Sunday, August 3, 2014

Where Rolls the Oregon

The boys and I just got back from the most lovely vacation you can imagine. Well, that I can imagine, because you and I probably have different ideas about what's lovely. My ideal vacation is full of waterfalls, lakes, pinochle, walks in the woods, and evenings spent in the back yard playing with the hose. And guess what. We just did all of that. Every last thing. I think one of the reasons we go on vacations is to find satisfaction that we're missing in our everyday lives, and currently we are replete with satisfaction. We have satisfaction in spades. Which, funnily enough, is the suit that my mom went in when she scored 750 some odd points against my dad and I in pinochle. She won that game, believe it or not.

Here we go!

Oh, before we get started, here's what James was up to while I was packing. 

His first glimpse of the Willamette River. Coming in to land at the Portland airport is really an art performance put on by all the fields and rivers of the Willamette Valley. Both the boys did fantastic on the plane. We took two flights; a big green jet (sponsored by Portland's soccer team, the Timbers; as you can imagine, James was thrilled) to Portland, and a smaller commuter flight into the Redmond airport. I didn't even have to get out the DVD player! James was content to look out the window and read books and Rupert was content to play peek-a-boo with the little girl in the row in front of us.

My parents picked us up in their old 1972 Chevy Suburban which was the car of my youth and childhood. I spent many a road trip playing 'the headlights are lasers' with my brothers, and when I got my license, it was what I drove to school. Seeing my children get to revel in its splendor put me over the moon.

Our second night there we went kestrel banding with Grandpa Jim. Being a tender child, James was a little scared of the kestrels, but Rupert loved the squawks and squeaks. In fact, I think he might have picked up a few bad words from them.

That weekend we went on the annual Metolius Butterfly Count, and this is the only picture I have of it. Darn. My mom sends in species data to monitor the butterfly populations in Central Oregon, and we get to go out and take that data. A bunch of kids with nets go running all around the forest and get to learn valuable life skills. It's a total win-win.

Night time snack. Being high in latitude the sun doesn't go down in Sisters until 9, and it's not fully dark until 10, which totally threw off the boys' sleep schedule, but they were so pooped every night from all the fun they had been having that they slept in every morning until a minimum of 7:30. That's miraculous. One morning James didn't wake up until 9:15. MIRACLE.

We visited lots of woods. This is a place called Cold Springs, and indeed, the water coming out of the ground was exceptionally cold. Straight from the glacier.

We visited the Three Creeks meadow to look for the host plant for the Mexican Cloudywing butterfly, but we didn't have any luck. But we did find a good swimming hole.

This is about as good as life can get.

Rupert made friends with a hopefully non-rabid Golden Mantle ground squirrel.

Three generations of fun.

We went to a lovely wedding and Rupert was the official photographer.

Thankfully Rupert was just tall enough to reach the piano keys.

A visit to Sahalie Falls.

Perfect spot for a perfect little adventurer.

James had the time of his life exploring near the river. There were sticks, rocks, mud and trees. I'm not sure what else you actually need for a successful childhood.

Despite missing their dad very much (after a bunch of FaceTime calls, I think Rupert thought Josh's name was Bye Bye), the boys really did have a fantastic time. They were extremely well behaved, probably because they were too busy having adventures to be naughty.

Look at that GREEN! And those beanies. 

This adequately represents the amount of fun James had. 

A couple of big thunderstorms rolled through while we were there, and we had the best time sitting on the porch watching them go by. 

James had his first bike-riding experience and I think he was totally and completely hooked. Many thanks to Nana Sue to dashing off to Redmond to provide this kid with some wheels.

We had the chance to sort through a couple of boxes of photos from way back in the 60s all the way up to the present, and it was a totally lovely experience. I got to have more insight into the incredible lives both my parents had led, and we also got to find gems like this. I'm about 1 and my brother is 4, and it's completely adorable.

My mom led a butterfly walk one morning out in the Metolius Preserve of the Deschutes Basin Land Trust, and the boys and I decided to tag along. It was a long hot, dusty walk, and James did it all by himself. There were lots of older kids for him to follow around, and lots of great butterflies to see. Here I am desperately trying to catch a fritillary. I never succeeded. Next year!

One very rainy and cold afternoon we decided to go up to Dee Wright Observatory. It was a bad choice for weather, but a good choice for an adventure. It was raining sideways with a howling wind and the temperature was hovering around 45, but we still had a good time. James got to explore the castle, and the drive up there makes it almost worth it on its own.

This boy would play with his grandpa until the cows came home. He's turning into a little bit of a mama's boy recently, but whenever Grandpa Jim was around, he was reaching for him.

Since James' birthday was only a few days away, my mom made him this absolutely lovely monarch cake before we left. James is super into butterflies these days, especially monarchs and can even tell the difference between the males and females! 

This is not an uncommon sight. Since the Chevy is older than dirt, its fuel gauge does not work, so you have to write down the mileage when you get gas, and sometimes that can be an imprecise science. After we left for the airport, Dad remembered that the water hadn't been turned on for the swamp cooler for the greenhouse, so we had to turn around. While mom turned the water on, Dad felt prompted to put gas in the Chevy just in case. Since Murphy's Law was based on our family, we have learned that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

While we were unloading all 3000 pounds of my luggage from the car, the Chevy ran out of gas. Right there. Right next to the airport. If we had not put gas in it, the rest of this story would not be nearly as happy. Thanks to a dad who listened to a prompting to put gas in the Chevy, just in case, and to a Heavenly Father who makes sure I don't miss my flights. AAA came to their rescue an hour later. My parent's definitely get their money's worth out of that membership.

Winging home. 

The flight home went as well as can be expected with two small children who are low on sleep and high on excitement. With only one meltdown, we made it back to Phoenix in one piece, were picked up by an adoring and attentive (and lonely) husband, and flopped into our own beds feeling happy, satisfied and exhausted.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What do peaches, beards, and Calvin & Hobbes have in common?

February? Really Miriam? I don't know why I'm surprised that that is the last time I wrote a blog post, it's not like I have anyone hounding me to write it. But I could do with some retrospection, and you could do with some pictures.

I'm feeling a little guilty about this outfit. It's just a TINY bit too zany. Swap those Vans out for some regular shoes, and we're good. James is growing like a weed, so his Sunday shoes have joined the box of things for Rupert to wear when he gets bigger and I have yet to find him a new pair because I'm cheap and I only buy my kids' clothes at Goodwill.
We have never cut James' hair. Our babies are cue balls when they're born so what hair they grow I'm extremely proud of, and I can't bring myself to cut it! He is growing a tiny mullet, which thankfully is in style these days, so I can put it off the dastardly deed until a bit later.

A few months ago we had a cold day! It was actually chilly! Hence the hats and long sleeves. It was also extremely windy so we bought a $2 kite (wow, we are super cheap) and flew the heck out of it. The boys had a lovely time and I remembered how much dang fun it is to fly a kite.

Spring time in Phoenix is the ideal time to hit the park, and we did so on a daily basis.

Here's James attempting to ride his tiny finger skateboard down a ramp that we had made for his cars. And this is why women live longer. We had a little talk about physics and he decided to wait until he's bigger and he has a much bigger skateboard. And a helmet. And a full body suit constructed out of bubble wrap.

We went to an event called Transportation Days at a local church where policemen, mailmen, firefighters and construction workers get to show off their vehicles and the kiddies get to climb all over them. Holy cats James had an incredible time. But you wouldn't know it by looking at his face. Man, this kid has the stone cold look down pat.

James waited for his turn to get in the helicopter and then promptly dove into the cockpit. Whoops! Here you can see him contemplating his angle of trajectory.

Here is James pretending to be a ... wait for it ... fireman. Yes, my shirt apparently looks like a fireman's getup, and he just went with it. He pretends almost every minute of the day. When he wakes up he's Babar, when he's at the park he's Lightning McQueen, when he's eating lunch he's King Peter (from Narnia), when he's at the grocery store he's a puppy, when he's at church he's a cat (mewling all through the services), and when he goes to bed he's Aslan. In fact, he's rarely ever James.

Starting to get hotter now. Thankfully the oppressive heat didn't come until a bit later, so we had lots of outdoors time up until about three weeks ago. Here we are birding at Gilbert Water Ranch. Lots of GBHs, verdins, Anna's hummingbirds, and red tails circling overhead. 

When it gets too hot, we play inside, inside the bus. I love's James' face, it's full of joy and mischief, and if that isn't what little boys are made of, I don't know what is.

A little brotherly love.

A dear friend of ours took us to see the Chihuly glass exhibit at the Desert Botanical Gardens and it was beyond amazing! That man is an incredible and prolific artist, and his installations were remarkable. They perfectly reflected the austerity and beauty of the desert which we live in.

This is the face of a child interrupted in the middle of deep concentration; in this case, putting his shoe back together.

And when he gets home from church, he pretends to be a pilot.

Since we live in one of the hottest places on earth, the growing season is backwards, so peaches are ready in May, not August. We took a trip out to Queen Creek and picked 22 pounds of them. I put some frozen ones in my smoothie this morning, and they are still super delicious.

This picture does not adequately represent the amount of excitement James felt about riding this little train around the farm. He still talks about it.

This kid is obsessed with school. He cannot WAIT until he's 5 so he can finally go. We started a little joy school (pre-pre-school) with some friends who have kids around similar ages, and when I told him we were going to school that morning, his face lit up and he said, "I'M FIVE?!" Sorry kid. But we're over halfway there!
We do school time in the mornings where we learn letters and numbers, and so far James knows all this letters and can write all the easy ones like I, L, E, O etc. The curvy ones are still pretty far out, but sometimes he writes them on accident while he's doodling away, and then shows me them proudly. He can identify sounds of letters pretty well, but has yet to comprehend that letters strung together make words, and that is how you read. In fact, he vehemently requests that I do not "read" his books, but that I just happen to make up the story associated with the pictures exactly the same way every time we look at them. Hmmm. This may prove to be a little problematic in the future.

James' smile is almost as awesome as Rupert's Klingon thing he has going on with his forehead. Also, please welcome the newest addition to our family, Josh's beard. I think he looks great with it, and it complements his Canadian heritage quite well.

Oh I just love this picture.

We go to the pool on a bi-weekly, sometimes daily basis. James can swim around by himself with a pool noodle, Rupert cruises around in his floatie, and I try to keep an eye on them both. Children are such water rats, and it makes me happy that they can indulge that part of their personality.

I made this sampler. Making things is extraordinarily cathartic, so I've been learning lots of new skills like, uh, cooking. I feel like I'm finally coming into my own when it comes to the domestic side of myself, which is great because I've been married for seven and a half years, and we have two kids. It's about time.

There is something so poetic about James reading Calvin and Hobbes naked with his favorite stuffed kitty.

This little chubber is nine months old, and is just about the happiest baby on the block. He is patient, silly, and laughs about everything, especially his brother. No one can make Rupert laugh like James can, and he is a brother's boy. I sometimes wish I would have hired another child to hang around when James was a baby, so that he would be a little more mellow. 
He's in full teething mode (he has seven now!), and even when his face hurts and he's grumpy, you can sing him a silly song and he snaps right out of it and dances his little bum off. We just had his nine month appointment and he's just like his brother; tall (74th percentile), skinny (35th percentile), with a ginormous head (>97th percentile). No crawling yet, but to be honest, I'm doing nothing to encourage it. He can scooch his bum around to get places, and can pull himself up on things just fine, but his brain has not yet discovered that crawling is a much more effective way to get around.

We have finally figured out how to get this guy to eat solid food. If he had it his way, he would nurse until he's 7, but we're making progress. No matter what I pureed, it just came right back out when I tried to feed it to him, so we moved on to table food. I ground up our baked ziti last night, and he gulped that sucker down. Smoothies are also a huge hit with him, and I put all sorts of veggies in there that he doesn't know about. I'm sure we'll have to change our methods in a few weeks, but for right now, I am in solid food eating bliss, and so is he.

And here we go into summer, sweaty babies and all. Mornings at the splash pad, afternoons at Ikea and the library and evenings at home, trying to stay sane.

James is really blossoming socially. He is no longer terrified of adults that he knows, just strangers, which is how I would have it anyway. I do feel a bit sorry for the cute little old ladies at the grocery store who try to engage him in conversation, but thankfully Rupert is there to win them over with his little toothy grin. Play dates are becoming more and more of a success, and he has stayed by himself in nursery during church for the past two months. He's gaining more confidence in social settings and that makes my heart happy in a new way. 
During this season of life I spend so much of my time hoping that these little vulnerable humans that we've made are safe and happy, and it is the most devastatingly exhausting and mind-bogglingly thrilling thing I've done. Here's to another summer of thrills, spills, and raising viable humans.