I have no idea why Natalie was never lucky and why she never will be. I don't know why that day was the saddest day of her whole entire life. Maybe it's because she was a sadist that day and sadists just aren't as revered as they used to be.
She seemed a whole lot happier when we started packing for our vacation in the mountains. I enforce a strict no-sadism policy on vacations.
Packing for a week means I have to try and give the appearance of being organized. I am packing for four people, because if I let my kids pack, Natalie would be bring nothing but velvet Christmas dresses, Eve would bring nothing but bathing suits, and Daniel would bring absolutely no underwear. So, my lists are fairly specific, as in, PACK UNDERWEAR.
For this trip, Matt was the one who had the Dad of the Year list. His list included things like bug spray, tweezers, Benadryl, kids' toothbrushes, hiking boots, first aid kit...
My list was much shorter and kind of made me feel like we had different expectations for the trip: wine, corkscrew.
The best part about packing is that I only have to put stuff in bags and Matt will take them out and load them into the van when it's 100+ degrees outside. He doesn't trust the way I load a van. I am apparently not practical enough to be trusted with this task. Much like I am unable to be trusted to screw a twist-on lid correctly and orange juice comes flying out when you shake the bottle. It's a condition I have and I'm very sensitive about it, therefore, dot dot dot, I can't load the van.
I was more than ready for vacation, so much so that I bought all the groceries the day before we left so I wouldn't have to go to the store when we got to the cabin. The only flaw in this plan was that I had Eve with me while we were shopping and I couldn't say no when she would pick things up and put them in the cart. Have you ever tried leaving Trader Joe's without buying ten years' worth of snack items? IMPOSSIBLE! I guess I could have said no, but she was putting really yummy looking stuff like cheesy poofs and potato chips in there. And she had cancer. Therefore, dot dot dot, Matt had to load the van.
Eve and I also cannot be trusted to buy normal amounts of snack items, and by "normal amounts," I mean that Matt would have to put the kids in the van and then pack the food in around them. The upside was, the kids had built-in airbags with all the bags of chips that surrounded them. The bad news is that chips were within everyone's reach on the way to the mountains. Wait, was that a bad thing? IT'S VACATION, PASS ME THE RUFFLES. But the thing that probably annoyed Matt the most was that every time we had to stop and get out, he would have to unpack a tunnel inside of the van so the kids could escape and then carefully put it all back before he would have to do it all over again to get them back into the van. But he's always been an okay Tetris player, and besides, I can't be trusted to pack the van.
So we eventually arrived in Sapphire, NC with nothing but some underwear and nine years' worth of snacks on our backs. I was immediately in love with the place because A) I got my hiking shoes and B) I got no cell signal. I enjoy being cut off from the world. I have no idea what happened in the world the week we were gone, and unless Andy Griffith dies, I don't want anyone to tell me.
Our plans included hiking, reading, movies, and board games. That was it. No Wii. No Netflix. No, kids, you will live to survive a day without Super Mario and the entire online library of Spongebob Squarepants.
Look how well-adjusted they'd lead you to believe they are!
We played board game after dice game after card game after board game. A whole week of SORRY! and UNO are better for the soul than chicken soup, which I've always found to be best for the hunger. And Daniel doesn't care if he doesn't win, because I've been dreaming of second place! Tell that to Michael Phelps. It's all about perspective.
Look at all that
mountain craft beer for the gut chicken soup for the soul. It does good things.
Give a man a fish, he can eat for a day. Give a mom a can of bug spray, she can let her kids loose in the mountains for a week. And since DEET has been proven to be non-carcinogenic, you can feel better about all the hot dogs you're about to feed those kids.
We were excited to find so may hiking trails within walking distance of the cabin. Matt and I also underestimated the children. Eve and Daniel, who without fail can't walk more than five minutes without complaining of arthritic knees, both were able to keep up without whining. All three kids thought hiking was pretty much the coolest thing ever, and it's a low-cost activity that I am willing to sponsor.
And I bet we all came off of the trails smelling like wet dogs, but the important thing is that we smelled like wet dogs TOGETHER. And if you get stinky together, it's hard to notice how stinky you really are. Except for me, because I am sure I smelled like dry dog.
We came across a trail that would make for a good postcard. If anyone sent postcards anymore. BUT DON'T YOU DARE CLOSE MY POST OFFICE OR ELSE I'LL START AN ONLINE CAMPAIGN AND EMAIL ALL MY VIRTUAL SIGNATURES TO THE POSTMASTER GENERAL.
Incredibly, "Falls" in Silver Run Falls refers to a waterfall and not anyone tripping and falling on their face. We actually seemed incredibly coordinated on our hikes, probably because we were carrying a first aid pack. You can't fall and scrape your knees when you have band-aids and Neosporin. You have to wait to do that until you are unprepared, and preferably in a nasty parking lot with broken glass and cigarette butts.
It was gorgeous. Much like I wake up in the morning. Well, the mornings that I wake up in bed with my makeup on and my hair done. Not the ones I wake up on the couch with potato chip crumbs on my shirt.
Water from waterfalls is so very clean, as evidenced by the fact that it is white, therefore, dot dot dot, no bath needed.
Just add clothes and go.
The kids got mad that I wouldn't let them follow Matt when he decided to start scaling some roots. I did not pack casts nor crutches. There are only so many things you can fit in a backpack.
Whoever wrote the info sign for Whiteside Mountain is awesome. I enjoyed reading this out loud to my children:
Hang on to your parents. You could slip through the fence and fall off the cliff. Lightning is deadly.
Yes, Eve, that's a cliff you could slip over. There's no second chance if you slip over the cliff.
We made it!
Wait, where's Daniel? Did he not hang onto a parent?
Oh, there he is. Looking out for lightning. And bears. Because bears are deadly.
The thing about Daniel is, he gets worried over...everything. If you hear him start a question with What if, it means he's come up with a new way to die. We made the mistake of telling the kids that if they weren't behaving on vacation, we would make them sleep outside with the bears. And then we spent the next four days trying to convince Daniel that no bears were going to get him while we were hiking. It was a grizzly four days of imagining Yogi Bear chomping down on our sinewy limbs.
I've always wanted to use the word "sinewy!"
We got up to a place called Fool's Rock, which had a pretty interesting story behind it. Basically, in 1911, a group of hikers went up Whiteside Mountain and someone went out on this rock. (Whether it was called Fool's Rock before the incident or after is unknown to me.) So, dude falls off the rock. Like a fool. Probably because he wasn't holding onto a parent. Battered and bloody, his friend sees that he is still alive, caught up in a rhododendron bush. The short of it is, the hero walks a ledge to get to his friend, but the ledge ends thirty feet across and thirty feet above the dude. So hero pal scales the rock and somehow gets bloody friend back up to safety. And he is awarded a Carnegie Gold Medal, which is not even awarded anymore. You can only get a Bronze. And I saw the Romanians when they got Bronze and not one of them looked excited.
In order to get a medal, you had to put your life in grave danger in an attempt to save someone else. But it can't be your job to save someone. And you can't be related to them. So my point is, HANG ON TO YOUR PARENTS because I can't even get a Bronze medal if I have to go and rescue you.
At last, we reached the top. 4,930 feet and no injuries or deaths or maulings by bears.
Daniel suddenly realizes he is at the summit, and if a bear attacks, he has nowhere to go but down.
It was at this moment that Daniel decided he and his sisters need hiking backpacks. Probably so if a bear came, he could chuck a filled picnic basket at it and run. Do you have money for a backpack, Daniel? No, but we can ask Santa for hiking boots and backpacks and gummies and that way you won't have to spend any of your money!
My favorite mural I saw was on the side of a gas station. I like that there is a Native shooting an arrow while a dude in jeans is playing golf next to a bear climbing up a tree. BEARS! (Click picture for up-close awesomeness.)
On the 3rd of July, we went to a lake to watch fireworks that were set off in celebration of the 4th of July.
We tailgated right on the lake.
Other people tailgated in the cemetery. I guess the residents don't really mind, because there were no signs that said, "Please refrain from drinking beer/smoking cigarettes/men wearing sleeveless shirts while enjoying our lawn."
Daniel got over his bear-fear just in time to become afraid of a stray firework falling on him.
On the 4th, Sapphire had Yankee Doodle Dandy Day. It was run by senior citizens who must really enjoy children and obnoxious heat.
I still don't know what to call this besides that fight with the big colored Q-tips from American Gladiators.
We had a break while the kids found a creek to wade in and cool off. They promised not to get wet, which means they were soaked within the same breath.
But going back into the bounce houses at 98 degrees when the sun is directly overhead will get you dry faster than it takes to "accidentally" fall in the creek.
And since the children enjoyed this particular attraction, where you are hooked up to a bungee cord and try to see how far you can get before you are whipped back, I've rekindled my desire to look into kid leashes. You know, for when they decide not to heel.
And no matter where you look in this town, there is a beautiful path just hiding around every corner. In this case, hiding behind the hot dog man. How awesome are we to bypass hot dogs in search of a trail? Not that awesome. We had already eaten the hot dogs. But awesome enough.
Our last full day, we spent hiking. And hiking. For miles and miles and hours and hours. And it was way better than eating chips on the sofa and watching Chinese badminton players try to throw an Olympic game.
Just kidding. No one watches badminton.
There was so much rhododendron and so few battered and bloody men tangled up in it.
There were waterfalls with more clean bath water. You just have to get under it before it hits the ground and turns brown like that water in Mexico you're not supposed to drink.
Matt, ever the Eagle Scout, kept referring to a trail map, which went against all my instincts to just walk into the woods and hope to get somewhere before turning back and hoping to stay on the same trail that would lead back to the cabin. I humored him and let him keep us from getting lost.
By the end, you could say the word bear without Daniel freaking out because he was too busy imaging a much more exciting death.
Like, death by water monster.
I was too busy wondering why I bothered having the kids rock hop when they could have stayed drier by just wading through the stream. If you want a kid to keep their feet dry, warning them about wet feet and blisters is not the way to do it.
There is no death by blisters. You had better tell them that there is a water monster waiting for them, and they like the smell of wet dogs.