Monday, October 5, 2015

Grandma/Clara Road Trip

We only had a weekend, but to a nine-year-old, packing a suitcase and staying in a couple of hotels means "road trip."

I sent Clara an invitation about a month ago, and she had been looking forward to our weekend together ever since then. (So had I!) Clara got out of school early on Friday, as it was an inservice day, so Kelsey had her bag all packed and met me at the school, where Clara and I began our big adventure.

We stopped at a fast-food place on our way out of town, and had lunch together, then made the drive from Houston to Waco. It took a little under three hours for this leg of the trip, which ended at our hotel.

After taking a few minutes to settle in, we hopped back into the car and drove to the Dr. Pepper Museum. The museum is housed in what used to be the Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company, the first building dedicated to the manufacturing of Dr. Pepper. The museum encourages people to use their imaginations and follow their dreams. I didn't realize, before our visit, that Dr. Pepper is the oldest major soft drink in America, created in Waco in 1885, one year before Coca-Cola.


This is the original artesian well from which they drew their spring water for making Dr. Pepper. 

At the end of the museum tour (three floors of displays) we stopped in the old soda fountain and had a Dr. Pepper float. Clara was impressed at how they made it, using the flavored syrup and soda water, and more impressed by the taste! Yum!

I let Clara choose what we ate for the main meal each day. On Friday evening she asked to go to a barbecue restaurant. That kind of surprised me until she explained further: "Barbecue restaurants always have mac and cheese!" So we asked a young man at the Dr. Pepper Museum if he knew of a good barbecue place, and he recommended Vitek's BBQ. It's a locally owned spot and really did have great food -- including four-cheese mac and cheese. We both left happy.

We still had a little daylight left, so we drove downtown to see the old historic suspension bridge, which crosses the Brazos River. This bridge opened in 1869, and was the first major suspension bridge in Texas. At that time, Waco was located in a very remote area, so getting building supplies and manufactured parts to the site was extremely difficult. The twin double towers at either end of the bridge were, at the time, considered a marvel of engineering, and contained nearly 3 million bricks, which were produced locally. It was designed for stagecoaches, pedestrians and cattle, and tolls were collected on each one that crossed.  (The toll for cattle was five cents/head.) Now the bridge is only for pedestrians, and has a park at each end. It seemed to be a hot spot for families and picnics. Folks were even spreading their picnic blankets on the floor of the bridge, where they could watch the sun set on the Brazos River.

This is a bridge that spans the river a little way down from the suspension bridge. The sun was setting behind it, which made for a pretty picture

We played a game in the hotel room that night and watched a little TV.

After a good night's sleep, we arose on Saturday and ate the complimentary breakfast at the hotel. Clara thought she'd like one of their fresh-made waffles - which was in the shape of the state of Texas - but only ate a little bit of it, saying that it wasn't really as good as it looked.

We packed up our car and spent the morning at the Cameron Park Zoo, also situated beside the Brazos River. Zoos are always a hit with kids, and this was no exception.

Clara was determined to get a photo of one of the komodo dragons, because it's Robert's favorite animal. But the kimonos were behind a rather messy glass window, with the sun shining on it, which made it nigh-on to impossible to get a good picture. So we took Clara's picture by this komodo dragon statue, instead, in hopes that Robert would enjoy it.

After lunch we went to Homestead Heritage Village, where Clara enjoyed watching a blacksmith form some decorative iron pieces, watching the potters create pottery out of clay, learning about how flour was made at the gristmill, sitting in some beautiful rocking chairs made at the woodworking shop, and trying her had at weaving at the fiber crafts house. She also LOVED the store, where all of these handmade goods were available for sale. She had a little bit of sticker-shock, though. She fell in love with one of the quilts that was hanging on the wall, until she saw the price tag - $4200.00! Later she said she was going back to get a picture of it. I thought she meant the quilt, but she actually went back to get a picture of the price tag - ha ha!

This was the quilt with the shocking price tag.

We left Homestead Heritage around 3:00 p.m., and drove to Hutto, TX, about two hours away, where we checked into our second hotel. Clara had brought homework with her, and this seemed like a good time to get it done.  Afterward she thought that Mexican food sounded good for dinner, and since there was a recommended Mexican restaurant just across the road from our hotel, that made it an easy request to fulfill.

The next day was Sunday. I had promised Clara that we'd go to Shipley's Donuts for breakfast before church, but I encouraged her to eat a little bit of "healthy" food before the donuts, so we spent a few minutes at the hotel breakfast bar where she ate some yogurt and some Canadian bacon. As we got out of the car in the Shipley's parking lot, Clara was surprised to see Grandpa there! He drove down, from Temple, to meet us for breakfast and church. The donuts were great, and we enjoyed class and worship at the Westside Church of Christ, where our friends Robert & Susan, and Jack & Lisa are members. It was good to see them again.

Clara's choice for Sunday lunch was pizza, so we found a Double Dave's pizza parlor and filled up before heading back to Clara's home, in Houston. This leg of the trip was about three hours, and seemed longer. It always seems to take longer going home than it does heading out on an adventure.

Back home

I spent the night with Chris, Kelsey, Robert and Clara, and got to see the kids off on the school bus the next morning before driving home, where Grandpa was awaiting my return.

Waiting for the school bus this morning

Clara is getting on as Robert heads toward the bus
 They were two very busy days. I hope Clara made some sweet memories. I know I did. Wouldn't it be nice if this were just the first of many Clara and Grandma road trips?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Here's my latest painting project. Someone in my art class offered to buy it from me . . . and that's a FIRST! I may sell it to her, but wanted to bring it home and get a photo for my blog. And I haven't added my signature to it yet.

I really do want to learn watercolor painting, and don't think that my teacher, Barbara, is too eager to teach it. So I purchased some online watercolor lessons. I'll continue going to Barbara's class, which I love, and working in acrylics there; and will begin my watercolor journey, on my own, at home. Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

To Oregon and Back

When people ask me, "Where's your home?", I'm always a little stumped about how to respond. I was born in Oregon, and lived there as a child until we moved to Alaska in 1957. Later on, Dan and I brought our two Alaska-born sons to Oregon for their school years. Oregon was also the place my parents lived as they were growing up, so Oregon is home to me - at least ONE of my homes. I consider Alaska my other home, since I spent an equal amount of time - about 25 years - in each of those two states. And I now live in Texas, which I've also adopted as my yet another-other home. (Despite the fact that I truly treasure many New Mexico friendships, the geography and climate of that state never earned it a "homey" spot in my heart.)

We just got back from a trip "home" to Oregon. We spent Wednesday, the 19th traveling. We drove to Marci's (Dan's sister's) house, in Dallas, where we left our car. Our nephew, Caleb, drove us to the DFW airport that afternoon. We were traveling on our mileage points, so splurged and went first class. (Splurging with mileage points is easier than splurging with money.) What a difference that made! We had lots of leg-room, nice roomy seats, a delicious hot meal, snacks. The four hour flight was totally enjoyable.

The nostalgia struck as soon as I saw this through the window of the plane. That's the Columbia River in the foreground, and Mt. Hood in the background, as we were approaching Portland.

We moved from Oregon 17 years ago, so there were many changes. But when we got to our old hometown, Newberg, it once again felt like home to me. There were new businesses, and new housing developments, of course, but some of my old haunts hadn't changed.

Friends in Newberg, John and Jan, let us stay at their beautiful home, up in the hills of Newberg. They were there at the house to greet us that first evening, but left, themselves, on vacation early the next morning, so we had their house to ourselves for the duration of our stay. What amazingly generous hospitality on their part! 

On Thursday Dan met some former Tektronix colleagues, in Beaverton. That same group of guys used to have lunch together once a week. While Dan was enjoying his reunion with them, I met with my dear former colleague, Tom. We had lunch at the student center at George Fox University, where we worked together in the Business and Economics Department (now the College of Business and Economics). We got caught up on news of our families and mutual acquaintances, and then Tom took me on a walking tour of the campus to see some of the big changes. George Fox has really grown! This is the old Woodmar building, where I worked most of the time I was at Fox. Just before we left Newberg they completed a restoration of the building, bringing back it's original beauty, and added the more modern section you can see to the right, in this photo. 

That evening Dan and I met my cousins (daughters of one of Dad's sisters), Bonnie and Marcia, at J's Restaurant. J's was one of those old haunts of ours, and hadn't changed much at all. It was nice to have time to visit with these two cousins, one of whom - Bonnie - I'd only met once, and the other - Marcia - I had never met before. Bonnie and I have corresponded in recent years, and she also exchanged emails with Mom frequently. I brought along a silver-and-ivory necklace of Mom's to give to Bonnie, since she had grown very fond of Mom. 

On Friday I had another lunch date. (As is becoming evident, and will become MORE evident, we literally ate our way through this vacation!) Debby was a great friend when I worked at George Fox. We helped each other through the good times and bad, and we never missed having our weekly lunch together. So it wouldn't have seemed right to be in Newberg and not have lunch with her. She took me to one of the new restaurants that have sprung up, and we talked one another's ears off. It was one of those friendships that just picked up right where it left off 17 years ago. I really miss Debby!

Saturday had been set aside for the REAL purpose of our trip to Oregon. After Mom's passing, in March, her ashes were sent to Willamette National Cemetery (WNC), where my Dad was interred, and she was buried there with him. I felt a strong need to visit the gravesite, to say my last good-bye and bring some closure to this difficult time. This cemetery is an amazingly beautiful place, and seeing the graves of these heroes of our nation is very inspirational. We spent quite a long time there, in quiet meditation, just soaking in the beauty and the serenity. 

From WNC we drove north, across the Columbia River and into Vancouver, WA, to visit another dear friend, whom we first knew in Juneau, but who has been living in Washington now for many, many years. John lost his wife, Betty, about three years ago, and this was our first time, since her passing, that we were able to see him and give him a long-overdue hug. He fixed some delicious tacos for lunch and served them with his home-made salsa. I knew that, since his retirement, he had taken up oil painting, so asked to see some of his work. He honored us with a trip upstairs to a room he had dedicated as his studio, where we saw many pieces of his outstanding art work. John is so talented!

On Sunday we went to church, knowing it would be a day full of reunions. Sometimes I forget how much I've missed someone until I see them again. That's how I felt about so many of our dear friends at the Newberg church. There were those who had only been kids when we left there - peers and friends of our own boys - now grown and in leadership roles at church. There were their parents, now grandparents like us. And there were those who were of my parents' generation - now truly the SENIORS of the senior saints. Each one was special; each one brought back so many memories. It was a great day. Our friend, Doris, treated us to lunch. Doris was one of Mom's good friends, and they never missed a day emailing each other. Doris says she still misses those daily chats.

Monday brought both Dan and I back to George Fox to meet my old colleagues/friends from the Academic Affairs Office, where I worked for the final four of my 12 years at George Fox. The three of them, Dirk, Jim and Mark, along with one other, Glenn, who no longer lives in Newberg, were such terrific guys to work with. In that office we dealt with some very serious issues which required concern and compassion for both faculty and students involved. But that seriousness was always tempered by wonderful team camaraderie, well seasoned with humor, making those years the favorite ones of my entire career. I loved spending some time with them again.

It's hard to know how we did it, but somehow we squeezed in a few more meals, at fondly-remembered restaurants still going strong. One was Abby's - the pizza place where we, along with a couple dozen other friends from church, used to eat lunch every Sunday.

And Coffee Cottage, THE coffee spot for hanging' out, near the Fox campus.

And the Tigard Mongolian BBQ. We've never found one of those Mongolian-Ghengis-Grill-type places that we like as much as this one. 

We spent Monday night in Portland, at a hotel near the airport, making the next day really easy for returning our rental car and getting to the airport. It worked perfectly.

Speaking of the PDX airport, they have this giant cuckoo clock there - the tallest free standing cuckoo clock in North America, standing 24 feet tall, weighing more than three tons, and carved from a single Oregon maple. If you've ever lived in the Portland area, you will recognize all of the meaningful symbols carved into it, such as: a replica of the old White Stag neon sign that faces the Burnside Bridge, Mt. Hood, the Fremont Bridge, salmon swimming upstream, street musicians, Sasquatch (reading poetry - ha!), the Portlandia statue, and others, including some humorous insider symbols. We left that area, to go to our departure gate, before the hour struck, so didn't get to hear the "free-range chicken cuckoo's" song, which I'm sure would have been a kick.

I loved every minute of our Oregon vacation -- although we did have two days (Sunday and Monday) of terribly smoky air because of the forest fires in Washington and Oregon. But the wind shifted, I guess, because it cleared up by Monday morning. Dan also really enjoyed seeing all of our old friends again, but was a bit chagrinned by the smoke and the Portland area traffic, which was much more congested than we are used to here in Texas. Since he did all of the driving, it didn't bother me so much ;-)

We spent Tuesday night at Marci's, and then drove on home from Dallas on Wednesday, after having a nice breakfast out with Marci and Caleb. Myles (Caleb and Tammy's little boy) started kindergarten that week, and seemed to be doing just fine with that transition . . . maybe better than his Daddy was, in fact.

(Oh, by the way, our own grandson also started kindergarten last week! Don't miss taking a look at photos of the first day of school for Robert and Clara, on Kelsey's blog - click here.)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Coffee Pot Flowers

Here's the picture I was working on when Robert and I painted at the kitchen table. I think it's finished.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Life with Robert - Part 2

Friday morning I got out my paints to work a little on my current art project. Robert, as I anticipated, wanted to paint, too. So I draped him in one of Grandpa's old shirts, to keep the paint off of his clothes, and set him to work with some poster paints.

Right after lunch the three of us went to the theater to see Minions. I wouldn't call it a huge hit with Robert, although it did get a number of good laughs from him. My own opinion is that this doesn't live up to Despicable Me, the first movie featuring the minions and the only other minion movie I have seen. The only scene that made me laugh occurred while Dan was taking Robert out to the restroom, so Dan missed it. (The scene where the Minions accidentally pop up, through a manhole, in the midst of the photoshoot for the Beatles' Abbey Road album cover.)

Saturday morning came, and with it the continuing hot weather. We went to I-Hop for breakfast, where Robert chose the Funny Face chocolate pancake with whipped cream. Later that morning, just before noon, we went to the Bend o' the River park for the community-wide picnic. We chose to just buy our lunch there, not knowing what to expect. As we were parking, Robert asked, "Are they going to have anything there to eat besides bananas? Because I hate bananas." LOL. We assured him that the menu would have other choices, and it did. We were pleasantly surprised to find that nearly anything on the menu was just $1.00. Robert got a hot dog, two cookies and a red soda pop! 

There was an enjoyable jazz band playing, first in the gazebo, and later strolling among the picnic tables. 


Robert lasted for an hour or a little more, and then he kind of crashed. All of a sudden he was unhappy with just about everything - the food, the heat, the music, the scratchy grass, Grandma's rules - you name it! Could have been because of the red soda pop! Could have been because of activity-overload. Was probably simply because he's a 5-year old little boy! Anyway, it was time to go home, where watching cartoons on Netflix, in an air-conditioned room, seemed just the ticket. I've probably let him watch way more cartoons this afternoon than would have been allowed at his home, but it seemed to make all of us happy, so Grandma took the easy way out. We'll be returning him into his parents' hands tomorrow, and we'll leave the job of weaning him off of all the one-on-one attention and relaxed rules to them. And that's the JOY of GRANDPARENTHOOD!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Life with Robert

On Wednesday morning we met up with Kelsey at the Shell station in Somerville - the mid-way point between our two houses - and transferred Robert from her vehicle to ours. It's really nice of Kelsey to meet us like this, making the retrieval of Robert a 3 hour roundtrip, rather than a 6 hour one. Clara was there, as well. She reported that she had a wonderful experience at her first church camp, which just ended. I brought along the painting that I had done for her, all framed up, and gave it to her there in the parking lot. She seemed to like it.

After we got home we had lunch and then broke out the robot building kit I had gotten for Robert. Here are some of the fun results of about an hour and a half of construction. He really loves these. He needs some help putting them together, but for the most part can figure them out himself.

We played the Roads, Rivers, Rails game a few times, and we got better at it the more we played. I guess he enjoyed it, because he asked to play again the next day.

Finally, after dinner, we went to the nearby splash pad. It was still 101 degrees, so I smeared him with sun screen and told him that when he got too hot, we'd leave. That's why I thought it was so funny when he played for only about two minutes and then came and said he was ready to go because he was "too cold." I wrapped him in a towel and had him warm up a bit, after which he said he'd try it again. So back out he went, this time lasting maybe ten minutes and seeming to have fun. He attached himself to a couple of other children this time, so had some encouraging peer pressure.

Thursday morning he was antsy to go to the library, since I had promised him we would. The library didn't open until 10:00 a.m., and he could hardly stand to wait that long. But finally, we hopped into the car and drove downtown to get some books. I told him we could get a few for him to read to me, and a few for me to read to him. (He's actually reading very well now!) I asked the librarian what the limit was for checking out children's books. Can you believe it is FIFTY! No, I didn't get that many. but we came home with 13.

At the library. They have several statues of characters from books. This is the one Robert chose to have his picture taken with.

From the library we went to the train station. I thought Robert might like to climb on the old steam engine there - as it's open to the public and free. But he wasn't interested. From inside the car, where he was already reading books, he said, "No, I can see it from here." So . . . no train exploration. But the Whistlestop Park is right beside the train station, and that looked a little more enticing to him. We played for a half-hour or so.

Hot and tired, we headed to DQ for lunch. Robert is a dairy-free kiddo, so couldn't have the ice cream that came with the kids' meal, but the cashier was kind enough to offer him a slushy. He chose cherry, and it was a big hit.

Late in the afternoon we broke out the electronics kit. I really wondered if it would be too difficult for him to enjoy, but it wasn't. I read off the parts list for each of the projects we did, and Robert was good at finding the pieces. Then I showed him where to snap each piece onto the board, and in what order, and voila, we had sirens, lights, and other fun contraptions. Dan only had to come and help us out with one of the projects. Sure enough, we had forgotten a piece, leaving the circuit incomplete. That was not Robert's fault; it was Grandma's!

Dinner, watching a little Netflix (Chuggington), and reading from our library books brings this day to an end. Bedtime is just around the corner - for both Robert and ME! One of us is a little more excited about that than the other one. 

Stay tuned for the Friday-Saturday-Sunday episode of Life with Robert.