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Halloween 2015

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October 31st, 2015  was a dark and stormy night- the rainiest Halloween in memory.  Nutmeg, dressed as a cuddly werewolf, was completely undeterred by the weather in her pursuit of candy.  We marched all over the neighborhood with our friend Alani (adorably dressed as a minion) and both girls came home soaked to the bone.  The little werewolf more closely resembled a drowned rat.  Meanwhile, Julian, who had spent a lot of time making cardboard accessories for his terrifying grim reaper costume, waited out the storm and greeted trick or treaters with David.  When the rain finally stopped, we traded places.  Nutmeg and Alani handed out candy and Julian went out to scare the neighborhood.  We still have bags of candy on the top shelf of the pantry, but luckily they haven’t asked about it in a really long time.

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Just as much fun as trick or treating was carving pumpkins with our rock star neighbors the week before. This the second year in a row for that particular tradition and hopefully it will still be going strong for years to come.


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Eeking out the last bit of summer fun!

There’s only a few more days until school starts again, and we are enjoying them to the fullest!  Last weekend we were supposed to go camping with Julian’s best friend Lucia and her family, but had to cancel due to rain.  Instead, we spent a wonderful day together exploring a new part of town, playing in fountains, riding the aerial tram for our first time ever and eating lunch at the farmer’s market.  Julian and Lucia have been friends since they were 15 months old and will be in the same classroom next year for first grade.  They like each other A LOT and are pretty cute together.

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Julian has spent 1-2 hours each day (for about 3 weeks) teaching himself how to play Fur Elise, his favorite piece of music!  His piano teacher didn’t think he was ready to learn it, so Julian took matters into his own fingers and taught himself.  We really admire his motivation but I think the whole neighborhood would love a break from Fur Elise!  He plays it an average of 8 times per day.

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We have had a lot of really fun play dates recently.  Nutmeg finally got to have a play date with her friend Pepper, who lives a few doors down but has a very busy schedule.

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Julian was supposed to let the girls have their play date to themselves, but couldn’t help himself- he HAD to be the star of the show!  He did a magic show for them and put on a piano concert.

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The very next day, we went on a hike and had a play date with Julian’s friend Zephir.  The boys included Nutmeg a little bit, but mostly she got left out. She wasn’t able to muscle her way into the play date as Julian had done the day before, and he didn’t seem to remember what it had felt like to be the third wheel.  It’s really hard to be the youngest, and sibling conflict has been rampant this summer!

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Here’s Nutmeg, desperately trying to run with the boys:

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Here are the boys, doing boy stuff without her:

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Even though Julian and Nutmeg have fought more together this summer than any other, they have played more together as well.  Here’s a special house they built for a Nutmeg’s fairies (you can guess who the primary architect was):

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Today we finally completed the last 6 miles of our 100 mile summer hiking challenge!!  Afterwards we celebrated with ice cream.  Nutmeg chose a safety whistle for her grand prize and Julian is getting hiking poles.  The 100 miles was a fun goal and gave both kids such a sense of accomplishment when they reached it.

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Chess lessons

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When we were on vacation, Julian tried to teach Nutmeg how to play chess with him.  She was a very wiggly and uncooperative partner, as you shall see.



Summer Fun

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There’s only 3 weeks left of summer!  Here are some random images of other ways we’ve kept busy and happy this season when we weren’t on vacation or celebrating birthdays:

Julian spent a week at Tracker’s stealth and archery camp!  Here he is wearing the closest thing he could get to camouflage.  He was loathe to leave his button down shirts in the closet all week but LOVED the camp and wants to do it again next year!



We set up our first ever lemonade stands with some neighborhood kids on one of the 100 degree June days.  Our best customer was a thirsty mail deliverer who had been driving around in the heat all afternoon.  He downed four cups and left a big tip.


There are free art crafts in the various parks we frequent around town.  We have accumulated rooms full of art projects, such as these finely rendered and useful masks.

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They also sometimes have visiting rock walls at the park, which Julian loves!

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He’s gotten interested in bouldering this summer and we’ve taken him to a couple of different rock gyms to practice:


The Portland library system is always a great source of free entertainment.  In addition to their wonderful summer reading program, they host lots of interesting guest speakers and workshops.  Here’s one we attended and learned all about reptiles. The kids got to touch beautiful and fascinating snakes and even wear a few of them as necklaces.





In addition to daily swimming classes and weekly Chinese lessons, Nutmeg has also been taking ballet.  Isn’t she a graceful little nymph?

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Nutmeg had a really special weekend with her dad when they went to LA for Uncle Ed and Uncle George’s wedding.  She had such a good time with her Wang relatives!


Julian’s Harry Potter Birthday

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We have a 7 year old!!!!  7 has always been my favorite age and I have waited for this year for a long time.  Julian felt like he waited for his BIRTHDAY for a long time too!  He was so excited about it this year, and the wait got almost unbearable towards the end.  He really wanted a Harry Potter themed birthday and had so many ideas and plans for how to make it perfect.

August birthday parties are tricky in Portland, since we have no air conditioning and it does get hot.  I always try to talk Julian into a swimming party, or a roller skating party, but he would not budge from his theme.   In order to beat the heat, we invited all the guests to the ‘forbidden forest’, a nice park near our house with big shady trees.

We spent the week before the party doing lots of Harry Potter crafting to get ready.  Julian and Nutmeg helped make wands, house badges, ties, goody bags and games.  One of our favorite things to make was the bludger piñata:


Julian also spent long hours practicing a magic show to perform for his friends at the party.


One of David’s friends had a Harry Potter costume in Julian’s size that she let us borrow for the day.  It’s impossible to express just how THRILLED he was about that.  He put on the Gryffindor robes and the glasses and he really felt that he WAS Harry.



Here are some of his friends with their badges, wands and ties, listening to the rules for the first challenge:

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And here they are again, playing an exciting game of “Find Hedwig”:

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The broomstick races were a hit.  Track star Zephir was paired with Nutmeg in Hufflepuff for the relay, and so we had to do some individual races to let his speed go unchecked.



Severus Snape couldn’t make it to the party but he sent over some powdered unicorn horn and dragon tears so the kids could mix up a magical green foaming potion.

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The magic show was performed with great flair and a liberal interspersing of real Hogwarts spells such as ‘Accio!’ and ‘Evanesco!’ and Julian was able to make knuts and galleons appear and disappear almost at will.

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We had some tasty snacks: water that magically changed color when it was poured, hard boiled dragon eggs (which Julian and Nutmeg had dyed and decorated to great effect), pumpkin pasties, Aragog’s spider eggs, Professor Sprout’s herbology tray, Snape’s toadstool stuffed mushrooms and an English trifle instead of a birthday cake.


And finally, there was the beating of the bludger!  Zephir got the first crack since he had found the golden snitch and singlehandedly won the house cup for Hufflepuff.  The piñata hung on until everyone had had a turn to beat it, and then burst open most anticlimactically to reveal a mass of melted chocolates that had been baking inside it all week when we’d left it outside in 98 degree weather.  Everyone had to eat the Bertie Bott’s every flavor beans from their goody bags instead.


Julian was really sad to return the borrow Harry Potter costume, but look what he gets to KEEP forever: a real Gryffindor bowtie that one of his friends gave him as a gift (he also got a t-shirt that says 9 3/4 on it).

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There’s 11 1/2 months to go until his next birthday, but he has already decided that it’s going to have a medieval theme.  And he’s already decided what’s he’s going to wear:


Heaven help me!  We’ll have to fly Aunt Emi out to plan and orchestrate that one.  I still have hope I can talk him into the pool party instead!



Summer vacation in California

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We had a strangely warm winter in Oregon this year and by June we were having a record breaking heatwave with temperatures near 100 for 3 straight weeks.  So we flew to San Diego where it was about 20 degrees cooler and had a wonderful visit with Nai Nai for a few days.  As luck would have it, she had three wonderful relatives visiting from Taiwan, and the youngest of them was Julian’s age.  They had a lot of fun playing together and we all enjoyed swimming in Nai Nai’s pool.


Then we headed to LA to visit Charles, Helen, George and Ed.  We took the kids to La Brea tar pits, which I remember loving when I was a kid.

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Another favorite from my own childhood was Santa Barbara, with it’s amazing Natural History museum which my great grandfather once directed.  Here are Julian and Nutmeg at the interactive rattlesnake exhibit which he helped to create.


The tour continued to lovely San Luis Obispo with it’s beautiful Spanish mission, river walk and hiking trails in the hills overlooking the town.  Apparently Nutmeg has no respect for history, or else why would she be standing in an ancient Spanish pot?

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From there it was a long drive through drought stricken Californian farm lands to Sequoia National Park, a wonderland oasis of towering trees, wildflower filled meadows and wildlife.  We got to see the General Grant and the General Sherman, the two largest trees on our planet, and lots of exciting animals including 11 bears, 17 deer, and many chirping golden bellied marmots.


Julian took this next picture.  Can you spot Nutmeg peeking out of the ergo on my back?


Most of the giant sequoias have burned out caves and tunnels inside them from long past forest fires.  These hollows are so big that people have actually made cabins inside them (before they were protected), and they make perfect dens for hibernating bears.


The General Sherman tree: as tall as the Statue of Liberty or 22 African elephants standing on each other’s back, and wide enough to block four lanes of LA traffic.

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Here’s the first bear we saw (that little brown guy up behind Julian’s hat).  We got much closer views of them in later hikes.

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Sequoias are awesome even when they’re dead.  The roots of a fallen sequoia make a great climbing structure!


And a toppled sequoia makes a great slide!


Or even a tunnel!

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Here’s Julian hiking to a waterfall.  He hiked 40 miles of trail on this trip!

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The waterfall was a lot leaner than it would have been in non-drought years, but it was still flowing.


Here’s a little bear cub sneaking up on me from behind:


And here’s another bear looking for grubs in the meadow:


Mama bear teaching baby bear how to forage for lunch:


Sleepy bear taking a nap in the middle of the trail:



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From Sequoia we drove to Kings Canyon National Park, which looks a lot like it’s more famous cousin Yosemite, but without the throngs of visitors.  It is a peaceful and beautiful spot, and it was on the very rock pictured below that John Muir himself would lecture visiting luminaries about the importance of saving these special places for future generations.

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From the top of Muir Rock it is an 8 foot drop into the icy Kings River below.  Julian took the plunge twice and was very proud of himself for doing so.


After quiet Kings Canyon, the crowds in Yosemite were a bit of a shock to the system, but the granite geography was dazzling.


David splurged and booked us two nights at the Ahwahnee Hotel.  Here are some dark photos of the wood paneled, tapestried interior.


We thought that the chandeliers looked a lot like the floating candles of Hogwarts.

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We did some beautiful hikes, including the iconic mist trail to Vernal Falls.  Julian was a trooper that day, climbing flights and flights of granite stairs.  We were really impressed with how strong his legs had gotten, and how much his hiking attitude had improved.

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The icing of the cake of our trip was the Peace Corps Thailand reunion at the Evergreen lodge outside of Yosemite. Out of 40 volunteers in our group, 11 made it out, including one of my dearest friends, Milena, who flew in all the way from New Zealand.

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The ex- Peace Corps volunteers are an outdoorsy bunch and we went on some great excursions.  We were lucky to have a botanist in our group, who knew about every plant we passed.  Another is now a bird biologist and he identified the bird songs we heard and kept a log of all the birds he saw.


Milena hasn’t had a peanut butter sandwich in a long time so we made sure she got a couple of them!


One of the nicest things about the reunion was how well the second generation got along together.  I think Nutmeg and Julian were thrilled to have some kids to play with again after being with David and me for two weeks.

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Here’s Myka opening up an 18 year old bottle of Thai whiskey:


And here are the kids about to get wired up on sugar:

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Milena planned a really fun scavenger hunt for the kids, and gave them gifts from New Zealand as prizes:

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new zealand shwag

On Sunday we hiked to Carlton Falls near Hetch Hetchy.  The trail passed through the site of a recent forest fire, and the kids wasted no time in completely blackening themselves with charcoal.

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Not even a swim in the waterfall could get them clean. It took vigorous scrubbing and many applications of soap until we could see their natural skin color once more.

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Sadly, lots of other hikers don’t pack out their trash!  Milena found this foul smelling bag of it in a hollow tree and generously carried it all the way out.


On our last night, John Neil made Nutmeg this origami napkin hat:


Nutmeg had a lot of fun eating dinner with her new boyfriend, Silas.

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Then all the kids got ice cream and Nutmeg got the most gigantic popsicle in all the world.

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Silas was coveting the giant popsicle, so Nutmeg gave it to him after she realized she’d never be able to eat the whole thing.

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That was a vacation we did NOT want to come home from!!  Exactly 2 hours after we got back, David started planning our next vacation, even though he had told me ahead of time that it was my turn to do so.  We already have tickets to Nicaraqua booked for Christmas, and an exciting itinerary mapped out.  Stay tuned for photos!

Grandma, Aunt Felicity, Ruby and Henry came to Portland!

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Right after school let out in June, our summer started with a bang when four of our favorite people from the East Coast came to visit!!  We packed so much fun into the two weeks they were here that it almost seemed like summer vacation should be over when they left.

Here are a few snapshots of the two weeks.  On the first weekend they were here we put on our most colorful clothes,  rode the MAX train downtown and cheered for the pride parade.  It was the kids’ first pride parade and came just a few days before the Supreme Court declared same sex marriage legal in all states.




Aunt Felicity is an avid walker and she inspired us to take some great walks in our neighborhood to nearby parks where the kids had a great time running around and climbing trees.

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We also did a lot of trail hikes, where we saw waterfalls and banana slugs, and racked up points towards an ice cream cone.  The big kids each reached their goal of walking 20 miles, and Nutmeg cheerfully rode in the ergo for a lot of that.

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We celebrated my dear friend Rut’s 40th birthday at a pool party.  Julian has turned into such an enthusiastic swimmer this summer.  He stayed in the pool from start to finish and never wanted to leave!


Portland doesn’t have as many pools as other cities do, but we took a tour of all the city fountains where kids can run around and cool off.


And we did some fun wading in the Sandy River at Oxbow Park.




We did a lot of summer reading and attended some fun library events.  One of them was a talk about bugs and we got to hold all kinds of insects, including these Madagascar hissing cockroaches.


Another fun library event was a salad bar style arts and crafts morning.  Henry jumped right in and created about 15 pieces of original artwork in 30 minutes.  Julian was overwhelmed by the choices and spent a lot time figuring out what he wanted to do.


Grandma did crafts with the kids at home too.


She was also tireless at entertaining Nutmeg, reading and doing sticker books with her.

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The big kids spent a lot of our at home time jumping on the trampoline and playing board games like blokus

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and chess.


We also built a play dough volcano one day and erupted it with vinegar, dish soap and baking soda.



And we had a fashion show from these two cuties in their matching hair cuts and Moroccan outfits (presents from Grandma).


We smelled all the roses at the famous Portland Rose Garden, and rehydrated at a Benson Bubbler.

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We also spent one morning at an organic blueberry farm and picked 23 pounds of berries.


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And we did more hiking!

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It’s not easy to do, but I think we might have worn Grandma out a little bit.


Here’s our last evening together at Laughing Planet, the dinosaur restaurant that Julian and Nutmeg love, and then to Ruby Jewel Scoops for the long anticipated 20 mile ice cream cones.




We never wanted them to leave and felt quite bereft when they did!!!!  Here’s one last photo shoot right before they took off.


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