The Summer of Friends and Family

I wasn’t sure how this summer was going to go. The only thing I could see ahead of me for two months was home construction chaos. My entire house has, in fact, been in an upheaval due to the kitchen, dining, and family room remodel I’ve wanted and waited eight years for. And while I’m grateful for progress, it’s true that my house has been in a total upheaval since the remodel started.

My family room is in my living room. I still can’t file my childrens’ schoolwork from the last school year because my filing cabinets are buried in boxes of dishes and surrounded by end tables and large framed pictures and art. Our pantry was minimized and rendered down to three industrial shelves in the basement. For anyone who has anxiety and OCD (like me), you can only imagine what this has been like to live with the past two months.

However…I do always try to look at the positives, and as far as this summer goes, there have been many. More than ever, actually. For one thing, because there was nothing to clean in my house, I didn’t have to clean. This made me feel free to take off and leave town whenever we had the chance. We went to Florida, to Long Beach, and even down the road to Whidbey Island. The kids took karate, swimming, and diving lessons. Vincent, George, and I all had birthdays.

Something that we didn’t exactly plan for, but happened anyway, was meeting up with family and friends the entire summer! In Florida, we met up with family from George’s clan as well as mine. Back in Bellingham, we got together with more Karuza cousins. In Whidbey Island, we met up for a day of singing and play with family on my mom’s side. We helped celebrate the birthdays of friends–adults and little ones alike–all summer long. We checked out the water slides, the fair, the go karts, went on morning bike rides, and enjoyed lazy afternoons at the pool.

When I look back at this summer, I feel frustrated about my physical house. However, I feel satisfied and happy about my house of friends and family. I feel lucky to be part of a community that is fun and loving and considerate. I’m not looking forward to the start of school, in which alarm clocks must again be set and schedules must be adhered to, but knowing we are all doing it together makes it so much better.

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Some Schile and Karuza fam in Florida.

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Schile Fam in Florida.

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Karuza Cousins in Birch Bay.

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Some Karuzas at an undisclosed location ;)

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George and me at my 40th birthday cruise.

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George family (mom’s side, not my G) camping on Whidbey Island.

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Music, family, and more music.

Forty, Yo. Is It Really So?

I’ve been thinking off and on for the past few months about how I would open this particular post regarding my 40th birthday. I just didn’t know. For once, I was actually stumped for something to say write.

As it turns out, the best lead came to me the other week when I wasn’t even looking.

I was at a party store, purchasing a few token 40th birthday items for my upcoming mini birthday boat cruise down the hill in Bellingham Bay. The teenage girl at the counter asked, “Are you excited about your party, or do you just feel old?”

Wow. Old. First of all, I’d hoped the clerk would think I was purchasing these 40th birthday items for someone else.  Someone else turning 40. Someone else who looked and appeared far older than me.

The fact that the clerk assumed right away that the 40th-themed party plates, beaded necklace, and tablecloth were for me caught me off guard.

My mind raced. I considered possible replies.

“Well, I have three children, including a TWO-year old, at home who really keep me young.”

“I work out at the gym every day. I taught dance aerobics for seven years.”

“I have friends of all ages. In fact, my own husband is seven years older than me.”

“Haven’t my thousands of dollars into Lancome, Estee Lauder, and Clinique the past twenty years kept me looking young? I guess not.”

I didn’t say any of those things.

“I’m indifferent,” I finally said.

It was the best answer I could offer. I’m not especially excited about this milestone, yet, I don’t feel old. I don’t feel much of anything as it pertains to turning 40.

Actually, that’s not true. I do feel something.

As I have officially reached middle age, I have discovered many things. First of all, it’s much harder to lose weight than gain it. It took me nine months to lose seven pounds last year and three weeks to gain it all back.

I’m more tired and go to bed long before the sun sets right alongside my 8, 7, and 2-year olds.

Now that I am 40, I can’t tease my husband, who reached this decade a while ago, while I stayed blissfully back in my 30s.

However, there’s more. I feel proud turning 40. I actually made it to middle age. If you were there to witness a large part of my life a decade or two before, you’d be as surprised as me that I made it this far.

In spite of some dangerous choices, silly decisions, and roads taken that could have ruined my entire life, I came out the other side.

I’ve always been open with my children about my feelings and my experiences (as long as they were age-appropriate). Before I had children, I always told myself that if I was lucky enough to become a mother, I would be honest and open with my children. I wanted them to feel safe coming to me, no matter what it was they were coming to me about.

Whether those concerns were 8-year old squabbles or 18-year old problems or 28-year old issues, I wanted them to feel safe sharing with me. I wanted to share with them from my own experience. Maybe it would help, maybe it wouldn’t. Time would tell.

As a professional writer of articles, essays, and interviews the past fifteen years, I’ve always found the personal essay to be my favorite and most rewarding genre. Along those lines, on my 40th birthday, I’ve decided to introduce a new writing project. Some of it will take form as a new blog series.  I’d like to share a bit of what I have learned along my twisting and turning road in the form of short essays for my children.  I hope the forth-coming collection of snippets about what I have learned along the way—the good and bad—will be of use to my children as they grow.

I hope that one day my children will read my words and benefit. I also know that if they are anything like their mother, they will go their own way and learn what they need in their own time and in their own way.

And that’s okay. I made it this far, and they will, too.

Time to celebrate.

I’ve Never Had Much Patience…Delayed Home Remodels Don’t Help.

Well, we came home from our Florida vacation and I saw immediately that we were still a LONG WAYS OUT on this kitchen/family room remodel. I  went directly to the kitchen calendar. Only, since we don’t have a kitchen, it’s now the bedroom calendar. I spotted a week in which nothing was going on for anyone in the family.

“Let’s leave again!” I suggested. Actually, “suggestion” is too kind. “Firmly decided” and “not taking no for an answer” is more like it.

I’d made up my mind. It was a great idea. We don’t have an oven, a dishwasher, family room, kitchen, or otherwise. The remodel, which should have taken just a little over one month to complete is still going on…and on…and on.

As has become my mantra for this summer: Get me out of here!

So, down the road we went to my parent’s beach house in Long Beach, Washington. I looked forward to spending a pleasant week in a sweet little house that actually had an oven, dishwasher, and rooms without piles of junk and chaos. I have been going to my family’s beach house for breaks and fun for over twenty years. I’ve traveled there with my own family,  with friends in college, and while on assignment for National Fisherman magazine.  G and I even spent part of our honeymoon there twelve years ago, crashed out on couches recovering from all things wedding.

I remember traveling to Long Beach for spring break in college one year. My girlfriends and I met up with other friends also there for the break. We were not planning a town-wide party, but for some reason, word got out in the small coastal town that a party was going on. We watched cars and trucks travel down the road to our house until I finally sent my cousin out to redirect traffic back the other way and assure everyone there was not, in fact, a party happening.

Anyway, I am so glad my parents still have the house. As always, it was awesome to visit the coast and fly kites, ride bikes, eat ice cream, and take a spin on the go carts. It was especially nice this year to stay in a little house with everything a house should have, including peace. Clean bedrooms. A kitchen. Dunes. The wide open expanse of beach and roar of the Pacific Ocean. We even celebrated Vincent’s 7th birthday while we were there.

We are back home again, and things are still not progressing very quickly. I’m annoyed and concerned. Honestly, though, my annoyance has mostly to do with our own choices.  We knew from the outset there was going to be a few weeks’ delay due to reasons beyond our control, and we didn’t spend enough time making a thoughtful decision about how that delay would impact the family.  The work that has been done so far is fantastic and all that we wanted. Even though we are still at least another month out, I need to stay calm and patient. I know it will be worth it in the end….

 

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Riding along the Lewis & Clark Discovery Trail in Long Beach, WA.

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Hey, we don’t need the fake baby for this doll bed. We have our own baby!

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Most likely our good old girl Mandy’s last trip to the beach.

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Happy 7th Birthday, my little buddy.

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Don’t worry, it’s root beer.

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Heading home along the trail.

Goodbye For Now, Anna Maria Island. As Always, You’re the Best!

I did not in any way, shape, or form want to come home from vacation this year. And that is putting it mildly! I shed a couple of tears as we drove off Anna Maria Island.

What a relief it was to leave my own town for a couple of weeks. The stress around here has taken a large toll; between the final days of school, the closure of our school, and this long, annoying house remodel we have going, I was ready to get out of here, and as quickly as possible.

My house has been in shambles for over a month. I don’t have a kitchen. I’ve gained seven pounds because I can’t cook anything I like that is healthy in the microwave downstairs. I have nowhere in the house to chill out and even nothing to clean, because it is all a disaster.

So when we hopped in the Jeep and took off for Seattle and the airport, I was ready! Get me out of here!

Our first stop was Disney World and the Magic Kingdom. To be honest, the Magic Kingdom wasn’t really my thing. I appreciated that my older kids and G enjoyed it, and I also appreciated that G went all out on rooms at the Polynesian Resort so we could simply ride the monorail to and from the Kingdom. Because after four hours of sweating, hour-long lines for ten-minute rides, crowds, and general chaos that is the Magic Kingdom, my youngest daughter and I were ready to hop back on the monorail and get back to the hotel pool. Quickly.

Next stop on the vacay was Anna Maria Island on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. I’ve been to Anna Maria several times with George; before marriage, after marriage, before kids, and after kids, and it remains my favorite place in the world. There is not one thing about Anna Maria I don’t like. No matter where we stay or what we do while we are there, I love it all.

This year, especially. It was nice to be in a house with a kitchen. A house that was clean and open. With a dock and waterway outside, and a pool, and tables aplenty for outdoor eating. We swam in the pool and the Gulf, walked, ate at our favorite outdoor bar and grill, boated, played, and slept, all the while taking it slow and easy.

Nowhere to go and nowhere to be. I couldn’t believe my good luck and I was grateful for and relished every single minute and moment of our time in this house and on Anna Maria Island this year.

I have posted some pictures of our trip in this post to give you a general idea of where we were and what we did.

One different thing we made time for this year was visiting the Caylee Anthony memorial when we got to Orlando on our way back to the airport. I’d wanted to visit the memorial in the past, but it never happened. We had extra time this year and it was nearby, so we found it. Having followed the case of the murdered two-year-old from start to finish, read a book on it, and watched the trial on TV, it seemed surreal to finally find the spot and pay respects to the little angel, who was left in a swampy area near the end of her own street.

My Eva was also two years old when Caylee was murdered, so that might have been part of my original interest in the case. My Valerie is now two, which accounts in part for my continuing interest. As we drove down the street leading to the memorial, three smiling brown-haired little girls who appeared to be about eight (the age Caylee would have been now) rode past us on scooters on the sidewalk. We couldn’t help but think that Caylee could and should have been riding with them on her own street. Instead, I looked at the spot where her little body was left, and saw how swampy it was. How overgrown and neglected and sad.

I don’t regret stopping to pay respects, though. I am glad we made the effort. I just wish someone would come through and clean it up and create a memorial befitting a precious two-year old whose life was caught tragically short.

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Please enjoy some pictures of our trip. We are now back home to all the chaos that is construction, and I am already planning what I hope will be next year’s trip back to my favorite place in the world.

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On the Disney Bus from the Orlando airport, headed to the Polynesian Resort and the Magic Kingdom.

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Phew! Out of Disney World and back to the resort pool, the pool bar, music and pool games.

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This photo of Valerie sort of represents the way Valerie and I felt about the Magic Kingdom.

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Standing on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico on Anna Maria Island, Florida.

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The pontoon G rented and docked right outside the house.

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Heading back to the harbor in Anna Maria Island after a day on the water.

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Getting ready to jump off the boat and walk through the water to the sandbar and bird sanctuary near Eggmont Key.

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Standing on the dock outside the house.

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Organizing the loot from the best 4th of July parade ever, in Anna Maria. Candy, frisbees, necklaces, popsicles, and toys were all enthusiastically tossed from floats and captured by the little ones lining the street.

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At the outdoor Island Time Bar & Grill on Anna Maria, which features the best burgers ever and awesome live music everyone can enjoy.

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We met up with my cousin and his family for dinner, conversation, and cheer in St. Armands Circle in Sarasota.

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The kids sitting on the bench on the dock.

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The house came with a pool; what a treat to have it all to ourselves!

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Valerie playing on the beach on the Gulf of Mexico.

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G and Eva jumping waves.

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Not surprisingly, this tired baby slept most of the six-hour flight home.

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We visited the Caylee Anthony memorial in Orlando to pay respects to that little angel. We were surprised about the condition of the memorial. It appeared neglected, overgrown, and of course, unbelievably sad.

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Goodbye, Regular Life. Hello, Vacation!

I had to take a small break from vacation-packing to write a quick post.

We are heading off to Florida tomorrow. Technically, we’ll be in Seattle tomorrow and arrive in Florida on Tuesday.

G and I traveled with baby Eva to Florida, Nashville, and Arkansas when Eva was ten months old. We traveled on the plane again when Eva was four and Vincent three. We have since been back to Arkansas and Florida with Eva and Vincent…and also baby Valerie.

Today, as I helped my eight-year-old Eva, my (almost) seven-year-old Vincent, and two-year-old Valerie pack their bags, my mind started to drift.

While packing Valerie’s diapers, diaper cream, little swimmers, and disposable changing pads, I felt in a different world. Haven’t I been here before? At almost 47 and 40, shouldn’t G and I be past this particular stage by now?

So many of my friends have tweens. Teens. Their kids are middle-and-high school athletes. Graduating from eighth grade. Soccer champs. Dance stars. While I know many my age who have children in elementary school, most of my friends are certainly not still packing diapers, diaper powder, and wondering how to keep a two-year-old engaged for six hours on a plane.

I’m so grateful, though. I don’t want my little ones to grow up too fast. I waited so long for them to arrive.  I recently discovered a note from my little Vincent yesterday. It read “I love Jen. From Vincent. Free Meal.”  The “J” was backwards, and the note included a happy face. It made me smile and filled my heart with gratitude. That’s all I ever wanted; children, sweet notes, and unconditional love. How lucky I feel to have it still.

My children keep me young. They keep me busy, and keep me with purpose.

I cannot wait to leave town tomorrow. I’m excited to leave my state and my entire side of the country.  Bags are packed, airplane activities for three children are sorted, and I am ready.

Diapers, diaper cream, sippy cups, and all. :)

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Goodbye, Dear Larrabee Elementary. For Real This Time.

I’ve spent much of my (largely non-existent) thinking and quiet time the past year deciding how I would write my final post regarding our dear Larrabee Elementary and the closing of a small, historic school. I know that many of my Facebook friends have likely grown tired of my Larrabee posts on the subject. However, each of my posts was well-thought out and crafted before I clicked “post.” I thought each snippet and picture was important to help capture the closing process, and I wanted to honor in some small way our school, children, and families.

I love history, community, friends, and moments. The last two years, from the initial motion to close our school, to the school board vote to close it, to our last year spent celebrating and honoring our Larrabee families past and present, have been an experience most of us never wanted to experience, but one in which we have learned and gained so much.

There were several families, who upon hearing the final vote to close Larrabee, pulled their children from the school. I don’t blame them. I half-considered it myself as I weighed my options. I could integrate my children into their new schools more quickly, avoid what one parent called “the slow death” of our school, and basically just cut ties and move on. My son entered kindergarten this year; should I have him spend one year at a school doomed for closure, or put him in the school in which he’d finish his elementary years?

The principals from the two schools our children will now attend, as well as our own Larrabee principal, have been supportive and kind during this transition for our children and families. I remain surprised and unimpressed by some personal friends and parents from other Bellingham schools who could not have cared less about our children or the transition and offered no support or care at all. I hope when and if your school closes or you ever need help, you will meet with a different and more caring response.

Anyway, along with many other families, I decided to stay put for Larrabee’s final year. My daughter is delightfully happy at Larrabee. My son would have a great year. I was committed to helping give Larrabee Elementary the closing year it deserved after serving as a public elementary school for 124 years. I have to say that I am proud, pleased, and have a peaceful heart about what we ALL did this past year to make that happen.

Throughout this entire process, I grew closer to many folks at Larrabee than I would have otherwise. We grew to appreciate and respect each other while engaging in the challenge to save Larrabee, discussing the bond and school board issues, attending community and school board meetings, and finally, to the acceptance that we had lost on all fronts. We grieved, we hurt, we felt angry. Finally,  the only thing left to do was pick up the pieces and move on in the most positive manner possible for our children and families.

And so it ends. I am proud of what we did. We held the jog-a-thon fundraiser even while people wondered why we would waste our time for a school to close. We held our movie nights in our little gym, where the kids wore pajamas and the parents popped the popcorn. We continued our after-school enrichment activities (the most active in the city). We held our evenings of hip hop, choir, drama, and strings performances. Children painted salmon that now hang along the Larrabee fence; a permanent mark of their time at our school and a symbol of their migration to the next.

I sat at the bottom of the stairs near the gazebo with my toddler most every afternoon this year, waiting for my two “big kids” to emerge from the doors and descend the Larrabee steps. I gathered my kindergartener and second-grader to my side for after-school hugs before releasing them to run and play on the school grounds. I talked with some parents, annoyed others, and laughed with many. All the while savoring each moment, for I knew it was all about to end and it was going to be a very quick year. It was.

We participated in the parade, featuring bright yellow-and-black  banners.  Hundreds of Larrabee Bees and their families dressed in Larrabee spirit wear and cheered. We held a “Then-And-Now-Night” that honored the old-timers and the rich history of Larrabee. The PTA spent our last Larrabee funds on bouncy houses, pizza, music, and ice cream for the Larrabee community for the end-of school block party, which everyone enjoyed and earned a front-page article and great video in our local newspaper.

So, this is it. My final Larrabee post. It’s sadly, officially, time to move on. Some friends will travel together to our new schools and some will not. We will always see each other in our side of town, at activities, at the grocery store.

The closure of our school is not what most of us wanted, but it is what it is. Am I sad? Yes. Angry? Yes. It’s a sad day for small neighborhood schools everywhere. Although I don’t always succeed, I remind and encourage myself regularly to not give in to my feelings of anger and sadness.

I try to look at it as a great lesson for the little ones and a reminder for the parents; things don’t always happen the way you’d like. Regardless, you must pick up the pieces, put on a smile, learn something, and move forward.

And that’s what we are all doing.

Love you, our little brick Larrabee Elementary on the hill, and all of your staff, children, and families! Thank you for 124 years, and for one final lesson in how say goodbye with grace and dignity.

 

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I’m Happy, But Not a Happy Camper

“Jen” and “camping” are not two things that mix very well. I do enjoy being outdoors, when the weather is decent. I  always love hanging out and socializing in and out of town, day and night. I love watching my kids run and play, free and wild and safe. I don’t even mind sleeping in a tent for one night.

But I  don’t enjoy camping in general. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s not having a private bathroom immediately at my disposal in which to brush my teeth or wash my face. I have tried to figure out these last two years just what it is I don’t like about camping, while so many others enjoy it.

I’m not a wimp; I commercial fished in Alaska for years and paid for my college education that way.  Actually, commercial fishing was perfect for me! I could be in the rugged nature of Alaska, explore remote islands, bounce and roll with the ocean, and embrace the solitude and peace.

But on the boat, I could also shower. Alone. Brush my teeth. Shave. I had the best of both worlds; I was in the midst of nature most people don’t experience, but also with a few regular comforts.

There are a group of families from Larrabee Elementary that gather to camp a few times a year. While George, a fishing captain and Eagle Scout, eagerly gathers our two oldest children and gear for the adventures, I have never gone. I’ve always had my baby, Valerie. I’ve also always had my reservations about camping.

This last Memorial Day weekend camping trip with all the families to Lake Wenatchee outside of Leavenworth, Washington, though, had me curious. What will they do? Where will they go? What will I miss if I don’t go?

I made reservations at a cabin nearby. I wasn’t going to camp, but Val and I would be close. We could come hang with the gang during the day and early evening, and then retire to our cabin a few miles up the road, to our bed and shower….or so I thought. As it turned out, the cabin did not work out. After several unexplainable hints, I realized that something beyond me was telling me to leave the cabin, and to leave now. So I did.

It was not just the remoteness of the cabin that had me rattled, but an additional feeling telling me to go. So, even though I’d already paid nearly $300 for the lodging and received the key, I buckled Valerie back up in her car seat and headed to the camp site where George and the whole group were set up. I felt confused, sad, and out of my element. And tired, after a three-hour drive.

George took one look at me and said to forget the cabin.

“Why don’t you try and call the lodge we stayed at last winter?” he suggested.

“I doubt they have any rooms left,” I replied. I called the Beaver Valley Lodge, anyway. I liked the lodge, and it was nearby the campground. When we joined several families for a winter trip in Leavenworth/Plain last winter, we stayed there. I felt safe and cozy there.

As it turned out, someone had JUST cancelled their single room at the lode just before I called, so Valerie and I were able to get in. And, for a price much less than the cabin.

One of my friends (who was camping) drove with me back to my original cabin to get my things out of it and return the key. I had to pay the cost of the cabin in full before receiving the key, so she was also going to try and help me get some of my money back for not staying there after all. Unfortunately, it did not work out and I was out $300.

I high-tailed it to the Beaver Valley Lodge. I’d felt rattled, shaken, tired, and generally off most of the day. By the time I arrived at the Beaver Valley Lodge, I felt calm. Happy. Relieved. I don’t think it was a coincidence that a room perfect for Valerie and me happened to open up just when I needed it. And our front desk helper was fantastic. She was kind, helpful, and even walked us to our room.

I knew then the camping trip was going to work out after all. I fell asleep peacefully each night and woke up to a view of pastures, barns, farm houses, and mountains. Val and I visited the Lake Wenatchee camp site and all the friends, and then returned to our room. When my Eva got sick one night and threw up in the tent shared by her father and brother, she came and stayed with me at the lodge.

I read a book, blew bubbles with Val on the lodge porch, visited the General Store and Hardware Store for food and treats, and also used the laundromat. I did not get to enjoy the camping trip the same way as all the others, but I certainly enjoyed the weekend. I got to watch my two girls nap side-by-side. I visited the campsite, enjoyed visitors at the lodge, read, rest, and slept.

While I didn’t officially camp, and still don’t have a full understanding of what exactly these Larrabee family camping trips entail, I left the weekend feeling happy, satisfied, and grateful for the weekend I did have.

Please enjoy some pictures from the Beaver Valley Lodge and Lake Wenatchee. Thank you Norene and Leanne for allowing me to borrow some of these images!

 

 

“Do Not Tell The Boys”: Archiving Another Year of a Family.

I first started keeping a journal when I was seven years old and in second grade. It was a yellow Care Bears journal, complete with lock and key. I don’t think the lock worked too well, because the last time I looked through its pages, I’m pretty sure I saw what could be identified as my oldest sister’s teasing writing within. Regardless, it is the first journal I kept.

I kept journals all through high school and each summer commercial fishing in Alaska. Working as the leads-and-web-gal on our crew in Southeast Alaska, I’d write page after page on our way out to sea, on our way to  the next opening. The crew would even tease me as I sat hunched over the galley table, writing furiously.

“Dear Diary…” they’d say as they walked by.

No matter. I wrote and wrote about the last fishing opening, pounds caught, money made. I’d describe in detail about our days and nights in Ketchikan. The pizza dinners, bowling nights, and nights sneaking into the bars to play pool and shoot darts before the wise waitress kicked us out for being 17 20 years old, not 21.

George and I are getting ready for the last major remodel of our home. This has required that I address stacks of photographs and miscellaneous items I’ve put off dealing with. Today, I skipped the gym. After I dropped Eva and Vincent off at school, Val and I came home and got right on it.

New photo album empty and ready to receive, I looked at and sorted pictures of George and me in Dutch Harbor. George and I hosting parties in our Ballard beach front apartment. Later, in our Ballard house. I found pictures of our now deceased pup, Toby. My car pre-children, an Infiniti sedan. Our nine-month long basement project of seven years ago, which involved digging into the earth, under the house, to create a man cave and an additional one-thousand square feet of living space.

I don’t write in a traditional journal these days, but I am still the family archivist. This blog, my scrapbooks, and photo books all help capture our family history.

In years past, I would use embellishments, dye cuts, and fancy stickers to decorate my scrapbooks and albums. These days, as a mother of three young children, I’ve found that their own creations serve as both decoration and content.

What I especially love are the notes my children leave around the house. I smiled more than once this morning as I glued their special notes in the book. Here are a few:

“Hi Dad. Come bak. I love you. From Vincent.”

“Happy Jen. Are you Jen? Mom Day.” (Vincent)

“Happy Mom Day. From Big V.”

“I love you so mush!” (Eva)

“Pleas don’t take my tooth. Thank you! Tooth Fairy!” (Eva)

“Jen Rocks.” (Vincent)

“I love Mom. XOXOXOXO.” (Vincent)

“Please don’t take my tooth. Thank you.” (Again, Eva)

“To Eva, From Vincent. I howp you well be fiyn at the E.R. It is going to be betre soon.”

“I love Mom. Love Vince.”

Last but DEFINITELY not least, from a little girl in Eva’s class:

“Dear Eva, come to my party in the Girl’s bathroom. DO NOT tell the boys. It will be after lunch.”

I may not be able to sit hunched over a galley table or comfortably reclined on a couch in my living room to write page after page in journals these days, but try as I might, I will capture these blessed days of children and family.

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Larrabee Elementary Rocked the Parade, and Four Weeks to Go.

I got together with a couple of families from Larrabee Elementary last week to get organized for the Junior Ski to Sea Parade. Our main purpose in gathering was to attach our bright yellow-and-black Larrabee banners to George’s flatbed truck, which, if George arrived home from Alaska in time, he would drive in the parade. The banners were adorable and locally made; they featured our Larrabee Bee and our slogan, “Celebrating 124 Years.”

George was in Alaska catching our halibut and blackcod quota. Fortunately, our good friend Matt was able to fill in for the banner-tying. Another family came over for the banner fun, and I have to say, it was actually a ton of fun. By the time the pizza arrived and we’d sat on the deck in the sunshine, enjoying the view of Bellingham Bay and sharing more than a few laughs for a good solid hour, Matt suggested we actually get to those banners.

Oh, right! The banners.

Matt attached  two to George’s truck, and then the kids had fun marching up and down my front yard with the third and longest banner. Next, the children marched through the neighborhood with the banner. They laughed, we micro-managed, and I have to say it was a most hilarious evening.

The next evening was the parade. I was on the phone that afternoon with my friend, Carole, the official Larrabee parade organizer, when G literally pulled up in his Jeep from the airport, fresh from Alaska. He made it just in time to drive the truck in the parade!

To the parade we went. We were not alone. Tons of Larrabee students, family, staff, and alumni showed up to march with us all. We had yellow and black balloons, kazoos, banners, cheer, and joy in abundance. As we marched down the parade route, I saw people clapping for Larrabee.  Giving Larrabee the thumbs up. A few even shed a tear or two as they smiled and waved to us.

I felt like shedding a tear or two, myself. For in about one month, our school will be closed forever as an elementary school. Our students, families, and staff will be split up and dispersed among the district and other schools. But I didn’t cry this day. I smiled proudly and watched our children march strongly and happily with the Larrabee banner. I listened to them chant.

“Larr-a-bee! Larr-a-bee!”

Our Larrabee children were darling. I took in the event and the children and the families. I stored in all in my heart, where it will remain always.

Please enjoy two parade videos taken by another Larrabee Mom, Norene, and some pictures I’ve gathered from Leanne, Carole, and me.

Go, Larrabee!

 

 

 

Larrabee Elementary in Jr. Ski To Sea Part 1

 

Larrabee Elementary in Jr. Ski to Sea Part 2

 

G is Off to Alaska. Also, Care Package Ideas for Commercial Fishermen!

George is getting ready to take off to Alaska tomorrow. He has spent over twenty years in Alaska during the halibut and blackcod longline season, catching quota. For the last thirteen years, he’s spent it on our family boat catching our own quota. We recently reduced the size of our quota, however, so instead of spending a few months in Alaska this time, he will likely be gone just a few weeks.

You all know how much I enjoy receiving comments through this site. Most recently, I received an e-mail from a darling gal named Melody. Here is part of what she wrote:

I actually came across your site while on a Google hunt – I am new to being a girlfriend of a commercial fisherman. I would very much like to send him a care package but quickly realized that I have no idea of the wants/needs of a fisherman at sea!
If you could provide me a brief list or ANY ideas, it would be MUCH appreciated!
Thank you in advance :)  

I was so impressed with Melody; not only was she NOT complaining about dating a fisherman who would soon be leaving, she wanted to send him off with something special! I used to do the same when G and I were first dating. So, I immediately went into my blog archives to find the list of commercial fishermen-gifts a few of us compiled years ago.

Here is the revised list:

Care Package and Gift Ideas For Your Commercial Fisherman

  • A package of his favorite treats to take on the boat. Candy, cookies, peanuts, crackers, chips, etc.
  • A special “boat cup” (Not glass, boat-safe, can be bought at fisheries supplies or sporting goods stores).
  • New set of boat dishes; the kind you buy at marine supply stores made of hard plastic with non-skid rubber on the bottoms.
  • New galley towels. They get dirty and ruined so fast, it’s nice to have something fresh and clean!
  • A small photo of yourself, the children, or your pets in a frame.
  • Create a photo book of your favorite pictures together at Shutterfly, Snapfish, or Costco. They are easy and fun to make, and you can add quotes and messages on every page if you want. He can take the book with him on the boat.
  • A photo calendar. These can also be created at Shutterfly. I create one every year and send it with G to look through in the wheelhouse throughout his months away.
  • A book. A light read is usually better (skip the self-help or how to improve your relationship, ha ha!).
  • Have kids? Have them draw pictures that you can bind together (or let a copy shop bind) into a book.
  • Magazines.
  • Warm hat.
  • Gift card to a fisheries supply store.
  • New rubber gloves.
  • A small portable DVD player and a couple of DVDs to go with it.
  • iTunes gift card.
  • iPod.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Dinner gift certificate to use together when he returns home.
  • Massage gift card.
  • A warm, snuggly new boat blanket or sleeping bag.
  • Fresh new boat pillow and pillow case.
  • Nice, fluffy boat shower towel.
  • Long underwear made especially for sub-zero temperatures.
  • An e-reader; Kindle, Nook, iPad, whichever you like. I got George an inexpensive Kindle for his birthday, not sure if he would be into digital reading or not. As it turns out, he loves it! He reads his Kindle all the time whether at home or on the boat.
  • Visit the shopping sites Personal Creations or Lillian Vernon online and create personalized gifts.
  • At Personal Creations you can make a “World’s Greatest Longliner” or “World’s Greatest Crabber” (you get the idea) t-shirt. Another fishing wife and I surprised each other last year when we both made the same exact shirts for our husbands and then posted pictures of the shirts on Facebook!
  • Engraved and personalized beer mugs, pitchers, or shot glasses.
  • Electric blanket for crab season.
  • Binoculars.
  • Head lamp for bunk reading.
  • Pillows, blankets, plates, etc., created with pictures of you, your children, or pets. He’s going to use these items anyway; why not personalize them for him?
  • Wool socks.
  • Talking picture frame. He will love a frame that features a recording of you or his children speaking. He can take it with him to sea and listen to it over and over again.
  • Cards, envelopes, and stamps. Pre-addressed to you! All he has to do is write and mail.

Melody, I hope this gives you some ideas or prompts other good ideas! Thank you so much for writing. It made me recall the days when I was a fishing girlfriend and would send G off with fun stuff. Time goes fast; enjoy these sweet early days together. :)