Monday, August 22, 2011

My Grandfather

The call came Saturday afternoon, and I knew when I saw the caller ID what it was about. My grandfather'd been sick for a while. I contemplated for a minute if I should call my brother back, as I stood hiking up the side of the hills on Antelope Island with my kids. But I did, and as I heard him confirming what I'd suspected, I didn't really have a chance to realise my Grandpa was really gone. In that moment, I went into 'mommy mode' and after hiding behind my husband to sob for a moment, I dried my eyes and proceeded with the day full of fun things we'd planned. There was no point in tell my kids until the end of the day, since it was our last weekend in Utah and we didn't want to ruin it for them.

Then that night, we sat the older boys down and explained to them that their Great Grandpa had died that morning. I shed a few tears as I held a sobbing Frog Prince, and listened to his little broken heart try to come to terms that his Grandpa Ron was in heaven. It wasn't my turn to be sad yet; he needed to have his tears. Sheepie was sad, but at his age, dead is still not quite as solid a concept, and he sadness was not quite as pronounced. Frog Prince has turned the corner and quickly understood the reality that he was gone. His little tears ached for grandpas absence from his upcoming baptism; that their last conversation of having a sleep over wouldn't come true. His sadness came often through the night, and Mommy needed to take first place over upset granddaughter.

Sunday, was filled with the haze of goodbyes at church and getting everything packed up quickly, so that we could come home to Corvallis early. It wasn't until I went to bed last night, that it was my turn finally. I woke up around 3 am, like I tend to do thanks to the Bean in utero somersaults, and decided to hop in the shower. As I sad there it really began to sink in that he was gone. I knew that it was going to happen, as I said he'd been very sick. However, even with that in my head, I just assumed he'd be around. He's been around my entire life, it seemed fairly impossible to have it be any other way. So the tears finally fell freely and I was able to really reflect on my Grandpa.

My grandpa was a pretty awesome guy. Like I said, he was such a fixture of my life, that it was the kind of awesomeness that most of the time you don't even notice because it's always there. I have so many good memories of him that the more I sit here thinking about it, it's hard to pick just a few to write about. I can recall that as a kid, it seemed as if he always had something cool in store for us grand kids.

The two stories I remember the most are ones he'd tell us about his own childhood. My Grandpa Ron grew up in Speedway, Indiana, home of the Indy500. He used to tell us about how the whole town lived for those races, and when the engines would start up for the season you could hear it throughout the town. When the engines revved for the first time they'd all rush out school to the race yards (even mid day) just to see the cars. For a kid, had to be pure bliss.

He'd also tell us stories of how, during the war, his family traveled to San Francisco to visit his brother who was a solider. They rode the bus all the way from Indiana, and then would stay in a hotel. He would tell us about how back then, even as a kid, he was allowed to just leave the hotel and explore the city by himself. He'd find someone who looked interesting and would follow them around, seeing where they'd go for the day.

He loved football too. He used to tell us stories of how he played while he was in college at USC. It was back in the days of soft leather helmets, and for a long time he had his helmet tucked away in a closet in house.

He had great little poems and songs he'd teach us too. It was law in his house that you learned by heart at least one of his poems. To this day, I can say it at the drop of a hat, and fully intend on teaching it to each of the boys.

Ladies and Gentlemen
I come before you, to stand behind you,
to tell you something, I know nothing about.
This Tuesday, which is Good Friday
there will be a women's meeting, for men only.
Admission is Free, pay at the door.
Plenty of seats, sit on the floor.
Next on the agenda is the four corners of the round table.

My Grandpa had two great loves in life: the water and dogs. He had a dog since before I was born. But it always seemed to me that his true love was, Sammie, a white dog that lived forever, it seemed. She was born before I was, and lived up until I was 11 or so. When Sammie died, he never got another dog, but he loved to spoil any dog in sight. His other love was the water. He lived for sailing and boating. When I was a kid he only had a little rubber zodiac. I can imagine, now, that for a man who loved sailing, it was not nearly as thrilling as he wanted, but as a kid, to my brothers and I it was quite possibly the coolest thing ever. We would spend whole weekends speeding up and down the river in that little boat, laughing as he'd cut across wake to bounce us up and down. We learned to love the water in that little boat, and it's a love that I still have. Later, he bought a sail boat, The Serendipity, and we taught us each to sail. I loved sitting on the front of that boat as it'd bob up and down in the water, or spend summer days leaning against the front of the cabin reading a book. My grandpas happiest when he was on his boat, but even more so, it seemed when he was able to share it with his grand kids. It makes me sad to think my kids were too little to ever be able to go out with him.

My Grandpa took me to see my first real theatre production ever. I couldn't have been more than 12, but I remember getting dressed up in what I thought at the time was such a grown up dress, and him taking me out to dinner before hand. The way he talked to the waitress about me, made me free so special. And then we went to the Arlene Schnizter, in Portland, and saw a Broadway review. It was sitting there, that night, that I fell in love with theatre, and knew I wanted to be an actor. My Grandpa came to every play I was ever in, no matter how big or small the role. Everything from my ridiculous second grade play to being in leading roles in things like Oklahoma! and Godspell, he was there.

I have so many other little memories of him, like how he drove down from Portland to take me to get my drivers license, and then let me drive home in his brand new car, because that's what kids are supposed to get to do when they turn 16. Or how much he loved my kids. How happy he'd be to hold each of them as new born babies, or how he loved to have them running around. Or how he practically lived at his local Sherri's for years and every waitress there knew his name, and where always thrown off when he'd not have a meal there at least once a day.

Like I said, my Grandpa Ron was a pretty awesome guy. He may not have been awesome in the way that will make history remember him, but in our family I know that he will always be remembered as someone pretty singular. I am glad he's no longer in pain, and struggling with illness, but I sure am going to miss him.

This picture represents four generations. Although, I'm not in it because I was taking it. My Grandpa, my mom, and Goob on his blessing day.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dinosaurs, Fossils, and Colorado, Oh my!

So, the question in the last post was, what happens when you load us all up in our car on the way home form camping, and my husband I and get an itch to see dinos? Well, if you know Mr. C and me, you probably can figure out that the natural answer is you flip a u-turn and head to Colorado (well, right on the Utah Colorado boarder) to see Dinosaur National Monument.

Extra day of camping an another 200 miles? Sure, why not! Kids (and their grown ups) are only little once after all.

After doing some quick look ups on the ol' blackberry, while we drove, Mr. C and I mapped out our next leg of the great adventure. first it was back through Moab to some random place along the Colorado River to see Ancient Pictographs. FP was super excited since he learned about hieroglyphs in school this last year, and found them to be very much the same.

And then it was time to take a random cute picture of Goob!

Further down the road was spot where a large slat of rock had fallen that had many impressions of dinosaur foot prints. You can see the two they painted white to make it easy to see, but there was probably about 20 on that slab of rock alone.

FP touching his first ever dino fossil (trace fossil, he learned it was called later)

A note: These prints are not easily accessed if you have small kids. Thankfully there was a woman and her daughter there at the same time as we were because it was very slipper to climb to the slab, and involved their kindness of helping us climb to various place and then hand the boys off to each other, to get up and down. I think without their help, we'd have had one of the boys (or us holding one of them) fall. It is do able, but probably best to take up one kid at a time, and have two adults to help them along.

The slab is right above that big out cropping midway up, to give you reference.

After checking out the dino prints we hopped in the car and drove. I have to laugh because the quickest way to get to Dinosaur National Monument is to drive all the way out of Utah, through Colorado, and then back into Utah again. It sits right on the boarder, and spans both states, but all of the actual dinosaur stuff is on the Utah side. So we drove to Colorado and had a great time stopping in a town called Dinosaur, Colorado.

Hanging out with Sheepies favourite dino, the tricerotops, at this neat park where we stopped for lunch, and to let the kids play.

And then we arrived!

By the time we got there it was pretty late, so we found the camp grounds that are in the monument, and set up camp. It was a completely different feeling than camping in Moab, and I have to say it was a bit crazy. You know how you go camping, and there is always that one family that just is annoying somewhere in the camp grounds? We were that family! The place was packed so there were people everywhere. And despite the fact that there were kids everywhere, it was so quiet. Most of the families seemed to only have 1 or 2 kids, and they were so subdued I'm not really sure if it was not some strange twilight zone episode or something. However, we arrive, our kids full of hours of pent up energy. They are used to being about to run around the other camp site and be as loud and wild as they wanted. So that is what they do here, in our tiny site. Didn't go over well. Then after we finally got them to all settle a bit and eat, to keep them quiet we loaded them into the tent and read many many chapters of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was our current bed time book. Thankfully, they did eventually quiet down, but the next morning were up bright and early and again were super loud as the entire campsite seemed to sleep in until noon. Figuratively of course, but still. I was not sad to leave that camp site, and the icing on the cake was that the night before I put the rain fly to the tent on a near by stump so that the boys could see the stars as the slept. Packing up, we discovered the stump was the home of a huge ant colony, and they were ALL over the rain fly. We had to shake it out, which, if you know me and my straight up phobia of ant, is amazing. Yup, not sad to leave that camp site at all.

Especially because in leaving it mean seeing Dinosaur bones! Disclaimer: this is the part of the post were I turn into a 7 year old geek child and ramble excitedly about all the dinosaur stuff we saw.

You see, for as long as I could remember know what a Dinosaur was, I knew I wanted, and dreamed of being a Paleontologist. It was that one job for me. You know the one; where you dream about it your whole life, and tell everyone you're going to be, when they ask you as a kid. Even today, if I were willing to live in a place with my family that would facility may being so, and I didn't want to stay home with my kids, I think I'd get my PhD in Paleontology and go dig up bones for a living. So I'm honestly not sure who was more excited when we explored the monument, the kids, or me. Truthfully, based on how dorky my husband said I was going on and on about the bones and such, it was probably me.

Now don't freak out or anything, but this is us touching real fossils. And not just silly little fragments left after they got the good stuff, these are hard core full on bones. The smart man who founded the place, thought it would be neat to leave parts of the site open to natural erosion to that the bones would be in their natural state for people to see. BRILLIANT!

This one is super cool. Can you see, starting right by Mr. C's finger and going up the rock where the end of a bone is stating to become exposed?

And this one is awesome. Though it's hard to see, the whole kind of raised circular part of the rock that FP's leaning on is the vertebrae of a medium sized juvenile sauropod (four legged walker). That piece bigger than his head is JUST one piece of the things spine! I told you... I kind of nerded out a bit over this stuff.

This is them touching the end of a juvenile femur bone. Again of a sauropod.

And then, in a moment of true and ultimate awesomeness for me. I touched a real life, not in some museum, but in the side of the freaking mountain still stegosaurus bone. I wanted to rip it out of the rock right there and hold it in my hands. It is a dino geeks dreams come true.

Then it was off to the visitor's center.

This picture cracks me up. FP learned about this book and the author in school this last year, and practically had a heart attack when he saw it in the visitor center store. Look at that face.

One of the last things we did before heading home was having the boys sworn in as official Junior Park Rangers and Junior Paleontologist. They had little workbooks for each that they had to fill out around the park. When they were done, they could return them and the rangers would go over all the answers with them. They would then be sworn in and receive their badges and certificates.

The boys would not stop talking about it forever, and still wear their badges every chance they get. It is too funny!

After the Monument, we hurried to Vernal, in Utah to check out the Utah Field House of Natural History. It was quick trip since they were closing in 45 minutes but we managed to see pretty much everything that their attention spans would allow.

As the sun set on your adventure, a car full of happy, filthy little boys passed out and we drove happily home to Salt Lake.

If you are ever in the market for an adventure your family will never forget, carve a week out of your schedule, and check out Moab and Dinosaur National Monument. You won't regret it.

Canyonlands and Dead Horse

The next day was spent exploring Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park.

I swear, that the views while driving through Canyonlands seriously could have been taken straight out of the movie cars. When you see the vastness and the unreal heights of some of these canyons, it seriously seems as if the Earth was just cracked in two by a giant axe.

The canyons just drop straight down. Right behind these logs, it was such a sheer drop, we wouldn't let the boys get out of the car to take a picture.

We didn't get too many pictures in Canyonlands. We mostly drove to see things, and hiked a little. Hiking, as far as we could see, in the Canyonland Park is not very kid friendly; even for kids with as many miles under their belt as ours. they were rugged steep climbs down the canyon faces, that often times I couldn't even find a trail head for by the signs, just drop offs. LOL... not that I'm a spoil sport or anything, but I'm just not keen on the idea of on of my kids falling off the side of a massive drop.

This is right by were we stopped to eat lunch. Boy was not too happy about being as close to the canyon ledge as we were. Even though it was a good 10 or so feet behind us, he wanted to make a hasty retreat as soon as this picture was taken.

We actually weren't going to go out to Dead Horse, but the internet said they had dino fossils at the vistor center. They lied. There was one TINY dino print, which we could barely see, in the flower bed in front of the visitors center. However, it the views were neat, and they informational hike they have is kind of cool, since you can see the salt flats were they make salt. And the drive out to the place mentioned in the legend of Dead Horse point is a bit unnerving when you see how narrow the land bridge is that you're driving over. If you want to read the legend of how the place got it's name, check it out here.

It was after seeing all this that we kind of felt like we'd seen all that we had to see, and were going to head home. After playing a bit more at our camp site, we packed up and started to drive home. About 10 or so miles out of Moab, Mr. C and I started talking about all the cool things we'd seen and what else would have been awesome. That's when I mentioned Dinosaurs.... yup, dinosaurs. So what do you do when you have a car full of boys covered in red dirt and two spontaneous, impulsive grown ups... You pull a u-turn and head to the Dinos!

Exploring Moab, Utah

DISCLAIMER: there are about a million pictures in this post, so be warned! Seriously, it goes for a while. lol

In our last series of 'catch up posts' I will share with you our epic adventures in Moab, Utah. Moab is about a three hour drive from Salt Lake, but we figured that it would be much easier driving down there now, rather than trying to actually plan a vacation there sometime in the future. I am so glad we decided it was worth the time and money to spend the week out there. It was amazing and something the kids still haven't stopped talking about.

We spent several nights camping in the most beautiful and remote place. It is called Sand Flats, and it's managed by the BLM. It was only 5 bucks a night or something, so it was super cheap, but perfect. There were huge sand stone (rock not shifting sand) dunes all over to climb and explore. The kids were in awe of it all. It is not camping for the weak of souls though. There is no water on site, so you have to bring in all your own stuff, and the wind gets pretty intense at times, so everything you leave out will have a layer of sand on it. If you can survive that, I would honestly say it was one of the best places I've ever camped.

Our first few days we spent hiking and climbing in Arches National Park. Pictures of these amazing natural structures will never do them justice.

Things like, the 100's of ft deep canyon that was right behind us in this picture that you can not even tell is there just by looking at the photo.

Or the sheer scale of everything around you.

We had so much fun free climbing as many of the places as we could safely do. And then, in some cases maybe not so safely.

This is me in a cave. Pretty obvious, I know. What was apparently not obvious to me, is that when you are 5 months or so pregnant, free climbing into sandstone caves may be easy, but perhaps not the best idea, when it comes to getting back down. The boys started to climb it, and chickened out. Benjamin started to climb it, and then decided against it. I thought, "Weenies, that's easy!" and up I skittered, feeling quite accomplished that I could still hug such a smooth face, with my rounded belly. I posed for my victory pictures, standing proudly 15 ft or so above the ground. Not bad at all, not too high, pfft. And then it was time to get down.

Now this nice smooth sandstone cave, had a rounded lip, and to get down you have to lay flat on your stomach and shimmy your legs over until your feet can find the first hold. All while using your stomach and arms to hug the face while you lower yourself down. Perhaps you can see the problem; I could the minute I realized this was how it worked. I have no stomach, I have a giant orb of fat and baby hanging out there. And chicken arms that are not strong enough to hold my extra weight. So as I slid over the edge it was very tense three our four minutes for at least me, as I was convince I was going to fall 15 ft from the cave, because my stomach was too fat to allow me to really hug the super smooth face with little more than small indents and finger (not hand, finger) holes. Benjamin stood below, spotting and calling out holds to me as I went down, and I couldn't help but laugh in my head b/c the only thing that would have happened if I had fallen was that I would have squashed him under my girth in addition to breaking myself. Eventually, I did get down fine though, but that was kind of the end of my more adventurous climbing on this trip. Climbing maybe easy while pregnant, but without a repelling system, getting down is a whole heck of a lot harder.

The boys were completely unphased by my getting 'stuck' in the cave, and I am pretty sure at least my two oldest are part mountain goat.

Goob had to get in on the climbing action too. Got to start them young!

I love this action shot of Sheepie!

Kings of the mountain!

My handsome Mr. C totally got in on the action too. I think he was very excited to be out climbing again for the first time since his broken ankle. I really think, had we brought climbing gear with us, we'd have spent most of the time repelling and climbing.

I love this picture. All my favourite people in the world, doing one of my favourite things!

Landscape arch was the arch everyone was wanting to see. The boys were VERY sad that they were not able to get closer to it, but it's very close to falling entirely, so it's been fences off for years.

We camped, and then went back the next day, since after hitting up Landscape arch I'd say we' probably hiked about 8-10 miles with the kids that first day. Bright and early though we were back and exploring more arches.

There are not many pictures of Goob because he had the back pack to hang out in, but don't let this little guy fool you. He is probably the most hard core of our kids. At his age he will walk for easily 2 miles by himself without any desire to give up, all in those silly salt water sandals he wears.

That tiny little dot in the middle of the picture (not the white shirt guy) is Sheepie and me.

he made his own arch.

I love love love this picture.

These next two pictures of FP and Sheepie make my wobble. I was hanging out with a sleeping Goob when Mr. C took the other three to see the last few arches. Apparently there is a sheer drop off of many many feet, just inches behind where these two nuts climbed to to pose. I'm very glad I wasn't there.

The three mountain goats Carleski!

We finished off Arches on the second day and then camped in the Sand Flats again the second night. Sadly, when you don't have room for an air mattress in your tent (6 people in a 4 man, what?!) and you're pregnant, eventually the hard ground gets the best of you. After the first night I decided to be a weenie and lay out the seats in the back of the van and sleep in there. It was not great, but I think it was the only way I was able to survive and be ready to hit the trails again the next morning. Plus with me gone, it made for more room for the men folk to stretch out in the tent. After this baby is born, we are upgrading to a bigger tent!

And thus it as that our first two days were spent exploring Moab and the famed arches.