Summertime in the PDX

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Just a little bike ride

Just a little bike ride

As usual these days, it’s been awhile since my last entry. A lot has happened since Peanut’s passing this spring…vacations, camping, work and, well, summer.

Summer in Portland is frenetic. I’ve come to learn, and not necessarily accept, that summer does not truly begin until the 4th of July. Up until then, the weather still remains partly cloudy, with the occasional sun break and temperatures ranging from the 60-70s. Definitely not splash park or outdoor pool weather, and even camping is risky. A couple years ago, Curt, Laird and I went camping the last week in June and were more than annoyed when it rained the entire night and morning. And so when summer does finally arrive in early July, we (and the rest of Portland it seems) put it into overdrive and cram every activity that can be done in warm weather into two months before the thermostat goes down yet again in September.

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Potato sack races at the campground

At the beginning of June, we headed to Orlando, where we met up with my family who flew from Hawaii. While there, we soaked up the shockingly not-too-humid 80-deg weather and exhausted ourselves on roller coasters, water rides and theme park food. Laird seemed to have a blast at the hotel alone and almost overwhelmed at the sight of Dr. Suessland at Universal Studios. We jumped aboard an airboat to spot gators and headed to the coast to meet up with friends and beach comb for shells. Poor Leini was immediately hit with a stomach bug on arriving in Florida and really only enjoyed the last half of the trip.

Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center

Hawaii cousins

Hawaii cousins

Crashed on the couch the day after coming home from Florida

Crashed on the couch the day after coming home from Florida

For the 4th of July we finally made it back to Nebraska and Iowa to visit Curt’s family. The day we left for Omaha, little Leini decided she was giving up crawling and began to walk 100%. She hadn’t shown much interest in walking prior, so I thought for sure she would be crawling her way to preschool. Within just a few days, she had the toddling-thing down. No doubt trying to keep up with her brother and tag along with all her cousins. Our 10 days there went quick visiting family and friends and relaxing on the Iowa farm with sweet Grandma Rose (who almost outdrank Curt till the early morning hours!)

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Senibar serves nightcaps until 1 am

Laird enjoying a little treat from Grandpa Paul

Laird enjoying a little treat from Grandpa Paul at the Omaha Zoo

I can walk, no problem

I can walk, no problem

Hangin' with cousins :)

Hangin’ with cousins 🙂

The rest of our summer agenda will likely include a couple more camping trips, bbq-ing and swinging in the hammock. Portland really is the most perfect place to be during the summer.  Please visit us sometime!

Cooling off by the Missouri River

Cooling off by the Missouri River

Just another day in an Iowa cornfield

Just another day in an Iowa cornfield

Blueberry picking

Blueberry picking

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Spoiled rotten: A visit from Grandmoo and Grandpoo

Grandmoo & Grandpoo with L&L

I’m not sure how Laird came up with those names, but those were his nicknames for my parents when they recently came to visit us.  If you’re lucky enough to know L, at some point you will be called a name that is not your own.  Sometimes it’s cute, sometimes it’s simply annoying.

The title is a little misleading, for although they desperately wanted to spoil L&L (mainly with sweets), being the mean mommy that I am (and a dentist), I had to set some restrictions.  Left to their own (and grandpa and grandmoo’s) devices, those two would be stuffed full of m&m’s and sugar.  Trust me, Laird still got his fair share of frozen yogurt buffets and Leini even got a few licks of ice cream at a ridiculously young 7-months, so don’t write me off as being completely cruel.  Who knows what else they got when I wasn’t around. 🙂

Hot chocolate for a chilly morning at the Zoo.  Not to brag, but I also gave both of them haircuts.  So much you can learn from youtube.

Anyway, back to the point.  My parents visited us for a couple weeks and still managed to come in time to enjoy some of the country’s most beautiful weather.  Anyone who has visited Oregon during the summer knows that there is no better place in the world to be.  Warm, dry days and crisp cool nights.

Look at me!  Biking in Eagle Crest, OR.

So for two weeks we strolled the farmer’s market, visited a few jungle gyms, watched L ride his bike in Eagle Crest, celebrated two birthdays, went to the zoo and even managed to sneak in a Timbers game.  Whew.  I think the rule of “nap when your kids are napping” still applies though, and we had ample time to lay in the hammock and watch football.  Sadly, all good things must come to an end and they headed back to Hawaii.  But hopefully they’ll return soon and, more than likely, Laird will have made up new names for them.

Here’s just a glimpse of our quick time together.

Funny faces. Not sure what L is doing here. Being funny, I guess.

Cuddle time. Someone was running a fever and feeling lethargic. Thank goodness for Grandmoo.

Teaching L to climb at Smith Rock. He’s a natural.

Our view of Smith Rock that day.  I confess, the slab of rock we were climbing in the prior pic is actually that rock just above the trail where the river runs off the right side of this pic.  Camera tricks.  🙂

I know this looks a little frightening. It was just a split second and she is still alive. 🙂 I thought it was a pretty cool picture and kind of a lucky shot, as I had my camera settings all off.

See, she’s fine 🙂

Meeting a horse, of course.

Typical Laird = Ridiculously silly

At the Oregon Zoo for his 3rd birthday. I seeeeeee you….

I have to give props to the Oregon Zoo, Laird is about a foot and a half away from this cheetah. I’m not sure of many zoos where this is possible.  If only I had remembered his zebra backpack.

Stopping to sniff the roses at the Rose Garden

Laird and Grandpa going to get some snacks at the Timbers game

My family (minus Curt). Thanks for visiting us!  Come again soon!!

Backpacking in Jeff Park

At the trailhead

To close out the summer backpacking season, we met our friends at Jefferson Park over Labor Day weekend.  The Jefferson Park Wilderness Area sits at the base of the craggy Mt Jefferson and its numerous alpine lakes made for a relaxing and picturesque weekend backpacking escape.

Our friends, expecting the masses to converge on this beckoning wilderness, opted to leave early friday morning to hike in with their two kids and secure us an ideal camping spot.  Having a Timbers game to go to on friday night (which they amazingly won), we told them we would plan to leave early saturday morning (I think we actually said 8:00 am) and radio them once we were headed up the trail.

Of course, we didn’t get home from the game with L&L until 10:00 pm and finally collapsed on the bed close to 11:00 pm.  We slept in and tried to overcome laziness as we both regretted having agreed with our friends to meet them.  “We could just not go,” I said.  Curt replying, “We can’t not go.  They’re expecting us.”  I also added that in a couple of months, the weather would be crappy and we would’ve wished we had gone anyway.  So, at 11 am, we drove an hour to Salem, where we dropped our dogs off at a pet-sitter and stopped by the grocery store for last minute essentials (i.e. chocolate, mac&cheese, etc).

We eventually pulled into the dusty trailhead parking lot at 3:30 pm and, already weary and exhausted, hit the trail at 3:45 pm.  It was a beautiful, cool day, without a cloud in the sky.  Amazingly, Laird hiked the ascending first 2.5 miles entirely on his own before Curt realized that at our pace, we probably wouldn’t make it to the lakes until after dark.  So, having Leini already strapped to his chest, he packed Laird onto his shoulders (in addition to his 30+ lb pack) and we tore up the trail for the next 1.5 miles.  For the last mile and a half, I carried Leini while Curt attempted to calm our overtired and tantrum-ing son, as we passed gorgeous views of the mountain and its glaciers.

After connecting with Ian on the radio, who then met us at the trail leading to our campsite, we arrived at our weekend getaway at nearly 7 pm.  For the next day and a half we delighted in gazing at the looming peak, throwing rocks, foraging for huckleberries, taking a cool dip in Scout’s Lake and staring at the bright yellow glow of the full moon.  It was a perfect finale to our reintroduction into backpacking and, just as we expected, it was definitely worth it.

**I apologize for the poor photos.  I brought my point-and-shoot and haven’t bothered to edit them yet.

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Backpacking…..with kids

When we first moved to the Pacific Northwest from Nebraska a little over 7 years ago, we immediately fell in love with the outdoors.  We were raring to explore the extinct volcanic peaks like Mt Hood and lose ourselves in acres upon acres of ancient trees.  After a couple of visits to REI and some crazy-crowded hikes on a sunny weekend to break us in, we quickly jumped into backpacking.  From the months of July through September, our incredibly short summer window, Curt and I (and our doggies) spent every free weekend hiking or backpacking.  The most we ever spent camping was two nights, due to our school and work schedules, but just enough to get away from the business of life and unwind in some of the most beautiful natural settings.  I’ll be honest, I hate camping in the middle of the woods, so most of our trips were to spots with worthy viewpoints or some type of body of water, and most were within a distance that little wiener dog feet could travel without getting too sore.

Car camping with Grandma

Of course, that all changed when Laird was born.  No longer did we have the energy, desire or time to pack up all of our gear and a baby into the middle of the forest.  And so we stopped backpacking.  It wasn’t a conscious decision, we just stopped doing it.  Instead, we became car campers.  After all, it suited us well; we still got to enjoy the outdoors and had everything we needed in the trunk of our car.  Yet, even though it was much simpler and equally as fun, I still yearned for more freedom.  Freedom from noise, freedom from distraction, freedom from people.

This summer, however, we met another couple in our church who backpack with their two kids (ages 5 and 2).  “What?!  People still backpack with their kids?  How are we not doing this?!!” were thoughts flying through my head.  I immediately started picking their brains about the logistics of it all and we soon planned our first “trial” backpacking trip.  Mainly a test to see how far Laird could walk, we headed out on just a short 2 or so miles to our camping spot on a drizzly Saturday morning, spent the night and returned the next day.  It wasn’t idealic weather conditions, but we all had fun and the kids did great.

On our way to Goat Rocks at 9:00 pm

We headed out again this past weekend to Goat Rocks Wilderness Area in Washington, a place I’ve been wanting to visit since we arrived here.  Stuck in rush hour traffic trying to get out of town on friday night, I wondered whether this short two-night trip would be worth it.  And I had pretty much convinced myself that it wasn’t as we pulled into our car-camping spot that night just after 10:00 pm with a screaming baby and irritated toddler in the back seat.  We settled in for the night after listening to the blaring mix of 80’s classic rock and Tracy Chapman coming from our neighboring campers, which served as a reminder of why we were backpacking.

Ready to head up the trail holding graham crackers. The first course of many snacks to get our kids to our campsite.

Future REI model

The next morning was sunny and warm and we headed to the trailhead with 4 kids in tow.  It’s mind-blowing for me to even write this, but Laird (just shy of 3 years old) and our friend’s daughter, Hannah (5), hiked about 5.5 miles…entirely on their own.  It’ll be a sad day when bribing kids with candy no longer works, as that along with peer-pressure are probably the only reasons Laird made it up that far without being carried.

Our lunch spot. Snowgrass Flats.

Lounging at our campsite. Well, almost, if it weren’t for those $@^(*&@! mosquitos!

We ate lunch at Snowgrass Flats and took in amazing panoramic views before heading a little further to find our campsite.  After setting up camp and getting some water, we chilled out for a bit.  Incredibly, the 3 kids still had enough energy to run around and wrestle in the tent.  In fact, we continued up the trail an additional half a mile to get a better view of the mountains and valleys.  It was just as I pictured.  Simply breathtaking.

Admiring Goat Rocks.  Lots of rocks, no goats though. 😦

Hiking buddies

When we got back to our campsite, Curt and Ian started a fire to ward off the incredibly-annoying mosquitos and we all had dinner around the fire.  After smores, we put our kids to bed and just enjoyed some quiet time around the fire.  There were no other noises, but the sound of the creek nearby.  There were no cell phones or internet.  There were no other people.  Just us and the stars.  Yes, this was totally worth it.

Indian food for dinner

We forgot our spoons in the car, so Curt is improvising with a piece of bark.

The next morning we ate our oatmeal by the fire and hung out on the snow bank by the creek.  I wasn’t ready to go yet.  Camping, rather backpacking, isn’t for everyone.  Why would you subject yourself to hiking with a heavy load on your back, dealing with hoards of mosquitos and just being filthy?  Let alone with kids?  For me, there is nothing more beautiful than seeing nature untouched and creating memories with the people I love within this setting.

Me and Leini Bug headed back to the car

As we packed up our gear and headed back down the trail to our car, all I could think of was Laird and Leini.  How I hoped that Laird would somehow remember this little trip we took and will both have fond memories of our future backpacking trips.  More than anything, I hope they will also grow to love the outdoors and to love nature, just as much as we do.

Getting a lift from Daddy

Laird’s poor little legs finally reached their aching point with just about a mile and a half left to go.  Curt, our sherpa, gave him a short boost on his shoulders and inspired him to run the last quarter-mile back to the car by bribing him with….ice cream. 🙂

We made it! Offf to get ice cream.

The Wendler’s, our backpacking companions 🙂

Backpacking trips should always be completed with ice cream

Not chicken pox, just a ton of mosquito bites

Mosquito bait

From fall to Christmas….

Fall seemed to come and go so quickly, it seems like yesterday I was just planning for Halloween and here we are into the Christmas season already.  Life has been a whirlwind lately after we got back from our trip to California.

Here are some pictures of our fall to winter transition…

I’d never had sauerkraut until I met Curt in Nebraska.  “Fermented cabbage?  Really?  You eat that?” was my first thought.  But, then again, I love kimchee and figured I’d give it a try.  And of course, I’m a huge fan now.  You can’t beat homemade sauerkraut and after trying store-bought kraut (which is “fermented” with vinegar) I was determined to make our own.  So this was the year.  Huge heads of organic cabbage were just $2 at the farmer’s market, so I went to town and bought 6.  After chopping the heads, we added some canning salt, dumped it into Curt’s beer making bucket and waited for 4 weeks.  Sure enough, after a month, the smell of fresh sauerkraut permeated our house and Curt canned them up.  Yummy!!

Grandma chopping 6 heads of cabbage from the farmer's market

Our canning "crock"

The official taste tester

We also made it to the free day at the Portland Japanese Garden where my mom, Laird and I stood in awe at the beautiful fall colors of the Japanese maples.

Fall colors at the Japanese Garden

Grandma and Laird

Japanese maple on fire

Leaf printing

Lastly, we were unsure about whether we were going to get a Christmas tree this year, as we are going to be in Hawaii for 2 weeks.  But, since Laird is older and beginning to understand more, we thought he would enjoy finding one and decorating it.  So the day after thanksgiving we went to a farm just a minute down our road and found the perfect tree.  Having a tree really does make everything seem Christmasy!

Finding our perfect Christmas tree

Laird esta loco

Laird getting instructions from picky Mommy:)

Curt's awesome apple pie with lattice crust top

Daddy's with wee ones at the Zoo lights

The dog days of summer…

Our weekend retreat

As I’ve learned over the past six years living in Oregon, if we’re lucky summer usually lasts a glorious, but fleeting three months.–if we’re not, it ends shortly after it started…if it ever really started.  It seems like this summer, like the last, is going to be of the latter version.  Only a couple days has the temperature reached 90 deg in Portland and has usually hovered in the upper 70s to low 80s.  Much too cold for my Hawaii-born tastes.  So, in an effort to take advantage of this unpredictable summer season, our little family tries to get out as much as we can to enjoy “nature”, the “quiet” and the “fresh air.”  I add the quotations, well, because when we’re car camping we’re not really as close to nature as we could be, it’s never really that quiet (dogs barking, kids throwing tantrums…ahem, Laird, and chainsaws blasting away), and it kind of stinks when the person across from your campsite smokes.  But, I’ll stop complaining. 🙂

Someone is having too much fun

A few years ago, when our nephew came to visit us from Nebraska, we discovered a set of lakes at about 6400′ elevation and camped for a of couple nights at one of them.  We had such fond memories of the lake that we decided to drive the 3.5+ hours back to the high desert near Bend after I got off of work on Thursday.  One thing I hate when camping is setting up in the dark. Thankfully, it has only happened a couple times, but it is absolutely miserable.  I can’t see anything, I’m usually hungry, tired and trying unsuccessfully to chase away mosquitoes.  This night was very similar.  Except now I am pregnant and hormonal.  We arrived at the campground at 10:30 pm (our latest arrival ever).  As Curt effortlessly put our tents together, I unloaded the car and got Laird ready for bed.  Mosquitoes were everywhere and I just wanted to scream or cry (did I mention the hormones?).  We finally tucked in after 11:30 pm.

Fresh peach pancakes to start the morning off right

On friday, we woke up to a beautiful, cloud-free morning and would you believe that Laird actually slept in?  We scoped out the area around our campsite and were a little disappointed that we couldn’t see the lake from it.  After Curt made some amazing banana pancakes we drove around this particular lake, as well as another to find a better campsite.  By the grace of God, we happened upon one that was unreserved and up for being claimed, as the family was leaving later that day.  It fronted the lake and was somewhat secluded as well.  We quickly packed up all of our stuff and relocated.  For the rest of the three days, we relaxed on the beach, paddled around in the kayak that our friends graciously lent us and embraced the beauty of this place.

Me and my paddling buddy

Laird was eager to test out the kayak and went on a couple of short rides with both Curt and me.  He also made some friends on the beach and probably some enemies as well by singing at the top of his lungs in his tent first thing in the morning.  We ate some delicious meals by the lake, endured some cold swimming sessions and feasted on mouth-watering smores by the fire.  At night, the stars lit up the sky, as we watched for meteors and gazed at the constellations.

Ready to paddle into the sunset

When Sunday afternoon rolled around, I was sad to leave, as is typical when we go camping.  There’s something about camping that’s utterly exhausting, but equally as exhilarating and rejuvenating.  I believe it’s the lack of distraction, as we aren’t able to use our cell phones or internet.  And so camping becomes a rare opportunity for us to be together, to focus on one another, to restore the foundation of our family, and to savor the incredible beauty of nature together.  All these things create lasting, life-long memories to treasure.  So when I reflect on whether the packing, preparation, setting up (in the dark), taking down and lack of sleep is all worth it…of course it is.

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Adventures down south

We recently visited our friends Phil, Missy and their adorable daughter, Grace, down in southern Oregon for a weekend getaway.  This was our first time spending any time further south than Portland, so we were excited about exploring the area and hanging out with our friends.

Dinner at the Getsinger's

We drove the four hours just outside of Medford after work on Thursday and settled at their home in Eagle Point, Oregon.  It’s much drier there and the sun considerably warmer.  I think the temperature was in the 90s the entire weekend, but I was glad to soak it up.  On Friday we walked 4 miles (roundtrip) for some donuts.  I had been craving a cinnamon roll for the past couple weeks, so Curt convinced me to get one.  Although I really think he just wanted it for himself because he ate most of it.  We then took the kiddos to a fun little spray park, where Laird ran through fountains of water.  He’s definitely turned a corner as far as liking water is concerned.  Since returning from Hawaii he’s much more open to getting wet and splashing around in it.

Splash park

On Saturday we loaded up our cars and headed to our campsite for the next couple days at Lost Creek Reservoir, a fairly large state park on the way to Crater Lake.  The reservoir is actually pretty nice, especially if you have a boat or jet ski.  For us, we went to the “beach” and found an area with dirty sand, littered with largish rocks and muddy water that was a sad excuse for a beach.  But, being that it was so hot and we needed to cool off, I went in and my little buddy followed.

Someone is getting braver

The next day we took a little day trip to Crater Lake.  This was our first visit to the lake and it did not disappoint.  The lake was an unimaginable stunning, deep blue.  And incredibly calm.  It’s amazing to think that at one point it had been a volcano until it collapsed upon itself.  Truth be told though, unless one is intending to hike or backpack around the lake, there really isn’t much else to do around it other than see it, admire it and head home.  So that’s pretty much what we did.

Good times

We went for another swim in the lake, this time Laird was actually laying in the water.  And Curt whipped up some delicious spaghetti for dinner.  We had our nightly dessert of freshly toasted smores over our campfire, and gazed at the full moon up above.  I thought Laird was fast asleep in his tent.  Yet out of the dark came the little stinker, with a big smile on his face, so proud that he had escaped from his tent.  I walked him back to the tent and he turned to me and asked, “How’d he get out?”–as if he was quizzing me, “Mommy, can you figure it out?” 🙂  Oh how I love my little dude.

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