Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

We just returned from a weekend celebrating Thanksgiving with my Dad and his wife Marcy in beautiful Bend, Oregon. We opted to make the drive over on Thanksgiving morning, by the light of day vs. tackling the Santiam Pass in the dark. Our goal was to pretend it was a school morning and have the van loaded with gear, kids and parents by 8:05 a.m., the time the bus picks the kids up each morning. We missed our goal by 25 minutes but still left earlier than anticipated.

It was a gorgeous day for a drive. A typical fall morning in Oregon, the sky was laden with clouds and fog but we saw a glimmer of sun and by the time we reached the mouth of the Santiam Pass, the sun began to burn off the fog. It was breath-taking to see the mountains, bathed in sunlight at their peaks and dotted with unbroken-up fog patches at lower elevations. The skies were clear blue and the bright morning sun reflected off the river and the snow-covered, towering pines. We oohed and ahhed and thanked God for His creativity and awesome power to create such beauty for us to enjoy. What a great way to start a day centered around giving thanks.

We made it safely to my Dad and Marcy's cozy home in Bend. While the kids bounced off the walls, we unloaded the van and helped Marcy put the finishing touches on the Thanksgiving meal. An hour or so later (and a good two hours later than we normally eat lunch), the feast was on the table and all four of the Stilp children were in the guest room serving time for misbehaving, two of them wailing loudly. I couldn't help but sneak a picture of their plight. Once we calmed everyone down and took the prerequisite pictures of the beautifully decorated table laden with food, we dug in. I have never seen my kids eat so much in one setting, EVER! They were so hungry and I thought they'd never stop eating. Grant the Carnivore, took the turkey leg and consumed almost the entire leg in one meal. Little Ladies, let me tell you, he's available and if his manners continue in the way he exhibited as he devoured that turkey leg, he'll be available for a VERY long time! After lunch, the kids ran around in the back yard and the adults lounged in chairs on the back deck in a triptophane induced state, enjoying the 40ish degree weather, clear skies and sunshine.

Friday morning Marcy and I tackled the Black Friday sales, but on the Lazy Jodi time table. I am not a morning person and am of the belief that getting out of bed any time before 7:00 a.m. is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. I mapped out my plan of attack on our drive to Bend on Thursday, so I rose, at 7:01 a.m., pulled on my sweats and dashed to Wal-Mart (2 miles away) to tackle the first store on my list. Was home by 8:00 a.m. for a shower, coffee and breakfast, and then grabbed Marcy around 9 a.m. to finish our shopping. We methodically knocked out Macy's, Old Navy and Target and finished at TJ Maxx the following day. It was fun to get so much accomplished in a short time period and really enjoyable to have some girl time with Marcy.

While we were shopping, the boys and kids tackled another wood chopping project. Grant swings a mean axe and singlehandedly chopped an entire wheelbarrow load of kindling. He was out there swinging his axe and doing Man Stuff all day with my Dad and Curt. Curt's wood chopping didn't fare as well. He was about 4 logs into his project when one got stuck in my Dad's log splitter, came shooting out and severed a hose. OOPS! Hope they invite us back next year... The girls gathered pine cones and played with the dogs and fun was had by all.

Friday night we bundled up and headed to the cute downtown section of Bend, the part with the one-way streets, specialty shops with adorable store fronts, multiple coffee shops and a huge pine tree in the center of town. We joined several hundred people for the tree lighting ceremony. We watched dancers and a choir perform, sang carols with the local Baptist church choir and listened to Santa lecture kids about proper behavior to ensure themselves a spot on the GOOD list. One hour later, we counted backward from five and yelled, "Merry Christmas" and nothing happened. So they ad libbed, "That wasn't loud enough, let's try again," and for a second time, we all counted backward from five, yelled "MERRY CHRISTMAS!" even louder and VIOLA! The enormous tree was lit. We piled back into our vehicles and finished the night with hot cocoa and leftover pie before bed.

Saturday morning, I went for my first outdoor run since having my knee repaired in August. I asked my Dad to run with me and off we went on the most beautiful morning imaginable. 21 degrees, crisp, clear, blue skies, bright sun and fantastic views of Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters, and all the other snow-capped peaks whose names are escaping my memory. We jogged and talked, enjoying the morning and each other, and finished three miles in no time flat. I couldn't have asked for a better way to celebrate my first outdoor run than to share it with my Dad.

The rest of the day we mixed lots of lounging around with a trip to the park, more wood chopping, and jump rope twirling. Alli's new passion is jump roping and since it's not Christmas yet, her "jump rope" is a scarf. They jumped and chanted every jump roping chant known to man. What's up with wrapping up a baby in toliet paper and sending it down an elevator?

Today we enjoyed another gorgeous day for our drive home. Even though we've driven the pass multiple times, the view never loses it's wonder. The grandeur of the rugged white-capped peaks cast against the brilliant blue sky with painted horses frollicking on ranches in the scrubby desert brush. From every angle, another snow-capped peak, looming behind a house. A barn. A horse. It just takes your breath away.

When we were about 5 miles from Salem, we exited the Santiam Highway and headed to Tree Kings tree farm, a tree farm that came highly recommended. I have been to multiple tree farms in my life, but have NEVER seen such a huge operation. This is not your little Mom and Pop tree farm with free apple cider and a little barn filled with over-priced holiday knick knacks. As we pulled into the driveway, the roar of a helicopter deafened all noise and we giggled as we watched a helicopter driver flying around the fields with a huge cable and hook, grabbing pre-baled trees and piling them on the largest pile of trees I have ever seen. Apparently this tree farm sells over 300,000 trees each year and ships them all over the United States and Mexico! The high school boy manning the booth at the entrance/exit shouted directions over the noise, gave us a map and pointed us up the hill. Acres and acres and acres and acres of trees, varying in price depending on size and kind of tree. Mt. Hood and the Cascade Range that we'd just driven over provided a stunning back drop to the neatly lined rows of trees. We piled out of the van, the girls still in their church clothes, and laughed at how unlike Christmas the weather was. 55 degrees. Sunny. Blue skies. I was sweating in my sweater. We found the perfect tree immediately and Curt went to work chopping it down. It was well over 10 feet tall but had been mismarked as a 6-7 footer, so we took advantage of the pricing and got a screaming deal on our tree.

Our front living room now boasts a 10 foot noble fir, our entire home has the sweet fragrance of fresh cut pine, and hopefully by tomorrow we'll have the energy to start the decorating. Curt will adorn the perfect live tree with symmetry, grace and matching ornaments. The kids and I will tackle the 7 foot fake tree with multi-colored lights, mismatched ornaments and nothing resembling symmetry. And we'll all be happy. It will be the first thing we can be thankful for in this next year.

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