Wednesday, December 27, 2017

James River State Park

After Thanksgiving, we stayed in a cabin for a couple of nights at James River State Park.  My brother and his family rented a cabin as well.  We saw in the cabin journal that many people saw bald eagles, so here is Reid trying to scout one out (we didn't have any luck).

There was a nice visitor center, a bit of a walk from our cabin.  Behind the visitor center was an observation deck and a long wooden boat.

The boys enjoyed playing chicken on a guard rail just outside our cabin.  We were getting ready to go on a hike.  We had decent weather, for November.

The boys introduced their cousins to the fun of geocaching during hiking.  We found four geocaches.  Reid also found a cicada, which you can see on the left side of his hat:

All five boys/cousins enjoyed the overlook of the Tye/James River.  We felt happy to be outside hiking about with family.  Virginia State Parks was having a photo contest over Thanksgiving weekend, and I submitted an edited version of the photo below.  It won grand prize, which was a gift card to the state parks.  Since we visit the state parks a couple of times a year anyhow, this was the perfect prize to win. 

There was also a playground that got much use.  My boys sure are better at the monkey bars than I am.
Claudia, at 12 weeks old, was too young to leave at home alone all weekend.  So she came along.  She's a good little traveler and a pro by the fireplace snuggler. 

The cabins were very nice, and offered amazing views of the sunset in the evenings.  It was one of our favorite things about James River State Park.

Overall, we had a wonderful time. It was nice to skip all the Black Friday madness (not that I ever do that) and just get outdoors for the weekend. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Last summer I read the young adult book, Wonder, upon the recommendation of my friend, Ginger.  I loved the book.  It's about a fifth grader with a facial deformity, who has been home schooled his whole life due to surgeries.  But this year his parents are sending him to school, where he encounters bullies, but also makes friends.  It's a heartwarming story, that teaches us to be kind to those who are different.  When I heard the movie was coming out, I wanted to take my boys.  And then I thought I'd also like to take my class!  I was teaching Freshman Orientation, and it seemed like a message we all could use.

So the day before Thanksgiving my class took a field trip to the movies, and my mom met us there with my boys, who were already out of school.  The movie was incredible.  I almost cried several times.  One of my students was still crying on the way out.  It made a HUGE impression on my boys.  They talked about it for hours.  It opened up a lot of discussion at our house.  Especially Cort, who has a very empathic personality.  My mom bought him a copy of the book (the wait to get it from our library is several months).  Once he had his hands on the book, this is what happened over the next few days.

He says it is his favorite book.  Next up?  He's reading the sequel.  The film had a great message for anyone age 8 and up.  And the book is even better than the film.  I highly recommend both!
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

CR24 2017

The only race I ran this year was CR24.  You may remember I ran it last year and had an excellent experience.  It's a 24 hour run on a one mile loop, and you stay out however long you can.  Last year I completed 46 miles.  I injured my IT band during a 20 miler, training for the race this year, about a month out from race day.  The IT band takes a while to heal, so I knew that I wouldn't be in good running shape for the race.  But I thought I would still show up and do what I could.

My friend, Trina, came this year.  It was her first ultra.  I ran the first few laps with her, but by mile 3 my IT band was really hurting.  So I switched to walking.  She continued running and was able to run 27 miles, and then walk enough miles to complete 50K. 

It's very humbling to just walk a long race like this.  Walking certainly takes a lot longer than running.  At 1:00, I was discouraged I wasn't near marathon distance yet.  But we had good weather, and the volunteers were supportive, and there was plenty of good food.  So I just kept at it.

This year was the first year they gave out medals if you made it to 26.2 (marathon distance).  It took a loooooong time, but I did grab my medal.

So I walked and I walked and I walked.  Turns out you can walk really far in a day if you just keep pushing.  In the end, I covered 32.98 miles (let's just call that 33 miles to console my mind that prefers whole numbers, shall we?).  I stayed long enough to do a few laps in the dark and eat pizza for dinner.  Then I headed home for the night.
It was a fun race again, and I enjoyed it even though I didn't get to run much.  I loved seeing how successful my friend Trina was with her first ultra.  Hopefully I'll be back next year, and in better running condition next time.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Meet Claudia

As you know, we foster kittens for the local humane society.  We had a total of 13 kitten go through our home from June - October.  I love it afterwards when I see the humane society post pictures of the kittens getting adopted with their new families.  Paul always says that we don't need any new cats, so we can't adopt them, but he doesn't mind how much I foster.

Then came a litter of two with a severe upper respiratory infection.  They even had to be on immune boosting meds on top of their antibiotics and eye cream.  Next thing I knew, Paul fell for this kitten named Brandi.  He kept saying what a great kitten she was.

Of course, Bobby was missing and we were all sad from that, and Paul said he thought we should adopt this kitten.  On Halloween, the day she got spayed, we made it official and renamed her Claudia (From the book From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler, which I read to the boys a couple of summers ago).  The shelter took this picture when I picked up Claudia from surgery.  I was in costume because we were headed out trick or treating.
Claudia and her sister had a reaction to the anesthesia from being spayed, so we brought her sister back into foster for a while longer so she could recover.  Her sister got adopted just days after she went back to the adoption center, by a family with two little girls (they also adopted another kitten we'd had in foster this summer).

Claudia, asleep on my lap.  She is such an affectionate kitten.  We are all thrilled to have her join our family.  If only Bobby would return, our hearts would be completely full. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Making Memories

Recently my mom and I took a road trip to Northern Virginia.  My parents lived there for a good number of years, so it was old stomping ground in a way (although the population is ever-expanding so many things look completely different).

Mom and I had never done a trip like this, and we had a wonderful time.  We ate marvelous foods - like this lemon meringue cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory:

We did a lot of shopping.  Mostly at Potomac Mills Mall.  Plus REI and Dover Saddlery for me (neither of which we have where we live) and J. Jill and Comfort Shoes for my mom.  We also ventured into a Savers thrift store - I've heard about them but we don't have one locally.  It was HUGE - wish I'd known how to take a panoramic picture because this place was bigger than a Walmart.

We tried out a Duck Donuts for the first time.  The coffee there was fabulous and so were the donuts.  We kept talking about how messy they were (they're served warm and gooey).  On our way out, Mom noticed that you are supposed to eat them with a fork.  We felt a little like uncivilized heathens then.

We were exhausted in this picture taken at PF Changs, but went back after dinner and treated our tired feet to a soak in the hot tub in the hotel. 

On the way home, we took at side trip through Charlottesville, where my youngest brother, John, gave us a tour of his neurobiology lab at UVA.  He's in a PhD program there.  I adore neuroscience anyhow, so I loved seeing his lab and learning about the fish that he uses for his experiments.  Look how happy he is - I think he truly loves what he does!

It was a whirlwind weekend, but we made many memories.  The best part - better than the shopping or the splendid food or the hot tub - was just spending some quality time with my mom.  I'm so thankful we got the chance to catch up and enjoy time together. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Trick or Turkey

Well, it's the day before Thanksgiving, and here I am just now posting about Halloween.  We end up driving to a neighborhood every year to trick or treat, as there is nothing in our rural area.  The neighborhood we go to is always overflowing with people like us, who drive in from the countryside.  The residents love Halloween and go all out with decorations.  They humor all us outsiders and are welcoming.  It's always one big party.  There's one house that even creates a haunted house in their garage each year.  It's a favorite of the boys.  They also love this 'working' electric chair:

This year Reid was an Oompa Loompa, Cort was Willy Wonka, and Pierce was an airline pilot.  I was so happy I didn't have to work this year, and got to take them trick or treating.
Now, I'm finally done with Halloween - is it time to move on to turkey?  Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving!  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Francie Has Fun

Francie and I seem to have hit a sweet spot where our rides are more fun and relaxed.  She's a forward moving horse that wants to please.  She can still be a little hot at times, but she is starting to mellow a little.

I ordered a new saddle pad with a couple of roomy pockets, in case we find ourselves trail riding in the future.  I can easily tuck in a hoof pick, a cell phone, and a snack.

A couple of weeks ago, Paul made a cyclocross course in the riding arena.  The boys had a blast riding this bike maze.  I wanted to ride Francie, but didn't know what she'd think.  At first, she thought it was pretty awful.  She snorted as though the red tape was going to attack her.  I hand walked her through.  She calmed down.  Then I hand walked her through a second time, rattling the tape as we went.  She was spooky at the moving, rattling tape at first, but then calmed down again.  After that, I hopped on her.

We walked through and then we trotted.  Then she started having fun.  She was enjoying whipping around the 180 degree corners! 
By the end, she was cantering the long stretches, trying to catch the boys on their bikes.  I had no idea she would have so much fun with this.  Reminded me of my youth, flying around tight jumper courses on ponies, but without the jumps.  Here we are after, exhilarated from our playful ride.

She still has those funny curled ears, but look - she's got one ear on Pierce, who took the picture, but one ear on me.  We're really feeling connected lately.  I'm looking forward to more fun fall rides. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pierce Turns 11

I started blogging when Pierce was 3.  Two weeks ago, he turned 11!  We had some family come to celebrate and it just happened to be on the actual birthday of my aunt, Pam.

I didn't have time to do a cake that week.  So I took Pierce to Sam's to pick something out.  We were flipping through the cake book and Pierce complained, "Mom, I'm TOO old for decorated cakes!".  So I told him that it was Pam's birthday too, and that she liked decorated cakes.  So he picked out a cake for Pam.  All with an air of "I'm just humoring my great aunt, but I am much too old for decorated cakes". 

A couple of summers ago we went to see The Secret Life of Pets with Pam and George, so Pierce picked that out as her theme.  Plus, Pam is an avid dog-lover.  Pierce then chose the most boyish frosting colors he could find.

He sure didn't complain any when he was gobbling up those teal blue frosted flowers!  Thank goodness we had Pam around to thank for our cake this year.  A birthday without any cake sure would be a sad affair.  I'm guessing this whole incident officially puts Pierce into that "tween" category. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Fall Hit Snooze

Fall was late this year.  I took this picture one morning in mid October.  It was the very first morning it felt crisp enough to be fall, following a week of miserable heat and humidity.

The leaves were reluctant to turn because of the heat.  So the break in the weather was quite welcome.  Now, finally, the boys could wear those long sleeved Halloween shirts.

I hope this is a sign it will be a mild winter. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bobby Goes to School

Sometimes, Bobby enjoys riding along to school to pick up the boys from chess club.  Here he is, watching for his boys to come out.

The boys like it when Bobby comes.  If Bobby isn't around during pick up time and ends up being left at home, they are always disappointed.

Update:  Sadly, Bobby has been missing for the past week.  He was a homebody and has never done this before.  We hope that he shows up, but there have been coyotes in our area, and we fear he may have met up with one.  He's such a beloved cat - we all miss him immensely!  Hoping he returns safely soon.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Trouble in Tiny Packages

I have blogged before about how we regularly foster kittens for animal rescues in our area.  This summer, we've had a few come through our home for foster.  Usually they need meds for an upper respiratory infection and socialization for a few weeks, and then they are on their way.

Our current foster kitten, Dune Bug, came to us because she was very feral and had a terrible lung infection.  In addition to antibiotics, she was also on breathing treatments each day (which we were able to give using Cort's nebulizer).  When we first got her, her whole body shuddered when she tried to breathe.  I wasn't sure she'd make it.  She would only eat when I fed her by putting canned cat food (so gross) on my finger and letting her lick it off. 

She turned around quickly.  But then two weeks later, I noticed a black rough patch on her ear.  There had been a ringworm outbreak at the shelter when we picked her up, and I was pretty sure this was ringworm.  I took her in for a check and she tested positive.  So then she started on more meds, plus daily cage disinfections with bleach, plus baths with a special shampoo (she had to actually sit and let the shampoo soak in for 10 minutes at a time) followed by a spray down with a dip that reeks of rotten egg smell.  And weekly rechecks at the vet.  Poor kitty!

Lo and behold, two weeks after Dune Bug got ringworm, Pierce got ringworm, even though I had cut off all kitty handling by the boys.  So I took Pierce to the pediatrician and he started meds.  While the kitten continued improving, Pierce did not.  Two weeks later, he had to go back.  The doctor felt like his ringworm had turned into a staph infection.  So he started on antibiotics and a new antifungal med. 

Well, then Dune Bug's lungs started sounding all rattled again.  I mentioned it to the vet at one of her ringworm rechecks, but they couldn't hear it.  A week later, though, they could.  She had bronchitis.  So she had to continue the ringworm treatment, but also start a new antibiotic. 

The good news?  Well, Dune Bug has grown a lot!  She is no longer feral and seeks out human interaction.  And hopefully, one day soon, she will be completely well and be able to be adopted by a loving family. 

I know there are foster families that take in even more needy animals then Dune Bug.  As many times as we've adopted animals from shelters, we've never really considered all the effort that might have gone into getting the pet to a healthy place where he/she was ready to be adopted.  Sometimes, there is a lot of time and love that goes into it!  But when the pet finds a new, loving home, it makes it all worthwhile. 

Readers, did any of your pets come from shelters?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

In Search of the Geocache

When we find ourselves with a free day, we enjoying hunting for geocaches.  You use a GPS to find hidden containers which house trinkets the boys like to trade.  You can find them in the woods and in the city - they are all over! We prefer hunting down the ones in the woods.

Somehow, when you're out in the woods looking for treasure, time just flies by.  We've easily lost track of several hours at a time.  But we end up finding hidden pieces of the forest we would never see otherwise.

Below?  This is actually a geocache.  It quite alarmed Paul when he found this rat hidden amongst the rocks.  The belly of him was hollowed out, and inside was a teeny tiny geocache.  Just big enough to sign your name on a slip of paper to mark that you'd found him.  Of course the rat is now a favorite of ours.

A long lost ruin, deep in the woods in the mountains.  This used to be part of a radio tower I think.

The mysterious car that is on the side of a mountain just off the hiking trail.  No road nearby.  Who knows how it wound up there.

Painted rocks seem to be all the rage right now, and we found our first on top of a trail sign.  It's a little Yoshi.  We rehid it. 

An interesting caterpillar.  Look at those colors!  I was fearful to touch him with all those spikes. 

Sorting through the trinkets, looking for things to trade.  This cache was under the faux rock formation to the left. 
What a fun time we had!  And there are many more geocaches out there to find.  Readers, have you ever looked for a geocache?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sometimes I Can't Believe It - Francie Update

I've been riding Francie a lot this summer, and asked Paul to take some pictures of me.  I don't have a trainer so I like to self-criticize my position and such, always trying to make little improvements (my hand positioning needs some work, for example). 

After looking through the pictures, I kept thinking about how much Francie has changed since I rescued her around November 30, 2013.  So I dug up some of her first pictures.  When she was infested with the worst case of parasites my vet had ever seen.  When her growth was so stunted she looked like a miniature pony.  When her legs were so covered in foul, smelly muck from standing in a foot of manure that I couldn't brush it out, no matter how hard I tried, and ended up having to do multiple scrubbings in winter to get her clean. 

Francie couldn't be caught.  She had never had her feet trimmed.  She didn't know how to lead with a halter.  No one had ever messed with her.  She was in a mud/manure lot with no grass and no food, and a black brackish pond for water.  In fact, she didn't even have a name.

If I hadn't been there for every step of her transformation, I wouldn't believe these pictures.  She doesn't even look like the same horse!  I had to teach her everything, from the ground up.  There is still much work to be done under saddle.  She can be high strung most days, and something as small as a horse fly can cause extreme drama (I have never ridden a horse that despised horse flies as much as this mare).  Especially at the canter, Francie needs to work on balance, but we are also working on transitions and suppleness in other gaits.  As you can see, though, Francie is completely healthy and thriving.  I'm so thankful to have her.  She has been a huge comfort to me now that I can no longer ride Phoenix due to his debilitating arthritis.  On most days after we finish a ride, I feel like Francie is giving me more than I have ever given her.  I never would've guessed on the day I couldn't watch her suffer any more, and I stepped in to negotiate her rescue, that I was creating a bond with this little mare that would bring me so much happiness on down the road.  Sometimes, those impulse decisions really can be the best decisions.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Canning Wrap Up 2017

My garden did not do well this year, but I still managed to get some canning done.  Mostly because our apple tree was loaded this year, but also because neighbors shared green beans and blueberries, and my mom gave me a bunch of fresh corn. So the year was not a loss by any means.  Here is a picture of my canned goods in the basement (I have a few things in my upstairs pantry as well). 

While a few things are left from last year (not listed in my inventory below - 2016 had its own inventory list), much of the jars in my picture are current.  Here are the things I canned in 2017:
16 pints Boston baked beans
14 pints butternut squash
10 quarts, 1 pint chili
18 pints green beans
8 1/2 half pints blueberry jam
8 pints corn
38 1/2 pints apple butter
14 quarts apple pie filling
52 pints applesauce
6 quarts black bean soup
6 pints crushed tomatoes
8 quarts chicken and veggie soup
30 half pints of autumn olive jelly
I'd love to can more black bean soup at some point.  We will miss not having home canned salsa or pickles this winter, but hopefully next year will be a better one for gardening.
Readers, what's your favorite home canned food?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Twins are 8

Last month, the Cort and Reid turned 8.  Some of you have been reading about them on this blog since they were four months old!  Most of the time, they get along well (like in this picture, they were listening to some music together).  It's Cort and Pierce that do all the arguing in our house.

Cort and Reid are often up to some sort of antics.  Here, they were banished outside because of the brass instruments that they truly cannot play.  This is my uncle's old trumpet and Paul's old saxophone.  Instruments of torture for this mom's ears!

The week after they turned 8, it was back to school.  The only thing Cort requested for his birthday was blue hair.  So we made that happen.  He loved it, and couple of weeks later he was back to normal. 

Cort and Reid are in 3rd grade this year.  Pierce is in 5th.  I can't believe we'll have a middle schooler next year!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Camping at Holliday Lake State Park

Before the boys returned to school, we took a four day camping trip at Holliday Lake State Park.  I ran an ultramarathon there years ago, and always thought it would be a nice place to camp.  The day we arrived, the entire place was empty except for one RV (by the weekend it was almost completely full).  So we got the pick of the tent spots - #14 (which was good because some of them are right on top of each other). 

The boys rode bikes around the camping loop while Paul and I got things set up.  We successfully figured out how to hook up the tent garage with the rainfly, so we were pleased that we weren't total idiots this time (unlike our garage setting up FAIL at Fairystone). 

The lake was exceptionally clean, and no one woke up during the night sick with stomach pain and vomiting this time around.  More success!

The boys can't get enough swimming during the summer months.  It's one of their favorite activities. I enjoyed running the trails in my spare time (and Paul biked them).

On Friday we took a side trip to get in some history at Appomattox Courthouse.  It's only fifteen minutes away.  Here are the boys in the jail.  They were suitably impressed by the big chain bolt in the floor and walls.

The little village was simple and quaint.  There were people in period dress telling stories throughout.

The picture below is the backside of the McLean house (brick).  The parlor inside is where Lee and Grant met to end the Civil War.  The guides were excellent and I think the boys were able to realize what a monumental moment this was in history.

We walked all over Appomattox Courthouse.  So many interesting things to see!  But eventually, we headed back to our camp.

At Holliday Lake, we attended five ranger programs.  The rangers were so knowledgeable and the boys adored their programs.  Below, the boys are learning how to build fire by a number of different methods.

Another day, we attended a critters of the lake class, and the boys caught water scorpions and minnows and other tiny lake life critters by net.
We had such a great time!  Now, we can't wait to go again.  Hopefully we can try a camping trip sometime this fall.