Keeping Promises to Myself

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I have a friend who said once that having a child “sets the Fun Clock back about five years.” It’s true — there’s some kind of threshold that kids reach at age five that allows families to return to adventurous things: staying up a little later, traveling a little further, hiking a little longer without having as many mishaps or meltdowns. No more strollers and diaper bags. No more revolving everyone’s schedule around naptime.

And then there’s kindergarten.

I’ve kept a running tally of things I promised to do for myself once Katie began kindergarten. I thought I would have to push myself to accomplish them once I saw her off on her first day of school, but nope: I’ve gleefully dived right into all of them.

I’m studying piano seriously for the first time in decades. (This is fulfilling a promise I made to myself when I was eighteen, to tell the truth.) My first lesson is this coming Wednesday, and I’m so excited!

I’m also writing again. My goal is at least 500 words of New Project (although most days I exceed that), then an hour of revising Old Project. Right now the revisions consist mainly of transferring files into Scrivener, a word processing program designed specifically for writers that I’ve wanted to get for years and can now happily afford. No, I will not tell you what either project entails. That usually lets the magic seep out of the balloon, as it were.

I went to the temple all by myself last week. It was great, but exhausting with the drive time, so I didn’t get any writing done that day. The new procedure is to write first, then outings after.

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And then I began the Seattle Stairway Walks. This is a book of urban hikes that are designed to travel along all of the stairway sidewalks that wind up and down the hills of the city. I completed my first one this week, in the Fremont neighborhood. (Yes, I wrote my 500 words before I left.)

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The hike started on the section of Burke-Gilman Trail that runs along the Fremont Ship Canal
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I love this mural.

Part of the spontaneity was from the weather — a warm, sunny day! Gotta take advantage of those while they are still around.

Fremont is a neighborhood that prides itself on a quirky, artsy atmosphere. I didn’t see much of that trademark quirkiness, though, as the hike kept mostly to residential neighborhoods.

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These dinosaur topiaries are a well known neighborhood landmark
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These boats are a whirligig, spinning in the wind. Cute.
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I saw a few Little Free Libraries on my walk. This one is dedicated to Prince.

The stairways were magical — often not immediately visible to sidewalk strollers, unless you knew what to look for. Railings and steps were tucked in between two houses at a street’s dead end, or tucked behind bushes or car guard railings.

It was a good workout, too. I went down 108 steps and up 306 steps, plus a lot of hill-climbing. The hike was a 3.2 mile circuit, completed in a little less than 2 hours. If that seems slow to you, keep in mind that I frequently stopped to take pictures, and also that I was often delayed by such things as traffic lights.

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Down we go!
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Annnnnnnd up we go. This monster was the longest stairway on the hike. I had to stop halfway for a little breather. (And I had to climb a hill to get to its base, too!)
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I was charmed to reach the top of the “monster” to discover these rocking chairs. The words “Enjoy the sunset” are painted across their tops.
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The view from the rocking chairs. I was really really kicking myself for not bringing a water bottle at this point

My only regret is that I forgot to bring a water bottle with me. I was parched by the time I reached the famous Lenin statue. Fortunately, there was a cafe nearby where I could buy a bottle of water. I thought I’d sip it slowly for the rest of the walk, but I ended up chugging it down in thirty seconds.

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This and the following images are from Fremont Peak Park, a tiny city park designed around an art installation called “Phases of the Moon.”
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More of the art installation
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The view from the park was amazing that day — you can see my hiking guide in my hands here.

I felt so wonderful on the drive home — energized and relaxed. Hiking is truly my favorite form of exercise, and now I can do it whenever I want, thanks to the Fun Clock being reset again. Hooray!

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This statue of Lenin used to be on display in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. And then it ended up in Fremont.
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The plaza around Lenin is peppered with odd found objects. Very fun.

Beginnings New

School has been in session for a week and a half now, and it’s been an interesting transition. All four kids are in school full-time now, which is great — 8th, 6th, 4th, and kindergarten! Katie has been incredibly bored hanging around the house with me, and I will also admit that after four children my entertain-the-kid well has run a little dry.

I’ve put all my personal projects on hold for years; I’m more than ready to get back to my writing. Also, several months ago I began seriously practicing piano again — I spent most of the spring learning to play the Waldstein sonata (badly) and Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu (badly) among other assorted pieces, and after enough of this madness Brian printed up a list of piano teachers who specialize in advanced students. In a way, I’ll be going back to school, too — this Thursday I’m beginning private lessons with Jensina, a piano performance teacher at the community college.

We were able to have our schultuten this year — I’ve discovered that the Japanese bookstore in the International District is the best place to find cool school supplies for the schultute. I found a tiny pair of scissors that fold into a pen for Jeff, a metal holder that can clamp around a pencil stub for Katie, woodland creature sticky notes for Wim, and squishy pencil grips for Katie.

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The papers and some of the goodies for the school cones.
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So excited! I couldn’t get them to stay still for the photo, they were ALL blurry
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Ripping into the goodness

Each cone also held a new t-shirt, which the children wore on the first day of school. Naturally, you can’t see them in this picture:

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Katie looks like she’s saying “PRAISE BE” but she’s really shouting “Hooray for Kindergarten!”

On the first day of school, the 8th graders had a delayed start time, and so did all the kindergartners whose last names began with N-Z. On the same day, Brian had a flight to a conference in D.C. and so didn’t go into work. We all decided to go out to breakfast at Panera together. This was the general mood:

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“When will my breakfast bagel get here?”

Katie was super wiggly and kept crawling under the table so she could do a puppet show with her hands. Jeff endured her antics. (Oh, she so needs all-day school.)

Here is a picture of Katie with her teacher, Ms. S. William had Ms. S for kindergarten as well, and she told us she was really hoping Katie would be matched into her class because she enjoys our family so much! Well, that’s flattering . . .

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Ms. S. attended this same school when she was a child. Her mother also taught at this school! When Ms. S. did her student teaching, she and her mother taught in classrooms next door to each other.

The weekend after the first week of school we were still able to squeeze in our annual Backyard Circus. Hooray!

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The whole gang

Jeff was the ringmaster this year — and possibly the last year he’ll participate? Well, there was another 16 year old boy who allowed his younger brother to smash a pie in his face, so maybe Jeff will keep playing along.

By a strange coincidence, Eleanor and William also chose a pie-throwing act for their performance. It was actually a recreation of the “Four Hats Four Pies” routine that Aunt Kristen & Uncle Sven performed for one of Aunt Caitlin’s “no-talent shows” years ago.

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William put on a different hat for each of the pies he smashed in her face. He mugged for the audience pretty well. Eleanor’s job was to look stoic. I’d say she accomplished that task.

Before she was covered in cream pie, Eleanor was also the “trainer” in a lion-taming routine with Katie. Katie LOVED being the lion, and drew lots of pictures of herself and Eleanor in their costumes.

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The lion mask is falling of K’s face in this picture. They were all over the place, so it’s unfortunately the best shot I got

It’s a great start to the new year, but I admit that I’m a little frustrated at the guilt I am feeling for spending so much of my time alone, working on personal projects, instead of volunteering at the school or church. It might be my imagination, but I feel like more people are nudging extra projects my way, under the assumption that I must be sitting bored at home with nothing to do. It’s annoying to turn them down, especially since I’m not very open to telling people what I do — I don’t feel that I should have to justify what I choose to do with my free time. I imagine many women feel the same way. But I feel confident that I’ll eventually find my rhythm and settle into this new life with fewer misgivings. Hooray for new beginnings!

The Summer Olympics

Our school year doesn’t begin until after Labor Day, so we decided to cross our fingers for good weather and arranged to rent a cottage in the Hoh River Valley for the weekend.

We’d stayed in the same little house before, two years ago. But that trip was in October, and it rained almost the entire time. This trip was a lovely, sunny time without a drop of rain.

Our main task was to view different parts of Olympic National Park. This is always a tricky task. The park is centered around the Olympic Mountains, which is beautiful but impassable by car. So, you have to drive quite a bit around the outside of the range to reach all the different features of the park.

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The first stop after our ferry crossing was Lake Crescent, at the northern end of the park. This is one of the most beautiful places in the entire state. The highway passes right along its edge, and in our previous trips I’d always pressed my nose against the car window as we sped past, wishing we could stop. But this time, we could!

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Who are you to resist this?

We headed straight for the Lake Crescent Lodge and rented some canoes so we could paddle around for an hour. The weather was warm, sunny, and perfect.

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This sign was on the porch of the lodge
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Eleanor pouted a little bit because she wanted to do a solo kayak run around the lake, like she’d learned at Girl Scout camp. Sorry, m’dear.
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Getting ready to push our canoes onto the water

Brian had the girls, and I had the boys. The idea was that Jeff had more canoeing experience and could help me out, but it actually led to bouts of uncoordinated paddling. There were a few times when I ordered the boys to put their paddles up while I did all the navigation myself.

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Jeff accidentally flipped his canoe over at Boy Scout Camp this summer. I told him he’d be grounded if he did that to me.
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I was nervous about my phone getting dropped into the water, so I didn’t take many pictures. We all had a blast!

We warmed up afterwards in the Lake Crescent hotel. I love national park lodges, they are so charming. (The kids didn’t understand the concept of mounted elk heads on the wall.)

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Relaxing on the lodge’s front porch
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Jeff was disappointed that we weren’t eating lunch at the fancy restaurant
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Katie and William just Did. Not. Get. The concept of hunting trophies. They didn’t find it upsetting so much as baffling. Why would you want a dead animal head on the wall? Why just its head?

After our canoe time, we drove to a picnic area on the lakeshore. There weren’t any other tourists around, and it was incredibly peaceful.

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This picnic area used to be a campground in the park. There were quite a few abandoned, moss-covered tables scattered through the forest.

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Having filled up, we headed back to the Storm King ranger station to do the little hike to Marymoor Falls. The kids grumbled at first, but they loved the payoff at the end.

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This is the Storm King ranger station. I love how cozy it looks, tucked into the mountains.

 

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William and I played Poohsticks on this bridge while waiting for the rest of the fam to catch up with us
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Jeff couldn’t help exploring the riverbed, despite my many cautions to keep his feet dry.
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The one and only photo of me during this trip

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I love how the park service added rails to this log bridge. It’s just a log with rails nailed into it.
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Marymoor Falls! It was hypnotic to watch.
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I admit it doesn’t look as impressive from this angle.

It was late afternoon by the time we got back to our car, so we zipped off down the highway for the drive to Forks. (Yes, that Forks. There’s still plenty of vampire junk around town — although not nearly as much as there was in 2013 when we took our first visit to Forks — but enough to catch the kids’ attention. This lead to a lengthy car conversation about vampire lore, cheesy YA literature, and whether or not a vampire and a werewolf can have a baby).

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The “Hoh Valley Hideaway,” as the owners call it
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I am of the opinion that there is way too much furniture inside. There was a coffee table where Katie is sitting, but it kept tipping over so we moved it into a bedroom

After settling in and grabbing dinner at a diner in Forks, we decided to drive down to Kalaloch Beach for the evening ranger program. It was all about seeing stars in the park — both in the sky, and in tidepools (seastars). Katie was chosen to pretend to be the Pacific Ocean in an audience participation activity. She scurried up and down the aisles of the amphitheater, crying out “Make way for the water!”

The sunset at Kalaloch (which we viewed before the program) was incredible. The kids were itching to get their feet wet in the waves — and William went ahead and doused his pants.

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Eleanor jumps for joy
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My sweet love

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Long shadows stretching behind us. Katie enjoyed making them skip and dance.
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Eleanor took this picture of William
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Another photo by Eleanor
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Yes, Eleanor yet again.
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We found several faces like this on the beach, made by previous visitors
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I’m . . . in this one. Huh, I didn’t realize until now. Yep, it’s another Eleanor photo.
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I love the colors the sunset makes

The next morning it was very warm and sunny outside, so we all donned our swimsuits and headed to Rialto Beach. Our last beach day of the summer — and it was hot enough to require air conditioning in the car!

Well . . . remember that trip to Graylands Beach, and the crazy only-on-the-shore haze?

Rialto Beach was the setting of the little-known Gidget movie,  Return of the Haze: Don’t You Feel Underdressed?

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Brrrrrr!

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It was a little disheartening to arrive in swimsuits and be greeted by a beach full of people wearing long pants and hoodies. We splashed in the waves anyway. It wasn’t that bad, to tell the truth — the water was warmer than Puget Sound — but the waves kept tossing up little pebbles that hit our shins and made them sting a bit. Eleanor was happy I joined her in the water, so it was worth it.

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We all huddled on a log for a while before getting up the nerve to get in the water
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Brian was teaching the kids how to do the shot put. In the background, you can see the line of surfers waiting for the perfect wave.

There were surfers catching the waves, so it wasn’t that ludicrous. Yeah. . . the surfers were wearing wetsuits, but still.

We returned to our cabin for warm clothes, warm lunch, and a few rounds of Magic: the Gathering before we drove into the mountains to see the Hoh Rainforest. The last time we visited this area of the park, the trail we wanted to take was blocked by a massive Roosevelt Elk, which was incredible. No such luck this time. But the Hall of Mosses was just as majestic without the elk, to tell the truth.

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This bridge was almost impassable because so many tourists were taking pictures of the green weeds below the water

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These tree roots were formed around a nurse log that has since biodegraded

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Katie found a clump of moss on a stick and carried it around for a while. It was a magic wand, then some sort of cooking implement
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Ah, thats’ me. Eleanor strikes again.

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I’ve given up on getting good group photos

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See? GIVEN UP

Our plan was to try to see another beach sunset, so we drove to Forks and bought a picnic supper of fried chicken, then drove down to Ruby Beach to eat.

Again, the chilly wind foiled our plans a bit. Brian and I were dismayed at the prospect of eating chicken with chattering teeth, until the children discovered a neat fort that someone had built out of driftwood. We all fit snugly inside, and there was a circle of logs to sit on, and a smooth stump in the middle that worked as a table. It was the best pirate hideout/picnic spot ever.

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Chicken, please!

After our supper, the kids were eager to use the information they had learned at the ranger program the evening before and ran out to explore tidepools.

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Hole in the Rock

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Jeff loved having the freedom to wander and climb anywhere. It’s nice to give him the freedom to do so.
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She was so excited to find sea anemones!

They learned that touching sea anemones is okay to do, but they will make your fingers sticky. We also got to hear barnacles click while bubbling under the waves.

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I love the shape of the water, rocks, and sand here

Ruby Beach is one of the most iconic locations on the Washington coast. I love being there.

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The front of this bleached driftwood log looks like a skull, don’t you think?
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Good grief, Ruby Beach is gorgeous

Our rental cottage sits on a few acres of rainforest, and the property owners have created their own network of private trails. Katie and I took a stroll during our final morning at the cottage. (We also got to try out the outdoor shower — the cottage relies on well water, which was a bit dry at the time of our visit. The owners installed an outdoor shower that uses purified rainwater. It was really fun to use — nice and hot!)

Anyway, the private trails — several of the larger stumps, trees, and logs have been given names like “Grandfather and Grandmother Stump” or “Gentle Giant.” This rainforest is deservedly famous — it’s so lush and lovely.

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The signpost says “Trail for Quiz” because the owners had written a quiz for kids to take while hiking this trail
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My cutie pie.
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Grandfather & Grandmother Stump
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I think this log was labeled “Nurturing Mother”
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You can’t tell, but that “ancient log” was HUUUGE

On the way home we stopped in one more part of the national park, a little trail called “Ancient Grove.” It’s a little loop that circles on a plateau above the Sol Duc river, and is so old it’s nearly haunted.

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The ground drops away on the right of the photo, leading down to the river
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To be honest, I was getting kind of sick of tree photos at this point

It was too short of a visit (although we were good and exhausted by the time we got home); the mountains/ocean/rainforest is such a stunning combination of landscapes! Hopefully the days will pass swiftly by until we get to travel there again.

 

“I Don’t Want to Be In SIGHT of Water!”

I did a very brave thing this week: I went tent camping with all four children, sans spouse, in Moran State Park on Orcas Island. This was my first trip to the San Juans, and I was just a little bit intimidated by the idea.

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Yes, intimidated. Despite what you see here.

Granted, it was in a group that, counting my brood, included 8 women and 20+ children, so we weren’t exactly lacking for company. But it was still on me to do the packing, prep, transport, set-up, etc. by myself.

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The ferry ride was spectacularly beautiful.
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Several members of our group were on our ferry.
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Just a weeeee bit excited.
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Welcome to Orcas Island!

Okay, the kids helped some. In fact, the three big kids are capable of packing their bags by themselves, and Jeff and William even set up their little tent all by themselves. Bringing the second tent was Brian’s last-minute idea, and it was a brilliant one. It was much easier for everyone to have the extra room.

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Our campsite
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The view looking out from our campsite.

Having a big bunch of kids to play with was rather brilliant, as well. The group campsite at Moran is wonderfully secluded: a circle of campsites surrounded by forest. The kids all skipped off to play and make forts in the trees while the adults talked or got food made. (My contribution was pulled pork sandwiches for dinner on Monday.) My kids are all old enough to wander freely on their own without me worrying about them too much, and it was great to give them that kind of freedom.

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Who needs a campfire when you have a baby?

Jeff insisted on bringing a bunch of different card games (like Munchkin), which I was skeptical about, but the three big kids got swept up in long games while the littles built their fort.

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The rest of our time was spent hiking up to Twin Lakes . . .

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With 30 people in the group, we got pretty spread out on the trail
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Eleanor was very kind to Katie on the return hike

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The water was crystal-clear straight to the bottom of the lake. William kept saying it “was just like pieces of broken glass,” as astonished as if he were the first person to come up with that simile.
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The view from our picnic spot

. . . and having a picnic on the shore. We turned back early (for a 4.5 mile hike) while the rest of the group continued up the hill to Mt. Constitution (for a 7.5 mile hike). My kids didn’t want to hike that long, and I was exhausted from not sleeping well the first night. Nap time and card games seemed a lot more fun than hiking up a mountain.

Feeling refreshed, we headed off to the beach on the shores of Cascade Lake later that afternoon.

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Overpriced but delicious ice cream
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Our friends let us borrow their float toys
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Umm . . . my kids are somewhere in this photo

The water was so cold! I couldn’t wade in more than the top of my legs, but the kids dove right in. Lest you fear that I was bored, I should remind you that I had a book and there was an ice cream stand nearby.

I slept much better the second night, which was great, because packing up camp is not nearly as much fun as setting it up.

We paid a visit to Mount Constitution ourselves before going back home. This was easy for us because you can just drive up there.

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That’s Mt. Baker in the distance. The air was clear enough that we could see Vancouver.
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Gorgeous.
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The “castle” was built as a military installation
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It isn’t a vacation unless you eat ice cream every day.
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Poor William. He hated being crammed in the back of the van with all the sleeping bags.

Aren’t the views spectacular? I love the breezy, emerald-and-azure world of the San Juans. I’m already looking forward to a return trip.

However pleasant my feelings about the location, it was right about then that my children’s tolerance for exhaustion snapped. Katie threw a full-blown temper tantrum in the gift shop because I wouldn’t buy her a stuffed animal; the other three began to alternate between bickering over trivial things and acting hyper. I was more than happy to cram everyone in the van and race down the mountain to catch the return ferry home.

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Mt. Baker in the background again. It looked far larger and impressive in real life.

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Think that was enough adventure for one week? OH HO HO HO.

No.

On Thursday we were invited to a pool party hosted by one of Katie’s preschool friends. My kids got to spend a solid two hours in a swimming pool, with the big kids taking turns springing off the diving board. (They are much braver than I was as a kid. I hated diving boards. Eleanor, on the other hand, spent time trying to dive deep enough to touch her feet at the bottom of the 12′ pool. She succeeded; it made her ears hurt.)

(Yeah, sorry, no pictures of this event. I was too busy finishing my read of Eva Ibbotson’s The Morning Gift, which is a perfect summer poolside read.)

That evening I looked at the weather report and realized that this week was our last chance the temperature would be warm enough to visit the Denny Creek Waterslide. As much as I would have liked to spend a day catching up on the now-insane piles of laundry, I packed up our beach towels once again.

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The Denny Creek Waterslide is a place where a mountain stream in Snoqualmie Pass pours over a large outcropping of slickrock, creating a natural slip-n-slide. Although the storebought slip-n-slide probably doesn’t cause as many torn swimsuits and scraped ankles.

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This and the following pictures give the impression that we had the place mostly to ourselves. This could not be further from the truth. The place was crawling with people, and quite a few dogs as well. (Katie loved seeing the doggies.)
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Go Wimmy, Go! Scrape that ankle up!
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Katie handed me no fewer than five favorite rocks to carry home in my backpack
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That red stuff is algae; it’s what makes the rocks so slippery
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Eleanor and William both dipped themselves in a pool up to their necks, which I thought absolutely crazy. That water was so cold it made my feet ache.

Eleanor and William loved cruising down the rocks. Katie slipped and fell on her first attempt and then refused to try it again, but spent time hovering near the action, collecting rocks (something she’s always loved to do).

Jeff gave the waterslide one try and then declared the water too cold. (It was incredibly cold, so I don’t blame him, but I’m sad that he was bored while the other kids were playing.)

It takes an hour to drive to the Denny Creek trailhead, and another hour to hike the mile to the waterslide. Add two hours of splash-time to that, and with the return journey, this becomes an all-day affair. It’s easily the most exhausting and time-consuming of our various summer outings, but I still look forward to doing it again next year.

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They LOOK cute, but they made the hike back to the car take twice as long as the way there.

Well, maybe. When William found out that our Saturday would be spent at Golden Gardens Beach for a friend’s birthday party, he declared it to be the last straw. “I don’t want to do anything with water — I am sick of being in the water! No lakes, no pools, no rivers, no ocean. I do not even want to be in SIGHT of water!” It’s okay, kid, it was way too breezy to even think about getting wet.

This was a science-themed birthday for our friend, D. His mom (my friend M.) did an incredible job of coming up with science experiments for the kids to do. Just when I thought we’d finished, she pulled another activity out of the box. I was totally impressed.

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The ol’ Mentos-in-the-Coke experiment. Katie’s arms are inside her dress because it was rather nippy that day. Eleanor is wearing a “lab coat” that was in her goody bag.

And then I collapsed. Never have I needed a nap so badly. The only thing that got me up again was knowing that the Puget Sound Dahlia Association was having their annual show in my neighborhood, and I wanted to go and take a gander with Brian.

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Truffula trees — I mean, dahlias — look too perfect to be real.
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I love how this one was outlined with red.
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Plant terminology cracks me up for how obtuse it is.

 

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I am going to nap so hard when school begins this fall.

 

Sands & Shields

Brian was relegated with the task of accompanying the Boy Scouts on their weeklong camp this week, Jeff included amongst them. Spending a week at home alone with the other three kids seemed a dreary prospect, so I decided that we would have our own trip:

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It was their idea to make the human pyramid

A yurt!

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There are several yurts that are kept as part of the state parks system, and I was able to snag one just off the beach at Graylands State Park, which is right on the Pacific Ocean. As I prepared for the trip, I alternated between blissful sighs over sun-kissed sands, and panicked anxiety over kids drowning in the waves.

Turns out, I needn’t have troubled my mind about either option.

Nobody told me that the Washington coastline is often beset by cold, foggy haze. Think San Fransisco. Think 62 degrees. Think “thank goodness I grabbed our rain jackets just before heading out the door.”

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Washington, or Tatooine? 

This is sad news to someone who just left a hot, sunny Seattle summer. I had the air conditioning blasting in the car up until the last 30 minutes of the drive, when the road suddenly lead us directly under a cloudbank. I frowned with a little squeak as I watched the blue sky shrink and disappear in the rear view mirror. Within a few minutes, goosebumps broke out on my arms and I turned off the air conditioner.

This . . . this wasn’t how it was supposed to be! IT WAS SUNNY IN SEATTLE! IT SHOULD BE SUNNY HERE!

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We still had fun. Our yurt was blessedly snug in the evenings, what with its electric heater, electric lights, and — yay! — place to plug in my phone.

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Eleanor is peeking at us through the exterior flaps that make the yurt “windows”
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Lunchin’ in the yurt

The kids loved getting soaked by the waves and playing in the sand. They even put on their swimsuits and dashed hip-deep in the water while I happily buried my nose in my books.

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Eleanor and Katie would often hug each other as the waves hit them
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See the tire tracks? There were problems with 4wd trucks going by.

Speaking of the sand, there was lots of it. The beach was a good 1/4 of a mile from the forest edge to the water, flat with low rolling dunes.

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Most of the shells on the beach were broken. The kids collected some anyway. Eleanor was excited to find sand dollar pieces.

It makes for a great kite flying destination, but I will admit that it got tiresome to haul our stuff back and forth.

We even made a half-decent attempt at kite flying. Delta kites are hard to fly. That’s all I’ll say about that.

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Beautiful dune grasses. You can almost see the water beyond all that sand!

Beyond that, we had excellent fun playing card games, roasting food over a campfire, and sleeping in our snuggly yurt. I’ll have to look for other yurt options in the future.

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Preparing to send Indiana Marshmallow into the Temple of Doom
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This was in front of the diner where we ate dinner the first evening. As we settled in to eat our food, the kids exclaimed, “finally, a chance to spend time with Mom without Dad hanging around!” a statement that baffled me
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We have this custom of playing a guessing game with plastic tubs of jam while waiting for our food. This is how Katie observed things during the game

Our return home was met with a grand collapse of Mom Energy. Beyond helping my friend Jessica move out of her home (gone to Colorado, sniff), there wasn’t much that I accomplished over the next two days.

But! Saturday morning marked the return of my favorite Seattle street festival: Viking Days at the Nordic Heritage Museum. So many medievally things to do!

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Making wooden pegs!
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Grinding grain into flour!
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Working the blacksmith’s bellows!
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Heraldry appreciation!
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Spinning!
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Looking exhausted!

Eleanor was entranced by the spindle spinning, so much that the woman demonstrating the craft gave Eleanor a spindle to keep. At the same time, William was so interested in the drum carder that that volunteer gave us a big batting of wool roving to take home. So now Eleanor has all she needs to make a nice big ball of yarn.

When Ye Olde Crafting was finished, we walked to the Nordic Food booths and munched on ableskivers. Mmm, those Danes know their way around a frying pan.

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Nummy!

When we returned to our car, we were delighted to discover that the house across the street had a life-sized statue of one of the robots from Castle in the Sky in its front yard. Upon closer inspection, we saw that there were even little red blinking lights in its head, just like the movie. Aww, Seattle. You know I love this stuff.

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Awesome.
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It looks like passersby have been filling his hand with flowers, pebbles, and trinkets.

Houseguests, Rounds 3 and 4

We’ve had a whirlwind of family visitors this week

Houseguests Round 3 were my parents, who delighted us by staying over a few days on their way to a vacation in Victoria, B.C. I did my darndest to cram in as much grandparent-time as possible.

On the evening of their arrival, Brian and I took them on an adults-only outing to the Cinnebarre to watch Star Trek: Beyond and eat delicious hamburgers. Totally fun movie — it was great to have some adult time with my parents.

After church the next day, the grandparents took Katie on a trip to the beach and came home with pockets full of pebbles and shells. Having this one-on-one time with grandparents was a big deal to her; it’s been two weeks since then, and Katie still talks about it at bedtime.

The following morning, Grandpa and Eleanor were ushered out the door for golf. She’s taking a genuine interest in this sport, and my dad is a great teacher. She made par on one of the holes!

Meanwhile, Grandma taught everyone how to make “burrito” pillowcases (I spent a morning cleaning the decrepit disaster that is our craft room for just this occasion you are welcome, Mom):

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Jeff knows how to run the machine, but that’s about all

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When our crafting was over, the grandparents and I took William out to West Seattle for incredible Hawaiian-Korean fusion food at Marination Ma Kai. Nummm, kimchee quesadillas and shave ice!

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The umbrella turned everyone red
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It’s sooooo tempting to reach for berries and step off the cliff . . .

The evening was rounded out with a visit to the Ballard Locks, which my dad had never seen before. A boat towing logs came through while we were there, an arrangement which I had never seen before. The logs were lashed together and just floating in the water. I half expected to see lumberjacks astride them, juggling axes and stroking their fluffy beards.

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LOGS AHOY!
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Everyone looked so pretty and golden in the sunset light
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My Ellabelle
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Eleanor asked if she could take pictures of Katie and took a series of dance-pose photos like this

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And if that weren’t enough fun for one day, we stopped at Molly Moon’s for ice cream on the way home. Whew!

My parents took off on Tuesday morning. This left us with just 24 hours to prepare ourselves for Houseguests, Round 4: Uncle Michael and Aunt Natalie and best of all, Cousin Anderson!

My kids were very excited to see their first Shirts cousin. Jeff even requested to come along when I drove out to pick them up from the airport. I initially thought he just wanted some time out of the house, or time alone with me, but when we pulled up to the airport, Jeff jumped up and whispered, “I can’t wait to see that cute baby’s face!” and rushed to give Anderson a hug.

Our first excursion the next day was Jetty Island. The older kids hadn’t had a chance to visit Jetty yet, so it was a nice treat for them. The only snag is somehow there was a reservation mix-up and we showed up on the wrong day. But we were early enough to grab the standby tickets (whew).

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Soooo much seaweed
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At one point Katie was wearing seaweed like a feather boa
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He’s such a cutie!
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Jeff: Man of Destiny

Jeff and William asked to go off and explore the island on their own. They walked over to the “lagoon” marked on the island map and walked around it. It always pleases me to see Jeff wanting to be a little more independent.

Anderson loved dipping his feet in Puget Sound and observing his cousins build a giant pile of seaweed. When it was time to go, he was so cold his lips turned a little bit blue, but he kept asking to go back in the water.

Day Two of Anderson Week was spent riding the ferry to Kingston for crepes and ice cream, one of my favorite summer activities. (I intentionally had a skimpy breakfast because I knew exactly what good stuff was up ahead.)

Anderson loved the ferry ride, as did my kids:

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Why didn’t I move the stroller out of the way???

Between crepes and ice cream, we romped on in the park and played around with a Frisbee. My kids were being “a bunch of goofy-goofs,” as I like to say:

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“Ring around the rosie” with Anderson
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Goofy-goof cascade

The boys quite literally collapsed in a pile on the way home:

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Stack-o-Bros

Saturday was the next day, so Brian was able to join us for a trip to the waterfront to ride the Seattle Great Wheel, which he hadn’t been able to ride before.

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Anderson, Michael, Natalie, and the girls, peeking at us from their gondola

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Jeff wasn’t very happy about the heights. He curled against me during the entire ride, and I could feel how tense his shoulders were through his shirt.

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Poor fella. He had the same reaction to the top of the Space Needle.
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It’s too bad Brian doesn’t use Facebook, because this would be a great profile picture.

After the wheel, we walked down the street to the Olympic Sculpture Park. The walk was a bit longer than anticipated, and it was hot and dusty downtown. Nobody was in that much of a good mood when we arrived, but spirits lifted as we began to explore the statues.

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The big head is called “Echo”
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I haven’t the foggiest clue what these are called

Discovering an indoor play space wasn’t that bad, either. (Shade! Hurrah!)

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Eleanor and William were stroking the stuffed animals and “pretending to be supervillains”

Sunday was Anderson’s last day in town. We trooped to church, and then headed over to St. Edward’s State Park for more excellent cousin play on the wooden castle playground. Eleanor was wonderful at watching over Anderson, which gave the adults ample time to talk (adult convo is always at a premium around here).

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Ready, set . . .
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 . . . goooooooo!

Speaking of which, we were lucky enough to have some evening adults-only time during Cousin Week. On Friday, Anderson was put to bed early so the grown-ups could meet up with Kristen & Patrick at a restaurant in Ballard, and then on Saturday evening the big kids were left at home while the adults took Anderson to the Cheesemonger’s Table, followed by a nice stroll around downtown Edmonds.

The only bad thing about houseguests is that eventually they have to go home. Thanks to all of them this summer for making this season an excellent one!

 

 

Indoors, Outdoors, All Around the House

It’s one of my goals every summer to try and get my children outdoors as much as possible.

Even if I don’t always get the chance to do the same myself. But I think I may have gone a little overboard with my goal this week.

Sure there was some indoors time, such as the construction of this Space Pod kit which Brian and I gave to Wimmy for his birthday. The boys initially wanted the grown-ups to help, but we pointed out that the instructions said it was either for one adult and one child aged 6+, OR two children aged 9+. William was thrilled that he could finally count himself in the 9+ category, and set to work.

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Nice, right? It’s the preferred place to read books right now. This afternoon, the boys grabbed all the pieces of the Snap Circuits sets and “installed electronic space equipment” in the Pod.

BUT — despite that inside stuff — it was all about the Outdoors this week.

The biggest contributor to this was the 2nd half of Summer in the Woods. Every morning I’d drop Wim, Ella & Jeff off in Yost Park forest, and they would spend six hours learning about nature, whittling spears, making cordage, hiking and playing games. They were under the care of camp counselors that have names like Hawkeye and Little Bear and were barefoot every single day of camp.

I didn’t take any pictures of them at pick-up (I regret that now), but they were often covered with glorious scratches, mud streaks on arms and legs, and slumping with exhaustion. We’d often swing by Dairy Queen for ice cream cones (I tried to resist doing this every day, but I’m a pushover and the kids know it), then spend the afternoon quietly collapsing with books.

My time in the Great Indoors during Summer in the Woods was spent dealing with Fruitstorm II: the Reckoning:

Yeah, plums and blueberries. I’m started to get really tired of making jam.

Eleanor had to miss the last three days of Summer in the Woods because of this:

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GIRL SCOUT CAMP!

Her troop spent two nights at Camp St. Alban’s, from Wednesday to Friday. I was recruited to carpool five of the girls down to the camp.

Which . . . went less smoothly than I anticipated. My cell phone died about 3/4ths of the way there, so I lost my GPS directions. The printed map from the camp was unclear, so I missed a cruicial turn and ended up driving the Key Peninsula Highway for an extra 45 minutes.

Did you know that the Key Peninsula Highway dead-ends at a cul-de-sac? I do! Guess how I found out?

I will say that the girls in Eleanor’s troop are an absolute delight to spend time with. They spend their time singing camp songs and chattering about other music (“Have you heard of this song called ‘American Pie’? It’s like the best song ever” and then they all sang the chorus together and it was adorable!) and geek culture (Monty Python quotes, lengthy debate about how spells in Harry Potter effect one’s physiology) and what they want to be when they grow up (one girl wants to be a large-mammal vet and spent time identifying all the horse breeds we passed on the road; another wants to be a cultural anthropologist and “solve the mysteries of the ancients”).

The drive home was not nearly as fun. Podcasts are entertaining but just aren’t as fun as twelve-year-old girls. (5 hours driving in total. Ugh. And oh yes, I still had to carpool William to skating class right after I arrived home.)

AND THEN . . . after multiple days spent in the outdoors, I had the NERVE to take the family hiking this past Saturday.

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Such a thing could not be borne by . . . certain unnamed persons in the family.

Said persons voiced their opinions mutiple times and then sulked on a pile of tree roots.

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But Wallace Falls was otherwise a delightful hike. About 4.75 miles roundtrip, with a stunning trio of waterfalls at the end. The trail continued another 4 miles or so, but we declined to do that.

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Katie spent time building little “mouse houses” out of twigs and rocks.
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Katie in front of Middle and Upper Wallace Falls

I love this sign the park put up as you begin the main part of the trail. I love the North Cascades, I love these forests!

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You can’t tell, but Jeff was literally skipping down the trail when I took this picture.

 

The Wim is Nine

William and I have many things in common, and one of them is that we both have summer birthdays.

I know it can be a little tough to have a summer birthday — your friends are often out of town and can’t come to a party, you never hear your classmates sing “Happy Birthday” as part of morning announcements, and sometimes your birthday falls during your family’s vacation and you don’t get to have a party at all. OH THE TRIALS OF MY LIFE.

Therefore I made an effort this year to make sure William felt special about his birthday. And I may have . . . overcompensated . . . just a wee little bit.

For example, by getting up early and making a giant German apple pancake for breakfast on the morning of his birthday proper.

And then that same day, using my “Baking for Two” cookbook to make him a wee little six-inch layer cake (this was actually the perfect size for my family and I will totally do this again). William still has chocolate on his cheeks from when he licked the mixing bowl.

Later that week we had a birthday party. This involved pizza (featuring MORE root beer from the Root Beer Store because we are gluttons for punishment and also a bottle of the Flying Cauldron Butterbeer, which William snatched up immediately because he is reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the first time and loving it).

Then, a pinata . . .

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Our rule for pinatas is to line up shortest-to-tallest.
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It’s a star pinata! William was overjoyed to pick out the candy from the bulk section at WinCo.

. . . then a game in which the boys built a tower out of cardboard and then knock it over with water balloons. Eleanor decided to stand next to the tower and taunt the boys. So guess where everyone began to aim? And guess who got soaking wet and chased everyone afterwards?

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Warrior Queen Eleanor
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We found this cool water balloon kit that fills and automatically ties 30 balloons in 60 seconds. So cool.

Later: MORE of William’s goofy cake-face. He’s going through a phase where all pictures require making a silly face. William had requested that his party be “birthday themed,” and that he therefore needed a “birthday flavored cake.” I had been planning on just buying an ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins, but his request for “birthday flavor” melted my heart (he remembered the rainbow sprinkle cake from last year!) and I pulled out the baking pans.

The evening was rounded off with presents. Katie decided ten minutes before the party started to give William a present of some stuffed animals that had been hiding under her bed. Eleanor helped her wrap them up. I thought it was touching, although I think William was kind of baffled.

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Heavy Heavy Hang Over . . .
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“Wow, the stuffed animals that I’ve been missing for months. Thanks.”

And we’re still not done! Today (Sunday) we are still opening presents from Mom & Dad (a cardboard MakeDo Space Pod kit. Wim and Jeff are working together to assemble it as I type this) and the grandmas (knight figures and a remote controlled BB8). Call me crazy, but I think we can consider this boy well-feted.

Not that he doesn’t deserve it. William is the sweetest sunshine guy I know, a sweet-to-the-core boy whose catchphrase is “Happy Day, Hooray!” and lives it like he believes it. There was a period a few months ago when William was declaring every day to be his “Best Day Ever,” even if it was full of what I’d consider mundane things like chores and school. Didn’t matter to him: every day was full of something that made it better than the last. Can’t go wrong with an outlook like that.

 

 

Happy Pie & Beer Day!

We’ve had two rounds of houseguests so far this summer.

Round One was William, his wife Melody, and their tiny toddler son Peter. I somehow didn’t take any pictures of them during their stay. Perhaps because it was the same week as this:

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The fox backpack was from a one-panel fabric kit at the craft store. William loves fox things, so it was perfect for him.

Wimmy’s sewing camp! It coincided with the same week as Shakespeare Camp, so the carpooling duties were exhausting. But everything you see him wearing/holding in that photo is something he made, so it was worth it.

Round Two coincided with this:

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I want to collapse into a nap coma just looking at this picture.

Yeah, Cub Scout Day camp. That week was so exhausting that I can scarcely summon the energy to remember it. My day as a chaperone involved hearing the boys getting lectured about hydration, gun safety, and a retelling of the Robin Hood legend that was riddled with inaccuracies (Robin of Locksley was not a real person! OKAY?)  but which was retold by an incredibly butt-kickin’ grey-haired female archery rangemaster, so I was in a forgiving mood.

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Also, this poster in the craft tent was pretty cool.
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This science class Katie attended at the library has nothing to do with Cub Scouts, but it happened the same week. 

The houseguests for Round Two were Edgardo, Liz, their three children, and Julia. Brooke, Liz & Julia: The Charlie’s Angels of Roommates, united under the same roof once more! They were just the kind of people to be understanding that their arrival coincided with my annual job running the neighborhood book-drive fundraiser.

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These were the items we COULD sell. There were about twice as many items deemed to weird or old to sell. We hocked ’em at Half Price Books for $30! Woo!

We celebrated Pie & Beer Day (i.e. Salt Lake’s subversive answer to Pioneer Day) with trips to Shari’s and the Root Beer Store. Afterwards, I realized that our previous root beer tastings were paired with regular food (protein, veggies) instead of sugary pie. Soda & Pie: a classic culinary blunder that resulted in a sugar crash of neck-weakening proportions.

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Tree Fort soda is the WORST. It tastes like curry powder! Why? Julia was happy to see Sprecher’s, which reminded of her time living in Wisconsin. Not pictured: a THIRD PIE, plus also Kristen and Sven, who appeared briefly between visits to two other parties.
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Sure, we look happy NOW, but thirty minutes later . . . 

We also took a trip to Seattle Center together, but my phone ran out of juice and therefore I have no photo evidence. (In sum: Katie was terrified of riding the monorail, people are competitive about seating in the Armory, and the playground was hot. That makes it sound lame but I actually had a really good time. I love the Monorail!)

Let the record show that I love summer houseguests. There are two more rounds of them this season, and I can’t wait!

Summer of Shakespeare 2016!

We’ve had quite the week of Bardolotry around these parts.

First, our trip to the Utah Shakespeare Festival. We had both sets of grandparents, plus Uncle Michael, Aunt Natalie, and Cousin Anderson along for the trip.

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Mandatory stop in Beaver for ice cream. William is going through a phase where he makes silly faces in photos.

We saw four plays in three days: “The Three Musketeers” (eh. They gave D’Artagnan a spunky kid sister, which was super annyoing), “Mary Poppins” (solid production, cute child actors), “Henry V” (good enough; stole too much from Kenneth Branagh film, but it was preceded by the official opening ceremony for the Engelbert Theater, so that was nice), and “The Cocoanuts” (excellent musical based on Marx Bros. film; guy who played Harpo was amazing).

In between all the theatricals, we managed to eat quite a lot of good food at a little outdoor cafe called The French Spot. It’s run by a French chef and his children; his wife is a visiting professor who has a summer teaching position at SUU for five years. So while Mom teaches, Dad decided to set up the one restaurant in Cedar City with decent food. OHHHH my the croissants! The quiches! The crepes! The tarts! The omelettes! The creme brulee! The macarons! There was also le bifteck, but I never got around to trying it.

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Katie had just gotten her face painted with a butterfly which made her look kind of like a puppy.
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Look at that quiche crust!! So crumbly!

Eleanor was lucky enough to be chosen to participate in the Greenshow on English Night. She and another girl played Hot Potato, and Eleanor won! (The actors even got the audience to chant Eleanor’s name.)

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Eleanor used her allowance money to get this mask. She wants to use it for a Halloween costume this fall.

We also managed to squeeze in a side trip to Cedar Breaks National Monument. As a happy coincidence, the rangers were celebrating a Wildflower Festival that day, so there were extra games and activities for kids to do. A “Master Astronomer Volunteer” had sunscopes set up for viewing a solar flare, and Eleanor, William, and Katie all played Wildflower Bingo.

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Flowers everywhere!

Everyone trooped out onto the viewpoint trail together. The flowers were marvelous.

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I’ve never seen so much columbine in bloom!
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Michael, Brian, Jeff
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Aunt Natalie brought Anderson along for the ride. We love the old bristlecone pines.
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I complemented Jeff on one of his rare photo smiles, and the other kids were so surprised that they all turned to look at the same time.

Our vacation was rounded off with a slower-ish day in Provo. Brian and I had been planning to attend the new Provo City Center Temple together, but luckily we managed to squeeze that in the morning before we drove to Cedar City:

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Huh. I guess the lady who took this picture didn’t notice that it was out of focus.

That left us with an entire day of free time. I logged on as many hours as I could at the piano (more on that for another post), the kids played games with Aunt Caitlin (who they adore) and then we hied ourselves up to Midway for lunch at Tarahumara. Brian and I have come to grips with the fact that we will likely never find Tarahumara’s equal in Seattle.

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Lamb tacos with cilantro salsa!
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There are always 30 kinds of salsa to try plus bottomless bowls of chips
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Glorious! We grabbed boxes of fruit empanadas for breakfast on the way home

We played more games and took Caitlin out to dinner again that evening (and I logged on still more hours on the Steinway). But soon it was time to pack up and drive home.

(Ah, road trips in the West. Where else can you find yourself parked next to a pickup truck full of antlers?)

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Baker City, OR: Home of the Antler Truck

Fortunately, we had a fun week of MORE Bardolotry lined up! Upon our return, Eleanor and Jeff participated in a week-long “Acting and Combat” theatre camp for kids aged 11-15 with the Seattle Shakespeare Company. The kids learned some stage combat, and they rehearsed and performed a mini version of “Hamlet.” Jeff was cast as the ghost; Eleanor was absolutely thrilled to be cast as Ophelia (how often do you actually get the part you want? Hardly ever!)

 

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They wore all black for performance day. Eleanor is holding the twigs she used as props for the mad scene.

Katie and I were able to watch the performance together, which was followed by stage combat demonstrations by the kids. Eleanor beat up Jeff multiple times, which was fun to see.

Other Miscellaneous Events:

We celebrated Free Slurpee Day at 7-11, as did half of my friends on Facebook:

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Katie is doing this thing lately where she poses “like Officer Hops” from Zootopia. That’s why she looks so perky in this photo.

Katie finished her little 5-week Pre-Ballet class at the rec center:

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Katie is the one in blue.

Jeff and Brian hiked all 20 miles of the Burke-Gilman Trail in order to finish the requirements for the Hiking merit badge. It was Jeff’s idea to do an urban hike for the badge. It certainly made things more convenient – they didn’t have to pack a lunch, but stopped at Un Bon Pain for sandwiches.

This is the map of the trail:

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This is a screen capture of when I was tracking the GPS signal on Brian’s phone to follow where they were. (Yes, they played “Pokemon Go” for a good chunk of the way.)

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All finished! Brian was moaning about his feet all evening long.

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They actually had to go 2 miles beyond the trail’s end, since Burke-Gilman is only 18 miles long.