Archive for August, 2009

Ice Cream Special

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 25 August 2009, 14:08

Mommy (at the playground, inquiring over the small counter about today’s specials): “What kinds of ice cream do you have today?”

Sylvan: “Today we have roller coaster ice cream.”

Mommy: “Really? What’s that like?”

Sylvan: “It goes around and around in your mouth.”

Of course.

9/11/09 update: When I recounted this story to Sylvan, he said, “That’s not what I said. I said it zooms into your mouth.”


Posted by julie on Monday, 24 August 2009, 0:36

I listened to the wind in the conifers on three consecutive days last week. And I noticed it. Hooray for small miracles of mindfulness.

Last Saturday, I had a good run on the Ridgeline Trail, enjoying how strong my out-of-shape body actually felt (hefting 22-pound babies counts for more than I give it credit for) but not enjoying the sharp, 2-3-inch crushed gravel on the new section of trail (no rock plates in my otherwise fantastic shoes equals sore feet). Wind in the Douglas firs.

Last Sunday, I climbed Diamond Peak, a solo hike that felt really tough for the first four miles. My body has always reacted strongly to a little altitude. I remember showing up at the Noble Hotel in Lander, Wyoming (elevation ca. 5350 ft.) for NOLS courses and sucking wind as I climbed the stairs, thinking, “How am I going to go out and heft a 60-pound pack around at 8000 feet?” Then, of course, there was the stroke, after I’d been up to 11,000 feet. Dehydration and my body’s goal of making more red blood cells to compensate for the difficulty in acquiring oxygen couldn’t have helped.

My body turned it around last Sunday, though, and the objectively difficult part of the climb, a steep, well-worn and heavily-cairned climbers’ trail with lots of scree and gravelly footing that gained the last 2300 feet to the summit, seemed much easier than the first four trail miles. After snapping a few pictures on the windy top, I had a late lunch back down at the false summit, all the while convincing a cheeky ground squirrel that I don’t share chocolate with rodents. There was no one else on the mountain on that sunny Sunday in mid-August. I saw two Pacific Crest Trail through-hikers that evening, back on the trail as I headed to the trailhead. I also surprised a long-tailed weasel, who skittered away up a log, looking back, then finding cover. Wind in the mountain hemlocks up high, then Douglas firs toward the trailhead. And, whew, the mosquitoes down near Summit Lake, on the Forest Service road I was walking on back to the car. I put on my raingear and RAN.

On the summit. Nice gaiters, NOLSie.

On the summit. Nice gaiters, NOLSie.

On Monday, Sylvan, Elena, and I hiked up the Amazon Headwaters Trail. Elena fell asleep, as planned. Sylvan, on his first apprentice-hike, preparing to climb Diamond Peak with me (when he’s 10? 11? I think he’s thinking this reward will be a little more immediate, but I’m happy to have him excited about hiking again.), powered uphill with nary a whine. The ripe blackberries helped. Wind in the Douglas firs.

Elena at 1

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 18 August 2009, 22:49


Dear Elena,

Ah, sure, apologies and all that for not writing you a birthday letter since May. Second children, blah, blah. I really do think there are more picture of you, second child, so don’t worry. I love you the purplest.

A short summary of your last few months:

  • June 24 (in Arlington, OR, at the playground): You stood by yourself, from crouching while hanging on to standing: “Look, Ma!”
Elena's first solo stand

Elena's first solo stand

  • Also that week we were camping: You started waving. Clapping too, I think. You also signed “more” once and “milk” twice. That’s it for the sign language. I mean, reaching and making whiny noises works so well.
  • You love waterfalls. The one we hiked to in the Wallowas made you smile.
Elena at the waterfall

Elena at the waterfall

  • You like tents. You enjoy burrowing into puffy sleeping bags and bouncing off the tent walls.
  • Late June: You realized that banging two objects together is pretty fun. And noisy.
Smiling on cue

Smiling on cue

  • July 12: You got your first tooth.
  • July 19: Second tooth. Now we’re feeding you filet mignon. Rare.
  • Late July: You started taking directions. You’ll “shake the water off” if Daddy asks you to, shaking your head “no.” And you notice when someone is leaving and saying good-bye; you wave to them, even with only the prompt of good-bye language.


  • July 27: You started walking, first taking a tentative three steps, as Gramma Mia and I looked on, not believing that Grampa had really only stepped out of the room for a moment. Within a couple of days, you were up to eleven steps, including stopping, crouching down, and picking up objects. Now you’re a toddler, definitely preferring walking to crawling. I’m not sure you realize yet that you’re allowed to bend your legs when you walk, so you really do toddle. I can’t even remember the last time you crawled (but it was probably yesterday. Please forgive me; I have two small children.).
  • You dig ice cream. It’s required in this family.


  • Within the past month, you’ve started to understand concepts that seem rather abstract to me. You’ll pick up my shoes, even Mary Janes with heels, shoes that don’t look anything like your shoes in color, type, or size, and you’ll try to put them on your feet. It’s the same with hats. You don’t have any baseball hats, but you’ll pick up my Yankees hat and place it on your head. And you’ll pick up anything with plentiful buttons on one side: old cell phones or remote controls, a calculator, (a cob of corn tonight; those are buttons, right?) and you’ll talk to your favorite person on it (Tephra?). Remember, too, that you live in a family where Daddy uses his cell phone for work, I don’t have a cell phone, and I spend perhaps an hour, total, on the land line each week.
Hip hip. That's what tigers say.

Hip hip. That's what tigers say.

  • Yesterday, at the end of a hike with Sylvan on the Amazon Headwaters trail, we crossed a bridge with safety wires placed closely enough that I felt I could let you do your own thing. You crouched down, picked up some Oregon ash seeds, and tossed them over the edge. As you’ve done from nearly Day 1, you started exploring on your own, testing gravity in this case – or at least having fun throwing stuff.
  • You have three words that I recognize: dog (daw), cat (a-dat), and door (doh).
  • You think the trampoline is great fun, but “how am I supposed to get off this thing?”
  • And I almost forgot: you’re using the potty! Okay, you’re using your diaper, too, but I just sat you on the potty last week, and you figured, “Oh, I know what this is for.” And, without fail thus far, you’ve delivered. Today, at your one-year exam (30th percentile for height, 75th for weight – taking after Mommy), the doc essentially said, “Really? It seems too early.” I know, I know. And we have to get through the year of stubbornness and running away, but I’ll take using the potty instead of yucky diapers while I can.

From this to this in a year:


I love you, Elena, you and your sweet smile.


Look who’s 1 today! And still cute.

Posted by julie on Saturday, 15 August 2009, 16:09

This morning, we celebrated Elena’s birth with a small party in a park that has sand, water, community sand toys, and lots of kids who utilize such a great public space. I invited just a few families, all of whom have kids who are close in age to Elena and Sylvan. And I made a rockin’ cake (well, a few folks asked for the recipe, so I’ll take that as a good sign). And did you know that you can dye frosting with blueberries?



From clean and dry to wet to wet and sandy

From clean and dry to wet to wet and sandy





Sylvan, in his dragonfly dress, sneaking some frosting

Sylvan, in his dragonfly dress, sneaking some frosting

After cake, a nap, and changing into dry clothes, Miss E eats blueberries

After cake, a nap, and changing into dry clothes, Miss E eats blueberries

Maybe it’s naptime for me now?

Happy Birthday, Sylvan: 47 Months!

Posted by julie on Thursday, 13 August 2009, 1:12


Dear Sylvan,

As you and I sat on the shore of Crescent Lake, soaking in the morning sunshine, Diamond Peak dominated much of the horizon in front of us. “When I was up here four weeks ago, there was so much snow on that mountain,” I told you. The snow had reached in unbroken slopes from the summit ridge to treeline. “There is still so much snow up there,” you countered. I said I might climb Diamond Peak next weekend. You looked up at the mountain. “I want to go with you.”


I smiled. I do want to hike and explore with you; I want you to climb big mountains with me in ten years. Honestly, though, I’ve avoided hiking with you in the past couple of years. Preschool whininess has defeated me, I’m sad to say. But you and I hiked the trail alongside Crescent Lake last weekend, following far behind Grandma Diana with Elena on her back. You displayed curiosity, wonder, and pure joy. You, the Toadmaster, found FIVE toads, three in one little tunnel-burrow (or barrow, as you say). You bounded up the mountain bike jump and soared off it. You told Grandma Diana, Elena, and me a story on the way back about the driller bug dinosaur, the fossil of which was right in front of us on the trail. You described its eating habits and that the holes in it (this upturned, silvery stump – shh!) were how it had been born.


You’re becoming interested in dinosaurs, more as a concept than a category. That they’re extinct gives you something to think about. How long ago were they here? How can you put 265 million years ago into context when you’re not even four? I’ve given in twice now and let you watch Barney on Netflix as I put Elena to sleep. You liked it, which I just can’t understand, but what you said to me was, “Barney’s a dinosaur, but he’s around at the same time as people.”


You, Elena, and I traveled to New York last month to attend a couple of family reunions and visit Gramma Mia and Grampa Dick. I needed you to be a big boy, a good traveler, and you didn’t disappoint. You traveled like you’d been flying since you were four months old. Okay, you have been. In fact, when we went to the mall, the Galleria in Poughkeepsie, you asked if we were at the airport. We must be doing something right if you recognize an airport but not a mall.