Friday, September 26, 2014

Local family vacation day #2

It's after 6:30 p.m. and Alida is sacked out on the futon (probably slightly more comfy than the various beds she tried out today). It was grace for all of us when sleep overtook her on the car ride home.  These day long family field trips are loads of fun and exhausting, especially when you are 3.  I made the horrific mistake of starting to peel her banana for her, and so her cheeks were stained with tears when she gave in to sleep about halfway through eating the "totally ruined" banana.  There is one unpeeled banana waiting for her when she rouses, which hopefully won't be too long from now so we are not all up until the wee hours of the morning.  I think the rest of us have those tired "museum legs" and will be happy when bedtime comes around.

Until then, a little recap of our day at the Frontier Cultural Museum: There was not a whole lot in common between it and the Safari Park other than chickens, our picnic lunch on a red checked tablecloth and lots of walking.  I guess the other similarity was that both involved fun new experiences together as a family.  That is what stands out to me.  It's fun to see the girls so interested in learning new things.  I think the highlight for Alida was feeding some animals: geese, chickens, ducks, turkey and a cow.  The covered wagon ride was also a hit and we ended our day with a little go-cart ride which was a thriller as well!

It was interesting to note how the German farm and then the 1800''s farms from the America section felt more familiar and most attractive. I was drawn to the simplicity of many of them and Jason and I were both scoping out the hearths as we think about possibly incorporating one in our staged bathroom remodel (with a kitchen tweak involved).  I imagine many people enjoy coming to the museum to see how things were back then and probably leave with a feeling of relief that we don't have to live like that anymore.  Maybe some are even reassured to see the Waffle House sign in the backdrop or to hear the sound of gas-powered engines on 81.  I find both of those things distracting and annoying.  I wish that many of the arts and skills that were second nature to so many people then had not been pushed aside in the name of progress and efficiency.  Now it often feels like swimming upstream to work at getting some of them back.  When we pulled in the driveway, Jason recalled when a friend's son was at our home and said something like, "It's nice to see that someone is still living like they did on the frontier."  Wrong!  We drove to the museum in a car. We took our picnic lunch that was made using an oven, kept safe by refrigeration and some of it was even packaged from the grocery store.  We returned home and I got on the internet to download photos from the day and put them on this blog.  I'm typing to the hum of the food dehydrator and the fridge and with the overhead kitchen light on.  We are just trying to figure out if we would have a shot at giving up electricity for one day/week during Lent next year.
In the West African village
The ducks and geese were not unfamiliar to us but the thing most desired to return to a second time around - I guess we'll have to go again since closing time came around before we got back to the pond.  Or we'll need to get our pond dug.  Or we'll need to get geese...
Another bed to try out
The stone walls were amazing.  Unfortunately we have used most of ours for parking spaces...
A fun game to learn eye hand coordination in the Native American village.
I was in awe of the strength of these horses and enjoyed how quiet they were when they accelerated.
Kali got the hang of this really fast.  Maybe she should consider being a cooper?
And we even went to school today!
Jason got busy on his slate right away and upon closer inspection I discovered he must have felt the need to work out some childhood trauma!
Kali wrote her alphabet the way it was in England in the 1600's - without a "j" and "u."
Yes, this was the building that conjured up the most envy in me - what a barn!
I mean, really, look at the doors!
We ended the day by making friends with this gal!
This is probably not blog-worthy, but if this is my attempt at scrapbooking or giving our children a glimpse of their growing up years, then I better include it!  Neither Jason nor I remember Kali going through any kind of "bathroom talk" phase.  We've sure been around plenty of kids who have!  And now we have a girl who finds it incredibly entertaining to say this word many times a day - including as she sat in the Native American village.  I was kind of glad there weren't other tourists milling around at the time.  She wanted me to take more than one video of her saying it, but it was not hard to restrain myself!

And, in order to not end on that note, I'll conclude with a little concert by Jason.  He bought himself a birthday present in the gift shop and was trying it out while we waited for our go-cart ride.  So let the birthday weekend begin:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Soccer has started and fall road clean up!

Kali is happy to be playing soccer again this fall.  I'm happy for her!  I'm not as thrilled about the 8 a.m. soccer games on Saturday...  This past weekend was her first game.  She agreed to do her duck chores after the game (since she seldom gets out there before 9:30 anyway), but it was still a challenging task to get myself and the girls out the door (in decent moods) by 7:30 a.m. Yes, we clearly have not had to get into the mode of getting on a school bus 5 days/week. I sure wonder what the state of our relationships would be if that needed to be our routine most days of the week. As it is, we'll make it through the handful of Saturday soccer games this fall just fine, but I'm sure glad I have 6 days in between games to gear up for the next week!  For Kali, it is an early morning. For me, it comes right in the middle of my treasured "morning burst."  I feel rather scattered and this past Saturday overwhelmed, when that gets tampered with, particularly when we are away all day Friday and Sunday so I'm packing my three day weekend's worth of home tasks into one day.   All that said, it was a beautiful day to be on the sidelines, I am happy to report that I was much quieter than last season, Alida and I had fun doing our own little game on the sidelines whenever Kali was subbed out, Kali got her foot on the ball a good number of times, and she seemed to enjoy herself.  Now that she is in the next age bracket up, she is one of the smaller members of her team and the team is much more diverse in level of play.  She doesn't seem bothered by it in the least and is diving into the new season with enthusiasm - though her feet still struggle to be ready to move fast at 8 a.m.  She'll probably thrive more on Wednesday evening practices than Saturday morning games and that's okay.

Even though the canning season is more or less done (Jason has actually done the recent canning - chicken and hot sauce - with very little assistance from me), we are still enjoying a few final tomatoes, some peppers that are ripening much slower as the weather cools, an occasional summer squash, a handful of raspberries here and there, etc...  The persimmons are starting to drop and, on my way to and from the compost pile, I enjoy a delightful snack.  Alida is obsessed with gathering chestnuts so the containers are stock piling in our fridge waiting for a time when I have several hours to boil and peel them.  There are ground cherries waiting to be picked up off the ground that I just haven't gotten the motivation for yet.  I do find that it is easier on a day like today to lay down and read an article of a magazine (the Sun arrived yesterday so the Reader's Write section was tantalizing me as it usually does) during Alida's nap which is no doubt a good sign!

We did have an interesting addition to the last three days.  On Saturday soon after getting back from soccer we got a call from a neighbor reporting a young black lab down by the road. She wondered if Jason might come see if he could check it out.  I headed out to hang laundry only to find the sweet dog in our driveway.  I didn't know at the time how sweet he was as he was pretty nervous at first - wagging his tail but keeping a bit of distance, until we broke out the dog treats.  He was won over quickly and we put him in our garage until we could figure out what to do next.  We waited just a bit too long to borrow some dog food from a neighbor as we found that he had "tasted" our car washing sponge and did some searching through our cardboard for food.   Before long we transitioned him to the old goat pen, which is actually a dog kennel.  He was as well behaved as could be and mostly was just interested in being with us.  Over the next two days we put out all the feelers we could think to put out, assuming there must be a family missing him like crazy.  He enjoyed a day outing with my sisters in town, and he got to walk around with Jason and I to put the ducks and chickens to bed for the night.  This was a thriller for him, though he really didn't like that there was wire between him and the ducks!  If we would ever be tempted to have a dog, this would be the kind we would wish for.  But three days was enough to make it clear to us that our lives are just not set up for the kind of time and attention and resources this very sweet, well behaved dog would ask of us.  The owners have yet to surface, but we have found a wonderful, loving home for him and so our goat pen/dog kennel is once again empty.  What will fill it next??

This morning the girls and I headed out with Emily and Rachelle to do our Adopt-a-Highway run.  Emily and Kali are still at it, working on the big trash heap in the woods.  The rest of us just did the morning road run, Alida walking most of it by herself for the first time ever. Both girls tired by the end (and were ready for lunch), but they both made substantial contributions to the pick up.  Initially I was feeling rather unproductive (not finding much trash or recycling), having to remind myself what a good sign that was!  But then as we started back on the other side of our road, we discovered that in fact the person with the littering and coffee and beer habit had in fact not broken his/her habit.  Sigh!  But despite picking up other people's trash, it was too lovely of a day to feel very grouchy about it.  This really is my favorite weather!  Here's a few other pictures from the day: 

Friday, September 19, 2014

A local family vacation...

This year we decided not to do any major vacation away from home. Instead Jason and the girls made a trip to the visitor's center in town and came home with a bag filled with pamphlets of local attractions.  The process of narrowing down the vast array of options to a few we decided to do this year would be a blog post all on its own.  But instead we'll fast forward to today - our day trip to the Safari Park located a little over an hour south of us in Natural Bridge, VA.  Kali was the only one of our family who had gone before and it was a good number of years ago when she was treated to a fun day there with friends.  I believe that time the goats and the gravel got the most attention.

I will admit to a little sticker shock when I did the math on what it would cost our family to drive through a park with lots of animals wanting to eat food from buckets we would hold out our car windows (should we choose to purchase said feed).  I had to remind myself that this was in lieu of say a repeat trip to Cape May or Maine or...  As we headed home at the end of the day, I took back any comments about the high price. It was well worth every penny of it.  What a very fun and full day our family had there together.  And the littlest was so tuckered out that she got about two bites of her rice cake chewed before she was completely sacked out (we weren't even out of the park lane when Kali said, "that didn't take very long").

Here's are a few highlights that I've just gotten from various family members:

  • The bugling of the elk.
  • Feeding the giraffes.
  • Feeding the budgies (parakeets).
  • A lovely and chilly picnic lunch.
  • All the animals except for the camel that ate the bucket (Alida).
Kali is now off getting herself ready for bed, at 8:30 p.m. so she is ready for her first soccer game at 8 a.m. tomorrow. So I'm going to let pictures give a good glimpse to some additional highlights of the day. I loved being a homeschooling family today. I imagine tomorrow will be very different around there but today we had many of the exhibits all to ourselves and lots of attention from the animals.  We could have used a little less attention from the "llama mafia," as they call it.  It was downright challenging to get moving in our car as one certain llama (pictured here) would stand right in front of our car and would not budge.  We even tried enticing it with food and as soon as we would pull the bucket back in it would run around to the front and plant itself along our front bumper!

The funniest but slightly alarming moment for all of us was mentioned by Alida above.  We were warned (see the sign here) that the camels liked to steal buckets.  I got past the one humped camels but had to hold onto my bucket with both hands and only let them get their lips on the bucket for a moment. I must have let down my guard momentarily when we got to the two humped camels.  Before I knew it one camel had snatched my bucket, feed and all, and before we knew it was chewing on the whole thing.  This was very disturbing to Alida and surprising to the rest of us. We assumed it would give up soon enough and spit the whole thing out, but no!  We watched in disbelief, taking moments to try to calm Alida, as the bucket slowly made its way through the camel's jaws and disappeared.  When we got back to the gift shop I told the woman at the register that we tried to keep it from the camel but it didn't work.  She said, "Oh, that was probably Hercules."  So he is known not only for bucket stealing but bucket eating...

Here's the camel getting started.  As you will note, Jason is assuming he'll get all the flavor out of it and reject the plastic:

Not so:

The other thing that disturbed Alida slightly were the budgies. But they were also a big hit - with her and with Kali.  We hadn't bought any of the little "bird lollipops" initially (since we had already forked over about $70 for admission and 4 buckets of feed for our family).  But there was a kind couple in with the birds when we got there that gave us their sticks as they were leaving.  There were enough seeds left that we were still quite popular with the birds. We spent considerable time having the little birds climb all over us and then both girls bought a fresh stick to feed again before we called it a day:

Here's some other pictures from our day.  We had planned to fit two outings into one day - figuring we wouldn't want to be at the Safari Park for more than a few hours. We were wrong!  So the Natural Bridge outing will have to wait until another day.  Instead we had our supper picnic at home, played some games (Jason trounced Kali and me in Gang of Four and Alida beat me in Uno) and now are ready to sleep!  It was a day full of fun memory making together...
Anything wrong with this picture?  Was the joey really comfortable?
Just a little unsure...
She loved it from the very beginning!
Jason and I were pretty smitten with these two gals today.  They are both so fun to be with!
I love Alida's second set of ears with her little hands poking through.
"Everybody needs a baby kangaroo..."
Wow!  Such amazing creatures.
For most of our lunch we had the entire pavilion to ourselves and a great show of many kinds of animals on the hillside behind us.
I think I've already commented on how sweet they are!
Members of the llama mafia away us!
Jason swept out our car within the hour after we got home.  It was at a new level of filth. But we have yet to wash the outside which has considerable amounts of animal slobber on the windows...
These little fellows were just about right (in terms of size) for Alida!
Note the breaking bucket...
Here's before I lost that bucket!
Alida is eyeing the camel!
Some final goodbyes to some of the favorites.
Alida would not be sticking with feeding the goat had she realized that the baby camel was peering down at her and getting awfully close to the top of her head.
There were so many of them!  It was such a novelty for us and kind of funny that they shared the pen with chickens (I'm sure Jason gave the chickens a good once over, but I don't think the rest of us paid much attention). 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My apologies to the dentist.

My apologies to the dentist, or rather to my teeth…I am not flossing tonight.  It is just too abrupt of a transition from the last thing I was doing, which was gutting fish, which was preceded by washing chicken eggs, which was preceded by carrying a stringer full of bluegills home from Hensley’s Pond, which was preceded by applying worms and grubs and soldier fly larvae and grasshoppers to hooks and taking fish off of them, which was preceded by grubbing about barehanded in the compost (after worms and soldier fly larvae), which was preceded by rummaging around in my grubby old tackle box, which was preceded by sowing fall spinach and beets, which was preceded by digging the last of the potatoes… we can argue about definitions of health and hygiene another day but there is little that could classically be understood as “hygienic” about my day.  These hands are staying out of my mouth tonight.

But truth be told it’s a warm feeling.  I never feel more like a dad than when my hands smell like fish poop and are covered with dried-on scales.  My thanks to Janelle’s dad who went ahead with Kali to Hensley’s Pond and then helped her (and Alida when she and I arrived) considerably as she tried her hand at angling.  This allowed me to do a little less dad duty and to do more fishing myself than I would have otherwise; tomorrow’s lunch is somewhat the richer for it.  My thanks also to Janelle and her mom, who brought with them a lovely picnic supper when they hiked up a few hours later.  It could hardly have been more idyllic:  us munching the probable last summery picnic food of the season while cool September breezes across the water got us reaching for long sleeves, and then an eleven-year-old, all elbows and knees and a smile visible from the opposite side of the lake running around to us with a bluegill dangling from her line that she had caught with absolutely no help from any adult (except spearing the grasshopper).  She is a very high-quality kid, I must say.  At one point before the women arrived, I spied her fishing in her favorite spot, sitting on the shore, cross-legged, watching her bobber (which she kept wanting to call a “bobbin”), doing nothing else at all, and I thought, She’s getting it.  Patience, simplicity, delayed gratification, the usefulness of imagination (you can’t see the fish, can you?), using the resources at hand—grasshoppers which she and Grandpa caught this afternoon—to procure your needs and wants.

This was all her idea, actually.  She’s been agitating for a fishing excursion since late winter, and finally brought it to a family meeting last week.  So during the meeting we whipped out the schedule book and made a plan, and today we executed that plan.  I believe, based on her high level of interest during the whole several hours of fishing and based on her exclamations of “That was a really good place for fishing!” as we left for home that it can be considered to have met her expectations.

It’s always a little anticlimactic, after such a fun family excursion, to have to gut a bunch of fish.  Well, usually it’s anticlimactic.  What other dad can say that their kids insisted on the privilege of helping to clean the fish?  I even had to promise I wouldn’t start without them (by the way, when Alida heard me say that we’d have to “clean” the fish after catching them, she chimed in that we’d have to clean them “inside and out!”).  I figured they’d each want to try to scale one or two, then go wash up, leaving me with one of “…love’s austere and lonely offices.”  (from Robert Hayden’s, Those Winter Sundays)  Nothing doing.  Read on.

After watching me do one, Kali and I both agreed that the girls shouldn’t try to handle a knife and a slippery fish at the same time.  Alida wasn’t ready to concede the point, but at three and a half I insisted on that one!  But the scaling looked doable to both of them, so I poked my knife through the fish’s tail to hold it in place and Kali was off and scraping.  To my surprise it went just fine.  Much better than last year.  Not to be outdone, Alida on her turn took up the fish scaler with great vim and vigor and proceeded to…scale a fish.  These kids are something else.  She had to hold the thing at about chin level and almost stand on tiptoe to see what she was doing, but so help me the scales came off.  Not too quickly, not completely, but not all that slowly and pretty thoroughly, all told.  I just had to close my mouth, swallow my flabbergast, and stand at the ready to help her flip it over and do the other side when she was done with the first; I will cheerfully ignore any scales I find at lunch tomorrow.

Well as it turns out the girls both seem to like cleaning fish.  After a little initial squeamish fascination on Alida’s part, they quickly adjusted to all the tasks they could manage: taking fish off of the stringer, scaling, picking up fish heads and scooping up piles of scales for the gut bucket, depositing cleaned fish in the basin of water.  Their work was interspersed with lots of questions about and exploration of these creatures so different from ourselves, which they both like to eat so very much.  Kali seemed to be experiencing something like respect and endearment as she stroked the sleek, lifeless forms and commented on their colors.  She wondered what bass are like…how are they the same or different?  I felt I was on holy ground.  Is there anything more precious to humans than this hunger to know about the world?  It is my privilege to accompany them on their quest…at least for the first few years.

At one point during one of her turns, with fish scales a-flying, Alida looked up into my face with some questions:

“Am I learning?...Did I just learn this?”


“Now I know it?”


“How to do it?”




I have nothing useful to add to that.

I think I’m off to a much-needed shower, and then I’ll brush my teeth (without flossing) and crawl into bed a richer man than the one that woke this morning.