Sunday, September 29, 2013

Did the hippie children and I arrive safely in Portland, Oregon, smiles still on our faces?  Why, yes, yes I think we did.  Our adventure started eight, big, fat days ago in New Hampshire, where we call home, on a bus to Logan Airport in Boston.  Starting your very long travel day with a two hour bus ride on rather uninteresting roads?  Not recommended.  Except that it meant that my sweet husband would not have to try to find his way through Boston, early in the morning, on streets created by past cowpaths, panicking because we had a plane to catch, people! "In Boston town, of old renown, the gentle cows the pathways made, which grew the streets that keep the stranger quite dismayed." So that was a good thing.  Although I had a few moments of dismay when my children began burning through their surprise activities in their backpacks, meant for the entire day, including two flights, WHILST ON THE BUS IN THE PARKING LOT IN NEW HAMPSHIRE.  They did eventually revisit the activities, on the airplanes.  Here they are, trees whizzing by the bus windows.  Do they look alarmed?   A little bit.

 Airports now have gigantic touch-screen video games, so that innocent children can more easily contract influenza.

 First plane ride, to Atlanta.  The technology is out and in use, and I am drinking vodka  deeply involved in reading my novel, when not talking to the man from Florida next to me, who tells me all about his pet macaws.  I overshare as usual and relate the fact that our Golden Retriever, Kenobi, will be having his man parts removed while we're away.  He relates that he too loves Star Wars, and also, "Poor Kenobi."

 Second flight, from Atlanta to Portland!  You'll notice coloring and the fact that we get to sit in Economy COMFORT, suckas.  Look at how much more room there is!  I mean, it's really noticeable, right?  During our layover at the Atlanta airport, I overshare again with two airport cleaning people who are eating their lunch and gossiping next to us, by telling them that we homeschool. It's Georgia, friends, they asked.  But also because it's Georgia, they didn't really listen to the answer.  And I really wanted them to listen.  I guess they hadn't heard about how eloquent I can be on the subject.  Wicked eloquent.

Another thing about the Atlanta airport - there were many Indian women working there, who kept fawning over Littlest.  I actually love this sort of thing, because it's how I act with children in public.  One woman came right up to Littlest and patted her head, saying, "You tired, baby?"  And I wanted to hug her and say, "Yes, we are!  Oh, you meant the four year old."  The Indian women handed me napkins without me asking for them, and generally hovered, benign smiles on their lovely faces.  I might go to the Atlanta airport again just for this very treatment.  "Where are we traveling to?  Just here.  Yes, I mean the airport."

PORTLAND!!  What a stunning city.  For reals. 

 For the first two nights, we got to stay with my dearest friend, who moved to Portland almost five years ago, the stinker.  We've been friends since she was fourteen, and I sixteen. She was present at the birth of all three of our children.  She even cut all their umbilical cords, severing them forever from me.  I still hate her for that.  No, this is not a photograph of her - it's the view from her adorable condo.  She was very generous and let us take over her entire living room with our awesomeness.

 Because of jet lag, and the fact that Littlest hates sleep so much, we were up veeery early.  Here she is, in all her morning glory.  We woke everyone up because we just can't seem to help ourselves.  I say we so she doesn't feel badly.  Oh, wait.  She doesn't feel bad about anything.  Everyone up, we lit candles and...

 ...enjoyed breakfast together.  Look at my cute friend!  You can't have her.  She's mine.  We did our Morning Meeting, a routine I established while still at home.  We talk about the day and write in our Eucharisteo journal, listing what we're grateful for.  Littlest usually mentions, "bushes and butterflies".  Middlest usually has about ten things he wants to share, and wants me to number them all separately.  They always include, "God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit."  Look at that face of his.

 Oldest loves to cook special things for people, so she jumped right on the chance to whip up some eggs for everybody.

 Because we live in the woods (ish), our home does not have a peephole.  Isn't this a beautiful one?  My children were enchanted with it.

 Artwork is everywhere in Portland!

I love little cultural oddities.  In the cute neighborhoods in Portland, every block or so has a swing at streetside.  Because it's a city and there are basically no yards other than beautiful landscaping out front, it seems that residents with big trees install these swings for children to use.  I love this!  Middlest went out of his way to locate them.  I was informed that they were not just for the homeowners' children, but for all the children.  There's a wonderful, we're all in this together vibe.

 Alberta St. is a super quirky downtown area with lots of street art, gorgeous shops and yummy restaurants.

 Here we are at a sports bar off Alberta St., because we all wanted burgers and fries.  You can see the huge screen to the left of my jet-lagged head.  We are not into football, so we're sitting on the patio instead. I post these terrible photos of myself because I have recently been the recipient of envy (disdain?) from other mommies who insist that they wish they had as much energy as me.  Well, well.  Looky here, peeps.  The face of exhaustion.  Littlest is of course raring to go.

 Okay, so you need to understand how excited we were about this next place!  Back to Eden
Bakery is all allergen-free and vegan.  Littlest and I can't tolerate gluten, and Littlest also shouldn't have dairy, soy or corn, as she suffers from eczema.  This bakery was high on our list of places to go!  And what do I see when we walk in?  Original art on the wall from two of my favorite artists - Sabrina Ward Harrison and Flora Bowley.  I swooned a little.  And then proceeded to squeal over all the divinely baked choices.  We could eat EVERYTHING in this place!  I even bought the t-shirt.  I'm not kidding.  I'm wearing it now while I type.

 I don't know why Littlest is making that face.  Sometimes she does that when the camera shows up.  The food was AMAZING.

 Here I am eating Cranberry Chai Cake.  I mean, are you kidding me?  Who's jet-lagged now?  Middlest is devouring a chocolate cupcake.

 Feeling benevolent, I allowed Oldest to share my cake.  She's kind of a foodie.  She knows what's what.

 Back to Lovely Friend's home to all sew together.  Cozy, cozy.  I do not sew. I take pictures and draw and drink tea.

 So the days are starting to blur for me here.  Oh, jet-lag, you naughty thing.  At some point, we arrived at Mecca.  Powell's bookstore.  I think I passed out with delight.  This independent bookstore fills an entire city block with more than a million new, used and out of print books.  Littlest did not want to be in this picture, because she felt frightened by the homeless man standing next to me as I took it.

Lovely Friend allowed me to wander a bit by myself while she read to my sweeties in the enormous children's section.  I mostly stood in the center of towering bookshelves, not believing both myself and this many books could exist in the same place without some sort of implosion occurring in the universe.  You need to know this: I started reading when I was four years old, and have never stopped, not for a second.  I will sometimes read a book a day, or at least I used to, before Mamahood.  So, here's the thing.  My favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.  I read it about once a year, to remind me who I am.  So how, you may ask, in a bookstore with a million books, in a place I've never been, did I manage to find this...!!!!  First edition, signed. No.  I did not buy it.  Who buys a $500 book?  But now I know it exists.  I think it felt lonely. It wanted to say hi to me.  Oh, book.  Maybe someday.  We'll always have Powell's, on that chilly September Tuesday.  Mwah.

 Moving right along...Lovely Friend's beautiful, sophisticated, wise neighbor invited us to a tea party in her art and book-filled home.  My babies all love a good, solid tea party.  She even had gluten-free cookies and coconut creamer!  What a blessing.  Filled us right up.

We were using our British accents and putting on airs.

So here's a funny little thing.  I made this assemblage for Lovely Friend a few years ago and had forgotten about it.  It's a tiny tin box, once used for a Button Polishing Kit.  I glued a section of antique newspaper to the top inside, an advertisement for housing, and then glued a found honeycomb to the bottom.  I think I should make more of this sort of whatnot.  Tell me honestly, would you give something like this to a dear, sensitive friend?  Someone who enjoys subtlety and handcrafts?  Hmm?  For instance?  Someone without children?  hahaha.  Oh, and I rubber stamped the word, "home".  As you can plainly see.

 It's quite rainy here!  Good thing we brought our colorful slickers that help Mama keep track of us when we're in feral mode!

After a couple of days at Lovely Friend's, she kicked our asses to the curb and we rented this sweet little cottage at The Painted Lady Inn.  When I started calling around to find a place to stay, back in New Hampshire, I was doubtful about this place because the Inn is Victorian style and looks perfect for honeymooners or old ladies.  I think I may have worded my question thusly, "'re not interested in having a mom and three children under the age of nine stay at your place, are you?"  She said, "Of course I am!  I've got a cottage out back where the children can bounce off the walls and not bother anyone!"  Now that's the place for us!  It's super cute and has a refrigerator, which is perfect, so we don't have to eat out every meal.  The shower pressure is to die for.  I am taking twenty-seven showers per day.  I may cry when I return to our well-pumped, tired excuse for a shower back home.

Our first morning at the cottage, eating breakfast and watching Scooby-Doo.  My children are now addicted to cable.

The next morning was so momentous for us, because we got to attend The Village Free School, where Lovely Friend is one of the directors.  This was the first day any of my children have ever been to school!  Is that weird?  It's a little weird.  It's a democratic school, so all rules and things are voted on, and the children have an equal vote alongside the adults.  My Lovely Friend and her co-directors have created a sweet, amazing environment for humans to learn, grow and explore.  I am extremely impressed.

Tootie the Turtle, our old friend, and now the school mascot.  He's such an attention whore.

During certain portions of the day, the students have Project Time, and they work on whatever interests them, with the adults facilitating.  I'm not going to explain the pedagogy behind this at the moment, although if you continue to read my blog, you'll see it at work in our homeschool.  Powerful learning.  Oldest rallied a bunch of the children to create a bracelet business, and they worked intentionally on all the aspects for basically the entire day!  They made the bracelets, advertised around the school, had a layaway plan, and special orders.  They even sectioned off a portion of their created cash box for charity.  Beautiful.  Here's Littlest thinking about writing, and what she wants to do to contribute.

Village Free School, meet Oldest.  Her nametag reads, "1 Boss".  Yes, this was her first day there, and had never met these people before.

 And sweet Middlest, using some of their awesome manipulatives.

This is an interesting shot at The Village Free School - in the background you'll see Lovely Friend teaching a Biology class to teenage students who voluntarily signed up to take it, and two, much younger children listening in.  Super comfy. 

 So we've been doing a lot of walking while here, because every neighborhood has a distinct flair, with its own shops and restaurants and cafes and cute stuff, and I wanted to show you this neat idea, again with respect to the fact that children are a part of a city, too, and we can appreciate their needs for play.  This setup is on the sidewalk outside of a lovely restaurant.  In the second photo, you can see the vehicles whizzing by on the street.  My babies loved this attention to detail, just for littles!

Mmm...burgers.  Or as Littlest says, "Borgahs."

We were so blessed to have my husband's wonderful great aunt and uncle stop by, as they just happened to be driving through Portland.  Totally serendipitous. I want to be her when I grow up.  They're the most loving and accepting people I've ever met.  Yes, I cried a little bit, because we miss them so.

 Onward...onward!!  We took a grand field trip with The Village Free School to this awesome park in the middle of who-knows-where in the city.  Middlest brought his newly purchased sword and shield.  My hero! I love that city children are such strong walkers - the school brought us across a half mile bridge, spanning the Willamette River.  Bicyclists zipped by at a thousand miles per hour, just inches from us.  I was in charge of Littlest and Littlest's new friend, another tiny person.  I think I held my breath the entire time.  Seriously, people - these city kids are troopers.  We did our best to keep up.

Acres of food carts are my version of heaven.  First vegan smoothies, then MEXICAN food!!!  No we are not vegan.  We are also not Mexican, in case you couldn't tell.  I didn't take a photo of those unbelievable burritos, mostly because I was writhing on the sidewalk in delight while my children pretended they didn't know me.

See that bridge?!?  We were walking on that!  Half of the school bicycled to the park.  See how badass these children are? 

  And...a photo Middlest took of me, massaging my aching forehead.  Nice.


  1. Let me be the first to comment: This is great work! I can't even manage to write a post card, but you, Hilaree, create a cultural snapshot. And thanks for your exposé on "the face of exhaustion." No one is fully immune to city touring with kids while jet lagged.

    1. Paul, you sweetheart. Thank you for commenting. I'm so glad you were the first. I can imagine you as you read this, and it truly warms my heart, especially remembering our fun, quirky little time we had at the museum that unexpected day. Just wait for the photos of my children at the waterfalls...what an amazing trip we've had! Hope you're doing just great, dear one. (Will we all ever see photos of your recent Turkish vacation?)

  2. Looks like a BLAST! Good for you guys. Please tell 1Boss that I love her moxie. Just remind her that heavy is the head that wears the crown. Unless she does a non-profit someday. Then it's "heavy is the heart". Lol. Great blog. Keep 'em coming. Your're groovin. Or is it groovy? Maybe both? I dunno. BTW...the headache you had at the end would have been me on day one!

    1. Thanks, T! 1Boss has more than moxie. My sister-in-law describes her as "a force of nature".

      And did you SEE the L'Engle book?!?! I almost burst into tears.

      Thanks for the encouragement. It is extraordinarily difficult to find the time to do this while traveling. I did this one blog post on a day we were all at our little cottage, sick with colds. Kids had cartoons on. Hope you're cookin' with your manuscript edits.

  3. I am homesick for you all when I read this! It was so. much. FUN!!! And I love how your photos make it seem like it was sunny most of the time. Hahaha!

    1. We just went through all our photos last night with Daddy and Grandpa. Goodness gracious, we had a wonderful time with you. I'll be posting more this weekend, including some of the beautiful waterfall shots!! Love you and miss you so much.