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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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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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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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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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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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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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:


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.

Parades & Picnics

I’ve noticed that we’ve fallen into a pattern these last few years. During the odd-year summers, we visit Yellowstone; during the evens we attend the Utah Shakespeare Festival. As traditions go, it ain’t so bad.

This year was a Shakespeare year. But before we headed down to Cedar City, we spent some more time with the Neweys in West Point.

Specifically, the rockin’ 4th of July festivities of West Point. Oh, how I love that small-town parade.

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Wincing into the sunlight of liberty

Horses and antique tractors and a million little girls in sparkly leotards with their jazz dance teams! Since Katie refers to this holiday as “America Day,” my dad kept hollering “HAPPY AMERICA DAY!” at the people throwing candy. Hence, we scored about 8 lbs. of saltwater taffy, plus several frisbees and a t-shirt.

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My dad also hollered “HEY WATER! RIGHT HERE!” at the people on the floats holding squirt guns. Not quite as amusing (buuuuuut I will admit the cool water did feel nice in the hot sun).

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The rest of the day was spent watching “Finding Dory,” then gorging on burgers & baked beans, then collapsing in a nappinh heap while the children watched “Voltron: Legendary Defender,” and then groggily collecting ourselves together to watch fireworks.

Poor Katie! She had been looking forward to America Day for weeks, but then took sick when it finally arrived. We let her come to the fireworks display anyway, although she spent most of it curled on a blanket with Huggy Bear.

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Poor little one!

Pat was visiting with his daughters for the weekend, and glorious Cousin Times were had by all.

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Katie wasn’t sick for all of the Cousin Times. She and Emmy played for a long time together in the fairy garden:

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My mom’s collection of fairy garden stuff grows more incredible every year.

The only downside to the holiday (besides Katie’s illness) was the unfortunate fact that Utah has legalized arial fireworks. It was like the friggin’ Battle of Antietam all night long. When we left the West Point fireworks, we discovered that idiots had set off smoke bombs in the parking lot. One of them set a patch of nearby dry brush on fire, but fortunately Brian and another man were able to stomp them out before it grew into a wildfire.

July 5 was a Salt Lake kind of day. We began with a picnic lunch at Silver Lake, at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Katie was still feeling a little under the weather, so she insisted on carrying a bucket around the trail with her, “in case I get sick again.” We got lucky and saw two moose!

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There’s a brown hump lump just to the left of center. That’s one of the moose.

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Cuddles with Grandma

This was followed up by a visit to Banbury Cross Bakery:

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Best glazes of any bakery I’ve tried

and then a turn through Gilgal Gardens. My mom (who had come along for the day) had never visited this wonderfully odd collection of “outsider art.” We had to rectify that immediately.

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In the Bible, “Gilgal” refers to a circle of sacred stones. This was a series of quirky statues created by a stonemason who was also an LDS bishop for 10 years. The statues are reflections of his personal spiritual life.
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The Joseph Smith Sphinx is probably the most well-known of the Gilgal installations.
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These PNW kids aren’t used to the desert heat.

By this time we were parched from the heat and still had 3 hours to go until we were to meet our friends for dinner. My mom voted that we head down to the City Creek Center to hang out at the Disney Store. Who am I to resist that? (No photo evidence of that part of the trip, but everyone walked away with Tsum Tsums. Which meant we had to carefully keep track of Tsum Tsums for the remainder of the trip.)

Our final stop in Salt Lake was at the Seven Canyons Fountain. It had been two years since we had visited this place, and I was a little dismayed to see that my older kids didn’t play on the water structures in quite the same way they had before.

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Ridiculously carb-heavy picnic. My mom put Eleanor’s hair up in a pencil bun, and it made her look 3 years older.
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Liberty Park now has this odd little train ride that rolls down the sidewalks.

Jeff and Eleanor were far more inhibited and at a loss for what to do at first. I had to keep making suggestions for how they should play (“try making a dam in one of the water streams”). But eventually all our Plethora friends arrived and they got along as well as they always have.

We had a fabulous picnic with various Pleth people until it began to get too dark and nearly all the other park patrons went home. It was a devil of a time getting the kids out of the water. But the lure of the next grandma’s house did the trick.

Summer Delights

Our first “summer camp” coincided with the last week of school this year. William and Eleanor auditioned for the annual theatre production produced by the Missoula Children’s Theater, and got in — but all the rehearsals were during the last week of school. The play is sponsored by the Shoreline Arts Council (the performance of the play is done as part of the Shoreline Arts Festival), hence the lack of coordination with the school district.

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Eleanor is the farthest flamingo on the right. William is the brown half-hidden turtle in the middle of the second row.

The play this year was “The Frog Prince,” with extra moral lessons about Friendship and Being Yourself and a million extra small parts added including an anthropomorphic aspen tree that only speaks in rhyme.

Eleanor was Flamingo #8 — part of a troupe of flamingos that also know how to flamenco — and William was a Turtle. He was so excited about his part.

WILLIAM: Mom! I got into the play! And I get to have a SOLO!”

ME: What, you get to sing a song onstage?

WILLIAM: No, I get to say a line! All by myself!

Yes, just the one line, but for a boy who as always been part of the faceless chorus, this was a big deal. His “solo” was to walk slowly forward, and then say “What’s the rush?”

But unfortunately, his costume didn’t fit him properly and he could not stop squirming the entire time he was onstage. Ah, theatre.

Jeff missed the performance because he was off doing his First Real Backpacking Trip with the Boy Scouts. They hiked 9 miles and camped on the shores of Ross Lake. Even though we taught Jeff how to use his little backpacking stove, he was nervous about it and therefore ate nothing but beef jerky and dry ramen (dry! ramen!).

Because of all this busy activity, we didn’t get to do our traditional last-day-of-school activities until the following Monday. Namely, eating way too much sugar at Menchie’s:

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Followed by a trip to the grocery store to pick out Summer Cereal. When Brian came home that evening, he took a look at the four sugary cereals on the counter and guessed which child picked which cereal. He was correct on all counts. Can you do the same?

Froot Loops, Reese’s Puffs, Lucky Charms, French Toast Crunch


(answers: Froot Loops = Katie, Reese’s Puffs = Jeff, Lucky Charms = Eleanor, French Toast Crunch = William)

I would also like to add here that French Toast Crunch is the cutest little miniature toast cereal ever. Makes me almost not-sad that my favorite website, The Toast, closed down this week. (With a sign-off from Hillary Clinton! Never have I been pandered to so effectively.)

The kids didn’t have much time to munch on their cereal because we took off for Utah the following Friday (which is where I am now).

The only remarkable thing about the drive here is that we needed to make an emergency bathroom stop, and the only place we could find at the time was the Chamber of Commerce building for the tiny town of Glen’s Ferry, Idaho. The volunteer working the desk said we were lucky they were even open that day.

And then she gave us all free lollipops, pins shaped like potatoes, and happily marked down in her ledger that the CoC had six visitors that day. Also, half of the postcards for sale there were of places in Utah. And when I wanted to buy one of the interesting mural in Glen’s Ferry, she said, “But did you see the one with the train? That train one is so lovely, it shows how we have the desert and the farmland here,” and she was so bursting with hometown pride that I am now the owner of a very boring postcard of a train going through a field.

Also, the mirror in the bathroom was made of a horse yoke thing:

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What is it, exactly? Besides hilarious?

And there were benches made of wagon wheels outside. My mom’s response to this story was “That is so Idaho,” but come on, Mom. You know the Syracuse Historical Museum is basically the same thing.

We’ve had a happy couple of days here in West Point so far. My mom made a tipi for the kids to play with, and the fairy garden is bursting with little figurines and play houses.

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My sunshine girl!

Best of all, we were able to “kidnap” Sol and Joseph, who moved away from our neighborhood and moved to Utah a few weeks ago. Jeff and William have been missing their best buddies, and relished playing Edge of the Empire all day.

I even got to visit Danielle in the evening and take a spin on her new baby grand Baldwin. It sounds so great! My performance of the 3rd movement of “Waldstein” was terrible, but hey! I know how to play it now! (More on that later.)

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They are remodeling their house, so the piano is alone in an empty room. In other words, LOUD.


In the Last Days

We’ve hit the end of another school year, and once again I’m swirled about with conflicting emotions. Sadness over the passing of another fleeting milestone, complete and utter panic at the prospect of the approaching summer.

(The image on the left is the last day of the 2015-16 school year, on the right is the first day. Look how much Jeff grew!)

Truth be told, I’m not nearly as panicky as I used to be before I had kids old enough to babysit. (BABYSIT! Let the praises of such be sung from the rooftops.)

And Jeff has grown out of his past summer habits, such as spraying bottles of sunscreen on inappropriate surfaces, such as the sunroom windows or the entire interior of the minivan. (He was eight years old at the time. When I moaned, “why why why??” he merely replied, “It was an accident.”)

But I digress. Here’s what’s important to know:

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Katie has finished preschool. This is the last preschool pickup I will ever have to do for my own children knock on wood knock on wood. I’ve been shuttling kids to preschool for ten years.

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Katie is a bit happy-sad about it, and I am too. This week the song “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt came on the radio, and while she didn’t understand the sad-about-the-breakup lyrics, the bittersweet melody made her grow very still. “This song makes me think about my preschool class,” she said quietly. Aww, my sweet little one.

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However, things are looking up in Katie-land because I signed her up for a five-week pre-ballet class. This is a VERY big deal to her, especially since she gets to wear the sparkly leotard Eleanor and I gave her as a preschool graduation present.

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Her hair is juuuuuust long enough to put into a bun. Thank heavens for snoods to cover up all those wispy loose ends.

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Meanwhile, Eleanor is quite glum about the end of her dance classes for the year. The director of her dance school died of breast cancer a year ago, and has now shut down. She’ll be attending classes in a new studio next year, but she couldn’t help but be sad that the little Ballet Academy of Performing Arts is no more (and will likely be torn down by a developer, darn it all.)

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Therefore we took extra care to have fun with stage makeup for her final performance with BAPA. I googled a bunch of tutorials about how to do ballet stage makeup, and whooooa is it over the top. I think I got her eyes looking great, but I’m really not the best when it comes to putting lipstick on kids.

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The piano year also finished up with Eleanor & William performing very well at the Edmonds Musicianship Festival. That same day they also performed along with Jeff at the season-end performance of the Seattle Children’s Chorus. Both Jeff and William got choir promotions, so next year William will sing in the upper-elementary choir with Eleanor, and Jeff will get to sing with the middle/high school treble choir. (Although Brian is betting that Jeff will only last a few months before his voice changes and he gets kicked into the men’s training choir.)

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I, on the other hand, am relishing a summer with a significant decrease in carpooling . . .except for the summer piano lessons and skating and day camps and . . . and. . . and . . .

Did I mention the older kid babysitting thing?

The Last Tea Party

One of my favorite things about Katie’s preschool is that they host special tea parties every spring.

Last year was the “Special Person Tea,” where Katie was encouraged to invite any special adults in her life to attend. We were lucky enough that Grandpa Randy and Grandma Kathryn happened to be in town for that one.

This year was the “Mother’s Day Tea.” Katie was excited about this event for weeks ahead of time, whispering excitedly about the “secret surprises” that her class was working on to get ready for it.


The wait was worth it — I was privileged to eat a “dirt cake” Katie made herself (out of chocolate pudding, cookie crumbles, and a gummi worm) and wear a handmade paper hat that she had splashed with fingerpaint. The hats had been molded to the children’s heads, so none of them quite fit on the adults in attendance. We all had to sit a bit more properly erect to keep them from toppling.

Since this was our last year at the preschool, I did my best not to get teary-eyed, but I did take the luxury of filming the songs she sang with her class in their entirety. In years before, I would only record a minute or two, but not this time! A full eight minutes and twenty-four seconds of adorable Katie singing is now mine forevermore.