Friday, June 27, 2008

It's A Zoo Out There

Literally. But more about that in a moment.

Last Friday (yes, I know I'm behind a few days, Ok, a week), my lovely wife took a vacation day (actually a little longer) with two of her friends. They met at 11:00 a.m. on Friday morning and left their families at home until around 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, staying in a hotel for the night. There they did very important things like listen to seminars, eat junk food and talk all night long (at least two of them did).

While they were off enjoying the good life, us husbands were left to fend for ourselves and our kids. (Am I building any sympathy here? Probably not.) Two of the husbands belonging to the Brotherhood of the Abandoned (laying it on a little thick perhaps) decided to go to the local zoo on Friday. That would be Andy and I. For the third, Steve, the zoo is not so local. Sorry Steve.

So we met at the zoo at 11:00 a.m.. Two dads, five kids. Could've been a recipe for disaster. It wasn't, but it could have been. And apparently quite a number of other people thought that this Friday would be a good time to visit the zoo too.

We wandered around, looking at animals, constantly spurred on by one of the two oldest kids saying, "Come on, let's go see the next animal." We had packed our lunches and partook at the appropriate time. There was laughing at gibbons, watching the bears and the snapping turtle, getting soaked playing in the fountain, waiting for the next pass of the harbor seal, gazing at elephants and giraffes, tree climbing, and protests that, "No, I don't need to go potty."

It was a good day. God's creation is wonderful and the company of friends just makes it more enjoyable. Below are a few select pictures from the day.

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Honey, we shrunk the kids

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What's that over there?

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Ellie: "See, I can do it too!"

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I can climb this backwards

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I think that's something I could out run

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So this is what it's like to be a resident of the zoo

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Tarzan, eat our dust!

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What's that you say, it's an ape, not a monkey??

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"No, my badge does not give me all access to the gibbons' enclosure." Good try though.

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If the cute older kid can't get me access to the gibbons, I'm prepared to send in the really cute little kid.

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He who is the wettest wins

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Be the crowned crain

Monday, June 16, 2008

My Utmost for His Highest

Over the years, I've tried out several different devotional books to go along with my Bible reading during my quiet time. The one I keep coming back to, which consistently challenges and convicts me is "My Utmost for His Highest: The Golden Book of Oswald Chambers1". I highly recommend it if you are looking for a devotional book.

Do any of you have a favorite devotional book that you would recommend?

The copy I'm currently reading from is one that belonged to my parents. I'd like to share with you the June 1st devotion.

"Son of man, can these bones live?" Ezekiel xxxvii. 3.

Can that sinner be turned into a saint? Can that twisted life be put right? There is only one answer: "O Lord, Thou knowest, I don't." Never trample in with religious common sense and say - "Oh, yes, with a little more Bible reading and devotion and prayer, I can see how it can be done."
It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we mistake panic for inspiration. That is why there are so few fellow workers with God and so many workers for Him. Am I quite sure that God will do what I cannot do? I despair of men in the degree in which I have never realized that God has done anything for me. Is my experience such a wonderful realization of God's power and might that I can never despair of anyone I see? Have I had any spiritual work done in me at all? The degree of panic is the degree of the lack of personal spiritual experience.
"Behold, O my people, I will open your graves." When God wants to show you what human nature is like apart from Himself, He has to show it you in yourself. If the Spirit of God has given you a vision of what you are apart from the grace of God (and He only does it when His Spirit is at work), you know there is no criminal who is half so bad in actuality as you know yourself to be in possibility. My "grave" has been opened by God and "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing." God's Spirit continually reveals what human nature is like apart from His grace.

1 Copyright, 1935, by DODD, MEAD & COMPANY, Inc.; Fifty-sixth printing

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Summer Vacation

This summer my family and I went to New Hampshire for vacation...

Sorry, I lapsed back into my elementary years, writing the ubiquitous "What I did this summer" essay. Now that I'm an adult, and since this is my blog, I don't have to worry about following all the rules of grammar and I can use bullet points (yeah!).

I'm going to do a single post on our vacation. My wife on the other hand, is dedicating a whole post for each day. So go over to her blog for fuller details. I'll list the links to each post as they become available (enter the above mentioned bullet points).

One problem with my wife getting a jump start on the vacation post is that she's been free to pick any of the pictures that she wants. Now I have to sort through the left overs so as not to duplicate the pictures for those of you who read both blogs (but they are good left overs). Well, on to the essay...

Monday was spent preparing and packing. Anticipating all the luggage that our family of five would need to cart to New Hampshire, I installed our roof-top luggage carrier on the van. By bed time, everything was ready to be packed into the van. I also printed off directions, prices and times for the various activities we were interested in, and I used a three-hole punch and put them all in a nice neat binder. For those who know me well, I'm sure this is quite a surprise. Stephanie was pleased to have an organized binder rather than to be handed a bunch of loose sheets of paper. Who said old dawgs can't occasionally do new things?

We awoke Tuesday morning to the fact that it had been raining during the night but was now trickling off. After a quick breakfast, I proceeded to pack that van. Due to my superb van packing skills and my wife's superb suitcase packing skills, I was able to fit all of our stuff in the van, without having to use the roof-top carrier. So while the family sat in the van waiting to leave, I took it off. I could have seen out of the back a little easier, and we would have been a little less crowded in the van, if I had put some items in the carrier. However, since physics was my favorite subject in high school, I knew the following equation to be true:
((roof-top carrier + van) x wind resistance x ($3.93/gallon)) > (van x wind resistance x ($3.93/gallon))
In other words, it was going to cost me more mullah to use the roof-top carrier if I didn't need to.

After a stop at the post office, the bank and Wal-Mart, we were off. The trip up to New Hampshire was fairly uneventful, except for the multiple bathroom breaks including the panic stop at the side of the road for a boy who declared that he needed to go potty, which, in his parlance, means "I've reached critical mass and it's going to come out soon, no matter where I am, so you better get me to where you would want it to come out ASAP." After arriving in Twin Mountain, checking in and unloading, we proceeded to settle in and have a light supper. We enjoyed smores thanks to the fireplace in the living room.

On Wednesday, we went to the Lost River Gorge. We ate lunch before enjoying a beautiful hike up and down, in and out of rocks and over the river. There were waterfalls to look at and caves to be explored. I had brought along a flashlight, which was not needed in most of the caves. However, in the Cave Of Shadows, I pulled it out and shone it around. I was glad I did. Water ran through the cave and made a lot of noise, however, due to the darkness, you could not see, without the aid of the flashlight, that waterfall at the back of the cave that was the source of the water.

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At the bottom of the Lost River Gorge

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This is actually looking down from the top of a approx. 40-foot waterfall

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Will and Ben on the boardwalk

After we finished with the Lost River, we went on another hike through the woods on a trail that left the parking lot where we were. We then proceeded back to the cottage for a brief rest before venturing out to hunt down dinner. Dinner was obtained at Fabyan's Station Restaurant and Lounge, which is located in an old railroad station that sits by some still existent tracks.

On Thursday, we ate an early lunch and then drove to North Conway and rode on the Conway Scenic Railroad for an hour. That was fun and the scenery was beautiful, however, according to Will, the train did not go fast enough. After that was done, we headed back to Twin Mountain via the Kangamangus highway, enjoying beautiful scenery and stop beside the river to throw rocks, sticks, leaves and anything else loose that was not too heavy for the kids to pick up. We stopped at a pizza place in Lincoln at the end of the Kanc.

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A couple of the engines

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Will and Ben on the platform

On Friday, we packed lunch and headed out to find some waterfalls and do some hiking. The first falls were only about a quarter mile walk from the parking area. Because of that, we decided to leave the diaper bag in the van, a decision that I would later come to regret. The falls were more of a steep series of rapids but they were still fun to throw things in.

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The falls

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Ben, at the end of a throw

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Stephanie, keeping Ellie safe

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Will, looking for ammunition to launch into the river

The fun was interrupted by the announcement by Will that he needed to go poopy. I briefly panicked - we're out in the woods away from civilized facilities and we had climbed down the bank of the river to get closer to the water, so the actual trees were probably too far to make it (see comments on the emergency pee pee stop above). Then the answer came to mind - we were standing beside running water, take him a few steps down stream and let him give back to nature. So that's what I did. I grab him up, stepped across the top of some rocks that were down stream of where we were playing, stood him up, pulled down his pants, and had him squat. He did really well for not having a seat to support him. The only problem was that the poopy was very runny, not the nice firm kind I was hoping for that would allow us to dress him and take him back to the van to be cleaned up. Nope. Not to be. You cannot pull his underwear up over that without necessitating a change of clothes.

Oh for the diaper bag. Stephanie offered to go back and get it, but that would be at least a five to ten minute ordeal. So I took the hit, as only a dad of three kids could. Yes, I used the water and my hand to wipe my son's bottom. Ewww. But you gotta do what you gotta do. For some reason, even though I thoroughly rinsed my hand in the river, Stephanie did not want to hold my hand after that until I had cleaned with wipes and Germ-X once we were back at the van.

On the road leading away from those falls, Stephanie, with her sharp eyes, spied a beaver lodge in a little pond beside the road. That was cool.

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Beaver lodge

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Gnawed through tree

The next falls were located beside the road. It was a short walk up to the pool at the bottom of them. The pictures don't do them justice. The water volume was not much but they started off way up the ridge. Once again, the boys enjoyed pitching things into the water. We had lunch in the parking lot opposite the falls.

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The Silver Cascades

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The kids and I in front of the pool

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Stephanie in front of the pool

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The last falls were a little over a half a mile hike away but the hike was definitely that. We had borrowed an backpack child carrier from a co-worker of mine, so we put Ellie in that for this one. She enjoys riding in it - I do the work and she enjoys the view. It was a great help, we could not have done this hike without it. There was a lot of up on the way in, several muddy stretches of path to negotiate and one small stream to cross. The falls were quite pretty and worth the exertion. On the way out, Ellie fell asleep in the carrier - what a sweetie.

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Ellie and I at the beginning of the hike

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The Ripley Falls

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The family resting at the falls

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We're on our way out

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Fording the stream

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Ellie and I near the end of the hike. She's exhausted from the hike...

That night we ate at a local establishment in Twin Mountain. More smores were had back at the cottage. And of course there was packing to do.

Saturday morning it was once again rainy but that's OK since we were just traveling home. The weather had been beautiful the three full days we were there, which was a blessing from God and an answer to prayer. The trip home was even less uneventful than the trip up. We all had a great time. The scenery was beautiful and the company was the best. The only thing that we had hoped for but did not happen was to have a good moose sighting. (Stephanie and I had a brief glimpse on Tuesday but the kids were not tall enough).

Monday, June 9, 2008

Update 06/09/08

The post about our vacation will be coming, I promise, sometime fairly soon. Meanwhile, I thought I'd give a brief update on this past weekend.

On Saturday we attended the wedding of some friends. It was a small gathering, which made it nice in that we knew a good percentage of the people. The ceremony was held outside in a pretty little garden spot that was, thankfully, in the shade (Saturday and Sunday were in the 90's). The wedding was at 10:30 a.m, followed by pictures and then the reception - sit down lunch and dancing afterwards. The boys were a lot of fun to watch on the dance floor, they "danced" even when no one else was out there. The whole family had a great time. Congratulations Brandon and Kat! Thanks for inviting us.

After the boys finished tearing up the dance floor, we drove home, arriving just before 3:00 p.m., changed clothes and went across the street to the birthday party of Samantha, who is Will's age (5). They had a great big inflatable bouncy castle which all the kids loved and got hot and sweaty on. There was stuff to dress up in, Snow White was doing make up on the girls and tattoos on the boys and things to dress up in. The kids had a great time.

Then it was home for a bath before bed - no need for supper with all the food eaten and the boys having enjoyed cake on two occasions during the day. The bath cleaned off all the sweat and grime, leaving the bath water with a good brown tinge.

On Sunday we went to church as normal, went to On the Border for lunch and home for naps. I broke out the fans to try and cool us off - we were resisting turning on the A/C as we like our rather low electric bill. Then we sat around a laptop and watched Mary Poppins, the first time for all the kids. Supper followed, then some play and then bed time.

Thus ends our tale. It was a good weekend for all, except for the heat. The A/C did get turned on today in the afternoon as the thermometer outside reached close to 97 degrees. Some things are just worth paying for.