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.
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.