Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Our boys' bedtime prayers usually fall into a predictable routine. But Nels has been changing it up with some new content lately:

"Please help me not to talk when other people are talking. And please HELP OTHER PEOPLE NOT TO TALK WHEN I'M TALKING.

And thank you that we're so lucky...and please help other people to be lucky too."

It's all sincere, but certain sentiments are perhaps more heartfelt than others.

I Enjoy Being a Girl

I spent many years living with sisters and female roommates, and sometimes I feel a little alienated by all the boy energy in my house. Partly because we've moved so frequently in the past several years, I rarely have a girlfriend around to talk about girl stuff with.

Out of sheer desperation, I have been known to show Shaun a cute pair of shoes online and beg him to pretend he cares.

Once in a while, though, being the only girl has its privileges.

About four weeks ago we were all out running errands as a family. We got out of the car; Nels reached for Shaun's hand, and Willem looked up at me as he took mine.

"Do you know why I'm holding your hand?"

"No, why?"

"Because you're the cutest in the family."

OK, I was charmed.

Last week we all went to lunch. Shaun sat across from me, Nels next to him, and Willem pulled up the chair next to me.

"Do you know why I'm sitting next to you?"


"Because you're the cutest." Off-handedly: "AND you're the prettiest."

I don't care what it is you're selling, kid. I'm buying.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Family Milestone: Gone Fishin'

Not one to squander a rare day off work, Shaun decided that July 3 would be a perfect day to take the boys fishing for the first time.

A boy's first fishing trip is not something to be undertaken lightly. There were two primary considerations: 1. We should go somewhere where we know people are catching fish. 2. The fish we catch should be fish we want to eat.

After some online investigating, Shaun settled on Mayfield Lake. This was a risky move; the lake is an hour and a half away, so we didn't have the opportunity to scout it out and see if there was a suitable place to fish from the shore with the boys. But what the heck. Armed with Pringles, beef jerky, power bait, and cheap Wal-Mart fishing poles, we set off in the late afternoon.

In a few ways, the big ways, we totally lucked out. After tramping along a trail for a little longer than we'd anticipated, we found a perfect spot. It was about 8 feet above the water's surface on a narrow, shady arm of the lake, a spot that we could tell people usually jumped from. It was pretty steep to get down to, and it dropped off very precipitously, so Shaun and I were on high alert the whole time, making sure nobody tripped over a tree root and went into the drink.

There were a few things it would have behooved us to have thought through more thoroughly in planning our outing. We arrived at dinner time, and our snacks didn't quite cut it. The lake was more isolated than we'd anticipated, so we didn't have the opportunity to run out for food. We didn't end up eating dinner until 10:30 that night.

Our plan was to fish at dusk, when the fish are biting. Of course they're biting then; that's when the bugs are out. And biting. And us without our bug dope. Poor Nels got the worst of it with bites all over, including a spectacular one on his chest that looked like a third nipple. I got a wicked bite on my calf that caused my leg to swell up just a bit and then go numb. The mosquitoes left Willem alone entirely, which confirms my perception of exactly how sweet he is these days.

Despite the hungry tummies, and the itching, and the perpetual low-level complaints of boredom, we had a lot of fun. Shaun pointed out that the setting looked a lot like the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. With the boats full of passengers filing by, pointing at the tableau we made up on the bank, it definitely added to the amusement park attraction atmosphere.

Most glorious of all, the fish were biting. We had an ideal spot. We could look over the edge of the bank and SEE the fish swimming in the shade and jumping out for bugs. And they were all tasty rainbow trout.

Nels catches the first fish of the day! And of his life!

We were catching so many fish that there was a lot of down time while Shaun took care of all the keepers. He had a stringer in the water, but getting down to the water was a lot of work.

Serious business.

Dinner! More than once!

We didn't get home until midnight. Nels fell asleep on the stairs and I went right to bed. Our fearless leader stayed up and cleaned and photographed the fish. We had a lot of fun taking them to grandma and grandpa's to show off and share for dinner on the 4th.

I don't anticipate ticking off any more milestones this summer. That's OK with me. I'm expecting Family Milestone: First Day of Kindergarten to be a doozy.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Caution

If you are having Big Feelings, you may not want to stop at WinCo late at night for groceries.

Because if you do, you may see four Russian brothers, approximate ages nine through sixteen, jubilantly racing through the store in pairs, doing their family’s grocery shopping.

You may see a tired-looking woman in glasses with shoulder-length hair and male-pattern baldness so severe that you’d think she was wearing a shower cap.

Or you may see a woman ahead of you in line, digging through her purse for change while she holds two dollar bills in her hand. She is shaking her head while the cashier counts out how many packets of Kool-Aid Blast she can buy for that. The woman’s three children wait patiently, the teenage boy bouncing his baby sister in his arms. Her elderly mother stares stoically into space.

And then you may see the scruffy man in line in front of you point to the other half of the woman’s groceries, the half that has been left on the conveyor belt because she’s run out of money.

“I’ll get the rest of it. I’ll pay for it.” And his wife doesn’t bat an eyelash, and they don’t appear to judge as the cashier rings up the giant jar of kosher dill pickles, the chips, the cans of Chef Boyardee ravioli. Fifty dollars’ worth of junky food.

You may see all these things, late at night at WinCo, and your Big Feelings might turn into even Bigger Feelings.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Olympic Fun

We've been living in Camas for a year now, and I have to say that we have made very little progress when it comes to making friends here. The strange thing is that it doesn't seem to matter. Because we DO have friends in the greater Portland area (some of whom we hardly knew before and are enjoying getting better acquainted with), and between seeing those folks and spending time with extended family and getting our projects around the house done, it turns out that we are pretty busy all the time.

We get to do fun things like go visit our friends the Shackelfords. For Father's Day weekend we headed up to Olympia. On Saturday morning, dads and kids went to the air show while Heather and I hit the flea market and then went out to lunch. I can't imagine a more dandy way to spend a day.

Here are the kids taking a break after the air show. I would love to know what it is they're watching that caused the same expression on all three boys' faces.

That evening we were present for the inaugural use of the backyard fire pit. There were s'mores, of course.

Shaun is the undisputed kind of the toasted marshmallow.

Once the kids were safely tucked away, we got to enjoy some grown-up time. Heather recreated a tart she'd had with homemade apricot jam, yogurt, and honey-glazed pine nuts. It looked mighty good, and it tasted even better.

Yep. We were spoiled.

On Sunday morning, Dave and Shaun each took a boy kayaking (Nels's first time; I hear he did great), and then we all had lunch down by the water at Tugboat Annie's, where they make a burger big enough to slice up like a pizza and feed at least six people.

Amid the bustle of our fun and busy weekend, I abdicated all personal responsibility for making sure Shaun had a great Father's Day. I forgot to have the boys make him a card and I even made Shaun drive us home. (In my defense, that's only because I fell right asleep in the car after lunch.) I felt pretty bad once we got home and I saw on Facebook that all my friends were grilling up steaks and ribs for THEIR husbands. Shaun was nice about it and I was grateful.

One great feature of busy weekends is that they make the quiet ones RELAXING rather than BORING. So we've been greatly enjoying the best of both, and feeling thankful for where we've landed.