Where’s that Letter?!

Many of you know that my son recently turned four and you’re wondering where my birthday letter to him is. The short answer: it’s written, but I’ve chosen not to post it.

OK, I haven’t finished it…but I’m working on it, PEOPLE.

I have routinely battled my feelings on blogging about subjects close to my heart. As the writer, I get to choose what people learn about me through my posts. I choose how much of my life and soul I want to bare. Roper hasn’t had that choice. At all.

The universe has shown my son nothing but love. He (we) are very blessed. But I am under no illusions that this will always be the case. The digital world is full of anonymous humans – a dangerous mix that makes people feel safe saying things they wouldn’t say to your face. It’s an age of data mining, facial recognition and constantly changing privacy settings.

My bigger concern is that Roper is reaching an age at which he’s becoming aware of how people react to him. He’s old enough to start conforming to what people expect him to be, based on how I present him. Yikes.

This child is my heart, making his way in our vast world. And it is my job to protect him – something I’ve been blasé about when it comes to digital exposure. Am I going to wipe all of my social media accounts clean of his existence and delete all posts about him? No, because even when deleted, it still exists. Just like everything that makes it onto the dang ole interwebs.

Also, I’m a little bit lazy.

I will continue sharing appropriate bits of our life, but I will be more discerning in what I share about Roper. He has a big personality and never fails to engage people. We can’t go to a public meeting without being included in a TV interview or newspaper photo. People implore us to get him into commercials. I can obviously use this draw to my advantage – to gain page views or likes or what have you.

I don’t give a flying rat’s patootie about that sort of thing.

What I DO care about is ushering my child into this new world without bias, prejudice and presupposition. I have to face the fact that his name makes it incredibly easy to run searches on him. It’s unique and will come with its own assumptions when encountered on resumes and job applications.

Do I share too much? Yup. Will I continue to do so? Most likely. But I will also do my best to protect my relationship with my son, and that includes the little details of his personality and development that I will always cherish (and he will most likely roll his eyes at).

For now, I will not post his letters on this public blog. They will be just for him and whomever he chooses to share them with in the future.

Thank you, dear readers, for your continued support and for celebrating life with me. I will keep blogging and sharing – erratically as always. I’m also excited to start outlining a novel set in the Entiat Valley. I’ll keep you posted on my progress!


Filed under Letters to Roper, Parenting

Father’s Day Letter

On my 40×40 list, #35 states, “Write a letter to five people who have inspired me, change my life and/or supported me.” This is one of those letters. Happy Father’s Day, Old Man Cooper.

169061_10150093179169690_558844689_6362957_4485633_nDear Dad,

Remember the countless hours you spent on the stairway of our old house with me sitting between your knees and a bottle of No More Tangles in your hand, trying to unsnarl my doll-like hair? I do. And I remember calling you from college, frantic and nervous about an upcoming final that I hadn’t studied for (or done the homework, or attended class). Even though you were in the middle of your busy work day at the bank, you always took my call.

And you would say the right thing.

I remember that you would lend me your knife on backpacking trips so I could whittle myself a fork out of a piece of wood each night before dinner. Even when I was four. You put up with my need to always be the caboose when hiking and running, and tried to encourage me to move along by telling me that fairies lived in the fungal growths on trees and they would only come out if I kept in motion. It was a brilliant plan; I was determined to see those fairies, so onward I would trod. (I’ve already told Roper about fairy houses – he seems to have my penchant for being last).

After our nightly runs around Sahalee you’d always “race” me to the finish line, pretending to sprint but letting me win. In the evenings I would sit in the curl of your legs as you lay on the couch watching TV in front of the wood stove. Each night we’d take turns reading pages out of Dr. Seuss books and you would tuck me in.

IMG_9731You taught me the 80% theory. That perfect grades were for other people, like Mom and Big Monkey. You taught me to let people underestimate me, and then to surprise them. I got my self-deprecating humor and love of a good story from you.

You also taught me that anything worth doing is worth doing right. The FIRST time.

You taught me discipline and personal standards. If we did something you didn’t like – something major – and just apologized for it, we’d get the obligatory two-fingered Collarbone Thump with every word you delivered. “Sorry (thump) doesn’t (thump) cut it (thump, thump),” as you’d stare us down. “If you were sorry, you wouldn’t have done it in the first place.”

I hated those collarbone thumps, but they made an impression. They made me think of the consequences of my actions before I acted on them. They made me responsible.

But you also fielded years of disciplinary calls from our vice principals regaling you with the latest stupid stunt Big Monkey or I pulled. On the phone you’d promise to straighten us out like pieces of wire, and then wouldn’t mention it when you got home, knowing that the mere thought of Mom finding out was punishment enough.

You taught me flexibility and spontaneity. To juggle everything, you’d routinely change your clothes (from three-piece suit to soccer attire) in the car, while driving through Seattle traffic. My favorite Saturdays were when you took me into work with you. I treasured the days that we headed downtown to your big fancy office building. If I was lucky, we got to eat at the Iron Horse and have my grilled-cheese-fries-and-a-coke  (always ordered as one word) delivered by model train. What a treat!

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????You taught me how to ski on the rope tow at Alpental at age three. I’d hunker between your legs for both the tow up and the exhilarating ride down. And when I started whining and crying about cold fingers you’d quickly put your big gloves on my little hands. I never understood how your hands weren’t freezing too, but now that we have a little shaver I realize that the passion to be out there, and instilling that passion in my child, is enough to endure almost anything. Your hands WERE cold.

Thank you for the sacrifices.

You deserve a medal for teaching me to drive. You obviously have nerves of steel. And I’m pleased that I seem to have inherited your knack for talking your way out of most tickets.

You are always early. Anytime we make a meeting plan, I know that you’ll be there thirty minutes early. Toby doesn’t understand my hypersensitivity to promptness. I blame you ;) Although none of this makes sense when I think back on how many flights you missed or nearly missed when you were traveling for business.

DSCN2194You’re recharged by a ten-minute nap and you almost always conquer the Sunday crossword puzzle. We can always count on you to make breakfast and insist on doing the dishes after every meal. You even ironed your own dress shirts (when you didn’t pay me to do it). For every museum Mom took us, you finagled a way to hit the slopes – including taking Jeff and I out-of-bounds in Chamonix (Best. Run. Ever).  You never shy away from a new adventure and you are always, ALWAYS fair.

You rarely say a bad word about anyone. But I’ve adopted your habit of referring to everyone by nicknames (Mrs. Bird Dog, The Dipshits…) You also have your own Dad-isms that I adore. I have made it a lifetime goal to keep you on the phone for longer than three minutes and have only recently become mildly successful.

Toby and I may or may not refer to you as “Eastwood” behind your back.

Dad, you were a hero for mom. You were a hero for Jeff and me – you afforded us time with her to say goodbye. We will never be able to repay you for that. Thank you for doing everything right.

Thank you for introducing me to Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin. Thank you for always greeting us with, “good morning, sports fans!” and always having a positive attitude about life. Thank you for taking me on a trip of a lifetime to Africa. Thank you for enduring long, circular conversations with my son, like the one I hear coming from your patio swing right now. You are an amazing role model. Stubborn, but amazing.

I am always thrilled to hear that I remind people of you.

I love you,



Filed under 40x40


DSCN0433Dear Roper,

You want a brother. You want to know how babies get in ladies’ bellies. You’re absolutely furious that you can’t grow a mustache. Some days you’re scared of your underpants. You want to swing higher than physics allow, and laugh hysterically when I can’t keep up with you on foot when you’re riding your bike. You’re hungry – always so hungry. You want to know what bees eat. When it’s chilly outside you instruct me to call the Fire Department and tell them to warm it up.

DSCN0424For a week you sported a giant tattoo that said “bookish” which I adored because I grew up with my nose in a book. You were so proud of that tattoo and showed it to everyone. It left a HILARIOUS tan line.  You planted a flower bulb in preschool and sang to it the whole way home, coaxing it to grow and promising it water and sunshine. When we go to a park, you’re a little reserved at first and then make fast friends telling them, “You’re so cool,” “You did a really good job,” and, “Be careful, I don’t want you to get hurt.” You can now ride a pedal bike!

I am so proud of the creative, courageous and kind Little Man you’re becoming.

You are starting to look a little more like your dad, but you’ll always be my Mini Me. You know you can crack me up by saying, “Don’t let the beat mmmmmmm….drrrrrOPP!” in Beastie Boys style. You manipulate me with your ability to make me laugh. You manipulate me, period.

P1060865You can write your name. We had no idea – you kept coming home from preschool with artwork signed by a very shaky hand, but we assumed your teachers were helping you because you wouldn’t draw so much as a circle for us. And then I offered to write your name on Oma’s Mother’s Day card. You became enraged and yelled, “I CAN DO IT MYSELF!”  And you did. You wrote your name very clearly on that card and everything else you can get your hands on.

You love to wrestle. Violently.

You are growing tall and your legs are long. I think you’ll take after your mama and earn the nickname “bird legs” by the time you hit elementary school. One morning you told me, “I growed up to be a man last night. I just did that.” I thought you meant that you grew taller overnight, but you were using it as a negotiation tool. “So I can have fire, Mama? Just a little bit of fire?” No, Little Bear, not even a little bit.

You are honest. Brutally honest. When your dad sang a little song for you in the car you announced, “That was a really terrible song, Dad. Awful.” And after I had a particularly difficult day and your dad was comforting me by reminding me of all the people who love me, you sidled up to me and (very creepily) whispered in my ear, “Your mom is dead.” Ummmm…NOT HELPFUL.

DSCN2107For all of your rough and tumble, you are equal parts tender and perceptive. You worry about people. One day after leaving Papa Bear’s house you said, “Papa Bear doesn’t have a friend up at the house. He doesn’t get to have Nanny anymore, so he’s lonely. Maybe Nanny will get better and come back from heaven.”  OK, so it’s possible that you misunderstood the whole Easter/resurrection thing and applied it to everyone in general. But it is so incredibly sweet to hear that you’re thinking about other people and how they might be feeling.

And you don’t have to worry about Papa Bear – he has YOU as his little buddy.

You are resilient and adaptive and have handled all of the crazy changes in our lives with far more grace than I have. You and your dad were bachelors for two weeks while I was in Africa, and then you spent time with both grandpas while Daddy and I were in Belize. Although it causes me great anxiety to leave you for any length of time, you are so blessed to have such amazing role models in your life.

2013-03-06 12.17.37However, with our parenting, you pretty much have ZERO chance of fitting in at school (in our defense, we’ve started a therapy fund). When we’re home alone, I raise you on a steady diet of Janis Joplin and Elmore James. You’ve picked up your dad’s weird Tobyisms, you think it’s OK to fart on people, and you use gigantic words that no three-year-old should use. You are so completely, emphatically and defiantly YOU. And although I could do without the defiant part, I hope you never completely tame that personality of yours. It’s a keeper – just like you.

I love you, Little Bear. To the moon and back, times infinity. Plus a little more each and every day.


Your Mama



Filed under Letters to Roper

Mother’s Day Letter

On my 40×40 list, #35 states, “Write a letter to five people who have inspired me, change my life and/or supported me.” This is one of those letters. It’s difficult knowing that my mom will never have a chance to read this, but it was meaningful for me to write it – especially on Mother’s Day.

Dear Mom,

My most vivid memory of you is simply your beautiful smile – it’s my anchor. When I think about you, I think first of your smile, followed immediately by your work ethic, stunning garden, adventurous nature, and comical impatience. I miss everything about you.

We were mismatched, you and I.

I am emotional, overly sensitive and have a bag full of health issues – weaknesses in your eyes. At times I yearned for that easy friendship that some mothers and daughters have, but that wasn’t us. And that was OK. We had a relationship based around “doing” – sports events, hikes, travels, skiing and hard work. We made memories and laughed and DID.  I learned to see love in actions rather than words.

As a working mom, you ran a militant household out of necessity. Everyone was to be showered and dressed for breakfast at 6:10am regardless of age, or even if we were staying home sick. Jeff and I packed our own lunches and were instructed to practice piano in the time between you leaving for work and us walking to school – but we watched Star Blazers instead. As you drove off for work, I would run to the window facing the street and wave. You’d stop your little yellow Chevette in sight of the window, turn on the interior light so I could see you, and wave back. I loved that ritual. We had a complex chore chart that the whole family took part in. In the afternoon, when one of us heard your car on the gravel driveway we’d yell “Mom’s home!” and quickly wipe down the counters and tidy the house for your approval. You somehow always had dinner ready when dad walked in the door.

We were a handful to raise, but you met the challenge head on.

You gave us a lot of responsibility at a young age. We were allowed to roam the woods all day with machetes (I’m assuming you didn’t know about that at the time) and our dog, searching for ponds and frog eggs. You left me at the start of 10ks at a very young age, confident in my ability. “We’ll meet you at the finish line,” you’d say as you placed me in the crowd. I was terrified, but you were always at the finish line, cheering me on. You encouraged us to start working early in life, working for you we were younger and then working outside of the house when we turned the ripe old age of twelve.

I appreciate that you didn’t push me toward any one interest or career (although you did want me to be the weather girl – but I think we all know that I would have been fired for swearing on-air). You let me find my way, change my course and experiment as needed. You put up with me painting all of my furniture a different color every single summer. You didn’t balk when I decided to get my pilot’s license in high school.  You let me work late at my jobs on school nights. You weren’t thrilled when I changed majors in college (AGAIN), but you figured it was my life and I needed to figure it out. The responsibility you gave me at a young age served me well throughout life.

You taught me so much. You taught me to cook and sew and how to recognize different flowers (to keep me distracted during long runs). You taught me to love books and the library and to ALWAYS send a thank you card. You were an inspiration in sports – one hell of a triathlete and bicyclist!  You were always so driven and goal oriented. You would call me at 8am and rattle off a list of every task you had completed that morning while most people were still in their pajamas.

You were in constant motion.

I loved your sense of adventure. You were never happy without a plane ticket in your hand. When we were younger, we backpacked constantly and you had the courage to take me, a four-year-old, on the Chilkoot trail. I can’t imagine. You brought in an exchange student when I was in junior high. You moved the whole family to Iceland my sophomore year of high school. You visited 36 foreign countries, usually touring the cities at a brisk pace with your neck craned, pointing out the sites. We made fun of you, but we wouldn’t be nearly as worldly if not for you. I so appreciate those experiences.

You were the type of mom who let us bring home tadpoles, snails, mice, gerbils and stray cats as pets. You added an iguana and a tarantula. You came to every track meet and soccer game. You frosted and cut and permed my hair (sometimes with detrimental results). You sewed darling outfits and Halloween costumes, and made sure I had piano, Spanish, and drawing lessons. You scrubbed our nails before taking us to the ER for our numerous injuries, and you gave all of the neighbor kids sex ed lectures. With (gasp!) props. You had to suffer the horror of being my teacher for two classes in Iceland and still refrained from murdering me. You celebrated birthdays and holidays with great enthusiasm and little reserve.

Your garden always kicked ass.

As Jeff and I got older you were always excited to watch the grand kids and give them the experiences we had growing up – camping, hiking, swimming and working.  You were an amazing grandma and made a point of building a meaningful relationship with the kids. You knew and loved each one.

Never shying away from an opportunity to roll up your sleeves, you’d show up at the property in Carharts ready to work (with a full meal to share, never forgetting root beer for Toby) and volunteer your time to cook piles of turkeys for a bunch of hungry senior citizens. There was nothing you couldn’t do.

Thank you for teaching me to forever challenge myself in relationships, school, career and sports.  Thank you for teaching me perseverance, dependability and for always sticking up for the underdog.  Thank you for working hard to find my hidden talents.

I’m so grateful that we were celebrating YOU the night before your heart attack. I’m grateful that I got to spend the previous weekend working at Hog Hollow Farm – you were always so excited at the start of each new season. I’m grateful for the many years I had with you, although they’ll never be enough.

You were courageous, beautiful, determined and fiery and I miss you. But every day I see you in the mirror, in pictures of myself, in my actions and in my thoughts. You will always be a part of me. For that, I am most grateful.

I love you,



Filed under 40x40

Bloomsday 2013

DSCN0470I grew up with the annual “forced family fun” that is Bloomsday – a 12k (7.5 mile) race in Spokane with about 50,000 participants. Each year my parents, brother and I would endure the five-hour drive in our carpeted van (with nary a seat) making countless stops for discipline, removal of gum from my hair and/or Chinese fire drills.

Fast forward a few decades. Roper is three and this is his third Bloomsday. Despite my best efforts, I’m turning into my parents.


The 2012 Crew

Every May, my four amazeballs cousins (referred to as One through Four – One being the oldest and Four the youngest), myself, and our collective brood, descend upon Spokane for Bloomsday. We stay with my sweet aunt and uncle who are accustomed to a quiet, tranquil life.

We DESTROY that peaceful existence once a year.

Usually five of us girls and our ten offspring make the trek to Spokane. This year, two of the cousins couldn’t make it so we were down to Cousin One and her two teenage kids (17 and 14) and Cousin Four and her four boys (11, 8, 5, and 1 – ahem, girlfriend has nerves of steel…and overachieving ovaries). The kids will be referred to by their age. Which I have probably listed incorrectly.


A rare quiet moment in the car

With anticipation, I threw a jogger (with tires so threadbare I feared it wouldn’t make another mile) and the kid in the car and hit the road midday Saturday. Three hours and 300 “are we there yet” inquiries later, we arrived.

I immediately sent Roper up to “Bethonia” – the room the kids pile in like puppies to watch movies, build forts, pretend to sleep, and detox from the insane volume of sugar they consume over the weekend. Seriously, I saw the one-year-old handed an ice cream cone at 7am. This is how Bloomsday weekend plays out, people.


Eleven, Roper, and Five

On Saturday, the cousins and I bought matching skorts for race day. We had frank conversations, made terrible jokes and unsuccessfully attempted to force vegetables down the gullets of children. Mostly, we counted the minutes until bedtime. I was stoked because Roper is finally old enough to sleep with the other boys. I deluded myself into thinking this might be the year I’m actually allowed to sleep the night before Bloomsday.


After we put the kids to bed, Cousin Four and I pondered life – reassuring ourselves that we’re perfectly normal and everyone else is crazy. At 10:30pm we decided to investigate the footsteps and meowing coming from the bowels of Bethonia. All of the kids were sacked out except mine. OF COURSE. He was scared and adorable and I put him in my bed where he fell asleep immediately.

Sweet Fancy Moses, that kid kicks like a mule in his sleep. All. Night. Thank God for coffee.


Seventeen, me, Cousin Four, Cousin One and Roper

Race day! Stranding my aunt and uncle with several little ones, Cousins One and Four, me, Roper, Eleven, Fourteen and Seventeen pile into a van. Except for Seventeen. Seventeen inexplicably has her own convertible Mustang (I want to be her when I grow up) and followed us to town. Our car discussion vacillated between skorts being a risky choice (due to SCS, or Sweaty Crotch Syndrome to you laypeople) and the size of whale penises. I just had to look up the plural for penis – it doesn’t come up much.


The van door. Stuck open.

At a stoplight, Cousin One looked out the back window and sees that Seventeen is texting. She stormed out of the van, and in the middle of the intersection yelled, “Put your damn phone down – no texting!” and got back in. Good Mama! Except then the van door wouldn’t close so we had to drive with it wide open with the alarm going off. Cousin Four is from Tacoma and was convinced that we were all going to be pulled from the van and beaten.

We weren’t.


Seventeen and Fourteen – such good beasties!

However we did park next to a sketchy dude casing the join. Huge backpack, no race number and appeared to be writing down license plate numbers. We staged an impromptu photo session to get a picture of him behind Fourteen and Seventeen. With due diligence we reported him to the police who were securing the perimeter of the course – they told us that there was a 50-50 chance that the car would be broken into. We were surprisingly OK with that, as long as Bloomsday didn’t become BOOMsday.

After an hour of waiting we finally crossed the start line. Fourteen and Eleven had already taken off. The rest of us were stuck in the final wave because I had the critter in the jogger. I learned in previous years that you do NOT join an earlier wave with a stroller. They will cut you.


Happy boy

The race was awesome. Mostly because our matching skorts had pockets stuffed with an obscene amount of cash to buy otter pops and lemonade from the street vendors. Everyone = happy. Hey, I never said we were competitive.

Roper’s shining moment was when he got out of the jogger and walked up Doomsday Hill LIKE A BOSS. Unfortunately, when he tried to climb back in the jogger he fell on his head. Oh, the screaming and crying! We eventually got him buckled back in, but he was still whimpering when a lady passed us and – assuming Roper was crying for no reason – snarkily said to him, “you should try actually WALKING the course.” As if she had more to complain about than the kid who just took a digger.

You guys, PEOPLE LIKE THIS MAKE ME WISH I HAD MORE MIDDLE FINGERS. I deserve ice cream for not starting a brawl.


Eight and One

Did I mention that my aunt registered seventeen people for the race? Bloomsday is her Christmas – she gets all excited and signs up anyone she can think of. It’s awesome. My dad was registered twice. So we tried to divvy up the ten extra t-shirt tags as we got close to the finish so we could make quick work of pick-up and hustle back to see if we still had cars. And if the cars still had windows.

As we walked, we sorted the tags and I said, “I have mine, Roper’s, two Chucks and a Tobin.”

“What’s a Tobin?” Seventeen asked, unaware that Tobin is my husband’s full name. For some reason this struck the rest of us as hilarious. Cousin Four quickly shot back, “My shorts are up my Tobin.” Thus, Tobin quickly became synonymous with camel toe. So there’s THAT.

Mortified, he is. (Also, probably a little surprised that he’s married to Yoda)

We didn’t lose any kids. We got our shirts. The cars were still there. The kids had a ball playing together. We ate too much and laughed loudly. Bloomsday 2013 was a success.




Filed under Uncategorized


P1060354bDear Roper,

You are now forty-one months old. How on earth did that happen?! I am only writing to you every few months now. Although you provide enough high jinks and antics to warrant a letter every WEEK, I would rather be participating in the awesomeness than writing about it. And yes, sometimes that “awesomeness” would be better described as “time in the trenches”.

Your spirited personality has not changed over time, only amplified.

We’ve had a rough couple of months, Little Bear. Your beloved Nanny (my mom)  suffered cardiac arrest in the early morning of November 29th and passed away on December 7th.  It was unexpected and devastating and tore my heart apart in grief. She left us as she would have chosen, but way, WAY too early.

P1060046You are too young to fully understand death (I’m not sure I even do) but I did my best to involve you in the transition, while shielding you from the scary stuff. We were very straightforward with the facts. You visited the hospital waiting room almost every day while Nanny was in the ICU and we talked about how she was in a coma and not waking up. When she was taken off life support you chose to come in to say goodbye to her, and you climbed up on a chair so you could kiss her arm and cheek. You attended Nanny’s memorial and participated in some of the planning and many of the discussions.

Although you don’t entirely understand what has happened, I hope that as you get older you will have these memories to knit together. You will know that you were part of the process. My Grandma Bee (Papa Bear’s mama) died when I was four, so I know what it’s like to have confused memories and to be cheated out of having an amazing woman in my life.

You will probably experience the same thing.

Please know that your Nanny loved you with all of her heart. I feel so blessed that she got to know you, know your personality, and spend so much time with you. She was so proud of you, Roper. And in awe of your strong-willed character – I think you guys would have gone toe-to-toe quiet often through the years. I want you to know that she loved you, that when you weren’t together she was thinking about you and buying you presents, and that she got a kick out of telling stories about you.

P1030314Rarely a day goes by that you don’t mention Nanny. You ask about why she’s gone, where she is, if she’ll wake up again and if she can see you. We look at pictures and I tell you that she’s in heaven and that she’s your little angel, and that she will always be in our hearts. I tell you that it’s OK to be sad, but it’s also OK to be happy. That we should celebrate her as much as possible.

It’s been brutal. You’ve seen your mom mourn, rage, weep (ahem…ugly cry) and sometimes raise emotional walls that even you can’t get through. Your schedule was completely upended and you didn’t get to spend much time with me while Nanny was in the hospital and while we were planning her service.

In addition, your mama has been fighting unrelenting health issues and Daddy’s building project at Hootin’ Holler came to a standstill (yes, there is a reason I kick the backhoe every time I get near it). All of this has to be unnerving – our home has not been the nurturing, safe haven I so desperately strive to provide for you.

But I am proud of the amazingly resilient little man you’ve become.

8290101466_cef0e1e017_bYou and your forcefully full-of-awesome personality compelled us to be festive through the holidays. It was such a blessing to have to work toward your excitement about Christmas, decorations, presents, gingerbread houses, and yes, your Elf on the Shelf. You got to spend time with Big Monkey, Auntie C, Super Kate and Austintacious.  You helped run the Christmas Tree Farm and were Papa Bear’s little buddy. You brought the Christmas spirit to us and you owned it. And we love you all the more for it.

Thank you, sweet boy.

For Christmas, we got you a kitten. And then we felt so bad for taking the kitten from its litter mates that we adopted its brother. We are now the proud (and somewhat stressed out) owners of Stumpy and Jax, who are adorable, friendly and completely insane. They fit this family perfectly. You love them both so ferociously that I question their ability to survive you. You bathe with them, rub their face on them, pet them into the ground and sometimes I catch you lying on them. We had to create a new rule stating that whatever you do to the cats, we can do to you. You don’t like this rule.

P1060260Quotes from recent months:

–        “Whatevs” peppers your conversation like a thirteen-year-old girl.

–        “40,000” or “40 pounds” That’s what time it is. Always.

–        “Do tigers live under our house, too? Why do we only get ants?” Tigers would be cooler than ants, but also a tad imposing.

–        “I can’t grow up anymore. I’m stuck. I’ve grown up so fast and I DON’T want to pop.” Valid concern, kiddo.

–        “Can you get a penis at the penis store? I want you to be the same as Daddy and me.” This is still a NO.

–        “I’m just choking.” Said whenever you’re joking.

–        “You’re my sweet girl and I’m Spider Man and I’ll keep you safe.” Said after I asked you to keep an eye out for deer while we were driving home from Papa Bear’s house.

–        “Papa Bear is the coolest guy in the whole world.”  You know what you like…and you like Papa Bear. You also pathetically cry out for him whenever you’re in trouble. You know he’ll always be on your side.

–        “He smells so yummy. I want to eat him up in my tummy like he’s dinner. He’s yummers in my tummers. He’s also my best friend.”  About Jax, who mostly smells like the litter box.

–        “Mama, you have two options…” You’re constantly giving me “two options”, neither of which I like. Which is probably how you feel all the time.

–        “I don’t like Alfie.” Referring to your Elf on the Shelf who tells Santa when you’re naughty or nice.  Apparently, you aren’t keen on that sort of accountability.

–        “He’s just telling me he loves me. That’s all.” Referring to the cat’s mewling when you’re squishing him.

I’ve become proficient at picking locks. You like to lock yourself in Mama and Daddy’s room and DESTROY it. You take all the hangers out of the closet, throw dirty laundry and garbage all over the floor, and throw all of the books and magazines on the bed. The worst part is that you usually lock the cats in the room with you. And you scare them. You scare the poop out of them.

Dude, you made one of them poop in my bed. Not that you haven’t done that yourself.

20130106_133543Roper, it’s been a crazy several months. You learned to ski!! I threw out my shoulder with my overenthusiastic fist pumping just now. You rode the trolley. We made many, many loops around town that day. Hanne visited us from Denmark. You went trick-or-treating and participated in Turkey on the Run. We found out that you are MUCH better at preschool than I am. Seriously, if you don’t graduate from high school it will be because I couldn’t read the instruction correctly, or you were in jail at the time. Equally likely.

You went through a phase of BAing me in public. While wrestling with Daddy and me, you pulled a steak knife.  You like to wake me up by throwing things at my head. One time I hid behind the staircase and shouted “boo!” as you came around the corner. You punched me in the nose. Roper, you have unbelievable instinct and an ability to sense weakness and attack. You give your mama hell. Your focus, willfulness and tenacity will serve you well in the future. Right now, it just exhausts me.

baby roperBut underneath your quick reflexes and unparalleled stubbornness is the sweetest boy I’ve ever met. Your capacity to love people and animals, so wholly and fully, amazes me. We could all learn from you. Little Bear, I love you with a ferocity and depth that takes my breath away. If someone told me on that first day I was finally allowed to hold you (hooked to all those machines and looking like the tough little guy that you are) that I could ever love you more than at that moment, I wouldn’t have believed them. But I do. I love you to the moon and back, times infinity. And then a little more each and every new day.


Your Mama



Filed under Letters to Roper


The next time a friend’s child turns three, I will send the parents a fifth of vodka and a catcher’s mask. Because that is necessary equipment. For you regulars who are awaiting my monthly letter to Roper, I have made the switch to quarterly letters, (Spoiler alert: he still wants me to buy a penis at the “penis store”. It is his opinion that I’m under-equipped and at a disadvantage.) but here’s a fix to get you through to next month.

6:14am Awakened by a small tyrant shouting an inch from my face, “Wake up, I want dinner!” Does his spit count as a shower?

7:03am Email to Toby…

Subject: Plumbing

Roper unwound an entire roll of toilet paper and put it in the toilet. On top of his poop. It’s piled higher than the seat. I don’t even know how to begin. Do we have a bucket I can put it all in?

Can I interject here? I think it was actually TWO rolls of toilet paper…and he didn’t use a single square of that paper to wipe.

12:34pm Phone call to Toby explaining Roper’s earlier garbled/proud/excited voicemail…

Yeah. He wanted you to know that he was hanging on the door handle of the car while standing on the tire (as I have repeatedly told him not to do) and the door swung open smashing the back of his head into the wall of the carport, while simultaneously smashing his face with the door. And then he dropped on the ground and hit the back of his head on the cement. *sigh* He’s fine. Disturbingly fine.

1:00pm Screamfest 2012. The critter has lungs…2026 Freediving World Champion? Is there any money in that? Because that would TOTALLY make today worth it.

2:28pm Email to Toby…

Subject: Mer

No, he’s not napping. Yes, I am drinking.

3:31pm Roper is standing on the coffee table wearing only his underpants (festooned with Tow Mater) shouting “I am a ROCK STAR!” and playing air guitar.

Is it so wrong that I’m working with headphones right now? We’re both still alive. I count that as a win. #WINNING


Filed under Parenting


I figured it would be easier on EVERYONE if, instead of having a full-fledged midlife crisis, I created a list of 40 goals to accomplish by the time I turn 40. You know, to keep me busy. Forty happens to be creeping up on me quickly – less than a year and a half away!

I have been so inspired by some of my friends’ lists and subsequent successes. It was interesting coming up with my own 40 and trying to decide what the overarching goal was for this exercise. Some of these are repeats that deserved a second shot (4,7,9,23&40), some are incomprehensibly huge and involved (1&13), and some I have previously attempted and failed (11,12&25). All of them deserve my attention.

I’ve had this list rattling around in my brain for quite some time, so I already started on a few of the big ones. It’s going to be quite an adventure. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Crikey, it’s intimidating to put these into print!

  1. Move onto the Hootin’ Holler property
  2. Put in raised (veggie) beds at Hootin’ Holler
  3. Adopt a pet (or five) from the humane society.
  4. Return to Belize to scuba dive
  5. Rage Stevens Pass Bike Park
  6. Try wakeboarding
  7. Hike the Enchantments Traverse
  8. Bike the Apple Century Bike Ride (50 miles)
  9. Ski Hog Loppet
  10. Incorporate yoga and meditation into lifestyle
  11. Be complaint-free for 21 days (better start now…I foresee this being a multi-attempt goal)
  12. Lose 40 lbs.
  13. Eliminate the majority of Fibromyalgia/Hashimoto’s symptoms
  14. Go to Speed Week at the Bonneville salt flats
  15. Visit Deception Pass
  16. Explore Stehekin
  17. Woodland Park Zoo w/ Little Bear
  18. Seattle Aquarium w/ Little Bear
  19. Mother/son camping trip
  20. Solo camping trip
  21. Winthrop bike trip with Toby and Roper
  22. Disappear for a weekend. Preferably to write.
  23. Road trip!
  24. Volunteer at The Lighthouse
  25. Read the bible cover-to-cover
  26. Read/reread five of the top ten books ever written
  27. Work through my Instant Immersion Spanish DVDs
  28. Finish and submit two children’s picture books
  29. Complete outline for next novel (or finish/edit the last two)
  30. Take a writing class at WVC
  31. Go target shooting
  32. Learn to play three (yet to be determined) songs really well on the guitar
  33. Try out for a play
  34. Bind a book of my letters to Roper
  35. Write a letter to 5 people who have inspired me, changed my life and/or supported me
  36. Walk away from everything and enjoy a beer/tea/bath and force myself to forget obligations/deadlines/frustrations for one hour, twice a week
  37. Go through everything we own: organize it, give it away, or get rid of it.
  38. Create photo albums for our wedding, Roper, Roper’s Art and Hootin’ Holler
  39. Keep a gratitude journal
  40. Brew something (beer, kombucha, rootbeer….)


Filed under 40x40

37 Prime (yeah!) Months

Dear Roper,

You are now thirty-seven months old. As usual, you have kept us on our toes. So has Mother Nature – our beautiful valley has been on fire for most of this month. The day before the fires started (from a stunning lightning storm) we all went biking on the Sage Hills trails. It was the first time all three of us were on wheels together and you, my dear, rocked it. Two days later, we could see walls of flames sweeping across those very hills. Tragically beautiful. You’ve been very worried about “your” trails ever since.

With the fires came smoke, and with the smoke came extremely hazardous air quality. This meant no outside play. For the record, I think it’s FAR more dangerous to have the two of us locked up in the house together for days on end than to be outside in the smoke. Tempers were short. When you get mad you literally throw yourself against the wall, belly flop on the floor, hit, kick, throw, scream, and rage about. It’s something to behold. My tantrums look pretty similar, but I have a tad more flair.

Don’t worry, it comes with experience. I’ve got a few years on you.

The silver lining to the fires and poor air quality (aside from your apparent albuterol highs) is that we got to take some pretty fun trips together in search of clean air. You’re great company on a road trip. You “read” your books for long periods of time, you have an eagle eye for spotting interesting things along the way, and you make up wildly hilarious songs.

Boo and Heeed were the first to take us in (after I promised to teach you that cops are bigger heroes than firefighters). You loved playing with the dogs and riding on the lawnmower. We even got to watch pumpkin chunkin with trebuchets and visit the reptile zoo. In a word, AWESOME. I love listening to you and Boo talk about anything and everything. Watching you work your way into the Big Man chair to nestle under Heeed’s arm reminded me that you’re still a little guy under all of that big boy bravado.

After a few days back in the smoke we drove over the passes again to stay with Ang and your three “cuzzies” for a couple of days.  You love being around those kids. So much so, that I almost feel bad for not providing you with siblings. AND THEN I REGAIN MY SANITY. You harassed the girls, and tried to sleep in their room. You and Hawkeye had jumping contests and played with cars. You all sprawled on the couch like a pile of puppies. Little Bear, you thrived in the chaos. But you didn’t sleep. At all.

I’m still holding a grudge – consider yourself warned.

From there, we rented an old farmhouse with Erin, Justin and baby Liam. Your dad was able to join us for the weekend and we relished every moment! The house was on a working farm and you fed the calves, pigs and sheep. Sheer delight. We visited (and were kicked out of) a pumpkin patch. T-bird paid us a surprise visit. The whole weekend was beautiful, relaxing, and full of clean air. Our lungs sung! On the way home we took you mountain biking and you impressed us with your enthusiasm and moxie. Your skills will surpass mine far too fast.

Roper, you are a VERBAL NINJA. You’ve learned that you can stop us in our tracks, make us laugh, and yes, stab us right in our hearts with just your words. The power! You play and experiment with language and rhyme. I have to admit that the writer in me is stoked – even when you’re using your words for evil – because dude, you have mad craft for a little guy.

Some of my favorite quotes from this month:

– After being reprimanded for deliberately and defiantly coughing right in our faces. “My heart grew so big that it blew out of my mouth.”  I have to give you points for creativity on that one.

– Out of the blue, while we were at Boo’s house. “Mama, why don’t you trade in your vagina and get a penis so you can be like daddy and me?”  So. Many. Reasons.

– Screamed from the back of the car. “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, and I’m FRAGILE!”  Me too. Only now I have a 38-inch-tall tyrant screaming at me from the back seat. NOT HELPING.

– To Erin, when we were staying at the farmhouse:  “I’m growing up right now. Like a little flower.” Most kids grow like a weed. You grow like a flower. If you didn’t sweat straight testosterone, I would read more meaning into this.

– Near Stevens Pass, while we let you steer the car by yourself on a back road. “I need some MUSIC!” Because driving a car isn’t enough for you, you need a soundtrack. Incidentally, this activity isn’t recommended for three-year-olds. But it was safer than it sounds. Stop judging. STOP.

– When I tried to get you to eat the gummy bear in your hand so you could continue biking: “You carry your friend in your belly. That’s not very nice – he can’t see in there. I want to carry my friend in my hand so he can see.” I will carry all of your friends in my belly if you don’t watch it.

You will repeat high-fives until you get a satisfactory slap, you love riding your bike after dark with a headlamp, and you dress up as Superman to run errands. You sound like a maniac when you laugh and you’re always up for an adventure – which is good because I’m always planning one.

You were on the cover of the Wenatchee World again. I think it’s safe to say you’re a media whore – I might start renting you out. Little Bear, there is something about you that captures and engages people. I always tell friends you’ll either end up famous or infamous, we’re not sure which. I won’t lie; you are a difficult child to raise. You’re smart, stubborn, destructive, manipulative and FAST. But you make up for all of that in spades with your giant heart, sweet disposition, quirky sense of humor and complete-party-package personality.

You bring light and laughter to so many people and I only hope that we reflect it back to you. I love you Little Bear. To the moon and back, times infinity.


Your Mama


Filed under Uncategorized


Dear Roper,

Congratulations – you just completed your third trip around the sun! You are now 36 months old. (Editor’s note: you’re now 36 months AND A WEEK …. your mama is a slacker)  You have brought so much joy, laughter and love into our lives. But it’s been a wild ride. Possibly three of the craziest years of my life. Not just because of you – although you’ve added your share of crazy – but because we’ve had so many other big things going on in our lives. Like building a house, dealing with major health issues, and trying to keep our marriage from derailing in the chaos.

Through all of the bumps and hiccups along the way YOU help keep us on target. Having you in our lives reminds us to look beyond ourselves and remember what’s important. The other day, after your dad said “no” to one of your many requests, you came and asked me the same question. I said no as well and you asked, “Why you say no, too? Why are you and Daddy a team?” That’s right, your dad and I are on the same team. And we’re ready to paint our faces and wave foam fingers if that’s what it takes to win.

Some days I view raising you as an extreme sport. You, my sweet, sweet boy, can be quite a handful. You are smart, strong-willed and wild. We can’t tire you out. We take you for miles-long bike rides or hikes, and you will come home even more energetic. At times, you appear to be vibrating with excess energy and personality. And then you bust out dance moves, air punches and somersaults. Yes, even in the tub.

You speak like a five-year-old. From the backseat you will ask, “Why are there so many bad drivers?” You wander upstairs and say, “I just came up to see if you need any help.” When your dad physically removes you from whatever destruction you were dispensing you howl, “Ohhhhhh, my poor little heart! My poor little heart!”  When you’re done with a breathing treatment (which you run yourself) you give a big sigh and say “Phew! THAT was hard work.”

You also speak like the newly minted three-year-old that you are with your, “I toot-toot on your face! HAHAHA!” and your, “Macaroni, applesauce, poopy diaper! Haaaaa! Did you hear that? Poopy diaper! That’s FUNNY!” And then you do a little dance where you stick out your bum-bum out and shake it while pointing at it.

THAT. That’s why we don’t take you out in public as often these days.

Little Bear, you have put the smackdown on several big milestones in the last month. You’re now fully potty trained – you don’t even wear a pull-up at night!  The first night we decided to let you go commando, we weren’t really thinking. You had dinner at your Oma and Opa’s house where you proceeded to drink seventeen liters of juice while I wasn’t looking. Yikes. You woke up in the middle of the night and proceeded to complete an obstacle course (in pitch dark) that would make the Warrior Dash look tame. When you finally reached the bathroom, you couldn’t reach the light. You came into our bedroom, flicked on our light and stood there starting at us with the intensity of a man who had given his all to climb a mountain, only to realize it was a false summit.

Dude. You’re a camel. We could see how desperate you were by the look in your eyes, but also by the little trail of dribbles that marked your earlier path. When we finally got you on the toilet you peed for approximately twenty-seven minutes. Bravo, my man. BRAVO. You have gone commando every night since without any accidents.

You gave up your binky! You were given your first binky when you were less than a day old and putting in your time in the NICU. We spent the next two years trying to get you to go without it for two minutes so we could take a picture of you without that thing stuffed in your face. Eventually, we were able to get you to only use it while sleeping…and then we started cutting them. You alternated between thinking this was a cool “big boy” thing, and thinking we were trying to snuff out your will to live. For months we talked about how three-year-olds don’t use binkies. Apparently that worked because you gave them up for good a few days before your birthday. Did I mention that three-year-olds also clean toilets? No? Well, they do.

You quit taking naps. Also known as Your Worst Idea Ever. You’ll take a nap for anyone except me. Do you have a death wish, SON? I have explained to you many times over that I am an unlikely mom and need a little of my own time when I can work, use my brain, and engage in the world. Do. Not. Take. This. From. Me.  I think we’ve come to an agreement about you taking a little afternoon quiet time in your room…sometimes you accidentally fall asleep. And I strut around the house beating my chest and shouting “THAT. JUST. HAPPENED!” Except I don’t shout because I don’t want to wake you. I just mouth the words with exaggerated emphasis.

You started a new preschool. We camped at the property. You had a weekend with Papa and Nanny. You went to Hood Canal with the whole herd of Steere (minus your mama and daddy because we were visiting the happiest place on earth – Whistler Bike Park). You spent a fun-filled day down at Crescent Bar. You caught another fish and collected more cars. You were celebrated by both sides of your family on your birthday – you are so loved!

It’s been an adventure, Little Boy – the past month, the past year, the whole ride. And I would not trade in one single moment. Yes, I complain about your stubbornness and poke fun at your temper, but I would much rather have a spirited child than a passive child. I love you when you’re furious and manipulative, and when you’re sweet and hilarious. I love every bit of you from your fuzzy white-blond hair down to your adorably filthy toes.  I love you ALWAYS. And that will never change.

I’m so blessed and honored to be your mama, Little Bear. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings – what you’ll learn and what you’ll teach us. I think about your future and can’t help but smile. Thank you for bringing all of your joy, energy and upheaval into our lives. And for putting up with our cuddles and kisses when you really just want to PLAY.


Your Mama

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Filed under Letters to Roper