Hiawatha Bike Trail

I did the most amazing thing today- I rode my bike down the Hiawatha Trail in Idaho and Montana!  If I’m totally truthful, I have to give all the credit to my mama and my Aunt Ree for the idea.  My auntie has ridden the trail a number of times and planted the seed in my mom’s head that this was a ‘Must Do Event’ when in the Idaho panhandle area.  I was like, “Ok.  That sounds fine.”  I was willing to go but I wasn’t turning cartwheels or anything.  I was so absent-minded about it, in combo with the school year ending, that I didn’t even remember to bring our helmets or headlamps, but my dear mom was undeterred!  She rented bikes, helmets, lamps, transportation and pretty much anything else we needed!  It was like Christmas in July, let me tell you, because it was breathtaking!!!   (I know it’s June, picky picky😋)

{The picture of Jude and me cracked me up. He was telling me to just drive! Don’t take the picture!!! His little face says it all. The other kids are my niece and nephew, and of course, my Gigi. :)}

The trail starts out just five miles past the Idaho/Montana border on I-90 east.  After winding through some dusty, gravely roads, you reach the trailhead and park.  Prior to this, hopefully you stopped at the pass, like we did, to pay for the trail pass and shuttle, because what you get to do is ride your bike on an old railroad down a mountainside for 15 miles!  The entire trail was downhill and a shuttle picks you up at the bottom to take you and your gear back up to the trailhead.  You can ride your bike back up the mountain, but in the 95 degree weather, to me, that sounds unsavory.  

We stood around getting our gear ready until we were nice and sweaty, then took off and were immediately plunged into a freezing cold, underground tunnel that was 1.68 miles long! We were prepared with headlamps, but sadly, I was not prepared with batteries and they forgot to give Jude, on the tag along, a headlamp. No light, in combination with the rapid shift from blazing sun and pitch dark, made for an unnerving transition. Well, unnerving is putting it lightly. We were freaked out. I had a wobbly eight year old and no light. Water was dripping. The walls were creepy. People were heading towards us in the opposite direction, blinding us… It was intense. I was glad to reach the end of that and so happy to emerge into the beautiful sunshine and sweeping views. There were several more tunnels after that one but they were all short and didn’t require as much reliance on the headlamps. I marveled, the whole time, at what I was able to partake in. The bridges were high, historical and incredible, riding alongside the sheer cliffs was terrifying in a deeply satisfying way and chatting and singing along with my boy as we rode was magical. Our shuttle driver entertained us on the way back up with historical stories along the way of the railroad, the great fire of 1910 that, incidentally, burned through a Rhode Island swath of forest in 48 hours, and learned about the local wildlife.

 I seriously had the best time, and I was extra proud because I was the adult in charge who lead the expedition with confidence.  It was great.  I can’t wait to take Bradley next year and strongly suggest it to anyone who happens to be crossing through the panhandle.  It took us a total of about three hours of riding and being shuttled back up to the top, total.  Thanks Mom.  Today we created something that will last a lifetime and it was way better than anything I could ever find under a Christmas tree during any month of the year.

I give five stars to the trail- beautiful & well maintained!

2 stars to the customer service because they were snarky, forgot to give us the headlamps we paid for, were rude and allowed a family with the same sized party to cut us in front of us on the shuttle despite my loud protests, and we ended up having to wait 90 minutes for the next shuttle.  But hey- at least we didn’t have to ride back up the hill!

4 stars to the shuttle driver who distracted us from the sheer cliffs with potential moose sightings and yelled over the top of ye olde school bus engine to teach us the local history.  🙂

If you go, bring a water bottle to refill at the water stations along the way, sunscreen, a sweatshirt for the freezing-cold tunnels, a headlamp/flashlight, a small snack for the bottom of the hill, sunglasses, some riding gloves and your camera.  Your back will get a rooster tail of mud but you won’t care, your butt will fall asleep from the vibration of the gravel under your tires and your hands may get sore for the same reason, but you won’t care.  It’s an awesome experience!


I’m sitting here listening to the bullfrog’s song and the cricket’s chirp as the sun goes down on another Idaho day.  My grandfather, The Colonel, retired to his mother’s vacation property in the 1980’s.  After the purchase was finalized, he drew up plans for his dream home: a darling alpine chalet nestled between the vast Lake Pend Oreille and the tiny little fishing Lake Gamlin which he moved into as soon as it was complete.  Long before that, my parents spent their first years of marriage here, the cold, harsh, icy winter driving them to find work in the warmer, wetter Seattle area.  It’s a place of family and history, Idaho is.  I helped build this house.  Well, I helped to spackle walls and stain trim in between swimming in the warm, weedy lake and playing in the old honeymoon cabin, leftover from the days my great grandmother rented out boats and lakeside shacks.  It’s a magical place.  Its simplicity and normality allows for those molasses-slow, summer afternoons that give the impression of an eternal summer.  It allows for the kind of boredom that spawns the best kinds of ideas and endless hours floating with the lily pads in the heat.  It’s where I’ve spent hours with cousins under the bright Milky Way talking, toilet papering, moose-ing, singing, laughing, confessing secrets and skinny dipping.  Now it’s home to my own mom and dad who moved over here as caretakers of the property and to spend time with my grandfather.  It was always their dream to live here and it’s a lovely thing that they’ve returned as it means I get to give my own kids Idaho, too.  So here we are, letting down our hair in the slowest vacation spot I have the privilege to visit when I can.  Idaho.❤️ 

I didn’t love Idaho as a kid; it’s funny that this place is such a part of my blood, now.  

This morning my dad ran into town (a 30 minute drive each way) to get my grandpa for a visit and I decided to go for a quick run.  The road in front of the property is flat and just about a mile from one hairpin turn to the gravel hill past the bendy tree at the end.  I ran it back and forth to total just a little over two miles today.  The sun was beating down and I was surprised at how little I minded the heat.  My body has changed so much over the past few years- running in heat used to give me cramps and asthmatic fits, not to mention getting overheated, sweaty and panicked!  But today I just slogged along…  And it was great.  I was keenly surprised that I’m as out of shape as I felt today.  I know that it’s a new place with different air and altitude, but my lungs burned for most of my run today.  I kept on, but it was a lot harder than I’m used to it being which made me doubly glad that I’m getting back to it.  Two runs from now I’ll be back in shape and starting to push distance again.  Truth be told, I CANT WAIT!!!  I’m excited to get in good shape again this summer!

Queen Freddie Sparkles Zool Littlejohn is just as sweet as can be.  Paired with her sister (current name Gypsy), they are quite the pair.  They’re role poly, falling all over one another, sharp-toothed, little nippers.  Guinevere is simply in love.  It’s only day two and already Freddie Sparkles follows her everywhere and they’re joined at the lap.  It’s most certainly true love!  

Accountability Group number two is starting up on July 1st.  Because the accountability group last time happened during a really busy time, this time around I am looking forward to being able to really invest in myself a little more and really make some meaningful goals.  If you’re interested in being in my accountability group just link up with me on Facebook.  Sadly, you actually have to friend me all official-like for me to add you, not just be a Tamara Shazam follower.  Last time it lead to some awkward friending and me feeling like I was trying to amass a huge friend following or some such weirdness, but I swear it’s the only way I can add you.  ANYHOW, just click over and friend me if you want to join, then message me in some kind of fashion to let me know that you’re interested in the accountability group.  M’Kay?!  🙂

PS: Can you believe how tall Guinevere looks in that family picture with my grandfather?  I’ve always assumed I’d look like a giantess in any picture with her, but she looks like she’s about to eclipse me in her height!  She has a few inches, but oh my goodness!  There’s an actual woman underfoot!

No Bummer Summer!

Today marks my first official day of summer.  My students and I spent our final morning together first, at an assembly and then just together.  We talked about lifting one another up as we step into the world together.  I reminded them to share who they really are, to share their love.  And there were tears.  With five minutes left and all of the Bamboozled jelly beans tested, my kids suddenly rushed me, gathered around my legs with tears in their eyes and I couldn’t help but join in.  Parting ways with my 2015-2016 class was especially heart-wrenching for some reason…  I am going to miss them terribly.  Bradley says that I say that every year, and I suppose that’s true, but it doesn’t change the acute sadness that accompanies saying goodbye to 25 little blessings every year…  But conversely, how lucky am I to get to know those 25 sweethearts every year?  Pretty dang lucky.  Anyhow, the dress they made for me turned out beautifully and I was proud to wear it to school and to the after school staff party.  🙂

Unfortunately, I got home from my last day of work, full of summertime vigor, and Bradley decided to go to the library.  On his way back, a lady ran a red light and hit him, probably totaling his car and leaving him with an injury in his hand- you know, the hand he uses to draw with, play the guitar with, play the piano with…  It’s a little unnerving.  We laid low today, took a walk and chased our tails in circles arranging insurance visits, seeing the doctor and all the other fun stuff that comes with an auto accident.  An old friend of mine (BFF circa ages 11-14) came by and it was incredible to sit with someone who knows me three decades deep.  It was like stepping into familiar shoes or smelling that unique home smell- natural, unforced and really pleasant; worth a repeat for sure.  We also made our plans for the summer with goals near and far.  If we follow this plan, there will be a no bummer summer indeed!  I’ve decided that the car wreck will be our one and only bummer of the season, ok universe?!!  Im really proud that each of my kids has a solid running goal- Jude wants to run a 5k and Gigi is training for the half marathon!  Personal goals of mine are also to smash book more often, run 3-5 times a week, train for the half marathon, weight lift, lose 8 pounds (maybe), hike locally a bunch, create and stock a teachers pay teachers account and spend time loving on my kids.  Sound reasonable?  😋

Weekend Update

Today we broke our ‘not running’ streak with the first run since 5/30!  Yahoo!  In fact, this week I actually met all of my goals: I dialed back the stress level by taking care of my jobs as quickly as possible, I walked twice and ran once and I got my nutrition back into control.  Well, mostly.  Baby steps, right?  I have a tendency to move at a snail’s pace and do things slowly because I fear failure in this area so much, so I’ll definitely take a ‘getting there’ process week.  The hard work will come, again.  I’m giving myself until school is officially out before I return to my running and eating plans in earnest…  Which brings up something interesting: I went on a big ole bender including a relatively large share of ice cream and sour patch watermelon candies, no exercise and very few vegetables and only gained two pounds.  It’s a little frustrating to think about.  I bust my booty eating right and working out, trying to strengthen this machine I live in, and it’s odd that such a dietary and exercise shift to the negative didn’t have a greater impact on my weight.  To be clear, I’m not complaining, I just think it’s really weird.  

Moving forward, I have two and a half days of school left.  We have a somewhat normalish morning on Monday, but then it’s all an endgame from there with parties, read ins and fun stuff to close it out.  It will be a great ending.  I’ve finished report cards and put away most of my classroom.  I feel oddly still, this June, as I’m usually packing boxes full of my stuff as I’ve moved almost every year, except one, during the last five.  I’m actually saying goodbye to my kiddos, hugging them, playing with them, laughing, singing and doing all the stuff that kids remember.  It’s been fun.  

Yesterday my own two finished out their shared time in elementary school.  She’s off to junior high, next year, while he is no longer a primary students and stepped up to intermediate as a 3rd grader.  It was our last morning for a picture like this as separate schools also have separate start times and our mornings are about to get a little more complicated with a bus added into the mix.  I hate to be maudlin, but it’s one more measure of distance between us all as we continue to spread out further and further.  It’s incredible, the rate at which life flies by.  I feel lucky to live it with this much love…  But I do wish it would slow down just a tad.

{Meet our newest family member: Queen Freddie Sparkles Zool Littlejohn}

This summer we are determined to strengthen our familial bonds.  We are headed to my parent’s to pick up our new little puppy family member, a good visit an some lake time, first,  followed by a road trip to Northern California.  I’m so excited to hike the Redwoods as a capable, fit and healthy person for the first time.  Bradley and I haven’t been since we were 26 & 27 years old and I was easily 290 pounds.  I remember he wanted to hike the Avenue of the Giants and it just seemed like too much for me at the time.  Not anymore!  Finally, miracle of miracles, we’ll close out our summer with a trip to Hogwarts and Disneyland.  We weren’t sure we were going to go, but then the combination of an amazing deal coupled with the acute awareness that our daughter is rapidly coming into all kinds of adult information about the mythical and magical beings whom we invite into our homes, keeping the magic alive in our family seemed important.  We went from a staycation summer to a summer full of adventure!  I’m so excited!!!

Carrot & Stick

Vegetarian Times Magazine has a monthly segment in which they hand out carrots and sticks- a carrot for a job well done for animal advocacy and a stick to the people who make unkind choices when it comes to animals.  When I break from blogging it is always daunting to pick it back up without writing a novella about events that passed by, so this time I decided to choose two events: a carrot and a stick…

(Having nothing to do with animals except that none were eaten by me during this time!😂😜)

A Carrot Goes to…  The Oak Heights Staff & PTSA!

This is definitely prompted by an award I received today.  At our annual volunteer assembly I was honored with the Educator of the Year award from our PTSA complete with a framed certificate, apple trophy and golden apple pin.  As our PTSA president read the laundry list of reasons why I was chosen, I was flattered to realize that the extra spin I put on my job to make it a bit shinier and sparklier for my students is noticed.  I take the academics I have to teach and attempt to twist them into something fun, engaging and intrinsic for the kids (with varying degrees of success, it must be noted).  Sometimes I question whether it’s worth it and I think it’s safe to say that yes, it definitely is appreciated!  On my way across the courtyard, trophy in hand, a small group of my fellow teachers applauded me and told me how I brought spirit with me to Oak Heights.  They shared that they appreciate my friendship as well as my teaching.  I was speechless and so appreciative.  Any doubts are officially evaporated.

But then, on the way home, on the freeway, I started thinking about the amazing staff I get to work with.  I thought about how much I didn’t want to leave my last school and about how right it was that I had to move.  I thought about how from the moment I landed at OHE I felt acceptance, friendship and, dare I say, love.  I felt community.  I felt curiosity and a sense that I had something to share.  I realized I had joined a team of people who love students, every day.  People who believe in children, respect them, honor who they are.  I became a part of a community of educators with character, which I believe is so important.  Looking forward, I’m spinning with joy.  You know Snoopy, when he dances on his tiptoes with his nose in the air?  That’s me.  Not only do I already work with an amazing team, my principal has hired three teachers who have kind of a celebrity status to me and I’m all nervous, blushing excited to work with them.  Just…  Gush.  I love my job, my school, my students, my colleagues, just WOW.  I feel so lucky tonight.  It’s a good way to end the year!

A Stick Goes To…  Cap’n Not-Awesome and the Great Candy Caper

I’ve been on a bender.  I’ve already decided to forgive myself and not beat myself up.  While I’d rather if I hadn’t broken my  mostly pretty clean, four-year-running, self controlled eating streak, I have to cut myself some slack.  It took me this long to get here and there was definitely a trigger.

It all started with my last race.  After the Brooks Trailhead 5k I was pretty worn out so I decided to take maybe a two week break.  After the two weeks, my family confessed to me that life is better when the spector of my obsessive running isn’t breathing down our collective necks, so I decided to intuitively run.  There’s a reason I never tried this practice before- if I were made to intuitively run I would have done it before.  You know.  When I was gaining 150 pounds.  So as my exercise dwindled away to nothing, so did my self control.  At first I was like WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!?!  Why can I seemingly NOT STOP putting things in my mouth?  Food I never eat- like Sour Patch Kids and crap like that.  Admission: I ate an entire can of Lays Sour Cream and Onion Stacks on Monday during work.  I still haven’t brought myself to looking at the calorie content- because yikes, but it doesn’t matter now, anyhow…  I realized that when I stopped running, Zumba dancing, ellipticalling, weight lifting and walking that I also gave up my coping tools.  And guess what my favorite, all time best coping tool has always been?  If you guessed food, you are right.  

At this point, the scale mocks me from the corner of my bedroom so I am naive at the damage done, but I’m proud to say that once I recognized the problem (no coping tool for stress prompting an unhealthy reliance on food) I’ve been able to begin the process of steering myself back onto the road.  Thank goodness.

Within the stick there’s a carrot, though.  Never once during my bender did I think it was ok.  Never once did I feel comfortable consuming food of that quality  in that quantity.  Never once did I think I was going to slide down that slippery slope to the dark side.  I have the confidence now to know it’s short term.  I’ve got it and when it’s time I’ll turn it around.  Now that the binge/bender had its season, my inner fat girl is almost stashed back in her closet and I’m getting back to it.  Bradley and I have a running date this weekend that I have every intention of keeping.

Anniversary #17

It’s totally true.  I’m off the exercise and weightloss wagon right now.  At first, I was panicking- like, what am I going to do?!  Common sense eludes me sometime and I just get anxious, filled with worry, then depressed.  Thankfully I reached out to Jess, from Runs For Coffee, and she confessed to similar issues she dealt with several weeks ago.  She told me to take a breath and call it maintenance.  For some reason, when I call it maintenance it feels like I’m on track so she totally put me at ease.  Since then I’ve just been chilling.  Taking one day at a time, taking it at face value, not expecting much of myself other than just survival and making it happen.  I feel like I might be reaching a balance point again where I can catch my breath.  Inhale.  Exhale.  Breathe…

I’m not crazy, I promise you that.  Or at least any crazier than the rest of the mid-forties-with-kids set.  It’s the end of the school year, I’m a teacher, I decided to put on an insect museum with my own class and talent show for the whole school, end of year evaluations happened* and saying goodbye to what has to be one of my favorite groups of students I’ve ever worked with is more emotional than one might imagine…  It’s a lot. 

This week should finally turn back to a more normal place.  I’ve got the academics for the year planned out, all my copies are made, paper is chopped.  My volunteers are all lined up for special events and I even ordered a dress for the kids to decorate that I’ll wear near the last day.  I hope that my brain can relax enough to start with a little physical activity again.  I’ve done a few hikes and walks, but I’d like to squeeze a run or two in this week.  I haven’t gained any weight, but I’d also like to stop night binging.  While it’s controlled binging, I feel habits creeping in that I don’t appreciate and I need to nip them in the bud.

Today is my 17th wedding anniversary.  We both wear glasses now, our weight has changed and we have two kids, now, but that’s any all that has changed.  I’d jump again if he asked, again, today.  Last weekend the kids went away for a night and we walked around Edmonds, took in the view, ate at our favorite wine bar and headed home.  Today it is supposed to be 90 degrees, or some ridiculous temperature, so I’m glad we celebrated last week.  I imagine today will be an anniversary for the back patio, a BBQ and some pool time!  🙂

[Everyone needs a #1 fan.  Going through our archives I found something my husband made when I first started running- is this true love or what?!  What a nice find on our anniversary!  ❤️]

* My evaluation went great.  I’m a fabulous teacher.  That might sound arrogant or flip, but I was seriously questioning whether or not I was in the right field a few years ago.  I was being evaluated by a person who has a very different philosophy on what education should look like than me and as a result I earned terrible marks and had decided to give teaching one more year to see if it really is my jam.  A new environment allowed me a different kind of space to spread my wings in and I found that not only am I a decent teacher, my classroom is the kind I would want my own kids to learn in.  I’m by no means perfect, but I honest to goodness try hard, teach well, give my all and love each kid as much as possible.  Coming from a place of such despair and low self esteem, regarding my self-perception as a teacher, to being able to say that I am a good teacher AND to be backed up by my evaluator with the highest marks possible means the world to me.