Sunday, December 21, 2008

More fun in the snow!

Wow - this is surely a record for Portland, Oregon. It has actually snowed for 8 days in a row! By now we have about 9 inches on the ground, and it has drifted up to 14" in some places. Stanley went out in the snow today, but since he still has no coat, he didn't stay out long. You can see he nearly got buried in a drift, but Stanley smiled through it all. That kid has quite the positive outlook on life!

He also really enjoyed Christmas caroling around the neighborhood tonight. We have a tradition at our house to go around the neighborhood each year and sing to the neighbors with a group of friends. Our group was small this year, but our singing was quite excellent! Hope you're enjoying a break from school. Stanley likes having time off. He's hoping to get a little something under the tree on the 25th, and he's been a pretty good boy, so maybe we can arrange that!

Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holy cow, it's snowing in Portland!!!

This has been a really great day because it's been snowing all day and that hardly ever happens in Portland. Portland's got a very mild climate, and we might have snow one or two days each winter. Whenever it snows, everything stops because we don't have many snow plows here and we have a LOT of big hills, so no one can go anywhere. I never want to go anywhere except my neighborhood when it's snowing anyway, because I just want to walk around and look at how pretty everything is! Of course I have to take a lot of pictures of everything, too. Stanley went out with us this morning, and I feel kind of bad because he didn't even have a hat or gloves or anything on, but he seemed to do just fine. Here are some pictures from our walk.

These are our friends Sylvie and Ruben. They were out sledding today and had a great time in the snow!
This is Jeff and Stanley in front of our house. I thought you might like to see what our house looks like...normally there's no snow in the yard :)

It's kind of hard to see in this picture, but that white dot in front of Stanley's head is a perfect, single snowflake. It was quite incredible! If you want to see some amazing snowflake photos, go to THIS site. The photos on this site were done by Wilson Bentley who was the first person to photograph a snowflake. And it's hard to believe, but he did it in 1885!!! There is a fun snowflake matching game on that site, too. If you want to make virtual paper snowflakes (on the computer, not with real paper), try THIS site. My students love to play on this site. You can make some really incredible designs!

Here Stanley was enjoying a beautiful holly tree! Luckily, it wasn't too pokey.
Here is Stanley making a snow angel in the snow just before we went inside to have hot chocolate with whipped cream. Mmmmmm. Nothing better than a snow day!

And we just got the BEST news and that is that there's not going to be any school tomorrow! Hooray - another day to play in the snow!!!

Have a good week at school. WORK hard and learn lots!

Birthdays, bowling and bunco

Stanley had a great week last week. It took him a little while to recover from that exciting trip to DC, so he didn't do much for a week or so, but believe me, he has been making up for lost time since then!!!

Last week I (Auntie Erin) had a pretty big week, too, because it was my 43rd birthday on December 7th! We had a really fun time celebrating. Here's what we did...

This is the Rollin' Heads Underdog Sports bowling team that we bowl with. We are currently in fourth place in our league, and we're pretty excited because we're going to the playoffs next week. We're pretty sure we're going to win. We did last year! This week the whole team dressed up in a Hawaiian theme. We all wore leis and tropical shirts or sarongs or, in my case, a grass skirt (not real, of course).
Even our mascot, Max the bowling pin (a REAL bowling pin), dressed up in tropical attire. You can see what some of our other costumes were in other weeks as well if you look carefully at Max. One week was cape week, and can you guess what the other week was?? If you guessed fake mustache week, you're right! Do you like Stanley's fancy Hawaiian shirt? He thought he was pretty cool with that on! he also had a flower decoration that went around his waist, but it's not exactly his size, so it sort of covers up his pants. He's still wearing those pants with a darn hole in them!

This is me with my great cake Uncle Jeff baked for me. It was Turtle Brownies. YUMMMM! Stanley really enjoyed the brownies :)

Stanley also got to go to bunco later in the week. Bunco is a dice game, and it's really fun. Some of your moms might play bunco - and maybe you've even played. Stanley was pretty good at bunco, but what he really liked was the White Elephant gift exchange after we finished playing bunco.
Here's one of Stanley's throws of the dice. Since it was on TWOs, he did pretty well, and he got to roll again!

One of the white elephant gifts Stanley particularly liked was this multi spouted teapot from The Nutcracker.
He also really liked the Cahrlie Brown Christmas tree and this scary guy from Monsters, Inc. Isn't his name Mikey or something?

Well, that's it for Stanley's exciting week. Hope you're having a good week at school. WORK hard and learn lots!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Stanley's big vacation!

Over Thanksgiving Stanley went to Washington, DC, with his swell new friends, Melissa and Neal, and he had a ball, although it was quite cold! Here are some pics from his trip!

Stanley was really excited to see the White House where the President gets to live. Did you know there's even a bowling alley in the White house?

Stanley also got to spend some time at the Air and space Museum.  A really great thing about the museums in Washington, DC, is that nearly all of them are free.  The Air and Space Museum has information about all kinds of flying things! There are exhibits about the first flights of the  Wright Brothers all the way to space exploration.  If you want to learn more about this museum, you can go to this link!

Stanley got to see two of Washington's famous buildings here. The tall skinny one is the Washington Monument. It's shaped like an obelisk and stands 555’ 5 1/8” tall. No building in DC is allowed to be taller than this monument. You can see for thirty miles on a clear day from the Washington Monument! Want to learn more? Click here!

Stanley also got to go to the National Zoo while he was in DC, and can you believe it, he got to see a real, live PANDA!!! I am certainly jealous of this. Once when I went to DC I went to the zoo to try and see the pandas, but no luck. Stanley for sure got lucky. He also got to see the elephants and lots of other animals. Here in Portland we have a new baby elephant at our zoo! Stanley said he really liked the zoo, so maybe over winter break we'll go up to the Oregon Zoo and check it out...but we will for sure not see any pandas! You can learn all kinds of things about the animals at the National Zoo on their fantastic website.

Just as Stanley was about to finish his sightseeing in DC, he had the startling discovery that there are other Stanleys out there! It was so exciting to meet this other Stanley who was visiting from San Francisco! both of them really liked the Merry-Go-Round.

Stanley wants to say a BIG thanks to Melissa and Neal for taking him on such an exciting vacation. He'll be back soon with pictures from Erin's birthday and bowling league - the theme was tropical, and he got a new shirt for the party! He looked quite spiffy!

Have a good week at school! WORK hard and learn lots!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Exciting news!

There was some exciting news this week! Stanley, the lucky duck, got invited to go to Washington, DC with our friends Melissa and Neil for Thanksgiving. After all that hard work on the basement, we decided he definitely earned a vacation, so yesterday he got on the plane. We're looking forward to seeing and hearing all about his adventures in Washington, DC.

I heard you all are expecting some exciting news from Ms. Work, too. Someone needs to tell me when that baby arrives! Congratulations, Ms. Work!

We'll let you know how DC was next week.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Making a new basment

Well, Stanley has never worked so hard in his life as he has this last few weeks in our basement. He's a very hard worker! We used to have an ugly old basement, but for two weeks we've been cleaning, hammering, painting and working our tails off sprucing the place up, and now it is almost finished. We've taken a yucky old basement and made it into a great place for watching movies (we don't really watch much TV in our house, but we do watch movies and sometimes sports) and playing games. It's mostly decorated in the colors of the Chicago Cubs because that's Jeff's favorite team. I was hoping to add some pictures here, but Blogger seems to be having some trouble tonight, so maybe I'll be able to add those later. In the meantime, we'll be downstairs relaxing!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Enjoy your vacation!

Update 11-23: The pictures feature is working again - yipee! Check out our cool new space! Here's what it looked like when we started:

Now it looks like this!

We went to a play!

I haven't given you an update in a while, and I'm sorry for that because Stanley has been quite busy. I did see that several of you made comments on one of the recent posts, and that was really fun for Stanley. He is so happy that you're reading about his adventures all the way from Ohio!

Many of you asked about Stanley going trick-or-treating and his costume, but unfortunately Stanley didn't get to go trick-or-treating because we were up at the mountain and there weren't any other houses around. Maybe he can go next year! We didn't carve a pumpkin either, even though we went to the pumpkin patch. Since we weren't home for Halloween, we wanted to be able to enjoy our pumpkin for a little longer, so it's still sitting on our porch, uncarved.

I liked the comment about the bee's nest looking like a burnt marshmallow. Nice imagination!

So back to what Stanley's been up to. The otehr weekend, Max and Elizabeth were in a play and Stanley got to go with us to watch. There was singing and dancing, card tricks and generally quite a lot of fun. The play was an adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin. The kids did a fabulous job.

Elizabeth was a wizard and Max was a gnome.

If you don't know the story, you can read it here.

I hope you're having a great week at school. WORK hard and learn lots!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mt. Hood National Forest

Last weekend we took Stanley up to Mt. Hood to enjoy the MHNF. We stayed at the cabin of our fun friends Amy and Bob. Everyone had a great time!

Mt. Hood is Oregon's tallest mountain, standing 11,249 feet tall. The Native American tribe called Multnomah calls Mt. Hood Wy'East. Mt. Hood is a volcanic mountain, but it hasn't erupted for nearly 200 years. Some people think it's due for an eruption soon, but that's a pretty hard thing to predict. Mt. Hood has 12 named glaciers, including one called Palmer which skiers can ski on all year. Sometimes the Olympic ski team practices here in the summer so they can ski on real snow.

Mt. Hood is great for all kinds of outdoor recreation. You can go skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, and inner-tubing in the winter. Stanley's hoping to go snow tubing this winter. He asked us about 100 times in the car if we could do it...In the summer you can hike or even climb to the summit, camp and do the super fun alpine slide which Rachel got to do last summer when she visited. Stanley's pretty jealous of that - we showed him her picture.

The weather wasn't so great when we were up there this weekend, so Stanley didn't actually even get to see the top of it, but here's a picture for you that I took a few years ago when we went up.

This last picture is just of something interesting that Stanley was checking out. Can you guess what it is?Scroll down to find out....

It's an old bees nest. Did you guess it? Our friends found it in their chimney at the cabin one time! Luckily, Stanley was in no danger because the bees were all gone.

That's it for this week! Hope you have a great week at school! WORK hard and learn lots :)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wildlife Refuge and Voting

I told you in my last post that Stanley had had a busy week, and he surely did. In addition to going to the pumpkin patch, we went to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge is really near us, and it was created out of citizen requests to save this important wildlife area. It reminds me of a quote by Margaret Mead who said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." I love that idea! Every single one of us can help change the world!

Here's what it says on the wildlife Refuge's website: This special place is a refuge, a haven for wildlife and people. Born of a community's dream, and made possible by their support, a wildlife refuge now thrives in the backyard of a growing metropolis.

The Refuge is now home to nearly 200 species of birds, over 50 species of mammals, 25 species of reptiles and amphibians, and a wide variety of insects, fish and plants. The Refuge has also become a place where people can experience and learn about wildlife and the places they call home.

While we were there we saw lots of beautiful birds, including a pretty Western Scrub Jay and a Northern Flicker (a woodpecker). I've put links to pictures of those birds. Click on the bird name to go to the link. We also saw a ton of Canada Geese. Here's one of my photos of the geese. Look in the grass to see LOTS of heads!

It's a really lovely place and we enjoyed walking through it with Stanley. Stanley's favorite part was when he got to climb a tree and play in the moss while we were there! That Stanley is a wild guy...

Then on Monday night we got together with several friends - there were ten of us in addition to Stanley, and we talked about the election. I am sure you know this is a very important election because we're choosing a new president! I hope all your parents will go out and vote. Voting day is Tuesday for most of the country, but Oregon is kind of unique because we are the only state to do all of our voting by mail. Everyone gets a ballot in the mail and then we fill it out and mail it in. In many states you can vote by mail if you're going to be out of town or you need to vote early, but it's the only way we do it here. Oregon typically has a very high turnout for elections, due in part to this process.

At our party we had a lot of great discussion because we're voting for the president, but we also have many other things on the ballot. There are candidates for other offices and then there are measures to decide about laws. Some people knew a lot about some of the issues while some others did not, so we would share our ideas and opinions. I think everyone left with a better understanding of the important things on our ballot. Stanley thought it was very interesting and wished he were old enough to vote. When he turns 18 he promised he'd register to vote and get involved in the political process because it's so important.

Here are some pictures from our party

Hope you're having a great week at school. WORK hard and learn lots!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pumpkin Patch fun!

Stanley got to enjoy some incredible Oregon fall weather this last weekend, and we made the most of it by going out to the pumpkin patch with the family. While we were there we went in a corn maze. We thought we were lost for sure a few times, but luckily we made it out! This is a picture of the maze - pretty cool, hey? The faces of John McCain and Barack Obabma make the maze! I really want to know how they do that...

Auntie Christy (L) and Auntie Shannon (R) were in the maze with us, too. They discussed whether having a GPS in the corn maze would have helped us. What do you think?

At the pumpkin patch they have some farm animals you can watch while you're waiting to get on the tractor. Rachel, you should really ask Sean about the time he took a goat to school. It's quite a story...
When we were waiting in line we also saw a whole bunch of seeing eye guide dogs in training. They were out on a little field trip. It was pretty funny to watch them when thy got out to the pumpkins. Their noses were going 100 miles a minute!
The tractor ride was pretty fun, but it was a little bumpy, And our pants got a bit covered with hay because we sat on bales of hay! Do they do this kind of thing in Mason? Willie was excited to go to the pumpkin patch for his first time, too!
Here you can see the kind of tractor we rode behind (LOOK at all those pumpkins!!), Uncle Jeff and Max in the pumpkin patch, and Stanley playing with the shadows in the glorious sunny day. Soon there won't be many sunny days for a long, long while because the winter rains are on their way. Of course they're supposed to arrive on Halloween, just in time for trick-or-treating. Stanley doesn't have a costume yet, so if you have a suggestion, post a comment. If I use your idea, you'll get a special mention in Stanley's next posting!

Stanley's got lots more to share from last week - all about his trip to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge and his first time voting for President, but it's bedtime here in Oregon now, so I'll have to post again later. Stay tuned for all the details!

I hope you're having a great week at school. WORK hard and learn lots!

P.S. Mrs. Kelly asked me the other day if Stanley liked going out on the wing of the airplane on our Chicago trip. I have to tell you that he really did, but the pilot cautions all children not to try this at home!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Stanley meets Grandpa and Grandma Fitz

Although this picture of Stanley in the Japanese Maple tree seems to indicate he may have visited Japan this week...

and this picture seems to indicate he may have visited St. Petersburg, Russia, this week...he didn't. He hung out in Tigard, Oregon!

He got to meet two new cousins, Elizabeth and Max

AND he got to meet Grandpa and Grandma Fitz!

They were all very excited to get to know Stanley.

While we were there visiting, Stanley got to do all sorts of fun things, like ride a horse (not real) and go down the slide. He also got to play scarecrow and hang out in a tipi!

The Native American cultures are very important in the Pacific Northwest, although not all Native Americans lived in tipis. Many Northwest Indians lived in dwellings made of cedar bark which is quite plentiful here. Below you'll find a traditional Native American story about the Raven.

Raven and Crow's Potlatch
A Skagit Raven Tale as told by Eldrbarry

I found this story in a collection entitled Longhouse Legends by Emerson N. Matson. He describes it as a children's story used to entertain adults at a potlatch, and it appears to be a Skagit (Salish) tale from western Washington State. Be sure and read my notes at the end on the custom of the Potlatch in the Pacific coastal peoples.

Raven used to live high up in the upper Skagit River country. He was very lazy. In the summer when the other animals were busy gathering food for winter, he would be flying from rock to stump and stump to rock making fun of them. Raven just laughed when Crow (his cousin) urged him to follow squirrel's example - but Raven never prepared for the cold months, when the snow would drift over the ground and cover all the remaining food.

But now Raven was in trouble. Winter had come and the snows were deep. He was hungry - and Raven loved to eat. He had to find someone who would share their food with him.

Raven went to see Squirrel. He had a huge supply of pine nuts and seeds and other food hidden all over the place. Raven poked his head in squirrel's nest in a old fir tree. Squirrel had lots to eat. Raven politely begged for some food. Squirrel scolded him - that was always Squirrel's way - "You refused to work and save for winter - and you poked much fun at me - you deserve to starve!"

Raven went looking for Bear. But Bear was sound asleep in his cave and could not be wakened. Raven looked around for some food, but it was all in Bear's belly - Bear had already eaten it all and was sleeping till spring.

Raven was now very hungry. He thought: "Who can give me something to eat? Everyone is either stingy like Squirrel or sleeping like Bear and Marmot, or they have gone South for winter like the snowbirds." Then he thought of Crow - he would be easy to fool!

Raven flew to Crow's nest. "Cousin Crow, we must talk about your coming potlatch!" Crow answered. "I have not planned a potlatch"

Raven ignored his response. "Crow, everyone is talking about your potlatch - will you sing at it?" "Sing?" Crow had not known that anybody really cared for his singing voice - though in those days, Crow's song was much more like that of Wood Thrush than it is today.

Raven continued to talk of Crow's potlatch. "You are very talented and possess a beautiful voice - everyone will be so disappointed if you don't sing at your potlatch!"

"What potlatch? . . . You really like my singing?"

"We love your singing, Crow," Raven answered. "The Winter's cold has chilled the forest and we're cold and hungry and singing will help us forget our cold feet and empty stomachs. Now you get started fixing the food - looks like you have plenty here - and I will go invite the guests to your potlatch. You can practice your songs as you cook!"

Crow's hesitation now overcome, he began to prepare all the food he had collected for winter, and as he prepared it, he practiced his songs. The more he thought the feast and how everyone wanted to hear him sing, the more excited he got about it.

Meanwhile Raven was offering invitations to all the animals of the forest. (Of course Marmot and Beaver were sleeping like Bear, and Robin and Goose were gone South) To each he said the same thing: "Come to My potlatch! I have worked hard to prepare it. There will be much food at Raven's potlatch and Crow is helping and will sing for us. There will be fern roots and wild potatoes, dried berries, fish and meat. Come to My potlatch! It will be a great occaision." Raven did not invite Squirrel however since he had refused to share his food with Raven. But all the rest of the animals were invited to Raven's Potlatch.

When he returned to Crow - he was busy singing and cooking. Raven told him - "Everyone is coming - be sure and fix all your food - they will be hungry after their journey. And your songs are sounding so good! Crow's potlatch will be a great feast!"

As the guest arrived, Raven welcomed each one to his potlatch. There was deer and mountain goat and mouse, rabbit, ptarmigan and jay. The guests were seated and the food was brought out. Crow started to sit and eat - but Raven asked him for a song first. "It's not good to sing on a full stomach, Crow". So crow began to sing. Every time he would stop to eat - Raven would insist he sing another song. "You can't sing with your mouth full, Crow!" Encouraged again and again by the guests - who were busy stuffing themselves with Crow's food - Crow sang song after song after song - all day until night - and Crow's voice became hoarser and hoarser until all he could do was "Caw - caw".

As was the custom - the left over food was collected by the guests and taken by them for their homeward journey. Even Raven had taken his share and left as Crow was cleaning up. Crow had nothing left to eat. " At least," Crow thought, "I won't go hungry - I will be invited to their feasts." For it was the custom that having been entertained, each guest was now obliged to return the favor and invite the host for a return potlatch.

But the invitations never came. Since all the guests thought it was Raven who hosted the feast, Raven was invited to enough dinners to keep his stomach full for several winters - and he never went hungry.

But Crow, who had been fooled, had been reduced to starving, and never regained his singing voice either. He was destined to spend his winters begging in the camps of men for scraps of food. And that's where we find him today - squabbling over scraps in grocery store parking lots - Caw! Caw! Caw!"

The Potlatch is an important custom among the nations of the North Pacific coasts, as tribal communities gather to feast and celebrate with singing, dancing and storytelling. The preparations are extensive, often taking a couple of years. The occasion of the Potlatch might be to honor the dead (which required two feasts a year apart), to celebrate a marriage or a birth, or to establish the host's claim to names, rank and privileges. Often the raising of a totem pole or the dedication of a house (which usually housed several extended families) would be the occasion for the feast. Always the Potlatch included lavish gift giving to the guests. In fact, the name "potlatch" comes from the Chinook word for "giving".

There would be special dance masks and costumes, and elaborate ceremonies often lasting for days. There would be much singing and storytelling - the right to tell those stories being considered the property of the host as well. Because of the expense - only ranking wealthy chiefs could afford to host a potlatch - and guests would travel from great distances to attend - usually by canoe - to be welcomed at the beach with celebration and singing.

The potlatch was an important part of all social life - being a combination of a town hall - where property rights and status were recognized - hunting and fishing rights confirmed - and inheritances established - and a cultural center where ancestors were honored - coming of age celebrated - marriages confirmed - rights to personal crests and property confirmed by the many witnesses gathered. Status was very important - seating arrangements and value of gifts received depended upon positions in the social and political hierarchy. Sometimes a potlatch would even be given to shame someone for failing to meet an obligation.

I found this information on a website called Eldrbarry's Raven Tales. You can go there if you want to read more Raven tales and learn more about Pacific Northwest Indians.

Next week we'll be back with pictures from the pumpkin patch!

Have a great week at school. WORK hard and learn lots!