In which Graham comes to visit

My little brother Graham got back from Afghanistan in May and he’s on his way out of the Marines next month!

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Fresh off the plane

On his way to Tennessee, he and his friend Nick stopped by for a few days in Seattle. I feel like I’ve been practicing for his visit every time others came through and now we have the Seattle circuit just about perfected. We haven’t seen each other in over a year, since our grandmother’s 90th birthday in Nashville, so we had some catching up to do. Here’s what we accomplished:

Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park with the Seattle skyline and Space Needle across Lake Union.

The Fremont Troll under Aurora bridge

The Fremont Troll under Aurora bridge

Both Nick and Graham are in the 1st Marine Battalion - Engineers whose symbol is a castle. It took a lot of convincing for them not to steal it.

Both Nick and Graham are Marine Engineers whose symbol is a castle. It took a lot of convincing for them not to steal this from the Ballard Locks Engineers.

Ballard Locks

Fish ladder – Ballard Locks

Ballard Locks - in the Seattle rain

Ballard Locks – in the Seattle rain. At this point I don’t mind the misting, in fact, when a visitor comes I hope that it rains a little. I don’t want people thinking that I complain over nothing or that I’m lying about the meteorologic properties of this place.

Graham is going to hike the Appalachian Trail at some point in the next year or so, maybe even Nick will go with him. We visited the REI headquarters downtown so he could stock up on some gear and also bask in the outfitter wonderland that is that store. Naturally we needed to test out his new purchases out on a hike, and where better than Mount Rainier National Park? Unfortunately the Mountain was obscured on our drive down, so the boys couldn’t see her glory. We ended up going to an area in the northern end where I hadn’t been before to hike a trail called Green Lake.

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Graham and his new backpack – checking one National Park off the list. We stuffed it full with everything we could find in the car to simulate the real thing.

On the trail

On the trail – that is a fallen tree above Graham, they grow them big here.

Old growth forests, plenty of moss and waterfalls did not disappoint along the way.

Old growth forests, plenty of moss and beautiful waterfalls did not disappoint along the way.

Nick, Graham and I

Nick, Graham and I – Ranger Creek Falls

Green Lake - a little different from the Greenlake in Seattle we live near.

Green Lake – a little different from the Green Lake in Seattle we live near. A little more alpine-y and snowy.

It was about 10 miles up and back - a lakeside picnic broke up the trip.

It was about 10 miles up and back – a lakeside picnic broke up the trip.

Wubby and I.

Wubby and I post-hike in the valley 

On the way home, after stopping by the Carbon Glacier Distillery that was on the way from the trailhead, the clouds parted just as we were entering the city. I told the boys to look out the back window of the Jeep and there was stunned silence at the sight of Her. All day Graham had been joking that we should go to the top of Mount Rainier and I kept telling him that was impossible in May, but he hadn’t believed me. Now he did. It reminded me of my first glimpse when I was up in Seattle for the pedo interview so many years ago. She still takes my breath away – I swear one day I’ll wreck the car from staring at Her too much when I’m driving.

The next day we started playing tourists in my own city, starting with the Space Needle:

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View of the Mountain from the top.

View of the Mountain from the top. When I first went up in the Space Needle when I came out for the interview, there were clouds between it and downtown, so I had no idea there was even a huge-ass mountain yonder. Now I know that the Space Needle is not worth the $20 “airfare” unless it’s a clear day. We couldn’t have picked better weather for it though – 360 degree views from Mt. Rainier to Mount Baker to the Olympics, Sound and even our tiny Greenlake.

The boys enjoying the view.

The boys enjoying the view.

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To continue playing tourist in my own city, we took the Monorail downtown. For $2.50, it's worth it to get the 15 clocks downtown from the Needle.

To continue playing tourist in my own city, we took the Monorail downtown. For $2.50, it’s worth it to get the 15 blocks from the Needle. It was my first ride too. 

We started off in the Market with my favorite drinks - Rachel's Ginger Beer. I'd never actually been to the flagship store, we buy it at our local farmer's market (yes, I just hated myself a little for typing that), but it's super cute and they taste so refreshing - especially with rum!

We started off in the Market with my favorite drinks – Rachel’s Ginger Beer. I’d never actually been to the flagship store, we buy it at our local farmer’s market (yes, I just hated myself a little for typing that), but it’s super cute and they taste so refreshing – especially with rum!

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Then on to the Market itself.

Then on to the Market itself. Please note the ferry boat going across to Bainbridge.

We saw the trinkets, and watched the thrown fish.

We saw the flowers, and the thrown fish.

And took in views of Elliot Bay and the Cascades..

And took in views of Elliot Bay and the Olympics…

..and downtown with the waterfront from the pier.

…and downtown with the waterfront from the pier.

The boys liked the gum wall - Graham added to it.

The boys liked the gum wall – Graham added to it.

And they weren't too impressed with the original Starbucks. I blame the spoiling them with Rachel's Ginger Beer first.

And they weren’t too impressed with the original Starbucks. I blame the spoiling them with Rachel’s Ginger Beer first.

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The next day I had to go back to work, but not before dropping the kids off for kayaking in Lake Union at Agua Verde:

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Not pictured of the things we accomplished: running around Green Lake, eating Mighty-O doughnuts, taking shots of absinthe at Carbon Glacier Distillery, touring my work at the Center for Pediatric Dentistry, eating Paseo sandwiches, drinking at the Moon Temple and on Murphy’s back porch, eating home cooked meals, visiting the EMP museum and recovering from all our adventures in the hammock. We. Did. It. All.

Cheers to an excellent visit. Come again soon Wubby!

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In which my little brother is almost home

My little brother returns from his first tour in Afghanistan at the end of the week! I’m really sad I can’t make it down to see him touch down on American soil for the first time in 7 months (ugh, residency), but I’m just so glad he’s coming home safe and sound! Don’t worry Graham – brother-sister reunion in Seattle as soon as we can get you up here! (Rachie – we’ll get you out here too!)

Graduation from Parris Island Marine Boot Camp – May 2011

Of all the pictures I took that weekend you graduated from Boot Camp to officially become a Marine, I don’t know why this one is my favorite. Maybe it’s because we got to see the barracks I imagined you reading our letters in for the first time. Mostly it’s because this has to be one of the only times you ever wore your BCs (short for birth control glasses) on the Island. Oh little brother, don’t you know that nerdiness is in now? Thick rimmed glasses can you get you laid. Or at least a phone number. You’ve just got to embrace it.

Last year around this time I was running my first marathon in D.C. Fitting it was the Marine Corps run through all the monuments on what would become the year pre-anniversairy of you coming home. I’m sorry you were on the opposite coast and couldn’t run it with me but I was thankful for the technology that let you call and encourage me to keep going. That push was just what I needed to make it over the bridge. I remember your pep talk from the night before:

G: Good luck tomorrow.
E: Yeah, thanks. If I survive this one we should do another one together.
G: Well we both know that’s not going to happen. You’re not going to survive it! 

And then part way through the race:

G: It’s like that half we ran in Nashville, remember?
E: Yeah, except not.. this is twice as long.
G: Just think about how far Nashville was and then just pretend you forgot your keys and had to go back.
E: I think you can just call a locksmith if that happens..

So I was the crazy girl who looked like she was on a little too much of a runner’s high, giggling into the speaker on my iPhone headphones when you called around mile 22 and asked if I’d found my keys or not.

And I’m so thankful that you got to come to our wedding last spring right before you left and walk me down the aisle. I know it was rough taking the red-eye in and then staying up all night with us to celebrate but I don’t think I could’ve had it any other way. Thanks for holding me steady down what seemed the world’s longest walk and for keeping me smiling by quizzing me on how many teeth a whale shark has. I think I made up something, but the answer is about 3000. I’m a human dentist, not a shark dentist.

Can’t wait until you’re officially home! Get ready for a visit full of otters, Thai food, comic book stores and xbox when you come!