Monday, June 30, 2008

My 24 + hour vacation.

You know your blogging record has reached a sad low when your husband posts about your Girls Weekend before you do!!

To excuse my pitiful blogging behavior let me remind myself that I have 3 children ages 5 and under, am currently growing a fourth child, and planned, cleaned for and hosted a birthday party for one of my children a week after my Girls Weekend.

OK. I feel much better now.

You may recall Amy, Julia and I attended a Beth Moore Conference last August. Just look through the archives from August 2007 and you'll quickly be reminded. We three have decided that a yearly Girls Outing is a very good thing for us to do.

Unfortunately, this year we couldn't find any conferences that we really wanted to attend. Actually, that's not true. We found PLENTY of conferences but none within the one hour's drive of home that our husbands limited us to (Beth will be in Connecticut in October - 5 days before my baby is due). But, we were not deterred.

One day over lunch Amy and I discussed our desire to attend a Hearts at Home conference. Since that isn't possible we thought buying and sharing some cds or tapes from the conference would be a good idea. And a plan was born!!

So, June 2o we three women left our husbands with 6 children ages five and under (with Julia's teenage son thrown in there as well) and checked into a hotel. We didn't go far. In fact, the hotel is located about 5 miles (if that) from my home. We discussed going off somewhere but with gas prices $4+ a gallon, going off just for the sake of being far from home seemed kind of silly.

Our agenda for the Friday/Saturday was to eat, talk, laugh, and listen to a few conference cds. We managed to squeeze 1.5 tapes in between our talking and eating. We also managed to eat at TGIFriday's, Outback Steakhouse, and Pappa Razzi's. Oh! And shop. Did I mention we shopped? Amy and I went home with matching flip flops from Ann Taylor Loft (buy one get one half off!). We seem to be drawn to similar colors and styles though NOT the same sizes!

We also talked and talked and talked and talked. Poor Julia was suffering from a terrible sunburn (spending the week at the beach will do that to you) and gave up on us around 1 AM. Amy and I kept going until close to 6 AM. We saw the sunshine peek around our curtains and heard the birds singing outside our window. What's really funny is that Amy and I are the tired pregnant ones. = ) We did have pity on Julia and let her have one bed to herself. Though we teased her in the morning that our bed had four people in it while hers only had one. = )

Not long after 6 AM Amy started getting phone calls and texts from her family that her sister was at the hospital delivering her second baby. What's funny is that 2 years ago Christy delivered her first baby while Amy and I were together at a Memorial Day picnic. It just added a fun unexpected twist to our weekend.

That pretty much sums up our Girls Weekend. I could tell you what we talked about but then I'd have to kill you. = ) We're all hoping to do something again next year but I'm not sure I'll be able to get away overnight. Four kids five years old and under + one daddy for overnight will take some serious brownie points on my part!!!

Hmmm... maybe I should pull that steak out of the freezer and go get Joel's slippers...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Red, White & Blueberry Pie

Amazingly enough, Independence Day is upon on us! The weather here in Rhode Island is finally consistently hot (enough so that my AC has now been turned on about 4 days this month). And I have rescheduled plans to go strawberry picking with friends this coming week (it's a tradition!). All of that to say, I'm in the mood for a Red, White & Blueberry Pie.

I don't know what it is but every year around this time I feel the need for one of those delicious pies. If you have a 4th of July party to attend this week I highly recommend taking this desert!! It's my standard summer potluck dish.

So, this week I really wanted one of those pies. I even had blueberries (on sale for .99 cents a pint!!). Unfortunately, I didn't have the strawberries, white chocolate, whipped topping, or grocery money to buy them. But I wasn't deterred. I figured something was better than nothing. So, here's what I made:

The pie was just as pitiful in real life as this picture looks. Will ate about 3 bites of his slice and was done. Ellie finished all of hers and Will's but her tastes aren't very discriminating. After all, she eats stray days-old cheerios off the floor. My problems included slightly overcooked pie crust, extremely off-brand vanilla pudding and blueberries that tasted like they weren't quite ripe yet. Did I mention the lack of white chocolate? That was definitely a problem!

Don't get me wrong. All of us but Will managed to finish off the pie. But this week I'm going strawberry picking, I still have one pie crust and 1 pint of blueberries (which should be ripe by now) and a whole new month with a new budget envelope full of money. Guess what I'll be buying at the grocery store. Guess what I'll cooking up this week. Just thinking about it makes me smile.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Will's birthday present.

This was waiting for Will from Grammy and Granddad
when we returned from vacation.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Last account of our New Hampshire vacation back in May. I promise.

We completely enjoyed our vacation in New Hampshire. Beautiful weather. Fun outings. Comfortable accommodations. And just the right number of days. Hopefully we'll be able to go back again.

I thought this was a fun sign at one of our stops.
The parts of New Hampshire we visited were indeed wild.
The view from our front porch Saturday morning as we loaded the van to head home. We arrived in the rain, enjoyed sunshine for 3 days, and drove home in the rain.
Just on the New Hampshire side of the state line, for North and Southbound traffic on the interstate, is a rest/tourist stop. Also, the NH STATE LIQUOR STORE. I couldn't resist taking a picture. The "safety rest area" is where the bathrooms and tourist info are. This was no small convenience store either. We're talking BIG liquor store here! I couldn't help wondering how many people actually wait until they get home before opening their purchase.

As Joel said, the state motto isn't "Live Free or Die" for nothing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Looking for waterfalls in New Hampshire.

Day Three, Friday, in New Hampshire. We decided more hiking was the order for the day with a theme of waterfalls. So we set out a little before lunch taking our peanut butter sandwiches with us again.

We had a tourist guide describing and mapping many waterfalls in the area. First stop, Ammonoosuc Falls - Lower. We had to hike along a previously paved road about .10 of a mile to reach the falls.
Look at the water line slightly to the left of the large tree in the center of the screen. That pile of branches is a beaver lodge. This find was even more exciting because we had watched an episode of Curious George on PBS the previous day in which George has a run-in with beavers in the woods.
The Silver Cascade is visible from the road. The picture below was taken at the edge of the road. We parked in a scenic look-out lot and hiked up a little ways. The pictures do not do justice to how easy the hike was or how high the falls were.
Water + Rocks + Little boys = Must throw rocks in water.
Our third and final falls was Ripley Falls. At .4 of a mile the hike was our longest for the day. The guidebook said it should take about 20 minutes. Ha! It neglected to mention most of the trail is uphill. For 2 short-legged boys and one slightly pregnant momma this trail was work!!
No problem, we thought. Joel even suggested going on to Arethusa Falls when we started the hike. In defense of his sanity the guidebook had that one at about 1.3 miles. Clearly the sign tells a different story.
That was my thought, too, Ellie!
Ripley Falls
The trail continued by crossing the river/stream/creek using large boulders and fallen trees. It was NOT going to happen with our little team even if we had the energy to go on. Daddy crossed alone and took the above picture from the opposite bank. Can you tell where the trail is?
Climbing the trail out. It's hard to tell where the trail is!
Half-way back to the car Ellie decided a nap was in order.
I was wishing someone could carry me out like that!!

If you'd like a different perspective and pictures of our vacation go visit Joel here. He managed to sum the whole week up in one post. I just couldn't do that! = ) I promise only one day left to write about.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Day 2 in New Hampshire

Before heading to New Hampshire for our vacation in May, Joel and I conducted research on-line into what activities were 1. open and 2. affordable. In case you're interested, we googled "NH tourism" and found their official tourism site. We found our cottage and activities from this site. You can laugh if you want, but I've learned when traveling with little people it's best to have a relaxed agenda for each day.

I also ordered the NH Guidebook which came in less than a week (remember I'm only a hop, skip and a jump from them). The Guidebook and website are organized according to region. This worked well for our research. We decided to visit the White Mountains (specifically Mount Washington) region. There are tons of hiking trails and other activities you can do, even in the off season.

Joel and I have concluded we're outdoor-wannabes. = ) We weren't interested in the two amusement parks in the area. We wanted to be outside moving and seeing the world God created - but I don't want to get TOO tired or hot doing all that moving and seeing. Which is why I call us "wannabes."

We knew that all the hiking from Wednesday would have everyone (that would be everyone over 36 inches tall!) a little tired and maybe sore so we planned to take it easy on Thursday. After a leisurely morning spent watching all manner of cartoon programming on cable, we ate our peanut butter and honey sandwiches for lunch and headed out for another adventure.

We drove over to North Conway and took a ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad. They had two different rides to choose from. We picked the afternoon ride that only last an hour. Again, admission cost us less than $40 (it helps to have children small enough to be free). We arrived in plenty of time to purchase tickets, visit the bathroom and look around the gift shop (amazingly I bought no souvenirs the whole trip! Not for lack of looking though.).

Here are the boys waiting for our train to arrive.
There were several other engines and passenger cars sitting on the tracks.
Our knowledge of trains comes mainly from Thomas the Tank Engine books and videos. We have a book where Thomas checks the safety signals on a new line but gets distracted by a carnival. We THINK the large balls on the poles are safety signals for the trains. The boys found them interesting no matter what they were.
A side shot of the train station. The inside is still set up as it was years and years ago. There are displays of various items used on the train through out the years. Sort of like a mini-museum to train travel. To the left of the station you can see our train arriving.
"It's a diesel!" "I'm not afraid of a diesel engine." (For those unfamiliar with Thomas, he and most of his friends are steam engines and tend to be bullied by some diesel engines.) "There's a snow plow on the front."
Waiting for the train to come. Doesn't she look like such a big girl?!
The train is about even to us and whistling. She did NOT like the loud whistle!!
Here we are in the coach car waiting to leave. Our car was the first behind the engine and at every road crossing the whistle blew. The whistle scared Ellie who clung to me each time. I didn't mind the unexpected snuggles. After about 5 miles we came to an unused station. They unhooked the engine and ran it down to the back of the train, re-coupled it and took us back to our starting point. This meant we were the last car on the train so the whistle wasn't as loud
and the boys could look out the back at the tracks.

After our train ride we drove a different road home - the Kangamacus Highway. Beautiful and worth the drive if you are taking your time. We stopped at one Overlook point that had a sign showing how rain/snow falling on one side of the mountain range flowed into one river and rain/snow falling on the other side of the mountain range flowed into a different river. Sort of a New Hampshire Continental Divide.

We arrived back at our cottage a little less tired than the day before but still declaring Thursday to have been a good day.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Hampshire Vacation May 08

We drove up Tuesday, May 27 to Twin Mountain, NH. What should have been about a 3+ hour drive ended up taking us close to 5 hours. That included 1 bathroom/lunch stop at McDs, 1 stop along side the highway for a certain 5 year old to use the bushes, 1 stop at the rest area/NH visitors center, and 1 stop to see a moose in the ditch on the other side of the road but sadly we barely saw his shape before he "mosied" on into the woods.

Joel and I have always preferred to take our vacations in late May before the heat and swarms of school-aged children increase in number. One of the drawbacks of traveling before June in New England is that you are off-season so not all restaurants and attractions are open. Also, it can still be cold at times. We don't mind either of those. Off-season to me just means a cheaper price and less skin exposed for a sunburn!

We enjoyed amazing weather all week. Tuesday we drove up in the rain but Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the sun shone bright and the temperature reached lower 70s. Fantastic for hiking and playing outside!

Here is a picture of our little cabin. We found Boulder Motor Court on-line and fell in love with our cozy cottage. Two bedrooms, full bath, full kitchen/living room and a fireplace. All for $80 a night!!! The cottage fascinated the boys. They've been trying to build their own ever since we returned home. Wednesday we hit the road for some sightseeing. I won't say we hit the road early. That's not us! We attempted to be out of the cottage by 11 am each morning. After packing our peanut butter and honey sandwiches (if you don't overdue the honey this is much less mess than jelly!), chips, bottled water and apples we climbed in our van and headed back south a little ways.
Lost River Gorge is not for the faint of heart. I mean that literally! I don't recall seeing any warning signs but this trail is truly a work out! While it is all board-walked you are either climbing up stairs or down stairs. And some of the board-walk is a narrow squeeze to get through!
First, we climbed down the stairs into the bottom of the gorge.

Once at the bottom there was no where to go but up!
The trees clinging to boulders amazed me!

Ellie enjoyed much of the view from Daddy's back.
The river thunders over and around massive boulders. The noise required shouting to make yourself heard at times. There were several amazing waterfalls but they didn't show up well on this camera.

Overlapping boulders created caves all along the path. Many required getting down on hands and knees to squeeze through. Thankfully the boardwalk by-passes all of them if you don't want to crawl through. We actually skipped about half the caves because they were so tight. Signs at the openings of each one describe what you will have to do to get through.
We took our time and lots of rest stops along our climb out of the Gorge. This pregnant momma really got a work out for the day!!! But we loved it. I enjoyed seeing different types of plant life (lots of ferns and moss) and the boys thrilled at the thought of what kind of animal might be in each cave. = )

We spent less than $40 on admission, enjoyed a beautiful picnic lunch, and "hiked" for roughly 3 hours. In the end Joel and I declared it "A Good Day."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

May in a Rambling Review

May was, is, and always will be a super busy month for us. May 2008 did not disappoint.

We started the month on the 5th with my husband's 33 birthday. Gift giving between the two of us has gotten very sad since having children. One year, before Will was born, I surprised him with a flying lesson in a two-seater airplane. Pitifully, I think that may have been the last real present I gave him. This year he took the money and bought his own presents. It got even worse. He didn't want to go out and celebrate. He asked for the money that would have been spent on the meal instead. Too bad for me! I had to cook that night.

On the 10th we had our seasonal furnace/AC inspection. Supposedly some parts of the AC could go out at any time... Joel was here to deal with the guy. That was good cuz here's what I heard. "Yada yada yada, cha ching, cha ching, yada yada, could last for several more years..." Since the cost was several hundred dollars up to about $1000 (if my memory is correct) we chose to wait until it kicks the bucket. If it ain't broke don't fix it.

The 11th was Mother's Day and my brother's 30th birthday. I called my mom only to find her at my brother's house for a combined Mother's Day/Birthday party. Sometimes living 1500 miles away from family really stinks!

We attended a birthday party on the 15th for the one other child who attends our church (by other I mean not Micah or Mia or one of my children). We celebrated his 5th birthday at a local bowling alley. Will had fun; Ben became a little overwhelmed by everyone staring at him and only bowled the last half. My gang had a good time but I think they're still a little young for bowling as a family outing. It lost their attention toward the end, though that might have been due to the knowledge of pizza waiting for them.

Our ultrasound occurred on the 20th. You can read all about it here.

May 25th marked our 11th Wedding Anniversary. 11 years. Wow! We ate dinner at Bertucci's to celebrate. With all 3 kids of course. We had never visited that particular restaurant and I can't say that I was impressed enough to go back anytime soon. It wasn't bad. Just kind of blah. Though somewhat family friendly.

May 25th saw us at our annual church Memorial Day picnic. A brief devotional and lots of grilled food. Yum! A wedding in New York of two church members contributed to a low attendance. But those of us there had a good time.

We celebrated Will's 5th birthday on May 27th. How did that happen?! He is thrilled to be 5. We haven't had his party yet but hope to at the end of June. Schedules just didn't work out this year. The theme will be Pirates. He's big into pirates right now. Think VeggieTales pirates NOT Johnny Depp.

On the same day we drove up to New Hampshire for our first ever (non-extended) family vacation. That's part of the territory with living so far from family - vacations are usually spent going to visit them or having them come to visit us. Sometimes we need to do our own thing. We rented a small cottage, hiked, made s'mores, and enjoyed each other's company. I hope to do a whole post (or 3) on our vacation in the next week or so. I have tons of fun pictures to share. = )

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Here's a good laugh for you folks down South.

Rhode Island is in the midst of a scorching heat wave. All you Southerners just said, "it's June, of course it's hot!" But no. Not in New England. I don't usually have to turn on my AC until the end of July.

So, we're having a heat wave for the last 4 days. (Go ahead and laugh.) Yesterday, June 9, the temperature reached 97 degrees. The thermometer in my house read 90. And I had a good cross breeze blowing through the house. I really try to hold off on the AC. I like those low electric bills and if I start running it now then I'm pretty much done with sweating for the rest of the summer.

But even I have my limits. I could have stuck it out. I was only moderately uncomfortable but around 3 pm I had 3 cranky children who dripped sweat (they got the sweat genes from their dad) and the thought of cooking supper in 90 degree heat was too much for me.

So I turned the AC on.

According to our local television station we set a new heat record yesterday. We beat the record from June 9, 1984. I remember that month. I lived in Arkansas then. I'm pretty sure temperatures were close to the 90s there, too. I specifically remember that month because my 20 year-old uncle drowned swimming in Beaver Lake. Very traumatic for a 9.5 year-old girl.

Sorry. Back to my point. Because of the current heat wave one local public school has canceled classes today and others are running abbreviated schedules. It seems crazy to me since they only have about 2 weeks of school left. But no one asked my opinion. I'm guessing they don't have AC in the schools.

Hey! Neither did I growing up and we survived heat a lot worse than this. With 90% humidity and those ridiculous windows that only tilted in rather than opening. Ah, now those were the days memories are made of.
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