Thursday, September 23, 2010

Summer Vacation 2010

We kicked off summer vacation June 3rd with Dave having the week off.  He took us up to Mt. Baldy in the FJ Cruiser for our first family off-roading tour.

My favorite moment was after I hopped back in the car after helping Dave navigate a very tight passage and Rachel said, "I know something that starts with S, Mom"  What's that Rach?  "S is for SCARY."

Apparently, she doesn't have an adrenaline addiction developed yet.

Rachel's dance recital was June 5th and she did marvelously.  My daily calendar's quote that day was, "When in doubt, twirl."  How fitting.  Especially if you saw the dance.  After the dress rehearsal she told me she almost cried when she got on the stage and I was surprised but tried to comfort her.  She said "No, Mom.  I wasn't sad.  I wanted to cry because I was so happy."

Here are some photos of our little ballerina.  Just this week she was moved to a longer ballet class with older kids.  It makes my life considerably more complicated having dance after the boys get home from school (since it's soccer season) but she seems to love it.  She's not a baby anymore!

And swim team began even before school let out.  It was the defining activity of our summer since it took up every weekday morning from 7-9:30am.  Rachel followed with swim lessons every day until 10:45am.  That's a lot of pool time!  It's a good thing most of our friends were at the pool too every morning.  Baby Dane was the source of much joy and love this summer.  He probably will not remember the summer but we will never forget it...

Jake is on the back row and Ben is nearly dead-center looking like he's ready to jump out of the picture.
The boys did a great job on the team and the coaches were tremendous.  They both improved in form and speed considerably.  Jake has even said he will go out for the high school team since he knows the coach now.  Great news!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ben's Injury - Part Two

I can't really move on without documenting "Part Two" of Ben's hurt leg.

All the kids went to the pediatrician for their well-child checks after we returned from vacation.  While there the pediatrician insisted on removing Ben's stitches.  It had been 7 whole days but they said to leave them 7-10 days so I was hesitant.

That night we attended the end-of-the-season swim team party but would not let Ben swim since the stitches were so newly removed.  Good thing because he woke up the next morning with it splayed open again.  SO gross.  Dave was so mad he was fuming.

We had to get him to the ER to  get it cleaned and re-stitched.  The painful shot to numb it and a good scrub down followed by thirteen more stitches.  What a trooper.  I became a wound-care nurse for two more weeks and worried myself sick about infection and complications.  I am not cut out for dealing with medical issues!

I was a wreck.  Everything turned out OK but I'm mad at the doctor for taking them out too soon and mad that every medical thing at our house has to be so darn complicated.  Remember my wisdom teeth...

Here's sweet Ben surviving round two of the ER.

He's such a charming guy...

Dave took out the stitches himself after 14 more days and it was a bit tough.  Ben endured quite a bit of pain and then the nervousness of it opening up again (though that seemed incredibly unlikely since the stitches had nearly grown into the wound).  Let's NOT do that again.

It finally, finally looks like a normal scar to me.  As the second ER doc told him though, his leg-modeling career is over...We sure love you, Ben!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Epic Newton Vacation

We realized a long-time dream this summer by renting an RV and taking the family on a fun-filled trip around the West. We mapped out the trip and reserved our rig and campsites early and then had to spend nearly the whole summer waiting for the time to arrive. The preparations included baking up some recipes from my childhood. Camping for me, come to find out, is quite nostalgic. It wasn't until the planning of this trip that I remembered all the summers spent at Moose Meadow with my family growing up. Mini golf, reading books, eating blueberry buckle and of course, chocolate camp cake.

Every good memory should include food.

Day One

We hit the road by 5am so as to make it to "the Dakotas largest indoor water park" by early afternoon. We made great time and logged over 450 miles by 1pm. The water park was a tad smaller than anticipated but turned out to be the perfect way to shake off the long day of driving.

Jake was the master.

Ben's back took quite a beating.

Dave earns Ben's respect here.

Rachel is fearless.

Everyone LOVED RVing on Day 1. Especially Rachel. Rounds of Monopoly, Life and Candy Land were had in earnest. No TV or movies for us on Day 1. We ate at Outback (which our kids insisted was a first) and hit the local WalMart for some supplies. Boy did we feel welcome there. Those were our people for the next week...

Day Two

A rental car from the campsite was in order to see Mt Rushmore and Bear Country, USA. We loved the Palmer Gulch KOA and would like to go back for a full week.

Here we are loaded in the car, but wait where's Dave?

Oh, there he is. While we're all ready to go he's got his own agenda...can I say, "like father, like son"?

Mt. Rushmore was Jake's favorite part of the trip. Very impressive and majestic.

At this point in the trip, Dave spent a lot of time carrying Rachel around. Note for what happens later.

Bear Country, USA has more than just bears!

For obvious reasons you are not allowed to open car windows or doors in the park. Unfortunately, our rental car had the air conditioner break and started to overheat while we were trapped in a HUGE line of cars. It reached scorching temperatures in the car while the bears got up close and personal. I think they could smell us cooking. It was a bit scary because it was so hot. Rachel looked like she might pass out. All's well that ends well, so I'll say it was neat and worth doing.

Dinner was cooked over a wood fire and finished with s'mores. A trip back to Mt. Rushmore for the lighting ceremony was well worth it.

This man is not afraid to get messy. You should see him eat ribs! (Or maybe you shouldn't.)

Day Three

By now we were feeling in the swing of things as RVers so we joined our "friends" for pancake breakfast at the chuck wagon. (I actually did make a couple friends the night before at the laundry hut. RV tip: Don't wait to do laundry too late in the evening, it gets cRaZY.)

Here Rachel is combing her hair with a "dinglehopper". Of course she used the one with syrup on it...good times without a bathtub in sight. Luckily they all hit the pool before we pulled out of town.

We spent the day driving nearly 400 miles to Cody, WY. It took longer than expected so we didn't make the gunslingers show. Bummer. We hit some fierce storms along the way with torrential rain and violent wind gusts. Dave managed it all beautifully but was exhausted by the time we arrived. The kids only watched one movie the whole day! We watch more in my van driving around town than we did in the RV. Ben rode his bike around the campground a bit until he busted his rear derailleur. Dave thought he might be able to fix it but ended up needing to go to a bike store the next morning. Maybe we should have left it broken...

Day Four

We enjoyed FREE pancakes at the Cody KOA and then took an early morning tour to see the wild mustangs. Dave has wanted to do this every time he drives through Wyoming. Very cool. A band of "bachelors" approached our group once we exited the bus and looked like they might charge, but decided we were too weak to worry about after getting a closer look at us. Intense.

The smallest horse in the picture (a black one) is only three days old.

After so many hours of driving in Wyoming it's a surprise to see this landscape. You'd never know it was here without taking a tour.

Ben made a friend and found a lizard. Again, like father, like son.

The kids caught a nap on the way to Yellowstone which was less than 80 miles away. So sweet.
You don't see moments like this at home....the day before, all three were in bed asleep briefly. The memories are piling up and making all the planning and cleaning worth it.

Finally in Yellowstone, we start with some bison.

Followed by some "stinky parts", as Ben likes to call the thermal features.

And even more stink.

Here's where things deviate from the plan in a big way...

Ben gets hurt riding his bike with Jake and Dave near our campsite. He slides out on some loose gravel and his chain ring shoves into his calf. It's deep and there is fat tissue hanging from the bike. They flag down strangers to take them to the nearest clinic (one hour away but still in Yellowstone. That place is BIG!) and send Jake back to the campsite to tell me...I'm totally helpless to do anything really because Dave has the keys to the RV in his pocket. My friendly camp neighbors (who happen to be from Colorado Springs) take me down to the ranger's station to at least call about Ben. I finally get to talk to Dave as they are starting on Ben. Four hours after the whole ordeal began and 10 stitches later, Dave and Ben are delivered back to our RV by exceptionally kind campers who patiently waited the whole time so that they could drive Dave and Ben back "home" when they were done. It restores hope in humankind when there are SO many people who are concerned and generous.

Day Five

Yellowstone Tour: "Circle of Fire" with tour guide, Jared from Massachusetts. Awesome.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

The tour was amazing but since we had one of these(a lame guy)...Dave had to carry him a whole bunch, which left us with one of these...

Rachel felt incredibly displaced with all the attention Ben was getting and we were lucky to get even one of these...

Old Faithful performed admirably for us and we had a great day seeing nearly every "highlight." We were all exhausted, especially Ben.

Days Six and Seven

Needless to say, I was anxious to head home. It was worrisome and tiring having Ben with some pain and swelling along with the disgruntled "baby princess" (as labeled by Kevin Leman in The Birth Order Book).

We stopped to see the World's Largest Mineral Hot Springs but did not stay to "enjoy" them since it was scorching hot out and Ben was forbidden from such things.

All in all, we only had one terrible campground in Casper, WY and by then we were too tired to care much anyway.

We logged 1723 miles on the RV and a little over 100 on the rental car. The tours we took had to be at least 150 more miles. We spent a LOT of time traveling. Rachel's favorite days were the "RV days"--the endless snacks, board games, and time with her brothers. I would like to rent one again and spend more time in one place. The coast of California or Oregon, maybe? How about Moose Meadow? We'll see. For now I'm thrilled to be home.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Our New Yard

This has been in the works in Dave's mind since we moved in (five years ago) but it was good to sit on it awhile and wait to make sure it all came together, including the vegetable gardens in the backyard.



So while a landscaping company came to clear out the scrub oak, lay automated sprinklers on both sides of the driveway and down to the gardens, and lay sod, Dave did all the other improvements. He spent one of his weeks off this summer gardening and landscaping every waking moment it seemed. I felt like I had a full-time gardener. He's awesome and now our yard is too. (Don't mention the deer or the bears to him unless you want an earful...He's feeling a bit put out with their presence in his territory.)