{7QuickTakes} Weekly mishmash: Vacation recap edition

 

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Redfish Lake, Idaho

Well, hello again!  We recently got back from our summer trip.  The house is still a mess disaster with piles of laundry and camping stuff in my living room waiting to be cleaned.  Sometimes I wish going on vacation wasn’t so much work!  But it was a good time.  Here are some highlights:

  1.  SHOSHONE FALLS  img_1722

We’ve called southern Idaho home for about 15 years and have never been to visit this phenomenal natural wonder.  It is near Twin Falls, Idaho, and is a natural falls on the Snake River.  This is from Wikipedia : “Sometimes called the “Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls is 212 feet high—45 feet higher than Niagara Falls—and flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet wide.”  Pretty incredible!  And very loud!

2.    BOISE

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Me and the kids getting cozy with Idaho.

So, all my photos turned out really blurry.  I think because my lens had fingerprints or something.  Most likely of a child-size nature.  But you get the general (blurry) idea.  We headed to our state’s capital for a few days, to cycle around their lovely Greenbelt and attend a family showing of Macbeth at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.  Bellie recently won a really snazzy new mountain bike from her school in a bike challenge – and was really excited to be able to test it out on our trip.

loved Macbeth.  I realized that I had never actually seen a Shakespeare play professionally performed before.  (Even though I of course studied them in school and was able to see snippets performed at Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon last summer!)  I had prepped the kids before time that the play *might be a little scary* and the *witches were just ladies like Mommy all dressed up to look freaky*.  We also got children’s editions of Macbeth from the library so they would be familiar with the story.  Verdict: My kids were entertained and really enjoyed the play!  My 3-year-old was telling people afterwards that the “witches were not scary, they were like crows” (there was some cool bird-like choreography going on with them) and kept repeating, “Macbeth!  Macbeth!” ominously to her siblings.  My boys loved the swordplay.

 

 

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Bellie and me before the show.  They let people purchase seats onstage just like in Shakespeare’s day.

 

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View of the stage after the show.  It was such a lovely evening!

3.  THE BUTT TREE

My kids discovered this.  I think this photo is pretty self-explanatory.

 

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You, lucky reader, can find this tree yourself in Boise’s lovely Julia Davis park near the Rose Garden!!

 

4.    IDAHO CITY

Idaho City is about an hour northeast of Boise.  It is an old gold-rush town and still has lots of old buildings from the 1860s.  I could have probably spent all day there, but the rest of my family is not as fascinated by history as I am so I just made them tour the old cemetery with me.  The brochure said that only about 30 of the 200 identified graves from the early days contained people who died of natural causes.

We came across several 19th Century children’s graves, which prompted a great discussion with the kids about the benefits of childhood immunizations.  (as in, “Aren’t you glad Mommy and Daddy tortured you by making you get your shots?  These five siblings died when the diphtheria epidemic of 1888 swept through town.  And now we have an inoculation for that so it won’t happen to you.”)  A little morbid, I know…but the kids can do the math and they ask.  Big eyes from the kids, but I think it brought home to them how lucky they are in this day and age with our medical advances.

5.   STANLEY, REDFISH LAKE, and the SAWTOOTH MOUNTAINS

This area gets really busy in the summer, but when we went it was still “shoulder season”.  The campground was pretty quiet, but still full.  The water was c-c-c-c-cold.  For reasons unknown to me, that didn’t deter the children from attempting to swim.  Silly kids.  Anyhow, it was gorgeous.  We rode bikes, fished, hiked, and rode horses.  At the end of the week I really needed a shower.  And we had extremely tame little chipmunk friends who lived at our campsite (which we admired from a distance and kept our food away from because plague is going around in Idaho and is carried by those types of rodents!)

 

6.  SUN VALLEY/KETCHUM

Basically, by the time we got to Sun Valley we were ready to stay in a hotel.  And I am pretty sure the highlight of the trip for the kids was watching tv and swimming at the hotel. (It is so extremely HARD to go without electronic devices for a week.  I mean, we really tortured those children).  We just relaxed and ate at some fun restaurants (KB’s – yummiest burritos ever!).  I went to my favorite Sun Valley area bookstore, Iconoclast Books & Gifts and also visited the Gold Mine thrift shop in Ketchum (resort communities have the most luxurious thrift stores!!  I scored big with the name brands!)

I was in the middle of reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and got really intrigued by Ernest Hemingway and wanted to do the whole Hemingway pilgrimage in Ketchum but ran out of time.  Oh well, maybe next time.

The Paris Wife

7.    This is not related to our travels, but I take my first Teaching Certification test on Friday!!!  I am scared.  But I feel prepared.  So, we shall see.  I will let you know how it goes!  Send me good thoughts!

 

Hope everyone has a lovely Father’s Day tomorrow!  Talk to you again soon!

 

 

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{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: New Year’s edition and 2016 catch-up

Happy New Year!  And happy Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, if you will.  Here’s a long-awaited update about what’s been going on around here:

One

Six weeks ago Junior and I traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate my sister’s graduation from a prestigious law enforcement academy.  We had a great time.  It was so fun to spend time with my oldest son while showing him important places in America’s heritage.  We visited George Washington’s plantation home, Mount Vernon; went to dinner at a happenin’ farm-to-table restaurant called Founding Farmers; had a tour of the Capitol building; saw aviation history at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum; practiced our espionage skills at the International Spy Museum; and attended a delightful performance of A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre.  Junior and I got to spend time with his grandmother who we don’t see very often, and my awesome sister who I miss being away from very much!  It was a great long weekend.

Two

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Spike channeled Garth on Thanksgiving.

Three

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For my birthday, Hubby got me a new chandelier for our two-story stairwell.  Before it was a flush mount (read: boring) light fixture that I didn’t feel did the space any favors.  We got this chandelier at a really great Black Friday weekend sale and Hubby put it up before my early- December birthday.  I love it.  It really adds a new level of style to the steps!

Four

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Bellie performed in her 3rd annual Nutcracker.  It is a lot of rehearsals and late nights, but I really love being able to watch her and relive my glory days as an amateur ballerina!

Five

We had a lovely and relaxing Christmas.  Of course I entertained all sorts of ideas about crafts to do and cookies to make, but I only really got around to making a gingerbread house with the kids.  And I guess that’s enough!

Six

We spent the new year at dear friends of ours’s cabin up near Yellowstone National Park.  It was lovely.  The snow made it just like a wonderland.  We spent our time cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, drinking hot cocoa, and just enjoying each other’s company.

Seven

New Year’s Resolution:  Become an Ultimate Book Nerd.  Our library sponsors the challenge: read 50 books in 50 weeks.  My friends and I are doing it together!  I am pumped!  I am hoping I can do it!  I will keep you appraised of my progress.

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Hope everyone is settling into the New Year in a lovely fashion!  Check in with Kelly to see what more awesome people are resolving to do this year!  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

{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!

Oregon: Part Deux

Continuing with our exciting Oregon coast report…

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One of them was terrified by the waves, the other three were enraptured by the wet sand.

THE OCEAN

We reached the Pacific at the northern part of the state, near Seaside, and drove to Del Rey Beach.  We were able to drive right out onto the sand.  It was fairly overcast, but still warm enough (the kids said) to run into the surf fully clothed!?!?  I don’t know if 64 degrees F is my idea of swimming weather, but they had great fun.  Just being able to play in the sand was a fabulous experience for them.

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Sand Angels are JUST like snow angels, just a little bit grittier.

Evvie HATED the waves!  She wouldn’t let me put her down for about an hour.  And then when I did, she just ran around screaming.  Eventually, though, she figured out that sand is kind-of fun to play with and she got in on the action, too.

It was fun to see the little jellyfish washed up by the waves.  They looked just like little bubbles on the sand.  We also saw a few different types of crabs, and different species of seagulls (which I didn’t realize existed – I thought they were all alike).

FORT STEVENS STATE PARK

We camped here two nights.  It was a super-nice campground with awesome bike trails that were easy for kids.  The first night we went to see the Peter Iredale shipwreck that was nearby.  We had watched the movie Goonies just before leaving on our trip, so the kids were really curious about where the pirate ship was with all the gold.  And also a little nervous about those sneaky bad guys and the skeletons.

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At the beach with the Peter Iredale.  No pirates in sight!

ASTORIA

What a gorgeous town!  I wish we could have spent more time there, but we really only had time to visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits, which were all about the coast’s relationship with fishing and shipping and exploration.  They also had a great exhibit for the kids about the Coast Guard and how they rescue people.  The kids got to climb in the rescue rafts and even try on a survival suit which would keep you warm and toasty if you were to spend a long time in frigid water.

We drove by the Old Jail that features in the opening scenes of Goonies.  It is now the Oregon Film Museum.  I hope that next time we’ll have time to stop and visit!

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Loved the rainforest!  The ferns were my favorites.

ECOLA STATE PARK AND VIEW OF HAYSTACK ROCK

We finally found a place to park with our little trailer near the overlook for Cannon Beach.  We had heard the tide pools down at Indian Beach in Ecola State Park were pretty good, so we thought a short hike down to the beach would be an OK proposition.  (Apparently the parking lot down at Indian Beach was full).  So we started pushing our stroller up the trail until we realized that the trail followed a narrow cliff-drop-off on one side.  Our stroller was too big and I didn’t relish the idea of the kids (or me) falling down the precipice to the rocky shore cliffs.  So we turned around.  We would look for tide pools elsewhere.  The walk up until that point was really pretty.  And the view of Haystack rock was gorgeous from the picnic area.

TILLAMOOK CHEESE FACTORY

This was a super-fun stop a few miles down the coast.  We get Tillamook dairy products in Idaho, and it was really fun to see where they make and package them for distribution!

While there, we got ice cream (Huckleberry is my favorite flavor!) and did a free self-guided tour of their cheese plant.  We all found it really interesting.

This video can give you a little glimpse of what we learned.

SEA LION CAVES Florence, OR

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The sea lions were cool, the kids enjoyed the cave…a little spendy, but worth it for us.

HECETA HEAD LIGHTHOUSE

I think this was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.  After we went to visit the Sea Lion caves in the morning, we drove a short way north to the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint.

We just spent the whole afternoon there, had a picnic, and then the kids played in the sand and we wandered in the surf, looking in the tide pools.  Very relaxing!

Well, it took me long enough to finish this post!  Only a few months later…ha!

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!

 

{7Quick Takes} Weekly mishmash Vol. 7

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Just trying to keep the summer from getting away from me…

I’m having a tough time with Summer.  I always tend to start out the summer vacation with great gusto (“Let’s paint!  And go to the library!”), but end up in a puddle of motivation loss by about day 3.  I think the kids seem to sense that they are treading on emotionally-fragile Mommy ground (with their mother one ridiculous kid-bickering-argument away from GOING INSANE) and it only serves to ramp up their noncompliance with the rules and their inability to help with housework.  Gaaaaaah!  Anyhow, here’s what’s been going on at Crazy Town:

ONE.

Massive Monster Meltdown on Monday (how’s that for alliteration?).  We got to town for Bellie’s t-ball game and she suddenly gasps and announces, “I forgot my shoes!”  To be fair, I had reminded her to grab her mitt and water bottle, but, silly me…forgot to remind her about bringing shoes.  (And six-year-olds have a lot on their minds so I should never assume shoes are a given)  Now, I know a parent with a more “tough love” approach would have just said, “sad” and made her play the game in her stocking feet, but we had a little bit of time to kill so I ran to Walmart and grabbed some cheaply made slip-on Frozen sneakers off the shelf.100_9233

Shoes?  We don’t need no stinkin’ shoes!

Trying to get out of there instantaneously, I was pushing that shopping cart like a bat out of hell and making my way to the register without pausing for anything.  The 3-year-old, Spike, had other plans.  For some reason every single Paw Patrol-themed item Walmart had for sale was on an end-cap at the exact height of my preschooler.  And, being a preschooler, he wanted every single item.  So, I arrived at the check-out with said preschooler under my arm while he proceeded to kick and scream “I WANT IT ALL!!!”

After paying (which is not the easiest feat while wrestling a 35-pound tornado and a baby who is trying to press the buttons on the credit card machine) and congratulating myself for getting the purchased shoes and kids to the car, I attempted to buckle Spike into his booster.  He wasn’t having it.  He wasn’t having it so much that I am pretty sure I almost popped a blood vessel from yelling at him (not my proudest moment).  Bellie had about 5 minutes to get back to her game, and I finally was able to wedge Spike into his seat and buckle him.  Victory.

Not so fast, momma.  We begin to exit the Walmart parking lot and Spike has unbuckled himself and proceeds to thrash around and scream, “I don’t want to be strapped!  I don’t want to!”  So I come to an abrupt halt on the side of the road (I am pretty sure the drivers behind me were shooting me CMD looks – “Crazy mini-van driver”) and, my patience wearing very thin, I swatted Spike’s behind, threw him back in his booster and strapped him again.

Two seconds down the road later, the little monster is unbuckled again.  We repeat the previous paragraph.  Except this time I am screaming, “YOU NEED TO STAY BUCKLED IN YOUR SEAT OR YOU. WILL. DIE!!!!!!  IF WE GET IN AN ACCIDENT YOU WILL FLY THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD AND YOU WILL DIE!!!!!!  HORRIBLE HORRIBLE THINGS WILL HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU DON’T STAY STRAPPED AND YOU.WILL. DIE!!!!!”  I have gone completely off the rails this time and we are in a residential neighborhood and I am pretty sure people are on their phones calling Child Protection or the Behavioral Health Center and telling them a mom in a minivan is losing her mind and could you send somebody quick, perhaps with tranquilizers?

Well, this scares Spike into a stupor (although I don’t think he has much of a concept of life or death or flying through the windshield but I think the kid is terrified that he has made his mommy absolutely unhinged) and we proceed to the game in silence.  The other kids are also maintaining a shocked quietude but probably thinking, “I’m glad I’m not the one who ticked Mom off.”

I hope Bellie learned her lesson about not forgetting her shoes next time.

TWO.

After that disastrous day, I took Junior and Bellie to the circus that was in town.  (As in, a professional circus.  Not the circus that is my home.) I hadn’t been to a circus since I was a kid myself and it was fun.  The kids really enjoyed it.  They perform it outside at a racecourse in town, and the most hilarious thing happened during one of the acts.  There was an animal trick show with a camel, two horses, and two miniature ponies.  All was going well until the ponies decided, “Heck, we’re tired of this performing-for-treats stuff.  We want to fulfill our dreams of being racehorses.” And they broke free from their ring and started hoofing it down the track.  They made it almost all the way around before a couple of handlers thwarted their thoroughbred dreams and wrangled them back to where they belonged.  But it was very entertaining.

THREE.

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Yay!  We spotted some more animal feces!

The whole family went for a hike last weekend.  It was nice, but at the beginning Bellie and Spike were complaining about being tired and not wanting to walk.  The incentive I came up with?  Poop.  I told them to keep an eye out for horse or elk poop on the trail.  I am proud to report that this was the motivation that kept them going.

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It’s always a good idea to stop, kick off your shoes, and take a break half-way through a grueling 10-minute hike.

FOUR.

Potty-training is stupid.  This is what the 3-year-old says and I am inclined to agree with him.

FIVE.

Brexit.  I am intrigued by this.  I don’t know if it is good or bad, but if the pound stays down I am kinda wishing I was going to England this year.  Needless to say, being a nerdy historian, seeing echoes of the isolationism that happened prior to WWI.  Just curious to see where this all leads…

SIX.

I am pretty sure that if I could find someone to grocery shop and cook for me I would probably be in a state of bliss most of the time.

SEVEN.

Someone in here is poopy so I should probably go figure that out.

 

Have a great week!100_9260

{7QuickTakes}Weekly mishmash, Vol. 6: School’s out for the summer edition

Today is Day One of summer vacation in this house.  So far, so good….but it is only 7 am.  While I listen to the sweet silence of my children getting along for the last few minutes before all hell breaks loose for the following three months, you can read along and hear about what we’ve been up to lately.  (Stop at Kelly‘s for more cool happenin’s)

ONE

As we walked through the garden the other day and I attempted to weed, Bellie and her little brother were inspecting their plots.  Noticing that a few areas had teeny tiny sprouts growing, Bellie said, “Be careful, Spike!  Don’t touch them!”  Spike paused thoughtfully, then said, “Right.  Because we don’t want them to grow back down.”  It made me think of the Wizard-of-Oz when the Wicked Witch of the East got crushed underneath Dorothy’s house; her striped legs rolling back up under it like a party horn.  Definitely hope that doesn’t happen to our vegetables!  The kids do like to “see” with their hands.

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 dusty, dusty garden patch

TWO

Bellie was making a card for her friend’s birthday party and wanted to know how to spell said-friend’s name.  “P-A-I-G-E” I said.  “What?” she said, incredulously, “I don’t think so.  Isn’t it  ‘P-I-G? [she says, trying to sound it out] ‘”  Now, she is a newly graduated kindergartner and I generally encourage her to use “kindergarten spelling” where she sounds out words and comes up with the spelling herself, but I think on this occasion I will just spell that one for her!

THREE

Little Evvie is getting to be quite the explorer.  Running off during school programs, deciding she’s had enough at church and marching down the aisle.  Making friends of other similarly-aged babies and deciding to join their families at library story time.  Also the bathroom and kitchen drawer spelunking.  I have been trying to avoid putting those annoying child locks on the drawers but I think I might just have to pretty soon.  Especially after every single one of my feminine products found their way on to the floor of the living room and Spike is joining in the fun by adhering them to my bookshelf and asking if “these things are airplanes because they have wings”.

FOUR

They just cut the alfalfa field behind our house.  Mmmmm…one of my favorite smells.  I love how everything is so green around here right now – we just got done with several weeks of unseasonable rain and it has made our normally-desert dry neck-of-the-woods a verdant paradise!  At least for a little while longer.  Since we have moved some of our trees to the opposite side of our yard and put up a bird feeder, we have seen so many more birds in our yard and I love it!  We showed the kids a robin’s nest in one of our pine trees and I always forget how brilliant blue the eggs are.  I love early summer.

 

FIVE

I am trying to come up with a system for Kid Media Time this summer.  Ugh.  I hate hate hate hate hate having to deal with this.  I would be content if our tv and computer just broke (well, not my computer, I need some sort of lifeline to the real world!) and the kids would be content to just be kicked outside and play in the dirt all day.  And I guess a Media Moratorium is a possibility for the whole summer, but I fear a mutiny and occasionally rain and 2nd-degree sunburns necessitate a day or so indoors.  Being “SOOOOOOOOOOO bored”.  My issue is that I find difficulty policing the actual time spent on media.  The computer isn’t a big deal.  Junior gets an hour/day based following completion of household chores.  It’s the TV.  Because the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines say “Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content” I am trying to only allow another hour or two for television/tablets.  My kids obviously do not like the same TV shows, being vastly different ages.  So what happens when Paw Patrol is on for Spike, but Junior is in the same room passively watching it?  Do I count this against Junior’s Media Time?  Does each kid get his/her own quota for time?  Or do I just say TV can be watched from 8-10 am and each person gets to pick a show?  What happens if we watch a movie in the evening as a family?  I would love to hear readers’ thoughts on this; particularly what worked or didn’t. 

SIX

As my shoulder saga continues, I think we may have made a discovery:  I HAVE BAD POSTURE.  After holding babies (incorrectly, I wager) for nine years and lugging around car-seats and other miscellaneous child-rearing paraphernalia akin to a pack animal, my normal posture resembles that of a hunchback.  I have to constantly remind myself to sit up straight, shoulders back.  My chiropractor recently tried using this kinesiology tape on my shoulder, mainly to remind me to keep my posture healthy and it has made a difference!  So going forward we will see if this makes a lasting impact.

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It’s a good look for summer.

 

SEVEN

Hubby and I are set to celebrate anniversary number 12 on Sunday and I am so excited for the gift I am going to present to him!  Twelve years of marriage is traditionally celebrated with linen or silk apparently but what the heck do you get a guy that’s either of those things?  I thought silk boxers but they sound somewhat impractical and hand-wash only.  So I got him this gorgeous handmade fly box for when he fly fishes.  It is customized with his favorite run and the “river” is inlaid with turquoise.  I really love it, I hope he does too!  Thanks Mike at Snake River Nets for the fabulous box!

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Ta ta for now, have a great weekend!