Last days with Jacob and Owen

Both Great Grandpa and my mother left on Friday, so it was just the six of us for two more days.

We had grand plans for Thursday and Friday, but rain showed up and didn’t leave. That meant no Splash Country and a shorter canoe trip down the Little River.

The canoe fits three comfortably, which is just as well since Jackson was at basketball camp and Owen had no interest.

When I asked Jacob what he wanted to do while in Tennessee, the one request he had, other than eating at the Asian Buffet, was to go canoeing.

While they floated down the river, Owen and I went home to eat lunch and play cards. This was the only one-on-one time I got with Owen, so I treasured it, however brief! Jeremy and Owen are “best cousins” and stick together as a pair almost 100 percent of the time.

I also took the opportunity to snap some headshots for Owen, who’s trying out for a play in his hometown.

He looks so much like his dad in this photo:

When they got home from canoeing, I grabbed Jacob and subjected him to photos too.

Owen loves his big brother 

I drove them to the airport on Sunday and cried as I said goodbye. Jacob teased me – “We’re not even your kids!” – but he doesn’t understand that they are the next best thing to being my kids. I endured his teasing because I know he loves me, that they both had a wonderful time in Tennessee and enjoyed being a part of the Miller Camp for Boys for a week. Their plane landed safely in Chicago and off they went into the care of their grandparents. My sister and brother-in-law flew home a few hours later, so by Sunday night everything was back to normal.

I feel like I’m still recovering from the week – is it an age thing or an introvert thing, or both? Utter exhaustion persisted for a solid three days. Today is the first day I’ve felt semi-normal.

Still, I’m thankful for the time we had and the memories we made, and I think Jacob and Owen feel the same.

 

Swimming at the Townsend Wye

Yesterday we took advantage of beautiful weather and went to the Townsend Wye, a popular swimming hole just inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Jackson was at basketball camp, so Mom and I took Jeremy, Jacob, and Owen for a dip.

The mountain water was chilly, something locals understand but Chicagoans don’t.

There were serious reservations about swimming, particularly on Owen’s part. He spent much of the morning saying he wasn’t going to have fun at the river, that he didn’t want to go, but we reassured him that he WOULD have fun and that it would be worth it.

Once they got used to the temperature, they opened up to the possibility of cliff jumping. Jeremy went first.

Jacob watched others jump in – even dive in – so he stood on the edge until he was mentally ready.

Even Owen jumped! The kid who said he wasn’t going to have fun JUMPED OFF A BOULDER.

Then Jacob started diving.

They swam for an hour or so, until their bodies were sufficiently numb.

Here’s a side view of Jacob diving into the Little River.

Jeremy and Owen swam across the river to a little island to explore and skip rocks.

I am most proud of Owen! He was nervous and in a negative head space about swimming in a cold river, but I swear he had a good time once he went for it!

Despite the temperatures, the water was crystal clear and perfect for swimming.

On our way home we picked up Major from his boarding camp and brought home a very sleepy puppy.

The Nascar Speedpark

On Monday we drove to the Nascar Speedpark in Pigeon Forge and paid an obscene amount of money for the boys to drive race cars until dark. They loved it, and I was particularly glad that Jackson was able to drive a few tracks by himself.

Jackson rode alongside Chuck on a faster track…

…which meant going a lot faster than he would’ve on his own.

Midday we took a quick detour to Gatlinburg so Jacob could get a few donuts at the Donut Friar, his mother’s favorite sweet spot in town. She is in Real Germany this week, so we went to Faux Germany for about 20 minutes.

If you recall, Gatlinburg suffered a massive loss after forest fires spread through the area in November 2016. It looked like most of the surrounding ranges were touched by fire, but I was encouraged to see bright green spots of growth from this spring.

After a quick walk in Gatlinburg, we went back to the Nascar Speedpark for round two of racing and stayed until 11 p.m. Right away Chuck and Jacob drove on the one track that requires a driver’s license. So glad these two get to pal around together.

Mom and Chuck left about an hour before the boys and I did, so I made sure it was documented that Mom and I were there!

We had a great time, and every boy was exhausted the morning after. Today we’ll head to the river to play, and still on the list is canoeing and Splash Country. They keep me young!

Bouldering at the Miller Camp for Boys

My nephews are here for the week, and since they’re city folk we wanted to make sure they’re in nature as often as possible. On our second day together, we took them to a nearby section of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to go bouldering and get a 360-degree view of our town.

There was some trepidation, but each boy – mine included – dug deep to find the physical and mental fortitude to crawl in and out of the deepest crevasses.

Owen was particularly nervous about climbing because, as he puts it, “I’m not athletic.”

But he did it! We were all so excited for him!

Jackson went last, and he was as nervous as Owen was.

Great success for all of them!

After bouldering we climbed the path to a lookout tower for one of the most beautiful views of the area.

Not pictured are the two photographers – my mom and me – but that’s par for the course.

Thanksgiving 2016

My goal for Thanksgiving was simple: Keep it low key. Even though I cooked the full meal and didn’t skimp on the menu, the rest of Thanksgiving was simple and laid back. My sister and her family came into town, we shopped, she helped in the kitchen, and we saw a movie. Things just flowed along, and I didn’t bring out my camera once, evident by the poor quality photo of our dinner, complete with catching Jackson mid-blink.

thanksgiving-dinner-2016

I wanted to enjoy myself, so that meant keeping plans to a minimum. It worked, too, because we had a lovely few days together.

When Jeremy and Owen weren’t gaming, they were enjoying their mounds of Pokemon cards.

pokemon-explosion

Jacob DROVE me to get donuts. I wasn’t nervous at all because he’s an excellent driver. It was weird though, because it’s Jacob. He was just born a few years ago, right?

jacob-drives-me-to-get-donuts

Jackson used his money to buy another pillow pet – this time, he chose a West Virginia Mountaineer. I was pleased!

wv-pillow-pet

And Jeremy finally saved enough money to buy an iPod Touch. He’s been waiting nearly two years for this moment.

jeremys-new-ipod

In hindsight it might have been nice to set up the tripod and capture a full family photo with all eight of us, but I really liked keeping my duties to a minimum. Maybe next time 🙂

becky-and-me-at-thanksgiving

Much Needed

It really was a merry Christmas. I have more than 500 photos to prove it. Here is the best one:

It was also a very loud Christmas – because of them:

Jacob, 10

Jeremy, 8

Owen, 7

Jack, 5

Many blessings to you and yours for the new year. See you in 2012.

xoxo

The Usual Pairings

The growing trend between my boys and my sister’s is the pairing off of Jacob (10) with Jackson (5) and Jeremy (7) with Owen (7). We seem to only see each other every six months or so, but it takes literally 30 seconds for each boy to find his buddy.

The middle two are especially close. They’re only six months apart and have so many common interests that playing together comes quite naturally. Even after the two said goodbye late Sunday night, Owen returned five minutes later in tears because one goodbye wasn’t enough. Of course, it makes you wonder what this relationship will look like in another five, ten or twenty years. Here’s hoping it looks pretty much the same.

The Great Wolf Lodge

I’m slow on picture editing from our Great Wolf Lodge weekend but I have my reasons. They mostly revolve around some form of procrastination, but I’ll just say that I’ve been playing catch-up on the book and trying to reestablish myself as a runner. Plus, I have a lot on the DVR.

Because I knew editing would be delayed, I didn’t take as many photos as I normally would, and that means I’m uploading even fewer. I’m sorry to say there are no pictures of me in a bathing suit. I’m sure my sister has some, BUT SHE KNOWS BETTER.

Whirlwind Weekend

In what seemed like three seconds, we spent three days with Becky and her family at the Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City. It’s a favorite little spot to meet because it takes each family about eight hours to get there and it’s hours of fun in a bathing suit. We’re all a little sunburned and worn out from the water slides, but I tell you this – every second of that long drive, every dollar over-spent, and every sting of our sunburn is worth it. It’s been one solid year since our four boys played together, so you can image the amount of photos we took.

There are more to come, but here’s one from Monday night at the White Sox/Royals game. Obviously, I was a White Sox fan by proxy, as were my boys. We sat next to five other White Sox fans, so when the whole stadium booed, we were the 13 who cheered. The White Sox lost, but hey – the margaritas were good!