Horseback riding (and grooming) in Sherwood; Gearhart and Tillamook for the weekend

April 6, 2012 at 4:46 am (Uncategorized)

Since I worked on Thursday of our spring break and it was Dave who was in charge of the girls, I know precious little about their horseback riding experience, save for what they shared with me and what Dave covered via video on his iPhone (soon to be uploaded here). I know that the facilities at the Sherwood-based Iron Horse Riding Academy were clean, spacious and cold. I know that both girls got to ride Ochi, which was “their” chestnut horse’s nickname; I never could make out his entire name from the way Hayley pronounced it. And, I’m assuming Alyssa really didn’t know his full name, either, as she’d have blurted it out when Hayley was in the midst of massacring it. But Alyssa didn’t. So Ochi it is.

The actual riding of Ochi was fun and all, I’m sure, but the best part was grooming him. The girls groomed lucky Ochi simultaneously; Hayley got his right side, Alyssa his left. I was impressed that arrangement worked out; in fact, I was downright skeptical that it actually had. Until I saw the choppy video and immediately noticed just how tall Ochi was in comparison to my two elementary-school students. Hayley — dressed just as the Brits do for riding in her B. B. Camp sweat pants, mock Ugg boots, hoodie sweatshirt of some stripe and riding hat — ecstatically brushed Ochi, making rainbow-like arcs on Ochi’s glistening flank with her borrowed horsey brush. Way up and over the other side of this horse (who was 28 years old, I learned; no WONDER he was the one selected for my girls) worked Alyssa (dressed just as apres-horseback-riding fashionable as her sister), creating an equally lovely gloss on the left flank. Ochi, that damned calm horse, just stood there, blinking every once in a while his impressively large, brown eyes, like it was just another day at the salon.

On Friday, Dave sneaked in a full round of golf and then we were on our very wet way to Gearhart, where my folks are the lucky one-quarter owners of an immaculate, brightly painted two-bedroom condo that, on their side of the complex, overlooks Gearhart’s municipal golf course and, further in the distance, the coast range. Their view is stunning in all climates, which is good, as we could appreciate it in the full gloom that rested comfortably and at length over the coast that entire weekend. We arrived at 4 p.m., and the girls immediately set to doing what they love to do when spending the night away from home: They claim the bed that’s to be theirs and unpack their two pairs of panties and shabby sweatshirts, finding just the right drawer in which to perfectly fold and stow these items. Just like they do in their own rooms at home. Not.

We had a relaxing Shabbat dinner of make-your-own tacos and challah (a well-balanced meal by any kid’s standards), polished off with squares of “Mommy chocolate” doused in whipped cream. Soon thereafter, we all headed to bed. On Saturday we did beaucoup de rien: a lot of nothing. The entire day was spent in in a way our family rarely passes time: We took a leisurely walk on the beach (in the rain); we walked equally leisurely to our favorite local ice cream joint, Pop’s; back in the condo, we played Blokus, Life and charades (largely making fun of Dave — poor guy — and laughing hard, all at his expense); we listened to the girls watch too many episodes of some random Australian show called “H20, Just Add Water”they’d found on Netflix; and we stared out the window and chuckled with mirth as semi-intrepid golfers dived for their carts when the showers turned to squalls.

The girls whined a lot. We put them to bed around 8. Ahhhhhhhhh.

On Sunday, the whining continued, right along with the rain. Dave and I agreed that before we left for Tillamook and the creamery there — after which we’d continue right along home — we should take a walk before spending too many hours just sitting in the car. The girls weren’t clear in their opinions about taking a wet walk. That is, I’m sure they bitched non-stop about how horrid the Bataan Death March was going to be, but, by then, my ears had turned off their whine-listening mode. So I recall leaving the condo for a nice, if dampish walk with my giddy children and non-eye-rolling husband.

Eventually, though, their whining penetrated my ears’ otherwise impenetrable whine force field … right about the same time the rain had literally penetrated all our shoes and pants. Despite the hoods, rain gear and umbrellas, we were soaked after about 30 minutes outside.

We slogged back to the condo; instead of immediately heading to the car to take off for Tillamook, Dave had the brilliant idea of lighting the (gas) fire and throwing all our pants into the dryer. There we were, with tops on and otherwise pantless, cuddled together on the blue couch — with our feet up, on the wood coffee table — in front of the slowly warming fire. We did NOT take a picture of this scene; we could’ve landed in jail for the pantless nature of it. But we sure enjoyed every second of our partial nudity and then dryer-hot pants against our still-kinda-clammy thighs.

It pissed during the swim — er — drive to Tillamook; Dave drove like a pro while I encouraged (read: forced) the girls to avoid electronic gadgets and play a road game I’d purchased at a AAA store. They whined some more but — and they’ll admit this now — they did particularly enjoy the trivia about the 50 States. They were excited about the question asking which of the 50 has the beaver as its state animal. After that trivia and our winning state capitol tour from the previous week, they’re now all Oregon’d up.

We arrived at the Tillamook Creamery right about the time every single coastal resident from Washington, Oregon and Northern California decided it was a good day for an ice cream cone and to view pictures of milking cows. The place was as loud and chaotic as the Wind and Waves Waterpark. But our tummies persevered: We waited in line for burgers and fries (I ate stuff I’d packed for culinary emergencies like this was shaping up to be: seemingly single-item restaurant menus) and then went on the SELF-GUIDED creamery tour. Hayley must have asked 10 times, “Is it really SELF-GUIDED? We’re not going to have a GUIDE??” We saw factory workers working; we saw blocks of cheese being conveyed; we listened to Alyssa complain about a tummy ache; and then we listened to Alyssa really complain when we told her she couldn’t have ice cream. Hayley did her damndest to NOT be the smuggest child you ever did see, while eating a over-large bowl of Tillamook Mudslide ice cream. We didn’t allow her chocolate sauce or whipped cream. Somehow, that concession didn’t assuage Alyssa.

When we got back to our car, the first thing we did was plug in the computers, the headsets and any movie the girls wanted to view on our way back to Portland. I recall a whine-free trek home. Too quickly, we were home.

Monday was a teacher in-service day. Dave headed to work and I spent the day with the girls; we started cleaning for Passover and did a few sundry things (like a forced walk with Jacky, whom we’d missed all weekend). After she pooped and the girls laughed about it, they lightened up and the rest of our day together was awesome. We even took “Mommy’s bus” to PSU and spent time in my office (my desk drawer never was so well-organized as it was after Hayley got through with it! My tea and plastic utensils now each have their own space.).

On Tuesday, as Alyssa walked out the basement door and into the garage on the way back to school after spring break, she turned to me and, a’ propos of nothing and with a very sincere smile on her face, said, “That was a great spring break.”

Sticking close to home did us all good. And I nearly skipped to work, for a few reasons.

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McMinnville

April 1, 2012 at 1:30 am (Uncategorized) ()

The thought to pull off Hwy. 99 West and lunch at Tina’s or do some wine tasting at Domaine Drouhin crossed my mind as we drove on Wednesday from Portland to McMinnville, but, alas, we didn’t; we stayed the course and headed to the Wings & Waves Waterpark, to be followed by the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Clif and Diane met us there. I’d –smartly, I thought– purchased tickets to both venues in advance. In a stroke of organizational genius, the powers that be at the Wings & Waves spot still required every patron — ticketed and ticketless — to wait outdoors before gaining entry, either buying or flashing his or her ticket and then being graced with one of those wristbands that college kids wear with pride after they’ve legally entered their first — or 50th — bar. There happened to be a screaming wind and driving rain storm going on as we drove up and parked in the lot at the water park. Exactly 15 minutes after it opened, already the line to enter snaked back into the parking lot. Dave and his dad were the intrepid folks who agreed to wait in line; the so-delicate ladies took the bye and waited indoors for the men to reach the merciful front of the line.

Once inside, the lack of wind and sheets of rain were welcome. Then, however, the cavernous trap of an enormous, high-ceilinged hydrotubing mecca closed in on us, bombarding our ears and visual fields. We were to spend the next three hours in that humid, overly bright ‘park,’ with Dave and Clif waiting in Disneyland-esque lines to go down amazing water slides with the girls while Diane and I caught up on all things we’d missed in one another’s lives since my in-laws’ return from Hawai’i in early February. Soon, I realized that I was talking to Diane the same way one engages in conversation at a party; as time wears on, the venue gets increasingly loud, and one must speak increasingly loudly. We got to the point where we couldn’t really easily converse any more. So, we took to looking up and around the crazy water park, trying without success to find our relatives frolicking high above us. We did, however, have two successful sightings of our loved ones, as they streaked past us from one racing-water feature to the next. They were having a blast; by contrast, our butts started to hurt.

At long last, Alyssa decided she was d-u-n; she’d finally come to recognize the noise was FAR TOO LOUD. She’d come a hugely long way, however, from the recent past when we’d never even have considered going to such a venue, given her sensory processing disorder that makes even slightly loud noises seem overly exaggerated in their decibel levels. This experience was a huge departure for her — and, thus, for us — and so we really were waiting for her to be done with the locale before we moved on.

While Alyssa got our of her suit and dried off, Hayley decided she was not done with the water park and so roped Dave in for another run (read: one run equals an hour-long wait to get up the lengthy, zig-zagging staircase from ground level to the ceiling where the hydrotubes’ entrances await). Meanwhile, Alyssa, Diane, Clif and I headed right next door to the equally enormous, impressive Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. I care not a lick about the history of aviation. And, yet, this quiet, beautifully and naturally lit, educational museum sparked my interest to learn as much as I could about aviation’s history until it was time to go (read: until Alyssa completely pooped out from this high-ceilinged space, too). All four of us lasted for exactly an hour, which indeed was the time it took for Dave and Hayley to complete their single, final run at the Wings & Waves Waterpark.

As Alyssa’s patience for this museum neared its end, she and I went together up to its second floor, to check out its Firearms Collection. Displays of mannequins in bright-orange hunting gear, alongside their mannequin hunting dogs dominated the displays. I somehow felt I was betraying my gun-control roots just being on that floor, amidst the clear homage to all things that go boom.

While Alyssa and I remained on that floor, watching a Lewis & Clark film reenactment of the journeymen’s  trajet along the Oregon Trail, she leaned over and whispered to me that she preferred the Firearms space to the museum’s main floor. Why? I asked. “‘Cuz of all those old guys wearing green vests, all with the same creepy expression on their faces,” she explained, in her very matter-of-fact way. Her explanation offered a very astute look into a child’s vision of certain situations. The museum’s docents indeed were a crop of freakish-looking, well-beyond-middle-aged men who looked like they were from the central casting department of war veterans. Each donned a green vest (resembling those Girl Scout polyester jobbies) verily weighted down by myriad pins and buttons, much like the sagging brown sweater Ramblin’ Rod used to wear in the ’70s.

We’d arrived in McMinnville at shortly after 10 in the morning; we left at 3 p.m. and had had enough. And yet, when we passed Tina’s, I wanted badly to stop in for a nice glass of red wine and an excellent meal. Instead, we listened to the fruits of that day’s laborious staycation. That is, we listened to the girls bicker out of exhaustion and hunger about all the negatives of the day as we headed back home on 99 East and then 217 North. Fortunately, their memories of The Chocolate Box in cute Silverton tied them over until we returned home.

And then they started talking a lot about their next day’s adventure: Horseback riding in Sherwood.

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