30 June 2014

The Ozarks

After leaving Dallas we headed up to Arkansas for adventures in the Ozarks. My stake always held girls camp at Beavers Bend State Park in Southeastern Oklahoma, so I'd been to the tail end of the Ozarks many times. Despite this, I'd never been to Arkansas.

The drive through the Ozarks was certainly beautiful. By this time the kids were definitely getting better at being content passengers, but they were tired after several days of poor napping and late nights in Dallas. There was quite a bit of rain on our drive up, but Eric was certain that we needed to hike to Glory Hole. We bought some ponchos at a Walmart on our way out of Texas because we expected the weather to be rainy. (Thanks, Internet!) We had to tie Ike's poncho in knots so he wouldn't trip all over it the whole time. Meanwhile, Felix wouldn't even wear one, so we ripped a hole in a grocery sack and tried to keep that on him, which was not remotely successful. When we were under the trees we hardly got wet anyway, so it all ended up being rather pointless.

It was a good hike. Eric carried Felix most of the way. When he wasn't carrying Felix on his back, he was carrying Ike. It's good to have a strong man for a husband.

I figure I don't have much longer for this little kid to always want to hold my hand, so I take every chance I get.

As I said, the hike was to Glory Hole, which is basically a hole in this rock. Water flows from the top, then straight down this hole, and out the bottom. You can just barely make it out in this picture, and the next picture is a little better. (Felix has his head turned to check it out. He wasn't remotely interested in the camera.)

That night we camped at Steel Creek Campground. It had the benefits of picnic tables, running water, and toilets, but it was really open. There weren't really trees to break up the different campgrounds. It was totally adequate for one night, though. Eric always makes such an effort to take pictures of me with the boys, but they pretty much all turn out like this:

Felix (as usual) made short work of becoming utterly filthy in as little time as possible.

The next day we got outfitted to go canoeing. The employees at the canoe rental place thought we were rather insane to be taking two little kids on an eight-mile stretch of reasonably challenging waters. I assured them that Eric is skilled at canoeing. (Wow, a beefy guy who can lug kids on hikes and who can manhandle a canoe, lucky me!) The stretch that we canoed was really beautiful, and I'm glad we went. My job was to make sure Felix didn't go jumping out of the boat. Occasionally I distributed water and snacks, and every so often I stuck my paddle in the water too. Obviously we weren't taking pictures during the rapids, but there were a number of sections with rapids. Eric navigated them like a pro, while I taught Felix to say, "Weeeeee!" In case you are wondering, yes, I absolutely wore the same outfit two days in a row. I figured it would be silly to wear two changes of clothes for two days of hiking, camping, and canoeing.

We stopped canoeing to go see the largest waterfall between the Appalachians and the Rockies. We somehow managed to get lost, which was annoying because it was supposed to be a round trip distance of 1.4 miles. Somebody kept insisting that we would find it if we kept going up and up and up and up, not on a trail. I finally insisted that our 3-year-old could not handle the hike any longer, and we headed back down. On our way down, we saw where we missed the trail, and we went and saw the real thing. But by then lots of us were hangry, and the waterfall was not so very impressive. We'll get it right next time.
One of the things that made Felix grumpy on the canoe trip was his oversized life jacket. He couldn't sit down without it plopping over his face, which meant he had to stand a lot, which meant he was a little ornery. Next time we use a company to outfit us with a canoe and life jackets we'll be sure to bring a life jacket that fits him properly.

28 June 2014

Last Dallas Day

I know you've all been waiting with baited breath for more pictures and stories about our last day in Dallas. We went to the Dallas Zoo with my parents and my brother and his girlfriend. I think it was my favorite part of the trip. We fed giraffes, which Felix particularly loved:

We also fed lorikeets and lories. I did not invite them to sit on my head, but that is what they did. At one point there were three on my head. They also hopped all around my arms trying to get the nectar in the little paper cups. Even when I was out of nectar I had a hard time getting them to vacate my body. They were also fond of my dad, even though he sent them all sorts of signals about preferring giraffes.

Ike warmed up to Uncle Steve right away, and they had a lot of fun together.

Toward the end of the day we visited the petting zoo, where Felix found it necessary to pet and hug every goat in the pen, at least until one of them got spooked, bolted, and ran him over. Felix was no longer infatuated with the goats. (This picture was taken right before the goat got spooked, and you can sort of tell he's about to bolt.)

Of the five kids in my family only two still live in the Dallas area. It's been a long time since we were all together (about 7 years), but we always like to get together piecemeal when one of the out-of-towners comes to visit. We had a great dinner together with the three of us, our significant others, and my two little monsters. (Fact: We ate at the Cracker Barrel, which has those little triangular shaped peg games for you to play with while you wait. We stole peg games from other tables to keep my children occupied, and Ike is quite confident that he "won" the game by putting all the pegs in. (The object is to remove them.) We also let Felix eat ketchup with a spoon to keep him pacified. Parenting is at its finest when you're on vacation.)

23 June 2014

Another Dallas Day

On one of our days in Dallas we went to the Dallas Heritage Village to look at historic buildings from around the area, which have all been moved to one location. I really loved it, but my boys had little patience for it, and Eric was only mildly interested. In many of the homes, you could go in the rooms, but there were barriers so that you couldn't actually get close enough to really examine things. Some of the buildings were more open, like the school house. We had a fun time there.

Of all the things, the boys liked the water fountain and the empty horse trough the best.

Later that day we went to the Trinity River Audubon Center, which did not exist when lived there. We picked up my nephew before heading over, and it was good to spend a little more time with him. We hiked around for a little bit, but it was really hot, and then the mosquitoes were incredibly bad, so we headed back to the indoor museum and exhibits for a little bit before heading out for the day.

20 June 2014

The First Few Dallas Days

I grew up in Dallas, and my parents and two siblings still live there. We hadn't been to visit since the November 2012, when Felix was a few weeks old (and just before Ike turned 2, because we didn't want to pay for his airfare).

After driving about 15 hours from the Durango area to Dallas, my kids were ready to get out and do some fun stuff. First, we went to the new splash pad near my parents' house, and the kids loved it.

I was surprised by how quickly and readily my kids warmed up to my parents, especially Felix who is more introverted and doesn't do very well with people he doesn't know. Ike cozied right up to my dad, and my dad read several books to him during our visits. (Despite my dad's disgruntled face, I'm pretty sure he enjoyed reading the same books over and over and over again to my little guy.)

Another day we met up as a whole family and rode the Dallas transit train into downtown. This ended up being one of the highlights of the whole trip for Ike. He loved getting to play with his older cousin, and his older cousin loved getting to be the big boy. We also saw an outdoor art exhibit that was very large and rather odd.

On a rainy day when we had planned to visit the zoo, we opted to instead visit a free electric train museum in Plano. It was a bit of a drive from where we were, but it was indoors, and it was free. The boys were decently behaved in the tour of the old electric train car, but their favorite part was definitely the model train inside.

The docent who gave us a tour of the electric railway car told us about a nearby playground with a tank. My husband is my husband, so we had to go play there.

17 June 2014

Mesa Verde National Park

One of the great things about having a teacher husband is that he has lots of time off. Have I already mentioned this? No? Well, get used to hearing it from me a lot this summer. (Actually, let's be realistic. I've hardly posted at all this year. If I keep up my infrequent posts you won't hear from me much at all, which means you'll hardly have to listen to me prattle on about Eric being on summer vacation.) We took a big road trip (Utah to Colorado to Dallas to Arkansas to Kansas City and home again), and to spare you from the longest post of pictures ever, I'll break it up into a few posts for you. (You're welcome.)

We first went to Mesa Verde National Park. It was neat, but I wish we had had more time to spend there. I also wish that Felix had napped in the car at an earlier hour so that when we got to the park around 1 he had been rested. He was a bit of a pill sometimes. Ike loved any opportunity to climb a ladder. I had read from various places that this park is not child-friendly, and I can see why people say that. Still, I thought it was totally worth going, even with two little kids (aged 3.5 and 1.5). I'd love to go again without little kids so we can spend more time there and go on some of the longer hikes.

After our visit to Mesa Verde National Park we camped somewhat nearby. We had planned on staying at a campground with running water and such things, but we didn't make a reservation in time and instead camped in a camping area in the national forest. We had a great time camping. It was pretty cold, but we managed to stay warm enough.  I shared a tent with Ike, and Eric shared with Felix. Both boys went to sleep fairly well, and in the morning we headed to Dallas. It was definitely the worst leg of our long journey with Felix crying quite a bit. Ike eventually got tired and grabbed Felix's blanket, which Felix had thrown down in a rage, covered his head with it and promptly went to sleep. Ike gave up and napped later as well.