Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Growing Pains

Just Son officially became a fifth grader this morning. And even before the first bell rang, I had a feeling this year would be different.

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I could tell during our vacation, actually. After all, he shot up about 3-4 inches between the end of the last school year the start of this one. 

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I could also tell things were changing when I noticed that instead of wiggling around and being playful (as he's been in years past), he just stood still on our front porch while I took photos of him yesterday.

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My heart started aching for those silly years we're leaving behind, especially when I saw that all I was getting from him was shot after shot of JS acting like a little grown up when I told him to move around a little.

I think he sensed that I was longing for those good old days because while I was snapping away, he unexpectedly stepped right up to the lens and said:

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Here's to growing up -- and also to the start of fifth grade.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wrapping It Up

It's so hard to believe that only one week has passed since we returned home from our vacations. With so much going on as the start of the school year nears, it's almost as if it's been months since our return. Just Dad is back at the university for faculty meetings and class prep; Just Son participated in a percussion camp for fifth-grade band students; and the a/c in our house stopped working not once, but twice, within the last week. So much for a vacation from our vacation, huh? ;-)

Because of all the activity around here -- combined with this cold I've been trying to get rid of since catching it in Oregon -- I've barely had the energy to look through the photos I took during our last few days of Vacation #2. To summarize, JD's middle brother joined us in Oregon for a couple of days. We saw relatives and family friends whom Just Family hasn't seen in years. There were also trips to the Oregon Ducks store (yes, we're ready for game day), as well as last-minute visits to various retailers for exciting things like TSA-approved cough and cold medicine. Then, around 5 p.m. last week Tuesday, we were on our way back to reality -- but we first had a short layover in Denver. ;-) By the time we finally got back to our home and our cats, it was around 1:30 a.m. the following morning. Yeah, I know, *phew!*

But I can't not post at least one photo from our last few days in the Pacific Northwest, so I'll post this:

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Mt. Hood, up close. It was taken on Aug. 9 during our day trip with JD's brother to Timberline Lodge.

And that, my friends, is the end of Vacation-ollapalooza 2014.

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Random Photo Saturday

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Castle Rock, just off the coast of Arch Cape. The rock, formed millions of years ago by lava flows, is named "Castle Rock" because it resembles a castle turret. It's located about a mile offshore.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Say, "Cheeeeeese"!

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We had planned to pass the town of Tillamook on our drive back to Portland on Thursday, so we of course had to stop at the Tillamook Cheese Facory.

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Tillamook cheese (and ice cream) is some of the best I've ever tasted. Really. Both my hubby and I were basically addicted to that stuff when we lived in Oregon years ago. The cheese we get in the upper plains is good, don't get me wrong. But there's just something about Tillamook cheese...

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Many other people must feel the same way, because this was the line for the free samples. (Yeah, we kind of skipped the self-guided tour part. ;-) )

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Mmmm... mmmmm......

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Just Family's favorite was the smoked black pepper cheese. Yes, it was JS approved.

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We had arrived around lunch time, so our next stop was the on-site lunch counter. All three of us ordered grilled cheese sandwiches. They were outstanding.

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We went to the observation area after lunch to watch the factory in action. Although we didn't get to see the areas with the secret ingredients ;-) we did get to watch factory employees box up all that wonderful Tillamook cheddar. YUMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Another view.

Finally, it was time to head back to Portland -- but not before hitting the gift store.

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We had already had our fill of Tillamook ice cream while at the beach cabin -- and cheese would likely spoil on the drive back to Portland --

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so I made a beeline for the fudge counter. :-)

Quarter-pound each of Milk Chocolate Hazelnut, Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate Raspberry and something that I think was called Candy Dream????

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Good stuff.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Of Beaches, Sandcastles And One HUGE Rock

When I had mentioned waaaaaay back in July that it would be fun to visit Cannon Beach while in Oregon, I had imagined it would be just a day trip. Never did I imagine that Just Family would end up staying two nights on the coast. But that's just what we did Tuesday and Wednesday night, thanks to my hubby's aunt and uncle who own a rental cabin along Arch Cape.

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This wasn't my first visit to the Oregon Coast. The last time I was here was a couple of decades ago. (Yeah, time flies.) This was, however, new to Just Son.

One of the first things JS noticed was that the water here is a lot colder than the water in Hawaii.

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But that didn't stop him from heading down to the beach when we arrived Tuesday afternoon. Really playing on the beach would have to wait until Wednesday morning, however, as JD and I wanted to get a few groceries for our stay here.

We did get a chance to explore the nearby towns of Cannon Beach, Seaside and Gearhart, as well as stop to take a few random shots

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like this...

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... and this.

By Wednesday morning, JS was ready to explore the shoreline.

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While JS and his dad worked on building a sand castle, I did some "beachcombing." OK, I may have also taken some photos along the way.

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Here's one.

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And another.

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And another.

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And another.

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And another.

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Oh wait! One more.

No, I didn't forget about the guys and their sand castle.

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JD took photos of me...

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... while I took photos of the castle, complete with objects I collected while beachcombing.

After lunch, we decided to finally head north to Cannon Beach to see a big rock. Not just any big rock, of course, but this one: Haystack Rock.

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The rock rises 235 feet from the edge of the shoreline, according to a guide book, and was formed millions of years ago by lava flows. How cool is that?! (Geology geek-i-ness rears its head.)

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Don't let the photos fool you. It was a good two-mile walk (one-way) from where we parked to get to Haystack Rock.

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Along the way, we saw many people taking advantage of coastal winds by flying kites.

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We also saw a variety of shore birds.

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Once we got to the rock, the guys set off to explore the tidepools while the tide was still fairly low.

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No, we weren't the only people there.

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Not by a long shot.

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Even though it was quite a busy place, we still enjoyed seeing these guys.

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Isn't marine life fascinating? :-)

After some time exploring the rock, we turned around to head back and were greeted by this sight in the distance:

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Very low-hanging clouds.

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No one else in the area seemed to notice or care, so I decided to play it cool rather than run down the beach yelling, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" ;-)

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You wouldn't be able to hear me anyway over the roar of the ocean and the wind. Besides, it was a beautiful day.

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And it all ended with an equally beautiful night.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014


We don't often get a chance to explore the Portland area when we visit Just Dad's parents in Oregon. It's not that we don't want to explore the area. It's because we're usually meeting JD's parents in the Central Oregon community of Sunriver, and have only one day to visit sites that would be of interest to our kiddo. Back in 2009, the zoo won. In 2008, it was OMSI (the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). This year we had time for both. ;-)

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We visited the zoo on Friday, so Monday was a day at OMSI.

The main attraction here was their Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit. JS didn't really venture too far in to a similar exhibit back in 2008. Thanks to those ear buds, however, he was able to enjoy the dinosaurs this year.

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Actually, JS had the right idea. Those robotic dinosaurs were LOUD and didn't take turns "talking" (i.e. they all ROARed at the same time and wouldn't stop).

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Why, hello, Stegosaurus.

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JS: "Mom? Is that you before your morning coffee?"

Funny, JS. Very funny. ;-)

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JS wasn't sure about this Allosaurus. JD assured him it was OK. I stayed waaaaaaaaaaay back, just in case. ;-)

The robotic dinosaurs weren't the only things to look at while at OMSI. We also spent some time in their permanent Earth Sciences exhibit hall.

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JS examines some fossils in the Paleontology Lab.

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Still in the Paleontology Lab. ;-)

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While the two guys looked at fossils, I spent some time staring at this rather large geode with quartz crystals,...

... as well as these "thunder eggs."
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Little known fact: If Just Mom didn't love writing so much, she would have majored in geology -- or forensic pathology.

The Earth Sciences hall was fun, but not as much fun for JS as the Life Sciences area.

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Where else would he be able to watch two Russian tortoises eat? ;-)

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He also spent some time watching this "bearded dragon" lizard thing...

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... as well as this Madagascar Giant Day Gecko.

There were also some snakes and a tarantula on display, but I didn't take any photos of those. You can thank me later. *shudder* ;-)

After a quick stop in the gift store, it was time for us to head back to the house...
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... with a Stegosaurus.

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