It's all gotta go somewhere

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Addition: Day 72*

We’ve made some progress, but things are at a standstill again while we wait for another set of drawings (again regarding support for the ceiling).  As we dig behind walls we’re finding places that need shoring up, which I guess is better to find now than in the next Big One. 

The electric is all roughed in, and the plumbing as well. This was a difficult and messy process — probably the hardest bit so far. Picture debris falling constantly through the subfloor, and holes in the subfloor, down into my “kitchen” in the basement.  While a couple days of this was not bad, it dragged across 2 weeks, and this got fairly challenging on nights when I really had to make dinner because we just couldn’t eat out due to baseball games or other issues. There were lots of long nights spent picking out pieces of insulation and rocks, and properly cleaning up all the mouse droppings (this old house!). While I covered everything best I could things are still flying everywhere, so now I just have to wash (and bleach) everything before I use it again.

Here are some snaps to give you a sense of the state of things:


*Now “working” days. I re-numbered the days the addition had taken, opting to not include non-working days, like weekends, and spring break. This brought the number down considerably. Still, the project started February 5, so technically we’re on day 103.


Volcano Overnight School

As you know all the classes at school do an overnight fields trip; starting with 1st grade, the kiddos go without their parents. Last year the overnight was at the Zoo (Zoo Snooze) and this year the intrepid teachers took the kids to “Volcano Outdoor School” at the Mount St. Helens Institute, where they slept in the heart of the “Blast Zone.”

Beforehand there was much prep: waivers were signed (death possible!), lists were made, items were packed and repacked to enable D to carry all of his gear on his back, and still carry his sleeping bag in a hand. Jeff had to go to San Fran that week so it was up to me to undertake the send-off and goodbyes. 

Fortunately, before the trip,  we had a special package arrive in the mail: inside was a small stuffed bunny with a letter of introduction: that this was Lonny, who is Bunny My Honey’s cousin. Lonny needed a place to live (it’s crowded in those bunny hutches) and wondered if we would take him in.  This was perfect timing, since the trip packing list stipulated that each child could bring 1 small comfort item. Hooray. Lonny would also get to see the mountain!

The morning I drove D to school to drop him off for the overnight, there was a story on OPB about how of all the mountains in the Cascade Range, Mount St. Helens was the most likely to blow again. I could not believe my ears and it was too late to turn it off–D heard the story. He noticed that the reporter used the word “lava” incorrectly and should have classified the flow as “magma.” I told him the only reason they were airing that story now was because of the recent eruption in Hawaii…

Anyway, the old gal did not “blow her top” and a grand time was had by all. I’m told the children (and teachers!) had a decent night’s sleep, the food was good, and the kiddos learned a lot. 

Here are some snaps the teachers sent home.

There was no communication from the teachers while the kids were up on the mountain–presumably, there was no signal. But once they returned home we got this report from them:

Hello Families,

You all would have been so proud of your amazing children during our overnight to The Mount St. Helens Institute! The kids were excellent Gardner School Ambassadors, as well as individual Ambassadors of each of their own families.  The knowledge and excitement our group of students brought to the program impressed our teachers Lucas, Sonya, and Mary.  All the children confidently stretched their own comfort limits differently, be it sleeping away from relatives for the first time, trying new/different food, or acting out a scene in front of their peers.  We SAW the children grow in front of us.  This was an extremely, successful and positive trip!  Thank you drivers for helping us shuttle the kids up and down the mountain safely.  And a giant Thank You to all of the parents for giving your child this experience they will remember for their entire lives.
“But what happened on the trip?”  You may be asking.  Yes, we know you have heard about the food and the bunks or beds.  That is completely normal to only hear a lot about the “mundane” experiences that the children can easily compare to their own daily lives.  These pictures will help paint a clearer picture for you.  Invite your child to tell you what is going on in some of the photos.  They will have LOTS to say.  Also, ask your kiddo some of these conversation starters:
How did your team work together to get across the parking lot lava flow?   
What was the first item your team found during the GPS scavenger hunt?  What did you learn from that geocache box?
Which mineral was more complicated to make: Hornblende, Feldspar, or Quartz?  How come? Did your team figure out a way to work together?
What made you think to use the prop/costume you chose for your team’s skit?  How did you act out your Effect?  
Did you like packing your own lunch?  Why?  Why not?
What was your cleaning responsibility?  Would you like that to be your job at home?






Talent Show 2018: A Really Big Night

Talent Night this year at school was extra special since D has been planning his act for the last year (well, the last 5 months or so in earnest). After practicing every week with Jason, D finally had his HUGE moment on stage playing Hey Jude on the drums, accompanied by Jason on piano. 

At the last minute, they had to make several changes to the length of the song, and so the version he’d been practicing was not quite what was performed. This caused a little confusion but D handled it beautifully. He told me afterward his leg was shaking so much it was hard to play! I am so, so proud. 

First, as a warm up, here’s D with his class entry to the show:

The school has grown so much in the last year that it was a challenge for Dana (the music teacher) to coordinate all the acts and to actually fit everyone in. Sadly some kiddos were not in the final lineup. What you can’t tell even from the wide shot (Jeff’s camera) is that the great room was totally packed with people. More kids and more parents than ever before!

Anyway, since it was such a long program, there were several gear setups and removals (thanks to parent Christopher Maguire for being the evening’s “roadie”). Since D needed the drums, his performance was near the end. Since he was far away from Jason it wasn’t easy for him to see the cues, and due to the length cut, you don’t get to see several of his fancier “fills.” I will post some video I have of him practicing soon so you can see the whole song performed!

P.S. Behind the Talent Show backdrop, you can see the Art Show work is still up on the walls. This year’s Art Show was incredible and I wish you could all transport to the school to see the high quality of the work. If you look closely you can see to the right of the stage is the 7th and 8th graders’ wood burning; to the left is the 3rd and 4th grader’s stunning rainbow-themed paintings.  I will try to get another blog post live on that soon!

Addition: Days 58-62

When we planned our vacation to Mexico, we chose the week we did thinking the crew could get a week ahead while we relaxed away from the dust, noise and general confusion. But it turned out our General Contractor was also going to Mexico for Spring Break, and he wouldn’t permit any work to be done with us both out of town, should an accident occur.

So we lost that week, plus about another week due to the structural issue. The structural issue has been addressed with the addition of a new beam between the mudroom and the kitchen, but has thrown off our plans for storage in the mudroom, so it’s back to the drawing board for that…

Here are some up-to-date snaps that show the demo progress: the studs are gone and there is a new support beam holding up the length of the wall; the two little archway walls in the old kitchen are gone, and you can see the new support mean and framed wall between the mudroom exterior door and the back of the kitchen. Also there is a shot of the skylights, which were completed just before we left for Spring Break (there was a delay with these as there was some kind of fit issue that had to be fixed).


Major kudos to Jeff, who saved the day when he noticed Tuesday night that the new vertical support beam by the mudroom was in the wrong place, and actually needed to be moved several inches over to line up with the wall. He also noticed the swing of the back door was wrong. The contractor agreed that the beam was in the wrong place on the drawing and that the wrong door had been shipped (it’s still the wrong swing in these photos). Wrong position of the beam is not pictured here.



Relaxing in Mexico (Young Surfer)

We had a grand time at our resort in Puerto Vallarta.

We opted for the all-inclusive (food and beverage) option which did not disappoint; the breakfast alone was worth the price. I wish I had taken more snaps of the breakfast buffet, which included mountains of fresh tropical fruit, delicious full fat yogurt, an omelette station, several hot entrees (loved the Verde chilaquiles!), multiple varieties of fresh squeezed juice choices (we all are in love with “jugo verde”), Mexican hot chocolate, great coffee, and handmade pastries. Everything was delicious and authentic, right down to the Goat Milk (syrup?) at the condiments table (see photo–Aunt Amanda please explain. Wish I had tried this!).

We all I noticed how well things were sweetened–the deserts and pastries and hot chocolate were just “sweet enough”–even Dashiell remarked on this. It was a treat to have fresh local fruit featured in all meals–for example, at one dinner we had a poached pear salad that was creative and delicious, and on another day we had a beet and tomato salad with excellent goat cheese. While the food at the pool is good for pool food, the dining room La Casona was a standout. 

The spa was also well worth a visit. Usually, I am skeptical about hotel spas because they tend to be staffed with part-time people who don’t know what they’re doing, and I always end up with a sore back or some other complaint. Not the case here! These folks were the real deal. Jeff got 2 massages and I had 1; we both got to enjoy the hydrotherapy room beforehand, which was also impressive: big jacuzzi, cold plunge (great for my foot!) and they had these cool “plunge” showers that dump water on your head in a very relaxing way.  Plus a steam room, sauna, and lots of fresh fruit-and-herb infused cold water. Oh, and hot hibiscus tea for after the massage! I could have stayed all day.  The photo you see below of the pink and purple petals arranged in a creative round flower pattern comes from the spa, where this living art is floating in stone basins throughout the facility; the petals and leaves came from the plants on the grounds.


The Pacific coast beaches in Mexico are not known for safety or good swimming. Therefore we were lucky to have 1 day of  “yellow flag” conditions at the hotel’s beach, and Dashiell was–for the first time–old enough to not be afraid, and the water warm and gentle enough to invite him in….I was so proud of him! He’s come so, so far as a swimmer (I have been wanting to blog in more detail about this fact for some time…on my list!).

You can’t tell from in the video below, but he felt so at home he wandered out pretty far (with one of us).  

The song in the video is Love by Build An Ark.

In the slideshow above, there is a nice shot of D with Bunny My Honey, an old favorite stuffy. Bunny My Honey came along for our adventure (D tucked her into his backpack with her head sticking out, so she wouldn’t miss anything). Lately D and she had been quite close, and we had resumed playing a game with her at bedtime that we hadn’t played for a couple years. I think with all the stress of the addition, and the excitement about the trip, and being a Big 2nd Grader, it was natural for him to want a friend. We didn’t realize it until we were seated on the plane home, but sadly Bunny My Honey got left behind in the hotel room (we had somewhat of a harried and rushed pack up session, cutting it a bit too close to check out time). This was very sad for D since he was worried Bunny My Honey would be scared, all alone in a foreign country. Aunt Amanda tried to help us phone the hotel and return Bunny safely but alas she was not found. I suspect she is living the good life out by the pool, swimming and eating hamburgers and sipping mango smoothies, and is just not ready to come home.

P..S Bunny My Honey gets her name from the same-titled book by Anita Jeram, a once much-loved bedtime read. Ironically this is a book about the young bunny getting lost in the woods, and being scared, then her mother comes to the rescue by finding her…oh snap.


Vallarta Adventures: Spring Break 2018

Well, it was indeed an adventure.

We went to Puerto Vallarta Mexico for Spring Break and stayed at a lovely and serene resort where we could have happily stayed put all week (delicious food, friendly pool butlers, unlimited smoothies, warm and gentle ocean swimming–see next blog post!) but simply relaxing was not enough, so I had to insist we did an excursion off campus…

We took an early morning boat to a secluded beach hideaway in the Bay of Banderas called Las Caletas, former home of the classic Hollywood film director John Huston. It was a pristine beach backing up to a densely forested mountain and the terrain was rough–after I got Dashiell situated in the kids activity area (zip lining! monkey encounter! burro ride!) I wound my way back down the hill to fetch my “welcome taco.”

Now mind you I was wearing sensible shoes but the light was very dappled and the path was uneven.  I rolled my ankle something good on the way down, but didn’t think too much of it. I could still walk. Still, I elevated it when I could and the cool bay waters (snorkeling! kayaking!) felt good and kept the swelling down. It wasn’t until I tried to get up after lunch that I realized I couldn’t walk…but the day wasn’t even half over, and we still had the boat ride back and the dolphin swim we’d scheduled. 

When we arrived back in Puerto Vallarta (after a boat switch! One does come to realize how much walking there is, and how many steps there are in everyday life that the able-footed take for granted!), a kind gentleman carried me (yes carried me) on his back and we moved onto the Dolphin Encounter. At first I thought I should just watch from my wheelchair, but since this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance I figured as long as I could get in the water I’d be fine.

And I was!

In the photos and the video you can see my right foot at an odd angle. The cold water did feel good and the dolphins only bonked into it a few times (ouch! but worth it). 

Still, we had a great day at Las Caletas, which is also home to several trained parrots, monkeys, and other wildlife. As you arrive by boat, the parrots fly out and welcome you, making several low swoops to say hello,  which makes for a very dramatic entrance!

Here are the stills and videos from our exciting day at Las Caletas!


Spring Culminating Event (Young Eagle)

The week before Spring Break, there was a term-end Culminating Event at school, at which the Loowiters again impressed us with their breadth of deep knowledge on term thematic, which was the cultural study on the People of Cascadia (aka the coastal tribes). 

Our new head-of-school Scott Kerman reminded us that a key element of Howard Gardner’s educational philosophy is The Presentation: when you have to stand up and talk about what you’ve learned you internalize that knowledge in a deeper way, plus you engage your community. 

The Loowiters hosted a “potlatch” which is a  Coastal-tribes gathering at which the hosts give gifts and entertain. The students acted out 2 native myths and showed us their handicrafts (we were presented with cordage, bracelets and other homemade crafts) and then we played a game, and sampled smoked salmon.

But by far the most impressive craft they shared was their Button Blankets, which each student designed with symbols representing their Spirit Animal, and wore during a ceremonial song. Dashiell chose the eagle as his spirit animal, which I think is a good fit for him. I think if he could have picked any land animal he would have chosen the cheetah, but I don’t think cheetahs figure into Coastal tribe mythology.

The eagle, like me, is fast, social, a hunter and determined. 

Seeing all the kids in these special robes was very moving and quite impressive…see for yourself!

Something went wrong when I transferred my photos to the computer, so these look weird, but hopefully you get the idea:


I plan to hang D’s button blanket on the wall, like a weaving, to treasure for the fine art it is, as soon as we are not living in a construction zone anymore!




Addition: Days 37 – 39 (Demo!)

Demo of the wall that will be rebuilt to join the existing house to the new addition began on last Tuesday late afternoon when the crew arrived to take down the kitchen cabinets. Then on Wednesday, the demo began in earnest. There was a lot of grunting, whacking and hammering. The guys managed to move our fridge to the basement, which, although it is small, was not easy.  I then set about getting our basement kitchen up and running (pictures coming soon).  The only problem was the basement was coated in soot from moving the furnace around AND the furnace was still not removed. It finally got hauled away late Friday, leaving several layers of soot everywhere, much of it ground deeply into the painted concrete floor. The dust was so fine I am still finding it on surfaces…it took most of the weekend to clean it up (and 2 new mop purchases).  Still, I was jubilant that the furnace was gone so I didn’t really mind. And I had some good helpers…

At the end of the demo week, we had to pause demoing, since it was discovered that a wall that was assumed to be concrete was not, in fact, concrete but concrete block with no reinforcement. This means it won’t support the new beam that will be holding up the ceiling. So the architect made a new drawing and got the change submitted to the city for permitting. The permit got approved today so hopefully, we can salvage the week and get a bit more down before everything stops next week during Spring Break.

P.S. There was also some excitement for another reason last week, when one of the demo guys hit a live electrical line that was powering Jeff’s office. The workman was ok, but Jeff had a small moment of panic. The workman taped the line back together (!). I think it’s time for Jeff to move his office to another room in the house…

Addition: Days 30 – 33 (The Heat is On!)

This was a big HVAC week–although not the most glamorous of topics, still an area vitally in need of some TLC.

We got a new furnace, a new A/C unit, and new ductwork to take the heat and cooling up to the second floor. 

Ironically it was warm in the beginning of the week–warm enough that we thought a night without heat might be ok–but naturally, by the end of the week, we had bucketing downpours of rain and hail, and bone-chilling damp. 


The crew ran new ducting up to the attic, snaking the ductwork up behind the old dining room built in (carefully removed and saved in the garage), up through the master bedroom closet. Once in the attic, they put drops for vents in the master bedroom, the master bath and master closet, my office, and D’s room.

When we looked at the old detached oil heat furnace, we could see an interior stamp dated January, 1988. The bottom surface of the exhaust vent was piled with ashes and soot.  It is such a relief to know we won’t be belching out pollutants anymore and that thing old heap is headed for the dump!

As a finishing touch, the HVAC crew installed a new “smart” thermostat that will allow us to control the temperature from an app on our phones. 

By Friday we were all a bit wiped from all the drilling, sawing, pounding, and mud tracked all over the house.  So on Friday night, we went out to dinner. One of our ongoing challenges for the bedtime routine has been to constantly build in a window to “pre-heat” Dashiell’s room with a space heater, otherwise getting into bed is a real nightmare (D often dons his nightcap on these occasions). When we dine out this window is almost impossible to find, since we don’t want to run the space heater when out of the house.  But tonight we thought: ha! No hot water bottles and nightcaps for us. We’ve got heat in D’s room for the first time, and we’ve got the app!

Jeff took the opportunity to make a bad music pun after consulting his phone to declare: “The Heat is On.” On the drive home from dinner, we were thus obligated to listen to the annoying Glenn Fry song of the same name. D thought it was hilarious. 

Speaking of the “heat” referred to in the song, here are some snaps of D turning up the heat on a car chase, where the police can in the scene is trying to catch the bad guys. 


(a post-script about this image: years ago Aunt Amanda got D a set of these “magic tracks” that you can use in the dark, with cars that light up the tracks as they travel. They were much loved, until they were forgotten, so I gave them away. Then this fall, D saw a similar set at Fred Meyer, and fell back in love with them, so we bought 2 sets. Today, D is requesting more tracks and another car! Just goes to show Mom that he never really grows out of any toys that “go” –cars, trains, tracks, trucks, etc…)

Addition: Day 29

We had a bit of a lull while we waited for the windows and skylights to arrive, plus the roofer had to wait for a good weather window (yesterday we broke temperature records with Seattle hitting 71 degrees).

So yesterday, a Monday, the crew more than made up for the lost time, by installing the windows and sliding glass doors, and prepared to install the skylights. The large glass sliding doors are very dramatic, and they slide back on top of other glass, make a nice wide entrance.  

The skylights we chose have built-in room darkening shades that are solar-powered (no batteries or wiring required!). This will be super useful on hot days. 

The HVAC crew was on the scene also. There was much discussion (again) about the best route to run the ducting up to the 2nd floor. So far this has been the trickiest bit of the project. No one can seem to agree on how to get the ducting up there and although I thought this would be on a drawing I guess it is not, so everyone who comes in just eyeballs it. It’s hard to know what’s behind these old walls…I hope we’ll find out today (stay tuned dear readers!). 

Finally, the roofers also continued on with their duties, laying down some kind of flashing or prep layer. They stayed until 7pm.  

With the lost hours of sleep due to the time change, it’s all feeling a bit dreamlike. The image of the guy working in hole in the subfloor adds to this unreality.

Last night we ate dinner at the kitchen table but in the living room. Dashiell just glazed over it all and passed out at 7:01. Between the time change and his first day baseball practice of the season on a school day, he was worn out (plus he was very ramped up about wearing his “cup” as part of his baseball practice uniform).  



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