Mount Hood Railroad is currently hosting its annual "Day Out With Thomas" event, and wouldn't you know, we picked the absolute hottest weekend in Oregon to get tickets. I know, I know...I've been complaining for the past several months about the never-ending rain, and now I'm complaining about the heat. But really, if we didn't have the kids to worry about, it would be completely tolerable. We had temps in the 100's most of the weekend, and since most houses in Portland don't have air conditioning (including ours), you can't ever get much relief. But I made sure to crank up the air conditioning in the car on the way to see Thomas. I think Eric may have actually had icicles hanging from his eyelashes by the time we got there!
One of his favorite characters
Wyatt was a bit overwhelmed by all of the activities. He didn't know where to begin. Sir Topham Hatt was on-site greeting all of the excited kids, and there were various different train tables set up for all of the kids to explore, as well as a petting zoo, a couple of bouncy houses, and a miniature steam engine that took small groups for a ride around the track.
While not a huge fan of the smelly goats, he grew quite fond of the tortoise.
When it came time to board the train, Wyatt was excited--although he found the whole standing in line bit rather tedious! Wyatt and Eric rode the train while Avery and I picked up some Thomas goodies in the gift shop.
It was such a fun event, and the best part is that unless you ride the train, it's a free community event. I think next weekend may be the last opportunity to spend the day with Thomas before he heads back to the Island of Sodor, so if you don't have plans for the holiday weekend, you may want to check it out.
Each year the Neurology department hosts a graduation banquet for outgoing residents. It's pretty much the one date night a year we can count on, although we do manage to get in a few spontaneous dates every now and then. We had such a great time this year--lots of cocktails, lots of conversation, and tons of laughing! Apparently, I'm essentially unrecognizable when I put on a dress and a little make-up because there were a couple of awkward moments in which people I already knew came up to introduce themselves. I'm really not sure who was more embarrassed!
It is a tradition at the banquet to not only "roast" the graduating residents, but to give an equally hard time to the incoming chief resident--that being Eric. But he's always such a good sport, which makes it that much more fun. But before presenting Eric with his dorky chief resident t-shirt, I found it very sweet of them to include Wyatt by having a "junior chief resident" shirt made especially for him (that I accepted on his behalf).
In other residency news, Eric has officially committed to a one-year neuromuscular fellowship at OHSU. As some of you know, we had been tossing around the idea of moving elsewhere for fellowship training--Salt Lake City, Denver, and Scottsdale being the cities up for consideration. But once again, he felt OHSU would offer him the best training in EMG testing and muscle biopsy so he can be more proficient in diagnosing and treating various muscle diseases. He is incredibly excited to have this weight off of his shoulders, and I'm a bit relieved that we won't have to move our family. Besides, I'd really like to have more time to foster some of the relationships we've made here. Now we have an entire two years to make the biggest (and final) decision of all--where to practice and start putting down our roots.
Now that the Oregon summer is in full swing, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather last week with a trip to the Oregon Zoo. We met up with the Boley clan (Shelley, Brayden, and Sienna), which was great because it meant everyone had a buddy to enjoy it with. Wyatt and Brayden seemed to be much more interested in the animals this time around, which was nice. But it wasn't the least bit surprising to learn that the train still trumped the animals when it came to the "WOW!" factor.
How the boys enjoyed the zoo:
Watching a sleeping cougar
Making animal tracks in the sand
Playing on the tractor at the petting farm
How the girls enjoyed the zoo:
It's one of the harsh realities of being a younger sibling--kind of like never getting to sit in the front seat. Trust me. I know from experience. My sister (who is 6 years older than me) always got to sit shotgun, and it would drive me absolutely mad at times. Looking back on it now, I'm really not sure why she cared so much about where she sat since she spent most of any given car ride crouched down on the floorboard desperately hoping none of her friends would see her riding around in my parents' old white hoopty station wagon!! What I find so funny now is that as a busy mother of three, she's a lean, mean, mini-van driving MACHINE! Suddenly, functionality supercedes coolness. It truly is the curse that comes along with motherhood! By the way, do people even use the term hoopty anymore? I'm sure my lameness has just cost me a couple of my younger readers. Hehe!
Nevertheless, Avery and Sienna enjoyed the stroll through the zoo. We hope to take the kids a lot this summer. You never know, we may just get brave enough to release the girls from their prison on wheels. But with crazy toddlers outnumbering adults 4 to 2...I doubt it!
Wine Selection: Genesis Merlot Personal Rating: ****Excellent**** Comments: This merlot packs a punch with the first sip, and flavors are coming at you in all directions. I love complex wines like this. Very impressed.
Several of my mommy friends have shared their own sympathy stories regarding the often hellish experience of getting a child's hair cut--the screaming, the back-arching, the hyperventilating, the holding him down with all of my might to keep him from blacking the eye of the innocent hair stylist. It's just this traumatic for everyone, right?
So, if that's true, then someone please explain why (after the gazillion times we've taken Wyatt in for a haircut) I've yet to witness another child protest so intensely. In fact, I've never even seen another child cry. I'm now convinced that my friends were being just that--my friends--trying to make me feel better about our little hurricane we call Wyatt.
I actually had high hopes for today since he had been begging me every day since our last visit to "go get your hair cut!" (they have a train set...ah ha!), but the second he put his little bottom in that souped-up little jeep, he was convinced he was about to be tortured to death--never to see his Thomas trains again!
At any rate, we ended up with only a slightly traumatized little boy and a fairly decent (and much more suitable for warmer weather) haircut. I'll miss those curly locks, but I'm sure we'll see them again really soon.
Wyatt's new t-ball set came in the mail today. He had already demonstrated an incredible lack of patience for playing catch, so we thought he might enjoy hitting the ball instead. Well, I guess you'll just have to see for yourself how Wyatt took to his daddy's favorite All-American pastime.
One thing is for certain. He is his father's son. I can only imagine the overwhelming feeling of deja vu my in-laws are experiencing right now.
Wine Selection: Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon Personal Rating:****Excellent**** Comments: I think this wine might rank as high as the SKN Cabernet that I love so much. I think it's very flavorful but smooth. I think Eric is a little disappointed that I've starting buying more cabs since he is more of a merlot fan. Don't get me wrong. I love a good merlot. I just think I'm really starting to appreciate cabs more than I did before.
Avery is officially walking now--and on her birthday!! This morning she just decided she was a big enough girl to walk instead of crawl. We've now entered into what I like to call the "weeble and wobble" stage. Will she fall down? Without a doubt.
The Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia River Gorge is very well-known and heavily traveled throughout the year. In fact, when we pulled into the parking lot this morning at about 11:30, there were at least 50 cars there. Needless to say, we were doing quite a bit of head-nodding and saying hello as we encountered other hikers and canines on the trail. Avery now has the beauty queen wave down pat! As is the case with most trails in the gorge, the scenery was spectacular--providing amazing views of Eagle Creek and the waterfalls we would venture upon a couple miles into the hike.
Shortly after starting our hike, Eric (with his eagle eye) spotted a snake a few feet from the trail that wasn't even moving. Instead of just letting the snake bask in the sun and enjoy its slithery little self, he felt compelled to catch it so he could properly identify the species. Yes. He's that much of a dork. While he was looking up the species in his Reptiles of the Northwest book (I repeat...he's that much of a dork), Wyatt was in charge of holding the snake--and boy was he excited!
Wyatt holding his first ever "northwest garter snake". (Whew! That was a tricky one. It's a good thing he had that book handy!)
Along the way, we took in some of the views at Metlako Falls before finally reaching our destination: Punchbowl Falls.
We spent quite a bit of time here exploring the canyon, throwing rocks into the creek (more like a roaring river), and snacking on graham crackers and rocks. Yes. I said rocks.
Apparently rocks make great teethers. Good to know. I'm not quite sure why Wyatt liked them so much, but I stopped trying to figure him out a long time ago.
Avery and me at the base of punchbowl falls
Both kiddos were pretty worn out by the time we made the 2-mile trek back to the trailhead, which meant it wasn't long before both of them conked out while riding piggyback.
Proof that 1) Wyatt does actually sleep,
and 2) the Ergo Carrier is indeed designed to carry a 35+ lb child.
Wine Selection: Ray's Station Cabernet Sauvignon Personal Rating: ****Excellent**** Comments:I bought a bottle of the Ray's Station Merlot earlier this week so I could compare. I didn't like it nearly as well. I fear that I'm turning into the full-bodied cab lover I never thought I'd be. YIKES!
Between the time spent in the car and on the trails last week, Wyatt had a lot of opportunities to practice reciting his alphabet. Now it's his favorite thing to do, and he sings it with such enthusiasm!
The kid is such a little performer. He'll do anything to see himself on camera.
We celebrated Avery's first birthday this weekend. We had a small get-together at our house with family, as well as a couple of her best girlfriends (Maggie and Sienna)--all three of them born within four weeks of each other. Their moms, who I often refer to as "my Shell(e)ys" , have been such an amazing source of support since I have lived in Portland and I value their friendship immensely. As if sharing the same first name isn't interesting enough, we learned yesterday that they even share the same middle name. So, apparently you can't be my friend unless your name is Shell(e)y Lynn. What a strange coincidence, eh?
From the left: Shelly, Maggie, Sienna, Shelley, Me, and Avery
At any rate, I was a little nervous about how Avery would handle all of the attention and commotion around her, but she actually did very well. In fact, she was plainly aware that everyone was there for her and turned into quite a little social bug. One of "my Shell(e)ys" even commented on how she had never seen Avery so outgoing before, as she's almost always the very shy and sensitive one in the bunch. I was very proud of my little Avery!
The Cake (drum roll please....)
I must admit that while this cake was fun to decorate, it is probably my least favorite one of the three I've done so far. There's just part of me that feels like I could have come up with something a little more creative for her first birthday. It was much easier than the other two (probably because I have a little more experience under my belt), so perhaps that's the reason behind my foolishness! I just didn't feel the awesome sense of accomplishment as I did with the others--that, and the puke green color (which should have been a bright lime green) was a bit of a turn off. But hey, I'll make it up to her next year with maybe a two-headed chinchilla or something. Hehe! On the up side, it was the best melt-in-your-mouth strawberry cake I've ever tasted! Wyatt wholeheartedly concurs.
Avery's First Sugar Rush She went for the cake without hesitation and seemed to enjoy every second of its sugary sweetness. Although, she started to get a little irritated when she couldn't shake the icing off of her hands. By that time, she had more than enough sugar to keep her wired for at least two more hours!
Family Picture (minus one gremlin)
It is nearly impossible these days to get a decent picture of our little family of four. It's usually Eric (with some type of funky expression), Avery, and me--with a little blurred image in the corner. That would be Wyatt zooming by at lightning speed. With Avery now on the move, it may be several more years before we get a picture worth framing. But I'm willing to wait. At this point, I'm perfectly content watching them walk, run, dance, and jump to infinity and beyond while exploring the world around them. There's nothing more rewarding than that.
Once the party was over, Wyatt had to give Avery a lesson on how to properly open presents. He must have felt that she wasn't quite getting it because I'm pretty certain he opened every one of them for her, and then took off to his bedroom with whatever gifts he decided he wanted to keep for himself. Let's just say he had a hard time understanding that it wasn't his birthday party. Thanks to Steve and Renee, Avery is now the proud owner of her very first purse. Isn't it a beauty?
She had better watch out though. I think someone else had his eye on that beautiful accessory--and it wasn't Wyatt.
I'm just waiting for the day little 3-year old Avery manages to sucker her daddy into carrying her purse or barbie doll collection in a crowded establishment of some sort simply because she's "just too tired" to bear the extra weight herself. He claims it will never happen, but I think we both know differently.
Wine Selection: Sebeka Sauvignon Blanc Personal Rating: **Fair** Comments: Sauvignon blanc used to be our white wine of choice, but I'm just not really enjoying it as much as I did previously. It may be a little too buttery, maybe? I'm not quite sure. But it may also have more to do with the fact that we just gravitate more towards reds over whites these days than we have before.
Destination: Redwood National Park, Northern California
Engineer: Papa Edgar Conductor & Navigator: Daddy Ca"poose" & Air Temperature Regulator: Grandma Entertainment: Mommy
Aaahhh...road trips. You gotta love 'em. Sitting on your butt for what feels like an eternity, snacking on high-calorie junk food, staring endlessly out the window, and holding your bladder to the point of near rupture--all the while praying that someone else bravely utters the most beautiful words ever heard..."potty break". Seriously. Does it get any better?
Our road trip last week took us south--to the land of some of the tallest trees in the world. Eric's parents flew in from Oklahoma, just in time to catch the "Edgar train" (you gotta make it fun for the kids) bound for the Redwood National Park. We made a pit stop in Crescent City, CA where we explored the beautiful coastline (including Castle Rock) and spent the night in a motel constructed from a single redwood tree. Very neat.
Once in the park, we hiked several trails to get an up-close and personal look at the GINORMOUS redwoods, drove some scenic roads while the kids napped, and spent some time on the beach--the very chilly and insanely windy beach. The girls got a room while the boys camped, and we somehow managed every day to live off of honey buns for breakfast and cheeseburgers for dinner. I honestly think I'd be okay if I never laid eyes on these two food items again for at least two years. Blech!
As usual, Eric planned an amazing trip. But I'd have to say without a doubt that my favorite part was the hike through Fern Canyon. It wasn't a long hike, or challenging for that matter. But what I loved most about it was how unique it was-- as I had never in my life walked through a canyon in which the walls were draped in nothing but ferns. It's quite stunning actually. Wyatt loved this trail for all of its bridges--well, they were more like short boardwalks to help you cross the small creek, but nevertheless, he had a grand time running across them.
Here we are on one of the "bridges" with Avery in my makeshift sling.
Note to self: Don't ever assume that the person packing the car (Ahem! Eric) will remember to pack the ever-so-important baby carrier, even if a discussion regarding the matter took place less than an hour prior to departure. Ugh! Needless to say, my arms feel like they're about to fall off right about now.
Apparently, some redwood trees are large enough that you can drive a car through them. So, we thought we'd give it a try. I think it might be safe to assume that these holes in the trees were carved with small, old, Model-A type cars in mind. Ford Expeditions--not so much. We actually were successful in getting the Expedition through without a scratch, but I'm still really not sure how it happened. I guess Papa has some mad driving skills. It was a little bit of a nail-biting experience...especially for Grandma.
Another highlight of the trip for me had nothing to do with the trees, but more with the beautiful meadows we drove upon in the mountains while trying to keep the kiddos asleep. The minute they were awake, we all piled out of the car to take in the amazing views of the landscape. I also couldn't help but take advantage of the beautiful, natural backdrops for photographing my two favorite love bugs.
Finally, the most unexpected treat came on the drive home. We drove the scenic Hwy 101 back into Southern Oregon so we could enjoy some breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. We fortuitously took a rest break in the small town of Bandon, Oregon (thank goodness for Dairy Queen), completely unaware that we'd end up walking onto a beach that would eventually have us picking up our jaws buried deep beneath the sand. We've been to many coastal towns in Oregon, and nothing--I mean NOTHING--compares to the beauty and sense of peace and serenity offered by the small town of Bandon, Oregon. Absolutely gorgeous.
Believe it or not, we actually made it home just in time to watch Tiger tee off at the US Open. How convenient. Eric and his dad haven't been off the couch since.
If you're interested in seeing more photos from our trip, I put together a slide show of some of my favorites.
Wine Selection: Volcano Vineyards Lava Red Personal Rating: ***Good*** Comments: This is the wine I purchased on my wine-tasting outing in Bend. It's a pretty good wine. Certainly not a favorite, but worth checking out if you're ever in the area.
The past several weeks Wyatt has come into the kitchen desperately pleading for a "honey pop". Of course, unable to effectively translate toddler jargon, I assumed there must be something in the house resembling Winnie the Pooh's beloved honey pot that he so desperately wanted but was perhaps out of his reach. Much to both of our dismay, every attempt to get out of him exactly what he wanted ended with Wyatt violently throwing himself to the floor in a fit of rage--probably because he had realized that because his mother was such a moron, he (once again) was not going to get his precious "honey pop".
But when we met some friends for dinner last night, the restaurant had complimentary Dum Dum lollipops to help "entertain" the wee ones. Being the "sucker" parents that we are, finally gave in to the temptation to enjoy a bit of uninterrupted adult conversation and let him have one (okay, maybe two).
Well, thank the Lord! At least now when he asks for a "honey pop" and doesn't get it, I might just be a little less affected by his convulsion-like fits of rage.
Wine Selection: Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon Personal Rating: ***Good***
On the six-hour drive home from Malheur National Forest last week, Wyatt had watched the movie Toy Story so many times that he somehow managed to transform himself into his new favorite superhero by the time they reached Portland.
Everyone, I'd like to introduce you to the toddler version of Buzz Lightyear.
I've had a few requests for recommendations on great hikes in the area. Even though we've hiked quite a few trails since we've lived here, I feel like we're just getting started (now that I'm finally in decent physical condition). We have several trails on our "to do" list for the summer, so this ranking could change. Nevertheless, every single one of the following hikes are spectacular and worth checking out.
"Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again..." (sorry, I couldn't resist.)
5. Cape Lookout (Oregon Coast): This narrow, cliff-edged cape juts 2 miles straight out into the Pacific Ocean. The Cape Lookout Trail (located just southwest of Tillamook) is a popular hiking trail, extending 2.5 miles through Sitka spruce forest to the tip of the cape (5 miles round trip). My favorite part of this hike is the view you get of Three Arch Rocks.
This is a great trail for kids and out-of-towners, as the terrain is fairly easy and the ocean views are great!
4. Angel's Rest- (Columbia River Gorge): This is one of the more popular trails in the gorge, and for very good reason. The trail is well-maintained, the scenery is awesome throughout, and the visual reward you receive when you finally reach the top is absolutely stunning. A word of caution regarding the top: this is not the safest environment for young children not confined to either a backpack or carrier, as you're surrounded by very steep drop-offs on all sides. This trail is also quite heavily traveled, so if you're in the mood for being "one with nature", then it may be wise to look elsewhere. This hike is 4.6 miles round trip.
3. Dog Mountain- (Columbia River Gorge): I seriously think my muscles are still recovering from this hike. This could quite possibly be one of the toughest hikes I've done since Eric and I went backpacking in Yosemite in 2001.
The hike is incredibly challenging, the views are some of the best I've seen of the gorge, and the spring wildflowers are absolutely amazing. But I must admit, if it were not for the wildflowers, I don't think I would have enjoyed the hike nearly as much (which is why it's not ranked higher--that, and the rattlesnake of course...no good). If you can, leave the kids at home for this one. I think that was half the battle for us. If not, it's definitely doable. Just be prepared for quite a few rest breaks. This trail is 7.1 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2,900 feet! Geez!
2. Larch Mountain- (Columbia River Gorge): Wyatt was just shy of a year old when we hiked this 7-mile trail, starting at the base of the magnificent Multnomah Falls and ending at the top of Larch Mountain. I very distinctly remember at that time feeling very awe-struck by the enormity of the falls and thinking nothing could possibly compare. But it wasn't until we started hiking above the falls (away from all of the hoop-la) that I was able to appreciate the true gem hiding ever-so-quietly behind the powerful raging waters. As I'm discovering at this very moment, words really just can't express the serenity lying within this trail. You absolutely need to experience it for yourself.
Once you finally reach the top of Larch Mountain, you are rewarded with breathtaking views (on a clear day) of FIVE Cascade Mountains: St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood, and Jefferson. What a treat!
(view of Mt. Hood from Larch Mtn)
Note: You'll need to park a vehicle at the top of Larch Mountain. Otherwise, you'll be hiking 14 miles!
1. Cascade Head- (Oregon Coast): You absolutely cannot leave Oregon without having first experienced this wild, foggy headland north of Lincoln City. I've never seen a more spectacular ocean panoramic in my life. Round trip this trail is 4.2 miles.
The wildflowers you'll encounter along the way are also very nice. Most likely, it will be very windy at the top. Otherwise, it would be a nice place for a picnic. From what I can remember, this is a great trail for kids. It's been about two years since we've been there. After looking back at the pictures, I think we're going to have to fit this hike into our summer itinerary!
(One of my favorite pictures of the fog rolling in while atop Cascade Head.)
Wine Selection: Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon Personal Rating: ***Good*** Comments: At Trader Joes, this wine is often referred to as "two buck chuck". For two bucks, it is incredible!!!! You can't even get Boones Farm for two bucks! If you're on a budget, this is a great wine! I want to try the Merlot though. Has anyone tried both?
My Wine Personality:
For the most part I’m a chardonnay, as I consider myself to exhibit a somewhat sunny and mellow disposition
(most of the time), but because I find a tremendous amount of joy out of showering my two kids with hugs and
kisses, I also possess the subtle sweetness often found in a riesling. But don’t be fooled. I love a great
outdoor adventure and am willing to try anything once. This occasional display of boldness is thought to match
that of a cabernet, whereas my appreciation for nature suggests that I have an earthy component to my personality—very
characteristic of a merlot.
“Wine rejoices the heart of man and joy is the mother of all virtues.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1771