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Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Newsletter 2013

Happy Kwanzanukkahristmas Everyone! And a Merry Christmas, too!

We hope this newsletter finds you safe and well and wonderfully blessed this holiday season.

It has been another adventurous year for our family, full of summer travels and a number of changes on the horizon. We write this with coffee in hand and dogs at our feet realizing just how fast time is disappearing. Finn is so tall and READING now…wow! Little man is in pre-K and was a Christmas angel in his school pageant. Imagine…our wild man an ANGEL! Wonders truly never cease.

Finn is taking second grade (still at Muddy Creek Charter School) by storm. She’s doing so well! She has learned to read quite well and amazes us every day with how much she’s advanced. She’s discovered a love of math this year after it being her least favorite subject last year. She’s also kept up with her regular horse riding and has learned to work with our friend’s larger horse It has truly been beautiful to watch her confidence blossom. She still enjoys family bike rides to/from her school bus stop a few miles away. Her fascination with art and science is only deepening and she continues to fill our home with her many art and science projects. You can follow along on her classroom blog (a bit dated) at http://missmelissaclassblog.wordpress.com/.

Little man (Jeremiah August) is still at Good Samaritan School but now in Pre-K three mornings a week. He is LOVING school and all the friends he’s made there. He’s had a big year, learning his numbers and letters, how to fish, ride a scoot (bike without the pedals) and fallen in love with Legos and his teacher Ms. Meagan. One day as Cat picked him up from school and they were walking home, he turned around and yelled “goodbye Ms. Meagan” then turned to Mummy and said “she sure is beautiful”. You can find photos of his school year at http://www.goodsamschool.org/media-gallery.php .

Cat’s year has been filled with BUSYNESS. With Finn in school full-time and Jeremiah in Pre-K three mornings a week, work has been a bit less crazy of a juggling act. She’s still works from home to be available for our kiddos but her work has only increased. She loves directing the Family Violence Prevention program (part time) and has had the privilege of advocating for clients who live outside the state of Oklahoma. Additionally, she’s a still teaching women’s studies courses online for Oregon State University. It can be a crazy busy life at times but she loves the diversity and flexibility of being able to volunteer at our kids’ schools while teaching and growing her work for women’s health and safety of her tribe. Check out her program’s website at: http://fvp.estoo-nsn.gov/.

This has been an outstanding year for Jeremiah. After a hectic first year in his second Masters program, this one in the Public Policy program at Oregon State University (he took two years of course work in one year) he’s busy writing his thesis while applying for PhD programs…oh and publishing journal articles, blogs (NotQuiteConvergent) and presenting at and organizing science communication sessions at national meetings. Currently, he’s working on renewable energy policy, public perception/opinion, and potential impacts of renewable energy development on natural resources. He also teaches undergraduate classes. Despite the busy school schedule, he still reserves plentiful time for his family, playing with kiddos, making meals together with his beloved bride, and enjoying the fall harvest and bounty the Pacific Northwest offers.

After school got out last June we all began a summer of adventures. In July, all four of us (and our eldest dog, 10yo Quinn) floated the Grande Ronde River. It was four days on the water…beautiful sunshine, lots of splashing and wonderful fishing. We then spent a few days camping on the Oregon Coast with a large part of our family. In August we spent two weeks in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri and oh what a time we had! We visited family, went to the Eastern Shawnee Children’s Pow-Wow, toured/explored limestone caves, excavated salt crystals, visited where LauraIngalls Wilder lived as a little girl in Kansas and where she lived as an adult and wrote her books in Missouri…we even got to see Pa’s actual fiddle! We caught fireflies with family and had a wonderful time getting to know our cousins better over late evenings of visiting and hot sultry days of junior high school softball games. We came home in September so the kiddos could start school then all four of us took two weeks and went elk hunting in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness area. What an experience that was, cold mornings but warm fall afternoons to explore the woods together and spend quality family time.

For those of you that love updates about our furry children, they are both doing remarkably well. We often forget how old they really are as they are in such good shape. Quinn will be 11 years old this Christmas and Sidda will be 9 in February. We have noticed Quinn slowing down a bit, not so much on hikes or backpacking adventures, but in the evenings after big days of exertion. He tends to sleep a little longer, prefers to sleep by the fire, and sometimes grunts a little bit when getting up, old man that he is. Sidda is still as crazy fast as ever and never seems to find anything but high speed gears. Only occasionally will we be able to fully wear her out…and usually only after she’s worn blisters on her pads. Stinky pinky, our sweet furry girl. They do grace and bless our lives so much. It’s hard to imagine them not being a part of our lives in the relatively near future. Perhaps we can clone them…

Our family has had an amazing adventurous year. God has truly blessed us! And we wish the same blessings on you and your families this coming year and beyond.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Bad parenting moment #764?

Kate Mason blog post on messes.
BabyCenter's pic list of epic messes!
Yeah, that's about right...
Slow Your Home blog. Awesomesauce.
Forget coloring. This is all LJ wants to do with crayons.

I spilled something this morning and looked at Finn and said "Man, all I've done today is make messes...you ever have a day where it feels like all you do is make messes?"

Finn: Yeah everyday.

Me: Why on earth would you say that?! You don't make that many messes.

Finn: Because everyday when I get home from school you say 'Finn clean up...you get home from school and make tons of messes for me to clean up'.

DOH!!! Guess I need to give some more thought to how I present things to her.

In the end, sure kids make some pretty crazy messes. But sometimes, making messes is what it's all about! At least I know she was hearing me.

Now to work on reinforcing their cleanup behaviors...

Monday, October 28, 2013

How much I love you

Quote from Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Will you ever know how much I love you?  The things we've set aside and sacrificed so that we could watch you grow?  Will you ever know the moments we watched you sleep, ride your first two wheeler and realized the next step was a car.  That we lay awake at night and hoped like hell we're doing it all right?  I love you and today I will thank God that you both have came into my life and I will care a little less about the toys you leave all over the house and the lunch box you never remember to put away.  Today I will care less about the imperfections and hang onto your little faces a wee bit longer...someday you will be all grown up and I will say to myself "that was one heckuva ride...I'm so glad I had it!"

Monday, September 23, 2013

First crushes

It's official...our boy has his first crush. Its Ms. Megan, his preschool classroom teacher-helper. He saw her as we were leaving school today and hung out the window saying "Goodbye Ms. Megan. I'll miss you!" Then sat back down and said to Cat, "I sure will miss her...she is wonderful. I love her!" He was so cute and used words we hadn't heard him use yet...words like 'wonderful' and 'beautiful'! Oh boy, here we go! At least he doesn't mask his feelings...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

For the love of our children...

I wish I could prepare my children for every possible thing ("I wonder if they can hear the uncertainty in my voice?")...but that's unrealistic. So I, too, take them by their hand and teach them the best I can and say to be strong, and smart, and aware. Be aware of yourself and your feelings and the feelings of others. Be aware of the world around you. Be aware of how life flows sometimes in tiny rivulets and other times as a rushing tidal wave, but always with a rhythm. Be aware of social constructions and cultures and worldviews and your own biases and preconceived notions and how those fit into the world around you. Be aware of the duality (multiplicity!) of standards for rich and poor, white and black, liberal and conservative, old and young. Be aware.

I will teach you all I know and all I can. 

But it won't be enough. My heart feels heavy. Because I know I won't be able to teach you everything you need to know to avoid pain and suffering in this world. That you'll be stung, and tumbled and ragged at times in this life. But I take heart in knowing that you will become who you are destined to be in part because of those experiences with hurt and pain and with the things I am unable to teach you. And so I am buoyed, held afloat with hope and knowledge that what I can teach you WILL be enough. Enough for you to take your experiences and life lessons - mixed with some of my instruction and guidance - and blend them and knead them into a marvelous recipe that will be the perfect complement to life's cornucopia, the salve that soothes the sting, the well-designed plans for the battles that inevitably lie ahead.

I am so filled with joy and love and emotion just in knowing you. Thank you for letting me be your parent and teacher and confidente and trenchmate in life.

Your Papa, Jeremiah

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Underwear helmets? Water immersion landing suits? Special water landing vehicles? Electronic transmissions between ground control and Astronaut Zero? The rough life of kid astronauts and their parents (via text messages)...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wrinkles and a "crazy" appendage

Kids say some of the most truthful (and funny) things.

Case in point. Last week while having a conversation with my daughter over dinner, she mentions that the great grandmother of a friend of hers at school just passed away at age 102! I say something to the effect of wow, that's pretty old for a person. She lived a long life and must have seen some pretty amazing things in all those years. To which Finn - with a far off contemplative look in her eye - says very matter of factually, "Yeah. She must have had a LOT of wrinkles."

And one of my recent faves...while our little man was getting into his five-point harness car seat the other day, Cat hears him struggling and getting frustrated, followed by a very huffy grumble/growl/moan, "Aarghh!" She asks him whats the matter and he says - with a scowl on his face and frustration in his voice - "I can't get my seat belt buckled! My penis is doing crazy things!"

How can you NOT love that kind of brutal honesty from kids?! :)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The way of things: a story about connecting

or...How a wooden bench beneath a grove of redwood trees connected perfect strangers in life through two unrelated deaths.

I've been working so much this term we haven't had much family time as of late so we decided to head up to one of our favorite local museums today, the Polk County Museum,  and take the circuitous route up Kings Valley Highway (Oregon Route 223). We figured we'd geocache along the way, stop off at the historic Ritner Creek Covered Bridge, poke around the side roads for new areas to explore, have lunch and a play for a bit at Dallas City Park, take a walk around the Delbert Hunter Arboretum and sit on a bench dedicated to my paternal grandmother, Beverly Gowey, then hit the museum for a few hours before heading home. On our way up Hwy. 223 we decided to take a brief detour to Ritner Creek Park, one we'd seen the sign to before but never been out to take a look. As it turned out, it's a park we're going to have to explore some more - plenty of good trails, picnic-ing, creekside and forest views, the works. But that's for another time. Back to the story...

When we got the the arboretum where the bench is dedicated to her, we found an elderly man sitting on it, reading a Michael Crichton novel, enjoying the shade from the sun, the flowering plants, the sound of the falls and pond, just taking in the beautiful day. Rather than disturb him, we decided to stroll around for a bit and come back a little later, see if he'd left.

On the drive up I had been telling my kids stories about Grammy Gowey, who she was, what she was like, how I remembered her, when and how she died (her fourth bout with cancer finally took her after 23,071 days on this rock), how long her and Great Grampie had been married (44 years), her wish for Cat and I that we'd enjoy more years of marriage than her and Grampie had, recounting all sorts of things for them. Because in being part of my history, it's also part of my children's history. Though they'd never met her in person, it's important to me that they know her.

And I really wanted to get a couple pictures of the bench and some with my kiddos and I sitting on the it so they could know just a little bit more of her. We decided to wander around for a bit, played at the creek (Finn found a large shard of old pottery she was particularly fond of), smelled the flowers, took pictures of whatever struck our fancy - just basked in the splendor of being a family.

Upon returning to the bench, we found the gentleman still there reading his book and taking in the day. He seemed to be enjoying his time and it wouldn't have been right to ask him to move so instead I asked if it would be alright if I took a picture of him enjoying the view from the bench that was dedicated to my grandmother (I showed him her name carved on the bench). He graciously obliged. But instead of heading back to the car after taking the picture, something told my heart to engage with him.

As it turns out, I'm so glad I did.

Meet Mr. Bill Morris ("my real name's William but everyone calls me Bill" he says to me). I take a seat next to him on the bench and listen, unsure of where the conversation will go but my heart fully engaged, ready and expectant for this conversational journey. My kiddos sat down next to me and peered up at us through squinted eyes shielding the sun, wondering perhaps who this gentleman is or why their Papa was talking to him. Whatever they were thinking, they said nothing and just squinted up at us.

Born in 1926, Mr. Morris has enjoyed a great deal of life in his 87 years here on this earth; experienced a great many things, raised four children, lived through The Great Depression, witnessed a world war and connected with countless people during his 30+ years at the small post office in the sleepy eastern Oregon town of Milton-Freewater. Cat and I both have friends and family that live over there and we asked him if he knows any of them. He searched through the deeply creased recesses of his mind and says, with a faraway look in his eye, "I used to know pretty much everyone - by name - over there but time has a way of letting some of those things go". The faraway look returns to the present and he turns to gaze at us, casting a warm smile.

We ask what brought him to Dallas, Oregon and he says his wife DeLores did, or, more correctly the Alzheimer's disease that was robbing her of her memories. Having few options for her care in the small hamlets east of the Cascades, one of his sons recommended a facility in Dallas and so they found themselves heading west. That was four years ago, he tells us, and the Alzheimer's finally took her last week on April 22, 2013. He tells us, with a hint of heaviness in his heart but an acceptance of life's turns, that towards the end her memories had been so robbed that she didn't even remember him anymore, making it difficult for him to visit her. I asked how long they'd been married, a gleam came to his eye and he smiled at me and replied, slowly but deliberately, "sixty two years. Sixty two years".

My heart swam with emotions.

I rose, took his hand in mine for a heartfelt shake and congratulated him on such an amazing accomplishment, noting that Cat and I planned to see what sixty two years together was like. He indicated that he, too, hoped we would. We visited about a great number of things for some length of time that was completely (and happily) lost on us. Did we know the Waterman's in Corvallis? What was it like living through the depression? How many years were my grandparents together? The birth a couple of days ago of his most recent great grandchild. Photography, flowers, love and commitment, loneliness, relationships, life's challenges and rewards, missionaries, travel, you name it. No matter that we'd just met each other, the conversation seemed so natural, so meant to be.

Eventually, as the conversation started to wane and we prepared to head over to the museum, Finn stood up, walked up to him and explained that she'd found a piece of old pottery in the creek and she wanted him to have it. He looked truly surprised (and pleased/moved) to accept a gift that obviously meant so much to this little girl. And yet Finn was so content with it. We thanked him for the conversation, said we'd be praying for strength and peace for him and his family over the coming weeks and we started back towards the car so as to catch the museum before it closed.

On the walk back, Cat and I were both struck at how remarkable it was that we happened across Mr. Morris today; remarkable in that in the death of our respective loved ones, we were brought together at that bench; remarkable that given our continuously changing plans throughout the day, it worked out so that we'd bump into Mr. Morris. We were both of the same mind that the real reason we'd come up north today was NOT for the museum (as we originally thought) but instead to visit with Mr. Morris and reflect on how precious life is. And in that simple act of connecting, Cat said how strongly she felt that we'd just demonstrated to our kids something so precious, and yet so vital, about life - responding to our heart's call, connecting with people, sharing, listening, respecting, honoring, loving.  And I couldn't agree more.

In that one simple act of connecting to another person, we were reminded of how incalculably precious and fleeting life is, how truly remarkable it really is and how fully blessed we are. I hope you get the chance to respond to something laid on your heart and connect with a complete stranger. Such wonderfully strange things happen.

Mexican Mocha

Mummy's idea of a Mexican mocha.

Mummy (to Goo): I wouldn't mind a Mexican mocha this morning...
Finn: What's a Mexican mocha? Oh, wait. I know what it is. It's a mocha that Mexican's make.
Mummy (laughing): Um, well, no not exactly...

While that wasn't what Cat had in mind, maybe this is more of what Finn had in mind...
Finn's idea of a Mexican mocha.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Holding my son's hand

My boy grabbed my hand  in church this morning and said he wanted to hold it...like this. I leaned over and whispered to him that I loved it. He leaned over, smiled big, and said he did, too. I love being his father...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gone fishin'

Yep, that about sums it up!
This morning, at about 615 in the wee hours of the morning, Finn springs out of bed and, after a brief snuggle, asks to work on her spelling (she's always most creative first thing in the morning). I say sure, why not?! She disappears around the corner for a moment and I hear the click of the cupboard doors opening, some rummaging around, something that sounds like a bag of hundreds of little, muted clicks and scrapes. I wonder what the heck she's doing. Moments later, she comes determinedly around the corner, strides over to the table and plunks down the Bananagrams bag.

What Google thinks "Giiveakruzo" is...
At this point, brother is very into whatever it is sister's doing - it doesn't really matter what she's doing, he wants to be a part of it. They spill out the letters on the table then decide they don't have enough room to work so put them all back into the bag and set themselves to work. Little man throws himself wholeheartedly into working on his spelling (apparently he knows Russian?!) and spells out, in a very orderly manner, "Giiveakruzo" which means...well, I couldn't really understand what he very animatedly described to me that it meant. But that's OK because, in his mind's eye, it was totally profound (see another recent post on that, here). A quick Google search yielded the Russian translation for Robinson Crusoe. Given that epic adventure story, it wouldn't at all surprise me if in his breathless excitement and animated description, he just told me the whole thing in those 40 short seconds - that kid was on fire!

Speaking of which...

An early morning of spelling with Bananagrams.
The first thing Finn spells out is "The house is burned down" and I can't help but take pause after seeing it. Say what? How's that again? She smiles sweetly up at me, excuses herself from the table, skitters off back around the corner only to return a moment later with a pad of paper and a pencil - she's going to write down what she spelled out and take it in to show her teacher (and let me tell you, she's beaming with pride at that moment!). After satisfying herself that she transcribed her sentence correctly, she picks up her letters, places them back in the bag, mixes them all up (to which she appears to get great enjoyment out of) and draws out another handful. She puzzles over them for a moment, then starts spelling out something. She doesn't have all the letters she needs so I hear her bartering with LJ for some of his letters. It almost (aaalmost) descends into a sibling brawl but somehow, they right the ship, agree to the terms of their exchange, and both are once again satisfied. A moment later, Cat asks her what she's working on and she says, quite resolutely, "Finn is going fishing."

Alrighty then! Guess this girl knows her mind!

Given how much she's already expressed her love of fishing, I have a feeling we'll be seeing or hearing more of that phrase from her over the years.

Fish on...

Friday, March 8, 2013

The night fishin sheriff

 I hear little man making noise in his room long after bedtime so I go in and find...sister passed out, a lamp on, a measuring tape under the edge of his covers, his cowboy hat tossed in in the corner of his bed, his sheriff's badge and belt at his feet, his bow and arrow half unstrung, the arrow string tied around his knight's helmet, and a little boy peeking out at me from under the covers. He says to me, in ever so soft a voice and with a glint in his eye and a slight smile on his face, "I'm fichin (fishin), Papa."

What's a fisherman Papa to do?!

I half-heartedly scold him, turn out the light, tuck him in, kiss him on his head and tell him I love him. As I was typing this, I decided to check back in on him. In a matter of less than five minutes, he has totally sacked out but the butt of his 'fishing pole' is tucked under his back while the tip is still hanging, line and all, over the edge of his bed...still fishin.

That's enough to warm a fella's heart.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Moon Fishin'...and Jesus

From Dreamworks Animation
This morning my little guy comes to the door of my room at o'dark thirty and whispers, "Papa, I see Jesus fishin' outside." In a fog I say something to the effect of "huh?" He, hearing my confusion, asks to come in and snuggle and show me what he's talking about. I agree and he climbs up on my bed, standing at my head and looking out the window. He proceeds to whisper that I should join him in looking out the window at the quarter moon where Jesus has, apparently, been fishing all night...but I need to be very quiet so I don't scare him away. I rise to my knees, peer out the window at the waning crescent sliver of a moon and it looks beautiful in the clear night sky filled to overflowing with stars, the faintest of light starting to color the sky a deep, dark blue. Jeremiah says to me, "See Him, Papa?" I do not but that's OK. He does. And in his mind, that's really all that matters right now. I'm just glad I got to share this little moment with him.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A weekend at Drift Creek Camp

We spent last weekend with our Corvallis Mennonite Fellowship church family nestled into the deep woods of the Oregon Coast Range at a magical place called Drift Creek Camp. We had a wonderful time and wanted to share some pictures from the weekend with you. Just a great time to play indoors and out, fellowship with others, and spend some time together as a family. Love that place, my family, and our church family.

Giant splintered spruce.
Inside looking out.
Watching the abilities variety show.
Hiking in the woods and coastal drizzle.
Closed USFS road into the wilderness. 
Watching grazing elk at Wapiti Park.
Collecting seashells on Taft Beach.
The salmon spine and the river.
Steelhead fishing Drift Creek.

The Nightcrawlers

Finn: Papa, are you ok with me having a club called 'The Nightcrawlers'?
Me: Sure! Who are the nightcrawlers?
Finn: Well, I have to recruit some people...
Jeremiah: Sister, I'll be a nightcrawler!
Finn: OK! Yay! We have a club!

Love the way this girl thinks. I hope she never loses the simplicity in things.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The tradition continues: early morning snuggle time

The tradition continues: early morning snuggle time.
A typical morning at our house. Parents get up (and yes, you all now know I have a vice...my fuzzy zebra bathrobe...not sexy on me but oh so comfy), make my coffee...and while my coffee is percolating, two little fuzzy heads emerge from their room. I hear the door crack open and the shuffling of little feet. It's a dance we've perfected over time. They come in...say nothing...and I set my paper down while they quietly find their places on my lap. We lay there snuggling and not opening our eyes until we hear the coffee pot perk on the stove and then we open our eyes and let the day begin.