Archive for the ‘Sylvan’ Category

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.



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.

Happy Birthday, Sylvan: You’re 8 2/3!

Posted by julie on Sunday, 11 May 2014, 21:58

The state of Sylvan at any beach—running in and out of the waves.


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


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).


Waldorf mud


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.


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


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,


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.


My family’s personalities

Posted by sylvan on Wednesday, 4 December 2013, 9:16

Today I took pictures of my family. First I wrote ”Hello my name is blank<name>. I am blank<adjective> and my favorite animal is a blank<color> blank<animal>.” It was fun although it was kind of hard to get Elena to cooperate.

I used my little film camera. It was fun, annoying, and hard at the same time! It was a good experience.

Note from Mom: It turns out that Elena doesn’t really enjoy being called “sassy.” (she thinks it might mean “sexy,” and she KNOWS she doesn’t want to be called that)

Happy Birthday, Sylvan! You’re 8!

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 17 September 2013, 19:04

Sylvan just after turning 7, a year ago

Sylvan conducting our singing of “Happy Birthday” when we celebrated cousin birthdays a few weeks ago

Dear Sylvan,

As I was looking at photos of you from a year ago, I expected to see not much difference from last year to this, to see a boy who was just a little smaller, a little rounder then. That’s true, but those changes make a big difference. You look decidedly different now—longer, leaner, toothier. A third grader, more than halfway through elementary school.

Your Dad and I filled out a questionnaire for your new 3rd grade teacher, Janine, whose first question for us was what you like and enjoy. We wrote something to the effect of: reading books, dressing up in costumes, chess. I looked at your Dad and said, “He’s going to play D&D when he’s a teenager, huh?” Well, yes, except it won’t be D&D but the fantasy game of the age for black-clad teenagers who wear trench coats.

Some people’s cats like to play in boxes…

One of your absolute favorite things right now is laser tag. Loud music, black lights, guns with no consequences. I can definitely understand the appeal. Your birthday party was a laser tag party, and consequently we have only a few photos of the party, all from cell phones. Crazy Voodoo Doughnut laser tag party!

Is that my shirt?

Elena’s first day of Kindergarten, Sylvan’s second day of 3rd grade

You’re not only taller with a rock-solid little muscular body right now. Your attitude’s changing, too. You’re much more willing to have your photo taken, for instance. That might seem simple, but, in the past, sometimes the camera would instigate a foul mood, like so many other things in your life. You still sometimes make silly faces at the camera, but that just shows your personality. You rarely stare sullenly at the camera anymore, willing it away. You rarely stare sullenly at anyone anymore. You’re still not Little Mr. Sunshine, but your subtle gentle humor is more likely to emerge to defuse stressful situations than your whiney little boy voice.

That change of attitude has permeated your actions. For instance, when we were back in Dover for a week at the end of August, I asked you and Elena if you’d like to hike up to the Stone Church one afternoon. Elena—usually up for anything—refrained, but you said, “Sure.” You explored the stream, checked out the church, and climbed up to a ledge just outside the church’s entrance. When I stopped and talked to loquacious gentleman, you very politely came up to me to remind me you were there, then went out to assemble munitions depots, and repeated that a few times as he talked to me. He and his wife were very impressed with your patience and ability to entertain yourself.

On the cliffs near the Stone Church

He can walk on water, folks

You and your closest friends—Cole, Robbie—enjoy outdoor explorations. I’m happy for their influence on you. While I enjoy living in a place where we can walk to school and to the store, I wish you could explore outside every day, that we lived in a spot where you could. It tears at me, knowing that you won’t have that everyday connection with the outdoor world.

That brings me to my biggest concern about you right now: that you don’t like school. You didn’t even give it a chance this year, before you wept before the first day and said you didn’t want to go. I wish I knew what was behind this for you. Is it social anxiety, true boredom, a lack of desire to do hard work, a real belief that you can’t do the work?

“Why can’t you homeschool me?” you asked. Because I think the social aspect of school is important for you, and because you wouldn’t do the work for me. Oh, and because I’d go insane. Don’t forget that one. And sometimes it kills me. I could take you out and let you explore outside. We could develop much more emergent curriculum, based on your desires and interests. We would both undoubtedly learn a lot. I want you to love school; would you, if you were homeschooled? Who knows? I do know that I’m going to make it a priority to help you solve your problems around this issue yourself.

And I do know that I love you.


Waldo Lake paddleboarding

Happy Birthday, Sylvan: 7 7/12!

Posted by julie on Saturday, 13 April 2013, 20:25

Sylvan hanging in Hawai’i on a great family beach, Beach 69 in Kohala, on the Big Island.

Dear Sylvan,

You’re 91 months old! I remember figuring out when I would be 100 months old. If you don’t bring it up first, I’ll tell you next January. You’ll ask for cinnamon rolls to celebrate, because, hey, it’s an excuse to have sugar!

Last spring, at just about this time, we met with your Kindergarten teacher, Miss Polly, who suggested that you be tested for skipping a grade. Even though you were old for your grade, we hadn’t considered this. As the evidence mounted—who you played with on the playground, your math scores, your September birthday, your reading skills—it just made sense. So, with some consideration, we decided, along with your teacher, that you should enter 2nd grade this year. It turned out to be a very good choice for you. The academics are a good fit for you, and you have a gentle, calm teacher, Miss Laura, who’s helped you become a mellower, calmer human being.

Sylvan experiencing coconut anxiety (another example of maturity; he wouldn’t have put up with my photo shenanigans a year ago).

Shave ice rocks the house, even if it’s only 68 degrees F outside.

You often jump into play in the preschool classroom when we pick up Miss Elena, who is always finishing up her snack (because she’s a good eater and a good talker). The other day, while you were helping to put away some train tracks, you started to take one from a little boy, thinking he was handing it to you because you were closer to the bin. He yowled, and you just stopped, not even responding to his outburst, and continued putting other tracks and blocks away.

You’ve reached a point in your evolution as a human that, when you are a bit wronged, you brush it off. I especially appreciate this in your interactions with your sister. When you step back and don’t escalate a tense situation, I want to hug you (but if I did, you’d make a noise like this: whiny “ehhhhr,” and pull away). In fact, I want to hug you a lot, but that’s not your preferred intimate gesture; you prefer a back-scratch.

Run away!

You love: laser tag, chess, Stratego, facts, pretending to be different Harry Potter characters/rainforest animals /Bearbarians warriors, playing in the waves, downhill skiing.

You are good at: being yourself without being at all concerned about what others think, spelling, math, reading long and complicated books (You just finished The Hobbit by yourself on the way back from Hawai’i; I still haven’t read it because it’s so long and complicated.), and chess (You’re playing in tournaments, and your goal for the last one was to gain a higher point value—based on wins, losses, and draws—than your last tourney. You did it!).

You are nervous about: team sports (but you play football with the boys every day at lunch), some other athletic endeavors where you feel your peers are bigger and better, and I don’t know what else. I know you have concerns and anxieties that I don’t hear about. As you slowly climb toward middle school, you will share with me less and less. I think this is why I need to stop, slow down, and just listen to you. We need to chat about nothing that matters so that we can chat about what does matter when you want to share it.

I love you,

Update 15 April: You were very fun to watch in your soccer game yesterday. You went directly to the ball and were scrappy. If the ball was anywhere near your section of the field, that ball touched your foot. You had some great steals yesterday, and you smiled the entire time. It was very joyful.

And the two lasting verbal kid mis-speaks that I still love to hear you say are “pacific” for “specific” and “care-UC-ter” for “character.”



Will Those Teeth Really Fit?

Posted by julie on Thursday, 17 January 2013, 9:46

Will all these enormous, grown-up teeth really fit into this little mouth? Sylvan’s fingers are blue from his forensic science Daring Boys Club. His eyes are bloodshot from skiing this weekend (I need to buy him larger goggles; his head is too big for kid-size ones. That big brain that reliably beats most grown-ups at chess has to fit somewhere.)

While Sylvan was losing his fifth tooth and picking an Army duck from the secretary’s supply for birthday and missing tooth kids, Leslie and I ventured up to Marys Peak, the highest mountain in Oregon’s Coast Range.

You probably won’t see much in this photo, other than the ocean of clouds covering the valley. That’s Mt. Jefferson to the left, and the Three Sisters to the right, at the horizon in the Cascades. Leslie researched the mirage we saw that distorted the mountains. It was a fata morgana. It made the mountains look STRANGE. We could see Rainier, St. Helens, and Adams up in Washington state. It was an amazingly crystalline day.

We’re above the clouds on a foggy, cold, dank Willamette Valley Day. Yay! I’ve now climbed two mountains of my 40 for the year. Yay! I’m with a fun, adventurous friend. Yay!

Leslie found this guy at the end of our hike. We’re not sure if he was there at the beginning. Yes, we saw more than one logging truck on the way up to the Marys Peak trailhead.

First Day of School, with Sisterly Help

Posted by julie on Thursday, 6 September 2012, 1:20

First day of 2nd grade, with a little help from little sister. How awesome are those green school shoes?


Sitting with friends, even though most of his friends are in the other class. He's so lucky that he gets to sit next to Miss R.; she rocks.

Apparently, being in 2nd grade makes one big enough to attempt a recipe by oneself. And succeed. These cheese straws were great. All I did was grate the cheese, and only because I was already grating it for my soup.

Helping Daddy Run Too Far

Posted by julie on Monday, 20 August 2012, 0:04

Chris ran the Waldo 100K yesterday. It was more than 100K; you’ll have to ask him about it.

The kids and I supported him, but only a little. We really just wanted to get out of town and go swimming in a beautiful mountain lake. We succeeded.

We thought we might have missed Chris when we got to Charlton Lake, after some road construction and VERY slow trucks. Made it, though, with time to spare. I almost missed this photo, though.

Mostly cloudy, drizzly, with brightly-colored children

The Outdoor Program was out of rental kayaks and stand-up paddleboards on Friday, since the weather has been so utterly delectable. So, on a whim, I bought an inflatable kayak at REI. I hope it lives up to its great start. The kids and I took it to the island in the background, both kids inside and me pushing from behind.

By the time we'd found the Shadow Bay swim area on Waldo Lake and inflated the kayak, it was 80 degrees and sunny, perfect for boating or swimming in remarkably clear and cold water. This beach is great, because the water reached my chest only after I'd walked out 150 feet. Perfect for new paddlers.

Found this little amphibian swimming near shore

Had plenty of time at the finish line to ask repeatedly to ride the gondola, drink lemonade, eat veggie burgers, drink hot chocolate, and only watch about 15 runners come in (in 3 1/2 hours; 100Ks aren't really spectator sports)

"Who wears the pants in this relationship?" Or, perhaps, "How does he wear the pants?"

A jug of wine, a pizza, and … a book

Posted by jonesey on Wednesday, 25 July 2012, 17:12

Behold, Sylvan and his friend Olivia, hanging out after devouring the best pizza in Eugene at Hideaway Bakery’s weekly pizza night. Olivia just happened to have brought two books. Usually at this time of the evening, Sylvan is running around whacking things with sticks and mixing up dirt/mud/ice/flower/snake/snail/puppy-dog-tail concoctions in the alley behind the bakery. Olivia proved to be a civilizing influence, at least for fifteen or twenty minutes.

That's Sylvan's music teacher from kindergarten in the background. She plays the accordion, changes flat tires on cars by herself, runs trail ultramarathons, and knows Finnish folk songs. And teaches music to elementary school students.