Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Birthday Girl - Miss Elizabeth

It has been crazy busy around here, so I have not had time to update everyone on all of the things going on.  

Last Wednesday, August 17, Elizabeth turned 10. I no longer have any children that are in the single digits. It feels kinda weird. 

Elizabeth was pretty pumped for her birthday. She talked about it for weeks on end prior to the actual day. I knew that Bob was going to be at a conference and would not be able to take the day off of work for her like he tries to always do for the kids on their birthdays, so I had a feeling that her birthday was not going to be quite up to snuff. I tried to make it the best that I could for her though because I knew how much the day meant to her. 

Andy made Elizabeth a boombox pinata which I thought turned out pretty cute. He cut a whole in the bottom of the pinata so that she could see what some of the candy was inside, but not all of it. Josh picked out "real" coke - the kind from Mexico that has sugar in it verse high fructose corn syrup. I made Elizabeth her birthday cake. I found a recipe for buttercream frosting and chocolate cupcakes that I liked and made the dress using directions from Pinterest. 

After opening presents I took the girls to get a pedicure. We came back to the house so Elizabeth could play with the American Girl outfits my mom and dad got her for her birthday and also to build a Lego set Bob and I got her.  We then picked up Josh from soccer tryouts and headed downtown on the train to check out a candy shop we heard was pretty cool and to also grab some dinner. Luckily for us the conference that Bob was attending was in downtown Portland, so he was able to meet us for dinner. 

After dinner we headed back to the house via the train and went to bed. Unfortunately, not every birthday is meant to be the best one and this one did not match up to some of the other birthdays that Elizabeth has had, so she was a little upset at bedtime. I could understand. Being a kid is hard sometimes and being disappointed about something as special as a birthday is bummer. Maybe next year will be better. 





Opening gifts.


Sharing a huge snow cone after we got off of the train. 

The shift that her dad made her.

The train stop that we got off at. 


This game is crazy...the gist is that you have to pick a jelly bean out of the box. Each jelly bean is either going to be one bad flavor (like rotten egg, puke, etc..) or one good flavor (like caramel or toffee). The kicker is that you don't know what flavor you are getting until after you take a bite of the jelly bean. 

Taking her first go at it. It ended up being a good taste. 

Good taste....

Checking out the back of the box to see which two flavors that the jelly bean in Sarah's had has the potential to be...


And it was the bad flavor...
Taking a bite...

Taking a bite...
And no bueno!


At the restaurant.



Me planting a smooch on Sarah's face. 

Saying goodbye to dad. 

Downtown....


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Lost Lake

We took a trip out to Lost Lake this past weekend. It was hot here for this part of the country and we knew that the Oregon coast was going to be a hot mess with traffic, so we decided to venture to the Mt Hood area. One of the lakes that I have most wanted to go to since we have moved here was Lost Lake. In the pictures that I looked at online it just seemed like a cool place to go. It took us two hours to get there as once you got off of the highway there was just one looonnnngggg road in and the same llllooooonnnngggg road out.  The drive was worth it though as Bob and I got to see some of the largest pine trees we have ever seen, the water was crystal clear throughout a good portion of the lake (even in the spots where it was clearly above our heads), and it wasn't so crowded that you couldn't enjoy yourself.


Boys waiting for the girls to get their boat pumped up.

T.G.F.D. - Thank goodness for Dad. Helping the girls get their boat blown up. 




This tree trunk may not look very big, but it was H-U-G-E. The trees surrounding this trunk were your regular sized pine trees. Look how little this big guy makes them look!













Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Settling In

Last weekend Bob took the four kids camping for the night while I had about 30 glorious hours to myself in my own home. Did I mention that it was glorious? Extended time alone. By myself. Alone. Without the hubby or kids. A-L-O-N-E!!! Here is a startling fact: since having children 16 years ago I have been alone in my house for the night one time. Yes, you read that right. Just one time and that was when Sarah was hospitalized and Bob (sensing that I was nearing my breaking point after spending night after night with her with no reprieve because I refused to leave her side) kicked me out of the hospital to go home for the evening. My other three kids were either with my mom & dad or my sister to whom I will always be eternally grateful for because of all of the help they gave to Bob and I that horrid 18 months when it seemed as if we were always on our way to the hospital or home from the hospital with Sarah. Anyway...I don't really count that as a night alone because my heart and mind were with Sarah that night even though my body was at home. The night alone was neither restful nor peaceful. But...last weekend. Holy cow. Unbelievable. It was so relaxing that I cannot wait to do it again. (Hint, Hint, honey.) I ran some errands like going to the library and the grocery store. Once I was home I just sat on my porch for hours and hours and read. And took the dogs for a walk and then read some more. A whole 30 hours without having to worry about anyone else, but myself. It was one of the best gifts Bob has even given to me.  Bob and the kids of course had a good time together and I am sure that they appreciated some time without me hovering over them. I think that I am the one that got the most out of it. And I am glad.

Sarah began her day camp yesterday. She had so much fun. The camp only has 3 other campers, but Sarah did not mind at all. She LOVED being with other people who are blind. It didn't (and doesn't) matter what age they are. She just wants to feel normal, and among other visually impaired people she does. It also helps immensely that all of the teachers at the camp are blind as well. Every. Single. One. And they are amazing successful. One just graduated with her Master's Degree in counceling and is going to be a school councelor this fall. Another owns her own montessori school like the ones you and I have in our own community. After one day I could tell that Sarah's confidence had grown immensely. What a gift this program is giving to her. It is allowing her to be with other children who are blind, but also allowing her to see successful adults who have not allowed being blind hinder them from a successful life. Do you want to read a scary fact I came across not too long ago?

70% of visually impaired people do not support themselves, but rather depend on the government to support them. 70 freaking %. I almost fell over when I read that fact. Of the 30% of adults who are able to support themselves 80% know Braille even though one can get along in life without actually knowing it because of today's technology. So....guess which camp Sarah is going to fall into. Yeah, the 30%. And guess who is so glad that she stressed learning Braille to her daughter? Yeah, this mama. After camp we are going to be jumping into contracted braille with both feet. My goal is to have Sarah be a proficient reader in this form of braille by this time next year. (She is already proficient in uncontracted braille, and a read a book to Bob and I last night in this format, but not much is printed using uncontracted braille, so contracted braille is vital to her success.)

I wonder why so many blind people do not work. I cannot even fathom Sarah not having a life and a job or a family or anything else she would have had prior to losing her vision. Depending on the government for Sarah's living as an adult is not an option for her (in Bob's and my eyes) because being blind isn't the end of the world. It is a stumbling block and nothing more. She is a fully capable human being able to contribute to society and support herself. 70%. Over my dead body.

Andy and Josh began soccer yesterday. Tryouts are next week. There 4 teams at the high school and there will be approximately 18 kids on each team. (The coach had 25 on each team in subsequent years, but is dropping that number this year.) There are over 100 kids trying out for these teams. Half of them are incoming freshman. The number of kids trying out is staggering. I feel very comfortable that my boys will make a team. The southwest more than adequately prepared them for playing up the in the northwest. The talent in the southwest is amazing and is top notch in my opinion. My boys were lucky to get exposure to that level of talent. The boys like the kids that they met yesterday. They said that the boys were very welcoming. (This is something that Andy did not feel in the southwest.) Josh even made his first "kinda" acquaintance. (Per his words.) I am hoping that my boys can make the same team. I love watching them play together. There is no way that either of them is going to make varsity. There are just too many kids trying out and enough kids with good talent that they will not be in the top 18 players, but I am hoping that they can each score a spot on the first JV team. (Josh's fear and mine too is that one of those JV teams will be solely for freshman. I don't want to sound like a cocky ass, but Josh is a really solid player. I am not sure he could really benefit from playing with a bunch of other freshman especially since we are no longer playing in an area with the consistent caliber of players the southwest offered. But what do I know? I am just a biased mom.)

Elizabeth is hoping to play recreational soccer this fall. I am trying to find a team for her. In the meantime, she is busy making friends in the complex where we live. She is excited to begin classes in a few weeks at the coop we have selected to be a part of.

We are very much settling in to life in Portland. We still plan on taking weekend trips although I think that this will wane a bit as we get into a life with kids and the time commitment this requires. We plan on taking a day trip this weekend to Hidden or Mirror Lake. I will be sure to post pictures.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What We Are Up To These Days

We just got back from a short last minute trip to Ohio. There were many people that we wanted to see, but did not have a chance to. Very few people even knew we were in town. I found really cheap tickets and had to book them before our life began out here in earnest and would prolong our journey east even more than the 8 months since we had been back last time.

We are all tired out today and are spending the day lounging around the house. It's been a nice summer. I didn't schedule activities for the kids.  I didn't rush them into this thing or that. We just chilled and it was the best decision I could have made for our family. It was our time. Unknown to anybody in this community we were able to explore and just be together. It was a perfect transition to this new part of the country.

But....life must go on and the realities of having children mean that we must jump back into the chaos of activities. Now that Bob is working first shift and we have two vehicles again I am hoping that he will be able to help me cart these kiddos around in the evenings so that responsibility isn't solely on my shoulders as it has been for the last four years while Bob has worked second shift or been on a temporary work assignment in another state. I am worn out from being the sole chauffeur and I relish in the idea of having a partner to help out with this sometimes exhausting task.

So, here's the lowdown on what is happening in the Gregg family:

Bob

Bob is working hard and doing a good job in his new position. He doesn't like when I talk about him on my blog nor does he like how much I share with you because he is such a private person, but he tolerates this space because he knows how much it means to me and how much you enjoy seeing/hearing about our life. So, that is all that I am going to share about him.

Me

Because of the increase in cost to live in the Pacific Northwest I am looking for a part time job. I wish that I did not have to get one because I already have so much on my plate, but the reality is that I have four kids with increasing appetites and increasing expenses for their activities. I will not lie and say that I do not question our move here because I do. I am worried that the sacrifices that we have made to move here are not going to be worth it. We knew going into this move that we were moving laterally in order to make Bob more marketable for the future, but I wonder if we weren't just foolish moving to a place where the cost of living is this high. Plus, I miss New Mexico. Still. A lot. Our bed is beside a window in our room and every night I look out and say goodnight to New Mexico. I look at the moon and the stars and imagine myself walking the dogs in my old neighborhood in the dark of night that only New Mexico can offer. I miss my community of friends. My posse. I miss my kids' friends as well.  New Mexico is my home and I feel a bit lost without it.

The Kiddos

Josh is having the hardest time adjusting to life in Portland. He wants to move back to Ohio and play soccer with old buddies, but at the same time misses his Rio teammates too. He has no interest in making friends here and I worry that Bob and I have broken his heart one too many times by asking him to say good-bye to the people he loves again and again.

Andy is doing better here than in New Mexico, but also wants to move back to Ohio. I have tried to tell both of my boys that Ohio is different now. People who were once friends are no longer friends any more. All of the boys that they hung out with have grown and changed in the (almost) two years that we have been gone. If we moved back to Ohio it would not be the same and I know that they would be disappointed with the changes. At the same time, I understand what it is like to move to a new state when you are a teenager. For years after we moved to Ohio from New York I wanted to move back. I envisioned this glorious life in New York when the reality was that I only remembered the good things without also recalling the bad that always comes with building a life.

The girls are doing well. They are adjusting nicely. Sarah seems to be doing the best here and has made tremendous strides to do things on her own. She will be attending a day camp for two weeks beginning next week that is designed specifically for visually impaired children. The focus on the camp is to help the children learn skills to enable them to become more independent. She is so excited. Bob and I are excited for her. (If you want more information on this check out: Bell Academy.) Sarah is also going to be tested by the local school district to see if she qualifies for an IEP. (Which she will.) The school system here provides services to homeschooled students who need them, so depending on what Sarah will need the school district will provide them to us free of charge. This is a nice option to have should we choose to pursue these services. We will know more about what they are going to offer Sarah once she is tested for her IEP in the fall. Miss Elizabeth may be playing soccer in the fall. We were not in town for the signups and I am trying to see if there is team that has a roster spot that will take her. She enjoys playing soccer very much. We shall see...

Both boys will be beginning soccer next week. They are going to be trying out for the high school team right down the road. I feel confident that both boys will find a roster spot.

As for schooling - the children are all going to take classes at a program through Village Home. This will enable me to still "homeschool" per the state of Oregon, but in essence we will be having the kids take classes of their choice through this program. I will still most likely tackle History at home as it appears to be a subject we all like doing together, but for the rest of their schooling I don't really want to be the sole provider of their education anymore. Sending them back to public school isn't an option, so I am thankful that I live in an area where there are alternative choices.

I feel that the overtone of this post is doom and gloom. Really - it isn't like that, but I do think that it is realistic to say that while moving around the country certainly has its perks there are consequences to the life we have chosen to live. And what we are going through as a family right now with this transition is hard. I think that it makes it harder still because we know that we won't be here long. And so, the kids don't want to get attached to people and places here because they know that this is just another temporary living arrangement until the next step is to be taken. I just have to have faith and trust that we will be taken care of and provided for by a higher power than myself.

I think that once the kids resume their normal activities life will get some sort of normalcy for them and transitioning here will be a bit easier. Life is really is good even when it is hard.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Willamette National Forest - 3 Pools

While planning out this weekend last week I ran across an article and some pictures on a place called Three Pools. I was intrigued as to where this place was because the pictures looked so stunning. After doing some research I found that Three Pools is located in the Willamette National Forest approximately 90 minutes from our home. It is part of the Willamette River and is full of small water falls and deep pools of water - hence the name Three Pools. The river glides along at a lazy pace until it hits one of these small water falls and then usually cascades down into the rocks below forming little pools of water that in some placed were 12+ feet deep. The water had an aqua color to it and was crystal clear. You could see all of the things below you even in the deepest parts of the Three Pools area. Another cool thing about the river was that the depth changed constantly. One minute you would be standing in water that was just inches deep and then you would take one step forward, left, right, or back and the depth would be different. It was this way throughout the entire river system.

As we go to these different locations we learn some tricks here and there to make our adventures a bit more fun. One of the things that we quickly learned is that we need to always bring rafts/floats with us. The water here is so cold (weather it is the ocean, river, lake, etc..) that it really isn't good for swimming, but it is tolerable if you have a raft to float on. Sometimes we cannot use our rafts - like in the ocean, but it is nice to have them just in case. Today we not only were able to use our floats, but we needed to. Elizabeth and Bob were the only ones brave enough to put their heads under the water and that was only once or twice each when they jumped into the pools from the rocks above.

We had so much fun today. It was a really good day. This place was so cool I think we just may come back again...

The river is down a trail behind that little cabin. The pine trees are so tall here as you can tell (I hope) by this picture.

Making our way down to the river. 


One of the pools. 




The water below this driftwood was about 5 feet deep. I wasn't brave enough to see if it would hold my weight. 



























In the midst of all of this fun it is easy to forget that you are in the mountains. 







The water was deep in parts of this section. The area to the right were very deep. 


Me and the kiddos bunched up together. 






It was so cool because the river doesn't look very deep here, and in some parts it isn't deeper than a few inches, but 1 foot over from the shallows would be a spot in the river that was 3 feet. 




People (and Elizabeth) were jumping from the rocks into the water below.





Going home.