Exploring with my explorer

We woke up to rain this morning, which means the boys will be bouncing off the walls by noon. While wishing for dry weather, I remembered that I had a slew of photos to post from the weekend.

One of the things that makes Jeremy fantastic is his love for nature and animals. I’d love to say that it’s because we’ve raised him that way, but that logic wouldn’t hold for Jackson. (He needs books and air conditioning, please.) No, Jeremy was just born with an innate appreciation for the outdoors, so when we spent Sunday afternoon in the mountains I grabbed him for some one-on-one time to see what we could see.

Sidebar: Chuck and I joined the Smart Phone Club again with very limited service to the interwebs, which was intentional. The best part about upgrading my cell phone from a 1985 model is having the ability to take amazing photos.

Here are a few shots I took at the river with my little soon-to-be-ten-year-old explorer.

Mushroom Ring This big Azure Little fungi Grub Nature boy Shells Where the fairies live

River frolic

This is how I spent my birthday: the boys on my bday

Major at the river

River frolicMy 35th birthday was magnificent. Thanks to all who were a part of it either in person or in spirit. *Much love*

Canoeing, Fireworks, and Salem

But not all at once.

Our week with Jacob ended with a rainy Fourth of July Hurry-Up-and-Light-the-Sparklers extravaganza. The weather was dreadfully wet, but we managed to squeak out a quickie-canoe trip on the river on Wednesday and one more swim on Thursday before storms forced us inside for the rest of the day.

Then we swam to Dayton, Ohio, to swap Jacob for Jeremy, and swam back to our house Saturday evening. I’m so over the rain and I miss Jacob. Whether he realizes it or not, the true gift of this week was having my 12-year-old nephew all to myself.

He’s a great kiddo.

Canoe trip

Jacob canoes for the first time

_DSC0023

_DSC0029

_DSC0052

_DSC0046

_DSC0088

_DSC0071

At the end of the week I asked Jacob to rank his favorite things from his time in Tennessee. No. 1 was time spent in the river, which I expected. No. 2, however, was a pleasant surprise. He said he really enjoyed the pets. That makes sense, though, since he and Salem were best buds every night during movie time. (Major was mostly tolerable, which is pretty good considering…) _DSC0101In third place, for those wondering, was all the food he enjoyed eating with his non-vegetarian aunt Jennie. We ate well and often. Nature and food = Tennessee. 🙂

City Boy in the Country

This is the beginning of a kid swap with my sister. She took Jeremy for a week while I have Jacob. (Owen and Jackson will get a turn next time.)

On our first full day of having my 12-year-old nephew here with us, we took advantage of good weather and drove to the mountains. I wanted Jacob to put his feet in the river. While Jeremy is enjoying city life in Chicago, I’m giving Jacob a peek inside country living.

Me: “We’re going to the river!”

Jacob: “Okay. Is it dirty?”

For the record, he loved it.

A good view iPod photo opp Get in the river He loves it Clear water Swimming with Jack Really loving it

The day Major was good.

This was not the day Major was good. Mr. Persistant

StuckBut on Mother’s Day, he was exceptional. It’s as if he knew he needed to keep Mama happy. We took him to the river and he was wonderfully behaved, even when we met another blue tick hound and all hell could’ve broken loose. Though he has more brown markings than Major, this eight-month-old was pretty much his twin. (Major is on the right side of the photo.)

Twins

Major even allowed Chuck to lead him into the water, which is what we were hoping for. HandsomeThe dog was calm and obedient and walked on his leash like a pro. Unfortunately, all that goodness was left at the river because he’s been a pain in my arse all morning running around like a nutcase. Every time I tackle him to the ground, I whisper into his floppy ears, “You’re getting snipped tomorrow, big boy, so enjoy this while you can.”

Pickin’

This weekend was the annual Old Timer’s Festival in Townsend (we went last year, too), and while it didn’t have as many pickers as last year it had the same wonderful quality. Around every corner of the Visitor’s Center was a little group of musicians pickin’ away on a song. Some of them only met that morning and decided to share a tune together, and some were in organized bands. They were old and young, playing gospel songs and Rocky Top. I just love bluegrass. It feels like home.

Yesterday we took the canoe out on the Little River for a short two-mile paddle. I wish I’d taken my camera, but with the water level a bit low and some rapids being uncertain, I didn’t want to risk it. The boys enjoyed seeing fish and birds and taking a dip in the water afterwards. Chuck told them the (edited) story of our 1999 Rio Grande canoe trip in college and how we camped and paddled for a six days straight. Obviously, it was before we were married and well before the boys were born.

“So you did that in college?” asks Jeremy.

“Was I alive then?” Jack asks.

“No,” Jeremy answers him. “We weren’t born yet.”

“I was dead??” he says.

“No, you weren’t dead,” says Jeremy. “We were in heaven waiting to be born.”

We kept paddling while the boys chattered, no doubt replaying two versions of the same trip in our minds. We were 20 years old and engaged. Our guide told us that six days of canoeing in the same boat would be the best premarital counseling we could ever have.

I would tend to agree.

Complete Peace

A little more than a year ago we were in the middle of trekking back across the country from Texas to Tennessee. We were coming home after a two-year stint of missing home. We made our life in Texas work as best we could, but family responsibilities cut our time there short, completely rearranging the five-to-seven year plan we’d mapped out.

Within a few weeks of moving back to Tennessee, I escaped to the mountains to find the peace I’d been lacking for several years. I even took the boys there for Easter. Now, one year later, driving to the Smoky Mountains is still my favorite thing to do here. I absolutely love every bit of it, from the bright green leaves to the sound of the river trickling to the clean smell of mountain air, and on and on and on.

This is where I live and find peace.

Friday at the Little River

It’s Ethan’s last day with us, and the only thing he actually asked to do during this mini-trip is go to the river. So we did.

God saw fit to give us perfect weather today for an afternoon of throwing rocks.

This is my favorite picture of the day (click on the photo for a larger version):

Charlotte’s Web

Be still my heart, Jackson is reading Charlotte’s Web. That’s right, the five year old is reading a chapter book. I am over the moon about it. Routinely I pray, “Dear God, please make them readers.” I will not rest until they sufficiently bury their noses in books.

In this photo, Jack is reading aloud to us the second chapter of Charlotte’s Web while Jeremy paints one of the many rocks we picked up on our field trip to the Little River.

I could just stare at this photo for hours.

Incidentally, Jeremy found a rock that is shaped like Tennessee, so I painted it as such.

Weekend Roundup

My Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 game arrived on Friday. I jumped for joy in the kitchen after opening the box and scoured the game case for details. The boys joined my celebration but it stopped short when I explained they wouldn’t be playing the game with me. (Major groaning followed. Why not? That’s not fair! It looks so cool. Please, Mom, please!) It would be irresponsible of me to allow them to find out how the saga ends via Xbox. They need to read the books, or at the very least, see the last few movies.

I crawled into bed sometime after 1 a.m. after three hours of playing. By Saturday afternoon, I completed Year 5. What a geek.

Sunday was delightful. I ran an easy 10 miles. Surprisingly easy, I might add. There’s not been a single long run in my entire training that has felt impossible or even challenging. (Knock on wood.) It might be because I’ve worked hard to increase my speed or because I’m wearing the perfect shoes for my gait. It might even be because I’ve stopped listening to music during my runs and listened more closely to my body. Whatever the reasons for it, I’ve been most pleased. To my recollection, I’ve never before felt this calm the week of a race. Here’s hoping the weather holds out.

The boys enjoyed the weekend, too – all four of them. Chuck and the littles had Boy Time finishing Jeremy’s Pinewood Derby car, building a birdhouse, going out to breakfast together and getting the car washed. Salem spent hours laying in the sun and running amok at night. (He got a stern lecture Saturday night after waltzing home at midnight.)

To my own surprise, I didn’t take a single photo this weekend. I KNOW. I missed all that footage! So instead I’ll end with a video from our field trip to the Little River.

Karin, Ethan and Sidney – Oh My!

Since moving back to Tennessee in March, we’ve been waiting and planning for a weekend when my best friend Karin and her kiddos could come for a visit.

Sidebar: Karin and I met in 2001 when we worked together at a doctor’s office. She became pregnant with her first child in 2003 at the same time when I was still grieving over our infertility. However, God saw fit to turn it all around with the sweetest gift of a birth mother due at the same time as my best friend. Divine timing prevailed – Karin gave birth to Ethan around 1 a.m. on September 9, just five hours after we welcomed Jeremy into the world on September 8 at 8 p.m. Our boys were buddies from the start – we made sure of it – and despite their two-year, Tennessee-Texas separation, they picked up right where they left off. (Jackson and Sidney are nine months apart and share a sweet friendship. Essentially, she’s the boss of him and he’s too laid back to care. It’s marriage material.)

They arrived Friday night and the activity was practically non-stop. The Miller Family reunion was Saturday afternoon so we brought along our friends, who the Millers welcomed with affection. The kids swam for nearly four hours in cousin Sharon’s pool (thank you!) and we all enjoyed some of the best home cooking we’ve ever had (amen!).

Jeremy and Ethan, June 2011 One, Two, Three, Jump Jump Four Tired Swimmers Diving Board Dare Devil Friends since 2001

On Sunday we ran off to the mountains so we could throw the kids in the river.

Looking for Tadpoles Going where she can't touch Hungry Jack Friends Since Birth Ethan and Sidney in the Mountains Deep Water A Summer for Boys

These are the things that make childhood memories so wonderful.