Category Archives: Joshua


Travels with Faramir

wfmw I’m not sure this technically counts as a Works for Me Wednesday post. It’s a trifle long, but very worth reading. I can say that somewhat objectively since I didn’t write it.

I call it:

A Lord of the Rings Inspired Hike — by Tim

Every three or four years, I like to venture out into the Great Outdoors™, if only to maintain my reputation as a master woodsman.

It seems like only yesterday when I hiked with my two oldest sons (Slug and Weasel) in the beautiful Duckabush valley. Still, my dedication to the sport is such that I rarely let more than a decade go by, without some excursion or other into the hills and forests. Even a man in peak physical condition like myself must take care to maintain his physique.

The end of the trackless waste
We had to park 1/4 mile from the trailhead, because we forgot to buy a parking pass.

I had occasion recently to spend a weekend with my oldest son, as we carefully navigated the excellent Passport 2 Purity curriculum published by Family Life Today. While that is worthy of some discussion, I’ll write about it some other time. My wife, Latte, is often critical of my long, wandering and pointless blog posts. “The server only has 300 gigabytes of storage, you know,” she fleers. (If there is anything worse than a techno-phobe spouse, it is one that knows just enough to be dangerous. But I digress.)

One part of the weekend that the Family Life people recommend, is to bake in 2-4 hours of time for some kind of fun event, in case the rest of the weekend is miserably uncomfortable. “You want this weekend to be a happy memory,” they sagely advise. I asked my oldest son what he would like to do as a father-and-son activity, giving him several attractive options:

  • Normalizing a relational database together
  • Collaborating on the design of the middleware for a data integrity application
  • A joint effort in organizing all the tools in our garage
  • Teaming up to mow the lawn
  • Hiking together up to a lake in the Olympic Mountains
  • Sharing a visit to a local history museum

For some reason he didn’t really consider any but the last two (he is, after all, a history buff). Worried that my manly physical prowess might shame him, I tried to steer my son toward the museum. “Tell ya what,” I wheedled. “If you pick the museum, I’ll throw in a large milkshake and a couple of bucks to spend in the souvenir shop.”

Unmoved, he stuck with the hike. “C’mon, Dad,” he scoffed. “It’s only 3 miles to the lake — how hard can it be? Har, har, har.” While he cannot compare to my brother, Torpid, when it comes to sniggering, Slug has a pretty good evil laugh. “Har, har, har,” I agreed, grinding my teeth.

Editor’s Note: My oldest son has decreed that he doesn’t like being called ‘Slug’ anymore. As a mature father, not desiring to exasperate my son, I’ve reluctantly agreed. In honor of his recent obsession with Tolkien’s work, I’ll bestow upon him the moniker, “Faramir”, although I can’t say I really like being Denethor, even by implication. Denethor was a lot dumber than I ever aspire to be.

Naturally, the forecast for the weekend was rain, sleet, wet fog, showers, drizzles, and a bit more rain. Undeterred, Faramir and I laced up our boots and set forth into the trackless waste.

Trackless Waste
The Olympic National Forest actually abounds with trackless wastes.

“Ummmm, there sure are a lot of tracks, signs, and candy wrappers in this ‘trackless waste‘”, quipped Faramir, pointing at the large informational kiosk and the well-defined trailhead. My oldest son never has been very sophisticated when it comes to writing (or even living) heroic literature.

“Who’s going to read a story about two bold heroes if they stick to well-marked trails all the time,” I challenged. “‘What a bunch of sissies,’ they’ll conclude, dismissively. No, for proper epic narrative, it’s trackless wastes or nothing.” But there was no use explaining that to an unlettered man of the forest like Faramir.

I let my son lead the way so that he could set the pace, not desiring to leave him behind in the murky forest as I effortlessly bounded up the mountain. Realizing that he would feel pressured to overextend his strides if I followed behind him too closely, I dropped back a bit. “Say, Dad,” my son shouted from three switchbacks above me. “Do you think you’ll be coming along, soon? It’s starting to get dark, Har, har, har!”

He’s a hoot, that boy Faramir. Some time later we found a bridge, and re-enacted the famous scene between Gandalf and the Balrog, in the mines of Moria. “YOU … SHALL … NOT … PASS!” Intoned the wanna-be Gandalf. “I don’t want to pass,” I muttered, under my breath. “I want to go back to the car.” I reflected on the foolishness of Balrogs, which cheered me up considerably.

Mithrandir ... NOT!
It turns out, the whole bridge conflict in the Mines of Moria was the result of an innocent misunderstanding.

After trudging at least six or seven miles, much of it bordering on vertical, we encountered another hiker heading down the trail. “How … much … farther,” I gasped. He looked at me in some concern, and then at the nearly flat trail segment I had just traversed. “Not much more than another mile,” he assured me, heartily, with an encouraging smile. His guileless visage radiated integrity and goodwill, so I recognized him immediately as an agent of a dark power.

It is a little-known fact that the Forest Service hires spiteful, ill-intentioned men and stations them on trails all around the nation to spread false hope and to prey upon unsuspecting travelers. Once when particularly enraged, I managed to wrestle one of them to the ground, and, breaking a few of his fingers in the process, snatched a fragment of his guidebook:

“You must always work to lure the unsuspecting hiker deeper into the forest, with optimistic promises that their destination is ‘just over the next rise’ or ‘just around the next bend’. Work to communicate a sense of hearty cheer and use vague measurements of time and distance wherever possible. Freely use your imagination to extoll the beauty and majesty of the destination, especially since it is unlikely the hiker will ever actually find it. Be careful not to …

Unfortunately, the fragment was torn at that point, and the Forest Service operative had already made his escape. I have often wondered what it was, that they were supposed to be careful not to do?

Not more than five miles later, we encountered another troll bridge, where Joshua amused himself playing Gandalf again. “How come I always have to be the Balrog,” I whined, somewhat out of character. It didn’t seem fair that he had a stick, but my whip had to be virtual.

A Balrog with a Raincoat?
In spite of prejudice, some Balrogs are actually very mild-mannered and thoughtful.

Soon the trail was covered in snow, as we persisted in our hopeless quest for the lake. Various fallen trees and the corpses of earlier hikers littered the path. (Well, OK, I’m exaggerating about the corpses.) The rain settled in happily, and our spirits were low. Suddenly, we noticed what seemed to be a large open field, off to the right. “It’s the lake,” we shouted gleefully.

Eventually the trail wound down to the surface of the lake, which was mostly frozen over. “Go on across,” I urged Faramir, trying to radiate integrity and goodwill.

Quite a bit smarter than you would expect a Ranger of Ithilien to be, my son declined the opportunity. “No, I would not dream of showing you such disrespect by taking the lead. Yours is the place of honor and of command, Oh My Father.” We tussled a bit on the edge of the lake, trying to throw one another in, before a fragile truce was established.

The shores of Nen Hithoel
A dark and foreboding lake in Mordor, where the shadows lie.

We sat for a moment at the shore of the lake, drinking in the stark beauty of the scene, still gripped tightly in the claws of winter, despite the warm winds of Spring.

“Ready to go?” I asked.

“Yep. We came to see a lake, and of all the lakes I’ve seen, that’s one of ‘em.” Faramir rose and stomped his boots in the snow.

Some men seek to extract every possible benefit from the Journey of Life, savoring each moment and appreciating the beauty that surrounds them. Of such cloth, my son and I are not made. Ours is a simple existence of tasks and objectives, which we neatly check off so that we can move on to the next one. We climbed this mountain to see a lake, and we saw it. Next objective: get back to the car so we can enjoy our root beer.

Long-awaited Root Beer

Our Checklist

  • Get through all five sessions of Passport 2 Purity.
  • Climb a mountain and see a lake.
  • Eat as many of our snacks as possible before heading home.
  • Build some good memories and strengthen our relationship as father and son, and … as friends.

Check, check, check … and check, I think.

On the way home, we passed a group of hopeful hikers, bravely trudging up the hill. “Not much more than another mile,” we assured them heartily, radiating integrity and goodwill.


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The Boys and the Girls

Camp meeting this afternoon for Joshua and his comrades. We picked up Rachel along the way and later convinced Emily Z. to come over for a visit.

the girls

Emily, Bethany and Rachel show their gorgeous smiles.

Young men and their walking staffs/sticks/handy swords are rarely separated, especially when you’re exploring the woods.

the boys

Timothy, Stuart and Joshua kneel chivalrously before the camera.

It’s a good thing those gentlemen were there to protect the ladies.

Project 366 – Day 69

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Tim and I spent hours (okay minutes) reviewing the family pictures we received yesterday from the photographer, once the Blogosphere Taunting Police (BTP) finished questioning him, and reluctantly released him on his own recognizance.

“Let that be a lesson to you, Mister,” they warned him sternly. “Some of your blog readers don’t take kindly to that kind of taunting, and one or two of them have friends in high places.” Tim was a little shaken by the hours he spent under the interrogation lights, down at BTP headquarters. But I digress.

The pictures are GORGEOUS!!! Can I say that when it’s my own family? Is there any possible way that I can be objective?

Well, I take a LOT of pictures of my beautiful family and I rarely (okay never) call them GORGEOUS. Cute, sweet, dear, fun maybe, but not GORGEOUS.

I have to put in a huge plug for our photographer, Crystal. She did an outstanding job on our family portraits. She is currently working part time for a professional photography company while establishing her home studio. Crystal is offering a pretty fair deal for an hour-plus sitting ($75 plus tax). She works with each family, taking the pictures and poses requested, and then mails out a cd with ALL the photos. From there families are free to pick the ones they like and have them printed anywhere (Costco, Kodak, CVS, etc) they choose.

Even Mr. Cynical (“I don’t like to waste my time sitting in a studio when I can take pictures myself”) was truly impressed. Have I already stated that the shots are GORGEOUS? Just wondering.

Now we’re all fighting over which one we like best.

Too hard to choose – there are so many! Wow.

Crystal’s home studio is in the Puget Sound region, and I can’t recommend her services highly enough. If you are local and in need of a photographer, contact us for recommendations.


The only problem we had at our studio appointment was getting Joshua to smile. The rest of the crew was susceptible to silly jokes and the playful attitude of the photographer. Not Joshua: he was a rock. A pleasant, smiling-because-I-have-to, grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it, kind of rock.

Joshua’s tendency to bang his head against the side of the wall when I announced we had forgotten to take one last round of pictures was a bit distracting, but we managed to ignore him. I’m afraid all my blogging and extensive picture taking have completely exhausted his patience.

mama and her darlings

Next year (can you hear Joshua’s groans from where you’re sitting, when I say the words “next year”?) I’m going to come armed with a list of key words that will extract a natural smile (maybe even a wry chuckle) out of Joshua.

Stanley Leonardo Sappovitz
“Oh wait, we left Jimmy!”
“You take care of your noof spiff, I’ll take care of mine.”

Maybe I’ll prepare a flashcard for each of the children.


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Sleepovers, Sick Kids and Tolkien

Joshua celebrated his birthday this weekend. Pay no attention to the fact that his birthday is in October and it’s November. Nothing like stretching birthdays out, I always say. Especially when it’s MY birthday. Oh yes, and I’m famous for it. Joshua is normally not as birthday obsessed as his mother but the college reunion trip to VA threw his party off by a few weeks.

Friday night Tim gathered Joshua and three of friends and took them out to the Duckabush for a Lord of the Rings movie fest. They met up with a Duckabush friend and spent the evening with Sam, Frodo and their cohorts. I hear they even went to bed at a decent hour.

Well, decent for a sleepover.

boys in the bush

Joshua and his friends, missing Austin, who had to leave early.

They managed to fit in two of the three Lord of the Rings movies, which I think is impressive. Grandma provided a delicious cake and there was plenty of food for meals and snacking.

In the mean time, back at home, Rachel was hosting her own little sleepover. Hearing that Joshua would be out of the house, she decided it would be the perfect opportunity to invite some friends over. Unfortunately, she was hit with the stomach bug that is going through our family. Daniel and I had it two weeks ago, Tim and Joshua suffered through it this week. It’s mild (no vomiting) but painful.

Early in the morning, or maybe it was late in the night, Rachel woke me up saying she was in pain and couldn’t sleep. Poor thing. Her friends were downstairs peacefully resting while she writhed in pain.

Not a pleasant way to spend the night hours. Needless to say, we won’t be posting any pictures of her time with Sarah and Jenny.


Daniel expresses the family’s sentiments toward this little stomach flu with a hearty Argggghhh!

Praying that the little ones and all of the assorted sleepover guests don’t catch any nasty flu germs.

Project 365 – Day 307

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