Monday, January 1, 2018

Christmas Letter 2017

Some people love Christmas for the family gatherings, food, and gift giving. Some are a little bah-humbug. For me, Christmas marks the return of the light that makes things grow and flower. But these long nights are good for cozy books by the fire, sweet things baking in the oven, and for writing Christmas letters.

We lost my dad on Father’s Day this year. After being sick with a flu bug for about a week, his heart gave out during a nap. Reed and I were devastated. The love, support, and kindness of our family and friends has been incredible. We leaned on all of you and you all held us up. Thank you for that.
Part of my River family.

Clarno Unit Palisades
We took two family trips this year. In June we went to Baker City. We explored the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds (a bucket list item for me) and stayed over in Prairie City in a historic hotel. Gorgeous spot. We were surprised the next morning at 4am by an air raid siren blaring. We later found out that the siren summons volunteer firefighters. The next day brought us to Baker City, home of the Barley Brown Brewery. Gabi came down with a fever and spent most of the next two days in our hotel room wrapped in blankets watching VHS movies we borrowed from the hotel library. Danielle and I explored the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, which was incredible. In the hills across from the museum, you can still see the ruts from the pioneers making their way across the hills.

In July we took a camping trip to LaPine state park and explored the Newberry National Volcanic Monument with our good friends Mike and Stephanie and their son Kevin. The campground is nestled into the Deschutes River and it was bliss teaching Gabi to fish. She didn’t catch anything but demonstrated the patience, focus, and techniques of a natural fisherman. At the monument, we hiked the Lava River Cave which is the longest lava tube in Oregon. We saw the Big Obsidian Flow and several other landmarks.

On the way home, we visited Dee Wright Observatory which sits on a huge lava flow. My last visit there was on an elementary school field trip. This visit was one of those rare instances where the visit was even cooler than I remembered. The view from the top is spectacular. We also stopped at Proxy Falls. The hike was longer than I expected and the girls just weren’t up for it, so I finished it solo. I’m glad I did. It was beautiful and serene and I could feel Dad’s presence the whole time.

Despite all the wonders we saw, we left much unexplored and can’t wait to return. The Cascades were born in fire and lava and so much of that is still exposed showing us this quiet period is just a lull. The mountains are napping but still very much alive. I love this state.

This year has been one of transformations from Danielle as she grows from a little girl to a young lady. She is craving independence and is starting to ask to do simple things on her own like ride her bike to the store or walk the dog. She resists guidance from me (on what to wear, eat, do—pretty much everything) and wants to find her own way. Which I find equally frustrating and awesome.

She decided not to play any sports this year, but after much coaxing, she tried an all-comers track meet during the summer. She was signed up for the 100-meter dash and 400-meter run, but only completed one after finding the starting gun to be too scary. Charley and I both enjoyed sports all throughout our childhoods and have always looked forward to cheering on our kids as they played. My biggest struggle being a parent is allowing her to be who God made her to be and not who I want her to be.

Of the things she does enjoy, she goes at them full force. Her current passion is for writing. Her class participated in NaNoWriMo and she wrote over 150 pages. She is still working on this story and is well over 200 pages. For Christmas, she asked for a typewriter. Thanks to her Oma and Opa, she got her great-grandfather’s. I love hearing the keys plink-plink as she writes. She is also passionate about art. My challenge is keeping her supplied with paper and pens. She also spends a lot of time creating funny and entertaining animations on her iPad using an app called FrameCast. She also plays a lot of Minecraft and AnimalJam. (Too much.)

This fall Danielle saved her money and bought a pet rat and all the stuff. His name is Xerxes and he’s adorable. Danielle has been doing a wonderful job of taking care of him and everybody in the house dotes on him, but he loves her best. He’s always climbing down from our shoulders to get back to her.

Gabi played tee-ball over the summer which was so much fun to watch. She likes school—but not that much—and is doing well. She is a joy to parent, as she is still young and malleable and a people pleaser. Although, she does have a feisty streak that she likes to exercise on her sister.  But mostly, I'm trying to enjoy my last little one before she's not so little anymore.

Gabi is also passionate about art, and our refrigerator and walls are covered in her drawings of kitty cats, some with wings, some with unicorn horns, and all are beautiful and happy. Gabi also loves Minecraft and Animal Jam (too much) and she and Danielle are not above hugging each other and pleading for more “screen time” using sisterly love against my rules. It usually works too. For Christmas, she also got a pet rat and the stuff. His name is Cricket and he’s pretty dang cute too.

Charley is the supervisor of the Pattern Shop at Columbia Steel. He is still brewing beer and is in a continual state of refining and re-engineering his system to improve his process and brew. Dave and Lina produced an amazing crop of hops that he used to brew two batches of Cordray Estate Amber, which is currently on tap at Shoalwater’s. (Our garage.) We also got a smoker/BBQ this year and Charley has been having a good time smoking tuna, salmon, and different cuts of beef and pork. He even smoked our Thanksgiving turkey. It is oh-so-good and appeals to Charley’s crafting nature. It is a common (and wonderful) sight to see friends gathered around our smoker visiting, monitoring the smoker, and sipping a homebrew.

As for me, this coming March will mark a decade of being a stay-at-home mom. It doesn’t feel that long, but then again I can’t remember much from the first six or so sleep deprived years. Now that my girls are more independent, and I generally sleep OK, I’ve been able to pursue some interests. We turned the west end of our yard into a large garden. We added three new 8 x 4 raised beds, a 20-foot row of berries, (can't wait-can't wait) and a circle garden that is irrigated by a roof downspout. We disconnected it and installed a rain chain that flows into a rock-filled trench that leads into the center of the circle garden. The girls have their own garden beds and it was fun for them to plant whatever they wanted. We all got a lot of enjoyment out of the garden this year. 

Calendula Salve
Charley and I are also learning to can foods and he got us a pressure cooker for Christmas.  I have been having fun experimenting with making calendula infused oil for skin balms and lip balms.  I have also been learning about herbal remedies and recipes for using the things we're growing.

I am also continuing to train at TNT Martial Arts. This year I earned a Green Belt II. I'm also running, biking, and strength training in hopes to try another triathlon this year with Lina and Amber. Knock on wood that I stay injury free. It doesn’t take much anymore. But mostly, while the kids are at school, I have been spending my time writing. I’m working on a story that I hope will become a Middle Reader novel. It feels like writing is the talent I was given, so I’m going to develop it and see where it goes. It takes a lot of faith to make writing a priority and invest this much time not knowing if it will ever help my family financially. 

Hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season!

Amy, Charley, Gabrielle, and Danielle

Dee Wright Observatory trailhead.

Birthday fun with two wonderful women.
Oysterville girls with berry fingers.
Regatta Magic
At Tillamook Forestry Center.  Miss you pops.

Proxy Falls magic

Garden in the fall.

Rain Chain doing it's thing.

Gabi teeing-off on one. ;)

Eclipse 2017!

Eclipse Photographer

Eclipse Viewer
and two more...
Dani and Uncle Reed

Smoked Turkey—so yummy!

Charley and Opa
Lava Wolf
Oysterbar Christmas
Sumpter Gold Dredge

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