It's all gotta go somewhere

Music Night 2018

With school enrollment so high, it’s been challenging to fit everyone in the school’s Great Room for our community performances, so, for this years’s Music Night, we performed off campus at Dana’s church. Dashiell opened the program by announcing, “Welcome to Music Night. We’re glad you’re here and that you have a little leg room.” Indeed we did, and it was so nice to see the kids perform on a proper stage, with lights.

This year’s theme was the Roots of American music. As usual the kids and art teacher Jane made a themed backdrop for the event. Pulling the whole evening off was quite the effort since everything had to be transported to the church, set up, and then broken down after the performance. It was a major community effort! I think it was really worth it though. 

The event was recorded with the new PTO-purchased video cameras, and new wired and wireless microphones were used to record sound.  Still, since it might be awhile until we get the edited product, so I recorded D’s performance on my phone anyway…his Wy’East class (3rd and 4th graders) performed a jazz rendition of the 12-bar blues, on xylophones (technically, D is playing the contrabass)! They call it the Jazzy Bar Blues. Enjoy.


The closing program was an all-sing performance of It’s a Wonderful World, which was very moving. Teacher Dana said she was inspired to add an all-sing number after the success of the “all-sing” element of D’s “Hey Jude” performance at last year’s Talent Night, which I thought was really neat. 


Addition Day 174

Well we have been moved into the kitchen and using it for almost a month and what a relief and absolute joy it is to use our new wonderful space and appliances! We are still getting used to where things are and how to move around the most efficiently, but that will get better over time.  It’s been an interesting process of unpacking all the things we haven’t seen or used in months, because we didn’t have an oven. Jeff did such a great job planning the drawers that it was very easy to find a home for everything, especially for “Dashiell’s” things: he has his own area of the island that includes the prep sink, for a drawer for his knives, and a drawer foe his kid-sized baking tools. 

The first thing we baked was from The Great British Bake Off–Mary Berrys’ Cherry Cake, of course. We baked it in our new speed oven but I wasn’t sure which setting to use and mid-way through the bake I changed settings since it wasn’t rising well. It recovered but I think we could have done a better job on the texture. Still, it was consumed in its entirety in about 3 days…

The dishwasher is quite amazing and is so quiet, the first time we used in, we weren’t sure it was running. The oven on the range “just works” as we like to say in software–you turn it in and it heats up and I am very impressed so far with the results.  The first thing I made was a roasted chicken which turned out golden brown with a nice crispy skin. Out last oven always cooked a little cool but the thermostat in this one seems spot on.

The cooktop: what I can I say? 6 powerful gas burners! A griddle! It’s every cook’s dream and I couldn’t be more pleased. It is getting use multiple times a day. Yesterday  I was cooking for the week using 4 burners; the griddle was in place from breakfast the day before (no need to move or clean!),  the crock pot was cooking beans, and the rice cooker was steaming rice. The food processor was shredding zucchini and making cauliflower rice…all that activity and still space to sit and relax! The efficiency is a massive improvement. I can get a lot done and still have time to run out to the store for that forgotten item, or play a game with D. Heaven! 

Now that the kitchen is functional, it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the remaining project. The work crew can come and go as the majority of their work is outside. The back porch is in the process of being built up and then concrete will be poured over it, for an aggregate look, to match the existing porch landings.

Here are some catch-up snaps; some are old but didn’t included in the last posts. I particularly like the first few that show Jeff installing cabinet lighting.  Also new here: exterior of house is painted including arbor and new back door, external lighting fixtures are up, and canopy is in over arbor.


Rock Band Camp 2018

These kiddos came up with a band name and learned 5 songs in 1 week, rotating instruments. The camp culminated in a performance on the last day of the camp!

I know this took me some time to get posted…but I think it is well worth the wait!


The Burning Walls are:

Dashiell, Aiko, Daniel, Charlie, Liam and the unforgettable Olivia & Margaret (born for stardom) on most lead vocals, with backup support from teachers Shara and Jason

The lineup:

  1. Electric Avenue –  Eddie Grant (Olivia and Margaret on vocals, Dashiell on keys, Aiko on bass, Daniel on sound effects, Charlie on drums, Shara on addnl keys, Liam on guitar
  2. Psycho Killer – The Talking Heads
  3. We Will Rock You – Queen
  4.  The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) – Star Wars, John Williams
  5. Confident – Demi Lovato


Additon Day 145

Ok, so starting with the good news…

The cabinets all have handles and every single drawer has its interior lights! A big “whoop whoop” to Jeff for the lighting–this was not easy and involved a lot of holding his body in cramped positions and arm wrestling with too-long cords and working with tiny nails. Pictures of those lit drawer beauties will be forthcoming once they have power…(ok I’m spilling into the bad news already!)

Other good news: the countertops are in and they are even better than I’d hoped. The barn door to the basement is installed and works well. The floors are sanded and stained (although they are not blended to match the old floors!), the range hood is installed, the gas is ready at the range, the faucets are operational. We also (kind of) have the instant hot water working (insert many complaints about the plumbers, here). 

Ok so now for the bad news, which is that we are out of patience. The reserves have simply dried up, and this is not a renewable resource.

Today we meet with the architect and the contractor to prioritize the remaining work with the goal of finally being able to use the kitchen. At last count, we have been using the basement as a kitchen for 5 months (23 weeks).  You can see why we’re out of patience. The day of Endless Project Reckoning has arrived, and I have adopted the catchphrase often uttered by my old boss at the John Wayne Cancer Institute (sadly, later fired–still she was memorable), who, when pressed to the absolute limit, would throw up her hands and declare: “Miss Maida, I’m making a list, and I’m taking names.” 

So I have a made a list, and I sure have the names ready. The list is 44 items long, and it’s time to simply demand that at least the high priority ones get done…on specified dates.

The other bad (or good, depending on your perspective) is that we’re reducing the scope of the project. We’ve decided to hire someone else to handle covering the duct work (we’ll live with it exposed for now, maybe cover it with plywood and paint it, use it for art or a message board, until we can come up with something better, that if built in wood will be done by a carpenter, not a general contractor). We’ve also decided to just use Lowe’s to do the fence. I must say there’s been a large advantage to that taking so long, which is that we’ve decided to invest in a fence that will need zero maintenance (previously we were looking at cedar). Yes, vinyl! Vinyl, where have you been all these months? Did you know it comes in great colors? And you can get posts with solar lights built into them? This is very exciting and I can’t wait to give our hard-earned money to someone other than my contractor is build it! So in fairness: thank you, contractors, for dragging your heals! If you hadn’t we may never have discovered this cool fencing product.

Hello Third Grade

Third grade at Gardner is a big step up for kiddos, for a couple reasons. One is this is the first year the homerooms are not in the main building but in a portable. I know when I write “portable” it doesn’t sound very charming, but they are actually quite nice, and with painted cheery colors.  Also, the dropoff routine is implicitly changed–no more walking our kiddo inside. As big 3rd graders, it’s now time to drop and go…maybe not on the first day!!

Like all the classrooms at school, it’s mixed grade–34d and 4th graders together form the Wy’East classroom. Wy’East is the native name for Mt. Hood. Here is the story of Wy’East from the Salish and Klickitat tribes:

Wy’East was one of the young braves who fought with Pahto for Loowit’s love. When the Great Spirit destroyed Wy’East, he erected a strong, tall mountain that lifts its head in pride. That mountain is now known as Mt. Hood

We received a sweet postcard from our new teacher Amelia Carter, over the summer. It featured an image of her scuba diving with a thumbs up. I love her spirit! We know her a bit already since she was in the Loowit 1st-grade classroom as an aide while she finished her master’s degree. So it will be neat to have a teacher who knew the younger version of D. Won’t she be surprised to see how far he’s come!?

Here’s the welcome email from Amelia…even though we know how busy life at Garnder is, it’s still always a bit of a surprise to get emails like this. Ready? Set? Go!

Dear Wy’East Families,
Welcome to Wy’East! 
I have been excitedly preparing and planning for the start of the upcoming school year. I can’t wait for our community to be together again!
Here is an overview of what is to come in our Wy’East community.
Throughout the year we will be working on thematic topics focused on migration. This fall, we will focus on Lewis and Clark and the Oregon Trail. Our winter thematic is Ecosystems, and finally animal migrations in the spring. We will even be launching our very own weather balloon this spring with help from the Ellis family and our friends in the Engineering Department at WSU Vancouver. I can’t wait!
  • Class Mascot! Our class mascot is an owl. Your student will have an opportunity to democratically decide the name of our owl stuffy along with taking our owl stuffy home for a weekend. Part of this adventure will be to write a journal entry as if your student is our owl; this is to practice creative writing skills out of everyday life.
  • Mystery Reader!  Each week we will have a mystery guest come and read his or her favorite picture book to the class. The students will be given three clues throughout the week about the mystery reader. If you choose to participate please keep your mystery reader date and clues a secret from your kiddos, so he or she can be surprised too! The fall dates are already full but don’t dispair! More dates will be available after the winter holiday.
  • Birthday Celebrations: I love celebrating and know that your kiddos do too; I would love to have our classroom community focus on affirmations, instead of material objects. When it comes time for your child’s birthday or half birthday (for summer birthdays), the class will celebrate your child during closing circle by sharing affirmations and compliments about the birthday person. I will be videoing this exchange and emailing it to you at the end of the school day.
  • Email:  Email is the best way to communicate with me if you have any questions or concerns. I will do my best to respond to all emails as quickly as I am able. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. 
  • Newsletter: Wy’East has a weekly newsletter called The Hoot! This newsletter is published once a week and has all sorts of great information about events and goings on in the classroom.
  • Homework Folders: Every Wednesday, we will be sending homework folders home; this means homework folders should be returned Wednesday mornings each week. Within these folders, there will be a reading log, a newsletter and juicy conversation starters to have with your kiddo. The juicy conversation starters will be based on our essential questions we are working on that particular week. This will be a wonderful opportunity for you to have specific questions to ask, instead of the typical “How was your day?” 
Field Trips:
  • Calling all volunteers!  We have a few field trips coming up this fall, and we are in need of parent drivers! If you are interested in driving for field trips, please respond to this email as to which trips you are available, and the number of kid seats in your car (children may not ride up front in the passenger seat). Please also make sure that your insurance information is up to date in the front office..
Columbia Gorge Discovery Center :  Friday, September 20th    8am departure
Fort Clatsop :  Monday, October 22nd    8am departure
Bring to Class the 1st Day:
  • Supplies from list.
  • Extra clothes in a big ziplock bag.
  • Rain boots
  • Backpack and lunch box
  • Reusable water bottle
Thank you for sharing your kiddo with me this year! I am so excited for the first week of school.
See you Wednesday!

Summer Highlights

Hello dear reader! I know I have been absent for too long…thank you for hanging in there with me.

Summer days…this season, they’ve been filled with Rock Band Camp, Trackers Earth camps, baseball camps, Art Camp, opera matinees, D’s birthday party at an indoor bike track and good times with friends at the beach and just hanging out at home with the flock. Oh and there’s that pesky addition that just doesn’t know when to quit.

Last week I spent a full day at school helping kick off the Strategic Planning process. As an icebreaker, the facilitator asked us to introduce ourselves and share the highlight of our summer. I usually take an instant dislike to these types of exercises, and the person behind them, but in this case, at least upon reflection, it was a nice reminder that we have DONE SO MUCH this summer I couldn’t pinpoint a single event. Truly most days we are just managing to keep all the moving parts oiled and operational! 

Still when I was asked this, I was feeling the heavy weight of the smoke-filled skies and the rust-can sunsets (August was dominated by forest fires, which ironically muted the scorching temperatures of the weeks prior), and we had recently returned from a similarly-lackluster gray trip to Dallas (alas–a silver lining: not 1 illness or injury on this trip!), so I was not feeling particularly sunny about the season and I couldn’t think of anything to say.

Then yesterday evening, it rained, finally. After over a month of utter gloom, unsafe air and dead grass, the clouds relented. Not heavy, not long, but enough to clear out the smoke and the wash away the listless dust and pollen from the horizon. This morning the hummingbirds danced in our trees, the duck across the street honked, and the blue skies were back, with puffy clouds and glorious warmth.  So today, I put off some dull work for another day, and D and I went to the pool, which was practically deserted since school has started for the nearby districts. What a relief it was to bask in the sun and frolic: jump, jump again! D must have jumped in the pool 100 times. And we were not shivering (ok, by the end we were getting cold. This is Portland after all)! Still–we had the outdoor pool nearly to ourselves–and I can confidently write that if I had that meeting over again I could easily say today was the highlight of my summer. In the sparkling sunlight and under the glittery water, I took time to study D’s hands, feet, and face, all of which have all recently grown dramatically (I bought him 5 new pairs of shoes this weekend!).  His legs seem to have doubled in diameter, and his eyes–always so large–seem to be improbably stretched to their orbital limit.

D has also mellowed with this recent growth spurt–he’ll sit for an hour or 2 and read! I asked him today if he was feeling sick and he said no, just tired. Tired? What? My kiddo? Never.

Here are some fave snaps from the last few months–a breath of fresh air from the remodel, like those blue skies today…



P.S. Actually I do have a legitimate “summer” highlight–it was D playing multiple instruments in rock band camp. Stay tuned for a post with videos!


Goodbye, 2nd Grade

With everything going on, I have yet to pen a proper goodbye to 2nd grade, which was a year characterized by astronomical growth and outstanding teaching at The Gardner School (Jackie Taylor, there will never be another quite like you!): growth in penmanship, reading, and math, but also in patience, empathy and character.

As he gets older, Dashiell is realizing the world is not always fair, and sometimes bad deeds go unpunished. We’ve had a few lessons on this close to home lately — one with our carpool family, and one in the fictional world. D is reading the School Ship Tobermory books by Alexander McCall Smith, and he is very invested in the characters. The plot twists against the protagonists have left him so upset he wasn’t sure he could carry on reading, and I had to read ahead myself to assure him all would be well and justice would soon be meted out….

(more later about how uncannily these books resemble our own Adventures of Dashiell & Fergus stories!)

There is much to tell about this past year, but for now this progress report will have to suffice. 




Addition, Day 112

A whirlwind…a lot can be accomplished in just a few weeks, with multiple threads going at the same time. The new addition is shingled. The arbor is mostly built. We have new hardwood floors, and a tile floor in the mudroom, the kitchen cabinets are installed and level, the sinks are here, and the countertops have been templated! Oh, and the appliances are here, and the backsplash tile, too! Somewhere in there Jeff managed to go to Denver for his new job at Enbala while D had a Trackers camp in Portland…!


Now that things are falling into place, it’s really starting to feel real. We are starting to picture living in the space and interacting with the cabinets and appliances. This week we are using the mudroom as a place for D to take of his dusty baseball clothes.




Young Model

I didn’t notice when I snapped these pictures of the progress on the addition how, when viewed as a series, they looked like a fashion commercial. Remember those Gap ads from the 1990s? 


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