Friday, July 10, 2015

Sweet Creek

We spent a lovely afternoon at one of my favorite nearby places, Sweet Creek Trail outside of Mapleton, Oregon. It's a magical spot, a wonderful, easy trail alongside a rambling, tumbling creek. There are deep pools for swimming, shallow areas for wading and splashing, and little waterfalls all along the way. We have hiked here ever since the kids were tiny, and it is still filled with wonder and discovery. Walk with me...

It's been unseasonably hot in Oregon this Spring, but we still spotted some wildflowers; columbine and bleeding hearts and foxglove, and more. We even found a few thimbleberries already ripe, my favorite berry of all, a tiny morsel of sweet, soft, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

These two nearly melted my heart. Raphael stayed by Pearl's side, holding her hand, helping her down when she had to scramble over logs or rocks, pausing to show her little things and share his knowledge. "That log is rotting and giving its nutrients to the new trees!" The sweetest thing of all was when he asked if I noticed how he was walking on the side closest to the waterfall, "because that's what the boy does". When the path on his side was a little rocky and steep, he said, "Perla, aren't you glad you're not on this side?" It gave me great hope that there is indeed a little gentleman in the making there! (Sometimes I'm not quite sure!) 

I love these spiral-y ferns with black stems. I'm not sure what they are, but they're unusual and striking.

All along the trail  there are little pools and falls, making it a wonderfully fun place for children and adults alike. The kids had a great time climbing rocks, fording the creek, and exploring. We didn't even go up all the way to Sweet Creek Falls, but the trail itself is so spectacular that I (almost) don't mind!

The highlight of the day for the children was the discovery of a small pool full of newts! There were at least a dozen of them, and then they went around and found several more in other little pools nearby.

This was a stagnant little pool teeming with what I'm pretty certain were mosquito larvae. Ewww.

More newt love.

The older kids were allowed to cross this little ridge themselves, but we made Pearl hold a hand.

Raphael thought the strata in this rock looked like a pumpkin!

There are views like this all along the trail. Spending time in nature like this refreshes and nourishes my soul.

Snack time in the dappled sunlight.

I never tire of the brilliant green of the viney maple understory in the sunlight.

Another lovely vista.

The littlest hiker and her daddy.

Pearl is definitely a visual-spacial thinker, and when hiking will often stop to examine tree roots in the path and tell us what they are. This one was clearly a bird!

Inchworm! I kept saying to Erik, "This is such a wonderful way to spend an afternoon! This is such a great way for kids to pass the time! They will remember days like this." Their sense of wonder and excitement is sharp and pure. They could happily play in the newt pool for hours, or hop on rocks across the creek. They thrill at finding a flower, or a berry, or noticing how new trees are growing up on a nurse log beside the path. It always does my heart good to get out of the city and into the woods. I feel it is more important than ever to foster a connection with nature, to cultivate wonder and stillness and gratitude to the Creator of such a world! In a time when technology and busy-ness assault mindfulness and quiet, we thrive when we step away and immerse ourselves in the natural world. I'm so grateful to share the beauty and wonder of it with these precious children entrusted to my care. 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

A Dozen (Years)

Today we give thanks for Peregrine, remembering the twelve years we have traveled this earth with him. I always enjoy looking through photos of the kids through the years and thought it would be fun to gather up pictures from all of his birthdays. 

I labored long and hard to bring this little one to the light. His birth was agonizing and beautiful. We were so thankful for the gift of him!

We decided early on that we would have a costume birthday party for him every year. It's been a fun tradition. He was a monkey for his first birthday. We all remember it as the first time he got so mad that he held his breath and passed out. Looking back, this totally made sense in the grand scheme of his personality! I made him a pumpkin cake and we let him smash it. 

This was his "Patuanan"... that was how he said Happy Birthday at the time he turned two.

We had just moved to an new house. He was a knight, there was a baby sister by this time, and he had Thomas the Tank Engine on his cake. 

He was an astronaut and Poppy was a star princess. We had a moon piƱata.

A brave knight ready to defend his sister.

By this time, Raphael had been born, and apparently it was the end of elaborate, handmade costumes! A simple knight cape did the trick!

A police detective, two outlaws on the run, and a fairy, of course. Because every police detective should have the assistance of a fairy.

Eight.... aaaaargh, matey!
The legendary Pie-rate party, complete with pie contest, in which he took control of the entire party and showed that he had what it takes to diplomatically command an audience. It was remarkable. 

Some sort of soldier this year... thrift store costume that he was thrilled with! 

We celebrated his tenth birthday with my aunt and uncle in California, who made a very special party for him, and then with more family in Baja, Mexico. We had just sold our home and hit the road in our travel trailer. It was the beginning of a grand adventure that lasted over a year. I think this was the only birthday that we didn't dress up.

We were at the end of a 2 ½ month road trip around the US and had stayed the night in our trailer in the parking lot of Cracker Barrel in Flagstaff, Arizona. It was cold. We surprised Peregrine by taking the kids in to eat breakfast in the Cracker Barrel restaurant. Pearl has since referred to the parfait Peregrine had that morning as a "barfait", and we like to laugh about that. Later in the day we made sushi, went swimming, and parked our gypsy wagon near the railroad tracks on a cold, desert night. I remember Peregrine having a very, very happy day. We celebrated with family a few weeks later when we were back in Oregon. This was the beginning of the Doctor Who Era.

He had a whole Dr. Who costume, but I failed to get a picture of it. Here he was judging this year's contest, which has evolved to include other desserts. My Jammie Dodgers took second place for taste, quite the honor! 

It's hard to believe we've been around the sun twelve times with this boy. Being his mom has stretched me in ways I didn't know were possible. I  didn't know how much I could love, nor how I would find the strength to carry on when I am exhausted and discouraged. I continually throw myself on the promise of God, that when we ask for wisdom, He gives it freely. I'm thankful for the gift of Peregrine, for what he has taught me, for the intensity and passion he brings to life. I look forward to the next dozen years!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Flying Solo


 It’s been nearly 13 years since I’ve been on a flight alone. It’s a bit of a strange feeling, like I’m missing something, or someone, or several of them. It’s a good feeling, though, this being alone, having time to reflect on the crazy life I’m so caught up in. It’s been years since I’ve given much thought to bringing along things to do on a flight; with children along, there simply isn’t much time for reading, writing, passing the time in mindless games of my own. In-flight hours have been filled with reading to others, keeping little ones entertained, changing blown-out diapers in impossibly small airplane lavatories. (Is there something about the elevation, or the cabin pressure, that causes the contents of little intestines to erupt with such force? I swear we’ve had an inordinate number of blow-outs on airplanes. It’s now a matter of course to pack extra outfits for the littles, along with zip-lock bags and lots and lots of wipes.) 

    But there are no littles on this flight with me, at least none of my own. This last year of parenting has felt like a turning of some proverbial corner, or maybe a gentle curve around a bend. After more than a decade of pregnancy, breastfeeding, and diaper changing, it appears that we have left all of those things in the past. My baby just turned four. It’s been a long while since I’ve purchased diapers. Maternity clothes? They’ve been passed on. Everyone dresses themselves. Half of the kids bathe themselves. The kids do nearly all the laundry and a good portion of the dishes. They cook meals. There is a growing independence, a gradual shift in the emotional needs, and it’s strangely wonderful. It’s also a little bittersweet, this growing up. The conversations I have with Peregrine and Poppy are about different things now; their questions are more challenging, requiring a different sort of mental energy as we wade into new waters. 

    For the first time since I’ve been a mother, I’ve been off on my own for a few days. I felt a bit apprehensive leaving my family early in the morning. I kissed my little ones as they lay sleeping; I snuggled them a bit longer the night before. They’ve been fine, of course, enjoying special time with daddy and lots of fun with Grandparents. As I navigated airports, responsible for no one but myself, I felt strange, like an imposter in a world not quite my own. I realized how I’m accustomed to people seeing my children and how comfortable I’ve been thinking that maybe they don’t see me. I felt like perhaps I’ve managed to fit in with the adults all these years because I’m a mother, but on my own? Surely everyone will see through the facade and realize I’m just pretending to be an adult. It’s not that I’m not confident in my abilities, it’s just that I never quite feel that I fit in. Without my children, I somehow felt unmasked. I realized how much of my life, my identity even, by necessity, has become wrapped up in the nurturing of them. I don’t resent this. This is the life I wanted, and I believe that in the giving of myself I am actually finding who I am created to be. It’s the hard work of shedding oneself that can reveal the beauty hidden within. 

    I’m nearly home now, after having been away for the last four days. I’m excited to be caught up in the whirlwind of hugs and smiles and happy chatter. I know it will, all too quickly, fade into (often overwhelming) loudness, and arguing, and crazy-making wildness. It’s just part of the package. These days away have been refreshing, and I feel inspired and filled with a renewed hope and vision for my family. At the same time I am reminded of who I am apart from motherhood. I wouldn’t trade these years for anything, and I’m reminded of how quickly they really do go by. I know that someday I will have more time for my own pursuits, but this is a season for pouring myself into the lives of others. I hope I can take the things I’ve learned and look at my children with more understanding, more compassion. I hope we can enter this next decade of parenting, having traded diapers for long conversations, with a sense of adventure and expectancy, excited for what is around the bend! 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

USS Intrepid: Guest Post by Peregrine

 The U.S.S. Intrepid fought in World War 2, Vietnam,
 and the Cold War. It also recovered the Space Capsule!
(All captions written and directed by Peregrine G. Esq.)

    One day while we were visiting New York City we decided to visit the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. My Grandpa was a navy pilot, so it was particularly interesting to learn a little more about what life might have been like for him aboard an aircraft carrier. The museum was very well done, with lots to see and do, and plenty of hands on activities for the kids. Peregrine wanted to write again, so here he is to tell you more! 

 The U.S.S. Growler was the first submarine to be equipped
with Nuclear Warheads.

 A nuclear warhead aboard the U.S.S. Growler.
There would be four of them on board, all in storage.

 Warhead storage bay.

 The galley aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid.

 The Intrepid made of lego bricks!!!
It was 21 feet long!!!!

 Can you believe that is made of lego!?!?!? It included over 30
lego planes,  a working aircraft elevator,  a detailed bridge, and over 250,000 pieces!!!!
It was an exact copy of the real thing! It even had the name on the back!

 A  P-38 fighter plane; the wings folded up when it was below deck!

 The cockpit of an 18-0RT INTRUDER.
We hopped inside the cockpit and piloted it!

 Ambulance in the air! We also got to climb in this!

Raphi sending light signals.

   Here I am working  on the simulated bridge!

 Learning to use space gloves!
(And Raphi cheating a bit too!)

 The Blue Angels!
This one's for Auntie Terry!
Love you!

 Me, on the REAL bridge!
Enemy vessel sighted!

New York City

As we've traveled around the United States, we've read aloud several historical fiction books relevant to the areas we've been through. It was neat to come upon this Blackfoot display at the Museum of Natural History, as one of the books we read was about the Blackfoot people. 
I have to admit that the Museum of Natural History was a bit of a disappointment after having watched Night at the Museum! Dumdum... no Gumgum! 
And Rexie! The kids were pretty excited to find this.
The highlight of the museum was the Discovery Room, where there were plenty of hands on activities for the kids. We're used to museums that are a lot more interactive, and the little crowd tired pretty quickly of looking at the dioramas and displays. We were all glad to find this room, and the kids would have been happy to stay there longer. Here they were taking part in an archaeological dig. The bones are set in and a mixture of wax and sand is poured around them, so they actually had to chip away at it to unearth the bones. It was well done, and the kids enjoyed it very much. 
For our second day in New York City we decided to take the Staten Island Ferry across the harbor and do some walking. I have seen the Statue of Liberty before, but this time it felt much more meaningful to me.The older I get and the more I learn about history, the more I appreciate what it means. We've been reading aloud The Landmark History of the American People, which I've found to be very enjoyable and interesting. Instead of a timeline of historical facts, it follows themes and trends and gets more into the why, not just the what, of history.  This trip has helped me feel much more connected to our country's history, as well as the story of my own family within it.
We got off the ferry and were greeted by a nice little Farmer's Market set up in the terminal. The moment we stepped outside, however, I felt very much like I do in a foreign country! It was hot and the air was heavy with the smells of exhaust and urine. We were immediately descended upon by touts selling tours; English was clearly not the first language of most of these men and women. Grabbing children by the hand, we all practiced our firm "no" and made a beeline through the crowd! 
The government shutdown had just begun, and I was disappointed not to have been able to visit Ellis Island. My grandma's parents both came through there when they arrived from Italy.
I found this sculpture, The Immigrants, moving. I cannot imagine what it was like for so many to leave everything behind in the hope of creating a better life.
We spent hours walking and felt like we kept getting foiled at every turn! The kids were tired, and yet we pressed on. Finding this building on Mott Street redeemed the day for me. My grandma was born in this apartment building in 1920. It was at the time in Little Italy, but Chinatown has taken over this part of the city. 
We had some delicious pizza at a small restaurant in Little Italy...
...followed by gelato at Ferrara's. The gelato cost us more than the pizza!

I had fun looking in one of the Italian deli shops. I remember my grandma buying ropes of braided,  fresh mozzarella.

There are the kids sitting outside of Ferarra's, eating gelato. Ferarra's was America's first espresso bar , opened in 1892. They also make delicious Italian pastries. I loved exploring this part of the city and thinking about what it was like for the many immigrants, including my Grandma's family. I'm so glad the kids had gotten to know my grandma during the last year of her life, and they too, are learning to appreciate and connect with their Italian heritage. 
It was a long day, and we decided to catch a bus back to the ferry terminal instead of walking the whole way. We walked to the bus stand, and waited, and waited. Finally one of those double decker tour busses came by, and the tour operator invited us to hop on board, for free! They only had a few more stops and were heading our direction. That may have been the highlight of the day for certain small people among us! 
Lower Manhatten from the ferry, heading back to Staten Island. The tallest building is the new One World Trade Center, which is still being completed.
The next day we drove through Times Square on our way home. Talk about sensory overload! Huge video screens cover almost every square foot of the buildings, each playing advertisements, and people, people everywhere. In the center of the picture is where they drop the ball on New Year's Eve. Driving through was enough for me. I was ready to flee the city and head to the hills! 
Having spent several months in India and Nepal, I have a soft spot for rickshaws, and it always makes me happy to find them in urban centers around the country. Four dollars a minute though, is a bit steep for my budget!