Monday, September 28, 2009

Bye bye Portland.....

Don't be a stranger!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Portland Trip: The List

So I found this fantastic list and decided to make it the centerpiece for our trip to Portland. I thought it was a great compilation of Portland standards (the Children's Museum, the Zoo) and less-known only-in-Portland experiences (the City Blocks Farmer's Market, Voodoo Donuts).

We had a great time tackling THE LIST. Of the 50 Things to Do with Your Kids in Portland Before They Grow Up.... only 38 activities were even possible to do (12 were out-of-season). So out of the 38, we completed 26 during our three weeks in Portland. Among our favorites....

#21 Riding MAX

#36 Eating an oreo & glazed covered donut at Voodoo Donut

#2 The Jamison Square water fountain in the Pearl District

#11 Playing on a dormant volcano above the trees at Mt. Tabor

#23 The Children's Museum

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Portland Trip: Grant Park

I read Ribsy and Henry Huggins to Asher this summer as an introduction to chapter books. When I told him that we were going to see Henry and Ribsy in Portland, he was very excited! Unfortunately, I forgot to explain that Henry and Ribsy were bronze statues in a water monument dedicated to Beverly Cleary at Grant Park (BC grew up in Portland and many of her books are set there). Asher forgave me, and we had a fun day seeing the statues, playing in the water and exploring the park.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Portland Trip: Grandparents Picnic

Asher and Noe are lucky to have all of their great grandparents still living (on my side). We held a picnic in their honor during our visit home. It was a bit chaotic, but definitely memorable. Before the end of the day we had nursed kids with bee stings and called an ambulance for my Grandpa Razz (not pictured). Here is Asher with my mom's parents, Jay and Colene Mattson.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Save the Date

Some dates on a calendar are easy to remember and need no explanation: January 1, December 25, 9/11, Fourth of July, just to name a few. Other dates take on personal meaning, like birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

Today, September 21, falls in the latter category for me and my parents. It was on this day 18 years ago I flew back East to go to prep school for the first time.

The roots of this moment took hold more than a year earlier when my East L.A. junior high school set up a scholarship program in which two or three kids would go to a New England boarding school starting with their sophomore year of high school (we were grades 7-9 at the time). I was in eighth grade then and I figured if I kept getting strong grades, I might have a shot at this.

A year later, the first two students from our school go East. What we didn't know at the time was that one of them got terribly homesick and decided to come back after only one week.

I was sitting in math class on Wednesday, September 18, when an office messenger came in and handed a note to the teacher. The teacher looked confused, but then walked up to my desk and handed me the note. I needed to see the assistant principal. I had no idea why.

I get to the office and he calmly explains to me that he helped set up this scholarship program in our school and that one of the kids who went this year came back. Not only that, but the prep school had an opening for a ninth-grade boy. So with this extra scholarship in hand, would I be willing to take their place immediately and fly out on Saturday, September 21?

I said I would.

It seemed like a golden opportunity to get a better education, which would lead to better options for college and beyond. Plus, I was 14 years old so it wasn't like I was fully able to comprehend exactly what I was about to embark on. So leading up to it and even when I first got to my new school, I was pretty calm. It was all happening so fast that there really was no time to feel homesick or overwhelmed.

My parents, however, were another story. I'm an only child, so to have to tell them that I was going to go away to school at 14 and, oh yeah, that they only have three days to wrap their heads around that concept was quite jarring.

They came in that afternoon to speak with the assistant principal and in his best broken Spanish (with me translating some), he tried to tell them what going to a school like this would mean for my future and how well I'd be taken care of and that I'd be able to come home for Christmas and spring break. All the while, my mom and dad sat there, stone-faced.

Finally, they looked at me and asked me if I wanted to do this. After I said yes, they said (at great pain, by the looks on their faces) they would do everything to support me. I don't know what would have happened if they had said no, but deep down I figured they would understand. They always stressed education with me and even though it was now unfolding in a surprising manner, they remained supportive. For which I'm eternally grateful.

After two days of frantic packing, Saturday morning came. It was time to go to the airport and start a journey that would eventually take us to places previously unseen by the family. A high school and college graduation. A son's life built primarily on the East Coast. Grandchildren born in Manhattan, with grandparents who were born in rural Mexico.

It's a quiet life we've carved for ourselves out here, with children, school, errands and work filling most of our days. But I always wonder how different it would have been if it hadn't been for what happened on this day 18 years ago, when everything changed.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Portland Trip: Jet Boating on the Willamette River

I found an ad for a jet boat cruise along the Willamette River (the river that runs through downtown Portland) and decided that the boys would love it. My sister and I booked reservations for our kids on a hot Portland afternoon. Noe refused to wear his life jacket and Asher was so nervous he clung to his jacket (and to me). Asher and his cousin hardly looked up during the entire one hour ride. The first couple of times we got soaked in the boat was fun, but then we were just plain cold. Regardless, it was fun to see downtown Portland from the water, feel the speed of the boat and learn a little bit of Portland history.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Portland Trip: The Oregon Coast

Despite the prerequisite sweatshirts, we enjoyed relatively good weather on our day trip to the Oregon Coast. There are few things that make Noe happier than a day at the beach.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Portland Trip: The Ride Along

This is my brother. Isn't he cute in his police uniform?

One of the best things I did on our trip was tag along with my brother Dave for an early morning ride along. Initially disappointed that we weren't allowed to take free treats from Starbucks (police rules), the day improved dramatically when we busted an alleged prostitution ring run out of a mobile home, complete with drugs and hooker underwear.

It is a funny dad was always worried about Dave finding his place in the world. Now, barely in his thirties, he has a career that he truly loves and a beautiful family. His sister, 18 months his senior, on the other hand, still can't figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. Maybe my dad should have been more concerned about his overachieving oldest.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Portland Trip: Recap

The word that keeps coming to mind when I think about our three weeks in Portland is IDYLLIC. Waking up to a grand adventure of our choosing every day. Best friend cousins to share hugs and trains. Powell's Books. Grandma's giant multi-leveled backyard full of summer flowers, fresh fruit and dotted with toys for grandkids. Geocaching in the neighborhood of our youth, equipped with i-phones and goldfish crackers. Fresh Burgerville milkshakes. Seventy-five degree days followed by cool summer nights on the back deck wrapped in blankets reading Beverly Cleary over the lullabies of crickets. Magical playgrounds discovered in the trees above the city. Riding MAX. Soft-serve ice cream cones enjoyed with great-grandparents.....four generations bonded by a love of chocolate and vanilla. Digging holes in the cool, soft Oregon coast sand and watching our feet turn blue in the surf. Soft H2O. Looking for bad guys with my brother the cop on an early morning ride-along in outer SE....

There is something equally strange and wonderful about watching your own kids walk in your childhood haunts.

I think we all learned things from our time away. I learned....or at least was reminded that... Ed is the best thing in my life and I never want to be without him for long. I also believe now that Ed is the best thing in the lives of our boys (yes, I admit, he handles discipline much better than I do). I also recommitted myself to getting us back to Portland in the next five years or so. I have enjoyed our East Coast adventures, but I love Portland. I am Portland.

Asher learned that having cousins is pretty awesome. And sometimes Grandmas do special things that moms just don't think planning an awesome hiking adventure or pulling out a new Thomas train the very day that he is going to have to watch another cousin get inundated with birthday gifts. Asher also learned that Oregon rain is more gentle than Virginia rain, even if it lasts longer....and the ocean water at Grandma's house is MUCH colder than the ocean water at Abuelo's house.

Noe learned that there are a lot of people in his life that love him and expect hugs and kisses when they see him. He learned that when he gets on an airplane, he is free of school and long therapy least until he comes home on another airplane. He can eat cookies for breakfast if he requests them independently and he can ride his bike in the street with mom at Grandma's house....there just aren't as many cars as back home. Final lesson (hopefully): Good things await when forced to wear a life jacket, so it's not worth the fight.

Photos coming soon....