Prelude to Eight

William woke up yesterday saying, “today is the last day that I will be seven!” He’s the biggest schedule-keeping, bean-counting type of person in the family, so it’s no surprise that he’s been keenly aware of just how many days (hours, minutes) were left until his birthday.

This pretty much required a trip out of the house. Once a summer, I like to take a walk-on trip on the Edmonds ferry and get ice cream in Kingston.

What I hadn’t anticipated is that Saturday turned out to be the first rainy day we’d had in six weeks. So, our pleasant boat ride looked like this:

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A friend commented on how “dewy” we look in this picture.

Note the small hoodie Jeffrey is wearing as a hat. Laugh all you want, but keep in mind that wearing that hoodie in the rain was my idea and he stole it right off my head. (In my defense, it wasn’t raining when we left home.)

But the weather cleared up when we reached Kingston. The town of Kingston is about the size of a peanut, but it manages to have three ice cream places plus a French crepe place. Our favorite place for ice cream is called Mora. My friend Liz (whose husband is from Uruguay) recently correctly identified Mora as a South American-style ice cream place, hence all the dulce de leche and chocolate shavings.

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Brian and I both dozed off and on during the boat ride home. You wouldn’t think eating ice cream would require so much energy, but such was not the case.

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I loved this little red boat I saw at the Kingston marina.

That evening William was almost too excited to sleep. Jeff and I were staying up late to watch a movie, so Wim crept down to Eleanor’s room so he could have someone to sleep with “on his last night being seven.”

In the morning, Eleanor helped make him a special pancake in the shape of an “8.”

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She also experimented with using cookie cutters to make different animal-shaped pancakes.

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It’s a wolf! Eleanor considered it “too beautiful to eat,” so it currently resides in the freezer.

After church I made him a chocolate fudge cake. Katie blew his candles out twice before he got chance to do so. So, the “Happy Birthday” song was sung with a reprimanded Katie wailing in the next room.

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We will be holding his official birthday party next weekend, but it was nice to observe the official age today. With a bean-counter in the family, there’s no other way to operate!

Chocolate Waterfall

One more item crossed off our summer bucket list: we finally visited the lovely Bohem’s Candies factory.

I’ve noticed it several times on the side of I-90 as we’ve driven in and out of town through Issaquah. How adorably eccentric is this place? It is quite possibly the most delicious-smelling faux-Swiss chalet in the world.

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Yes, there was an alpenhorn inside.

Mmmmmm, every inch of this place smells like divine melted chocolate. They don’t actually manufacture chocolate here, just the candies. I love seeing small family operations like this.

We all had to wear these funny paper hats for the tour. (Mine just barely fit on my head; I always have trouble with hats.)

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I think it’s because of my thick hair?

Here is our tour guide standing in front of a giant display of chocolate-oriented bric-a-brac. There were a few novelty candy bars with “golden tickets” inside, a la Willy Wonka.

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We saw big copper kettles for mixing the fondants and caramels! And giant sheets of rolled-out fondant with nuts and cherries, num.

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This “droid” is a stirring machine that contains 500 lbs. of dark chocolate. Eleanor’s face is carrying the correct expression.

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This lady is hand-dipping truffles. It’s best to use bare hands instead of gloves, to properly keep track of the chocolate’s temperature.

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This is where they keep all the molded chocolate: including a four-foot-high chocolate bunny. (It’s in the background, made of white chocolate.)

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I’m quite taken with the chocolate Cinderella coach.

We were able to try three different samples of candy during the tour. Jeff and I agree that the orange cream was the best.

After touring the factory, we were able to see the home that Mr. Bohem built for himself on the 2nd floor the the chalet. It’s . . . . different. I’ve never seen such over-the-top Tyrolean craziness in one place. Bohem escaped Nazi-occupied Austria by cross-country skiing into Switzerland, then making his way to America. I guess he really, really missed his home.

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There was even a kachelofen in the corner. My family’s house in Germany had one, too.

Oh, and he also built this chapel next door to the factory, dedicated to “all the fallen mountain climbers.” Why not?

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They built the chapel around the giant boulder.

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Eleanor was so, so happy to visit this place. Everyone was happy to pick out chocolates from the shop. If the lesson is that chocolate = happy, I’m fine with that being a takeaway.

Before going home, we decided to pay a quick visit to Snoqualmie Falls. Which had far more tourists than I thought would be there on a Friday afternoon. Is it the Twin Peaks connection?

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One full-grown adult lady spent time spitting over the edge of the falls and laughing. Classy.

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Jeff is at the blessed age where he is objecting to photos taken with “Moooooooommmmmm!!!”

I love it.

Jetty Island II

We decided to take another trip to Jetty Island this week. This time, I made sure to take pictures of the seaside frolicking.

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The water was at high tide. The wonderful thing about this place is that the shallow water — you can walk a good quarter mile off shore and the water will only come up to a child’s shoulders. It’s a giant wading pool.

Jeff, Ella, and Wim spent time floating on some driftwood logs, pretending they were “seaweed farmers” and pulled up big hanks of it to store in their “treasury,” a big pit previous beach visitor had dug in the sand.

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Beach babe.

Katie found a fort of driftwood to play in with a little girl just her age. They gave each other hugs goodbye as we rode the ferry home.

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The best part of the trip is how self-sufficient the children were; they could pretty much play on their own without my interference. Which meant I got to sit in my beach chair and just reeeeeeeead all afternoon, stopping only to hand out the occasional sandwich, apple, or cosmic brownie.

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The best view, in my opinion.

I don’t know the last time I had such a pleasant, relaxing afternoon. And yes, on the way home everyone was so exhausted that a huge fight erupted between the children over the last cosmic brownie and I lost my temper, but I still wouldn’t trade the afternoon for anything.

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I just realized that Jeff isn’t in any of these pictures because he was off running like a colt. Oh, well.

The Daddy Campout

We have followed a tradition in our family for the past few years, where all the children who are over the age of eight get to go on a camping trip with Dad.


This was the first year that William was considered old enough to go! (Technically, he would not be eight until the next week, but we squeaked him in.)

I only heard about it afterwards, but from what I can gather, a lot of time was spent playing by this river. There was a big boulder that was perfect for sliding down.

The boys got wet from playing in the water. Eleanor was smart enough to stay dry.




At night, the kids created shadow plays on the walls of the tent.

The next morning they all went to climb Mt. Pilchuck. I haven’t had the pleasure of doing that hike, but the pictures show it to be a spectacular journey.

At the beginning of the hike






Five miles up the mountain — the last mile is scrambling over boulders.

And what became of Katie and I, you ask? To make up for missing out on the Daddy Campout, we had a Katie & Mommy Weekend of Fun.

First, we went to dinner at the McDonald’s with a playplace. Katie had been begging me to take her there for weeks. She talked about this trip all the time, listing the order in which she would play on the different playplace toys, and exactly what she wanted in her Happy Meal. Fine by me, I am always down with a restaurant where I get to sit and read a book while munching on fries.

The next morning, we had breakfast together at Shari’s Diner, then headed off to the Kruckeberg Botanic Gardens for their “Picnic in the Garden” activity.

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Katie could have ridden a small pony, but preferred the big white horse.

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There was a bouncy house! Pony rides! A marimba band! A curiously disorganized staff of volunteers who didn’t have a record of my online ticket purchase, and I had to show them the receipt on my phone as proof of purchase!


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Facepainting. It’s a sparkly dolphin. All dolphins should be sparkly.
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Climing the “Wood Wave.” I love this interactive statue in the garden.

The point is that Katie and I had a blast, and then came home and collapsed shortly before everyone else came home and collapsed.

Many were the collapsing family members. Sign of a good weekend, I guess.

Berries & Adventure Playground II

We had an adventure on the Eastside this past Thursday.

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The blueberries are in season now, so we drove out to the Larsen Lake blueberry farm to pick some. This is a farm owned and managed by the city of Bellevue as a preservation of the city’s agrarian heritage. Or something. Whatever, the berries are $1.20 a pound when you pick them yourself!

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My basket is the square one.

Katie executed another brilliant reenactment of Blueberries for Sal. Eleanor took time to show me when her pail had enough berries inside that it no longer went “kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk.” William was also a great berry-picker, constantly giving me updates on where the best caches of berries were.

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I was never able to convince Katie that she shouldn’t eat any.

Jeff was the one to get tired and ask to home this time. Ah, well, I’ve kind of given up on keeping all four happy at any given time.

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We made this blueberry pie today (Sunday) with our harvest. We’ve also made jam, pancakes, and ice cream with our berries. Muffins are next on the berry agenda.

After paying for our load (some 9-10 pounds!) we visited friends who have just had a new baby, and gave them some of our berry stash.

Then on the way home, we stopped to check up on our fort at the Mercer Island adventure playground. It was still standing just fine (William noticed that “something fell into my trap, but escaped!”). We spent an hour or so adding more rungs to the lookout ladder, and piled sticks on the front to make a camouflage wall. (This was my idea. Nobody else was that wild about it, but I refused to saw a dozen planks to make a slanty wall.)

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Sawing a new ladder rung

It’s great to see all the other forts springing up in the forest. We’ll have to make another visit sometime later this summer!

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Eleanor loves sitting up in the lookout.

Garden Goes Bust

I’ve noticed that my kids are miserable if we don’t get out of the house and go somewhere every day. Many of my friends have commented on how many places we go, but they don’t know the dark truth: we must get out or we will eat each other alive.

But sometimes this plan backfires. It certainly did this Wednesday.

We decided to spend the morning finding the Children’s Garden in Magnuson Park. I had read a lengthy description of it on the web, and it sounded marvelous: a climbing hill with a lookout on top! A “snack wall” with berries! A “tea party” garden with mint and other edible herbs! A whale statue to climb on, and a stack of logs to play with!

Well . . . some of those things were there (no snack wall, no tea party room). The whale statue turned out to be a tail with a whale-shaped garden bed next to it.

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Yes, this means two days in a row of children posing on whale tail statues.

The lookout hill would have been a fun thing to climb for a five-year-old, and the stack of logs? More like a pile of chopped wood to build things with. On the whole, the garden was much, much smaller than we thought. It would have been a fun place to play, I think, if we hadn’t had such completely different expectations.

So . . . instead of happy children exploring a new place, I had sulky children whining about being bored every thirty seconds. Eleanor was the worst offender. She shimmied up this tree for a nice long sulk.

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You have to admit it’s an amazing climbing tree.

William and Katie eventually got into it, and some friends also stopped by for a picnic, and Jeff had fun with them, but Eleanor pretty much stayed in the tree and asked when we were going home, again and again and again.

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Wim & Katie spent time making towers out of the wood.
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Katie pretended this stump was her writing desk.

To say that Eleanor has been trying my patience this summer would be a massive understatement.

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“Smile, Eleanor!” and she did this . . . 

Jetty Island

This week we accomplished a Seattle summer tradition: an afternoon splashing in the waves on Jetty Island.

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The island from on top of the ferry boat

The island is a two-mile long manmade island in Puget Sound just west of Everett. It was built as part of an attempt to turn the bay there into a freshwater bay. Shiploads of silt were dug up and dumped in a row, and over time more silt collected on the island’s edges. This means that the beach is a true sandy beach, and the water is very shallow, so much that the water is warm enough to splash in. This is not the case for most Puget Sound beaches.

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The reason why we haven’t been there before (and aren’t there every day) is that the only way onto the island is by a walk-on ferry run by the city of Everett. You can only make a ferry reservation if you have a group of eight people, so it takes some coordinating to schlep over there, and you need flexibility in your plans in case all the ferry times are already booked.

The island functions as a wildlife preserve now. There is no electricity or running water on the island, and the only vent toilets are next to the ferry dock, so you have to plan ahead. But if you take the trouble, the island is loads of fun, a real beach!

We had so much fun that I pretty much forgot to take any pictures besides these random snaps. We were lucky enough to travel with a bunch of friends from church, and Eleanor was overjoyed to see several friends her age. She’s been having a tough time at home lately, and often sulks when she grows tired of her siblings.

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Picnic on the beach

I realized my lack of picture-taking when we got back to the parking lot. So, we posed on top of this whale tail statue. Ta-dah.

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Funky whale statue, huzzah.

Costumes & Theatricals

We’ve had a lot of dressing up and performing over the last week.

First, Jeff spent the week attending a week-long “Shakespeare, Combat & Comedy” camp. He and his classmates rehearsed and performed a 30-minute version of “As You Like It,” and Jeffrey was . . . Lord #2 and the Holy Man. What, you’ve never heard of those characters? Well . . .

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Backstage with crucifix prop

See, he specifically requested a part with as few lines as possible because he didn’t want the bother of having a big part in the play.


This is pretty much the opposite of me at age 12.

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Curtain Call. Jeff is just to the right of the center, next to the girl with the white shirt.

The other half of the camp was spent learning “real stage combat” from the official, certified combat master from the Seattle Shakespeare Company. Our week was spent with Jeff pretending to fake-pull our hair and take a lot of fake punches. The end-of-camp showcase featured Jeff and a classmate “fighting” with the use of some random props. Many fake punches were had.

It’s a fun coincidence that “As You Like It” was the play Jeff studied, because not only are we studying that play right now as part of our morning “Shakespeare Time,” but all the youth in our ward are going to a public performance of the play in the park this Wednesday. Rosalind’s popping up all over.

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Waiting for Hamlet, not Godot

But that’s not all! We also had MOOOORE of the Bard at the Seattle Outdoor Theatre Festival this weekend. We saw an hour-long production of “Hamlet” (“which is just as long as ‘Hamlet’ needs to be,” my friend Margaret said) and then an original play that combined a lot of Hans Christian Andersen fairytales.

I asked them to pose for the camera, and they all yelled “HAAAAAMLET” and pretended to die.

The second production was also an hour, but unfortunately felt much longer. (I struggled to stay awake.)

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Before the show started, they invited children up on “stage” to play with the hula hoops. Little did they know that Ella & Wim can hoop for hours.

In other costuming news, we also attended our neighborhood’s ice cream social this week, and once again the face painting was on point:

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Katie LOVED being a tiger. She spent the remainder of the evening jumping out and growling at anyone who crossed her path.

ELEANOR: I’m a butterfly because I like to fly!

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KATIE: I’m a tiger because I like to KILL!

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Meanwhile, I spent my time at the ice cream social introducing myself as a member of the library board and handed out library swag like silly straws and sticky-note pads. The idea is to spread awareness of the existence of the library board. For a shrinking violet like me, this was nerve-wracking, but I DID IT, and MANY A SILLY STRAW WAS STREWN.

The North Cascades

We got a bit of a “bonus” holiday what with Independence Day falling on a Saturday this year.

Brian and I decided we would finally go out of our way to visit the last of the National Parks in Washington state: North Cascades NP.

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Katie’s hiking outfit

Of course, technically we did not go into the park. There are no roads that go into the park, only trails. And you have to hike a good ten miles before you reach the park boundaries.

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Moss-covered hillside
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Suspension bridge, part of the Ladder Creek trail

But we did look into the park.  I’ve never seen lakes as blue as these.

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I’m the only one who can smile for the camera.

One more without the people. It looks like a child’s drawing of an ideal landscape.

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The hills are aliiiiiiiiive . . .

We also took time to talk to the rangers at the visitor’s center so we could get our Junior Ranger patches. NCNP has four different patches, each one for a different age group. The way our children are spaced, each one got to earn a different patch! I really like the Junior Ranger activities; they usually get our kids to engage with the parks (for example, spending time in the forest alone, quietly listening and logging nature sounds), instead of passively wandering through.

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The visitor’s center had this big stuffed banana slug for kids to climb on.
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Being sworn in as Junior Rangers. The hats were strictly on loan.

The only real snafu to the day was when we picnicked next to Diablo Lake.

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The beach was muddy (it’s been such a dry year that the waterline had receded back, revealing layers of goo),  and Katie promptly fell down into it, soaking her pants and shoes. So much for taking a hike! In fact, the only reason we were able to go anywhere else that day is because Eleanor had left a second pair of shoes in the car, and we were able to cram them onto Katie’s feet. (Take a closer look at that Junior Ranger photo. You’ll notice how Katie has giant feet.)

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Eleanor and the waterfall at the top of Ladder Creek

The ride home demanded that we stop for ice cream . . . at the exact same place we had stopped for ice cream two days before, on kangaroo & berry-picking day. We must be a remarkable family, because the proprietors recognized us right away . . . and even remembered the flavors we chose before!

Berries & Roos

A friend of mine from church came up with the perfect itinerary for Wednesday, so I couldn’t help but follow along when she invited everybody she knew to join her.

First, a visit to the Outback Kangaroo Farm in Arlington. It’s a tiny little “farm” with a variety of exotic animals.

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William got to kiss a llama. (The keeper told everyone they could get a “kiss” if they held the llama food with their lips. He was the first kid to try it out.)

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Pucker up!

But what everyone liked best were the kangas.

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At the very end of the tour was a baby joey. Everyone got to have a turn holding him, but William’s photo was the only one that turned out nice. The joey is snuggled in a little fleece snuggly to imitate the feeling of being in mama kanga’s pouch.

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After the intense cuteness, we ate a picnic lunch, then drove down the road to Biringer Berry Farm. Raspberries were at their peak, and we picked 10 pounds in thirty minutes. Since then, we’ve made berry ice cream, smoothies, pie, and jam. Berry mania!

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So much toil! Good thing there was an ice cream place across the road. Of course, the real thing to note here is Jeff’s fake hipster glasses. He found a broken pair of sunglasses, popped the lenses out, and wore the frames for most of the afternoon. Heh.

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