Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pizza and the Science Factory

Lately, Whitley's new hobby has been photography.  Particularly with my cell phone.  Actually, we are able to come up with some use-able shots from her, but its among literally hundreds of pics that accumulate on my phone.  (Thank you, I-Phone, for that rapid shot seconds, so many pics tally up!).  

She did manage, on this day and visit to Christi and Elsie's to get a shot of Christi and I - and then she made up for cutting Elsie out of it by taking some close-ups of her.  

As fun as that was, we were ready to get them out of the house - so we ended up dining at the Papa's Pizza on the other side of the town - a new indoor play area for the girls to explore.  They did indeed love the foam lined tunnels (Whitley could have done without the shark pictures all around...they were scary!) - but it was this little interaction that inspired us to use the I-Phone camera.  So cute!

The next day, we ventured to the Eugene Science Factory - located right next to Autzen Stadium.  This is definitely the least impressive "interactive learning place" we've visited, but the intent of this visit was really to sign up for membership, and by doing this get free entrance into all of the other learning places across Oregon - and hundreds of other places in the U.S.  It's a great deal.  

The girls were about as impressed as I thought they'd be.  They do have a cool little-ones play area with a pirate ship, legos and blocks to sort, and a train table - but the science stuff was definitely above them.  They were intrigued to watch, and toss marbles down the gravity cyclone, or watch the balls come down the contraptions, but it definitely wasn't the imaginative-pretend kind of play at other locations.  

While they wouldn't consider this their FAVORITE place, they did have fun - but, you'd never know by these two pictures.  They CRACKED US UP.  The expressions were a result of us making them stop, pose, and smile - not because they were really unhappy with the experience!

Ah, that look of disgust!  Much better than a cheesy smile anyday - so much more fun and memorable!!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hittin' the Slopes!

Back in December, when we were attending the Camp Harlow Auction, one of the items up for sale was a "board/ski rental package/gift certificate to Mt. Bachelor" offered through our locally owned Berg's Ski Shop.  We went ahead and bid on it, and upon realizing we'd won it, bid for a stay in a condo nearby (owned by the Vickers) in the Silent Auction, so we could make a family weekend out of it.  

The condo was available the weekend of February 20th - and we'd hoped, that by then, the resort would be replenished with snow.  But, instead, it was a record dry winter for Oregon - our snowpack is practically nil.   It concerns me for the sake of farmers facing drought, but even more selfishly, for what the lake levels will look like to boat in.  However, in the immediate need, we were thankful that the place we picked to buy a certificate from, turned out to be the only place that still had quality snow.  

You can tell by the pictures taken on the preceding Thursday night just how glorious our weather has been instead.  Nothing but blue skies as we got fitted for our rental equipment at Berg's.  That's definitely the way we'll do it in the future - to be able to avoid the hassle on the mountain was huge!  And, it felt great to be able to run into and catch up with Ashton's dad, who's the manager there.

By about 5:30 Friday night, we were off.  Due to an accident on a local highway, we opted to take the pass route that would lead us directly to the mountain vs. going through Bend.  However, we ended up being told when we gassed up in Oakridge that the route was closed this time of year (we knew that, but were hoping that the lack of snow had re-opened it early).  So, we took our chances and kept driving until we hit a gate....Uh oh.

Fortunately, our GPS system on John's new rig is very detailed, so it showed us a route that would skirt along the edge of the mountain - on an unpaved road.  (We really did not want to turn around and go miles and miles out of our way to take an alternative route).  There wasn't a LOT of snow, but some patches that had us a little concerned.  The biggest problem, though, was the felled trees that allowed only an inch or so of clearance on each side (remember, new rig!).  But, amidst my excitement and Mikayla's anxiety - we made it.  And, we emerged on the other side of Bachelor - just about a dozen miles or so from our condo!   =)

Seventh Mountain Resort is about as old as I am, and it has definitely gone through some growing pains over the years.  Now, it is owned by a bigger time-share company, and hopefully they will continue investing money into it and its facilities.  Its proximity to Mt. Bachelor puts it in a very advantageous location - it deserves quality upkeep!
After we got settled in to our condo, the family talked me into abandoning my Kindle to go explore the skating rink and mini-grocery/tourist store.  It definitely has ambiance.  =)

As close as we were, there wasn't much need to wake up a the crack of dawn to get to the mountain, knowing they didn't open until 9:00.  This was the view as we approached - couldn't ask for much better!!!

John and Brayden both rented snowboard equipment, while Mikayla and I chose to ski.  So, we knew we'd be splitting up soon enough - and did our best to get a family selfie in.

And, then, the selfies on the ski lift...

I wish this wasn't so blurry.  We have Go-Pro footage of Brayden boarding, but this is the best evidence my phone got.  

Likewise, not a great shot of John, who realized that the bindings were in the wrong position (he boards "Goofy"), so he was thankful the lift operator had a screwdriver he could borrow.

Another group shot.  

So, here's the deal with John and Brayden.  Somehow, they didn't communicate well about where they'd meet up and John would see Brayden boarding down while riding up the lift and vice versa.  At one point, we sent Brayden down the hill ahead of us to try to catch up with John in line, and I was impressed with just how fast and straight he went.  But, that turned out to be the problem.  I guess Brayden wasn't so good at slowing (and turning to decelerate) so, if it got out of control, he'd just wipe out.  That happened a few times too many, and without a helmet (don't even get me started about how that decision happened), he didn't want to continue on and face a concussion at the rate he was going.  (That's definitely a decision I applaud, on the other hand).  So, they were done after only a handful of runs.  Not the high level of success we were all hoping on, but the lodge cafeteria had a lot to offer too - so it wasn't all bad.

Mikayla and I reported a different story.  She hadn't skied since she was 5, so it was 8 years ago since I've been on the mountain myself.  (Wow, how time flies).  My experiences in skiing since I first tried in middle school have been varying in their success stories.  When I've started slow and steady, its been good, but when I've scared the heck out of myself by trying something too hard for myself right from the start, its led to feelings of fear associated with the sport.  So, I figured, between the two of us, we might be a good pairing.  Of course, we started with the beginner hill, (along with hundreds of little tykes in ski school).   Mikayla panicked in the beginning, not feeling like she had any control and nearly choosing to give up.  But, I tried to resurrect what I had been taught, and by taking it steady, we got down the slope without injury and her confidence picked up.  On the second run, Mikayla showed a ton more mastery, and by the fifth run, we were traversing side slopes.  I think, as we went through the lift line on the 8th run, the guy directing us to our lift seat commented that he was seeing us way too fast and perhaps we should try something new.  So, we listened to his directions and were taught the route to go from the top to another ski lift, and then take the "Marshmallow" run down from there.  We were up for the challenge! 

And, we did it!  But we actually decided, while we were up there, that it was a little different style than what we liked, so we decided to go down by going across the mountain, so we ended up back at the lodge where the guys were.  It was a very long run, but SO FUN!  I felt like we were on an adventure that neither one of us would have guessed we would have been capable of at the beginning of the day, but we were doing it.  I'm starting to realize that so much of skiing has to do with confidence in your abilities (like riding a horse or a bike) - if you believe you are capable, often you really are.  But, if you try to go down with trepidation and in fear, it's not so successful.

If it weren't for the weather beginning to change and the guys waiting for us at the lodge - I think Mikayla and I would have been up for numerous repeats of adventures such as this one!
A little after noon, the clouds did indeed start rolling in and snow was coming down in icy pellets (as shown on Brayden).  Just as well, as the guys had kind of kind of declared "being done" with the mountain.  

When we returned to the condo, Mikayla and Brayden talked John into a trip to the hot tub.  Were it right outside our door, I would have been all over the idea.  But, the walk back through the campus of the resort after being wet in freezing temps was enough for me to definitely decline the offer.  
We kind of hit a stalemate by the end of the day.  I don't think we'd put much thought into the trip beyond just the experience at Bachelor.   So, we ended up taking a field trip into Bend.  Brayden tried out some of the songs he was considering on putting on a Disneyworld Family Playlist (many were denied!), we got Dutch Bros for the family, and bought all sorts of indulgent junk food at the Safeway closest to our property. 

The snow pellets were long gone by the next morning.  What a glorious sight to wake up to on a Sunday morning!  

This time, I agreed to family bonding in the expansive hot tub.  Unfortunately, the water wasn't hot enough, it was a little murky - and most disturbing - there was a group of about 5 10/11 year old girls that kept invading our space.  I know the allure of a 15 year old boy had everything to do with it (that, and they were bored and wanted to be entertained), but it was SO ANNOYING!  At one point, they asked where we were from and when we said "Eugene" they asked how we were enjoying Oregon.  Seriously?  Eugene is like the second largest city in Oregon?   Oh dear.  (And, yes, they are from Bend - they should know this).  

Thanks the Vickers generosity, we were blessed with a late check-out, as she had us booked through Monday.  We took our time packing up and eventually passed through Sisters (opted for the conventional driving route this time) around 2.  I never tire of this view...
We gave this new little pizza place a try for lunch.  It was tasty.  And, after a stop for Fro Yo for Brayden, we ended up down at the other end of the small town at the Sisters Bakery. 

You can see Brayden and Mikayla in the window there...

It was definitely not a weight-loss weekend!

Despite some of the setbacks and complications, it was a very memorable and fun mountain adventure for the family.  One that we would all certainly like to repeat in the future!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Crisis of the Countdown

One of the things I'm passionate about when I'm talking to a young mom or giving advice at a baby shower is not to fear the different stages of growth with your kids.  Yes, time is fleeting, and the cuddling, always sleeping (but never for long stretches at night) stage of a newborn is not going to last forever, but sometimes it's not all bad.  (Terrible two's anyone?)

My mom told us when we were teenagers that each successive stage was her favorite - that she wouldn't go back in time for any of it because she was so happy with the people we'd become and the time she had "right now" to spend with us.  Bless my mom for saying that - and I'm very thankful that she was able to feel that way in all the angst we gave her as teens!

It hasn't been easy letting go of the fears of "what will be" when they reach each successive stage.  I remember watching a mom who's son was several years older than mine and it was not even third grade when he started acting like he wanted nothing to do with her.  So, then, it was third grade I had to worry about.  Or, my own experiences as a middle school teacher teaching me that it was rare indeed to find middle school aged girls that cared about other people besides just themselves.  (I was terrified of having a girl for that reason).

But, my kids are not their kids - and my fears were largely unfounded.  There have been obstacles along the way - but, they weren't what I was anxious about, so it was useless to have worried.  (Which is generally the case!).  Indeed, as our kids have grown, they have given me reason to repeat the same thing my mom said all those years ago.  Thank you God. 

But, now - even after all these lessons - the anxiety is back.  Not necessarily because of what I fear is yet to come, but kind of because the little time I have left to worry about.  Brayden is almost 16.  He has just a little over two full years left of high school left - and then?!  All of a sudden, my statements about what we'll do in the future as a family are tainted by this realization.  When I say, "This was so fun, we should do this every year" (as I did this weekend regarding our weekend skiing), I stumble over my words thinking that we might just have two more years to do this.  When we talk about Christmas traditions, birthday celebrations, annual camping trips - all of it, I honestly choke back tears (as I'm doing right now).
Wasn't this just yesterday?
And, I'm realizing, this is just as paralyzing as the other kind of worry.  There's no script that says it has to be a certain way with Brayden or Mikayla - there never has been.  And, God has been faithful every step of the way - not to act in the fear or worry, as that's not of Him, but to give me every strength needed through the actual experience.

Right now, that experience (and strength needed) is hard to define.  Brayden is becoming his own man - and yet, is still so much....not.  He's about 5'5" these days and around 120 pounds - a far cry from the under 5 foot and under 100 pounds he started high school at 18 months ago.  And, the change hasn't just been physically.  It's been so hard for John and I to adjust to the distance that happens - and IS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN as he gets older.  We have just been so blessed for so long with a kid that has wanted our company 24/7 - that now his independence, while deserved, feels painful.   And, as a mom (and I know John feels the same way as a dad), I'm kind of grieving.  Then there's all this extra stuff like ADHD and having to nag about grades, or self-centeredness or irresponsibility towards the family that make us not "like" him as much (we'll always love him, but some days the affection isn't as strong...) and that contributes too.  And, then, other days, when he does things with Whitley, or you catch a glimpse of what he means to his classmates and friends, that my heart just soars and I think, "What does this other stuff matter, I'm so proud of this guy!".  It's the way it is as a parent...the way its supposed to be as we have to move them front rear facing car seat, to front facing car seat, to booster seat, to back seat, and then to the driver's seat.  As we let go of these restraints a little at a time and let them take more risk.  And, someday, you hand those keys over and figuratively and literally hope they steer straight and make good choices.

In the last hour, we've found out that on our drive home, we just missed....within a block away and minutes away - a mom and her three children struck as they walked in a crosswalk across the street.  They were struck by a truck.  The three children (4 and under) were killed instantly - and the mom is in the hospital.

Earlier this week, a mom had to clean out her freshman daugther's dorm of her belongings as she passed away suddenly to a strain of meningitis.  She was on the first place national team of Acrobatics and Tumbling at the UofO - a dream of hers.  One day she was feeling a little off at practice - the next day she went into cardiac arrest and died.

There is no guarantee that we'll be given any of these days at any of these stages with any of our children.  So, the last thing I need to do is spend vast amounts of each of those moments focused on those things that are not worth battling.  But, even worse, is being paralyzed in the "crisis of the countdown", missing out on the gifts of the here and now because I'm too worried about will be.

Oh dear parent readers out there, bless you and your journey with your kids.   This journey, it is a scary one, (I can't imagine those who do it without a trust in God who has a plan in even the darkest hour....) but, at EVERY stage - such a deep reward.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Presidents' Day Weekend Volleyball

You know what I've recently concluded?  I'm too selfish to be a really good sports mom.   Because when it came to looking at a the upcoming three day weekend, and realizing every single day of it would be spent across town at a sports complex to watch volleyball - I was NOT feeling it.  In fact, by Monday, my attitude was downright nasty.  Michele had come down by that point and I was just a snot, because I felt like I didn't have any "me-time" left.  

"Selfless" is not a character quality that runs strong among any members of the immediate Riley family... =(

All that said, Saturday morning was kind of fun - we showed up while it was foggy and dark - and were thankful the facility was only 15 minutes away for once. 

The team also played EXCEPTIONALLY on Saturday.  They were amazing, and ended up passing up the team above them in our own club in the tournament rankings.  

Unfortunately, that meant we were placed against teams ranked much higher than us for the remainder of the tourney.  We played super hard for the rest of the tournament duration, but ended up losing most of the games after Saturday.   (That might have something to do with my mood, but really, I wasn't that invested, as long as I felt the girls were playing hard).  There was also some dynamics among parents that never thrills me...I tend to retreat into a corner with my lawn chair when John's not in attendance at these tournaments because it drives me crazy to have to listen to those who are out of control in their criticism or sideline-coaching of the teams.  By the last game on Monday, this man was whistling at a pitch high enough to alert dogs and loud enough for every team in the facility to hear - and he was standing right behind me.  Again, I think there might be ample explanation as to why I was SO ready to be done come 2pm Monday afternoon!

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Our Kaela is MARRIED!

About a week ago, Kaela sent a text to a few of us showing the forecast for Portland.  It indicated it was supposed to be sunny, and she asked us to pray that it would indeed turn out that way on her wedding day.   How delighted I was to wake up Saturday morning and see the fog clearing into sunshine.  Crisp but clear...without even the sharp sunlight glare...making for great outdoor photography.  And, I think it should be noted, today, as I type this (Sunday), it was nothing but gloomy rain with that in the forecast for the next 10 days...  You were blessed Drew and Kaela!

Downtown Portland - their wedding venue was only about a block from where we spent our first married night, the Hotel Vintage Plaza.

This picture was put up today on Facebook, by Bethany Small, their photographer.  I'm sure the weather was chilly, but talk about stunning outdoor shots!

The venue for Drew and Kaela's 2:30 wedding and reception was Portland State University's Smith Ballroom.  They had a HUGE guest list (400+!), so it had to accommodate a large group.

As Kaela had asked us to use our camera to photograph the folks in attendance (so she'd be able to have visual memory of the crowd, vs. just pics of her and Drew).  So, of course, I picked the folks I knew the best to begin asking to pose and smile.  

The most recent of our Thursday Night Ladies to get married....Elaina and her husband, Brad.  It's crazy to realize that they are almost at their first year anniversary. 

More of our TNL, Amanda and Leah.

And, this beaming couple - on a rare occasion (date night) without Whitley.  

Heather introduced us to one of her best friends, Casey, and her boyfriend and mutual friend of Heather's Matt.

While Kaela and Drew didn't plan to offer "a full meal" for the wedding, the food was plentiful.  They had assorted sandwich rolls, a "Chips Bar", scones and jam/cream/honey, petite fours, and shortbread sticks.  It was all delicious.  After they cut their cake, three different kinds of cupcakes were offered to the guests.

Mikayla was such a faithful photographer pal.  John had planned to do most of it, however, we quickly discovered he was rather inefficient as he got involved in friendly, lengthy conversation with every person he went to photograph.  ;)

It's been so great having Heather in town... she just blends right in with all of us.  After the ceremony, Brian and Kelli Ross, the Whites, and Heather all went to dinner together.  

It was so difficult to not just point the camera in Elsie's direction 24-7.  She is so ADORABLE!   After Christi did her part as a bridesmaid, their family joined the Whites and us at our table.  

These two little flower girls stole the adorable!

But, then, Kaela walked in and everyone forgot completely about those adorable little girls.  Kaela was BREATHTAKING.  I immediately teared up... 

John and I didn't want to compete with the "Professional Photographer" Drew and Kaela had for the ceremony, so we didn't take a lot of pics of the ceremony.  But, it was beautiful.  It was officiated by John Jaskilka.

After it was over, we caught a fun one of Christi walking back down the aisle.

Following the ceremony, Drew and Kaela disappeared for about 20 minutes to take a breath and rejoice with their wedding party.  Later, these pictures were posted by them to Instagram, so they also took some selfies... =)

Finally, they re-emerged and the party officially began!

Elsie was excited to have her mommy back!

Toast-giving time...

And, then, the first dance for them, and then with their parents.

"These shoes were made for dancing, right?"

In fact, Elsie was so ready to dance, she couldn't wait until Drew and Kaela's solo dance was over. 

Elsie had a good time meeting the littlest flower girl. 

It felt like forever before we finally got a chance to greet the bride and groom.  And, while it was short and sweet, it was filled with lots of love and big hugs...

They had a photo booth set up and it was enjoyable watching folks get into it.

They also took some time snapping shots of all the guests in attendance who had lived with Kaela at the Trinity House (or lived in it period) - and then a shot of all of the guys who had lived at the AO House with Drew.  Definitely a fun CCF love story!

We slipped in to be next in line with the photographer to get a shot of those of us, "Thursday Night Ladies" in attendance celebrating with Kaela on this special day.

We passed our camera off to Ali Mertz, knowing she'd be staying until the end as Jacob (her finacee) was a groomsman for Drew to catch the parting shots pictures.  We also encouraged any pics of the dance party that was going full force when we left.

So, these shots were stolen from others on Instagram as we didn't stick around until the end.

The VERY HAPPY COUPLE - headed off to a mystery location for their first night and then on a plane to Maui for their honeymoon.  

It is such a gift to attend a wedding when you feel so very confident about the bride and groom - and how they'll "make it work".  He pursued and waited,  and proved himself mightily to be up to the challenge of being all that Kaela needed for a husband - while Kaela sought the Lord and insight from every one she could turn to for the right direction to take every step of the way.  They faced some pretty heavy obstacles that don't need to be chronicled here, but I believe it was the sort of stuff that just drew them closer together in joint dependence upon the Lord.  I suspect, with all of the anxiety Kaela felt about the actual wedding day and having it all "turn out perfect" (while being the center of attention - which she loathes!), I think the actual "marriage" aspect might turn out to be pretty smooth for these two.  We've all joked that they've treated each other just like they've been married the whole time they were dating - so I think it will just be a wonderful adventure for them to finally be able to live together, and actually live life by each other's side - with the other one now becoming their sole focus and partner in decision making (vs. the awkward stage when you are still living at home and trying to honor parents, etc...).  I'm thrilled for Mr. and Mrs. Gilges!