We went to the mountains in Virginia over our summer track-out to have a reunion with Matt's extended family before settling down to eat and burn anything that was semi-flammable.
Daniel brought his camera and documented the day. Like this:
I know what you're thinking. HE'S GOT SKILLS! You're right. He gets that shiznit from his mother.
That was fun and there was good macaroni and cheese because you have to have macaroni and cheese in foil trays for it to be a reunion. If you don't, it's just a gathering, and gatherings sound like a party in a dry county. Mac and cheese makes everything better.
Also, there was a picnic table full of rainbow loom supplies which kept the kids occupied for hours. And by hours, I mean THREE WHOLE ONES. Which gives you plenty of time to eat more mac and cheese. Because you gotta carb up. Because we're in the mountains. And that means we have to hike.
I mean hiking and hiking. This is the lodge we stayed in.
The kitchen was at the far end of the house and the bathrooms were alllll the way at the other end. And in between were eight sets of bunks and one full-size bed. So if you were cooking and suddenly realized you had to use the toilet, you were basically forced to choose between overcooking whatever it was that was on the stove and peeing your pants. On the plus side, if you left the food on a burner and the kitchen caught on fire, you'd still have plenty of time to finish your bathroom business before the flames got to you.
Douthat State Park has lots of free or nominally-priced programs for families to participate in. We signed up for a night-hike after all the mac and cheese had been eaten. I'd show you pictures, but it was dark. Because it was a night hike. A personal favorite was going to the darkest part of the forest and them chomping down on a LifeSavers Wint-O-Green mint about a half-inch from your partner's face. I don't think we had to be this close, but it was dark and I just kept advancing toward who I thought was Daniel until I headbutted someone of his approximate height. This turned out not just to be a fun way to remove some of that mac and cheese taste from your mouth but also apparently sparks when you bite down. This is called triboluminsence but I'm not going to insult your intelligence and lead you to believe I have any idea what that means. You know I don't know what that means.
The next morning, we went out for a hike where we could actually see things and not trip over anything and die. It was lovely. We got to see this truck and this truck makes EVERYTHING WORTH IT.
I'd ride shotgun in that like a boss. Except I would remain fully clothed unlike those Barbies because maybe whoever is hot gluing naked dolls to the roof of their truck may have some things they are working out and the only way things are going to get worked out is if you remain fully clothed. Which we should all be working on, anyway.
I imagine the work out you get when hiking with kids is similar to the finished product you get when cleaning with kids.
My kids come by it honest when they want to eat every four minutes, but it will seriously slow down a good hike if you just plop down on the trail every four minutes to actually do it.
Sometimes you have to tell them that there is a maniac who is coming after them to get them to move a little faster.
Sometimes this backfires.
Oh well. When you are Mom of the Year, sometimes you just have to brainstorm out loud and not every idea is going to be a winner. But in my defense, most of the stuff that comes out of my mouth is like 94% brilliant. Plus, I think it was Matt who told her a maniac was chasing her down in the woods, anyway.
There are no maniacs on this trail. Go find this trail. Be happy. Bring Cheetos. Be happier.
I was extra happy that I was the only adult who signed up with the kids to participate in the Campire Cookery class where we made peach crisps and ice cream and I GOT TO EAT THE ICE CREAM while the other big people watched. It was not phenomenal ice cream, however, but what can you expect trying to make it next to a raging campfire and your name ain't Ben and/or Jerry? You expect not a lot and when you go through life expecting not a lot, your are pleasantly surprised not a little but a lot. A lot!
There is a beach at the lake and there is also a table where a ranger lets you play with the stuff they had to play with before there were toasters, smartphones, or console TVs. One preteen cousin thought this particular ranger was hot with two T's. I'm gonna tell her I just got bit on the lips by a poisonous snake. She needs to come suck all that venom out! This child is who Sade was singing about.
It was like being in an outdoor Cracker Barrel. I lubbed it.
My favorite was Game of Graces, which apparently is not available on Amazon. So now I need some drumsticks and a sewing hoop for Christmas because this game makes me feel like an ATHLETE.
Also, hydrobiking makes me feel like an athlete. It also makes me feel lucky that I didn't have to be the only adult in a paddleboat with three kids who aren't pedaling.
And lucky to be HERE and not in Detroit or something.
Each day at the beach with zero humidity and no sharks is a win-win in my book. My book of wins runneth over.
And I think kids eating sandwiches are the best. I like to watch kids eat things that are bigger than their faces. Way cuter than cat memes.
Oh, and did I mention I like relaxing in a beach chair without having to worry that my kids are going to be attacked by a shark? I RELAXED IN THAT CHAIR FOR HOURS. No one got attacked by a shark.
Such a pretty place to not get attacked by sharks.
Every once in a while you run into a few rabid kids on the trail and a sad pup.
Why you sad, Eve? You got half a kidney!
My knees get weak when the kids get close to places where they could easily fall and never be heard from again. Like the wall of a dam or Chuck E. Cheese.
Thankfully, no one fell or was attacked by a shark or caught something at Chuck E. Cheese. We just got to see the prettiness that nature and man together made. Like global warming.
Creek crossings. MY FAVORITE. I always feel like I'm in an Indiana Jones movie, but without the snakes or Germans.
Creek crossings are not so much of a favorite for Eve. She gets that cat-in-a-washtub attitude and you practically have to drag her through the water while her tail poofs and she starts shedding.
Dry shoes are for the birds, which is interesting because birds don't use half the things we say they should. Unless they are looking for comfy materials to make a nest, in which case the dry socks would probably be very practical.
I want to sit down on a mossy patch and pull out a baguette from my red gingham picnic basket and just wait for some Disney wildlife to appear while I enjoy the view. Until then, I'll have to sit down on this recliner and pull out some Doritos from the red Doritos bag and wait for some kids to come begging for Doritos while I stare at this picture.
Swimming in the creek with your clothes on is apparently a rite of passage that I'd participate in only if I could be wearing a bathing suit and I was not in a creek. But it's mountain water, so that means it's fresh and you don't have to wash your kids afterwards.
They can splash all they want; just give me a can of bug spray and a small child to pass out in my lap and keep me warm. I am a really good sitter and watcher. Not like a good babysitter, just a person who is good at sitting. But when I see something, I am very good at pointing and alerting other more responsible adults.
Every night we did some more sitting and watched people burn stuff. Doesn't matter if it's flammable- it's going in the fire. We can fish out whatever doesn't burn but quietly emits carcinogens from the glowing embers in the morning. That's why our s'mores have that je ne sais quoi.
And catching fireflies makes me feel like an athlete, also. They are so much easier to get than houseflies and they love living in mayonnaise jars.
I love emptying mayonnaise jars. Into my mouth.
Rangers will also give you plastic containers and headlamps to go search for salamanders. Again, I will just watch.
Eve and her cousin can play in that mess all day searching for salamanders. It's mountain water. Those bitches are sterile.
Awwwwww. That's just as cute as a kid eating a sandwich.
Douthat had everything. CRAFTS. The dude abides.
Survival bracelets. In case the person watching you is unable to get out of her chair in a timely fashion, you'll have some chance of outrunning that mountain shark.
Matt and I took Nat by herself on a hike that may or may not have been labeled "strenuous" on the literature.
Nat checks. Yes, it is strenuous. No, I don't know why we're taking you with us on this hike except that it probably builds character.
Strenuous trail aptly named.
It keeps going up. Why are we doing this to ourselves. I'm so tired reliving it that I can't even go back and put a question mark at the end of that.
But we persevere and make it to the falls where a fabulous rock sofa awaits. You don't know how comfortable a cold, rock sofa is until you hike up to Blue Suck.
It's probably actually not that hard of a hike, but I was carrying a lot of beer and marshmallow weight in my belly from the week so my body wasn't running at full capacity. Getting to the top of the falls, though...that was a challenge. Not a tiring challenge, but a challenge like, ohmygod please don't let my 8-year-old slip and fall backwards and take both of us down to our deaths kind of challenge. A mental challenge. CHALLENGING!
After we were done not falling to deaths, we hiked up to the top of the mountain. No one was maimed or injured or chased by sharks. Go us!
We were sweaty enough that our armpits were actually making the humidity levels rise. That's okay, though, because it's MOUNTAIN sweat, so it's clean. Just salty. This is what happened when I rung out my shirt.
This is what happens when you leave the compound to go out to dinner after a week of fresh mountain air:
Daniel must not have been breathing deep enough.
We went to the Cat and Owl Restaurant which is owned by my mother-in-law's cousin, or my husband's first cousin once-removed, or my children's first cousin twice-removed, or the father of my second cousin-in-law who I am friends with on Facebook. I am good at figuring out all the cousining.
I know people will lie to their children and tell them they don't have favorites, but Daniel was my favorite that night. He brought his camera and asked for a tour of the restaurant so he could document everything. He's got glasses and a case that he diligently returns his camera to. I love everything about this kid.
Plus, these pics are a lil' Twin Peakish, which makes them cooler than your kids' pics who don't wear glasses or return their cameras diligently to their cases.
After dinner, I sat outside while all the people with far more maturity (read: everyone but me) stayed inside to catch up. I just encouraged the fighting with sticks. And we learned the beer song, except I changed beer to cake because I'm a grown up and I don't condone any redneckiness when it comes to kids and alcohol, especially you knuckleheads who pose your babies with bottles of beer. They are KIDS so just let them strike their brother in the nuts with a giant stick.
And go climb some trees while you're at it. Just don't fall down because I'm really far away and just using my telephoto lens. But I'm watching. Like that creepy guy who uses his telephoto lens to spy on his neighbors. I'M LOOKING AT YOU, CREEPY GUY ACROSS THE STREET.
Of course, in a lodge in the mountains, there is going to be some wildlife. But damn if the damnity damn mice didn't find us. We knew they were they were when they attacked our food so we had to get creative and hide said food like one of those crazies who stockpiles Twinkies and cans of beans for Doomsday. My sister-in-law and I were the last ones up one night and she called me into the hallway.
Michelle, looking all excited like she has a great joke to share: Christy, I have to tell you something.
Me, ready for the really funny joke: What?
Michelle, not telling a really funny joke: A mouse just went into your room.
Me, still trying to figure out if this is a joke: What?
Michelle, trying not to scream: You almost stepped on him when you came out.
Me, just figuring out what that could meant since I was barefoot: OMG, I don't have any shoes on!
Aunt Becky, who has been listening from her room: A mouse?
Michelle, still trying not to scream: MOUSE! Christy and Matt's room! He's in there!
Me, from the hallway: Matt, there's a mouse in there with you and the girls!
Matt, borderline pissed-off that I woke him up: He'll leave eventually.
Aunt Becky, trying to be quiet but it's really hard because there's a MOUSE ON THE LOOSE: You can sleep in my room, Christy.
I pole vaulted into her top bunk. As much as I wanted to make that mouse suffer for getting into my Rice Krispies treats, I did not want to see him face to face while he was alive. I just wanted him to choke on a Rice Krispie or something. In the kitchen. Pinned to a trap. Humanely.
I'm grossed out just thinking about it. Let's just quit and call it the end.