Saturday, July 27, 2013

Slice of Chico

It probably seems like a bad idea to take a four year old, an eight month old, and a six week old on a road trip. Hell, it probably is a bad idea, but that's exactly what Kate and I did. You know when you know two people who really should be friends but don't know each other? That's my friend Kate and my cousin Lauren. I'm embarrassed to admit that I almost didn't want to introduce them because I thought they might like each other so much that I'd end up being the third wheel. But when Kate told me she was going to a wedding in California and we realized she'd be close enough to Chico to drop me off, the plan for our roadtrip was hatched. 

Jack couldn't go because he had a summer camp that week. It's been a summer of summer camps and quite frankly, I think we're all summer camped out at this point. Kate's two year old daughter stayed home, too, and so even though we were outnumbered by kids, we each had fewer kids to be in charge of than normal so it was almost like a vacation. A vacation in which I learned how to wear my swimsuit the right way, I ate the most delicious muffin I have tasted in my entire life (more on that later), and I got what I think is my favorite picture of Clementine ever. (You will know it when you see it.)

It was an uneventful drive down, so I will spare you the details of Sawyer watching the first five minutes of every DVD we brought and me finally discovering the beautiful thing called the hold button and thwarting his manic changing of movies.

The backseat looked like this:


 We got to Chico at cocktail hour because that's when you always get to Chico, no matter what time you leave Eugene. It was crazy hot, because it's always crazy hot when you get to Chico, but nothing a cold beer and a dip in the pool couldn't cure.

Sir Mags-a-Lot

We spent a significant amount of time coming up with nicknames for Magnus on this trip. It occurred to me that other families do not saddle their children with a boatload of random nicknames the way we do. Their loss, I suppose.

Inspector Scooby!

Sawyer and Audrey were fast friends. They clicked in the cousinly way that Lauren and I always have. Two weirdos who understand one another.

I had been hemming and hawing over this swimsuit that I ordered online earlier this summer that was supposed to flatter the postpartum physique. I thought it looked okay, but it was super uncomfortable and I found myself tugging and pulling and readjusting things way too much for my liking. Also, I don't have a lot of faith in my ability to judge what actually looks good on me, so I often need a lot of validation before I can decide that I actually like something and no one had commented on my new suit yet. (Is that pathetic? I looks pathetic all written out like that. I just might be pathetic. Sigh.)

On my second day in Chico, Lauren and I were getting ready to jump in the pool and she came out wearing THE EXACT SAME SWIMSUIT! Ah, validation! You see, Lauren is one of those people who always looks good. Always. So to think that I had chosen the same swimsuit as her made me feel like there's hope for me after all. She just had to show me how to wear it right. Strapless is the way to go. (I know! Crazy, right? But it totally works. Trust me, I have a cousin who knows these things.)

I have been trying to capture Clementine's bedhead for awhile now. Voila!

(Nope, that's not my favorite picture. It's coming!)

Lauren and I wanted to give Kate a taste of Chico and so we hauled four kids to the Sierra Nevada Brewery for lunch. You should have seen the look on the hostess's face when we showed up with our herd of kids and no reservation. A lot of things could have gone really wrong here, but for some reason the stars aligned and we had the perfect meal.

Kate did some quick mental math to determine that yes, we could each try 8 tasters of beer without getting too tipsy and after much confusion about how it all worked, we settled in with our paddles of shot glasses and drank some fine Chico beers.

And Sawyer was given the biggest kid's meal I have ever seen in my life.

Our server assured me that I would fall in love with the grilled portobello sandwich. It was delicious. Everyone ate their food. No one spilled their drink. Nobody cried or pooped. Clementine highchair danced and Magpie slept. Sawyer and Audrey giggled and charmed our server. It was the perfect meal. 

The rest of the trip was spent in the pool.

And we ventured out to some of Chico's finer tourist destinations such as the Thrifty 'Argain, where everything was 30% off and I found Clementine's favorite new toy for $1.99.

No trip to Chico is complete without a milkshake from Big Al's. Triple thick!

There it is. That's the one. Makes me laugh every single time.

Lauren took the kids wading in the creek.

And then came the highlight of Sawyer's visit to Chico: my cousin Brady. Lauren and I had been good sports about taking the kids in the pool and blowing up floaties and such, but Brady arrived and turned the entire pool into a tsunami which had the kids shrieking with delight.

Brady was the life of the party. Sawyer is still talking about his new friend.

"Mom, what was his name again? My cousin who made the waves in the pool?"

"That's my cousin. His name is Brady."

"No, Mom, he's my cousin. My friend and my cousin Brady."

Here I am in my new strapless swimsuit that's super comfy. Thanks again, Lauren!

Their backyard has a pool, a trampoline, and a palm tree. It's the epitome of California and I loved every minute of it.

And then Lauren and I hatched a crazy idea, not unlike the crazy idea that Kate and I had about visiting in the first place, to make some cloth napkins for a bridal shower she was attending later that day. With three kids and a time limit, what could go wrong?

Aunt Bobbi has a serger and great taste in fabric. We let ourselves into her house and got to work.

We had to call in tech support after just a few minutes with the serger. Aunt Bobbi walked us through the basics but in the end we just went with the basic hem and they turned out beautifully.

I loved working in her studio and sewing on her machine. Lauren and I come from a long line of seamstresses and this was our first time sewing together. I had a quick glimpse of us as grandmothers, laughing and sewing the same sisterly way that our moms would be doing now if they were together.

Kate arrived in Chico that day and we said goodbye to Lauren and her family and headed north. We stopped at a roadside stand to buy four flats of the most delicious peaches you will ever eat and made it to Kate's dad's house in Medford that evening.

I had a preconceived notion about Medford that was not all that positive. Little did I know.

Here's Clementine and Magnum P.I. playing with her $1.99 Thrifty 'Argain toy.

Kate has some connections in Medford and thanks to social networking, we were delivered a catered dinner by the pool. And a bunch of teenagers to hold babies and play with Sawyer.

And the next morning the back of the car looked like this:

Before we left Medford, Kate and I stumbled upon an unassuming little bakery in a strip mall near Freddy's. We thought we were going in for bagels, but I came out with a cheese danish, a cherry turnover, and a caramel dipped bran muffin. OMFG. That muffin. You have no idea. I am in love with this muffin. If you ever find yourself in Medford, it's the Barnett Road exit. Bring me back a dozen, please.

And that's it. My first ever roadtrip with Kate and her perfect hair. (She also had perfect eye makeup while we were in Medford, but that's another story.) I guarantee this will not be our last. If nothing else, I'm sure I can convince her to drive back to Medford for one of those bran muffins.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Gah. I've fallen miserably behind in my blogging this summer and I'm not even going to try to catch up today, but here's my July 4th festivities photo dump. My friend Kate (the one with beautiful hair and the amazing backyard) invited us over for a pool party, dinner, and fireworks. And patriotic popsicles, which is really about as patriotic as I can get.

When Clementine was born, my friend Amberlee observed, "Now finally one of the kids looks like Brent!" And then this picture came along...

You know how before you have kids you romanticized what their childhood summers will be like? This is exactly what I pictured.

Sawyer could still really use a nap during the day. Alas, we have no time for napping during this busy, let's-make-some-memories-dammit summer. So we did our fireworks before it got dark, which is always a bit anticlimactic.  By the time we got home our neighbors down the street were practically blowing up the entire block so the boys got to see some fireworks in the dark, too.

Then the next day we went up north to visit my friend Melanie. I met Melanie in a nutrition class at Portland Community College, probably sometime around 1999. She made me laugh, I got her a job at the animal hospital where I worked. Now with 5 kids between the two of us, she is still making me laugh. I'm not sure what I'm doing for her except bringing my herd of children to her house for a weekend of chaos.

Melanie and I still have a lot in common. She has two boys, I have two boys. She likes to drink wine, I like to drink wine. She works in a prison, I work in a middle school.

Some of my visits to Melanie have been more successful than others. 

We had pizza and hotdogs and watermelon and movie night. We played in the sprinkler and went to the zoo. The boys slept in one giant heap of sleeping bags and extremities while Melanie and I drank wine late into the night.

So, in other words, we partied like it was 1999.

Up next: California Road Trip 2013 with Kate and her beautiful hair. Spoiler alert: NO ONE POOPED ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD. It's kind of a miracle.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Enchanted Forest!

Ever since he could talk Jack has been curious about Enchanted Forest. "What even is that place?" he wanted to know every time we passed it on that often traveled stretch of I-5.

"Oh, that place? I don't know. I think it's closed," I fudged each and every time, knowing full well the world of veritable enchantment that lay beyond that overhanging foliage and those sloped roof cottages.

I remember going to Enchanted Forest on Willamalane no school day field trips and making best friends for a day with someone I'd never see again in my life. I remember ducking down into the damp darkness of the rabbit's hole. I remember spending my pocket money on cheap, plastic novelty items from the gift shop in the western town and coming home to show them proudly to my parents. And I certainly remember mustering the nerve to ride the rickety old roller coaster.

In the spirit of summer bucket lists, I told Brent that I thought it was time to take the kids to Enchanted Forest. "What even is that place?" was his response.

And I found it hard to describe Enchanted Forest to a person who grew up in San Diego and went to Disneyland for his class field trips. It's weird. But it's cool weird. It's just the Enchanted Forest. That was the best I could do.

Jack and Sawyer were beside themselves with excitement about this possibility. We looked it up online and measured everyone to make sure they could ride the roller coasters. I got sucked into the bizarre narrative about the history of Enchanted Forest. Jack scrolled through all the pictures over and over again. "This is going to be so awesome!" he repeated to anyone who would listen.

And then the big day came! We caravaned with some friends and were delayed by Sawyer's 20 minute visit to a gas station bathroom, but at last we arrived.

Everyone loved the Comedy Theater. We saw a modernized Pinocchio, which had the boys laughing like crazy and a Shrek-like touch of grown up humor to keep us all entertained.

Something about this next picture of Sawyer reminds me of my Grandma Catherine. Does anyone else see it?

Then we moved on to the kiddy rides. Sawyer cornered some kid on the bumper boats who kept shrieking "Don't bump me! Don't bump me!" which was hilarious and pathetic at the same time.

My god. This baby. She is the sweetest, cutest, happiest little thing. As my friend Melanie says, she's like a purse chihuahua.

Like brother like brother. Oh, these two.

I wondered if Sawyer would chicken out on the log ride. You can't see him, but he's in the boat and for the next few days he would tell everyone we saw about the "40 foot drop!"

Yes, Brent, just like I said. Cool weird.

Jack and Sawyer were all about the haunted house. We handed over our tickets just as a boy Jack's size came bawling out the front door. "Too scary for us!" explained the dad as they rushed back down the steps. "Are you guys sure about this?" I asked, giving them one last chance to back down.

They were sure. Until we got upstairs and they were both clinging to me with their hot and sweaty paws. "It's not for real. It's just pretend," Sawyer assured me as we navigated through familiar skeleton displays and dayglo zombie graveyard scenes.

They both emerged pale and clammy. "I wasn't even scared." Jack tried to save face. "Well, I was!" Sawyer exclaimed proudly.

After our friends left, Jack and Sawyer decided they wanted to see everything a second time.

And I got a chance to take the witch's mouth photo that is a requirement for all native Oregonian children.

When it was time to leave I could tell that they boys didn't want this day to end. "Please can we look in the gift shop?" they begged. "Can we get a souvenir?"

And even though we are not usually souvenir types, I remembered buying that crap myself when I was little. So when Sawyer picked out an oversized novelty pencil and Jack decided on a squishy rubber dachshund, I just handed over my debit card and smiled.