Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Getting There

It’s a good thing that I’m not a superstitious person. Otherwise I may have taken it as a bad sign when Shaun discovered that we had a leaking water pipe somewhere on our property on the morning we left for our six-day trip to New York.

And when we got to the security screening line at the Portland airport and Shaun was pulled aside because he hadn’t noticed that his Leatherman was in his laptop case, I could have taken it as an ill omen. But no need. They merely packaged it up and for $12 allowed Shaun to mail it back to himself.

It took a little more willpower to disregard the jumpy Marine trying to get through security just ahead of us. It appeared that he kept setting off the alarm by failing to place all of his metal items on the conveyor belt, and the repeated, failed attempts had left him agitated. I think he was trying to smile, but it came out as a grimace—his teeth were bared and clenched, and his eyes looked wild.

“What do I do?” he entreated the TSA agent standing on the other side of the arch, waving his arms and shifting his weight from side to side as he bounced on the balls of his feet. “What do I do?”

“OK, friend,” she said firmly. “This is your fifth trip through the doorway. Relax. Take a deep breath. And then step on through.” The fifth time was a charm. So that was all right.

Our flight left a few minutes late, but nothing to worry about. We would still have just enough time to make our connection. Except, for some reason, at the time we were supposed to be landing in Seattle, our plane was still in the air.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the captain, “you may have noticed that we have been climbing again.” Actually, I hadn’t noticed.

“We had a malfunction with the flight controls. But we are now cleared for landing and that’s what we’ll be doing.”

Hmm. Well, the flight controls had started working again. So that was really more lucky than unlucky. The passengers who clapped upon our uneventful landing obviously agreed with me.

We landed in Seattle just as our flight to Newark was scheduled to board. The terminal we were leaving from was a subway ride away, and as we stepped off the train into the long corridor that led to our gate, we heard the final boarding call for our flight. My fear of losing a day in NYC overcame my reluctance to look like an idiot, and I broke into a jog.

If you can’t imagine Shaun running for a plane, your instincts serve you well. His fast walk kept him only a few paces behind me. We were the last people to board, except for a crabby old couple who had apparently been hanging around for hours but couldn’t be troubled to actually get on the plane.

We settled into our seats, and I caught my breath and smiled at Shaun, saying something like “I can’t believe we made it.” Then I sat and thought about it for a few minutes before turning to Shaun with the question of the day.

“If we just made this flight,” I asked, “what are the chances that our luggage made it too?”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

There Goes Kindergarten

Nels learned to read and write this year. He watched baby chicks hatch and he grew crystals; his drawings have not only become recognizable but extremely detailed, and he can now sing "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes" in Japanese. I would say that our first year of public education "exceeded expectations."

At the end-of-the-year program, each child in the two morning classes had a line to say about what they learned during the year. Nels spoke very confidently into the microphone. I don't think he was nervous one bit.

The kids were so cute that it almost made me want to be a Kindergarten teacher. Almost.

They didn't call it "graduation" (thankfully), but each child got a certificate from the principal.

After the program, we dispersed to the classrooms to watch a slide show of photos from the year.

And to eat root beer floats! Oh, Kindergarten.

Here's Nels with the best teacher ever. She's been teaching so long and so well that she's a legend in Camas. Everyone knows her.

We couldn't be prouder.

Three Cheers For Dads

My dad came out for a little visit. He took the train. The boys and I ventured into the industrial part of Vancouver to pick him up at the train station. The day was gray and gusty and drizzly, and the delayed arrival of the train only served to heighten Nels's anticipation.

After about 25 minutes of running around the station's small lawn with his brother, Nels came and stood by me, staring wistfully down the tracks.

"I keep hoping that that old man with the soft voice and the soft hands will POP out of there any minute," he said.

The old man with the soft voice and the soft hands. So lyric, that description. And so loving, to notice the small, real details.

Dad never arrives empty-handed. He brought a jar of Juli cookies (thank you, Juli!), a huge stack of old Hardy Boys and other assorted books, all sorts of Ski to Sea material, which he's been designing for the past five months, and the be-all and end-all of Boy Gifts, a book on knot-tying and two lengths of rope.

(A note on the Hardy Boys: we started with volume 32 or so, written in the 1950's. I thought that was dated. Then we tried one written in 1931. Holy smokes. The times, they have a-changed.)

All too soon, dad was on his way. But the book on knots became a prized household possession. By the time Father's Day rolled around, Shaun was happily and expertly working his way through some of the more impressive knots, and Nels was discovering the thrill of following the diagrams and making a knot all on his own. Willem, feeling left out, periodically pronounced, "Yeah, knots are BORing."

That's pretty much all we did on Father's Day. We went to church, tried a new burger place (Five Guys, and they really need to SALT their patties!) and spent a quiet afternoon at home. I wanted to cook something spicy for Shaun for dinner; he likes spicy food, but I never fix it (on purpose, anyway) on account of the kids. I made this recipe for Beef Short Ribs in Chipotle and Green Chili Sauce (substituting boneless pork country ribs for the beef) and it actually wasn't very spicy. But it was delicious.

Shaun tied knots with Nels and played stuffed animals with Willem.

We're all really, really glad that he's their dad.

Friday, June 11, 2010

So Busy

How do people do it? I make it a point not to sign up for anything. No sports or lessons for the boys, no volunteering in the classroom, no committees, (less proudly) no community service, no specific ministry involvement at church.

And yet. We are very busy, even without the extras. Just the basics of preschool and kindergarten require a lot more of my close attention than I ever could have imagined. And it can only get more complicated from here on out. Right?

All that to say that if the many blog posts floating around in my head never see the light of day it's just because we've been so busy.

I already told you about our weather, but I thought you might appreciate a visual aid. Here you see our rhododendrons in full bloom alongside a big old heap of hail. There was one week where the weather changed every five minutes. Pounding hail, blazing sun, buckets of rain, thunder and lightning, fog, more get the idea. Then it settled into rain, rain, and more rain. It's gotten to be a thing, even for here.

Because when you live in the Portland metro area and you complain about the rain, you get a big "duh" and an eye roll in return, because, DUH, it's PORTLAND! But despite the fact that we all know better, many folks (including old-timers) have started getting crabby about it. Because, even if it's Portland, it shouldn't rain every single day. Forever. Things are looking up, though. It's supposed to be sunny and in the 80's tomorrow. Heaven help the meteorologists if they're wrong; I think the normally pacific Pacific Northwesterners could get ugly if the promised warmth doesn't materialize.

Moving right along, I share with you an historic moment. Nels is reading a book to his brother for the first time. Oh, happy day.

And here is Willem performing in his recital for school. He almost cried when he saw the shirt he had to wear. I don't blame him.

For Memorial Day weekend, the Hamiltons drove over from Idaho, which was mighty kind of them. We had ourselves some real good times. There was good eating at home, book-buying at Powells, reubens at Kenny & Zuke's, and tough kids playing at the river on a gray cloudy day.

Oh. There was also an LCD Soundsystem concert at the Roseland Theater, and it rocked, no two ways about it. Afterwards we went to Clyde Common for food and drink; by the time we got home it was 2:40 in the morning. Way to break in the new babysitter.

On Memorial Day the Hamiltons bravely headed home (long car rides with little ones require courage and fortitude) and we met up with Shaun's family for a service at the cemetery in Vernonia. The American Legion really does it up every year. The setting is just beautiful, even in the rain.

Twenty-one gun salutes are noisy.

Visiting Grandpa Chick's grave.

Shaun's sister and her family were out for the week, so we had lots of fun visiting with them. Cousin Heidi just turned one year old, and Nels is particularly taken with her. He asked if he could hold her on his lap, and he was just tickled to death the entire time.

See? Tickled.

The day the Macks flew back to California, Willem had his end-of-the-year program. It seemed superfluous after the long recital we had been subjected to less than two weeks before, but Willem so dearly loves to be on stage that I could hardly begrudge him another opportunity.

"Did I do a good job, mom?"
"You did great!"
And I promise that you never have to wear that shirt again.

We were lucky enough to have Grandma along for the program. Here is Nels trying on her glasses.

Aw. My sweet, heartbreakingly sensitive nerd. My soon-to-be first grader. What a fellow. He keeps me busy.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It's Not Even Monday

...but one wet bed, three cat throw-ups, and two incidences of pooped pants are making it feel like one. Not to mention the part where our cat started foaming at the mouth and then crawled into the corner under our china cabinet. And maybe you've heard it's been raining here? Like, forever?

But boo hoo, we had an amazing Memorial Day weekend (more on that forthcoming), so what's a little janitorial duty and bad weather? Life is good.

Oh, and the cat seems to have recovered.