Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gypsy Wagons and Tipis

As many of you are aware, Erin convinced me to go on a vacation last week where we stayed in two very unique, but equally inhospitable environments -- a gypsy wagon and a tipi (or tee-pee if on Route 66).  I wanted to make sure to get my version of events in print before Erin jumps in with her Technicolor version, so here is my recounting of the vacation.

First, we spent the end of the week last week at our annual China adoption reunion.  This was, as always, a very nice time.  I actually look forward to this each year, which is surprising for me.  I don't much like people usually, especially those with whom I only share a tangential bond.  But these folks are all A-OK, and we had a great time with them.  (And who am I kidding...I don't much like several blood relatives either, so that bond thing is a lie.)

After leaving the reunion in Columbus, Ohio, we ventured south to the Hocking Hills district of Ohio.  Our first two evenings were to be spent in a gypsy wagon at Ravenwood Castle.  Now in theory, this sounds like kid heaven.  They get to stay in A CASTLE.  But in our case, funding our house, three adoptions, whatever forced us into the adjacent gypsy wagons, which had their own rustic charm.

To Erin's credit, the wagons themselves were not bad.  We all slept pretty well.  My only concern was that the wagon looked a little unsteady on its concrete block foundations, and after Daddy has had too much dinner, I could see that wagon resting on its side while I lie, still scrambling for the door, trying to get to the toilet.

And let's talk about the toilet.  We had our own bathroom down the hill from the gypsy wagon, but it was pretty rough stuff.  Lots of bugs.  I don't want to be too hard on it, as I've already got a dialogue going with the owner over at Tripadvisor, but it wasn't especially pleasant.  And to make matters worse, the toilet wasn't working when we first arrived -- after a long day in the car and several meals since our last potty break.  Let me just say that the two young ladies cleaning the bathroom immediately after I left could have been a little more discrete with their commentary.  Just sayin'.

After experiencing two mostly OK nights in the gypsy wagon, we headed on up the highway to our tipi.  Again -- a kid no-brainer, right?  I checked into the tipi, and my first clue that something was up was when the owner offered me jello shots for the evening.  Why would I need alcohol to get through the evening?  Oh, but little did I know.

For you see, the owner also sold me a small pile of wood to use in the stove in the tipi for the evening, which was slated to be in the low 40's.  After burning myself and busting three (THREE!) lighters trying to get the fire going, this eagle scout headed to Wal-Mart and bought a starter log and an aim-n-flame.  Voila.  Fire.

But the problem was the tipi was still cold.  REALLY cold.  Trent was OK because he was tightly bundled.  Grace was OK because she's a freak of nature and could sleep naked in a, well, in a tipi.  Grant, mommy and daddy froze our hides off.  At 2am, I was shuffling around the woods in my underpants looking for anything that would burn -- wood, twigs, grass, my dignity.  At one point, Erin thought she actually broke one of her toes off when it cracked as she flexed it.  No lie.  Nothing says, "Happy vacation honey!" like the words "Will you check to make sure Grant still has a pulse?" at 4am.

When we woke up (or rolled over frozen) at 8am, I said very calmly to Erin, "Did you get this out of your system?"  There's no native American worth his or her salt who wouldn't have traded a tipi in for a Holiday Inn Express if they'd had the option.  And in the future, neither will this fat kimosabe.

China Reunion Pics (thanks, Georgette for the photos)

Hiking pics... so amazing!

Our lone tipi

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Playing Catch Up

Tomorrow we leave for a bit of a trip.  First, we're off to see our China friends (families we traveled with to China when we adopted Grace).  It'll be great--we love these families!  And, we're staying at a hotel.  With waterslides and a splash pad.

Then, we're staying in Gypsy Wagon outside of a castle.  But, there's heat.  And, it's a B&B, so it comes with a great breakfast.  And a private bathroom.

And, then, we're staying in a tipi.  On the ground.  Without even a toilet.  I'm not sure Bret knows about that last part, so I thought I should post a couple pictures and updates, just in case I end up dead left in the forest, you'll have some recent pictures until I return.

Grant continues to LOVE kindergarten.  I went for his parent-teacher conference tonight, and nothing came as a shock.  Grant is an exceptional reader (they want kids to exit kindergarten at a level C; Grant is already at a level I), but the drawing and coloring skills are so, so, SOOOOO weak.  They try to encourage story telling through drawing, as most kids aren't ready to write entire paragraphs, and you almost can't even tell what anything is on the page!  It looks like a bunch of crazy scribbling.  He has some really weak fine motor skills (and has to get some extra help in that area), so it's hard to know if these fine motor skills are the contributing factor to these pictures... or a bit of laziness (which Grant suffers from plenty).  But, he's expertly behaved, a fine little mathematician, and kind to his friends, so I think we're doing okay.

Just recently, he came home with an assignment based on the book Officer Buckle and Gloria, a book we have at home too (thanks, Kathy... I can read this book in my sleep).  The assignment was to write or to draw a family rule.  I asked Grant what others put on their paper.  He told me that many kids wrote about bike helmets, brushing teeth or washing hands.  Grant's paper read: Stay clear of sigarets (cigarettes).  He cracks me up!

Oh, and in case you didn't know, Grant is a tad bit near-sighted and sports these new specs!

Grace--is without question--the most helpful child God ever created.  She loves to help.  She will do anything I ask her to do, with a smile on her face, and a "I'd be glad to do that for you, Mommy" comment on the way.  I couldn't be more spoiled by such a hard worker, and my days will get infinitely more difficult when she heads off to kindergarten next year.

Grace loves preschool, and she is sooooo confident now that it's hard to believe.  She loves to talk to strangers, to run tasks for me all over town, and she does it all with seldom a whine!  She's something special, that one.  She spends most of her day coloring, painting, taping, cutting and doing other crafts.  She almost never plays with toys, as she's just too busy being crafty.  She self entertains for hours (the sheer opposite of Grant), and I almost feel guilty that I don't "plan" more for her to do!

She draws the cutest things (doors that walk, octopuses that juggle, and unlike her brother, I can tell what every single one of them is... well, okay, the door that was walking was tricky... because it looked--well, like a door walking).

Here are some pics of Grace from this mornings pumpkin patch field trip (it was soooooo cold that I wanted to cry, but I thought that made me look pretty weak in front of four-year-olds, so I held in the sobs).

Trent is one fussy baby--except for his mama, who he adores.  He's finally warming up to daddy, but everyone else in the known world can "take a hike" (and he'll give you the look to prove it).  He's the only child of mine where I am regularly greeted at the door to his childcare room (at church or BSF) with the "he had a rough morning" speech.  But, for me, he's pretty easy.  He just went to the doctor on Monday, and he's officially short, fat and big headed (percentiles: 34%, 65% and 80%, respectively).  But, he makes up for it all by being really cute and pretty darn sweet!

He has no tricks yet, and I think he's going to be slow to master the gross motor skills (sitting, rolling, crawling) like his big brother.  He loves his jumpy thing and exersaucer for a bit (not long enough... ), and he seems to enjoy being outside more than anything... yeah for that!

Recently, we've started heading to a local nursing home to visit residents there.  My parents have been great about this for years--often with the kids tagging along--, and I've been looking for a service that my kids can do now, not when they're all grown up, that will teach them to care for others.  And, they are simply amazing, even with the memory patients who ask the same question 15 times.  The kids are so patient, so loving, so thoughtful, and I get teary to watch them bring such joy to these people (or "old people," as the kids call them).  I have prayed that God would make my kids' hearts soft for the forgotten people of this world--and now, once a week, we all get a chance to put that into practice!!  Here is a picture of Trent making Eddy's week (maybe her month--she LOVES babies), followed by a picture of Grant doing the same... even when he was a baby (he already has five years of serving these people under his belt!).


Okay, that'll have to do for a bit.  We're going to be out of commission for a bit.  The places we are going don't even have cell service (haven't told that one to Bret either), but we'll make sure to post pictures and updates upon return!!!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Tired Baby

Grant LOVES kindergarten, but Mama's not so sure!  My baby is sooooo tired ALL the time!  But, we're adjusting, slowly... Grant was picked as the Student Ambassador for his class, and he told me he was selected, he thinks, because he likes to help people.  So sweet!

Here's a recent pic of Grant: all smiles on this particular morning!

I'll post more soon, but I am sooooooooo tired (maybe it runs in the family!)....