we're not animals), followed by three types of s'mores (regular milk chocolate, Reese's cups & dark chocolate with sea salt) and a rousing game of charades with another, third, family that we befriended at the campsite.

The next morning the kids joined a Junior Ranger tour of a local lifeguard station...

...and saw a giant crab on the beach. That was about all the excitement we could handle in one weekend, so we headed home.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Since I was too much of a puss to join the boys on their zipline adventure, I asked Josh to write about it. Below are his thoughts on the adventure.


When I was younger, I was what you would call "the opposite of a risk taker." I was timid and painfully shy and afraid of pretty much everything. My mom's leg--to which I spent much of my youth attached--would back me up on this, but of course we all know legs can't talk so you'll just have to believe me.

Anyway, when I became a parent back in ought-six, I was determined to encourage my child to always be curious, try new things, and leave Mommy's legs alone (since we all know she has a hard enough time staying on her feet!). While up to this point he has definitely been more adventurous than I ever was (or maybe even am), every now and again genetics rear their ugly head and he gets sheepish and tries to climb back into the womb (which is really awkward when Liz isn't around). So when we got on the bus in Ketchikan to go to the Bear Creek Zipline Adventure, I had no idea how he was going to react. 

At the top of the rainforest canopy, a group of about 20 of us were taken into a small room lined with helmets, harnesses, ropes and various other pieces of equipment we had never seen before. We were shown a brief video on how to hold the zipline trolley, how to position our legs while ziplining and what to do if we got stuck. During the 3-minute video, about every 6 seconds I'd say, "Did you get that? Did you understand it?" to Dash. Knowing that he's 7 and usually can't remember what he had for lunch on any given day, I wanted to make sure he was paying attention. After the video, they started strapping us into our gear. I could tell Dash was nervous, so I kept trying to pump him up--mostly so he wouldn't notice that I was just as nervous.

But there wasn't much time for nerves, as we were quickly led out of the equipment room and up a small set of stairs to the first “practice” zipline, which was maybe 50 feet long. I knew once we got onto that next platform, there was no turning back. 

When we got there, Dash announced that he wanted to go before me. As Missy (one of our guides) was hooking him up to the line, she said, "Are you good at standing on your tippy toes? We usually don't have people as small as you out here so you'll have to stretch to get your line hooked onto the trolley." My heart leapt into my throat as I started to wonder if we'd made a huge mistake. After all, Dash was the youngest person out here by at least 12 years and he had barely met the height requirement.  

The next thing I knew, this happened:

When I reached the platform a minute later, Dash was grinning from ear to ear and said his screams were just "for effect." 

By the time we got to the third line, everyone was relaxed and having a good time. I went down first and readied the camera to catch Dash coming in. And then my worst nightmare came true (OK, not my WORST nightmare, but still):

You could probably hear it in my voice (unless that's how I always sound, for which I apologize), but I was--how should I say--fairly concerned that when Dash first started sliding backwards he was going to lose his shit. But you probably figured out from his playful banter, the kid was having the time of his life. In that brief two-minute span while he was dangling high above the Alaskan rain forest, he exhibited traits I've strived for my whole life: he was calm, poised, and confident. In the 7+ years I've known him, I've never been more proud. 

And it wasn't a one-time event. He got stuck again on a longer line and once again was able to pull himself (almost) completely back to the platform, needing help from Palmer (our other guide) only at the very end.

We got medals!

I knew this was going to be a fun bonding experience for my son and me, but it turned out to be much bigger. Something rose to the surface inside Dash on this day, and it wasn't just "cruise courage" (I just made that up, trademark pending). Ever since that moment on Zipline #3, Dash has found a new confidence that I hope will serve as a reminder to him that he can do anything as long as he believes in himself, 150-foot drop into the rain forest be damned!

As we were getting off the bus back at the Grand Princess, one of our fellow zipliners gave Dash a friendly nod and then turned to me and said, "He was a giant today."

And he was.

If you want to see the entire experience in less than 5 minutes, I posted a video here.

P.S. I didn’t even mention the 300-foot suspension bridge we had to cross, the rappelling down from the last platform or the 250-foot mountain slide. It was a big day for the Engel boys!

P.P.S. In case you’re interested, this life-changing experience was made possible by Alaska Canopy Adventures.  And if you go, ask for Palmer and Missy and tell ‘em Dash sent you!

Friday, July 19, 2013


A few months ago I was apparently ravaged by a fever or a temporary insanity or something. While I was out of my mind, I made the suggestion to my husband, who should have known that I was in the grips of lunacy, that we ought to run a 10K. And rather than laugh and press a cool compress to my head, my beloved sent me a list of races and told me to pick one. Still in the throes of my disordered thinking, I suggested we run on July 14, our 11th wedding anniversary and just 4 days after we returned from our cruise, aka the Eatin' Boat.

Now, you should know that I am not a natural runner. I never get faster, I never get that euphoria they talk about. I never feel like I could "just keep running." I run because I want to use my feet for something other than pedicures and because I want to assert dominion over my limbs, not because I'm good at it or anything.

So anyway, when we signed up for the 10K, I had never run further than 5K (3.1 miles). By the time we left for our cruise, I had never run further than 4 miles. Though I ran nearly every day on a treadmill on the ship, by the time we got home I had never run further than 4.5 miles.

Yup, we became those people who use the gym on vacation. Of all the things I never thought we'd become, that was pretty much at the top of the list.

And on the morning of the race I still had never run further than 4.5 miles. But you know what? I did it. With the inspiration of my amazing husband and the cheering of strangers who were kind enough to shout encouragement at the runners, I made it. I ran more than 6 miles, and I wasn't the slowest. Matter of fact, I was kind of near the middle of the pack.


A 10K runner.

Truly, anything is possible.

Our first 10k, God help us.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


You guys. We went on a cruise. To Alaska. And I almost don't know what to say about it because it was so incredibly beautiful and amazing and relaxing and breakthrough-y. I had so many favorite parts, starting with the fact that there was an ice cream bar. Where you could get a swirl cone with sprinkles for free, day or night. That fact is coupled closely with my second-favorite part--watching all the little kids at the pool get progressively fatter over the course of ten days. It was pretty adorable, seeing all those skinny little kids grow old-man paunches that would just kinda flap over their bathing suit bottoms. (The less said about my own 5-lb weight gain, despite near-daily treadmill runs and breakfasts consisting mainly of plain yogurt with muesli, the better.) (Might have been the dinners followed closely by second dinners. Then desserts followed closely by second desserts.) (Also, the chardonnay started at about 2pm each day and ended at around bedtime.)

Anyway, here are way, way too many pictures because I am many things, but a minimalist ain't one.

Because we would sail from San Francisco, we drove up a day early so we could take Dash to John's Grill. Dash is named after Dashiell Hammett, who set the Maltese Falcon there. Josh and I ate there before Dash was born, and I think it was partly what inspired his name.

Poor Josh choked down what tasted like a glass of iced Robitussin just to get the souvenir glass. Way to take one for the team, Zubs!

Dash tagged the paper tablecloth before we left.

We arrived in San Francisco just a couple of days after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA & Prop 8, so the entire city was festooned in rainbow flags. I can't tell you how happy Josh & I were to be able to explain why to Dash.

Here's Dash about to board the ship. It's funny, you wander through this huge, empty warehouse before getting on the ship, so you're even more unprepared than you should be for the splendor that awaits you on the other side of the gangplank.

We got to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge!

At our first stop in Ketchikan, Josh and Dash headed off an a zipline excursion while I stayed behind like a sane person.

They got matching sweatshirts because they are the world's most adorable badasses.

Josh woke up at 5am one morning to see a glacier. I decided that Dash & I would rather sleep than stand on a freezing deck in the cold Alaska morning air looking at ice. I was right about me. I was wrong about Dash. Sorry, Dash!

Here's what he would have seen if I were a better mother.

Dash, working on his cruise gut.

When Dash wasn't eating, he was mostly swimming.

Or playing ping pong.

Dudes. I read a book. An entire book! In less than two months!

Wanna see another picture of my feet? OK!

Hi! I thought I had lost my Ray Ban glasses before the cruise, so I quick ordered a new pair from Warby Parker. They're my most favorite glasses ever, and they cost less than half what the Ray Bans cost. Plus they give away a free pair of glasses every time you buy a pair (like Toms does with shoes), so it's almost like a I did a good deed! Almost.

Ice cream in Juneau.

Apparently this place is famous? We ate there and it was fine. But they do have a drink called a Duck Fart and when you ask how they make a Duck Fart they say "you squeeze him," so that was worth the trip.

They also let you carve your name into their wood railings. (Dash got his very first pocket knife earlier in the trip, in Icy Strait Point, so he was eager to do some vandalism.)

The child insists on buying squished pennies whenever he sees a machine. And then we never see them again. Do you think he's eating them? Trading them for drugs? Or Kit Kats?

See? Duck Fart.

Oooh, pretty.

Our stateroom steward was the world's nicest human. Every night at turndown, he would arrange Dash's Puss, Cuddles & Nana (and later William the Penguin, our newest family member) in a different way. One night we returned from dinner to find he'd made Dash a pengin out of a towel. We named him Penguini (like Linguini) and brought his ass home with us.

There's William!

Here are Dash & Josh standing in front of a sign that reads, "Icy Strait Point."

We each got a wood chip to burn in the community fire, which was a lovely welcome.

Dash took that shit pretty seriously.

Totem pole!

Another totem pole!

Our second excursion was in Victoria, BC. We went on the world's greatest pirate adventure.

They learned pirate dances and songs, solved a mystery and found some pirate treasure.

Dash got his first tie on the ship. He was so incredibly proud to wear it (with his skull shirt) on formal dinner night.


All right. Now let's move on to the gluttony portion of this post, shall we?


After a while we got tired of having to go out for second dinner, so Josh just started doubling up. Here he's rocking the pork chop and shrimp. Because we are excellent Jews.

Dash developed a weird affinity for alphabet soup on the cruise. So we obviously had to stick our fingers in there to spell things out.

Did you know this about me? That I steal spoons from happy occasions? If I was at your wedding I stole a spoon. This one's from the cruise ship.

In conclusion.