Tag Sechs

This morning we made French toast and poached eggs. Hilary’s kitchen is delightful, especially with the balcony open. And we’ve fallen in love with her Nespresso machine. I feel a little guilty, but she can recycle the capsules right in her normal recycling. In fact, I’m rather impressed by the recycling setup that seems to be everywhere. (mind you, people still litter. It’s not like they’re saints) One of the joys of traveling (or even weekends at home or camping) is the quality of breakfast. Michelle puts far more love in to breakfast than I do, but I love the results. During breakfast, we hammered out the plans for the day. Bonn (for Haribo gummies), Berg Elz, and back to Köln by dinner.

Next Hilary and I took the loaner car that her mechanic had given her (a POS Golf with a litany of electrical and mechanical problems) to rent a Passat. The exchange at the rental agency was ever so delicate. They all spoke excellent English, but add to that the intricate dance of trying to sell you on an SUV, or add trip insurance, or a GPS, or whatever. We left thinking we’d gotten out OK, but you never really know. The car was a drastic improvement over the loaner, but even an upgrade in size over Hilary’s Audi wagon. I drove the POS Golf home and relished the opportunity to drive a stick/diesel again. We got back, loaded up the Passat, and made off for Bonn to visit the Haribo store.

Bonn, a name largely forgotten but somewhat familiar to Americans, used to be the capitol of West Germany. By comparison to Köln, it’s a somewhat lame city. It did have a nice enough downtown, and we enjoyed picking from the walls of different types of gummy candy. Then we walked across the street to Lindt to get chocolates as well. As we walked back to the car, we realized we’d just bought a bunch of melty things that we were going to have to store in a black car for the rest of the day. We crammed all the chocolate in to the glove compartment where there’s an A/C vent, hoping the chocolate wouldn’t be ruined. Then we drove towards Berg Elz, winding around and feeling like maybe we were lost. There was some tension in the parking lot about the direction the trail to the castle went and the way the service road went. We wanted to take the bus/shuttle, but it appeared to not run that day. So we followed the trail further and further downhill. We were all a little concerned about the direction, but I had memories of arriving at the castle sweaty from our visit some 21 years ago. God, I’m that old already?

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More schnitzel
Hilary approaching Berg Elz

The Berg Elz (Castle Elz), is a picturesque castle nestled in a valley on a stone mound. By the time we arrived, we were starving, so we got lunch at the cafeteria. It was just fine. Schnitzel, salad, and spaghetti. Oh, and pomme frites, because they come with everything. But then we went upstairs to join a tour through the castle, which had a tremendous family history. It was a little odd looking at the place and knowing that the president our nation somehow elected really does live his life as if he were one of these royal families. It kind of put a sour taste on the tour for me, but I kept it to myself. The castle is just amazing and really looks like a place you could enjoy yourself. And I’m not just talking like a crazy 8 year old boy.

Inside Berg Elz
Freeds at Berg Elz
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Berg Eltz Bedrock

After the tour, we got some snacks then headed down the Mosel River valley towards Koblenz and the Rhine. We followed the Rhine north to Linz, where we felt we could find a reasonable dinner. You park out on the highway then walk in to the town. The cobble streets are small and the town is charming as all hell. And it was empty. The rain and I guess the Thursday evening meant the streets were quiet. We wandered for a while until we found a place that appealed to the adults. And it was Pfifferlinge season (chanterelle mushrooms) and Hilary is a huge fan. So all the specials included pfifferlinge. I got pork medallions with pfifferlinge sauce and pasta and it was excellent. We were thirsty enough that we sprung for 2 6 Euro bottles of still water. That’s still hard to justify coming from Bull Run water country. After dinner we wandered the charming streets and made our way back to the car for the remaining drive back to Köln.

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in Linz

That evening, we packed for our trip to Bavaria, watched some more Brooklyn 99, and tended to Maddie’s dry skin. The girls slept outside again and slept right through a thunderstorm. The covered portion of the deck meant that they were well covered, but I pulled their mattress a little closer to the door. The air was wonderful.

Tag Fünf

Hilary’s apartment is on Beethoven Park and is some fancy, award winning architectural/community darling. It really was a substantial development with massive underground parking and storage, lovely courtyards with ponds, carp (er, Koi), and turtles. Her apartment itself is quite roomy with a fantastic deck/patio that looks out towards the park. It was so nice and the weather was warm enough that the girls spent the night outside. In the morning, we scrambled some eggs, bacon, and sautéed some kale from Hilary’s balcony. Breakfast included excitement about what the first day would hold, but also required some calculation about how we’d work a trip in the the mechanic. During the drive from Amsterdam to Köln, the front right wheel wobbled during acceleration. Just a few days prior, Hilary had the vehicle in to get the tires changed and the mechanic had noticed some leakage from the from CV joint. Rather than repairing it, they just put the wheel on. So she had them look at the boot but apparently they didn’t find any issues.

Am Beethoven Park

Well, we were going to drive across Germany in 2 days, so we were a little less comfortable with the shape of the front wheel. So Hilary took the car back to the mechanic (who didn’t speak English, but the daughter who worked in the accounting dept did, so they texted back and forth). It was and continued to be a frustrating experience. We learned but didn’t use the phrase “am der Name eherumführen), which roughly translates to being jerked around (by the nose). So with no confidence in the mechanic, we decided to rent a car for our trip.

During all this, Michelle, the girls and I went to Beethoven Park and played at a playground. The girls had a good time but had some difficulty communicating with the children, some of whom were naked. The girls had a blast though as they tend to do when there’s a playground around. Afterwards, we headed to the neighborhood Rewe to get some picnic items (and beer) and we took the train to Media Park, a large city playground with nearly abandoned equipment. The kids had a blast on the gigantic slide and unique and complex swing set. We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch and watched a group of adult (men) who seemed to be walking back from lunch stop to watch one of their coworkers take the giant slide. We assumed there was beer at their lunch.

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Hilary sliding
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Dom through a bridge head

We wandered a little further along the parkway to a massive swing set that had two pivots and two swings, but both were connected by cable. So to swing, you had to cooperate with the other swinger. It was challenging and somewhat frustrating, and if you jumped from the swing, the whole motion collapsed on the other swinger. But by this time, we were all hot, and the girls needed to use a bathroom. Which there are so very few of in Europe. So we meandered in to a nearby Saturn electronics superstore. We took turns pretending to shop while the kids used the bathroom. The store was fun in that “it’s familiar but different” way, and Maddie really enjoyed pretending like we were shopping. She even went so far as to make up statements like “I was looking for one of these!” Ham.

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Futurama mural in Köln

Next we wandered through town towards der Dom. We went through the old part of the town with castle walls and gates, stopped in a comic book store, looked at fanciful dress shops (for Carnival), and found an Asian market that Hilary was thrilled about because they had tons of ingredients she hadn’t been able to find anywhere else. We continued our walk, and Hilary had gone through considerable effort to try and get us there without seeing der Dom until we were right there. And it was worth it. We turned around the corner and were caught off guard by the presence of the gothic cathedral. It is massive. We wandered around it, trying to take in the scale of the building. There was scaffolding on the north tower which made everyone sick thinking about how scary it would be to work on the suspended platform that high off the ground.

Der Dom with the Freeds
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Girls and aunt Hilary
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Der Dom

Around the cathedral was bustling with tourists. Everyone trying to find a break in the crowds for the perfect picture. We went inside and MG lit a candle for Barley. We were too late to climb the tower so we wandered over to the bridge to see the locks and a view of the Rhine river. This city is quite gorgeous and I already regret having dedicated so little time there. But the kids were starting to crash from being tired and hungry so we made double time over to Peter’s, a beerhall that served their own Kölsch. By the time our drinks arrived, the girls were spiraling and finally crashed. We had to force them to eat some food, and after some gnashing of teeth, they both perked up. I got the pork knuckle, which was massive. And it was delicious. We shared a variety of pork dishes, including schnitzel, pork medallions, wieners, and we were able to find some vegetables (doused in cream) as well. The food was great, the server prompt, and the Kölsch was delicious. This was also the girls’ first experience in Germany of having a bathroom attendant. They were confused but eventually managed to use the bathroom and leave a tip.

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Counting Kölsch at Peters
Dinner at Peters

After dinner, we (I) waddled out on to the old town square to enjoy the active energy of the evening. The girls had rebounded and were doing piggy-back rides through the square. The grounds were being prepared for the Cologne Gay Pride festival that was happening in 2 days. The girls got some gelato and we continued to wander through the charming square until we could catch a train back to Hilary’s apartment. Once we arrived at home, the girls were nearly ready for bed and insisted that they sleep outside again. We gladly allowed them to, and Hilary introduced us to Brooklyn 99, which streamed in English with German titles on Netflix there.

Tag Vier

On the fourth day, we woke with a hunger for some delicious breakfast. Fortunately, there was a renouned waffle place nearby. We walked north towards it and were interrupted by a route closure due to construction. As we tried to bypass it, a construction worker started yelling at us in Dutch. We apologized and when he realized we were Americans, he turned totally nice and in nearly perfect English, gave us an alternate route to get to where we were heading. The route took us through this massive housing project called Funenpark that was a mix of park/open space. It looked like project housing done well.
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We had breakfast at Brunchroom, which had an amazing “build your own waffle” option which the kids loved only slightly more than Hilary. Some of the combos selected.

  • Bacon, Bananas and maple syrup
  • Honey, fig, pumpkin seed and goat cheese
  • Strawberry, blueberry, and whipped cream
  • Nutella, Banana and coconut smoothie (not a waffle)

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After breakfast, we headed to an electric boat rental shop (boaty) do do a self-guided canal tour. We all wanted to do a canal tour of some sort, but the idea of being packed in with chumps didn’t thrill anyone. So we hopped tram and got off at the connector to buy groceries for a picnic lunch. The lunch options were pretty stellar, but I was suddenly sad when I found the plastic packaged hot dogs (in buns) had American flags on the labels. Forgone conclusions.

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Anyway, the electric boat rental was awesome. We motored down a canal to the Amstel River, then back through some canals to get a feel for the city. The views were amazing, and the pace was perfect. It’s hard not to get some relaxation out of a float. But the amazing cruise got even better as we pulled over to one of the very view empty spots along the canal to eat lunch. Cheese, bread, cured meats, fruit, and awesome beer. It was the height of existence.

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We motored back to the mooring spot after watching a young swan tear around. We then took transit back to Hilary’s parked car on the outskirts of town and somehow managed to cram all our luggage in. It took some time to get out of Amsterdam proper because of traffic, but by the time we did, I’m pretty sure 3/5 of the car were asleep. And that was despite my encouragement for everyone to take in what they saw and notice the subtle differences between here and home.
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We drove on and my sister and I debated how bad the rattling of her front CV joint was as we traversed two countries to finally reach Germany. After some long chats and long naps, we arrived in Köln (Cologne) and immediately stopped for food at Planet Hürth. It was a very traditional German spot with excellent curry wurst and frits. Oh, and they had Kölsch. Hilary explained the May pole tradition whereby young suitors attach small trees to the homes of their secret loves. If the source of the love accepts, he (though mostly she) takes the tree down. Otherwise, the tree stays up, decaying as an embarrassing sign of misplaced love.

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We polished off our meals then stopped at a grocery store to grab some food for the coming days and finally arrived at Hilary’s apartment on Beethoven Park. It is an awesome complex. Obviously built to last 70 to 140 years, unlike the crap we built here. We got a quick tour then utterly crashed for the night. Windows and doors open to let the fresh air caress us to sleep.

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Tag Drei

Day three was our first full day in Amsterdam. We started the morning by hopping a train in to town to get near the Van Gogh Museum for breakfast. The morning was cool, and we almost got on the wrong train because we assumed that the direction of the tracks represented the direction the train was going. The train was nice though, like our street cars in Portland, but with more riders and more service.

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We stopped at a bakery near the museum and our eyes nearly fell out of our heads. So many options. Pastries, sandwiches, mini-pizzas. We all picked up something (I got a ham & cheese croissant) and coffee and walked over to the park next to the museum to eat. It was delicious, but messy as all flakes fell off the wonderful sandwiches. Since we still had time until our museum ticket reservation, we wandered around the park and then wound up at the iamsterdam sign by the Ruks museum. The kids climbed, we took pictures, and made our way through some sort of festival. On the way back to the Van Gogh, we saw some installations of Banksy & Dali work. Cool bonus.

Ruks Museum garden
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The Van Gogh Museum was packed. The format was designed to handle the population, but the kids didn’t exactly get hooked right away. Maddie learned that Van Gogh died at 35, which she was very curious about and kept asking questions about. There were a few notable missing works, but the collection was fascinating. I admit I really liked some of his contemporaries work, which was also on exhibit to show examples of what others were doing. None of us had seen the almond blossoms work yet and were all enamored with the colors. I really liked the haymaker/landscape work as well.
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After the museum, we walked to Vondelpark. We’d heard so much about the playground, and it took a while for us to find because the park is so big. Fortunately, there was an info booth with some old Dutch women who spoke really great English. In fact, there was no shortage of friendly, English-speaking residents. Hilary told us to enjoy it while we were in Amsterdam because it would be absent when we arrived in Germany. We played at the park at the west end for a while. I was impressed with the quality and imaginative design, but Ella was tired and couldn’t keep up with Maddie. After a while, we walked north to Foodhallen, a giant indoor “food cart” pod. The selection of food was excellent and we each got something that caught our attention. I had an amazing Iberian ham sandwich after the vendor lured me in with a small sample. Hilary got dim sum (and ended up sharing), and Michelle got a salad roll (which was the most boring). The girls, despite all the options, chose fruit & yogurt cups. Then they stole bites from us.
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After eating, we wandered towards the center city to explore. The kids got hungry again, so we grabbed some snacks right on the square and watched the crowds and picked apart the performers and their techniques. Then we wandered around making a big loop towards the Ann Frank house, which we couldn’t get in to. We had hoped to pick up some of the late day releases, but the lines were amazingly huge. So sadly, we couldn’t see the house. We did pick up some stickers, and Michelle checked out the palace after being moved by curiosity. After more souvenir shopping, we walked through the red light district to Brewery De Prael for dinner. Upon seeing nearly naked women standing in windows on the street, Maddie asked what they were doing. Hilary told her to ask her parents. We explained at dinner what prostitution was and the girls were a little surprised and confused, but didn’t really follow up with many more questions.

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The girls and I had dessert (I had a Nes IPA, which was delicious) while Hilary and Michelle wandered the Red Light District. I managed to have a conversation with a couple from Germany whose English was a good as my German (at least that’s how I perceived it after 3 beers) then Hilary took the kids back to the hostel so Michelle and I could explore. We toured the district, taking in the whole scene along with thousands of elderly tourists. The district is charming in it’s own way, and it is certainly helped by the canals, but the crowds of tourists makes the whole thing seem kind of commonplace. But comments from some of the tour guides (that we eavesdropped on) suggested that there was a concerted effort from the city to try and gentrify the district.

Michelle and I grabbed some beers while waiting for the sun to set and Michelle locked herself in a bathroom. She did manage to escape. Eventually, we grew bored and took a bus back to the hostel. While we were out, Hilary and the girls played hide & seek at the hostel.

Tag Zwei

We landed in Amsterdam at 1pm (er, 13:00) local time. We all immediately needed to use the bathrooms, which was a fun intro to subtle differences between European and American design (and language). Getting through customs was cake, and after we walked through the doors, we were greeted by Aunt Hilary. The girls were thrilled and we got our hugs in before buying commuter train tickets to our hostel. Hilary had picked up a SIM card for me to use and I tried to get it to work on the train but it wouldn’t work. Oh well. Better pay attention to what is going on outside anyway.
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We walked about half a mile to the Stay OK hostel and checked in to our “family” room. 6 bunks and a private bathroom and some funky decoration. The place was very nice and the staff were super friendly. We were famished, so we walked to a nearby Vietnamese place, but it apparently only serves Vietnamese food after 5pm. So we had more continental food (and beer!) and caught up with Hilary. Michelle ordered a Hilary ordered the Croque Madame, Michelle and sandwich that included brie, apples, and walnuts, and I had a spicy sausage baguette sandwich, and the girls had waffles and cakes.
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Next we wandered over to the De Gooyer Windmill (and Brouwerij t IJ) to check out this vestige of history along the canals. We wandered along the canals, marveling over the mixture of nice and partially sunken and rotting boats to Oosterpark to enjoy the fountains and ponds. The kids fed the ravenous ducks and pigeons. The birds were pretty gross, but the girls made a game out of petting the flying rodents. We headed back to the hostel to plan out the following day and figure out dinner. We enjoyed beers in the sun while the kids played on the playground across the street.
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For dinner, we wandered over to Boi Boi, a wonderful Thai place that everyone enjoyed. On the walk back, we encountered a German Shorthair Pointer with a full-length tail. It could also bark loudly. We wandered back towards the hostel and picked up some ice cream for desert. It was a fun stroll as the sun set, and we arrived home around 10pm. We successfully made it a full day after the long flight.
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More photos are available in the Amsterdam 2017 Flickr album.

Tag Eins

Introduction

This is a rather disjointed summary of our trip to Amsterdam, Cologne, Bavaria, and Paris this summer. We traveled from July 1st to July 15th and spent most of the trip (except flying) with my sister. She lives in Cologne. The post is mostly about capturing things that will hopefully trigger our imagination later in conjunction with the images we captured. There are oh so many images. I may never sort through them. Heck, I don’t think I even finished the posts about Yellowstone or South Africa yet. Thus, these will be fairly succinct.

back to day one

Day one was travel. To save money on airfare, we flew out of Seattle and landed in Amsterdam (and left from Paris). Even though we’ve known we were going for months, there was still a last minute rush to organize and thin our carry-on bags. Then, we loaded up the cars and made great time getting to Tacoma, where we stashed the cars with a friend. We dropped off the luggage and grabbed some horrible food from a dumpy teriyaki place. To wear out the kids before the long flight, we went to Kadel Park, where there’s a wave pool. Even though the skys were cloudy and the weather rather cool, we spent nearly 2 hours in the water playing and swimming. Everyone agreed that it was a blast. We took an Uber to SeaTac (there were no Lyft drivers) and our driver was a lifetime welder from Vietnam. Really cool guy who got us there in no time. We also raced through security and had to find ways to occupy ourselves while waiting for the flight. That included multiple trips to the bathroom, random wandering, and trying to watch a Timbers game on my phone. Eventually we boarded and hunkered down for the long red-eye flight.

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Thanks to the modern entertainment systems, it was easy for the kids (and adults) to entertain themselves. Michelle and the girls all managed to get some sleep, but I wasn’t able to get more than maybe 30 minutes (thanks, Melatonin). But we’ll pretend that day one ended with everyone asleep in the air flying over Hudson Bay and Greenland.
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So, I bought a drift boat

I was trying to price pressure cookers on Craigslist so I could find how much I should sell the ones I had for. While looking, there was a post for a moving sale that listed pressure cookers and fishing gear. But one of the images was of an aluminum drift boat. I clicked on it, inspected the picture of the boat, and decided that I should write the owner. What shape it was in, price, etc. He wrote back with a price and few other details. After several back and forth messages (in which he answered roughly a third of my questions), I asked to come take a look that evening. He said sure.

Michelle and I drove up to Camas to check out the boat because the girls were at the pool watching a movie (hedonism!). It was old, but in relatively good shape, and the owner was a nice enough guy. We agreed to buy it, but had to settle on payment arrangements first.

the front of an old aluminum drift boat

Well, two weeks later, payment was made, and we picked up the boat on a Friday evening. There was a hornet’s nest in the tongue of the trailer, but he didn’t seem too concerned. He was wearing pants though. We towed it home, chatted with the neighbors who all thought it was cool, then started to prioritize the weekend.

Saturday I picked up a second seat for the front and a not-so universal swivel mount. It took a while to install it, but we got the boat ready and took it out to Henry Hagg Lake for a pleasure cruise (and to confirm that it would float.) The lake was way down, and the trailer was squirrelly to back down the ramp. Immediately as we launched, MG got stung on the ear by a bee or something. The wind and wake made for chaos, along with an amped up dog and MG wailing in pain.

We rowed across the lake and beached on a mud slope so we could run the dog and swim. The girls immediately dove in, and I discovered that there was a second hornet’s nest under the anchor mount. I smashed it out and covered it in mud and we kept playing. We then rowed up the lake arm to the shallower part where there were fewer people (and less wind) and anchored and played for a bit. We ran the dog, swam in the lake, and took turns in the float tube until it was time to head back to town.

family eating snacks on the boat

MG swimming in the lake next to the boat with Andy and Kona in the boat
We rowed back to the launch, slowly, because of the wind and wake, and hooked up to the dock while I ran up to get the car and trailer. When I got there, I found a third wasp nest in the spare tire. No time, I left it and rolled down pass the tournament bass boats to pick up our new (old) boat. We got the boat on the trailer despite some chaos and pulled up to pick up the mess so we could drive. I think we all agree that we need to work on launch and landing protocol so that we’re not all yelling at each other, but no one (except MG with the sting) got hurt.

The day after, Chris, Michelle and I took it down the Kalama River in Washington to try out my rowing skills. The water was low, the fishing bad, and we had to portage a few times. But we made it, and there was only one harrowing part. Well, except for the launch.

We launched at Slab Hole and there was a large sand bar at the bottom of the ramp that prevented us from backing the boat in to the water. Instead, we tied a rope to the bow (and trailer) and had to push it off the trailer, where it dropped down in to the water. My ring got caught on the bow, and as the boat fell, I was pulled with it. Fortunately, my ring popped off before I went over, though it hurt quite a bit. A week later and my entire hand is still sore.
Shiny boat sitting on the bank of the Kalama river near Beginner hole
The one harrowing part was the approach to the tree hole and bend below Mahaffrey’s. The river is so low that the current puts you in a chute right up against the steep rock bank. The chute was a little wider than the boat, and it was difficult to row since the oars were on the bank. I was able to turn sideways to pull away, but right as a mid-current rock arrived. I asked the passengers to leave left to help slide over the rock, and they both leaned right, making sure we got a solid chine-to-rock collision. Nice work team.

We survived though, and subsequently survived the experience of having to do a 23 point turn because some jackass parked in the boat turn around.

All in all, it was a great first weekend with the boat. We have a better understanding of the needs, the boat (which rides quite high, I’m happy to report). We did a few portages, but it was great and I’m excited to row again.

Christmas 2016

2016 is drawing to a close, and in more recent fashion, I’ve waited until the last minute to pen a Christmas card. In fact, let’s just call it a holiday card in hopes that it skates by as “on time.”

The Freed family had a good year punctuated by the noise of the rest of the world. We welcome the opportunity to come together with family at Christmas and relax, revel, and eat well. There’s also some satisfaction in watching the kids vibrate with excitement about all the happenings of the season. One thing they didn’t anticipate and were therefore unable to count down to (though Michelle and I were) was a surprise trip to Disneyland at the end of November. Michelle made the plans back in May and has been struggling with the excitement of the surprise since. When the day finally came, we sent the kids to school as usual, but then picked them up an hour later with no explanation and went to the airport. On the way, they started some custom word searches with clues and when they figured it out, the confusion and excitement was infectious. We had a great several days enjoying the rides and attractions between Universal/Hollywood, Disney California Adventure and Disneyland over the course of 5 days. The kids loved the rides, with Tower of Terror being Maddie’s favorite, and the Harry Potter ride probably being Michelle and Ella’s favorite. I get motion sick, but I think California Screamin’ rollercoaster was my favorite.

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Madeline is nearly eight and continues to develop her personality. She loves gymnastics, singing, and as she often calls it, “drama”. And while she is outgoing generally, she is still somewhat reserved around strangers. She excels in school and is a voracious reader. Her teacher insists that she’s reading at nearly a 5th grade level. She’s also a caring and nurturing person; she looks after her fellow students and kids in the neighborhood. Maddie also picked up the Ukulele and is enjoying playing, singing, and writing songs for us. When asked, her favorite memory for the year was emphatically “Disneyland.” She enjoyed the heck out of the thrill rides and really got in to the screaming aspect of the California Screamin’ roller coaster.

Ella turned ten in August and continues to be a quiet and helpful compatriot around the house. She is growing up quickly, developing a desire to bake, paint and sew. This year she got a larger bedroom to herself. It has been fun watching her grow into it, decorating, organizing and sorting things to be just how she wants them to be. She played soccer in the spring, and showed marked improvement, but due to a sign-up snafu, she missed out on the fall league (and her team of 4 years disbanded!). Hopefully we’ll get back in touch with them in the spring. Ella also excels in school, being given special research, writing and math exercises to keep her challenged. Ella’s favorite memory for the year is a tie between a cruise she went on in June with G&G Freed and the trip to Disneyland. The cruise was a gift for her tenth birthday, and she, my mom and dad sailed from Seattle up to Juneau and back to Vancouver, seeing glaciers, bears, raptors, and more.

Michelle continues to be awesome. She orchestrated the whole Disney surprise, after all. She also tends to plan and prepare for many (ok, most) of the camping trips and other adventures – thus keeping us active. She’s entered her 6th year of practice with her own firm and hosted her annual work holiday party just 2 days after we got back from California. The party was somewhat dampened by a winter storm, that dropped the attendance from an expected 150+ to around 40. The icy roads and Portland’s general incompetence meant that most could not travel. Michelle didn’t want to pick a single favorite event, so she split between a week of camping at Simtustus with Kona and I (in other words, no kids!) and the trip to Disneyland.

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I’ve had a good year as well. It’s my 15th year “with the company,” and work keeps me busy and satisfied. We added a developer to the department this year and I’m excited to see all the cool stuff we can do to support our students and faculty. In November, I attended another social justice workshop which cemented for me that equity is something that we cannot wait for and need to work for in our daily lives. On another front, and despite tendonitis issues, I’ve managed to get out an fish quite a bit all over Washington and Oregon and even caught a fish or two. I also want to pick two favorite activities of the year: First was getting to spend a week with just my wife in Kona, HI for our 15th anniversary (20 together). We ate well, explored, relaxed, and were able to snorkel at the same time without worrying about kids. I face-planted in to the surf while body surfing and was in pain for part of the trip, but it was still a wonderful experience. Secondly, the girls kept asking for me to take them backpacking and we finally did in August right before Ella’s birthday. We did a simple overnight trip to Fish Lake in the Ollalie Lakes Scenic Area and had a blast swimming, playing on logs, eating camping food, and not sleeping. The place was beautiful and the kids did amazingly on their first trip so we’ll be going out again.

First Backpacking Trip: Olallie Lakes Scenic Area

Overall, the year was pretty good on a familial level. While the noise of the rest of the world rattles against the peace we’d like, it forces us to face the world and work for the place we’d like our kids to live in.