Reveling in the glory and beauty of everyday life... all the mess and chaos of raising five little girls!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Four Lakes, One Day

One of our family priorities is on weekend adventures.  That doesn't mean that every weekend involves intense planning or that we do wild and crazy things... all of the time. And sometimes, we do have branches to rake, or fertilizer to spread, or bunkbeds to paint, or welding projects to tackle, or birthday parties to attend. :) But... most Saturday mornings follow a predictable routine of pancakes and maple syrup with hot tea, followed by a mad, but well-orchestrated scramble to gather gear and food supplies for the day's outing.  Erik is in charge of outdoor gear and loading the car.  I clean up the breakfast mess, put together the picnic, and help little ones get dressed in adventure appropriate clothing. :) 

This week, Erik plotted a course of canoeing adventure that didn't leave time for the pancakes.  Instead, we loaded the Suburban with clothes, life-jackets, food, and Erik's bike, and strapped our dented aluminum canoe to the top. We stopped in town for kids' sunglasses, sunscreen, and breakfast sandwiches from the McDonald's drive-through before driving up to GTNP (Grand Teton National Park).   And by 10:15, we had stashed Erik's bike in bushes at a little-used boat launch on Jackson Lake, driven back down the road four or so miles to String Lake, and were sufficiently sun-screened and life-preserved.  I have been wearing a rather comical men's XL life jacket to canoe with.  A little funny-looking, but with three non-swimming kiddos (the older girls are in lessons, but...) I need to be wearing one! 

The Tetons are flanked by a series of easily accessible lakes.  The first (as you come from the South) is Jenny Lake.  We drove past that one; it is bigger, has a ferry boat, and is incredibly busy on summer Saturdays as tourists and locals access the beautiful hiking trails around and beyond it. The next one is String Lake, where we launched our trusty old vessel.  It is a shallow, narrow, snake-like string, and gets plenty of (non-motorized) boat traffic.  The shoreline is usually packed with picnickers, and the very brave swim out to the famous "jumping rock" in the middle.   We crossed the lake easily in a short paddle.  

The second lake is Leigh Lake.   To get there, we "portaged" our canoe a short distance and re-launched into deeper, wider waters.  Portaging is a funny sight with a family with three kids and a pregnant mama.  Elisa carried her paddle and the Crazy Creek chairs we use as padding for the kids in the canoe. She kept up easily with Dad, who was carrying a canoe on his shoulders, a heavy backpack, and his own paddle.  I lugged our lunch sack, the other paddles, and dragged the two little ones along behind me. 

Leigh Lake can be a long journey, but on Saturday, a stiff breeze blew at our backs, and the paddle across seemed short (maybe only 45 minutes).  A passing canoe told us to look for moose on the farthest north island, but we didn't see any.   From there, we skidded into the shore, a bit uncertain of where we would find our next (much less popular) trail.  It turned out we had chosen the perfect landing spot, and found the trail easily.  Portage #2.   We stopped halfway for a drink and snack, and then launched our boat in tiny Bear Paw Lake.  Neither Erik or I had ever visited that lake.  The paddle across was really short, as we hit a shallow area and had to pull out much sooner that we had envisioned.  We were probably only in the canoe for 10 minutes, maybe. :) But, that was Lake #3.  We marched through a tall, marshy meadow and then managed to find the hidden trail beyond the lake's narrow, muddy "tail."  This time, because we knew the portage was over 1/2 mile, I strapped Raina to my back (I love my soft Beco carrier.  If you are expecting a baby, an Ergo or Beco is an absolute necessity! :)).  We stripped off life vests and I wrangled them all together in one hand, paddles in the other.   Elisa carried our lunch - conveniently packed in her little backpack.  Sadie worked hard to trundle along through the deep grass and then over fallen logs and rocks on the downhill path.   The trail was actually much better maintained than we were expecting, and the girls did great.  Raina napped for twenty or so minutes on my back (which, I'll admit, was a bit achy!).  Erik is a stud. :) The hike took us probably close to an hour.  We weren't looking at a watch at all, so all of my time frames are total guesses!  

We arrived at the south end of Jackson Lake and gladly devoured peanut butter sandwiches, apples, and cookies.  And lots of water.   The day was warm - well over 80 degrees, and we were hot!  Shoes came off for splashing in the bay, and after a pleasant and shady rest, we were off again!   This time, the paddle was longer.   We did look at the time on this leg, and we were in the canoe for almost two hours.  At times, wind and waves were strong, so we hugged the shoreline and I did my best to help Erik keep the canoe on a steady course.  I'm not much of a paddler even when I'm not eight months pregnant, but I worked hard!  We stopped in the calm of an island and reapplied sunscreen, and Elisa's loose front tooth fell out!  Erik tucked it in a zippered pocket, we snapped a photo, and then we pressed on!  

When we finally reached the bay where Erik's bike was stashed, the kids were a bit weary.  It was about 5:00, I think, and they were happy, tired, and hungry.  More cookies, more water, and more wet toes.   I gave them empty bottles to fill with sand and pebbles and they played contentedly on the shore while this tired mama sat and watched.  Erik pedaled hard and fast back to our car.  He arrived by six, and we re-loaded the car.   Somehow, we lost one of our brand new kids sunglasses.  Oops.   

 Smiling Sadie
 Portage from Bear Paw to Jackson Lake
 Picnicking at Bear Paw Bay on Jackson Lake before our last leg.

We fed the kids lunch leftovers for dinner as we drove, and little Raina-bean slept hard in the car.    

What an adventure! We were telling friends yesterday about our fun day on the lake(s) and they all sort of poked fun at my sweet husband for dragging his (very) pregnant wife on such a long and strenuous day.  But, you know what?  If he is with me, I can do anything!  He is so strong and fearless, faithful, and consistent.  Nothing phases him. Nothing tires him.  He is amazing.  I wouldn't carry the canoe on my own shoulders, but if Erik can carry it, then I am more than happy to carry a 30 pound toddler, and a few life jackets to follow him into the great unknown.   There is no one I would rather live life's great adventures with!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Of Books and Kindles

"Give us a house furnished with books rather than furniture! Both, if you can, but books at any rate! Books are the windows through which the soul looks out. A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up his children without surrounding them with books, if he has the means to buy them. It is a wrong to his family. He cheat them! Children learn to read by being in the presence of books.  The love of knowledge comes with reading and grows upon it! And the love of knowledge, in a young mind, is almost a warrant against the inferior excitement of passions and vices...  Let us pity these poor rich men who live barrenly in great, bookless, houses!  A little library growing larger each year is an honorable part of a young man's history.  It is a man's duty to have books.  A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life."  -Henry Ward Beecher, 1862

I came across this quote yesterday and loved it. I read it to Erik, because it expressed what I have been trying to tell him over the last month as I've tried - without success - to enjoy reading a book on the Kindle I was given for Christmas.  I have to be honest.  The Kindle came from my father-in-law and I think it might have been a joke.  Or, he thought he might be able to bring me over to the dark side of technology.  I'm not sure which.  He has a Nook and a Kindle.  He loves them.  I had told him repeatedly I thought it was a travesty to think of a hand-held device replacing bright shelves of beautiful books.  :)  I love you, Doug and I am thankful for your generosity. But I can't be convinced on this one.

Now, I do get the practicality of it.  In fact, for my brother-in-law somewhere in the Middle East and my sister heading to South Korea, it is probably a great thing!  They can read whatever they want without having access to English bookstores or libraries, and without having to ship home boxes of new books.  Doug just loaded his with Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey for a month long trip into the backcountry.  My sister Amy is always getting free books or borrowing them from the library and she has dozens at her fingertips at one time.  I get it. Sort of. 

I just can't do it.  I can't exchange the smell of ink and paper or the feel of crisp pages turning in my hand.  I can't accumulate files on a device in place of colorful spines on a brimming bookshelf.  Knowledge comes from people, from books, not from computer screens - or at least it should.   I want my kids to devour stacks of real, lovely, sacred writing, not skim through a screen and click a button. 

But, that's just me. :)  Michelle, the Kindle is waiting to be transported to South Korea and loaded with all kinds of history books! :)


For the last ten days or so, Erik and I have been following new updates on the Colorado High Park Fire.  Large wildfires anywhere are devastating, and it is always sobering and sad to hear of fires encroaching on homes or taking lives.   This time, though, news of the fire has hit us "close to home."   In 2005, we purchased a little 900-square foot cottage in the woods up Rist Canyon north of Fort Collins.  Last week, our rural subdivision was one of the first areas to be evacuated.  While we don't know for certain, all the fire maps indicate our charming little house (which we finally sold in June of 2009) was burned along with the 188 other structures they had counted as of yesterday.  Unless the current owners had fairly ruthlessly cut trees for fire protection, it would not have survived this massive fire.  

It is sobering.  I think of all the families living up Rist Canyon, Stove Prairie and the other affected areas, and it breaks my heart to think of so many who are displaced and homeless.  We have not kept in touch with our neighbors, but we did have one young couple who lived very close to us and were in the process of building (by themselves) their first home, who we remember sharing meals and evening walks with.  I think of them and pray for their sweet family.  

Elisa and Erik standing in front of kitchen.  I was searching for pictures of our little house, but I think they are mostly on discs, because when we lived there we didn't have this computer, or internet access to upload photos. There are just a few that must have been on my camera when we moved.  

Please pray for all the families displaced by the fire.  It is still raging, although I think it was 45% contained yesterday.   We have also been thinking of our little Baptist church in the tiny town at the base of the canyon -- thinking of the opportunities they have for ministry and outreach in the middle of a community tragedy. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Snow and Splash

Monday morning, we joined a few other homeschool families for a "field trip" to the ski resort.  Locals can ride the tram free during early summer (usually 25$!), so we decided to take advantage of the deal and have an adventure!  Sunday had been snowy and cold, so we dressed warmly for the expedition.  The kids were in snowpants and hats when we boarded the tram, even though it was sunny and warming quickly at the base of the mountain.   

The kiddos loved the ride to the top, noses pressed against glass to take in the views.   They sang made-up songs in unison and giggled the whole way.  At the top, they immediately started sledding and jumping in the snow, and getting as wet as possible.  :)  

With some friends - Annika and Kaiya.
Raina kept trying to slide down the rock parts of the hill. She finally figured out that only the snow was slippery!

Doing a little research on the deck of the restaurant at the top.  How high is the tram? What animals live there? What mountains can you see?
Happy hearts on the trip back down.

And then.... it was warm. There is a great little park and fountain area in the Village Commons (amid all the swanky hotels and boutiques! :))  We had sack lunches and let the kids play and splash in the creek. After a while they turned the fountains on, and the kids went wild!
Here, Raina warms herself on the sun-baked cement.

Fountains!  And lots of blissfully happy, very drenched, worn-out little munchkins!

Monday, June 11, 2012

One Hundred!

I never actually sat down myself to count the number of extended family staying together in one beautiful Oceanside beach house last weekend....  but I think it was 37 or 38.  :) 

We were so blessed to travel to San Diego (from May 31 - June 5) to celebrate my grandpa's 100th birthday!  Every single one of his descendants was there to join in the fun - which was amazing! From Maryland, Washington, Colorado, Wyoming, and Oregon (and a few who live close by in Southern California).   

As usual, Erik and I found ourselves with a nearly empty SD card on our camera. :) But, several others had cameras clicking constantly, so I think we will manage to steal some (hopefully!) .  I realized I didn't even have any of Grandpa Jack!

We arrived on late Thursday afternoon, and drove to Great Grandpa Jack's house where my sister Amy, and two of my aunts were already gathered.   The kids were eager to jump in his pool - although it was chilly with the sun beginning to go down!  We ate pizza, kept our little ones from jumping into the pool without supervision (a bit of a challenge, actually!), and caught up with family.  

The Arnolds and we had rooms at a (very) nearby hotel that night, and Friday morning, we caught up with Nana and Uncle Ryan and (soon-to-be) Aunt Emily, who had arrived in the middle of the night.   Other family members were trickling in slowly over the course of the day, so we decided to head to the San Diego Harbor with the Arnolds and tour the Midway.  It's an air-craft carrier turned museum, and boasts dozens of real Navy aircraft.   The kids loved touring the bunk-rooms, sitting in cockpits, and standing on the flight deck.   When we had reached the little ones' limits, we drove to In-and-Out for burgers before driving north to the rental house where our family was gathering that evening.  

The sisters had rented a 10 bedroom home for us all to stay in  -- beachfront. As soon as we walked in, we found the Maryland and Colorado contingents watching dolphins splash in the ocean from the deck.  It was incredible! I love dolphins, and it was just amazing to see them surfacing so close to us!  

By dinnertime, all 38 had arrived, and we ate spaghetti, crowded happily together in the main floor living area.  One of my aunts had sewn door hangers for each room so that we could label each family's "residence."  Our room was on the upper level, and we loved hearing the ocean through the open windows.  Nana had sewn creative pillow mats for the kids -- fabric cases that we stuffed with extra pillows to make comfy beds for the kids.  They loved them, and have actually been setting up them up in our house for fun! 

Saturday came early - especially for those traveling from the East coast, and those with little ones.  We had planned to spend Saturday enjoying each others' company, some good food, and the beach - and we did!  We ate eggs and potatoes for breakfast, my aunt Laura's incredible fish tacos for lunch, and grilled steaks for dinner.  In between the feeding frenzies, we played with kiddos, lounged on couches, walked along the beach (Erik ran), splashed a little, and soaked in the two hot tubs.  (Okay, I didn't get to do that.  Pregnancy has a way of limiting certain things!)  It was actually kind of chilly, so we didn't play in the ocean as much as we had thought we would.  And, our littlest peanut came down with a stomach bug and spent the day with alternating diarrhea and throwing up, so we were busy keeping her hydrated and away from Great Grandpa and the two tiny infants! 

On Sunday, a quick cold breakfast was followed by a drive to Mass - where Grandpa was being  honored (and sung to!). I didn't get to attend Mass because Raina had thrown up again during breakfast, so she and I held down the fort alone.  I actually read an entire book in that span of quiet!  When the family returned, we followed Grandpa's recipe for waffles and ate a leisurely brunch.  My cousin Paige had found a photographer friend who was willing to come and shoot several hours of both candid and posed pictures for us, so he and and his wife were capturing our mouthfuls of strawberries and whipped cream on camera. :)  We did posed shots on the upper level deck.   I can't wait to see how all the photographs turned out! 

Our kiddos took good naps that afternoon in preparation for Grandpa's big birthday party that night, and then we all took advantage of low tide to splash in the ocean.  Raina had perked up a little, and she enjoyed feeling the waves rush over her little toes while she hung on tight to Mommy's hand.  We all showered and dressed (up!) for the party.  The great-grand-daughters all had matching dresses (except for little Catherine, who is only two months old and slept in the Snuggli for the whole party!) and the boys had matching shirts.  It was pretty adorable, especially because some of them really look alike.  Sadie and her "cousin" (once-removed??) Rowan are a year apart, and had a strikingly close resemblance with their blonde hair and sweet features.  The party was at one of Grandpa's favorite restaurants, and there were about 60 people gathered to celebrate with him.   Mom and her sisters (there are five girls) had worked hard to create some special details and programming for the evening... pictures, songs, Grandpa "quotes." The great-grandkids helped him blow out his 100 candles, but as Elisa pointed out, "He didn't really need us. He could have blown out all 100 just fine by himself, Mom."  

Stuffed with chocolate cake and fried shrimp, our girls fell asleep on the thirty minute drive back to the beach house.   In the morning, we packed our things and loaded up to drive to Sea World.  The whole Forbes clan came, and my cousin Michael with his sweet wife Christina and their newborn, Catherine.  We had really been looking forward to that exciting "splurge" and it did not disappoint!   We saw the sea lion show, toured the shark house, waited in a long line to eat lunch (:)), and then split up for a few rides before staking out seats for the killer whale show.   Sadie was just barely tall enough for some of the "grown-up" rides, but Ephraim was not quite, and of course the little girls were too short.  So, Sadie and Elisa got splashed with Erik and Michelle on a rafting ride while the others rode Elmo.  Even the kiddie rides are off-limits for pregnant ladies, so I got to be the bag watcher.  :)  There's no masking this baby belly, now! 

Erik and the girls found up-close, Soak-Zone seats for the Shamu show, and we definitely got soaked.  At the time, some of the little ones got teary when the tsunami of whale splashes pummeled us again and again, but afterwards, that was by far their favorite memory.   It was spectacular to be so close.  We were drenched, though, and had to change clothes before enjoying the rest of the park.  The kids got some more play time in the Sesame Street area, and then we visited walruses, polar bears, and beluga whales.  We even got to touch dolphins and manta rays! 



Dinner on the go was followed by putting kids to sleep on the floor at Grandpa's before transferring back to our hotel rooms.  Our flight left midday on Tuesday, and Raina slept with her head on my lap the whole flight.   She continued throwing up periodically through Tuesday night, but she is back to herself, now.   We were so thankful no one else got the bug!  

We had such a great trip, although it was fast!  It's always too quick when you are in a fun place with people you love!  It was great for the kids to meet new cousins and see the ones they already know.  And, Grandpa Jack was blessed.  

Happy 100th Birthday, Great-Grandpa!