A Duck and a Beaver Walk Into a Bar

We went to Oregon over President’s Weekend and I haven’t written about it yet. I’m still a bit in denial about the motivation for our trip: College visits for my kids.

My son is a senior and my daughter is a junior. 18 months from now, they both could be at universities in another state. Namely, Oregon.

And this isn’t a punchline.

As difficult as their leaving is for Bill and me to digest, we knew we needed to visit UO and OSU because we’re responsible parents.

And also because we wanted to supplement our spring wardrobes.



I’m sure the schools had mothers in mind when they designed these.

Can’t wait for Parents Week!

The sky was overcast and rainy which we decided was perfect. It’s typical weather for Oregon this time of year and good for my California kids. Both of them think they’re tired of relentless sunshine. I think they’re crazy.

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I also still think they’re this age.

All three of us might be in denial.

None of us is wearing a Ducks bikini.

Our first stop on Friday was Oregon State University in Corvallis. It was unbelievably charming, with moss-covered trees and stately buildings. Everyone we passed smiled at us. Everyone. After a wet tour during which our daughter fell in love with the campus, we went to lunch at an adorable pub.


Everyone smiled here too, except that guy in the booth across from us. 

It was a happy, happy day.

Karly to us: I can totally see myself living here; it feels like home.

Next we traveled to Eugene and discovered more rain and continued smiling. Upon our arrival, the hotel concierge offered us complimentary wine and snacks. Bill to the concierge: I can totally see myself living here; it feels like home.

Our tour of UO the next morning was fantastic and featured yet another tree-filled campus with majestic buildings that reminded me of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. They reminded Bill of Animal House.

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Apparently the movie was filmed here.

My son bought a green foam finger and let us take a selfie.

Jack to us: I can totally see myself being embarrassed here. It feels like home.

That night we enjoyed a fantastic dinner at a restaurant with high-backed dining chairs. The food was great and the company was even better. For me, the highlight of the weekend was all four of us being together.


A close second was the dessert Karly ordered with four brownies and a scoop of ice cream.

Me: I can totally see myself stalking the kids here; it feels like home

Just kidding. Probably.

As much as I can scarcely fathom both my children gone, my job is to raise them to spread their wings and find their own way in this world. It’s been my privilege to watch Jack and Karly be brave and embrace change.

I refuse to weigh them down with my tears. Much.

(I will, however, be sure they know there’s always room for Ducks and Beavers in our nest.)

I’ve been busy lately, which is a good distraction. After years of working and dreaming and hoping, my debut novel Letters for Scarlet and its prequel Guest List are being published. This is also hard to digest.

It’s been my job to write these books and send them off to find their own way in this world. My babies and my books. What a privilege.

My heart can barely take it. In fact I’m not processing the whole truth. Not just yet.

Instead, I distract myself by watching Netflix and rescuing dogs.

Speaking of which, my sister took care of Bella, Bailey and Scout for us while we were in Oregon.

She rules.

Nancy to the dogs: I can totally feed you chips; it’s just like mommy’s home.

Our 10-year-old Labrador is overwhelmed whenever we encounter a horse on our walks. Bella doesn’t bark or cower; she simply keeps her head twisted to the side refusing to acknowledge the horse at all.

Bella to herself: If you can’t see the horse, the horse doesn’t exist. Also, Fritos don’t suck.

These days, I’m channeling my inner-Bella. If I look at the horse, I’ll be overwhelmed; so I take one day at a time, each milestone as it comes. Remember that promise not to weigh my kids down with tears? Yeah. I meant it. Probably.

So prepared or not, I’ll have to let my book fly soon. Then my babies. One by one.

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Me to the world: Be gentle with them.


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I’ll love you forever and like you for always. But I won’t climb a ladder into the window of my grown son’s dorm room. Much. 

41 thoughts on “A Duck and a Beaver Walk Into a Bar

  1. I feel like your trip was just as much about finding out whether there is decent food and wine, as it was about colleges 🙂
    I’m with you – my daughter started her plumbing apprenticeship last week, and we’re having weekly sessions where I bestow my wisdom upon her and her girlfriend in preparation of moving out soon. Sigh.
    I am really excited about your book!!! Can’t wait to order it <3

    • Now that you mention it, Bill and I did want to be sure there were suitable places for us to hang out when we visited the kids – ha!

      In all seriousness, though, we treated the weekend like a family vacation. Our days of traveling just the four of us are numbered…

      P.S. Thanks for your support with the book. It means so much.

  2. Mom

    This is sweet and very funny. Dad and I are already planning our trip to Oregon. Don’t tell the kids… we want to surprise them.

    • Let me know when you guys are going and I’ll let you borrow the Ducks bikini and the sequined BEAVERS shirt. Grandparents really should make a splash…

  3. Bailey

    This is so sweet and that last line…exactly! My daughter is still so young, yet I know someday soon I am going to blink and think where did the time go? My current anxiety about releasing her into the world will be when she begins school soon. I’m thrilled yet terrified for her at the same time and I’m sure my emotions will probably be quite the same with every new step in her life.

    • Thrilled and terrified pretty much sums up the emotions of motherhood. What a ride. I’m glad you’re on it with me. XO

  4. I can totally see my daughter adopting you and filling your time while your babies are gone if you buy horse. Love this, love you. xoxo

    • Yes! I love that idea! A horse. A skating rink. Whatever it takes.

  5. Jen

    Love this & you!

    But I can’t help to wonder what Scout does when she encounters the horse.


    • Scout is VERY interested in horses. She doesn’t so much want to play with them; she just wants to figure out how that dog over there got SO BIG.
      Ha! (Love you back.)

  6. Aww, you make me laugh and you make cry. In the same sentence.
    I lived in OR for an entire seven months, it was glorious. Then we moved to FL, and our gorgeous house in Lake Oswego was hit by a mudslide and I wished we had still been in it .. you know with me away on a trip with my girls .. and my ex there alone 😉

    • Nicole,
      Ha! Thanks for the good word about Oregon. I’ll try not to add “mudslides” to my list of concerns…

  7. NannyK

    I’ll follow you & Bill to the magical place of complimentary wine & snacks…and MAKE that home! And if I get to embarrass my nephew a little bit in the process…win-win!! Yay for the spreading of wings and embracing change! Your kids are AWESOME…because they’ve had AWESOME parents!! <3

    • You always were my parenting role-model.
      Even now I’m taking my cues from you and trying to face the inevitable with grace and enthusiasm.

      Thanks for going there first. Even though I’m older.


  8. I’m in denial that such a time will ever exist for me. Can’t I just keep snuggling my babies in bed on Saturday mornings and sending them off to school with a sandwich they likely squooshed when cramming it into their backpack?

    The PNW is amazing. And friendly. So friendly. I never realized it until I moved away and then went back. They will do wonderfully there and I will join you on any road trip north that you want to take to stalk them.

  9. It’s a date, Mandy. And I’ll return the favor (although not for many, many years!).

  10. You. Damn you. And your ducks and beavers. And dogs. And kids. AND FRITOS!!!! None of it sucks at all.

    Love yous. xo

    • Love you my sister across the miles.
      You inspire me and we’ll get through all this together (the puppies, the running injuries, the children who won’t stay young).

      We’ve got this. Or each other.

  11. So, crying. Dammit!

    I know that you know that I know exactly how you feel. (You know?) And remember how we would always say that the waiting is the hardest part (with a shoutout to Tom Petty!)? I hate to break it to you, but we were wrong. That day (and the many many many days after) that you cast your baby (be it child or book) out into the world? THAT is the hardest, my friend. But, the good news is, you’ve raised two awesome kids and written one helluva great book, so they will all be more than fine. And so will you. (Plus we get to celebrate -and commiserate- by drinking lots of wine.)

    • Yay to celebration and commiseration.
      Boo to Tom Petty being wrong.

      Thanks for having my back through this whole crazy journey.

      WST FOR-evah!

  12. It seems so far away but your words about this time of life, and Charlene’s, are preparing me. I am building up my strenght for it, little by little, over the years. I’m sure it will still suck.

    So many babies to kick out of the nest so that can fly, all at once! Who knows what you’ll do next?! That’s kind of the amazing part.

    • You’ve still got lots of time, Kim. And Charlene and I will be with you every step of the way.
      (Boy babies and book babies included.)


  13. Diane

    …and I will hold the ladder as you “climb a ladder into the window of [your] grown son’s dorm room. Much.” And, you know I will. I will also preorder “Letters for Scarlet” the minute I can. XXXOOO

    • Thanks, Di. Life is easier knowing you’re always in my corner no matter what. I couldn’t ask for a better friend.

  14. Courtney

    Those babies will fly to new heights in the next couple of years – and you and Bill will be right there as you always are! I love your words and cannot wait to hold your book in my hands!!

    • Thank you, Court! For decades of friendship and for that last-minute advice that helped make this book a reality. Having you one step ahead of me has been a comfort and an inspiration. Always.

  15. Ann

    Saw a life coach last week. She asked me what I want my life to look like in five years “when your son is 17” and I burst into tears. I’ve loved watching your writing dreams come true, Julie. Here’s both life’s tears and cheers in our beers.

    • I know that feeling of looking ahead. I took my leave of absence from teaching when Jack and Karly were in 4th and 5th grade. I felt like I still had years with them home.

      And I did.
      But the years still passed.
      I almost can’t believe it but it’s true.

  16. Michelle Hillstrand

    What a wonderful person you are Julie. Your kids are a reflection of you two. You always make me laugh, cry and laugh again. Love you.

    • I’m so glad that you are reading this on the opposite end of my parenting spectrum.

      The years of love (and having Andrew home under your roof) still stretch far ahead of you.

      Sending so much love to your sweet family.
      Now and always.

  17. Kristi

    Ducks & Beavers, and Bulldogs, do our children get identified with animals to make it easier to release them into the world?

    Let’s send each other wine and chocolate in August…

    • It’s a deal, my friend. Chocolate and wine.
      Together we’ll get through this.

  18. Laurel Janssen

    I feel like you’re blazing a parenting trail for me, and for that, I thank you from the bottom of my Ducks bikini. My dad went to Oregon, and came home to SoCal. Your kids will do the same. BTW, you daughter’s cute figure in that bikini? Oh, to be young again!
    You may, while missing your kids, borrow mine. You’re welcome.
    Love you.

    • Thank you for your support and for offering me your child for a kid-fix in the interim.

      I will take you up on that because she’s delightful.
      When I’m feeling down and lonely, maybe she’ll write me a note on her white board…

  19. You are the best Mom – for both your babies and your book. Can’t wait to see them soar.
    Here’s to a sparkly future! xoxo

  20. I couldn’t make it past the first sentences, because “college visits” and how I know how that will feel for you.

    we survive it, and when we have like-minded friends, we don’t have to hide our tears at them leaving. The world prizes independence, and I’m all for that, our kids being able to support themselves and find their life’s work, and have thriving relationships , I am. BUT why do I have to smile and beam without the welling up and the lump in my throat? We cry, because it’s powerful, this parenting that we do fills every space of our heart and when our own chromosomes and cells walk on their own physical beings, we feel that rip. So cry, my friend, and now that on those grey days of missing them it doesn’t mean we aren’t rejoicing for them. This is life, so seriously deep and complex, that our hearts leak out from our eyes. I love you. xo

  21. I have so many years before this, but not as many as I did a year ago, and I know how quickly they can slide together. You are such a good mom and such a role model for those of us wondering how to hold tight and send them off at the same time. And of course for those of us who were wondering what to do with the Ducks bikini.

  22. *SNIFFFF* I can’t even think about this day coming.

    I will pre-order your book even though I already read it because I love you that much.

  23. Oh my gosh!! I can’t believe you’re at this stage of life! I feel for you. Your family is beautiful.

    I finally have your book downloaded onto my reader. Or is it uploaded? Actually I made Scott do it. I’m so dumb that way. I was trying to read it on the computer and it was not working. Also, I’m totally pre-ordering. Julieeee, this is so exciting!!

  24. All the good stuff here, Julie. And those dogs. I mean, your kids are amazing and gorgeous, but THOSE DOGS 😉

    Congratulations on all of it: amazing parenting, that Duck bikini, and LFS!!!!!!!!!!!!! (there aren’t enough exclamation points in all the world)

  25. I can see myself reading the words you write at home. And at the beach or the mountains. Thoughtful. And funny. You have a beautiful soul my friend. And you make beautiful babies. And books. So happy for the launch of one and following you with the ladder for the other.

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