Sunday, October 26, 2014

First Day of School, Summer's Last Blast

First day of Fourth Grade! Yep, as you can see, Lorelei was excited! Can you believe she's in 4th grade already? Where has the time gone?? Lorelei planned her first day of school. She chose all of her favorite things to wear: her favorite hat, her banana slugs t-shirt she got in the Redwoods, and her hoodie she got at Bumbershoot Music Festival. You can't see it in this picture, but she requested a messenger bag this year for school instead of a backpack. I'm afraid this kid is a total Seattleite.

4th grade has brought some interesting developments for Lorelei. First, Lorelei is back in TaeKwonDo after her 6-month break. It's interesting - she is a high green belt, so the instructors now have her lead certain parts of the class, i.e. stretching, and helping out some of the more junior kids in the class. She's learning how to be a leader. Even if she doesn't stick with TKD for very long, this experience is so good for her.

Another interesting development is:

She's learning to play the trumpet! Lorelei had the option of learning a musical instrument this year. She was very interested, so we encouraged her. Playing music has been one of the most rewarding parts of my life, and learning to read music is a great thing. It's a math language, after all.  So far she is doing well - she didn't have any trouble at all figuring out how to make noise with that trumpet. :) Lorelei is wearing her second favorite hat in the picture above. It's a hat her dad got her at the West Seattle Festival over the summer.

Lorelei is learning so much. She was just in here telling me all the mistakes I'm making in this post. She's a little too smart sometimes. She just got sent to her room.

Now, before I get into our recent adventures, we need to address something. As you know, Shawn has been diligently working away at his degree and the end is finally in sight with graduation set for April. I don't think I've mentioned how amazing he's doing in school, though. He has made the Dean's List so many times the Dean got tired of him and he has been upgraded to the President's List! It's quite an honor to make the President's List. He's maintaining a mostly straight-A average while working full time and devoting time to his family. It's hard, that doesn't leave much free time, but it's absolutely amazing what he has accomplished. So if you find yourself talking or emailing or following him on Twitter, tell him how awesome he is.

Speaking of awesome, Shawn's parents came for a visit in September, and we did a little exploring in the San Juan Islands. The San Juans are in the strait of Juan de Fuca, situated between Washington and British Columbia, Canada. They are part of Washington, but from them you can see the US mainland as well as the Canadian city of Victoria.

I admit, I was dubious about going to the San Juans. I am so partial to wild, vast, dangerous Pacific Ocean, I feel like all this business about the Sound and the Strait is just a prelude to the main event. I expected to think it was beautiful, but not really understand what all the fuss was about.

I could not have been more wrong. The San Juans are breathtaking. We were on San Juan Island, in a little tourist town called Friday Harbor. It's a lovely place. But once you get out of town, you see rolling hills and farmland not unlike southern Ohio. And then, bam! It hits you. You make it to the state park on the coast and it's just beautiful everywhere you look.

Here is a nice little postcard picture of the lighthouse at Limestone Kiln State Park.

There were all these neat little trails at the park and as you can see, it was stunning scenery. The lighthouse is decommissioned, but inside there were all these charts, showing the wildlife that had moved through the area over the summer. Apparently some college students were doing research and observation at the lighthouse, and they left behind their charts. In just the scant few hours we were there, we saw porpoises, seals, and there was a rumor of whales passing through.

The San Juans are prime whale-watching spots. They make a business of having tours all year round, as the orcas seem to love this water.

We will go back to the San Juans for sure. They are so much closer to us than the coast, and it's peaceful up there. To get to Friday Harbor, we basically have to drive to Anacortes, WA, and take a 90-minute ferry over. I love taking the ferry. And hey, guess what? They sell beer on the ferries!

From the San Juans we traveled down through Deception Pass (below) and headed to Port Townsend.

Port Townsend is one of my favorite places. It's this adorable Victorian town right on the Strait. We stayed at the "castle" above in Port Townsend. It was kitschy, but fun. Except when Shawn told Lorelei it was haunted and there was a meltdown. That resulted in Lorelei and I hitting the hotel bar for soda and wine.

The next day, we went to Hurricane Ridge in the beloved Olympics. You've all seen many pictures of Hurricane Ridge. We've been there a few times and I, for one, cannot get enough. I love it there. When we were there this time, it was the clearest day imaginable, and one of the last days of a hot, dry summer. There was no snow to be found on the Ridge - you had to go up another 1,000 feet or so to get to snow. Lorelei, Brenda and I decided to hike the Hurricane Hill trail which takes you up another 700 feet or so. I cannot describe how amazing it was. Here, take a look:

That picture above is looking north - that's the Strait of Juan De Fuca.

Those pictures above are of the trail. It was really steep going up. But the views! Beyond words. I love Hurricane Ridge.

So that was our last blast of summer. The rains have now returned in earnest, and last night we had a rain/windstorm that knocked out power for 6 hours. It's definitely fall in the Pacific NW. But we like the fall. We like hibernating a bit and consoling ourselves with our memories of summer, and sleeping to dream about the next big adventure. Just like Gretel. She has the sleeping/dreaming thing down to an art form. And in celebration of Halloween, here she is, sleeping and dreaming with her new favorite toy, her bat.

Happy Halloween to you and yours!