Tuesday, September 21, 2010

That's It For Summer

I thought I was way behind, but it turns out that today is the last day of summer. So this last post on our summer adventures is perfectly timed.

We decided to squeeze a quick trip to Boise in and be back in time to celebrate Labor Day with Shaun's extended family. Which meant that on the Thursday before school started, we went to meet Nels's teacher and saw his new classroom for about two minutes before we hopped in the van and drove to Boise.

I hadn't realized that we were supposed to read the papers the teacher had handed us while we were still at school. So we didn't find Nels's cubby, we didn't show him how to get from his classroom to the playground, and, most importantly, we didn't show him where the bathroom was. As an over-preparer, this worried me, but Shaun assured me that Nels would be fine. (And indeed he was fine, though he did get lost on his first trip from the bathroom back to class.)

We arrived chez Hamilton in the wee hours. Very wee. Our weekend was full of the usual: eating and hanging out. Also thrown in were some bike rides, a walk to the park, and a bit of shopping. It would have been the epitome of relaxation had we not displaced our kind hosts from their bedroom. They are very good sports.

And their house is LOVELY. Here are the kids rotting their brains before breakfast. Because brain-rotting is a very quiet activity.

Never fear! Amanda set the kids up in her studio and let them go to town. Inactivity crisis averted.

I love the pose Willem is working here. I also love the alien he's painting.

One of the highlights of the trip was watching Esly drive Willem crazy. He sooooo deserves a taste of his own medicine.

"Mwah ha ha! Look at me, Dad! I'm torturing Willem!"

Here's Nels showing off his loose tooth shortly before Willem knocked it out (yet again.) Friend Kylee is in the background.

Impish Nels. Everyone else is trés serious.

Cheers to summer and good friends.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Summer Snippets

Viña Aljibes rosé displays a deep raspberry colour, seductive aromas of strawberry and yogurt and an unctuous palate.

Yum. Aren't yogurt and unctuous two words you always look for when choosing a wine? Fortunately I bought this (without reading the label) on the recommendation of the wine steward at Fred Meyer, and it turned out to be my favorite wine of the summer. I wouldn't call it yogurt-y, but I would call it delicious.


I have been invited to my 20th high school reunion. I don't know why it's being held in October rather than during the summer, when more of us could possibly attend, and which is closer to when we actually graduated, but at least it's happening.

I thought that the occasion of my 20th reunion would exacerbate the mid-life angst I've been experiencing lately, but what really gets me is this: I totally remember my mom's 20th high school reunion.

I'm terrible with dates, but I figure I must have been in junior high at the time. So of course the buying of a dress and shoes for such a glamorous (to my mind) occasion made a big impression on me.

Mom's dress was made from crisp magenta cotton, with small gathers at the princess waist, a curvy sweetheart neckline, and puffed sleeves. I believe it was Laura Ashley. The shoes she bought were pointy-toe flats with a wavy, asymmetrical opening. They were pinker than the dress and I thought they clashed, but I didn't have the nerve to say so when asked for my opinion. Sorry, mom. You still looked beautiful.

As a kid I didn't pay all that much attention to what my parents were up to, so it's rare to be able to look at something my mom did and say I'm there now. But here I am. I won't be there, though. At the reunion. It's not really worth the expense for a just a weekend trip to California, when we're way overdue for a longer stay. With the advent of Facebook, the main thing I'll miss by not being there in person is the opportunity to buy an outfit that epitomizes my era as well as mom's ensemble did in the 80's.


We witnessed a SPECTACULAR crash on Highway 26 on the way out to Shaun's folks' house this summer. We were heading west when I noticed a cloud of dust rising from the other side of the road.

"Do you see that?" asked Shaun, as he slowed down and pulled off onto the shoulder. There was a car going full freeway speed coming from the opposite direction. It wasn't on the pavement, though--it was driving on the side of the road, parallel to it, kicking up dust in a very cinematic fashion. We only had a few seconds to worry about what might happen as the car approached and then went by us; there was no barrier dividing the highway, so Shaun was worried it might hit something and ricochet over onto our side.

The car did hit something. It plowed head-on, dead-center into one end of a very solid wood fence. It mowed down the entire length of the fence, sending boards flying up into the air one after the other before it crashed into a parked pick-up and came to a stop. It looked just like a movie.

I felt sick to my stomach, absolutely certain that we'd all just seen a fatal crash. Shaun jumped out and called 911, running back to the spot where the car had ended up. I said a prayer for the driver and also that I would never have the occasion to be the first person to stop at an accident. Bleh. I am not your man in an emergency. Especially if it's a gory one.

It turned out that other people got there first, and that the driver was fine. She was up and standing by the time Shaun got there. The airbag in her newish T-Bird had saved the day. I couldn't believe it.

The woman didn't have any explanation for what happened, and I was just thankful that she had drifted off onto the side of the road rather than into the wrong lane. Somebody--possibly us--would have been a goner in that case. When we buy our next car, the crash safety rating is going to be a lot higher on my list of important factors than it was before we saw that accident.


Shaun's dad turned 65! He's still as busy as ever with church leadership, the tree farm, managing his mother's financial affairs, and finishing/maintaining the log house, but he is very happy to no longer be working for The Man. Congratulations!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From the Grab Bag

When I decided to major in Intercultural Studies at Biola, I had an idea that I would become a Bible translator in a French-speaking African country. I never officially reconsidered this very specific career path; the idea just evaporated of its own accord.

Unfortunately, an alternate plan never presented itself, which is how I came to be working part-time in a coffee house after I graduated. Working in a coffee house in 1994 could have been cool, but I am an inveterate nerd, so the coffee house I worked at was in a strip mall in Brea.

The owners did roast their own beans right there in the shop, and I did learn a lot about coffee, but Regency Coffee Roast didn't foster the sort of coffee house culture that I'd hoped for. Rather than talking books with endearingly shabby literary types, I found myself slinging espressos for guys in dress slacks and button-downs on their way to the office. They called me things like "sweetie" and "hon." And not in a nice way.

Of course it wasn't all condescending white-collar workers and soccer moms. We had an occasional character or two come through. There was one regular couple I dreaded serving, because the wife was (supposedly) deathly allergic to caffeine. Every time I made her espresso the husband would ask five times if I'd remembered to use the decaf beans. Because, if I hadn't, her death would be on my hands. That was fun.

Some of the young people who worked at Regency were cool, and their interesting friends would stop by to mooch discount drinks and leftover baked goods. One day somebody's friends walked in and among them was a woman with her face tattooed. All over. In fact, most of her visible skin was covered in ink. But the designs on her face were so indistinct and blurry, it just looked like a mess. I couldn't fathom why somebody would do something so permanent and extreme. I tried not to stare.

Then I overheard her friend explaining that the woman had a rare skin condition; the skin was never going to be normal, so she figured she might as well have some fun with it. It's not a choice I necessarily would have made, but it made some sense.

It's been years since I thought of her. But just a few weeks ago I was wandering aimlessly around the interwebs when I encountered an article promoting the newest edition of the Guinness Book of World's Records. Prominently featured was this photo of the world's most tattooed woman:

According to her bio, she's from California and she decided to tattoo her entire body because of a skin condition. So, unless it's a just a remarkable coincidence, I've met the world's most tattooed lady.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More Summer

The Frei family came for a visit! We've only seen them once since we moved away from California, so we didn't know one another's children apart from blogs and Facebook. It turns out that their children (no surprise) are really great.

The kids played together like they'd known each other forever. It was fun for all.

Breakfast waffles, courtesy of Shaun, our resident Breakfast Specialist.

We decided to spend our one full day out at Shaun's folks house so we could just relax and the kids could play in the river. Our boys are used to it, but the Freis were coming off a long week of houseboating, and the combination of tired kids, slippery rocks, and large-ish crawfish eventually led to some spectacular meltdowns.

Here's Nels with his favorite Frei. He told me he liked her best because she is "wiser" than her sister.

These crawdads were all over the place. Supposedly they run away from people, but I wasn't overanxious to find out.

Shame on me for dreading summer. It was fun! Mostly. And I still have one more trip to share.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

It's already the second week of school, but there's a whole pile of fun we had this summer that I never told you about. My plan is to get all caught up with a few hefty posts, then update more regularly now that I will have a few sidekick-free hours every week.

Yeah, we'll see how that goes.

Let's get started. We saw our friend Charisa (her family has been friends with Shaun's family through church from way, way back) and had her and Shaun's folks over for dinner. Because we don't make it over to Africa very often, we hadn't seen Charisa in over ten years--since before we got married. And she could not get over the fact that we had kids.

"Shaun and Gypsy with kids! I just can't believe it. Shaun and Gypsy! Kids!" Throughout the evening she periodically repeated this sentiment.

This in turn blew my mind. My sole identity has been "mom" for almost seven years now; I can hardly imagine myself apart from it. It was interesting to be reminded that it hasn't always been that way.

The takeaway from an evening spent with our family was "If Shaun and Gypsy can do it, then maybe so can I." I love that. And it was super fun to see her.


In July (I know, I told you I'm behind) the Mullins family moved to Germany. We were lucky enough to be invited over for food and good-byes on their last night in Portland. Of course it was fun because they are gracious hosts and good company.

But the fact that they were leaving their house (with its sale in limbo) and shedding all of their worldly goods (apart from a few precious items in a storage unit) imparted a devil-may-care tone to the evening that I'm not sure I've ever encountered before.

Random people kept wandering by to pick up the free items Jeff and Ariana had left outside their fence. The plan for the next morning was to drag the mattresses they'd slept on out to the curb and leave them there as well. It all seemed rather liberating, but I'm sure it's one of those things that's more fun when one is experiencing it vicariously rather than in fact.

We guests were sent home with the few items that remained in the house. I brought home a cup, a small All Clad sauté pan (I know!) and a few mostly full bottles from the liquor cabinet. They are so much more disciplined than I am. If I'd known I was leaving the country, I would have divided the amount of alcohol by the remaining days and polished it off before I left.

It seemed a particular shame that they had to abandon their garden before much of anything was ready to harvest. Ariana went around randomly pulling up puny carrots to see if there was anything to speak of. Mostly there wasn't, but there were some spectacular stalks of elephant garlic that were ready to go. We got to bring one home. It's taller than I am, with a lovely lavender pompom of a blossom, and it has taken up residence in the corner of our kitchen. It inspires shock and awe in our visitors, and all of them want to know "what is that?" I then enjoy telling the story of its origins.

Ariana has been blogging faithfully about her family's move to Germany, and it is making me "homesick" for the time I spent there (three months in college and six months in 2003.) Plus it just makes me kick myself that I wasn't blogging or writing at all during that time. My memory is totally worthless. Fortunately, we have lots and lots of pictures.


I thought we'd do a lot of camping this summer, now that the boys are both old enough to make it less of a hassle, but it was hard to find the time. We did end up going to Cove Palisades State Park with a few families from our small group at church, and that was terrific. Camping with other people who have kids is absolutely the way to go. At least until our kids can figure out how to spend more than two minutes with just each other without bickering.

Here's our communal meal site. We each took charge of one meal and then we all ate together. I've never done that before. It was slick. Special thanks go to the Stricklands for fixing BARBECUE BEEF RIBS for all of us. Turns out they like to eat just as well as I do but they are not as lazy. I don't even like to bother with ribs at home, let alone camping. The ribs were delicious.

It was really hot. Here's Nels after running around the campsite for a bit. We were on our way to the lake, where it was much cooler.

See? Cool. If you've never been to Lake Billy Chinook, you should check it out sometime. I wouldn't call it pretty, but it is striking in an alien, unearthly sort of way. (It looks normal in this picture, but trust me, it feels totally sci-fi.)

We played in the water for a long time, and then adjourned for lunch and a little baseball. Somebody should probably tell Nels that his chances of hitting the ball would be better if he opens his eyes when he swings.

Actually, he did improve and start making contact with the ball. I just couldn't resist these pictures.

Of course, no camping trip is complete without a campfire and s'mores.

And there you have some of what I did on my summer vacation. Part The Next coming soon.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to School

I knew Nels was excited to go back to school. I did not know that the intensity of his enthusiasm would be such that he popped out of bed (unbidden) at 7:15 on Tuesday morning and got dressed before I even noticed he was awake. He ate his breakfast and then danced around the house singing, "I am a first-grader." If only every day were the first day of school.

Willem and I dropped Nels off at 8:45 and picked him up at 3:30. SIX HOURS AND FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER. That was weird.

When we were finally reunited (the scene at the school was a total madhouse), this is the one thing he had to say:

"Hey mom, you know what my teacher does that's kind of funny? When she tells us something we have to do, after she tells us, she says, 'Get it? Got it? Good.' And then we say it back."

He shook his head with appreciation as he repeated the phrase. That is so Nels. Whereas just the thought of anyone saying that to me makes me cranky.

I had really been looking forward to having Nels in school for most of the day. So I was surprised to find myself a little concerned about it when the time actually came. My job is to help him grow up to be the best person he can be. And now he is going to be spending his day with a group of people who are very nice and are very good at what they do; but not a one of them has that job.

Hmm. The decision to homeschool one's children despite the availability of an excellent public school has suddenly become less inexplicable to me.

And then there is this:

I'm going back to school today
The summer has almost past
When I think of all the things to learn
The year will go very fast.

This is the first stanza of a poem Nels brought home from school. It's bad enough that the second sentence doesn't technically make sense, but "The summer has almost past?" Has almost PAST? HAS PAST?

The rest of the poem contains fewer grammatical offenses, but is no less inane. For example:

Father bought me some brand new jeans
And a cowboy shirt to match
Grandpa says I'll need a ball
So I can practice playing catch.

PLEASE, public school, PLEASE don't teach my kid to hate poetry. I really don't want to homeschool.