Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Life in the Rockies

 If you have never been to Rocky Mountain National Park, definitely put it on your "must-visit" list.  It was the first time our kids have gone and we are so glad they had the experience!  We camped in Moraine campground which was lovely.   A moraine is a valley formed by a glacier moving through, and this one is wide, lovely, and frequented by wildlife of all kinds.  The campground is actually a little above the moraine, deep in the Ponderosa Pine Forest. 

[Paul, Melissa Schmidt, Allison, T J Schmidt, Anneka Huntley]
One day we took a hike rated "easy" to Alberta Falls.  Because it was "easy" we took the family matriarch and the little kids.  Oopsie.  It was not easy.  The hike was 3 miles and though it began level, went straight up hill, level, straight uphill and ended with a scramble up some boulders that were about 6 feet high each.  That's when the hike ended for the Littles because I could not figure out how we'd get them back down safely.  I think the biggest highlight for the little ones was the shuttle bus ride to get there!

While some of the group hit the falls, the more stalwart members took a high altitude 6 mile scenic loop.   They had a wonderful time and reportedly handled the high altitude fine.  It was just under 12,000 feet!
[Maggie, Ted Uhlenkott, Gabriel]

Another day, we took a scenic drive up Fall River road - a wonderful dirt, one-way road with plenty of switchbacks.  It was slightly less harrowing than the Flatirons road I grew up on, but pretty exciting.  A few members of the party had to avert their eyes from time to time!   We had planned a day trip to Boulder --stomping ground of my youth -- but thought this would be more evocative.  That is an understatement.  It was stunning and truly inspiring.  Rarely have I felt so awed by the majesty and magic of creation.  We saw three herds of elk and a few small groups, as well as countless birds and deer.
[Bennie, Maggie, "Mamaw" (Donna Huntley, and Gabriel]

On our last day, we took the tourist's route and hit the streets in the resort town of Estes Park.  We enjoyed eating wildly expensive homemade ice cream, combing through the gift shops and taking in lunch in a locally owned joint.  The town was hopping and made us a little anxious to get back to the quiet and calm of the campsite.  While we enjoyed a taste of civilization, T J and Paul took out for Cub Lake, on foot.  En route, they encountered a mama moose and her twins.

I would have loved to see the moose but really enjoyed hanging out with my peeps in town!  Missing from our RMNP list were bears and bighorn sheep.  I was okay with missing the bears but will seek out the sheep next time.

It was a beautiful and challenging environment.  The kids gave the local wildlife a run for the money as we enjoyed the antics of the camp chipmunk, a few campground deer and a wily weasel.  On the last day they finally caught up to the poor bunny they'd been chasing all week.  We know it's wrong but they were so proud.  We think he finally just put his tiny arms up and surrendered!  Sorry RMNP wildlife; we'll grow up a little more before we come back!

School Days

Today was our second day-in-a-row of the "first day of school."   I don't get to pick their school clothes any more.

Pepper looks like a sophomore, doesn't she?  So pretty and put together.

I can't believe Sunshine consented to being photographed with "morning hair."  She is very concerned about her appearance all the time.  Here's the scoop:

"Mom, take my picture too, it's my first day!"
"Well, sure, but don't you want to change your clothes and comb your hair first?"
"No mom. This shows why everyone should home school!"
 She didn't comb her hair until noon.  And she finished her first day of 8th grade by 10:00 a.m.  Of course, she did start her work on Sunday!

(By the way, in Sunshine's arms is our new moment of insanity - I mean kitty.  Her name is Sushi and shes a love bug.)

Here is the comparison shot!  "Regular" school or at-home school -- which do you prefer?

 Here's The Captain, ready to take over the PEAR program.  PEAR stands for Pre-school Expressive and Receptive Language program.  It's his second year with Mrs. Rose, whom he adores, and his first year with Mrs. M whom I sure he will fall in love with this week.

I was holding the camera low so I could shoot him without squatting so he kept thinking he had to tip his head to fit in the shot!

I had to include this picture not only to show off his CARZ backpack (which thrills him because it's CARZ and thrills me because I got it for only $15), but to show how dark it is when you catch a bus at 6:45.  No that was not a misprint!

This is the saddest sight in the world!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hair Salon

Sometimes it is still sinking in -- we have five kids!!  And two of them are boys who need regular haircuts.  This reality is still dawning on me;  one more thing to schedule in, one more expense.  It's the time, really; getting to the kids' barber during their business hours and when both boys are awake and relaxed, it's daunting.  It occurred to me that one of us should learn to cut their hair but I have little facility with scissors.  Pepper has been wanting to do it but I have been reluctant to say yes; I wasn't sure they'd behave for her.

Last weekend, I relented.  Those boys needed haircuts.  She did The Blitz's Friday, and The Captain's Saturday.  Tinker was jealous and since Pepper did such a great job on the boys, I let her cut Tink's too.  I had just decided that I was going to have a couple inches cut off; she hates the hot hair and no break in the heat is in sight.

Here are the results.  They all were perfect for her and the results were amazing.  Sunshine gets a little credit because she actually trimmed Tinker's bangs yesterday before we decided to go for the full makeover!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Travelogue - "Out"

I can't believe we've already been home from vacation 6 days!  I just caught up on the laundry!  And it was soooo worth that mountain of wash.

We left home on Saturday morning bright and early;  I was so proud of all of us for getting on the road a few minutes before 8:00.  We headed out in a decorated car -- thanks, Bigs -- spending the morning on Hwy. 183.  We had plans for lunch in Friendship Park at Hords Creek Lake near Coleman, but it turns out the picnic areas are not trailer accessible.  Ooops.  We headed on toward Winters and had a fun lunch at Elk Creek Reservoir picnic pavilion.  It was fully shaded and paved;  made for a good game of bouncing ball.  There was also a playground close by so the kids got their road legs worked out.

We made it to Lubbock around 4:30 and stayed in the Lubbock RV Park off the interstate..  They had fantastic prices and warm friendly service.  It was "dirty" more than grassy so we may not choose to stay there in summer again.  The pool was clean and refeshing;  just what we needed for our last 100 degree day for a while.

Sunday was our "big" driving day and we took off for Pueblo, Colorado.  We decided to have a play stop to break up the long day.  There is a fantastic playground in Conner Park in Canyon City. Dad and Sunshine played ball in the shade while Pepper and I sat on a "porch swing and watched the Littles play.

Onward, we drove through the Rita Blanca National Grasslands (yawn) and stopped for a crazy hot picnic at Thompson Grove in the protected lands.  It's probably good to see the natural prairie but oh my gosh it was so uninteresting.  And did I mention hot?  Hot, hot, hot;  shade was of little help.  I am definitely not tough enough to be a pioneer and we will not make this stop again.  Bet it's cold, cold, cold in winter, too!

We passed through New Mexico and into Colorado in short order after Thompson Grove.  I was thrilled as always to cross the pass into Trinidad; a picturesque little town that says "Colorado" to me.  Woo Hoo!  The drive through New Mexico and up to Pueblo was peaceful as 4 out of 5 blissfully napped.

It was a 560 mile day.  Quite a lot with 5 kids!  We spent the night at Lake Pueblo State Park.  It was pristine, beautiful and quiet.  The "B" loop in Arkansas camp ground is the best with great lake views.

We had planned a short, straightforward drive to Loveland on Monday, where we'd meet up with the folks for some shopping before the final 30 minute drive.  However, we'd had a bad surprise the night before;  Paul noticed the driver's window had mysteriously disappeared into the door.  He was able to get the door panel off and after consulting with my amazing nephew, T J Schmidt, we determined a new window motor assembly was needed.  So on Monday, we detoured through Denver to pick up the part at a local dealer and got a great deal thanks to TJ's negotiating.

In Loveland, we met the folks at Sam's Club and Dad and dear Hubby took off to have lunch with the kids at Namaqua Park.  It was a pretty park, underutilized, with lots of space and shade.  The shopping took longer than we thought it would but we landed at Rocky Mountain State Park by late afternoon. It was good to smell the mountain air and though the locals were complaining about the 80 degree weather, it was bliss to us.

Those are the adventures on the way out.  More on the family reunion and the beautiful scenery next time!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Caper Chart

Many years ago I was a Girl Scout and there I was introduced to the concept of the Caper Chart.  A caper is a a frivolous, carefree episode or activity.  I think some clever scout leader years ago used word play to work in the idea of the shoemaker's elves and make a chore sound fun.  The amazing thing is, it really works. [FYI, the Brownie Girl Scouts use this story as a theme.]

In a spontaneous fit of creativity yesterday, Pepper and I sat down to make the Caper Chart for our upcoming family camp-out.  We really had so much fun.  In case you have not used a Caper Chart yourself, here is ours followed by a full explanation.  It looks a little unfinished because I photographed it before laminating it.

You can see the days of the week are across the top, while the specific "capers" are along the left side.  This is a chart for adults and the adults spend a lot of time playing cards on campouts, so using old playing cards for the assignments seemed fun.

When we get together, each adult will draw a card from the selection in the bottom pocket.  We will write their name on the corresponding card on the sides of the chart, just in case anyone forgets.  They can hang on to the one they drew.

Each day, we check the chart for "our" number.  (In this example, suits don't matter -- I only had so many old playing cards!)  So, for example, if you drew the queen, you would be a "Sous Chef" on Tuesday.   If you drew the Ace, you'd be the fire chief on Monday.  See how that works?

There will be 19 of us at the gathering, 6 adult women, 6 adult men and 7 kids and teens.  Instead of all the women feeling as if they "should" help cook every evening, this way, they can help on their assigned days and relax on the others.  Same with the fellas and the fire building.  For this camp-out, we decided to eat on paper and let the men wash the pots and pans.  Those heavy pots we use for big groups seemed like "men's work" this time around.   So each of the men will be the fire chief on one day and a dishwasher one or two others.  Simple, eh?

My teens are good helpers and the younger kids like to cook, so we found a couple of fun "assembly" jobs for the kids.  The teens will organize and support the youngsters.  The paintbrush represents Pepper's crew and the Softball is Sunshine's.

Even if it weren't such a useful tool, we had a fun time making it!  It's a great project for a rainy day -- or in our case, for the 42nd day this year that the thermometer topped 100 degrees!