Saturday, August 31, 2013

You Know It's September When...

Tomorrow is the first day of September and let me tell you, it is one of the most anticipated months of the year, both for the goods and the bads that it brings.

Here's a few indicators from the Riley perspective.


- College football is back.  After repeating the same "Disney Channel" kind of music in the boat and in the car, I'm actually tuning in to the College Football channel on Sirrius to fully immerse myself in the love of collegiate football.  And, the UO Football flag is back up.  Eugene is amped for it's first home's a beautiful thing. 

- Prep football is back.  High school football.  My son is playing HIGH SCHOOL football.  Let me remind you that he is not yet 100 pounds (maybe 96) and probably just skimming 5'0".  The coaches have mentioned he might be the smallest kid they've ever had in the program.  And, here we go again, sitting in the stands at his first jamboree, hoping they'll "give the little kid a chance".  And, then, when they do, wishing with all our hearts that something magical will happen and something dreadful won't happen.  It will take a while to be able to carry on a real conversation in the stands with other parents as I'm so distracted by what's going on in his head as he waits on the sidelines or finally gets his chance on the field.

- Brayden becomes an enigma.  After a blissful summer of his "playful otter antics", we hit September and he draws into himself.  I know it's a result of these changes in his life being so overwhelming - being conflicted with the overlap of football, new high school friends, high school ministry activities, Camp Harlow, and the anticipation of what Marist will be like.  He stops "openly sharing", gets much more short-tempered/self-centered, and leaves John and I at a loss on how to parent and deal with it.  Fortunately, we've seen this happen before, which offers a bit of comfort as we've seen him come out of it, but I feel like I'm walking on tip-toes right now in terms of how to handle any situation - and constantly feeling the tug-of-war between being ticked at him for not being a positive contributing family member to feeling an intense empathy for him as to all he's going through.

- The home is overflowing with school supplies.  And, this year, textbooks - as we have to buy them in advance for Marist.  It probably stacks up 18 inches and who knows how many pounds of textbooks...sheesh.  And, in pure irony, Brayden scored one of the top lockers (a coveted thing at Marist).  We all aren't totally sure that he'd be able to reach that top hanger in it.   I guess he could always use those textbooks as a stepstool.*

- Fall is in the air.  Trees are turning colors, leaves are falling.  I'm longing to pull out my fall decor.  Word on the street is that the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes have even returned early - making so many of my coffee drinking friends incredibly happy.

- I'm at my heaviest weight.  It's an annual thing.  And come Tuesday - that will hopefully be reversed.  Time to buckle down...and literally be able to cinch up that belt buckle.  It's time.

- As our neighbor put it, we Oregonians are "Jonesing for rain".  When summer doesn't start until July (like last year), I was ready for summer to continue through October.  But, when it began in May like this year...we are ready for a change.  And, even moreso for me, dropping the temps from a high of 80-something to a high of 60-something.

- I could care less about my tan.  In fact, even the Jergens self-tanner which has worked so well this summer to accent any sun effects is now put back in the cupboard.  I'm really at a point I don't care, and would like to start wearing white camis that don't end up stained brown from the tanner's effects.

- I am SO READY for boots and sweaters, and jackets and scarves.  Browns, crimsons, cream colors....hopefully by the time the weather adjusts to accommodate this apparel, my weight will accommodate it as well.

- It's time to drop the "blondish" highlights and return to auburn hair color.  September and Christi at Bello....can't wait. 

- I'll get to see "my girls" on a weekly basis.  I've missed them, and their presence in my home.  September 12th marks our first TNL night...

What are some of the hallmark seasonal changes for you? 

* This issue about Brayden's small size - I want my readers to know he's such a GREAT sport about it.  Both John and I were one of the smallest kids in the school when we were freshman - we were just very late in hitting our full height.  There's every indicator that Brayden hasn't hit that growth spurt or all of the other stuff - so he (and we) has/have every confidence that he'll end up surprising everyone by eventually reaching a standard size.  On the day he showed up at Marist to take pictures and get lockers, he actually saw and heard folks talking about him, saying "Don't stare" as he walked by - apparently taken back by a kid that small.  He takes it all in stride just like we did, and actually not only rolls with it, but occasionally relishes it.  As Amy picked up the boys the other day, she walked behind a handful of girls that were pointing out some of the freshman boys.  The comment she overheard was "Yeah, but he's still my favorite".  Pointing to Brayden.  Sure, it's "favorite" as in the cutest puppy (runt!) in the litter....but, Brayden will use it to his advantage.  If nothing else, he's noticed.  =)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Girl Time

When summer comes around, my frequent visits with girlfriends (of all ages) takes a big hit.  I'm a firm believer in "there's a season for everything", but absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder, so it's been great getting to see some of these girls in the last couple of weeks.

First up, taken a week ago at Oakway Center, half of our Thursday Night Ladies.  (Amanda, Christi, me, Courtney, and Suzie).  (The rest of the gals were either out of town, busy or out at camp).  The first aspect of this pic that is super fun is that Courtney is back, and here to stay for a couple of months (she's going into her third year of med school and is doing two 5 week stints down here shadowing a psychiatric doctor and an obstetrician).  I'm so excited we'll get her company on upcoming Thursday nights, even if it's just for a short while.  The second super fun detail from this pic is the baby bump Christi is in her 23rd week.  They found out they'll be having a baby girl (and are SO THRILLED!).  Their current decision for her name is Elsie it!  She's feeling fantastic, after such an uncomfortable first trimester, she's now loving pregnancy.

This picture is kind of "cheating" as I wasn't even present when and where this pic was taken.  But, it represents Kaela being down to visit - and visit with her I did on Friday morning.  (She spent the night with Elaina the night before and stayed up late having girl time with her and Christi).   Kaela suggested we maybe spend part of our Friday morning at the mall - which, ironically, I was just about to text her to ask to do the same thing.  She had some bridal shower presents to purchase while I needed to find a new shirt for Brayden to wear at his Harlow banquet.  It was a good time cruising the mall with her and Whitley.  While we were in The Loft, we ran into Christi can never get too much of that girl!  

Kaela and I ended up returning to my home, having lunch together, and all said spent four hours just talking and catching up.  She is missed dearly here in Eugene, but I'm so thankful she has multiple reasons (and dates on the calendar) to return to visit. 

She found it a little disturbing that Whitley chose the "Yo Gabba Gabba" toy over the adorable Beanie Baby Bear.  What can I say, I bought that green monster at Old Navy for her when she was itty bitty (as she was definitely drawn to it) and it's dear to her heart.  =) 

On Sunday night, I had the opportunity to meet up with Alysha.  Her birthday was the 23rd, so I was determined not to take one more raincheck in seeing her (two Mondays in a row got canceled due to an unexpected trip for he and a headache for me).  I met her at a downtown location called The Barnlight.  I'd heard it about it from other's definitely a positive effort in new eateries down there.  However, downtown is still a scary place for me.  Especially at night.  Especially when several of the streets were blocked off due to the earlier scheduled "Eugene Celebration" (had I known that was happening, I would have insisted on a different locale).  I'm such a wimp about that area....driving, parking, walking the distance to the place.   But, Alysha helped to pull me out of my comfort zone and it was definitely worth all of the "scariness" to get there.  We hung out, caught up, and look forward to lots more times to get together once the school year begins.

This morning, Mikayla, Whitley and myself got to see Mom and Dad.  But, mostly Mom as she's the one that helps restore my body to working order.   Whitley was so talkative and interactive.  She definitely disapproves of not being in the spotlight when "Grandma" is giving me attention, so half the time I have her straddling me keeping her entertained.  Mikayla helps a ton too...I will miss my "Little Assistant" once school begins!

At the end of the session, Mikayla snapped some pics of Whitley enamored with Mom's precious!

Ugh...this pic!  But, I was already causing Heather to be late this afternoon to get back to work after her half hour lunch break, so I couldn't beg for another shot just because I didn't like my expression.  I did, however, love my time with Heather.  She's just returned from an amazing backpacking adventure in the Wallowas with her mom and a number of other folks - it sounded so incredible.  I'm really glad we got to see her today, but these 25 minute visits kind of suck - definitely gonna need some extended quality time with that girl soon. 

I got my September and October whiteboard calendars done last night (one of the first times I was ahead of the game) - and I think it proves I'm kind of ready to "bring it on" with some real routine.  But, the color "red" (the color for "Mom's activities") is suspiciously missing on the majority of those days, which proves it's time to start setting up some more "girl time" dates...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Lone Pine Farms

Following the camping trip, we knew that we'd be "home base" for Traig between the times he'd need to be dropped off an picked up for his M-Th camp at Harlow.  What we didn't expect was Nati and Ellie to request to stay with us as well.  It was fine with me, though.  I hear that they'll be around and I think - "Perfect, that keeps my kids happy, and is a few more hands and sets of eyes to help out with and entertain Whitley".  Their mom and dad agreed, so we had a full house for the week.

On Wednesday, I needed to head out to Lone Pine Farms as they had 10 ears of their "Bodacious" brand of corn for $2 - not a big deal if you are just feeding our family, but a significant deal if you are buying corn for 30 dinner guests.  In hindsight, because of the additional produce we bought as well as double scoop ice creams for the girls, it would have been much cheaper to get it for whatever price at the nearest Safeway! 

Mikayla barely remembered this place, and Nati and Ellie had never been here.  They ran first to the goat pen and scooped up spilled food from the dispensers to feed the goats (I didn't have any quarters to buy any).  While the girls LOVED the experience, Whitley was scared....when one of the goats "beyed" loudly, she lost it. 

As evidenced by this picture which received more "Likes" on Instagram than nearly any other post I've put up.  Kind of mean, don't you think?  For the record, she was doing fine in my arms until this pic was snapped....and then she kind of snapped....

So, we kept her at a nice safe distance where she spent time scooting about and "telling off" the bad ol' goats with her own little language.

Mikayla ventured closer with her a little later - still keeping a safe distance. 

She was okay with the sheep. 

In an effort to make up with her, I let her try a bite of Mikayla's chocolate chip mint ice cream.  She was a fan.  I knew that that girl couldn't just "blanket hate" sweets....she just had to try the right kind!  (And, she also likes my Oatmeal Raisin cookies).  However, I don't do a lot of testing, and when I do it's just a bit, I think it's a beautiful thing indeed that her taste pallet isn't nearly as corrupted as my children's were at that age. 

On our way out, Ellie got a picture of her on the tractor. 

As a point of evidence for just how much the girls loved the experience, they begged to return to Lone Pine on Saturday (even over going to see a movie).  We called to see if Whitley wanted to join us, but she didn't seem interested!  ;)

Here's a few pics of the other part of this great place - the indoor produce market.  We were trying to be pretty liberal in letting the girls pick out what they wanted, in an effort to promote better eating choices.  Can't go wrong with any of this stuff.

They also have a "Cut Your Own Flowers" area that I spotted and figured would be a cute place for pics.  Nati snapped this one and then Michele copy-catted.  =)

As fun as this place is in the summer (it also has a playground), it really hits its peak in the fall with its annual corn maze and pumpkin patches.  I suspect this might be where we'll head to this year now that the girls have fallen in love with it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's Hard to Be Phineas

As we hit the month of August, we were a little concerned about how Brayden's involvement in Marist Football would affect his participation serving out at Harlow.  Both are a huge deal to him, for many different reasons.  As a mom, I would vote to drop football and focus entirely on Harlow, but Brayden demonstrated his capabilities doing both much more impressively than I would have imagined.

As evening practices picked up, the second Day Camp began.  Fortunately, Brayden was paired with "Wipe-Out" (aka Ryan Ewert), one of Brayden's favorite new friends from the summer.  They had the best group he's had in a long time, and since it is the last week he'll serve in "counselor format", it ended with a bang.  As a fun perk, the little boy in the blue shirt is Carter, my friend Christy Johnson's youngest son.  It was a ton of fun for both her son and my son to have each other during this week.

This upcoming week during the final Day Camp,  Brayden was not able to commit to serving as a counselor because of the conflicts with afternoon football practices (and game), and the obligations of Picture Day at Marist.  However, Zach (aka Thor), asked Brayden if he would serve as an assistant to him in his role of running the Program this week.  Um, YES!  Exactly what Brayden would most love to do!!!!  In fact, I'm a little concerned that once he gets a taste of doing this, he won't want to return to counseling (which is what his future holds until he's out of high school).  Good thing that last group was so excellent to leave an outstanding taste for that aspect too.  I'm very happy for him to be able to participate this final week at Harlow, in such a way that allows for him to do what he needs to do for Marist football and school-beginning prep.  

On the cousin-side-of-things, Traig has barely been at home at all this summer.  On the days he hasn't been camping (Beverly Beach with his family, Harlow as a High School Camper, Mt. Hood with Brayden and us moms, or at Hills Creek), or the days that he's been at our house, he's been living at Harlow.  This, also, is rather unprecedented (like Brayden getting his assistant role this week).  Afterall, this is only Traig's second year at Harlow in a serving capacity.  As he's one year older, he's titled a CIT (Counselor-In-Training vs. Brayden's title of CAP - Counselor Apprentice).  But, even with that title, he's really not supposed to be out there any more than Brayden, as it's just supposed to be Day Camps and maybe Elementary Overnight that he'd serve at.  The big difference (besides the title and a little more expectation/responsibility) is that he gets to live at Harlow during the week.  But, with Traig - thanks, I'm sure again to Zach, he's been asked to serve at virtually all of the camps (with the obvious exception of the camp he attended himself, High School Camp).  What an honor.  And, what a difference we've seen in Traig - he's so happy, he would have been there at every single camp if he could have.  (Sorry we had to fill your summer up with other fun stuff too!).  He's also handled the role with such maturity and responsibility - he's thrived out there and been a huge blessing to others as well.  So proud of him.  And, I'm not big surprise that he earned this at the Harlow Banquet on Friday night:

Brayden had earned a similar award as a CAP last year - we really need to get the two of them together with their awards for a pic.

And, speaking of pics, despite every begging effort on my behalf for Brayden to take some photos at the banquet, he took none (at least of people).  

Fortunately, he has some good friends that are girls that did - and we just happen to be Instagram Friends with them - and through the beauty of screen shots, were able to steal their images.  This is where that title comes in....look at my (little!) boy - surrounded by all those beautiful girls.  Many will be headed to the same high school this year.... It's lookin' good for you, if only we can get you to reach a bit of a growth spurt.....(but then again, he's obviously definitely working that whole "Awe, how adorable" thing....).

As a postscript, I got this picture from Leah this morning with the caption: "Look at this stud helping with Campfire rotation... :)" 

It makes my day when I get random pics texted to me of my kids from my buddies at Harlow that are spending time with them.   When I picked Brayden up today he was thrilled to report that he's part of the program skit all week long....he's playing a Jamaican Mountain Climber....with his lines so far of (Can you guess?) "Yahhh Maaaan".  Good times, good times indeed!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Third Annual Impact Team Dinner

We were blessed to be asked again to host the annual end-of-summer leadership team dinner for the Impact Team of Harlow.  It's hard to believe we are already to that place.  I asked if they wanted us to serve the same meal we'd done in the past, and it was agreed that that would make folks happy.  Works for me as I've taken a few notes (and thanks to former blog posts) that it's just a matter of work putting it all together vs. having to rely on creativity or trial and error.  It also helps that this meal is "gluten-free" friendly.  Four of the ladies on the team require this special menu, so having everything be so "corn based" helps.  

I'm not sure if this might not be our last year for a while.  The location is supposed to be a "surprise" and I wonder if the same meal at the same house might not be ruining that element, but we definitely worked to please while it is still at our home.

The fruit salsa has been a huge hit in the past, so this year it was 12 cookie pans of baked cinnamon-sugar flour tortillas to go with it.  (The gluten-free corn tortilla versions were gross last year, so we went with the Kettle Corn flavored Pop Chips....I was told that was excellent from those that opted for that route).

12 nectarines, 15 kiwi, 6 cups of fresh blackberries, and about 3 pounds of strawberries....yeah, that's a lot of fresh fruit to cut and dice up, but it makes for one fantastic taste combination.

Did you know that Monster Cookies are gluten free?  Always great to find something you've always loved that just happens to be GF compatible.

Not my favorite pic (by a long shot...but it proved I was there).  I was fixing the cornbread muffins.

Four pans of chicken enchiladas.  We ended up with one completely left over - that when combined with the other leftovers, made for the perfect meal when Michele was down Friday night along with her kids.  This meal is always set aside for "special trips", so it's a treat to eat it on a "normal night".  =)  We also had 30 ears of corn for the crew to eat that were prepared in the cooler with boiling water poured atop.  Love that method when serving for a big group!

This was the most efficient and least conversational event of the three we've hosted.  It wasn't a bad thing, they just got down to business quickly as they were only set to be at our house for 2 hours before moving on to another surprise destination to continue their awards in the more "subdued and honorable portion" of the evening.  For our house, it was all about silly.  They had each person write a random fact on a piece of paper and then folks tried to figure out who it came from.  Whoever it was then received their "Inside Joke" award - stuff from Goodwill that summed up silly anecdotes of each of them or recurring themes of the summer.  

Dave rode a moped to camp this summer, so his gift was special adornments for his moped.

This gal was new this year - her name is Claire - isn't she a cutie?

Danielle was Womens' Dean this year, so her and Matthew Busse (the Mens' Dean) were the ones in charge of handing out and determining the awards.  

This guy (Nate) received a story book as he was good at telling long stories during cabin time.  At a point Danielle had to run out to her car for an additional gift, he read aloud his story book.

"Safe Hand" gloves for Kimmie (inside joke with Claire who both worked in the Information Gazebo this summer).

The Mens' Dean - Matthew - received a Mullet Hat as he is described like a mullet, "all business in the front and party in the back".  He's loosened up and gotten sillier in the three years that we've done this - he's a very extraordinary guy.

Of course, got to add a pic of Leah as she also looks so pretty.  I'm glad she got the opportunity to serve out at Harlow this summer.

Since we didn't get any group shots, here's a couple of shots of the guys and gals dressed up before Friday's banquet:

Indeed, the crew were gone and out of our house by 8pm, and with some super-helpful assistance from the kids, the house was almost back to normal within 15 minutes.  It seemed like kind of a whirlwind given all the work throughout the day, all the jobs I gave the girls to complete, the food to be prepared, but it was all definitely worth it.