Sunday, July 31, 2011

As they walked and walked and walked…

Last Sunday as part of our Pioneer Primary sharing time we had all the children go on a little “trek” around the outside of the chapel to visit Kirtland, Nauvoo, and Salt Lake City and meet “pioneers” who helped build temples.  As we went with the children from one location to the next we all sang songs, especially the one about how “pioneer children sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked…”

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Bryan playing a dashing version of Heber J. Grant for the Primary children.
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Yay for modern pioneers: I made the apron
with a pocket just the right size to conceal a Galaxy Tab.

Afterwards another primary worker and I wondered, did the pioneer children *really* sing as they walked and walked? We could think of so many other more-likely verbs (complained, picked on their siblings, dawdled, etc.)…did they *really* sing?

Then this past weekend we went camping with some friends to Fillmore Glen State Park.  Since the girls never sleep-in anyway, we all decided to get up early, snack on fruit bars and poptarts, and then go for a morning hike before doing a hot breakfast.  There’s a beautiful trail that climbs up and down a gorge in the park and is peppered with bridges, waterfalls, and stone staircases.  We had even heard that it rivaled Watkins Glen and were excited to see for ourselves.  The only problem?  It was a round-trip distance of three miles and somewhat more ambitious than what we've done before.

After arming the girls with little backpacks, water bottles, and dried fruit we set out.  The walk was gorgeous (gorge-ous? :) and much to our delight, the girls did great.  They pretended to be Dora and Boots, fearlessly whipping out their maps at every crossroads along the way, inspecting every frog, flower, and chipmunk hole to be found, and keeping pace for the most part like pros.  


There was one point, though, where we began to worry if the girls were going to make it.  We were just over half-way and at a place where we needed to move from the gorge trail to the south-rim trail in order to head back towards camp.  The novelty of the trek had worn off, we were facing a big up-hill hike, and it looked like we might be a camel’s straw away from some serious toddler meltdowns.

Enjoying the view of a waterfall along the way.
Robyn posing with the "heart rock" she noticed down in the gorge.

And then Robyn tugged my hand and whispered to me, “we should sing the pioneer song.”  Which pioneer song?  “The one where they walked and walked and walked.”  And so she sang.  And sang and sang and sang.  Our friend Claire, who held hands with Robyn for a long stretch on the return trek, was literally serenaded over and over as Robyn went through her whole toddler-brain-database of songs.  

Finally we made it back to our tent after 2 hours of hiking and, much to our relief, the girls were still smiling, chattering, and eager to devour some eggs and bacon, the fun parts of the trail already overshadowing the rough sections.  At that point I remembered the conversation I’d had after Primary the week before.  Obviously our little recreational outing was nothing compared to what the pioneers did, and I’m sure there was weariness and well-deserved-whining on the plains, but listening to the girls recount how many bridges they went over and enthusiastically hide acorns for each other to find, I think there were also some decidedly delightful moments for pioneer children along the way, despite the difficulties.  And I’m *sure* there were lots of times where they really did sing as they walked.  

How the girls organized themselves for sleeping while we camped.  We put them to bed all tidy in their own sleeping bags only to later find Robyn in Daddy's bag with Mommy's pillow, Amber having kicked her way completely out of her bag, and Katie just sprawled out between them.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Two Truths and a Lie

We had an opportunity to go camping with some of the members of our ward this past weekend at Highland Forest just a little bit south of Syracuse.  One of the highlights of the evening was playing “Two Truths and a Lie” around the campfire after most of the kids had gone to bed.   In honor of all the fibbing fun from that night, I thought I would blog our adventures using two-truths-and-a-lie triplets.

Friday we still had lots of things to prepare before heading camping.  Here’s how the day began:

1. Amber decided to come wake us up around 4:30 in the morning
2. After briefly falling asleep in our room, Amber woke back up vomiting all over herself, myself, and the bed
3. With a deathly ill toddler on our hands we decided to cancel all camping plans

(And the lie is… #3.  Amber fell back asleep after we got her cleaned up then woke up a couple hours later feeling perfectly fine.  We think the extreme heat from the day before may have been to blame.)

Amber staying nice and hydrated at the campsite.  It was a warm night, but not nearly as oppressive as the last few days had been and once the sun set it was actually almost pleasant.

Despite the dramatic start to the day, things seemed to go well and soon we were on our way to the campsite which was:

1. Actually a youth-group campsite we had to get special permission to reserve for families.  It was really neat since it was mostly just a big wooded area with a few picnic tables, a campfire ring, and an outhouse.  We were able to set up all together however we wanted – a refreshing change from our last family trip to a state park where we were chided by the ranger for not putting up our tent on the right part of our site…
2. Full of mosquitos: we were constantly swatting!
3. Amazingly quiet.  We were the ONLY camping group.  We briefly saw a ranger just as we were arriving, but that was pretty much it.

(And the lie is… #2.  I don’t think anyone in our family got a single mosquito bite, but there were these funny little yellow flies that did  seem to enjoy buzzing around our heads.)

Happy camper Robyn.
The girls loved camping with some of their friends.  One of their favorite parts was when one of the amazing moms who was there showed us a new camping game.  It involved:

1. Someone hiding peanuts (in shells) around the campsite
2. All of the kids hunting for the hidden nuts
3. Everyone snacking on their treasures afterwards

(And the lie is…#3.  Robyn’s still allergic to peanuts, but she had a lot of fun looking for them anyway and afterwards left a few for “Chip and Dale” to eat.)

Some of the kids searching for peanuts that had been squirreled away by one of the moms

With camp all set-up and a roaring fire going everyone got out their skewers and we roasted up some dessert.  Our fireside-sweets included:

1. Roasted candy bars
2. Roasted starburst (This was an idea from my sister Karin.  Apparently roasted starburst are all the rage out west…?)
3. S’mores sandwiched between chocolate chip cookies.  Robyn eventually started skipping the whole marshmallow business and wanted to just eat the cookies: good thing our friends were so nice about sharing their goodies.

(And the lie is…#1.  We didn’t roast any candy bars on this trip, although that is something Bryan and I did on our very first date.  We may have melty milky ways to thank for all the magic that has happened since.  :)

Toasting marshmallows around the fire

The sad part of this whole story is how much of it Bryan had to miss.  After being out of town all week for business, we expected Bryan’s flight to be in by mid-afternoon Friday and planned on meeting him at the campsite in time for dinner.  Instead:

1. His flight was repeatedly delayed, pushing his arrival back over and over.
2. The flight was ultimately canceled, leaving Bryan stranded in Virginia until Saturday.  At least he’ll be able to enjoy all the pictures!
3.  Despite a canceled flight, Bryan remained unwilling to miss the fun, so he decided to rent a car and valiantly drive until almost 3 am just so he could  meet us for breakfast the next day.  He actually wanted to come straight to the campsite, but we persuaded him over the phone around midnight to go home for the night instead.  Since there weren’t any other campers or rangers and the site itself was pretty well hidden we were worried that he would get hopelessly lost if he tried to find us in the dark.

(And the lie is…#2.  Poor Bryan!)

Daddy and Katie both being wonderfully chipper despite not getting enough sleep the previous night. 

Camp-outs are always good group fun.  Some of the greatest-moments on this trip included:

1. The super delicious peach cobbler one family made in a dutch oven for everyone.  Incredible!  (It only served to reinforce my recent obsession with wanting a dutch oven.  This might be the final straw…)
2. The ward mission leader showing off his dance moves.  (And his wife showing off her cooking skills: yay for cinnamon rolls!)
3. The Elders Quorum president revealing who in the group had a secret tattoo.

(And the lie is…#3.  Although he did make a threat along those lines as part of the two-truths-and-a-lie game that night.  It wasn’t true then either.)

Members of the ward busting a move during the little talent show we had.

Robyn having fun being a silly upside-down little person.  (We could tell she really got a kick out of doing this because, unlike her normally shy-self, she was willing to do it in public!)

Definitely a night to remember and to hopefully repeat before too long with even more families from the ward!

P.S.  If you have a good set of two-truths-and-a-lie about yourself you'd be willing to share, leave it in the comments.  Here's a set for me:

1. I once had a summer job dismantling old (still covered in earwax) hearing aids so the parts could be recycled
2. Our family is nerdy enough to have all the Star Trek Next Generation episodes on DVD
3. On my mission I once got in trouble with the AP's (assistants to the president) for repeatedly going on overnight exchanges with one of the elders.  (Missionaries are always in companionships of two missionaries, both girl or both boy.  Girls are called sisters; boys are called elders.)

And the lie is... #2.  Surprised?  Maybe there is a limit to our nerdiness after all.  And as far as #3 goes, don't worry: it was all a mistake.  There was a new elder on island with the same last name as me and when one of the AP's came to our area they saw a bunch of records from work that that elder and our district leader had done together he became, understandably, concerned. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Long-Term Living Arrangements

Conversation with the girls this afternoon.  If only things really could play out this way...

Robyn: When I grow up I want to live here in this house with you, Mom.

Me:  But what if when you grow up you get married and have your own little kids?  Maybe you would want your own house?

Robyn:  Hmmm.  Ok, but I'll live really close.  Close enough so I can walk to your house everyday.

Amber (as she comes in the room):  I want to live far away when I grow up.

Me: Where will you live?

Amber:  I'll go live with Grandma when I grow up.  That would be fun.

Me:  That does sound like fun.

Amber:  But you can still come visit me, Mom.  You can come over everyday to play.

Robyn:  And when I grow up and live near you, Mom, I will bring all my cute babies over for you to see.

Me:  I would like all of that.

Robyn:  But you will have to clean the house before I come.  And you will have to clean it all by yourself without us.

Amber:  Yes, you will have to clean all of it by yourself: the kitchen, the basement, and the diamond room.

Me:  The diamond room?

Amber:  Yes, the diamond room where we eat.

Me:  And what about Katie?

Robyn:  She's going to live in the house next to me near you.  That way she can do all the dishes.

Glad we have a plan.  :D

Monday, July 18, 2011

Something Sweet Instead

After last week’s post, it’s probably time to balance things out with something non-disgusting.  Since I  think getting to play and cuddle with little girls in pajamas is one of the cutest perks of mommyhood, maybe we’ll share some photos of the girls in their new nightgowns and hopefully cancel out any lingering images of mice guts. 
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When I got home from the fabric store with the material, Bryan looked at it pretty skeptically.  In fact, I think the exact words out of his mouth were, “Say, while you were gone Little House on the Prairie called: they want their nightgowns back.”  He has since grudgingly admitted they are pretty cute, very snuggly (they’re made out of “cozy flannel”—I just want to cuddle up to the girls when they wear them!), easy to get on-and-off, and so much better than the random sweatpant/T-shirt combinations we’d been doing this summer.  (Another bonus: the girls really like wearing them, so getting ready for bed goes that much smoother.)

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Roasting marshmallows in our front room.  The girls' playtime continues to revolve around all things camping.

Ahh, cute little girls doing cute little things.  We’re forgiven for the popping, oozing, rotting mouse carcass story now, right?  :D

Monday, July 11, 2011

There are lots of good reasons people invented shoes...

Like to keep your toes warm in winter.  And because walking a long distance is rough on bare feet.  And because stepping on sharp things hurts. 

Of course, none of those seemed to apply late this morning as I was attempting to herd five children outside.  (We were babysitting.)  I opened up our back door and three of the kids stampeded outside, leaving just Katie to scoop up and another little girl who needed help with her sandals.  Our backyard is pretty boring and rather than deal with the hassle of putting on a pair of shoes I figured I'd just barefoot it.  Since it's supposed to be in the 90's today, I was even consciously looking forward to feeling the warm grass on my toes.

With one last tug on a tiny sandal buckle, I turned around and stepped out of the house backwards so I could help guide our little visitor out the door.  And instead of landing on toasty planks of patio wood how I expected, something went

A mouse.  A warm, dead, fuzzy, ant-covered, already decomposing-in-the-heat, mouse.  A mouse that popped and started oozing something green.  

After a little hollaring at the kids to stay away (as soon as I squealed they all came running and at least one sandal-clad foot accidentally further-flattened our unfortunate rodent corpse) and a quick run to the garage for a shovel, the sad little critter (well...what was kind of fell apart a little in transit...) was laid to rest in one of our bushes.  

I think our day can only go up from here.  :) 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Back from Bowman Lake

And the camping season begins! Bryan worked a half-day on Friday, then we headed south to Bowman Lake State Park and our first over-nighter of the summer.

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Setting up camp and putting out the family flag.  Bryan took some exception to it being mounted in the cat-scratcher, but we figured Marshmallow never uses it and this way maybe some lucky raccoon could get a good scratch in.
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Speaking of wildlife, here's one of our favorite critters scavenging away...

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The weather was too iffy for swimming, but the lake was still beautiful to look at from the playground.  There was also a nature trail that we took part way around the lake.  Instead of a path, you followed the trail by looking for trees marked with yellow circles, which the girls really enjoyed hunting for. 
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Our Amber and her million-dollar smile.

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Dinner time! 
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Spying on the local flora and fauna
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Bryan and I stayed up around the campfire a while after the girls went to bed.  (We had the most incredible fire, courtesy of the super-cheap wood they sold at this particular state park!)  When we came back to the check on the kids, Katie had wiggled her way into the center of the tent.  She kept up that pattern all night.  One time I woke and panicked when I couldn't find her, eventually discovering her curled up with Amber; another time I woke up to find her sprawled on top of me.  She slept through the night though, so even with the wanderings I think we still come out ahead of last year where we were doing double-night feedings!
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Our fellowship of the campfire-ring, complete with elf, hobbit, and dwarf.  Hopefully we'll be able to plan another adventure for them soon!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fun on the Fourth

If I had to vote, I might say Independence Day has …hmm…skyrocketed … to being one of my very favorite holidays.  It has so much going for it!  It’s in the summer (who says all the fun has to happen when we’re buried under a bizillion inches of snow?), it’s low stress (no big dinner or 12-months-worth of presents to wrap), and it’s a day filled with genuinely FUN traditions.  Plus it has the added bonus of honoring something we feel strongly about and which most Americans, with a few rare exceptions, actually can agree on without any bickering.  No wonder we like it so much!  Here are a few highlights from our day:

Pancakes and People!

Our ward has the wonderful tradition of holding a flag raising and pancake breakfast first thing on the fourth.  In case any of you are ever lucky enough to help plan a similar activity, Bryan and I definitely learned some good things to keep in mind.  For example, even if all the griddles are nonstick, someone still ought to bring a can of cooking spray.  And forget the margarine—apparently butter is THE spread of choice for pancakes.  (We may never be forgiven for that one… :)  Also, thinking of plugging all those griddles into a single power strip?  Don’t--unless you get a trip out of tripping the breaker.  Not cool.  Oh, and double-check with the cubs about how the flag raising practice went the week before: finding out it ended with the flag jammed on the top of the pole with no conceivable way to get it down is definitely something worth knowing ahead of time…

Other than that, it went well.  We have such a great ward with so many people who really enjoy being together and who are all willing to chip in that even when things were a little hectic getting rolling it was still a lot of fun.

My New Skirt

Theoretically this is where I would post pictures of the girls in their cute patriotic outfits, (complete with the matching red-white-and-blue, monogrammed, hair clippies that my super-talented mother-in-law made), but unfortunately our kids are no match for gigantic vats of syrup.  We had already moved on to outfit 2 or 3 before I even managed to get the camera out.  Oh well.  Since I can’t show off what they had on, I think I’ll go ahead and indulge with a picture of the skirt I finally finished (and justified wearing since it is one of the flag colors, right?)


This spring I started seeing skirts with all sorts of great adjectives, like “tiered,” “gathered,” and “crinkly,” and kept thinking how breezy and comfortable they seemed compared to running around in jeans everyday.  Now, thanks to a great fabric find at Mill Ends in Minnesota, I have one of my own, and it’s wonderful!  (On a side note, ever try smashing an extra five yards of fabric into an already-full carry-on?)  (That probably isn’t actually much of a rhetorical question knowing my extended family, I expect to hear stories! :)

Favorite Foods  

Like any good holiday, our Fourth of July traditions tend to boil down to being about food.  We made up all of our favorite picnic yummies (Bryan’s Great-Grandpa’s secret-recipe chicken, potato salad, cookies, watermelon etc.) and even decided to give a Draper childhood tradition a shot.  Several  summers growing up I remember pulling homemade taffy as a family.  Mom would pour the hot syruppy mess onto a cookie sheet, and we would slather our hands in tons of butter before starting to stretch it, amazing ourselves at how the mound of candy would slowly change from clear to opaque as we worked it.  Inevitably we would burn our fingers, especially as the butter wore off, and then we’d thoroughly gum up a pair of scissors snipping the pieces, but it was all such tasty fun.  And definitely worth it when a few hours later we’d be sitting on a hill near Lake Ann, peeling the wax-paper wrappers off, and sucking* on our fresh taffy while waiting for the fireworks.  (*Chewing is probably the preferred way to eat taffy, but sucking on it sure kept it from gluing your gums together so much!)

We did raspberry-flavored taffy.  (Not pepto bismo, though they look suspiciously like they might be.)


For fireworks we went to our favorite spot at Lake Onondaga and watched the fairground fireworks across the lake.  A couple other families from the ward with little girls were there too to picnic and play beforehand, which Robyn and Amber loved.
Amber checking out the potato salad.  (No eggs--just the way my mom makes it.  And a spoonful of horseradish--just the way Bryan likes it.)
Obligatory watermelon picture.
More watermelon.
Crazy watermelon.
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Fun with glowsticks after dark.  We started stocking up on glow-bracelets after Halloween when they went on super clearance which meant there were several pieces for each of the kids in our group.
And the best part of the fourth of July?  Carrying children who have played until they were completely exhausted up to bed at the end of it all.

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