Sunday, November 29, 2015

Oregon Adventures XIX

This is our November from beginning to end.

We surprised her with a horse ride for her birthday.  She loved it!                                                                                                                                

 This note was accompanied by a raspberry plant.  It reads, "Here's hoping that you take root in our church family. The Smiths".  We love all these new people at our church already and we're just getting to know them.

Two birds have hit our big sliding door window that leads to our porch.  This one, a black capped junco, sat stunned for a half hour afterwards then flew off.  The second one didn't make it.  

THIS is why we have to have flood insurance.  There's a lovely creek in the nature preserve behind our house.  Whenever the kids get antsy, Ben takes them to feed oats to the ducks.  Evidently, bread isn't good for them.  Gluten free ducks.  

The Canada geese are plentiful this time of year, they live here for the winter and return to Alaska in the Spring.  There is a wildlife refuge ten minutes away where most of them stay, but a few like the nature preserve behind our house.  Thousands of them fly overhead several times a day and can be heard even with all the doors and windows closed.  They are skittish, not mean, so I don't mind them, but worry about them pooping on our heads when we're out.  (That happened to me  during a visit to England when I was 8 and I have goose poo PTSD now.)

Ezra has a weekly chess date with his Great Grandpa Jennings.  Grandpa is teaching Ezra all the moves and some strategy.  It's the best he focuses on anything!

A few weeks ago, we unpacked the last of the boxes, sat in all the packing paper and made "snow angels" to celebrate being done.  It was bitter-sweet for me.  It made the permanency of our move very real to finish unpacking (read: I felt like throwing up that whole day and cried a lot).

The Riverfront Carousel in Salem was a hit.

We went with Ezra's new friend, Abel, and his family.  His mom and I are friends.

The Oregon Zoo in Portland was lovely.  We went with my friend, Bonnie, and her out-of-town family.

We finished recording the CD for the kid's school.  My friend, Susanne, and I put all their memory work for two subjects to music.  Ben and I recorded guitar, drum and vocal tracks for 24 more songs for the second half of the school year.

Drum roll, please!  This is before...

...and this is now!  The tooth fairy brought her a dollar.  Isn't she sweet with all her blue stripes and toothlessness?

Then there is this one.  This photo was her request and her choice of pose.  She has said a few things, I have to share...

While looking at a picture of the Quaker Oats guy, she asks, "Why is George Bushington on here?"  

Recently, while explaining that my cousin who came for Thanksgiving was our flower girl in our wedding, she asked, "What does a flower girl do?"  
"They take flower petals and drop them on the floor for the bride to walk on as she comes down the aisle."
Longingly she looked at me, and said, "Oh, I would like to be a flower girl, but I am being a vet when I grow up." Atta girl, don't be tempted to be a professional flower girl, they get paid way less than ring bearers anyway.

Then, there was the day she said, "Daddy, I have a Chinese name.  It's Scream Scream."  Oh look, there's Sceam Scream now, photobombing her sister.

Ezra had a couple of doozies too.  He came into the kitchen, where I was, and did this pose for 20 seconds and said, "Mom, what is missing?"  Hint: It's the same thing that he has been wanting for Christmas (a football).  His silly way of reminding me what to get him made me chuckle.
Also, on the Christmas topic, Ezra knows our tradition of giving each child only one gift at Christmas to represent God's gift to the world and had a good question.  He asked me why it was that they only receive one present from us for Christmas, when God is, in fact, three persons?  Shouldn't they receive THREE gifts? Nice try, Ez.

Our flower girl came to see us!  My cousin, Lauren, lives in Washington and came down to join us for Thanksgiving.  She's all grown up now, a photographer in the Navy, and is as sweet as sugar.

Guess who we visited after dinner?  The ducks!

Moving across country is a big change, but one that we have always had peace about.  I still don't know where to find awesome olive oil, like I had in Ohio, or bulk flour.  I still use a GPS to get to all but four places I go.  We still don't know anybody we'd just leave all our kids with without feeling like we're imposing (unless we pay them).  We are still enamored by the mountains and ocean.  We haven't been overwhelmed by rain...yet.  Ben still loves his job.  We have yet to see the full picture of our lives here, but are optimistic, and nostalgic.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Oregon Adventures XVIII

I should have known it was an omen when our jack-o-lanterns had to be tossed as they were moldy messes by the time Halloween rolled around.  We learned that with the frequent showers here, pumpkins don't last long outside.

In Ohio, we had a tradition of hanging out with our former neighbor, Betty, every Halloween and help hand out candy on her block, because we didn't get too many trick-or-treaters in the country, where we lived.  This year, several people from our Ohio church spent time with her for that night.  We called her and she proudly informed, "Eleven people were here for hot cocoa!"  That made our day.  We really were missing Betty on Halloween.

To make the day a little spooky, and to check off something off my to-do list, I let Juni pick out something to dissect from her kit she had ordered and bought with her own money.  She chose the frog.  She and I outlasted the rest as we took apart every bit of it and even extracted the cornea from it's tiny eye.  It was like a little plastic ball, so fascinating!
The night before Halloween, we took part in a Halloween fun night at our church's community center, which is an outreach to the local community.  We helped hand out candy to the kids and had dinner with them.  The pictures below were taken there.

We searched on-line and couldn't find any information regarding trick-or-treat times, except that our area gets to decide on it's own what we do.  Evidently, that's code for "your neighborhood doesn't do much for Halloween".  

Our new home is in a suburb with lots of retired neighbors.  I asked two of them about the traditions and one said they would be in Aruba and the other said they'd be anywhere but home for Halloween.  So, we waited for dark to come and see if anyone turned on their light out front.  We were prepared with travel apple sauces and glow sticks (enough for 50 or so), and Ben agreed to wait for the doorbell.  I decided since the neighborhood was darker than normal, we would seek out the trick-or-treating action.  Unfortunately, it was raining...hard.  The kids and I took off by car for a nearby neighborhood that has nice houses and found one block with some action.  Lights on, kids with parents walking outside in the rain, perfect!  We parked and got out.  We walked to about five houses in the rain and were drenched to the bone.  We knew Oregonians don't use umbrellas, and so we didn't bring those, but we did see others with ponchos on.  That would have been smart.  Clear trash bags would have worked.  As you can see we had some on hand.

Juni's outfit started to malfunction after about the third house and every few steps another balloon fell from between her legs and she would announce, "I have released another one!  It's a boy [or girl]!"
Ezra and I were laughing so hard we were crying as we picked up her "eggs" from all over the sidewalk and people's porches.  We were headed back to the car when I started to rethink my choice to grab gift bags for the kids to collect their candy in (we decided NOT to transport plastic pumpkins across the USA and left them in Ohio).  Completely saturated at this point, their candy fell through the bottom of the paper gift bags.  Phoebe was cold and miserable, and so we grabbed what we could of the candy and headed home: four soggy doggies.

[Ezra is top left and Phoebe is the left Elsa in the front row.  Juni had to remove her costume by this point so she could sit down to eat.]
In hindsight, the rain may have contributed to Phoebe's dress no longer lighting up or singing, "Let it Go."  I'm not complaining though.  We made sure a desk lamp with an extension cord was on our front porch since our porch light has a motion sensor and wasn't staying on for us.  Two families,  a total of three children, came by that night and we gave them double apple sauce and glow sticks.  We have been eating applesauce everyday since and have yet to finish it all.  And so you have our first, soggy Halloween in Oregon!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Oregon Adventures XVII

Our Bus Adventure

When we first arrived in Salem, Oregon, I purchased some bus tickets for us to use sometime.  One day a couple of weeks ago, I packed some hot cocoa and snacks, a jacket for everyone and off we went.  It's a half mile to the bus stop from our house and despite my rushing everyone, we still missed the first bus.  So, we sat at the stop, sipping our cocoa and 15 minutes later, our bus arrived.

Ezra needed rain boots, so that was our mission, to get good quality unisex rainboots that all three would eventually wear.  We were going from the bottom of the bus line to the very tippy top to an REI (outdoor supply store).  What normally would take 20 minutes to drive by car would now take one hour.  Isn't that fun?
We got the boots uneventfully and shared some pizza for lunch, then decided to head back.  The kids were loving the bus rides sooo much they begged to stop anywhere else, just to get off and on again and make the adventure last longer.  I agreed we could stop to get some milk since we were out.  The first grocery store that had a stop near it was LifeSource, our favorite health food grocery store.  I settled for a half gallon when I remembered the prices and then Ezra reminded me that his two week waiting period was up for spending his savings on something.  Two weeks before he had requested two six packs of a special pop they carry at LifeSource (I can't recall it's name, but it only has sugar in it, no artificial flavors or corn syrup).  We make them wait two weeks to use their savings to distinguish it from their spending money and to make them think about whether they really want whatever it is or not.  We also don't buy pop unless there's a party.  So, he really wanted this and was using his own money.  

That's when everything changed.  I felt this wetness on my lower back, I looked and I was covered in hot cocoa, which was dripping out of the backpack I was wearing, down the lower back of my shirt and top of my jeans.  Upon inspection, the last person who had drank cocoa, had not closed the lid and had replaced it in the backpack upside down.  We had no vehicle and I looked like I had pooped my the health food store.  It was perhaps a second after this realization that I saw the first person I knew.  It was that person who has only seen me repeatedly blundering in life for whatever reason: Late for something because we got lost; out of gas and at a gas station that you have to have a membership from online to get gas (yes, they have those here!), and so on.  There was nothing to do but incredulously explain what happened.  The person laughed as if, "That's so typical for you!" and walked away.  I realized they were right and after putting the sopping backpack into a garbage bag that a kind store employee provided me, I headed to the bathroom.  Thankfully, inside the backpack, my jacket was on top and hadn't gotten drenched in hot cocoa and I tied it around my waist covering the questionable stains.  

In hindsight, I'm not sure why we spent so long at the store after that, looking up and down every aisle.  Perhaps, I was processing it all or playing it cool, or most likely, trying to convince the kind store employees that were were there to spend money, not cause trouble.  A lady from church was on her lunch break and we chit-chatted.  I would have told her about the problem on my backside if she hadn't been in a hurry, it was just as well.  With my jacket being white, I worried it would soak up the cocoa and show through, but alas I was ok.  We checked out and headed to the bus stop.  The buses were much more full on the way home and Ez and June sat toward the back while I sat with Phoebe in an open seat toward the front.  

Twenty minutes later we got to our stop (again, this would have been seven minutes in a car) and started walking the half mile toward home with the plastic garbage bag containing the messy backpack in one hand and the paper bag from LifeSource in the other, both too heavy for the kids to help with.  The milk, the two six packs of black cherry pop and impulse egg rolls in it got heavy fast and in readjusting, the handles broke.  I tied them together again and gritted my teeth as I led the kids home, tremendously thankful I had only purchased a half gallon of milk.
This is a picture of the last time I wore this shirt, the cocoa stains did not come out (it actually got dried in the dryer by accident before getting checked - another fail).  The pop is gone now, the boots are great, and the kids still beg to go on another bus adventure soon and I'm open, but we will leave the thermos and cocoa behind.