Follow by Email

8.29.2011

The fun continues with the Oateskis

Hello All,

Okay, so it has been awhile. A little over a year ago, we completed our USA tour and settled down in St. Louis, MO. It was a busy year, living close to Jenny's parents and Grandfather as well as aunts and uncles. We also joined the St. Louis Homeschool Network and made a great group of friends.
We visited all the museums, took classes, volunteered, learned karate, soccer, baseball, Jenny taught some swimming and art, we also saw an opera, plays, the symphony, and hosted lots of guests from old pals in Columbia to cousins from the great state of Washington. It was so much fun that, well, we're leaving. Now tomorrow, yes, tomorrow, we are off.
Off to the opposite edge of this great state (as now that we are back, Bryce is sure to never leave its 'walls' unless it is for an under 2 week period) to start an all new adventure. Oh yes, you all will have lots to laugh, cry and hopefully, marvel at, even participate in this coming year. The Oateskis will be building a home on the Oates farm-ily compound. With a generous gift of space, the Oates' are allowing us to carve out a little spot in the woods for our homestead. So, tomorrow, here we go. I will post pictures often and surely lots of stories will ensue from this new endeavor, so please, follow along on the blog (publicly or privately) for all the fun. We hope to hear from you and even more so, hope that some of you will make the trek to come on out and be a part of the action. Please join us. And we're off....

7.21.2010

7.20.2010

July 2 - 21 updates

Because I don't know when I'll get a chance to fill all of you in ( or if I will remember much longer) I've got to put it all down now, while I have access to the internet. Wireless connections have been difficult to say the least lately. Bryce is able to work by escaping to internet cafes and coffee shops, but the other boys, for some reason, do not prioritize my blog time. Its now or never. Don't worry, I'll try to include more photos soon too. Here goes. (BTW you may want to read this in short doses.)

Friday, July 2

Lucky us. Bryce took most the day off, so we headed to the Toe River for a relaxing day in the canoe. A 6 mile trip down the river from a nearby campground. What a day for the Oateskis. The boys in the middle of the canoe, Bryce steering, Jenny as the powerhouse (ha) at the helm. Okay, so it was my job to look out for rocks, rapids, sticks, and wildlife. I did okay, but this was not home territory. This was no Current River. We saw herons, ducks, a newborn fawn and plenty of other fish and aquatic life thanks to my keen eye on the (mostly) calm water. What I did not see well, were rocks and rapids. Ooops. A few bumps, scrapes and spins of the canoe and we were having a great time. This river was exciting. It offered a few whitewater sections, some drops, nothing huge but a couple feet or so and even a few bail outs. We never did swamp the boat but did have a close call.
We were coming up on some rough water when the bow hit a big rock, swinging the boat around. To save the boat from capsizing, I flew out of the boat and into the rapids, pushing the canoe away from the rock. I did it. I saved the boat from flipping, but looked down the river to see the boat riding the rapids with out me (which I had to catch up to.) Only, strangely, the boat was now missing Bryce. Hmm. The boys were in charge. Laughing their heads off as I paddled to catch up and Bryce hung onto the canoe, his body in the water and his paddle charging ahead without him. It was the highlight of our day. We finally got it all together and had a well deserved picnic on the bank of a deserted river. It was nice to have the river to ourselves. Easily, one of our most memorable moments.

Saturday, July 3

Headed to Burnsville for the Farmers Market. Wow, were we ever surprised by a street festival taking place along with it. We filled our cooler with market goodies, then enjoyed the festivities for a few hours. The boys began to wilt, which meant it was time to get back to the cabin for a dip in the creek. Followed all this with an amazing supper of local brats on the grill, tomato salad, cukes and onions, potatoes and squash grilled and fresh lemonade. Finished with homemade ice cream sandwiches. Almost everything came from those fine farmers in North Carolina. Mmmm. Who needs fireworks after all this?

Sunday, July 4

Time for some hiking. We wound around and up and over the mountains to the Roan Mountain Gardens to check out the interesting ecosystem at the mountain top known as a mountaintop bald or glade. Dry, crumbly rock, pine forest, and cool temps made us feel like we were hiking in Canada. Fun enough for us to drive to the Roan Mountain State Park in Tennessee. Here, we hiked another, similar trail and enjoyed the numbered checkpoints with a brochure highlighting the finer points of the state park system, ecology and preserving the world for future generations. On the old iron mine trail we even got to watch an old water wheel working.

Monday, July 5

A relaxing day spent creekside, mostly. Ran races up the steep gravel drive, listened to the kids whine and played games. Found a Craft Alliance offering pottery classes in town, so I picked up a block of clay. We made clay creations on the deck for the remainder of the afternoon/evening. Ahh...finally my hands were in clay again. I didn't realize how much I missed it until I found this fine mud.

Tuesday, July 6

After 3 trips down the mountain and back up again, all to take calls or send and receive emails, Bryce was officially finished with this cabin. No wireless or phone was really wearing on him (and the car.) We spent most of the day searching for alternative shelters.

Wednesday, July 7

Much of the same. Bryce drives up and down the mountain several times, wanders the woods in search of cell signal, shakes his head in frustration and we both continue to pursue other housing options to no avail. It is officially high season in the Smokey Mountain region. Cabins are a hot commodity.
I did take the boys on a jaunt to Celo (a fun commune sort of area) for some blueberry picking. Together, we picked a gallon until our faces and hands were blue with juice. Delicious! After all that we drove around enjoying the various farms, gardens, art galleries (which we saved them the trouble and saw from afar) until we found a good 'ol ice cream stand for a bit of an ice cold cone in this thousand degree heat.
Back at the house we swam ourselves silly then put some of those berries to good use in a homemade blueberry pie. What a treat! I think that was dinner and dessert that night.

Thursday, July 8

Bryce worked worked worked. We played played played. In the creek, board games, pottery fun, and baking with blueberries. Discovered a new favorite cake recipe. Blueberry buckle. This is like a vanilla cake with zillions of blueberries to hold it all together. Again, dinner paled in comparison to dessert.

Friday, July 9

Mostly stuck at the cabin as Bryce drives up and down the mountain to try and work. Ridiculous. Found a cool skull and fur and tiny bones strewn all about at the creek along with some bear scat. Exciting find. Now we know the bears are near (or were), but decide on a creek walk upstream anyway. We walk all the way up and over boulders, up waterfalls and through lovely cool pools to an old board bridge covered with moss. We climbed the log cabin style posts up as a ladder to the bridge, then walked back down the road to the cabin. Adventures abound out here. So many hidden treasures. We also saw three different types of little "sallies" (salamanders) as the boys call them.

Saturday, July 10

Ahh. Saturday. Hooray! We get Bryce to ourselves. We were off on an adventure to Linville Caverns and Linville Gorge. Linville Gorge rivals the Grand Canyon in the distance from top to gorge or canyon floor. It was beautiful. Wynne was on a roll, engaging everyone he could with his stories of rockets and space race cars. It made for tired ears for the rest of us, but at least he was hiking miles and miles without complaining in the 90 degree heat. Waterfalls with enormous drops and a canyon filled with trees could be seen from several astounding overlooks. Green all around. Then underground.
The caverns were also a hit. Henry has been known to get a bit freaked out when going into caves, but this was quite a tour. The stalactites and mites were streaked with blues, greens and oranges from the various minerals in the dripping water forming these interesting cave creations. There were even fish swimming in the underground stream. No bats could be seen then, but we did see some fascinating cavern rooms and deep water pools. This region is truly blessed with natural wonders. Exhausted and happy, we headed back to the cabin to clean up and prepare to leave this great little home on top of the mountain.

Sunday, July 11

I woke to a welcome bit of solitude. All the boys headed down the mountain for a boys morning out. They dined at at the all boys diner, then hit the Burnsville Skatepark and later returned while I was at the creek enjoying a swim. The boys joined me, then we concocted various dishes from the remaining foodstuffs in the cabin. A few peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies later and I was feeling ill. We planned to leave that night to head toward Cherokee, where Bryce had meetings in the morning. Instead, we watched the longest World Cup Championship game ever, followed by rest and lots of packing and repacking of the car.

Monday, July 12

Out of the cabin early so why not to the Early Girl Eatery in Asheville? Local food and fare is their fix and we found them true to this mission. Grit cakes (polenta or mush cakes to some of you) with eggs, sausage, tomato salsa sauce, goat cheese and avacado. Yum! Oh, also multigrain pancakes and blackberry french toast if you like that sort of thing. No one was disappointed.
Rain on the way to Cherokee. Rain. Rain. Rain. All the stuff we own is in the car, we have nowhere to go, but we do have friends to meet up with. Friends? Its been so long since we've seen anyone, we're giddy with the thought. We meet the Muchow family all the way from Chicago. (Molly, who Bryce and Jenny went to college with, Brett, her ever so accomodating and fun loving husband and their two great kids, Beckett (3) and Russell (18mos.)) The sun arrived with the Muchows. After spending all morning trying to dry off, the kids were in the splashpark/sprayground together having a blast while the rest of us caught up on the sidelines.
On to the matter of shelter. The Muchow's tent was soaked and we were homeless. A dinner of Indian tacos inspired us to just drive down the road looking for available cabins. A quick stop and phone call at a roadside sign about a small cabin and we were in our new short-term home. So it was a one room cabin with one bed and a teeny bathroom and kitchenette for all 8 of us, but we're all about togetherness, right?
It worked out fine. We had a small hot tub, just big enough for 4 little boys to splash the evening away until campfire and s'mores time, followed by storytelling and a very late night for all of us.

Tuesday, July 13

Bryce was already in town and working for hours by the time the rest of us got up and around. After Chef Molly's delicious breakfast of potatoes, eggs, and blueberry pancakes, we headed out for a little hiking.
Mingo Falls in Cherokee is one place not to be missed when visiting the region. A pretty easy hike up the many, many stairs to lovely falls. It was a great time climbing on the rocks and getting shots of the falls and the kids playing together. We followed this with lunch and a few trips tubing down the Oconoluftee River at the Oconoluftee Islands Park and it was a great day. Molly and Brett offered Bryce and myself the kindest gift ever of time to ourselves, by taking all 4 little guys to see Despicable Me. Great timing. It poured down rain and Bryce ended up on a conference call the entire time. I desperately searched for a more long term housing arrangement. This was really beginning to be a pain. I did find a deal at a small hotel on the river with a pool, so that would have to work for a week or so.
That night we dined on something resembling food at a Pizza buffet and spent the evening back at the campfire ring and snoozing in the cabin.

Wednesday July 14

We checked into our new home for the remainder of the week, up until Monday. Perhaps I should've seen the warning signs beginning with the deal we worked out. The room was dubbed the "practice hotel room" by the boys due to the various nail holes in the walls from misaligned mirrors and fixtures then moved to even weirder locations. The shower head was at my eye level. MY eye level people. I am barely above 5 feet tall. The bathroom door didn't close and the beds were merely box springs. Interesting. Also, a fridge the size of my rear end and no microwave. This surely made life interesting. On a positive note, they had a pool and were right next to the Islands Park and the fairgrounds.
To burn off some steam, we went back into the Great Smokey Mountain park for a little hiking. About a 1/2 mile into the trail, I had to duck out to empty my guts for other wildlife to discover later. Back to the car. Barely made it back to the hotel where I disappeared into a dizzy ickiness. Luckily, it was in the afternoon, and Bryce saved me by taking the boys swimming.

Thursday July 15

I was feeling marginally better and the boys were ready to blow off some steam, so it was back to the Smokies again. The boys were halfway to Junior Ranger status and we noticed some fun programs going on in the park, so we learned a bit about blacksmithing and then what life was like for a kid on an Appalachian farm in the 1800s, made a craft, helped out the rangers with some clean up. The Ranger helped the boys through the Junior Ranger pledge at the visitors center and announced them official Jr. Rangers. They even got certificates and badges. Yeah Oates boys! A little picnic in the park to celebrate. We started out hiking, when Henry complained of feeling dizzy, so back to the room with us. We all slept off the heat the best we could under the circumstances as Bryce wandered the streets chatting away.

Friday July 16

With Bryce on a jaunt to Virginia for official business, we were on our own in Cherokee for the day. First to the skatepark to get the energy out before the melting temps got to us. Lucky for us, the Cherokee Farmers Market is in the parking lot of the Skatepark. However, the market, advertised all over town as 10-2 on Fridays, was nonexistent. Bummer for us, because we needed some veggies and fruit. About 11 a beat up truck pulled into the lot. An older man with out a shirt sat in the truck in the heat. His truck was full of watermelons, peaches, tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, cukes, and more. I couldn't stand it any longer. About 11:15 I approached the truck and asked if he was the farmers market. He affirmed that he was, but that he'd get going in a few minutes. Finally, at nearly noon, he stepped out, put on a shirt (didn't button it) and set up a card table and a scale. Really? How hard was this? In the end we did get a few pounds of juicy peaches, some peppers, yellow cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers. It was all I could carry. All for $6. Are you kidding? No wonder no one wants to farm out there. That was nothing.

The boys took a break from skating and Wynne even tried a tomato. If you know Wynne you know that he likes COOKED tomatoes, not raw ones, as he will remind anyone repeatedly. Lately, though he's claimed he'll like tomatoes when he's four. With his fourth birthday only 2 days away, he decided to try his luck. He popped a cherry tomato in his mouth and announced,"Hey! I like tomatoes! I am still three and I like them! I don't believe it! These are really good, mom! Call Grandma and tell her I like them now."
What a day! Go Wynne!

We scootered back to the hotel with our booty and enjoyed a cool dip in the pool, followed by a walk across to the fairgrounds where the Festival of Native Cultures was just getting started. We saw drumming and dancing and of course, found sno-cones. It was fun until the sun got to us and we went back to the room for a little rest. Just as we were planning on heading back out, the clouds moved in and emptied out. We watched the flocks evacuating the fairgrounds from our own door. Finally, Bryce was back, after a day of 500 miles or more and meetings galore.

Saturday, July 17

It amazes me that Bryce even goes near the car on the day after a long trip, but he did. We enjoyed a morning of hiking in the Deep Creek section of the Smokey Mountain National Park, home to many waterfalls and great tubing spots. We hiked the Juney Whank Falls trail and stopped at the bridges to watch the tubers floating along and flipping over in the rapids. This, we had to try sometime. This inspired us to get back to Cherokee for a little tubing of our own. We walked up the trail along the river a mile or so and put in to float down to the park bridge. It was so much fun, we did it again and again. Henry and I held a rope between our two tubes and had great fun spinning each other and bumping each other over the rocks. Good thing I have extra padding to absorb the shock. When we decided we were waterlogged enough, we walked over to the Festival of Native Cultures where we saw some amazing dancing, drumming, native costumes, and even Pole flyers from Mexico. These guys climb a pole (like a telephone pole, only taller) with One man in the middle, standing on the top playing the flute and drum. The four remaining men have wound themselves up to the top with ropes tied to their feet. At the exact moment all four dive head-first off the pole and begin spinning around the pole all the way to the ground all the while the man on top continues to play flute and drum. It was quite a site to see. There were also other amazing acts, but that one takes the cake. When our eyes could remain open no longer, we headed to bed.

Sunday July 18

Happy Birthday to Wynne!!! We had lots to do today. For Wynne's big day we were off to the Smokey Mountain Railway for a train trip to the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center.) Bryce upgraded us to the cushy seats, air conditioned car and special train lunch, so we were effectively spoiled rotten. The band at the station even sang "Happy Birthday" to Wynne before our departure.
The train ride itself was informative and scenic, all along the river, where we could watch kayaking and white water rafting. We even crossed a 100 year old trestle bridge that would make Aunt Shelly squeamish. At our stopover at the Outdoor Center, the Junior Olympic whitewater kayaking team was practicing. This is when we lost Wynne. Well, we didn't lose him, but we wished we had. Seeing this, he announced that all he wanted for his birthday was his own, brand new whitewater kayak (the pyranah, specifically.) He even went so far as to try (several times) to throw himself into the rapids, as if this would automatically earn him a spot on the "kid olympic" team. Not exactly as we planned it to go. One thing to know about Wynne is his passion for extremely dangerous outdoor sports. The higher the risk, the more enticing. Oh goody. The trip back on the train seemed quick and we were back in Bryson City before we knew it. Here, we enjoyed a lovely pasta dinner and headed back to the hotel happy and ready for an evening swim.

Monday and Today

Out of the Cherokee motel and onto Sylva, NC. Found a great meal at the Guadalupe Cafe in Sylva, but still having difficulty finding shelter, so we may have to head back to the MO without Bryce. I will try to update when I can. Thanks for all the attention. We may stop to see you soon!










7.01.2010

Out of Range

Wilderness Family


Now folks, I know its been a while since I checked in with all of you, but I've been out of range - really out of range. If you ever want to get away to a remote locale, ask Bryce to hook you up. He has the knack for these sort of things. No phone, no wireless, no cell coverage. We are, however, lucky enough to have running water (the plumbing and outdoor kind) and electricity.


We are now in the lovely Black Mountain section of the Blue Ridge or Smokey Mountain Range. Not far from Mt. Mitchell (the highest known elevation in North Carolina) and nestled (really cozy-like) in the Pisgah National Forest land in the sweetest little cabin on the creek you've ever seen. I write you now from a deck over looking a series of waterfalls and crystal clear pools along the north fork of Cattail Creek.


We arrived after a brief visit to Cherokee, NC and the Smoky Mountain National Park where we hiked the up, up, up-est trail we could find and even discovered Aconista stone cliffs. It was here I was sure I was coming back down with one family member fewer, thanks to the treacherous climb to the top of Chimney Tops trail. Great trail for aspiring athletes and families alike. (Just make sure your children are older than 8 or so, so they can make the trek up this steep and slippery rock at the trail's end. )

On to Cherokee. The town of Cherokee has seen some great changes recently. We were lucky to enjoy most of them. The Cherokee people have put their casino money to good use by building an amazing new school, walking trails throughout town, new shopping areas complete with visitor's center and splash park right in the heart of it. Smart move there. Kids play in the fountains, dads relax in the shade, while moms shop for moccasins - maybe this idea will catch on in more locations.


The Oconoluftee River runs throughout town, where the Cherokee have also created a park all along its banks with picnic shelters, paths, bridges and benches along its banks. This is a popular tubing spot as the the water is shallow, the stones are smooth and the water moves gently. We enjoyed wading, skipping stones and racing boats here. This river is also known in the region as quite the trout fishing paradise.

The new Cherokee Heritage Museum and Gallery is award winning and a hit with everyone in the family (our family anyway.) The grandslam with the boys (besides the water) was really the Cherokee Indian Village. Here, a tour guide took us through the village where we saw demonstrations of beading, weaving, basketry, trap making (for various fish and animals), blowgun and arrow making as well as demonstrations of dugout canoe building (or burning as it were), tool making, pottery, story telling, dancing and explanation of tribal life and rules. I realize I just wrote a commercial for Cherokee, NC, but really, it is an amazing place for families who want a cultural, historical and outdoor adventure sort of vacation. Also, its all affordable. A play about the Cherokee people plays nightly in a newly built amphitheater, but I'll get to that later.

Unfortunately, Bryce did not get to join in all of our fun here, because, alas he had to work - again (sigh - for Bryceee.) We loved it though and hope he finds more work in this great place.


To the cabin! Oh to the cabin. My dear sweet husband decided that a "short cut" was in order so we could make it to the cabin by nightfall. This shortcut was about 250 ziggity zagity roads going up, up, up, over the mountain and then down, down down only to turn another few hairpin turns ON GRAVEL to go up up up again. I was not pleased when we arrived in the center of the earth. It was then that I made the mistake of walking into the cabin and then out the back door onto the deck. I might not ever leave now. Not only because I can not find my way out of this Gilligans Island paradise, but because it is, indeed a paradise. If you have ever been to Johnson's Shut-Ins state park in Missouri, it is an apt picture of what we see when sitting here on the deck.

I invite you all to get on out here and enjoy it with us while we are here. Really. Truly. Please come visit. We have lots of extra beds and space. We have found a less ridiculous route of getting here than that first night and will gladly meet you at the bottom of the mountain to guide you up here.

Bryce enjoyed the cabin for a full 5 hours before leaving on a work trip for 5 days. The boys and I stayed here at the cabin for two days without getting in the car at all. We explored the creek, hiked the roads (trails and roads are quite similar around here) painted, told stories, played games, swam and practiced archery with our new bows and arrows.

*Note to parents of small children. Do not get into this bow and arrow business unless you are prepared to hunt for lost arrows in the woods for hours at a time or feel them whiz by you no matter how out of range you think you may be - all this regardless of how many times you've gone over the "rules" of archery. All in all, it was fun. Thank goodness these arrows did not have sharp points.


Thursday morning. This deserves a post all its own.


Grandma visits


Ahhh…Thursday morning we woke to a lovely day. Today we pick up Grandma Nancy (my mom) at the Asheville Airport. Other than knowing the airport resides somewhere outside the city of Asheville on I-26, I am clueless, but confident that I can find it. The question is, how much time do I need to make the trip? I conclude about 2 hours to be safe. We've got snacks, water, bags for farmer's market shopping and plenty of time. We load up. The key goes in, the key is turned…nothing. We're ready to go, only to find that a light has been on in the backseat for a few days…the car doesn't make a sound. "Awesome!" I screech (along with a few other words followed by "stay here, I will be right back." I run up the 78 degree hill to the next cabin, climb the 200 steps to the front door only to find no one home. Okay, back down the hill, up the hill, next cabin. No one home. Son of a *&^%h! People and their privacy in the woods, for pete's sake! I am feeling desperate. I finally run up another hill, farther away from our cabin, up 300 steps or so and approach the 3rd cabin. I arrive in front of an open screen door, with two nice retired folks seated at breakfast, nothing less than shocked to see a red faced, frizzy haired lady panting and asking for help to jump her car, which happens to be half a mile down the road. Confused, the nice man obliges, gets back to our car and saves the day. Thank goodness I remembered how to use the jumper cables and that I actually had some. And we were only about 20 minutes late to pick up Grandma. Miraculous! What a morning!

And we were off! First to the Moose Cafe at the Farmers Market where we stocked up on fresh veggies and fruit of all kinds. Wynne picked out a whopper of a Canteloupe that he barely shared with the rest of us later. Then to the North Carolina Nature Center, next to the Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center off the Blue Ridge Parkway. There, at the museum, my eldest son decided it might be a great idea to try out the drawers on some of the desks on display. Confused, he explained that the drawer was open so he was closing it for them. Things went better while watching the silkscreen painting demonstration. This was enough for one day, so it was back to the boonies with us. Mom thought perhaps we were never going to make it.


Friday we enjoyed a cabin day. Well, we enjoyed it mostly. Until a certain young 6 year old decided to get uppity and slam all the doors in the house, we were having a fine day. One of these doors was a bedroom door. This bedroom door was locked from the inside. There was no way to open it. Well, there was one way. Find the big ladder, yell at son, climb tall creaky, scary, shaky ladder up to second story above garage, glare at child, ask mom if the ladder will hold me. Mom was not so reassuring. After climbing the ladder, I realized I needed a tool to remove the screen to dive into the window. Down the ladder, up the ladder, screen off, down the ladder, up the ladder, through the window and OUT. Hooray! Problem solved. Too bad we didn't take pictures. Word to the wise kids, don't slam doors.

This didn't hamper our day much. We still enjoyed swimming and floating in the creek pool, playing in the creek, cooking together and playing games.

Bryce finally made it home just as we all settled down. Wynne was so happy to see him, he fell out of bed.


Saturday

Busy. Busy. So busy in fact, that when Bryce finally got home, he went to brush his teeth, then passed out, standing up, while brushing his teeth. I thought he was being funny bumping into me, so I moved out of his way, when SPLAT he was flat on his back on the bathroom floor. Guess we should've given him a bit of a break after such a long trip.


Here's the speed tour. Burnsville Farmers Market, drive to Mt. Mitchell, hike to overlook, hike an easy (oops, make that very strenuous) trail with mom, lunch at the Mt. Mitchell cafe. Yum mountain trout! Stop on some of the family farms on the Family Farm tour sponsored by the Local foodies of Asheville. Check out farms, honeybees, gardens, orchards, animals, cool Montessori Mountain School, Wynne milks a goat and finally, back home again. Whew!


Sunday


Visitors!! About 2 a.m. mom, bryce and I awoke to a child screaming. Sounded like it was coming from outside, on the back deck. That's weird. We checked on Wynne, then Henry. They were fine. We looked out on the deck. There in the moonlight were two bear cubs jumping on the picnic table, grabbing and swinging on the hummingbird feeder, attempting to get a sweet mouthful of nectar. They were working pretty hard on this task, barking or screeching really, each time they missed. While it was hilarious to watch, it was time for them to go. Mama climbed the stairs and swatted at them only after Bryce bopped a baby on the nose through the screen door it was then trying to enter. The bears were probably born not all that long ago. They certainly weren't to wary of us. I'd say they were about the size of an average 2-3 year old child. Mama bear and Jenny would've made a pretty even match (in size, people, not looks. Thank you.)

After all that evening excitement, it was time for a relaxing day around the creek. The boys took a long creek expedition while mom and I went to town looking for arts, crafts and other junk.

Bad idea. Sundays in the south are not big days for commerce. We did find one fun junk shop, but not too much to crow about.


Monday and Tuesday


Take your Grandma to Cherokee, NC field trip.

Well, we did it again. Back to the museum.

I think Henry will be applying for a job there soon. If we go longer than a week without entering a museum he starts to get a little edgy. He gave Grandma the official tour.

Back to the hotel, into the swimwear. We hit the pool, then Bryce joined us for some tubing in the river along park, behind the hotel. This was fun stuff. Ahhh. Indian tacos for dinner then the big treat. The "Unto these Hills" play in the newly constructed amphitheater. What a production! If you haven't heard, the Cherokees and all Native Peoples got a bum deal once whitey started occupying this land and running the show. Of course the actors did a better job filling in the details. Teary and bleary-eyed, we returned to the hotel and dreamed of a place that respected native people and learned from them.


Next morning it was to the local Pancake house for breakfast before Bryce set out on his path and the rest of us on into the Smoky Mountain National Park for some sightseeing, Ranger Programs, and Cherokee Pottery class. Wynne and Henry will be Junior Rangers before we know it. That afternoon, worn out and icing her knees, we sent Grandma on the plane back to St. Louis. What do you know? I had two sleepyheads in the back seat too. I think we were all finished for a while. How about all of you? Ready to get on out here? We're ready to see you.


Well, we've got a production of Annie to get to, so its off to the theater with us tonight. Enjoy your summer and your 4th of July, wherever you are!! Maybe even pay some respects to your native roots with a 4 directions prayer or kind thoughts for all those who have gone before us without recognition while you're blasting those explosives in your patriotic fervor.









6.18.2010

Dads



After all this zipping, zigging and zagging, it was nice to visit with the Read Family for a couple of days. We rang in Bryce's birthday with cold drinks in hand, seated in lawn chairs, listening to goats bleating and kids splashing in the pool as fireflies and stars lit up the night. Just the way it needed to be.
Didn't last too long. Up and ready in the morning, the kids were running, Carrie was working on teaching the world math equations from the computer, then loading up her CSA shares for folks in town. Bryce was off to the far reaches of the state for meetings and Andy was back to work offering folks ideas and solutions to their Ag. questions as extension agent extraordinaire. As for me, it was easy street. Kid duty. Luckily, the kids were all so wrapped up in their imaginations and underwater world, I only managed from afar. It was nice and a little unnerving to not have so much going on. I know most of you are thinking ,"What the heck? What else does this broad do but hang out all the livelong day with her kids anyhow?" Believe it or not, there is always something to do. Though, I admit, I do occasionally long for an address and all the trappings (well, most of the trappings.) For whatever reason, on this day, hanging out with these four kids (my own and the Read angels; Izzy and Hollis) out in the sun, playing games and hopping in and out of the pool, with only the occasional skirmish, I felt really lucky to have such great friends (here, there and everywhere) and to have this experience overall. There are few people out there who can, in a matter of only a few weeks, camp with friends in the Rockies, pick strawberries with old pals in Iowa, celebrate a birthday with new friends in Lake Superior, drink beers back in our home state with old friends, and only days later be on a hike in The Smoky Mountains. Sure, the packing gets old (you'd think I'd have a system by now, right?,) and not having stuff can be no fun sometimes, but really, it is nice to get to see the friends we love and spend this time as a family enjoying each other while we can, and before the kids are so grown they have their own lives and activities to attend to without us getting in their way. Bryce, unfortunately, doesn't always get to join in all of this fun, but he is the reason we do this. He works tirelessly to provide us with the opportunities to see all these wondrous places and never ever, ever complains that he misses hikes to waterfalls, camp outs, craft times and all the museums and such we get to enjoy without him. It is always more fun when he joins us, but it isn't always possible. Instead, he drives for hours to meetings, gets the car stuck and unstuck in gravel bars, negotiates contracts, wakes up way too early to revise documents and finish computer work, walks miles with a cell to his ear, and does it all without a shred of resentment or bitterness. (At least I hope, or he's quite good at hiding it.) Without him though, this would have never happened. So is the plight of the father (and often both parents.) Always working for the enjoyment of others. So, to Bryce and all fathers out there, Happy Father's Day! We appreciate all of you and love you for what you do and what you are to our families; amazing examples of humility, love, understanding and generosity. Thank You!


6.16.2010

Birthday boys


Trying to get back on track. I can't quite seem to keep up with myself these days. I thought summer days were lazy and relaxing, where's all that? We've been everywhere lately and we're on the move...again.
Left Colorado last Monday, drove all the way across Nebraska with the boys to meet up with Bryce in Omaha, who was to be arriving via bus from Columbia, MO. Instead, he was rear-ended while waiting at a stop sign in st. louis and spent the day being checked out and dealing with the rental car agency. He met us in Omaha after all, where we connected at Keith and Julie's house. (Keith is Jenny's mom's cousin, I suppose that makes him Jenny's second cousin.) Here, we enjoyed lots of entertainment ala Henry and Wynne from dinner to dawn the next day. Wynne and Julie were good friends by the end of the night, for there was pie for dessert and pac man on the t.v. It was great to catch up with relatives, and be treated like royalty for the stay.
From here, we couldn't leave Omaha without visiting the Omaha Zoo. Whoa! What a place! When in Omaha, visit the zoo! This place was incredible, with an aquarium, rainforest (complete with monkeys flying right over you while exploring,) desert dome, skyrail ride over the African savannah (so cool to see rhinos, cheetahs, and giraffes while dangling your feet from above,) and so much more. Could easily spend the weekend here. But, alas, we were on the go.

Next stop, North English Iowa (just outside Iowa City, IA) to visit our good friends the Wedemeyer family. Zac went to MU with Bryce and they've been buds ever since. Zac is now married to Elesa who is busy incubating their 3rd bambino. The two girls Iris (5) and Ani (3) were perfect matches for our two, who got straight to work, running the chickens crazy, jumping on the trampoline, exploring the beautiful and recently completed, gigantic restored (as in taken apart, moved to new location and put back together again) ancient Iowan Barn turned amazing barn castle. So much to explore! It was great fun to see these folks again. The next morning it continued when we were invited to attend the summer camp program that Zac and Elesa developed called Taproot. This program takes kids into the outdoors to explore the world around them from all angles. On this day, we were lucky enough to get to visit Scattergood School's Farm, where we enjoyed a tour, picked strawberries until our bellies ached, tried lots of kohlrabi, kale and broccoli straight from the field. It all ended with some haybale jumping and laughter from all. What a great program. So lucky we got to be a part of it all.
Back on the road and up to Eau Claire, WI for the night. Great dinner and rest and back to the pavement in the morning.
By midday, we finally arrived at our destination, Washburn, Wisconsin (any further north and we'd be paddling in the cold waters of Lake Superior.) Here, we met Charly and Julie and their kids Caroline (7) and Jackson (4.) Charly and Julie have so many projects and things happening up here, I could spend all day listing, but just a few include raising and running a team of 9 sled dogs, a forest cooperative, writing a book about overwintering near the arctic circle and managing their own property that includes 3 cabins, a sauna and a really neat artesian well.
Despite the drought the state seems to be experiencing, it was cold and soaking rainy on Henry's birthday. We did get to enjoy the town and library of Bayfield, Wisconsin, possibly the cutest town in Wisconsin ever. Henry somehow managed to top off this lovely day by slipping into the pond while trying to catch a fat frog. Whoops! I think the frog won. He (Henry) got out, quite surprised and shivering, seeing as it was cool up in these parts. We found some dry clothes and played until it was time to for birthday tacos (made with delish local whitefish, still happily swimming only a few hours before) and cake! It even had a skateboard on it! Henry's birthday wasn't so bad after all.

Saturday found us a bit sunnier so we tried to enjoy the cold waters of lake Superior and get some sandcastle building in before we were back on the road. This time to st. Louis.
Luckily, Grandma Nancy had a surprise couple of days off and we were able to go to the dinosaur exhibit at the Botanical Gardens and Bryce and I even went on a date while she babysat. Thanks Grandma Nancy!
Now, here we are in St. Louis on Bryce's birthday and heading to see friends in Owensville for the day before continuing on to North Carolina tomorrow. This packing and re-packing regime is not agreeing with me anymore. I keep getting rid of things, yet we still have so much stuff. How does this happen!!? I will do my best to keep you informed in a more timely manner, but all you folks out there enjoy your summer travels as well and maybe we'll see you on the road.