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Sara Van Donge

Stories by Sara

Better birth date among birthday wishes for some

Everybody seems to think they have the best day for a birthday, even if we all know they are wrong. Some, like my son, who was born on June 21, think they have a pretty good argument: It’s always sunny on his birthday, and it doesn’t matter what day of the week it falls — people can always come to an evening party. Outside. But he doesn’t ever get to have cupcakes or a party at school; he will never know how cool that is. Plus, a lot of his friends miss his party because they end up being on vacation.

Column: Embarrassing parents our lot in life

I know kids are supposed to be embarrassed by their parents sometimes — otherwise, we would probably stay home as a financial burden for the rest of our lives. But my dad seemed to go to a little more effort than my mom to be embarrassing.

Despite bullies' claims, clothes don't truly make the woman

Must-have back-to-school items — schools are full of them. This year it was the latest shoes. The boys were crazy about these huge colorful shoes called Nike Free Runs and the girls were rocking ever more fluffy and expensive Uggs. I dread the day my children start wanting these $150 shoes because there is no way I will want to buy something so expensive for people whose feet are still growing. It is incredible how many of my students wear these overpriced shoes.

Column: Head over heels in love with weddings

I’ve been lucky enough to attend some beautiful weddings lately. I enjoy weddings so much that I often find myself pretty involved.

The search for the right mister

Wet towels. Fans. Frozen hot water bottles. What do these things have in common? They are the lifelines for those of us trying to keep cool without air conditioning.

Growing young again — for old time’s sake

I spend about 95 percent of my time around kids, and this somehow does not make me a kid myself. In fact, I am most decidedly NOT a kid. At work, I am the one telling people to stay on task, pay attention, turn things in, sit correctly: “mmmnnnnmmnnaaammmna” (that was Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice).

Son’s bulging suitcase holds a pack of lies

Summertime is coming and with it maybe some vacation time. For me, one of the hardest parts about traveling is packing.

Spicy-food devotee has had hots for Tapatío sauce since high school

Tapatío hot sauce has a prominent place in my kitchen, a place of honor on the table held by no other item. Even salt, pepper and butter have taken a back seat to my favorite food addiction. My kids would probably argue that ketchup is more important than Tapatío, but I have to disagree. Nothing else gives food that special kick.

What’s in a name? Plenty!

Names are so important. From early childhood I imagined what I would name my own child. I always loved naming my stuffed animals. In fact, in kindergarten I had a whole fleet of them named Stephanie — if it was a good enough for one, it was good for everyone.

Technology upgrades highlight evolutions in education

When studying the effects of globalization on indigenous people in Costa Rica we can see a YouTube video comparing an environmental landmark before and after a new industry comes in.

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Runaway chicken crosses the road to sleep on stranger’s porch

This evening, when my mom rattled the popcorn box to get the chickens to come a-running in, Dani (who is also the best layer) did not come home.

School dances were the most stressful part of high school

I think it was just that the loud music and swirling lights and crowds all created an experience that was overwhelming for a more reserved student like me.

Infinite playlists a labor of love

Remember mixed tapes? To paraphrase the Beastie Boys, one of my favorite bands, you need a good mixed tape to get you in the right mood.

Tuning in to the past through classic TV shows

At a recent lunch my colleagues and I turned to the subject of our favorite old TV shows. We all reminisced quite happily about “The Cosby Show,” “Leave it to Beaver” and “Three’s Company.” We decided our favorite blonde was Chrissy; we felt sorry for Janet; and Jack Tripper was a ridiculous overactor. We all absolutely loved “The Cosby Show,” mainly because Bill Cosby is hilarious. I remember looking forward to it every Thursday night. And “Leave it to Beaver” pretty much still makes us feel inadequate as mothers.

Walla Walla food scene was not always this zesty

Food has changed a lot since I was a kid, especially the availability of different types of ethnic food around Walla Walla.

Magic is in season during Christmas

Christmas is coming! I’ve made the decision to slow it down this holiday season so my family and I can really enjoy Christmas.

Internet dating experiences don’t result in love at first byte

To hear me talk, one might infer that I hate all technology. I often reminisce about the days of yore, when people had to speak face to face or when we weren’t interrupted by texts and cellphone calls. I generally write by hand and grudgingly type it onto a computer. We do not have Wi-Fi or cable — my poor kids are stuck watching whatever DVD I have ordered for them from Netflix.

Mentorship by older students leads to decorum, success down the road

I got so caught up writing about preschools of our distant past that it never occurred to me to write about the preschool of our very recent past. Until a couple of months ago my son attended the Center at Assumption, where he was happily surrounded by loving friends and excellent teachers.

Columnist: Kids can’t wait to get all tricked out for Halloween

Fall is in the air and in my house we are eagerly anticipating Halloween. Now, this isn’t to say we don’t talk about Halloween all year. Choosing the right costume is so important the kids plan what they are going to wear beginning as early as November. Yes, one year before the holiday we start declaring what we will be. So far, over the past year we have planned on being the “Scooby Doo” gang, the “Grease” characters, zombies, Easter bunnies and pirates. It’s a good thing my mom has made many costumes, because trying them on and planning is a big part of the fun. My only rule for costumes is that I won’t go to a Halloween store and buy one. My poor kids — the costume has to be homemade.

Preschool provides solid foundation for learning

My children are both in elementary school now. No more preschool for us.

Spectators get a real kick out of kids’ soccer games

Soccer. Yes I am once again writing about soccer. This is not because of any particular opinion about the sport. I actually don’t really understand the rules of soccer other than: Run to the goal! Kick the ball in the goal! Guard the goal! Nonetheless, I really enjoy soccer games. All sporting events in fact. I love watching people, talking to other spectators, being outside, knowing my kids are having good, healthy fun. Oh, and the game. Yes, the game is pretty entertaining too.

Columnist: Camping trips are often in-tents experiences

My family and I have always enjoyed camping, from rustic tent camping, hearty backpacking trips, easy car camping and near-camping in cabins.

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Demolition derbies are a smashing good time

The Demolition Derby is Walla Walla’s biggest, most attended event. This fact, given to me by a friend who invited my family to our first “demo,” surprised me. Even though I have heard people talk about the Demolition Derby and I had heard the roar and crash of the vehicles, I had never realized what fun it was.

Love kills, at least for this columnist's favorite clothing

My favorite shoes died. I finally had to throw them away and I really miss them. They were silver wedge Jambu sandals with an ankle strap and really good traction. I bought them a year ago and have worn them at least four times a week since. I wore them to Disneyland last summer, walking at least eight hours each day with never even the slightest annoyance.

Children’s soccer goals: Improve skills, color-coordinate uniforms

My children are signed up for fall soccer and we can’t wait! Soccer is fun for the kids, yes, but I could argue that it might just be more fun for the spectators — especially when watching the really little guys. You know, the ones who don’t know how to play.

Tree-mounted rope let kids get into the swing of things

When I was a kid we had a rope swing. I’m not talking about a skinny little 10-foot rope, prickly and hard to sit on, like the sad and neglected ropes I see dangling from small trees around town. Also not like the too-thick, heavily-supervised ropes we used to have in school gyms. No, this rope swing was ideal in every way. From the smooth feel of the white rope to the perfect size of the knot for sitting or standing, our rope swing was peerless.

Summer musical a fun family activity

The outdoor summer musical is fast approaching.

It’s hard to beat local live music

I love our downtown, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, when we have so much live music and entertainment. It wasn’t always this way. Even ten years ago the most we could hope for would be the yearly street dance or the occasional live band. And of course Barnaby’s — which I am the perfect age to have LOVED, so don’t tease me.

Cruising, boozing and maybe some no-shoesing

Did you ever cruise the gut? I wish I had gotten to. The closest I ever came was when I went to a slumber party at Tracy Ahler’s house in junior high and her sweet mom took us. We had so much fun driving back and forth from Albertsons all the way down Isaacs and Rose to Safeway! We even got brave and had her honk at a few older guys. We thought we were so cool.