Thursday, February 16, 2012


Meet miss Pippa Lee. She doesn't usually like to be held by anyone but her mom, but she woke up in a good mood on Monday morning and deigned to let me visit with her. She is eight months old. She spent most of the time making eyes at Shaun, and I don't blame her; he didn't have bedhead like I did. Although I have to say, babies in general just love Shaun.

We didn't try to do much on our last day. We stopped by Biola one more time to see someone I'd missed and then headed back to Auntie Kim's to return some sleeping bags we'd borrowed.

At one point on our driving about, the traffic on the freeway was completely stopped. We saw a lone policeman standing alongside his motorcycle with his hand up. Nothing was moving at all, and we started to worry about falling behind schedule. I figured it must have been an accident that had just happened. Two fire trucks went by. Then another. And another. And another. It wasn't an accident; the traffic was being stopped for a funeral procession. At least fifty emergency vehicles drove by before we were cleared to go, and we saw many, many more as we continued our drive. They were from cities all over LA County.

We realized we were very lucky to have gotten through just when we did, and we were able to pull slightly ahead of the procession and miss any more traffic stops. We could have used some gas, but we saw on-ramps blocked in places and we were afraid to stop. And then we started to notice the overpasses. Not just one, but a whole succession of groups of firefighters and vehicles were waiting out in the sun to pay their respects. It was a moving and beautiful sight. Of course I cried. And wished for a little more pomp and circumstance and ceremony in my life.

After all our worries, we ended up back at the airport with time to spare.

And Southern California bid us an appropriately dramatic farewell.


On Saturday night we headed over to Steve and Danica Childs's house in Pasadena. I don't have a lot of pictures to show you because that would be creepy of us. Not that I wasn't tempted. Suffice it to say they live in a charming bungalow in a beautiful neighborhood and they have a yard full of amazing succulents and cacti and citrus and even a passion fruit vine. I ate a passion fruit from their yard. Between the beautiful setting and the excellent company, it was tempting to cancel all plans of ever returning to the great frozen north.

When we arrived, well after dinner time, the next-door neighbors were in full party mode--celebrating a baptism, I think? Alas, we'd missed the live mariachi band and had to settle for the DJ's very eclectic music choices. Sometimes I wish I'd been born into a party culture. Then I remember that I would be expected to throw big, expensive, elaborate parties. And then I think that just inviting a family over for dinner every once in a while might not be too bad after all.

I love that Nels immediately made himself right at home in the office/guest room, as though this Eames recliner were his birthright.

We had such a treat on Sunday morning. We got to go to Steve and Danica's church (Ecclesia, which meets in the beautiful Hollywood Pacific Theatre) and the speaker was Danica. How about that?

It's normal for us to be running a few minutes late for church. It's not normal for us to have to drag Nels down the street because he's trying to read all the names in the stars on the sidewalk on the way into the building.

Danica is an engaging teacher. The sermon was practical, insightful, entertaining, and straightforward enough that even Nels could track with it. When I asked her about it later, Danica told me that she'd never thought about giving a sermon until her fellow elders approached her and asked her to consider it. Turns out she's good at it. This makes me hope that I have some latent, as yet undiscovered, remarkable talent. Fingers crossed.

Willem and Thorne (the Childs's eldest daughter) had a rather stormy dynamic throughout our visit. She enjoyed being up in his business and he spent much of the day reporting his dissatisfaction with her behavior to the grown-ups. Thorne grabbed Willem's hand on the way out of church, and it was quite a sight to see the two of them walking hand-in-hand down Hollywood Boulevard.

After church we went to eat at Wurstkuche and we saw lots of street art along the way. We always enjoy looking at the NY street art on our friend Peter's blog, so it was fun to see some in person. We don't get a lot of it here in Camas.

Nels saw this and asked, "Does this say 'Winnie the Pooh?'"
"No," I said, and swiftly changed the subject.

Here Willem is eating a granola bar against his will while we wait to get into the restaurant for lunch.

Our bratwurst at lunch were outstanding. And there was no way we could pass up the Reissdorf Koelsch Wheel. We've never seen this outside of our time living in Cologne. Cheers!

After we ate dessert across the street at The Pie Hole (yummm... Mexican chocolate pie), we spent the rest of the afternoon out in the backyard. As the day cooled down, we enjoyed a proper pot of tea and a fire in the outdoor fireplace and then ate a delicious steak dinner. All of this hospitality was managed around Danica's speaking duties, sleep deprivation (their darling baby daughter doesn't sleep through the night yet), and terrible colds.

I might have sent us away, but I am so glad they didn't.

Friday, February 10, 2012


I've probably mentioned here before that Legos weren't really a thing in my house growing up. I knew what they were, but we didn't have any. So when I first heard about Legoland when it opened, I figured I must be missing something.

Big things built out of Legos sounded...neat. I guess. And I was told there were rides. I like rides. What I didn't know until we planned to go is that the park is very deliberately geared towards kids aged 3-12. So it turned out there really wasn't much more to it than I'd originally thought.

The boys liked it and I enjoyed spending the day with family in such a beautiful spot. It was a little strange to me, though. All of the Lego structures are just sitting outside, exposed, incurring visible sun and water damage. Some of the displays were covered in spider webs. This doesn't take away from the remarkable things the engineers have done, but it does put one in mind of decay and mortality, which are not things people are looking to dwell on when they visit an amusement park.

The Macks came prepared for the weather. Almost as though they are familiar with sun.

We, on the other hand, had to borrow some sunglasses for Willem.

Our kids were thrilled to see this larger-than-life creation from the Hero Factory line. (These replaced the discontinued Bionicles and are very similar. Have I lost you?) I originally thought the Bionicle products were too specific to be anything but a rip-off, but they actually can be combined in lots of ways to make interesting critters. Willem is really "into" them, as he would say lately.

Separated at birth.

There is something so right about this.

They were so impressed that this was a LEGO Darth Vader.

Walking around this section of Miniland was Nels's favorite part of the day, and it made him all itchy to get building. Fortunately I remembered that I had signed him up for a six-week after-school Lego robotics class (he had been begging to take it) and had neglected to tell him. So I took the opportunity to break the happy news, and he was beside himself.

Oh, hey! There's the love of my life. And fils.

The 2-for-1 coupons we used to get into the park required purchasing the ticket that also includes the aquarium. This turned out to be a very good thing. Little cousin Heidi was finally released from her stroller and went about delightedly addressing the aquarium's occupants, which were the first thing all day to be right at her eye level: "FISH! FISH! HI, FISH!"

Shaun's family likes to tease me about the legacy of theatricality I have imparted to our boys. HOWEVER. Note below that cousin Henry is seriously holding his own in the drama department. Might I suggest that their common grandfather is a more likely source for the "ham" gene?

Thanks to the aquarium's
Lost City of Atlantis theme, Nels spent the rest of our trip relentlessly grilling me about Atlantis. I've heard of it. And I think there is at least some debate as to whether or not it may have really existed. And that's about it for me. Armed with Google and my iPhone, I still didn't come up with anything very satisfactory.

Hammerhead sharks are aliens, right?

We spent the final 20 minutes before the park closed letting the boys shop for a souvenir. After much careful deliberation, Willem settled on a small stuffed octopus and Nels picked out a Ninjago figure. They left content and exhausted. Another big day of vacation in the can.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


It never occurred to me that longing for warmer climes in the dead of winter was something a child might do entirely apart from the influence of an adult. But our kids kept up a constant stream of vocal appreciation for the weather throughout the duration of our trip.

Are you familiar with the Woody Guthrie song "Do Re Mi?" As we drove up Beach Boulevard through Stanton, of all places, the boys kept exclaiming "California is a garden of Eden! It is a paradise to live in or see!"

We went to Mimi's to meet my grandpa for brunch; when we stepped out of the car into the sunshine, Willem didn't just walk through the parking lot--he gamboled.

Visiting with my grandpa is always an adventure. He pointed out that that he had not been drinking, allowing for a much nicer time together than we would have had otherwise. I heartily agreed. Even so, he sent his cappuccino back to the kitchen thinking that it was the French onion soup he had ordered to go (and didn't want until we were ready to leave). This despite the fact that he had already eaten several spoonfuls of froth off the top of the cappuccino.

I've gotten pretty used to the clip-on fan my grandpa has taken to wearing on the bill of his cap, so I'm not sure why it threw me so much to see that he's added another one on the other side. As if one fan is perfectly reasonable, but two fans means it's crazy-time.

No visit with grandpa is complete without gifts. His car is stashed full of dollar store items and on its own could almost qualify for an episode of Hoarders. We won't even talk about his house. As you can see above, I received a Kozy Buddi, AS SEEN ONLINE. Also a nice check.

Here's what the boys received:

-Rubber band balls. These seemed cool until we realized they were Styrofoam cores wrapped with a few cracked, well-aged rubber bands.

-Headlamps. Grandpa was chagrined to discover they each already own one.

-Plastic flashlights. These were great while they lasted (about a day.)

-Baseballs. These did not come in any packaging. One looked newish. The other sported a patina of dirt and was initialed "D.C" in green Sharpie in three different places. I rather doubt that D.C. knowingly contributed a ball to the cause. Sorry about that, D.C.

-A packet of cash. These were two identical stacks of new bills, ten $2 bills bookended with $1 bills and clipped together on the ends with tiny colored paper clips. Whoever says money can't buy you love has not met my kids. The sheer novelty of the getting their hands on physical cash was priceless. Plus it gave them spending money for Legoland! Bonus!

The next activity on our itinerary was to visit Shaun's grandma, but Shaun was kind enough to humor me in my wish to visit the Biola campus first. I was hoping to see some of my co-workers from my Financial Aid days, and it sounded nice to walk around with the boys and see all the new construction.

And it was nice. We hadn't warned anyone we were coming, so we had fun catching people like Matthew Weathers totally off-guard as we randomly ran into them. Children on campus are always an anomaly, and I quite enjoyed being accompanied by ours. This picture completely blows my mind:

If only I could go back in time and tell the me who walked into Metzger a bazilllion times both as a student and as an employee that everything was going to be all right. That some day I would be back with my family and my life would be so very good.

We wandered around in the brilliant sun for a bit, letting Willem douse himself in the fountain, stopping in at the SUB, checking out the Jesus mural, and buying popsicles at the bookstore. We went by Dr. Bloom's office (he was Shaun's favorite professor), but he wasn't in. It was the last Friday before classes started on Monday, so there weren't a lot of folks around.

Next we were off to Morningside in Fullerton to meet up with Shaun's sister Kim and her kids and Auntie Nancy to visit with Grandma Cathy.

I couldn't resist snapping a picture (bad as it is with the glare) of this giant enlarged photo we took at Thanksgiving that is now framed on Cathy's wall. For starters, we are all looking at two different cameras. But look at Willem. He was having one of the crabbiest days of his life. He is actively turning his mouth down in a frown and his eyes are rolled almost all the way up. His clenched fists are the icing on the cake.

Here is cousin Henry showing us his first lost tooth.

We walked around the Morningside grounds (lots of moaning and groaning from the boys about more walking) and played some ping-pong and had a nice afternoon together. We decided to regroup and meet up with Cory for dinner at the Panera in Fullerton.

It was a lovely day and evening for driving around. Shaun and I were both a little punch-drunk from the beauty of it all.

It took us a while to decide upon our food and settle in to a spot at the restaurant. But not long after we sat down, Dr. Bloom and his wife walked in and seated themselves at the table next to us! So Shaun got the opportunity to catch up with the one Biola person he cared to after all.

It was a long day after a late night, and Willem especially was done by the time we finished dinner.

And then it was off to Kim and Cory's for a good night's sleep to ready the bunch of us for Legoland.

The Journey

We went to California! And yes, we're back all in one piece. Two hours after we got home my throat started hurting, and then Shaun and I spent the next week being sick. I had done an excellent job of using up the groceries before we left, so it was fortunate that Shaun just had time to make an emergency run to the store for bread and eggs before he came down with the exotic out-of-state crud.

But now that we are no longer mainlining DayQuil/NyQuil and the novelty of being home to sleep in our own beds has worn off, I am already wishing we could go back.

I still cannot quite wrap my head around the fact that my boys were born in Oregon and that they will never be from California.

Nels had been looking forward to the flight since the day he heard about it. He love, love, loves to fly. We left after dinner on a Thursday night, and the Portland airport was very quiet and full of good will. The boys could have stepped out of another era in their dark blue jeans and plain zip-up hooded sweatshirts (red for Nels, navy for Willem), and the ticketing agent and TSA agent both complimented them on their nice manners. I take no credit, but that does not stop me from being proud of them.

Shaun and I agreed that we are probably at the sweet spot age-wise for traveling with children. Too bad we are not at the sweet spot money-wise.

I had a rare good idea and suggested each boy bring a notebook and a pencil with which to occupy himself while waiting. Perfect.


I sometimes complain about the fact that we have few pictures of me, but we have way fewer of Shaun. Here he is (or his shadowy profile, at least), just to prove he was on the trip too.

Willem didn't actually remember having flown before, and he was a little nervous to look out of the window at all the lights on the ground. I hear ya, buddy.

Shaun assured me I'd been to the Ontario airport before, but I sure didn't remember. It feels like the middle of nowhere, but it was plenty convenient to Orange County with the added benefit of being teeny tiny. On our drive to Placentia I spotted a glowing beacon off the freeway. We'd had plenty of snacks but no proper dinner. "I could so go for that right now," I sighed.

And so we did, at 10:30 at night, en route to Shaun's sister's house. Good thing, too, because it was the only time we ended up eating at In-N-Out on our trip. Which is one of the many reasons I need to go back sooner rather than later.