Archive for February, 2010

Our Life, 2/23/10

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 23 February 2010, 20:47

Started off with a great trip to the Stewart Aquatic Center with Sylvan and Elena: warm pool, other kids, mosaics of sea creatures on the pool bottom that scared Elena (it was the “tentacles on the octopus,” said Sylvan), my son undressing and dressing himself in the locker room. I’ve avoided the pool for a while, wondering how I’d manage two kids. Sylvan’s comfortable enough in the water that I just gave him a pool noodle and watched him float around. He says he’s going to do a somersault in the water next time we go.

Lunch at the Hideaway Bakery, my favorite place in Eugene other than my porch. Split a Caprese sandwich (pesto, red pepper spread, fresh mozz, tomatoes on their grilled bread; it’s Sylvan’s favorite sandwich, because he has good taste), had cups of tomato-y Tuscan soup while Elena napped.

At home, the kids did this (note the chalky footprints):

while I finally put some framed pictures up on this wall. It’s pages of a spiral-bound calligraphy instruction book I found at a book sale long ago. It looks good on the wall, but it’s nothing compared to the kids’ neon chalk-enhanced “paper machine.”

And I got this picture in my e-mail today, which was taken yesterday. Cool, huh?

This was our house on Sunday, after Sylvan and Chris had mowed the grass, complete with small imp knocking blossoms off pretty, blooming trees:

It’s raining now, so no need to be envious.

RDA of Vitamin D, View from My Window

Posted by julie on Saturday, 20 February 2010, 17:48

Ah, spring in February. Alarming, yes, but also so lovely. The kids and I celebrated on Thursday by heading out to Mt. Pisgah. After floating sticks down the stream, Sylvan found this “cave,” so very Eugene. All three of us easily fit inside.

Then we headed toward the river. The kids acted silly along the way, Sylvan with a goofy grin, Elena with a new hat.

That’s Lobaria pulmonaria, lungwort or lung lichen, on her head. The arboretum must be a pretty undisturbed habitat to support this relatively sensitive lichen.

At the river, there was much rock throwing and finding of insect nymphs on the underside of the nearby stream’s rocks.

Today, the kids and I spent as much time as possible outdoors, much of it at Tugman Park, perhaps my new favorite park. I love the combination of big, open field; sandy playground; and stream area with little riparian zone. The locked bathrooms left a little to be desired. Chris had the camera at his race, so use your imagination.

When I returned home, I snapped this photo of the view from my window. That’s the prettiest cat in the world backed by some beautiful blooming plum trees and Spencer Butte just over the roofline of the house across the street. Ah.

Coy Tephra: "No, I will not turn toward the camera."

Van Smackdown, Part II

Posted by julie on Friday, 19 February 2010, 10:53

Really? A Volkswagen camper-van is a minivan? Okay, “unibody construction,” “V6 engine,” “I read too much Car and Driver.” I understand data; I am a trained scientist under the façade of diaper bags and dirty dishes, but would you call these vehicles minivans?


From VW Camper - The Inside Story by David Eccles

There are vans, there are minivans, then there are Volkswagens. I suppose VW vans have always occupied a separate category in my brain’s filing system, whether they have pop-tops or not. I don’t claim to be a car aficionado, and I suppose VW vans, even if their tops pop to reveal sleeping space, might be categorized as minivans (if your world is black and white). But let’s look at another picture, more evidence for you. Would you say this interior is in a minivan? Or would you instead say the vehicle is more like a “mini RV”?


From aaronx's flickr photos (CC BY 2.0)

All mini-vans have tables and cabinets and curtains, right?

I realized that in making a big deal out of this, I must be somehow admitting that “The Analyst” is right, that this is a minivan. But I sort of have a lot riding on this: I have been known to say that I’ll never drive a minivan. Chris has, more than once, admonished, “Never say never.” And you might know that I don’t like being wrong (but I often am).

For me, this argument comes down to intention. I intended to buy a camper. The main reasons we got this van are:

  1. We live in Oregon, and we like to camp. We had a very soggy experience in the Wallowas last June, while camping in tents out of our diminutive vehicle with a 3-year-old and a baby. It was less than pleasant. That planted the seed.
  2. Chris, the man who never wants anything other than used books for Christmas, said, “I’ve wanted a camper-van since I was seven.”

Additional supporting arguments in favor of a larger vehicle included:

  1. I would like to go for a hike with another parent and his or her kids without having to caravan two hours to get there. Wouldn’t company be nice?
  2. After setting up appointments to buy trees last fall, I canceled because I couldn’t manage to find a time when: I wouldn’t have the kids, the nursery was open, and I had someone else’s pick-up truck that would fit the trees. Now, the kids AND the trees will fit in the van. It will be nice to occasionally have a little cargo space.
  3. When our parents visit, we either have to rent an extra or bigger vehicle or decide not to go anywhere beyond walking distance. I’m glad my parents like the coffee shop around the corner.

I understand that these last three arguments also support buying a minivan, but we didn’t need a minivan – or even a second vehicle, really. We wanted a camper with some nice side benefits. I feel guilty tooling around town in my 40 mpg recycled cooking oil- and canola-powered car. It’s still a car. I don’t intend to pick up the groceries or the kids at soccer practice in the camper-van.

That said, if you see me in the Market of Choice parking lot with the camper, and we’re not on our way to the trailhead, you may hurl the slings and arrows.

A triune conversation about The Van, with special guest The Analyst

Posted by jonesey on Monday, 15 February 2010, 22:29

I happened to mention to a few friends that our family had acquired a new vehicle, and one, who is a bit farther into middle age than I and who makes his living as an Analyst, posed an inquiry.

A mini-van or an SUV? Welcome to America!

I, attempting to clarify, replied with a link to my previous weblog entry, complete with photo:

It’s a van van.

He replied with some Analysis. Trying to be helpful and explanatory, of course.

Nice ride. And Dude, it’s a mini-van. A mini-van has unibody construction, front wheel drive, coil springs, an automatic transmission, a “family” seating configuration and, usually, a V6 engine between 2.5 and 4.0 L. A van is really a truck. It has body on frame construction, rear wheel drive, often leaf springs in the back, and various seating, transmission, and engine configurations based on application. If I bought a mini-van, it would be like yours and it would still be a mini-van.

Well, you see, my lovely wife, my better and prettier half, Julita, light of my life, fire of my loins, does not like minivans. She has no truck, if I may be so bold, with minivans. She despises them. They call out to her, but she scorns them, declaiming her Kahlil Gibran, who once wrote:

[The minivan] stands at the turn in the road and calls upon us publicly, but we consider it false and despise its adherents.

So of course, I, being a truthful and honest and communicative husband, forwarded The Analyst’s message on to my wife, saying, yea verily:

These are the people I call my friends.

She set me straight:

That man is NOT your friend.

I, being one to protect my friends, and also my NOT-friends, because I do so love them all, forwarded her correction to The Analyst, with the following preface:

For future reference. Best not to use the “M” word around the wife if you value your intact body.

The Analyst, for his part, cut out the middle-man (your humble scribe) and replied to both of us with a rambling message about a medicated woman, a spade, a Subaru, and something called a “Johnson unit” (I didn’t ask).

I used to work with a woman who got very upset when I called her Subaru a station-wagon. After a stay in the Johnson unit and a long battle to stabilize her meds, she’s back at work and feeling fine.

Anyway, welcome to middle age. Denial of conformity is an important part of feeling that one, and one’s family, is “special.” So its not a mini-van. It is a special vehicle for special, gifted non-conformist people.


P.S. In my professional life, I’ve had countless run-ins with people who got pissed at me for calling a spade a spade. The trick, as in the present case, is to have unarguable data.

I think this chapter is complete, but I still say he should keep his mouth shut around the loin-firer.

Happy Birthday, Sylvan! You’re 4 and something.

Posted by julie on Friday, 12 February 2010, 23:07



Dear Mr. S,

“Hey, Mom,” you say, tugging on my sleeve, “Wanna see my den?” You pull me over to the cushy red chair, draped with a quilt that is further scaffolded by a broomstick. Underneath, behind the chair, is a dark pocket, big enough for you and your sister, two young wolves, if you fold yourselves in quite carefully and don’t nip each other too much. I remember doing this when I was four. I’d bank up the couch cushions against some wooden chairs and throw a blanket over the whole thing. I still remember the yellow light and muted sounds of the outside world. I’ve even found you and Miss E hiding in the playroom closet, which is especially charming since it’s under the stairs, so the ceiling slopes down. We’ve tidied and cushioned it up to make a comfy cave.

Successful Christmas craft

Successful Christmas craft

We had a fun and busy visit with Daddy’s parents, Diana and Tom, who spent two weeks with us over Christmas and New Year’s. You strung popcorn (well, perhaps you mostly ate the popcorn); glittered the veins of pressed leaves, which Diana then hung in the front window; and helped Diana decorate a gingerbread train station with dried pineapple, pretzel sticks, and other not-so-naughty treats. You and Grandpa Tom became reading buddies, and I think you surprised him a little with your ability to sound out words. We all had a fantastic couple of days at our friends’ house on the windy, rainy coast. The full moon broke through the clouds, and we had plenty of clear-ish weather to enjoy running on the sand and jumping waves. We even made it to the Aquarium, at your request, and the fish and chips shack, at mine.

Then, in January, my parents came to visit, celebrate a second Christmas, and assist your Daddy while I rehearsed for a Dance Africa show. You spent some quality time with Grampa Dick, having him pay for moss with leaves and twigs, having him follow your leader, and asking politely if he’d read you yet another bedtime story. You helped Gramma Mia pick out some yoga pants at a secondhand store (you liked the Hello Kitty ones; so did she, to my dismay), and you generally whispered in her ear whenever you found the chance. I can only guess that you were saying things like, “Hey, wanna play with my train set?” and, “Please don’t leave.”

Christmas crayon truck, given by Aunt Sheila and Uncle Hugh, put together by Sylvan and Grampa Tom

Christmas crayon truck, given by Aunt Sheila and Uncle Hugh, put together by Sylvan and Grandpa Tom

You’ve changed in the past month or so, thanks to all the positive attention from your grandparents, I think. You’re more independent and willing to play by yourself, thanks in part, no doubt, to Diana’s suggestion that you take your train set up to your room and shut the door. You’ve spent an hour up there, by yourself, developing stories about the trains and their cargo. Of course, one of the two train tracks you have all set up in your room is a hand-me-down whose trains run on batteries. Let me say, for the record, that I now understand why parents buy things that make noise, move on their own, and, horrors, run on batteries. Of course, I also haven’t lost sight of the fact that these noisy toys drive me nuts, make me want to eat my hair and spit out my teeth. That door is good for more than just keeping out Elena.


A few weeks ago, we were on our way to pick up dinner (which often happens when your Dad’s at a meeting; I can’t bring myself to cook, feed you and Elena [and myself, if I can get a bite in edgewise], bathe you, pajama you, read to you both, and put you to bed. So dinner out it is!), and I mentioned that we could get fish and chips. “Yes!!” you cried. You rarely say anything with such unabated joy. After some super fish and chips and live crab-watching, a splashy bath, and only one story, Elena said she was ready to sleep. Despite my desire to have you stay in your room so Elena wouldn’t be distracted, you came in and sang “Skip to My Lou” and the ABCs until Elena asked for her crib by arching back to reach her mattress. We didn’t hear from her again, probably thanks to your sweet singing.

As bouncy as you are, you will drop almost anything for the chance to snuggle on the couch and read a book. You can read simple words, which you’ll do when you’re feeling confident. You recognize a number of words, words like dog and cat and stop, and you can easily sound out similar words, like frog and bat and top. With moral support, you could read dress, truck, or palimpsest. You don’t really believe that you can read books yet, which I understand. I think there’s a chasm between reading words and stringing them together to read stories; you have to jump the divide and believe that you can read enough of the words to understand the story. You’ve started to offer to tell us stories at bedtime, stories that include non-scary animals in their quest for friendships. I’ve recorded only one with my Christmas present from Daddy, an adorable voice recorder, but I’ll try to record more.

When your friend Amelia gave you a card last May, a card she’d written to you, I was just amazed. You’d never written an S or an A in your life. But she was a couple months away from five at the time. Little did I know that just after you turned four, you’d write your whole name on the chalkboard with no prompting at all. Now you’re making cards for your friends, too. Your valentines were especially cute, since you don’t always heed rules like “Calvin is spelled C-A-L-V-I-N. Maybe it should be written V-N-I-C-A-L.” I mean, Calvin won’t notice; he’s only 3.

Happy Birthday Ruby (Batman appreciator)

Happy Birthday Ruby (Batman appreciator)

You’re giving more hugs and kisses, especially as you see Elena gets lots of positive attention in return for her affection. And you’re becoming more understanding and generous when it comes to other people’s behavior. You give Elena some leeway if she has a toy that you want, understanding that she’s only one. You are more likely now to really consider whether you want the toy before trying to negotiate with her to get it. And, after I expressed my grumpy sleepiness in a rather unsavory manner one Saturday morning, then apologized, you looked at me and asked if I’d like to stroke Pengy, your penguin puppet sidekick.

I shed a few tears at your sweetness, then I pet Pengy.


Bullet points so this blog post goes up before you’re five:

  • Gross motor skill-type activities like riding your bike or scooter aren’t really interesting to you right now, as active as you are. You’d much rather jump on your bed, breakdance in the living room, or wind yourself up on the rings at Bounce. Perhaps it’s the difference between moving in a straight line and winding your way in a more interesting pattern through space.
  • You still really like to create 3D art. You love modeling Play-dough and clay, you sculpted a fighter plane at school out of a cardboard tube and a kite spindle, then a spaceship out of popcicle sticks and paper.
  • You’re excited about toothpaste, floss, and lip stuff. You’re so happy to have your own hygiene products lined up in the bathroom.
  • You really like hoods. If you’re wearing a hooded sweatshirt or jacket, you keep the hood on for the whole day. Cozy.
  • You’re fearless when it comes to sledding, despite your parents’ bad judgment. Sorry about that four-ton metal obstacle at the bottom of that sledding run. At least you didn’t need stitches.

I love you, little boy.




I'm still going to try to push skiing instead

I'm still going to try to push skiing instead

A shopping day

Posted by jonesey on Thursday, 11 February 2010, 22:53

We all took a quick trip up to Portland today. Julie took the kids to Ikea. She came home with a table, a big pillow, and a bin for some blocks. Maybe something else. She might post some photos of that stuff.

I came home with something a little… bigger.  And greener.

Yeah, it's got a pop-top. With a bed in it. And curtains.

Yeah, it's got a pop-top. With a bed in it. And curtains.

Children are expensive!

Posted by jonesey on Monday, 8 February 2010, 19:55

I was expecting clothes, food, a few toys, soccer gear, and a college fund. What I did not budget for was all of these licensing fees.

I mean, $6.99? And it’s only good for 30 days? Time to write my congressman.

Good thing we got that Target gift card at the baby shower.

Good thing we got that Target gift card at the baby shower.

Who’s Your Mommy?

Posted by julie on Monday, 1 February 2010, 22:02


J: Where do I go to work?

S: Barry’s house!

J: What do I do there?

S: Work.

J: What was I like as a little girl?

S: Small.

A friend sent a set of questions she’d asked her daughter about herself. I remembered these two questions and asked Sylvan before I told him a bedtime story about two zebras (Zora and Xylophone), two unnamed bright green snakes, and two fish (with two ridiculous names I don’t remember).