Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Early Morning Garden

I glanced out the window about 6:30 am this morning. Something about the light caught my eye.

It was that half-light. Do you know what I mean? Partly dark with mystery, and partly glowing with promise. Something about that light beckoned me, and I went out into my early morning garden.

 The spaghetti squash glowed like lamps on the lawn.

 Bright glimpses of impatiens, ripening tomatoes, and marigolds peeped from beneath dark leaves.

 One hollyhock lifted like a banner into the sky.

 The geraniums were a swirl of color.

My window.
Only moments earlier, I was sitting inside there, writing, while the garden grew in light.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lucky 13

Whew! Woke up this morning with thirteen people in the house! Oh, it makes a grandma's heart so happy to have family together.

My lucky thirteen were:
1-2: Mark and me
3-6: Holly, David, Arora, and Ender (I can't remember if I've written about this in a post, but they have moved in with us for a while. I feel so very lucky to have a son and his darling wife, and two adorable children here with us.)
7-8: Mike and Maddy (They are here so that Maddy can visit with Josh, Sarah, and Kat, her siblings who live nearby. We've had such a fun week for these siblings who live on opposite coasts to spend some good times together!)
9-13: Polly, Eric, Katie, Seth, and Becca (They drove to Oregon City yesterday. This was a true sacrifice for them, as Eric just started his second year of teaching chemistry on Thursday. But they came anyway because they love their sister Maleena soooo much, and today was the day the Max and Maleena blessed their baby, Hunter, at church.)

To celebrate my lucky thirteen morning, here are 13 photos of some fun we've been having together.

David got up early this morning and made homemade waffles for all thirteen of us. What a champ! Holly, of course, was his assistant. Thank you David and Holly! The waffles were delicious, and all thirteen of us made it to church on time at 9:00 am. Wow!

Who can resist this smiley guy! Ender is such a character. His mother has nicknamed him "Trouble" - for his speed crawl straight toward whatever his parents don't want him getting in to. He turned one this month, and he is starting to walk! It is so fun to watch him taking 5 or 6 steps at a time.

I was in heaven today in the church nursery. These two sweet granddaughters, who are almost exactly the same age, but live on opposite coasts and rarely get to see each other, were there to play and have fun with Grandma. We had SO much fun together!

Becca and Maddy, playing with puzzles in the church nursery. I just couldn't get enough of them. I love two year olds!

Max, Maleena, and Hunter, after his blessing. He was such a sweet baby - not a peep out of him during the blessing, and he was happy and wide awake during the family party afterwards. Maleena and Max are doing a wonderful job raising him, and it was a joy to spend time with their family today.

Family outing at the zoo on Thursday. Kat, Sarah, Arora on the elephant. Then there's me, Mark, and Josh with Maddy. The children have been having a wonderful time together.

Maddy feeding two lorikeets at the zoo. What a gift to have time with these gentle birds. The kids were getting tired, and the lorikeets were the last exhibit we stopped to see. It was a perfect way to end the day--made some special memories with the kids.

Sarah and Josh feeding lorikeets (Grandpa Mark in the background).

Random times at home...Maddy helping me pick cherry tomatoes out in the garden...

...Arora pushing Maddy in one of the swings...

...Sarah and Josh teaching Maddy how to play "Hit the Deck"...

Here's one more photo from today. My handsome hunk with little Hunter. How I love Mark! I am so grateful to be married to this good, kind, hardworking man. He is a gifted grandpa. He always soothes the babies to sleep. I tease him that it's because he's boring, but that's just a little joke, you know...

And the last shot of the day...grandkids on the lawn after the baby blessing. A barrel of monkeys, as usual! Ender (escaping), Arora, Becca, Katie with Hunter, and Maddy. Seth was a little out of sorts and chose to skip the photo op.

Oh, happy Grandma day! I am a lucky, lucky Grandma!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Camping Post #2: Family Campout at Ensign Ranch

We spent Thursday night and Friday night at Ensign Ranch, near Yakima Washington, with my parents and Polly & Eric & children. With all of our travels this summer, we had not yet seen Polly and her family, who live just 4 1/2 hours away! We had planned to see my parents when we camped at Sparks Lake, but had to change our plans when I broke my nose, and we wanted to spend time with them, too. So a family campout was the perfect way to end our summer with dear family.

Ensign Ranch is a (LDS) Church-owned camp. It was so nice to know that our neighbors wouldn't be up till all hours with noisy parties. It is huge--it can accommodate 3 or more stakes of YW Camp at the same time--but we found a great spot for our family.

The campsites have wonderful teepees and wall tents. They can hold 10+ people! We had lots of space. The tents and teepees have good floors and are very comfortable to camp in. The campground we were in does not allow vehicle access, so we used the handcart to haul the gear from the car to the campsite - about 1/4 mile each way. Of course, the kids loved getting rides in the handcart!

Polly, me, Katie, my dad (Ken) and my mom (Nancy) - chopping up vegies for the foil dinners. You can see the Family Campout teeshirts we had made for the weekend. Polly said it might have been better if they were neon orange, so she could see her kids better when they wandered off through the bushes. :) No matter, the teeshirts will bring back happy memories when the kids wear them throughout the year.

I love cooking in foil - no dishes to wash! You just have to be careful to seal the seams really carefully to keep the steam in - that's what does the cooking. I also use 2 layers of heavy duty foil to prevent burning.
Mark was the "fire-man," and did a super job managing the briquettes for the  foil menu and the Dutch oven dishes. Thanks, Mark!

After foil dinners, of course we enjoyed some marshmallows. Polly, Seth, Eric, Becca.

Seth really enjoyed his marshmallows! Haha - he is ALL boy.

It was so good to sit around in the evening and visit with family. The kids thoroughly enjoyed all the outdoor time. The mosquitoes weren't too bad, and the setting was really lovely.
(Polly, me with Becca and Katie, Seth, Eric)

I loved all the grandma-snuggle time! Here I'm enjoying some time with Becca and Katie.

My parents, Nancy and Ken, were the ones who got me started on camping as a kid. It's been years since I've camped with them, and I loved having them join us on this campout. They brought their new camping trailer and stayed in a nearby RV site. It was a little over 1/4 mile for them to walk from their trailer to the campsite where the rest of the family stayed.

Yum! Friday morning breakfast was French toast casserole in the Dutch oven. It came out perfect, and there were no leftovers.

Friday was filled with water play. First we played in the canoes. Ensign Ranch provides them for free! Katie wanted to ride with Grandma and Grandpa.

Polly, Seth, Eric and Becca. After a while, Mark and I were boarded by "pirates" - Seth and Becca climbed into our canoe! So fun to enjoy the time with the grandchildren, even if they do make the canoe extra "tippy." Sit still, kids! Mark kept saying...

After lunch we took the kids to play at the huge slip-n-slide. It really is amazing. The kids kept going for 2 full hours. Thank goodness we brought our shade canopy to sit under and watch them. That's Eric at the top in his green teeshirt, holding Becca. Katie is off to the right holding a pink inner tube, and Seth is sliding (off his tube--haha) with the orange inner tube.

Here's a little video that shows some of the action. In the video, Eric is sliding and holding Becca, and Katie is in the next inner tube, holding hands with Eric.

Back at camp, Becca helped me prepare the pineapple upside down cake. We also made homemade ice cream to celebrate three August birthdays: Mark, Seth, and my mom. Dad grilled steaks, and we all were about to pop! after supper. Oh, my, it was all so yummy.

Our last morning, Becca woke up with swollen puffy eyes - a mosquito got her on the eyebrow, and also beneath her eye! Poor kid - she didn't seem to mind too much. Good thing she was too little to realize how puffy she looked.

Seth enjoyed our final breakfast.

We loaded all the gear back onto the handcarts. (Eric, Seth, Katie)

And headed for the parking lot, and home. (Eric with Becca, Seth, Katie, Mark) We had so much fun!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Camping Post #1: Backpacking at Opal Creek

We had a glorious 2 days backpacking at Opal Creek with Josh (11) and Sarah & Kat (both 9). The weather was perfect, the scenery was outstanding, the kids were great, and we had a blast!

We went to Opal Creek, a beautiful area of old-growth forest, just east of Salem. It's about a 2-hour drive from the Portland area. There are creeks everywhere, feeding into the North Santiam River. Huge trees, 500+ years old, are common in the woods there. We hiked in 2 miles and made our camp, then had fun with a day hike, playing in the river, making fires in our campsite, and just generally playing in the woods.

Here are a few of the many photos from the last 3 days.

 At the trailhead - Monday early afternoon
Kat, Sarah, me, Josh, Mark

 Sarah, Kat, and Josh touch a 1,000-year-old tree

 How tall can it be???

 Sawmill Falls, near our campsite

 The kids love "secret" campsites. We found a great one, tucked back into the trees and down a small slope so we didn't get noise from the main trail. Kat, me, Sarah, and Josh enjoy the campfire Josh built...with some help. By the end of our campout, he was pretty good at it, and the girls were right behind him.

 All 3 kids felt compelled to sharpen sticks. Only 1 bandaid required for the entire outing! Here Kat sharpens another stick.

 Josh was our main cook, to help complete a Boy Scout requirement. Here he is mixing muffins in a ziplock bag. We cooked them in the bag with a gizmo called a "bakepacker." Yum!

 Sarah sharpens yet another stick...

 We all took turns pumping water through the water purifier, but Mark got the main workout. Thank you Mark!

 Sarah had the first turn at this campsite's Log of Beauty" - another backpacking tradition with the girls. Isn't it amazing that every single campsite always seems to have its own special log for a morning beauty routine?

 Before we left home I did a little internet research and found instructions to 3 different letterboxes along the trail. We found 2 of them. Here's Josh discovering the "Douglas Fir" letterbox tucked into the base of a stump near our campsite. We brought rubber stamps and a stamp pad, as well as our little hiking journals, so that we could add our stamps to the letterbox journal, and stamp the letterbox's unique stamp into our own journals. Fun treasure hunts!

 Josh, Sarah, and Kat heading out on a day hike.

 Snow melt!
The kids wanted to play in the water, but they didn't go in too far...

 Sarah and Kat

 For another of Josh's scout requirements, we kept an eye out for wild animals or evidence of wild animals. He had to identify 10. Here the family is pointing to bear evidence--the scratched-away section of a rotting snag. Mr. Bruin would have been looking for insects in the dead tree.

 On Tuesday afternoon, the girls asked Mark to take them fishing. He had brought fishing line, bobbers, and flies, but he forgot the actual pole back at the car. No matter...they rigged fishing poles on long sticks. And Sarah caught a fish!! Too bad, it was an inch too small to keep, so they released it back to the stream, but it sure was exciting!

 This morning, packed up and ready to head back to the car. 
Me, Sarah, Kat, Josh, Mark

Backpacking with the grandchildren has become one of my favorite traditions. We started with Josh four years ago, when he was only 7, and we added the twins two years ago when they also turned 7. That's the youngest I want to take grandkids out into the woods for overnighters. It's fine to take younger children out backpacking when they are with their parents, of course, but to be away in a dark tent overnight when the trees make interesting noises...tough to do that if you're littler than 7. This year, the kids were talking about how fun it will be to include cousin Katie next summer, when she will be 7. They're looking forward to showing her the ropes.

Stay tuned for Camping Post #2, coming this weekend!