Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My first mistake...

...was giving the seven grandchildren their Christmas Pez candy (carefully saved from post-Christmas sales last year) before the traditional Christmas Eve nativity reading.
What's the most important thing about Christmas, Natalie?
It's when baby Jesus was born.
The girl knows her stuff.

The rest of them, however, were firmly focused on one thing.

And it wasn't listening to Nana reading about the birth of Jesus.

Well, maybe two things. The darn Pez, and the imminent opening of presents.
But Nana was determined, and the reading commenced.

And there were varying degrees of attention.

I think it's hilarious how everyone is in a different position in each picture.

And there was much inhaling of Pez candy.

It took a while to get past the first page.

Kenzie is thirteen now and keeps herself above the fray.

My second mistake was in passing along to Jeff some photography advice that was given to me by a piratey friend. If you take a thousand pictures, some of them are bound to turn out okay. Or something like that.

He was becoming disruptive with his flash and his mischievous ways, and, in the end, we were all laughing so hard that the last page didn't make me tear up like it usually does.

The child was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was born. And the child grew and became strong in spirit and full of wisdom. And the grace of God was upon him.

Now, stop it with the camera already!

I may have been a little manic by the end.

And that was how our Christmas Eve went.
Hope yours was merry too.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Graduate

Jeff has been working relentlessly on his Master's Degree online for the last three years. He just posted his last assignment and will be graduating Summa Cum Laude. Pretty good for a kid who was (mistakenly) put in Special Ed classes when he was young. 
He hinted requested a camera for a graduation present. Not just any camera, mind you, but one with snazzy lenses and other bells and whistles. This from the man who is pretty much banned from using my camera because any time he has possession of my camera he either (a) drops it or (b) doesn't take time to focus it when he takes a photo. 
There was a good-looking Olympus with extra lenses on the Amazon Gold Box Deal the other day, so I called him at work and told him to take a look at it. Two days later, he was a happy man. 
His first efforts have been, of course, with birds. 
The man can scope out a duck pond quicker than any other.
I will confess to a little judicious editing, but I think he's warming up nicely.
And I may or may not be outrageously jealous of the camera.

P.S. He already dropped it, but luckily it landed on his softly-slippered foot.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Saved by the grands

December has been a rough month.
Three weeks ago on a Wednesday, everything was very icy outside. We were in the middle of a cold front such as hadn't been seen in decades, so outside water pipes were vulnerable to damage. I ventured into the front yard, resplendent in my pink fuzzy robe, to check on the sprinkler system controls, which have been known to spring leaks in extremely cold weather. I chuckled to myself when I saw the neighbour lady in her robe, cleaning the ice off her car. 
When I went back into the house, I decided that the compost tub was a wee bit smelly, so I crept carefully out the back door, over the deck towards the veggie garden, and WHAM! slipped off the icy step and went sprawling on the grass. I thought maybe my leg was broken again, but after letting loose with a few choice words over my stupidity and hobbling back into the house, I decided it was probably a bad sprain. It slowed me down for a few days, in fact I am still limping, but improving steadily.
A week later, Jeff and I both came down with what we think is the flu. Days of fever and coughing and general malaise have sapped our energy and put us into survival mode. 
So, when Jeff dragged the tree out of the shed earlier this week and discovered that quite a few of the lights didn't work, we lost enthusiasm. 
And the tree sat by the front window all week, unlit and unloved and undecorated. 

Tonight, Bethany arrived with the five kids in tow for piano lessons.
Kenzie, who is her mother's daughter, immediately wanted to know if she could help decorate the tree.

And decorate she did.

Natalie gleefully helped.

And, by golly, I even started to have fun. So that tree is now covered in its usual denizens of the woodland habitat, all glowing and welcoming and happy.
I love how it looks without the camera flash, but then the people are blurry.

Now the people look better but the tree is not as magical.
I love these kids.
Three of them have December birthdays!

Natalie set up all the animals with the nativity.
I like it.

Now I think I can welcome Christmas.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Butts and buttes

I'm dipping my toes tentatively back into the blogging world. Life has changed radically in the last few weeks, but this post has been waiting for a while, so here you are. 

Jenny and the boys went out to the Ranch with me for a weekend in September. 
The dog came too, but we managed to ignore him for most of the weekend.
He didn't get to accompany us on our outing to the Newberry National Volcanic monument, just south of Bend. I had been wanting to visit the Lava River Cave for some time. It is the longest continuous lava cave in Oregon. 
When the kids were young, we visited the Ape Caves (near Mount St. Helen's in Washington) several times, so we were familiar with the concept of lava caves. It was a favourite outing back then, so I was excited to show this cave to Jenny and the boys.
What we didn't know was that the monument covers a large area, almost 90 square miles, and contains several great places to visit. As well as the lava cave, there is a visitor centre, Lava Butte, the Great Obsidian Flow, and the Lava Cast Forest. It was created in 1990 and is quite spectacular.
As I recall, the cost to enter the area was only $5 a car, and then another $5 for a lamp to take into the caves. We could have skipped renting a lamp, but half the flashlights at the house didn't work (one due to corroded batteries and one to being dropped by a person who shall remain nameless but who was the tallest person on the outing).
First, we hit the visitor's centre, which gave us a good idea of where we wanted to spend our time and educated us about the area.
We drove to the top of Lava Butte, and this is overlooking the crater at the top.

At ground level, it's hard to appreciate how many volcanic calderas and buttes dot the landscape. From the road, all you can see is forest and (sometimes) volcanic rocks. The view from the top is much more interesting.

A path follows the rim of Lava Butte. It is a nice, easy, quarter-of-a-mile stroll.

It was very cold and windy, but you get a nice 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside.

An old fire watchtower sits at the peak of the butte.

The last eruption was 7,000 years ago, and this part of the land still hasn't recovered.

We drove to the Lava River Cave, which was only a few minutes away from the visitor centre.
Here we are, at the entrance of the cave.

There are 150 steps leading down to the cave itself and a few rocky places at the beginning of the trail, but there is a rail to hang on to and the trail surface evens out as it continues.
Beware, however, of sudden potholes and drop-offs. It pays to keep your eyes on the trail.

There are several cool formations as you walk through the cave. Photos are difficult, because they are all flash driven, so most of them weren't worth showing. I particularly like this Sand Garden, which is about halfway through the cave. The floor of the cave here is covered with sand. The formation is made up of volcanic ash from Mount Mazama, which is carried by rain and melting snow from the surface through cracks in the rock and deposited, one grain at a time, on the floor of the cave. 
Talk about delayed gratification. 
Occasionally, enough water leaks into the cave to create a pool, which allows the sand to spread out across the floor. The constant dripping of water in the cave has carved out pinnacles and spires in the sand. Because these delicate sand forms take hundreds of years to create, the Forest Service has fenced off the area.
Good thing too.
Keeps the idiots out.
The photo does not do the sight anywhere near the justice it deserves.

The end of the cave narrows down, until only the bravest (or smallest) will venture forth.
We were not very brave.
Thomy got a big kick out of surprising people with his glow-in-the-dark skeleton hoodie. It became a source of pride to him to see how many people would comment on it.

And on the way home, as we passed Black Butte and some of the other calderas, we kept talking about Black Butt and roaring hysterically every time.
We are so easy to amuse.