The Amazing Race {Leg 2}

For my 30th birthday in January, Skyler celebrated me well.  He went all out and planned the best birthday I have ever had.  Being ‘The Amazing Race’ fanatics, he planned my entire birthday as a leg of the race and promised we would continue having dates in this fashion!  It was the best date, ever!

I knew I had to do something fun and outrageous for his 30th birthday in March too.  Not to compete or because I felt I had to keep up with him, but because I wanted him to feel just as celebrated as he had made me feel.  So, I told him that for his birthday I would be taking over the March leg of the race.

He came home on a Friday night, the day before his birthday, to his wife headed out the door with some girlfriends for “Mom Prom” and this backpack on his side of the bed:

DSC_0153

Inside was this note and suggested packing list:

TAR Invitation Packing List

 

Now, granted, we had already been on one leg of the race from celebrating my birthday but I needed something that would let him know he needed to pack and prepare that night instead of waiting for his first clue the next morning.  So I went out of true order and put in this ‘congratulations’ note to get the ball rolling.

Note: Match-Match = athletic shorts in our house, named by Zeek a few years ago.  Also, our running joke since we were dating and making surprise dates for each other is that the only info we ever give the other person before our surprise date is to “pack matches and a paddle.”

The next morning, the kids and I made daddy a big breakfast of eggs and sausage and sang him Happy Birthday.  I told him to go shower and get dressed for the day and after emerged, we started playing this video for him:

Yes, I made him go drive the kids to grandma’s house!  I needed that extra hour that would give me to get a few last minute tasks completed. :)

When he arrived back home an hour later, the car was packed and ready to go.  I handed him his first clue and in true Amazing Race fashion, I made him hop in the driver’s seat.

IMG_7210

First clue: make your way to the Dutch Bros. on Mission Street for coffee!  (Also, I have to note that the Dutch Bros. employees were awesome and ecstatic for their small role along this race.  One asked if we actually were on the race…. *laughing tears emoji face*)

IMG_7212

Once he had gotten his drink, the server handed him his next clue:

IMG_7213

He knew exactly how to get there after a quick study of this map but wasn’t sure what was there.  He was pleasantly surprised when he pulled up to one of the local gun clubs (Mid-Valley Clays & Shooting School).

Once parked, I handed him his next clue which was a Road Block – something only one member of the team could complete.  :)

IMG_7214

He was impressed that I managed to secretly pack everything – his gun, his shotgun shells, his safety goggles and hearing protection… (if you’ve ever seen inside our garage, you might be quite impressed with my ability to find everything too! haha).

IMG_7194 IMG_7203

After about an hour or so of shooting (it doesn’t take long to get through 50 clay targets, as we found out!), we headed back to the car.  I had already laid out the next clue for him to find:

IMG_7192

Yield’s are things of older seasons and aren’t used anymore but I thought it would be perfect for this next part of our race!

IMG_7230

We waited out our Happy Hour Yield time at Gustav’s pub in Tigard with neither brats or beers, but rather some fondue, caesar salad and chicken schnitzel!  It was an excellent choice that we did not regret. ;)

IMG_7228

After we feasted, he received his next clue – a Detour where he had to choose one task to complete:

DSC_0103

He had never heard of the Interactive Museum of Gaming and Puzzlery (which I just realized I spelled wrong on the clue!  Ha!  Whoops.) before so he chose to head there.  Now, this place is a little hole in the wall in some industrial area.  It’s not done very well as far as atmosphere and is not trendy whatsoever but it’s fairly clean, relaxed and an amazing idea of a place.  If they wanted to amp up their business, they easily could make this a super cool place!  It does cost, I think it was a suggested donation of $5 per person or you could buy a membership for the year for less than $30 I think.  They have over 3400 games and are the largest game center in the states!  Not only that, but all the games were alphabetized.  I have no idea how they maintain that kind of order but it was awesome!

IMG_7240 IMG_7242

Side note: I need another Friends fanatic to go back with me and play Bamboozle!

IMG_7241

anigif_optimized-11926-1430103584-25

We played about 5 different games (yes, including the dvd version of The Amazing Race!).  It was so fun to just look at all the games they had and find old children’s games that we remembered playing… you know, way back before either of us was 30!  (waaaaaah).

IMG_7234

Skyler, a remarkable mosquito magnet, has an irrational fear of mosquito’s and even of perceived mosquito sightings.  He took one glance at this game and stated, “wow, that looks like the worst possible game in the world.”  Needless to say, he didn’t want to play it.

IMG_7243

They had this game on display as a valuable antique in their museum portion of their shop and I had to snap a photo to send to my mom because we have this exact version sitting in our attic space at home!

IMG_7245

We finished up our games and snacks (oh yeah, you can take your own snacks and drinks in to enjoy while gaming, or buy some there!), and we headed back to the car where Skyler learned that we had been Blind U-Turned (oh NO!  He didn’t see that one coming…) and had to complete the other side of the Detour: video gaming at Ground Kontrol!

Blind U-Turn March

DSC_0103

As we were making our way to Ground Kontrol, we saw signs just off the road pointing to Pittock Mansion.  I had never been there so we made a quick stop to check it out – even though the weather was crummy and we didn’t have the normal mountainous gorgeous views of Portland.

IMG_7249 IMG_7253 IMG_7255 IMG_7259

Fun fact: The Amazing Race Season 13 had its final leg filmed around Portland area and the finish line of the race for that season was right here in front of the Pittock Mansion!  So, even though we made a detour from our own planned out Amazing Race adventure, we felt okay breaking the race for some real Amazing Race reminiscing!

This is Nick and Starr (brother and sister team) racing to the finish line in front of the Pittock Mansion (photo from CBS).

84067865

So of course, Skyler had to close out our time there imagining that he was winning the race…I think this is his victory pose.

IMG_7261

We got back on track and headed into Portland towards Ground Kontrol: a 2 story, jam-packed, low-light, beer-serving, vintage arcade game venue where all games are still a quarter.  The low light lent to some crummy pictures, but we enjoyed playing several games: Time Crisis II, Bust-A-Move, Ms. Pac-Man, Tetris, TMNT and more.

IMG_7266 IMG_7272 IMG_7275

We played for about an hour and then started getting quite hungry (as it was already 7:30).  Thankfully, I had his next clue ready which would lead us to dinner…

DSC_0094

This led us to a new little Thai food restaurant called Chai Thai.  (He loves chai tea and Thai food.) It had great reviews and the food was amazing but I should have researched it a little more because it was a very very small restaurant and the atmosphere wasn’t great.  We stayed just long enough to scarf our delicious dinner and then he got his next clue, as well as his Travelocity Gnome (thanks Target Dollar Spot!):

IMG_7290 IMG_7284

We drove the 30 or so minutes to get to the Pit Stop of the race – the Best Western hotel in Cascade Locks.  We settled in quickly with a glass of wine and decided that we had better relax by watching the episode of The Amazing Race that took place in Portland (Season 13, episode 11).

IMG_7295

It wasn’t until part way through the episode that we realized we were staying in the hotel that was actually IN the same episode!  In it, the 3 remaining teams had to do a zipline from the Bridge of the Gods to the little Marine Park island.  Our hotel was smack dab in the middle of those two things!

Here are some screen shots from the episode (so they’re blurry, but you get the idea…):

IMG_0314

Here they are pulling into the Bridge of the Gods and you can see the Best Western sign in the background!

IMG_0318

The brown building in the background is the Best Western and the grey building is its partner restaurant where we ate breakfast the next morning.

IMG_0321

And there they are ziplining to the Marine Park.  Our hotel was directly on the other side of the railroad tracks.

Our little TAR-hard hearts were geeking out.  I couldn’t have planned this Amazing Race date any better if I had tried!  I couldn’t believe it worked out like that.  I was tempted to lie to Skyler and tell him I knew that was the hotel and that’s why I planned us staying there… ;)  Truth was, we love Best Westerns and I was hoping for decent weather to be able to do a short hike at the nearby Multnomah Falls…

The next morning we ate our delicious breakfast at the restaurant next door and gawked at the Bridge of the Gods and Marine Park which we could see from our breakfast table.

IMG_7298 IMG_7309

(Also, this was the hotel’s complimentary breakfast!  If you are ever out that way and need a place to stay, this was a fantastic hotel.)

IMG_7308 IMG_7315

Then, just like the episodes where the contestants get to a pit stop, get told they’re still racing and get handed another clue, I pulled the same move on Skyler.  Handed over his next clue and told him we’d better get going.

IMG_7324

This little observatory is called the Vista House and I had never been to it but seen it every time we drove past on the highway.  Unfortunately, the weather was so crummy and foggy so the views weren’t as breathtaking as I know they could be underneath all those clouds, so we’ll have to go back another day.  :)

IMG_7335IMG_7330

He successfully completed his gnome picture, so I gave him his next clue:

DSC_0092

We were making better time than I anticipated and had an hour to kill before the next activity, so on the way home I suggested that we stop at our favorite bakery, the White Rabbit Bakery in Aurora, for some coffee.  Skyler said we take our coffee to go and stop by the Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage down the road from the bakery – of course I wasn’t going to say no to that!

IMG_7338

Even though everything there is astronomically priced, it is still one of my happy places.

IMG_7345 IMG_7350 (1) IMG_7351

After some lovely mindless wandering, it was time to hit the road again and make our way back home.

We walked back in our home to the wonderful smells of elk roast cooking in the crock pot (thanks to our amazing neighbor-friend Michelle coming over and preparing the food before we arrived!), and Skyler found a box on his bed with another clue:

IMG_7352

Skyler loves Napoleon Dynamite.  If was really thinking this one through, I would’ve chosen a picture with Uncle Rico like this:

12ve52

The box was filled with his old high school football team attire, his cleats and a couple packs of flag football sets.

DSC_0155DSC_0156

He put on his gear, I packed up the food and we met up with his brother and a group of guys from church at one of the nearby high schools where we had elk roast sandwiches, chips and cookies and then the men played a serious game of flag football.

IMG_7365

The weather was questionable the whole time but the rain held off until the very end.  It was so fun to watch them running around together!  I even captured one of Skyler’s touchdowns on video:

After the football game was over, I handed Skyler his last clue:

IMG_7379

Some of the guys headed over to a friends’ house to have a night of Halo (I think?  I have no idea what men play when they gather! haha).

Skyler came home later that night from this last Road Block grinning ear to ear.  He couldn’t stop smiling and thanking me for the fun birthday adventure that I planned out.  He loved the parts where we spent time together of course but he what really filled his cup was the extra mile I went by planning the last two activities with his brother and other dude friends.  It always makes him feel so honored when friends gather in his name.  I’m so glad it turned out so well and am thankful for all the helpful hands working behind scenes to surprise him!

HAPPY 30th BIRTHDAY SKYLER!  Love you madly.

I think it’s safe to say that we are hooked on doing our dates The Amazing Race style!  While I’m sure these first two were the most grand ones that we will be doing for a while (since they were for our 30th birthdays), I still want to plan more dates in this fashion even if they will be much simpler. It’s so fun for both the planner and the receiver. 

If you want to do some similar style dates, you can find the templates for The Amazing Race clue cards all over on Pinterest!  In true Kayla fashion, I got so excited about all this that I downloaded my templates and didn’t pin them or save them to figure out where I got them from, and as always, I can’t re-find them on Pinterest.  Gah.  I always do this.  Anyway – so many ideas already out there!

{A Celebration} 65 Years of Marriage

This past weekend, my family had the honor and privilege of celebrating with my grandparents for their 65th wedding anniversary!  We have done a big celebration about every 10 years for them and even though it is generally pulling out the same kinds of items in remembrance of their wedding each time, it is still just so special to see those items again and again.  Her wedding dress.  His wedding tie.  Black and white photos of them after they met, their wedding pictures, pictures of my dad and uncles and babies, and eventually newer and newer photos including more and more members which have since joined our family.

Grandma and Grandpa are two pretty special people.  I have never met another woman as kind as my Grandma is and has been since I’ve known her.  I’ve never known her to not be speaking in her soft and gentle, kind voice – except for when she’s doing her joking stern voice with Grandpa.  My Grandpa is the soft and gentle teddy bear type – strong though.

Just look at them!  I have been just swooning over these pictures this last week as I put together a photo board for the anniversary party.  They are so adorable.  I showed Skyler some of these photos and his exact comment was, “Wow, Earl was the MAN!”

Family fourEarl & Fish Picture 008Earl's new 1950 Plymouth - purchased at Hershberger Motors in Woodburn

Grandma in her wedding dress (if I remember correctly, they didn’t actually get photos of their wedding.  This was quite a while after the wedding and I *think* she’s about 5 months pregnant here with my oldest uncle.):

Bride

The start of their growing family;  my oldest uncle Keith, and my dad, the 2nd, in Grandma’s lap:

1955

Grandma with all 6 of her boys!  My dad is the cute boy in the hat.

Family one (21)

We had such a fun time at their party!  It made me wonder if Skyler and I will still be around for our 65th anniversary… and what family members new and old may be in our lives at that point (58 years from now!).

DSC_0929

We did just a dessert and coffee and the desserts were uh-mazing.

DSC_0901 DSC_0910DSC_0902 DSC_0904

I saw Grandma setting up her wedding dress and my heart just got all sorts of weepy feeling watching her fingers carefully button her dress.  We all commented on how tiny she was and she told us that her mother made her dress for her and actually made it quite baggy on her because her mother didn’t want to accentuate how petite she really was.

DSC_0854 DSC_0859 DSC_0860 DSC_0921

Her wedding dress pattern (I’m so glad she saved all of these!):

DSC_0923

Grandpa’s tie:

DSC_0957

Photo board that I put together:

DSC_0071

Grandma and Grandpa together:

DSC_0072 DSC_0073

Their growing family through the years:

DSC_0076 DSC_0077

Each of the 6 brothers had a table devoted to them and their families and were in charge of decorating with items and photos that represented them.  It was really fun to look around and see what all everyone came up with!  (Apparently I didn’t get a pic of my Uncle Roger’s table!!  Sorry Rog!)

DSC_0870 DSC_0874 DSC_0873 DSC_0876 DSC_0883 DSC_0866

Probably one of my favorite parts was seeing them with their friends that came and watching all their faces light up and the grins and giggles with seeing their dear friends.

DSC_0945DSC_0963DSC_0966 DSC_0975 DSC_0976

A good portion of our large family (missing about 7 people):

DSC_0002 DSC_0006

Oh these sweet, sweet people who started it all…

DSC_0011

The original Miller family:

DSC_0021

The great-grandkids (and one grandkid – Quinn, who has always been closer in age to the greats!):

DSC_0046DSC_0035

Life lesson from Grandpa & Grandma: always keep a marriage fun.  :)

DSC_0024

Celebrating with Grandma and Grandpa, seeing all their friends and our family (and distant family), and just lavishly honoring them and their wonderful marriage that has impacted so many people was just the best.

Happy Anniversary, you two, and thank you for the example, the light you’ve been, and the firm foundation of our entire family.  You two have been an incredible example to so many people, in our family and out.  You are so so loved and treasured.

Love you guys.

{A Year of Dates} iFly Indoor Skydiving

You know how Skyler and I are “The Amazing Race” people?  As in, we love the show.  It’s the only show we watch together, we have The Amazing Race themed dates, when we have tasks we don’t particularly want to do, we call it “race training” and we hope to actually be on the show some day.  The one breaking point in nearly every season is that there is almost always some sort of bungee jumping or skydiving challenge.  That is the point in the show where I always tell him, “sorry honey, this is where we are out of the running for the race.”  Because while jumping out of airplanes is among the top of Skyler’s bucketlist, it is far from even reaching the bottom of my list and I’m not sure that I would be able to do it, even for a million bucks.  It’s this point in the show that Skyler always second guesses my abilities and mutters something along the lines of, “well, maybe you shouldn’t be my partner… maybe I’ll just take my brother.”

In an effort to step out of my comfort zone and meet him halfway (and show him that I do want to go on The Amazing Race and ‘please, oh please let me be your partner!’), I decided to surprise him with a special date to iFly in Portland.  Both of us had seen the building a number of times while passing by, as it sits right across the highway from the Washington Square Mall but neither of us knew much about it.  All I knew was that it was indoor skydiving without the risk factor of actually jumping out of an airplane.  Done, sold, I can get on board with that!  (And by “on board”, I don’t mean “on board an airplane.”)

When you schedule a flight time at iFly, they ask you to show up 1 hour before your scheduled time so that you can take a short lesson and get your flight gear on.  We arrived up in Portland about 20 minutes before we needed to be there so we popped over to the other side of the highway to Panera for a little morning boost.

IMG_7902

As we sat there sipping our smoothie and nibbling on an egg sandwich, I could look out the window and see the tall tower of iFly looming in the skyline.  All the sudden, I started getting a bit nervous.

I knew there was no danger involved but still my stomach couldn’t help but start getting antsy.  What should I expect?  What will it feel like?  Will I be in there by myself?  Normally over-prepared for such occasions, I didn’t take any time to familiarize myself with what would actually be happening.

With equal amounts of hesitation and excitement in my bones, we headed across the way to iFly.

DSC_0520

We made our way in and met some of their lovely staff members who helped us sign waivers and get all checked in.

IMG_7908DSC_0599

After we were all checked in downstairs, we headed up to the Flight Deck.

DSC_0608

While we waited for the rest of the people who were scheduled to do flights in our group, we sat and watched some very skilled flyers.  You can buy all sorts of packages and all different skill levels use the wind tunnel; this guy was highly skilled!  It was awesome to watch him almost dance around the tunnel doing different moves with the iFly employee.  I told Skyler it was like watching Peter Pan.

DSC_0527

Watching these guys move around in the tunnel put my mind (and stomach!) at ease and I quickly got excited for our turn!  I’m one of those that gets nervous of new experiences where I have no idea what to expect.  Watching for a while beforehand really helped!  Soon, all of the other members in our flight group had arrived and we all shuffled into the classroom for a short lesson.

DSC_0537

The lesson was short and sweet with a little video and then our flight instructor showed us the position we needed to be in for flying and a few hand motions that he might use to signal to us how we need to adjust our bodies in the tunnel.

DSC_0590DSC_0589DSC_0588

After our short lesson, we headed back out to throw our stuff in lockers and gear up for flights!

DSC_0587 DSC_0592 DSC_0593

After we had all suited up, we were ready to head into the tunnel!  There’s a bench along the backside of the tunnel that your entire flight group waits on while we each take turns inside the tunnel.  Every person seemed to have a different package deal with varying flight times and some had “high fly’s” where the instructor helped you fly up to the top of the tunnel.  Having the group there with us was so fun – it immediately created this little camaraderie within us as we were all first time flyers and in it together!  There was even this sweet little 5 year old girl in our crew and she was amazing!  She had no fears of jumping right in.

Being the Nervous Nancy that I was that day, I sat at the very end of the line, graciously letting everyone else go first ahead of me.  Finally, Skyler was up.  He was grinning ear to ear and couldn’t wait for his chance to jump on in!

DSC_0543DSC_0547DSC_0561

And then… it was my turn.  I headed to the door, put my arms up in position…

DSC_0562

… and dove right in!  Holy flying, Batman!  That was an instant rush and thrill!

DSC_0556 DSC_0565

You can see that the jumpsuits we wore had handles at our hips and our shoulders.  This was for the instructor to help guide you and keep you stable.  Especially as a first time flyer, it is the most different experience than you’ve ever had and it takes a bit to get used to!  Each of us had two 1-minute flights (the average time of a real free fall when sky diving is 45 seconds).  By the second of my flights, I was stable enough to be on my own without help for a bit!

DSC_0564

Excuse the glare of that shiny wind tunnel, but I had to post this picture showing that I’m flying without his help! 

We were on such an energy high after our flights!  Look at these goofy grins (and messy flight hair and indents in our cheeks from the goggles! haha!):

DSC_0571

There’s a little room off of the tunnel where the operator sits and controls wind speeds (which were an average of 100mph!) and also where he took photos and videos of the flights.

DSC_0582

The videos are sooo cool to be able to watch back what you had just experienced!  I can only explain the flight tunnel like being a dog with his head out the car window on the freeway – a face full of wind and exhilarating!  Skyler and I both cannot wait to go back and next time with the boys in tow.  The little 5 year old girl who was in our flight crew was the cutest little thing in there and Skyler and I just kept saying, “can you picture Zeek in there flying around?!” or “imagine Asher’s cute little teeth and chipmunk cheeks in there with the wind blowing on them!”

At the end of my video (since I was the last one), you can see our instructor doing a quick flight to show off some of his skill!  He is awesome!

We finished our flying experience with some cute little certificates showing that we accomplished the basic skills for a first time flyer.

IMG_7904

Let me break it down as I do for all my reviews:

Name: iFly (Portland, OR)
Website: https://www.iflyworld.com/portland/

Locations:  There are 37 iFly locations already (even some international) with more coming!  Find a location near you here.

Cost:  Flight packages and prices vary, but here is a snapshot of some options from their website:

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 3.03.05 PM

There are also some promotions offered through Costco and repeat flyers can also receive discounts on future flights.  At first glance, this may seem spendy but the entire ordeal lasted about 2 hours of time.  For what you are getting, this is a very reasonable price when you consider a real sky dive is only about 45 seconds of free fall time and even with the basic package at iFly, you are receiving at least two 1 minute flights.

Cleanliness:  The iFly Portland facility is only about 6 months old and so everything is nice, new and very clean.  The jumpsuits, helmets and gear were all well cared for and as soon as we removed them after flights, we saw the staff cleaning them up for the next crew.

SafetyEven though I had my nerves heading into it, as soon as I walked in and saw the wind tunnel and watched it in use, I knew there was no reason to be nervous.  When you look down in the wind tunnel, you can see what looks like a thin metal wire grate covering the bottom and an entire level down were two huge fans.  Even at that, when you looked in and saw the flight instructor walking with ease on the grate, you knew it would be safe.  There were no concerns at all.  (But for any of you other Nervous Nancy’s like myself, there’s a whole slew of helpful FAQ on their website.  There is also a page of good information on what indoor skydiving is.)

Employees Skyler said it best when we were there at iFly talking about how fun the employees all are.  He said, “well, a fun company like this just attracts a certain type of person to work for them.”  Everyone we met was happy, friendly, relaxed, helpful and fun to be around.  It made the atmosphere even more enjoyable being around such a great crew of employees.  They all helped answer questions we had, showed us different things and were really patient with us.  Awesome employees and as Skyler said, not a surprise to find such a great people working at such a fun place.

Experience:  We seriously had the best time ever.  We walked out of there with goofy euphoric grins on our faces, just as though we had legitimately jumped out of a plane (but thank God we didn’t, right?!).  From arrival to departure, the entire experience was just so cool and an entirely new experience for us.  There was nothing that could have made our time there any better!  Skyler was ready to walk out of there with the most expensive flight package available and declared he had a new hobby.  The guy was hooked! :)  And this anti-skydiving girl was right there with him!  It was such a thrill.  I cannot wait to head back and with our boys in tow this time!  Ladies, if you have a thrill-seeking man like mine, this would be a fantastic gift idea for a birthday, Father’s Day, or you know, like we did… just a Tuesday.  ;)

Family-Friendliness:  As I said, we cannot wait to take our boys back here!  I think they will love it!  Because our children are a little more on a meeker side of things, I think we may stop in sometime before we actually take them up there to fly just so they can sit and watch other people flying and get used to the idea of it.  You are allowed to just sit in the Flight Deck and watch people if you want to just pop in the next time you are in the area.  They said they often have high experienced real sky divers there to practice their maneuver’s and skills.  I think watching for a while first will help ease the mind of my timid oldest boy.  :)

On another note – they can host a wide variety of group events.  Anything from birthday parties, bachelor/ette parties, corporate events, elopements/weddings, youth groups, etc.  The thing that caught my attention however, was that they host school and homeschool groups for STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) educational programs which teaches curriculum that was designed by teachers and STEM professionals to the students.  After their hands-on lessons, the students all get a chance to fly!  Here’s a video from their website giving more information about the program:

Other:  When you make a flight appointment with them, they will tell you to wear shirts without collars and not to have any jewelry on.  I would also add that you should wear some sort of tennis shoe!  I didn’t think much beyond wearing a sweater and comfy jeans and so I also wore booties.  I guess I had in my head that the jump suits we would be wearing were like onesies that covered your feet and so you didn’t have to wear shoes.  Thankfully they are fully prepared to hand over some shoes that you can borrow for your flight in case your shoes aren’t appropriate.  (*cough* like mine. haha.)

Thank you iFly Portland for such an incredible experience and memorable date that we won’t soon forget!

This post was sponsored by iFly Portland and our flights were gifted to us but all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Girls Date to the Tulip Fields

FINALLY!  I’ve only lived in Salem for seven years now but I FINALLY made it over to the Tulip Festival in Woodburn!  Holy smokes.  Not that I doubted it’s splendor but even more so now, I understand why people go every year.  It was soooo beautiful!  Even after the last 2 weeks of hot weather that took a toll on the tulips, the majority of them were still just as beautiful as ever.

A few of my mom friends gathered together yesterday to head out there with 12 kids in tow (and I didn’t even have my boys with me.).  I took just a few photos of the fields and our sweet kids (who actually spent a lot of the morning crying about various things.  Ya know, like mud and snacks and picture taking.  Whelp.  Mom outings.  What else can you expect?! ;)).

Most of these pics are of Ellery tromping around – which she LOVED.  She fell a bajillion times on the uneven ground but she didn’t let it keep her down!

DSC_0700 DSC_0710

My friend Tara tried taking a pic for me of us girls at the field.  This was the only picture that this cute stinker would smile in, so I’m posting it regardless of my hand in front of my face!  She was obviously ready for the photo and I was NOT! ;)

DSC_0715 DSC_0720

Ellery and our sweet neighbor friend Kate.  These two are adorable buddies!

DSC_0723 DSC_0724 DSC_0725 DSC_0727

All the kids!  … right about meltdown time!  This crew of kids were such a fun mixture of cuteness and ridiculousness!  Check out Ellery’s major fit because I’m a mean mom who made her sit for a picture.  Sweet thing, that one.

DSC_0744 DSC_0749

My favorite tulip variety that we saw (I always love orange/pink mixture flowers!):

DSC_0775

DSC_0800

Hauling our tired and hungry crew back out of the field:

DSC_0802

This is Ellery’s “funny face” that she makes when she knows mom and dad are swooning over how sweet and adorable she is:

DSC_0806DSC_0809

It’s just the best, amIright?! haha!

Thanks for the fun trip and FINALLY getting my tush out there, ladies!

IMG_0719

Homeschool {Week J}

Week J

Letter J was a short week because we were celebrating the boys’ pirate birthday party on Saturday and I knew I would have a lot of little crafts and things to finish up for the party.
We did our typical introduction to the letter day: testing on the previous week’s Bible memory verse and nursery rhyme and then learning the new ones for the week, learning about letter J, J sounds and words and tracing/writing the letter.

JUNGLE:
My boys love love love animals, so I’ve been trying to work in anything about animals any chance I get. I figured “jungle” was a good broad topic. ;)

A couple years ago, Skyler bought this great set of National Geographic pop-up books for the kids. They love to look at them and they are very informative also. I started out our morning by reading the “Explore a Tropical Forest” book to them and talking about the 4 layers of a rainforest and the animals that live in each layer.

IMG_8130 IMG_8131 IMG_8132

Then I let the boys watch the Planet Earth volume three on Jungles. Planet Earth is one of the boys’ favorite things and it’s watched probably at least every other day. (We have Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Frozen Planet. They love them all!)

index

Zeek has been showing more and more competency with “legit” school things, so I decided to throw a math worksheet at him! He did one addition page and one subtraction page and he did them beautifully! I showed him two by example and then he flew through the rest on his own. I hope math is his thing… because that would just make schooling a lot easier…. ;)

I gave him the Unifix Cubes to have him count out the two groups he was adding together.

DSC_0155 DSC_0150DSC_0137

Then we worked on some patterns, also using the Unifix Cubes.

DSC_0159

At the beginning of the school year, Asher was only 2.5 and not interested at all in desk work and just mainly joined us for the activities we did away from the desks. At this point, almost February, he was 3 and gaining much more interest in having his own worksheets to work on too. I’ve had to try to remember to find some basic activities for him as well! He loved these matching the animal the shadows pages and tracing shapes worksheets from The Measured Mom blog. (Zeek’s also came from there.)

DSC_0143

We switched gears a little after that and watched a couple more short videos. I don’t know about your kids but mine love Youtube videos. Their daddy is always showing them animal or hunting Youtube videos and they eat it right up. So I decided to play along and incorporate a few more into our homeschooling. :)

First up was just this cute little “Who is the King of the Jungle?” video:

And then this short little video about chameleons (which is one of Zeek’s favorite jungle animals):

To finish up the day, we did this cute little chameleon craft from Learn Create Love that they loved coloring and cutting out. Many crafts we do get tossed eventually, but this little guy still lives in their desks two months later. :)

DSC_0162

JEWELS:

Jewels just seemed appropriate with their pirate party looming around the corner. :)

I had gotten this bag of awesome jewels and gems for their party and figured it would be a great learning tool too, since they were so excited to play with them and couldn’t keep their hands off of them before the party! First up, I had them just spend time sorting them by color.

DSC_0222 DSC_0228

Then we played a graphing game with them. I gave each boy a worksheet and dice. They had to roll the dice and put one jewel in the column of the number they just rolled. They had to do this until one column was completely filled out and we could see which number was rolled most often. (Found on Teachers Pay Teachers.)

DSC_0230 DSC_0239 (1)

I had the boys help me set up a treasure island with the jewels hidden and all of their miniature pirate toys. We use our Kinetic Sand in these sensory boxes and it is the BEST. The sand is so cool to play with but also completely just falls off of the toys (and your hands!) so it’s not making a big mess to clean up! Even if some gets out of the tub, you can easily just pick up the clumps and throw them back in the tub. There are several knock off brands now and they are okay, but this brand is top notch! Worth the extra buck!

DSC_0243

And that was Homeschool Week J!

This post contains affiliate links.

The Story {Pt. 2: Dating Life}

I started writing this post six years ago.  I’ve known for a long while that I wanted to share it but wanted to make certain that my heart was healed and nothing was written out of anger or heartbreak.

I’ve let it sit… and sit… and sit.  I wanted to be still and quiet and pray over it before I let the words come from my fingertips.  I wanted it to be a true story, not told for my own sake but for everything written to bring glory to the Lord for how He revealed himself to me, brought me through my darkest hour and has redeemed this life that I thought I was willing to give up.

I think I’ve struggled so much with it because as much as I want to share my story and give the glory to God, I would never want to harm the other person involved in this story by doing so.  That said, I’m also much more mentally and emotionally in a healthy place than I was six years ago when I first started writing this story.  I am able to share much more of my journey and what the Lord has done in my life and much less of what my ex-husband had done in my life.

Let me also add that this is the story of my life from ages 16-22.  Being 30 now, I have some really crisp and clear memories, and I have other parts of memories that are very fuzzy and unclear – and likely because they are no longer important details to me to remember, so I have released them from my memory.


It was the beginning of my junior year of high school.  I had been a Christian all of my life (with a heritage of my entire family being Mennonite and Amish) and as much as I knew how to, I loved God with my whole heart.  My life had been pretty easy and stress-free so far in my short 16 years.  I had loving parents, two great older siblings, I easily succeeded in school, I had plenty of clothes on my back and food in my fridge and was under the impression that my parents had far more money for things we needed than they probably actually did.  I felt safe, secure, loved and cherished.  I was always a happy, friendly girl and had many friends in many circles.  Life was good, life was easy, and I hardly knew pain or heartbreak.

I had just started going to a new youth group at a local church.  Right off the bat, I noticed a handsome young man playing guitar on the worship team.  I had an immediate attraction to him and wanted to get to know him better.  A mutual friend introduced us and we quickly formed a friendship and began to spend time together in our youth group setting.  He seemed outgoing, friendly and funny and I was just like a little school-girl totally smitten with this guy who was two years my senior.

After only two months of hanging out just as friends and nothing more, God gave me a dream one night.  A very clear visual that I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with.  As a girl that has never dreamed but a few times a year, I hold onto the ones I do have – even if they aren’t clear at the time.

He and I were in NYC.  I got out of a taxi cab and reached in to pull him out.  He had no arms and no legs.  I carried him everywhere, all over the city.  It was busy and bustling and we were walking through a sea of people.  I kept declaring to everyone in earshot, “This is my husband!  This is my husband!”  No one seemed to notice.  I just continued on, carrying him through the city.

When I had this dream, marriage was no where on the radar but I felt God telling me that if I continued in this relationship and eventually did get married, I would have to carry the weight of my husband.  I took this as a challenge almost and thought God was asking me if I was willing to do this for him, almost as a ministry of serving and loving my him.

A few months later, we started officially dating.  I was now 17 and loving having my first boyfriend!  I honestly don’t remember too much from our dating relationship (mostly because those are not important memories to me anymore so I have released them) but I felt that it was a fun and a loving young relationship to be in.  He seemed to love the Lord as much as I did and to seek His guidance for our lives.

During that first summer that we dated, I remember being in church during a worship session with my eyes closed when all of the sudden a vision (almost like having a dream but while awake) came to me.

I see myself.  I’m in a group of three other women.  Desirae is one of them.  I’m not sure who else.  We’re standing outside of the church in the parking lot.  I look to my right and see him about 15 feet away.  He’s standing with three other men.  We smile and acknowledge each other but continue on in our own conversations.  I am then made aware of a large fiery, brilliant blue sphere suspended in the air between us.

I see God’s hands.  I see Him carefully cup his large and loving hands around the sphere, completely covering it and clearly protecting it.  Then, he whispers.  He tells me that He is my Guardian.  He is my Protector.

I smile.  I don’t know what is in store for me, but yet I am comforted – I know that God will be there.

I was unsure what this vision represented or meant entirely but I took it to mean that the blue sphere was our friendship and that the Lord would be holding it and protecting it.  I didn’t know even what that meant exactly but I held onto that notion for the remainder of our relationship and often thought back to the vision of the brilliant blue sphere, held lovingly and firmly by God.  It would take nearly another 8 years after the time of this vision before I fully realized what it meant.

We dated for two and a half years before we got to the point in our lives where our group of friends started getting engaged and getting married.  Since we had been (mostly) happily dating at this point, we figured the next logical step was to get married ourselves.

We got engaged in June 2005, one year after my high school graduation and with a wedding date set for that December, just shy of my 20th birthday.

After we got engaged in June, the next 6 months of planning time before our wedding was a whirlwind.  I was a mix of emotions and stresses that naturally came with wedding planning and moving into a new apartment… and because that wasn’t enough, I started my first “big girl” job.

I remember things being rocky at times between my ex and I during our engagement, but I assumed it just came with the territory of wedding planning and other big life changes that were all happening quickly.  I didn’t dwell on it too much and continued with the bustle of wedding planning and preparing for this new life I was about to embark on.

My sweet friend Natalie was one of my closest at that time in my life, who I had also met in the youth group and who had been right there with me since the beginning of my relationship with my ex-husband.  She and I were in the habit of having Saturday morning breakfasts together at our favorite restaurant Novak’s, to just share the ups and downs of life with each other.

One Saturday, shortly after getting engaged, Natalie sat me down with a heavy heart.  I knew she had something on her mind.  With nothing but love for me as her close friend, she took a bold step of faith and told me of her concerns for me getting married and warned against it.  I sat, listened quietly and heard her out.  I understood her reasoning for her concerns but I didn’t want to fully accept her reasoning.  Regardless of my decision to continue on towards marriage anyway, Natalie stood by me in support as a bridesmaid.  To this day, more than 10 years later, that girl is still one of my most precious and treasured friends who first showed me the depths and beauty of true friendship and the richness in being able to speak truth to a friend in love.  I will never forget that moment of sitting across the booth from her and watching her in full bravery, unsure how I would react, telling me her concerns for me.  What a courageous thing for her to do in obedience to the Lord in speaking to me.  (Natalie, if you’re reading this: thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for being an obedient and courageous friend.  Thank you for speaking hard truths to me, even when I didn’t listen.)

December 2005 eventually came around and we were wed on the most beautiful, sunny, 50-degree day of winter in Oregon.  We were lavished and loved upon by friends and family as they came together to celebrate us and our new marriage.

2 DSC_0890Still one of my favorite photos – my sweet niece and I twirling in our princess dresses together.


…to be continued…

Easter Eggstravaganza {I Know. I Had To.}

This was the first full Easter weekend that daddy has had off since he became a nurse 3 years ago, so we opted to take full advantage of it!

On Saturday, we headed out to our favorite local farm, Bauman’s Farm and let the kids participate in one of the best organized kids egg hunts around.  Kids are released in small groups at a time and each kid is only allowed to get 12 eggs.  It makes for a non-frantic hunt, which we enjoy.

I brought them here last year and to make things a bit harder, we adopted the rule that they could only hunt for one color of egg.  They remembered that rule and quickly hollered out their color they would be hunting for.

IMG_7703 IMG_7706 IMG_7713 IMG_7728

After the successful hunt and claimed prizes, we made our way to the bakery to pick up the real prize of the farm: apple cider donuts.

IMG_7729 IMG_7731

We saw the farm animals…

IMG_7734

Played in the hazelnuts (or in this case, became an ostrich)…

IMG_7739

And jumped on the inflated pillow pad.

IMG_7740

After going home to nap and re-coup, we headed over to some friends’ house for a BBQ and the boys’ first experience with legit dying Easter eggs…. (yeah, yeah.  We’ve just done other things in years past.  ;))

IMG_7744 IMG_7749 IMG_7751

On Easter, when the kids woke up, I had them all hunt around the house for their little Easter baskets.  It was a tradition my mom always did for my brother and sister and I and we loved it.  We even used to wake up at like 3 am every Easter and sneak downstairs together to search for our Easter baskets together and then go back to bed when we found them.  Then when we were called down in the morning, we already knew exactly where they were.

DSC_0234

Asher is playing the role of my brother quite nicely.  Beary growly in the morning and not wanting to participate in anything, and especially not wanting his photo taken…

DSC_0239

Zeek, on the other hand, wakes up quite chipper like his mother.  :)

DSC_0242

Blurry, but too cute of her finding her “hidden” Easter basket!

DSC_0250 DSC_0262 DSC_0271 (1)

We spent the morning at our church worshiping our RISEN King (!!) and then headed home for naps.  Nap-time was a mad scramble to make all the portions of the Easter meal that were assigned to me and then after everyone awoke, we headed to my sister’s house for our family gathering.

DSC_0285 DSC_0288 DSC_0293

We discovered just how much Ellery loves deviled eggs.  I think she ate 8 total that day… Look at those eyes closed, completely taking in the savory flavors!

DSC_0296

Sweet Ash asked for me to take a photo of him and of course I obliged.

DSC_0308

I could not get enough of Little Miss in her Easter garb! She seemed to love the fluffy dress too and didn’t want it taken off!

DSC_0321 DSC_0344

After we ate, we hid Easter eggs all around the downstairs.  Zeek had Batman eggs to find, Asher had Spiderman and Ellery had pink Princess ones.

DSC_0350 DSC_0358 DSC_0359 DSC_0368 DSC_0372 DSC_0378 DSC_0380 DSC_0386 DSC_0413

Ellery quite enjoyed what hers were stuff with: bunny crackers!  She inhaled them.

DSC_0425 DSC_0431 DSC_0436

My attempt at trying to get a photo of my children in their Easter-cuteness…

DSC_0437 DSC_0443 DSC_0460

All the cousins:

DSC_0470 DSC_0499

Then, in lieu of dying eggs, I had gotten these cool decorating kits from Target.  Zeek made pirates, cousin Kaiden made space ships and aliens, Asher made bunnies and chicks and cousin Kaily did an awful lot of helping her little cousin.  ;)

DSC_0503 DSC_0507 DSC_0508 DSC_0515 DSC_0516 DSC_0519

We had a wonderful Easter and hope you all did too!

Homeschool {Week I}

Week I was an incredibly mild one for us.  We had a daddy day (after daddy working a 4 day stretch) and a MOPS day in the week, and overall did not have our act together… I seem to have lost every single photo I took of Week I… and, well, I’ll do my best to share the little we did do anyway!  (Update: a week later and I stumbled upon my photos after a few hours of hunting for them last week with no luck!  I’ve added them to the post and will be sharing again. :))

Week I Week

INTRO TO LETTER I:

We did our test on our previous weeks Godly Character Trait/Bible Verse and Nursery Rhyme (both of which astounds me every time – the ease in which Zeek, and even often Asher, can remember things blows my mind.  I surely don’t remember these as easily as they do!

We did our new Godly Character Trait of the week (Courageous, Bible Verse: Joshua 1:9) and our nursery rhyme of the week (This Little Piggie Went To Market).

Zeek practiced tracing the letter I several times and writing it on his own in his journal also.

DSC_0043

INCHES:

We all had a lot of fun with this one!  Measuring things is commonplace around here with projects always going on and measuring tapes always laying around.  The boys even have 2-3 measuring tapes each of their own.  I knew this one would be good to give them a better perspective of what inches actually were… since Zeek is often known to make remarks like, “How long until Daddy gets home?  About 5 inches?” … :)

We started out with just talking about different units of measurement – inches, centimeters, yards. I showed him on his ruler the different notches and numbers.

Then, with rulers in hand, they got out their playdoh and rolled out some “snakes”.  I had them line up the snakes on the ruler, use a plastic knife and cut out a 3 inch snake, a 2 inch snake, etc.

After playdoh, we moved on to a couple of great little worksheets I found on Estimating Length at Education.com.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 8.13.26 AM

This was a great little worksheet.  We talked through each object and looked at the ruler to see which measurement made more sense.

DSC_0046

Next we moved onto another worksheet by The Measured Mom with using Unifix cubes to measure common objects – except Zeek wanted to actually measure them with his tape measure.  Zeek really loved this activity and it was really good for number recognition.

DSC_0047 DSC_0050

ICE/ICE CREAM:

Skyler was SO excited and looking forward to Week I because he wanted to do a dry ice experiment in the worst way.  I obliged him… and he totally didn’t perform! ;)  So, no dry ice… but we did watch the Ice Worlds portion on Planet Earth and then dumped a bunch of ice cubes in a tub and did a small world sensory play with all their penguins, walruses, polar bears, whales, etc.  Their hands were freezing when done but they had fun!

DSC_0124 DSC_0130

I had painstakingly put together this fun ice cream letter matching activity from Free Homeschool Deals also.  It was a fun tool and Zeek enjoyed matching the letters using ice cream – but it was a lot of effort to cut out! :)

Ice-Cream-Alphabet-Matching-for-Uppercase-Lowercase-or-Letters-Sounds-This-Reading-Mama-for-Free-Homeschool-Deals

 

And that wraps up our short week we had learning about Letter I!

This post contains affiliate links.

Ellery June {1 Year Old}

Oh sweet baby girl.

DSC_0629

It happened.  Your first year, your year of babyhood has passed through like a thief in the night.  And I am pretty sure that it was even faster than either of your brothers.  I look back at your baby pictures and can’t even remember that tiny little dumpling.  Who were you?  Haven’t you always been able to crawl around?  Haven’t you always had a head of hair (which you refuse to let me do anything with)? Haven’t you always been joining us for dinner meals and eating the same food right along with us?

This year with you has been one of the most enjoyable, sweet, joyful years of them all.  You have been a true delight in our family and all of our hearts have been further tenderized just by you being in our lives.  We all have found ourselves giddy over all things pink, we live for those moments that you gift us with a girly belly laugh, and we can’t stop ourselves from covering you in kisses from head to toe.

As you have grown closer to a year old, we have seen you start to have a sense of humor and girl.  I’m scared.  I’m scared that you will quickly beat me out as the comedian of the family!  You make us laugh all the time.  You have been a dream baby in demeanor.  You are just so sweet, so content, so happy and also so independent.  I often have to remind myself that yes, indeed, I DO have a baby in the house that I should probably go check on.  And you’re 99% of the time doing something like reading books, playing with the kitchen in your bedroom, or just playing right along with your brothers and whatever manly thing they’re playing with – like having pirate battles, hot wheels races or setting up the world’s greatest train track.  1% of the time though… that 1% we have to watch out for!  You are the first child in this family to have an affinity to toilets and potty water.  You also love grabbing dirty washcloths out of the shower and sucking the water out of them.  Girlfriend.  I wish you would stop this dirty little habit.  If you don’t, I will tell your future boyfriend(s).

You love most any food and eat happily (and often), but if you have something in your mouth and then see something else that you think you might like better, you immediately pull anything out of your mouth, throw it on the floor, and say “muh?” in hopes of better tasting food.

You are trying to say more and more words, which just melts my heart in an instant.  I love hearing your sweet little girl voice!  Your words you can say are:

  • mama
  • dada
  • muh (more)
  • buba (baby)
  • puppa (puppy)
  • meow (you are oddly good at this one)
  • no

You currently have 2 teeth and are working on 4 more. Since I am so late in posting this, I can say that you started officially full time walking on your 13th month exactly (March 5th), just like your brother Zeek did on his 13th month!  You walk like it’s your job now and you are so tickled with yourself at your newfound skill.

Daddy loves to rock you for a few minutes before bed and he hums his “good night song” that he started with Zeek when he was just a baby (which is really Greensleeves).  Now when daddy starts carrying you to your room, you lay your head on his shoulder and start humming the song!  You even do this middle of the night when you wake up and I go into your room to get you back to sleep.

You love dancing.  Probably more than anything else.  ANY music, ANY sort of beat, and your are moving your arms and bopping your body.  I’m fairly certain you were motivated to stand on your own specifically so you have further range of dance moves.

Little darling, we sure love you.  We have so appreciated the girlyness you have brought into our home and the softness that naturally comes with it.  The tenderizing of our hearts and the appreciation for “beautiful things” in all shades of pink and in the form of hairbows, dresses, cute shoes and dollies.

DSC_0685 DSC_0712 DSC_0765 DSC_0818

We had a sweet and simple birthday party with just the family.  You were so excited to open your presents and see your new girly toys!

DSC_0514 DSC_0521 DSC_0535 DSC_0596

I was so excited to give Ellery this sweet dolly that I picked out!  I first saw these dolls around Thanksgiving time when shopping downtown Albany with my mom, sister and sister in law.  They had these at a little boutique “Emma Downtown.”  My SIL loved them and wanted one for her daughter too and thankfully she was smart enough to write the name of them down!  I found the one I wanted online and picked it up from her directly.  These dolls are so adorable and well made!  Go check them out at her shop Meme & Pearl!

DSC_0507 DSC_0597

I cannot get over how adorable and BIG this girl looks sitting on her legs like that!

DSC_0609 DSC_0613

Another new dolly!  Big cousin Kaily showing her the ropes of taking care of a baby doll.

And then… CAKE!

DSC_0543 DSC_0556 DSC_0568 DSC_0586

I think she liked it.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 3.12.33 PM

HAPPY 1ST BIRTHDAY, BABY GIRL!  We sure are glad we have you.

Love, Mom

Monthly pictures for her first year:

1 month 2 months

This 2 month picture has her bloomers SO high above her waist because her daddy gave her a tattoo of a beaver on her belly!  Ohhhhh, sweet thing.  The things you are sure to endure in our family.

3 Months - 2 4 5 6 months 7 months 8 months 9 Mo 10 Months 11 Months             DSC_0629

The Big 3-0 and The Amazing Race

Flashback to the day Zeek was born and I was a young 24.  The very next day, I sat there in the birth center, holding my first-born son.  It was my birthday and I was 25.  I looked at his tiny body in my arms and thought, “Oh my word.  When this little guy is 5 years old, I will be 30!  That will be so crazy!”

Well folks, crazy happened.  He turned 5 and I couldn’t help it but to turn 30 the next day.  The whole month of January has been a bit wild for us, as it always is.  Asher turned 3, Zeek turned 5, we had a Pirate Party to celebrate their days and then wham bam, I became a member of the 30’s Club (which I hear is way better than the 20’s Club?!  So far, so good.).

On my birthday morning, Skyler asked what I wanted to do with my day.  “What do I really want?” I asked him.  “If I’m being honest, I just want a morning to myself.”  So off I went.

Grabbed myself a free birthday cup of joe from Dutch Bros.

IMG_6200

…and headed into a cute little boutique to do find mama a few new tops!

IMG_6197

I found a few items and then was tempted to move onto another shop… until I looked outside and saw the sun beaming and it was just so GORGEOUS outside!  So I quickly drove back home, told the family to change because MAMA WANTED TO GO HIKING!  (WHO AM I?!  This is not my norm.  My norm is Skyler declaring a family hiking day and me faking a smile and saying ‘okay’.  I guess 30 all the sudden puts pressure on you to be healthy! ;))

So we loaded up and headed to the nearby Silver Creek Falls.

IMG_6209

Had to take ^^ this picture to replicate this one from 2 years ago!  Same Zeek, same waterfall, different baby in the backpack carrier. ;)

DSC_0397
2013, Asher was 10 months old and Zeek was 2.5 years.

IMG_6211 IMG_6227 IMG_6239

We stayed there until dark and then drove back into town with sleeping babies (yes, all of them!).  We circled town for a while just enjoying the quiet conversation we were having.  When they woke up, we stopped at our new favorite sushi place downtown!  (Yuuuup, grubby, dirty and stinky from hiking a few miles in the mud and rain… We classy.)

IMG_6242

The following day, Skyler took the kids to my parents house for the night and I had my vision of a birthday celebration – a girly slumber party, just like we were teenagers!!  I had some girlfriends join me and had dreams of playing games and painting our nails and watching old favorite shows…

DSC_0461 DSC_0462

Which we didn’t even touch, until we watched Friends just before going to sleep (in a slumber party sleeping bag circle, heads in the middle of the circle, oh yes we did)…  Instead, we discovered the beauty of the rare moment(s) we were having by just sitting and having (uninterrupted!!) conversation in the living room with a glass of wine… ya know, like adults! ;)  But whatever.  At least we were winning in the junk food department!  (Shield your eyes, Skyler!)

IMG_6248 IMG_6249DSC_0453

The next morning, we had breakfast and mimosa’s and I eagerly awaited the first clue of The Amazing Race, which I had been told by Skyler to expect… I just had no idea in what way I would be getting it or when.  I wasn’t sure if I was expecting someone to knock on my door or a text instructing me to my first clue or what.  At 10:00 am, just before breakfast my friend Tara (whom Skyler had called the day before and told her where he hid the first clue) handed over my clue!

IMG_6250 (1)

My girlfriends, who are awesome and did all of the dirty dishes for me in order to leave me with a clean house after the party, said goodbye and to keep them all updated throughout the day with the rest of the clues and activities.

At this point, it was 11 am and the clue said to be ready at noon.  I quickly showered and started packing my bag, which he made sure that I would see by leaving it directly on my pillow.  Smart man.  This was the worst part of the whole race!  I take forever packing for trips anyway but especially without knowing anything we’d be doing?!  Gah!  What do I take?  What do I leave? HOW MANY DAYS AND CLEAN UNDERWEAR!?!

Regardless, ready I was by the time Skyler showed up at home (kidless because they were staying at their grandparents’ house for the 2nd night.  I have never been away from my kids for 2 nights!  It was the weirdest feeling.).

IMG_6251 (1)

The first clue was supposed to lead me to my favorite coffee shop, Bad Girl’s Coffee, but Skyler had forgotten that it wasn’t open on Saturdays so he quickly had to switch to another nearby coffee shop and he instructed me to drive to “the green coffee house that is his home away from home” (because he spends all his hours doing homework there).

I pulled up, (Skyler was in the car too but he made me drive to my destinations just like in The Amazing Race.) placed my order and the lady handed me my coffee with my next clue which Skyler had dropped off earlier in the morning to her.

IMG_6255 (1)

I drove onward, heading out to the Spirit Mountain Casino where we have spent many fun birthdays.  As I arrived and parked, Skyler handed me my next clue:

IMG_6260

Oh, how my man speaks my language!  I know buffets aren’t everyone’s jam.  But they’re mine!  I always seem to pick the weirdest/worst option on a menu and immediately have remorse when they set my meal before me and I look out at what everyone else ordered.  Buffets are where you can’t go wrong!  Don’t like it?  Move on, baby!

IMG_6259IMG_6257

We enjoyed our meal and decided to spend a bit of time on the slot machines for fun.  We pulled out a $20, played for an hour and left with $18.76.  Not too bad for an hour of fun.  ;)

As we headed out the car, I was handed my next clue:

IMG_6262

It took another 45 minutes or so to arrive to our destination: Lincoln City.  Once there, I pulled over in a parking lot and I was handed my next clue:

IMG_6263

I immediately chose “Finding Treasures” because we always talk about needing to come to the coast alone and hitting up some of their large array of antique shops!  We spent a couple hours stopping at a few different shops, including this weird section which I have always been so curious about!

IMG_6264

FYI to anyone local and curious – not super great!  Dingy, dirty and way overpriced.

After this stop, we got back in the car and, though I DID find a few treasures, I said, “Man!  I should’ve chosen the ‘Blowing Treasures’ Detour!  That would’ve been really different and fun!”  Thankfully, his reply was, “You have been U-Turned!  You must go complete the other side of the Detour now!”

So off we drove to where we could do some glass blowing!

IMG_6277 IMG_6266 (1) IMG_6269 IMG_6270 IMG_6272

After I finished that Detour and we got back into the car, Skyler handed me my final clue instructing me to make my way to the Pit Stop:

IMG_6293

I found this cute little place at the intersection of Harbor and 15th, right on the cliffside of the beach.

IMG_6295 (1)

We found our room and dropped our belongings.  Skyler told me my race was over but I could choose what to do for the rest of the evening.  I chose to go to a nearby Thai restaurant for dinner (of course, I will always choose Thai if given the option!).

IMG_6298

It was amazing, as Thai always is.  :)  Next came the part of figuring out what else to do with our evening, since it was only about 7 at this point.  We decided that we should go check out the Chinook Winds Casino in town because we had never been there before.  We were really surprised with how nice it was!  It was packed however, and we had a hard time finding parking.  Eventually we made our way in and stood in the entrance discussing what to do first when a lady approached us and offered us her tickets for a show there that night for The Guess Who!  We gratefully accepted (since we had no plans!), but I will admit I had to Google them to figure out who they were!

IMG_6299

Once they started, I recognized a few of their songs.  :)  But by far, the most fun part was watching the 50-60+ year olds rocking out to a band of their youth!

IMG_6301

They only played for about an hour and then we played some more slots for another hour and again put in $20 and went home with $19.  :)

The middle of the night turned sour when apparently food poisoning struck and I threw up several times for about 3 hours.  Womp womp.  But, kidless, we were able to sleep in until 9 am at least!

By morning, my stomach was settled, though a bit timid.  We put on a pot of coffee and sat out on our balcony.  It was cool but not chilly.  We watched the waves and some people down below and spent about an hour out there just enjoying the sunny morning and even reading some books we brought!  It was perfect.

IMG_6312 IMG_6315

Then, because hotel coffee ain’t THAT great, we made a stop at our favorite coffee joint in Lincoln City!  LOVE this place (they serve Stumptown coffee).

IMG_6319IMG_6318

Then we hit up a few more antique stores before heading home to get our babies from their grandparent’s house.

IMG_6321

It was a perfect and wonderful 4 day birthday extravaganza!  I felt so loved and celebrated.  I had no idea my 30th would end up so fun and am so thankful to everyone who helped celebrate me!

The best part… Skyler told me our entire “Year of Dates” book this year will be The Amazing Race themed!  Gah!!  I can hardly wait!  Though, we skipped February since my bday was the very end of January and Valentine’s Day, and since his birthday is March, I told him I would take over this next leg of the race (which will be commencing this weekend)!