I had big plans for this summer being relaxing and laid back. It has been REALLY fun, but busier than I imagined. Instead of being laid back, I would characterize it as "maximized." Every time I think, "Oh things will slow down next week," next week comes and it's already full with wonderful activities.
Last week, our dear friend Kathy Dillon came to visit us from Chicago. We first made her acquaintance as Grant's kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Dillon. That summer we crossed the line into friendship and never looked back. Once she was done instructing our kiddos (Katie had her for kindergarten too) we decided to ditch "Mrs. Dillon" and after much debate, settled on "Aunt Kathy." She fills so many roles in our family and has been such a gift to us. We really enjoyed our time with her.
We took her to Newberg's Old Fashioned Festival parade and between the four kids, scored a grocery bag full of candy. Took her to the beautiful Columbia River Gorge and were surprised by how busy Multnomah Falls was. Drove around the parking lot three times behind a long line of cars waiting for spots chanting, "Back Out (clap, clap, clap), back out, etc. etc." When someone did indeed back out, we hooped and hollered much to their delight. We hiked the "moderate, 2.2-mile hike with 700 feet of elevation gain to the top of Multnomah Falls. The dizzying view (at the top) aims down the cataract to the toy-sized lodge and its ant-like crowds." (quoting from the official hiking website). About the time we were all drenched in sweat and still not at the top of the falls, I felt slightly guilty about undertalking the difficulty of the trail. It just wasn't that steep in my memory... We played in the cold creek at the top of the trail and cooled off with ice cream cones at the bottom. Temps when Kathy was here were record highs hitting way over 100 degrees, so being inside in the air conditioning or being near water was paramount for a successful day.
On Sunday, we took her to Solid Rock, our wonderful church, and then she was brave enough to fly solo with all four kids while Curt and I escaped for 24 hours to the coast. She spoiled the kids rotten while we were gone which of course the kids loved, and we were so blessed by a romantic, refreshing time as a couple.
On Tuesday, I took her to Silver Falls State Park. It was too hot to hike any substantial distance, but Silver Falls is fun because you can walk behind the waterfall and explore the caves. It also has an easily accessible creek at the base of the falls so we hiked down the trail through the woods just far enough to access the creek. We splashed in the water, caught crayfish, and played. We thought we were nice and cooled off, but in the short hike back to the van, we over-heated again. We have a digital thermometer in our van that measures the outside temperature fairly accurately and it held steady at 112 F the entire drive home! I am definitely not cut out for extreme heat. Tuesday night was house church night and it was a real pleasure to have Kathy worship with this new family of believers that God has drawn us to. Wednesday was departure day for Aunt Kathy and we were all extremely sad to drop her off at the airport. We considered kidnapping her, but figured the police would know where to find her, so we sadly released her until our next visit.
Yesterday Curt competed in the Blue Lake Olympic-distance triathlon. Blue Lake Park is about 45 minutes from our house at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge. It's a ginormous, private park with picnic shelters, multiple play structures, a spray park, a swimming beach, and paved hiking/biking trails everywhere. My Mom and Terry came to join in the fun and we had a great time watching Mr. Studly work his race. I had butterflies in my stomach the entire time Curt was in the water. Seeing one mile of swimming laid out made me realize how FAR it really is. I can't believe these athletes can swim that far and Curt's stroke seems so rhythmic and effortless, completely unlike my current water flailing that I call swimming. We were on the beach when he came out of the water and I must admit, I got a little weepy seeing him run under the big Red Bull marker and up the hill to the transition area. Swimming that far just seems so monumental to me. He hopped on his bike and rode 24 miles in record time, then transitioned to the 6.4 mile run. We stationed ourselves at a play structure on the running route so the kids could have something fun to do while we cheered on all the athletes. Once Curt passed us, we moved down to the lakefront and waited for him to run by on the way to the finish. It is such a fun, inspiring and motivational atmosphere and we all had so much fun.
After the race, we had a picnic lunch to celebrate my Mom's birthday. I schlepped in an angel food cake with fluffy white frosting, but you all know how deficient I am in cake decorating skills it didn't handle the heat very well, so it looked even more pathetic by the time we served it. It's the thought that counts, right? After the picnic, we took the kids to the spray park and for a short swim in the lake before heading home and crashing on the couch in a slightly comatose state for the remainder of the night.
Which leads me to this morning. Today I experienced another parenting first. I loaded the kids in the van and brought Grant and Katie to Camp Tillikum and dropped them off for a week of day camp. I really can't believe they are old enough to go to camp! And this camp is SO cool. Cool enough that they featured it on Amazing Race. Since we are Amazing Race junkies, I felt my pulse pick up when I saw the "Tillikum Retreat Center" sign and walked down the tree-lined, gravel road with the wood "Challenge Course" sign pointing in the direction that all the Amazing Race contestants went. It was even prettier in person than on TV and was hard to believe this wilderness paradise was a mere 6 miles from downtown Newberg. Rolling foothills cascaded on top of each other, all covered with huge, towering pines. A long lake nestled in the crevice between the mountains with a swimming beach and canoes nestled in the grass by the boat dock. Camp counselors in green t-shirts and shorts pointed us in the right direction on where to park and how to find their group. Grant and Katie wrote their names on little pieces of wood with strings attached to them and then we set off to find the counselor holding the sign for their grade. Sweet Grant was really nervous about going to camp without a buddy. He's the type of kid who can play by himself for hours and isn't particularly outgoing. He prefers a small circle of intimate friends over a wide, circle of friends of various depths, and tends to be reserved in an environment he's not familiar with. Going to camp without a ready-made friend created quite a bit of anxiety in him. I knew he'd be fine once we got to camp and my momma's heart was relieved to see the anxiety visibly turn into excitement once he saw how cool Camp Tillikum really is. Little Miss Social, AKA Katie, never even considered being nervous. She was super excited to make new friends and didn't even glance back when I left her with her counselor.
The littler girls and I left Tillikum and headed to the Newberg Friends Church which was hosting a week of Vacation Bible School. It took a while to get through the registration line, but eventually we made it in the chapel and got Alli and Paige nestled in their row of same-aged kids. It felt surreal to walk outside, childless, with two full hours to myself. Alli's synopsis of the first day of VBS was priceless. She said, "When I pray, even if I use a quiet voice, God still hears me. He has really good ears." And when I was fake-crying over the fact that all the kids are growing up and I was left all by myself this morning, she said, "Stop crying mom. Bigger girls are way more awesomer."
I used my two hours of alone time to spend with God and then decided to try to run for the first time since my disastrous race in Sunriver. My knee has had six weeks of rest from any cardiovascular activity and strain, but it still aches all the time and swells up with even the slightest of physical therapy stretches. Since I have PT tomorrow, I thought I'd give running a try and see if I could make it a teeny tiny mile without pain. Pushed start on the Garmin (which tracks my distance and time) and made it a whopping .18 miles before the first zinger of pain. Stopped at .25 miles with sharp pain in the front and back of my knee and just like that, my 1 minute and 51 seconds of exercise was done. I am frustrated, frustrated, frustrated! Please pray with me that I can embrace the slow road to healing if that's God's plan for me. I feel like I have made ZERO progress in 6 weeks and that I'm just wasting my time with all this rest and PT, but that could just be emotion talking.
So that's the update on Team Stilp. In 20 minutes we'll go pick up Grant and Katie from their first day of camp and I can hardly wait to hear how it went.