Elena is 86 Months Old Today!

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 14 October 2015, 23:57

Still at it

       SONY DSC

Dear Elena,

You look so old these days, with your long, long hair and long, lean legs.

You spent your last days as a 6-year-old in New York; actually, you spent nearly four weeks there this summer. Not only did you love it, but my parents and my sister loved it—and you. You were helpful, charming, responsible, playful, and you didn’t want to come home. You swam, climbed, had a pedicure with Aunt Jenny, went to yoga with Gramma Mia, hiked with Grampa Dick, put together puzzles with Uncle John, taught Miss June to swim, picked veggies, and went to horse camp (you and Gramma even found jodhpurs at a 2nd-hand store!). You never once caused a problem for your grandparents; not once did they notice you being stubborn or finicky or unkind. Darling girl.



You have started to recognize wit and to tell jokes. Sometimes those jokes fail, and even that’s funny: Instead of “Dad, can you make me a sandwich?” followed by “Abracadabra, you’re a sandwich,” you said, “Dad, can I have a sandwich?” followed by the punch line that no longer makes sense. Which cracked all of us up.

You’ve recently turned the corner and discovered that the street is lined with books you can read! You now spend road trips going carefully through Highlights magazine, reading all of the stories when previously you only found the hidden pictures. You finally get it, why the rest of us are so enthralled with books. They’re full of stories!


You play soccer like a girl on fire. A few of your teammates have noticeably improved their ball-handling skills and have an intuitive understanding of where they should be on the field in a given situation. What you lack in those areas you make up in sheer speed. The other day, the assistant coach said, “You know, they’re going to have to start watering the field; otherwise, you’re going to set it ablaze.”


Elena, you have been reminded by your new teacher to be kind with your words and actions. When I told her that I hoped that wouldn’t continue, she said, respectfully and calmly, “Oh, I bet it will.” Then I told her that you’d chosen the nickname “Spicy” for yourself that very afternoon. She laughed and nodded. She understands you.

Other kids’ parents say things about you like “assertive,” “go far,” and “knows what she wants.” And they’re right. You are fiery, and sometimes—especially when it comes to sibling relations—that’s challenging. But what more could I ask than a hot-pepper daughter who knows what she wants and laughs while she goes out and grabs it?





Happy Decade to You!

Posted by julie on Monday, 21 September 2015, 11:16

Fun with McKenzie Pass panorama


Enjoying the porch with Great Grandma Kay in Ohio

Dear Sylvan,

A whole decade. 3652 days. In 2005, those days were filled with swaddling, swaying, and shushing. In 2015, it’s more like skateboarding, screaming, and…still shushing. You’ve just wrapped up the ten years of your life when you will change the most, growing from a frustrated, crying, 7-pound infant to a smiling, small but sturdy, whip-smart adventure boy. I am so grateful for the change!

In June, you and I headed up Black Crater near McKenzie Pass. It’s 7.6 miles with 2500 feet of elevation gain, all on good, wide trail. After two miles of climbing, you admitted you weren’t sure you could do this, that this would be the longest hike you’d ever done. I assured you that you could do it, but told you we could turn around at any point. Then, you just kept walking; we chatted about what to do if you have a medical emergency while hiking, which you took appropriately seriously. At the summit, we took ample silly photos of ourselves with the Cascade volcanoes magnificently arrayed behind us. I suggested that we trail run some of the way down. You took the lead, running parkour-style off of logs, and I had to really run to keep up—I don’t think I always did!


Not quite getting our jump together, but having fun anyway

We just gave you a skateboard for your 10th birthday, and you are the level of excited that every parent dreams a gift will impart. Yesterday, we brought the board and parts back into the shop to have it put together, and you chose grip tape for your board that has a kitten chasing a butterfly with a rainbow in the background. That illustrates perfectly how little you care what others think of you. You love the grip tape, and that’s that. The long-haired 25-year-old woman helping us was suitably charmed.

As she stuck down the grip tape and screwed on the trucks, she asked you questions about your summer and about school. When she asked your favorite subject, you had a hard time choosing between Games and Math. That sounds about right. Games class appeals to your active side, the one that admires your friends for their speed and agility, the side that is constantly ranking you and your friends according to athletic ability. Math comes naturally to you (although I may not want you to read that until you understand that having a growth-mindset, especially when things come easily, is invaluable to your future learning). Math appeals to both your logic and also to your outside-the-box creativity, making challenging puzzles fun for you. I know you’re also looking forward to woodworking, hand-working, and playing the viola this year in school (one of the things I really appreciate about your school is that I couldn’t teach you any of those things, unlike the curriculum in a typical 4th grade). You seem to really enjoy going to school; before school started, you said you were excited to see your friends again, that not seeing them was your least favorite part of summer.



Hitting the via ferrata in the Valle di Fanes with some cousins. What could be better?


Flying into Lake Bled

Other things you are right now:

  • Learning to be empathetic
  • Largely even-keeled, unless you feel unfairly blamed
  • Sometimes a wild beastie, padding around the house on all fours
  • Appreciated by other parents, who say things like, “I love that kid.” They can’t hear the loud noises you emit prior to 7 a.m., before I’ve had my coffee.
  • A reader! I can’t believe the number of pages you plow through. I’m just jealous.
  • Appreciative of Dad jokes. You also analyze them: “Mom, I don’t think the octopus ten tickles joke is a Dad joke. It’s actually funny.”
  • Taking after your Dad when it comes to the satisfaction you get from getting rid of stuff
  • A holder of hands, if only across streets, and completely unconsciously and unself-consciously

Sort of how it goes around our house

Ten years. I could have gotten four Master’s degrees, read 250 books, climbed 400 mountains, become a pretty damn good fiddle—and guitar—player, and learned Italian and Spanish fluently. Instead, I had you, you adorable devil. And, as much as I have been known to whine about a decade of stay-at-home parenting, I couldn’t be happier that you are my dear son. This next ten years, though—the ones where you spread your little wings into the big, wide world and find other people to love—I’ll be climbing mountains and working on my Italian, in between sessions of lying on the couch reading Moby-Dick.




Silly selfie

9 Things I’ve Learned from Having a 9-Year-Old

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 17 December 2014, 14:02



In lieu of a 9-year birthday letter, which I somehow never go around to, there’s this:

  1. 9-year-olds can win games without me having to “throw” anything (Who am I kidding? My 9-year-old has beaten me at chess for years. And Stratego? I don’t think it’s winnable—at least not by me.)
  2. While my 6-year-old still lags and complains of fatigue when we hike, 9-year-olds can charge! I can already foresee the day when I won’t be able to easily keep up.


  1. 9-year-olds hear and notice everything, and they cleverly try out words they’ve heard, some of them inappropriate, while looking at me to see if it’s okay (it’s not).
  2. 9-year-olds are capable of high-level thinking (mine is diagramming sentences at school right now). When your 9-year-old is tiny, adults sometimes underestimate him because they think he’s younger, then are amazed by the vocabulary and ideas that spring forth from him.
  3. On the other hand, 9-year-olds (my 9-year-old) like to be silly, too. Sometimes they growl and perhaps pretend to be four-legged mammals (and become frustrated with grown-ups when they don’t adhere to this plan).


  1. 9-year-olds are capable of increasingly higher-level empathy. For my 9-year-old, this means that he even realizes the impact his simple chores, like unpacking his lunchbox or clearing the table, have on my life. While he still likes to push his sister’s buttons, he’s just as likely to help her with something she can’t manage by herself—because he sees things from her point of view!
  2. “Fashion” is an evolving concept, and good fashion is different to every eye. The 9-year-old who lives in our house has, over the past year, started considering his clothing choices. Instead of knee-high wool socks with athletic shorts and a button-down shirt, he might wear a shirt with a belt over it—tunic-style—and a purple silk cravat. And maybe a cape, because sometimes we get a little Middle-earth up in here.


  1. 9-year-olds are well on their way to being the people they are trying so hard to become. I can inject some good manners and try to instill some (of my) values, but my 9-year-old definitely thinks for himself (I suppose he always has; he’s just more vociferous about it now).
  2. 9-year-olds are fun! Mine reads interesting books, likes to giggle, gives his own special (disgusting) kisses, and likes to work out beside me in the living room to Fitness Blender videos (wearing only his underwear).

I know that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, he will become old enough that he will start to pull away from me, so I’m going to snuggle with him now, even if he makes fart noises.



Up for Adventure: In Search of the Leonids

Posted by julie on Monday, 17 November 2014, 12:52

Still dark. While I didn’t see this meteor, I think there’s one in the upper right-hand portion of this photo (you may have to click on the photo to get a large enough version to see the meteor).

Very rarely is the sky completely clear for a meteor shower in western Oregon. We’ve been skunked even during the relentlessly clear summers we brag about—sometimes by smoke, sometimes by fog, always by light pollution if we don’t have the energy to go farther afield. But, when the forecast is for 22°F at 4 a.m., you can bet it’s going to be clear.

One cold, November night in New Mexico, 13 years ago, I woke up in my sleeping bag and happened to look at the sky as I was falling back to sleep. One of the benefits of eschewing a tent is that you may just wake up on the night of the Leonids meteor shower, which you didn’t even know existed, and have difficulty returning to sleep because you wouldn’t want to miss a meteor.


Looking west. I think the bright star near the center of the photo is Capella in the constellation Auriga, and I’m pretty sure some of the constellation Gemini is in the upper left corner of the photo.

We couldn’t see the Perseids last summer due to the weather; might we be able to catch the Leonids? First, I convinced my kids that waking up at 4 a.m. would be an adventure. If they gathered warm clothes before bedtime, maybe we would wake them up and try to see some meteors in the “morning” (term used loosely). My darling husband was only a slightly harder sell. I was surprised, because he likes his sleep. After a little dark sky and clear sky research, we decided to head east toward Oakridge, stopping at the east end of Lookout Point Reservoir, just across the railroad tracks in a grassy parking area. While we could hear traffic (and even see it if we weren’t looking at the sky), our location-picking was right on! It was dark, clear, and close to Eugene.

While I recommend the location, I also recommend arriving longer than 60 minutes before civil twilight. It just wasn’t dark enough for long. The real problem, though, was that this just isn’t a big “storm” year for the Leonids. Apparently, every 33 years or so, the Leonids can produce hundreds of meteors each minute. In 1833 and 1966, the Leonids produced spectacular storms. From my sleeping bag in the Gila National Forest, 2001 was impressive, too. Chris and I saw one meteor this morning; the kids missed it. But, snuggling in sleeping bags and drinking hot cocoa, they didn’t care a bit.


Tomorrow morning’s show might be even better, since the moon rises nearly an hour later. Go ahead; go on an adventure! A word to the adventurous, though: if you head out on a 22°F night, sleeping bags and hot chocolate aren’t merely nice to have; they’re a necessity.

(Please don’t tell my kids’ teachers that I woke them up at 4:25 a.m….They were just so game for an adventure, as my patient husband pointed up when he roused the kids at oh-dark-thirty.)



How we dress for ballet in Eugene

Posted by jonesey on Friday, 24 October 2014, 5:41
girl wearing ballet clothes and rain boots

swan puddle?

A Running Playlist

Posted by julie on Sunday, 19 October 2014, 21:19

Oregon Coast 30K. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

Because I was severely under-trained for my 30K trail race yesterday, I developed a running playlist of songs that I hoped might help me power through. On the last 2.5-mile uphill slog, this list definitely helped:

  1. We No Speak Americano, Yolanda Be Cool & Dcup
  2. Beautiful Day, U2
  3. Just Can’t Get Enough, Depeche Mode
  4. Around the World (la la la la La), A Touch of Class
  5. Pompeii, Bastille
  6. Heat of the Moment, Asia
  7. Stacy’s Mom, Fountains of Wayne
  8. Boom Boom Pow, The Black Eyed Peas
  9. Pour Some Sugar On Me, Def Leppard
  10. Low, Flo Rida (feat. T-Pain)
  11. Without Me, Eminem
  12. Dynamite, Taio Cruz
  13. Little Talks, Of Monsters and Men
  14. Wake Me Up, Avicii
  15. Say Hey (I Love You), Michael Franti & Spearhead (feat. Cherine Anderson)
  16. Glad You Came, The Wanted
  17. SexyBack, Justin Timberlake (feat. Timbaland)
  18. Timber, Pitbull ((feat. Ke$ha)

Because I borrowed liberally from other folks’ running playlists, I thought I would share this list, in case you’re wandering around the web, searching for music inspiration for a tough run. This list comprises about 67 minutes of music. I’m on the lookout for some good stuff to extend it a few more hours.

Happy Birthday, Elena: You’re 6! (and a month)

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 17 September 2014, 12:40

Elena, Sally Mann-style


Silly serious faces at the ball game


My two favorite little sisters

Dear Elena,

Nearly every morning, you wake me up: “Mom, I’m hungry.” I open my eyes to your smile, sometimes on the pillow next to mine, but more often hovering in the doorway. I prefer those mornings to my early-run mornings when my alarm jars me awake at 5 a.m.

Your little face lost its baby-tooth grin when you lost your first tooth less than a week after your 6th birthday, just a month ago. When I compare photos from your first day of Kindergarten at Edison to your first day of Kindergarten at Waldorf, this year, I notice how much you look like a big kid now: lost tooth, thinner face, longer body. The little kid is gone, but, thankfully, her sparkliness persists.


Waiting for the teeter totter to drop

You entered the Eugene Waldorf School this fall, and your summer birthday means you are in Kindergarten again. Transferring you to the Waldorf school was a hard decision for me; I know you didn’t want to leave your old school, especially your friends. But you are social and fun, and I know you’ll find some new friends (and play soccer with the old friends). You were also really enjoying the academic work that Edison gave you. You were learning to read, add, and subtract. Those pursuits will be put aside for two years for you as you enter the Waldorf world of imagination, cooking, and playing outside. It’s true that I look forward to the day when you will lose yourself in books…

At the Jog-a-thon last May. Elena ran 4.5 miles in an hour. Yes, I was impressed.

At the Jog-a-thon last May. Elena ran 4.5 miles in an hour. Yes, I was impressed.


Mom, do I have fern water on my head?

Although you aren’t reading full books yet, you can still entertain yourself for hours. Sometimes I find you drawing, or creating something with stickers, or setting up an art sale on the street corner, or arranging small items on your floor in ways that make sense only to you. While you love other people’s company, you are also one of the most independent people I know.

If we let you, you would play four sports, sing in a choir, dance, and take gymnastics classes, leaving time only for eating and sleeping. I am not a fan of overscheduling, but that becomes difficult to tame when you have a child who wants to do it all.


West coast mermaid


Blowing out the candles on the lime cousins’ birthday cake that Gramma made

You and Sylvan have started to have a real friendship, wherein you create imaginary worlds, dance, and pretend that you’re a fairy princess marrying a boy in a tutu. When that playtime works well, I am charmed. More often than not, it ends with you whine-screaming, “Sto-o-p!” after some perceived or actual injustice. I won’t miss that whine-scream when you grow out of it; I promise.

You have known how to ride a bicycle for over a year, but you are still struggling with starting and stopping. I’m considering picking up another small bike, so you don’t have far to fall and you’ll feel more comfortable (We gave away your small, training-wheel bike during a garage purge. Sorry!).


Putting together her bro’s Ikea nighstand

You, my dear, like dresses more, perhaps, than anyone I know. I don’t know why you have any trousers at all. My advice to you: keep wearing dresses and being a tough, outdoorsy chick. People will use words like spunky to describe you (in fact, they already do!).

Your Mom



Don’t mess with me, or I’ll shoot you with my bear popper

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.




Mid-hike meditation


Ooh, that’s colder than I expected


The bravest one of all of us (always)


Birthday Ride (only a week late)

Posted by julie on Friday, 13 June 2014, 12:20

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


Showing that grounder who’s boss.


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.