Tamolitch Pool Hike

Posted by julie on Monday, 23 June 2014, 10:39

To celebrate summer, yesterday we hiked up to Tamolitch Pool, also called Blue Pool, where the McKenzie River comes back above ground after disappearing as groundwater for a bit. The two-mile hike to the pool—mostly in shade except for the last half-mile or so, which is over lava flows just beginning to grow shrubs and trees big enough to offer shade—was the perfect length for our family on a day with temperatures in the low 80s. The kids parkoured all the rocks and down trees for the first mile, then they settled into a hike. Everyone was ready for a break when we reached the clear, cold water of the pool (of which I have no photos; a Google search will probably give you some good ones). The pool is difficult to reach, so we opted out this time. We’ll climb down next time. At least one of us was brave enough to enter the 36°F river on the hike out. I know that my feet were numb in about 11 seconds.

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Mid-hike meditation

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Ooh, that’s colder than I expected

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The bravest one of all of us (always)

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Birthday Ride (only a week late)

Posted by julie on Friday, 13 June 2014, 12:20
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Doesn’t he look like he’s adjusting the camera and getting ready to show you how awesome the place is where he is? He’s right.

Kids’ lunches packed? Check. Air in bike tires? Tire patch kit? Sport chews that are really candy with salt in them? Check, check, check. Kids’ swimsuits in their backpacks? Check. Phone numbers in cell phones for YMCA (where both kids will be by 1 p.m.) and kind friend who agreed to shuttle boy-child to YMCA? Yupper. Caramel latte for the mom who’s given up caffeine? Do you have to ask?

And we were on the road by 9 a.m.! Date birthday! Life is so good.

Aided by my caffeinated caramel latte, I chatted for the entire drive up the McKenzie River, my patient husband nodding and agreeing and even offering opinions every now and then. We started the bicycle part of our adventure at White Branch Youth Camp, site of many near-misses while snow tubing with fellow grad students in the late 90s. I have no idea how we survived that CCC-era ski slope converted to a tubing hill. So steep and fast and icy! White Branch is about four miles, and nearly 1200 vertical feet (at 2440 feet), below where I’ve started this bike ride up to McKenzie Pass on the old McKenzie Highway before. So help me.

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While those first 1200 feet and four miles were rough, after I relocated my (daughter’s) backpack from my back to my handlebars and lay stretching on the asphalt, my journey improved dramatically. From Alder Springs Campground—where the second snow gate was still closed, thus ensuring a car-free journey to the Pass—the road hairpins through tunnels of Douglas fir, hazelnut, western hemlock, and sword ferns, climbing 1100 feet in the next five miles. We had run into my friend and sometimes adventuring partner, Suzanne, and her friend, Bruce, who’d started a few miles below where we started. Powered by catching up, Suzanne and I forgot about the hills. Once we reached the top of the switchbacks, the last seven miles, which climb 700 feet to the Pass, felt like a cruise. The road opens up into long, open straightaways punctuated by small climbs past meadows, vernal pools, and trees getting progressively shorter.

Then, there’s the lava, flows from Belknap and Little Belknap Craters that created the strange and lumpy landscape of McKenzie Pass. We passed lava tubes and nunataks—islands of forest the lava flowed around. In the last couple of miles before the Pass, views open up to North and Middle Sisters, just 6 miles southeast of the highway.

Around the corner, we reached Dee Wright Observatory, which is really a fairy castle constructed of lava. That meant we were at the Pass and I could eat more “sport chews” and stretch my back again. There was a rotating cast of perhaps 15 cyclists at the Pass while we were there, including three preschoolers and a Kindergartner whose strong dads had pulled them up the hill. I’m so soft.

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After some ground squirrel photos and a divine cheese plate (well, gnawing on a hunk of cheese and taking bites of crackers tastes like a divine cheese plate when you’ve earned your lunch), we re-helmeted up for the ride down. Downhill! While my mortality weighed on me as I squeezed my brakes around the first few turns, I eased into it, and pretty soon 30 mph (more?) felt thrilling rather than terrifying. One or two of Chris’s spokes broke on the ride down, and Suzanne’s brake pads were shot, so the two of them limped back down while I was able to completely appreciate the wind whistling in my helmet. I reached the car first, but my dear husband suggested I keep riding, that he’d eventually pick me up. Our relative speeds were so similar that he didn’t catch me. I stopped because I reached Highway 126 and didn’t want to ride with more and faster traffic.

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Chris drove home until he said, “I’m tired. Wanna drive?” He was snoring in the passenger seat before I started the car.

Go, Baseburners!

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 4 June 2014, 21:28

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The best game in the world! The 3rd and 4th grade Baseburners (along with Mr. S, back in 2nd grade due to a Waldorf technicality) played their first baseball game of the season this sunny, warm evening.

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Avoiding ball 2. He’s VERY good at waiting for his pitch.

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Watching ball 3, which was nearly a strike.

Sylvan played short stop for an inning and then was clocked on the chin/ear by ball 4 during his first at-bat (thank goodness for batting helmets). This is the first year that the boys pitch rather than the coaches, and the opposing pitcher pitched very fast and a bit erratically. Sylvan cried and asked for ice, so I went to buy some instant ice packs at the nearby grocery store. By the time I’d walked back, he was ready to play again. I wasn’t expecting that, and I’m pretty psyched that he was ready to get back on the horse rather than give up.

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Ready to go back in.

Mr. S went back in at 3rd base, and he made two great plays, which resulted in the 1st and 3rd outs of the inning. First, he grabbed a grounder and threw it to 1st. Then, he caught a pop fly! His teammates hugged him. I love those guys.

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Showing that grounder who’s boss.

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And tossing it to 1st. He couldn’t make it across the infield a couple of weeks ago, but practices have improved his throws a great deal.

Go, Unicorns!

Posted by julie on Monday, 19 May 2014, 9:40

I need to share this, because it’s too perfectly wonderful not to bare itself to the world. Unicorn/soccer design work and photographs by Chris Miller, dad extraordinaire. With special thanks to the world’s best girls’ Kinder soccer coach, Bob Chandler, who may have had as much fun as the girls.

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Happy Birthday, Sylvan: You’re 8 2/3!

Posted by julie on Sunday, 11 May 2014, 21:58
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The state of Sylvan at any beach—running in and out of the waves.

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You patrolled with me this winter. You’ll probably be a full patroller before I will.

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I told you I’d give you a quarter if you went out to swing in your underwear with no shoes. You put on sandals, trousers, and an unsnapped jacket, telling me where I could put my quarter.

Dear Sylvan,

Four and a half months ago, we made a big switch, transferring you from our neighborhood elementary school to the Waldorf School. We really wanted to love our neighborhood public school: it’s full of smart, caring staff; it’s four blocks away; we fit neatly into the community of families there. But you were oh, so unhappy. While I don’t know that you’ll ever love school (I can always hope), you’d gotten to the point that you cried every morning on the way to school. “I hate it. I don’t want to go,” you’d say. I started thinking what you needed was a therapist, that you were eight and depressed. It just broke me. I’d drop you off and cry as I walked home.

Moms can’t always fix their son’s problems—­nor should they always try. I waffled, but we visited the Eugene Waldorf School, where your current teacher gave you an hour-long interview on the Saturday before Christmas, asking you to throw a beanbag with him, stand on one foot, skip count, draw, follow directions, and answer some written math problems, all in a very soft, patient voice. Your Dad and I looked at each other, nodding without nodding.

And now? You’re definitely a happier human. You come home from school muddy and paint-laden. You never complain that you don’t want to go to school. You play a pentatonic flute, write beautiful cards in Spanish, and knit, all as part of your everyday curriculum. There are things you don’t like—eurythmy’s not your favorite, and some students’ behavior surprises you (building a culture of respect can take years; in the meantime, you have classmates that take advantage of that, because, hey, they’re in 2nd grade).

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Waldorf mud

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Your valentines this year, which you had to make for your classmates at the Waldorf School. Your bookmark valentines were beautiful, and you never once complained about making them (that’s different from years past, let me tell you).

And you went back down a grade because of your summer birthday, which means we get to keep you for an extra year when you’re 18. As difficult as parenting is for me, as excited as I am sometimes to run away into the woods by myself, I already appreciate that extra year.

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Cousin reading. Dom looks unimpressed, but I’m not sure he likes Sandra Boynton.

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Your first state-wide chess tournament. You finished strongly, and I think you were most excited about the salt water taffy in your trophy.

While you’ve always loved listening to music, especially as you go to sleep, you’ve started to reach that tween obsession with some pop songs. I get it; I’m into some of the same songs, especially “Pompeii” by Bastille and “Let Her Go” by Passenger. While you’re doing other things, you hum “Glad You Came” by The Wanted.

I wish you and Daddy could see eye-to-eye more often. I sometimes feel like a middle child when you two are misunderstanding each other. I understand both of your frustrations, and I just want you both to sit with me and gaze into each other’s eyes until you can understand each other. You both just desire respect from the other, or that’s what it looks like from the outside. Dad wants you to acknowledge him, to listen, and to follow through. You want him to understand that not all sibling altercations are your fault and that sometimes you need more than a cursory instruction before you’re ready to move on. In thirty years, you’ll both belly up to the bar, sharing a (root) beer while you refer to dear old Mom as a hopeless hippie.

I love you and your soft, soft cheeks,
Mom

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I just thanked my lucky stars that when snow grounded us in Chicago overnight, you two were my travel companions. You took it like pros, actually getting excited about the mile and a half that we (I) had to walk to make it to the cots from which we were unceremoniously roused at 3:45 a.m.

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Passing along dad’s cultural history

Posted by jonesey on Tuesday, 11 March 2014, 5:23
Her favorite one is about Kevin McHale.

Her favorite one is an ancient tale, circa 1987, about Kevin McHale playing for months with a broken foot and leading the team to the Eastern Conference title.

Happy Birthday, Elena! You’re 5 1/2 (okay, and nearly a month; I’m a mom)

Posted by julie on Friday, 7 March 2014, 12:09

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Dear Elena,

Sometimes I look at you and I can’t believe you were a glimmer in our eyes six years ago (well, you were a glimmer and a tiny peanut at that point). You are so completely breath-taking and self-possessed, it’s hard to believe you didn’t spring fully-formed and perfect from inside a cabbage leaf.

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Cousins!

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You learned to ride a bike last August, and you learned to START a bike on Saturday. Those first few pedals are always the hardest.

You are fearless. You should retain that; it will come in handy later. We had to remind you of that bravery when we recently tried downhill skiing again–rather, you had to remind yourself. Once that confidence returned, you simply pointed your skis down the hill and said, “Okay, where do you want me to turn?” You were a bit terrifying to watch, but you were nearly always in control. Then you went up on the lift by yourself! Okay, you don’t have to be THAT big.

You have the world’s most charming little voice. Sometimes I wish you knew how to turn it off, but I love its word-choice mistakes as well as its mispronunciations and impediments.

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You are learning to read. Learning to read seems like a miracle to me. Learning a new language does, too. Our brains pliably wrap around the new information, prodding it like a curious octopus until–pop!–the brain and the information become one. To prepare for reading, you learned all of your letters last fall in Kindergarten. While you knew some of them already, you hadn’t absorbed them like your brother did when he started to read. You know what sounds most letters make, and now you can sound out many words and sight-read some, too. You’ve read books to me! If there are words you don’t know, you attempt them based on context, sometimes with funny results that collapse us into giggles. It’s such a pleasure to watch you figure out reading. Your process is different from what Sylvan’s looked like. You’re more of an experimenter.

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While you have always wielded a pencil with grace and care, you’ve started trying cursive, because that’s what your brother’s doing. Second child: “I will not be left behind!”

I don’t love your stubbornness, your ability to look me in the eye as you’re jumping on the couch. You are fast to frustrate and fast to cool down. Your brother and I probably taught you to blow up, and now you’re a master. And we’re both calmer. I apologize. We’ll continue to hug you and try to understand your feelings.

I love you, Miss E.

Love,
Mommy

girls

Girls hikin’!

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After-dinner science experiments

Posted by jonesey on Monday, 20 January 2014, 8:33
Sometimes we just have brownies.

They said they were trying to turn their faces pink.

Elena’s friend (middle): “I can totally see my feet!”

Elena (left): “I can’t see my feet because I’m not long enough.”

Finding the Sun

Posted by julie on Monday, 6 January 2014, 12:16

When folks live in Eugene, and Eugene looks like this:

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then everyone in Eugene tries to escape the freezing fog. They climb mountains, they go to Hawai’i,  or at least they hit the coast. We hit the coast. And our friends were close to where we were headed, so we hung out with them, too!

And we bought wetsuits.

Wetsuit party

Wetsuit party

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Bro, I got completely bowled in that pounder and ended up with a brainfreeze.

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Umm, Dad, I have the whole ocean’s worth of salt in my eyes.

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We also got at least a little exercise climbing the world’s largest dune (not really), then running down. Fun!

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And, before dinner, a spectacular sunset:

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If you’re curious about Chris’s whereabouts, he spent the day sitting and reading in the sun. So no action shots, but plenty of contentment.

Communicating with our Congresscritters (or: A picture is worth a thousand howls)

Posted by jonesey on Thursday, 26 December 2013, 19:32

A couple of weeks ago, Julie and I went to the Cascadia Wildlands Project‘s annual big party and auction. All the hip(pie) nature lovers were there, and we ended up with a huge, beautiful photograph of old-growth trees in Oregon’s Elliott State Forest.

There was another kind of photography happening at the auction as well. A professional photographer was taking photographs to send to our Congresscritters and various other folks in D.C. who are laboring under the benighted impression that removing wolves from the Endangered Species List is a good idea because there are a few dozen of them around and everybody loves them (right?). CWP even had little whiteboards we could hold up with pre-fab messages about how cool and valuable wolves are. You can see some of the photos here (PDF, scroll through a few pages to get the idea).

Those of you who know me know that I like to make my own signs (someday I’ll dig up and scan a photo of me protesting at the Wall Street Journal in the early ’90s with a handmade painted sign depicting a generic conifer with the word GOOD under it) rather than run with the pack. I only had a few seconds, though, so this is the best I could do:

Photo of a wolf and a fox

Truth in advertising