Some good friends from our Edinburgh days kindly invites us to spend Thanksgiving with them in their home near Portland, Oregon. We decided to make a road trip out of the occasion, taking a couple of days to travel, seeing some sights and staying in Motels along the way.
Having 5 young children sit in a small confined space, such as a car for any length of time can be pretty challenging – in anticipation of such challenges and for the sake of our own sanity, we invested in some DVD players for the back of the car seats so that the time on the road (around 35 hours over 9 days) would be entertaining for the children and tolerable for us!
Our first stop was Napa, which for those who haven’t visited the area, is part of California’s ‘wine country’; miles and miles of vineyards, wineries and Italian-inspired landscapes and architecture.
We stopped at a winery where we had lunch followed by some gelato.
Our next stop was another winery, this one was designed to look like an old castle (the closest we’re likely to get to a real castle over here in the U S of A!). We had a walk around, stretched our legs and enjoyed the surroundings.
Next, we visited Old Faithful, a famous geyser in the area. The geyser was going off every 20 minutes, so we didn’t have long to wait.
On the site of the geyser, there were a few animals to feed and the children enjoyed looking at the goats, especially the newborn kids.
As we were leaving, Old Faithful blew again so we had a few final photos and headed up the road.
During the Summer, Heather has made sure that along with all of the fun and freedom, the children have been involved in positive and productive things daily. She came up with a Summer 2015 board that hangs in our dining room and includes a ‘bucket list’ of things that we wanted to do in the Summer, ‘Chef of the week'(the kids take turns in preparing meals), scriptures/articles of faith to learn and a daily checklist. Each day, the children are invited to read, write, do a chore, do some exercise and carry out an act of kindness. They record their progress by ticking boxes. For every day that they complete their tasks, they earn a little bit of pocket money. It’s been a really great way to help the kids learn to manage their time, teach the value of work and keep their skills sharp. Heather is amazing.
We wanted to give the kids an opportunity to spend some their pocket money and reap the rewards of their hard work, so we took them to $1 night at Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Founded in 1907, the Boardwalk is California’s oldest surviving amusement park (thankyou Wikipedia) and it has a good old-fashioned vibe. The Big Dipper roller-Coaster, air lift, log flume, fairground-stye games. What’s nice about it is that it is full of families, even into the evening and on a Monday and Tuesday night, all rides, hot dogs and candy floss are only $1!
Heather and I had our first Californian date at the Boardwalk around a year ago and loved it, so we were excited to take the kids.
It was a great night – the older kids rode on flying cars, while Charlotte and Olive went on the more tame equivalent. Swing rides, shooting baskets, root beer, candy floss. Olive won a Hello Kitty-in-a-leopardprint-onesie toy (what more could any child want?) in a water-squirting game with a little bit of help from Dad. Good old-fashioned, not-so-healthy, well-deserved fun.
The photograph from the plunge at the end of the log flume is a keeper.
The beautiful Heather Burdon celebrated her birthday last week and her birthday wish was a trip to Point Lobos. It’s a State Park, near Carmel, about 1hr 40 mins South from where we are. We had never been that far South and were excited to explore.
At the start of the trail, we saw some sea Lions lying on the rocks down below.
We walked a little further along the coast and came to an area with interesting rock formations with rock pools that were great for climbing on and exploring.
We went a little further along the coast, looking for China Cove, a beautiful cove that we had seen images of online before we even moved to California. We found it and it was suitably breathtaking.
Sadly, China Cove is inaccessible, as restoration is taking place. It’s also fenced off because seals are on the beach and are birthing!
We walked around China Cove and came out on the other side to more breathtaking views.
Happily, just around the corner was Gibson Beach – and we were able to go down there and splash in the ocean for a while before heading home feeling more than content.
Heather’s Mother’s Day wish this year was for “some nice family photos, with no moaning”! After Church, camera in hand, we headed to the San Jose Rose Garden, a place we had yet to visit. It’s a really lovely park with green spaces, a fountain and of course, lots of roses of every colour. We took some bubbles to keep the kids occupied and got some great shots. The kids enjoyed using the camera too and *almost* didn’t moan about having photos taken of them! I’m glad we were able to give this amazing mother what she hoped for.
It all started a few weeks ago. We have a large, 4ft bin, known locally as “garbage can”, though it’s not really a can at all. Either way, we woke up one morning and discovered it had been knocked over and the contents were spilled in the back yard. Although puzzled, we didn’t think much of it and the incident was soon forgotten in the hustle and bustle of the day. However, the very next morning, what did we discover to our great surprise and bewilderment? The bin was once again, knocked to the ground.
Perhaps it had been the wind?
The weather has been mild, so that conclusion felt unlikely.
That was the question that was becoming more and more pronounced in our minds.
Now, Heather and I are members of our ‘Nextdoor’ online community. It’s essentially a community discussion board for people living in our neighbourhood. The message boards contain fascinating discussion topics from recommended plumbers, to reminders that dogs ought not to foul the neighborhood. Items for sale, services offered and requested, security issues etc. For me, the community was at the height of its brilliance last Halloween, when an interactive map of the neighborhood was made available and members were able to indicate on the map whether sweets would be distributed from their house. Welcome to Silicon Valley.
Anyway, on the day of the second bin incident, while at work, a message was posted by our neighbor, Jim, on the Nextdoor message board that began to unfold the mystery. I’ve pasted the message below:
Early yesterday morning I heard something splashing around in my back yard fountain: it was the biggest raccoon I’ve ever seen. It didn’t scare away either. I have emptied the water out to eliminate that attraction for the wildlife. If people have animals they leave outside overnight, be warned.
As I read this message, the full gravity of its implications began to unravel in my mind.
Could it be?
Given the evidence, there was no denying it. Our bin-pusher was in fact, the giant raccoon.
Over the coming days, further evidence came to light. Take, for instance, this paw print, captured in pavement chalk and discovered in our back yard. Heather’s Preschool class had been drawing with chalk on the ground and the GR (Giant Raccoon) had seen fit to trample over their artwork.
Of course, we took evasive action, keeping the rubbish in the larger, more secure wheelie bins and moving the location of the said bins in an attempt to disorient the raccoon.
One day, we set a trap for the raccoon. Joshua and I set up a cardboard box, with a plastic cup on top. On top of the cup was a cherry tomato. “This ought to teach him”, we thought. The next morning, the cherry tomato was gone, but the raccoon was not caught in the box. I felt like he was taunting us.
Things took another turn for the worse when on one particular night, a few days after Joshua’s birthday, we made the mistake of leaving his brand new inflatable ‘wall ball’ outside overnight. Surely this would be a step too far, though?
Does the raccoon care that this ball was a little boy’s special birthday gift? That means nothing to him. He couldn’t care less. Not bothered. Out with the claws. Then off he schnuffles, into the night.
I wish I could tell you that there’s some sort of happy ending to this story, that on a second attempt, the box, cup and cherry tomato trap worked, but the truth is, we still live in fear of this giant nocturnal mammal.
I think the next step is to set up a hidden camera using my phone and lure the beast in with some tasty morsels. When he takes the bait, Josh and I will emerge from the shadows, armed with Joshua’s Nerf crossbow and deliver some foam-dart justice.
Other suggestions welcome in the comments below.
Shortly after Mam and Dad’s visit, Auntie Kate arrived! She was on her way to study in Hawaii having recently completed her mission in St George. We were delighted to have her stop by and spend some time with us.