Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer Photo Dump

The kids at Trillium Lake last week.

Settling in to watch movies at the beach house we rented with friends.

Jon couldn't come to the lake with us. When I said, "Let's take a photo to send to Daddy," they both did the "I love you" sign.  
This was taken through the plastic bag my sister was protecting her phone in.  I mean, with a soft filter.   
For those who missed it, this is what we got when Sasha asked for a haircut "like Daddy's."  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I'd like another three months of summer, please. Thank you.

So my sister tells me I haven't blogged enough lately.


This was at my nephew's wife's baby shower.  (When I tell people I'm about to become a great aunt, they're all "Oh, um, is that a good thing?"  Yes.  He's 27.  It's okay.)  One of the other guests was another sister's childhood friend  I haven't seen her in, oh, 20 years or so.  She turns to me and says, "So, how did Jon's interview in Dundee go?"  Seriously?  How do people do that?  After looking forward to happy hour with my own childhood friends for a few weeks, I completely forgot about it on the day of, and was in the middle of making dinner when it suddenly dawned on me.  I can't keep the details of my own life straight; how come some people can keep up on peripheral acquaintances?

What else.

This summer has involved far less camping, hiking, and swimming than I would have liked.  But it's been a good time anyway.  Here's my idea of a good time:  I took the kids to the library, where we hit the limit on books you can check out (100, in case you were curious, but it was only because they hadn't checked back in the ones we'd returned on our way in), read three books aloud, then pulled bikes out of the back of the truck and rode around the little lakes in the library's park. Well, I sat and read my new murder mystery (or as Inesa calls them, "Mama's killing books") while they kids made loops and checked in.  Then we came home and made and ate dinner.  Inesa and I did the dishes, Sasha played with Legos, they went outside and rode bikes with the neighbor kids for a half hour, then they came in for "family time."  I dug out an ESL game I printed out in 2009.  It's a basic roll and advance game, and each square has a category, such as "sea animals" or "things to do in winter." When you land on it, you say four items from that category.   Somehow this morphed into doing charades of your four things.  It was awesome.

Jon wasn't feeling well, so he was laying down for most of this, but he rallied around they time we finished our game.  (He would have been great at charades--we'll have to play again.)  I read six stories to the kids, then Inesa went up to brush her teeth and Sasha went out to help Daddy clean out the newly emptied wine barrel.  Inesa asked for a hand massage and lullabies from me.  When the boys finished their project, Jon and Sasha played hide and seek with Sasha's stuffed animals.  Apparently, if one stuffed animal can't find the other, they set out some invisible grass (for Spot the Reindeer or Fluffy the Buffalo) or meat (for Tiger the Tiger or Tiny the enormous dog), and pounce on them when they inevitably fall for the bait.  The kids fell asleep.  Yay, us.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Field Trip. Literally.

First, some pictures from Independence Day.  I wish they were in focus, but I was sitting up on the neighbor's deck, zooming in with my camera phone.  They had never done sparklers before, and were so delighted.

Then today, our friends invited us to the Helvetia Lavender Farm.  I had no idea what to expect.  We got out of the car, and were greeted by this very sweet and friendly...pig.

 Next up, bungee jumping on the trampolines.  Our two were more nervous than the other family, and didn't want to jump super high, much less do flips.  But they both grinned wildly the entire time.

 Then there was a short tightrope walk to a candy bucket.  Sasha got nervous and backed out of it after a few steps.  His little sister made it.  Then our friends' five-year-old girl made it.  He sighed and tried again.  He made it that time.  There were no such hesitations about the zip line.

 We all had some lavender tea, then the seven kids started to explore the edge of the pond.

They found frogs and tadpoles.  Inesa is examining a frog in pond water.

Oh, yes, the Lavender Farm also has lavender, oddly enough.  Looks and smells great.

Seeing the large alpaca farm on the way to this place, then being greeted by the pig made the trip already worth it by the time we'd merely parked.  The rest of the day was just wonder upon wonder.  What a great time.  They are open for their big festival next weekend, so we had all the amenities without the crowds.  The price was reasonable (I spent $24 on the two kids each doing the bungee jumping and ziplining), and the proceeds were going to supporting--I kid you not--widows and orphans in the Ukraine.  

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Yay for Summer.

I love summer.

I love, love, love summer.  It isn't even July yet, and it's 93 degrees, and I am SO HAPPY.

Yesterday I was one of two moms wearing a swimsuit and getting soaked at the splash pad.  The other mom was a hot young mom in a bikini, who turned out to be a colleague, so I didn't trip her onto the cement.  But seriously.  It's a bunch of kids and their moms, who cares?  Why would anyone stand around the edge sweating in CLOTHES when they could be getting cooled off in a swimsuit?

Today we went over to some friends for the afternoon.  The grownups ate, talked, drank Jon's wine, and talked.  The guys discussed following your dream and how to market your hot sauce and/or wine.  The women discussed--hell, I don't know.  We talked.  We laughed.  We ate and drank and tried to head off kid drama as needed.

The kids had what Jon dubbed Waterpalooza.  Kiddie pool, water guns, water balloons, water slide, water shooters, and a sprinkler set up to hit the trampoline.  I took a few dashes down the water slide, which kind of startled our friend, which proved to me that we don't really know them that well.  I am always up for cold water on a hot day.

I remember floating in a lake in Latgale with Carla, and our friend's husband hollering from the side, 'They are not Americans!  They are from Siberia!" because the chill of the water didn't deter us.

I remember traveling with my dad on assignments throughout the west coast during summer vacations.  Whether I was six or sixteen, he knew that all he had to do to keep me happy was buy the sugar cereals that were banned at home and get a motel with a pool (or campsite with a lake).

I remember standing in a river up to my thighs in Colorado, finally cooling down after a day of driving. Jenn took a picture that looks so much like a family photo we have of my mom around the same age, cooling off in Spirit Lake.

I remember the last time Jon and I took a road trip (by "last" I mean "most recent," not "final"--I hope!) to the Painted Hills.  The whole long weekend was great, but on the third day we finally found access to a swimming beach on the John Day River, and I splashed and dove and floated with delight.  Jon said, "This was your favorite part, right?"

He knows me.

When we got home to our un-air-conditioned house, I wasn't sure how we'd avoid developing cranky hot boredom.

But Inesa's best friend, who's also our neighbor, turns six today.  They were just having a family party, but first the kids started playing on the common swing together, then somehow they were inside having pizza, then they ran home to wrap the gifts we bought yesterday, and now they're over there for cake and ice cream and presents.  I went over to supervise, but felt more awkward than useful, so I asked the mom to call if my kids are obnoxious, and now I'm cheerfully sweating on the couch.

I have a book next to me.  I'm gonna be reading it in about two minutes.

I love summer.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


And then there's this guy.

Sasha just turned nine.  He did not get a sweet little blog post about it.  His birthday was awesome.  But Mother's Day was a surprisingly difficult day for him, and then that spun right into the birthday preparation and the end of the school year angst, and frankly, we were all just holding on for dear life for awhile there.  

His sister got him a stuffed Husky.  Family friends got him a scooter.  I made him a cake to order: vanilla cake with vanilla frosting and chocolate filling.  We topped it with the first fresh Oregon strawberries of the season.  

One of the many amazing things about Sasha is his creativity.  He is the master of mixed media collage work.  This was made for the big kid down the block.  Sasha plays with the sister, who's his age, quite a bit, but every once in awhile her 14 year old brother grants Sasha a skateboarding hang-out session.  That's Big Kid on the skateboard, with buttons as the wheels, and colored-on masking tape for the road, and the sky is glittery and tinselly from the joy of it all.  I love that he makes stuff up based on available materials and what he wants to say, instead of thinking art is supposed to look like what other kids do.  

We went on our first hiking trip of the year on the first day of their vacation.  There were five kids: ours, their cousin, and a friend with her two.  Sasha was the only kid who did not whine once (even the discovery of this blister was met with good cheer).  He would have kept going longer too.

He loves his stuffed animals.  When he smacked some of them around during the middle of a tempter tantrum recently, he went back later and made it up to them by giving them all sleigh rides in a cardboard box.  He also loves to be tickled, getting backrubs, and wild swinging--any strong physical sensation.  He's a builder, a scientist, and a speed demon.  He's got a quick wit and makes me laugh frequently.  He's willing to try new foods, but is always convinced he'll hate new experiences.  He torments his sister nearly unceasingly, which makes those times when he happily plays with her, or nonchalantly does her a favor, even sweeter.  His nickname is T Rex, because he is such an enthusiastic carnivore.  He's learned to enjoy hugs and kisses.  He's afraid of the dark, but not much else.

He smells.  His carefully timed eruptions can literally clear the room.  Then he grins and says, "What can I say?  I'm a skunk!"

He has a scattering of freckles across his nose and cheeks like stars.

He's our boy.

This One's For Tracy

When I was growing up, we had an orange cat named Harvey Wallbanger.  He was smart, ferocious, and had an attitude the size of Texas.

There are numerous Harvey stories--he could probably have his own blog, really--but the one I'm thinking of today is the time he had a bladder infection.  How do you know when your cat has a bladder infection, you ask?  Well, he pees blood.  (Did I mention he used to spray inside the house from time to time?)  He was put on antibiotics and kept inside.  Since he normally spent his days wandering the neighborhood, terrorizing the dogs and charming the humans, we knew he was really feeling sick when he accepted bed rest.

Soon, however, the antibiotics started to work, and he began to campaign to get back outside.  He tried slipping out, but in our house of many cats, we were all expert at preventing such dashes.  He tried starting trouble, but we just ignored him.

Finally, he came up with a foolproof plan.  My mom had just come home from a 10 hour nursing shift.  In those days, nurses still wore solid white.  Harvey backed up to Mom's leg and peed all over her white stockings and shoes.  Then he dashed to the door and looked hopefully over his shoulder at her.  He had just done The Worst Thing he could think of.  SURELY he would get picked up and tossed across the patio onto the lawn, as had happened more than once in his shady past.

Much to his confusion, instead Mom just looked down at her ruined nylons and said, "Yay, no blood!  He's getting better!"

It was two more days before we let him out.

Inesa had pneumonia a couple of weeks ago.  Her temperature was up to 104, and we wound up visiting both urgent care and the emergency room that weekend.  She perked up quickly when we got her on antiobiotics.  Then this past Sunday, Sasha suddenly laid down on the couch to rest.  Since he, much like Harvey, spends his time roaming the neighborhood terrorizing or charming those he encounters, we knew he was sick too.  Since he didn't get pneumonia, his temperature never climbed above 102, but his fever lingered until today.  We kept him close to home and dosed him regularly with children's ibuprofen.  While his sister played outside, he lay on the couch watching movies.

Today, Jon took Inesa to the zoo.  Sasha was disappointed that even though his temperature has fallen, we said one more day before he goes out in public.

Then he threw the entire contents of his room down the stairs.  (Except, as he told the wide-eyed neighbor girl, his bed.)

I'm not sure if he was expecting me to bodily thrown him out of the house, or what, but my main response is--hey, he is clearly feeling better.

We'll let him go out tomorrow.  Well, once he picks his stuff up.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sweet Pea

She turns seven tomorrow.  It's our first birthday with her, our first kid's birthday despite her being the younger of the two.  I talked to her the other night about what a big year six has been.  New family, new country, new language.  Plus lots of other more typical, but still huge, developments.  Learned to ride a bike.  Learned to sound out words.  Learned to whistle, to snap, to turn a cartwheel, and to crack an egg into a bowl.  Lost teeth, grew new ones.  Seven will hopefully bring more stability, but just as much learning.  At the rate she's going, I won't be surprised if she's reading chapter books by this time next year.  And, we all hope, her bangs will have grown out and she'll no longer look like an English Sheepdog half the time. 

Tonight I'm up late because I couldn't start the cheesecake she requested until after bedtime, and then it turned out I'd forgotten a few key ingredients (like, um, cream cheese and graham crackers) and had to go to the store first.  As she was crawling into bed (late, of course, because I had things to do once she got to sleep), she added casually, "And I need fun erasers for my classmates since we're not bringing cupcakes."  This came from a conversation we had about two months ago, when she anticipated bringing in treats for her birthday, and I reminded her of the letter home we got the first week in school asking families to not do that.  I could easily have just said, no, we're not doing erasers either, but what the hell.  (Or, as Sasha inadvertantly says, "Mutt the heck.")  It's her first birthday here.  Dollar Tree is open late, it turns out, and I figured it's worth the 3 bucks for the 3 dozen silly erasers if it makes her feel magnificent on her birthday.

Besides, it's a long honored Falconer family tradition that Mom be crabby on special occasions because she stayed up too late the night before trying to finish up some handicraft that no one will fully appreciate until years later, if ever.  Am I right, sisters?

(Who are all those skinny, dark-haired young women, anyway?)

This child. 

She's been through a lot.  I have not always been the Mama she deserves, which breaks my heart.  She's still not 100% sure what the purpose of a Papa is, which breaks Jon's heart.  She is gonna have some stuff to work on as she gets older.  But she has a belly laugh that is full of joy.  She is a willing helper, and her help is actually helpful.  She is a persistent learner.  She is a loving friend.  She takes things seriously, and she tries so hard.  She's a rule follower, and she's a peace lover. 

We took her to the Trillium Festival at Tryon Creek a few weeks ago, and on the guided hike, she told the ranger, "I have a question!"

"My middle name is Trillium!"  He was bemused.  I was bowled over with love. 

Then on our way home, she said, "I love being in the woods.  It makes me happy."  Oh, sweet girl.  I am so glad.  Let's go hiking again soon.

Happy Birthday, sweet pea!