#39: Find a New School

This is part of our 100 Things in 2015 challenge. Here’s the full list.

A while back, we tried homeschooling for Will, but it turns out it’s not for us, but we also knew that a standard school setting doesn’t work for him either. When we found Summa Academy, we finally felt like this was the right place for him.

Two things stand out for us about this school. The first is an emphasis on community and group work, which are probably the most important skills you can learn to be an effective adult. Even as parents we’re feeling more like part of the group than we ever have before.

The second is the focus on relationships; their entire teaching philosophy is called Natural Learning Relationships, and the foundation of teaching there is building trust and relationships between the student, the educator, and the parent. There’s even parent school, and in the first two weeks of school Becky and I spent 12 hours in class with the other new parents, learning the whole system.

It’s working. Both the kids are excited to go to school, and love their teachers and classmates. Plus, no uniforms! We knew Lucy would love this aspect, she’s got a real passion for putting outfits together, but Will is taking to it also. Here’s what they chose to wear for their first day:


It’s an exciting new adventure for our family, and so far it’s been pretty great.

Birthday Kids!

Ordinarily, we like to take some photos of the kids right around their birthdays. But since we had a big family reunion in Wisconsin in August, during which there would be a whole mess of photos, we decided that was a great time to do birthday portraits, too!

It’s become a fun little tradition to do a birthday interview with each kid, to find out what their world looks like at this particular moment. This is the third year we’ve done these (here’s Will at eight and seven, and Lucy at six and five), and the answers just keep getting better.

William Straub – 9th Birthday Interview

What is the meaning of life?

The meaning of life is to build experiences and have a fun time cause if you weren’t a thing you wouldn’t get to live life and get to be happy.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Probably gonna work in the armed forces for America and be in the Air Force.

What brings you the most happiness?

Hanging out with people I love and going on adventures and snuggling with my cute puppies.

When do you feel the most loved?

When I’m being hugged by a loved one or when I feel a burst of joy because someone does something that they knew I really wanted.

What are you afraid of?

I really actually can’t think of anything.

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

A happy, joyful life. Where I get to hang out with my family.

What is the funniest word?


What is the hardest thing to do?

Live through a loved one passing away, like Jackson, that was really hard.

What is the easiest thing to do?

Something I really like or love to do.

What is the best thing in the world?

Living a happy, joyful life and getting to have good life and knowing that you were lucky to have such a fortunate life.

What is the worst thing in the world?

Going through things that you always wanted to try to avoid but you couldn’t avoid them any longer.

What makes you mad?

Having to do something that I really really really don’t want to do, and having to do a lot of it.

What is the meaning of love?

Feeling safe around somebody and knowing that they will do whatever it takes to keep you happy and make it so that you feel good and have a happy life.

If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?

I would buy my way out of everybody polluting the world, and then I would probably spend some more on Obamacare and make a hospital that makes it so that anybody can go there and they don’t have to pay barely anything so people can go to hospitals even if they only have a couple dimes. And give money to the people that are poor.

Lucy Straub – 7th birthday interview

What is the meaning of life?

To live.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A doctor. No no no. And a gymnastics champion in the Olympics.

What brings you the most happiness?

Getting presents and to know that people love me.

When do you feel the most loved?

Um, when someone’s protecting me or hugging and kissing me.

What are you afraid of?

King cobra. And some other deadly snakes. And some deadly animals that live in the forest. And sharks.

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

A phone that would give me whatever I wanted, like it would come out of the phone instantly and it could make me invisible.

What is the funniest word?

Googleflangpoodle (giggle)

What is the hardest thing to do?

Sometimes Trackers is pretty hard for me.

What is the easiest thing to do?

Walk and skip and hop and things.

What is the best thing in the world?

Friends and money and dogs.

What is the worst thing in the world?

Sometimes the worst thing in the world is parents. Cause they don’t let you do some things that you want to do.

What makes you mad?

When my brother is teasing me all the time and pretending that he’s going to chop my neck off.

What is the meaning of love?

To me love means to have somebody else that can protect you that is the same size as you.

If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?

First I would make sure my children were healthy and not sick and then I would buy some food to make sure we didn’t starve, I would get a few dogs. And then I would get some toys and things that my children and I and my husband would want. That’s all.

July Misc. Round-up

We went on a family bike ride with the kids and our new bikes! We started at Kelley Point Park, and rode to Smith & Bybee Wetlands for a short hike.

The kids go on all sorts of adventures with the Swanks and Aldridges. Here’s that entire set of cousins with their faces painted.

Will and Lucy looooooove summer camps! This summer we signed them up for activities through Trackers and OMSI. In July, Lucy did a berry-picking adventure (Trackers) and Farm Friends (OMSI), while Will went out for “survival, fire and knives” and “zombie survival” (both through Trackers).

True miscellany: typing lessons, helping with a photo shoot, Will’s 9th birthday, sushi, and learning the ropes on Becky’s old keyboard.

C U T E   P U P P Y   T I M E

We’re starting to get used to Hank, and vice-versa.

#80: Build a Picnic Table

This is part of our 100 Things in 2015 challenge. Here’s the full list.

In our ongoing mission to make our backyard more usable and livable, we decided some furniture was in order. We picked up a kit from Lowe’s, along with a gallon of sealant, and put the whole family to work brushing and putting together. It only took a couple hours of real work (and a day of watching paint dry) before it was done.

We find ourselves using this table for all kinds of things, and spending a lot more time in our backyard than we used to.

#72: Visit the Trees of Mystery

This is part of our 100 Things in 2015 challenge. Here’s the full list.

If you ever took a road trip through the northern California redwoods as a kid, you know this place. It’s a landmark along 101, and it’s kind of silly not to stop there. The lumberjack was even interviewed on This American Life!

It’s entirely possible that I’ve been here too, but I don’t have any photographic evidence. Here’s Becky’s recreation of her 1984 visit with Paul, when she was just 8 (she’s sitting on his right boot in both photos):

We stopped here as the final point on No-Destination Road Trip 2015, and had a marvelous hike through the trees. The gondola is new to us, having opened in 2001, but it gets you to the top of the steepest trail, and the best view.

This is a great stop if you’re in the area, and well worth supporting with your dollars. The carvings are great, the hike is lovely, and, well, how can you not stop for the lumberjack? Highly recommended, but try to get here at opening time; the employees all said (and we noticed on our way out) that the crowds get bigger as the day goes by.


#5: Road Trip with No Destination

This is part of our 100 Things in 2015 challenge. Here’s the full list.


It’s that time of year again! Road trip season. We went on a big one, where which way we go at every stop is determined by pulling a labeled stone out of a bag.

Before we get to the narrative, I just wanted to plop this map in here. The new Google Maps won’t tell me how long it is, but it’s in the hundreds of miles.

As with last year’s installment, this road trip has rules.

  1. The direction of travel will be decided at random, by pulling it out of a hat.
  2. No freeways allowed after the first leg.
  3. The first draw can’t be west (we know the coast pretty well) or east (that was last year).
  4. Stop at every historical marker, interpretive trail, general roadside point of interest, or place that Becky wants to stop.
  5. Paper maps only for planning. We use electronic tools to find good places to eat and visit, but ye olde atlas is the only tool for deciding on a destination.
  6. No chain restaurants if it can be helped. Be as local as possible.
  7. No timetables allowed. We start looking for food when lunchtime arrives. No planning our lodgings until we know the city/town/village/cave we’re going to stop in.

(Half-)Day 1

…and here’s how we broke them. But only just a little.

Firstly, since we had a bunch of stuff to do around the house, and then we had a late-afternoon kid drop-off in Salem, we decided the first draw was automatically south, and Eugene seemed like a good destination. So we broke another rule, and booked an Airbnb a whole day in advance.

So it was that we found ourselves at the Izakaya Meiji Company at dinnertime, a Japanese/Country-Western restaurant in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood. This first photo is of the Goma Ae – muddy spinach, served cold. It’s pretty intimidating when it arrives on your table, but it’s about the most delicious vegetable you’ll ever put in your mouth.

Afterward, we took a long, much-needed walk to the Red Wagon Creamery, or as it is also known, “Eugene’s Salt & Straw.” Delicious. Walk some more, drive a bit, and crash in our “weird” Airbnb.

Day 2

We roused ourselves fairly early, and had the most appropriate breakfast possible for Eugene: yogurt and crunchy granola. Our first real drawing for this trip: SOUTH. We checked the map, and chose Cottage Grove for our first stop. Most of the towns on the way are pretty depressing, consisting mostly of truck stops and/or warehouses, and not much else.

But Cottage Grove is a keeper. This is mostly a drive-through town on I-5, but when you approach it on 99, you get to see its charms close-up. Among them is Buster’s Main Street Cafe, which will likely be full and have a line 30 minutes deep no matter what time of day you come by. We even treated ourselves to a ginger-beer float, which was…okay. Not Buster’s fault, you see, those flavors just aren’t meant to be together.

We also discovered that there was a covered bridge tour! Of the seven listed, we managed to find six.

Our next draw: WEST, which means Drain. The first thing to know is that it’s not easy to get there without touching the interstate, but we managed. We ended up on some gravel roads in the hills before we emerged back onto 99 in Curtin.

I’ve been through Drain a dozen times, since I have family in Coos Bay, but I never knew that it had a historic mansion tucked away behind the high school (which I also wasn’t aware existed). We spotted another covered bridge (7!) and some poke-your-head-through photo props that we couldn’t pass up.

Our next draw was SOUTH, and it was getting late in the day, so we started calling B&Bs to find lodging. We left a few messages, and started on our way towards Roseburg. It turns out the only way there without a freeway was to go further West, through Elkton, where we happened upon a lovely little winery, where we bought a couple of bottles, and made more phone calls.

We went on our way, and while stopped at a historical marker, we finally made contact with a B&B that would have us. We arrived at the historic Hokanson’s Guest House around 7, got checked in by the amiable and chatty proprietor, and strolled to the local McMenamin’s for dinner. It felt like giving up, but it was Sunday night, and this was really the only thing open. It was exactly what you’d expect from a McMenamin’s.

Day 3

The next day was my birthday! Our host made a sumptuous meal with waffles, an omelet with eggs laid by his own chickens, fruit he had grown in his backyard, and lots of great coffee.

Stuffed to the gills, we set out to discover Roseburg. Turns out there was a huge exploson in 1959, which caused the entire downtown area to be rebuilt. There’s even a self-guided tour, which we had to quit just a few steps in; you had to stop every block and watch a 10-minute video in the bright sun on a tiny phone screen. Not even our list compulsion could power us through that one.

Our next draw was SOUTH, and we picked Winston, home of the Wildlife Safari! It was my birthday, so we bought tickets on a bear-feeding adventure. The bears were lazy. So lazy, in fact, that the bear we were feeding would only eat the apples thrown by the tourists if they actually landed in his mouth. I bounced quite a few apple chunks off his cheeks and shoulders. Not satisfied, I paid $5 for a cup of what looked like Cocoa Puffs, and had them licked out of my hands by four or five deer-like creatures.

We bought some junk cheap food at the Winston Grocery Outlet, and made ourselves a trashy picnic in the park, where we drew our next direction: WEST, which meant Myrtle Point. We found our eighth covered bridge on our way! We got into town only to find that the Coos County Fair had ended two days prior, and as a result the museum was closed! Boo!

So we drew again, and got SOUTH. We settled on Port Orford as a destination, made some calls, and ended up with a room at The Compass Rose. We headed out that way, with a quick stop at a historical marker (and bathroom) in Coquille. We got ourselves checked in (the place isn’t super charming, but very neat and new, and there’s a bunny barn), then headed out to explore the town a bit. I climbed Battle Rock, which I have climbed many times as a tween on family vacations from Denver, but whose history I never appreciated until now. We stopped at the grocery store, and settled into our room for dinner and a Paul Rudd movie.

Day 4

Our provided breakfast was lovely, though not fruit-grown-in-the-backyard lovely. We did enjoy coffee on the porch with hummingbirds, though.

It was at this point that we decided we wouldn’t be doing any more drawing. North was where we came from, and east and west were impassable, so that left SOUTH. We decided on a final destination, booked a camp site at the nearest KOA (yes, we had a tent, and firewood; we planned for the unplannable), and set off to see the sights between.

After a couple interpretive trails, some more impressive than others, we stopped at the biggest bookstore on the Oregon coast, in Gold Beach. It’s like Powell’s, and there’s even a rare books room. There was a short visit to a local distillery way off the beaten path near Brookings, where we bought a couple more bottles of fine things to bring home.

Then we crossed into California, and drove into the Redwood National Park. There’s a driving loop that you can see on the map, a dusty gravel road through a giant, ancient forest, and a written guide tells you the mileage to particularly interesting trees, like the hollow ones you see below. It was great.

Then we stopped at the grocery store for camp food, and checked into our site at the KOA. I talked the cashier into upgrading us to a cabin, even though we were only there for one night, and we roasted cheese brats over a campfire (and ate them with cardboard “buns”). Real living.

Day 5

The next morning we packed up and headed for home, but not before doing just a couple more things. First we stopped at the Trees of Mystery. After that, we grabbed brunch in Crescent City, and then the rules-based portion of the trip was over. We high-tailed it up over the mountains to 108°F Grants Pass for gas and coffee, and onto the freeway for the long drive home. We listened to the audio version of Wigfield (as read by the authors, Stephen Colbert and Amy Sedaris), and it kept our minds engaged with its strangeness for most of the drive. We couldn’t resist a stop at Izakaya Meiji for just one more batch of cold, muddy spinach.


We didn’t know it then, but this happened to be our last road trip in this car! Shortly after we got back, we traded it in. Farewell, blue Subaru! We had some good times.

#84: Stay at a “weird” Airbnb

This is part of our 100 Things in 2015 challenge. Here’s the full list.

While on  No-Destination Road Trip 2015 and passing through Eugene, we couldn’t help but book this charming Airbnb! Don built this thing in his backyard, and he’s gone all out to make it cozy comfortable. He even made the floor out of pennies!

It’s pretty rustic — the bathroom is in the main house, and the kitchen is all on the back patio — but what is there is very livable.

This item might have to become a permanent fixture in future lists. We’ve always sought out lodging that wasn’t so run-of-the-mill, but going out of our way to find something unique can truly be delightful.

#36: Buy a Car

This is part of our 100 Things in 2015 challenge. Here’s the full list.

We’ve had this Subaru since just before Lucy was born, a little over seven years. It’s been good to us, and we like it.


But we were starting to run up against its limitations. For one, it’s an AWD car, and we were only getting about 17 miles per gallon, which made us sad when we were waiting at the pump every week or two. Also, Becky’s parents have a camper trailer that we’d love to borrow for our State Park challenge, but the Subaru can’t tow it. Also, it was hurting Becky’s back.

So it was we found ourselves at a car dealership yesterday, and so it was that we drove home in this:



It’s a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a diesel engine. It can tow 7,200 pounds, gets 30 MPG on the highway, and the seats adjust in something like 30 ways. Problems solved.

So I’m making it sound like it was a surprise, but this was a process that started six months ago. I’ve done a ton of research on cars since then, and there was never any other car that even came close to the Jeep for what we wanted. We didn’t expect to be signing papers yesterday, but we instantly fell in love when we took it out for an hour-long test drive. We’re expecting to get at least ten years out of this one.