Rested and Thankful

I’m two weeks into my summer break, and I’ve already enjoyed two vacations.  I feel so very rested and thankful for the time off.

The Monday after school let out I flew to Boulder, Colorado for NASA’s MAVEN Elementary Teachers’ Summit.  In a nutshell….teacher nerd camp.  I planned a free day on either end of the four day workshop to explore Boulder on my own.  It was glorious.

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Then this past Friday my family of four headed out for a camping trip at James River State Park.  The weekend was full of hammock swinging, hunting bugs, and S’MORES!  This trip was also glorious.

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On one particularly slow stroll back from the bathhouse this weekend I started to contemplate just how different these two trips were, but how I still thoroughly enjoyed both.  Below are a few of the more interesting comparisons….

Dinners
CO: I ate all but one dinner by myself in a restaurant along downtown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall.  I was that person who took a picture of my meal each time.  I spent the first few nights feeling self-conscious for dining alone, but I eventually ended up enjoying the freedom of choosing a spot to eat without having to consider anyone else.

I had a picture of all six dinners here, but I decided to spare you.  These were just two of my favorites…some cheesy goodness from Pasta Jay’s and empanadas from the farmer’s market.
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JRSP:  I ate each cooked-over-the-fire dinner with my sweet family at our tent site.  Chicken hobo packets, pizza on naan, and hot dogs, all washed down with perfectly roasted marshmallows.  This time I was too busy enjoying it to snap any pictures.

Dishes
CO: None.  I tried to tip well out of thankfulness for this fact.
JRSP:  I willingly took this job under our unspoken division of labor.  My introvert self rather liked the few minutes at the bathhouse all alone.  I’ll admit there was no rushing this task.

Accommodations
CO: A-  I stayed in University of Colorado Boulder dorms called Williams Village North.  We each got our own room and shared a hall bathroom.  I would have given them an A if they had just sprung for a fitted sheet.
JRSP:  A.  When you spend a night in the pouring rain and wake up with just the normal amount of Virginia summer stickiness, that’s a sign of a winner of a tent.  Thank you Nana and Papa for the loaner!

Learning
CO:  So much!  We learned about the history of Mars, planetary magnetism, solar flares and coronal mass ejections, the geology of Mars, and on and on and on.  I also learned a ton just from comparing stories over lunch with like-minded teachers from all around the country.  While our acronyms and standards might be slightly different, we all face the same challenges and posses the same passion for what we do.
JRSP:  Camp songs still motivate tired or scared hikers.  Two nights in a row we hiked to an overlook on a trail that was mostly uphill.  On the first night there was much grumbling and begging Bubba to keep up.  On the second night I remembered the magic of Herman the Worm and Fruit of the Spirit’s Not a Coconut, and we were up that hill in hot minute (or 30??).  On the way back down in the dark, let’s just be honest, Mommy and Daddy were scared.  So we sang every song we could think of, as loud as we could manage while carrying kids on our backs, in an effort to scare away anything that might be lurking.  It worked.

Hiking
CO: On the final day of my trip, I got up early to go for a hike in Chautauqua Park.  Actually, I thought I was going for a trail run, but that quickly turned into a big ol’ JK when I saw the trails.  Straight up and mostly rocks make for a better hike than run.  Anyways, it was an absolutely gorgeous day, and I completed two different trails: Royal Arch and the 1st and 2nd Flatirons.

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JRSP: The kids found a trail behind our campsite and we decided to explore it this morning.  The Cabel Trail was a multi-use trail, and I quickly learned that Bubba didn’t recognize horse poop.  Fun times.

Biking
CO:  This was my transportation method of choice thanks to Boulder B-Cycle.  The program keeps track of your miles, and I rode over 25 miles during the week.  Boulder has bike trails every where, so this was very easy to do!
JRSP:  My kiddos are still trying to figure out the whole bike thing.  We brought bikes and rode them once, but there was much drama involved.  We’ll need a few more years, I think, before this will really be fun as a family.

Reading
CO:  While I started a book on the plane, I ended up perusing the Facebooks and emails each night before bed.  Blah.
JRSP:  There was basically no cell service.  Yaaaaaaay!  (That was a for realz cheer…no sarcasm.)  I finished The Outcasts of 19 Schulyer Place and started Elijah of Buxton.  And yes, these are both books I snagged from my classroom library shelf when I packed up my room.

And last but not least…

Showers
CO: One a day.
JRSP: One.

Summer on, friends.

P.S. Saw this in Boulder.  Can you read the yellow sign?  Guess that’s a thing now.
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All Aboard Part 1

This summer has been so full and fan-cas-cick (as Bubba would say) that I’ve had a hard time stopping to record the memories here.  In spite of my mama’s frequent reminders that she’s waiting for a post, I’ve tried to live more in the moment and less for recording the moment when I get home.  I know that means that plenty of the memories are going to slip away, but I’m trading that for well rested and two empty hands and more snuggles.  It’s ok.

Thankfully Jay carted the camera this weekend on our train trip, so, Grandma, you can thank him for these few moments not forgotten.

On Saturday morning, we rode the New Tygart Flyer in Elkins, West Virginia.

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Papa’s dad and brother both worked on the railroad, so he had answers to all of our train questions.

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Bubba’s funny little speech patterns are one of my favorite things these days.  I’m hoping for another “Bubba Speaks” post soon, so I’ll save most of them, but this one’s too good not to share.  These days he uses the word because to actually mean so.  He’ll say things like, “I’m hot because I need to go inside,” or “I’m hungry because I need to have a snack.”  For the whole hour waiting for the train, he reminded us over and over, “My hat has a train on it because I will wear it.”

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While we waited for the, “All Aboard!” Chica, of course, made a friend.  I constantly feel myself tiptoeing down this fine line with her that divides friendly and annoying, open and reckless.  I love that she has never met a stranger, and it’s so perfect in these moments.  But other times I worry.  Worry that she’ll get hurt.  Worry that she’ll be too much.  Jay joked as we watched her that she certainly didn’t get her ability to make instant friends from me.  Even though I worry, many times I wish I was more like her.

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So the people who run this train certainly aren’t dumb, and it appeared that they stuck all of the families with kids in one car and fed them lunch first.  Brilliant!

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Even though there were lots of new things to see and do on a train, 4 hours is still a long ride for a little guy.  My normal keep-Bubba-busy questions have gotten a little old, so I tried something new this time.  Instead of, “Bubba, where’s your nose?” I asked, “What part of your body smells?”  Without skipping a beat, he spreads his leg and pats his hiney with and expression halfway between, “Easy, I know that!” and “Are we really supposed to talk about that, Mom?”  We have gotten plenty of laughs off of that one.  (You can bet that’s a story Nana will be telling in her office for quite a few weeks to come!)

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Chica’s funny for the day came after the announcer let us know over the speakers to keep an eye out for the upcoming high bridge and rapids down below.  When we got to the bridge, Chica was quite distressed that she couldn’t, “See the bottom of the trees.”  After a few questions from Daddy, he determined she was looking for rabbits.  Oops.

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We eventually found some rapids and waterfalls which provided a great place to take pictures.

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Chica was immediately fearless and ready to hop from rock to rock.  As you can see, I wouldn’t let Bubba go.  He wasn’t too happy about that.  I promised myself I would take them somewhere else this summer to play in a creek, pack a change of clothes, and just let him go.

While we were here, I couldn’t help but think of our adventures last year in the Grand Canyon at Havasu Falls.  There were many places we explored on that trip where the water was just this deep and fast, but the rocks weren’t slick because of the travertine.  Chica learned the hard way that rocks underwater here = slick!

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While exploring the falls, Bubba kept saying he wanted to go back and give the “white girl” a hug.  I quickly figured out he meant the bubbly girl in the white shirt who came by periodically to check on our train car.  He was brave enough to ask her for a hug, and then Nana asked if we could snap a picture.  They both ate it up.  Watch out, ladies.

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Too much mackin’ on the ladies can wear a man out, however, and he slept happily on Daddy for much of the return trip.

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When we returned that afternoon to Elkins, we checked out their city park and then ate at a great place called C.J. Maggie’s.  Our day ended with a play directed by Chica on the “stage” outside the train station.  Bubba was a good sport and went along with it.  Mostly he was just excited he got to be the monster and chase her without getting in trouble.

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Look for more pictures and memories from Day 2 soon!

Bubba’s Day in Pictures

Today we went on a trip.  This day had all of my favorite things:  lots of Frozen music, Grandma and Grandpa, swimming, my cousin, Tyler, and smarshmallows.  I love summer!

Right away when we got there, Uncle Taylor took me to the playground.  He’s funner than my mommy and daddy.  They just wanted to sit around and talk.
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Then we went swimming in the lake.  Like I said, Uncle Taylor is way funner than Mommy.  He took me to the dock with all of the big kids. 
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I thought that we didn’t have to take naps on trips.  Mommy must have missed that memo.  Even though I screamed real loud, she still made me sleep in Grandma’s cave.  (Everybody kept telling me it was called a tent, but I like cave better.)  After the nap, Mommy, Daddy, Grandpa, and I went for a hike.  Ackshully, I didn’t really want to go, so Mommy carried me for a long time.
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Look what Mommy caught.  It’s the tinniest frog I’ve ever seen. I tried to hold him, but he was scared of me, I guess.
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Grandpa brought his shooting thing and was attacking trees in the woods.  He showed me how to pull it back.  He said he would teach me when I get big.IMG_3276

Everyone got to take a turn holding my hand.
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Chica told Mommy that the chicken cooked over the fire was the best she had ever tasted.  I think sister was just sucking up so we could get to the smarshmallows faster.  Mommy let me do it all by myself with her help.  She’s not so bad, after all.
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I ate two.  So did Mommy.
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I love my family!  Happy Father’s Day Daddy, Grandpa, and Uncle Taylor!
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It Might Be a Great Vacation If…

IMG_0343Last week I was so blessed to spend a week exploring the Grand Canyon with my dad and brother.  We went to Havasu Falls on an REI tour.  Our guides were the best of the best, the scenery was unbelievable, the accommodations were exceptional, and the hiking was a welcomed challenge.

 

 

One day while relaxing in my tent I decided to jot down a few things that were so great about the adventure we were enjoying.

It Might Be a Great Vacation If…

10. Your cell phone is 10 miles away, uphill.
9.  Your to-do list for the next day consists of only the following:  hike 7 miles, brush your teeth, float on the creek, and wash your underwear.
8.  You learn about biology, sociology, and geology all within a half mile hike.IMG_0306
7.  You can play UNO while someone else makes dinner.
6.  You can relax in a creek-side hammock while someone else cleans up dinner.
5.  Your once blue shoes look like this at the end of the day.    ———–>
4.  You are having so much fun you don’t want to stop to take pictures.
3.  No one cares if you shower or not.
2.  You forget where you put your watch and decide not to look for it.
1.  You get to spend lots of time with family and meet new friends that become like family.

bubba he-mutI had one full day home, and then it was right back on the road for vacation with the other half of my family.  We spent the beginning of this week in the friendly, quiet town of Damascus, VA where we rode the 30-some mile Creeper Trail.  This is our third time making this trip in just as many years, and we were already planning our return on the ride home.  I have such fond memories as a kid of returning to the same river beach for family vacations, year after year.  Maybe this Creeper Trail will become the same for my two.  Again, we were having so much fun, we didn’t really stop to take pictures….just this one of Bubba in his “he-mut”.

Tonight when I finally sat down to type out my “Great Vacation” list above, I started to think I needed to add one more…

It might be a great vacation if you’re glad to be home.

I think the whole point of vacation is to give you a breather from real life.  In my case, vacation (especially the first one) was a chance to catch up on some major alone-time hours that my introverted, mommy self never can seem to find.  By the end of the week, my introvert tank was spilling over the brim, and I was ready to be home with my people.  I think that means it was a truly excellent vacation….it was just long enough and relaxing enough to get me excited to come back to the everyday, real life.

So I know I’ve only been home home for something like seven hours, but I’m glad to be back in the normal rhythm of things here.  (Maybe ask me again how I’m liking the rhythm in 27 hours when the temperature’s pushing 90, I’ve run out of inside ideas, and nobody will nap.  Never mind…don’t ask.)

But tonight was good.  We ate pancakes for dinner, and Jay had it all cleaned up before anyone left the table.  After that we took a drive to the mall so we didn’t have to do our post-dinner walk in the rain.  (Nope…I’m not too proud to admit I’m a mall walker.)  Before bed we worked a few puzzles and chased fireflies.  I even managed to keep my cool when Chica threw her royal tantrum over the bugs.  Yep…it was a good night.

Vacation was great, and I’m glad to be home.