14 September 2014

37/52 - Plums, Paddlewheels, and School Tricks

Fall is arriving quickly! Some of our fruit trees are starting to drop their fruit, indicating to us that we should pay attention to them or miss out entirely until next season. The apple and plum trees are loaded, probably because we didn't have them pruned this year.

Our favorite trees to harvest are the plums, one yellow and three Italian. Time to get picking!

Between the three of us, we picked about 4 baskets each of yellow and Italian plums. When we were done, our plum trees were empty.

While we were picking, we found this crazy looking caterpillar in the tree. It looked just like the woolly bears that I was used to from the East Coast, but I'd never seen one with those crazy white spikes.

My instinct was to kill it immediately - after all, what kind of caterpillar is good for fruit trees? - but I decided to hold on to it until I looked it up. Sure enough, it was a woolly bear. And they aren't as detrimental to fruit trees as I had assumed. So this one was spared after all (though I did move him to another section of the yard.)

Rather than try to process all of our plums immediately, we decided to cram the plums into the refrigerator and freezer to save for another day. It looks like we will have some canning sessions in our future.

Here is the Anders quote of the week.

Donna was describing her latest computer-related woes at dinner one night, when Anders stopped her and said:

Grandma Donna, you should just S-M-I-L-E!

If that's what he's learning in school all day, then we're just fine with that.

Corinne and I did a quick trip to Seattle for a wedding, leaving Anders in the hands of Grandma. But before we left, we all stopped for the White Salmon Fire Department's Huckleberry Pancake Breakfast.

He ate the whole thing.

While Corinne and I were in Seattle, Anders took a trip down the Columbia on the Sternwheeler with Grandma Donna, Aunt Patsy & Uncle Jim.

Thanks to everyone who participated in last week's unofficial How to Get Anders To Talk About School idea contest. We had lots of different ideas and approaches.

Focus. Ask about something specific, like "Who did you sit with at lunch today?" or "What letter/number did you practice?"

Trickery. Make something up about their day and let them correct it with actual details: "Too bad it rained all day today. You probably couldn't play outside during recess." Or "I heard there was a monkey in class today."

Patience. Don't ask right after school. Wait until later in the evening. If they bring up something on their own, use that as a launching point.

And if all else fails:

Confinement. Put them in a confined space, such as the passenger seat in a car, and they will eventually spill the beans.

One person suggested asking the teacher for some sort of summary of topics and activities for the week, which seems like a good thing to pursue. Ultimately, the most important thing is that he still loves school. I'm sure we'll slowly figure out what he does there all day. We have discovered that during music they learned the S-M-I-L-E song (see above) and are dancing to the chicken dance. So, there's that.

In the public library; non-fiction section, of course

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders

07 September 2014

36/52 - Anders Starts Kindergarten

We don't know quite how it happened, but the time has flown and Anders has started kindergarten. It seems like just yesterday when our little Rocket was having his first (unofficial) school photo taken when he was just two.

Anders has been looking forward to this day since before his preschool graduation back in June... primarily because he couldn't wait to ride the school bus.

When the bus arrived, Anders was ready. There was no hesitation or anxiety; he just walked right on.

Corinne and I had to drop off a few things at the school, so we followed the bus to school that day. Anders could barely contain his excitement when he arrived at school. Only 6 kindergarteners took the bus that first morning. For Anders, I think that the bus was the part that he looked forward to the most.

Trout Lake School is a small, K-12 rural school. Each grade has a single class of between 12-22 students. Here in the Gorge, it has a good reputation; in fact, about 20% of the student population lives outside the school district and has chosen to come here. A friend of ours from Trout Lake recently completed his PhD at MIT and had great things to say about how the Trout Lake School prepared him. We couldn't ask for too much more.

Anders' kindergarten class is 16 kids: 6 boys and 10 girls. In that small class, there are TWO other Corinnes: one of the girls, and the mother of one of the boys. (One is spelled differently, and we're not sure about the other.) And we have yet to hear of another Mike or Michael. What are the chances? For the next 13 years, our Corinne will have to share her name with two other people. Having never had to share her name before, she's not very happy about it. I sympathize with her, believe me.

Anders had a great time on his first day. That evening, we stopped by the school again for a quick photo.

Anders drew this picture to capture his new school experience.

Anders is on the driveway (brown/grey), with the irrigation ditch (blue) flowing underneath.

For Corinne and I, we have mixed feelings about this transition. It doesn't seem possible that Anders is old enough to be in school already. It wasn't that long ago that he was just learning to walk and talk.

On the other hand, this is the beginning of the anticipated 'hermit' stage of our existence. The school bus to the full-day kindergarten stops at the end of our driveway, so we no longer have the daily preschool commute to Hood River of the past two years. We work out of our home now, so we have no work commute at all. Basically, we don't have to leave the house until we run out of food. Our biggest problem so far seems to be that our motivation for working wanes quite a bit when Anders comes home at 3:30 each afternoon.

As a final note, we have a request to the other parents out there: how do you get your children to tell you about what happened in school that day? Anders is already giving the "nothing" and "I don't remember" answers when asked about school. He's growing up!

Congrats, Anders! Have a great time. You'll do great.

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders

01 September 2014

35/52 - Last Week of Summer Vacation

I can't believe we did this much stuff in a single week. It was the last full week before Anders starts his full-day kindergarten at the Trout Lake School! Corinne took the whole week off to spend with her "little boy" before he grows up.

Discovery Center

One outing they took together was to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. The main draw was the raptor program; we met several of their raptors from this program back in April. On this particular trip, the raptors didn't perform their regular show, but that didn't stop Corinne and Anders from having a great time in the rest of the museum.

Anders, fitting in with the scene of an Oregon Trail river crossing

Hanging out in a replica of The Dalles in the early days

One of the museum exhibits featured maps of the ice sheets during the ice ages. After returning home, Anders drew this map of the ice sheets in Candyland.

Ice Sheets of Candyland


At a recent preschool library story time, Anders made goop. We had no idea what he was talking about, so we looked it up and decided to make it with him at home. What is goop? It's cornstarch and water. Oh, and food coloring "to make it more colorful". That's it. Sounds pretty uninteresting until you actually make it and see how it behaves. Sometimes it's a liquid, then suddenly a solid, then back again.

Why didn't anyone tell us about this sooner? And why didn't either of us make this when we were kids?

Anders quote of the week, while in a public restroom:

I like automatic faucets, automatic towels, and driver-less cars.

Seems like one of those things is a little harder to make than the others.

Anders's Art

One of Anders's summer activities was Kids' Creations Art Camp. They made some pretty impressive art pieces. At the end of the summer, some of the artwork was displayed at Ground, a local coffee shop in Hood River. We thought it would be fun to see his art hanging in a public place, so we stopped in. But apparently, Anders has done so much artwork recently that he doesn't recognize his own work.

Concert in the Park

Hood River hosts a Families In The Park every August with live music. We managed to catch the last one, featuring Hit Machine. They never disappoint. It was a fun evening of dancing (mostly by Anders), a picnic procured from the Farmers' Market, and happy music.

And to top it all off, we also purchased the winning 50/50 raffle ticket. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday night!

Fishing the White Salmon

Living along a river, you would think that we would have tried fishing it. But you would have been wrong. Until now.

Andrea and Shane stayed with us for the long weekend, and Shane brought his fishing gear with him, ready to teach Anders how to fish. (Okay, we admit it. He had to teach us how to fish, too.) The first morning they were here, Shane hit the river early and caught a decent sized rainbow trout. So now we had confirmation that fish actually did live in the river. Now it was just a matter of getting more of them onto our lines.

That afternoon, Anders and I joined Shane at the beach. Anders had a kids pole, and we actually had two poles and a reel that were left with the house.

We spent about three hours on the river, learning how to cast and finding the hot spots where the fish were hungry. We had some tugs and nibbles, but nothing stayed on.

The following morning, we head back out again and had even less luck. No bites, no activity at all. We tried jigs, different flies, and some bait worms, but to no avail. Until next time, fishies.

Thanks for the lessons and motivation, Shane!

Rummage Sale Finds

Each year, the Trout Lake Community Foundation holds a three-day rummage sale over Labor Day weekend. They collect donations from the community throughout the year and assemble an impressive spread of random stuff. You never know quite what you'll find. We have made some good finds in previous years, and this year was no exception.

Anders, of course, went straight for the toy section. He managed to score a couple construction vehicles. He even bought them with his own money: $1.50. He doesn't know what a bargain he got.

Our big finds were in the puzzle section and were decidedly more retro than his.

Lite Brite! There were actually three sets at the sale: one from the 70's, one from the 80's, and one from the 90's. We had almost bought Anders a new Lite Brite, but after reading the online reviews we changed our mind. As with many products, the manufacturers have tried to reduce their cost and have compromised quality as a result. And here, right before our eyes, it was easy to see the changes. The pegs of the 90's version were significantly shorter than those of the earlier models. Anyone with a basic understanding of physics can figure out what happens: the pegs fall out. We ended up buying the two older sets.

Who can forget the smell of warm construction paper? Anders was as excited as we were. After he put down his construction vehicles - which took a while - he wanted to play with the Lite Brite.

We picked up another even older retro toy find neither of us had seen before: Astrolite. It's older than we are. It looks just like a space age toy should.

A stack of old books also came home with us, including a Golden Books on Space Travel from 1958. Yes, that's right: it's a book about traveling in space written before humans traveled in space. Awesome.

And Corinne grabbed a few late 60's sewing patterns.

All told, we spent around $32 at the sale. And believe it or not, somehow our small purchase combines with all of the others to produce $20,000 from the rummage sale, all of which is used for scholarships to local students.

Unofficial Massman Family Reunion

On top of all of the above, several of Corinne's aunts/uncles were in town for the long weekend. We hosted several brunch events at our house, spent all of our dinners at local restaurants, oohed and awed over each other's rummage sale treasures, and just generally relaxed and enjoyed the late summer weather together.

And... I guess that's about as much as we could pack into the last week of summer vacation.

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders