Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Berry Picking & A Walk down Memory Lane

Things have been really busy and I'm so behind with everything that's been going on. I'm hoping that after I finish this post I'll be able to spend some time catching up on everyone else's blogs since I haven't been online for weeks.

Anyway, I 'm going to skip everything else that's been going on this summer and just post an entry about my trip up to Skagit Valley. Aaron was in Vegas that week for work so I took the opportunity to leave for a few days with the kids and drive up to the Skagit Valley. I went up there to pick strawberries so that I could make a bunch of jam (something I've been meaning to do each summer since I moved back to Washington). The kids loved it and Jacob was a good berry picker! They each had a bucket and he filled his as fast as I filled mine! Joseph, as you can see from the picture, may have been as fast as Jacob but the berries seemed to be emptying into his mouth instead of the bucket. It was fun picking strawberries again and they tasted just as good as I remembered them. You just can't compare California berries at Safeway to sun-ripened Skagit Valley strawberries. Yummy!

In addition to a berry picking trip, this was also a trip down memory lane for me. My family moved to the Skagit Valley and bought a 22 acre farm in Sedro-Woolley when I was in the first grade. We lived there until I was a freshman in High school, so most of my childhood memories are from this area. Our neighbors, Greg and Jonee Platt, lived across the field from us at the end of Sterling Road. Their daughter Sally (who was a year older than me) was my best friend for many years. Sally now lives in New York but her parents still live in the same house across the field from my old home. I called Jonee up a few weeks ago and asked if we could come over for a visit since we would be up in the area getting strawberries anyway. She said yes, so we took the 8am ferry out of Kingston on a Tuesday morning and were at her house by 10am. The kids spent the whole day riding their bikes in the same places that I did as a child. It was surreal coming back and being there again with my own children. Here's a picture of them riding their bikes from the Platts house down the road to the house where I used to live.

It was so nice of them to let us stay the day at their place. I really enjoyed visiting with Greg and Jonee, they are seriously the nicest people you could ever meet. I just loved being in their home and seeing so many familiar things from my past. I love when you can go back to a place that you were many years before and have the comfort of it feeling like it did when you last left. So many times I've gone back to places from my past only to see that it has changed so much I don't even recognize if from my memories. The Platts have done such a great job of preserving their home and the many things that make it so cozy, comfortable and charming. It was so great to sit at their same kitchen table I played games on as a kid and have my boys spend the night in the same bedroom that Sally and I used to hang out and play in as young girls. They haven't changed much either, they just look a little older but every bit as wonderful. While we were there visiting in the backyard their neighbor Cathy came over to say hi too. Her son (who was just an infant when I last rememberd seeing him) was now 16 or 17 and had to be over 6 foot tall. It's crazy how quickly time passes.

They were so great with the kids too. From the moment we arrived, Greg was pulling bikes and scooters out from his basement and any other fun toys that he thought the boys would enjoy. They kept them entertained for hours with baseball, bikes, marbles and tops and even an inflatable raft that they filled up with water. The boys had so much fun and even asked me on the drive home when we could go back to visit Greg and Jonee again.

While we were there we even got to see my old house. Apparently it's been on the market for a couple years and so I called up the Realtor and he walked us through it. It felt odd going back to my old bedroom and walking through the house that I grew up in.

It's changed in many ways from the way I remembered it. When we were living there it only had one tiny bathroom and was pretty small but since then it has been renovated and raised (because it's in a flood zone) and an addition was put on the front of the house. Anyway I thought I'd post some pictures here for my family to see the old place and remember some of the things from when we were kids. The battery on my camera died while I was taking pictures of the place but at least I got some pictures of some of the things I wanted to remember. I don't expect that anyone will find these pictures or memories interesting but I want to record them here since right now they're only locked away in my mind.......

The picture above shows the chicken shed and tool shed (now painted in red) and the great oak tree that was planted by the son of the original owner of the home over 100 years ago. We were told that the little boy found the acorn on his way home from school and his mother helped him plant it. It moved around to a couple places in the yard but finally made it's permanent home here behind the house. If you click on the picture and look closely you can see how big it is from Lauren standing near it. You can also see some of the remains of Dad's rose garden.

These are some interior pictures of the house.

Jonee came with me when the Realtor was there. I took the picture of the kids from the top of the stairs looking down because I remember how one year all 5 of us kids sat on those steps on Christmas morning watching and waiting for the cuckoo-clock to strike 6am which was the appointed time when we were allowed to come downstairs to wake up our parents to open presents. The clock was hung at the bottom of the stairs high up on the red wall. I remember that little closet that was under the stairs being the place where I would usually find my older sister Cathleen talking on the phone with her boyfriend. And at the top of the stairs in that little alcove next to the window I remember my mom had her desk and that's where I would find her paying bills and balancing the checkbook on one of those old adding machines.

This is a picture of my bedroom window where I spent many a moment looking out and dreaming of my future. I dreamed about the man I would marry and about having my own baby (which would look just like my doll named Thumbelina) and I would take care of her and she would love me. I remember many times wanting to run away from home because I felt that no one loved me or cared about me. One time I remember looking out this window on a drizzly day and trying to decide when the best day would be to run away.....(I was probably only 9 or 10.) I think I didn't want to miss the sacrament presentation that Sunday and then it was almost Thanksgiving and I thought I would wait a few more weeks. Luckily in a few weeks I had Christmas to look forward to.

These are some pictures of the boys in my old bedroom. The closet was where we used to hide and jump out and scare people at night when they were in bed. ( I shared a room with my sister Megan). I remember one time my brother was hiding in the closet while I was telling my sister about what I had just bought him for Christmas (an F-16 model jet). He suddenly burst out of the closet and my surprise of the perfect gift (that I was so excited for him to open) was totally blown. I was so mad at him!!!

Here are some pictures of my brothers old tree house. As you can see it has since fallen to the ground, but my boys still had a ton of fun exploring. There's also a picture of the swing (which was broken) and the balance beam that I used to do gymnastics on. I loved gymnastics but having lessons was to expensive so my Dad told me that if I saved up $50 he could buy the lumber and make regulation balance beam. I was only in the 6th grade but I won $25 in an editorial writing contest at our school and babysat and mowed lawns to earn the rest of the money. It was old and moss-covered but still standing.

This is a picture of the giant evergreen tree that was in our back yard. This tree was so cool! The branches were like a sweeping skirt and when you went up under the tree there was the coolest places to play. We would pretend it was our house and I made many mud cakes and mud pies that were cooked in the "oven" (a hollowed out fallen tree that we stuck a grill in to rest the cakes on). We used the log rounds that my Dad had leftover from chainsawing up the trees he would get for winter firewood as the plates that we would make the cakes on. We would decorate them with wildflowers an they (in my memory) looked so pretty. The ivy has grown like crazy around the base of the tree now. The pictures of the kids are taken inside the underskirt of the tree. There were 3 other trees like this out in the back fields that we also used to play in. They were so much fun, I wish we had a tree like that for our kids to play in.

Okay, so I saved the best for last. This is a picture of the playhouse.

It was actually an old milk shed that the farmers used to take the cows in for milking but when we moved there I thought it was built for me. I spent many, many hours playing in this little shed that became lovingly known as "the playhouse". The blackberry bushes had started growing up around it and blocked the door a little bit but that didn't stop us. Inside was pretty dusty and dirty but there were still many things where I had left them over 20 years before....

I made the little brick "fireplace" from the leftover bricks that my Dad threw out when he knocked down the old chimney on the house. It was so weird to see it still there. The cement thing on the top right was our "couch." I stuffed burlap sacks that I found in the big barn with hay to make a cushion for the seat. The milk crates on the wall were hammered up for "shelves" to hold our old dishes and other treasures. I bought curtains for the windows and pictures for the walls at garage sales and had the whole place looking quite homey. I had a little garden on the left side of the house that I pretended was for vegetables but I really just grabbed interesting plants and weeds that would pop up on the farm and transplant them to grow there. I loved that play house and had so much fun spending my time there. It was like my little house, my own place that felt like my home. I think it was there that my love for making a home first began. The kids had fun going in the playhouse and hearing about all the things we used to play there but Lauren didn't like being left in it while I snuck out to take their picture. She was quite unsure of this place......But it all brought back many happy memories for me.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Coolest Rope Swing Ever !!!

Aaron had been talking about making a rope swing for the boys when we first started exploring the property. He even brought me out to the spot one day and tried to describe to me his "vision" but I wasn't really seeing it. Well, a few weeks ago he found a good price for some rope on craigslist and went that day to pick it up in Tacoma. When he got home the boys were all set to help Dad.......

A little later I went outside to steady the extension ladder as he cut branches off the tree and hung the rope. After that though, I didn't see anything until he called me outside that evening to see the final result.

In one day this guy cut branches with his chainsaw 20 feet up in the air, hung a rope, made a swing, built a platform and changed my boys lives forever! When he finally called me out to come and see I had to admit that I was totally impressed! I kept thinking what a cool guy he is to make and build such cool things for our kids. Just one of the reasons I love him so much. So here's some pictures of the coolest rope swing ever! (at least that I've ever seen) (:

The take off ......

Jacob and Joseph are the only ones who are daring enough to stand on the platform. Ben stands down further on the dirt slope.

The release.......

This picture is a little blurry but the expression on Josephs face is priceless!
(Definitely worth clicking on)

The flight path......

The property naturally slopes down here to a little gully with a stream at the bottom. A perfect slope for a rope swing. As you can see Joseph is "waving" at us.......we had to set some rules and one of them was both hands on the rope AT ALL TIMES or you're done for the rest of the day.

The boys are pretty strong and can hold their body weight just by hanging on with their arms. I, however, was not as confident in my arm muscles. I could just see myself falling off the kid-size seat and dangling in the air like Tar-Zan. Would I be able to hold up so much weight or would I drop like a bowling ball at the highest point and come crashing down into the bushes? I was actually a bit terrified to go off of the platform..... and it took me a while to get up the nerve ( all with my boys standing behind me rooting me on) but when I finally did I have to admit that it was quite a rush and SO MUCH FUN!!! I screamed like a crazy lady the whole way down. Jacob won't let me forget it either. Every time since then that I take a ride he tells me, "now don't scream mom, okay?"

Next time any of you come over for a visit you have to try it out! It's already provided hours of entertainment for the boys and their friends. A worthwhile investment of time......
thanks Aaron. (:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"A Piece of Quiet"

I just wanted to write down something cute that Joseph said the other day.....

We were driving in the car and Lauren was having a meltdown. In addition to her screaming the other kids were making their typical noise. Between Lauren's screams Joseph was trying to tell me something but he couldn't get it out because he kept getting interrupted by all the noise. Finally in desperation he yelled out......"Can I please have a piece of quiet!!!"

It made me laugh because I thought about how often I ask for "peace and quiet" when things start getting too loud and crazy with the kids. I guess Joseph hears it as me wanting "a piece of quiet" though. His interpretation made me smile.