Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm Not Catholic - but I've been to Purgatory

The weekend forecast looked great for Saturday so Kristi and I planned a trip to an interesting looking park. We mapped out some geocaches and planned a picnic lunch. We had soccer in the morning setting us up for a late start (1 hour to the area). As we hurried back from the fields of friendly strife we tried to sell the wonderful trip we had planned to the kids. They were not excited. Another silly hiking trip with mom and dad. (if only they had known the irony of the name of place we were going).

To help keep spirits high or at least neutral - I popped in a movie in the van for the initial drive. The cartoon had something to do with a birthday so Lu started "singing" happy birthday and included the silly - cha-cha-chas in between verses in her broken 2 year old language (quite funny). Another funny story on the way in was K spying a shopping center (imagine that). Not only did she see the center obscured by hills and trees, but her keen female brand spotting eyes
see a Red Robin sign. She squeals with excitement and says "will we still be here at dinner time?" I pause and answer "well we will be now!" (I'm no dummy - I learned something in 15 years).

Finally to the park. We had a good map (always key when you travel with teddy), and we were trying to decide where to park. I spot a cool looking playground. We stop here and unload. The kids play, we eat some lunch, and then gear up for the big hike.

The park is called Purgatory Chasm State Reservation. The main attraction is a 1/4 mile chasm between walls of granite. It's way cool if you like to scramble over large rocks. It has small caves and pockets to fall into and steep rock faces to fall down. Perfect place to take a curious 2 year old - right. Of course we end up carrying Lucy on this part of trek. Who am I kidding we carried her most of the day. We survived the chasm, and then walked some trails to find some geocaches.

We found 2 of the three caches we were hunting. We also found an archived cache that was supposedly 10 feet from the one we did not find (last one of the day). As I was sitting with Lucy I watched some other clown walk up with a gaggle of people (and a dog and a snake) and find the container in a rock crevice and says, "hey what is this?" He fumbles around in the container and yells out, "Hey there some smokes in here." I try to explain it to him, but he is not really interesting in listening to me. He closes it up and heads up the hill (still with the baby snake in one hand).

On the way back from the caches we added a new find to our list. A letterbox. It's similar to geocaching but was started before there were GPS signals. You get some clues from a webpage similar to a treasure map and then you can find a container with a cool stamp. You take along your book and get the stamp. Kristi and Riley get credit for that one. While I waited along the main trail with some tired kids.

After the hike we purchased some ice cream from the Ice Cream Truck cleverly stationed in the parking lot. We played some more in the playground then headed for home (via the shopping center).
Kristi loved her dinner at Red Robin. She had some blue cheese pesto chicken sandwich and a Dr P (of course). The kids were less excited, and mostly just worn out from the day's adventure.

We had an awesome time in Purgatory. I think Kristi and I loved just joking about Purgatory and that it really is here in Massachusetts. There was irony on so many levels...especially lugging 4 moody kids in and out of the rocks.

In all seriousness...seeing some of God's handiwork was simply amazing. Here's what author Peter Whitney said about it a zillion years ago (in 1793). "This is the most stupendous place, and fills the mind of the beholder with the most exalted ideas of the infinite power of the great Creator of all things."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Piano Recital

Tonight was the girl's Piano recital. Here's a pic of our two girls and the two oldest Jensen kids. They all have the same Paino teacher...because we can't do anything without the Jensens involved in some way. I took videos (of Riley and Mary Beth) so you can enjoy the show.

If you need help with stopping the music player at the bottom of the page - just scroll down to the music player and click on the large circle with two parallel lines (to pause).

Each girl played two songs. Mary Beth was first.

And here's her second piece.

Now Riley's first song.

And then her second.

Afterwards we all enjoy refreshments and snacks...chit chat in the Gatlin standard standoffish way and then leave. Cory and baby Lu had the night off and stayed with some friends on the circle. That's mainly becuase the previous two recitals were only seen by one parent. The other parent spent the evening roaming the school halls so as not to distract from the show with loud and unruly kid.

I was very proud of all the kids. They sounded great!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Memorable Day

Wow. Where to even begin. Yesterday was a fun-filled day for us, packed with excitement from the moment we awoke until we put the kids to bed (late, even on a school night!). Before you read any further, you might need to refresh your coffee (or Dr. Pepper) and settle in. Today's blog is a long one.

When you're not sure where to start, I guess you should just start at the beginning. It was a banner geocaching weekend for us. We've already told you about our first two adventures, and we managed to log another cache, Road to Revolution, on Monday. After Ted made us all an amazing breakfast (pancakes, eggs, sausage-yum!), we headed out. It was a two part cache requiring us to first visit the Minuteman Visitors' Center to figure out answers to clues. Those answers were in the form of numbers, which then fit into a set of coordinates directing us to the actual location of the cache. A short drive into Lexington brought us to Whipple Hill Conservation Area where we hiked a short distance up the trail to the cache.

Lucy, being the big girl she is, insisted on walking up (and down) the rocky path herself and even took to bushwhacking to the actual cache.
After returning home we prepared to have a neighborhood Tie-Dying party. Having never done this before brought its own challenges to the activity beyond the challenges of doing this with a crowd of 30 eager (read impatient) kids and a few adults (thankfully they were mostly patient! ;)) as well. However, with some willing parents helping out we were able to tie dye t-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops and a few socks for any who wanted to--and at the same time teach a lesson on delayed gratification! First there was the 20 minute pre-soak, then waiting a turn for the table to dye, then wrapping the shirts to soak the dye for 6-8 hours, then getting the shirts washed and dried. The kids are thrilled that they will finally be able to wear their shirts to school tomorrow.

Now, at this point some might be inclined to call it a day, but noooooo, there is so much more in store for Freedom Circle's Memorial Day Bash.

For a few years now I have wanted to have a bicycle parade/decorating contest for the kids to participate in, and this was the year to put it in action. Our Circle of 9 houses has 30 kids and most of those decorated their bikes. It was amazing to see all the unique and fun things the kids came up with. There was the 'Zoo on Wheels,' a tank, a cowboy on a horse, a pirate ship, a doctor bike, a Little Mermaid bike, X-Wing Fighter, hockey bike with attached Zamboni (a bike trailer), a rock n roll bike, a Webkinz bike, Americana bike...really they were all so well done! After the kids lined up at the top of the hill, we had them ride their bikes down and around the circle a couple of times to the cheers, applause, and flashing cameras of their parents.

The worst part was trying to pick a "winner" in each of the four categories. I don't think we did the best job on that one, but I think the kids had fun parading their bikes--there were smiles everywhere! Although our kids didn't 'win' a prize, I know they had fun.

We had a flower garden:

a Hawaiian bike

a space shuttle

and a princess in her castle

But wait! That's not all. After the kids had their competition, it was time for some adult competition. A throw down to Build a Better Burger. Everyone was invited to submit a burger for a 'friendly' contest. I say 'friendly' because a few on this circle are pretty darn competitive (you know who you are!! :)). Indeed, it was friendly, and we all gorged on 10 different burgers (apparently there was division in one household on the best submission, they submitted two)
and then ranked our three favorites in the categories of presentation, uniqueness of ingredients and the ever important category-taste. The winner received a gift card to Fuddruckers, which Ted found humorously're a really good hamburger maker, so you go eat someone else's hamburgers?

After that, we just kind of hung out while the kids played capture the flag at the top of the hill and some of the adults played bocce ball. We may not have built the best burger, but apparently Ted and his buddy did win the bocce ball game.

Unfortunately, the fun we had all day did no favors to the house. After herding all the kids inside for baths (they were filthy) and bed, we still had a house to clean. Between tie-dying, last minute bike preps, and burger building, our house was a wreck. Earlier, Ted overheard one of the kids say that the burger winner should be the family with the cleanest kitchen--maybe not such a bad idea.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Are we at Six Flags?

After church today we headed out to a small park with a Vietnam War Memorial. We knew there was a small geocache in the vicinity and we thought it would be nice to stop by and see the memorial. At some point while we were there, Cory asks, "Is this place Six Flags?" The centerpiece of the memorial is surrounded by 5 flags (and another is off to the side).
He has heard others in the neighborhood talk about six flags. He knows it's a fun place for kids but not sure what it means. Too bad we weren't quick enough to say yeah - isn't this great. All the kids come here and spend the day.
We were successful with the geocache (Dale #2). It was placed there in memory of a fallen soldier from the area by his cousin. We were able to talk for a minute with the kids about this weekend and what it is supposed to represent.

Another interesting aspect of this park was a Remote Control (R/C) aircraft club. There was a large grass field, viewing pavilion and many wooden stands for pilots to position & work on their toys. As we were milling about we noticed a man with his helicopter. The kids were interested so we stuck around for a few minutes.

We saw two different helicopters fly (and one crash).

Another fella had an airplane flying...also saw him crash. There was a second much larger airplane that we were excited to see but the pilot kept working on his engine and never went off the maintenance stand. We got tired of waiting and headed off to Mickey-Ds for some sweet tea. Any interest I had in pursuing that hobby was kicked down the road as 2 of the 3 flyers had trouble. I know how much those things cost...have to pay for college and weddings first.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

She Thinks She's Big

Lucy thinks she's just as big as the rest of the gang, so it was no surprise that she wanted to start riding a bike around the Circle, and not the more 'babyish' tricycle. This 2 1/2 year old who looks more like shes 1 1/2 can barely reach the pedals, even with the seat all the way down, but she manages and loves to go round and round. She can put her bike helmet on by herself, so I often find her making her way down the driveway with her bike ready to ride.

She also thinks she's too big (or maybe it's too cute) to get into trouble. At the slightest discipline she pours on the tears. Today on our way to lunch she kept squealing. When we finally made it clear to her that she was to stop, she began crying into her shoe.

We've said it before, but it bears repeating, we are in trouble with this one.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy Kids

The kids love their cousins. So, having a cousin visit for a few days is a huge treat for the kids (although Cory mentioned that he was sad that his cousin, Jamie, didn't come to see him. We tried to explain to him that Sarah was his cousin, too, but he doesn't always understand logic). Even Lucy loved having Sarah around, and followed her big sisters and cousin around trying to be big, too.
We did some normal stuff -- we biked around the base together and played at a park.
We took a little trip to the American Girl Store to torture them by looking and not buying,

followed by a yummy lunch at California Pizza Kitchen.

And did other typical Boston sightseeing type things, which we've already mentioned (but here's another picture to prove it)

The girls are always sad to say good-bye. I don't blame them--Sarah's a terrific girl.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Christian Fight Club 1627

My sister and niece were in town this weekend. We did the usual tour guide thing...on Saturday we traveled to Plymouth. One of the stops was to Plimoth Plantation (spelling is different because that is how Gov William Bradford spelled it - you see there were no spelling rules back then - they followed phonetic spellings - but I digress). PP for short is a living history museum and a replica of the original Pilgrim village as it might have looked 7 years after the original landing on the rock. You walk around the village and see the houses, people and lifestyle they would have lived. The workers are all in character of an actual person that lived in the village. At the top of the hill was a building that was Cory's favorite.

It was the battle house with cannons. The cannons were on the second floor of the structure to give them the best range to defend the village. The ground floor of the building was also where church services were held.

I like to think of this as a very early version of Christian Fight Club. Some of you might have heard my story of coming across Christian Flight Club while I was in Kuwait. That has stuck with me and I continue to look for a way to integrate manhood and the aggressive nature of masculinity within the church. Having cannons inside the church is a good start I think.

Cory played a funny game with me as I approached the building. He ran out and told me to shut my eyes. Always wary of what my kids will have laying in wait for me when I close my eyes I resisted, but he was persistent. He lead me up the steps...eyes closed...I was afraid of tripping over my sister or finding some surprise at the top of the staircase that might cause me to fall down the steps, but instead I found Cory bursting with excitement that there were battle cannons here in the village.

It was interesting to see and hear the Christian perspective of the early settlers. The religious overtones and Christian nature of their mission is certainly downplayed in modern times, but it come out loud and clear here in PP.

We also toured the Mayflower II (replica of I), spied Plymouth Rock, and walked along the rocky sea wall to an interesting geocache (Simplicity One - for those cachers who want to see specifics).

The picture below gives you some perspective on how long we walked on the sea wall. It was much longer than the kids bargained for and a little scarier than anything the moms wanted. So far we are 2 for 2 with our iPhone geocaching app. It hasn't replaced garmin yet...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

Today I made room in front of the daisies (my favorite flower) for Mary's MARI-golds, which are sure to be her favorite flower. More work to come this week on the "Joint" garden being constructed at our neighbor's house. We're taking the pictures and will blog soon on the efforts of this Air Force family and our Navy neighbors to create a Victory Garden. Clearly, we'll need an acronym for this joint defense industry garden.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The View From the Top

Here's a shot of our kids and niece catching the sights of Boston from above.
We were here past Lucy's bedtime, and she was WOUND up tight, bouncing from place to place, making all kinds of racket and being quite silly. She especially enjoyed playing in this photo booth. What a ham.
It's good that she remains so cute, otherwise who knows what might happen.