Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring Break 2014

As you can probably tell from my last post, we took a short camping trip over Spring Break this year. Although the weather has been.... frigid... this spring, the kids decided they would rather risk the cold than give up our anticipated trip. It was a decision they probably regret making now, but we had fun anyway.

Because Olivia and I had other commitments, we only had a short window in which we could go, so we decided to set up camp Sunday evening and have Monday and Tuesday to go hiking and relax. However, the weather Sunday did not co-operate. Sunday dawned cold, wet, and windy with a projected high of 47 degrees. We determined it would be better to leave Monday morning and come back Tuesday.

We set off Monday with good temperatures, mild winds, and a sunny forecast. We had an easy drive down and decided to camp at Doris Campground at the Wichita Wildlife Refuge. We got there in time for a picnic lunch at the Visitor's Center, and I warned the girls I would be taking lots of pictures and I expected them to cooperate. I also promised I'd clear it with them before posting pictures on our blog, so you can rest assured that all pictures are approved by both Kelsey and Olivia.

A great place for a picnic lunch!

Some people were too busy climbing to eat.

Others did their climbing after they ate their lunch.

"Look, Mom, I'm the Statue of Liberty!"

Did you know boulders are really comfortable?

After lunch, we headed in to pick out our campsite and pitch the tent. Maddox got really good at putting his shoes off and on all by himself while were camping.

After camp was set up, the boys decided they were ready for lunch.

Apparently they both eat with their eyes closed.

With the campsite settled, we were ready for a little adventure, so we decided to take a short hike to this tower we saw near the Holy City. On the way there, we noticed these little fellas. Did you know that it is physically impossible to talk in a normal voice while watching prairie dogs? Your voice naturally goes up about 2 octaves.
"Oh, they're so cute!"
"Look at that one running!"
"That one is just poking it's head out of the hole!"
"It's digging a burrow!"
"I wish I could hold one!"
I admit it, though; they are pretty adorable. It was one of our favorite things to see on this trip.

The Holy City is the site of one of the longest running Passion plays. We didn't stop and walk around, but we did drive by and take some pictures. 

Then we were off to our true destination. The Jed Johnson Tower.

It's a short hike that's only about a half-mile long.

Most of it was pretty easy, but there was a little uphill near the end.

We passed a rock cairn that someone had built in the middle of the path, and Connor promptly knocked it over. The kids tried to fix it, but couldn't get the top rock to balance.

I took care of it. Because I'm awesome, that's why.

We finally made it to the tower.

It had a lovely view.

Olivia even gave up the camera for a few minutes to get a picture her hair blowing in the wind. 

And Kelsey... I love that girl. I promise she has never seen the Titanic movie, but she sure loves to pose like this.

Did you know that boulders are comfortable?

There wasn't much to climb, but the boys got "to the top". 

And then it was back to the campsite for a dinner of roasted hot dogs and s'mores. While we were at the tower, the camera had a small accident. (See #3 of this post.) I won't mention who was carrying it at the time, but Olivia is okay after her tumble. With the help of some superglue we were able to get it working well enough to finish the trip, but it's time to purchase a new camera.

Maddox had his own idea about what to do with marshmallows.

By then, Olivia was sick of me taking pictures of her. She was a good sport about it, though.

We finished off the day with a gorgeous sunset and after some time around the campfire, we headed for bed.

Despite it's promising beginning, the night we spent at the camp left much to be desired. Without going on and on about it, let me just say that it was The Longest Night of My Life. Temperatures dropped to well below 40 degrees, and we all froze and got very little sleep. In desperation, I got up and started another campfire around 4:30 in the morning. Olivia discovered that if she draped her blanket over her face, it kept the smoke off and she could sleep in a camping chair. Eventually I decided that we were going to forego breakfast at the campsite and head into Lawton for a hot breakfast in a warm restaurant. There wasn't much to choose from, so we ended up at Chick-Fil-A. At least it had an indoor playground and free butter mints, right?

By the time we finished breakfast, the sun was shining and the day was rapidly warming up. We decided to take a hike before breaking camp. We headed for the Lost Lake picnic area to try to find the place we hiked several years ago. On the way there, we finally got to see some of the bison herd. Unfortunately, the camera wouldn't cooperate and I didn't get any pictures. But I did get a good shot of this cutie before the hike:

This hike was a little more challenging than our last one.

There was a lot more hills and rocks to climb.

Kelsey also found a sign that spring was indeed on it's way.

The river was pretty low, so Olivia suggested we go down and climb on the rocks and cross to the other side.

It was a great spot for a rest.

Except that not all of us were ready to rest. Maddox kept climbing and climbing and climbing all over the rocks. I swear that boy is part mountain goat. After a few minutes my nerves couldn't take it any more and we started back.

On the way back we stopped to enjoy a good view of the dam.

Did you know that rocks are comfortable?

With the exception of the hours we spent between 10pm and 7am, it was a wonderful trip. We learned a lot about what we will and won't do the next time, and can't wait to go back and camp again.

20 Rules for Camping

1. When camping in an area without cell phone towers, if your phone says "searching for service", turn it off. Otherwise, it'll be dead before morning.

2. If there is a large rock in your path, go around it. Don't try to step over it.

3. If you are determined to disobey Rule #2, don't do it holding a camera.

4. If the forecast temperatures have a low of 50 degrees or less, JUST DON'T GO. 40 degrees in a dark tent is much, much colder than 40 degrees on a sunny day.

5. If you are determined to disobey Rule #5, there is No Such Thing as too many blankets. If you made your kids leave extra blankets at home, be prepared for intense feelings of guilt at 3am when everyone is too cold to sleep.

6. Exposing your pasty white skin to the sun for an extended period of time without sunblock will likely result in a sunburn. It doesn't matter if it's only 55 or 60 degrees.

7. While it IS important to stay hydrated and drink lots of water, remember that walking the 50 yards to the restroom every hour or two is going to be rather aggravating. Especially at night, when your bladder shrinks in the cold.

8. If you are camping with young children, come prepared with melatonin to help them get to sleep in an unfamiliar place.

9. If you don't have time to let the fire burn out and are going to douse it with water, move items at least 10
feet away from the campfire. Anything you don't want covered in soot, that is.

10. Two roasting sticks are not enough for 5 people.

11. When roasting a hot dog over the fire, don't leave the stick pointed at a downward angle. Hot dogs are heavy.

12. Handling a cactus is not a good idea. Small, hairlike spines in your hands can really, really hurt.

13. Almost anything will burn to oblivion in a good campfire.

14. Vans are not warmer than tents unless the motor is running and the heater is on.

15. Don't forget the Chapstick.
16. No matter how nice the campground restroom is, the toilet paper will always be lousy. Bring your own from home.

17. Be prepared to stop at every pile of giant boulders you pass while walking or hiking. Your kids MUST climb them and take turns being "king/queen of the mountain".

18. Great hiking experiences in the day can make up for a very miserable night in the cold.

19. Come prepared with lots and lots of snacks, especially if you have little boys. They never stop eating. Ever.

AND last but not least....

20. Take time to stop and enjoy the view.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

If Parents of Toddlers Ran the World...

Lately I've been doing some thinking about the struggles that parents of young children face. These cute-as-a-button-bundles-of-joy are like Jekyll and Hyde. One minute they can be sweet, adorable, wildly intelligent love bugs, and as soon as we let our guard down they are pitching a fit, making a mess, or destroying the house. While we often commiserate together to relieve our stress, it's not something we really enjoy doing. In fact, if we were the decision-makers in this world, we'd just change some things all together and eliminate many of the problems before they begin. 

For example:

1. Ban public toilets that flush automatically. In order to get my terrified child into the public stall so they won't have an gross accident in their underwear, I am required to stand at the back of the commode and cover the sensor with my hand, so it doesn't go off while they reaching over to get toilet paper, pulling up their britches, or even in the stall at all. Yes, this grosses me out more than you can imagine.

2. Chicken nuggets would be a healthy meal option. In fact, they might even be their own food group. It would be acceptable to eat them every day. Mommy-guilt for feeding them to your children would be eliminated. (This would also apply to french fries and pudding cups.)

3. Eliminate Daylight Savings Time. A sleeping schedule is a delicate thing for many toddlers. When you screw with it, everyone is miserable. Adults get grumpy enough adjusting to the time change. For a 3-year old, you just might see a sonic meltdown.

4. Never have afternoon church. The church I attend likes to keep congregations to no more than a few hundred people. In order to accomplish this, we are assigned to a congregation based on where we live, and several groups will share the same building but have different meeting times. Each calendar year we rotate times. This year, our slot for the main service and Sunday school classes is from 1:00-4:00 p.m.  Incidentally, that coincides almost exactly with Maddox's nap time. Yea for us.

5. Stop making pants that fasten with buttons and zippers. No. Just... no. These kids are learning to dress themselves. I know teenagers that need to be reminded  regularly to "close the barn door", and they have already mastered fine motor skills! Besides, the inability of a small child to get pants on and off without help can easily result in... well, use your imagination. I've talked more than enough about "potty problems" in this post already and I'm not going there again.

6. Get rid of shoes with laces.
 I have no clue why they even sell shoes that have laces in toddler sizes. Have the manufacturers ever tried to tie a shoe of a kid that normally moves at 60 mph and has a hard time sitting still? Or even one that doesn't really want to get dressed in the first place? Or perhaps keeping that shoe tied when the kid is riding in the car for more than 20 minutes at a time and is looking for something to play with?

7. Invent a cleaner that can remove Sharpie from the walls without taking off the paint. Or better yet, let Sharpie-decorated walls, furniture, and clothing be the new hot fashion rage.

8. Dumb television shows wouldn't exist. This includes anything that has adults in cheesy costumes, mixes cartoons and live people, or has words that are repeated over and over and over and over and over again. No matter how much I try to regulate TV, it seems like these things sneak into the Netflix queue while I'm sleeping. And for some strange reason, they are like crack for kids. They just want more and more and more...

9. Playgrounds would be completely enclosed by railings. No more of this "hovering around the edges to make sure the 2-year old doesn't fall off" bit. Give them one way in, one way out, and a cage to climb in. 

10. Sharing would be socially unacceptable. It would be totally okay for kids to have the attitude of "what's mine is mine, what's yours is...mine?"  Wait. We might need to rethink this one.

I say it's time for us to take over the world and right these wrongs. Parents Of Toddlers (POTs) unite!!