Saturday, June 25, 2011

Happy 10th Birthday Carson!

Carson turned 10 on the last day of our Missouri vacation. We had celebrated his birthday earlier while all the cousins were still there by opening presents and roasting smores. But on his birthday morning we said goodbye to Gram and Gramps, got in the car, and began the long drive home. 
Carson likes to eat so his one request was to pick all the meals for the day, and Golden Corral was top on his list.  We don't have these in California, so we've only eaten here on road trips.  But gratefully there was one in Wichita Kansas- so we celebrated his birthday lunch with steak and cake and ice cream! 
Carson also likes to read.  His birthday night was our Wizard of Oz adventure, but this picture shows our most common view of him- behind a book.  He finished the Guardians of Gahoole series during vacation, but here he is shown with his newest Tin Tin book.  

Carson learned he liked to fish so we got him a fishing rod for his birthday.  It was a perfect way to spend lots of time down by the lake when he had enough of climbing trees and tea parties.  He is intense at most anything he tries and was successful pretty quick- even if it involved lots of untangling.  
Carson likes to win and play video games.  Eric took him to play laser tag on our way home in Albuquerque.  What a blast!  He loves anything competitive especially if it has guns and strategy.  He's also excited about a new set of legos he got for his birthday and is on his way to becoming a 'master builder'.

Carson is very responsible and trustworthy- generally serious and sometimes worried.  He is a huge help around the house and a kind big brother.  Having a ten year old is new for us- the balance between having a man sized boy who can carry on very meaningful adult conversations, yet is still a child that needs someone to wipe his face occasionally!  

Yes, and I did say man-sized.  Carson was the youngest on the baseball team this spring- but you'll see him third from the left- while the coaches are almost at eye level on the right.  He's 5'6" now and his size is generally the first thing you notice (and if you check out his feet they are now size 11!).  But his eagerness to learn and respond to coaching also set him apart.  Even though the baseball team had a terrible record, Carson worked really hard and had a great attitude.  

Happy Birthday Carson!  Welcome to the double digits!  You are growing up to be quite a man and we love you very much!!

The Wizard of Oz

As a last minute plan for travel entertainment, I went to the library to see if I could find any books on CD for our family to listen to during the drive to Missouri.  There wasn't much selection, so the only thing I picked up was "The Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum. The kids had not seen the movie, but at least I had a guess at the story and thought they may enjoy it.

I had no idea it would be a tie that ran through our entire trip.  As we began listening to the bleak description of the Kansas prairie- I thought, oh yeah that's where we are heading!  And then as the 'cyclone' was described, I realized we would be driving right through Joplin MO where the terrible tornado just hit in May.

And again I was surprised as each of the kids- especially Peter- was so drawn into the story.  They kept asking for more (even when video games were an option).  Natalie was very concerned that I would stop the story if anyone fell asleep so no one would miss a minute.  We spread the 4 hour book over a couple of our driving days and everyone cheered to hear that Dorothy made it home.

On our drive home from MO, we decided to take a back road (54) through KS rather than take interstate 44 through OK & TX.  It was a beautiful drive through lots of (very) small towns and included a stop at a national historic site at Fort Scott, KS.  We looked ahead on a map and decided that a town called Liberal, KS would be a good place to stay overnight.

As we got closer to the town, we saw road signs saying that Liberal was Dorothy's home!  There is a visitor center (that was closed when we arrived) but it had all sorts of memorabilia from the movie as well as a reproduction of Dorothy's house.

What a fun surprise!  We took pictures, walked the yellow brick road, and the kids even got to be munchkins.


Then as we began to look for a hotel on Eric's phone, we found a Holiday Inn Express that had a Wizard of Oz Kid's Suite.  Eric went in, got a good deal on the room, and we surprised the kids!
There were two rooms- a king size bed for us, and a separate room with bunk beds for the kids.  All the rooms had huge murals of scenes from the movie.  The kids just ran from spot to spot to check it all out.

After getting settled in with snacks, we rented the movie 'The Wizard of Oz' and all watched it together in the big bed. The music was new to the kids, but soon everyone was singing 'Ding Dong the witch is dead..."

None of this was part of our plans. In addition to health, safety, beauty, and sweet times with family, we got to enjoy this extra special providential memory. The Lord is kind AND generous!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ozark Family Reunion

No, we don't have any family in Missouri.  Yes, we really did drive 24+ hours to get there.  Yes, we did leave southern CA for the Midwest to vacation by choice.  And yes, it was all worth it!!

Last winter my siblings (Chris, Val and Michael) talked about how to best honor my parents' 40th wedding anniversary this summer.  We know they love us, their grandkids and camping in their pop-up tent trailer- so we made an attempt to put it all together.  

Since we are all spread around the country (CA, NM, PA, CT), we looked for somwhere central that everyone might be willing to travel to. As you can see on the map, the Ozarks in Missouri fit the bill.  My brother Chris in NM owns a boat for fishing so we let him choose a lake and campsites (with electric and showers for sure!).  And sure enough, we were able to find a week where almost all of us could make it  (missed you sis-in-law Wendy!).  

Albuquerque was the first stop (12 hours later) where we spent a few days with my brother and family before driving the other 16 hours to arrive at Pomme de Terre Lake in Missouri.  The kids were awesome travelers!! It's so much easier now that they are bigger.  A favorite was listening to the audio book 'The Wizard of Oz", but I'll save that for a later post.  
Our campsites were all in a row with a beautiful view of the lake. After we arrived, we found out this really was a great choice (a bit risky since we had no personal knowledge of the lake or campground!). Neighboring return campers said this was one of the best places in MO.  
This rocky beach was only 20 yards from our sites, so everyone spent lots of time around the water.  It was especially good for skipping rocks (Henry and Gramps) and floating (Peter and Zach). The beginning of the trip was fairly hot- so the water felt great and the kids stayed in for a full eight hours!  And just a bit of sunburn- ouch!

My brother Chris brought his fishing boat and all the gear.  He spent early mornings fishing for muskies, but took the kids out for their own fishing and boating trips each afternoon.

I think all the kids caught something- and Carson was very excited to get his own fishing rod as a birthday gift. Fish became a staple on the nightly menu.  Thanks for cleaning them Eric!
 The kids each said that time with cousins was one of the best parts of the vacation.
 Henry and Sydney were water rats that climbed trees,
Natalie and Sienna had tea parties and hung out in the hammock, 
Peter and Zach played trucks and were generally silly 4 year olds.  Carson spent lots of time fishing and reading, while little Jackie showed us her walking skills and talent for finding pretty things on the ground.  The kids created some kind of club with missions and training and rankings.  I can't say I understood the organization, but I probably wasn't supposed to.  
And the rest of us did a little hiking, a little reading, lots of eating, a bunch of celebrating, and repeated cooking over campfires. We enjoyed amazing lightening and thunderstorms almost every night- but never any rain during the day.  There was only one tornado watch- but gratefully that only lasted about an hour then we were all able to sleep (fairly) peacefully.  The breezes were perfect, never felt too humid- and no mosquitoes!!  Wow!  Pretty amazing- especially considering what it could have been like!  

So happy anniversary Mom and Dad!  And I'm so grateful for wonderful parents and brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews- You're awesome!! Thanks for making the trek and making some memories!!