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Portland for Lilly's birthday
posted by John : April 8-12, 2009

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First, a disclaimer: The story and pictures are from April 10-12 even though Amy and the kids were in Portland for April 8-9, too. However, being the photohog I kept the camera with me up north so I could bring you riveting stories not involving the kids like How I was going to go nightshoeing until my nightshoe partner forgot her boots and Yet another trip up a minor peak with a bunch of crazy hikers.

I also have little information about what happened before I arrived in Portland on Friday. My day started when I got up too early on a vacation day and met Carl (usually, "Papa," but in this context he's just "Carl" cuz calling him "Papa" with no kids around would be weird) for a ride to the train station. I've taken the train a couple of times before and it's not a bad way to travel. This time I'd been promised wifi so I was content to hack away at pictures, video, and maybe the odd e-commerce site (with permission, of course), but naturally the train had no wifi and I was stuck watching Bolt on a tiny TV that had the Amtrak logo burned in right in the middle of the picture.

Train issues notwithstanding, I rolled into Vancouver (far easier to get to than Portland for Amy and the pick-up crew) only a little late and was treated to a bunch of hugs and high pitched screams of, "Daddy!" when I got off the train. Gramps was in the car, so this time the high-pitched screams weren't his.

In addition to being family reunification day Friday was also Lilly's fourth birthday. Her big surprise was an actual two-wheel bike (now known as her "training wheel" bike) and a new helmet. Unlike the bike we bought for Clara when she turned four, this one is deliberately small and not likely to last for more than a year or two as long as Lilly keeps growing. We immediately headed outside to take it for a spin.

Lilly did really well and managed to pedal around the deserted streets outside Grams' and Gramps' home. Even though we saw only one car in the hour we were out Grams kept a close eye on anything that sounded car-like. Her reasoning was that everyone around there was old and nobody could see worth a darn. I always thought everyone was really friendly because they were always waving at me, but it turns out they just couldn't tell if they knew me or not and were just playing it safe.

While Lilly was getting the hang of her new bike we convinced Clara it was time for her to take the training wheels off her bike. She's been ready for a while now, but the lack of a smooth surface to help her gain confidence at home has held us back. However, a couple of whacks with the pliers (you're supposed to just hit the nut until the bolt breaks, right?) and she was down to just two wheels. Her initial runs were great, except for turning. Unfortunately, she started getting a little spooked and determined that at the slightest threat she'd try to jump off the bike. Needless to say, it didn't get much better after that.

You can see a great example of our mad parenting skillz and Lilly's determination by watching a quick video of Lilly's first ride. Pay special attention to Lilly's declarations throughout. They are Lilly at her finest.

The next day we were set to focus on Gramps who celebrated a birthday milestone slightly larger than Lilly's. We all headed over to Shannon and Chris' house for a cousin brouhaha (a real word, look it up!), egg hunt, and pie extravaganza. The kids had a blast chasing each other around, playing with a bubble sword, and cheating the neighbor kids out of their rightful share of the egg booty hidden in the cul-de-sac. Of the 20 or so kids I think 18 were ours. (That might be not quite strictly speaking true, but Amy and I sure felt guilty about it anyway.)

Highlights from the egg hunt included Henry rebonding with Uncle Boppi (Daddy? Who's Daddy? I have Uncle Boppi, now.), the girls finding eggs someone (not naming any names) might have planted in the pockets for Grams and Gramps, and the collection of vast sums of loose change and sugar snacks. (Don't worry, the change is going directly into their dental funds.)

Instead of cakes we had pie, pie, pie, and more pie. (Seriously, there were four pies.) Although I can't support any pie that isn't a berry pie (and blackberry is best, of course) others seemed to really like the variety of pies. Gramps had several samples himself, and I believe he got the pies to take home, too.

After jacking the kids up on sugar and pie we headed to meet up with Goggi and the upstairs family. (We'd stayed their Friday night, but it was a late arrival and an early departure so it hardly counted.) Laurel was home from college in Eugene (boo! hiss!) and Aubrey was around, too, so the kids were in heaven. Even Henry got in on the act with his new yell of, "Awww-BEE! ARRR-oo?" We skipped naps entirely and that set up an afternoon of constant tension and danger as the kids were all at their breaking points. Still, we all survived and prepared for church the next morning.

Keep in mind, as you read this next part, that I grew up all Catholic. Or at least technically Catholic, so I'm a fan of the Mass (with a capital M) and if there's Latin involved so much the better. Amy's Lutheran, which her parents assure me is pretty much Catholicism with divorce, but I'm not 100% sure about that. I once saw a guitar at one of their services. So, naturally, the girls have grown up to think of church as a quiet place for reflection and lots of shushes while the Priest/Pastor is speaking.

So as we pull up in our two-car caravan to drop people off at the front doors of Paul and Rose's church it was a bit shocking to see an awful lot of tattoos and guitar-wielding folks. (And these were devil guitars with electric cords and everything!) I parked and walked for what seemed a really long time to get back to the church, arriving just as the service was starting. (Total distance was about a mile with maybe 25 feet of gain. Nah, I'm just kidding. The gain was a little less.)

Paul was waiting for me, which was a really good thing because I would never have found him. The first mistake I would have made would have been trying to go into the main room. It was packed tighter than many of the concerts I remember from my misspent youth and the music was about as loud. (Need an investment tip? Figure out which drug cures tinnitus and buy, buy, BUY!) Of course, we weren't in there.

We were in the overflow room. No, not that overflow room. The second overflow room. And these weren't small rooms. This was a church that was really connecting with its people. The service was projected on a screen, but the others in the room helped make it more than just a service projected on a screen. At least they did for me.

At one point Clara leaned over and... "I thought we were going to church! When do we get to go in?" Uh oh. So we explained to her that it was too crowded and we couldn't get in that part. She accepted it and we moved on. Until Lilly asked pretty much the same question. Before we could answer Clara piped up. "This is church, Lilly. It's TV church."

After the service ended Paul and I hiked off into the vast parking lot and retrieved the vehicles, picked up our charges, and headed home. Auntie Nicole, Uncle Boppi, and Molly joined us soon after. With everyone assembled we conducted another egg hunt and increased our stockpile of goods well beyond what we could ever actually consume. The girls chased the cats (no wonder they hide whenever we're around) and the rest of us talked and cooked (ok, I didn't cook) and generally had a good time.

After a late lunch we packed up and headed out. Amazingly, we got everything into the truck even though it included an extra bike and a huge suitcase that was supposed to go home with NanaPapa. (They hadn't been able to make the trip, unfortunately.) The ride home was full of traffic and freak weather that had everyone on I-5 driving at 30 mph with their hazard lights on for a mile or so. It was almost a five hour trip, but the kids managed it pretty well. And since they were ok, we were ok.

We pushed them into jammies and bed and had a quiet evening before getting ready to gear up for the week ahead that promises to be eventful, to say the least.

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