Tuesday, May 23, 2017

building a bridge

It's not a metaphor. For the capstone project of the Portland-focused social studies unit in third grade, the children are asked to build a replica of a Portland bridge. The instructions are to build it out of household materials - people aren't supposed to buy anything resembling a kit or spend a lot of money - but from what I've seen, parents appear to go all in on the bridge-building project.

Last year, since he was in the 2nd/3rd grade split class, Sebastian attempted to build the Fremont Bridge. We tried with candy, we tried to make something out of hardware store materials, we pretty much failed. Fortunately, he wasn't required to turn anything in, but the bridge has lived in the back of my head ever since - something to look forward to with fear and trepidation.

So on Saturday we decided to visit Scrap, a local re-use store, and we found tons of good material for next to nothing. Seb decided to downsize from the Fremont to the Morrison bridge, and we both managed to work through our respective feelings of fear/anxiety/frustration/incompetence to visualize what might work. And then on Sunday, to my astonishment, he brought all of his materials into the living room and requested that we work on it. Two weeks ahead of time! I was delighted, and we started taping, gluing, cutting, and painting. I mostly let Sebastian do everything and he did a great job. I know there will be bridges on display that clearly show the efforts of their engineering/designing parents, but I'm proud that we managed to get through to a completed bridge - he's happy and proud of his design, and I am too.
While Sebastian and I were stressing out over what we could use to build a bridge, Liesl was happily filling a basket with fabric, thread, buttons, fancy papers, and various other crafty things, and she's been having a ball experimenting with it all.

Saturday, May 20, 2017


On Saturday, I went with Liesl and her friends Campbell and Nora, and Nora's mom Elena, to see the Oregon Children's Theatre production of Pinkalicious. The audience was a sea of pink-clad girls, all super excited. We shamelessly gave in and bought each girl a tiara, magic wand, and beads, and then participated in the pre-show scavenger hunt throughout the theatre, looking for stuffed cupcakes that were hanging in random places throughout the venue. The girls loved it. The show was sweet and perfect - lots of songs, great set design, a bundle of feel-good messages about accepting yourself and loving your family and eating healthy food. Good times!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

hike to Trestle Creek Falls

We woke up and had the hotel's breakfast - cinnamon buns! pancakes! cereal! - the girls were in heaven - and then headed back into the Umpqua national forest for a 4 mile hike to upper Trestle Creek Falls. The forest was lush and green and the river was roaring with all the spring rains. It was gorgeous - the perfect hiking day. Neither girl complained even once about going on the hike, about being tired or bored, or about anything at all, which was outstanding and unusual and made for the perfect Mother's Day present.
Of course, since this was the weekend of fiascos, when we arrived at the trailhead we found a line of pink tape and this sign.
We were undaunted. We couldn't imagine giving up without a hike. We assumed we'd hear any logging operations and see foresters before approaching a work area, and so we dodged around the sign and proceeded. (Setting a terrible example for our girls, who can both now read perfectly well!)
This is upper Trestle Creek Falls -- the trail goes around and behind the falls, which was super exciting for the girls. Liesl ran up the trail to reach it and was delightfully impressed.
I should note that half a mile before reaching these falls, we started to hear the noises of a helicopter, really close by. We saw it a few moments later, hovering over the hillside across from us, with a long rope and hook dangling down into the forest. Clearly the timber falling operations of the danger sign. The helicopter lowered down and picked up a tree on the hook, and then flew off. But it either didn't go far, or there were a lot of helicopters, because the noise was pretty constant. It's hard to fully immerse yourself in a verdant forest experience when that noise is ever-present, triggering thoughts of every war movie and dystopian fiction account (Hunger Games) you've ever seen. The noise was masked briefly by the falls, and we wondered if we should turn back or continue on our loop hike. Foolhardiness won out again and we kept going - the noise eventually disappeared, we think because the helicopters and their tree-removal operation moved to the other side of the neighboring hillside, and were were able to finish our hike without incident.
Lower Trestle Creek Falls.
We piled back into the car and drove home to Portland - the girls both slept half the way - ending a happy and eventful weekend adventure.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mother's Day adventure

For Mother's Day, Anne found a fire lookout cabin for rent and booked us a night - just us and our daughters, camping out on top of a mountain. It was so exciting - we were so excited - such an adventure! We were booked at the Timber Butte cabin, in the Umpqua National Forest outside Eugene. The drive down was easy until we headed into the forest and promptly got lost. There were no signs; the directions were unclear; we weren't on any map; there were a LOT of intersecting roads going in circles. We drove around for a really long time, not even sure if we were lost (i.e. on the wrong road) or just not there yet. Finally, after flagging down everyone we saw (3-4 trucks) to ask if they knew where we should go (no one knew), we took some more turns and magically found it. Phew!!
It was cute and cozy inside - we schlepped our stuff up the hill and unpacked, and tried to light the stove. It wouldn't stay lit. The pilot light kept going out. We ransacked the place looking for instructions and followed them exactly, five or six times in a row. No luck - the stove would stay lit for 4 minutes and then turn off, and it was the only source of heat. So it was 40 degrees outside and in, and the light rain turned to pouring rain. And then it started to hail.
During a brief break, we explored the fire pit and gorgeous forest, but then the rain started again and drove us inside the very cold cabin. We all put on all our clothes and cuddled together on the bed, under the sleeping bags, to play a game of Apples to Apples and eat rhubarb cake.... and at 4:30 we gave up. No one could feel their fingers and we had many hours more to entertain ourselves inside, and no hot food. So we schlepped everything back down to the car, drove back down the hill, and took ourselves to a hotel in Eugene.

There was a pool and a hot tub and everyone was entirely delighted.
We had a hotel room picnic with all of our packed food - fruit, nuts, carrots, and microwaved cheese sandwiches for the girls, and a cucumber salad, canned salmon, and sourdough for us. We played Scrabble, read books, and curled up in our cozy beds, happy to be together and warm.
So in the end, it was not the lookout tower adventure we had planned, but it was still really fun and probably even more memorable for its sheer fiasco-ness. In the morning, we woke up and drove back into the national forest for a spectacular waterfall hike, and that was terrific. (Although also marked by some ridiculously near-disaster circumstances... blog post to come!)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Anne of GG

Last Friday night, Netflix released the new CBC production of Anne of Green Gables - seven episodes so far in the series. It's been updated to have a more modern look and sensibility than the 1985 version that loomed large in my childhood, and it's really good. The main characters are excellently cast and acted, the indoor spaces and outdoor landscapes are perfect, and the story has been slightly modified, but in ways that I can appreciate. Anne and I went over to Michela's house to watch the first episode together, and I had the rare pleasure of sharing a childhood favorite with two friends who equally appreciated and loved the stories. Anne made a plum pudding with caramel sauce, in honor of a certain scene in the book. I made raspberry tea biscuits and raspberry cordial, in another nod to the book. It was a fabulous ladies night - episode 2 will be perhaps less well stocked in terms of victuals, but it'll be another wonderful time.

Monday, May 15, 2017

final FH game

Sebastian and his friends played their final Forest Heights soccer game of the season on Saturday. It's probably the last game they'll ever play as a grade-level rec team, as next year they'll be divided into birth year (some 2007, some 2008) and will all play in a more competitive soccer league through Lincoln Youth soccer. It's been a good group of boys - mostly playing together since kindergarten - and so we're sad about the end. But it makes sense for them to move up - they've been crushing the other teams all season, and it's not fun or fair to keep going. They'll be more challenged and hopefully find more equal opponents in the competitive league.
We celebrated with cupcakes under the covered area, and just in time, because within five minutes, it started to hail. And then it kept hailing - good-sized balls of ice - for 15 minutes. The sound of it rattling on the metal roof was intensely loud and we all began to wonder just how long we'd be trapped there. But then it stopped and we walked home, feeling sad for the trees and flowers. What a spring!