Thursday, September 29, 2011

You Could Say That

The boys have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of some rubber band guns that were ordered for Nels's birthday. The company accidentally sent them to a different Shaun Martin, so the guns didn't make it in time for the party last weekend.

Well, today the package arrived. We waited until Nels got home from school, and then the boys crowded around me in the kitchen as I opened up the box.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Settling In to School

Willem was a little anxious about starting Kindergarten, but now he cheers when he asks me if it's a school day and I say yes. I think he was worried about liking his teacher. But, in his words, "I got used to her right away."

The biggest impediment to Willem's happiness at school seems to be girls. "Mom, today was horrible," he told me one afternoon when I went to pick him up. His head was down and he dragged his feet as we walked.

"What happened?" I asked.

"We added up how many girls and how many boys in the class. And the girls won. They were laughing and smiling over at me. It was horrible."

He was thoroughly disgusted with those awful girls.

Here's a picture of the principal chatting with the boys at the Birthday Table. Once a month, the PTA decorates a big table and all the kids who have a birthday that month eat there and get ice cream afterwards (if their parents have signed a permission slip first.) Each child has his picture taken with the principal and hung on a bulletin board.

This year they invited the parents as well, so Willem and I joined Nels for lunch. It was my first experience in the school cafeteria at lunch time. Talk about sensory overload. I didn't have the nerve to ask Mr. Parman what was going on with his hair.

They're really big on positive reinforcement at the school, so Nels already has a big pile of certificates that tell him he's doing a stellar job, and Willem got to sign the Baller Success Book for adding a word bubble that said "YOU CANT CACH ME" to his drawing of a gingerbread man, all on his own. At one point the two boys almost came to blows arguing over who was going to be the first to tell me about the praise he got from his teacher for his good behavior. Ah, sweet irony.

I'm proud of how they're doing, but there's plenty of humility mixed in with that. Nels came home last week with an in-class assignment in which they were supposed to "stretch" a sentence with added details. Here's the sentence:

We can have one.

Here are the details that Nels added in response to the prompts:

Who? Willem.
What? A spanking.
Why? Because he hit me.
Where? At home.

The next step was to rewrite the sentence with all of the changes, but Nels didn't make it that far. Which is just as well. The fragments were bad enough without seeing "Willem can have a spanking because he hit me at home," all spelled out in its entirety. I'm really looking forward to that first parent-teacher conference.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Blog Field Trip

Shaun's cousin Jared and his wife Amy (and their daughter Sunita and Jared's mom Marsha) are wrapping up a long-anticipated trip to China to bring home their adopted son Titus.

Today I'm suggesting that you visit Amy's blog and read all about their experience there. Every bit is moving and fascinating (for instance, striking little Sunita, adopted from India, is mobbed like a celebrity wherever they go), but do be sure not to miss Amy's reflections on the first night they are all together and her thoughts upon visiting the place where Titus was found when he was two months old. Have a tissue handy.

I know that my tendency is to try not to think about the misery that children the world over face, because it is so horrible and I can't fix it. It's easier to look away. But Jesus didn't do that. He came to be with us in this messy place. I am humbled and blessed (a word I don't use often or lightly) to watch Jared and Amy follow his example.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Starting School

We are into our third week of school, with Willem in Kindergarten and Nels in second grade. Willem picked out his first-day-of-school outfit from his very small stash of new clothes. He has worn it every first day of every week so far. He'd wear it more, but I don't do the laundry that often. "Mom, did you wash my spider shirt?" will be the regular refrain of the 2011/2012 school year.

It feels HUGE to have both boys in the same school. It's a milestone I never thought would arrive. I didn't think I'd get teary-eyed on the first day, though, and that's because I was just thinking of it as the start of something new. What I'd forgotten is that the first day of Kindergarten is really more like a graduation. And graduations always make me cry.

I cried because we've made it through so much together to get to the point where I can wave and confidently send those boys off to be in the care of others for the day. (Or half-day, as the case may be.)

I thought of the surgeries and illnesses we've weathered (five surgeries and one case of viral meningitis among us.) I remembered my ultimately unsuccessful struggle to breastfeed both boys when they were babies, and all of the worry that caused me. I remember being lonely and sleepless and feeling like that time in our lives would never come to an end.

And yet here we are! It ended! We did it, little family. We raised up two boys this far, two boys who are happy and ready to step out. I couldn't be prouder of them. Happy graduation to us.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Summer Outtakes

School finally started this week. Here are a few last pictures from our summer before we leave it behind for good.

Reading a magazine from Auntie Nancy.

Stir-crazy happens.

Brownie batter.

Water gun fight, then popsicles with friend Charlie.

This is the Sunday Willem wore all of his silly bands and his pirate ring to church and told everyone he would like to be called Spike.

At the Magee's farm for the Shay family reunion. Shay is Shaun's grandma's maiden name and also my mom's maiden name. Fingers crossed that we're not too closely related.

One of the reunion-goers showed us the amazing guns he makes out of wood. All the pieces are there and they come apart like a real gun. Most of them are life-sized, but not this bad boy. They really are beautiful.

Disconsolate kitty.

Family bike ride.

I guess summer is not officially over yet, but I think we can say good-bye now. It was a good one.

A Friendly Visit

Our friends the Hamiltons came for a visit in August. Here are some pictures from their stay.

Willem wasn't getting enough attention, so he fashioned himself some alien antennae. I like how they look like fried eggs.

We were going to see a fancy car exhibit at the Portland Art Museum, but there were so many cool cars parked outside as part of the show that we just checked those out for free. We are cheap.

We went to a bike shop in Portland that carries hard-to-find Pilen bicycles like the one Amanda won so she could check out a child-carrier seat to go with it. They had all sorts of crazy bicycle carts there. Here's one loaded with cute cargo.

We went grocery shopping.

At home, Willem read to Esly.

They're buddies.

Apparently, this is how our kids responded when we were downtown visiting Shaun's new work building and Andrew said he wanted to get a picture. God bless 'em.

Vernonia's 55th Friendship Jamboree

According to The Independent, "The Vernonia Friendship Jamboree was started 55 years ago as a way for people to get together and reconnect after so many people left to find work elsewhere when the mill was closed for good."

Events this year included a parade, a car show, lots of live music, a horse gaming show, a logging show, and a kids' fishing derby. Shaun's Aunt Nancy was out for a visit, and while we couldn't make an entire weekend of it, we did get to the parade with Shaun's family.

There were lots of nice old cars. Somehow it's more special to see a restored classic when it's obvious its owner didn't have unlimited amounts of money to pour into it.

Lots of restored tractors too. This fellow is driving a 1944 John Deere. Sadly, our boys have outgrown their tractor obsession.

This boy's sign says, "I captured my pride in Vernonia." His entire family is following behind him, tied up and wearing animal costumes. It was a little confusing. It also inspired Nels to add "mini 4-wheeler" to his birthday wish list.


This clown is a hot mess.

This "float" stopped periodically so they could do a little demo and run the saws.

Monster trucks are loud.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say this guy had the most ill-conceived costume of the day.

I mean, seriously.

Do note those HUGE logs on the truck driving away. The crowd was duly appreciative.

Good bye, parade.

All done.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Keasey Tree Farm Tour

When Shaun and I got married eleven years ago, it never occurred to me that we might one day have two boys and spend our weekends doing things like visiting the Oregon Tree Farm of the Year. How fun that it turned out that way.

Shaun's folks invited us to join them on the tour of the Keasey tree farm, put on by the Columbia County Small Woodlands Association in conjunction with the Oregon State University Extension Service. While the event confirmed for me that I am not particularly interested in forest management, the farm was a beautiful place to spend the day, and I wouldn't have missed it.

Here Grandma and the boys are enjoying some doughnuts before things get started. You can see the original homesteader's cabin, which stood on the property when the Keasey family bought it in 1889. The rest of the house was added in 1896.

A picture similar to this one ran on the front page of the local paper. Our whole family was in it. In that picture Willem has his arms lifted up to the sky and his head bowed. At first I thought it looked like he was conducting an orchestra, but his pose is too sinister for that. More like he's summoning his minions from the far reaches of the earth to come do his evil bidding.

Here we are in the woods listening to a talk on watershed management. This can be a touchy subject for tree farmers, but everyone was very polite.

The highlight of the day (apart from eating lunch under the beautiful old tree outside the house) was the opportunity to tour the house. We were shown through by an elderly man who'd married into the family. He had agreed to do some restoration work in exchange for being allowed to live there with his wife (who had grown up in the house) until she died. His work on the house was a labor of love in the truest sense. I thought it was gracious of him to come back now that his wife has passed away and show us around.

This is not the original wood stove, but it is old and charming nonetheless. It is from Sweden, and the wife picked it out during the restoration.

Here's an upstairs guest bedroom. So plain and peaceful. I fancied I would write something wonderful if only I lived in it.

I wish I could read his name tag, but at least I have a picture here of the gentleman who restored the house. He's showing us a little attic nook off one of the bedrooms. I want one.

Here is the bed he made for his wife out of a cherry tree from the property. We couldn't get a great picture of it on the phone, but I made Shaun take one anyways. It was so beautiful. The man got emotional, telling us about the bed, but I'm the one who totally cried.

This textile was stunning in person. It belonged to the husband's family and came from the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. Having recently read The Devil in the White City, I found that awesome.

I have the same print, but in a different original frame. I love that this looks like it could have been hanging here since the day it was brought home new.

This is an original light fixture in its original spot. Oh, how I love it.

Intriguing old formerly useful things in an intriguing old shed. I could identify absolutely nothing in it.

The Small Woodlands people are colorful folks, but for a big heaping helping of local color, you have to go to the Vernonia Friendship Jamboree. Which we did. Coming up next.