Monday, July 31, 2006

What My Dog Does When She Is "Left Out"

I am not exagerating when I say this has been the fate of at least 15 pairs of flip flops belonging to all of the members of the Riley and Schilling family..... They are her favorite treat - especially when she is upset at us for being locked out or left out of all of the fun.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Not Such a Great Day on the Lake

This morning we joined Mom and Dad at Fall Creek Lake for the maiden voyage with our kids of Mom and Dad's new boat. Dad was offered this boat at a great "deal" by a very good friend, and Mom and Dad have been very excited to get us all finally on it, and provide the opportunity to ski and intertube. Yesterday, we picked out a massive intertube at G.I. Joes- we packed picnic lunches this morning, my kids even had wetsuits to use. We were ready to go. After noticing it listing to one side, Dad took out his toolbox and adjusted the prop - that seemed to fix it- and Michele hopped in ready to ski.

It's been a while since Dad has pulled a skiier, so there were some adjustments that needed to be made, Dad was overly cautious and slow and Michele appreciates a fast pull from the water. When she did get up and was doing very well on slalom, she indicated that she wanted the speed to be increased. We were all yelling "faster". However, Dad, with less than stellar hearing, heard "we lost her" and cut the engines. Since I wasn't the one skiing, I found it all very comical....

When Michele was back up again and speeding across the lake, we found the "glass" by the dam, and all was looking wonderful. The kids were enjoying the bed space beneath the bow and were very happy- and the rest of us, including Mikayla and Mom, were watching Michele. Then, all of a sudden, the boat lurched hard at a 90 degree angle. The steering cable broke causing Dad's shoulder to break the pexiglass next to him, John to barely contain Brayden on his lap, Michael and I to take a jolt, Michele to obviously fall off the ski, and Mom to break Mikayla's fall with her own body and fall on the side of the boat. When Mom lifted up (having saved Mikayla from injury), we saw blood next to Mom's ear and discovered it had been split from the exterior edge all the way to the bone in her cheek. Ouch. That ended the trip in a hurry. Michael layed underneath the steering console to navigate the boat by pulling the cables and we finally got to the dock. From there Mom and Dad headed to the emergency room.

Michele and Michael just got back from switching vehicles with them and said Mom's ear looked like something out of a horror film (sorry, no cameras available to post a picture). Fortunately, it was numb and the on call plastic surgeon was on their way to stitch her up (since cartiladge was involved, they wanted to bring in a specialist). She should be okay and released pretty soon.

Have to say, this isn't quite what we had in mind for the first day out on the boat. But, we're extremely thankful things didn't end up any worse. Here's hoping the next trip out ends in smiles and not ER visits!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Belotti's New Recruits

For years, my friend Christy, has been trying to drag me to the annual Duck Football Womens' Clinic. It's an evening where a light dinner is served, alcohol (and let me tell you, there were some women who indulged in that) - and then this group of 250 women are put into teams and rotated among stations to learn and practice the disciplines of offense and defense in football. I'm glad I finally said, "yes" last night as it was a really good time. The highlight came when we were seeking to take a group picture of the 5 of us who attended and Christy spotted the Duck's head coach, Mike Belotti. We quickly ambushed him, found a willing photographer and flashed our happy smiles. Looking forward to next year, Christy!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Couple of Questions XXVII

I'm struggling with good questions right now. Here's my lame attempts:

1. What do you look forward to, or enjoy the most about the month of August?

2. If you were to go to bed, and looking back on the day, assessed as "successful" - what would that day have looked like?

I can't say I've really been enjoying my "back to reality" disciplines this week. But, it certainly needed to happen. Thank you friends who have forgiven me my apathetic, somewhat cranky attitude.......

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Aunt Stephie

Sorry I haven't posted in a bit. Last night I planned to do this, but ended up in bed with an icepack, 2 Advil PM, and "The Little Mermaid" in the VCR as white noise. I couldn't shake the headache all day - and it made me grumpy, then my grumpy bad attitude made it worse. We ended up passing on our arranged golf game with the Whites (to celebrate Travis' birthday - Happy Late Birthday, Buddy - Michele and I are glad we finally got the brother we always wanted Mom and Dad to have (and I'm not referring to Mackie! =) ) Anyway, the golf game got scratched in the car due to worries on how I'd hold up, and then I finally got to the point that is so dreaded - any motion, any conversation just makes you want to throw up or pass out - Not good. Praise God that these things almost always go away overnite, although I will say I've got quite an "Advil PM" hangover!

So, that long winded excuse set aside..... I had an especially wonderful extended weekend bonding with my nieces and nephew. I ALWAYS enjoy their company - they are so much family that I never worry about entertaining, scolding, or even feeding them (they know where the food is just like my kids). So, I thought I'd post some pics, and say a few thoughts about each of them.

TRAIG: I BARELY witnessed this guy's birth. I walked in just as he was crowning. Thanks for waiting for me, dude. He was the family's first - and I watched his first days in awe. His arrival made John and I say, "we got to get ourselves one of those...". I remember actually feeling wistful that Michele got to dress this little guy up like she would a doll. Since those days, this guy has grown up fast - Whenever we are together, rarely a day goes by that he comes to me with a hug and says, "I love you Aunt Stephie". For an 8 year old boy to value such sentiment is rare and wonderful. He has an incredibly intuitive and sensitive heart with a head that is constantly in motion trying to work things and feelings out. Sometimes he'll randomly ask the most profound questions and make parallels that impress us all. Most special, though, is his heart for God. Thank you for the inspiration, Traig!

NATALIA - aka, NATI: Now, Nati, on the other hand, arrived mid day - I remember painting my nails waiting for her. When she finally arrived - it happened in a flourish, in a hurry. I don't think she's hurried since. Nati marches to the beat of her own drum - and none of us have a clue what the rhythm is. But, that's always what makes her so irresistable and charming - and what ellicits so many smiles. As before mentioned, she is very similar to Brayden - and they are serious trouble together. Nati is VERY smart, but her behavior sometimes betrays that fact - and she can be such a tomboy, but as demonstrated by the picture - so beautiful. I love how Nati refuses to blend in as the middle child - she is nothing but special.

ELLISON - aka, ELLIE: I'm proud to say that I came up with Ellie's name. And, once again, was there to witness her birth - perfect, no drugs - and man, she was such a pretty baby. Ellie is a sprite - she wears a Tinkerbell nightgown often and "Tinkerbell" sums her up. She's so petite, but has the mischief level of a giant. She was very attached to me last Saturday and I'll always remember playing Hide and Seek with her in Blockbuster. That girl can get away with murder with her smile and laughter - She's got us all so wrapped tight around her tiny finger..... and, I can't imagine that ever changing.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Second Half of Summer

Michele and I have always appreciated our birthday being when it is, but of course, it's kind of like being a twin - we've never known it any different. One thing I have recognized, however, is that over the years, our birthday has served as kind of a marking point to split the summer. We are on the downhill slide now.....

Whereas, the time before our birthday is the part of summer full of planning, anticipation, and preparation for the months of vacation for the kids - the second half turns into the time of summer where "the end" is constantly looming near, at least as far as any advertisement or the interior of any department or grocery store will tell you.

I know I am in the minority as someone who really kind of likes the early onslaught of holiday decor. It doesn't bother me that early October in Costco looks like the North Pole - because, I'm already very much thinking about it at that point. It's a bit "cozy" to me (Just, for fun, wonder how many times that word has been used since I began this blog?) Just as, the arrival of the swimsuit collection that makes its appearance in February is a comfort too. I'm happy to know, in the dead of winter months, that sunshine and warm temperatures will someday return. (Hard to consider today when the temperature hit 104!)

BUT, I DON'T enjoy the "back to school" reminders constantly shoved down my throat. It's still July, people! We still have August left with no school in sight - Start worrying about it in September, that'll give you about 6 days of prep! And, in the meantime, let me continue to enjoy my triple digit days, the presence of my kids, and the freedom of life without an alarm clock.

(Now, with all of that said, I could probably turn around and write a post giving all the reasons I really am looking forward to the fall - a season I truly love..... What I don't love is the reality of losing the freedom with the kids and their becoming a year older and a grade higher - let me postpone that reality as long as I can!)

Happy Second Half of Summer!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Turning 34

B - Bliss - in the form of a Thermal Mud Wrap (the stuff actually effervesces on you!) at Bello (Thank-you John!)

I - Indulgence - in all sorts of junk food and treats, Monday's a new day

R - Red Robin, an annual tradition - however waiting 45 minutes with 9 children in the lobby made it a bit stressful

T - Twins - making the celebration a "double your trouble" event

H - Happy - my current emotion as it almost always is in the last weeks of July

D - Dead Man's Chest, the Sequel to "Pirates of the Carribean", the movie we'll go see with my parents tomorrow

A - Another - year older, that's the only bummer to this whole birthday thing.....

Y - Yellow - the color of the sunflower boquet my amazing honey brought home for me

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Couple of Questions XXVI

In light of my last post here goes:

1. What activity that you participated in growing up had the biggest impact upon you?

2. What do you wish you weren't involved in or could have just "given up"?

The weather is supposed to be HOT, HOT, HOT - hope you find creative ways to stay cool!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Thoughts About JustMe's Post

I was laying in bed thinking about my friend's recent post about overscheduling kids last night ( It occured to me that there are a lot of reasons that parents sign their children up for activities- Here's a few I came up with:

1. Genuine expressed desire by the child
2. Talent recognized by a parent, that the parent wants the child to increase
3. An opportunity to use the activity as a babysitter/daycare
4. To encourage exercise and cultivate a life long exercise hobby
5. To expose a child to other children that a parent approves of
6. Because, all of the cool kids are doing it.... (this could stem from child or parent...)
7. Because other parents peer pressure a parent to do it or peer pressure from a child's friend
8. To learn sportsmanship, teamwork, and discipline
9. To increase a child's self-confidence - and encourage him/her towards pursuing success in something they enjoy
10. Encouraging a family to pull together in support of individual member's pursuits

On the flip side, here are a few reasons one might give for NOT choosing to participate:

1. Spending 2-3 hours, 2-3 nights a week attending practices or games- or in the car driving to one or the other
2. Losing valuable family time, particularly the opportunity to eat around the dinner table on above mentioned nights
3. Spending much-more-than-budgeted-for money on fast food - totally cancelling out the above mentioned exercise benefits
4. Losing weekends to games, and feeling guilty for skipping out on games for family activities
5. Teaching a child that the entire family's time revolves around their chosen activities, and thus promoting self-centeredness
6. Risking a child's self-confidence, when put with a team that isn't respectful and discouraging towards weaker members
7. Spending the money on participation fees, equipment, special shoes or uniforms, and end of season awards

Well, I wonder if that will spark some controversy..... I have actually experienced almost all of these 17 "reasons" (except perhaps the natural talent..... I don't really think there will be any sports scholarships in this family, but you never know!)

Long story short, I think the biggest moral to my post is, think about your commitments of time carefully. Think about what you want your children to value, how you want their time consumed. There are so many good reasons to pursue extra-curricular activities, but, I personally, never want to lose my quality of life to them. As Heather commented, I want my children to have the time to make their own choices, with family members and friends, that isn't part of a regimented schedule. I want our family to be able to be spontaneous, to take off for a weekend and not be constrained to the game/practice schedule of numerous activities. I want my kids to participate in something that brings more smiles than whines, more feelings of success than feelings of failure. And, I know those activities can be rare, so, as for me and my family, I hope we look at the big picture with each activity application we submit...... we haven't always been successful in what we've chosen in the past, and perhaps we've missed out on activities that could have seen Brayden and Mikayla "delighting in them". As the kids grow older and the time "kids just being kids" grows shorter, all I can do is hope we do what's best for them. I echo JustMe's parting sentiments....

"All I want is to someday look my children in the eye and say, 'I didn't do it perfectly but I did it the best I could, and I did it all because I love you so much.' "

Sunday, July 16, 2006

East Lake Annual Adventure

Last night, John and I awoke to an eerie siren. We were cozy in our sleeping bags, in the middle of virtually no where - but, somehow a siren had gone off. Was it an alarm to indicate a forest fire? My heart was beating like crazy and my mind was racing. When you are cut off from civilization, it's amazing what ideas you can come up with with what is happening in the rest of the world. Eventually, since the noise did not repeat itself, I fell back asleep, determining it was some crazy car alarm from a neighboring campground. Then, perhaps a half hour later, the noise repeated, but it was a little more erratic...., and then softer, and not as exact, and then loud again. We weren't talking sirens, I finally deduced, but the sounds of animals - coyotes. Now, that was a new camping experience. I actually thought it was kind of neat, in a wildlife sort of way - and knowing the world as I knew it wasn't under attack or burning up - I easily fell asleep again.

That was one of our camping highlights - others included:

1. The boat parade with all the kids hopping in, first, my dad's boat, and then another couple's.....

2. A surprise visit by Pete - that could have only been made better by Hollie and the kids' company as well (promise us you'll come next year!)

3. Mikayla's first caught fish (that she wisely chose to release as she has no interest in eating seafood....)

4. The waterfall - again -

5. Lounging on the East Lake shoreline with all the dogs and kids playing.

6. Finishing, from start to finish, the book, RELENTLESS. Omigosh - loved it!!! If you like all of the twists and turns, mysteries, and suspense of Alias or Lost - this has it. The best part, is that it's part of a trilogy, the next two books due to come out in 2007 and 2008.

7. Hanging with Mom and Dad. We get all sorts of flack for positioning our campsite in an area a little more removed from the rest of the group, but it allows us such quality time with Mom and Dad and the Schillings. Brayden said he was most excited, when considering camping, to go fishing with Grandpa. Considering there were 18 boys under the age of 10, that is saying a lot that hanging with his grandpa would be favorite. I love that!!!!

Here's a few pics of the highlights:

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Couple of Questions XXV

Today's one of those days where I absolutely need my kids' cooperation. I need them to be helpful, to get along, and to not make messes. I prepped them for this yesterday as I knew that today would be very busy and stressful trying to prepare for OUR annual 4 day camping get-away that will begin early tomorrow morning.

Currently, my kids are in a mandatory silent 30 minute period of coloring..... not too harsh of punishment, mind you, but I've got the rest of the day to increase the intensity. I've already threatened cancelling the trip, yelled as loud as my voice would go, and probably reached my highest blood pressure reading. Brayden has made Mikayla cry already 5 times.... a blame they both share.... and neither one show any interest in lifting a finger to help. Not what I needed for the day. Combine that with the rain outside and yes, I've officially reached "grouch mode". This is all supposed to be fun.......

So, in light of the preparation, here are the questions:

1. Would you consider camping an enjoyable hobby, and why or why not?

2. How about a best or worst camping experience.......

I'll blog again perhaps Sunday evening - have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Is It Worth the Effort?

"Tell me again why we're doing this?" I'm not sure if it was Michele or I who voiced the words prior to 7 am on Monday morning, but we both echoed the sentiments. It was starting to drizzle outside, and the idea of watching Scooby Doo all day in a cozy home was sounding much better than driving 2 and a half hours with 5 kids to invade our friend's extended family's annual camping trip for the next 24 hours. The promise to our friend, and the thought of the wailing of our children if we had cancelled, propelled us forward to pack our minivan full of sleeping bags, mini-coolers and a tent towards Cultus Lake.

I'm not a huge waterski fan - I do not like cold water, or just being cold, and the year Michele learned to slalom, I was sidelined with a cast up to my thigh from a broken ankle. So, I do good on two skis, have successfully slalomed once, and get a bit of a kick out of wakeboarding, but it doesn't enslave me in its passion as it does Michele or my friend, Amy. I don't start to drool when the lake turns to glass, or nearly chip my teeth out from chattering when you're dong the 5th run of the morning and it's not yet 7.

It appears that at least 3 of the 5 kids have somehow taken on Michele's genetics (I know that's technically impossible since I've only given birth to two of them).... With Ellie, it's a little too early to tell, and Mikayla - I think she's becoming exactly like me - happy on the boat and on the intertube, but not a huge need for anything else. But, as for Traig, Nati, and Brayden - they've been bitten by the bug - and I'm not just talking about the mosquitos. Mom and Dad, it's time to get that new boat out on the water, because you've got grandkids ready to go for a ride.......

And, by the way, I think we figured, when it was all said and done, that the trip was worth it. I think the pictures do a pretty good job proving that.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Introducing "Mackie"

This is "Mackie" - which is the name shortened from his registered name of MacAllister - which is the Scottish origin of the name of Alexander. (My maiden name) He is my parent's new baby - and I couldn't be prouder. When our beloved 15 year old Toby passed away in February, Dad wasn't so sure he wanted to go through the effort and eventual pain of attaching himself to another beloved dog.

There was Scottie, Jake and Toby.... all incredible, unique dogs that we grew up with, all terriers, all smart and full of personality to the hilt. As each one passed away, the next would come into our lives and create memories that were irreplacable. Jake died when we were juniors in high school - Michele and I cried more over his death than we have for any other. Toby was my buddy when I found myself graduated from college and living back at home. He was my running partner and hiking buddy, and helped feel not so alone.

Mom and Dad left at 6am this morning to visit the place they read about in the paper on the Washington side of Hood River where they raised wire haired fox terriers. We knew they wouldn't return empty handed, but we had no idea they'd come back with a puppy SO CUTE! He was the most active of the litter and I can virtually guarantee you he could not be blessed with a better life than he will receive now. The beam in my dad and mom's face was unmistakable. Mackie won't replace Scottie, Jake, or Toby - but I am confident he will follow in the legacy they have set and become a priceless member of the Alexander clan.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Couple of Questions XXIV

Let's say that you were required to move in a very short time - (tribute to Jodi):

1. What about your current home would you most miss?

2. What would you be most happy to leave behind?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bullet and Charlie

It's been over 5 years since John and I have saddled up. Still, I consider myself an expert - don't you dare give me the lazy, "gentle enough for a baby" horse. I want one with spunk. With that in mind, Charlie was my steed. AKA, Chuck, this guy was the baby of the herd - at four years old, he ambled along the trails like "a drunken sailor" (as described by our guide). He was very interested in everything else, including the rear end of the horse in front of us, and chewing on the stirrup (he showed a little interest in my shoe too). He reminded me of Brayden, and I loved him. In fact, I LOVED the whole experience - as did John who rode "Bullet", an ex race horse. When it came time to trot, Bullet was ready to win, and John got a bit of a lecture about holding him off from the gallop for the sake of the other, "less experienced" riders. Someday, hopefully soon, we'll get a chance to return when it's just the four of us - John, Bullet, myself and Charlie - (and, of course, the guide) - and then, we'll kick it up a notch! The two hours flew by - the scenery was amazing, I can't reccomend the experience enough.

Afterwards we retired at a bed and breakfast along the McKenzie River. It was our first experience with a B&B, and we were not disapointed. Beautiful, quiet, relaxing, and don't even get me started on the delicious homemade breakfast......

Thanks, Whites, for watching our kids and allowing us to have our favorite date night of the year!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Happy Second of July!

We had a bar-b-q yesterday with my parents and a few friends - I ate way too much and paid for it in the middle of the night, but it was worth it. My dad has been down in California working on a project that has taken much longer than anticipated. One more week working on it, and then he's back for the summer. My mom is counting down the minutes, they realized that the time they've had to be apart because of this is longer than when they were separated due to Vietnam. Of course, I'll be happy when he's back longer than a week as well - The neat thing about my parents is that they fit in so well with out immediate group of friends - like it or not, they've basically adopted a lot more children! So, yesterday was a blast.

After Mom and Dad and the Quigs went home, we set off fireworks - Travis and John took it a step up from last year (in cost too, ouch!) their sideshow antics was almost more entertaining than the fireworks display. It was truly a moment to cherish, though, with my daughter cuddled under blankets with me, the Schillings and the Whites nearby - and Stephie, Michele and I singing "Proud to Be An American" during the "finale display". Life is good.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Once Upon a Time Princess Dance Camp

When I was busy running around the location where we hosted Brayden's party, I saw a bulletin board with a flyer that advertised a dance (ballet and jazz) camp for children 4-7 with a Disney Princess Fairy Tale theme. I remember thinking, "Oh I definitely think my daughter could buy into that - along with her cousin and other friends". So, we signed her up and showed up last Monday to the location described by the brochure. Hmmmmm, we were a little concerned. Literally, we're taking about a very small cinder block building in a relatively abandoned parking lot (Heather, think about that barber shop building near the old Thriftway by Briggs- a lot like that). However, the girls didn't seem to care - they were greeted by a very enthusiastic coach sitting at a table covered with Princessy stuff - and a dance floor with mirrors and bars really doesn't have to have a fancy exterior to be effective.

All week long the girls gave enthusiastic reviews of their experience, and Thursday brought a gift of a tiny pillow topped with a tiny glass (plastic) slipper and scroll inviting us to come to their recital. Daddy, Grandma, Mommy, Aunt Chele and the other mommies were all their with their cameras and camcorders catching every sweet moment of these little girls' precious performances.

I'm pleased to report that, based on the recital, I don't think Mikayla will be overly bored if she repeats the camp again next year..... there are still a few skills she has yet to master. But, the happy smile, oh yeah, she's got that down pat.