Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Hills are Alive. . .

On Monday we had two time slots to fill with activities.  While we were in agreement on archery, for our next activity we split up.  The girls had put fishing at the top of their wish list for  things to do, but I myself had no desire to fish.  This is when you feel super lucky to have grandparents along - especially grandparents who A) love to spend time with their grandkids, and B) are amenable to fishing.  Dad and Terri took all four kids fishing while Brad, Amy, Jerry and I headed up into the mountains for a hike to a waterfall that was on the camp property.  The staff said it was about a 20 minute hike, and that if we wanted to head over to the chapel afterwards, that would take a total of about 40 minutes.  It was still a bit rainy, but no thunder, so we headed out with instructions to return immediately if we heard thunder. 

We were pretty quickly out of breath, both from our lack of physical activity and the altitude, but we kept on, and made it to the waterfall without too much trouble.  Our only difficulty came from a steep portion of the trail that was difficult for Brad to navigate due to the injuries to his legs in an auto accident, so he and Jerry came up the stream bed while Amy and I took the higher up trail.  We were glad that we all got to see the waterfall.  The pictures never seem to do it justice, so I also took a small video, just so I could listen to the waterfall whenever I want to. 

The hike to the waterfall had not been very long, and the rain had cleared out, so we decided to head over to the chapel.  We hiked through stands of aspen, pine trees with funny, spikey cones, and across meadows. 

We had been told that there was one point where we would come out of the treeline into a meadow that would make us want to break out into song a la sound of music, and they weren't kidding. 

We had been going for a while when we got to the meadow, and I was thinking we would be at the chapel soon, so I was a bit shocked to see how far away the chapel still was when we reached the vista.  It was definitely taking us longer than 40 minutes, as we needed to take portions of the trail slowly for Brad's sake, and the fact that we weren't exactly power hiking, but rather moseying along, enjoying the scenery. 

We did finally reach the chapel, and then headed in the direction of the lodge.  We were late for dinner, but we had a great time.  That night was supposed to be s'mores night, but due to the extreme drought and the potential for wildfires, the camp had to improvise.  They came up with foil-wrapped s'mores, heated in the oven.  They were quite tasty!

We also created our own "fireworks" launched by hand.  Two of the staff members would strike these heroic poses and hang on to a large slingshot contraption, and then everyone took turns launching water balloons at the bottom of the hill at our kids (who were loving it!)

 I didn't think too hard about the physics of the slingshot, and when it was my turn I just gave it my best pull and let 'er rip - only I didn't see if I even got close, because when I let go I fell over backwards!  Oh well, nothing bruised but my pride!

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Brave Adventure

The first night at Camp Redcloud there was an orientation meeting where the staff introduced all the activities to choose from, and you got to make your plan for the week.  There was so much to do, it was hard to decide, and unlike our previous family camp, almost everything was included the price of the camp itself. The only things that incurred and extra charges were white water rafting and fly fishing expeditions that were run by outside agencies.  Other than that we could choose from pony rides, archery, trail rides, hiking up a 14'er, 30 mile bike ride, canoeing, RC boats, fishing, rappelling, white water rafting, and more.  We discussed what we each really wanted to do and made our schedule.

Monday we got up (it was in the 50's - woo-hoo!) and had breakfast, worship and teaching time, lunch, and some team building activities (or a nap!), and then it was time for our first activity:  Archery! 

Archery was one of the activities that the entire family wanted to participate in, so we filled up all the slots available for that archery session.  The girls and I had gone to see Brave the week before, so they were eager to try archery.  In fact, the week after we got back we went and saw it again with Jerry, and when the film ended he observed, "Now I see why you girls were so enthusiastic about archery and horses at camp!"

We took turns using the bows and arrows.  We found out that Nana had taken two semesters of archery in college, and she was a pretty good shot! 

My target was shaped like an apple, and I got a pretty close shot right of the bat, but then proved that it was beginner's luck by not even hitting the hay bale with the rest of my shots!

Jerry out-shot me, no surprise! 

Maggie was very serious about her shooting. 

We started teasing her a little about it, but she managed to ignore us until I quoted the line from the Brave movie, "I don't want to get married!  I want to stay single. . . "  Then she cracked up!  She liked archery right off the bat and thought she might like to sign up for archery at school next year.  We had fun.  

Once we were finished, our staff member led us in a neat devotion about sin, which is an archery term meaning the distance between your shot and the bulls eye.  Just as we don't stop trying when we miss the shot with the arrow, we shouldn't give up when we sin, but continue to try to live the Christian life modeled for us by Jesus Christ. 

As we were wrapping up our time it began to drizzle, and since it was cool the kids went looking for shelter.  They'll take any port in a storm!  

Then it was time to be off to our next activity! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On The Road Again

The next morning arrived much sooner than I would have liked.  Our hotel had a small restaurant, but it didn't open until 7:00, so we all got ready, packed our stuff in our borrowed suburban, and were ready and waiting for the buffet to open.  After a rather large breakfast (with way too much juice, which would become apparent a couple of bathroom stops in a very short amount of time later) the Simciks arrived at our hotel and we were on our way.  The guys were driving, and Brad was leading, until he very promptly missed the first exit.  Whoops!  We pulled over to wait for them, but the way they turned around passed our location on another street.  After a few minutes we hadn't seen them, so we called and found they were way ahead of us.  They pulled over, and then we passed them.  So, after a little vehicular leap-frog, we ended up in the lead. 

The guys drove most of the way, but in Alamosa we finally switched off, and it was the girls turn to drive.  Since Amy had been there before, she took the lead for this final stretch.  Once we turned on to highway 149, it was mountain driving.  I was trying to keep my eyes on the road, but Jerry was hanging out the window taking pictures - and who could blame him!  We definitely weren't in Oklahoma anymore:

At one point we came out into a fairly wide meadow, and there were these funny bush-looking things covering a good portion of it.  Then we realized that Amy was coming to a stop, because these bush things were crossing the road.  They were sheep!  There were baby lambs, and some had black faces, just like you see in the nursery rhyme books.  We slowly made our way through the see of sheep and were on our way:

Next we tackled Slumgullion Pass, which was very twisty with lots of steep roads.  I would have been extremely nervous if I had been in the lead, but I figured that if Amy could do it in the Tahoe, I could do it in the Suburban, although I fell a bit behind on a few occasions.  We thought we must be getting close when Amy turned off into a scenic overlook / rest area that overlooked the San Juan Mountains.  We piled out of the car and felt the cool weather for the first time:

The girls thought it was pretty, but they were "cold" and hopped back into the car pretty quickly.  The adults took their time stretching their legs, using the facilities, looking around again.  I think that Jerry was starting to relax and get into vacation mode.  The same could not be said for the kids, who were ready for the drive to be over.  They were hollering, "LET'S GO!"  It was almost the end of check-in time, so we loaded back up in the cars and drove the last few miles to Camp Redcloud.  We were all glad to get unloaded, see our room, and head to dinner. 

As I was looking at the photos from the drive, I looked at this one:

And the San Juan Mountains in the background reminded me of a particular movie.  I asked Jerry, but he didn't see it.  Do you? 

Nah?  Okay,  I guess it's just me. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Amarillo by Evening

It's hard to believe how quickly this summer is going by.  For the most part this summer has been very pleasant, weather-wise, especially compared to last summer's record breaking heat.  It has just gotten really hot in the last few weeks, and we managed to beat the heat by heading to the mountains of Colorado (at least the ones that weren't on fire!)

My sister and her husband have been to family camp several times, and we joined them and Nana and Granddad a couple of summers ago in Arkansas and had a great time.  The whole family decided to repeat the experience this summer, but this year the destination was Lake City, Colorado, at Camp Redcloud, where my sister had accepted Christ as a teenager.  Nana and Granddad took the RV, while we stayed in the lodge with my sister's family.  It was a fourteen hour drive for us, and about 18 for them, so we decided to meet up and stay overnight at Amarillo to make it easier on ourselves.  Since Amarillo is only about four and a half hours for us, we didn't even have to get up early that first day.  It was quite leisurely, and the only hard part was taking Oreo to the vet to be boarded.  Since we had rescued her from the shelter only two weeks ago, she was understandably less than enthusiastic about being put back into a kennel.  The girls went with me to drop her off, and as we left she put her paws up on the bars and gave us a look that quite plainly said, "Please don't leave me!"  by the time we got out of the parking lot both girls were bawling.  It was never quite so difficult to leave a cat! 

So, off we went, getting to Amarillo around 5:00.  The girls wanted to swim, but we had agreed to meet up with everyone at 6:30 for dinner at (where else?) the Big Texan, so the girls agreed that swimming after dinner would be better.  In the meantime, they made themselves at home at the hotel and read a few chapters of their books before dinner. 

There's no place like home, but a few stuffed animals can help you be more comfortable.

We got to the Big Texan, where we were joined by friends in the area and the rest of our family group.  We were a very large party - 14 people, and it took forever - or two hours, which may I say seems like forever when you have small kids at the table - for our food to arrive.  Of course, the Big Texan is not really about the food (unless you are eating the 72 oz steak dinner, in which case it's all about the food) but the atmosphere.  Here's our little buckaroos sporting their kid meal "plates" on their heads:

Gracie, Maggie, Carissa, Will and Brad
After dinner the server gave us tokens, which turned out to be for the "for fun only" slot machines downstairs:

Gracie thought that the slots were pretty boring, and wanted to try out the shooting range.  Once she figured out that things moved or did something funny when you shot them, she was pretty careful with her aim. 

While we waited for Uncle Brad to get his free sample of fudge (and another pound of various flavors to share with us - yummy!) we checked out the decor and tried to stay out of everyone's way.

Let's see. . .  It's big bear, happy bear, reluctant bear and ninja bear!
 On our way out the door we stopped to take a photo with the big bull - the girls were quite perturbed that people had graffitied it.

Now that's a lotta bull!
 By the time we got back to the hotel it was after 9:00, and we were supposed to meet Amy and Brad to caravan to Colorado at 7:30 the next morning, but a promise is a promise, so the girls and I headed to the pool for a bit of swimming before bedtime.  We didn't get everyone tucked in until 11, but I figured they could sleep in the car if they were tired - after all, there was still nine hours of driving ahead of us.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Glaciers Are Melting! The Glaciers Are Melting!

I promise this isn't a post about global warming. 

Let's take a trip down memory lane, back a few months to the beginning of May.  Actually, this story starts back in June of 2010, when we lost our long-time kitty, Boo, at the ripe old cat-age of 17.  Since then, the kids have been petitioning for a new furry family member of practically any type or variety, but there were two things working against them - one, I had promised many, many years ago that when we became pet-free, that Jerry could have a dog, and two, Jerry and I were enjoying being pet-responsibility free at that moment. 

Eventually, I was ready for a new fur-friend, but Jerry was not.  I threatened that if he didn't pick a dog out soon, I would just show up one day with two kittens, but I think he knew I wouldn't press the issue too hard.  At some point though, I tired of the near constant requests for a pet, and so after the first year my response to the "when can we get a dog" question became a standard, "ask your dad".  As the school year wore on it became a matter of finding a good time to go to the shelter.  We made it to May, and Jerry was beginning to show signs of relenting.  We had set a weekend to go to the shelter, and then Maggie came down with pneumonia.  She missed the entire week of school before we were supposed to go look for a dog, and wasn't entirely recovered by that Saturday, so we had to tell the girls that nope, that wasn't going to be the weekend we looked for a dog either.  Maggie was in a tizzy, and in her pre-teen angsty way she declared,
Glaciers will melt and mountains will rise and I'll still be sick, and we still won't have a dog!   

as she turned on her heel and stormed out of the room.  Have I mentioned lately how pre-teen-ness has affected our household?  No?  I'm sure it will come up soon, but back to my story. . .

So, eventually Maggie recovered, then Gracie got pneumonia, then we went to Texas to kick off the summer, and then, finally, we had another weekend with nothing special scheduled, so we headed off to the shelter to look at dogs! 

And we didn't find one that clicked. 

But the next week the girls and I met Oreo, a 13-month old border collie mix. 


Did you hear it?  So the following weekend we took Jerry to meet her at the kennel where she was being fostered, and he liked her too!  So, now we have a dog! 

Meet Oreo: