Wordy; thoughts and things

Questions Answered on the PCT

Hello flushing toilets, we’re home.

After five glorious days on the Pacific Crest Trail we are back to cushioned couches and electricity. Although I daydreamed about mattressed-beds and a shower a couple of times, I mostly want to live out the rest of my life on the trail. This trip will live on in my best-trips-ever memory bank forever. DSC_0076

The Players: Our family was only half the crowd. We were also Nannie, Papa, and our two awesome nephews. Eight somewhat (or perhaps just right) prepared hikers heading off into the woods. DSC_0278

The Route and Timeline: This little family vaycay was my idea but it rightfully morphed in a group effort with lots of group planning. Whereas I could’ve easily spent 2 + weeks out there, the most feasible plan was 5 days. For the sake of ease we chose a close-to-home obscure loop starting at the Elk Lake Trailhead and ending at the Six Lakes Trailhead. It totaled somewhere between 15-20 miles, but we aren’t exactly sure because the map, trail markers, and GPS, were never quite in agreement.DSC_0302 I recently read Zero Days, a true story about the youngest thru-hiker to complete the entire Mexico to Canada 2650 mile trail at age ten, so I had a notion that our tiny section hike would be a breeze. Our route was flexible which was good because my overly optimistic idea of the kids putting in an easy 5 miles/day (whereas the little girl in the book was putting in 20/day) was determined painfully incorrect on mile 3 of day 2 when the whole world came crashing down on four hot and thirsty kids.  This is also where I say that by day 4 they put in 7 (mostly complaint-free) miles including a 1000ish foot climb. They’re troopers I’m telling you.


We came up with trail names for each of the kids. Left to right: Trash Can Man, (he carried the group’s trash bag) Screech, Rodent, and The Boss.

Questions Answered: Five days of walking allows for some serious thinking. I thought about summer coming to an end and the imminence of middle school starting. I thought about the best way to decorate the library. I wondered if there would ever be a way I could actually thru-hike the whole PCT, or even just my beloved Oregon. But most of my thoughts were observations about the people I was hiking with. We talked a lot and a lot can be learned in a single file line. Here is what I came to discover.

  1. My nephew Jacob is wise beyond his years. I wish I would’ve been that with-it as an eighth grader. He also looks out for his younger brother.DSC_0077
  2. Papa is a mountain main. Pure and simple.


    Marshy banks can make filtering water extra challenging. These three came up an efficient solution. 

  3. Gracie is one helluva hiker. She can keep up with the best of them. She is equally witty and intelligent.


    Tired feet deserve some stream-side attention once in a while. 

  4. My nephew Garrett succeeds when he tries new things and his success makes everyone around him happy. He also loves to read and that makes me doubly happy. DSC_0114
  5. Noah can’t resist a mountain lake, even if it means constantly unpacking and repacking to dig out his swim shorts. His laughter carries for at least a hundred yards on the forested trail which was nice when he and the other boys were up ahead of Gracie and me. DSC_0287
  6. Nannie can engage even the stinkiest long distance hiker in a sincere conversation about life. She is also a champ at a single burner white gas camp stove.


    Nannie leading the pack through a meadow before heading back into the forest. 

  7. My Bradley: he-who-hates-to-backpack. Even though he would prefer to be just about anywhere else, he adds zest to the trip, usually in the form of sarcastically comical observations about the challenging scenarios that accompany the adventures of 8 novice backpackers. He also somehow looks incredible after 5 showerless days sleeping on the rock hard ground. DSC_0081
  8. Myself. Although I have an absolute appreciation for the creature comforts of home, I have an overriding need to explore. Even when we settled into camp for the night, I wanted to (and sometimes did) take the side trails just to see what was around the corner. I have a need to wander. I have known this about myself but also have a wonderful family life and enjoy the wandering that comes with day-to-day life too. It isn’t a need to get away; it is a need to see what there is to be seen. DSC_0313I also have a life-long and undying love for huckleberries. DSC_0284

One Final Unanswered Question: We learned about all kind of things from each other. We discovered new information about shooting stars, middle school style notebooks, the best way to decipher topography on a Forest Service map, Minecraft, and how to respect each other’s needs for privacy when brushing teeth in the bushes. We gave freedom when things didn’t go to plan and accepted the new plan from that point on. We played games to aid the passing of miles when our skeletons felt like they might collapse under the weight of our packs.


As every-once-in-a-while backpackers, we bring standard camping gear on the trail. Serious long distance backpackers have significantly lighter packs because they invest in ultra lightweight gear. (Hello Christmas wish list!)

We sampled each other’s dehydrated food packets and rated the lakes and streams as we walked by. But there is one lingering question that we repeatedly asked and was never able to answer…

What in the world is the purpose of mosquitoes?

A few more photos 


This guy spent 5 days in the woods even though he’d rather be doing about a million other things. Give and take; he does this well. 


Time to take a load off at the end of a long day. These two couldn’t wait for the tent to go up. 


Jacob enjoying the scenery after filtering water on the first night.  


Smelling like soap and all smiles on minute one of day one. 


Cousins playing by the water at our camp on day two. There was no one else anywhere around.

One very important post script

A few months ago Gracie asked to be baptized out of the clear blue. She had an excellent understanding of such a decision and asked for it to happen on the Pacific Crest Trail. We chose a beautiful little nameless lake and stood on either side of her with the honor of baptizing her in her most sincere and well questioned faith. It was a moment that will remain with us forever. DSC_0188


Please excuse my #hikertrash hair in the these pictures. Inflatable pillow hair has a way of ruining pictures of even the most sacred moment.


That’s A Wrap.

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That’s a wrap. In more than one way.

My blog has been crickets because it’s  been a big year in the world of Tracy-Careerdum, but I can’t forgo my traditional end-of-the-school-year blog post, so here we go.



As an OSU student I dreamed of working for the ODFW observing wildlife in the fields and forests of Oregon, but I never imagined myself as an elementary school media manager. Although I still dream of the wildlife (though perhaps more as a park ranger: here’s looking at you Death Valley National Park) I must admit that I found my calling for the here-and-now.



Teaching kids about the endless awesomeness of a school library is an pretty sweet gig. If I sparked any kind of curiosity, love of learning, or lasting intrigue in a young student this year, I consider myself a success. It has been a great year in my professional life.



Some of the positives have been:

  1. An exponentially increased familiarity with the dewey decimal system.
  2. Quad muscles from shelving and reshelving thousands of books. (Endless gratitude to the volunteers who took over this part of the job. My quads are worse for it, but my sanity benefited greatly!)
  3. Going out to dinner like a celebrity. I see 510 kids every week and I undoubtedly run into at least one of them every time I go anywhere. It is my honor that they get excited to see me!
  4. I miss  E building from years past (aside from the waiting line at the staff bathroom) but I adore C building. It is home now. I’ve got the constant laughter coming from the fourth grade teacher-team on one side of the building, and the juxtaposition of the coolest storylines ever and the you’re-getting-older-now-let’s-get-it-together pep talks coming from the fifth grade side. C building is where its at!
  5. I have read SO MANY BOOKS this year! Picture books and chapter books alike. There is some amazing children’s literature and I am just scraping the surface. My self imposed summer list is going to be awesome! My year at school has been incredible!


And yet.

My son. My neighbor Noah, who has been right across the hall from me all year. He shortcuts through the library whenever he goes to the other end of the building and we both love our driveby hellos. He’s my pal. This guy is the most naturally cheerful person I know. He has an innocence that brings me such joy and also such concern. Because: Middle School. Next year.

Why am I so worried? I have no reason to think that he will be anything less than fabulous and yet I worry. Those of you who have gone before have told me your horror stories; your “my kid was awesome until middle school ruined him” stories. I refuse to be a fear based parent, so I am moving ahead in optimism, but the unknown is kind of getting me down.

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So I have this ‘Yay its the end of the year!’ and also this ‘One step closer to the unknown’ vibe competing for space in my head. I think summer break will do me well. Freedom in sunshine to sort thoughts, read a lot, spend time with my blonde haired incoming sixth grader and my beautiful ballerina who will be sharing a building with me at school next year, down with the hilarious fourth grade teachers.

Perhaps this post isn’t as cheeky as years past, but it’s me right now and I refuse to deny sincerity. Although I might be out of my own (too often) wordiness I have found words in others that I think work perfectly well for this season.

For my boy. From A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle.

“‘Time to move,’ said Hermit Crab one day in January. ‘I’ve grown too big for this little shell.’ He felt safe and snug in his shell. But now it was too snug. Hermit Crab stepped out of his shell and onto the floor of the ocean.”

My darling son. You are so ready to step out. You know it, I know it. I’ll catch up to believing it too.

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For me. A combined quote by Kate Spade and her father, Frank Brosnahan, which I recently read upon the designer’s tragic death. 

“Just float.” “Not every little pebble is a boulder.”

So I’m choosing to float. Through summer and into the new season.



I hope you’ll be floating through summer too. And if you have a positive middle school experience to share, I’d be most happy to hear it.



On Becoming a ‘Grandma’ and Other Bits About Being an Elementary Librarian (Including That Word!)

TracyLots of you have been so lovely as to ask how my new job is. In a word: AWESOME!

Seriously, how did I nail such a sweet gig? I love my every day at school. This is never ever what I imagined myself doing, but as the principal put it: when there is wind in the sails, sometimes you just have to let it ride. I’m so glad I did and I am!

Yes, I know its only been a month and there is still lots of time for the cynicism to creep in that I was warned about, but for now I am cynicism free and just don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon. This is my fourth year working at the school, first year in this position, and I love it more with each year.

For those of you who imagine me roaming isles of dusty books in my sensible shoes and poorly fitted reading glasses, here is what I actually do as an elementary school librarian. (There’s that word again, more on that later!) Throughout the course of a week I see all 575ish students with a minimum expectation of returning books and checking out new ones.

But I can’t let our heavenly room of books live at such a low expectation so I have the incredible pleasure of creating something educational/interesting/just-plain-fun while they are with me. So far we have learned how to care for library books and watched hilarious BYU clips about book care, learned about germs and the proper way to catch a sneeze, with enhancements by a disgustingly cool Mythbusters video, found out how to choose AR level books using an app called Tellagami, and this week we will create ChatterKid snapshots with Halloween books. Our school is a Technology Magnet, so using tech is in the current of instruction and its so much fun for me to jump on board.

Yes, there is more to the job. But its stuff you don’t care about.

This week a coworker told me that she thinks of the ‘specials’ as grandparents. In our school that consists of PE, music, and library. Her analogy actually fits quite well. The students visit me each week, just enough time to create relationships and have some fun, but then they go back to their classrooms much the same as kids return home to their parents after a visit to grandma’s house. Well I can tell you, being a ‘grandma’ is fabulous. I love it! Of course the students will develop much closer relationships to their teachers and they are who the kids will remember, but from my perspective, being who and where I am is kind of perfect.

Now onto that questionable and awkward nobody-knows-what-to-do-about-it word. Librarian. I think of a librarian as someone who works in a library and aids patrons in finding books. In that sense, and for the sake of the kids who think of it the same way, I am the school librarian. Technically though, a librarian is someone who has completed a masters degree in library science. Of which I have not. So my actual position title is Media Manager. Well, hello! In this day and age when we hear the word Media, we don’t think of books. We think of social media. So the title gets confusing. Why do I tell you this? I don’t know. It just seemed to fit.

You’ve also been asking how it is to be a full time working mom. After eight years of stay-at-home momhood and then three years of part-time, this full time stuff is a bigger deal. Truthfully, its not too bad. I love my job and thrive in the work. Its the rest of life that gets tiring. Cooking, cleaning, sports and ballet, and everything else that has to happen is the hard part. But really, its small beans. We are fine and happy.

So there you have it. My life in a nutshell. A very happy and fulfilled nutshell. Thanks for asking. I love you for caring about the Lil’ Howk Family.


It all started with a letter to BC Ferries

Today I write to remember.

Something pretty awesome happened to the Howk family last week and the best way I know to memorialize it is by blogging about it. So this is for me, my family, you readers and mostly BC Ferries.

To begin: a tiny bit of history. For the past 12 years, we have loved visiting my dad and stepmom at their home on beautiful Mayne Island, British Columbia. In order to get to Mayne, one must take a ferry (or be a world class swimmer with no fear of sea life.) Noah became very fond of BC Ferries and over the years took such an interest that he spent quite a lot of time studying them and even doing a class presentation on them. IMG_4833Just last year my folks sold their Mayne home and relocated to the impressive city of Victoria. In order to get there, one must also take a ferry, being that Victoria is on Vancouver Island. But here’s the thing: there is a much closer ferry for us to take and therefore it eliminated our need for BC Ferries specifically. And so, Noah was sad. I decided to write a letter to tell them how much Noah loves them and also request information about when Noah’s favorite ferry, Queen of Nanaimo, is retiring, which we knew would be this year but not much else. I didn’t expect anything in return, other than to perhaps be put on a mailing list.

But then!

The day before we left for our trip, the most lovely lady phoned from BC Ferries. She was exceedingly kind and pleased to have received the letter. She invited Noah to come to the headquarters office in downtown Victoria to tour the Operations and Security Centre. We were thrilled for the invitation. So our first day in Victoria we hopped on the Harbour Ferry (water taxi) from the condo at Fisherman’s Wharf, walked a few metro blocks, and arrived for the tour. This is where the blogging ends and the thanking begins….

To Deborah, Captain Jamie, Jasmine and the Operations/Security Team: IMG_4812My goodness! We knew that Canadians were polite, but you were incredible. You welcomed Noah into your work space as if he were your own. You played off of his enthusiasm and offered information mixed with encouragement. You tipped his professional-aspirations scale from NFL to (I’d say, the equally challenging) maritime captain. You showered him in branded loot, made phone calls on his behalf, and advised us of the world’s best chocolate dipped granola bars. Thank you for being so great. What we thought was awesome and more than enough turned out to be the beginning of quite the journey, completely thanks to you.

To Captain Knoblauch, afternoon Captain, morning/evening Crews of the Skeena Queen:IMG_4824You know how to make a boy feel like a celebrity. When we completed our time a the headquarters, we were honored to be gifted with a pass to take Skeena Queen to Salt Spring Island where Noah’s favorite Queen of Nanaimo would be docked for a short bit. The folks at the main office arranged for us to come onto the bridge of Skeena for a tour, but you made it so much more. You were knowledgable and gracious hosts. Thank you for the insights into what it takes to maneuver your vessel, how to successfully blow Skenna’s whistle, and for demonstrating that even ferry boat captains like english muffins and preserves.

To Superintendant/Captain McKay, Captain Lam, and Nanaimo Crew: IMG_4837Once we arrived at the Queen of Nanaimo it felt like home. We have taken this ferry for so many years that it feels like visiting an elderly relative. (Sorry Nanaimo, we love you but you are getting up there in age.) Your crew offered a tour deluxe! We saw all sorts of things that we never even knew were on a ferry; thanks for taking the time to show us all around. It was fun for Noah to use the (tele???) machine to communicate with the engine room. And oh! The engine room. Where the nitty-gritty takes place, where one may choose to hang out if they want long term hearing loss, where shafts turn and pistons pump. It was a spectacle and we felt privileged to see it. IMG_4825Thank you to all of you on the Nanaimo, this very well could be Noah’s last visit before she’s sold at auction and you made his time memorable. You also showed that when a car breaks down on the deck, it can require quite the orchestra of personnel to get it cleared out. Noah watched you pull away and spoke a quiet “goodbye Nanaimo” as you took your departure. You are a good ship and you’ve served us well.


To Gramps and to Gracie:

Gramps, thanks for coming along on this whole journey. I was so happy for Noah to have this opportunity and you reminded me of that when I said that I was somewhat bummed about only having one full day to check out Victoria before we returned home after spending the better part of two days on BC Ferries. You are right, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a lad who will never forget how a single letter turned into such an adventure. To Gracie Girl, I know you wanted to shop and sightsee and maybe even ride one of those horse drawn carriages near the parliament building, but instead you were a sweet sister who kindly came along for the journey. You’re a champ.

BC Ferries. My blog isn’t big enough to express my gratitude. What is a company to you is a passion to my son and you greeted that perfectly. Many thanks and much appreciation.

One last thing: Captain Jamie was absolutely correct. Embe Bakery on Salt Spring Island has the best chocolate granola bars in the world. Great recommendation!Image 7-9-17 at 3.42 PM (2)


What I learned at school this year.

Another school year is coming to a close. (FINALLY! Thanks to snow days, we had an added extra week and I was fairly convinced that the school year would end precisely when the next school year was beginning.) This was my third year working for the local school district as an Educational Assistant. Here is a list of the things I learned at school this year.

  1. In order to effectively communicate with fellow staff members, one must master the art of drive-by conversations. I’m heading here, you’re heading there, so we have approximately 10 seconds of passing time to outline our plan for the rest of the day. Also, by the way, my coworkers are the very best, as evidenced by the photo below. 14915668_10211282201915234_8405853642645992573_n
  2. Kids are blissfully unaware of winter and painfully aware of summer. Three feet of snow? Heck yes! Let’s slide down this snowplowed slope in our jeans, which will remain wet for the rest of day. But who cares? Its fun and we’re kids. Ninety degrees? We are wilting and incapable of doing anything other than sitting in the shade. I guess this is a Bend thing, because lets face it, its winter here like most of the time.IMG_4683
  3. Kids can get excited about pretty much anything that their teacher is excited about. True, I’m not a certified teacher, so I am using this word loosely. We can take the word ‘bones’ from the lesson map and have a fascinating conversation about how many bones are in the human body. We can randomly select a book about honey bees and discover a whole world about how bees dance to communicate with each other. My little three years worth of experience has lead me to believe that the vast majority of kids are eager to learn when their teacher is excited to learn alongside them.
  4. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell a first grader that “cutted” isn’t really a proper word, they will incessantly use it after their classmate “cutted” them in line. The word “cutted” is best used with the accompaniment of tears, because who likes to be “cutted” in line anyway?!
  5. It is still cool to chase each eachother on the playground. They stole this one straight out of the Dry Hollow Elementary playbook, where I grew up. Wall-ball and jumprope are also both also still very much in fashion. Insider tip: joining in on recess games makes recess duty WAY more fun.


    Occasionally I get sweet notes from students. This is from one of my favorite students, my ‘dotre’ G. (My 2nd grade daughter, Gracie.)

  6. When there is an opportunity to participate in a staff event, participate. You just might end up getting free ukulele lessons from the insanely talented music teacher and then perform Beatles music for the whole school.
  7. Similarly, when there is a staff party, attend. Because you might be lucky enough to witness your coworkers dancing the night away (and I mean DANCING!) in the midst of onlookers in their mid 20s. Their inquisitive glances indicated that they either thought that the dance moves where on fire, or shocked that those people were up past 11:00pm. Honestly, I was shocked that we were up past 11:00pm. Midnight, to be exact.
  8.  When there is a risk to take, take it. After three years of temporary employment, I took a risk in applying for the Media Manager position when it unexpectedly became available. (Basically this is the library teacher, or librarian.) Did I ever plan on ever trying for a role like this? No. But I had to take the risk, thinking that the outcome might be worth it. And guess what? I got the job! So effective very soon, I shall commandeer an elementary library, where the world of knowledge is unleashed. Can you imagine a job better than fostering curiosity in young minds? Me neither!IMG_4682
  9. Band Aids most likely won’t help with the removal of pain. But to a first grader, they do. So just give them a Band Aid.
  10. Never think that any two school years will be the same. Likewise, never think that any two students will be the same. Truthfully, it is our outlandish privilege to be entrusted with the care of our students every day. We get to watch out for, look after, teach, care for, wonder with, and smile upon the very light of somebody’s life, day after day. And after a year, they so easily become our light too. There is no better place to be, no better gig to get.

So with that. HELLO summer! What do you say we get this party started?!

(As in, what do you say we get into that library and get some paper onto those bulletin boards?! Help, anyone?)

Post Script: My biggest congratulations to my friend and kindergarten teacher extraordinaire Missy! After years of hard work, she completed her masters degree this week. I can assure you that there will be many thoughts from C building heading directly to your E1 next year. We were an awesome team and you are simply the best!

As Long As We Both Shall Live

 For our fifteenth anniversary:

I, Tracy12-16-10-36

take you Bradley,6-27-14

for my lawfully wedded husband.dsc_0192

To havedsc_0199

and to hold6-18-32

from this day forward.dsc_0190

For better,10-28 Howk (121)

and for worse.8-30-5

For richer,12-12-10-4

and for poorer.2-26-27

In sickness1-15-6

and in health.img_1240

To loveimg_3658

and to cherish.8-30-3

As long as we both shall live.6-7-38

My Bradley,

Its been fifteen years now, in your arms. You are my swooning, my life worth living. Your smile is my smile and your tears have been shared in my eyes. From our togetherness comes strength of mind and of character. Your love is my fortune. Our laughter is apparent and my adoration is evident. We love only from a love first given, a love above all else. You are here, so am I, isn’t it a beautiful life?

Yours forever, Babe

PS. I loved that bleached blonde fresh-from-Australia hair back when we were 20. But damn mister, I really must say, the older you get, the finer you become. We’ve had a lot of better and some devastating worse, a lot of wonderful health and our fair share of sick. I chose to keep the rawest photos to ourselves, because we know what they looked like and how we loved each other through them. Happy anniversary hot stuff; its been a pleasure getting to know you.

One more, just for fun…(and because it has the best pet that ever lived.)dsc_0197

Lessons of Becoming Clara

Sometimes I write because I have something to say. Today I write because I have something to remember.

Dearest Daughter,

This year you were given the chance of a lifetime. The sometimes intimidating, thickly-accented, former professional ballet dancer turned instructor and owner told you that you had been selected to perform as Clara in the 2016 The Nutcracker. You cried; for the first time ever in your life, you cried tears of happiness. You will never forget that perfect moment.


Chandler Photography

Over the following several months you embarked on the journey of becoming Clara. You learned quite a few life-lessons along the way.

1. Be Humble. This is the one and only year that you had a shot at getting this role, and the same goes for all of the other lovely girls in your class. You left the studio that day on a high, whereas many of them left with great disappointment. You empathized with them, because you could relate to how hard it would have been had you not been chosen. You remained humble. Excited (and overly chatty in the dressing room at times), but humble. The girls in your class were incredible in their roles and in their support of you and you must be thankful for their kindnesses.


Chandler Photography

2. Dedication and Confidence. After we made a few phone calls to grandparents and beloved cousins, you got straight to practicing. You never stopped until the big weekend arrived. You were diligent in rehearsing. You also found your footing in confidence. You stood tall and even when you weren’t quite sure of the next step or pantomime, you behaved in confidence and ability. Because you are confident and able, in ballet and in life.


Chandler Photography

3. Dealing with Nerves. You came down with a serious case of the nerves the day before the first full cast rehearsal. You were feeling physically sick and your normally cheerful attitude converted into silence. We handled it though, didn’t we? We talked about deep breathing. We looked out the window and enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells of the world that was carrying on all around you. Your nerves got the better of you that day, but the next day you arrived at the studio ready to go and after that, you never let nerves grab a hold of you again. Those same nerves will appear each time you go for something new. I think you learned some purposeful ways of rising above and it will go with you.


Chandler Photography

4. Enjoying the Journey. You were living on a constant high and I knew that it would hurt when you landed on the ground again. So I told you this spur of the moment fable that my mommy-mind created for you: There was a little boy who had the privilege to ride the train to Disneyland. He was so anxious to get to the Happiest Place on Earth that he didn’t think to enjoy the train ride there. He didn’t take time to look around him and to see the passing scenery. Yes, of course Disneyland was the destination, but his time there would be over in a flash and all that would remain was the memory. Instead, he should enjoy the whole journey, all of the stops and moments along the way. You understood my meaning and I knew that you had grasped it when one day after school you told me that you found yourself enjoying the trees on the playground and totally free from thoughts regarding Clara. To be truthful, I still have to intentionally stop to enjoy the scenery in life too.


Chandler Photography

5. Even the Boys will Come. People came from all over the place to see you perform, when that wonderful weekend arrived. Your grandma came for a whole week. Your beloved cousins, aunts and uncles all made their arrival in town. You had numerous girlfriends from school and other places come to see the show. But here’s the kicker: even the boys came. We have so many friends that have two or three sons, no daughters, and even they came to see you. This is a rarity, and their parents had to feign their appearance as adding ‘culture’ into the young men’s lives. You were grateful, as many people missed important performances and practices of their own to see a ballet. Rumor has it that they even liked it.


Chandler Photography

6. Staying Humble. The weekend brought you lots of love and support and flowers and gifts and attention and interviews and hugs and sweets and special treatments. I was concerned, unfoundedly so, that this would create an ego within you. But you stayed humble and cheerful and supportive of everyone in the show, from those with the smallest parts to those with the biggest. I am proud of your ability to stay sweet in the face of such splendor. Please promise me that you will remain this way. Humility is a key to a happy life.


Chandler Photography

7. Finishing Strong. There came a time in the tiny bathroom at the last performance when I told you that it would be your last time putting on Clara’s beautiful dress. You acknowledged this fact and carried on as if it was only the beginning. Perhaps it is only the beginning for you. Your love of ballet expanded somehow from wide to wider and your aspirations of pointe shoes and platter tutus only grew bigger. In your journey of becoming Clara, you became more you too. You grew up some. You handled pressure like a pro. You crossed paths at silly and sweet and mature and graceful.


Chandler Photography

8. In the Midst of this Dream Coming True, Another Dream Sparked. The night after the last performance, after thousands of people witnessed the wonder of the incredible talents withheld at Central Oregon School of Ballet, you released. You cried, as you do each time a ballet performance comes to an end. You  were sad, but it wasn’t all about Clara. It was about performing. You knew that it would be a while before your next time on stage. It was about the other dancers, and knowing that the wonderful friends who aren’t in your class, would suddenly be absent from your life for a while. I understand this letdown, and I held you through the tears. But you know what? This says to me that you were made for the stage in ballet. You will go as far as your determined little self will take you. You must shoot for the stars. Who knows? Maybe one day you will get to appear in that magical Sugar Plum Fairy’s purple tutu that you love so much.


Chandler Photography

I’m proud of you.



The Election: From Their Eyes

So here’s the thing: I refuse to write anything political on social media because 1. You don’t care about my political views (and similarly, I’m not particularly concerned about yours) and 2. My vote counts equally as much regardless of my Facebook feed.

But…what about the kids? This post is only and completely about the kids.

Perfectly timed this week was a reading curriculum for my third grade group that talked about the government. It had vocabulary words like Election, Convince, Announced, Candidates, and Independence. We conversed about these words and I was surprised by the wide variation of their previous knowledge about the US government. It was evident that some kids were almost oblivious to the election season and others were retaining the (sometimes strong) views of their families.fullsizerender

I left that conversation feeling both energized by the time that I had been given to talk to these wonderful little folks about our awesome system of government and also somewhat saddened by their perceptions of it. OF US. (By ‘us’, I am referring to the adults of this country as a whole. I acknowledge that many of us have handled this election differently, but for the sake of simplicity here, I am lumping us into one big observable group as seen by young eyes.)

A few trademark moments.

“I don’t trust either candidate so I wouldn’t vote at all.”

“Trump! All the way.”

“We could have the first ever girl president!”

“I have family in Mexico and I’m worried that Trump will build a big wall between us and them. I still want to see my family.”

“I’d vote for my mom.”

“If Clinton wins, we can’t have guns and then we can’t protect ourselves.”

“I wish Michelle Obama was a candidate.”

“Why can’t Barack Obama just keep being president?”

I was glad to see them genuinely interested and engaged in the conversation. I restrained myself from offering my own opinions, of which I gave none, and also some concerned facial expressions by how heated they became with each other over this. They looked JUST LIKE US.

We spent some extra time on the word ‘convince’. Not only is this a handy word to focus on in reading group because the ‘c’ makes both of its sounds in one word, but also the meaning of the word ‘convince’. I told them that as their reading group teacher I might try to convince them to read and enjoy a lot of books. Their dentist hopes to convince them to floss their teeth. We brought it back around the the topic of government and specifically, what a candidate could do to ‘convince’ someone to vote for them.

Here was the group consensus: 

“To get someone to vote for you, you must say a lot of really bad things about the other person.”

Am I the only one who is embarrassed by this? It seems to me that we have fallen significantly short of showing the very respect to one another that we expect these young people to demonstrate.

So I was thinking perhaps we could add some words to our own vocabulary list. Kindness. Integrity. Goodwill. Compassion. Opinion. Character. Honor. Listen. Sincerity. Example.

In the end, we steered away from the US government, the one in which we are brilliantly honored to be a part of, to the classroom. We decided to hold our own election for which class pet they might theoretically enjoy. The candidates were Cat and Turtle. We convinced each other why our chosen candidate would be the best class pet. We cast a ballot and then announced the winner. Let’s just say this: if the government was seeking a turtle for president, it would be a landslide. fullsizerender-1

They are watching and they are absorbing. I’m afraid of what a debacle we’ve already made of this big political mess and I’m concerned about the poor example we have demonstrated for our youngest generation. So here’s what I’d like to convince you do try:

How about we pull it together these next few days? How about we show them the tremendous honor of voting and our ability to have both opinions and kindness. I think we can do it and more importantly, I think we owe it to our cherished youth.

Raising a Girl in the World of Mainstream

8.1 (20)Oh summer! Hasn’t it been lovely? I work at school and I get summer off (which is AWESOME!) so I rarely dress up and I really rarely fancify my hair or wear makeup in the summer months. Yesterday though, after months of glorious mascara-freedom, I had to (read: chose to) wear makeup for some professional photos. My seven year old daughter asked me “why do you have black stuff on your eyelashes?” That’s a great question isn’t it? You try answering that to a little girl who you’ve told over and over again that beauty is on the inside and that the way she looks on the outside is perfectly her and beautifully created.

It got me thinking. There are so many very strange things that we do to ourselves in this world that are considered mainstream. 6.14 (2)We have seen and done them for so long that they just seem normal now, but to young eyes they seem off kilter, because in reality, they really are off-kilter. For instance:

Nail polish. Its totally normal and acceptable to paint our fingernails with colored paint and it is considered pretty. Because, why exactly?

High heels. We walk on a little pogo stick underneath our heel and its considered fancy and sexy. Clearly our feet are not angled at a 45 and they are not meant to put our entire weight onto the ball of our foot. high heelsDid you know that they make high heels for little girls now? I’m not talking about dress up stuff, but like, real high heels for small youth sizes. I’ve explained to my daughter, who sees these on her first grade classmates, that she can’t have them because they aren’t good for her developing feet bones. “Well then why do you wear them?” Uh, (in a sheepish and unconvinced tone) because my feet bones are done developing. Really though, we all know that they aren’t good for us.

makeupMakeup. I already kind of covered this, but I was wondering, have you watched Survivor? They are makeupless and razorless for 40 days and the viewers get used to seeing them in their natural state. But then the finale. They arrive all dolled and hairsprayed up and you can’t even recognize them. Why is this mainstream? Why aren’t natural eyelashes ok? Why are freckles hidden? I just don’t get this. I go along with it, but I don’t get it.

Carl’s Jr Commercials.  I know that bacon cheeseburgers are best enjoyed near scantily clad women riding mechanical bulls, but kids don’t. Ok, I don’t either. In fact, this one really irks me. Wecheeseburger mostly restrict TV to PBS kids (yay for commercial free!) but the NFL and the Olympics are not commercial free. So we ask the kids to turn off the TV during commercials so that they’re innocent minds aren’t disturbed with nearly naked women. I HATE this! I don’t want my girl thinking that ladies behave that way and I don’t want my boy thinking that ladies should behave that way.

People MagazinePeople Magazine. Men in clothes that cover everything other than their heads and necks, next to a women wearing breast bearing tanks and booty showing shorts. This is a serious double standard! I don’t want to see the men wear anything less, I’d like to see self respecting women wear normal attire and be respected just the same. Have you noticed that little girl shorts are high to mid thigh and little boy shorts are knee length? WTH?

I better stop before my blood pressure raises any more than it already has. From what I’ve already written here, you probably think that we watch an exorbitant amount of TV, which we don’t at all, but it is where most of these instances are seen. That, and grocery store isles. And billboards. And smartphone app ads. My point here: it is everywhere. It is mainstream and that’s the whole point.

I can not hide my kids from the world. More importantly, I will not try to hide my kids from the world. swansThey are going to fly my coop and see all of this stuff eventually. I believe that my job as a mom is to be there when they see the dangers of the world little by little so that when they leave they aren’t shocked by the world that they live in. I will not even come close to exposing the whole world to their young minds, and I hope that some of these things they never discover for themselves, but they can’t avoid all of society and so I’m here to explain and love them through the life lessons of youth.

Back to the point. My girl will probably grow up to wear makeup and shave her armpits and wear high heels because that is what the majority of what us women do. I don’t think that this is all that bad. I participate too and I don’t plan on trying to reform any of this, it doesn’t matter that much to me. In all honestly, the older I get, the more zoombiish I look without lip color. This stuff isn’t really the problem.

I want to teach my girl how to be a lady when she is surrounded by brackish and narrowly dressed women. I want her to know that she is beautiful because she just is, not because of cleavage and pogo sticks. 7.19 (12)I want her to value people regardless of their looks and style choices. That somebody who has greasy hair is as valuable as somebody who has designer shoes, and that that person is as valuable as a woman who is bold enough to accept her natural self and be free from all cosmetic enhancements. It is my goal for her leave my home with a balanced sense of self, to know that regardless of her choices in the world of mainstream, that she is worth more than all that the mainstream has to offer AND so are all of the other women around her.

10-28 Howk (104)I know that these lessons will mostly come from my example as a woman in this world. I can’t save her from what her peers say about the world. I can’t influence her every thought and protect her from every image. What I can do is to chose self respect and positive self speak. I chose stylish modesty and can demonstrate that these two things can actually go quite well together. I can display polite behavior and ladylike mannerisms; showing that femininity can intersect at dirt and sports and tea parties. She probably won’t slide through life unscathed and unscarred but I will do my best to raise up her strengths and boundaries, her self worth and her value for others. This all seems nearly impossible, but I’m up for the challenge. She is so, SO worth it!



A Widening Chasm

Its happening; a chasm. A timeline to explain:

2006: our son is born

2007: our son changes from baby to toddler

2008: our daughter is born

2009: we have a toddler and a baby and they are different because of this age variation

2010-2015: our son and daughter become ‘kids’ and are very much similar in their needs and abilities

2016: a chasm cracked and things are changing

He is changing at a rate faster than she is. She is still completely in the land of ‘kid’ and he is taking a step out of ‘kid’ into somewhere new and unfamiliar to our family.

He doesn’t need a car seat. She does. She wants to watch PBS kids. He wants to watch the Olympics (and I can’t blame him for that. I do too!)

He can’t wait until the day that he can stay home alone, whereas she loves being by my side everywhere I go. She mostly obliges to our household chores and expectations. He challenges.

She plays with toys. His toys are collecting dust and spider webs.

She thinks that I am her favorite person and awesome in practically every way. (But really, who doesn’t? 😉 ) I’m fairly certain that he realizes that mom is kind of lame in some ways. (Although he hasn’t admitted this out loud, I’ll admit it for him.)

And yet…

They both reach out for my hand when we are walking together. They both love my hugs and affection. They want me to sing to them when I tuck them in and they want me to lay next to them and read my book while they fall asleep. They both wake up each morning with a chipper “good morning mom!”

They play together like kids too. In imaginary places hidden in our backyard.

They self admittedly want my guidance in social interactions with new adults and elderly people. Sometimes these things make them feel somewhat nervous and I’m their guide on how to look at people in the eyes and speak loudly enough to old ears to hear them.

We’ve all lived in the land of ‘kids’ for several years now where everything is pretty much the same. Same expectations, same bedtimes, same capabilities. Now he is starting to launch ahead and I can see it happening at its very beginning. I’m watching the very creation of a new era. He is still a kid, but he is being pulled and stretched into a new place.

This is where I am supposed to wrap this blog post into some kind of shiny package that sums up my thoughts with a bow on top. I am unprepared to do this. I’ve been roosting on this shift and trying to think of a good message to take away from it, but I don’t have one. What I have is only this:

Parenting is hard. He’s buckling in for the ride of a lifetime and I’m cinching my belt in the seat right next to him. He might not like it all of the time, and he might desperately need it sometimes, but I’m taking this journey with him because I am his mom. I don’t know how to do this. I’ve learned a lot in the land of ‘kids’ and I know practically nothing about what will come next. I’ll learn. I’ll be challenged. I’ll see him through. A time (many years from now) will come to let go, it seems like I cut more apron strings all of the time, but for now, its you and me buddy. We’ll give it our best go. And also: I love you.