Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I always get reflective at the start of a new school year. January 1st can do its best, but I will never be able to break the habit of marking time by the school calendar. The way I remember when we moved here is by noting it was the summer before Nels started his second year of preschool. Willem was still home with me. And now Willem is in first grade and Nels is in third grade.

Here they are on their first day of school back in September. We had California weather for the entire month, and it was so glorious that people eventually started getting nervous. Surely the balancing of the cosmic scales would require some horrible meteorological payback. But so far it has just rained all October, which is always the case. 

After adjusting to the longer day, Willem is enjoying first grade very much. The first week he was a little concerned that he teacher was too "snazzy" (his word), but he has gotten used to that too. He much prefers first grade to Kindergarten, where he was always annoyed by being perceived as "little kid-ish." His dignity is very important to him, and he feels he gets at least a modicum of respect as a first-grader.

It's always a relief when school starts. The boys kept themselves entertained really well this summer, but by the end they were constantly at each other's throats. To the point where I wondered if things would ever be good between them. But I hoped. Because I remembered Nels telling me in first grade that when he felt lonely at recess, he talked to Willem ("in his mind" he reassured me) and imagined he was showing him around.

And, sure enough, when school started this year, I pulled away from the curb in front of the school and glanced back to see Nels with his arm around Willem's shoulders and Willem with his arm circling Nels's waist, and not an inch of space between them. They were both looking down at their feet to coordinate their steps, and they marched, together, into the building.

I waited and waited for the day they would both go to school all day. And my ears do love the quiet. But every once in a while I miss my exhausting little sidekicks with the round squooshy faces.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Day at the Maryhill Museum of Art

This summer we finally visited the Maryhill Museum of Art. From Camas it's an 86-mile drive east along the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. 

In 1907 Sam Hill (not the Sam Hill; you'd better believe I googled that first thing!) bought 5,300 acres of land on which to build a Quaker farming community. He built a small town, but the remoteness of the location proved problematic, and nobody moved in. The building he intended for his residence eventually became a museum, thanks to the support of Queen Marie of Romania (Queen Victoria's granddaughter), modern dance pioneer Loie Fuller, and Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, wife of San Francisco sugar magnate Adolf Spreckels.  

The museum is every bit as eccentric and eclectic as one would hope, considering its patrons. The very strangeness of its existence out in the middle of nowhere, combined with blazing sunshine and crazy wind made me feel like I'd stepped into an alternate reality. In a pleasant way.

Whatever the opposite of mugging for the camera is, that's what our boys are doing here.

I have never seen Nels stop with a painting like he did with this one.

The view from a window in the stairwell.

We happened upon a strange temporary exhibit. After WWII, the Paris couture shows were too expensive to put on as usual. So these mannequins were made, with all of the dresses and accessories in miniature. Different artists designed set pieces for vignettes of the fashions. Then the whole thing went on tour. I found it  interesting, though my crew was not entirely enthralled with the tiny platform shoes and gloves and handbags. 

When I saw this set, I thought "Les Miserables!" I had no idea that the artwork for the musical was based on an earlier graphic style I had completely missed. 

"Storage closet" as display. Looks like they're having a pretty good time in there.

Both boys' posture cracks me up in this one.

As I believe my friend Amanda pointed out, this sculpture would not look out of place in the Star Wars universe.

It was a fun day out there in the beautiful world.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Some Summer

Time to catch up.

We went through a lot of paper this summer. Nels got even crazier about origami than he had been before, which was a lot. He has since branched out from making hats and cranes to creating his own original designs. 

And both boys became obsessed with paper airplanes, which piled up in drifts around the house. 

We spent a LOT of time out at the tree farm, and we had grand weather for it.

We ate crawdads from the river thanks to Shaun, who had the courage both to catch the crawdads with his bare hands and then to boil 'em up.

I didn't think the kids would go for them, but I was wrong. We had to share.

Back at home, Nels whittled.

And Willem bought himself a little cactus from Walmart, because that's the kind of kid he is.  

Towards the end of the summer, my dad and Juli took the train down from Bellingham to pay us a visit. We had fun taking them out to the tree farm for the first time.

Ah, summer. We drank it to the dregs, each in his own fashion.