Best Birthday Ever Walks all over Busy Month

The end of April and all of May kicked our asses in about 12 different ways.  We had three birthdays in our house, one First Communion, a myriad of final projects for both kids and me, dance recitals, violin recitals, volunteer events, extra classes to teach and one funeral thrown in for good measure.  May was crazy and I was happy to see it go.

One thing that was sort of sweet to see go was another year for my eldest.  Francis turned 11 in May and had (in her words) “the best birthday ever!”.  Brad and I agreed that “the best birthday ever” seems to be something that has not much to do with being around adults.  In addition, her friends are getting more emotionally mature too, so there was less drama and more fun, which is always a good thing.  “Best birthday ever” involved having three friends over to our house to meet up, drinking fancy pomegranate juice with orange wedges and sparkling water.  They tried to play the My Little Pony game that Francis invented.  I don’t know how successful they were, but her friends were impressed that she invented a game and gave her all sorts of compliments for her efforts.IMG_0326 Next stop, pedicures.  These girls are all WONDERFUL people, but a couple of them are way high-energy, so I worried about them being too crazy for the salon.  I needn’t have worried.  They were nearly silent in the salon—-wowed by the experience I think!IMG_0332 IMG_0329

At the end, the girls all had pretty, super-bright toes.IMG_0335

I took their cute toes and dropped them off on North Mississippi where they got ice cream and walked around looking at the shops.  I had a few moments of worry, not that they would be unsafe on their own, but that they might be obnoxious.  Then it occurred to me that it is a big world out there, full of lots of people; some far more obnoxious than four 11 year olds “out on the town”.  A little obnoxiousness will serve these girls well in this world where you sometimes have to yell a little to not get stepped on.  And so, on Francis’ 11th birthday, I say, “Go forth and be obnoxious my dear child!”


“Okay, Mom!”

DIY Ziplines

It was suggested that we might have a zip line running from the top floor of our studio to our yard (eeeek!).  It’s an easy thing to contemplate when you don’t have to make good on the construction.  I can imagine a line from the lower deck to the yard where there won’t be as far to drop, but from the upper deck….. oh Lord.

The kids couldn’t wait though, and Francis had an idea and the motivation to walk 4 blocks to the hardware store to buy a pulley to make a zip line from one tree to another in a neighbor’s yard.  It was an impressive effort, although the actual “ride” looked terrifying and disappointingly short.  The kids seem happy with it though.  Inez had the bright idea that everyone should wear helmets, which I liked.


The brave engineer gives it a first ride.


Kale (the neighbor kid with crazy motor skills) hops on from the branch and zooms on down. All the kids in the ‘hood are in line to ride.


Lily prefers the “towel method”, which is what the kids used before Francis took off for the hardware store.


It is sort of scary to make the first launch.


Just like in Costa Rica!


Inez is too freaked to do it. Just after this picture, she falls right out of the tree.

On the Bike!

After a year of scooting (on her SKUUT), I begged Inez to try the bike with pedals again.  She didn’t want to, but I had thought she was pretty dang close to learning to ride it last year.  And now her legs are far too long for the Skuut.  Two minutes and she was off and rolling (pretty fast really) down the street.  It was so awesome!  And her big sister was fabulously supportive.

Madina is obviously next.



Lewis Got Purple Hair

Francis’ 5th grade class wrote and performed an amazing play about the Lewis and Clark Exposition.  It was truly impressive; funny, informative and engaging.  Francis had fought for the part of Lewis, standing in front of her peers and giving a speech that she worked hard on.  Her classmates were unanimous about giving her the part.

IMG_8140Sometime around here, Francis identified that now that she was a soon-to-be middle schooler, she really wanted to dye her hair some bright unnatural color.  Remembering my days of wild appearances, I said, “Of course you do!” and “let’s get you an electric guitar too!”.  Actually I asked her to finish being Lewis first.  The day after her performance, we picked up a box of Splat hair dye and began the long process of making her a purple head.


Of course I am biased, but I think she looks awesome.



Poekemon Club Accused of Discrimination and Closed by the City

A prominent Poekemon Club has been accused of discrimination and subsequently closed by the city.  Wednesday morning, the offending sign reading, “No Girls Accoupo this Corner” appeared on the front of the clubhouse.  The city was swift and conclusive in their reaction.

Inez Werth, a former club member verified that the club was closed, “Because Zephyr said, “No girls allowed”.  When asked if she was sad that the small civic organization had been closed, she said, “No.  That (sign) makes the girls sad.”  The organization had been notified that they were in violation of non-discrimation policies for the City of Portland.

The once prominent clubhouse, sited in the living room, has been dismantled and will be reclaimed by an environmental organization.


5 Year Old Birthday Party

Okay, time for you all to feel old.

Inez is 5.  There.  Feel old?

I haven’t done a birthday party for any of the kids (like with kid friends) for a couple of years.  I had forgotten how super hard it is.  I am not even a super-crafty-capable-party mother or anything.  There were no games.  There were no theme cookies.  No party bags or anything.  It was still hard.  You forget that parties with food and such, involve about a day of cleaning and a day of cooking.  And we live in North Portland, so everyone cares about balanced meals, and not too much sugar, and there are vegetarians and such to consider.  And you need beer, even though the party is for kids!  Portland, you know?  Food is not the easiest thing to pull off around here.  People have OPINIONS.  My day was already sort of busy, and I was teaching two hours before the party started.  Who thought this was a good idea?

Inez did love it though.  We had a house packed with kids, with friends for all ages, and many a helpful parent stuck around (thank goodness!).

Brad made a cute piñata that we managed to break even though it was blustery and raining off and on all that day.  Inez made it all worthwhile that night saying, “I loved my party, Mom!” before bed.





What is Old is New (and even better)

My cousin’s wife Suzy did a post on her blog about My Little Pony redesigns.  She captured the issues quite well and included links so that you can check out the freakishness that is My Little Pony today.   I’m not going to restate her conclusions— she already did that work and she is right!

Inez asked for My Little Ponies for her birthday, which sent me into double fits.  First of all, the things are plastic, plastic, plastic, and although less offensive somehow than other plastic toys, are still made of fresh petroleum products that do not decompose.  I don’t want a birthday present for a 5 year old that will outlast the 5 year old, (unless it is a knee replacement or heart valve, and in that case, I am all for it!).  Even with these sometimes weak convictions, I found myself standing in the toy aisle at Fred Meyer, trying to figure out this My Little Pony issue.  Embarrassingly enough, the ugliness of the current ponies was what put me over the edge.  All the tender, plump Pony-ness was gone from these new designs.

Luckily, there is this great thing called Ebay where people are now getting money out of their old pony collections.  I put quite a few bids out there and was soon the proud owner of a lot of 8 ponies from the 80s.  They are used, but in good shape.  The kids don’t care much if they don’t come out of an overly-sealed package, and I can feel good that we are reusing AND that they are super cute.  I call that a win-win situation.


Kids with our friend Grace, the older sister of the little girl on the river last entry.


Back to School 2013

Things change; things stay the same.

I’ve always liked September.  I look forward to the newness of sprinkles of rain, cold mornings, and lovely purple skies.  Same things around here are that Clementine, Mohamed, and Madina are still with us.  They are a pleasant and sunny addition to our days here.  The small stresses of living with MORE people sort of fall away in the moments where Madina says our names or we sit around chatting with Clementine.  The kids are accustomed to ugali now too, so we are all ready for a trip to central Africa….. at least as far as food goes.

Things change: Sekou is no longer in our house.  His birth mother has changed her mind and would like to raise him herself.  I miss Sekou a bunch.  It’s hard for Brad and I to admit how much we miss him.  We know that having him around was all enjoyment and none of the work (of dealing with the birth mother), but we are both sad about him not being here.

Inez is still doing the playgroup/nanny share two days a week for her last year before kindergarten.  She is pretty thrilled to be with her friends.  I’m pretty thrilled to have Thursdays and Fridays free!  (She had just wrecked on her bike before this picture was taken.)
IMG_7329 Zephyr has grown up too over the summer.  He is still rambunctious and somewhat unaware of where his body is, but he has shown signs of maturing.  Now when he picks up a stick, he doesn’t automatically hit someone with it…. it takes a few minutes.  No, I’m kidding.  Life with Zephyr is going to continue to be a struggle and a delight…. and it will tip back and forth between the two for many years I am sure!  I guess they are all that way, but we are constantly reminded of this fact with our son.  He is so high energy that many people just don’t know how to deal with him, so in addition to us working on qualities that will help him be more successful, we sometime feel like we are doing PR with neighbors, teachers, strangers on the street.  Sometimes I feel like I need to walk around with a button on that says, “Please be patient with my son….he’s actually really great once you get to know him!”.  One great thing is that Zephyr’s desire to read independently really took off this summer.  He is plowing through Harry Potter like a champ.  It’s very exciting!

IMG_7326Francis has the same teacher as last year and is pretty pleased about this.  Over the summer she has just seemed more calm and confident, and better able to regulate her emotions.  She’s also become pretty darn helpful.  She can make breakfast for the family, pick up her brother from school, and ride her bike alone to soccer.  She is also doing a lot this fall— guitar, soccer and Dungeons and Dragons.  Awesome.

IMG_7327We’re happy around here, but always appreciate your love and good wishes.

Thor’s Mighty Hammer

There is a cool cut out with a stool behind it on Mississippi Avenue in front of Mississippi Pizza Pub.  Your chance to be THOR!



The kids look mighty, don’t they?

Our Triumphant Return to Portland–Thumbs Up Wrap Up


brad az

Favorite Site:  Newberry Lava Tube

Being in the the dark alone with a lantern is super fun. Not having been in one before, I wasn’t sure what my reaction would be, but it was so pleasantly odd without being too claustrophobic. The kids had very differing reactions. Francis was freaked out (this is common), Zephyr was staying close but doing all kinds of ninja moves at the darkness, Inez was hauling ass down the tube with no light at all. We got some okay pictures down that there don’t adequately demonstrate this difference, but it’s close: Inez is grinning like a maniac and Francis is hugging her parents. I hope to go again soon.

Trip Thumbs Up

Animals! We saw a bunch: deer, eagles, salmon, elk, antelope, cattle, a cat with seven toes on her front feet, a coyote, and I even saw an emu (on a game farm near the road at 30mph, but whatever). At the High Desert Museum we saw otters, a porcupine, a lynx, a bobcat, an owl, tarantulas, turtles. And of course we felt particularly close to the cougar even though we didn’t see it.  Animals.

It was also great just to be together without being under pressure to get anywhere in particular. If we wanted to stop somewhere, we could and did. Took lots of detours, like to the Crane hot springs where we got hailed on. We weren’t even intending to go to Bend when we started the trip, but we spent four days there. Everything worked out great.




Favorite Site:  It was a tie for me between the Redwoods and the Wallowas.  The hike that we did to Slick Rock convinced me that I want to make it back to the Wallowas for an extended hiking trip.  When you start out hiking and are suddenly met with a mountain in your face—bam!  That’s amazing.  Those mountains are just giant and impressive and they seem to come out of nowhere.  And trees always have a special place in my heart.

General Thumbs Up:  There is tons to learn about our gorgeous state.  Whether it is history or geology or the natural world, this state has something to give at every turn.  I was so impressed with our National Parks System.  Thank you Teddy Roosevelt!  What forethought to know that we would want to preserve and protect our natural spaces.  And thank you people who figure out interpretive signs and maintain them.  If it were up to me, I would have just made stuff up, but these people made interpretive signs that are intelligent and educational!  And people who build hiking trails.  And Ezra Meeker.  I am still blown away by characters like Ezra Meeker.  This is a state full of Meekers, people who believe very strongly in their own weird little thing and are willing to walk miles and miles to prove it.

I don’t know if this is a negative reflection on my life, but I actually didn’t really want to come back.  I like doing things and feeling helpful for people in my community, but sometimes the appointments on the calendar feel so oppressive.  I have a million things that I am suppose to get to, which are just a million opportunities to be late or forget what I am suppose to do.  Everyone wants me; everyone needs me.  I felt so free away from a phone and unable to do anything for anyone besides our immediate family.  There is something here to consider and learn from, so I am tucking this sensation in my cap to turn over this fall.  How do I “get away” while I am actually living?

My final impressions of our trip— guess what?  Oregon is still wild!




Favorite Site:  The Oregon Caves

I was so excited to be somewhere where everything was so warped and enchanted.  There were possibilities around every corner.

 Trip Thumbs up

The libraries in the small towns were so nice.  I liked them a lot.  They are a way to stop and relax for a bit.  You didn’t have to have a library card.  You could just relax in a corner and read a book.

 Just being somewhere where we didn’t have a normal routine, and we were able to do something fun each day, and nothing was ever boring or normal.



Favorite Site:  Crystal Crane Hot Springs, Eastern Oregon

This one was a pond strangely.  It was very hot and muddy on the bottom.  It was really big and I could touch in half the way through.

Trip Thumbs Up

 The trip was fun because there was lots of hot springs.  I liked camping because the sleeping bags were so comfy.  And I liked marshmallows.





Favorite Site:  Mt Howard in the Wallowas

We feeded the chipmunks and they were so cute!  I made friends at every campground.


Animals we saw or heard on our trip

  • eagles (bald and golden)
  • chipmunks
  • squirrels
  • wolves
  • coyote
  • cougar
  • hermit crabs
  • crabs
  • rock fish
  • sturgeon
  • trout
  • elk
  • giant pacific salamander
  • deer
  • prong horn antelope
  • gophers
  • sea lions
  • seal
  • wild mustangs
  • starfish

Now we’re home and not feeling like going much of anywhere.  This trip has been a great joy.  

That’s a wrap!