Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Return of Summer, Hot & Sweaty

I will not complain...too much. Summer was too long coming to Portland to complain of the heat now. Being pregnant in the heat is no picnic, but I'd rather have chores piling up because it's too hot to be inside than because the rain is making me too depressed to move.

But things are looking up finally... I made some iced coffee which was nice in itself, but it pleased the man so much it made it twice as nice! Not only that, but we sat in our plastic deck chairs at the side of the kiddie pool, soaking our feet, sipping our deliciousness-on-ice, just pleased as pie at how much better we felt outside. When my glass was empty, I just decided it was time to take the plunge into the grass- and toy-infested waters myself, clothes and all, which delighted the little ones to no end, who immediately dog-piled my pregnant body. AHHHHHH, REFRESHING!! Then we turned down pleas from the older ones to visit the local public pool in exchange for spending the last of our vacation money on going to see WALL*E as a family....a perfect air-conditioned ending to this hot and sweaty day. And to top it all off, I found something cute to wear to church tomorrow, again getting creative with the clothes I have rather than fork it out for billowy maternity dresses. (I'll admit, however, that I spent the day in a very comfortable -and kind to the sunbrnt, pregnant body- Mu'u Mu'u, which I got from Hawai'i and not from the Polyesters-R-Us Catalog, no offense you-know-who!)

This is the road into the Cove Palisades Campground, near Lake Billy Chinook. It's definately the desert side of Mt. Hood, and reminds us of good 'ole California in the rocky, dry, "maybe it will spontaneously catch fire" sort of beauty. There were Hawks circling the river and lake all the time, who no doubt roost in the rocky cliffs...that was pretty cool. We actually saw a deer and a wild rabbit, and the kids were chasing lizards --um, excuse me-- "Geckos" (but I'm not so sure about the scientific accuracy of that label) every day, and even incorporated them into their playing "house" games.

Camping was a little less satisfying than I expected...and I blame most of it on being 5 months pregnant. I was so wiped out most of the time, and NOT in the mood to be "missional" with my vacation. I wanted to be alone with my brood, with space for wildlife between us and the next family...but that's not how it came to pass. As it turned out (and I should've known this when I booked a campsite that seemed to "overlap" the campsites that flanked it, however perfectly close to the playground and bathrooms it was), we were in the dinkiest campsite, wedged between the Clackamas Middle School Girls' Soccer team and the neighborly Perpetual Campers, whose stay is indefinite because, we speculated, it's cheaper than renting an apartment. This was the worst part, and I'll do all my complaining about this quick so I can end on what I loved. Understand that it's not that I hate people or that I don't want to minister to the neighborhood children (that's actually my dream) but I just didn't have it in me to be social, and thank God (seriously) I have a husband who should totally be running Summer Backyard Kid's Clubs because he was SO awesome at reaching out to this family when I was just struggling to not come off as a total anti-social. David is SO good with the kids! These two smudgy little muchkins were at our campsite from the moment they crawled out of their tents in the morning to come and beg us for bacon until they left with s'mores stuck to their faces at night. Then there was their 12-year old "brother" who was really the little ones' uncle, I think, who would just plop himself down in one of our camp chairs and challenge everything--everything--that David said or did, from how to chop wood, to video game experience. He was disrespectful not only to David, but to his mom and dad especially, which was really annoying...but also really sad. His parents are in their late 50's and possibly retired, possibly with disability, and they have custody of their grandkids (pictured s'mores munchers), so this kid is probably in need of a Big Brother. I'm not sure what exactly God wanted by putting us next to this friendly but boundary-less family, and maybe my pregnant lethargy/bad attitude was getting in the way, but we opened up our vacation and let them in, mostly thanks to David's big heart and gift for loving people. David was especially awesome when we were packing up, and Trey (the little boy) was following him around, wanting to help him with everything, hanging on David's every word. Dave taught him how to "munch" the camp chairs and the tent poles with the bags they get packed in, and would repeat David's rules, like "munch it all up!" and "tie it tight!" When everything was packed, he announced "it's time to load it up [in the trailer]! Load this stuff up!" And when we were all done and ready to roll, Trey wondered if David was going to stay while the rest of us went home. So cute! Hmmm....I'm getting a clearer picture of what to pray for this family, and if I can be faithful to pray and that's the only reason God put us there, that's good enough for me.
Other than the lack of campsite personal space, it was a good spot: the playground was right next to us so the kids could run off and play anytime and could still be seen, there was a loop around it where they could ride their bikes endlessly, and there were huge boulders for bouldering...or playing house, depending on your outdoor experience. This was the first time Morgen had a bike of her very own to ride and she LOVED it. It was so awesome to hear her little voice asking "mommy, can I ride my bike?" I love that she has a bike she can call her own. Then she would strap on her little hand-me-down helmet and go!

For three days we would just hang out at Lake Billy Chinook swimming, building sand walls, rowing around in our awesome inflatable boat (and dreaming of the day when we'll have a ski boat and all the kids get to bring a friend on our family ski trip). Pretty much doing what we came for: relaxing.

Here are some more pictures:
The swimming hole at The Cove Palisades

Mich loves the freedom his Life Jacket affords him.
He loves the water and is pretty much fearless!

Yum...PB&J and chips...lots of chips!
Better known as "camping food"

Grab a snack and back down to the construction site!

Korah liked to wrap herself in her towel and go lay in the sun
on the warm sand, while the rest of us were sweating in
the shade or jumping in the water to cool off!

Mommy & Morgen time

Looking for Geckos...
...and that squirrel that kept getting into our lunch!

Micah's living the good life!

Aren't we all? That was pretty much it, except for our 8-hour adventure getting there, where we broke down, prayed for guidance and God sent an angel (who pulled over behind us for some random reason and just happened to have knowledge and experience with our EXACT problem) who went above and beyond to help us with our car troubles and get us on our way.... but that's a story for another time...

Monday, June 23, 2008

SOOOO excited!

We are SO excited to go camping next week! David set up the tent in the front yard to make sure we had all the parts, and the kids immediately set up their sleeping bags in there. It was hard to get them out and into their real beds tonight!

I remember using this tent when Korah was a baby and we set up the playpen in there for her, and there was plenty of room left. Now all four kids get in there and I had to wonder where we were going to sleep! So it looks like if things go as planned, it will kinda be like home, with the kids all goofin' around in one tent while we get our own little space to keep clean and tidy in another tent. :D

Now you may or may not be a "camper" but we absolutely thrive on camping. Yes, the dirty, smokey, tent kind of camping where you cook your meals on the fire pit and it takes a half an hour to boil water for a cup of coffee. For some reason, being out in the middle of somewhere new, surrounded by the sounds of different wildlife and neighbor campers, with new rocks to overturn and new trees to hide behind, the kids get along swimmingly for DAYS on end. Dave just builds fires and plays guitar. I journal and read to my heart's content...or I just sit there in my camping chair with my head leaned way back to stare up into the tall trees, listening to the birds chatting about all the wonderful Vonder-crumbs to eat and the kids inventing some new adventure, and I simply enjoy the absence of a to-do list. Now that I've figured out how to prepare food with little to no work or dishes, camping has become so rejuvenating for me. And maybe because I am relaxed, the whole family relaxes ('cuz if mama ain't happy, you know...) and our whole family is simply recharged at the end of our time. Exhausted and wishing we could camp forever, but full of gladness that we went. There are no playdates to drag our kids away, none of our grown-up obligations. It's just us and we love on each other and love Jesus together and I just love camping. Camping is my favorite!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

In Loving Memory...

Ralph Arthur Youmans
March 11, 1920 - June 17, 2008
88 years

Laid to rest in Oregon on June 20th, 2008

"May the Divine assistance remain always with us and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

This was my first official funeral. I really didn't know what to expect-- like, was everyone going to be sobbing or was it going to be all stoic with fancy black hats and rain? Was it going to be open-casket, or a mysterious box that could have been just for show for all I know? Well, it turns out that when you know the person who died, you just go. It doesn't matter what you wear or how your emotions are treating you, or if you approach the site laughing because the kids you came with are joyously yelling "HI!!" to all the relatives they are recognizing at such a somber occasion. You go because the person meant something to you, and you stand there to represent that relationship. You listen to the words spoken, the songs sung. If you are moved to tears, you are free to flow. If you are moved to joy, you smile and praise God! Oh, and it turned out to be the most beautiful day of the year so far in this area. Surrounded by snowcapped mountains, forests, and wildflower-sprinkled rolling hills, I felt like I was back in the valleys of Austria. It was truly lovely. The picture and words above were from the prayer card the Father gave us.

It began with a soldier playing taps on a modified bugle. I couldn't tell if he was really playing or just cheek-syncing. I've heard taps played by a true bugler and it's very moving. Today's effect was more like pushing play on a boom box to play a wedding march...a little disappointing, so I had to do a little research. I found out here that this soldier was definitely cheek-syncing and there were definitely buttons involved. Oh well. Moving on...

As soon as Taps was finished, Aunt Mary remarks, "Someone can't carry a tune!" Which is hilarious because that soldier wasn't even responsible for that tune and it was so far away she probably couldn't hear it anyway! Vikki told me she'd been wisecracking all weekend. I haven't decided if that is sad or funny.

The soldier came around and met his counterpart at the coffin to ceremoniously fold the American Flag draped across. As long as that takes, I always find it fascinating to watch, and I like to let it reignite the patriotism within me. The counterpart presented the folded flag to Mary with some words she had to lean in to hear, then she sat back and said, "Did you have to learn all that?" Echoes of "oh grandma!" are heard all around. I'm loving it...and realizing that it is more funny than sad. Cierra, accompanied by her brother Brandon, sang Amazing Grace, Uncle Ralph's favorite hymn. She was beautifully overcome with emotion after the first verse, so Laura stepped in with Brandon to sing the rest. It was a beautiful show of love for their Grandpa, and support of each other, something that Ralph himself set a standard for. The Father said some words and prayed, and I can only remember the part that brought me to tears: he spoke about Jesus conquering death by his own death and resurrection, and how because of that, the grave no longer represents sadness, but to believers it means hope and life. I love that Truth! Personally, I picture Ralph patiently waiting for Mary to be by his side again, a little sorry that he broke their pact for her to go first and for him to follow. And when he's ready, he'll be catching up on hugs and kisses with his sister and brothers and other loved ones who have already made it to heaven. Jumping around in their new bodies, for sure!
The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
Your sun will never set again,
and your moon will wane no more;
the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your days of sorrow will end.
Isaiah 60.19,20

After the funeral we headed to Tom & Adrienne's for food and remembering...I think all of Ralph's children and grandchildren were there, as well as a bunch of great-grandchildren running around, finding the fattest earthworm for Jake to eat for $100 (a collection was taken!). I sat around with mostly my second cousins, the "first cousins". Judy had to get a picture of them all because they are almost never all together in the same place all at once. It was beautiful to hear their stories about Grandpa. He was a hard worker, with very little patience (from which they learned patience), maybe a bit proud, but he had a servant's attitude, and lived to help others. Especially his Mary... it was profound the way he loved Mary. I heard a story of one of Ralph's recent stays in the hospital, where upon waking up from the surgery, he looked around the room desperately, his eyes passing over all the familiar faced until they landed on the face of his Beloved, and he reached out a hand for her to grasp onto, as if to say "I'm back! I haven't left you yet!" He felt a strong duty to take care of his wife...but it was more than duty. He loved his Mary and didn't think anyone could take care of her better than he could, and he was probably right! I hope to be married that long and have a love that deep when we are in our 80's...

Some of the boys were reminiscing about the things that Grandpa taught them, like how to fold a painting drop-cloth, not unlike how the soldiers folded the flag, with ceremonious exactness. He would get so frustrated with them not doing it right, and then they'd just start to mess with him until he understood... but today they won't stand for a tarp or dropcloth to be folded any other way! More than once I heard my cousins say that Grandpa taught them how to drive, and then we would talk about what a crazy speed-demon he was in the end... but there's no way anyone could have ever convinced him to give up his right to drive! I rode with him and Mary once recently, and while I have to admit I was a little nervous, I was struck with how Mary was totally unfazed by the speed and the quick turns. She was totally at peace letting her husband be in control. I just chose to believe that she has learned a beautiful respect for her husband.

I love the fact that Ralph invested so much in his grandchildren's lives. Not having had grandparents close to me, a cross-generational relationship is hard for me to fathom. Yet I can see the humongous legacy that Ralph left through his relationship with his grandchildren. It is certainly enviable. He set a foundation that this family is so obviously rooted in, one of mutual and unconditional respect and love. His family is most certainly not perfect, and has most definitely had it's share of trials and hardships, but they stick by each other and walk through things together, so that here we are at the end of a road, in the wake of a death, and there is probably more love and acceptance in this congregation than at any church you will ever find. From their marriage, to the birth of Kathy to the newest little Layla, this family has journeyed together to this place, and I am thankful to be a part of it, even if just on the fringes. Enviable indeed.

Rest in peace and praises to Jesus, Uncle Ralph....
(...say hi to grandma for me!)