Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Picnic at West Point (on the Eno)

Yesterday was supposed to be lovely outside so we planned some yard projects; the weather ended up being overcast and windy and not much fun. Today the forecast was rain, rain, and more rain. It rained all morning, but the afternoon was glorious, so after Rachel came home from school we packed a quick picnic dinner (egg salad sandwich for Dad, tuna fish sandwiches for the rest) and headed to the park.

Miriam was so funny crossing this bridge. She walked bravely up to point where the bridge crosses the waterfall and abruptly stopped. I had to push her the rest of the way across.

We did some more exploring and found some hiking trails that looked fun and easy and decided that we'd try one after we ate.

Andrew packed some fruit snacks (or, as our girls like to call them, "fruk snacks") and we haven't given the girls fruit snacks in ages so they ate dinner super fast so that they could move on to fruit snacks. I've never seen them eat quite so fast! We were on our way in ten minutes flat.

Our hike started out easily enough—with stairs:

Some of the steps were waist-high for Miriam, but she managed. I think that's why little kids come with so much energy—so that when grown ups ask them to do a monumental task (such as climbing a set of stairs that come waist-high) they can do it and keep up. This does mean, however, that the rest of the time (when kids aren't doing difficult things) it makes it more difficult for the grown ups to keep tabs on them. But everything evens out in the end, I'm sure.

I love the sprawling tree roots in the forests here. I've been living in deserts for such a long time that I've forgotten what forests look like when the trees don't have to send their roots straight down searching for water and can lazily snake them around the ground.

Of course, this does pose more tripping hazards and felling of trees, but I still think it's beautiful.

The stairs didn't last too long and the hike got a little more challenging but the kids loved every minute. Well, Rachel did. Miriam had a harder time. Benjamin just snuggled (he and I still aren't feeling very well).

Miriam and I were dawdling along the trail while Andrew and Rachel raced ahead. Miriam wanted to do some fun poses for the camera. Here she is going "on pointe:"

She wants to go on pointe so bad.

And here she is in third position. At least, this is the position she did when I called out "Third position!" so I'm going to trust that this is third position:

Whenever we ask her to put away shoes (any shoes, be they Daddy's, Mommy's or her own) she'll first put them into various positions and then praise them on their good form. It's kind of funny.

Here she is balancing along a root that's sticking out of the ground:

And now here she is holding a big stick (which she insisted was a log):

After racing ahead to do some exploring Andrew and Rachel came racing back to us to tell us to "Check this out!" before racing off again. I had to holler through the woods to find out what way they went when we got to a fork in the trail—they were that far ahead of us. The cool thing was this little...hut:

The girls had fun playing inside for a few minutes.

And here's Benjamin doing what he loves to do best—examining my teeth:

I keep telling him that one day he'll have a set of his very own, but until then I suppose he'll continue to be mystified by mine.

It's possible he's also just marveling at how very large my teeth are. A couple of days ago, Rachel was watching me talk and then said, "Wait, let me look at your teeth."

I smiled at her.

"Whoa. They're BIG!" she said.

And then we had a quick lesson about being tactful. We've had many quick lessons on tact after she's made potentially rude comments about things, like when she tells Miriam she's not smart because she can't spell x or when she points out that someone isn't very good at y and so forth. I realize her comments are innocent but at some point that girl has got to develop a filter.

Anyway, here's a picture of Benjamin daydreaming about the wonderful set of teeth he'll one day have:

And here's a picture of Andrew and Rachel leaving me and the two little ones in the dust once again:

And here are a few attempts at a family picture...

Taking self-portraits is hard. It's difficult to get the lighting and focus right with a self timed picture, not to mention convincing everyone to look at the camera. And sometimes the photographer is a little taller than she supposes:

Of this picture, Miriam said, "Mom, you are not beautiful in this picture. But only because your head is chopped off."

Here is Rachel, rushing ahead of everybody (she ran down the hill):

Here's Andrew and Miriam, slowly taking the hill together:

Here's me and Benjamin, taking the hill at our own medium-speed pace:

We stopped by the river to balance on logs:

And to run back up the hill to climb things:

And to snuggle with sick children:

And to skip rocks across the river (Andrew skipped one rock 9 times (or something like that)):

Getting going again was a little rough.

Do we have to stop throwing rocks?

We had a hard time convincing everyone to stop throwing rocks and when we finally started moving again Miriam tripped and fell and started crying.

But she had walked it off by the time we had to climb up a big rock. Or perhaps she stopped crying because she was excited to climb the big rock...either way she stopped crying.

Andrew helped the girls up the rock and then we debated about which trail we should take—the high trail or the low trail. In the end we decided on the high trail for two reasons: a) it looked easier and b) Rachel shouted, "Look at me! I'm a mountain goat!" and scrambled up to the top so she left us no alternative but to follow her.

Unfortunately, just as we were standing on the cliff, overlooking the river and debating what to do while our five-year-old had already disappeared out of sight, Miriam announced that she had to go pee (and now). So with Rachel as look out on the top of the trail, Andrew held Miriam over the cliff so that she could do her business "just like a boy." She was pretty happy about that.

She suffered from shy bladder for a minute but got over it pretty quick and thought it was hilarious. We usually try to find public washrooms for our kids to use but we were still quite a ways out in the woods so we figured it would be okay.

I mentioned that we had a hard time getting everyone to stop throwing rocks, right? Rachel had the hardest time of all. While she was up on the top part of the trail and Andrew was peeing Miriam on the bottom part of the trail and I was standing somewhere in the middle a golf ball sized rock came whizzing through the air. It landed right by my feet, bounced off the rock and flew past Andrew's head.

Andrew and I lectured her in tandem: "Rachel! Did you just throw a rock?! Don't throw any more rocks! You never throw rocks down a hill, especially a hiking path, especially when you know people are standing below you on the path! You almost hit us!"

"I'm sorry!" she said, coming into view. "I was just trying to throw a rock into the river from here."

She was truly remorseful but I'm sure it's an etiquette/safety lesson we'll have to have again.

We stopped by the river (again) to play for a while before heading back to the car.

Miriam found a bunch of shells that she just couldn't part with:

She painstakingly kept them safe all the way to the car:

She clutched them tight in her hands while making a mad dash across the scary waterfall:

Safe and sound on the other side:

Poor Benjamin was ready for another little nap and actually fell asleep in the car on the way home:

The highlight of the evening is when Rachel saw a tree she decided she wanted to climb. She raced away from us and started hightailing it up the tree when she suddenly let out a terrified scream, scrambled down the tree, and ran back to me.

"MOM!" she shrieked. "I...I...I touched something!"

"You what?"

"I touched something!"

She was in hysterics—sobbing and shaking and screaming.

"What did you touch?" I asked.

"I don't know! I put my hand into a hole and touched...something terrible!"

Andrew went over to the tree, peeped into the hole, and what do you think he found?

A big pile of slugs!

"I am never climbing that tree ever again!" Rachel choked out.

Oh, it was hilarious.

She might have given up tree climbing (for the day) but she had no problem climbing this fence:

It was a fun and relatively quick outing. I'm so excited for spring, which seems to be here at long last!


  1. Now you just need a new family picture for your banner at the top. I am missing Benjamin in that picture, though it is lovely. But a North Carolina picture seems appropriate, doesn't it? Glad you are feeling well enough to hike a bit.

  2. That IS indeed third position! Well done Miriam!

  3. Really lovely pictures. I love the contrast of the dead leaves with your girls' colorful clothes. The first family picture is really good. I had to laugh at the one where you aren't so beautiful ('cause half your face was missing...haha). Ugh...slugs!

    The picture of you and Benjamin cuddling is too precious. And I love him inspecting your teeth and Miriam walking on the root...too many good ones to mention.

    Thanks for sharing!