{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: April and First Communion catch-up

Busy busy busy few weeks!  April was a beast, with karate tournaments and ballet recitals and confirmation sponsor responsibilities and visitors and Bellie’s First Communion.  Here are some details:

ONE.

My oldest turned 11.  I can still remember when he was a tiny little bundle and I was a nervous, inexperienced new mom.   How the times have changed!  Junior has always challenged me to be on my toes, but I am constantly delighted by the deep conversations I can now have with him as he gets older, also his interest in cooking, science, and wicked mountain biking.  Happy birthday, Junior!

TWO.

My mom came to visit.  This is only her second time out to Idaho (we’ve lived here 15 years) but she enjoyed it.  Highlights: my kids got lots of uninterrupted time with her, she and I watched “our show” Call the Midwife together, and my sister (also visiting) and I took my mom to the “sip and paint” place where we each completed an oil painting of the Eiffel Tower:

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Drinking wine and painting is how great masters are made.

THREE.

My mom bought a house.  Sorta near me.

This was part of the purpose of her trip.  She decided several years back that she wanted to spend her retirement in the West.  And since I live there, it only made sense she look for a property in Idaho.  I did not expect she would find what she was looking for in the 5 days she was visiting here from the Midwest.  But she did!  There will be lots of changes to get used to with this move; some good (like my kids getting to know her better because she is closer), and some more challenging (changing from a more passive role in dealing with my mom to a more active/caregiver role), but we’ll figure it out I guess.

 

FOUR.

Bellie made her First Communion.

My mom and sister were there which was really special.  I got tears in my eyes because my little girl seemed so grown-up when she went up for communion for the first time!

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FIVE

I’m still plugging away at my teaching certification.  The last few weeks’ craziness made it take a backseat for awhile, but this week (go me!) I have been getting back on track.  I just completed reading the first unit and am doing review for my first exam which I plan to take in about a month.  I am still enjoying everything and am really excited and positive about my decision to teach.

 

SIX.

Dandelion Wine.

We have a plethora of the lovely weeds in our yard (except for the ones my kids pick regularly to give me as tokens of their affection) and I remembered I had seen a recipe for dandelion wine in a book I have called Homesteading by Abigail Gehring.  It’s fairly easy and uses a butt-ton of the little yellow weeds.  The verdict?  Super-sweet but good.  It was sitting in a bowl in my bathtub for a week and by the time I bottled it, the wine was looking slightly like vomit, which was a little disconcerting.  But after straining it it looked much more appetizing and it smelled delicious.

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The beginning.

 

SEVEN.

Royal Wedding!!!!!

So I am unapologetic about my enthusiasm for European royalty.  (I sense a blog post about this in the future…)  I know, I know that social media is rife with complaints that there are so. many. other. things. to be thinking about now other than Meghan Markle becoming a princess.  And yeah, in the large scheme of things this wedding doesn’t really matter.  But hey, what’s wrong with having a little Cinderella fantasy play out with a pretty spectacle to have us forget, for a moment, all the woe in the world?

I’m excited to watch.  Not only because it will be entertaining, but also because I am excited to see England again (albeit on the small screen instead of in person).  I had a great time there last summer!

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Windsor Castle, a.k.a. Royal Wedding Venue     Photo by Kris Schulze on Pexels.com

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Me at the gates of Meghan Markle’s new grandmother-in-law’s abode, Buckingham Palace, August 2017

What have all of you been up to?  Any fun summer plans?

Have a great week!

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{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Vol. 18

Greetings!  Welcome to another edition of Weekly mishmash.  Here’s what’s been going on around here lately:

ONE.

This has been a CRAZY week!  Bellie had the first of her two spring ballet performances on Friday (which followed a week of intense rehearsals).  They are doing Alice in Wonderland, which is really cute!  She gets to be a bunny and then one of the Queen of Hearts’s attendants.  I am constantly amazed by the creativity of her ballet director; the choreography is really neat.  My favorite is the “caterpillar” where they use several dancers outfitted with frilly green umbrellas to give the impression of a many-legged insect.  Fun to see!

TWO.

Junior had a karate tournament on Saturday.  He got two first-place medals and was really proud of himself!  His biggest brag was that he beat a really talented kid from his class who outranks him.  I thought that was pretty exciting!

THREE.

This evening I am being a friend’s daughter’s sponsor at her Confirmation.  I was really honored that she chose me.  I think she views me as something of a mentor, which I find flattering.  It’s kind-of fun because she and I share a passion for writing, French, and Hercule Poirot.  Also her confirmation name is St. Dymphna, who is a personal favorite of mine because of her association with mental health:-)

FOUR

My children somehow got interested in The Great British Baking Show.  I blame friends of ours, since I hate hate hate cooking shows.  Well, and cooking in general.  But the kids decided they would have their own “Cooking Challenge” and Hubby and I were to judge.  Here are the inspired creations:

Voted WINNER for Best Presentation:

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Bellie’s “Ice Cream Delight” with Chocolate morsels, jelly beans, and cherry.

Voted WINNER for Most Intense Flavor and Name:

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Junior with his Pokemon-inspired “The Dark Cake” (we were a little limited to what we had on hand for frosting/cake decorations)

Voted WINNER for Most Creative Recipe Idea:

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Spike’s “Not Yo Mama’s Granola Bars” (made from scratch with his dad’s help and topped with vanilla ice cream and strawberries)

Evvie got an award too (she wasn’t so interested in the whole baking thing), for Best Performance of a Tantrum in the Kitchen.

FIVE.

While the Midwest has been struggling with nasty wintery weather still, that same front came through a couple of weeks ago. We had a tornado warning!  That never happens.  Basically, we just got a lot of damaging hail.  Then the next day or so it got really cold and we got snow.  It took a little while for it to melt again (at least half a day) and the kids got their boots out and snowmobiled around the yard.  Hubby and Spike built a snowman.  But by the next day he had melted and it looked like spring again!  Weather is weird.

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His ‘fro is dead weeds, his eyes and buttons are coal, his lovely smile is a bungee strap, and his nose is a parsnip (we were out of carrots). RIP Curly.

SIX.

I was able to meet the challenge from last year (50 books read in 50 weeks!) and got my sweet Extreme Book Nerd prize: a hoodie sweatshirt!  They just came in last week….it took a looooong time for them to come in at our library.  But I really like it.  I am trying to do the Extreme Book Nerd challenge again this year but it has been hard with how busy I am and all the teacher certification stuff I have to read.  But we shall see.

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SEVEN.

While sprucing up outside, I realized my front door wreath was not very spring-y.  I wanted to do something a little different than just a traditional wreath, so I went on Pinterest and got some ideas.  Ultimately, I really wanted to use an old bike tire and put flowers on it, but wasn’t having luck finding a suitable tire anywhere.  I did, however, find an old horse collar at an antique store and thought that might look interesting.  Added some spring-like floral and ribbon and Voila!   Country front door decor.  I am really pleased with how it turned out! What do you think?

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That’s all for now!  Enjoy your week!

{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Vol. 17

Welcome back to PPP after a bit of a hiatus!  Nothing major going on (as I mentioned last post), just the general business of life and constant other demands on my time.  Stuff has not calmed down in the least, but I realized that I need my writing time.  I function much better when I’m doing it regularly.  This blog is the closest thing I get to therapy, so I need to make an effort to keep it out of the backseat!

This is something of a Weekly mishmash “Catch-up”, plus with a few more recent goings-on.  So, what have we been up to over here?

1.  EASTER.  Here we are after mass.  We showed up 40 minutes early, got to sit in front, and the kids weren’t horrible.  It was an all-around win.

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2.  I took the kids on a day trip to The Museum of Clean.  They loved it!  There were toys and antique toilets!  Fun for all ages!

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3.  We got a new kitty in January.  We adopted her and did not change the name the rescue group had given her: Beatrice.  Once the kids got over the need to carry her around by the neck, it’s been good.  Beatrice keeps us young; she is really hyper.  Especially at 2am.

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4.  I stayed up late every night this week to declutter the basement.  In the ensuing time, I went through 6 Rubbermaid totes of “Keepsakes” that my mother had saved for me from childhood.  Here is what I learned:

First of all, I don’t advocate for throwing out all of your kid’s artwork, school projects, writing assignments, etc.  But you certainly don’t have to keep every. single. one.  I think my mom was sweet for doing so, most likely under the impression that someday…..someday….it may mean so so much to me that I have my junior high math tests and my preschool macaroni art, but I realized that I can really live without those things cluttering up my basement.  I filled an industrial-size garbage can.

However, I appreciate my mom keeping some of those things, because there were some gems.  Like all-caps handwritten notes from my grandmother for me when I was first learning to read.  And the cute little artwork from my younger brothers and sisters.  And the kitchen-table notes from my mom to my younger self that reveal, not only what kind of kid I was at a younger age, but what kind of mom she was (and looking at it with my mother-eyes now, I realize I totally get her in a way I didn’t at the time.)

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Well, thank you, Caity. I WILL have a hippy barsday!!

I also realized that as an adult, I am coming full-circle into what my likes and passions were at that young age.  Gretchen Rubin says in her books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home that we need to look back at what we enjoyed as children to figure out what we enjoy now.  Now, for some people this may be a “duh” moment – “I played matchbox cars as a child and now I love my job as a mechanic!” – but for others of us, myself included, our likes can sometimes be obscured by what we feel as adults we should do.  I graduated from high school thinking I should be a doctor.  Not necessarily because science was my strong point, or because I truly enjoyed all those labs in high school.  I just thought it was what I should do because my parents were in the medical profession and it was a good job.  I failed to consider that I was not really a people-person (not all doctors are, but doctors with the best bedside manner certainly are), nor was I ever good at handling stress (which can be a little bit of an occupational hazard in a stressful profession).  I also was never a science or math person and my grades reflected this.  So, when I finally conceded defeat as a pre-med student, I felt relief but also felt a great deal of self-hatred for “not being able to cut it”.  I wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t smart enough.  I might still be able to graduate from college with some sort of degree, but I would always consider myself a failure because I couldn’t follow through with my initial goal of being a doctor.

So I majored in history.  Which I loved.  Which didn’t guarantee me a job (as my mother constantly reminded me).  But I figured that if I chased my love, and something I was good at, eventually I would figure something out.

And I had to laugh as I went through those keepsake boxes.

There was a running theme through all of those papers and assignments:  History and writing.  I found an assignment I had to write in 5th grade – a letter to my parents about why I was excited for the beginning of the school year.  I wrote, “I am so excited for 5th grade because we finally get to learn history this year!”  I discovered a nightshirt I had craft-painted that had a picture of a boy and girl in colonial dress, and emblazoned above them in bold letters was “HISTORY”.  I found dozens of stories and plays I had written.  I found a note from my sister telling me that she always thought I would be a great historian or writer.  I understood that all throughout my childhood, I always knew my likes and my strengths.  I just thought that they were stupid and I should try to do something more “realistic” (and probably more lucrative monetarily) than writing or something with history.  Ha.  It would have taken less time and heartache if I had figured that out earlier!

And this super-long take leads to the next take….

5.  I’ve decided to become a middle school/high school history teacher.  I graduated with a history degree but opted not to do the teacher certification at the time because I didn’t think I wanted to teach.  This may have been another fallacy of thought; growing up I heard disparaging things about teachers – despite the fact my grandmothers and aunt were teachers – hmmmm…I’ll have to maybe analyze that in a future blog post….  At any rate, I didn’t think I would be a good teacher, plus I figured I’d hate it.

What changed my mind?  Volunteering at my children’s school.  I have been participating voluntarily for several years doing this program called FAME.  It stands for “Fine Art Mini Experience” and every month volunteer teachers present lessons on one work of art/artist and one musical piece/composer.  I have had so much fun with this!  The kids are always really interested and ask the best questions.  I love doing the research and I learn so much.  It is right up my alley because both art and music are closely aligned with history and I love helping kids make those connections.  The best part is how energized I feel after spending all day at the school teaching these lessons.  As a SAHM, that doesn’t happen very often at home, and I got to the point where I realized I wanted to have that experience more often.

Hubby was very supportive of this.  I am doing an online, accredited program where I can take the teacher certification test in Idaho and can be in a classroom within a year if I so desire.

My youngest, Evvie, is only three, so I have been dealing with some anxiety/guilt about possibly going to work full-time before she is in school full-time.  I haven’t worked out all the details yet, but my main concern is to get my teacher’s certification by next spring and then decide at that point if I want to begin looking for a job or wait a bit until Evvie is in 1st grade.

Ultimately, though, I am confident this is what I should be doing at this point in time.  It took a lot of prayer and soul-searching but I feel excited for this next phase in my life!

6.  We had an awful day on Monday where we had 50 mph winds.  It was terrible!  Power poles got knocked over and trees fell into buildings.  I am so grateful we rarely get tornadoes here but I am beginning to wonder if these high winds we’ve been having lately are not nearly as bad!

7.  I’ve been rocking out to Ed Sheeran.  When I was in Europe this summer, Galway Girl was on the radio a lot when we were tooling around northern France and pulling in British radio stations.  My kids, though, love Shape of You.  For the beat I think.  The lyrics aren’t the most G-rated which makes me a little leery when I listen to it.  There’s that part that goes, “Last night you were in my room/ And now my bedsheets smell like you”

Spike was in the car and yelled up to me, “Why does it say ‘my veggies smell like you’?”

I replied, “Yes, yes, that is what he’s saying, isn’t it?  I guess sometimes that happens.”

And now, every time it comes on my kids crack up because it is SUCH a SILLY SONG!!

Veggies.

Heehee.

 

 

Have a lovely week!

 

 

 

 

Good Friday Venting Session

Hello!  Yes, unlike the Easter Bunny on his little hippity-hoppity way, I DO Exist!!  It has been a crazy and hectic and all-around exhausting school year with the kids thus far.  And I am not shy to say I am going slightly batty with all of it.  Deep breath.

Life is good.  I can’t complain about anything major.  We are all in good health, Hubby’s job provides well for us, we have clothes and food and leisure time.  Lots of blessings and things to be thankful for all around.  I hate to be a complainer.

But….

…..Ugh.  Sometimes I just need to VENT.

I have somehow gotten into the “thinking falacy” of believing that Everything Is (Or Should Be) Great.  All. The. Time.  Even if it doesn’t feel like it.  Even if you are going slowly downhill after the drive to school, then the drive to ballet, then the drive home to make dinner then thirty minutes later the drive back to ballet to pick up the ballerina before dropping of the karate master at karate before driving home again for an hour of waiting to leave to pick up the karate master and then driving home again.  And this all in the middle of a 45-minute production where the toddler hosts a massive and completely ridiculous screaming session in the car because I took away the pound of bubble gum she had “collected” from the minivan garbage can and the (not potty-trained, not trying) 5-year-old demands time on his portable video game for the 47th time today (…the answer STILL being surprisingly, “No.”) as the unmistakable scent of urine wafts up to me in the front seat.  And then go to bed and repeat!!! And repeat.  And repeat.pexels-photo-208216.jpeg

I haven’t vented to anyone in quite a long time because I don’t feel I deserve to vent.  I feel like being frustrated with life is an inexcusable sin that a “good” person (especially a good mother) doesn’t get the luxury of feeling.  I mean, I chose this life, didn’t I?  I chose to have a bigger-ish family; to have 4 beautiful and special yet ofttimes extremely challenging children.  I chose to live 30 minutes outside of the city limits, necessitating long and dull commutes rife with the opportunity for siblings to fight and every last one of them to take of his or her shoes and socks and make a “quick run to the store” a virtual impossibility.  I chose to put my children in after-school activities that they seem to enjoy.  I am not being forced to do any of this.

Motherhood, for all its joys, can just be plain hard sometimes.  And it seems to be even harder when you don’t have a good outlet to vent.  I have a few very close friends, but I don’t feel comfortable venting to them.  Why is that?  I know they won’t judge me for complaining about life.  Maybe I feel it is that they won’t understand?  Which is stupid because, even though their youngest children are older than mine, they have still been there!  Of course, maybe it is also because most of my good friends (all with older school-age children, now) have gone back to a career and no longer seem as “desperate housewife-y” along with me as they once did.  Their frame-of-reference has, quite simply, shifted.  And I no longer feel as though I have that many friends who are “down in the trenches” with me.

Anyhow.

This being Good Friday, I should probably note that Lent has been a bust over here, folks.  This year I started off with the best intentions (not going to give up anything, but add in daily Bible reading and rosary) but that fell by the wayside about three days in.  I wanted to get the kids to Stations of the Cross at least once but realized yesterday that the last opportunity (not having partaken earlier like I had wanted) was today at 3.  I suggested to the school-agers that I pick them up from school to attend, at which I received a steady stream of whining and complaining and then getting stuck at the grocery store with the two youngest who were fighting over “unicorn poop” (those pastel multi-colored mini marshmallows I intend to put on the Easter jello) at the top of their oh-so-shrill little lungs, I just decided that I COULD NOT HANDLE Stations of the Cross this afternoon as a good Catholic.  Instead of focusing on the suffering of Jesus on His way to death, I would just be sitting there thinking about how much suffering I was enduring caused by my children elbowing each other maliciously through me (as I tried to separate them) and the negative effects of child self-applied sugar.

I ask forgiveness.

Sigh.  Well, I feel better cyber-friends.  I think the glass of wine helped, too.

Let’s try and make this more of a regular thing, shall we?

 

 

 

{7QuickTakes} Spring Break Edition

The calendar finally says it’s spring!  Hooray!  Be sure to check with Kelly to see if everyone else over there is as excited about it as I am!

Here’s what has been going on here lately:

ONE.

This last week was my older children’s spring break.  Because Hubby had to work most of the week (ugh…he is on an insane schedule currently!) we were only able to take a few days away.  Our destination: Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I am a mountain girl and I love me some Tetons.  We stayed up at the ski resort but, mainly due to the expense, did not downhill ski.  We settled for going into Grand Teton National Park and doing some cross-country skiing.  This was the first time Spike got on a pair of skis and he was a trooper!

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The couple that skiis together…is probably yelling at their kids through the course of this photo shoot because the oldest is hogging the camera, the middle two want to take pictures too, and the youngest one is trying to eat something in the snow that looks suspiciously like a chocolate egg but is more likely elk poo.

TWO.

This Lenten fast from alcohol is hard for me, not gonna lie.  Before, I enjoyed my glass of wine with dinner most nights and usually a cocktail or two on the weekends.  It was something I looked forward to.  Especially after a long day of dealing with the demands of several small (and oftimes crabby) people.  And now, I realize, maybe my alcohol consumption was tipping the scales at being a little too much.  Particularly because I miss it so much after only a few weeks of abstaining!  Yikes.  But maybe that is good.  To step back and reassess exactly how much I had been drinking.  Along with that, just to see if I can fill my craving for something more healthy (or…how about spiritual…since this is Lent, after all?).  But still it is hard.  I absolutely love wine.400px-glass_of_red_wine

THREE.

Earlier this week the two younger ones helped me clean.  I have to remember that it is the effort that counts.  Even if I have to clean up after them cleaning up.

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This is right before she ran off to do something else and slipped dramatically in her puddle of doom.

FOUR.

My framing project of a few weeks back is complete!  I ended up ordering a custom frame for the oddly-shaped oblong poster (which STILL wound up costing around $70 – AND I had to assemble it myself) and then bought a $15 poster frame at Michael’s for the other one.  The problem was this generic frame was slightly too big and I was faced with the problem of trying to make my own mat.  I had initially thought of buying matting board and cutting it to size, but ended up using a burlap ribbon I had lying around.  I glued it onto the backing and it seemed to work OK.  I was worried it was going to look goofy, but I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

FIVE.

Evvie (at 2 years 2 months) is currently in the violent throws of the Terrible Twos.  Today she had a knock-down drag out tantrum because I refused to let her play with a colorful feminine sanitary product she found in my purse.  This morning at breakfast she was upset that she wasn’t permitted to eat off her sister’s plate. She tossed her bacon onto the floor in disgust, loudly proclaimed, “No WAY, Mom!”  After a two-second pout, she announced, “I hung-y” (toddler speak for “hungry”), climbed down off her chair and, before I could stop her, grabbed the floored bacon and put it in her mouth.  Mommy’s gray hairs are fast appearing thanks to this one!

SIX

I have been really, really craving some alone time lately.  I am an INTJ on the Briggs Meyers personality scale, and that basically means “I Need To Just be alone sometimes for my sanity”.  Just kidding.  But it does mean that I am an introvert who recharges by being by my lonesome.  Which is really hard to do when you’ve got a family that includes young and hyper-demanding children.  Whom I love very much and would not trade for the world.  Just need a break from once in a while.

In the last two weeks, I have gotten the following exciting and fun opportunities to recharge:

1) One hour sans kids at the Public Library.  This pretty much is like winning the lottery for me.  I mean, going to the library alone. Never. Happens.  It was so invigorating.  I got to look at books without a devious toddler methodically playing snowplow with the books on the bottom shelf.  I got to read the summary on the back of a novel that looked interesting without my preschooler tugging my shirt and whining that this was boooooring.  I didn’t have to be embarrassed by the stern-looking adult book section librarian when my older two decided to illustrate their maturity to the masses by kicking each other and then announcing in very-unacceptable-for-the-library voices that it’s her/his fault, not mine!  Sigh.  Heavenly.

2) Annual lady exam at the gynecologist.  Well, the exam was not the rejuvenating experience to which I refer.  It was the waiting room.  Alone.  I got to read a magazine.

I guess I need to take what I can get!

SEVEN.

It was with great sadness that I heard about the latest terrorist attack.  In London, no less, where I anticipate going later this year.  With every fresh and horrific (and need I say, senseless) tragedy of this kind that occurs around the world there is an aura that we are not safe.  There is an insidious yet persistent scuttlebutt that fuels our worries: We are not safe when we travel, we are not safe when we are at home.  There is terror and mayhem lurking everywhere.  There is evil everywhere and there is no recourse for us.

Pretty much every time there is another extremist attack, another bombing or assailant driving a truck into crowds of people, my mother contacts me in fear and disgust.  Fear generally provokes her to say how crazy it seems to her that I want to travel to Europe. (I think she would be happier if I had announced I was going to sneak into and flamboyantly wave an American flag in North Korea).  Every new terror attack seems to cement in her mind that Europe is a dangerous, unstable place teaming with evil-minded religious zealots.  And she tries to make me feel nervous and bad about my decision to travel.

The truth is: travel will always be a bit dangerous.  It is fraught with risks.  But then again, so is life.  You have the option to embrace it, and open yourself to the opportunity for growth, or you can “play it safe” and stay home.  At home, you may never put yourself in the kind of situations where you might be unsafe, but expanding your horizons is a whole lot harder when you’re standing in one place.

So, that is my operative philosophy going forward.  I definitely hope and pray that a terror attack doesn’t ever affect my daily life or that of my loved ones.  I pray for the victims and for the souls and minds of the attackers who feel murder and mayhem is the answer.  But I am not cancelling my trip because it comes with risk (sorry, Mom!).  And, like wiser people have said before me, that the best way to stand up to terrorism is to show the terrorists that we will not be cowed by attempts to make us so.

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Have a wonderful week!

 

 

{7QuickTakes}Weekly mishmash: Vol.13

Good day to you!  I am sitting at a local coffeeshop – by myself (doesn’t that sound scandalous?) – and I am happy to get my 7QTs in today!  See more at Kelly’s!

ONE

Hubby got back from a business trip yesterday.  I was really happy to get him back.  So were the kids.  He was only gone 5 days, but it was a LOOOONNNNNGGGG 5 days.  (See below Quick Take)

TWO

Stomach bugs while (temporarily) single parenting suck.  Stomach bugs while single parenting especially suck when they only hit said temporarily single parent while the children being parented are their own boisterous, exuberant, curious, and healthy selves.  I am glad that I was not having to parent sick kids while being sick myself, but….still.  I’m a complainer.  Edit: Bellie came home from school sick today….so….this might be the beginning of a fun weekend.  At least Hubby is home!

THREE

Six months to EUROPE!!!!!!!  I am feeling like everything is falling into place and can barely contain my excitement.  I need to work on the guilt feelings, though.  I mean, I can hardly sneak off to a coffee shop by myself on a Friday morning for an hour leaving Hubby with the two little ones without feeling like a complete worthless human being who is shirking her family responsibilities!  I will have to explore this idea more in future posts.

FOUR

Loving Victoria on Masterpiece.  I do think Jenna Coleman is a bit too pretty to play the illustrious queen, but oh well.  I am slightly obsessed with the Victorian Era, so the costumes and the hairstyles are completely thrilling to me.  Plus I think Victoria (who interestingly enough, was against women’s suffrage) was one of the most influential and fascinating women in the history of our modern world.

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Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria at her coronation.  (Courtesy pbs.org)

FIVE

My mom is doing better.  She came through her surgery (to repair her leg) just fine, and is currently on the mend.  Talking to her on the phone nowadays she seems to be back to her old self.  It will still be weeks before she is permitted to put weight on her leg, but she seems to be wheeling herself around her house just fine, and other than being confined to the ground floor of her home, is doing well.  I have taken the suggestion to call her often – and I have been touching base with her via text daily, calling every other day.  If nothing else, I hope that this whole experience has convinced her that her children really do care about her.  We were all forced to break out of our mental business to actually reach out and make an effort to keep in touch.

SIX

I’ve got a dear friend who is going through a divorce.

There has been a group of us who have been friends for a long time.  We did a Bible study about Catholic Apologetics several years back together; it was so enlightening and educational for us, plus it brought us closer together as friends.  It definitely ranks as one of the best experiences I’ve had, and I have always felt that those of us who participated share a special bond.

Our families have hung out often, our husbands have gone out for beers together and helped each other with home improvement projects.  Each year we go to Bear Lake, Utah camping as a group and traditionally spent Super Bowl Sunday together.  Our kids are all friends.

Over Christmas, one of the couples split up under tense circumstances.  We are friends with both of them.  We like and respect both of them and want what is best for their kids, and their family as a whole.    But my friends and I are having a hard time wishing them a DIVORCE.  Especially in light of Catholic teaching, which we studied together in detail all those years ago.  We are not privy to all the information about the circumstances of their separation, of course.  There seem to be some seemingly insurmountable obstacles for them to stay together.  But….still……ugh.

It’s a sad situation all around.  We have tried to be supportive of our friend without bashing her husband.  We have been praying for them.  A lot.  And I truly believe that God has a plan for their family.

Still, anyone have any words of wisdom about supporting a friend (couple?) who is going through a divorce?  What are our duties as Christian/ Catholic friends?  Friends who believe in and confess the sanctity of marriage, especially when both parties in a divorce proceeding are convinced there is no hope for their marriage?  I am struggling here!

SEVEN

Well, as I type this, I can’t avoid the obvious:  my cuticles are a horror.  Winter wreaks havoc on my hands!  The air is so dry here in Idaho that dry skin is a matter of fact, but in winter it takes it up a notch!  My poor kids have inherited my problem; Bellie’s hands are dry and red ALL WINTER LONG unless she remembers to always always wear gloves when she goes outside (which doesn’t usually happen).   All of my kids seem to suffer from excema (particularly on their cheeks) during the winter.  My solution: Eucerin is my friend.  I buy an industrial size of the tub at the beginning of the winter.

 

 

I hope all of you are keeping warm and protecting your skin this winter!  Have a delightful weekend!

{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Vol 12

Lately it has been sort-of hit or miss with {7QT} but I’m here today!  Check out other more motivated bloggers at Kelly’s!

ONE.

Happy Inauguration Day!  There are Americans who are happy, Americans who are sad, Americans who are angry, and Americans who are resigned today.  But the point is, this is how democracy works.  This is how America works.  And I still think we have the greatest political system in the world.  Sometimes we don’t like the outcome of elections, or Congressional votes, or laws that are made.  And that’s OK.  Because we are able to disagree civilly, and work together to come to a compromise.  We can air our grievances, and work to change things we don’t like.  We are free to speak out.  And that’s pretty awesome because there are countries in the world who do not have that option.

At any rate, one of the paramount aspects of our political system is a peaceful transition of power (another thing many countries in the world do not have – hello Gambia).  So, like him or hate him, ecstatic or morose (or, I guess, the negligible percentage of Americans who just plain don’t care one way or the other about him according to the media), President Trump is the newest leader of this great nation and the amazing people within.

TWO.

I got a new phone.  I didn’t want to, my Samsung Galaxy III was working just fine, thank you.  Except for that I couldn’t get picture messages and it deleted all my contacts on me.  Hubby wanted to graduate from a 2000’s-era flip phone to something a little more sophisticated, for work, you know.  And since we were on different carriers, two different bills, two different kinds of coverage, we decided to simplify the matter by just getting matching phones.  Which is our romantic way of celebrating Valentine’s Day early.  (Isn’t that how the Millenials do it anyhow?  Skip the flowers & chocolates, opt for Apple products?)

THREE.

My baby turned 2 earlier this month.  Supposedly, she is our last one (according to Hubby, but I could easily be talked into another!) so I am going through the whole gamut of emotions relating to that and all my babies getting older.  Of course, kids growing older comes with its benefits obviously: they can strap themselves in the car, put on their own clothes, and can generally follow directions.  But, baby-lover that I am, I miss those days of little bundles sleeping all day and cuddling while breastfeeding.   I am getting more sleep these days, which is a plus.  But….still.  Sigh.

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Princess Evvie turned 2!

FOUR.

………….I am whisper-typing this, in case the Universe decides to play a trick on me….but I *think* I can claim victory on the Spike Potty Training journey.  He has been a trooper since Christmas, with accidents few and far between.  He really does excellent when we are out and about in town, it’s mainly when he is at home and distracted by tv or a complicated Lego creation that he sometimes forgets to go until it’s too late.  Yay!

FIVE

In just a few short weeks it will be….SIX MONTHS TO EUROPE!!!  More on that later.  So excited!!  It is really feeling more real now that everything is coming together, tickets have been purchased, reservations have been made.

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Coming soon!

SIX

One of the hardest things about living so far away from family is that you are not available to help in times of need.  Two days after Christmas, my mother fell and broke her leg really badly.  She is extremely independent and lives on her own, so this has caused her to completely reorder her life (including her willingness to ask for and receive help).  She is now recovering from a successful surgery but will be unable to bear weight on the offending limb for a few months.  In the meantime, my geographically-closer siblings have really stepped up to the plate and helped her with transport and shopping and stopping by to check on her morning and night.  My sister has taken on the bulk of this, for which I am really appreciative, because it is next to impossible for me to drop everything here and go there, what with kids in school, a husband on back-to-back business trips, as well as financial concerns.  It is hard feeling so impotent when it comes to helping out.  Anyone have any experience with this?  When you are unable to physically be there for someone, how can you Be There for someone?  Aside from sending money, what are some things I could do, both for my mother and my siblings who are taking on the responsibility for caring for her?

SEVEN.

Listening to Arianna Huffington’s Thrive on audiobook.

41a2znogcclIt is forcing me to think differently about our society’s definition of “success” as well as how to take better care of myself.  Huffington’s main mantra: Get enough sleep.  So I am trying.  The goal is to go to bed earlier so I can get up at 6 with the kids before school after getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep.  So far, so good.  I am hoping that in the long run I have more energy and am more focused.  Generally, I stay up late at night to “get stuff done”(which, incidentally, is what my mother always did growing up – and subsequently was a zombie all day) and then proceed to hit a slump shortly after lunch, where the world looks bleak and I am too tired to function.  Yesterday after 8 hours of sleep I didn’t feel that slump, which was awesome!  Hoping that will continue.  I will keep you posted.

Have a delightful week!  We’ll chat again soon!

 

 

 

 

{7 Quick Takes} Bison, bears, and bathrooms in Yellowstone

A couple of days behind on this one, but better late than never right?  Linking up with the lovely Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum and the gang…

ONE

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    Even if they are just walking through the parking lot, it is still never a good idea to pet a bison.

Last weekend we took advantage of the post-Labor Day crowds and took the family to Yellowstone National Park to camp.  We are so lucky to live a short drive away from the park, so weekend mini-vacations there are easy.  We have friends who are storing an RV trailer in our yard that they are graciously allowing us to use, and we took that when we went.  Otherwise we would have had to bring tents to augment our itsy-bitsy slide-in pickup camper.  And no offense to tent-campers out there, but I am not brave enough to risk sleeping in a tent with four kids who smell like hot dogs and marshmallows  in Bear Country.

TWO

Did you know that in Yellowstone, there is this lake that straddles the Continental Divide?  Its significance is that one side of the lake drains into the Pacific Ocean and the other side into the Gulf of Mexico.  And if your son just happens to surprise you by suddenly urinating into it (which I am sure is totally legal in a national park…)his pee will likely travel both of those directions as well.  Keep an eye out for those “teachable moments”.

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This location holds a new meaning for us.

THREE

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2016 may be the year Old Faithful finally becomes female.

“Why is it called a “Guy”ser?  Where are the “girl”sers?” – Bellie gets feminist at Old Faithful.  Maybe Hillary will change that if she gets elected.

FOUR

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Looking up from the lobby fireplace.

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I love how they’ve incorporated natural logs everywhere

I love, love, love Old Faithful Inn.  Every time we go to Old Faithful, I drag the family in here to see the awesome log everything in this awesome old hotel.  I love going into the lobby and just looking up the several stories to the roof.  And that fireplace is just fantastic!  We stayed there once, and I thought I was in heaven.  It is just a fantastic piece of history and one of the biggest log cabins in the world.  We watched Old Faithful erupt for a second time from the front balcony.  Low crowds, a huckleberry mocha, the soft sounds of my kiddos fighting over a muffin.  It was lovely.

FIVE

I am so proud to announce that my oldest three are now JUNIOR RANGERS.  They worked so hard.  How, you may ask, does a child become a Junior Ranger?  Well, it involves many hours of study (i.e. completing fun activities in a workbook), going on a nature patrol (i.e. walking from the visitor center to the boardwalk by Old Faithful) and listening to a ranger’s talk (we watched a bear spray demonstration).  The kids had a lot of fun doing this.  My favorite thing was Spike’s drawing in his workbook of animals one might see in Yellowstone.  He drew two turtles and a dinosaur.

SIX

We are the champions!  We did UNCLE TOM’S TRAIL.  With kids.  With no injuries.  And we’re not even that in shape.

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The way down is easier. Across from the falls of the Yellowstone.

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The gorgeous Yellowstone Canyon.

So, I had forgotten that there were SO MANY STEPS.  I really wanted to get close to the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River and I figured Uncle Tom’s Trail was the best walk to take.  I had forgotten that it has like one million and eighty-two steps down the canyon wall (those scared of heights may want to reconsider).  Which isn’t that bad going down, but is really, really a joy going back up!  The last time we had done the trail, Bellie was a baby in the backpack (carried by Hubby) and Junior was about three.  He ended up falling on the metal grates of the stairs at the very bottom, skinning his knee awfully badly and not wanting to walk anywhere anymore.  So our friend Eric offered to carry him all the way up those million-plus steps.  Our friendship with Eric was solidified and written into the annals of friends-going-above-and-beyond history.  I am pretty sure we still owe him big time for that.  And as far as Hubby goes, babies in hiking backpacks are not a piece of cake going up and down that staircase with, either.

However, this time all went well.  No injuries, no kids losing their motivation halfway back up again.  Heck, I am super-proud of myself for not losing motivation halfway back up again.  It was tempting to stop at one of the landings and say, “that’s it, I can go no further.  Bid fond adieu to my mother for me.”  but I kept going.

The view really is to die for.  Well, not literally (there are always some really unfortunate fatalities in Yellowstone Canyon every season), but it is just gorgeous.  If you are into self-punishment (or just enjoy the stair-climb machine at the gym) Uncle Tom’s Trail is for you!  It is worth it.

SEVEN

You gotta love the worldliness of Yellowstone.  There are people there from all over.  We were following a family from France on our way up the Stairway from Hell Uncle Tom’s Trail.  There were Germans in line next to me at the restrooms.  And a very nice group of Chinese tourists wanted to join us for lunch in our camper.  They were very intrigued that there were four children.  They also found blonde-haired Evvie positively enthralling.  And she’s not even that blonde!  (On an earlier trip, we were on a trail and there was a family ahead of us with a toddler who had platinum blonde hair.  A large group of Chinese tourists surrounded the family and started touching the child’s hair and gestured that they wanted to take pictures with her.  So they began taking selfies with the little girl as though she were one of the Jolie-Pitt kids.  We felt relieved that our dishwater-blonde kids were wearing hoodies.  It would have taken us forever to get done with that walk around the hot springs!

It’s a good learning experience to be able to explain to the kids how things are different in other countries and in other cultures.  For example, the Chinese tourists were interested in the size of our family because in their country they had a one-child policy until just recently.  So families of our size are not seen there.  And blonde hair is likewise rare.  Even explaining how toilets are different (prompted by the kids seeing the following image in the restrooms in Yellowstone:)

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If there are footprints on the seat, someone probably ignored this sign.

was a good opportunity to discuss that the U.S. is not the only nation on earth and the way it is done here is not necessarily the way it is done elsewhere.  Not good or bad, either way…just different.

 

Have a fabulous week!

Asking for what you need and guilt-laden “me time”

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lovely image of Paris courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I have been struggling with two main emotions  challenges stumbling blocks lately.  And they are guilt and my struggle to be assertive.

I struggled with this last month when my in-laws were visiting.  I have been struggling with it this month while I try to plan my upcoming Europe trip, as well as take some much-needed “me time” in the form of my monthly Bunco get-together.  Hubby, understandably, is resistant to the times I spend away from the family.  It places extra burden on him and he really doesn’t get anything concrete in return.  (One could argue a happier, more rested wife, but we’ll get back to that in a minute…)

Things came to a head last week when I was discussing the aforesaid European trip with Hubby, complaining that there wouldn’t be enough time to comfortably see EVERYTHING, and he suddenly said, “I am not sympathetic; I am not supportive of this trip in the first place.”

Wow.

I was thrown for a loop.  Here I am, glibly planning this two week trip for next summer with friends and – heck- we’re almost ready to buy plane tickets, when Hubby suddenly brings to my attention the fact that, ahem, he is not supportive of this trip.  I admit I never really asked permission to take this trip with friends -a trip that I have been saving both my money and airline miles for.  I had, at first, mentioned to Hubby that we take a trip together, just the two of us.  I suggested Alaska, a place Hubby had always wanted to see.  I figured out a little itinerary (Denali! Kenai Fjords! A fishing charter!) and asked my sister if she would be willing to come out to Idaho to watch the kids while we were gone.  I had it all planned, and presented the plan to Hubby on his birthday.

The response was not as I had expected.  He replied that he didn’t want to spend that kind of money, that his idea of an Alaskan trip was much different than my idea of an Alaskan trip (think flying into a remote North Pole-ery location and rustic camping/fishing for a week) and he reminded me that we don’t travel well together.  (Which is true, we have very different traveling styles).  I told him that we had enough airline miles for both of us to fly to Alaska for no cost.  He said, “I’m sure you’d rather go to Europe with those miles.”  And I said, “Yes, actually I would.  Can I go to Europe with those miles if you really really don’t want to do Alaska with me?”  And he said yes.  So I really really thought he was completely OK with me going to Europe next summer.

After the conversation (the one where he said he wasn’t going to support my trip), I was wracked with horrendous amounts of Guilt.  Who was I, thinking that it was completely OK to ditch my young family for a couple of weeks, leaving my poor frazzled husband to deal with them?  Who was I to make my husband take vacation from work to watch the kiddos while I gallivanted around Europe while he was forced to stay home and be stressed out?   Why did I think I deserved that?  What if something happened to the kids while I was gone?  What if something happened to me?  How selfish was that?  How selfish was I?

While I kept trying to make sense of my emotions regarding this I tried to ascertain exactly why Hubby said he was non supportive.  What he had said was he wasn’t supportive of my trip.  What I heard is that he wasn’t supportive of me.  When I asked him to clarify, he said he thought the expense of travel was too great and that he didn’t believe I would be able to save enough money beforehand to finance my trip.  He also was unhappy about having to take work off, using up valuable vacation time that he would rather use for….um, vacation.  He also was worried for my safety, in light of the terrorism that seems to run rampant in Europe these days.  Additionally, and perhaps a little “selfishly” on his part, he was jealous.  When had he gotten to take a two-week trip with his friends?  I reminded him of the cool locations he had traveled to for work (Sweden, for example).  Also, I reminded him that I had tried to get us to plan a trip to Alaska, a #1 bucket-list item on his agenda, but he had declined.

Nevertheless, even after finding out the reasons for my husband’s reluctance to this trip, I still felt guilty.  I assured him I would try even harder to save money.  I would sell stuff I was no longer using on ebay.  I would pare down my spending.  I also assured him I would try to figure out childcare options for while I was gone, perhaps hiring someone or seeing if a family member would come out to provide babysitting.  I can’t do anything about terrorism or crime except to keep alert and stick with my traveling companions, and I told him I would be supportive of any travel scheme he came up with in the future – with or without me.  But the guilt remained.

As a wife and a mother, and especially as a woman of God, we are taught the intrinsic value of sacrifice.  We sacrifice for our spouse.  We sacrifice, especially, for our children.  Our sleep, our time, our energy, our bodies.  We are happy to do it because our families are worth it.  No one wants to be that mom or that wife who selfishly puts her wants ahead of her family’s needs.

So when, if ever, is it OK to say “Time Out!  I need to focus on my needs a little bit.  And they might look like ‘wants’ to you, but believe me, THEY ARE NEEDS!”  Like rest and rejuvenation.  Intellectual and cultural stimulation.  Exercise time.  Heck, a shower!

I guess, ultimately, I don’t want my kids to look back at me during their childhood as a woman who had no identity except that as their mother or their father’s wife.  I want them to see me as a dynamic, interesting, and joyful  woman who sacrificed for them but never forgot to take time out for herself.  I don’t want them to remember me as bitter and frustrated and failing to be a person in my own right.  I also don’t want them to remember me as a woman racked with guilt over following my dreams.

That said, I am forging ahead with the planning for my Europe trip.  I will try to come up with ways to make the time I am gone (and the expense) less painful for Hubby.  I am sure I will continue to struggle with feelings of guilt, but I need to focus on the actual goal which is to create enough joy that I come back to nurture my family even better.  One can’t feel guilty about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oregon {With Pictures!}

Last month we took our first *real* family vacation.  Our trips up until this point consisted of camping weekends and journeys east to visit family in the Midwest.  I decided it was high time we went somewhere that didn’t involve sleeping on the floor at my sister-in-law’s or worrying about whether my kids were extorting too much candy from Grandma.

We settled on Oregon.  It’s close, yet far and different enough from Idaho to be “exotic”.  I wanted the kids to see the ocean.  Hubby wanted to save money by camping.  So we traveled the fabled Columbia River route, traveled by scions such as Lewis & Clark and the Oregon Trail pioneers.  Here are some highlights:

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We like to pretend we are hard-core with t-shirts.

EBR-1: Atomic City, Idaho

En route to Oregon, we stopped at the very first nuclear reactor that has since been decommissioned and turned into a museum.  (Don’t worry, the radiation levels remaining in the building are so low to as not be considered unhealthy for visitors)  It was in operation from 1951 to 1964 and is left largely the same as it was when they moved to a new facility.  They make it fun for the kids to learn about nuclear energy (and what Daddy’s work is all about).

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I always knew the kids were mad scientists…

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In the real world, they usually don’t let kids sit on top of nuclear reactors

The kiddos had fun pretending operate the reactor in the control room, walking on the cell where the nuclear reactor used to be, and seeing how “hot” (radioactive) material was handled with robotic arms through an insulated cell.

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One of the young owls sitting perched outside the museum. Spike said, “They’re scary. I’m freakin’ out!”

Probably the most memorable was seeing a pair of young owlings sitting on the abandoned fighter jet reactor in the parking lot.  They were very still, just looking at us.  I don’t think I have ever seen an owl that close before.

Farewell Bend, Oregon

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Wagon ruts

Just across the border into Oregon is Farewell Bend State Park.  It is a really pretty location, on the banks of the Snake River.  It is known for being the point where the Oregon Trail pioneers said “farewell” to the Snake River (which winds north from here) as their continued their journey west.  You can still see the wagon tracks in the nearby hills.

National Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City, Oregon

I probably date myself a little, but remember that old floppy disk computer game, Oregon Trail?  I loved that game.  Well, this museum is where you learn the reality of what the game was based upon.  They do a good job of helping to re-create the hardships and decisions those emigrants went through to reach the “Eden” of western Oregon.  I left the Center feeling knowing I wouldn’t have had what it took to survive and thrive on the nineteenth century Oregon Trail. Especially since we had only been camping one night and I was already wishing we were staying in hotels!

Bonneville Lock & Dam on the Columbia River

I had wanted to see the Bonneville Dam ever since learning about it in a college history course.  It was initially a New-Deal project that created thousands of jobs.  Now it powers thousands of homes through hydroelectricity.  We were able to tour a powerhouse to learn how it all works, which was cool, but the highlight for Hubby and the kids was the fish ladder.  You are able to view it from above and also from below (through windows) to see how the Pacific salmon and other fish are able to navigate the dam safely to swim upriver.

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Spike and Bellie smell roses, the Bonneville spillway in the background.

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Giant turbines

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Follow the power signs to see where it gets harnessed!

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The fish ladder

Old Columbia River Highway and Waterfalls

We took this road, reading that it was “the scenic route”, which was definitely true, but traffic was so awful I am not sure it was worth it!  Granted, it was a Sunday and there seemed to be lots of weekend Portland visitors, but the road itself is insanely narrow and we had a larger truck with camper insert as well as a trailer, and it was very nerve-wracking for Hubby.  The route is through a gorgeous rain-forest and is dotted with waterfalls every few miles.  We wanted to stop and see one of the more famous ones, Multomah Falls, but there was no safe place to park.  People were parked down the road for a mile or two and walking on the shoulder while cars on the two lane road were trying to avoid hitting pedestrians as well as fellow motorists.  There were NO RVs and there is no way we could have found a place to park with our small trailer.  So we just kept driving.  At one point we were stopped for at least half an hour because pedestrians kept crossing at a crosswalk with no break.  Bottom line: it was pretty, but if we did it again it would be on a weekday morning and we would leave the trailer at the hotel.

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Latourell Falls.  Not as tall, not as impressive, but we found a place to park!

Willamette Valley west of Portland

The highway we took to the coast was littered with fruit stands and pick-your-own flower gardens.  The fertile Willamette valley was where those Oregon Trail pioneers were headed.  There is a long growing season and rich soil.  We stopped at a cut-your-own flower farm and the kids all helped pick the flowers of their choice.  We wound up with a lovely bouquet that became our “camp flowers” throughout the rest of the trip.  We stuck them in a gallon water bottle and proudly put them on our picnic table at each camping site.  We felt so fancy.  Next time Hubby and I will get a babysitter and check out some of the Willamette valley wineries.  Not as well-known as Napa or Sonoma (but just as good) the area has hundreds of small vineyards.

Well, that was the first half of the trip….I will separate this post into two to avoid the length of a short novel!  Stay tuned for more adventures in Oregon!