Friday, July 23, 2010

Buffalo Float Trip

one of the many beautiful scenes along the Buffalo River

John and I have talked off and on all summer about going canoeing on the Buffalo. Neither of us has ever canoed much, but we've really enjoyed the few times we've been. So, a couple of weeks ago when there was an article in the newspaper about floating the middle section of the Buffalo, John decided to turn thoughts into action, and he booked a trip. We decided that it would be best to leave Samuel and Hannah behind with grandparents so that we would just need one canoe. (Canoes really only fit three people.) Also, we weren't sure what this section of the river would be like for smaller children.

We drove to the town of Harriet (which is next to Ralph) to Crockett's Canoe Rental, which John found online. It was pretty much a hole-in-the-wall place, but the people were really nice. We followed a canoe-carting Suburban back to the Hwy 14 Bridge (about 10-15 minutes back the way we had just come) to park our van. We then got into the Suburban and drove back through Harriet and then about 15 minutes past the store to Maumee, where we put in. It was a long and windy drive - - hot too because the air conditioner in the Suburban didn't work.

We spent the next five and half hours making our way down ten miles of river. The website information said to allow four hours for the trip, but that didn't include much time for stopping. I think it'd be difficult to make the trip in four hours unless you paddled the whole time, or the river was up and flowing a little faster, or you really don't stop at all. We stopped several different times, once to eat lunch and then several times to play in a neat part of the river or to cool off. Did I mention that it was hot today? I think the temperature was in the mid 90's by the time we got on the water (around noon). The sun was bright (and hot) all day long. In retrospect, I think the trip would have been nicer if we'd started several hours earlier in the morning, but to do that we probably would have needed to spend the night in a nearby campground the night before. Of course, an afternoon float would be just fine if the temperature was just a wee bit cooler!

Jacob had an absolute blast all day long. He loved being the only kid and having more attention just for himself. I think he also loved not being "bothered" by his little brother and sister. He was very responsible and didn't complain that he had to wear his life jacket the whole time he was in the canoe (state law until you're 13) even though it made him so much hotter. We did allow him to take off his life jacket whenever we got out to stop and swim or play in the water. He really did not need it. The average depth of the river was about two feet! Occasionally there were sections that were deeper - like four or five feet deep. There were also plenty of sections where the water was maybe 12-15 inches deep and we had to try really hard not to scrape bottom. After seeing how little water there was (still plenty for a good float), I think we'd feel very comfortable taking Samuel and Hannah as well. You can rent rafts which will hold five people, so we could all float together. Or, we could get two canoes and just split the kids between us.

We were careful to use LOTS of sunscreen, but I still ended up with a few missed spots. I spent most of the day with an extra t-shirt over my legs/knees, which I think saved them from being completely fried. Next time, I'll take extras just for that. I even wore a big hat the whole day. That's big for me; I hate wearing hats. I will admit that it kept the sun off of my face, neck, and shoulders for much of the day.

We'll definitely be floating the Buffalo again!!

Jacob is sitting in the entrance to Spring Creek; the water is VERY cold!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Team Edward vs. Team Jacob

Several months ago, a parent of one of my students asked if I wanted to attend the midnight showing of Eclipse with a group of girls and moms. Of course, I elected to go! Another teacher friend and I made plans to go out to eat, meeting up with the group of girls & moms. There were about 15 of us all together. It was an evening of fun - - albeit a very late evening! Here are some pics of us while we're waiting:

the moms

LouAnn & me

some of the girls

Just in case you're wondering . . . I'm Team Edward - - Abs aren't everything!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


We spent the last few days of our vacation in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The boys and I had actually just been here a few weeks before with McNair's Explorers Club. So, we had some places we really wanted to go with the rest of the family. We also did some things that were new to all of us. This picture below is taken in downtown Minneapolis. It's a bridge that crosses the Mississippi River just below St. Anthony Falls. It was a beautiful day, and there were people everywhere. The river looks so very different here than it does where we usually see it (Memphis or St. Louis).

We spent one afternoon hiking around Minnehaha Park, again in central Minneapolis. It's a beautiful park. It actually reminded me a little of Central Park in NYC. There was a little restaurant in the middle of the park, lots of bikes and buggies you could rent, hiking trails, playgrounds, etc. We hiked the trail down to see Minnehaha Falls (of Hiawatha fame). The trail then led us all along a creek (that flows into the Mississippi just a short distance away). There was a really neat place that had been designed for wading, and tons of people were enjoying the cool water on the warm day.

Fort Snelling was constructed to facilitate trade with the Indians. The fort has been mostly been reconstructed to resemble what it would have looked like when it was being used as a fort. There were soldiers who did a marching drill and cannon demonstration. We learned a lot about the history of the West from a different perspective than what we typically hear "down South."

Of course, a trip to Minneapolis wouldn't be complete without Mall of America. The boys were most excited about going back to the amusement park there. They discovered a love for roller coasters and all sorts of rides that spin you around, turn you upside down, and dangle you over the floor from three or four stories up. John took the boys on rides while I took Hannah to the American Girl store. Of course, we visited the Apple store as well.

I love this picture. The boys really do like each other!! I have proof!

Hiking and Pizza

Those two things go together, right? We discovered a really neat state park close to Wisconsin Dells - - it's called Devil's Lake State Park. We drove about 30 minutes to get to the park, visited with the ranger at the park check-in booth to get a trail map, and headed out for a short hike. The trail we chose went around one side of Devil's Lake. The trail was mostly paved (which was good since most of us were in flip-flops) and wound through a pre-historic landslide of rocks, something created by the glaciers that existed here when the Great Lakes were created. The rocks were a really neat purple color.

I love this picture!

The rare picture of John!

After our hike, which lasted about an hour and a half, we drove back into town and headed to Uno's Pizzaria for some yummy pizza. One of the things I love about this place is that kids can choose to make their own pizza, which Samuel and Hannah thought was really cool! Jacob, on the other hand, insisted that as "pre-teen," he's really too old for such a thing. Ha!

Horses and Cheese

One of the many other activities we did while in Wisconsin (other than water parks, that is) was going horseback riding. The boys each got their own horse, and Hannah rode on a horse with me. The ride rambled through the woods adjacent to our resort and lasted about an hour. Hannah seems to have the same affection for horses as her cousins Katie and Lisa do.

We spent one afternoon searching for a cheese factory that we thought was close to the Wisconsin River. After driving for about an hour (in the pouring rain), we discovered that the place was closed. Bummer. So, we drove back to the Dells and went to the "touristy" cheese store. No factory to watch cheese being made, but lots of cheese to sample and buy. We did find a real factory en route to Minneapolis. It was a really neat place. The kids could see cheese being made, and they got to sample some really squeaky curds. Yum!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Dells

This is our second time to visit Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. My parents gave us a week of timeshare to use at Glacier Canyon Lodge - Wilderness Resort. It is a fabulous place! There are six different water parks here at the resort (all included). Three are outside; three are inside. You can walk through a maze of skywalks and different wings of condo/hotel to get to each without ever going outside (which I'm sure would be great in the winter!). We have been to each of the parks once for a few hours at a time. The weather has been pretty lousy for doing anything outside - - rainy and cool. However, the outdoor water parks are heated, so as long as you stay in the water, it's not that bad. The kids don't seem to mind at all.

All three kids are having a great time swimming and going on the water slides. Jacob is completely fearless and will try anything. Samuel has met some other boys his age and has played water basketball with them on two different days. Hannah loves just swimming around but has also been willing to try most of the slides. Like me, she doesn't really like the ones that are completely dark. I don't like them because you can't tell which way you're spinning and turning - - makes me dizzy and nauseous!

We've eaten at some of the same places as last time, most notably "Moosejaw Pizza". It's a fun place that makes its own sodas - - the grape soda is so yummy! We also love Culver's, a burger/frozen custard chain that's common up here in the north. Today, we attempted to visit a cheese factory so that we could sample some fresh made cheese, actually watch some cheese being made, and of course, buy some cheese. However, the place we drove (in the pouring rain for an hour!) was closed. So, we ended up going to a cheese store across the highway from our resort. The cheese is still delicious, but it lacked that quaint idea of cheese making in Wisconsin.

We've noticed a number of extended families that seem to be staying here. It would be lots of fun to come here with the Seaman and/or Covington gang. I'm sure our family would make a big spash!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

25 Memories of My Mom

Ok - so I know I'm a week late with this post, but given all I remember (and know) about my mom, she completely understands being busy and getting behind.

25 Memories of My Mom

I remember your instructions each time I went out to play with friends - - “Stay within ear shot!” (That actually gave me a pretty big perimeter with which to play!)

I remember how hard it was during my first week as a teacher. After your own day at work, you cooked my dinner, helped me make lesson plans, and even offered to grade my papers!

I remember visiting Grandmother Mills with you at City Hospital each afternoon after school. I remember when you told me that I didn’t have to go every day so that I would have other memories besides Grandmother in a nursing home.

I remember playing in your classroom after school.

I remember many trips when we’d be driving cross-country, and Daddy would get lost because he turned a different direction than what you’d told him.

I remember how you always left a light on when I was out at night and how you always called out, “Carol, is that you?” (Like who else would it be??)

I remember how you helped me get from my house to your car and into the doctor’s office when I was pregnant with Samuel and so very sick.

I remember how you were always standing by with a wet washrag and a saltine cracker when I got sick.

I remember how you painted that awful orange stuff on my skinned knees.

I remember arriving in Ottenstein and being offered a glass of champagne. You just looked at me and said, “Drink it.”

I remember the hours you spent doing counted cross stitch in the evenings after all your work was done.

I remember how you went to bat for me when my band director gave me a hard time about quitting band.

I remember how patient you were when teaching me how to drive (and you were even in a neck brace!).

I remember how you ate the oatmeal I made even though it tasted like wallpaper paste (at least that’s what Daddy said it tasted like).

I remember celebrating your 25th anniversary in the camping trailer with Sara Lee cake and vanilla ice cream that Susan and I had bought at the camp store.

I remember the deal we made about me learning to drive. You’d teach me to drive the car if I’d teach you how to program the VCR.

I remember helping you into that fancy hotel in London and using those fancy cloth napkins to bandage your head.

I remember what you always said when I didn’t know if I should stay home from school: “Only you know how bad you feel.”

I remember the night we were sleeping in the bed at Grandmother’s house, and the bed broke!

I remember how excited you were for me to get a teaching job.

I remember the many times you’ve kept my kids so that I could go to class or do other work towards my master’s degree. I always felt encouragement from you to accomplish my goal.

I remember the many times you cooked Kraft macaroni and cheese instead of making homemade because I liked Kraft more.

I remember many trips to the condo in Branson and the days spent pushing my kids in strollers at Silver Dollar City.

I remember how you weren’t mad when I said I wanted to move home from Tulsa. You just came and helped me pack my stuff and brought me back home.

I remember watching Sound of Music with you every year when it came on TV. And then - - how excited we were to go to Salzburg!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Happy Birthday Debbie

Today is my dear friend Debbie's birthday. Debbie and I met in the fall of 1989 in an education class at the University of Arkansas. I was a sophomore, and she was a junior. We both hated the class and swore off education, but we became the best of friends. We enjoyed making many college memories over the next several years, and we ended up as roommates once we both "came back to college" to become teachers. As you can see from the photo, one thing we had in common was hair!

After college, we remained close. She was the maid of honor in my wedding, and she gave me the same privilege in her wedding. I visited her when she lived in Carthage, Missouri and even when she lived in Paris, France!

Now that we're both "old married ladies" with children, it's been much more difficult to stay in touch. However, I know that I could count on Debbie at a moment's notice for just about anything. There's not many people you can say that about.

My hope is that, someday, we can take our daughters to Paris and for them to become the kind of friends that we have been.

Happy birthday Debbie!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Big Weekend for Jacob

This was an action packed weekend for Jacob. He started his Friday evening by going to the Razorback game with Granny Bea. The Hogs pulled a come-from-behind win that Jacob said was the best game he's ever seen. In addition, he had some glorious commentary about the Auburn pitcher, who (according to Jacob) was "freakishly tall" and "crooked". Yesterday, David Hunt (who sits in front of us) confirmed that Jacob had indeed amused everyone in our little section with his description and that yes, the pitcher did look a little like Ichabod Crane. On Saturday, Jacob went to a birthday party at Fayetteville's new roller skating place. This was Jacob's second time to skate, and he was so excited to get to do it again. He's not as bad as you might think, especially since he's not particularly athletic. From the party, he went to his first Boy Scout overnight campout. Evidently, he had a great time. He learned to set up his tent, cook cowboy donuts for breakfast, and play capture the flag. It's hard for me to think of my little baby boy being big enough to do all those things.

Then, the thing that makes my heart so very happy - - this afternoon, he played in his first piano recital. For those that have known Jacob a while, you know that he has long suffered from extreme shyness and anxiety about being in front of a group. He didn't even talk to other children at school until he was in the 2nd grade. (and then it was just one or two kids). Well, he did express being nervous (I assured him this was totally normal) and he proceeded to walk up on the stage, sit down at the piano, and play this:

We've come a long way!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

This is Baseball

Several years ago, you could probably have heard me say something like, "I hate baseball. I hope Samuel doesn't want to play." That was then; this is now. Obviously, I've been transformed into a baseball fan (at least Razorback ball and whatever team Samuel plays for). My sister, Ann, commented to me today (after telling her I was on my way to yet another game) - "Gee, your family has really gotten into baseball." Her comment made me start thinking - "Why, all of the sudden, do I like going to games so much?" Here's what I came up with:

1. The biggest reason - - Our family has found something we all like doing/following. That's a rare thing. We all have pretty different tastes, so we typically don't like the same movies, tv shows, outdoor activities, etc. Somebody is always complaining that they don't want to do whatever is the suggested activity. Even John, who's never really liked sports, likes going to the Razorback games. Today, John and I got to go to the game together. That's not too common - it's usually one of us with one of the boys OR one of the boys with John's mom (they're actually her tickets). We had so much fun going SANS kids and just being one of many couples at the game. He bought me a diet coke and some peanut m&ms. The usher even teasingly gave him a hard time for putting his arm around me.

2. The Razorbacks. It's fun getting to know the players (getting to know about them). You can see their personality more in baseball than in football. It's so much about individual talent and then combining that individuality into a team effort. The players are so encouraging to one another, never getting too upset when someone messes up. Baum Stadium is a fun place as well. Lots of school spirit. Lots of traditions.

3. Samuel loves playing baseball. He has been pretty good thus far (in his short career). This is his first year of machine pitch, and so far he's struck out in every game. He's still done well in the outfield, making a double play and catching a pop fly in the last game. But, he really feels discouraged about not getting any hits. It helps him so much to see the "big guys" strike out and still keep trying and still be considered good players. Going to the Razorback games inspires him to keep working hard to be a good baseball player.

4. Free entertainment. John's mom has two great tickets right behind home plate. We get to use them a LOT. At least once during a weekend series, sometimes twice. And one boy or the other goes when she goes. She also has given us her parking pass. It's so nice to park right outside the entrance. And, she will usually keep the kids if John and I go together. Free babysitting. After ten years of Montessori payments, we like free. So, even though we're going to lots of games - - we haven't ever had to buy any tickets.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Slumber Party

Hannah was invited to her first sleepover this weekend, and it was actually for most of the weekend! The invitation came from the Alvarado girls, Audrey & Isabel, who are in Hannah's class at Montessori and who are also friends from church. They have become big buddies this year, and it's fun to see them together. Hannah went home with the girls after school on Friday, and we didn't see her again until we picked her up at church today. Wow - I missed her. But, I don't think she missed me much at all. She had a fabulous time! She got to play with Barbies, ride a horse, jump on a trampoline, build a bird feeder at Lowe's, and sport some lovely eye makeup. She even got a Fayetteville Police Dept. tattoo! Here are some pictures of her enjoying being a "big girl." Boy, she seems like she's grown up so much in the past few months.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Arrow of Light

Tonight marked the end of Cub Scouts for Jacob. He can now call himself a Boy Scout! We attended his Arrow of Light Ceremony, held in the cafeteria at Vandergriff. Seventeen boys from Jacob's den were awarded the Arrow of Light this evening, a pack record! The ceremony was prescribed and relatively formal (for what these boys are used to in Scouts). Each boy was called up to get special pins, one for their uniform, and one for their mother. So sweet. Each boy was also given a special plaque made by a dad of one of the scouts in the Vandergriff pack. Jacob will be joining Troop 116. I'm a little sad that he won't be in the same troop that his older cousins were a part of, but all of his friends will be joining 116, so it's really the better place for him to be.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

We had a great Easter celebration today. We started our day with a great worship service at church, then we headed to Ann's house for Easter lunch. We missed James & Allison and Jeremy & Katie, who usually are with us for this holiday, but Lisa brought several new friends from college, so we still had a full table. The weather was so nice, that the kids played outside most of the afternoon and evening.