Halloween 2020

I’m a little late posting it — we’ve had a few distractions! — but last Saturday Benji dressed up as an orange crayon for Halloween. As usual, Deborah made the finishing touches, in this case the Crayola label and “totally not a safety cone” crayon-tip hat.

Halloween 2020

Although we knew a number of people who went socially-distanced trick-or-treating or did a socially-distanced church “Harvest Festival” scavenger hunt, we opted to stay away from other people. Instead, my parents decorated their house as a haunted house strewn with little trails of candies for Benji to follow from room to room. They really did a great job, with spooky music, things that dropped down on you, spider webs, fog, and dim lights. Needless to say, Benji loved it and can hardly wait for next Halloween to do it again. Continue Reading >>

Fort Worden Adventures

Last Saturday, Dad and I took Benji on an all-day adventure to Fort Worden, a ferry ride and a couple hours’ drive away. Fort Worden is one of three forts that were built around the turn of the 20th Century to protect Puget Sound. This included excavating extensive underground or partially buried batteries for gun emplacements, as well as barracks and other supporting buildings. Today, all three forts are state parks, with parts of the buildings open to explore.

When I say “open to explore,” imagine hiking through the woods to suddenly find a cement wall, pocked with stairways, doors, and balconies. Inside, you find mostly empty cement and cinderblock rooms and passages, some extremely narrow, all pitch dark. Graffiti covers most walls, but no animals nest here and mercifully people don’t use the corners as urinals, so overall it’s pretty clean. Hallways connect in strange ways; echoes bounce back. You carefully avoid trenches or raised platforms in the floor and holes in walls that clearly played some part in the military activity at the fort, but now just add the frisson of excitement that only comes from the possibility of breaking an ankle on something in the dark. You wander the passageways and pop out in unexpected places. You climb hair-raising stairways, narrow, steep, and utterly without soft, modern safety features such as railings. You approach the edge of multi-story drops onto cement pads where enormous guns used to hide, again with nothing between you and a fall besides your own acute terror. You peek from spotting towers that once commanded a sweeping view, now obscured by a full-grown forest. Continue Reading >>

First Day of School

Once again, the coronavirus pandemic hits home — literally. On Wednesday, Benji started second grade at his new school… from his little closet-office in his bedroom.

First Day of School 2020 - Ready to start 2nd grade
Ready to learn.
First Day of School 2020 - Remote learning
Second grade online.

One interesting thing about this is that I get to be a fly on the wall if I want. I can hear what the teacher tells the class during synchronous learning time, and then follow up with him during asynchronous learning time. Asynchronous is a heck of a word for second graders to absorb, but the kids will learn what it means through direct experience. Continue Reading >>

Camping at Ohanapecosh

I mentioned a bit ago that Dad and I were taking Benji backpacking. Long story short, it didn’t happen. The first week we planned to go, the forecast deteriorated rapidly and when the day came, it poured rain, with even more rain in the mountains where we’d planned to go. We postponed a week, to August 27 and 28. We obtained backpacks and got even more ready to go.

Then, several days before we were to leave, I started having the kind of gastrointestinal distress that you really don’t want to have on a hiking trip. Let’s just say I never wanted to venture far from a restroom, and I didn’t fancy using the bushes for that business. I hoped it would pass quickly (so to speak), but no such luck. Continue Reading >>

Preparing to Go Backpacking

My Dad and I are planning on taking Benji on his first-ever backpacking trip overnight Thursday to Friday. The plan is to go to a place called Heliotrope Ridge on Mt. Baker. We’ve been packing and preparing for a few days, gathering up all the backpacking gear and supplies we’ll need, and I keep oscillating between “wow, that’s a lot” and “we really don’t need that much.”

The big thing is backpacks. I’m the only one of us who owns a backpacking pack these days; Dad purged his long ago, figuring he’d never be backpacking again. REI no longer rents this type of gear, so that’s a challenge for Dad. And then there’s Benji: We definitely don’t have any kid-sized sleeping bags or backpacks. He won’t carry much, but he’ll have to carry at least his clothes, food, water, and sleeping bag… and probably at least one stuffed animal. I’m definitely not carrying stuffed animals for him! Fortunately, my parents have some neighbors who backpack with their kids, and they’ve very generously agreed to let Benji borrow a kid-sized pack and sleeping bag. Continue Reading >>

It’s Official: No In-Person School in the Fall

In a characteristically epic message, yesterday evening our school district’s Superintendent has confirmed what we all suspected: Schools will open in the fall with only online learning. Students will not attend in-person classes for the foreseeable future.

A couple weeks ago, Dad asked, “What would you change if you knew you’d have to keep doing this for another year?” I’ve pondered this question ever since, because it makes a good point: We all kind of stumbled into this routine. There was no plan. We can all tolerate a lot of mild inconvenience for a while, but when “a while” turns from six months to nine months to a year, those mild inconveniences may become serious irritants that we need to deal with before they get worse. Continue Reading >>

Coronavirus Conundrum

Angry coronavirus.

This is going to sound a little crazy, but up until now, the pandemic hasn’t forced many difficult decisions in our life. Yes, we’ve faced inconvenience — not seeing coworkers in person, having to figure out what to do with Benji while we try to work all day — but by and large we’ve not had to optimize between, for example, earning a paycheck and staying home. I continually remain thankful for the fact that we can “just” shift gears to follow the state and county health guidances without impossible choices. Continue Reading >>