Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Second Grade

In my preparation for college and subsequent adjustment disorder as I find a new path with The Boy out of our home and tucked two hours away in college, I almost forgot to share The Short Chic's first day of second grade.

                        

You should know that she loves school! Every week of the summer she played teacher/school with her Nana and Papa. I am sure Papa is thrilled she is back in school so he can finally get out of detention!

She still taking her lunch to school. Peanut Butter and Jelly is still her favorite lunch. 

Boys still have cooties. But maybe not as many as last year. 

Justice sells her favorite clothing. Her back to school outfit is 100% from them. 

                           

She does her own hair in the morning. That should explain a lot. 

Currently, she is in love with the Disney's Descendant's movie. We have watched it on loop since it first aired. 

She was assigned to her desired teacher. Her desired teacher assigned homework on the first day. Despite this, she is still in love with her teacher! 


Here is to a great school year!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

(4-1)(Greek Life x College) = An Adjustment Disorder

While summer has not officially ended, and won't for another few weeks, school has resumed therefore unofficially ending summer.
We have had all summer to emotionally and physically prepare to send The Boy off to school. I have been physically ready for some time but honestly over the past few weeks I also felt emotionally prepared. 

I have enjoyed seeing so many parents post to social media as they too sent their children off to college. Dorm rooms were decorated, textbooks purchased, schedules have been walked, roommates have met, and good-bye's were made. 

This past weekend, The Boy moved into college. But you won't find a single photo of it on my social media. You won't find a single post-move in comment anywhere. Sadly, I can't get a redo and this day is forever embedded into my memory. 

Let me try and explain why. 

About one and half weeks before school The Boy was invited to join a fraternity. He accepted. The fraternity requires him to move into their house so we cancelled his housing contract with the University. The fraternity actually wanted him to move in the week prior but we had one last lake weekend as well as doctor appointments so he could not. 

We knew he was giving up a three-man, two room, private bathroom suite to a four-man, two-room suite with a hall bathroom.  At the last minute, I rushed around and returned all twin-size bedding in the last week and repurchased full-sized bedding. 

Our last night at home we made a meal at The Boy's request. Then we spent the night packing, laughing, and just being together. We got up early the next morning and quickly packed everything into two vehicles.  The Boy and I made the two-hour trip together. We were in such good moods. We laughed. We sang along to the radio. I attempted to impart any last minute advice I could think of. Some very traditional and some was anything but traditional. 

The Short Chic, The Husband, and my Momma also made the trip. So did The Boy's father. We arrived at the fraternity house a little after ten in the morning. The Boy's father got there first and learned most of the men were still sleeping. Sure enough, sleepy eyed, half dazed young men started coming out of the fraternity house to help us unload his belongings. 

We were escorted up to our sons new room. The first thing I see when the door opened was a bar. The entire "study room" was lined with couches and a giant flat screen TV. The second room, the sleeping room, held not four beds but five. There was a single path through the sleeping room. Such tight quarters! The Husband quickly deemed the entire place felt like a "refugee camp." 

We learned quickly there was no room for his stuff. The roommates, quickly tried to help him as much as possible. They moved things out of closet. Grandma started unpacking his clothing because we had transported them in plastic totes that we had wanted to take home. There was no desk. No dresser. There was no sense of being settled. There was no sense that we had given our son every tool necessary for his success. Decisions about what to send home were coming from all different directions. 

More than once in the fifty some minutes we were in his fraternity house, we were told the men in the room would organize and figure it all out and that it was no longer "Mom's problem." We were also told that the fraternity had an event at 12:00. They were serenading the sororities and since The Boy could not move down early he would not be dancing/singing with them but he would participate.  The men were never rude to us, in fact I would say there were very nice and even bent over to assist us, but the unspoken truth was they were not ready for us at the house and our presence was unnecessary and they were ready for us to move on. 

I half jokingly asked permission if it was okay to go to the bookstore and get textbooks. We had less than one hour to get textbooks before everyone was reporting back to get ready for the serenading. 

One hour later, we had spent a quick $450 at the bookstore (did anyone else have to purchase an iClicker as a required item?), ran through a Burger King drive through, we arrived back at the fraternity parking lot. We did not even go back into his room, instead we stood in the parking lot with the truck running I was able to take one photo of him. His mouth full of food, as we said good-bye.

In less than two hours, we had arrived on campus, unloaded, reloaded with everything he did not have room for, purchased books and said good-bye.  

The last two days have passed me in a blur of tears. I can't stop thinking about how we left each other, how rushed it was, and the conditions in which we left him in. The Short Chic and I cried ourselves to sleep last night. She kept saying, "I lost my bubby."  I felt unable to console her because I could not console myself.  My loving husband told me today I look like I have black eyes and my face is all puffy. 

I honestly believe I was emotionally ready. I think had the circumstances been different I would have been sad but not devastated. I do realize that I physically prepared him for college as I thought about my own college experience. I realize now, he is having his own experience and it is foreign to me. A few people close to me tell me by the time we go back for Parent's Weekend that the house will look completely different (that is because the pledges will be required to clean and spruce up the place). 

The good news is he texted this morning and raved about the great night of sleep he got. He loves his new bedding. Of course he still does not have power strips or a dresser. Classes start tomorrow and I can only hope that he remembers the reason he is at school. And I do believe in the long run, his decision to join a fraternity will be positive decision with long-term benefits.

I just wish we had a do-over of move-in day. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tour of Missouri: Montauk State Park and The Ozark National Scenic Riverway

August has become our summer vacation month. Summer activities have usually wound down and we like to get one last hooray in before school starts.  This summer we decided to travel our own state and visit a few places we have been dreaming of visiting but were a little too far for a weekend road trip.


Despite last minute vacation glitches we managed to pull out of Kansas City around 9:00 in the morning headed to Montauk State Park just outside of Licking, Missouri.  Montauk State Park is one of three state parks where you can trout fish in Missouri. We are frequent visitors of Bennett Springs State Park but not Montauk, just because of the travel distance from our house. (Bennett Springs is about 3 hours and Montauk is double that.)



Setting up and settling in was relatively easy. We took a tour of the park and hiked around exploring the spring that feeds into the river. The Park stocks this river each night with trout. The fishermen like this river better for fishing than Bennett Springs. They say there is more space to fish in, which means a less crowded fishing environment, and larger fish to catch.

The women judge the campgrounds by the campsite and the activities available to keep the young non-fishermen kids entertained while the Dad's, brother, and papa spend hours each day fishing.

The Campground: 

I wish we had brought our bicycles. We opted not to bring them as we were visiting the Ozark Mountains and honestly felt we would be required to bike up and down hills all day long. On the contrary, the park is relatively flat.  At first inspection, it seemed that the shower rooms were really far from our campsite, but in actuality they were only a short walk away.


We lost all cell reception a mile or so before we reached the entrance to the park. We noticed there was wi-fi available in the park but we could not connect to it. We had no TV reception but that was not a big deal.  Our electric box kept blowing the circuit but a quick call to the camp office and someone came out and replaced it for us. (We learned later it was not just a maintenance man but actually the park superintendent!)  On Day 3 of vacation the superintendent came back to our site to fix the "broken wi-fi" which we had no idea was located between our two sites. As soon as he fixed it, we could once again interact with the outside world (still no cell service).

Our camp space was huge! The staff were nice host. They even came by and cleaned out our fire ring while we were visiting. My only complaint is that the trash dumpster was located right in our site and since the fish cleaning station was closed for repairs, there was a lot of fish parts going into the trash dumpster. Unfortunately, that made for some pretty foul smelling air. Our buddy, The Superintendent, did tell us that the dumpsters get emptied and washed out three times a week. That did help the later part of our stay but there was two days of unpleasantness to get through!

Hiking: 

There are hiking trails at Montauk State Park. There was a short hike to the spring as well as a Lake Trail. Both of these hikes were easy and the short people in our party loved hiking them. We passed the hatchery, the lake, and we saw a variety of wildlife even during the short hikes.



We did convince the kids to hike the Pine Ridge Trail despite it having a rugged label.  The Pine Ridge Trail is listed as a 1.5 loop trail. I think our girls were finished before we even hit the 1/4 mile point. That is when the complaining started. By the time we were 1/2 of a mile into it, the girls' complaints were getting more desperate:

Short Person #1: "Mom, I think there are ticks on my socks!"
Mom #1: "No, honey, those are not ticks, that is dirt. You are fine, let's just keep going!"

Short Person #2: "Mom, there are ticks on my legs and they are crawling all over!"
Mom #2: "There are no ticks, you are fine, stop complaining!"
Big Brother #1: "Those are not ticks, you are sweating and it is tickling your legs."

By the time we reached the 3/4 mile point, it was obvious to all of us adults that in fact we had walked through a nest of seed ticks and they were hungrily crawling up our bodies at a very fast pace! We rushed through the hike as fast as possible, went straight to the showers to wash as many off of us as possible.

                                    
In case you have never seen seed ticks before, I found this photo online. Those might look like oil spots on the jeans but in fact they are seed ticks. It looks us hours to remove all we could find. And if that were not enough of a vacation time commitment, it also required a trip into Licking the next morning to visit a laundry mat so we could wash all clothing (including our shoes) to really make sure we had eliminated them.

And as if this were not enough, I should also say that we not only were eaten alive by the seed ticks but we also encountered more than our share of spiders, spider webs, and apparently mosquito and chiggers. We have been home for nine days and our bodies are still recovering from being the main course at the human buffet table.

Swimming: 

There is no swimming allowed at Montauk State Park. Or wading for any purpose other than fishing. Or canoeing. The sole purpose of the river at Montauk State Park is for trout fishing.

However, with that said, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways is very near to the state park. A short drive outside the park will lead you to Tam Vat, or other areas on the river perfect for swimming. I should warn you, the water at Tam Vat is near to the spring and therefore it is cold. Very cold.  That of course, did not stop our short people from playing in the water.


Sight-Seeing:

My mother has a first cousin that lives in Licking, Missouri just a few miles from Montauk State Park. He invited us to go exploring with him and his family on our second day of vacation. We arrived early and the girls were able to assist in doing chores of their animals before we headed out of a day long trip.


The first place my second cousin took us to was my Great Grandparents grave sites. My mother has longed to re-visit this place as I think the last time she was not yet in kindergarten.  In addition to the cemetery, we also drove past their former property. Some of the land has been redeveloped into a shooting range, so maybe the landscape has been altered but I can say it is not at all what my four year old brain remembered.


After we chased my Mendenhall family roots, the cousins took us to Alley Springs and Alley Mill. The mill is a 100 year old grist mill near a natural spring that pumps out 81 million gallons of beautiful turquoise water a day.  The water feeds into Jack's Fork River and Current Rivers.


The Mill is not functionable but many of the tools used to grind flour 100 years ago are still located inside the mill and are available not just for viewing purposes but we were able to open them and explore how they actually operated.  What is funny about Alley Springs is that as I am standing looking at the beauty of this bright red building surrounded by turquoise water, I got the largest sense of de ja vue. I knew I had never been there before so it took me a few moments to realize, I had seen this building before; on an old calendar hanging in my growing up home!




A nice hiking trail surrounds the spring and leads you along the river's edge. The rocky bluff to the right of the river is full of small caves that our short people enjoyed poking their noses (as well as whole bodies into).


After Alley Springs, we headed to a public access area on the Jack's Fork for a mid-day swim.  The water was perfect! Clear as you can imagine, crisp and cool but not cold and frigid! The short people had so much fun jumping off the log embedded in the river. We watched people cliff dive into a deep pool right across the river from where we were.  What a wonderful day to spend a summer day!

After our swim, we headed in another direction from Eminence, Missouri to visit Rocky Falls. Rocky Falls is a shut-in, a narrow passage way or a constriction in a waterway. Rocky Falls is on the Current River and has a steep cascading waterfall that empties into a deep pool of water. People from all over flock to the area to sit in the water, slide down the rocks and just enjoy this geological space.


The short people loved it! The mommies were very disappointed that we did not bring our swimsuits!  Instead we settled for cooling our toes, our feet, ankles, and maybe even calves in the water. If Rocky Falls had not been 2 plus hours away (one direction) from our campsite we might have returned to play another day!


Alley Springs, Rocky Falls, as well as Round Springs, Big Springs, Blue Springs, and Welch Springs are all located within minutes of Eminence, Missouri and are all part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. They are surrounded by National Park Services and have many campgrounds. This area is also part of the United States Bicycle Route System (Highway 76) so watch out for bicyclist as you visit this part of the state! We encountered a group from Germany during our time here.

The Fishing:

Despite the fun we had exploring a part of the state we had never visited, the men folk never left the state park. They came all this way to fish and fish is what they did!


They got up early, they fished until the bell rang in the evening. They caught large fish. They caught small fish. They kept some fish. They threw back some others. Lines got tangled. Daily limits were met.


Other odd things happen when you least expect them to. The Husband ran into baseball friends of ours at the lodge one day. They were down to enjoy the canoeing on the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers and happen to come to the lodge for dinner one night. The Husband invited them to try trout fishing and they did. (Is it harder than it looks? I promise you should keep trying!)

We caught enough fish during our four days of fishing to host a fish fry on our last night. Threat of storm did not prevent us from enjoying the freshly caught trout.


To summarize, fathers taught sons a few lessons. Students might have out-fished their teachers.  Best friends shared more than a few frustrations and developed a deeper appreciate for how tough it is to get the fish with a little mouth to open up and bite the tiny fly. But as our time at Montauk State Park came to an end, everyone agreed that the any vacation that includes trout fishing is a good vacation!





Thursday, August 13, 2015

My Sixth Anniversary

                      
Six years ago I started this blog. Six years ago I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and I could not comprehend the fact that I had cancer. Six years ago when I left the doctors office with the news that I had cancer, I could not even say the word without crying.  Instinctively, I started blogging. I think I was trying to grapple with the idea that I could be sick. This little blog helped me process through my illness and continues to be a source of comfort to me.

I don't get a lot of traffic here any more, mostly because I changed my URL and lost a lot of folks. Hardly anyone comments on my post. Most day's I am not even sure if anyone, other than my dutiful husband and son, read my post. I do this mostly as an outlet for me. Blogging has always helped me process through my thoughts and become more focused or even centered.


I use to post several times a week. I hardly post once a week now. At times I have thought about shutting it down but somehow I am connected here. It is a reminder of where I have come in the past six years. Six years ago, I was a mother with an expiration date. Without medical intervention I would not be here today. That is a hard truth and is part of my past. This blog connects me to that. As I stay connected to that, I strive to be a better person each day.

Over the past six years, I have acknowledge some things in my life that need to change. Some of them I have not been ready to change. I made a decision over the summer that now was the time to take on one of my biggest projects. No more Diet Soda. I gave up drinking non-diet soda years ago (was I maybe 15 years old) when my best friend was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.  NutraSweet was new to the scene and it answered her prayers and I jumped in with full support!




                                             


I have given up a few things in my life but my successes have been minor. Yes I stopped drinking regular soda but added diet soda. I also gave up chewing gum in 1993. I also stopped drinking diet soda during  the first trimester of each of my pregnancies as well as during my chemotherapy months. I stopped during those times because diet soda no longer tasted good. I havenever given up cold turkey at the height of my enjoyment (summertime and Dirty Diet Cokes).

I am happy to report that I am one month free of all diet soda and soda. There have been some rocky times and I wish I could say that I felt those were over. Just yesterday I had to fight off the fact that we had a diet soda in the fridge and it would be okay if I drank just one. On my way to work a few days ago I listened to a pre-recorded interview with Pat O'Brien. He was talking about overcoming his addiction and how he has to make the decision to be substance free every single day. I know that is true for me.

                               
So, there you have it. Six years have gone by and I am cancer free. One month has passed and I am diet soda free.

In case you were wondering,  I spent my sixth anniversary with my family and some awesome friends. We completed a five mile float down the Black River in Lesterville, MO. It was a relaxing day spent in cool, crisp, crystal clear water. The weather was perfect. It was a very relaxing way to spend such an anniversary!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Freshman Orientation

The Boy and I recently attended Freshman Orientation at his future college.  We were able to go down the night before and stay in one of the residence halls, walk around campus, enjoy some nightlife, and overall just get excited about the next four years of his life.

Can I just say, I think I am officially too old to stay in a dorm room. Even for one night.


We visited the library. Many things have changed since I was in school. The Boy and I had a fun ole time of "playing" with the mechanical sliding book shelves.  The library on campus has one the best great rooms around. Students there call it the Harry Potter Room because it does look like something straight from the pages of the book or even the set of the movie.  I made sure The Boy knew where it was and could find it. Now I will keep my fingers crossed that he visits this room during the school year for reasons other than site seeing!



During Orientation the school had a vendor fair up. Numerous clubs and organizations were present to help you get connected before school even started. The Athletic Department was there taking applications for employment for various positions: ticket tacker, parking lot attended, ushers, concessions, security, ect.  Knowing The Boy's love for KSU athletics I thought this would be the perfect 10 hour a week $10 an hour job for him. When The Boy learned he would not actually be able to watch the sporting event, he walked away and left me standing there apologizing to the Athletic Department Representative.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Boy randomly bumped into a former graduate from his old high school at a fraternity table.  They spent a great deal of time catching up and talking about rushing as well fraternity life. The Boy's father joined in and compared some notes about how things have changed from then to now.




I am excited he is on this path. I know over the next four years he will be presented with many paths to choose from. I just hope he picks the one that is right for him and  will ultimately lead him to the realization of his life goals.  

In the meantime, I am going to be busy enjoying my last few weeks with him at home! 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Independence Day Camping Trip

This week has been a super crazy one. The Boy has been gone this week. He is on vacation in Michigan.  We had severe weather hit our area Monday night. Before we could recover from that, Tuesday morning we had another threat in our neighborhoods. An armed gunman entered two homes in our area and shot a mother and daughter. Our entire community went into lock-down mode as the police searched for the escaped gunman for hours. Thankfully, The Short Chic and her Summer Activity Director (aka: The Babysitter) were not in our neighborhood during the lock-down.

The entire community has remained pins and needles as no arrest has been made. We continue to pray for the health and recovery for the victims. We also try to balance our need for information with the families privacy and the police's ability to do their job. 

With all of the craziness in our lives I have not taken a moment to reflect on our Independence Day weekend camping trip. 


Once again we visited Watkins Mill State Park with several of our camping friends joined us and I think we ended up with approximately ten families in our group.  Scooters, glow sticks,  kickball, and near urgent care visits dominated the weekend cul de sac that we called our home. 

Camping on holiday weekends always brings us camping visitors. The Husband's parents joined us Thursday night as we celebrated his mom's birthday and had a fish fry. We were also joined by the Turley family Thursday evening. My Momma joined us Friday as did my cousin Dennis and my long time best friend Dana. Saturday morning Angie's dad came to visit us. Then The Husband's dad, sister, nephews, niece, and great niece joined us for an afternoon of camp fire and swimming. Even my longtime former co-worker Debbie made a brief stop by the campsite. Such a great time visiting people who are important to us!


Besides good company, we enjoyed some good food over the holiday weekend.  Besides the fish fry, we made several meals in the dutch ovens, pie iron sandwiches, and for the first time ever we had grilled hamburgers. Yes, you read that correctly, for the first time ever we had hamburgers.

Forcing the girls to take a food break was the only thing that slowed them down the entire weekend. 


We enjoyed fireworks. Naps. Some paint can (I will devote a whole post to paint can another day!) I even managed to read an entire novel! The most amazing thing about the entire weekend might not have been the celebration of our nation's independence but rather the unseasonable cool temperatures!
We are accustom to triple digits or near triple digits this time of the year. Instead we experienced mid 80 degree days and cooler nights.  The cooler temps did not stop the little girls from hitting up the swimming beach.



Before I wrap up this post, I should say that I attempted a few new things. I saw the jar of eggs on Pinterest and I have to say, I tried it and I liked it. I was able to store a dozen and half eggs in one quart jar. When I went to make breakfast I easily poured out the amount of eggs I needed. And not once did I have to worry about breaking any eggs in transport.


The last thing that I am able to show you in my new camping flag. After earning the Missouri Camping Award, I was trying to figure out the best way to display our new award. I decided to make a flag to hang on my PVC Lamp Post. At Hobby Lobby I found some water resistant material created to line the bottom of a couch. Hobby Lobby had lots of colors of the material so I made an applique camping scene and then sewed my camping award to the flag. I left room on the right hand side of the flag to add the five year awards, assuming we will earn a few of those. I also left room under the camper award for the year bars that we will keep earning.

My Grandma Baker was an applique quilter. I have to say it looks easy enough but it is tedious! I think she would have been proud of my first attempt.


The good news, this camping trip made our third campground this summer. Two more to go and we will earn our second camping award!


Monday, June 29, 2015

Tour of Missouri: Crowder State Park



It has become somewhat of a tradition to go camping over Father's Day Weekend. This year we traveled but stayed close to home. We visited Crowder State Park in Trenton, Missouri about one and half hours north of Kansas City. On Father's Day Weekend, the men folk get to decide our menu and get to sit around like kings. We also look the other way when they make questionable fashion choices. The Husband decided it was okay to wear three different types of camo at the same time!

 Crowder State Park is a short ten minutes east of Jamesport, Missouri which is home to an Amish community. After breakfast on Saturday, we drove over and enjoyed shopping in the Amish stores: giant cinnamon rolls, horse drawn carriages, preserved fruits and vegetables, and who can resist sleeping kittens.


In addition to the Amish stores, we also visited many local antique stores. I have been looking for a vintage fly fishing rod for a while and I am happy to say I found one.I have not done anything with it but I am looking to sharing my find with you all a bit later. We finished our time in Jamesport having lunch at my favorite local place. The Husband and I shared a pork tenderloin as well as a piece of blackberry cobbler. 

Normally, we spend a lot of time exploring the state park we are staying in. However, by the time we returned to the park after exploring Jamesport it was hot! Instead of hiking a trail, we decided to hunker down in the air conditioning and nap.

 After napping, we were visited at the campsite by several of my extended family members. The sun set and the heat declined. The reunion lasted all evening until the threat of storm rushed everyone home. We cleaned up the campsite and prepared for an evening of wind and rain. 

As the storms continued to threaten us Sunday morning we packed up and headed home very early.  We enjoyed our short time at Crowder State Park even though we did not explore much. 

To the men folk; Happy Father's Day!