Simply writing about faith, family, and life stories.

Grand Tetons 2013 Part 3

Soooo, now that we are getting back in the groove together, I can’t decide what to write first.

Grand Tetons 2013 that I never finished?

Or Yosemite that I just started? Also we went to Big Bend last year and Lost Maples.

Ugh.

Someone tell me what to write! Nothing? You’ve got nothing?

Then I’ll do what I want anyways.

Hmm.

Okay, now I know. We will all go back to the Tetons together. Back to the summer of 2013.

111I know a lot has happened since then, but that doesn’t mean you should turn around and take a gander in the past. It was a great trip, and you ought to know about it. It was gritty. It was a tough one, and there was so much laughter and some crying too. So, let’s go back, shall we? Back to that last few sentences when I told you about our campfire and that we had made plans to hike Phelps Lake the next day.

Okay. Just stop. I hear you thinking you don’t remember or you never read it and you don’t know what the John Henry I’m talking about. Go read Part 1 and Part 2. I’ll wait. Phelps Lake requires a hike down first, and then a hike back up the mountain. There are breathtaking moments of beauty on this hike, but our children had done this hike the last time we were here. Not that they were like, Ho, hum. But, it was clear they thought they knew all about it. And they knew only one mission…to get to the jumping rock on the lake and jump off of it. It was a cool place, and last time I was there, I was all about the jumping off. This year, I didn’t feel so jumpy. Hiking down into Phelps Lake made me bust out in the “Hills are alive! With the Sound of Music!” I was a little surprised at how much I actually remembered from that little song. I know almost all the words. Hey, remember before DVD, Blue-Ray and even VCR’s….and one of the three TV stations we all watched had a Sunday night movie. And remember how once a year they played The Sound of Music? That was cool, huh? That’s why I know the words. Anyways, we hiked all the way down, and I was impressed with my children and my nephews. It was a bit strange to only be with one other family, but the quiet was nice. Haha! I think only 7 children means our group is quiet.

We made it to the bottoms where there is a silent forest. My soul stilled in the midst of it. I saw the faces of the children reflect the peace of this place.

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We didn’t say much until we reached the beach, and then everyone spread out, explored and ate lunch. Then we all headed down the path to the jumping rock. Everyone took turns jumping, but I hesitated. I don’t know why because the year before, I just went out and did it. This year, I needed to sit on the rock and watch everyone. Maybe it was the fresh grief from mom still. It was a hard moment for me, but I felt free also. Free not to be brave and foolish. Free to just be. So, I sat and watched them all jump into the freezing water. And I was okay.
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After dripping dry some, we headed back up the path to conclude this day hike. Reflective, I found myself surprised to look up and see where I was.
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And then you run into this. And you ask yourself a little question: where did all these people come from?
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It was a lovely hike to Phelps Lake and back and perfect for our first day. If you go or if you ever go hiking, I have to tell you some important tips for hiking with children and in general.

From me…
1. Know where you are going and how far it is.

2. Take snacks and water.
3. Don’t lollygag, but don’t rush unless it’s getting dark and you don’t have a light.
4. Go hard and push. Don’t underestimate yourself or your company.
5. Take moments to rest and look around. Be where you are.
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If one of your kids gets really tired and think they can’t go any farther, find a little distraction like a pine cone or leaf they can carry. ~Matt

Watch where you put your feet so you don’t end up with bloody knees. ~Anna

If you’re feeling tired, just look at the scenery around you. ~Maile

Never go backward. ~Lydia

If you want to catch up with your friends, run. Or wait for them. ~Claire

After Phelps Lake, we did a short hike to Moose Pond. I’m happy to tell you that we saw a mama Moose and her baby.
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The part I did not enjoy was the squishy,wet trail it was. I mean muddy and sloppy. It rained on us periodically on the Moose Pond trail,and I had to work a little to keep a good attitude. I did appreciate the misty, romantic scene, but it was cold and drippy and so was I. Also, to add to my grouchy, I dropped my phone halfway down it right about here after I took this lovely pic:
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After retracing my steps, thankfully it was right where we had seen the moose family. Everyone made fun of me which tends to be an expected part of all of my vacations. Laughing at yourself can be great medicine.

Back at the camp, I made cowboy stew. I had thrown in a box of Sundried Tomato Wheat Thins for the adults. I only got one of them. One. The children ate the stew, but they also passed the Wheat Thin box around and methodically ate them one by one. Hiking=hunger. We went to bed with the backcountry trip on our minds.

To be continued…

Note to Self

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It all started with those dadgum Christmas decorations. Christmas decorations. You know the ones, right? The ones you lovingly take out, admire, display, remember, and enjoy for a few weeks. The same ones on New Years Day you look at and despise for daring to clutter up your home. And then you huff and you puff and shove them up into the attic again.

Well, the scene isn’t quite set for you because you didn’t know that my whole family came down with the flu right after Christmas. It was lots of fun. Not really. I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head at one point because my head hurt so bad and I was so hot. Not hot like that, now. Disgusting. My husband and I spent two days in bed together hacking and coughing and sweating out our fevers. It was not romantic. Also, the kids were ahead of us, and I was glad because they were well enough to feel a little sorry for their mother. So, after this, you can imagine what the house looked like complete with germs plus all those Christmas decorations.

A few days after New Years, I was feeling strong enough to tackle the mess and start anew. After only a few groans, the girls were moving and so was I. They had the tree cleared off in no time, and I packed away the stockings. I was contemplating how to pack the little church that was my mama’s which got knocked off onto the floor this year and is pretty much broken now but I don’t care because I will never throw it out, and Maile said, “You know what we should do?” “What?” I asked, curious at her tone of wonder. “We should write letters to ourselves and put them in the Christmas decoration buckets! Then when we get them out again next December, we can read them!”

Immediately, Lydia dropped the ornament she was holding and ran to get some paper. That girl has enthusiasm. I told Maile I thought that was a great idea, brilliant even. Claire looked pensive. Then she disappeared. Lydia had a tiny corner of a sheet from a legal pad she had torn off at which Maile scoffed. Maile grabbed a legal pad and went to town. She wrote in every line a page and a half…pink ink on yellow paper is hard to read by the way. I tried, but I have no idea what that girl was saying to herself. Lydia kept saying her beginning out loud, “Dear 2015 Lydia!” Protests flew from Maile about the incorrectness of her statement. “You’re already 2015 Lydia! Oh my gosh!” I chuckled.

I went in the office and grabbed some envelopes. I began to write on a smaller note pad with a gold sharpie keeping my list short, simple, complete with high expectations. Lydia read hers aloud. No one else did. We shoved them all in envelopes. I wrote my name on the envelope and threw it in the green bucket with the stockings. Lydia wrote her name with a few doodles and carefully place her letter in the arms of the snowman with spaghetti legs who sits on our mantle at Christmas time. Claire reappeared with a folded paper and quickly sealed it into an envelope. Maile spent 30 minutes decorating the outside of her envelope before placing it in the bin. Matt arrived home and wrote a note to himself, a bit begrudgingly I might add. He was glad after he did it, I just know it. Anna was out of town so I need to include her when she gets home. The rest of the day, we worked our fingers to the bone. Not really, I just wanted to say that because it’s kind of a gross saying. The point is our home was transformed back to order and space. Lovely.

Everyone can use a new beginning right? I am starting this year anew with a year behind me that included a lot of accomplishments. New goals are etching out of me this week, and one of them has to do with this little blog. I have goals for the girls. I have running hopes. And this year contains a little dream of mine that has been in the works forever (stay tuned). You could use a new start, I can tell. So, why not start it with a note to yourself. Don’t be shy. Go get some paper. You might want more than a corner. A gold sharpie makes everything more sparkly. And remember.

Always simply begin.

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Lost in Maples

Hey! Come and visit me over here!

This is a repost from my archives. I was flipping through and thought it deserved a second chance especially since I am trying to finish the book this week. Writing a book is brutal at times, by the way. Also, your mom deserves a second chance.

Your mom’s writing a book.

Your mom goes to college.

Your mom eats yogurt.

Your mom takes the trash out.

Your mom cleans dog vomit.

Your mom washes dishes.

Your mom’s on jury duty.

Your mom buys clothes.

Your mom sweeps.

Your mom goes to conferences.

Your mom shaves.

Your mom’s funny.

Your mom cleans the toilet.

Your mom’s ticked.

Your mom eats waffles.

Your mom does yoga.

I figured out a way to make a list of everything I do for my children so they will appreciate me! See, the key is to not do it in a nagging format. Or whining. You think it’s bad when they whine? I know it’s not fair but kids usually have a zero tolerance program for parental whining. Yeah, so here’s what you do: Anytime you ask them to do something and they complain, do a “Your mom” joke with what they said (after you tell them to do what you said and I mean it, mister).

A) It’s funny. B) You get to brag on your own work. Get it? Because it’s you that you’re talking about! Hahaha!

The only problem is when they figure it out. Durn kids are too smart these days. They catch on quick, and then they sometimes roll their eyes and say…”You know you’re joking about yourself, right Mom?” If this happens, just smile and nod and say, “Your mom’s a joker.”

You won’t survive parenting if you can”t laugh sometimes. Believe me.

OH, and your mom laughs.

Things for Your Mundane

What you need (to combat the mundane), baby I’ve got it.

1. Wonder Woman socks…with capes on them. Yeah. I’m wearing them now. The kids don’t really question me. They actually think they are super cool. Super. Cool. I love Wonder Woman when I was a kid. I mean, she could lift a car and block bullets with her wrist-metal-things. The socks can help you with your household chores. Really. I mean it.
2. Your kids. Just stop and listen. Their perspective is priceless…and quite the opposite of mundane. Lydia recently discovered that she really likes to ride her bike. You have to understand. Mostly we ride horses. We had a few home nights and she’s been riding her bike a lot. She came in all sweaty the other night and said, “Well!” “Well, what?” I asked. “I just had the time of my life,” she said dryly. I whipped around to catch her expression, and she was grinning from ear to ear. She meant it. I laughed hard and told her I was so glad.

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3. Caramel apples. You can laugh, but making them yourself complete with children helping is messy and rewarding. It’s hard to get the caramel all on the apple. Then it’s challenging to pull the darn thing off the wax paper. Then you get to eat a yummy treat. And also, after awhile, your jaw hurts and you wonder how long you have to keep chewing on this thing. Plus, your twelve-year-old might sigh with you, both of you chewing and chewing, and say, “This apple is kinda making me tired.”
4. Plans. Camping plans. Book plans. Household plans. Plans are fun and helpful and reduce stress.
5. A race down the pier. Don’t be afraid. So what if a nail rips on your barefeet a bit. Be the one to call it! Go, run, go!

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6. A day of remembrance. It’s some of these days that sometimes make you wish for the mundane. Days of remembrance can be a whip, but they are necessary. My mama has been gone for two years now. I felt numb the whole day long. I couldn’t really tell you about it. It just is what it is. She was a lovely person complete with all the humanity that we all have. I love her. She loved me and annoyed me at times. She knew me. I miss her voice and her eyes. She’s still in my favorites on my phone, and I still have a text stream from her I can’t seem to delete. So, if you want great joy, great sorrow comes too. One of the last things Mom wanted to do was to go to my niece’s wedding. I was her date. It was a great night, and she looked elegant. Here we are now. Remember with me, and forget the mundane….and be glad for it in the morning.

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Yosemite 2014: Part 2

305We rolled down the rocky road to the Tamarack Flats. Beth wondered aloud if her U-haul trailer would make it down that hill. We didn’t know it then, but that road would be the least of the U-haul adventures. It was a pretty campsite, we told ourselves, even if it didn’t have running water. It had compost toilets which were just fine with us especially if they are working properly and don’t stink to high heaven. Finally, we reached the box with the envelopes, and we knew this was the place for us. The trees were tall and there were many. The creek was just big enough, and there was a giant tree that had fallen beside the creek that would be perfect for exploring.

Securing Your Campsite

by Katie Sciba

1. Get a lot of envelopes. You might mess up one. You don’t want to have to run back to the box to get more, frantic that some other freak might rip the perfect campsite out from under you. You should plan to have a pen. I had to dig through Beth’s side pocket in her door and came up with a pencil and a red sharpie.

2. Drive through the campsite eyeing the campers to see if a) they’re awake b) they show any signs of leaving and c)what their envelope says under the campsite number (this is important). Also this is all in pen and paper which fit our lack of any phone service or online reservations.

3. Stop and have a nice chat with some sleepy Dutch couple who are trying to eat their cereal. This is important because they might give you the low-down on who might be leaving that morning in the campsite.

4. Hopefully, you will find the perfect place with no one there with sites for your family members right next to them all complete with creek access. Look for a good place to set your tent. Consider the placing of the picnic table. Decide how much bear box space you need. Put YOUR ENVELOPE WITH THE CIRCLED AMOUNT OF DAYS ON THE CAMPSITE NUMBER NOW. Then go pay for it at the friendly box.

5. At this point, you might want to exhale, pat each other on the back, and smile knowing you are the cause of a great place to stay for your family’s vacation!

This is how it happened for us, and it could be like this too for you. But you need to get up early,  and you need to not mind asking folks if they are leaving. We also didn’t mind looking stupid running back and forth from the car and up and down the road. Anxiety of not knowing where you are sleeping that night helps the motivation level. We were determined. As we were paying, my brother-in-law Clay and my father-in-law Bill pulled up beside us. “We got ‘em!” Clay said. “No, we got ‘em!” Beth and I said. They had arrived late that night and stayed at Curry Village. We couldn’t believe that we ran into them. They had procured three sites also, but ours were better. So, they yielded to our greatness. We told them we would see them back at the great sites, and we all went back to where we slept the night before to break camp.

When we got back to our first night camp, our people were starting to break camp. We hurried as quick as we could, and got on the road back to Tamarack. On the way back down the road to the new sites, our car started freaking out again. After setting up camp, we made a decision we needed to get to the garage in Yosemite Valley first of all. We also needed to check on Wilderness Permits for a possible backcountry part of our trip. Matt dropped us at the Wilderness Permit place, and the girls went with their Nana to look at some of the sights in Yosemite Village. Beth, Cole, Bill, and I listened soberly to the Forest Ranger tell us our group was too big to back country hike together. “But, I have Half-Dome Day Permits,” I said. He went on to tell us that we had to have backcountry permits to sleep out there regardless. He told us our options and that we would need to be back at 11am tomorrow to secure separate permits that we probably wouldn’t be able to get.

Matt came back and said our coils needed replacing. He said the mechanic could temporarily fix it and we could try driving it. We agreed to try this, and then we all hiked Mirror Lake. It was a nice hike that was somewhat crowded. Some of our kids swam in the cold water, but I could only put my feet in. I tried hard to relax into my surroundings, but the dilemma with the  car and the permits were competing. I breathed in deep. What now?

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Even vacations have bumps in the road, and even on vacation you have to adjust your attitude at times. We challenge the kids to choose a good attitude even when it’s hard, so I pushed myself during this hike to make decisions and let go of the frustration. I could appreciate where I was and what we were doing even if I didn’t know how my car was going to get us home. I could. Really. And I did. And then I sat next to my kids and nephews sweating with them taking dumb pics. And I was so glad to be in the place I was in. I was. Even though the mechanic had said the temporary fix would probably get us as far back to Texas as Vegas. Still happy. P.S. Mr. Yosemite Mechanic: Vegas isn’t very close to Texas. Thank you.

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To be continued…

Now, you know you have to go back to the beginning, right? I know you want to know what happened at Half Dome, but I’m backing you up a few days. It usually starts with happy kids and grouchy parents. It takes a lot to prepare for these vacations, but we are getting pretty good at it. We finally got on the road about lunchtime, and we made it to Lubbock by dinner to meet my brother-in-law Cole and my sister-in-law Beth and their three sons. We ate calzones at a restaurant there, and they were very delicious. I had worked in the car a lot of the way to Lubbock so I was pretty tired. But, I started my driving shift and lasted a puny 2 hours. Matt took over for a long time. He woke me up about 3:30am, and I took over. My favorite driving time is while the sun comes up.

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If you drive from Texas to Cali, you have to want it. It’s far. We did pass the Hoover Dam, but there are too many security checks with all our stuff and they wouldn’t allow Beth and Cole to come down to the dam with their U-haul trailer. So, we went up to the lookout and took some dam pictures.
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We drove all day and all night and still we were only in Las Vegas by 10am the next morning. We watched Vegas pass by our windows and kept going. After that city, you head into the desert until you get to Yosemite. There is nothing. It was at this point that our car began to hesitate a little. I was driving and we were on a two-lane road with desert all around and the hills were up and down. I received a message from Beth, “We are now riding the Texas Giant.” I laughed out loud. I think I might have snorted. But everyone was asleep except Lydia in the way back. She was on the edge of her seat waiting for the next hill with her beautiful grin. She and I giggled as I went over hill after hill. Finally we saw trees, and I knew we were almost there. The oil pressure gauge began to drop, and the car’s hesitation increased. It was not great news, I tell you. It was not pleasant driving either.

Matt stared at the gauge, and I said, “I don’t like the feel of this!” as I saw the National Park entrance come into view. We paid the park fee, entered the park, and pulled over to check the oil. Ugh. Nothing was wrong with that. We surveyed the options, found that there is a garage in Yosemite Valley, and decided to go on to our campsite for the night. We had a site reserved in Crane Flat Campground for one night. After that we were planning to get an awesome, perfect, wonderful site at one of the first come-first serve campgrounds. The kids ran around relieved to be in the forest, free to explore nature. They took off up the hill, and we reminded them to look out for wildlife. We made Frito Pie, and then we had camp donuts of course. It was a healthy supper.

You want camp donuts too? Too bad. Just kidding. I’ll leave you the recipe at the end of this post cause I’m nice like that. We looked at our maps. We discussed who was going to get the campsites in the morning. We wanted to go to Tamarack Flats first. This campsite was supposed to be pretty. It only has compost toilets and a creek for water, but it’s location was the best. The rumor is that they fill up by 10am, and we were not going to miss out. We had alternative site choices, but we were determined. “I think you guys should go,” I said to Cole and Matt, “Last time we did it, Beth cried.” The last time we had tried to get first-come, first-serve sites was a couple of years ago at the Grand Tetons. It was stressful. We didn’t know what we were doing, and we didn’t get any sites. Beth nodded. It was getting dark, so we put every thing in the bear boxes and went to bed not really deciding anything.

Camping Tip #1: The way to enjoy an awesome first night’s sleep in your tent is to drive 30 hours in your car just prior to. Anything flat you can lay on will feel like luxury.

I slept like a baby that night until I heard outside my tent Beth say, “Kate! Are you awake?” I squished my eyes open and said yes. “Let’s just go now, okay? You want to?” “Sure, let me get dressed.” I said. Thankfully, Cole had made coffee. We had no phone service at all. Cole and Matt looked at us. “I guess, if you aren’t back by noon, we should be concerned?” Cole asked. I shrugged my shoulders. Beth laughed. I grabbed yogurt out of my cooler, put my sweatshirt on, and we left. I had a lot of questions.

Would we find the perfect campsite? How would we ever find our other family group who had arrived last night also? Would the Tamarack Flats be fun? Where are we going to sleep tonight if we don’t find a campsite? The pressure was building.

To Be Continued…

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