- Last Monday we drove from Vegas to Reno. Worst drive ever. I do not recommend it. Endless desert and a few towns with probably no more than 7 or 8 residents total. We stopped at a park in Beatty, NV for lunch and we also drove to Rhyolite, which is a ghost town. Rhyolite was neat, but it wasn't so neat that I would ever want to drive back there again. There is also this open air art museum there that consists of a bunch of ghost statues set up like the Last Supper. And one with a bike.
- Tuesday we drove from Reno to Medford, Oregon. When we got there we went to our favoritest park ever and Pat ran around chasing the girls pretending to be a Terminator, which is a favorite game lately. We drove around some Medford neighborhoods and tried to picture ourselves living there. Verdict: sure.
- Wednesday we drove from Medford to the Red Lion hotel in Vancouver, Washington. On the way we stopped at a rest stop that we once stopped at on our first ever trip to Oregon, when Saren was two. We walked away from the tables and into the forest on a little trail and it was so beautiful and green and perfect and I took my shoes off to get a better grip on my way down a hill and I stepped in some sap. But it was worth it to feel the earth under my feet. After checking into the hotel, we went to my brother Chance's apartment and met up with him and my other brother, Brett, and we walked down the street to a pizza place for dinner. Then we had doughnuts, also in his neighborhood.
- Thursday was the first day of the conference. We registered, and started in on funshops and talks and playing and swimming. The girls made lots of signs to put up on the door, including one that they made in a funshop that was supposed to be like the clock at the Weasley's house in Harry Potter. Saren and Harper signed up for fairy godparents, which turned out to be great fun for them and I wish I had done it too and I'll talk more about it later.
- Friday was more funshops, more playing, more swimming, more talks. There were cootie catchers and paper bag puppets made, as well as popsicle stick puzzles and a giant fort made out of cardboard. That night we drove into downtown Portland and went to Powell's and spent money on books. We missed the Amy Steinberg concert and for that I apologize profusely to Miranda.
- Saturday Saren and Harper hosted a Nintendo DS funshop and Chance came to hang out with us. After that, we all went to Forest Park, which was beautiful. We didn't have as much time for that as I would have liked because we needed to get back to the conference for a funshop where the girls could roll around on their scooters. Brett came later that day too and everybody went swimming for a bit, but then there was lightning in the distance, so we all got out. A thunderstorm came, which is apparently not very common. It rains a lot but not heavy or hard and not with lightning. Also that night was the talent show, in which the girls did their annual hula-hooping extravaganza. Video to follow. I was really happy that Chance and Brett got to see them do that. Also went out to dinner at Burgerville for the second time. Burgerville was a pretty big hit with the girls.
- Sunday in the early morning hours, I woke up a few times and noticed that Harper was like a little furnace next to me. She woke up feeling pretty bad so she and I stayed in the hotel room pretty much all day while she slept and while Saren and Pat and Irina played and swam and went to funshops. I watched Evan Almighty and a couple of shows about elections on HBO. Harper felt a lot better that night and was able to attend the Barefoot Boogie for a short while. Then she and I went back upstairs to the room and drew pictures together.
- Monday we went to the picnic at a park that was in downtown Vancouver and within walking distance from the hotel. The girls played with their friends and then we said our goodbyes and went back to the hotel when the girls were tired. We went out to dinner with Chance one last time and said goodbye to him as well.
- Tuesday we went to OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (right?), which was such an awesome museum. Their main exhibit was dinosaurs from China, which was great for Harper, who loves China. They had a lot of skeletons of dinosaurs, including some that were the original fossils, which I just thought was so cool because I've never seen a whole real dinosaur skeleton, except in movies. The rest of the museum was great as well and Irina was in heaven in their Science Playground room. I took the older girls to explore a different area and Irina just stayed and happily played in that toddler area the whole time with Pat. After we were done, we drove to Medford. It rained the whole time in the southern half of the state.
- Wednesday was driving from Medford to Reno. We were all pretty tired of being on vacation. The most exciting thing that happened this day was that between Medford and Ashland, we totally drove through a cloud. A huge cloud, and visibility was down to about twenty or thirty feet in front of us and it felt like driving through a void in space.
- Thursday we drove from Reno to Vegas. We were on the road for 8 and a half hours (including lunch). I was so very happy to get home and yet also so very depressed to get home.
Fairy Godparents - This year at the conference they did this thing where everybody (who wanted to participate) wrote their name and some info on a piece of paper, put it into a hat and drew out another person. You had to do nice things for whomever you picked, but not tell them who you were. Kind of like Secret Santas, but without the Christmas. I chose not to do this because I wasn't sure how it was supposed to work and when I described it to Pat and said, "and then you do nice things for them" he said, "Like what? Not punch them?" Needless to say, he didn't participate either. Saren and Harper wanted to do it though, so they did, and they had so much fun with it. They made pictures and notes and even bought a couple of small things for their fairy godchildren when we went to Powell's. Their fairy godparents gave them each little notes and trinkets (some left on our door and some handed off to other people to give to them). Interestingly, we found out at the end of the conference that Saren's fairy godchild had been Harper's fairy godparent. If we go next year, and this is done again, I definitely think I will participate.
Brothers/Uncles! - I was so happy to be able to see my brothers and hang out with them in their new town. The girls have so much fun with them. What an awesome bonus to have the conference be in the same place that my brothers have made their home. Interestingly, the first day we got there, Chance had a big old scruffy beard and then next day it was gone. Gone! Chance lives in a tiny studio in an awesome neighborhood. I wish that when I was his age, I had had more of an opportunity to do what he is doing, living independently, on his own. His apartment is tiny, but it's all he needs right now and everything else he needs is within walking distance. In fact, there is a little co-op grocery store literally ten steps away from his building (okay, I didn't count, it could be 11 or 12 steps). I told Chance that if we do move to Portland, we will have dinners at our house once a month or so and he and Brett can come and eat and play with the girls. My youngest brother needs to move to Portland too. And my mom.
Portland - Well, I think I'm in love with Portland. This was only our second time in the city (I'm not counting any childhood drive-throughs either of us may have experienced), but this time we got to experience the neighborhoods in a better way. I really love the idea of walkable neighborhoods. In Las Vegas this is so impossible. Not only during certain parts of the year will you melt if you try to attempt it, but everything is just too far apart. I'd love to be able to walk out my front door and easily walk to pick up groceries, go to the library, go to the park, or just take a walk. All the houses and yards are so pretty in Portland that taking a walk just to take a walk would be a fun thing to do. I really can't say that about Las Vegas and I'm not sure I could even if we did live in a better neighborhood. There's the green-ness, there's the walkable-ness, there's a great transit system, there's an awesome museum, there's an awesome zoo, and there also just seems to be a generally more environmentally aware overall feeling. Plus, a bunch of bloggers I read live in Portland. Plus there is a huge yarn store that we couldn't find at the time, but which I definitely intend to go to some day. Plus, lots of other things. The other contender is Medford, which we originally liked more than Portland because it was smaller. But parts of Portland, I think, have a small feel while still being a great big city, with all the amenities that come with that.
Conference Feelings - I love unschooling conferences. There is really nothing like the feeling you get from being surrounded by so many free and happy children and their families. It just feels so joyful, so loose, so safe, so comfortable. That said, I do not think they are the perfect vehicle for me, personally, to be social. Every time we leave a conference, I feel like I somehow missed out on the full experience. I'm a quiet person. It tends to take me quite a while to form friendships and one weekend+ is not optimal for me, especially when everything is so go-go-go at a conference anyway. This is our third conference and I really only had a few conversations. It's so difficult because on the one hand, I don't want to get down on myself for being who I am, and on the other, I know I want more meaningful contact with other people. Bah.
Irina gets lost - On Saturday, at one point, I was in the hallway with Pat, Harper, and Irina. Harper was upset so I followed her into an empty conference room to try to troubleshoot and figure out what she needed (go up to the room for a rest? food? find a friend?). I must have walked away at the exact same time that Pat did, with neither of us noticing that the other was leaving. When I came out of the room with Harper, I saw Pat sans Irina and we both asked each other where she was. He went one way to look for her and I went the other. We reconvened and she hadn't been found. At this point I started to get a panicky feeling in my chest and started asking myself, "what do I do, what do I do?" I asked a friend for help (Beth, she's the mom of the little girl that my girls spent most of their time with) and she went around telling everybody to look for Irina, what she looked like, her name, etc. Within a few minutes, someone had found her down the hall and around the corner. I felt, through this whole thing, full of panic and safe all at the same time. I knew, somewhere inside me, that she was fine and that she would be found and brought to me momentarily, as she was, and yet, that feeling of not knowing where she was, of having her apart from me, and apart from Pat, was just terrible. I was so thankful that it happened there, where so many people were looking out for the little ones and I was so thankful for Beth's calm head when mine was a mess, not to mention the hugs I got afterward and everyone making sure I was okay. It took me about 4 hours before I didn't feel as though I were capable of bursting into tears at any moment.
Interesting Things Seen - There's a dragon on the side of I-5 in Northern California. We passed by not one, but two shoe trees, that is, trees with tons of shoes hanging from the branches. There were a whole bunch of great big squirrels in Portland and Vancouver and we even saw a bunch in the trees at the hotel and got quite close to one of them. I saw four deer by the side of the road. Not all together, though two of them were.
Next Year - It's pretty likely that there will be a next year. Um, I mean for the LiG conference. I'm pretty sure that in general there will also be a next year. I'm not entirely sure that we will be able to go. Before the conference I was sure we wouldn't because I'm committed to getting out of debt and saving up money for moving out of Vegas. While we were there, I was like, how can I possibly imagine not going again next year? Now that we're at home, well, I'm still committed to getting out of debt and saving up money, but I'm hoping that enough money will turn up in the meantime to be able to do that and still attend a 2009 Life is Good conference. I'll tell you one thing. If we can manage to move to the PNW sometime between now and then, it will sure be a lot easier.
And I think that's pretty much it. Today we've done absolutely nothing except write in blogs (well, just me) and play MarioKart. To finish up, here's the video of Saren and Harper at the talent show. They picked a short song this year, so I got the whole thing. Except where Harper runs off the stage, which she says was part of the show. Also, there are a whole lot more photos here.