Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fallen Hero

On April 22nd, our local community was severely shook up when the news hit that a member of the Eugene Police Department was fatally shot when attempting to pull over a vehicle. He was driving a motorcycle, and when he caught up with the speeding motorist at a traffic light, the driver of the speeding vehicle, a woman, pulled out a gun and shot him dead.

His name was Chris Kilcullen and his life has obviously impacted thousands of people, as evidenced by the way Springfield and Eugene virtually stopped in its tracks yesterday around noon to honor him in a motorcade along the highway that connects our two cities. He was memorialized at the UO's new Matt Court, and based on the picture below, you can see the vast amount of people in attendance.

I was actually a key witness to the motorcade as I was driving in the opposite direction on that highway - in order to give one of the teachers at Yolanda Elementary the opportunity to participate in the memorial by subbing in her classroom for the afternoon. Come to find out, that Chris' daughter, shown below holding the folded flag, is a student in the class I've substituted in most at Yolanda. Her name is Sydney and my heart goes out to her - along with everyone else.

His life was cut short with such senselessness, but yet in remembrance of this fallen hero, hope rises - recognizing the unity of our communities to honor such a man.

(All photos courtesy of the Eugene Register Guard)

Well Now, Isn't That Special?

This was what I saw when I opened our front door to get the morning newspaper. We have been "suds'd" - or whatever you call it when someone dumps what is most likely a couple bottles of dishwashing soap into our waterfall. It's happened once before since living here - back in 2004....I guess I'm kind of surprised it hasn't happened more often as it really is kind of a dazzling little prank.

John took these with his I-phone and the HD setting - so the color is kind of tweaked... We'll put some anti-foam chemical in the fountain later this morning and use the hose to water it down, but not until all of the kids (Michele and the kids are down this weekend) wake up and take in the sight.

Well done, we'd like to ask you to keep us off your radar for another five years, lest this begin to kill off the precious little purple flowers that I just noticed yesterday were beginning to bloom.....

Thursday, April 28, 2011

All In a Day's Work

I awoke early Tuesday morning and decided if I couldn't "land" a job by continuously refreshing the "Subfinder" website for "Available Jobs". One job did come up, and it honestly took about 15 minutes of "refreshing" the site for it to become unlocked and available for me to take. (Those are jobs that the system is probably in the process of calling "preferred subs", and it only unlocks the jobs when those preferenced folks turn it down). The position was for third grade in a school furthest away from where I live (about 30 minutes drive), and most out in the boondocks, located very near the McKenzie river and on the route to our Cascade mountains. 15 years ago, I subbed at this school quite a bit - it's a wonderful community and the school is situated in a beautiful area - so despite the headache of getting the family up and going that much quicker, it was worth it.

The job turned into a two day assignment at the end of day one. (The teacher's child was sick). The beginning of Tuesday was much more chaotic than I had hoped for, but by the end of the day, I had kind of gotten into the groove a bit and learned the kids' names - so when the request came to return, I was all about it.

This little timeline will give you a taste of what my Wednesday sub day looked like:

7:15 - Drop Mikayla off, having left Brayden with his "When Mom Subs Checklist Before Leaving" to get to his school in a timely manner. I was literally REJOICING that there were enough cloud breaks in the sky to actually spot some blue and a little bit of sunshine....what a difference that makes for my attitude at this time of year.

8:15 - The door is opened in the classroom for students to come in- I greet each one and record whether or not they are having hot or cold for lunch. I praise myself for only forgetting about 5 of the 29 kids' names.... Names which included: Jabin (boy), Davin (girl), Cedar (boy), and Kazden (boy). It's always the best behaved quiet kids I forget because I'm not having to use their name aloud to redirect them......

8:20 - A student by the name of "Braden" =) asks if he can bring his baby lamb into class to share. I'm a bit taken aback thinking when we might fit that into the schedule when he tells me his mom is standing in the hallway outside holding "Annie" the lamb. Oh...well in that case...bring her on in. I rush to grab my cell phone, set up the camera app and completely disregard my professionalism to beg the mom to hold the lamb and take my picture. At least I let all the kids go through the line to pet the lamb first before taking my final turn.....It was a blissful little moment for me. (And, rest assured, because baby Annie has a name, she will not end up on a dinner plate in the future...the mom told me this).
9:00 - I'm asked by a student if she can go to the bathroom because "Sue" gave her a wedgie. This strikes concern to me as it sounds a little too much like physical harassment to be ignored. I jot details down - including an incident that occurred the day prior regarding her cutting another boy's hair with scissors when he laid his head on her desk. (Neither circumstance did I witness). "Sue" had appeared to me to be mild-mannered and quiet....but, better safe than sorry.

9:30 - Kids go to library - I discuss "Sue" scenario with secretary - she says they are "familiar with Jane" and passes my documentation to the principal.

10:15 - Kids at recess. I use my alone time to extract one of the three baby chicks from their warm heat-lamped box in the classroom and take a picture of it. I didn't hold it very long as I was afraid it'd jump, break its legs and then I would never be welcomed back......
10:30 - Kids to p.e. It's a special activity day as one of the moms came in to teach the entire school moves to the song "Dynamite" to perform in a flash-mob style at the upcoming Multi-cultural night. The parents don't know about this, so it will occur in the middle - unannounced, and all of the kids will spontaneously break into dance. I had so much fun going a bit out of my comfort zone to help demonstrate the moves (I caught on pretty quick) - and then later on, bringing the CD I actually had in my car with the song on it, to practice with them after lunch. So great....

11:40 - Sharing time. Sue raises her hand. I call on her. This is what she says....
"I just wanted to let you all know that for sure my sister is pregnant. She's 16."
(Collective gasp in the classroom from myself and the kids).
"She got pregnant last weekend."
(I interrupt at this point and suggest that she meant 'she found out she was pregnant last weekend' - Sue agrees that that is what she meant).
"It's gonna be a boy. I'm gonna be an aunt. The reason my sister got pregnant is because she forgot to take....."
(At this point I immediately stop her and suggest that the rest of the class doesn't need to know these details....fortunately, we are literally 'saved by the bell' for lunch....)

11:45 - I return to the office to share this story with the secretary....we both laugh and she decides to also add this information to what was previously given to the principal

1:00 - Reading - I am reading aloud a story about a girl who's grandpa died. I decide to share a story about my dog dying prior to me senior year in high school - and what a horrendous summer that was due to breaking my ankle and all sorts of other reasons. Just like popcorn, one after the other of the kids' hands fly into the air to share a story about the death of a pet or an injury they had. We spend a good 30 minutes (while the kids moved on to independently do the reading workbook) listening to their stories...

2:20 - The principal enters the classroom and just stands in the back for 10 minutes watching. That's always a bit nerve-wracking - I tried my hardest to make going over the answers to a math test as educationally stimulating as possible. Finally, he hands me a post-it note that he'd like to have "Jane" come down to the office at 2:30.

2:40 - Say good-bye to the kids, write up several "positive behavior awards", leave a very detailed account to the teacher and consider it a VERY memorable/fun day in my life as a substitute.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter - He is Risen!

After a very nice Easter service at our church, we joined the Schillings and my parents (sporting some great tans from their vacation in Maui) to have a bar-b-q here at the house.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn't super cooperative - what a bummer after two days of gorgeous sunny skies we return to the cloud cover and rain. It was a glorious two days though, that's for sure!

We are all in our post-dinner stupor right now...I would love to take a nap!! I'll keep this a short post as not just one, but three of the kids have come in to ask if they can use my computer. It's easier to just give it up than it is to have then hover!

Teryiaki chicken and steaks

Schwann's Orange Cream Soda and Key Lime Cream yummy!

A little PS3 action

Catching up in the kitchen

The boys catching up in the living room

Our version of "Our Best Bites" recipe of "Sweet Fruit Salsa" with "Cinnamon Chips"

You have no idea how many sugar snap peas that girl consumed....

Friday, April 22, 2011

Best. Mommy-Daughter-Date. Ever.

Oh, what a blast! And, what a softie I'm becoming, as I have to confess...I cried AGAIN! The older I get, the more easy I tear up.

Mikayla and I started our date at PF Chang's. I hadn't realized how much the two of us like the same thing there - so we piled up our plates on shared orders of lettuce wraps and and honey-crisp chicken and were super happy campers. The lunch was made even more special by the arrival of Jodi and Chad, who just happened to be seated nearby. I've been friends with Jodi for so long - and finally meeting the love of her life, Chad, was extra special. They had just seen "Wicked" the night before, so they were overflowing with enthusiasm on our behalf - and super helpful in securing this extra special, memorable picture of Mikayla and I.

One good deed deserves another, so I took a picture of Chad and Jodi. =)

Despite a few hiccups with parking (it was a weekday, mid-day performance - which meant the usual parking garage was filled with automobiles of those who work during the week....hadn't thought that one through) - we still arrived with enough time to scoot to the bathroom and find our (very impressive) seats.

Jodi had told me that it was a long performance, but I couldn't believe how fast it felt and how enchanted I was by it all. Mikayla was too - I think she was just old enough to absorb much of the content and not be bored by the ongoing thematic references. She was also not scared during a few of the more powerful scenes, something Jodi had given us a heads-up about. And, best of all....she never fell asleep!

I took a couple of pics using Brayden's phone camera that came out great of us at the play, they are a baby-step better than my camera....the second one is the view from our seats, and the set of the play, including the large overhanging dragon.

So, for once, I get to whole-heartedly agree with "Entertainment Weekly"....

and as for the date itself - I'll wager it might not be the best of the upcoming decade - but I bet it'll come close!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Welcome Home, Julie!

Before I get to the topic of this post, I thought I'd put up a few images that will end up buried in their original-topic posts. But, since no one will notice them at this point, I wanted to draw attention to them now.

This is a picture Kaela took of John and Sarah departing in a BENTLEY for their honeymoon. John breathed steam onto the window and drew the heart before lip-locking with Sarah....isn't that just so beautiful?!

As for these, they were found in the bottom of a bag Brayden took out to Camp Harlow during spring break that he emptied out to take to football conditioning. He was kind of protective of them as he hadn't read them first - and shy about me putting them on the blog, but after explaining to him that few things would make me prouder of him, he finally relented. And, in case you were wondering "Sonic P" is not a new slang to say really says "So Nice". =)

And, finally - on to Julie! Its been since September that we've seen each other. Since that time, she's been to Oahu, the Big Island, Moloka'i, Egypt, Jordan and Israel. She's also dealt with some pretty nasty kidney infections - that led to an all-over infection, that led her to come home for a week so that she could see some doctors willing to get to the bottom of it all. She's been given some heavy-duty antibiotics to prepare her for her upcoming trips to Bali and Sri Lanka. While I'm bummed she's been totally ill lately, I'm thankful God used the experience to bring her home during the exact week that her sister was induced to give birth to Julie's nephew. In fact, just as I typed this, we got the text attached with the picture of baby Ryder - who was just born. Tomorrow, Julie will leave Eugene, meet up with her dad in Portland, and then head to the eastern side of the state where her sister's family is (and her mom currently is) to join the family in celebration over there.
So, we got the in-between "stop" with Julie. Her, Kaela, and I are all catching up with our computers, content to just be together. I love this girl - I love these friendships - and look forward to a time she'll be around longer than 36 hours. (She arrived at 11:30 last night, we stayed up 'til 12:30....I had to take a nap this morning as me and sleep are kind of inseparable...and knowing tonight will be a party this evening with these gals - I had to prepare).

The rest of the afternoon and evening featured doing - according to Kaela - what the Rileys do best - relaxing, watching tv, and eating pizza! (Thanks Kaela!!!) Well, we do know how to just hang out, that's for sure. Will joined us, and once the kids calmed down, we all just enjoyed "kickin' it" - reintroducing Julie to "Survivor" and "American Idol" - things she's missed by obediently following the Lord in Hawaii and NOT watching tv!

We got a fun pic of her and the kids - and I was able to snap a pic of her and Will. Don't even ask about their current "relationship status", it's a great big question mark, but it doesn't mean we're not rooting for them to eventually follow the path of Jon and Sarah.... =)

While I know Julie feels like she is living two different lives these days, I think it was a huge comfort to her to know that when she returns, she fits right into this life just as easy as she always has - with lots of love waiting for her!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Talk About Ideal...

(Once again, sorry about the picture quality, my cell phone has been dropped one too many times to deliver what it promised camera-wise when we got it).

Look at that sky! There's this light color blue to it....and something causing shadows...I think they call it the sun - and it's glorious! Granted, we didn't make it to even 60 degrees today, but I am so not complaining. Nobody else was either, as everywhere I went today it was remarked about. I'm guessing today was a banner day of sales at Home Depot or local nurseries (at least as far as Mondays go) as it just inspired getting out in the yard and planting some flowers. (And, yes, Lydia, I purchased some JB seed at Home Depot...I'll plan on spreading it on the back yard the day before we are expected to get rain again...which, I'm sure, will come all too soon!)

While the sunshine today was pretty darn close to ideal, that's not the point of this post. As I've eluded to before, Brayden has now become a one sport guy. He may consider going out for the school's track team next year (if it's not cut from the budget), but as for this year, it's football, period. That has opened up a lot of empty space for our family (especially when Mikayla's made a similar decision regarding just playing volleyball from here on out). It's also left a hole in terms of any conditioning for Brayden. John and him have "talked" about getting out and doing some running in the evenings, but at this point, it's still talk. =) Knowing next year's football season/team will be more competitive than ever with the weight limit being eliminated, I've been a bit concerned with Brayden not being prepared once the season comes - both physically as well as skill-wise.

Then, last night, as I was reading through the paper, I found an ad for a "Gridiron Academy" that will help athletes prepare in advance for football. On Monday and Tuesday evenings, from 5-7:00, 5th and 6th graders will meet up at Springfield High School to practice and condition. And, the best part, the "academy" is run by two former UO Football players, both of who went on to play for the NFL - Darrel Wright and Steve Smith. How cool is that?

Brayden was slightly reluctant. He has a cold (which I'm discovering I now have) - and, being the Riley that he is, sometimes it's more "cozy" to consider NOT having to try something new or the prospect of hard work and conditioning than just hanging out at home. But, we took him on over to the high school anyway, and as soon as I met Darrel - and took a gander at the other kids there, I started to feel like this is one of the most ideal scenarios we could have hoped for.

As it turned out, only five kids showed up today (the program started the first week of April). Two of the kids I recognized from classes I've subbed for. And, they were all about the same size as Brayden. So, two NFL players for five, yeah!!! Not only that, but Brayden's skills in the footwork as well as the other drills was quite impressive (especially in comparison to the other four guys). He was continuously praised and, on a couple of occasions I heard "perfect" in description of what he did.

Let's just say, that if we were to paint the perfect possible scenario on what would benefit Brayden the most - the right blend of challenge, but not something so hard he'd dread - this is it! With the strength of playing ability on the Sheldon Pop Warner teams, Brayden is too often low man on the totem pole. Here, he's getting special attention and praise, thus increasing the confidence and desire to shine even more.

While it might be just a little more costly than we'd hope, we are able to pay each week at a time, so anytime we plan on being out of town this summer, or when mid-school week comes at Harlow, it will be no problem at all to miss out. Not to mention Monday and Tuesday are two great evenings to have him be doing something consistently.

This is kind of a long-winded post about something that probably doesn't sound like much at all, but it's one of those things that I consider an answer to a prayer that I didn't even really know how to pray about. God is good!!!!

(Brayden's the one running, Darrel is the big guy watching. I have no doubt that John will bring his camera soon to replace this cruddy pic with plenty of really good ones)

While we were hanging out, keeping an eye on what the program looked like, Mikayla and I did a little bit of volleyball practicing (which totally made her day). In addition, this might be one of the last pictures you'll see for a while of Mikayla in glasses. This morning, she got fitted for contacts and was able to demonstrate her capability of putting them in and taking them out for the gal at the office. Well done, sweetheart! Now, on any given day, the entire family could be in contacts - each a different brand and prescription....

Sunday, April 17, 2011

In Conclusion...

For anyone out there who might have been praying on my behalf to be headache/pain-free throughout this family mini-vacation – thank you. Thank you so much, your prayers were answered “yes”, and what a difference it has made to not have that be an issue this weekend.

As we are driving home right now (in search of an A&W for lunch, one fun final splurge before reality), John and I both remarked how this one of our favorite mini-get-aways in quite some time. Each day had just enough activity combined with total downtime to keep us all happy. Which is saying quite a bit – when we were all stuffed into a 300 sq. foot suite.

Of course, we weren’t without our: “Kids, find something to do….DS, tv, my computer, Webkinz, reading” moments (particularly Mikayla) – but, that’s to be expected. And, given the kids got plenty of pool time everyday (I have proof in this picture….it’s a general rule that Mommy doesn’t do the big pool – she only does the hot tub, but in this circumstance I was actually getting overheated, and thus surprised/delighted Mikayla by jumping in with her) and plenty of cuddle/snuggle time, I think they felt life was pretty good in general.

In fact, when I asked Brayden on the way back to the hotel from the reception if he was ready to go home yet, his response was a sad, “Nooo”. Of course, going home is a necessity (literally and figuratively), but how blessed we are that our kids still value close-knit time with us over anything else. I used to think it was just a matter of time until all that would change, but now I think expecting that to happen is just a disservice to us all. Why not embrace it for every moment it continues, perhaps even as long as our lifetimes? =)

P.S. We are currently watching “Tangled” again on the drive home (Brayden suggested it as he hasn’t seen it again since the theater). Tiffany – you need to set that as a homework break reward sometime soon and just enjoy…..and I bet, if Cobb and JB happened to be around, they might enjoy it too. Flynn Rider as the male hero is quite the fun character….it’s not just for girls!

Dearly Beloved...

Finally, the day had finally arrived for Miss Sarah Lilly to marry Mr. John Robinson. Despite the ongoing gray weather (at least it didn't dump with rain), it was a splendid day for a wedding.

One of the great things about having a nice camera, is that ushers are willing to give you good seats at the wedding so that you can capture the best images. John was actually asked to be the photographer for this couple, but that idea petrified both of us - way too much pressure to have that burden of preserving the best day of a couples' life in pictures. However, he made it clear, he'd be more than happy to take as many "bonus" pictures as he could. Sadly, we ended up leaving the flash equipment at home in Eugene, but that also just meant he should stick with his newest lens which absorbs the most light - and has a tendency to "over-soften". All of these pictures (at least at the point I'm typing this) are from our camera, so that will explain why some might appear a bit blurry or dark.

As we were about a half hour early, we worked to keep Brayden occupied by having him take our picture repeatedly.

This is John, the groom - awaiting his gorgeous bride - love that look of expectation.

Isnt' she radiant?!
The ceremony was beautiful and kept humorous by Sarah's hometown pastor - ready to instill levity with stories of their courtship.

Recognize that grin? Yes, Kaela was one of the bridesmaids.

There was beautiful stained glass throughout the sanctuary, and at the end of the final prayer for the couple, when I opened my eyes, bright sunlight (it was kind of scary, we're a bit unfamiliar with that right now) was streaming through the glass. It might have been for just a moment, but for me, it was symbolic.

The reception was across town at a gorgeous country club. It was quite the set-up...all so very classy, which is the word most used to describe Sarah.

Isn't this cake breathtaking?

Kaela is lookin' fine here, wouldn't you say?

I LOVE these two pics of our kiddos... oh my, we are mighty blessed!

More GORGEOUS ladies - all of these women representing the Trinity House (where Sarah lived while attending the U of O). Kate, Shannon, Lauren, and my gal, Katy.

Not to be left out on the action: Walt, Ryan, Brayden, Scott, and Matt.

We TOTALLY scored on our seating arrangements - we were seated with Walt and Lauren, Ryan and Sarah and Kate.

This is Ryan and Sarah (the sister of Elaina who is in my Tuesday Night group). Every time I see Sarah, I find myself scanning her left hand to see if Ryan has popped the question yet. We're all waiting...should be any day now!

And, Lauren and Walt. They are not "Facebook Official" yet, but I anticipate that might happen now that this picture has been taken. As with Ryan and Sarah, these two are very fun - I think the world of Walt - and I look forward to getting to know Lauren more, as I really only "officially met her" a couple of weeks ago.

Another picture of me with the other gal I meet with, Becky. She is such a hero of mine, even more so as I get to know more of her story and the adversities she's faced. She'll spend her first summer out at Harlow as a senior counselor this summer, and plans to live with Kimmie next fall. Those two are kindred spirits, I already know - even though I think I know more about each of their lives than they know about each others. They have yet to have had a lot of time together and its one of those friendships I'm waiting to see explode as they have so much in common. =)

Ahhhh, it always feels so special to get one-on-one time with the bride or groom - especially at a reception this big and grandiose. Sarah is just so beautiful, inside and out.

John and John - I guess the best way to describe John, is that in recognizing just how special Sarah is - and what a treasure she'd be as a wife - John is the perfect man to be her groom.

We told Sarah that Mikayla is watching her - wanting someday to grow up and have an experience just as special as hers....

This is the two of them, showing their love for the Ducks next to John's UO Groom's Cake.

The wedding began at 5:00 - so as dinner was wrapping up around 8:30, with toasts, cake cutting, and dancing still to come, the kids were beginning to wilt (particularly Mikayla who was nearly nodding off). But, when the bride and groom look this beautiful, it was hard to pull away.

We had promised the kids a dance with each of them. To my delight, Brayden and I's slow dance turned into some fun swing as the music transitioned into vintage rock and roll classics. I know Kaela snapped a pic of Brayden and I - hopefully it semi turned out to prove I actually made it to the dance floor and not just for a slow dance. Given it had more of a swing feel to it, I felt surprisingly comfortable doing the "twist" and other similar styles out's when the music turns contemporary and everybody starts jumping around - it's then that I'm a total fish out of water when it comes to dancing (and have a fear that everybody around me totally notices that too!). (Alright, here's the pic - I think it's funny that I kind of have a "dear in the headlight" look...)

A parting wide-angle shot of the ballroom where the reception was located. I had told Sarah earlier this week that prior to my own wedding, I had worried that once it was over, it would be a total let-down as never again (Lord willing) would I have another wedding day - the day a girl dreams all her life to have. But, as I told Sarah, immediately after the ceremony, I distinctly remember telling John, that "there's no sadness, as never could I possibly ever dream of recreating a day as perfect as today was". When I spoke to Sarah at the reception, she reiterated that she felt the same way. Her wedding and reception spoke volumes of just how much love there is for John and Sarah from everyone else, not to mention the extent of love of the two of them for each other.

Obviously, we weren't in attendance when this picture was taken, but Kaela shared it with me. The couple left in a Bentley (Mikayla, you were given way too many grand ideas for your future are going to need to lower your expectations!). Kaela was able to capture this image after John breathed on the glass to draw a heart. I think it's award-worthy: